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Title: My Apprenticeship (Volume 1)
Author: Beatrice Webb
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Title: My Apprenticeship (Volume 1)
Author: Beatrice Webb

Published 1938






The Ego that affirms and the Ego that denies. The controversy.


The opportunities and the bias of a social investigator are
determined by his environment. My family typical of the Industrial
Revolution. My father--family affection--the ethics of
profit-making--the politics of the business man. My mother--a
divided personality--the Victorian creed of self-advancement versus
The Imitation of Christ. The Household Saint, and her realisation of
the religious spirit. Herbert Spencer--a training in reasoning--a
lifelong friendship. The home--heterogeneous social environments--
the class that gives orders. London Society the four inner circles--
the marriage market--the idol of personal power--an invisible Stock
Exchange in social reputations. Decay of Christianity. Intellectual

CHAPTER TWO: IN SEARCH OF A CREED [1862-1882; age 4-24]

An unhappy childhood. The MS. diaries. A confession of sin. Tour in
the U.S.A.--the Chinese Quarter--the Mormon City. Self-education.
Religious experiences--the study of the Bible--the Doctrine of the
Atonement. "Coming out." The eclipse of faith. Brian Hodgson and
Buddhism. Revealed religion rejected. The "Religion of Science"
found wanting--the unwarranted optimism of contemporary scientists.
The influence of Goethe. Agnosticism. The Roman Catholic Church. The
death of my mother. The validity of religious mysticism.

CHAPTER THREE: THE CHOICE OF A CRAFT [1882-1885; age 24-27]

Algebra and a ghost. No aptitude for sociology: by taste and
temperament a descriptive psychologist. My father's secretary and
housekeeper. Conflicting aims: home-keeping and entertaining versus
self-development. Joseph Chamberlain. The "occupational disease" of
London Society. The glorification of science. The nature of the
scientific method. Francis Gallon. Herbert Spencer recommends
biology. The riddle of psychology: Can you observe mental
characteristics which you do not yourself possess? Consequent
complexity of social science. Auguste Comte and the Religion of
Humanity. The Frederic Harrisons. I visit my cousins, the cotton
operatives of Bacup--their moral refinement and the reality of their
religion. I choose the craft of the social investigator.


The influence of environment on the choice of a subject for
investigation. The changed family outlook. The world of politics.
The advent of political democracy. The growing consciousness of the
poverty of the poor and the meaning of the Industrial Revolution.
The birth of British Socialism. Auberon Herbert at home. My
confession of faith--political agnosticism tempered by individualist
economics. The world of philanthropy. The philanthropist in the
ascendant. The Charity Organisation Society. Alms-giving the cause
of poverty--administrative nihilism. Samuel and Henrietta Barnett:
their advocacy of practicable socialism. The problem of poverty in
the midst of riches unsolved.


The Foreword by Bernard Shaw appears by kind permission of the
editor of the Spectator.


WE must admit that Beatrice Webb, whose eightieth birthday the
Spectator feels impelled to celebrate, is a very notable woman. In
the main mass of her work she is inseparable from the firm of Sidney
and Beatrice Webb, whom a Labour Government tried vainly to disguise
as Baron and Lady Passfield. The collaboration is so perfect that
her part in it is inextricable. I, who have been behind the scenes
of it, cannot lay my hand on a single sentence and say this is
Sidney or that is Beatrice.

Nevertheless there is in literature a separate Beatrice; and later
on there will be more. She is one of those terrible women who keep
diaries. Sidney, the least autobiographical of human creatures, is
no more capable of keeping a diary than I or you. I have never been
able to find out where or when or how this diary contrived to get
written, though I have spent months in Mrs. Webb's household and
seen her working every day to the limit of human endurance at the
great joint masterpieces all the time. But it exists; and the world
will some day learn what a very clever woman, quite free from any
sort of sentimental veneration, thought of the celebrities,
nonentities, obscurities and real live wires who made up the public
life of her time.

Besides, she was at work long before she collided with Sidney Webb.
She had written a history of Co-operation, and thereby not only made
the co-operators class-conscious, but established the importance and
success of Consumers' Co-operation as distinguished from the futile
attempts at co-operative production which had had no chance against
Capitalism. That was the sort of thing she liked doing, though all
the joys of the West End and the country houses were open to her.
She was a born industrial investigator, and was satisfied by nothing
short of personal contacts with the personalities operating the
proletarian side of industry. Hunting, shooting, dancing and
adventures in the marriage market, in which she was a desirable
catch, were to her a waste of time when there were so many intensely
important things to be investigated at the East End and in the
manufacturing towns. When her relative, Charles Booth, financed his
great enquiry into poverty to prove that it did not exist and that
Karl Marx's world-shaking description of it was a fable, she joined
him, and instead of consulting wage-lists and official figures,
disguised herself and worked in sweaters' dens until her hopeless
inferiority as a needlewoman and her obviously extreme eligibility
as an educated managing woman to be the bride of young Ikey or
Moses, the sons of the house, made further experiment in that
direction impossible. But enough was enough. Marx won hands down.

It was this determination to sample movements and their leaders
instead of reading about them that brought her into contact with the
Fabian Society, which was making stir enough at the time to call for
investigation. They were, as usual, a mixed lot, but with unerring
judgment she fixed on Sidney Webb as a unique lump of solid ability
without any complications. She had no difficulty in appropriating
him with a completeness which was part of the fundamental simplicity
of his nature; for she was an attractive lady; and when Sidney fell
in love he did not do it by halves. Her family was amazed and
scandalised, as she had seemed of all the young women in London the
most certain to choose and marry a Cabinet Minister, if not a Prime
Minister. And in those days Cabinet ministers were not six a penny.
Her choice needs no justification now. Cabinets have flamed and
crackled and died down like thorns under a pot; but Sidney Webb
remains, piling up an authority and an eminence that have never been
shaken. Asquith the contemptuous lived to canonise him.

In fact, the sole drawback to her choice was myself, a useful member
of the Webbs' Fabian retinue, but highly obnoxious to Beatrice for
the technical reason that I could not be classified. All her
interest was in social organisation. Her job was the discovery of
the common rules by which men bind themselves to co-operate for
social ends. She had no use for exceptional people: degrees of
ability and efficiency she could deal with; but the complications
introduced by artists, Irishmen and the eccentric and anarchic
individuals who infest revolutionary movements and have to be shot
when the revolution succeeds, were, in her business of social
definition and classification, simply nuisances. She would probably
have got rid of me as most women get rid of their husbands'
undesirable bachelor friends, but for one qualification which I
possessed. I knew Webb's value. And so I was not only tolerated but
heroically made much of until the joyous day when she discovered a
classification for me. I was a Sprite; and in that category I became
happily domesticated at holiday times with the newly-wed pair until
my own marriage six years later.

We were all three heavily afflicted with what Tolstoy's children
called Weltverbesserungswahn, and went on solving all the social
problems, and being completely ignored by the Press whilst noodles'
orations in the official key were solemnly reported every day at
length, provided the orator was a parliamentary careerist. As
Beatrice had made the co-operators class-conscious single-handed,
the two Webbs proceeded by the same contactile method to do the same
for the Trade Unionists by their History of Trade Unionism, and
followed this up by extending the field to the whole Labour movement
in their Industrial Democracy. In the famous Minority Report on the
Poor Law, Beatrice was extraordinarily active, whilst the monumental
seven volumes on Local Government kept steadily growing through
miracles of investigation until the pair, having become the most
skilled and best-informed investigators on earth as far as we know,
were ready for the great Soviet experiment, and in their advanced
age were able to give the first competent account of the new social
structures that are evolving in Russia, whilst the Press either
screamed curses at the Red Spectre or represented the new Russia as
an earthly paradise.

Meanwhile, not only does the diary go on ruthlessly: the diarist
from time to time detaches herself from the firm to burst into
autobiography in My Apprenticeship, with the design of teaching us
all how to set about social investigation if our destiny, like hers,
lies in this direction. Most of us care little for that, having
neither any bent towards her profession nor much urgent
Weltverbesserungswahn; yet the treatise on method holds us as a
unique volume of confessions, to say nothing of its record of
contacts with all sorts and conditions of men, from the most
comfortably corrupt and reactionary functionaries to the most
devoted revolutionists of the gutter, or from Herbert Spencer, whom
her genial unmetaphysical father entertained much as he might have
kept a pet elephant, to all the parliamentary figures who passed as
great, from Joseph Chamberlain to--well, to the present moment. And
these are no mere staring and gabbling reminiscences, but judgments
and generalisations which give depth to the narrative and value to
the time spent in conning it.

It is amazing that such a woman should survive in apparently
undiminished vigour after eighty years among fools and savages who
will rise to nothing but ecstasies of wholesale murder: still, if
only because she has proved that such a feat is possible to an able
Englishwoman, her statement of how she has done it must be placed
within the reach of all her countrywomen, and incidentally of their
male followers with political pretensions, mostly quite unfounded.

Its worth is guaranteed by her ancient and faithful colleague,

G. B. S.


BENEATH the surface of our daily life, in the personal history of
many of us, there runs a continuous controversy between an Ego that
affirms and an Ego that denies. On the course of this controversy
depends the attainment of inner harmony and consistent conduct in
private and public affairs. In some minds this self-examination
relates to free will and determinism and leads to alternate periods
of restlessness and apathy; sometimes it surges round the "to be" or
"not to be" of a future life, driving the individual backwards and
forwards, from church to lecture-hall, and from unbelief back again
to belief; sometimes it fastens on problems of sex or of parenthood,
with consequences happy or tragic. Or the problem to be solved may
be one of professional ethics; the degree of honesty imperative in
business transactions; the measure of truth-telling and
self-subordination obligatory on a politician in trouble about his
soul; or the relative claim of private clients and public
authorities, which the professional man may have to settle for
himself at the risk of loss of livelihood. With some individuals
this half-submerged but often continuous controversy changes in
subject-matter as years go on; with others all controversy dies down
and the individual becomes purely practical and opportunist, and
scoffs at those who trouble over ultimate questions of right and
wrong. But where the individual has had the exceptional luck of
being able to choose his work, or where he has been settled in work
which he would otherwise have chosen, there may be set up a close
correspondence between the underlying controversy and all his
external activities, whether in the home or in the market-place, in
the scientific laboratory or in the public service.

Now, it so happens that the internal controversy which has been
perpetually recurring in my own consciousness, from girlhood to old
age, led me in early life to choose a particular vocation, a
vocation which I am still practising. The upshot of this controversy
has largely determined my day-to-day activities, domestic, social
and professional. This continuous debate between an Ego that affirms
and an Ego that denies, resolves itself, in my case, into two
questions intimately connected with each other, the answers to which
yield to me a scheme of personal and public conduct. Can there be a
science of social organisation in the sense in which we have a
science of mechanics or a science of chemistry, enabling us to
forecast what will happen, and perhaps to alter the event by taking
appropriate action or persuading others to take it? And secondly,
assuming that there be, or will be, such a science of society, is
man's capacity for scientific discovery the only faculty required
for the reorganisation of society according to an ideal? Or do we
need religion as well as science, emotional faith as well as
intellectual curiosity? In the following pages will be found my
tentative answers to these two questions--that is, my philosophy of
work or life. And seeing that I have neither the talent nor the
training of a philosopher, I express the faith I hold in the simpler
form of personal experience.



IN the following pages I describe the craft of a social investigator
as I have practised it. I give some account of my early and crude
observation and clumsy attempts at reasoning, and then of the more
elaborated technique of note-taking, of listening to and recording
the spoken word and of observing and even experimenting in the life
of existing institutions. Though for the purpose of describing my
craft I quote pages from my MS. diary, I have neither the desire nor
the intention of writing an autobiography. Yet the very subject-matter
of my science is society; its main instrument is social intercourse;
thus I can hardly leave out of the picture the experience I have
gathered, not deliberately as a scientific worker, but casually as
child, unmarried woman, wife and citizen. For the sociologist,
unlike the physicist, chemist and biologist, is in a quite unique
manner the creature of his environment. Birth and parentage, the
mental atmosphere of class and creed in which he is bred, the
characteristics and attainments of the men and women who have been
his guides and associates, come first and foremost of all the raw
material upon which he works, alike in order of time and in intimacy
of contact. It is his own social and economic circumstance that
determines the special opportunities, the peculiar disabilities, the
particular standpoints for observation and reasoning--in short, the
inevitable bias with which he is started on his way to discovery, a
bias which ought to be known to the student of his work so that it
may be adequately discounted. Moreover, in the formative years of
childhood and youth, the passionate search for a creed by which to
live precedes the acquisition of a craft; the craft, in fact,
growing out of the creed, or maybe out of the loss of a creed.
Hence, if in describing my apprenticeship I tell too long and too
egotistical a tale, the student can skip what appears to him

The family in which I was born and bred was curiously typical of the
industrial development of the nineteenth century. My paternal
grandfather, Richard Potter, was the son of a Yorkshire tenant
farmer who increased the profits of farming by keeping a general
provision shop at Tadcaster; my maternal grandfather, Lawrence
Heyworth, belonged to a family of "domestic manufacturers" in
Rossendale in Lancashire, the majority of whom became, in the last
decades of the eighteenth century, "hands" in the new cotton mills.
Evidently my grandfathers were men of initiative and energy, for
they rose rapidly to affluence and industrial power, one as a
Manchester cotton warehouseman, the other as a Liverpool merchant
trading with South America. Nonconformists in religion and Radicals
in politics, they both became, after the 1832 Reform Act, Members of
Parliament, intimate friends of Cobden and Bright, and enthusiastic
supporters of the Anti-Corn Law League.1

My father graduated in the new London University, of which my
grandfather, as a leading Unitarian, was one of the founders. He was
called to the Bar, but without intending to practise. For a few
years he divided his time between nursing his father, who was in
failing health, and amusing himself in London political society. On
the death of his father, being young, attractive and with sufficient
means, he took to a life of leisure. It was at Rome, in the course
of making the grand tour with a young sister, that he met my mother,
likewise enjoying herself with a young brother. They fell in love
amid the sights of Rome, married and settled as mere rentiers in
Herefordshire, intending to take an active part in the work and
pleasures of the country. But a stroke of good luck saved my parents
and their children from this deadening environment. The financial
crisis of 1847-48 swept away the major part of his moderate
inheritance; and, with a rapidly increasing family, he had, at the
age of thirty, to find some way of earning a sufficient livelihood.
His father-in-law, Lawrence Heyworth, at that time a leading
promoter of the new railways, made him a director of the Great
Western Railway, whilst a schoolfellow, W. E. Price,2 offered him a
partnership in an old-established timber merchant's business at
Gloucester. From this position of vantage my father became a
capitalist at large.

The family income was mainly drawn from the timber yards of
Gloucester, Grimsby and Barrow; but the mere routine of money-making
did not satisfy my father. Daily attendance at an office, at work
each day on the same range of facts, seemed to him as much the badge
of an underling as manual work in factory or in mine. Once engaged
in business he quickly developed a taste for adventurous enterprise
and a talent for industrial diplomacy. For the first two years of
business life he worked assiduously at the Gloucester office,
mastering the technique of the timber market. The horrors of winter
fighting in the Crimean War yielded the first opportunity for big
enterprise. He persuaded the English War Office, and afterwards the
French Emperor, to save the soldiers' lives during the winter
weather, by using the timber merchant's brains, together with the
depreciated stock in the timber yard, for the output of wooden huts:
an operation which was worth a profit of 60,000 pounds to the firm.3
From that time onwards he spent the bulk of his energy and all his
intellectual keenness in the administration of public companies and
in financial speculations. For some years he was chairman of the
Great Western Railway of England; for ten years, just the years of
my girlhood, he was president of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada.
Memory recalls a maze of capitalist undertakings of which he was
director or promoter; undertakings of every degree of rank and
permanence, of success or failure--from high-grade concerns like the
Hudson Bay Company and the Dutch Rhenish railways, to humble
establishments for the manufacture of railway wagons and signals.
The most far-fetched and risky projects were not excluded from his
vision. I remember a concession from the Turkish Government,
obtained by him and a group of friends--among them tom Brassey, the
great contractor--to make a Grand Canal through Syria to compete
with the Suez Canal; an enterprise abandoned on the report of the
engineers that such a canal would not only submerge the Holy places
--a small matter--but take forty years to fill. "We are not going to
wait forty years for our money to make Potter's fortune," said
Brassey to Perks and Watkin. There was another scheme for a
live-cattle trade between Barrow-in-Furness and the United States,
balked by Privy Council orders against cattle disease, or, as my
father complained, against free trade in food. Some issues were
moral rather than financial; I recollect anxious discussions as to
whether he ought to "cover" certain misdoings of the financiers who
dominated the board of a great transcontinental railway, by
remaining a director, which was settled in the negative; and there
was a conscientious refusal to accept the presidency of another
Canadian railway because he suspected queer transactions in land on
the part of its promoters. But the purest commercial ethics did not
always prevail. The German, like the British Government, could not
be bribed, but in the transactions with most other foreign
governments legislators and officials were paid "for services
rendered" without scruple. There were similar ups and downs with
regard to the speculative investments: he lost heavily in Welsh
coal-mines by buying and selling at the wrong time; he gained
considerably by taking up the shares of the Barry Docks before the
investing public had become aware of their value. His not infrequent
losses were due to an over-sanguine temperament, a too easy-going
way with subordinates, and, above all, to a rooted distaste for the
work of inspection and control. His successes as a money-maker arose
from his talent for negotiating new agreements; his genius was, in
fact, for planning and not for executing. He had a winning
personality, a pleasant voice, a strong will, a clearly conceived
aim, and a remarkable faculty for finding the exact form of words
which would give him all he wanted without seeming to deny the aims
of the other parties. Moreover, he believed in the Jewish maxim--a
maxim he often cited--that a bargain is not a good bargain unless it
pays both sides.

When I was myself searching for a social creed I used to ponder over
the ethics of capitalist enterprise as represented by my father's
acts and axioms. He was an honourable and loyal colleague; he
retained throughout his life the close friendship of his partners;
his co-operation was always being sought for by the other
capitalists; he never left a colleague in a tight place; he was
generous in giving credit to subordinates; he was forgiving to an
old enemy who had fallen on evil times. But he thought, felt and
acted in terms of personal relationship and not in terms of general
principles; he had no clear vision of the public good. "A friend,"
he would assert, "is a person who would back you up when you were in
the wrong, who would give your son a place which he could not have
won on his own merits." Any other conduct he scoffed at as moral
pedantry. Hence he tended to prefer the welfare of his family and
personal friends to the interests of the companies over which he
presided, the profits of these companies to the prosperity of his
country, the dominance of his own race to the peace of the world.
These graded obligations were, of course, adjusted to the law of the
land and to the conventions of the circle in which he was at the
time moving. His conception of right conduct was a spacious one, of
loose texture, easily penetrated by the surrounding moral atmosphere.
What he did in the United States he would not do in the United
Kingdom. For the circumstances of mid-Victorian capitalist
enterprise were hostile to any fixed standard of morality. The
presidents of American railways, international financiers, company
promoters and contractors, were forceful men, frequently of magnetic
personality and witty conversation; but the common ideal which bound
them in a close fraternity was a stimulating mixture of personal
power and personal luxury; their common recreation was high living.
Uniquely typical was the life on board a president's car on an
American railway: the elaborate accommodation and fittings; the
French chef; the over-abundant food; the extravagantly choice wines
and liqueurs; above all, the consciousness of personal prestige and
power; the precedence of the president's car over all other traffic;
the obsequious attentions of ubiquitous officials; the contemptuous
bargaining with political "bosses" for land concessions and for the
passage of bills through legislatures--altogether a low moral
temperature. My father struggled against this adverse moral
environment; he submitted, with childlike docility, and, be it
added, with childish delight in evasion, to the dietetic rules
imposed on him by his womenkind and the family physician; his
insistence on his daughters' company whenever he went abroad was, I
think, partly due to a subconscious intention to keep out of less
desirable associations. In his struggle with the sins of the world
and the flesh (he was never tempted by the devil of pride, cruelty
or malice) he had two powerful aids--his wife and his God. His wife
was puritan and ascetic, and he adored her. He had been brought up
in the arid creed of Unitarianism and he had lived with intellectual
iconoclasts; but unlike his wife and some of his daughters, he was
never troubled with doubts as to the divine government of the world,
or as to the reality of communion with an outside spiritual force.
He attended church regularly, took the sacrament and prayed night
and morning, 'it seems incredible, but I know that, as a man, he
repeated the prayer taught him at his mother's lap--"Gentle Jesus,
meek and mild, look upon a little child," etc.

As a citizen of the British Empire my father bred true to the
typical political development of Victorian capitalism. His
grandfather, the Tadcaster farmer and shopkeeper, had had his
windows broken by the Tory mob for refusing to illuminate at the
reported victory of the British troops over the Americans in their
War of Independence; his father, the Manchester cotton warehouseman,
was a leading rebel in the days of Peterloo and, as a member of the
reformed House of Commons of 1832, he belonged to the Free Trade and
pacifist Radical group which made matters lively for the Whig
Government. But I doubt whether my father was ever a convinced
Radical; and some time in the 'sixties he left the Reform Club and
joined the Carlton. Fervent and long-enduring therefore was his
indignation at Disraeli's "treacherous" Reform Act of 1867; from
first to last he objected to any extension of the suffrage below the
10-pounds householder, in which class he wished to include women
householders, women being, as he thought, more intuitively
Conservative than men. The central article of his political faith
was, indeed, a direct denial of democracy: an instinctive conviction,
confirmed as he thought by his experience of American institutions,
that the rulers of the country, whether Cabinet Ministers or judges,
permanent heads of Government Departments or Members of Parliament,
ought in the main to be drawn from a leisured class--all the better
if the property upon which the leisure depended was inherited
property. The political and municipal corruption of the United
States of America was, he maintained, due to the absence of an
hereditary caste of leisured persons standing, as trustees for the
permanent prosperity of the country, above the struggle for
existence, whether of wage-earners or profit-makers. Even more
disastrous was the replacing of this caste by political bosses
elected by a mob of propertyless persons, but drawing their incomes
from particular financial and industrial corporations. "The American
boss," he said, "combines the ignorance of the labourer with the
graft of the company promoter." But he was always ready to
compromise with new forces and to adjust his political programme to
social circumstances. When once the suffrage had been lowered he
became enthusiastic about working-class education. "We must educate
our masters," he was never tired of asserting. "If necessary we must
send our daughters to educate the masses," was an indiscreet remark
at a political meeting, which shocked the Conservatives and
infuriated the Radicals. Unlike my mother, he had no use for the
abstract principles of political economy; his father's old friends,
Cobden and Bright, he regarded as fanatics deceiving themselves and
others with wire-drawn logic and moral platitudes. Some sliding-scale
tax on corn ought to have been maintained so as to preserve and
stabilise an agricultural population. As for "peace at any price,"
any experienced business man knew that, broadly speaking, "trade
followed the flag!"

Notwithstanding frequent absence, my father was the central figure
of the family life--the light and warmth of the home. How well I
remember how we girls raced to the front door when we heard the
wheels on the carriage drive: the eager questions, the cheery
replies, however tired he might be. He worshipped his wife, he
admired and loved his daughters; he was the only man I ever knew who
genuinely believed that women were superior to men, and acted as if
he did; the paradoxical result being that all his nine daughters
started life as anti-feminists! He made his wife and daughters his
confidantes in all his undertakings, or at any rate he seemed to do
so. In spite of his business preoccupations he had retained a love
of poetry, of the drama, of history and of idealistic philosophy; he
was a devout student of Dante (in the original), of Shakespeare and
of Plato; he taught us to appreciate the eighteenth-century
humorists and the French encyclopaedists and the novels of Jane
Austen and Thackeray; he was a fanatical admirer of Burke and
Carlyle and John Henry Newman--an oddly assorted trio, proving, I
think, that his preferences were inspired by emotional thought
rather than by pure reason. He always talked to us as equals; he
would discuss with his daughters, even when they were young girls,
not only his business affairs, but also religion, politics and the
problems of sex, with frankness and freedom. I remember asking him
at the age of thirteen whether he advised me to read tom Jones. "By
all means read it, if it interests you; it will give you a good idea
of the manners and customs of the eighteenth century, and Fielding
wrote splendidly virile English "; to which he added, as if thinking
aloud, "If you were a boy I should hesitate to recommend tom Jones,
but a nice-minded girl can read anything; and the more she knows
about human nature the better for her and for all the men connected
with her." Perhaps as a consequence of this policy of the "open
door" I recollect no curiosity about sex: my knowledge of the facts
always outrunning my interest in the subject. He delighted in the
beauty of moor and mountain, in wild winds and the changing hues of
cloud and sea. But his peculiar charm lay in his appreciation--his
over-appreciation of the intellect and character of those with whom
he lived. We girls thought him far too long-suffering of mother's
arbitrary moods; she thought him far too acquiescent in his
daughters' unconventional habits. Yet in spite of this habitual
self-subordination to those he loved, notwithstanding his "noble
amiability," to use an epithet of Herbert Spencer's, he controlled
the family destinies. My mother lived where it suited him to live,
and he came and went as he chose; his daughters married the sort of
men he approved, notwithstanding many temptations to the contrary.

My mother was nearing forty years of age when I became aware of her
existence, and it was not until the last years of her life, when I
was the only grown-up daughter remaining in the home, that I became
intimate with her. The birth of an only brother when I was four, and
his death when I was seven years of age, the crowning joy and
devastating sorrow of my mother's life, had separated me from her
care and attention; and the coming of my youngest sister, a few
months after my brother's death, a partial outlet for my mother's
wounded feelings, completed our separation. "Beatrice," she wrote in
a diary when I was yet a child, "is the only one of my children who
is below the average in intelligence," which may explain her
attitude of indifference. Throughout my childhood and youth she
seemed to me a remote personage discussing business with my father
or poring over books in her boudoir; a source of arbitrary authority
whose rare interventions in my life I silently resented. I regarded
her as an obstacle to be turned, as a person from whom one withheld
facts and whose temper one watched and humoured so that she should
not interfere with one's own little plans. This absence of affection
between us was all the more pitiful because, as we eventually
discovered, we had the same tastes, we were puzzling over the same
problems; and she had harboured, deep down in her heart, right up to
middle life, the very ambition that I was secretly developing, the
ambition to become a publicist.

My mother's pilgrimage through life was a much harder one than my
Father's. She had started life heavily handicapped by the unqualified
indulgence and adoration of a wealthy widowed father, who insisted
on her brothers regarding her as a paragon of virtue, beauty and
learning--a perilous ordeal even for a selfless nature. Fortunately
for her happiness, and I think also for her character, she found the
same unqualified adoration in marriage; and she and my father
remained lovers to the day of her death. In all other aspects her
life had been one long series of disappointments. She had visualised
a home life of close intellectual comradeship with my father,
possibly of intellectual achievement, surrounded by distinguished
friends, of whom she had many as a girl and young married woman
(among them I recollect the names of Sir George Cornewall Lewis and
Dr. Jeune). This vision of a life of learned leisure was rudely
swept on one side by the loss of the unearned income. When wealth
returned it found her an invalid, with a nursery full of children,
and a husband who was preoccupied and constantly away.

But her great disillusionment was in her children. She had been
reared by and with men, and she disliked women. She was destined to
have nine daughters and to lose her only son. Moreover, her
daughters were not the sort of women she admired or approved. She
had been brought up "a scholar and a gentlewoman": her daughters
refused to be educated and defied caste conventions. For the most
part they were unmistakably Potters, the descendants of the tall
dark woman of Jewish type who read Hebrew and loved music--my
father's mother, whose confinement in a lunatic asylum during the
latter years of my grandfather Potter's life (she was obsessed by
the mania of leading the Jews back to Jerusalem and actually got as
far as Paris, alas! poor lady, alone and without her fancied
following) was always referred to as a slur on our birth. But
besides these untoward circumstances, my mother was cursed with a
divided personality; she was not at peace in herself. The discords
in her nature were reflected in her physiognomy. In profile, she
was, if not ugly, lacking grace: a prominent nose with an aggressive
bridge, a long straight upper lip, a thin-lipped and compressed
mouth, a powerful chin and jaw, altogether a hard outline, not
redeemed by a well-shaped but large head. Looked at thus, she was
obviously a managing woman, unrelenting, probably domineering,
possibly fanatical. But her full face showed any such interpretation
of her character to be a ludicrous libel. Here the central feature,
the soul of the personality, were the eyes, soft hazel brown, large
but deeply set, veiled by overhanging lids and long eyelashes set
off by delicately curved and pencilled eyebrows: eyes uniting in
their light and shade the caress of sympathy with the quest of
knowledge. To this outstanding beauty were added fine flossy hair,
an easily flushed fair skin, small flashing teeth, a low musical
voice, pretty gestures and long delicate hands: clearly a woman to
charm, perhaps to inspire. "I think you knew my grandfather,
Lawrence Heyworth," said I to John Bright when I met him at a
political demonstration at Birmingham in 1884--three years after my
mother's death. "Lawrence Heyworth, yes? Then you are the daughter
of Laurencina Heyworth?" And after a pause he added--"One of the two
or three women a man remembers to the end of life as beautiful in
expression and form." [MS. diary, March 16, 1884.]

As I discovered during the few years of intimacy, the divided
personality reflected in the diverse testimony of profile and full
face was manifested in consciousness by a never-ending controversy
relating, not only to man's relation to the universe, but also to
the right conduct of life. Her soul longed for the mystical
consolations and moral discipline of religious orthodoxy. She spent
hours studying the Greek Testament and the Fathers of the Church;
and she practised religious rites with exemplary regularity. But she
had inherited from her father an iconoclastic intellect. I remember
as a wee child being startled by my grandfather Heyworth's assertion
that Adam and Eve, so long as they lingered in the Garden of Eden,
were roaming pigs, and that it was only by eating the forbidden
fruit of the tree of knowledge that their descendants became
something more than beasts of the field. What troubled my mother was
the doubt whether men and women had become, or were becoming, more
than pigs, however much they buried their snouts in the heaped-up
apples of the tree of knowledge; whether seeking pleasure and
avoiding pain did not sum up all human instincts, impulses and
motives, and thus constitute the whole duty of man. An ardent
student of Adam Smith, Malthus, and particularly of Nassau Senior,
she had been brought up in the strictest sect of Utilitarian
economists. In middle life she had translated some of the essays of
her friend Michel Chevalier, who represented the French variant of
orthodox political economy, a variant which caricatured the dogmatic
faith in a beneficent self-interest.4 And my mother practised what
she preached. Tested by economy in money and time she was an
admirable expenditor of the family income: she never visited the
servants' quarters and seldom spoke to any servant other than her
own maid. She acted by deputy, training each daughter to carry out a
carefully thought-out plan of the most economical supply of the
best-regulated demand. Her intellect told her that to pay more than
the market rate, to exact fewer than the customary hours or insist
on less than the usual strain--even if it could be proved that these
conditions were injurious to the health and happiness of the persons
concerned--was an act of self-indulgence, a defiance of nature's laws
which would bring disaster on the individual and the community.
Similarly, it was the bounden duty of every citizen to better his
social status; to ignore those beneath him, and to aim steadily at
the top rung of the social ladder. Only by this persistent pursuit
by each individual of his own and his family's interest would the
highest general level of civilisation be attained. It was on this
issue that she and Herbert Spencer found themselves in happy accord.
No one of the present generation realises with what sincerity and
fervour these doctrines were held by the representative men and
women of the mid-Victorian middle class. "The man who sells his cow
too cheap goes to hell" still epitomises, according to John Butler
Yeats, "the greater part of the religion of Belfast"5--that last
backwater of the sanctimonious commercialism of the nineteenth
century. My mother's distinction was that she was free of the taint
of hypocrisy; she realised the hopeless inconsistency of this theory
of human nature and human conduct with her mystical cravings,
either with the Sermon on the Mount or with the Imitation of Christ,
which she read night and morning. In the latter years of her life
she withdrew from social intercourse, and left her daughters free to
make their own way in London Society and to entertain their own
friends in the country home; merely asking to be told the names of
the guests, and to be provided with clues enabling her to carry out
the formal duties of hostess with intelligent courtesy. As age crept
on, even the desire to impose her will on the rest of the household
fell from her, and she became pathetically eager to subordinate her
claims to those of the growing nurseries of grandchildren. More and
more absorbed in her lonely studies and despairing of solving the
problems which troubled her, her restless intellect fastened on the
acquisition of languages, more especially their grammars. Of these
grammars she made a curious and extensive collection, preferring the
grammar of one foreign language in that of another; a Greek
grammar in French, a Latin grammar in Italian, a Hebrew grammar in
German, and a Spanish grammar in some Scandinavian language, and so
on; according to the principle, I imagine, that it is economical to
acquire two things with one unit of energy.

It was in this day-to-day, routine mental activity, one day exactly
like another, that she attained a certain peaceful understanding of
life, nay more, a zest in living, which left her at the age of sixty
amazingly young alike in body and mind. "I shall know twelve
languages before I die," said she to me with a triumphant smile, as,
a few months before her sudden and unexpected death in the spring of
1882, we paced up and down the measured span of gravel walk for a
measured hour. This self-congratulation was quickly followed by a
caressing glance and a sympathetic suggestion that I might succeed
where she had failed, and become a writer of books.

Whether it was the result of this new and unexpected sympathy with
my secret ambition, or whether it was due to some subtly potent
quality in her personality, she, exercised a far greater influence
over my life after her death than while she was living.

I never knew how much she had done for me [I wrote remorsefully in
my diary a few months after her death], how many of my| best habits
I had taken from her, how strong would be the influence of her
personality when pressure had gone--a pressure wholesome and in the
right direction, but applied without tact. Tact--that quality which
gains for people more affection and consideration than any other and
yet in itself not one necessarily belonging to the noblest group of
moral and intellectual qualities. . . . When I work with many odds
against me, for a far distant and perhaps unattainable end, I think
of her and her intellectual strivings which we were too ready to
call useless, and which yet will be the originating impulse of all
my ambition, urging me onward towards something better in action and
thought. [MS. diary, August 13, 1882.]

Six years afterwards, when my life was divided between nursing my
father and contributing chapters to Charles Booth's Life and Labour
of the People in London, I find the following entry in my diary,
showing how closely my intellectual effort had become associated
with the memory of my mother.

These latter days [I] constantly think of mother: sometimes the
feeling of her presence is so strong that I am tempted into a kind
of communion with her. We knew each other so little in her lifetime.
Strangely enough I love her better now, I feel that she at last
knows me, tries to cheer my loneliness and to encourage my effort.
She seems now to belong more to me than to the others; the others
have their husbands and their children: I have nothing but my work
and the fitful warmth of friendship. So mother seems to stand by my
side, to be watching me, anxious to reach out to me a helping hand;
at any rate to bless me. . . . I can fight through the rest of the
battle of life with courage. And perhaps when it is over, I shall
know that she has been by my side. [MS. diary, 1888.]

Inseparably associated with my mother, and in many respects her
complement, was Martha Jackson (afterwards Mills), my mother's
lifelong companion and attendant. Engaged by my grandfather to
accompany his daughter on her travels, she had witnessed the
love-making in Rome; she had followed my mother into married life,
and she had acted as nurse to my elder sisters, thus acquiring the
nickname of "Dada." Now Dada was a saint, the one and only saint I
ever knew. She mothered all the members of the large household,
whether children or servants, whether good or naughty; she nursed
them when they were ill, comforted them when they were in trouble,
and spoke for them when they were in disgrace. It was Martha who
was called into counsel by my father in hours of friction and
stress; it was she alone who dared, unasked but unreproved, to
counsel my mother whenever she--Martha--thought fit. "I would not do
that, Mrs. Potter, it will only cause more trouble," she would say
in her low impersonal tone, as she went about her business carrying
out my mother's orders, apparently unconcerned with the result even
if she disapproved the decision. And when my mother vehemently
reasserted her will, and argued hotly that she was in the right
Martha would remain blandly silent as if half convinced, presently
making a soothing reference to the frailty or helplessness of the
other party to the dispute, or some shrewd suggestion as to how the
practical problem could be solved to the advantage of everybody. But
in spite of this all-inclusive benevolence it was difficult to
deceive her. Cut deep in my memory is a scene of sixty years ago: a
small child telling a cowardly lie, a moment of silence and then, as
the sole response, a flash in her grey eyes of mingled amusement
and love: the small child resolving not to tell another lie if only
she could wriggle out of this one without confessing the double sin!

Though Martha was a saint she was a very human one, capable of
taking a false step so far as her own happiness was concerned. In
middle life, weary perhaps of continuously giving and never
receiving solicitous affection, she got married. By profession a
railway guard who became a butler, by preference a local preacher
among the Baptists, Mills was a portly figure of a man, honest and
domesticated. For some years he preferred to remain with an old and
wealthy master, and acquiesced in his wife staying with us, being
greatly concerned to accumulate an independence. When the old master
died a disastrous break in our household seemed inevitable. My
mother and Martha rose to the occasion. Mills became our butler; he
would have become the butt of the household if it had not been for
the quiet dignity of his wife, who mothered and protected him, as
she mothered and protected all the other members of the household.
But she knew she had made a big mistake, the mistake of her life,
and shrewd and sharp were her warnings to the younger servants when
they consulted her about getting married. For Mills was a ludicrously
pompous person, preposterously pleased with the sound of his own
voice. If one rang the bell for another scuttle of coal, Mills
appeared in the middle of the room and stood and delivered a set
speech, repeating your request and adding his comments in
grandiloquent language. In the misuse of pedantic words and phrases
he travestied Mrs. Malaprop; whilst the rhetorical paraphrase of
Biblical texts, out of which he compiled his amateur sermons, seemed
heart-stirring eloquence or mere muddle-mindedness according to the
degree of literacy in the listener. "Mills would be all right if he
would keep his mouth shut," muttered the disillusioned but devoted
wife on the occasion of a Christmas dinner.

Eventually the couple retired on savings and pensions to the,
lodge of our Monmouthshire farmhouse, where my father and I spent
the summer months during the last years of his life. On this lonely
hill-top Mills found his vocation in attracting, by his ornate
oratory, little groups of bemused labourers to deserted Baptist
chapels, whilst Martha washed, mended and cooked for him, read her
Bible, opened and closed the gate, and awaited with patient
eagerness the arrival of one or other of the beloved family.
Meanwhile, as luck would have it, and as I shall tell in another
chapter, Martha had become my guide and "cover" in my first attempt
at observation and experiment. It was she who, after my mother's
death, introduced me as her "young friend, Miss Jones, a farmer's
daughter from Wales," into the homes of my cousins, the Bacup cotton
operatives; and it was incidentally during this visit that I
discovered that she, also, was a relative.

The most far-reaching and influential of Martha's gifts was her
revelation of the meaning of the religious spirit.

Fresh from listening to my mother's interminable arguments with
Herbert Spencer concerning the origin of religion, Martha's formal
creed, that of a Particular Baptist, seemed to me primitive if not
barbaric. But she held the dogmas of the atonement, predestination,
eternal punishment and of the literal infallibility of the Old and
New Testament, not to mention the Protestant assumption that the
Roman Catholic Church was the "Scarlet Woman" of Revelation, humbly
and without question, as an act of loyalty to the faith in which she
had been reared. Religion meant to her from beginning to end a state
of mind, a state of mind which she believed reflected the state of
mind of her Saviour Jesus of Nazareth, an overpowering consciousness
of love. It was a strangely impersonal love; if I may so phrase it,
it was an equalitarian beneficence without respect for persons or
even for the characteristics of persons: it was manifested quite
indifferently to all human beings, whether they were attractive or
hideous, of high or low degree, geniuses or mental defectives, nobly
self-sacrificing or meanly egotistical. Instinctively she gave her
sympathy and care not according to merits, but according to needs.
Faults in character and faults in circumstances were inevitable
incidents in the pilgrim's way through this life to the next, only
to be overcome or smoothed out by a patient and persistent charity
to all human beings, tempered by what she called "facing the facts."
For she never gushed or sentimentalised over those she helped
through physical or mental trouble; her sympathy was always tempered
by a sense of humour and a sense of proportion, by an appreciation
of the equities of the case. "There are other people's needs and
claims besides yours," her smile and flashing eye would seem to say.
She seldom spoke of her religious experiences and she never tried to
convert us to her particular brand of Protestant Christianity. Yet
it was evident to all who knew her intimately that she held, with
radiant conviction, that the state of mind which was to her religion
could only be created and maintained by communion with an outside
spiritual force, itself a manifestation of the spirit of love at
work in the universe.

At the other end of the scale of human values, and in significant
contrast with the household saint--in intellect towering above her,
but in emotional insight depths below her--stood the oldest and most
intimate friend of the family, the incessantly ratiocinating
philosopher. From Herbert Spencer's Autobiography I take the following
description of his first meeting with my parents at my grandfather
Heyworth's house near Liverpool, not for the flattering family
portraits, but because this extract proves that the future thinker
was, in his youth, as modest about his own gifts as he was
enthusiastically appreciative of those of his friends.

Mr. Hey worth and I had a great deal of conversation, and on the
whole agreed remarkably well in our sentiments. He is a particularly
liberal-minded and thinking man, and, though nominally a Churchman,
is practically no more one than I am myself. ... I was, however,
most highly pleased with his daughter, and her husband--Mr. and Mrs.
Potter. They have been lately married, and appear to me the most
admirable pair I have ever seen. I don't know whether you have ever
heard me mention Miss Heyworth as being somewhat of a notability. I
have, however, been for some time past curious to see her, partly in
consequence of the very high terms in which my uncle Thomas has
always spoken of her, and partly because I have once or twice seen
her name mentioned in the papers as one who was very zealous in the
anti-corn law agitation, engaging herself in distributing tracts and
conversing with persons on the subject.

It would never be inferred from her manner and general appearance
that she possessed so independent a character. She is perfectly
feminine and has an unusually graceful and refined manner. To a
phrenologist, however, the singularity of the character is very
obvious. [Here follow a profile outline of her head and a set of

Mr. Potter, however, commanded my highest admiration. He is, I
think, the most lovable being I have yet seen. He is evidently
genuine. His amiability is not that of manner but that of reality.
He has a noble head--a democratic one, of course, but one so
beautifully balanced in other respects that one can quite delight in
contemplating it. The perfect agreement between his head and face is
remarkable: the features are Grecian and their expression is exactly
what a phrenologist would anticipate.

He is, I believe, very poetical--admires Shelley enthusiastically and
conceives him by far the finest poet of his era, in which I quite
coincide with him. In fact we sympathised in our sentiments on all
subjects on which we conversed, and although I might feel somewhat
flattered by this, I must say I felt so strongly the beauty of his
disposition as contrasted with my own, that I felt more dissatisfied
with myself than I have done for a long time past.6

From that day Herbert Spencer remained my father's ardent
admirer and my mother's intellectual associate. That the man
of twenty-four should have enjoyed talking for hours together
with an attractive woman a few years older than himself is not
to be wondered at. What is surprising is that Herbert Spencer's
admiration, I might almost say adoration, of my father, should have
survived the latter's complete indifference to the working of the
philosopher's intellect, whether expressed in the spoken or the
written word. Always cheerfully beneficent, my father had a genuine
if somewhat pitying affection for the philosopher on the hearth; he
would walk with him, he would fish with him, he would travel with
him, he would give him sound advice and tell him tales from
business life which illustrated the working of this or that economic
"law" in which they both believed; but argue with him or read his
books he would not. "Won't work, my dear Spencer, won't work," my
father would say goodhumouredly, when the professional doubter
defiantly proclaimed his practice on a Sunday morning of
deliberately walking against the tide of church-goers. This distaste
for Herbert Spencer's peculiar type of reasoning was all the more
noteworthy because my father enjoyed intellectual society; he
delighted in talks with Huxley, Tyndall and James Martineau, and
when his friend James Anthony Froude asked him on one or two
occasions to join the afternoon walk with Thomas Carlyle he did so
in the spirit of reverential awe, repeating to us afterwards the
very words of the master. But Herbert Spencer's "synthetic
philosophy," whether it concerned the knowable or the unknowable,
bored him past endurance; he saw no sense in it. When I tried to
interest him in the "law of increasing heterogeneity and definiteness
in structure and function" at work--so the philosopher demonstrated--
throughout the universe, my father answered in this wise: "Words, my
dear, mere words. Experience tells me that some businesses grow
diverse and complicated, others get simpler and more uniform, others
again go into the Bankruptcy Court. In the long run and over the
whole field there is no more reason for expecting one process rather
than the other. Spencer's intellect is like a machine racing along
without raw material: it is wearing out his body. Poor Spencer, he
lacks instinct, my dear, he lacks instinct--you will discover that
instinct is as important as intellect." And then, taking out his
engagement book, he added, in a more sympathetic tone, "I must see
whether I can't arrange another day's fishing with him--poor man."
Nor was my father's indifference to his reasoning power unnoticed by
Herbert Spencer. "Mrs. Potter was scarcely less argumentative than I
was," he recounts after a visit to the young couple, "and occasionally
our evening debates were carried on so long that Mr. Potter, often
playing chiefly the role of listener, gave up in despair and went to
bed; leaving us to continue our unsettleable controversies."7

Memory recalls a finely sculptured head, prematurely bald, long
stiff upper lip and powerful chin, obstinately compressed mouth,
small sparkling grey eyes, set close together, with a prominent
Roman nose--altogether a remarkable headpiece dominating a tall,
spare, well-articulated figure, tapering off into diminutive and
well-formed hands and feet. Always clad in primly neat but quaintly
unconventional garments, there was distinction, even a certain
elegance, in the philosopher's punctilious manners and precise and
lucid speech. And if his elaborate explanations, couched in pedantic
terms, of commonplace occurrences as exemplifications of the
recondite principles of the synthetic philosophy, seemed to the
Philistine listener just a trifle absurd, to the enthusiastic novice
in scientific reasoning his ingenious intertwining of elementary
observations with abstruse ratiocination was immensely impressive.
But the sharpest imprint on my youthful mind was the transformation
scene from the placid beneficence of an unwrinkled brow, an aspect
habitual towards children and all weak things, to an attitude of
tremulous exasperation, angry eyes and voice almost shrewish in its
shrillness when he "opined" that his or any one else's personal
rights were being infringed. To the children of the household the
philosopher always appeared in the guise of a liberator. His
delightful axiom "submission not desirable" was adorned and pointed
by detailed criticism of the ways of governesses and other teachers:
"stupid persons who taught irrelevant facts in an unintelligible
way," a criticism which made even my mother uneasy, and which
infuriated the old-fashioned dame who presided for many years over
the activities of the schoolroom. "You can go out this morning, my
dears, with Mr. Spencer," said the governess to her pupils, after
listening with pursed-up lips to one of the philosopher's breakfast
tirades against discipline, "and mind you follow his teaching and do
exactly what you have a mind to." Whether due to an "undesirable
submissiveness" to the governess or to a ready acquiescence in the
doctrine of revolt, the philosopher found himself presently in a
neighbouring beech wood pinned down in a leaf-filled hollow by
little demons, all legs, arms, grins and dancing dark eyes, whilst
the elder and more discreet tormentors pelted him with decaying
beech leaves. "Your children are r-r-r-rude children," exclaimed the
Man versus the State as he stalked into my mother's boudoir. But for
the most part he and we were firm friends: we agreed with his
denunciation of the "current curriculum," history, foreign
languages, music and drawing, and his preference for "science"--a
term which meant, in practice, scouring the countryside in his
company for fossils, flowers and water beasties which, alive,
mutilated or dead, found their way into hastily improvised
aquariums, cabinets and scrapbooks--all alike discarded when his
visit was over. Speaking for myself I was never interested in these
collections of animate and inanimate things, even when looked at
through his microscope or pulled to pieces by teasers. What
fascinated me, long before I began to study his writings, was
watching him collect illustrations for his theories. I do not
suggest that "some direct observations of facts or some fact met
with in reading" did not precede the formulation of his principles:
though it appears from an interesting account given in the
Autobiography, that only those facts were noted and contemplated
which had to him some "general meaning," i.e. directly or indirectly
helped towards the building up of "a coherent and organised theory"
of the universe. But by the time I became his companion these "First
Principles"  had ceased to be hypotheses; they had become a highly
developed dogmatic creed with regard to the evolution of life. What
remained to be done was to prove by innumerable illustrations how
these principles or "laws" explained the whole of the processes of
nature, from the formation of a crystal to the working of the party
system within a democratic state. Herbert Spencer was, in fact,
engaged in the art of casuistry, and it was in this art that for a
time I became his apprentice, or was it his accomplice? Partly in
order to gain his approbation and partly out of sheer curiosity
about the working of his mind, I started out to discover, and where
observation failed, to invent, illustrations of such scraps of
theory as I understood. What I learnt from this game with his
intellect was not, it is needless to remark, how to observe--for he
was the most gullible of mortals and never scrutinised the accuracy
of my tales--but whether the sample facts I brought him came within
the "law" he wished to illustrate. It was indeed the training
required for an English lawyer dealing with cases, rather than that
of a scientific worker seeking to discover and describe new forms of
life. What he taught me to discern was not the truth, but the
relevance of facts; a gift said to be rare in a woman and of untold
importance to the social investigator confronted with masses of
data, whether in documents or in the observed behaviour of men--
ascertained facts significant and insignificant, relevant and
irrelevant. And it so happens that I find in my diary an authoritative
confirmation of this appreciation of Herbert Spencer's intellectual
processes in a conversation with Professor Huxley in 1887, when I
was considering my old friend's request that I should act as his
literary executor.

I ventured to put forward the idea [I record], that Herbert Spencer
had worked out the theory of evolution by grasping the disjointed
theories of his time and welding them into one. "Oh," said Huxley,
"Spencer never knew them: he elaborated his theory from his inner
consciousness. He is the most original of thinkers, though he has
never invented a new thought. He never reads: merely picks up what
will help him to illustrate his theories. He is a great constructor:
the form he has given to his gigantic system is entirely original:
not one of the component factors is new, but he has not borrowed
them." And we disagreed on another point. I suggested that as I had
known Herbert Spencer he was personally humble. Both the Huxley's
exclaimed: they had always found him pre-eminently just; ready to
listen to adverse criticism and adverse facts from those he
respected or had affection for. But most men were to him the| common
herd. Perhaps there is truth in this. I asked Huxley whether he
thought it was a mistake for me to undertake the literary
executorship. "Oh no," said the great man benignly, "all a man wants
in a literary executor is a sympathetic friend." Herbert Spencer's
biography tells its own story: it is intensely characteristic of the

In the next chapter I shall refer to the part played in the
development of my craft and creed by Herbert Spencer's
Synthetic Philosophy. Here I express the debt I owe to the
loyal friendship and mutual helpfulness which grew up between
the child and the thinker; and which endured, undimmed by
growing divergence in opinion, to the day of his death in 1903. It
was the philosopher on the hearth who, alone among my elders, was
concerned about my chronic ill-health, and was constantly suggesting
this or that remedy for my ailments; who encouraged me in my lonely
studies; who heard patiently and criticised kindly my untutored
scribblings about Greek and German philosophers; who delighted and
stimulated me with the remark that I was a "born metaphysician," and
that I "reminded him of George Eliot"; who was always pressing me to
become a scientific worker, and who eventually arranged with Knowles
of the Nineteenth Century for the immediate publication of my first
essay in social investigation.

Even more important for the young student than these acts of
personal kindness was the example of continuous concentrated
effort in carrying out, with an heroic disregard of material
prosperity and physical comfort, a task which he believed
would further human progress. There is indeed no limit to what
I owe to my thirty or forty years' intimacy with this unique
life: unique, as I came to see, no less as a warning than as a
model. Here I can do no more than add by way of illustration
one or two of the many entries in my diary descriptive of my
friendship with Herbert Spencer.

Mr. Spencer's visits always interest me and leave me with new ideas
and the clearing up of old ones. Also with due realisation of the
poverty of my intellect, and its incapacity for tackling the
problems which are constantly cropping up--the comparative
uselessness of all my miserable little studies. [MS. diary,
September 1881.]

Spent the whole day with Herbert Spencer at private view. He worked
out, poor man, a sad destiny for one whose whole life has been his
work. There is something pathetic in the isolation of his mind, a
sort of spider-like existence; sitting alone in the centre of his
theoretical web, catching facts, and weaving them again into theory.
It is sorrowful when the individual is lost in the work--when he has
been set apart to fulfil some function, and then when working days
are past left as the husk, the living kernel of which has been given
to the world. On looking around and watching men and women, one sees
how important a part "instinct" plays in their lives, how
all-important it becomes in old age, when the purely intellectual
faculties grow dim; and one appreciates the barrenness of an old age
where the instinctive feelings are undeveloped and the subject-matter
for them absent. There is a look of sad resignation on Herbert
Spencer's face, as if he fully realised his position and waited
patiently for the end, to him absolutely final. To me there is a
comic pathos in his elaborate search after pleasurable "sensations,"
as if sensations can ever take the place of emotion; and alas! in
his consciousness there hardly exists an "exciting cause" for
emotional feeling. And yet there is a capacity for deep feeling, a
capacity which has lain dormant and is now covered up with crotchety
ideas presenting a hedgehog's coat to the outer world, a surface
hardly inviting contact! I see what it is in him which is repulsive
to some persons. It is the mental deformity which results from the
extraordinary development of the intellectual faculties joined with
the very imperfect development of the sympathetic and emotional
qualities, a deformity which, when it does not excite pity, excites
dislike. There is no life of which I have a really intimate
knowledge which seems to me so inexpressibly sad as the inarticulate
life of Herbert Spencer, inarticulate in all that concerns his
happiness. [MS. diary, May 5, 1884.]

Herbert Spencer deliriously conscious about the "Miss Evans"
Episode--asked me seriously what was my impression of their
relationship on reading those passages referring to him. Had wished
John Cross to insert contradiction that there had ever been aught
between them. Shows his small-mindedness in the extreme concern. But
as George Eliot says, his friendship will always endure because of
his truthfulness. Told me that he never talked or wrote differently
to different people; he was only anxious to express correctly what
he thought--quite independently of the way in which it would best be
understood by others.9 [MS. diary, January 1885.]

Poor Herbert Spencer. On reading the proof of his Autobiography I
often think of that life given up to feeling his pulse and analysing
his sensations, with no near friends to be all and all to him, to
give him the tenderness and brightness that father gets in these his
last days. Strange that he should never have felt the sacrifice he
was making. . . . "I was never in love," he answered, when I put the
question straight: "Were you never conscious of the wholesale
sacrifice you were making, did you never long for those other forms
of thought, feeling, action you were shut out from?" Strange--a
nature with so perfect an intellect and little else--save
friendliness and the uprightness of a truth-loving mind. He has
sometimes told me sadly that he has wondered at the weakness of his
feelings, even of friendship, and towards old friends and relations;
that he thought it came from his mind being constantly busied with
the perfection of this one idea--never once doubting the value of
it. [MS. diary, June 9,1886.]

"In November 1887," he writes in his Autobiography, "I was induced
by Miss Beatrice Potter to take rooms in the same house with them at
Bournemouth, where they were fixed for the winter (my friend Potter
having also now become an invalid)."

"Outward circumstances are sad enough at the present time," I write
on this Christmas Day of 1887, "Father sweet as ever, but his mind
failing rapidly, his companionship nought but answering disjointed
questions. . . . The old philosopher downstairs to whom I am tied by
pity and reverential gratitude, the victim of a strange disease of
mind and body, sits in his chair not daring to move body or mind;
one day passes like another and yet no improvement; he waiting with
despondent patience for returning strength, pursued by the desire to
finish his System of Philosophy. I can give him no help. I sit in
his room writing or reading, now and again saying some kind word--a
bright anecdote or a stray reflection. Yesterday as I sat there I
heard a sudden moan as if he were in pain. 'Are you suffering?'
'No,' groaned the poor old man, 'a momentary fit of impatience. Why
suffer more to-day?' a question I could not answer." [MS. diary,
December 1887.]

"The change of scene, and still more the presence close at hand of
those about whom I cared, produced a great effect"; he continues in
his Autobiography,10 "and at the end of January 1888 I returned to
town, frequented the Athenaeum daily for a month, and even got so
far as playing a game of billiards. Then, as usual, came a
catastrophe," [and so on].

But the episode of my literary executorship is perhaps the
most characteristic of these entries.

Paid Herbert Spencer a visit. Found him in a pitiable condition:
hopeless: thinks he can neither eat, work nor talk. Sent me away
after I had spoken to him for a short time, and told me to return to
him in an hour's time as he wished to discuss an important business
matter. When I returned I found him in a nervous state with a good
deal of suppressed excitement. He asked me whether I should
recommend A. C. or C. B. as a trustee for the continuance of his
sociological research. Advised A. C. He then said he wanted to
consult me as to another appointment: that of "Beatrice Potter as
literary executor." I was taken aback, but it was evident that he
had set his heart on it and longed, poor old man, that someone who
cared for him should write his life. I was very much touched by his
confidence, though I suggested he might find a fitter person from a
literary point of view. I quite understand his feeling. He
instinctively feels that his life seems lonely and deserted, and
that the world will look back on him as a thinking machine and not
as a man with a man's need for a woman's devotion and love, and the
living affection of children. Poor old man, he is paying the penalty
of genius: his whole nature is twisted by excessive development of
one faculty. [MS. diary, April 22, 1887.]

"Dear B.--What admirable promptness," he writes on April
24, 1887. "I expected several days at least to elapse before getting
a reply, and here I get letters settling the matter in little more
than 24 hours after naming it to you. I give you hearty thanks for
having so quickly and well negotiated.

"Pray do not entertain any qualms respecting what you have
undertaken. I am perfectly content, and can say with literal truth
that with no choice could I have been more content. With the
exception of my friend Lott, I cannot think of any one who has had
better opportunities of knowing me, and I do not think that even he
would have been able to make as good a portrait. For though he had
sincerity and catholicity in equal degrees with you, he had not as
much perspicacity. Moreover, your criticisms have shown me that you
have the instincts of an artist, to which I add the faculty of being
lively on fit occasion.

"Before I leave off, which I must do now because my amanuensis
wishes to go and see his sick mother, let me express my concern
about your health. Losing bulk in the way you have done is a serious
symptom. Pray cut off a large part of your work, and do not dream of
doing any work before a substantial breakfast. Only strong people
can do that with impunity. Ever affectionately yours,


My appointment as his literary executor was, however,
cancelled early in 1892 on the announcement of my engagement
to marry the leading Fabian Socialist.

We met yesterday at The Athenaeum by appointment. He was
affectionate and cordial to me personally. "I cannot congratulate
you--that would be insincere." Then there was a short pause. "My
family have taken it benevolently," I remarked, and then observed
that there was after all nothing against Mr. Webb, he had proved
himself to be a man of capacity and determination. "You see that he
has succeeded in marrying me, Mr. Spencer--that shows he has a will."
"Undoubtedly," groaned the philosopher, "that, is exactly what I
Fear--you both have Wills, and they must clash." "He has a sweet
temper and has been an excellent brother and son," I urged quietly,
and gave a vivid description of his good domestic qualities. But
presently the real source of anxiety was disclosed.

"I feel I am in a fix about the personal matter to which you alluded
in your letter--the literary executorship. It would not do for my
reputation that I should be openly connected with an avowed and
prominent Socialist--that is impossible. Inferences would be drawn
however much I protested that the relationship was purely personal
with you."

"I quite agree with you, Mr. Spencer," I answered sympathetically.
"I fully realised that I should have to give up the literary

"But what can I do," he said plaintively. "Grant Allen, whom I
thought of before, has become a Fabian. There is no one who
possesses at once the literary gift, the personal intimacy with my
past life and the right opinions, to undertake the task."

"What about Howard Collins?" I said, thinking of the grim irony of
the poor old man thrown back on the mechanically minded Timothy. "He
is sound; would he not do?"

"He would be the proper person--but then he has no gift like you have
of making his subject interesting."

"But I should be delighted to help him in any way you like to
propose, either acknowledged or not."

The Philosopher lay back in his chair with a sigh of relief. "That
arrangement would be admirable--that is exactly what I should
desire--the Life would appear under his name and you would add
reminiscences and arrange the material. That would quite satisfy
me," he repeated with a very visible access of cheerfulness.

"Well, Mr. Spencer, you can rely on my doing my utmost, Mr. Collins
and I are excellent friends; we should work together admirably."

And so ended the interview; he satisfied about his reputation | and
I at ease with the dictates of filial piety. [MS. diary, February

Our friendship was, however, in no way marred by the mishap of my
marriage to a Socialist.

Second visit this year to the poor old man at Brighton. "If I
believed in Induction I should be forced to believe that I was|
being pursued by demons," he laments; "and who knows?" he adds in
strangely humble tone, "the veil may be lifted: it may be so." And
all this because one or two persons with whom he has been casually
connected have misbehaved themselves with women, and thus imperilled
his reputation! [MS. diary, February 16, 1899.]

And here are the final entries, prior to and immediately
following his death:

A pathetic three days at Brighton just before we left London. A note
from Herbert Spencer's secretary one morning, saying that the old
man was very ill, made me take the train to Brighton--I did not like
the thought that he should be nearing death without an old friend by
his side. I found the devoted secretary and kindly girl housekeeper
much upset; the doctor said he would not last long, and he was so
self-willed about his treatment that it was almost impossible to
keep him fairly comfortable. They could not tell whether or no he
would like to see me. However, when the secretary told him I was
there, he asked for me. The poor old man looked as if he were
leaving this world; and what pained me was his look of weary
discomfort and depression. I kissed him on the forehead and took his
hand in mine. He seemed so glad of this mark of affection: "It is
good-bye, dear old, or is it young friend," he said with a slight
flicker of a smile; "which word is the most appropriate?" And then
he seemed anxious to talk. "If pessimism means that you would rather
not have lived, then I am a pessimist," he said in tones of
depression. "Life will be happier and nobler for those who come
after you, Mr. Spencer, because of your work." "It is good of you to
say so," he answered in a grateful tone. "Yes, humanity will
develop--development is what we must look for," his voice becoming
more earnest. "Come and see me before you go--that is enough at

My visit had excited him; and he dictated to his secretary an almost
passionate little note (which I unfortunately lost) imploring me to
come and be by his side when I heard that there was no hope of
recovery. The little outburst of human affection had carried him out
of his querulous reserve. Thinking that he could only last a few
days, I came back the next day and established myself at an hotel
near by. I saw him once or twice again, and both times he talked
about the future of society. Poor old man! Co-partnership and
piecework seemed an adequate solution of all problems--inaugurating
industrial peace and bringing about a decay of militarism! As he
grew stronger, his desire to live, which had given way in his
extreme weakness, returned; and again he became chary of seeing any
one who excited him. Now he seems to be gaining strength, and it
looks as if he might live for many a day. If he would only give up
his self-preserving policy and be content to make the most of every
hour without considering the cost, he might yet have a happy end
before him. [MS. diary, June 1903.]

Melancholy letter from H. S. Ran down to see him. Again repeated
that he and we agreed in essentials, differed only in form. Was
extremely sensitive as to his reputation and influence, felt that he
had dropped out and was no longer of much consideration. "What you
have thought and taught has become part of our mental atmosphere,
Mr. Spencer," I said soothingly. "And like the atmosphere we are not
aware of it. When you cease to be our atmosphere, then we shall
again become aware of you as a personality." "That is a pleasant way
of putting it," and he smiled. I tried to suggest that he should
give up the struggle against ill fate and accept the rest of his
existence. "Why should I be resigned?" he retorted almost angrily.
"I have nothing to hope for in return for resignation. I look
forward merely to extinction--that is a mere negative. No," he added
with intense depression, "I have simply to vegetate between this and
death, to suffer as little as I need, and, for that reason, I must
not talk to you any more: it prevents me sleeping and upsets my
digestion. Good-bye--come and see me again."

It is tragic to look at the whole of man's life as a bargain in
which man gets perpetually the worst of it. But the notion of
contract--a quid pro quo--is so ingrained in the poor old man that
even illness and death seem a nasty fraud perpetrated by nature.
[MS. diary, July 3, 1903.]

My old friend passed away peacefully this morning [I write
afterwards]. Since I have been back in London this autumn I have
been down to Brighton most weeks--last week I was there on Monday,
Friday and Saturday, trying to soften these days of physical
discomfort and mental depression by affectionate sympathy. "My
oldest and dearest friend," he has called me these last visits. "Let
us break bread together," he said on Monday, and insisted on a plate
of grapes being set on the bed and both of us eating them. "You and
I have had the same ends," he repeated again; "it is only in
methods we have differed." On Saturday he was quite conscious and
bade me an affectionate farewell--but he clearly wanted to be let
alone to die and not troubled with further mental effort. Certainly
these last months while he has been looking for death immediately
--even longing for it--he has been benigner and less inclined to be
querulous about his own miseries. But what with his dogmatic
perversity in persisting in pernicious ways of living, his
fretfulness towards and suspicion of his household, his pessimism
about the world--it has been a sad ending. Indeed the last twenty
years have been sad--poisoned by morphia and self-absorption, and
contorted by that strangely crude vision of all human life as a
series of hard bargains. . . . Still if we strip Herbert Spencer's
life of its irritation and superficial egotism--brought about, I
believe, by poisonous food and drugs--and of its narrow philosophy of
conduct, there remains the single-hearted persistent seeker after
truth--the absolute faith that a measure of truth was attainable and
would, if sought for earnestly, bring about consolation and
reformation to mankind--the implicit assumption that he must live
for the future of the human race, not for his own comfort, pleasure
or success. If he had only not dogmatically denied that which he
could not perceive or understand, if he had, with sincerity,
admitted his own deficiencies of knowledge and perception--perhaps
even of reasoning power--if he had had a ray of true humility--what a
great and inspiring personality he might have been. As it was he was
a light to others in the common places of existence, but one that
failed in the greater crises of life, and was quenched by sorrow or
by temptation. Did the Light that was in him survive even for
himself? To me he seemed in these last years to be stumbling in
total darkness, hurting himself and then crying aloud in his lonely
distress, clinging to his dogmas but without confident faith--with
an almost despairing and defiant pride of intellect. Again, I assert
that all these strange shortcomings and defects were like an ugly
and distorted setting to a small but brilliant stone. This setting
may drop from him at death and the everlasting brilliant of
truth-seeking remain. He will be among the elect.

As I sat this morning arranging the papers for our next chapter my
thoughts were perpetually drifting to the dear old man, trying to
recall the details of my long debt of gratitude for his friendship.
As a little child he was perhaps the only person who persistently
cared for me--or rather who singled me out as one who was worthy of
being trained and looked after. Intellectually he had no dominant
influence until after the age of twenty, when I first began to study
his works systematically. But though I had not until then grasped
his philosophy, merely talking to him and listening to his long and
pleasant discussions with Mother stimulated both my curiosity as to
the facts and my desire to discover the principles or laws
underlying these facts. He taught me to look on all social
institutions exactly as if they were plants or animals--things that
could be observed, classified and explained, and the action of which
could to some extent be foretold if one knew enough about them.

It was after Mother's death--in the first years of mental vigour
--that I read the First Principles and followed his generalisations
through Biology, Psychology and Sociology. This generalisation
illuminated my mind; the importance of functional adaptation was,
for instance, at the basis of a good deal of the faith in collective
regulation that I afterwards developed. Once engaged in the
application of the scientific method to the facts of social
organisation, in my observations of East End life, of co-operation,
of Factory Acts, of Trade Unionism, I shook myself completely free
from laisser-faire bias--in fact I suffered from a somewhat violent
reaction from it. And in later years even the attitude towards
religion and towards supernaturalism which I had accepted from him
as the last word of enlightenment, has become replaced by another
attitude--no less agnostic but with an inclination to doubt
materialism more than I doubt spiritualism--to listen for voices in
the great Unknown; to open my consciousness to the non-material
world--to prayer.  If I had to live my life over again, according to
my present attitude I should, I think, remain a conforming member of
the National Church. My case, I think, is typical of the rise and
fall of Herbert Spencer's influence over the men and women of my own

It is more difficult to unravel the effect of his example on the
conduct of life. The amazing loyalty to a disinterested aim, the
patience, endurance, the noble faith manifested in his daily life,
sustained me through those dark years of discouragement, before
success made continuous effort easy, and loving comradeship made it
delightful. Contrariwise, the fitfulness, suspicion, petty
irritations and antagonisms which have disfigured the later years
have, perhaps unjustly (?), increased my distaste for all varieties
of utilitarian ethics, all attempts to apply the scientific method
to the Purpose as distinguished from the Processes of existence. His
failure to attain to the higher levels of conduct and feeling has
sealed my conviction in the bankruptcy of science when it attempts
to realise the cause or the aim of human existence. [MS. diary,
December 8 and 9, 1903.]

In my attempt to portray the father and the mother, the household
saint and the philosopher on the hearth, I have drifted down the
stream of time, far away from the circumstances surrounding childhood
and youth. To these circumstances I now recur.

The leased house on the slope of the Cotswold Hills, nine
miles from my father's main business--the timber yards and
waggon works in the city of Gloucester--where I was born and
mostly bred, was in all its domestic arrangements typical of
the mid-Victorian capitalist. The building, a plain and
formless structure, more like an institution than a home (it
is now a county hospital), was sharply divided into front and
back premises. The front region, with a south-western aspect,
overlooked flower gardens and the beautiful vale of the
Severn: the stairs and landings were heavily carpeted; the
bedrooms and sitting-rooms were plainly but substantially
furnished in mahogany and leather, the "best" drawing-room and
my mother's boudoir more ornately blossoming into reminiscences of
the 1851 Exhibition. In this front portion of the house resided my
father and mother and any honoured guests; the library and study
were frequented by my elder sisters, and in the large and sunny
dining-room all the family assembled for the mid-day meal. The back
premises, with a predominantly northern aspect, overlooked laurel
shrubberies, the servants' yard, the stables and extensive kitchen
gardens. Bare stone steps led to long corridors of bedrooms one
apartment exactly like the other in shape and necessary furniture;
stone-flagged passages connected the housekeeper's room of the upper
servants with the larger servants' hall for the underlings, and a
stone-paved yard separated the kitchen, scullery and larder from the
laundries. In this back region of the house were the day and night
nurseries, the large bare schoolroom overlooking the servants' yard
and stables, the governesses' bedrooms, the one bathroom of the
establishment, and, be it added, my father's billiard- and
smoking-room. But Standish House and its surroundings had not the
significance usually attached to a family home, seeing that,
individually or collectively, the family was always on the move. For
the restless spirit of big enterprise dominated our home life. In
the early spring of most years we moved to a furnished house for the
London season; from thence to Rusland Hall in Westmorland, a
residence necessitated by timber yards at Barrow; whilst a small
property encircling a ramshackle old manor house overhanging the Wye
valley served as a playground for the younger members of the family,
when the elders were entertaining "house parties" in Gloucestershire.
But the most upsetting factor were my father's frequent business
tours, usually accompanied by two of his daughters, in Canada, the
United States or Holland, as railway president and director of
industrial companies.

The same note of perpetual change characterised our social
relationships. We had no intercourse either in the country or
in London with our nearest neighbours; nor did we belong to
any organised profession or church; and my father, who had
been brought up a Radical and had become a Conservative, took
little part in local politics beyond subscribing handsomely to
his party's funds. It is true that there was, somewhere in the
background of our Gloucestershire life, a social entity called
"county society," consisting for the most part of a monotonous
level of foxhunting squires and the better-off incumbents;
this plain of dull conventionality being broken here and there
by the social peaks of peer or baronet, by the outstanding
opulence of a retired manufacturer or trader, or, and this was
the most invigorating variety, by the wider culture and more
heterodox opinions of the Bishop and the Dean of Gloucester of
the period. But the attachments of the family of the timber
merchant of Gloucester to county society had always been loose
and undefined; and as I grew up and the family became more
nomadic, these more stationary ties fell to the ground. The
world of human intercourse in which I was brought up was in
fact an endless series of human beings, unrelated one to the
other, and only casually connected with the family group--a
miscellaneous crowd who came into and went out of our lives,
rapidly and unexpectedly. Servants came and went; governesses
and tutors came and went; business men of all sorts and
degrees, from American railway presidents to Scandinavian
timber growers, from British Imperial company promoters to
managers and technicians of local works, came and went;
perpetually changing circles of "London Society" acquaintances
came and went; intellectuals of all schools of thought,
religious, scientific and literary, came and went; my elder
sisters' suitors, a series extensive and peculiar, came and
went, leaving it is true, in the course of my girlhood, a
permanent residue of seven brothers-in-law, who brought with
them yet other business, professional and political affiliations,
extending and diversifying the perpetually shifting panorama of
human nature in society which opened to my view. Our social
relations had no roots in neighbourhood, in vocation, in creed, or
for that matter in race; they likened a series of moving pictures
--surface impressions without depth--restlessly stimulating in their
glittering variety. How expressive of the circumstance of modern
profit-making machine enterprises is now its culminating attempt to
entertain the world--the ubiquitous cinema!

There was, however, one section of humanity wholly unrepresented in
these moving pictures, the world of labour. With the word labour I
was, of course, familiar. Coupled mysteriously with its mate
capital, this abstract term was always turning up in my father's
conversation, and it occurred and reoccurred in the technical
journals and reports of companies which lay on the library table.
"Water plentiful and labour docile," "The wages of labour are
falling to their natural level," "To raise artificially the wage of
labour is like forcing water up hill: when the pressure is removed
the wage, like the water, falls down hill," were phrases which
puzzled me: the allusion to water and its ways giving a queer
physico-mechanical twist to my conception of the labouring classes
of the current history books. Indeed, I never visualised labour as
separate men and women of different sorts and kinds. Right down to
the time when I became interested in social science and began to
train as a social investigator, labour was an abstraction, which
seemed to denote an arithmetically calculable mass of human beings
each individual a repetition of the other, very much in the same way
that the capital of my father's companies consisted, I imagined, of
gold sovereigns identical with all other gold sovereigns in form,
weight and colour, and also in value, except "when the capital is
watered" explained my father. Again this mysterious allusion to
water! Was it because water was the most monotonous and most easily
manipulated of the elements? I enquired.

This ignorance about the world of labour, did it imply class
consciousness, the feeling of belonging to a superior caste? A
frank answer seems worth giving. There was no consciousness of
superior riches: on the contrary, owing to my mother's
utilitarian expenditure (a discriminating penuriousness which
I think was traditional in families rising to industrial power
during the Napoleonic wars) the Potter girls were brought up
to "feel poor." "You girls," grumbled a brother-in-law, as he
glanced from a not too luxurious breakfast table at the
unexpectedly large credit in his bank-book, "have neither the
habit nor the desire for comfortable expenditure." The
consciousness that was present, I speak for my own analytic
mind, was the consciousness of superior power. As life
unfolded itself I became aware that I belonged to a class of
persons who habitually gave orders, but who seldom, if ever,
executed the orders of other people. My mother sat in her
boudoir and gave orders--orders that brooked neither delay nor
evasion. My father, by temperament the least autocratic and
most accommodating of men, spent his whole life giving orders.
He ordered his stockbroker to buy and sell shares, his
solicitor to prepare contracts and undertake legal
proceedings. In the running of the timber yards, his
intervention took the form of final decisions with regard to
the new developments in buying and selling, the new agreements with
railway companies as to rates and transport facilities. When those
maps of continents were unrolled before him I listened with
fascinated interest to eager discussions, whether a line of railway
should run through this section or that; at what exact point the
station or junction should be placed; what land should be purchased
for the contingent town; whether this patch or that, of forest,
coalfield or mineral ore, should be opened up or left for future
generations to exploit. And these manifold decisions seemed to me to
be made without reference to any superior authority, without
consideration of the desires or needs of the multitude of lives
which would, in fact, be governed by them; without, in short, any
other consideration than that of the profit of the promoters. As for
the shareholders' control (with what bewildered curiosity I watched
the preparation for these meetings!), I knew it was a myth as far as
human beings were concerned; it was patently the shares that were
counted and not the holders; and share certificates, like all other
forms of capital, could be easily manipulated. And when, one after
the other, my sisters' husbands joined the family group, they also
were giving orders: the country gentleman on his estate and at
sessions; the manufacturer in his mill; the ship-owner to his fleet
of ships on the high seas; the city financier in the money market
floating or refusing to float foreign government loans; the Member
of Parliament as Financial Secretary of the Treasurer; the surgeon
and the barrister well on their way to leadership in their
respective professions. It remains to be added, though this is
forestalling my tale, that on the death of my mother I found myself
giving orders and never executing them. Reared in this atmosphere of
giving orders it was not altogether surprising that I apparently
acquired the marks of the caste. When, in search of facts, I found
myself working as a trouser hand in a low-grade Jewish shop, I
overheard the wife of the sub-contractor, as she examined my bungled
buttonholes, remark to her husband, "She's no good at the sewing: if
I keep her I will put her to look after the outworkers--she's got
the voice and manner to deal with that bloody lot." Alas! to be
recognised--not as a scholar, not even as a "r-e-e-l lidee"
unaccustomed to earn her livelihood--but as a person particularly
fitted by nature or nurture "to give work out" and to "take work in"
in such a manner and in such a voice as to make the biggest profit
for (I say it as a justifiable retort) that bloody sweater!

The masculine world of big enterprise, with its passion for
adventure and assumption of power, had its complement for its
womenkind in the annual "London season" and all that it implied. I
do not know whether this peculiar and I imagine ephemeral type of
social intercourse still survives; or whether, in so far as the
daughters of business and professional men are concerned, it
gradually faded away with the opening of university education and
professional careers to women in the twentieth century. But in the
'seventies and 'eighties the London season, together with its
derivative country-house visiting, was regarded by wealthy parents
as the equivalent, for their daughters, of the university education
and professional training afforded for their sons, the adequate
reason being that marriage to a man of their own or a higher social
grade was the only recognised vocation for women not compelled to
earn their own livelihood. It was this society life which absorbed
nearly half the time and more than half the vital energy of the
daughters of the upper and upper middle class; it fixed their
standards of personal expenditure; it formed their manners and,
either by attraction or repulsion it determined their social ideals.
When I turned to social investigation as my craft in life, it was
just my experience of London Society that started me with a personal
bias effectually discounting, even if it did not wholly supersede,
my father's faith in the social value of a leisured class.

Can I define, as a good sociologist should, the social entity I am
about to criticise? For this purpose I do not know whether it is an
advantage or disadvantage that I observed it, not from a position of
privilege, but as one of the common herd of well-to-do folk who
belonged or thought they belonged to London Society. From my
particular point of observation London Society appeared as a
shifting mass of miscellaneous and uncertain membersship; it was
essentially a body that could be defined, not by its circumference,
which could not be traced, but by its centre or centres; centres of
social circles representing or epitomising certain dominant forces
within the British governing class. There was the Court,
representing national tradition and custom; there was the Cabinet
and ex-Cabinet, representing political power; there was a mysterious
group of millionaire financiers representing money; there was the
racing set--or was it the Jockey Club? I am not versed in these
matters--representing sport. All persons who habitually entertained
and who were entertained by the members of any one of these key
groups could claim to belong to London Society. These four inner
circles crossed and recrossed each other owing to an element of
common membership; this, in the 'seventies and 'eighties, happening
to consist of striking personalities: such, for instance, as Edward,
Prince of Wales, and the magnetically attractive Grand Seigneur who,
as the tiresome tag tells, won the Derby, married a Rothschild and
was destined to become Prime Minister of the British Empire at a
time when there was still a British Empire. Surrounding and
solidifying these four intersecting social circles was a curiously
tough substance--the British aristocracy--an aristocracy, as a
foreign diplomatist once remarked to me, "the most talented, the
most energetic and the most vulgar in the world;" characteristics
which he attributed to a perpetual process of casting out and
renewal, younger sons and daughters falling out of social rank to
sink or swim among their fellow-commoners, whilst the new rich of
the British Empire and the United States were assimilated by
marriage, or by the sale of honours to persons of great riches but
with mean minds and mediocre manners, in order to replenish the
electoral funds of the "ins" and "outs." But however diluted or
enlarged the old landed aristocracy might be by marriage or the
manufactured-for-money article, it did not surround or isolate the
Court; it was already a minor element in the Cabinet; and though it
might still claim precedence on the race-course and the hunting
field, it was barely represented in the ever-changing group of
international financiers who ruled the money market. The bulk of the
shifting mass of wealthy persons who were conscious of belonging to
London Society, who practised its rites and followed its fashions,
were, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, professional
profit-makers: the old-established families of bankers and brewers,
often of Quaker descent, coming easily in social precedence; then
one or two great publishers and, at a distance, ship-owners, the
chairmen of railway and some other great corporations, the largest
of the merchant bankers--but as yet no retailers. Scattered in this
pudding-stone of men of rank and men of property were jewels of
intellect and character; cultivated diplomatists from all the
countries of the world, great lawyers, editors of powerful
newspapers, scholarly ecclesiastics of the Anglican and Roman
Catholic communions; the more "stylish" of the permanent heads of
Government departments, and here and there a star personage from the
world of science, literature or art, who happened to combine delight
in luxurious living and the company of great personages with social
gifts and a fairly respectable character. To this strangely
heterogeneous crowd were added from time to time topical "lions,"
belonging to all races and all vocations, with strictly temporary
tickets of admission for the season of their ephemeral notoriety.

Now the first and foremost characteristic of the London season and
country-house life, a characteristic which distinguished it from the
recreation and social intercourse of the rest of the community, was
the fact that some of the men and practically all the women made the
pursuit of pleasure their main occupation in life. I say advisedly
some of the men, because the proportion of functionless males, I
mean in the economic sense, varied according to whether the
particular social circle frequented was dominated by the Cabinet and
ex-Cabinet or by the racing and sporting set. Among my own
acquaintances (I except mere partners at London and country-house
dances, for dancing men in my time were mostly fools) there were
very few men who were not active brain-workers in politics,
administration, law, science or literature. In the racing set, which
I knew only by repute, I gathered that the professional
brain-workers, whether speculators or artists, bookmakers, trainers
or jockeys and the like, rarely belonged to "society"; in their
social and economic subordination these professional workers of the
world of sport did not differ materially from other providers of
entertainment--game-keepers, gardeners, cooks and tradesmen. But
about the women there was no such distinction. In the brilliant
memoirs of Mrs. Asquith--a document, owing to its frankness, of great
value to the sociologist--this fact is brought out with startling
emphasis and attractive vividness. Riding, dancing, flirting and
dressing up--in short, entertaining and being entertained--all
occupations which imply the consumption and not the production of
commodities and services, were the very substance of her life before
marriage and a large and important part of it after marriage. And my
own experience as an unmarried woman was similar. How well I
recollect those first days of my early London seasons: the
pleasurable but somewhat feverish anticipation of endless
distraction, a dissipation of mental and physical energy which
filled up all the hours of the day and lasted far into the night;
the ritual to be observed; the presentation at Court, the riding in
the Row, the calls, the lunches and dinners, the dances and crushes,
Hurlingham and Ascot, not to mention amateur theatricals and other
sham philanthropic excrescences. There was of course a purpose in
all this apparently futile activity, the business of getting
married; a business carried on by parents and other promoters,
sometimes with genteel surreptitiousness, sometimes with cynical
effrontery. Meanwhile, as one form of entertainment was piled on
another, the pace became fast and furious; a mania for reckless
talking, for the experimental display of one's own personality,
ousted all else from consciousness. Incidentally I discovered that
personal vanity was an "occupational disease" of London Society; and
that any one who suffered as I did from constitutional excitability
in this direction, the symptoms being not only painful ups and downs
of inflation and depression but also little lies and careless
cruelties, should avoid it as the very devil. By the end of the
season, indigestion and insomnia had undermined physical health; a
distressing mental nausea, taking the form of cynicism about one's
own and other people's character, had destroyed all faith in and
capacity for steady work. And when these years of irresponsible
girlhood were over, and I found myself my father's housekeeper and
hostess, I realised that the pursuit of pleasure was not only an
undertaking, but also an elaborate, and to me a tiresome
undertaking, entailing extensive plant, a large number of employees
and innumerable decisions on insignificant matters. There was the
London house to be selected and occupied; there was the stable of
horses and carriages to be transported; there was the elaborate
stock of prescribed garments to be bought; there was all the
commissariat and paraphernalia for dinners, dances, picnics and
week-end parties to be provided. Among the wealthier of one's
relatives and acquaintances there were the deer forests and the
shooting-boxes, all entailing more machinery, the organisation of
which frequently devolved on the women of the household.

For good or evil, according to the social ideals of the student,
this remarkable amalgam, London Society and country-house life,
differed significantly from other social aristocracies. There were
no fixed caste barriers; there seemed to be, in fact, no recognised
types of exclusiveness based on birth or breeding, on personal
riches or on personal charm; there was no fastidiousness about
manners or morals or intellectual gifts. Like the British Empire,
London Society had made itself what it was in a fit of
absent-mindedness. To foreign observers it appeared all-embracing in
its easy-going tolerance and superficial good nature. "One never
knows whom one is going to sit next to at a London dinner party,"
ruefully remarked the afore-mentioned diplomatist. But deep down in
the unconscious herd instinct of the British governing class there
was a test of fitness for membership of this most gigantic of all
social clubs, but a test which was seldom recognised by those who
applied it, still less by those to whom it was applied, the
possession of some form of power over other people. The most obvious
form of power, and the most easily measurable, was the power of
wealth. Hence any family of outstanding riches, if its members were
not actually mentally deficient or legally disreputable, could hope
to rise to the top, marry its daughters to Cabinet Ministers and
noblemen, and even become in time itself ennobled. I once asked a
multi-millionaire of foreign extraction, with a domestic circle not
distinguished in intellect or character, why he had settled in
England rather than in Paris, Berlin or Vienna. "Because in England
there is complete social equality," was his rapid retort: an answer
that was explained, perhaps verified, by a subsequent announcement
that King Edward and his entourage had honoured by his presence the
millionaire's palatial country residence. Personal wealth was,
however, only one of the many different types of power accepted as a
passport to good society; a great industrial administrator, not
himself endowed with much capital, so long as he could provide
remunerative spots for younger sons or free passes on transcontinental
railways, could, if he chose, associate on terms of flattering
personal intimacy with those members of the British aristocracy, and
there were many of them, who Desired these favours. And it must be
admitted that there was no narrow view as to the type of power to be
honoured with the personal intercourse of great personages. Thirty
years before the Labour Party became His Majesty's government there
was a distinct desire, on the part of a select politico-social set,
to welcome the leaders of the newly enfranchised Trade Union
democracy. And if the tiny group of Labour leaders had not been
singularly refined and retiring, and, be it added, puritanical men,
they also would have been caught up in the meshes of society, to be
immediately dropped when they ceased to represent their thousands of
members. The same worship of power was shown in the supersession of
one type of person by another. For instance, in the 'seventies the
editors of great newspapers and other periodicals, men of broad
culture and great experience of public affairs, were honoured
guests; but even in my time the editors were beginning to be
overshadowed by the millionaire newspaper proprietors, men who were
not distinguished by wit, wisdom; technical skill or professional
good manners. The more recent and more notorious instance of this
driving out of the finer by the baser type was the social subserviency
of quite wellbred and cultivated men and women to the South African
millionaires, some of whom had neither manners nor morals; and all
of whom were immeasurably inferior in charm and refinement, if not
to the Rothschilds, most assuredly to the Barings and Glyns, the
Lubbocks, Hoares and Buxtons, who had represented money power in the
London Society of the 'seventies and 'eighties. What was even more
demoralising than this degraded and coarsening scale of values,
because it bred a poisonous cynicism about human relations, was the
making and breaking of personal friendships according to temporary
and accidental circumstances in no way connected with personal
merit: gracious appreciation and insistent intimacy being succeeded,
when failure according to worldly standards occurred, by harsh
criticism and cold avoidance. More especially was this the case in
the relations between women. The rumour of an approaching marriage
to a great political personage would be followed by a stream of
invitations; if the rumour proved unfounded the shower stopped with
almost ridiculous promptitude. A similar drying up of the effusive
and appreciative friendship of leaders of Society was experienced by
wives and daughters stripped by death of celebrated husbands and
fathers. This subconscious pursuit of power was manifested in a more
equivocal form. The conventional requirements with regard to
personal morality, sexual or financial, were graded with almost
meticulous exactitude to the degree of social, political or
industrial power exercised by the person concerned. A duchess,
especially if she came from a princely family, might exchange her
insignificant duke for a powerful marquis as a habitual companion
without causing the slightest dent in her social acceptability. But
if Mrs. Smith indulged in similar domestic waywardness the penalty
was complete social ostracism. The same graded requirements were
applied to financial misdemeanour. Past iniquities of a
multi-millionaire, whose millions were secure, were discreetly
forgotten; an honourable bankruptcy brought about by lack of
knowledge or sheer ill luck led to ignoring not the sin but the
sinner. There seemed in fact to be a sort of invisible stock
exchange in constant communication with the leading hostesses in
London and in the country; the stock being social reputations and
the reason for appreciation or depreciation being worldly success or
failure however obtained. Some stocks were gilt-edged, royal
personages or persons who were at once outstandingly wealthy and
genuinely aristocratic, their value could neither be "bulled" nor
"beared" by current rumours; but the social value of the ruck of
individuals who trooped to the political receptions or forgathered
in the houses of the less well-known hostesses, went up and down as
rapidly and unexpectedly as do the shares of the less well-known and
more hazardous "industrials" in the money market.11 It was this
continuous uncertainty as to social status that led to all the ugly
methods of entertaining practised by the crowd who wanted "to get
into society"; the variety or "menagerie" element in many
entertainments so often caricatured by Punch; the competition in
conspicuous expenditure on clothes, food, wine and flowers; above
all, the practice of inviting persons with whom you had nothing in
common because they would attract desired guests to your house. Nor
did the manners of the most gifted and fastidious members of the
governing groups remain unaffected by this competitive element in
London Society, the push inwards by the crowd being inevitably
followed, in order to rid themselves of unwelcome attentions, by a
push outwards by the members of the inner circles. Now, it is the
push that is vulgar, not its direction; and the fact that the push
outwards was, by well-bred persons, usually manifested, not in words
or acts, but by subtle forms of insolent expression, "that distant
look characteristic of people who do not wish to be agreeable, and
who from suddenly receding depths of their eyes seem to have caught
sight of you at the far end of an interminably straight road," to
quote the inimitable Marcel Proust, did not make it less a breach of
good-fellowship, and therefore of good manners, than the swear-words
of Billingsgate. And yet who could blame socially distinguished men
and women for developing in the course of a long life, spent in the
midst of a mob of competing hostesses, this self-protective
colouring of a detached but withering insolence of gesture and
expression assumed at will towards this or that person whom they
were compelled to recognise as social acquaintances, but whose
company had always been or had become distasteful to them? There may
be saints who can live untainted in such an environment, exactly as
we know that there are men and women who retain their moral
refinement in a one-room tenement, inhabited by persons of both
sexes and all ages. But the true-born saint, whether rich or poor,
is an uncommon variety of the human species.

Such was the attitude of man towards man in the social environment
in which I was reared. The dominant impulse was neither the greed of
riches nor the enjoyment of luxurious living, though both these
motives were present, but the desire for power. The attitude of man
towards the universe--that is to say, the metaphysical atmosphere--is
more difficult to describe, partly, I deem, because the period was
one of rapid transition from one metaphysic to another. For, looking
back, it now seems to me that it was exactly in those last decades
of the nineteenth century that we find the watershed between the
metaphysic of the Christian Church, which had hitherto dominated
British civilisation, and the agnosticism, deeply coloured by
scientific materialism, which was destined, during the first decades
of the twentieth century, to submerge all religion based on
tradition and revelation. Judging by my own experience among the
organisers of big enterprise, with their "business morality" and
their international affiliations, the Christian tradition, already
in the 'seventies and 'eighties, had grown thin and brittle, more
easily broken than repaired. When staying in the country my parents
were, it is true, regular churchgoers and communicants; and my
father always enjoyed reading the lessons in the parish churches
frequented by the household in Gloucestershire, Westmorland and
Monmouthshire. Parenthetically I may remark that it was symptomatic
of the general decline of orthodoxy that one who had been brought up
as a Unitarian and had never been admitted to the Anglican Church by
the rite of confirmation, should have been, not only accepted as a
communicant by Anglican clergymen who knew the facts, but also
habitually invited, as the wealthy layman of the congregation, to
take an active part in the service. Owing to personal religion,
filial respect, or the joy of walking to and fro with the beloved
father, one or two of the Potter girls would find themselves in the
family pew each Sabbath day. But here conformity ended. No
compulsion, even no pressure, was put on us to attend religious
services. During the London season my father, accompanied by a bevy
of daughters, would start out on a Sunday morning to discover the
most exciting speaker on religious or metaphysical issues; and we
would listen with equal zest to Monsignor Capel or Cannon Liddon,
Spurgeon or Voysey, James Martineau or Frederic Harrison; discussing
on the walk back across the London Parks the religious rhetoric or
dialectical subtleties of preacher or lecturer. Except for this
eclectic enjoyment of varieties of metaphysical experience, the
atmosphere of the home was peculiarly free-thinking. There was no
censorship whether of talk in the family, or of the stream of new
books and current periodicals, or of the opinions of the crowd of
heterogeneous guests. Any question which turned up in classical or
modern literature, in law reports or technical journals, from the
origin of species to the latest diplomatic despatch, from sexual
perversion to the rates of exchange, would be freely and frankly
discussed within the family circle. Perhaps the only expenditure
unregulated and unrestricted by my mother, she herself being the
leading spendthrift, was the purchase or subscription for books,
periodicals and newspapers. And whether we girls took down from the
well-filled library shelves the Confessions of St. Augustine or
those of Jean Jacques Rousseau, whether the parcel from Hatchett's
contained the latest novels by Guy de Maupassant and Emile Zola or
the learned tomes of Auguste Comte or Ernest Renan; whether we
ordered from the London Library or from Mudie's a pile of books on
Eastern religions, or a heterogeneous selection of what I call
"yellow" literature, was determined by our own phoice or by the
suggestion of any casual friend or acquaintance. When we complained
to my father that a book we wanted to read was banned by the
libraries: "Buy it, my dear," was his automatic answer. And if the
whirl of society in which we lived undermined character by its
amazing variety, it most assuredly disintegrated prejudices and
destroyed dogma. My father had a weakness for ecclesiastics, and Dr.
Ellicott, the then Bishop of Gloucester, was his favourite associate
in the county; whilst Cardinal Manning was an honoured visitor in
London. But Herbert Spencer, who was far and away the most intimate
of the family friends, was always arguing with my mother on the
origin of religion, deriding and denouncing ecclesiasticism and all
its works; and I think it was he who brought into our circle of
acquaintances Francis Galton and Sir Joseph Hooker, Huxley and
Tyndall, whilst to Spencer's annual picnic came George Henry Lewes
and occasionally George Eliot. Nor was this absence of "taboos"
reserved exclusively for the intellectual plane. In the
neighbourhood of our Gloucestershire home there resided one known in
the county by the endearing title of "the wicked earl," whose
stately mansion my Puritan mother persistently refused to enter. Yet
in the first few weeks of "coming out" I accompanied my father on
such a visit; listened to the cry of "Messieurs et Mesdames, faites
vos jeux"; and found in my aforementioned "voice and manner," and
in bookish talk, an effective safeguard and timely diversion when I
guilelessly went out (in those days of conventional chaperonage) for
a long walk alone with a married man of fashion.

We lived, indeed, in a perpetual state of ferment, receiving and
questioning all contemporary hypotheses as to the duty and destiny
of man in this world and the next. Into this all-questioning state
of mind were thrust the two most characteristic of current
assumptions: first, that physical science could solve all problems;
and secondly, that every one, aided by a few elementary textbooks,
could be his own philosopher and scientist--just as a previous
generation had imagined that if only the law were codified into a
clearly printed little handbook, every man could be his own lawyer.
Living a life of leisure on this battlefield of mixed metaphysic and
conflicting ethic, it is not surprising that the first fifteen years
of my thinking life were spent, not in learning a craft, but in
seeking a creed by the light of which I could live the life I had to


1 Richard Potter, who had contested the borough of Wigan when it was
still a close corporation, was returned as its member in the 1832
Parliament. Lawrence Heyworth became member for Derby in 1847. For
details about the Potters of Tadcaster see From Ploughshare to
Parliament, by my sister, Georgina Meinertzhagen.

2 Mr. Price remained my father's greatest friend till death parted
them. Ugly, shrewd, silent and kindly, he was for many years chairman
of the Midland Railway and Liberal member for Gloucester. His grandson,
Philips Price, famous for his adventures in and sympathy for Soviet
Russia, contested Gloucester in the 1923 and 1924 elections as a
Labour candidate of the Left Wing.

3 From an entry dated February 7, 1855, in the unpublished journals of
N. W. Senior, quoted in Many Memories of Many People, by M. C. M.
Simpson (daughter of Nassau Senior), pp. 170-71, I gather that my
father found the French Government more efficient than the British
Government in respect of the handling of the wooden huts.

"Jeune told me that Potter told him that for three weeks after he had
made his proposal to the Duke of Newcastle he got no answer; that he
wrote to ask what was to be done, and was told that the paper had been
mislaid, and that they wished for a copy of it; that at length the War
Department having, after a great delay, resolved to have them, they
were made and sent by rail to Southampton, but that the contract
entered into by the Ordnance ended when they reached the railway
terminus; that, after some delay, another contract was entered into
for putting them on board of steamers, but that this contract merely
heaped them on deck; that a further contract and a further delay was
necessary to get them down into the hold; and he does not believe
that at this instant they have got beyond Balaklava. Louis Napoleon
sent for Potter to Saint-Cloud to consult about their being supplied
to the French army. In a couple of hours the whole matter was
arranged between Louis Napoleon and himself. The question then was
how soon the execution of it could be begun. This was Saturday. A
letter could not get to Gloucester before Monday. Louis Napoleon
rang for a courier, gave him fifteen napoleons, and ordered him to
be in Gloucester in twenty-four hours. Potter proposed to go to his
hotel, write out the contract and specification, and return with
them. Louis Napoleon said no, they must be written out immediately;
that he was going out for a couple of hours, and hoped on his return
to find all ready. Potter was thus left two hours alone in Louis
Napoleon's cabinet, with all his private papers about. The contract,
etc., was ready in two hours, was in Gloucester on Sunday, and the
workmen were employed in executing it by six o'clock on Monday

When it came to settling the account, my father's experience was
reversed. The British Government paid up at once. After making many
applications to the French Government, my father betook himself to
Paris, but utterly failed to get access to the minister concerned. With
a large overdraft at the bank, the financial position became
intolerable. Presently his friend tom Brassey appeared on a like quest
but with greater experience of foreign governments. "My dear Potter,
what an innocent you are! Go to the Bank of France and cash a cheque
for a thousand pounds; give the porter at the ministry twenty francs,
and pay your way handsomely until you get to the minister; then put
down five hundred pounds and you will get your money all right.
Otherwise you will never get it: Great Britain will not go to war with
France to get you paid!" My father took the advice. When he was
admitted into the minister's presence he put down the equivalent of
five hundred pounds. The minister put it in his pocket, said
pleasant things about my father's stay in Paris, and signed the
requisite papers authorising immediate payment. My father used
frequently to ask the more scrupulous of his business associates
what they would have done under the circumstances.

4 The following description of my mother, given by her friend Michel
Chevalier to his friend Taine, the historian, appears in Notes on
England, by H. Taine, trans, by W. F. Rae 1872 (p. 93):

"M., being invited to the country, discovered that the mistress of
the house knew much more Greek than himself, apologised, and retired
from the field; then, out of pleasantry, she wrote down his English
sentence in Greek. Note that this female Hellenist is a woman of the
world, and even stylish. Moreover, she has nine daughters, two
nurses, two governesses, servants in proportion, a large,
well-appointed house, frequent and numerous visitors; throughout
all this, perfect order; never noise or fuss; the machine appears to
move of its own accord. These are gatherings of faculties and of
contrasts which might make us reflect. In France we believe too
readily that if a woman ceases to be a doll she ceases to be a

5 Early Memories, by John Butler Yeats, p. 48. i--B 33

6 Autobiography, Herbert Spencer, 1904, vol. i. pp. 260-61. Herbert
Spencer adds: "The friendship thus initiated lasted until the deaths of
both. It influenced to a considerable extent the current of my life;
and, through their children and grandchildren, influences it still."
And here is one among many entries in my diary descriptive of my
father, written two years after my mother's death:

"The grand simplicity of his nature, his motives transparent and
Uncomplicated--all resolvable indeed into one--desire to make those
belonging to him happy. Read to me yesterday some of his journal in
Rome when he was courting mother. Just the same mind as now: uncritical
reverence for what was beautiful and good: no trace of cynicism or
desire to analyse or qualify. Perhaps in his business career, in
business matters, he has developed a shrewdness and sharpness of
thought and action, and with it a cynical depreciation of men and their
ways. But this is foreign to his nature, has been acquired in the
struggle for existence, and never enters into his intimate
relationships. With him the instinctive feelings are paramount. He
would sacrifice all, to some extent even his self-respect, if he
thought the happiness of some loved one were at stake. His is far away
the most unselfish nature and most unself-conscious nature know." [MS.
diary, May 16, 1883.]

7 Autobiography, Herbert Spencer, 1904, vol. i. p. 311 (set.
26, 1846).

8 MS. diary, May 6, 1887. The remainder of the entry may! be of
interest to the reader, though as I was only slightly acquainted with
the great scientist my casual observation is of little value.

"Throughout the interview, what interested me was not Huxley's
opinion of Spencer, but Huxley's account of himself. . . . How as a
young man, though he had no definite purpose in life, he felt power;
was convinced that in his own line he would be a leader. That
expresses Huxley: he is a leader of men. I doubt whether science was
pre-eminently the bent of his mind. He is truth-loving, his love of
truth finding more satisfaction in demolition than in construction.
He throws the full weight of thought, feeling, will, into anything
that he takes up. He does not register his thoughts and his
feelings: his early life was supremely sad, and he controlled the
tendency to look back on the past and forward into the future. When
he talks to man, woman or child he seems all attention and he has,
or rather had, the power of throwing himself into the thoughts and
feelings of others and responding to them. And yet they are all
shadows to him: he thinks no more of them and drops back into the
ideal world he lives in. For Huxley, when not working, dreams
strange things: carries on lengthy conversations between unknown
persons living within his brain. There is a strain of madness in
him; melancholy has haunted his whole life. 'I always knew that
success was so much dust and ashes. I have never been satisfied with
achievement.' None of the enthusiasm for what is, or the silent
persistency in discovering facts; more the eager rush of the
conquering mind, loving the fact of conquest more than the land
conquered. And consequently his achievement has fallen far short of
his capacity. Huxley is greater as a man than as a scientific
thinker. The exact opposite might be said of Herbert Spencer."

9 It was an open secret that it was George Eliot who was in love with
the philosopher, and when, on her death, newspaper paragraphs appeared
implying that he had been one of her suitors he consulted my father
about publishing the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
"My dear Spencer, you will be eternally damned if you do it," replied
my father.

10 Autobiography, Herbert Spencer, 1904, vol. ii. p. 412.

11 It appears from Lord Randolph Churchill, by Winston Churchill,
1906, vol. i. p. 74, that even the son of a duke might suffer this
swift change from caressing friendliness to cold neglect, if he had
incurred the enmity of a sufficiently powerful person, say, for
instance, Edward, Prince of Wales. "But in the year 1876," recounts
the son and biographer of Lord Randolph, "an event happened which
altered, darkened and strengthened his whole life and character.
Engaging in his brother's quarrels with force and reckless
partisanship, Lord Randolph incurred the deep displeasure of a great
personage. The fashionable world no longer smiled. Powerful
enemies were anxious to humiliate him. His own sensitiveness and
pride magnified every coldness into an affront. London became odious
to him. The breach was not repaired for more than eight years, and
in the interval a nature originally genial and gay contracted a
stern and bitter quality, a harsh contempt for what is called
'Society,' and an abiding antagonism to rank and authority." How
oddly old-fashioned this scale of values reads in these democratic


IN SEARCH OF A CREED  [1862-1882; age 4-24]

THE youngest but one of the nine daughters, creeping up in the
shadow of my baby brother's birth and death, I spent my childhood in
a quite special way among domestic servants, to whom as a class I
have an undying gratitude. I was neither ill-treated nor oppressed:
I was merely ignored. For good or for evil I was left free to live
my own little life within the large and loose framework of family

The first scene I remember was finding myself naked and astonished
outside the nursery door, with my clothes flung after me, by the
highly trained and prim woman who had been engaged as my brother's
nurse. What exactly happened to me on that particular morning I do
not recollect. The French and English governesses who presided over
the education of my sisters decided I was too young for the
schoolroom. Eventually I took refuge in the laundry, a spacious and
well-lighted room, sunny in the summer and deliciously warm in the
winter, under the voluntary but devoted care of the head laundry-maid,
a kind and clever girl, skilful worker and pious chapel-goer, who,
now over eighty years of age, is still my friend. On Monday, the
washing day, when my chum and her assistants were immersed in
soapsuds and enveloped in steam, I was warned off the premises, but
from Tuesday afternoon I was welcome to come and go. Here, curled up
amid rough-dried table-cloths and bed-sheets, I dozed and
day-dreamed; or, sitting on the ironing-board swinging my legs, I
chanted to an audience of admiring maids about my intention when I
was grown up, of becoming a nun. Another favoured place was the
hayloft, up a ladder from the harness room, to which by a benevolent
coachman I was admitted, with a big tabby cat, my adored follower
and purring playmate. Out of doors there were "secret" places in the
shrubberies where I arranged and rearranged stones and sticks;
grottos in the woods where I puddled leaky pools in trickling
streams; all the time building castles in the air in which the
picture of a neglected child enjoying her own melodramatically
forgiving death-bed was succeeded by the more cheerful vision of
courting lovers. How and when I learnt to read I do not remember.
Long before I drifted into the schoolroom for spells of regular
lessons, continuous reading, self-selected from the masses of books
stacked in the library, study and schoolroom bookcases, or from the
miscellaneous pamphlets, periodicals and newspapers scattered
throughout the house, had become my main occupation; a wholesome
alternative to castle-building but not conducive to robust health.
Indeed, almost continuous illness, bouts of neuralgia, of
indigestion, of inflammation of all sorts and kinds, from inflamed
eyes to congested lungs, marred my happiness; and worse than
physical pain was boredom, due to the incapacity of ill-health, the
ever-recurring problem of getting rid of the time between the meals,
and from getting up to going to bed; and, worst of all, the
sleepless hours between going to bed and getting up. I have a vivid
memory of stealing and secreting a small bottle of chloroform from
the family medicine-chest as a vaguely imagined alternative to the
pains of life and the ennui of living; and of my consternation when
one day I found the stopper loose and the contents evaporated.12
Meanwhile the procession of governesses, English, French and German,
did not trouble me. For the most part I liked them and they liked
me. But after a few weeks or months of experimenting in regular
schoolroom hours, and disagreeable tussles withf| arithmetic or
grammar, I always took to my bed, the family doctor prescribing "no
lessons, more open-air exercise, if possible a complete change of
scene." When the last of my elder sisters "came out," and my
youngest sister had to be provided with a nursery governess, all
pretence at formal education was abandoned.

But by this time I had invented a device of my own for self-culture
--ading the books of my free choice, and in my private manuscript
book extracting, abstracting and criticising what I had read. To
these immature reviews of books were added from time to time, as the
spirit moved me, confessions of personal shortcomings or reflections
on my own or other people's affairs.

I imagine that the majority of lonely but mentally alert children
get into the habit of scribbling their thoughts and feelings, either
to rid themselves of painful emotion or in order to enjoy the
unwonted pleasure of self-expression. When this habit is combined
with native wit, original observation and a quaint use of words,
these scribblings may easily rise into literature. I have no such
treasure to unlock. Unlike one or two of my sisters, I was born
without artistic faculty, either for dancing or acting, for painting
or music, for prose or poetry. The talents entrusted to my care were
a tireless intellectual curiosity together with a double dose of
will-power--all the more effective because it was largely
subconscious, instinctively avoiding expression if insistence
threatened to prevent fulfilment. It was the "overcoming by yielding"
type of will, inherited from my father, which, when I was living
amid the Jews in East London, I thought I recognised as a racial
characteristic. But however useful intellectual curiosity and
concentrated purpose may be to the scientific worker, they are not
attractive gifts in a child or in a marriageable young woman, and
they are therefore apt to be hidden. Nor do they lead to facile
literary expression. Once I was started on the career of a social
investigator, the manuscript books became a record of other people's
character and conversation; of their gestures and acts; in fact, of
human behaviour; and, as such, these entries have an interest of
their own. The diary becomes, in fact, one of the craftsman's tools;
in a later chapter I call it synthetic note-taking, in order to
distinguish it from the analytic note-taking upon which historical
work is based. Hence, in describing the technique of a social
investigator--for instance, the use of the "interview" and "watching
organisations at work"--I shall produce entries from my diary
exactly as, in the Appendix, I give samples of analytic notes. But
the scribblings of pre-craftsman years are records, not of objective
facts but of subjective experiences; they represent the tracings on
a sensitive brain, owing to family circumstances exposed to an
unusually varied mental environment, of religious emotion and
scientific thought, and of the business axioms and political
theories characteristic of the last quarter of the nineteenth
century. Seeing that my purpose in this chapter is to describe the
search after a creed by which to live, I do not hesitate to quote,
as the most trustworthy evidence, some of my crude and illiterate
jottings, written not for publication, but in order to clear the
child's thought and express her feelings.

I am quite confident [I wrote on a half-sheet of notepaper when I
was about ten years old] that the education of girls is very much
neglected in the way of their private reading. Take, for instance, a
girl of nine or ten years old, she is either forbidden to read any
but child's books, or she is let loose on a good library; Sir Walter
Scott's novels recommended to her as charming and interesting
stories, "books that cannot do any possible harm," her adviser
declares. But the object in reading is to gain knowledge. A novel
now and then is a wise recreation to be offered to a crowing mind
[sic, query "growing"], it cultivates the imagination, but taken as
the continual nourishment, it destroys many a young mind. . . . The
whole of their thought (for a child of nine or ten spends little or
no thought on her lessons) is wasted on making up love scenes, or
building castles in the air, where she is always the charming
heroine without a fault. I have found it a serious stumbling-block
to myself; whenever I get alone I always find myself building
castles in the air of some kind; it is a habit that is so thoroughly
immured in me that I cannot make a good resolution without making a
castle in air about it.

This autumn unsatisfactory to me in many ways [I confess to myself
in the autumn of 1872 at the more critical age of fourteen]. I have
hardly learned anything in the way of lessons; honestly speaking, I
have been extremely idle, especially during and after the company.
But one thing I have learnt is, that I am exceedingly vain, to say
the truth I am very disgusted with myself; whenever I am in the
company of any gentleman, I cannot help wishing and doing all I
possibly can to attract his attention and admiration; the whole time
I am thinking how I look, which attitude becomes me, and contriving
everything to make myself more liked and admired than my sisters.
The question is, how can I conquer it, for it forwards every bad
passion and suppresses every good one in my heart; the only thing I
can think of, is to avoid gentlemen's society altogether. I feel I
am not good enough to fight any temptation at present, I have not
enough faith. Talking about faith, I don't know what to think about
myself. I believe, and yet I am always acting contrary to my belief,
when I am doing any silly action, when I am indulging my vanity, I
hear a kind of voice saying within me, "It doesn't matter at present
what you say and do, if there is a God, which I very much doubt, it
will be time to think of that when you are married or an old maid,"
and what is worse still I am constantly acting on that idea.
Meanwhile I feel my faith slipping from me, Christ seems to have
been separated from me by [a] huge mass of worldliness and vanity. I
can no more pray to Him with the same earnest faith as I used to do,
my prayers seem mockeries. I pray against temptations, which I run
into of my own accord, and then I complain secretly that my prayers
are not answered. And intellectual difficulties of faith make it
impossible to believe. I am very very wicked; I feel [as] if Christ
can never listen to me again.

Vanity, all is vanity. I feel that I have transgressed deeply, that
I have trifled with the Lord. I feel that if I continue thus I shall
become a frivolous, silly, unbelieving woman, and yet every morning
when I wake I have the same giddy confident feeling and every night
I am miserable. The only thing is to give up any pleasure rather
[than] go into society; it may be hard, in fact I know it will, but
it must be done, else I shall lose all the remaining sparks of
faith, and with those all the chances of my becoming a good and
useful woman in this world, and a companion of our Lord in the next.
December 23, 1872.

BEATRICE POTTER. May God help me to keep my resolution.

How far this pious resolution to keep "out of society" led me in the
following London season to concentrate on extracting tickets for the
Ladies' Gallery of the House of Commons from my sisters' admirers I
do not know.13 But I recollect spending hours listening to debates--
loathing Gladstone and losing my heart to Disraeli; on one occasion (I
think it was after one of the big debates on the Ballot Bill)
returning in a hansom cab in the small hours of the morning, alone
with my latchkey, to our house in Princes Gardens, an occasion
stamped on my memory by ravenous hunger. The autumn and winter of
that year found me travelling with my father and my sister Kate in
the United States of America. It is during this exciting episode
that I start the habit of writing regularly in a MS. book, the first
of an' unbroken series of volumes extending now (1926) over half a
century. The beauties and marvels of Niagara, the Yosemite Valley
and the Californian geysers are duly recorded; but it is the human
beings I meet and their attitude towards life which really interest
me, and the only city I describe in any detail is Salt Lake City
(Utah), where the state of mind of the plural wife rouses my
Curiosity. In spite of the proverbial dullness of journals of travel
particularly from inexperienced and untrained minds, I give a few
entries illustrating the general outlook on men and affairs of the
girl of fifteen.

We left England on the 13th of September, two days after G.'s
marriage.14 I only enjoyed our passage pretty well, the people not
being anything particular. The only nice people were, Mr. Bradford,
Dr. Hall, Dr. Sharp, Mr. A. Pullman, Miss Holmes (I would say Mr.
Knowles, but we hardly made his acquaintance on board). Mr. Bradford
is an American artist--Arctic traveller, and a great friend of Dr.
Rae's.15 He was one of those enthusiastic little men who have not a
spark of sarcasm or cynicism in them, and see only the beauty and
good in everybody. He was a general favourite on board, from his
extreme kindness to and thoughtfulness about everybody. Kate made
great friends with him, and they were to be seen constantly walking
up and down the deck, arm in arm, evidently liking each other
immensely, and sympathising in their views of people and things. I
often envy Kate that way she has of drawing clever people out, and
of making them talk to her as if they were talking to their own
equal. Mr. Hall is the popular Presbyterian minister of New York. He
was perhaps the man on board whom I saw most of, and took the
greatest fancy to, so I shall describe him somewhat at length both
physically and morally. He was a tall man, with a decided stoop,
large features and forehead, not handsome but very impressive-looking.
His face seemed to reflect his mind; when he was not talking, he had
a perfectly calm, simple expression of calm, almost childish faith
and love. But when he was preaching or talking seriously to one, he
looked quite a different man; his face assumed a look of dignity and
earnestness, and a strange smile came over his mouth, a smile which
always reminded me of Dr. Arnold--I do not think he would be half
such a charming man to live with as my favourite hero would have
been, as he holds stern uncompromising opinions which seemed to me
to be sometimes devoid of charity and which would have been almost
offensive to people brought up broadly as ourselves if it had not
been for the extreme kindness and gentleness of his manner. We went
afterwards to hear him preach at New York; what I was most struck
with were his beautiful metaphors; he illustrated all his religious
views by nature. ...

Tuesday, October 7th (Chicago).--Miss Owen came and called for us in
her carriage, and after a short drive round the town we went to
lunch at her Uncle's, Mr. (illegible) agent for G.T.16 They were
evidently people whose position in England would hardly be among the
gentry, and yet there was an elegance and gentility about the girl's
dress and manners which you would hardly find among the corresponding
class in England. After lunch we drove to the public schools, which
were very interesting. Both boys and girls, of all classes, are
educated here. It was so funny to see a common little negro girl
sitting between two well-dressed banker's daughters, and learning
the same thing! There were eleven hundred scholars in that
particular school, divided into classes, each having a girl as its
teacher, all of whom looked remarkably nice intelligent young women.
. . . Wednesday, 8th.--ft Chicago at ten in the morning. We were
very sad at leaving dear father, and when we saw the last of his
grey hat, as he stood waving it on the platform, I felt quite
melancholy. The country that we passed through that day was nothing
very interesting, it was one great farm of Indian corn, now and then
interrupted by a mile or two of prairie wood. In the evening we
passed over the Mississippi. It was very fine, though of course one
would have liked to see it by day. . . .

Thursday, 9th (Omaha).--saw nothing of interest between this and
Ogden, except the prairie fires and the prairie dogs. We saw the
fires best the evening after we left Omaha; they were most
beautiful, sometimes lighting up the horizon, as it were, with a row
of candles, and sometimes with a lurid blaze, as if a great city
were on fire. . . .

San Francisco, October 24th.--the afternoon I drove with Richot17
to Cliff House. We sat on the balcony watching the seals on the
rocks. It was a very pretty sight, and I tried to take a sketch of
it, which I afterwards re-did in the train. Talking about sketching,
it makes me remember the violent fancy for really going in for that
art, that the Yosemite inspired me with. I remember the same fancy
seized me when at the Lakes, and I remember all the way coming down
in the train from Lancashire I studied the different effects of
light and shade, and built castles in the air of my future industry
in art. It was the same on the road from the Yosemite, there was but
one thought in my head--ambition to become a great artist--and belief
that I could if I liked. It seemed to me then that if I could copy
nature with some slight success, then, that I had had neither
instruction nor any practice, that with an immense deal of patience
and perseverance and time devoted to it I might really end by being
successful. But now that the fever is cooled I see the difficulties,
nay, the impossibilities of carrying out my resolutions. Even if I
had the patience and perseverance, where could I find the time, and
I have a very strong objection to dabble with art. Perhaps I shall
find some day a solution to this great difficulty, of, how I ought
to employ my time. . . .

The same evening Arthur,18 Mr. Knowles and I, attended by Richot and
Mr. Cole, walked through the Chinese quarter to the Chinese theatre.
Just before leaving Kitty had thought it more prudent to give it up,
she was not at all well; indeed, she had not been that ever since we
left the Yosemite. So we left her to go to bed and started off. We
were very much amused by the Chinese acting. There was no attempt at
scenery, and the actors had the most unceremonious way of laughing
and joking with their friends in the audience, when not reciting
their parts. Each actor was heralded by a tremendous clashing of
gongs and kettles as he came on to the stage and the noise was
carried on also while the actors sang, so as to deafen you.
Altogether it was impossible for me to stay in the place for more
than five or six minutes, the noise was so deafening, and then being
in such close quarters with John Chinaman was not exactly pleasant.
The theatre was crowded with Chinese; the only European face we saw
was that of the collector of tickets. They say that the plays extend
over centuries, being really the history of their different
dynasties. . . .

Tuesday, October 27th (San Francisco).--The morning was spent in
getting photographs of the Yosemite. At four o'clock in the
afternoon Mr. Latham called to take Arthur and me down to his
country place. I was so fearfully tired that I could not talk, and
somehow or other I felt quite shy all the way down in the train.
When we got there we were shown into the drawingroom where Mrs.
Latham and Miss Washington (a friend of hers) were sitting. Mrs. Latham
was an extremely pretty person, almost a beauty at first
sight, but with uninteresting features when one came to pick them to
pieces. She had a decidedly elegant figure, large handsome black eyes,
a pretty complexion, and a good nose and mouth, but not one single
feature showed any depth of intellect or character. From
what she told me, I gathered that she had been kept very strictly
in by her parents, until seventeen, and then suddenly presented to the
world as a belle. She married Mr. Latham very young, a
splendid match in way of money and position, and indeed a thoroughly
nice and kind man, but old enough to be her father. I don't think it
can be good for a young woman to be transported into the midst of
luxury, and to be merely required to look pretty and graceful in her
husband's drawing-room, without having any household duties or
cares. Her friend, Miss Washington, was a different sort of
girl. In appearance she was short and plump, with a pretty nose
and nice soft intelligent eyes. She was an orphan (grandniece to
the great Washington), and I fancy lived a great deal with Mrs.
Latham. She was a nice bright jolly little person, who took
interest in everybody and thing. Altogether she was more the
hostess at Menton Park than Mrs. Latham herself. It was a splendid
house, furnished with great taste, evidently without the least
regard to expense. The garden was rather pretty, indeed very
pretty for an American garden, but nothing to be compared to an
English garden of any size. Mr. Latham went away early next morning,
and we stayed till the four o'clock train up to Frisco. The whole
of that evening I spent in packing up, as Kitty was quite unequal to

Salt Lake, Saturday, November 1st.--We arrived here about 12:30. We
lost about one hour in deciding what we would do; that is the
worst of having a party, with no one really to take the lead, and
arrange anything. At last Kate and I called out for lunch, thinking,
at any rate, we should be better tempered after it. Then we decided
all to go to the photographer's, as Richot had told Mr. Blackwall to
call upon Arthur at 2:30. We had no introduction to this Mr.
Blackwall, except that Richot knew him to be the son of the manager
of the G.T. before Mr. Bridges was made Managing Director. However,
he turned out to be a very nice young man, full of life and
interest, and quite determined that we should enjoy ourselves. We
drove first to his house, where there was a picture of Mr. Munger's
of Emma mine. Then we went to the Tabernacle and Temple; the latter
is not nearly finished. It is built in granite and will be, as far
as one can see a very handsome building. The Tabernacle is, without
exception, the most remarkable building I ever saw. It is entirely
of wood, and the roof is covered with shingles (of wood). Inside, it
is perfectly plain, without the least attempt at ornament. There is
a raised platform at one end of the building, in the centre of which
is Brigham's chair. Just below him sit the twelve apostles and the
elders. Above him, sit his daughters and sons, forming the choir.
His wives are scattered among the congregation, and have no
particular seats of their own. The rest of the building is filled up
with wooden seats, and there is a large gallery all round The organ,
said to be the second finest in America, was completely constructed
at Utah. After seeing the Tabernacle, we drove up to the camp, where
Mr. Blackwall took us to call on General and Mrs. Munro. They
evidently lived on a small scale; Mrs. Munro coming in with a
servant's print on, apologised, as it was house-cleaning day. The
General looked an extremely nice man, but I had no opportunity of
talking to him. The camp is on a hill above Salt Lake, so you have a
magnificent view of the whole city. The city lies in the middle of a
vast plain, completely surrounded (except on the side of the Lake)
by two beautiful ranges of mountains, tipped all the year round with
snow. As each house has its orchard and garden, it gives the city
and its suburbs, viewed from above, the appearance of a wood, just
spotted with white villas. Then the large roof of the Tabernacle
stands out in strong relief from the trees and houses, forming the
ruling spirit of the picture. Mr. Blackwall came to dine, and took
us to the theatre in the evening. The piece was The Stranger, with a
farce called The Blue-eyed Susan. The acting was wretched,
especially Mrs. Haller and the Stranger. But in spite of this I
enjoyed myself immensely. First, our companion, Mr. Blackwall, made
himself extremely pleasant, he was such a change from practical
Mr.,; Knowles and homesick Arthur. Poor Mr. Knowles didn't half
like it, being so completely put in the shade by this newcomer. Then
it was very interesting to see the different Mormon ladies; some looked
very pleasant, nice women, but most certainly had a dejected air, as if
they felt they were degraded. The next morning we went a long walk
through the streets. It was a beautiful day and everything looked
lovely and bright.

Salt Lake City is not to be compared with any town in England or
America; it is so utterly different from anything I have ever seen.
The streets are very wide, and on both sides of them flow beautiful
streams of crystal water brought from the mountains ten to twenty
miles off. It is through this water that Brigham Young and his few
followers transformed this sandy desert into a fertile farm;
wherever it penetrates thither also does vegetation; wherever it
ceases, grows nothing but the eternal sagebrush. The houses are for
the most part low, built rather in the French style, and of wood
whitewashed over, with green shutters and doors. This gives the city
a fresh innocent appearance, especially as (as I have mentioned
before) each house has its garden and orchard.

The Tabernacle is by far the most important building in Salt Lake
City; then come Brigham's two houses, "The Lion" and "The
Beehive," and a very pretty villa he is building for Mrs. Amelia
Young, his last and most beloved wife. Most of his other wives
either live in one of his two houses, or else have small houses
round them in his garden. The only one of his wives we saw was Mrs.
Eliza Young, No. 17, who separated from him, and is now lecturing on
Mormonism all over America. She was staying at Walker's Hotel; she
was rather a pretty woman at a distance, but decidedly coarse when
you examined her near. In the afternoon we went to hear Anson Pratt,
an Apostle, and one of the original founders of the Mormon creed.
During the summer the service is held in the Tabernacle, but as it
is built of wood they are afraid of heating it, which of course
makes it impossible to use it in winter. So each ward has its own
meeting-house where they assemble on Sundays during the winter
months. We went to the 13th ward. The congregation was mostly of the
working-men's class. They seemed to be very attentive and earnest in
their devotions. I noticed here particularly the dejected look of
the women, as if they had continually on their mind their inferiority
to their lords and masters. The service was begun by a hymn. Then a
decidedly cleverlooking man (a bishop) stood up and recited a
prayer, in itself very good, but said more in a tone of "we only
demand what we have a right to," than of humble supplication. Then
the sacrament was handed round and another hymn sung, after which
Anson Pratt got up and began his discourse; which Kate wrote down
the following day, so that I shall benefit by her memory and
transcribe her letter into my diary. . . .

And now that our party is breaking up, let us see in what relation
they stand to each other. Arthur is a dear good affectionate
creature, but he is not a good travelling companion. At times he
would even be unpleasant, he would get so lowspirited and
discontented about everything, and would not even allow you to take
a pleasant and enthusiastic view of what you saw. Then he has no
power of making himself and his party considered; he is too
sensitive and fearful of giving anybody pain or trouble. He does not
take that vivid interest in the country he passes through, which is
so necessary in a travelling companion. But in spite of all these
little faults I have a much more sisterly feeling towards Arthur
than when we left England. I know his faults, therefore I like him.
Kate and I can say that we have seen his worst side; I don't fancy
he is often as irritable as he was sometimes with us, and
irritability and indecision are his worst faults. Now for Mr.
Knowles. About as opposite a man to our sensitive aristocratic
brother-in-law as you could find. A plain, good and pure-hearted
man, with a practical way of looking at everything, totally devoid
of any kind of sentiment or poetry. He has a simple kind way of
looking after you when you are ill, and seeing that you do not
overtire yourself. He is not what I should call an interesting man,
because he has no conversation, except on his own particular
subjects, such as coal-mining, etc., and both Kate and I found it
impossible to engage him in any literary or political conversations.
And then he does not seem to seize the most interesting facts with
regard to the country he passes through, but only remarks the
smaller mechanical things. But to make up for this, he has a perfect
temper, and is most kind and accommodating in any arrangements, and
is always ready to make the best of it. We got rather tired of him
towards the end, and I was rather glad when he left us at Omaha.

Here the diary breaks off suddenly, as did our delightful tour. At
Chicago I have a dim remembrance of being carried out of the train
in a state of semi-consciousness by my father and his friend Mr.
George Pullman, who had been summoned by my sister to meet us, and
during the following six weeks my devoted sister nursed me
singlehanded through scarlet fever, rheumatic fever and, breaking
out the day before we were to have started for New York, an untoward
attack of measles. I give the concluding entry of the American diary
of 1873.

December.--The day before we leave New York! Kate and father have
gone out to dinner, so I shall have a little time to have a chat to
myself. It seems a long, long time since I passed through the hall
at Standish, feverish with excitement and longing to see the world,
with sisters kissing us, and giving us a tearful good-bye, and with
a file of wedding guests on each side, looking on with amusement and
interest. I wonder if I have altered? and if altered, whether for
the better or the worse. I shall find my own level when I get home,
that is one good thing in a large family.

One thing I want to do, when I get home, that is to make more a
friend of Maggie. Hitherto I have lived a great deal too much apart
from my sisters, partly from indolence, and partly from my unfrank
disposition. Dear Kitty, I have got quite fond of her, she has been
such a dear kind devoted sister. I can't imagine why she does not
get on better at home.19 Though we lived on the most intimate
relationship for the last three months or more, I really have not
found out one serious fault.

The American trip over, I start again on my career of self-culture;
the MS. book becomes, in the main, extracts from and reviews of
books read.

I am now busily engaged in studying. I am translating Faust and
reading a novel of Tieck. Faust is wonderfully clever and often very
beautiful. Putting the introduction piece out of the question, which
is fearfully blasphemous, it might almost have been written by a
good man, as a satire on the philosophers of the present day. Faust
is supposed to have reached the zenith of human knowledge, and is
shown how inadequate that knowledge is to make a man contented and
happy. He first resolves to commit suicide, but is stopped by the
feelings which the church bells and the songs of the choir on Easter
morning awaken in him, by the sweet recollection of Eastertide in
his youth, with its pleasures and religious impulses and sensations.
As far as I have gone, I think it is far more powerful than Tasso,
which I must say I neither admired nor liked. I have left off music
almost entirely; I practise exercises and scales for half an hour,
half because Mother wishes it, and half because I do not want to
leave it off entirely Drawing is what I should like to excel in, and
now in the evenings, before I go and read Shakespeare to Miss
Mitchell,20 I make a point of copying one of the patterns in the
School of Art book, and correcting it with compass and ruler. . . .

. . .  I am not thoroughly contented with the way that I have passed
this week [I record a fortnight later]. I have been extremely
irregular in all my duties. I have not worked as much as I ought to
have done, I have been lazy about my religious duties, I have been
lazy in getting up; altogether I have been totally devoid of any
method. Now I must really try and be more regular, go to bed early,
get up early; practise and not be lazy about my drawing, else I
shall never get on. I don't think it hurts at all, now and then, to
read some of St Paul's life instead of studying German, say twice a
week. Father came home yesterday evening; it has been a very
exciting week for him what with this Grand Trunk Meeting and the
dissolution of Parliament. Poor G.T. has had another relapse: will
it ever raise itself from this state of chronic disease? It is
wearing Father out; he might have been able to go into Parliament
and do some good for this country, except for G.T. I am in a
complete muddle about politics. I think they are one of those things
of which you cannot see the "right" or the "wrong." I can't help having
a sort of sympathy with the Radicals, they are so enthusiastic, but I
don't think that their time is come yet. They require a much
more perfect state [of] society than that at present. But it is
ridiculous for me to waste my time in scribbling about politics when
I am so ignorant on all those questions. ...

Sometimes I feel as if I must write, as if I must pour my poor
crooked thoughts into somebody's heart, even if it be into my own. I
am fascinated with that book of Joaquin Miller's, a lover of the
wild, half-savage state, and a hater, because a stranger, of the
civilised world. It's queer, after reading of nothing but the
influence of civilisation on this or that nation, of progress, to
hear a man boldly stand up and declare that civilisation often is
degradation, that the savage is often better, wiser and "nearer
God" than the civilised man; and that too from an American. Dear
me! my trip to America seems to have opened a new world to me, and
into which I seemed to have had a glimpse, a glimpse long enough to
make one wish for another. [MS. diary, January 13, 1874.]

The American trip, with its vision of human nature in the
melting-pot, had in fact increased "those intellectual difficulties
of faith" already troubling me in the autumn  of 1872.

I am really trying to gain a firm belief for myself [I write a few
days before we leave Standish for London]. I think it is no good
going to others to have your belief cut out for you; you must
examine, study, both the Bible and the lives of those who follow the
Bible and those who don't. It is no sin to doubt, but it is a sin,
after you have doubted, not to find out to the best of your
capability why you doubt, and whether you have reasons to doubt. It
was because no one doubted, and because every one was too idle to
examine and to prove, that Christianity became so corrupted in the
middle ages. I must make a faith for myself, and I must work, work,
until I have. [MS. diary, April 4, 1874.]

But my lonely studies are broken into by the London season--a break
which is described when we are again settled in Gloucestershire.

It is a long time since I last wrote in my diary. April 4th is the
last date. It was just then that the whirl of the London season was
beginning, which included me, though a schoolroom girl, in its rush.
I enjoyed it immensely. It is seldom I have had so much pleasure in
so small a space of time. And yet at times one was hardly happy. One
looked from day to day for some new excitement, and in the intervals
between these excitements one hardly knew what to do with oneself.
The theatricals were the climax of all the pleasure and excitement.
The getting up of them was in itself great fun, though I was only a
looker-on. And then that tremendous excitement the week before them,
the thought of my having to act Kate Hardcastle before two audiences
of 200 people! But, however, that never came to pass: Maggie got
well in time and carried off the laurels. The dance, oh! how I did
enjoy that. It was the first dance I had ever been at as a grown-up
young lady, and I felt considerably satisfied with myself, as I had
two or three partners for each dance. Ah, vanity! vanity!
Unfortunately for me, my ruling passion. Now this is enough about
myself for the present; in what way did the London season affect the
rest of the Potter family? Blanche was the excitement in the
beginning of the season, as Georgie had been last year. [MS. diary,
August 3, 1874.]

There follows an affectionate but somewhat sarcastic account of the
love affairs of my four unmarried sisters, ending in a critical
estimate of the character and attainments of their various admirers.
"The gentleman himself turned grave and severe, and at the end of
the season looked very gloomy and yellow," I remark of one of them.

The gay life in London had weakened body and mind; and the autumn of
1874, spent at Standish alone with my mother, an elder sister, and
the little one (my father with two daughters travelling again in
Canada), finds me in bad health and desperately unhappy.

Here we are alone, Mother, Blanche and myself. Poor Mother, she has
two rather broken crutches to lean upon. Blanche is a dear girl but
she is unpractical and rather inclined to bore you; and as for me, I
am, as Mother says, too young, too uneducated, and, worst of all,
too frivolous, to be a companion to her. But, however, I must take
courage, and try to change, and above all I must guard against that
self-satisfaction which I consider is one of my worst faults. If I
give in to it, it will prevent my ever improving myself. And the
only way to cure myself of it is to go heart and soul into religion.
It is a pity I ever went off the path of orthodox religion; it was a
misfortune that I was not brought up to believe that to doubt was a
crime. But since I cannot accept the belief of my Church without
inward questioning, let me try and find a firm belief of my own, and
let me act up to it. That is the most important thing. God help me
to do it! [MS. diary, September 1874.]

By December I am down in the depths of egotistical misery.

I think that the great benefit one receives from keeping a diary is
that it often leads one to examine oneself and that it is a vent for
one's feelings, for those feelings in particular that one cannot
communicate to other people. Since I have been poorly this autumn I
have been thinking of nothing but myself and I am sure that it is
the most unhealthy state of mind. I am suffering from an indisposition
which is decidedly trying to one's health of mind as it prevents one
from doing much, and that always makes one discontented and
low-spirited. I have never felt so low-spirited as I have this
autumn. I have felt for the first time in my life how much
unhappiness there is in Ufe. But one has not been given the choice
of existing or not existing, and all one has to think of is how to
live the best and most useful and the happiest life. I have come to
the conclusion that the only real happiness is devoting oneself to
making other people happy. I feel that it is very discouraging to
lose so much valuable time when I might be studying, but I believe
that if I take this ill-health in a proper way, and bear it bravely
and cheerfully, I shall improve my character more than I should have
improved my mind in the same time. And character weighs more than
intellect in the scales of life. [MS. diary, December 1874.]

The breakdown in health became serious, and before the next London
season I am settled in Bournemouth as a "parlour boarder" in a
fashionable girls' school, free to spend my time in lonely study and
religious meditation. It is here that I seek mental security in
traditional Christianity, and decide to be confirmed and become a
regular communicant. The "high church" was attended by the school,
but I preferred the "low church" and the remarkably eloquent
evangelical preacher, Mr. Eliot (afterwards a canon of Windsor),
became my spiritual director and prepared me for confirmation. The
following entries describe my religious experiences during the next
nine months. From these I gather that the doctrine of the Atonement
remained a stumbling-block, not because it struck me as irrational,
but because it seemed to me immoral.

Easter Eve.--The day before I receive for the first time the Holy
Sacrament. The last month or two has been a very solemn epoch in my
life, and may God grant that I may never cease remembering the vows
which I have made before God and man, that I intend to become a true
Christian, that is, a true disciple and follower of Jesus Christ,
making Him my sole aim in life. And now I am going to receive the
great sacraments which He Himself instituted as a perpetual means of
remembering His visit on earth. God grant that it may really
strengthen me. There are many things which remain still mysteries to
me, like the doctrine of Atonement. The idea that God demanded that
some innocent person should die for the sins of men, and that, by
the voluntary death of that just man, wicked and damned men, who
would not otherwise have been saved, are saved, is repugnant to me.
I firmly believe that Jesus Christ has and will save the world, but
not so particularly by His death as by His Word, which He came down
to preach. His whole preaching seems to me to indicate that He never
says that we shall be saved by His death but by belief in Him and in
the word which He has preached. "And this is life eternal, that
they may know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou
hast sent." "He that believeth on me shall have eternal life." "It
is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing; the
words that I speak unto you they are spirit, they are life." And
this last was said after that long discourse about His flesh as the
bread of life. And yet it is evident that every one of His disciples
believed in the Atonement as a saving doctrine, and Christ Himself
seems to set it forth once as a great truth in the institution of
the Lord's Supper. [MS. diary, March 27, 1875.]

But the main struggle was with my own lack of morality.

It is very discouraging to find that after forming such high
resolutions, after reading and studying and getting as one would
have thought out of the world of vanity and vexation of spirit, that
directly one gets into society one talks such confounded nonsense.
Confounded, or rather confounding, in the literal sense of the term.
It is such a dreadful thing to think that on the Sunday one has
taken the Holy Sacrament, and by doing that renewed as it were the
vow one made on the day of one's confirmation, that one should [be]
guilty of talking frivolously. As it is, my Sunday is the most
unholy day in the week. I cannot sympathise with the Sullivans21
in their views of religion.

|Oh that I had more charity, true charity, so that I might see and
reverence and not sneer at and despise what I do not understand!
God only can give me help. I am so weak, so vain, so liable to fall
into self-confidence. . . . [MS. diary, July 1875.]

I must confess I am much more sorry to leave Standish [after the
summer holiday] than I expected. The last fortnight I have enjoyed
very much and have been blessed with good health, But I hope at
Bournemouth to grow much stronger, and I must be resolved to allow
no pleasure or interesting study to interfere with care of health;
and I must be particularly careful of my diet. The two studies I
have taken up, Jewish History and English Law, are both very
interesting. I have chosen the latter because it is so thoroughly
different from the former, and employs a different set of muscles. I
must try and not become egotistical in my thoughts, for that is a
great danger when one leads a solitary life, for my life with regard
to thought is completely solitary at Stirling House. I propose every
Sunday to write a short sketch of my work during the week, and
whether I can conscientiously say that I have not transgressed the
rules of health. I must also above everything endeavour not to think
myself superior to the other inmates of Stirling House, because I
have been brought out more by circumstances and encouraged to reason
on subjects which other girls have mostly been told to take on
faith. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages. But
perhaps the mistake I felt most was joining gossiping conversations.
And this is certainly most difficult, because it in a great way
necessitates keeping myself aloof from the girls' society. [MS.
diary, September 19, 1875.]

I have this morning been disappointed in going to receive the Holy
Sacrament. Somehow or other I feel I neither understand nor
appreciate it, though I believe it helps me. I think it is the
constant allusion to atonement in the English communion service
which so distresses me. I cannot at present believe in that
doctrine. It disgusts me. Probably I completely misunderstand it.
But I believe that the sacrament ought to be regarded, first as an
earnest avowal of your belonging to the Church of Christ both to
God, yourself and mankind; secondly, as a sign of your penitence and
your desire to become better; and thirdly, the receiving of the
sacrament ought to be stepping-stones in the path of Holiness. I
wish I could become more truthful. It is such a dreadful fault, and
yet I find myself constantly telling downright lies. God grant that
I may earnestly strive to cure myself of this great sin. I do not
know whether I am right in giving all the time I have to spare for
the study of religion completely to the Old Testament. But it
appears to me that by watching the Light glimmer through the minds
of the prophets I shall be able to appreciate better the full glory
and greatness of the Religion of God revealed through the words of
Christ. [MS. diary, October 3, 1875.]

Lied again to-day. I will make a practice of noting these lies, by
putting a cross for every one to the day of the month. I am quite
convinced that it is a most disastrous habit. [MS. diary October 4,

Another week passed. I have read only pretty well. I suppose I
cannot expect to do much in the way of quiet study. But let me
devote my energy to becoming truthful and to guarding against that
feeling of satisfaction and vanity, and to speaking not for effect
but from conviction. Oh! that by the next time I take the sacrament
I may be more truthful and less vain [MS. diary, October 10, 1875.]

Have read very regularly last week: But I am afraid this week it
will be impossible to do much in that way as I am already in bed
with a headache, which feels decidedly bad. [MS. diary, October 18,

A beautiful sermon from Mr. Eliot. It seemed to awaken me to the
truth that I am rather inclined to rest on the slight improvements I
have made. I must work harder, try and become more truthful both in
my acts and in my conversation, less vain and admiration-seeking,
and never let my thoughts rest with complacency on any little
distinction I may have of body or mind. I seem to get on very slowly
with my studies, and it is rather discouraging sometimes to get so
little done. [MS. diary, October 31, 1875.]

The reason why I tell so many stories is pride and vanity. It is
very often from the wish that people may think me or my people
better in one way or another, that I exaggerate so fearfully. I see
clearly if one wishes really to become truthful one must seek to be
so in one's smallest actions and words. [MS. diary, December 9,

I am going to see Mr. Eliot to-morrow, and to tell the truth I
rather dread it. Why I do not know. I suppose it is because I am not
quite sure what I am going to say to him. It is a great want of
courage, for of course it must be a great advantage for a young
student of religion to be able to ask advice and explanation of a
man who has spent all his life in the study and practice of it. [MS.
diary, December 16, 1875.]

The dreadful interview is over. I felt decidedly nervous and was
unable to say all that I wished. A girl is at a decided disadvantage
sitting opposite to a clergyman and discussing religious doctrines.
Mr. Eliot said that the doctrine of atonement being found in the
Scriptures we ought to believe in it, as it is only through them
that we can gain any knowledge of God or his dealings with men. I
answered that I did not see that the doctrine of the Atonement came
prominently forward in the Gospels, and hardly at all in Christ's
own words. He then asked me if I did not consider that the Epistles
stood on the same footing in this claim to infallibility as the
Gospels. I said I thought not, as I considered the latter to be the
faithful record of Christ' own words, while the former were the
writings of good men, many of whom had learnt at the feet of Christ,
but who could hardly claim for their words the authority of their
Master. (In studying St. Paul' Epistles I must be careful to
examine how much authority he does claim.) He finally lent me Dr.
Crawford' book on the doctrine of the Atonement. I hope when I
return home I shall not lose the little earnestness I have gained;
that I shall be diligent in the study of religion. I do not want to
"come out," and I hope I shall have enough determination and
firmness to carry my point. The family does not really want another
come out member; they are almost too many as it is. I wish my aim in
life to be the understanding and acting up to religion. Before I can
enter society with advantage I must conquer two great faults, love
of admiration and untruth and I must become a little more settled in
my religious belief [MS. diary, December 18, 1875.]

"The determination not to "come out" seems to have vanished after a
series of house parties and dances in Gloucestershire; and at the
conventional age of eighteen I joined my sisters in the customary
pursuits of girls of our class, riding, dancing, flirting and
dressing-up, an existence without settled occupation or personal
responsibility, having for its end nothing more remote than
elaborately expensive opportunities for getting married. It was
during this round of gaiety that I became for the first time in my
life intimate with one of my sisters. My sister Margaret, next in
age to me and four years older, was in many ways the most
intellectually gifted of the Potter girls. Warm-hearted and
self-sacrificing towards her own family a cynical gamine towards the
rest of the world, an omnivorous reader and witty reflector of all
that was racy in English, German and French literature, and all that
was libertarian and iconoclastic in philosophy, ancient an modern,
she proved to be the best of comrades in the hazards of the marriage
market, and the most stimulating companion in the long rides and
walks, continuous reading and discussion with which we whiled away
the dull months in Gloucestershire or Westmorland between bouts of
London society, country-house visiting and foreign travel.

Some parts of this autumn have been very sweet [I note in the autumn
of 1878]. We three sisters have seen much of each other; and Maggie
and I particularly have had a perfect communion of pursuits and
ideas. We had a delightful little trip among our sublime little
hills; and read through the first two volumes of Modern Painters
together; and this experience has inspired us with a wish to go
sketching and reading tours together, should we remain lonely

Maggie left this morning.22 I feel her loss terribly. We are
perfectly intimate and at one with each other and when I am with her
I want no other society. We have had a very happy time here together--
have read, talked, walked and slept together, and now she is gone it
is a dreary blank. I do hope the dear girl will enjoy herself and
come back much happier and more contented with life as she is likely
to get it. I must go plodding on--towards some goal that may never
be reached. Ah me! Courage, mon amie, courage. [MS. diary, October

The London season of 1876 came and went and with it disappeared my
feeble hold on orthodox Christianity. The restless and futile
activities of society life, and the inevitable reaction in
self-disgust and corresponding depreciation of other people's
motives, did not constitute a fruitful soil for religious experience;
and even if there had not been a sudden revolt of the intellect I
doubt whether I should have remained a practising Christian. But it
so happened that during these very months intellectual curiosity
swept me into currents of thought at that time stirring the minds of
those who frequented the outer, more unconventional and, be it
added, the more cultivated circles of London society; movements
which, though unconnected with and in some ways contradictory to
each other, had the common characteristic of undermining belief in
traditional Christianity. The most immediately subversive of these
ferments, because it seemed to provide an alternative form of
religious emotion, arose out of the opening up of the religions of
the Far East: ancient cultures destined to be reflected during the
twentieth century in the new and strange varieties of mysticism now
current in Central Europe, the United States of America, and, to a
lesser extent, in Scandinavia and Great Britain. More widely and
deeply influential, because it was associated with the great
discoveries of mid-Victorian science, and was, moreover, closely
connected with the conduct of affairs, was the then-called "religion
of science": that is, an implicit faith that by the methods of
physical science, and by these methods alone, could be solved all
the problems arising out of the relation of man to man and of man
towards the universe.

I have indeed altered my religious belief this last six months to an
extent I should never have thought possible a year ago. I see now
that the year I spent at Bournemouth I was vainly trying to smother
my instinct of truth in clinging to the old faith. And now that I
have shaken off the chains of the beautiful old faith, shall I rise
to something higher, or shall I stare about me like a newly
liberated slave, unable to decide which way to go, and perhaps the
worse for being freed from the service of a kind master? Do I look
on death and trouble with less calmness than I used? [MS. diary,
August 16, 1876.]

It was characteristic of the circle in which I grew up that ideas
and literature, however metaphysical the generalisation, or however
classic the book, were inextricably mixed up in my mind with the
affairs of yesterday and the problems of to-morrow. Thus, it was an
ex-Indian civil servant, a pioneer in Sanscrit scholarship, who
became my guide in a superficial study of Eastern thought. Brian
Hodgson, a Gloucestershire neighbour, rode to hounds, and took his
place in the County as one among many country gentlemen, rather than
as a scholar of international reputation.24 A delightful old man,
then verging on eighty years of age, he was not overtly heterodox
with regard to the supremacy of the Christian religion and the
Anglo-Saxon race; he was, indeed, too modest to be explicitly a
rebel. But, not without a touch of intellectual malice, he
encouraged the young enquirer to question the superiority of Western
over Eastern civilisation. For he had behind him a distinguished but
officially unsuccessful career in the government of India. Political
Resident in Nepaul during the critical years 1823-43, he had spent
his leisure in mastering the languages, literature and religions of
the people he was supposed to serve, and in acquiring, at his own
cost, a wonderful collection of ancient Buddhist scripts, which
attracted learned commentators in France and Germany, and eventually
even in England. Meanwhile he had lost his foothold on the ladder
of official promotion, largely through an unmeasured denunciation of
the educational policy of the East India Company, endorsed by the
Governor-General and the Board of Control, in deciding to use the
English language as the sole medium of education, so far as
government subsidies were concerned, of all the races of British
India. At that time the dominant intellectual influence at Calcutta
was wielded by the greatest of our contemporary rhetoricians. To
Macaulay' unscientific and slap-dash intellect, it seemed that there
wert only two alternatives open: on the one hand English, with its
Shakespeare and its Bible, its utilitarian ethics and commercialised
administration; and, on the other, the ancient Sanscrit Scriptures,
reinforced with Persian poems am Arabic philosophy, with their
preposterous mythologies and their oversubtle, and therefore, to his
mind, ridiculous metaphysics. As Macaulay put it, in his famous
Minute: The question now before us is simply whether, when it is in
our power to teach this language [English], we shall teach languages
in which, by universal confession, there are no books on any subject
which deserve to be compared with our own, whether, when we can
teach European science, we shall teach systems which by universal
confession, whenever they differ from those of Europe, differ for
the worse; when we can patronise sound philosophy and true history,
we shall continue to teach at the public expense medical doctrines
which would move to laughter the girls of an English boarding-school;
history abounding in kings fifty feet high, and reigns thirty
thousand years long; geography made up of seas of treacle and seas
of butter.25

"But why not the vernaculars?" insisted the wise and learned
administrator at Kathmamdu: a question which insinuated that
Macaulay had been guilty, in his vivid phrases, of the fallacy of
the suppressed alternative. I recall, by the way, that it was Brian
Hodgson, in his talks about India, who explained to me the peculiar
liability of rulers belonging to an alien race and civilisation to
this particular lapse, alike in abstract logic and human sympathy:
their habitual neglect to explore the many alternative ways of reaching
the desired end, so as to discover the method of approach most in
harmony with the deeprooted tradition, habits and ideals of the
people they governed. Unfortunately, the man learned in ancient lore
and native custom was no rhetorician: he had not even a command of
what ought to have been his own vernacular, as one British official
addressing another, namely, sound "blue-book English," never
deviating, either in thought or expression, from the commonplace and
the conventional. He unpacked his soul in a series of lengthy
epistles to a local journal, which he got reissued as a slim octavo.
I can now see that this queer book, Pre-eminence of the Vernaculars,
or the Anglicists answered, being four letters on the Education of
the People of India, is a mine of administrative wisdom and
philosophic insight. But owing to its involved and pedantic
phraseology,26 and its far-fetched allusions to Indian and English
classics, it was quite unreadable to my uncultured mind; and after
glancing at its pages with baffled curiosity, I turned with zest to
the other books he lent me, his own intricate but enlightening
essays on the languages, literature and religions of Nepaul and
Tibet; the works of his French commentators, St. Hilaire and
Burnouf, and, more fascinating to the immature student, Seal's
translations of the Chinese Scriptures and Monier Williams' many
volumes on Indian thought and literature.

The immediate result of all this reading, illuminated by talks with
Brian Hodgson, was the sweeping away of my belief in the Christian
Church and its Bible as the sole or even as the pre-eminent
embodiment of the religious impulse in the mind of man; in fact, as
the only alternative to scientific materialism. Hinduism, with its
poetical metaphors and subtle reasoning, a mentality deeply rooted
in an ancient and enduring civilisation of teeming millions,
threw into the shade for me the barbaric Jehovah of the Jews and the
mean doings of the kings, and even stretched beyond the fervid
eloquence, mostly about current events, of the prophets of the
tribes of Judah and Israel. Rightly or wrongly--and here I am not
defending a thesis, I am only describing the state of mind of a
Victorian girl in her teens--the Buddha and his philosophy seemed
logically and ethically superior to the Christ and the teachings of
the New Testament. The majestic impersonality of Sakyarauni; his
aloofness from the joys and sorrows of mortal man; his very lack of
what is called humanity, attracted me. If there were any validity in
asceticism, in the deliberate denial of physical instinct and the
persistent abstention from worldly doings, then why not renounce, at
once and for all time, the world and the flesh, and seek by prayer
and meditation, possibly by the development of an incipient or
arrested faculty, to become pure spirit? Was it because of the
compromising attitude of Jesus of Nazareth (as interpreted by Paul)
towards the world that the Christian Church, unlike the Buddhist
monks or the Hindu Saddhus, had found itself entangled in temporal
dynasties and national wars, and had grasped at secular as well as
spiritual power? Further, Buddhist metaphysics had at least a
superficial likeness to the philosophy of modern science. The
agnosticism of Buddha as to an ultimate cause was even more complete
than that of Herbert Spencer. Unlike the crude eternal bliss and
eternal damnation of the Christian Church, the doctrine of Karma
seemed in harmony with such assumptions of modern science as the
universality of causation and the persistence of force. Even the
transmigration of souls appeared as a far-off precursor of the
doctrine of the evolution of the human species from other forms of
life. Finally the mysterious Nirvana, and the attainment of this
unconditional blessedness by ridding yourself of your own
personality, fascinated my imagination. Living in a stronghold of
capitalism, surrounded by the pleasure-grounds of London society, I
distrusted human personality, whether I observed it at work in my
own consciousness or in the behaviour of other people. And yet
Buddhism and Hinduism found in me no convert. All that happened was
my detachment from Christianity.

It is no longer a wonder to me [I jot down in my diary at the end of
some hundreds of pages of extracts and abstracts] that Buddhism does
not exercise much power over the nations professing it. The great
doctrine it taught was false: that man's aim in life was to be
mainly a selfish one, i.e. to rid himself of the evil of existence.
Starting from the idea that life was an evil and would ever continue
one, they proceeded to check every desire, good and bad; to run
before death, so as not to be overtaken by that great Changer before
they had plunged themselves into non-existence--or rather into the
supreme impersonality of the universe. How could a religion which
--though enjoining on man every passive virtue--forbade the exercise of
the faculties, regenerate or advance the growth of man? The seed of
selfishness grounded in superstition is contained in all the ancient
religions of the world: and it is this seed, small at first and
hidden by a beautiful morality, which eventually overthrows one
religion after the other. Man as he progresses cannot shut his eyes
to the fact that he is but an insignificant part of the universe;
that he best fulfils the object of his existence in trying humbly to
understand and, in so far as they relate to him, live in harmony
with the laws revealed by nature and his consciousness, without hope
or wish for supernatural reward.

But Buddhism, though based on falsehood, gathered round it, as it
grew, a most lovely morality and a breadth and poetry in its theory
of the origin of all things, which I do not think we find in the
more positive theology of Christianity. It guarded as sacred the
Great Mystery, and that is the reason, I believe, of its charm to
modern thinkers. [MS. diary, September 13, 1877.]

I have never been so struck with the truth that there is a great
mystery [I repeat a few days later] as when reading the metaphysical
reasonings of these Eastern philosophers. They seem to have had an
intuitive feeling that each hypothesis advanced was insufficient to
account for the origin of all things; and they expressed, as far as
it is possible to express in words, the idea of the unconditioned
which was according to them the absolutely real underlying the
relatively real. [MS. diary, September 16, 1877.]

This rejection of all traditional religion--of the underlying
philosophy of Buddhism as well as that of Christianity--was made
easier for me because it was during the autumn of 1876 that I
thought I had reached a resting-place for the soul of man, from
which he could direct his life according to the dictates of pure
reason, without denying the impulse to reverence the Power that
controlled the Universe. This resting-place was then termed, by its
youngest and most uncompromising adherents, the Religion of Science.
The God was The Unknowable: the prophet was Herbert Spencer. Prayer
might have to go, but worship would remain. Looking back on my
intimacy with the philosopher, it is certainly surprising to me that
I do not appear to have read any of his books until I was eighteen
years of age. Under date of November 1876 I find an extract from
Social Statics--a passage which, oddly enough, I cannot now trace in
any edition to which I have access, but which it is clear that I did
not invent! I quote this eloquent expression of philosophic optimism
with regard to the evolution of the universe because it convinced me
at the time, although it failed me later on. Indeed, it is a
favourite speculation of mine that Herbert Spencer himself
eventually discovered that there was no evidence in the findings of
physical science for any such assumption of essential beneficence in
the working of natural forces; and that the mental misery of his
later life was not altogether unconnected with the loss of the
inspiring creed with which he began his Synthetic Philosophy.27

It is in truth a sad sight for any one who has been, what Bacon
recommends, "a servant and interpreter of nature," to see these
political schemers, with their clumsy mechanisms, trying to
supersede the great laws of existence. Such an one, no longer
regarding the mere outside of things, has learned to look for the
secret forces by which they are upheld. After patient study this
chaos of phenomena into the midst of which he was born has begun to
generalise itself to him, and where there seemed nothing but
confusion, he can now discern the dim outline of a gigantic plan. No
accidents, no chance; but everywhere order and completeness.

Throughout he finds the same vital principles, ever in action, ever
successful, and embracing the minutest details. Growth is unceasing;
and though slow, all powerful; showing itself here in some rapidly
developing outline, and there, where necessity is less, exhibiting
only the fibrils of incipient organisation. Irresistible as it is
subtle, he sees, in the working of these changes, a power that bears
onwards peoples and governments, regardless of their theories, and
schemes, and prejudices--a power which sucks the life out of their
landed institutions, shrivels up their state parchments with a
breath, paralyses long venerated authorities, obliterates the most
deeply graven laws, makes statesmen recant and puts prophets to the
blush, buries cherished customs, shelves precedents, and which,
before men are conscious of the fact, has wrought a revolution in
all things, and filled the world with a higher life. Always towards
perfection is the mighty movement--towards a complete development and
more unmixed good; subordinating in its universality all petty
irregularities and fallings back, as the curvature of the earth
subordinates mountains and valleys. Even in evils, the student learns
to recognise only a struggling beneficence. But above all, he is
struck with the inherent sufficingness of things and with the
complex simplicity of principles. Day by day he sees further beauty.
Each new fact illustrates more clearly some recognised law, or
discloses some unconceived completeness; contemplation thus
perpetually discovering to him a higher harmony, and cherishing in him
a deeper faith.28 "Who could wish for a grander faith than this!" [I
exclaim at the end of this extract].

There follows in my diary, evidently copied out at the same time,
the well-known passage now standing at the end of Part I of First
Principles, but originally appearing in Social Statics, where it is
to be found only in the earlier editions.

Not as adventitious, therefore, will the wise man regard the faith
that is in him--not as something which may be slighted, and made
subordinate to calculations of policy; but as supreme authority to
which all his actions should blend. The highest truth conceivable by
him he will fearlessly utter; and will endeavour to get embodied in
fact his purest idealisms: knowing that, let what may come of it, he
is thus playing his appointed part in the world--knowing that, if he
can get done the thing he aims at--well: if not--well also; though not
so well. [MS. diary, November 1876.]

It was during the six years of irresponsible girlhood (1876-1882)
that I tried the religion of science and found it wanting. Memory
is a risky guide in tracing the ups and downs of belief and
unbelief; gaps in the argument are apt to be filled in, and the
undulating line of feeling becomes artificially straightened. As
being free from the fallacy of "being wise after the event," I
prefer the contemporary entries in the MS. diary. But this string of
quotations from the subjective musings of a girl conveys its own
false implications; inevitably these extracts emphasise the hidden
over the outer life. Somewhere down in the depths the Ego that
affirms and the Ego that denies were continuously wrangling over the
duty and destiny of man; but it was only now and again that their
voices were heard above the din of everyday life. For the most part
consciousness was listening to the promptings of physical instinct
and personal vanity, to the calls of family affection and casual
comradeship--above all, to the exciting messages of the
master-wave of intellectual curiosity. Thus, during the spring and
summer months of most years, riding, dancing, flirting and
dressing-up absorbed current energy; six months out of these six
years were spent in the Rhineland, reading German literature and
listening to German music; another six months in Italy, in churches
and galleries revelling in Italian art. Nor were family events
unexciting. My sister Kate, after an apprenticeship under Octavia
Hill, had become a rent-collector in Whitechapel; and it was when
staying with her in London that I first became aware of the meaning
of the poverty of the poor. The three other elder sisters had found
their mates; and with the marriage of my sister Margaret, though she
remained an affectionate sister, I lost my one intimate friend. As
against this loss there was the rapidly growing intellectual
comradeship with my mother during the latter years of her life,
which I have described in the last chapter.

Better reflected in the current diary than any of these episodes is
the mass of miscellaneous reading, fiction, biography, history and
politics, with which I occupied the lonely autumn and winter months
spent in Westmorland and Gloucestershire. And here I think it well
to note that, although as a girl I was an omnivorous reader, I had
an unusually restricted literary taste. Owing to a mental defect,
which I believe is not so uncommon as it is unrecognised and
unrecorded, the whole realm of poetry was closed to me: I was poetry
blind, as some persons are colour blind. Rhythm, rhyme, cadence, in
fact the "magic of words" in any of its forms, paralysed my
intelligence; before I could understand the meaning of a poem I had
laboriously to translate it into workaday prose, thereby challenging
the accuracy of every term and the relevance of every metaphor. When
that was done, the meaning had evaporated. "That words have
meanings is just the difficulty," observes, with refreshing
frankness, the great Hindu poet. "That is why the poet has to turn
and twist them in metre and verse, so that the meaning may be held
somewhat in check, and the feeling allowed a chance to express
itself,"30 he adds by way of explanation. Thus, Racine and Corneille
(insisted on by my mother because she thought they would improve our
French style!) brought to me no conviction that they knew anything
about the men and affairs they portrayed; and their long rhymed
couplets appeared to me to introduce an element of the ridiculous.
Tennyson, the idol of the day, was even worse; his sentimental
imageries seemed to me incomprehensible nonsense; and I have to
confess that, in spite of the glamour with which my father enveloped
Shakespeare, his plays and poems, except for some isolated passages,
bored me. Of all the great authors whose works I tried to read, only
Goethe dominated my mind. For many years I felt towards him as if he
were an intimate friend, sharing out his wealth of experience and
knowledge, and revealing to me an entirely new ideal of personal
morality, of the relation of art to science, and of art and science
to the conduct of life. After Goethe, in order of influence, came
the translations of the Greek classics, to which I devoted the best
part of a year; more particularly, Thucydides and Plato. These
certainly altered my mind. Of the translations of Latin authors I
recall only Marcus Aurelius ["He wrote in Greek," interjects The
Other One! "Pedant!" I retort], a book that superseded The Imitation
of Christ as a manual of devotion; and Lucretius, whose cold wit and
searching logic alternately attracted and repelled me. Of French
authors, Diderot, Voltaire, Balzac, Flaubert and Zola stand out as
teaching me what I wanted to know. Among English writers I had no
favourites; it was always the particular subject-matter that I was
after, and the personal outlook and literary style of the author
seemed to me relatively unimportant. I may add that this cramped
literary taste was afterwards accentuated by the craft of the
researcher. There comes a time when a heap of illiterate MS.
minutes, or bundles of local Acts relating to particular towns, are
easier and more enticing reading, tested by the time one can stick
at it, than sparkling wit, or the most original and most perfectly
expressed wisdom, on subjects for the moment irrelevant. One of the
unforeseen pleasures of old age is the faint beginning of a liking
for exquisite literature | irrespective of its subject-matter.

The following entries in the diary, scattered over five or six years
and given in order of date, may be taken as notes of the controversy
between the Ego that denies and the Ego that affirms the validity of
religious mysticism.

This book, begun as a diary, ends in extracts and abstracts of
books. One's interest in one's own character ceases to be so
absorbing, as one grows in knowledge. Christianity certainly made
one more egotistical, more desirous to secure one's own salvation.
Whatever may be the faults, or rather the shortcomings, of the new
religion, it accomplishes one thing: it removes the thoughts from
that wee bit of the world called self to the great whole--the
individual has no part in it; it is more than silent as to his
future existence. Man sinks down to comparative insignificance; he
is removed in degree but not in kind from the mere animal and
vegetable. In truth, it requires a noble nature to profess with
cheerfulness this religion; and the ideal it presents to us is far
higher than any presented by the great religions of the world.
[September 13, 1877.]

Mr. Spencer's First Principles has had certainly a very great
influence on my feelings and thoughts. It has made me feel so happy
and contented. ... I do admire that still, reverent consciousness of
the great mystery; that fearless conviction that no advance in
science can take away the beautiful and elevating consciousness of
something greater than humanity. One has always feared that when the
orthodox religion vanished, no beauty, no mystery would be left, but
nothing but what could and would be explained and become commonplace
--but instead of that each new discovery of science will increase
our wonder at the Great Unknown and our appreciation of the Great
Truth. [MS. diary, December 15, 1878.]

The religion of science has its dark side. It is bleak and dreary in
sorrow and ill-health. And to those whose lives are one continual
suffering it has but one word to say--suicide. If you cannot bear it
any longer, and if no ties of duty turn you from extinguishing that
little flame of your existence--depart in peace: cease to exist. It
is a dreadful thought. It can never be the religion of a "suffering
humanity." The time may come, and I believe will come, when human
life will be sufficiently happy and full to be unselfish. But there
are long ages yet to be passed, and generations of men will still
cry in their misery for another life to compensate for their
lifelong sorrow and suffering. [MS. diary, March 8, 1878.]

As it may be interesting in future years to know what my religious
convictions were at nineteen, I might as well state roughly what are
my vague beliefs. I do not see that there is sufficient evidence,
either for believing in a future life or in a personal creator of
the universe. I at present believe (by no means without inward fear
at my audacity) that Christianity is in no way superior in kind,
though in degree, to the other great religions; that it was a
natural product of the human mind; that Christianity is not the
highest religion conceivable; and that the idea of working out your
own salvation, of doing good, and Believing blindly, in order to
arrive at eternal bliss, is, through its intense selfishness, an
immoral doctrine. I believe also that, as soon as our religion
becomes truly unselfish, the enormous interest in speculations as to
the future existence of the individual will die out. But what seems
to me clear is that we are at a very early period of man's
existence, and that we have only just arrived at the true basis of
knowledge: and that bright and glorious days are in store for our
successors on this earth. [MS. diary, March 31, 1878.]

. . . One thing is clear, Goethe wishes to impress on his reader the
advantages of liberty, of unrestrained liberty in thought and deed.
I do not mean licentiousness, i.e. giving free scope to your
passions: this involves an enslavement of the intellect, or rather
the cessation of its rightful activity. But Goethe would go on the
principle, both in education of children and in life, that it is
better to develop the whole of your nature--looking upwards to a
noble ideal, and allowing perhaps some ugly weeds to grow--than to
repress the good with the bad. One often has felt in life that there
are two courses open to one; an endeavour after nobler and purer
living, i.e. an earnest attempt to silence and put down what is vile
in you; or the alternative principle of fixing your eye steadfastly
on all that is wise and noble, and developing with all your power
your better self; not heeding the little slips, perhaps sometimes
into very dirty places. I do not think that many have sufficient
nervous power to do both; and Goethe tells you to choose freedom of
development. In life you should seek a really congenial career, as a
life-occupation, and then you should keep your heart and mind open
to the outer world with various interests and activities.

Until you have found this career you should wander up and down
regarding no place as too low and dirty, no society too licentious
and frivolous--perhaps in lowest society you may light on some human
soul who will impart to you some vital truth. [MS. diary, December
14, 1878.]

The one thought that I have been pondering over is--Does my want of
happiness come from my want of belief in the old faith which has
helped so many thousands along this weary way? Or is it simply
physical melancholy which attaches itself to my pet grievance, and
which, if I had been without education and culture, would have
attached itself to some passing trifle? And when one looks around
and sees good Christians fussing and fretting about little holes in
their purses, little disappointments to their vanity and their
greed, one begins to think that each human being has his share of
"distemper"--but perhaps the patient is on the whole happier who has
it out in surface irritations than he who believes it to be a sign
of an inward and incurable complaint, peculiar not only to himself
alone but to the whole human race.

I cannot help having a half-conscious conviction that, if the human
race is mortal, if its existence is without aim, if that existence
is to end, at however remote a period, in a complete dissolution,
like that which overcomes the individual, then life indeed is not
worth living--not worth living to the mass of mankind. [MS. diary,
March 30, 1879.]

I cannot write down what I felt on this Sunday morning--watching the
silent Mass in St. Peter's. Perhaps there was a good deal of mere
emotion in it--but it made me look back with regret on those days
when I could pray, in all sincerity of spirit, to my Father in
Heaven. I tried afterwards to work out in my mind the theory of the
Roman Catholic faith as it might be accepted by the agnostic.

Human nature is a circumstance, with which we have to deal. It seems
to be divided into two parts, the emotional and the intellectual. My
intellectual or logical faculty drives me to the conclusion that,
outside the knowledge of the relative or phenomenal, I know nothing,
except perhaps that there must be an absolute, a something which is
unknowable. But whether the very fact that it is unknowable does not
prevent me from considering it, or thinking about it, or contemplating
it, is a question which Mr. Spencer's logic has not set at rest. My
reason forces me to a purely negative conclusion; but I see very
darkly before me, and feel that my logical faculty is very
insufficient for the task I set it. Nor do I feel that its present
decision is a final one. But I possess another faculty--the emotional
--which is the dominant spirit in all my better and nobler moments.
This spirit unceasingly insists that there is something above and
around us which is worthy of absolute devotion and devout worship.
Sometimes it presents this as the formula of "the great mystery ";
and here it has attempted to join hands with my logical faculty, but
this last persists that the unknowable has no qualities, and cannot
be an object for feeling. Then it points to a great ideal, Plato's
idea of the beautiful or perfect; but this idea, though it may be a
subject for contemplation, cannot be an object of worship. Lastly,
there is the great Father and Creator, the perfect object for
devotion. He is the God of Christianity, not a far-off personality
but united to man through His incarnation. This God is worshipped by
Protestant and Catholic alike.

The Protestant, however, declares virtually the supremacy of his own
reason. He asserts that his religion is rational and can be defended
by arguments. It is true that, originally, he declared the
infallibility of the Scriptures--but these, in their great variety,
can be shown to assert many contradictory dogmas, and when once his
individual mind is regarded as arbitrator as to how these
contradictory statements are to be reconciled so that a whole may be
constructed, he cannot rest until he has made some examination into
the different claims of the various authors of the Scriptures to
divine inspiration. This he finds was decided by men whose
infallibility he would not dare to assert. During this process,
whatever may have been his conclusions on particular points, the
Bible has lost its infallibility. He has sat in judgement over it
and acknowledged that his reason, his sense of logical truth, is his
real guide, the guide whom he is morally obliged to follow. If he
comes now into contact with modern science and modern philosophy,
and is sincere in his search after truth, he must arrive ultimately
at a more or less sceptical conclusion.

But the Catholic Church deals differently with the question. True,
our nature is divided into the intellectual and emotional. True,
also, that your intellectual or logical faculty will force you to
certain conclusions. These conclusions, however, are utterly
repugnant to your emotional nature; there is a want of harmony in
your life--you would be free from the little vanities and vexations
of daily life, from all your own little petty struggles for self and
its glory; you would rest in the worship and adoration of some being
who is perfect in wisdom and beauty--and in that worship you would
strengthen that ideal within you, which should leaven your whole
life. But your reason sternly refuses its sanction to that worship,
and so long as you consider your individual mind as the only
authority by which you can be guided, you must recognise the
supremacy of your logical or reasoning faculty over your emotional
or feeling faculty.

The Church offers you the restoration of that harmony without which
your life is aimless and incomplete. She declares herself to be the
supreme reason. She does not ask you to interpret her; she provides
her own interpreter in the priest, and suits her doctrine to the
individual and the time. You do not renounce the authority of
reason, but that only of your individual reason; and this only on a
question which it has already proved its incompetency to deal with
to the satisfaction of the rest of your nature. So long as you took
on yourself the responsibility of deciding what was true, you were
morally obliged to abide by the conclusions you arrived at. But in
joining the Catholic Church you refer the decision on religious
questions to a great association which has been composed, through
centuries, of men dedicating their life and thought to the theory
and practice of the religious ideal.

Could not the agnostic, if he felt that his nature was not
sufficiently developed to live without an emotional religion, could
he not renounce his freedom to reason on that one subject, and
submit to the authority of the great religious body on the subject
of religion; just as he would accept that of the great scientific
body on the subject of science, even if in the latter case his own
reason should lead him to different conclusions, on any phenomena of
nature, to those arrived at by scientific men?

Add to this the beautiful Catholic ritual, and the temptation to
commit this intellectual (and perhaps moral) suicide is strong to
one whose life without a religious faith is unbearable. [Rome: MS.
diary, November 14, 1880.]

From another entry, given out of the order of date, I gather that
the Roman Catholic was the only Christian Communion which at that
time attracted me.

At their house I read John Inglesant--a most originally conceived
Book--with scenes and passages of great power. Especially
interesting to me, as realising "sacramental" Christianity, the
phase of Christianity for which I have the most sympathy; the author
having evidently experienced that striving after inward purity of
heart and mind, the continual cleansing and keeping pure of the
whole man, as a temple "built unto God" and suited to this
reception in the symbolical form of the supreme and divine
sacrifice. Surely there are two ways of viewing the sacrifice of the
Mass: one as an atonement to an exacting deity, the other as a grand
symbolical expression of the greatest of human characteristics, the
power of self-sacrifice in the individual for the good of the

If it were only possible for the priesthood to be pure, what an
immense power the Roman Catholic Church would become! What a curious
psychological fact is that great and mysterious joy in the
prostration of soul and body before the symbol of infinite goodness
uniting all individuals in one aspiration! [MS. diary, 1882.]

It is impossible for a woman to live in agnosticism. That is a creed
which is only the product of one side of our nature, the purely
rational, and ought we persistently to refuse authority to that
other faculty which George Eliot calls the emotive thought? And
this, when we allow this faculty to govern us in action; when we
secretly recognise it as our guide in our highest moments. Again,
what is the meaning of our longing for prayer, of our feeling
happier and nobler for it? Why should we determine in our minds that
the rational faculty should be regarded as the infallible head in
our mental constitution? The history of the human mind, shown in the
works of the greatest of the race, proves that what has been
logically true to one age has been logically untrue to another;
whereas we are all able to sympathise and enter into the almost
inspired utterances of the emotive thought of philosophers and poets
of old. Where is Plato now, in logic? His logic seems almost
childish to us from its verbalism; and yet who can read the
assertions of his faith without feeling humbled and awed, and
willing almost to be his disciple? Is it not possible that our logic
also is verbal, and that we are foolish to insist on the finality of
its conclusions? But perhaps the real difficulty is that the
emotional faculty, though it gives us a yearning, a longing for,
perhaps even a distinct consciousness of, something above us,
refuses to formulate and to systematise; and even forces us to see
moral flaws in all the present religious systems. I suppose with
most people it is the sense of what is morally untrue which first
shakes your faith in Christianity; it is moral disapprobation of
some of its dogmas which forces you to question rationally the rest.
And this would be still more the case in an attempt to join the
Catholic Church. You would be obliged to stifle your sense of what
was right as well as that of what was true. [MS. diary, February 2,

There is a good deal of interesting argument and demonstration in
this chapter [that on "Necessary Truths" in George Henry Lewes's
History of Philosophy], but I, alas! see nothing in it to convince
me of the soundness of his view of the human being. It is the
philosophy which my logical faculty has always dictated to the rest
of my nature, and which the emotional part has always resented.
Moreover, evolutional and agnostic philosophy seems to me to be more
the clearance away of false ideas than the presentation of a system
of thought on which we can base our lives. It destroys all our
present grounds for believing in immortality, in any being higher
than humanity; but how dare we measure the great discoveries of the
future, and limit the progress of human thought? There is little
doubt that at present this philosophy darkens the life of man; and
the greater his egotism the blacker appears to him the impersonality
Of the universe. Still, this very darkness may force us to keep the
light of human sympathy burning clearly in our hearts; may oblige us
to study and insist on the conditions for health of body and mind. [
MS. diary, September 22, 1881.]

We all joined with Father in that beautiful communion service. [The
Sunday after my mother's funeral.]

Now that I have experienced what the death of a dear one is, and
have watched it and waited for it, a deep yearning arises for some
religion by which to console grief and stimulate action. I have, if
anything, less faith in the possibility of another life. As I looked
at our mother dying I felt it was a final dissolution of body and
soul--an end of that personality which we call the spirit. This was
an instinctive conviction: on this great question we cannot reason.
But, though my disbelief in what we call immortality was strengthened,
a new and wondrous faith has arisen within me--a faith in goodness
--in God. I must pray, I do pray and I feel better for it; and more
able to put aside all compromise with worldliness and to devote
myself with single-heartedness to my duty.

Surely the sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ is the greatest
symbol of the sacrifice we all ought to strive to make, by which we
may gain a noble immortality. In this spirit I took the holy
communion, for the first time for six years--years of more or less
dreary materialism.

Rationally, I am still an agnostic, but I know not where my
religious feeling, once awakened from the dreams of a vague
idealism, and acknowledged as helpful in times of trial, sorrow and
endeavour--where this religious feeling will lead me: whether I may
not be forced to acknowledge its supremacy over my whole nature. [
April 23, 1882.]

Mother's death opened out a new world to me in thought and action [I
write a month later]. It stamped, by a new experience, the
conviction which had been slowly growing from the first dawning of
conscious thought within me, a conviction that the world was either
an infernal chaos, or that all life was a manifestation of goodness;
and death, disease and misery horrible only to our imperfect vision.
The death of one dear and near to me did not strike me a sadder than
the death of the thousands who vanish unknown around us. Either "the
all" is so inexpressibly sad that there is no room for an increase
of sadness through personal affliction or else there is a mysterious
meaning which, if we could divine it and accept it, would hallow all
things, and give even to death and misery a holiness which would be
akin to happiness. And the result of this ultimatum, presented by
the thoughtful to the practical part of my nature, was a partial
reversion to religion; I was satisfied that this would be the last
word of thought un aided by experience gathered in action. The
question remained how am I to live and for what object? Is the
chopped-up happiness of the world worth anything if the first
alternative he true. Physical annihilation is impracticable. One's
own life and one's own nature are facts with which one must deal;
and with me they must be directed by some one consistent principle.
Even if the instinctive faith in a mysterious goodness is a fiction
of the mind, would it not on the whole be happier to live by the
light of this 'delusion, and blind oneself wilfully to the awful
vision of unmeaning misery? Perhaps it would be difficult to direct
a life on this negative basis. In truth one has a faith within one
which persists in the absence of direct contradiction. [January 2,

Thus the long-drawn-out controversy, between the Ego that affirms
and the Ego that denies the validity of religious mysticism, ended,
not in a reversion to the creed of Christianity, not even in an
affirmation by the intellect of the existence of a spiritual power
with whom man could enter into communion, but in an intuitive use of
prayer as, for one of my temperament, essential to the right conduct
of life. A secularist friend once cross-examined me as to what
exactly I meant by prayer; he challenged me to define the process of
prayer, to describe its happening. I answered that I would gladly do
so if I could find the words. The trouble is, as Tagore observed
about poetry, that words have meanings, or, as I should prefer to say,
predominantly intellectual meanings; and that in prayer, even more than
in poetry, it is emotion and not reason that seeks transmission.
Religion is love; in no case is it logic. That is why, down all the
ages of human development, prayer has been intimately associated,
whether as a cause or as an effect, with the nobler and more
enduring forms of architecture and music; associated, too, with
poetry and painting, with the awe-inspiring aspects of nature, with
the great emotional mysteries of maternity, mating and death. In
another place I may try (and probably fail) to express, by the
clumsy mechanism of the written word, the faith I hold; that it is
by prayer, by communion with an all-pervading spiritual force, that
the soul of man discovers the purpose or goal of human endeavour, as
distinguished from the means or process by which human beings may
attain their ends. For science is bankrupt in deciding the destiny
of man; she lends herself indifferently to the destroyer and to the
preserver of life, to the hater and to the lover of mankind. Yet any
avoidance of the scientific method in disentangling "the order of
things," any reliance on magic or on mystical intuition in selecting
the process by which to reach the chosen end, spells superstition
and usually results in disaster.

But this metaphysical resting-place was not reached until middle
life. At this point in my narrative it suffices to record the fact
that, during the ten years intervening between my mother's death (
1882; aet. 24) and my father's death and my own marriage (1892; aet.
34)--crucial years during which I acquired the craft of a social
investigator, experienced intense emotional strain, and persisted in
continuous intellectual toil under adverse circumstances--it was the
habit of prayer which enabled me to survive, and to emerge
relatively sound in body and sane in mind.


12 "My childhood was not on the whole a happy one," I wrote in 1884;
"ill-health and starved affection, and the mental disorders which
spring from these, ill-temper and resentment, marred it. Hours spent
in secret places, under the shade of shrub and tree, in the
leaf-filled hollows of the wood and in the crevices of the quarries,
where I would sit and imagine love scenes and death-bed scenes and
conjure up the intimacy and tenderness lacking in my life, made up
the happy moments. But dreary times of brooding and resentfulness,
sharp pains of mortified vanity and remorse for untruthfulness,
constant physical discomfort and frequent pain absorbed the greater
part of my existence; and its loneliness was absolute." [MS. diary,
April 8, 1884.]

13 We were brought up to be interested in politics and politicians,
as is shown in the following description in a letter to my mother,
when I was about eight, of the two Conservative candidates for
Gloucester, I think at a by-election about 1866--a letter intended,
I suspect, to impress my mother with my learning, the long words
ornamented with capitals having obviously been copied out of some
newspaper. "The two Conservative Candidates were here yesterday, one
of them is very short and very finely dressed; he had his top coat
trimmed with sealskin; he had also silver buckles on his boots and
his hands were covered with rings, with a very stylish blue tye
which covered his vastcoat; He also saied he spoke Italian and
french perfectly. He played on the piano and sung; he seemed not to
(k)now what mony words ment, for he asked papa what was the meaning
of Demonstration, and Major Lees asked the meaning of Hustings and
Nomination. Major Lees is very tall and very fat, with a great beard
mustache and whiskers, with an eye glass which he satisfied his
curiosity in staring at everybody."

14 My fourth sister, Georgina (married to Daniel Meinertzhagen,
September 1873).

15 The Arctic traveller with whom I had been friends during the
preceding London season of 1873.

16 The Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, of which my father was then

17 The French-Canadian cook of the President's car who had been sent
with us by my father while he himself remained in Canada.

18 My sister Mary's husband, Arthur Playne, who was travelling with us.

19 At that time my sister Kate, who had from childhood upwards been
devoted to the poor and suffering, was claiming to be permitted to
withdraw from "society" and take service under Miss Octavia Hill
as rent-collector in East London--a claim that was acceded to in

20 My little sister's nursery governess, whose mind I was apparently
intent on cultivating.

21 Two old friends of my father were "authorised" to take me out walks
--Admiral Sullivan, a fanatical Protestant but jolly old Irishman,
with whose family I spent Sundays, they being attendants at Mr.
Eliot's church; and Admiral Grey, whose courteous manners
and broad culture remain a pleasant memory. But my particular friend
at Stirling House was Oscar Beringer, who gave the girls music
lessons and afterwards became famed as an accomplished pianist.
Finding that I had "musical feeling" but no musical faculty, he
spent the time allotted to me in playing his favourite pieces and
explaining to me their meaning--a type of "music lesson" which I
appreciated when a few years later I spent six months in Germany
attending concerts and operas.

23 During the winter of 1879-80 my sisters Margaret and Kate were
travelling in Egypt with Canon and Mrs. Barnett and Herbert Spencer.
(There is an entertaining account of this trip in the Life of Canon
Barnett, vol. i. pp. 226-56.)

24 Brian Houghton Hodgson (1800-1894) was, in his day, one of the
most distinguished scholars of Oriental languages, religions and
customs, of a world-wide reputation very little appreciated in the
country of his birth. Going to India from Haileybury College as a
writer in 1816, he became Assistant commissioner of Kumaon,
adjoining Nepaul, to which native state he was appointed in 1820;
remaining there for twenty-three years, being confirmed as Resident
in 1833. He was exceptionally successful in his difficult post, but
at last incurred the displeasure of the most autocratic of
Governor-Generals, Lord Ellenborough, who summarily, in 1843,
deprived him of his appointment; whereupon Hodgson retired from the
service. Besides endless papers in the proceedings of learned
societies, his principal works were: Illustration of the Literature
and Religion of the Buddhists, 1841; The Koch, Bodo and Dhimal
People, 1847; Essays . . . on Nepaul and Thibet, 1874; Miscellaneous
Essays relating to Religious Subjects, 1880. He was omitted from the
Dictionary of National Biography, but died in time to be given a
place in the First Supplement; and there is a short biography by Sir
W. W. Hunter, 1896.

25 Trevelyan's Life of Macaulay, p. 402 of vol. ii.

26 Since writing about Brian Hodgson I have come across the
following account of him by Sir Joseph Hooker, from which I gather
that this great scientist found him as hard to understand as I did.
"My friend, Brian Hodgson, was an arch-Buddhist scholar, and we
spent many a long evening in the Himalaya over Buddhism; but his
knowledge was too profound to be communicated intelligently to a
novice. I have his works. I fancy he did more by the collection of
materials, than by his dissertations, to advance the study."  (Life
and Letters of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, O.M., G.C.S.I., by Leonard
Huxley, vol. ii. p. 433).

And here is a description by the same author, of Hodgson in 1848,
which gives another version of his dismissal from the Residency of
Nepaul: "Hodgson is a particularly gentlemanly and agreeable person,
but he looks sickly; he is handsome, with a grand forehead and
delicate, finely-cut features; when arrayed in his furs and
wearing the Scotch bonnet and eagle feather, with which it is his
pleasure to adorn himself, he would make a striking picture. He is a
clever person and can be wickedly sarcastic; he called Lord
Ellenborough (the haughtiest nobleman in all India) a 'knave and
coxcomb' to his face (true enough, though not exactly a fact to be
told with impunity), and then squibbed his lordship; you must know
that Lord E. had previously applied to Hodgson the sobriquet of an
Ornithological Humbug, and had turned him out of his Residentship at
Nepaul because he had (by Lord Auckland's desire) clapped the Rajah
into confinement. In short, Lord Ellenborough and Mr. Hodgson kept
up a running fire till his Lordship left the country." (ibid.
vol. i. p. 262).

27 From Herbert Spencer's references, during the last years of his
life, to current scientific controversy, I gathered that he was
profoundly disturbed by some of the newer hypotheses of the
physicists; but as I had neither knowledge of, nor interest in these
questions I failed to understand the cause of this unrest. In answer
to my enquiry my friend Bertrand Russell suggests the following

"I don't know whether he was ever made to realise the implications
of the second law of thermodynamics; if so, he might well be upset.
The law says that everything tends to uniformity and a dead level,
diminishing (not increasing) heterogeneity. Energy is only useful
when unevenly concentrated, and the law says that it tends to become
evenly diffused. This law used to worry optimists about the time
when Spencer was old. On the other hand, his optimism was always
groundless, so his pessimism may have been equally so; perhaps the
cause of both was physiological" (Letter from Bertrand Russell to
Beatrice Webb, June 4, 1923).

It is interesting to note that Charles Darwin seems in his own range
of subjects to have shared this strange optimism with regard to the
correspondence of the nature of things with a human scale of values.
In a letter to Sir Charles Lyell he writes: "When you contrast
natural selection and 'improvement,' you seem always to overlook
(for I do not see how you can deny) that every step in the natural
selection of each species implies improvement in that species in
relation to its conditions of life. No modification can be selected
without it be an improvement or advantage, Improvement implies, I
suppose, each form obtaining many parts or organs, all excellently
adapted for their functions. As each species is improved, and as the
number of forms will have increased, if we look to the whole course
of time, the organic condition of life for other forms will become
more complex, and there will be a necessity for other forms to
become improved, or they will be exterminated; and I can see no
limit to this process of improvement, without the intervention of
any other and direct principle of improvement. All this seems to me
quite compatible with certain forms fitted for simple conditions,
remaining unaltered, or being degraded.

"If I have a second edition, I will reiterate' Natural Selection
and, as a general consequence, Natural Improvement" (The Life and
Letters of Charles Darwin, vol. ii. p. 177, 1887 edition).

29 Social Statics, Herbert Spencer.

30 I give the remainder of the extract, as it expresses exactly my
difficulty in appreciating poetry. "But does one write poetry to
explain any matter? What is felt within the heart tries to find
outside shape as a poem. So when, after listening to a poem, any one
says he has not understood, I feel nonplussed. If someone smells a
flower and says he does not understand, the reply to him is: there
is nothing to understand, it is only a scent. If he persists,
saying: that I know, but what does it all mean? Then one has either
to change the subject, or make it more abstruse by saying that the
scent is the shape which the universal joy takes in the flower" (
Then follow the words quoted in the text) . . . "This utterance of
feeling," he continues, "is not the statement of a fundamental
truth, or a scientific fact, or a useful moral precept. Like a tear
or a smile it is but a picture of what is taking place within. If
science or philosophy may gain anything from it they are welcome,
but that is not the reason of its being. If while crossing a ferry
you can catch a fish you are a lucky man, but that does not make the
ferry-boat a fishing-boat, nor should you abuse the ferryman if he
does not make fishing his business." (My Reminiscences, by
Rabindranath Tagore, 1917, p. 222).


THE CHOICE OF A CRAFT [1882-1885; aet. 24-27]

ONE of the puzzle-questions about human nature in society is the
relative significance, in determining the life-work of individual
men, of nature and nurture, of innate tendency and social
environment. It gratifies self-conceit to imagine "that every
author hath his own Genius, directing him by a secret inspiration to
that wherein he may most excel." But, as the expounder of this
seventeenth-century saying reflects, this "inborn and, as it were,
inspired element" was, in those days, assumed to belong to authors
possessed of genius as distinguished from talent; authors "who were
indebted to their natural endowments alone," and not to the study
and imitation of other writers.31 So far as I am concerned, the
conclusion is obvious: in choosing the craft of a social investigator
I proved, once for all, that I had no genius. For I had neither
aptitude nor liking for much of the technique of sociology; some
would say, for the vital parts of it. I had, for instance, no gifts
for that rapid reading and judgement of original documents, which is
indispensable to the historian; though by sheer persistency and long
practice I acquired this faculty. And whilst I could plan out an
admirable system of note-taking, the actual execution of the plan
was, owing to an inveterate tendency to paraphrase extracts which I
intended to copy, not to mention an irredeemably illegible handwriting,
a wearisome irritation to me. As for the use of figures, whether
mathematical or statistical, I might as well have attempted to turn
water into wine! The only outcome of an agonising effort to master
the rudiments of algebra, under the tuition of a local cleric who
happened also to be a Cambridge wrangler, was that, for the first
and last time in my life, I saw a ghost. It happened this wise. In
the autumn after my mother's death (1882) my sister, Mary Playne,
was staying with us in our Westmorland home. Out of sisterly
affection, she became anxious lest my mania for study should
interfere with the prospect of a happy and successful marriage.
"Beatrice's intellect, or rather what she attempts to develop into an
intellect," sister Georgie was reported to have said to sister Mary,
"what's the good of it? It's no use to her or any one else--it's all
done to make a show before old and young philosophers" (MS. diary,
April 17, 1882). Spurred by some such vision of matrimonial futility
(for what sensible woman wants a philosopher for a husband?), my
sister Mary broke into my bedroom early one morning to find me
sitting by an open window in an untidy dressing-gown, with
dishevelled hair, and pale and spotty complexion, straining hand and
brain to copy out and solve some elementary algebraical problems.
"What nonsense this is," she began, half chaff, half compliment,
"trying to be a blue-stocking when you are meant to be a pretty
woman." "This is my room and my time--go away," I snapped at her.
Immediately after breakfast, probably in order to assert my
independence of domestic criticism, I resumed my mathematical
strivings in the hours usually devoted to family talk. Towards the
middle of the morning the door opened again, and my sister, silent
and reproachful, seemed about to continue her remonstrance. "Leave
the room!" I shouted, at the ragged end of my temper. The door
closed. And then it flashed into my consciousness that she was not
in her usual tailor-made coat and skirt but in a white flannel wrap
with dark blue spots, which I remembered her wearing when we were
together in Germany. I shut my book and hurried downstairs. "Where
is Mrs. Playne?" I asked the butler. "She went out with Mr. Potter
some time ago," he replied. For the next hour I sat in the hall,
miserable with brain-fag, pretending to read the morning paper, but
overcome with superstitious fear lest mishap had befallen her. In
due course my sister reappeared; quite obviously in the flesh; glad
to welcome my relaxed expression and affectionate greeting. Ashamed
of my bad temper and unwilling to reopen the dispute, I did not
reveal to her until many years afterwards the cause of my penitence.

Three weeks passed in mental contortions consequent on attempting
mathematics without possessing mathematical faculty. Algebraical
signs or numbers are to me half-believed-in facts which my mind
persists in deeming fictions. I naturally refuse to believe that
mathematics is the highest faculty of the brain; tho' perhaps a
necessary tool in the application of the highest faculties to the
most important subjects. [MS. diary November 4, 1882.]

"What you needed," observes The Other One, "was not a tutor but a
partner." "But how could I select the partner until I had chosen the
craft?" I ask.

In the following pages I seek to describe my reaction to the
curiously compelling quality in the social environment in which I
lived; whether this was manifested in the books that I read, in the
persons with whom I associated, or in the domestic, social and
political events that formed the framework of my life. Granted
intellectual curiosity, and an overpowering impulse towards
self-expression, it now seems to me that, whatever had been my
inborn gifts and defects, the weight of circumstance would have
compelled me to investigate the history and working of social

To win recognition as an intellectual' worker was, even before my
mother's death, my secret ambition. I longed to write a book that
would be read; but I had no notion about what I wanted to write.
From my diary entries I infer that, if I had followed my taste and
my temperament (I will not say my talent), I should have become, not
a worker in the field of sociology, but a descriptive psychologist;
either in the novel, to which I was from time to time tempted; or (
if I had been born thirty years later) in a scientific analysis of
the mental make-up of individual men and women, and their behaviour
under particular conditions. For there begin to appear in my diary,
from 1882 onwards, realistic scenes from country and town life,
descriptions of manners and morals, analytic portraits of relations
and friends--written, not with any view to self-education, as were my
abstracts, extracts and reviews, but merely because I enjoyed
writing them. It is, however, significant that these sketches from
life nearly always concern the relation of the individual to some
particular social organisation: to big enterprise, or to Parliament,
to the profession of law, or of medicine or of the Church. As a
sample, I give two entries descriptive of the lower ranges of human
nature in the Church of England in mid-Victorian times.

Talk at table d'hote across the table to three young men, common,
commoner, commonest--tho' perhaps more commonplace than common [I
note during a tour with my father and little sister to Switzerland
in the summer of 1882]. Find the next morning that Father has
arranged (while we have been lying lazily in bed) that we two should
spend the whole day with Common and Commoner on the other glacier.
"At any rate it will be a study of human nature, Rosebud," say I. And
really on that dreary ice, half the time enveloped in mist and rain,
Common and Commoner were not amiss. The latter, a regular wild young
Irishman, with harum-scarum intelligence, fell to my lot. Like his
two companions, he was a pillar of the Church! I was soon in his
confidence. His language was so characteristic of the man, that I
scribble it down.

"I was a year and a half in Germany at school--terrible place for
Work--the master an awful fellare for false doctrine, about eternity
of punishment and that sort of thing. . . . But a fellare only wants
to have those things explained to him by a clever man. I got it all
out of my head when I came to England. Nevare meant to take orders
--but was always a terrible one for brain work--it just knocks me
down. I'm nevare jolly in a place for more than three months. My
only brothare, he spends his life in scenting trouble--wherevare
there's war, he's there--got an awful keen scent for it. Last time
we heard of him, was one of the mounted constabulary in Australia,
just on the track of the natives: that sort of thing is in the

"How did you manage to pass your examination?" I venture to ask.

"Oh I'm one of those lucky fellares--get through without reading,
manage on lectures, can put a little stuff in a deal of pallavar
--the examiners they much prefer being told what they've said than
what you find in books."

"And your sermons?"

"Oh, I was well coached in them by Canon Fleming. I'd to preach
before him--didn't I shake!"

"I suppose you don't go in for doctrine?"

"Oh yes! a fellare must hang it on to something--I like similes,
plenty of similes, they go down; but near Hereford, where I live, is
an awful dull place. Vicar, regular driver for work. Really it was
awful hard on a young fellare--four days after I got there, he and
his family left--I'd the whole work, four-and-twenty young fellares
to prepare for Confirmation. And, they're a dull lot there, it is
hard to drive stuff into their heads. Really, if I hadn't my garden
and my fowls, I don't know what I should do. As for the society,
it's made up of parsons--I hate them--they get hold of a young
fellare, and preach to him, and tell him what to do and what to
think, until a young fellare doesn't know where he is. The vicar and
his family are awfully kind to me--five daughters--whole family deaf
--have to preach into a trough with speaking-trumpets into the
Vicar's face! He's a wonderful man for politics, get all my politics
from him.--Awful old Tory--gives his congregation regular political
speeches as sermons. Began the other day, after blowing his nose and
clearing his throat, which always takes him a deal of time, 'I can
congratulate you most heartily, my brethren--that that blaguard
Bradlaugh has been expelled the floor of the House!' Country
'doctor, awful little cad--wanted me to be always in his house, but
really couldn't stand him. Had to make him understand that--but I had
some awful shindies about him in the parish."

"What sort of rows?" ask I, my curiosity aroused, "are you not on
speaking terms with him?"

"Oh yes! when I meet him, I bow and palaver--wouldn't do if I

Short pause, as we clamber up a very steep place. "Do you like your

"Well, what I should have liked would have been to go to sea, but it
was too late, and my brain was too weak for office work, my father
was a clergyman and I've five uncles in the Church--I know a lot of
young curates, some take to flowers, some to bicycling, some have
fowls. Some have told me that they are awfully flabbergastered at a
death-bed--don't know what to say--that's the thing that makes a
young fellare serious," said the young Irishman, with a passing
expression of sadness. "It is seeing sickness and death. . . ."

Just as I was meditating bed, father came up, with Mrs. R., wife of
the rector of T. This lady was a comely, clerical-looking dame, with
decided aquiline features, pallid face, large cold grey eyes, which,
together with the mouth, were slightly turned down at the corners,
giving an air of piety; cap and dress of solid respectability, and
general look of satisfaction with this world, and firm conviction as
to her place in the next.

"It is such a pity we did not make your acquaintance before," she
was kind enough to remark, with a drawling emphasis on particular
syllables. "There are such a queer set of people here. Last night I
was talking to one of the nicest-looking men here, really quite a
presentable man, and what do you think he turned out to be?"

"No! what?"

"A dissenting minister! Of course I had to stop my conversation;
those dissenters have such queer notions and are so touchy about
their social position, and of course as a churchwoman, as the wife
of a clergyman of the established church, I could not talk to him,
without probably offending him."

"Of course not," say I, tho' inwardly wondering why offence need be

"Then this morning I sat down on a bench near quite a ladylike-looking
girl; where do you think she came from?"

"No! where?"

"From Birmingham."

"Dear me," ejaculate I sympathetically. At this point we seated
ourselves and began to reconnoitre as to our acquaintance with the
Gloucestershire Vale families. "I know Mr. P.32--intimately
--delightful man--the Miss P.-s, four very accomplished girls--it is
a pity they are still the Miss P.-s." Here indeed was a bond of
union; who does not enjoy gentle disparagement of their next-door
neighbour, especially when that neighbour happens to be a "leetle"
above them in social position? Warmed by this we ascended to the
subject of education. "It is very sad, near us," continued the
rector's wife; "the whole education of the daughters of the
tradespeople, Of the solicitors and of that class of persons, is in
the hands of dissenters--where of course they get no sound religious
training. My husband is trying to start a Church middle-class
school, which will be entirely under him--we have secured two
excellent Churchwomen as mistresses. A lady, who has great
experience of these High Schools, which seem to me most objectionable,
told me that the girls were so pressed with work, that they had not
time for their daily prayers; and that the education was so high,
that they frequently procured for themselves books on modern
thought. And it seems, that in many of these High Schools, all
classes are educated together--the teaching is thought so good that
many parents of good position (tho' of course of limited means) are
induced to send their daughters there, and it is quite impossible
for them to tell next whom their daughters may be sitting!" . . . [
MS. diary, June 1882.]

The death of my mother revolutionised my life. From being a
subordinate, carrying out directions, and having to fit into the
framework of family circumstance, studies and travels, friendships
and flirtations, I became a principal, a person in authority,
determining not only my own but other people's conduct; the head of
a large household perpetually on the move; the home, wherever
located, serving as the meeting-place of seven married sisters and
their growing families; a busy hostess in town and country,
entertaining my father's, my own and my sisters' friends. More
significant than any of these routine activities was the fact that I
was my father's counsellor and my youngest sister's virtual
guardian. This position of responsibility and authority was
accentuated by my father's temperament; if he had any defect as a
parent it was an over-indulgent disposition, an over-appreciation of
the character and intelligence of those whom he loved and those with
whom he lived. And though I was not one of the daughters who
attracted his more romantic sentiments, I was certainly one in whose
judgement and business shrewdness he had complete confidence; a
confidence due partly to my having acted, off and on, as his private
secretary and confidential attendant; memorising for him the various
details of the unwritten "understandings" between men of affairs
which form so large a part of the machinery of big business. I note,
in passing, that apprehending, recollecting, and afterwards
recording complicated series of facts, gathered in conversation, is
part of the technique of a social investigator; and I owe the skill
I had as an interviewer to this preliminary practice with my father.
When I became the head of his household, he left it to me to settle
the why, the when and the wherefore of the expenditure of a
considerable income; indeed, he had more than once suggested that if
I "did not want to marry" I might become his recognised associate
in business. Thus, for two or three years, I experienced that
unrestricted and unregulated use of money which the rentiers term
personal freedom, and the wage-earners, who feel that they produce
the commodities and services consumed by men and women of leisure,
regard as personal power. Moreover, coincident with this increased
freedom or power, perhaps arising out of it, was a bound upward in
physical and mental vigour. From being an anaemic girl, always
paying for spells of dissipation or study by periods of nervous
exhaustion, often of positive illness, I became an exceptionally
energetic woman, carrying on, persistently and methodically, several
separate, and, in some ways, conflicting, phases of life
--undergoing, in fact, much of the strain and stress of multiple

Driving through the streets of London on my way from Paddington [I
recall in a summary of the year's work], I had that curious
"sensation" of power, which I suppose comes to most people who have
lived within themselves, who have seldom had their self-estimation
righted by competition with others. Every face in the crowded
streets seemed ready to tell me its secret history if only I would
watch closely enough. Again, that vain hope for a "bird's-eye view"
of mankind floated before my eyes; a grasping after some spectral
idea which vanished as I tried to describe its outline. My energy
and my power for work were suddenly increased. I remained in a state
of exaltation all the summer, possibly to some extent due to the
physical effect of the high air at Murren. (General abundance of
blood is a cause of emotional exaltation! H. S.) The state of
"exaltation," whether moral or intellectual, must be the same, in its
inherent nature, in the genius and in the ordinary person; but it is
vastly different in its result. It is a spiritual isolation of
yourself; a questioning of your capability of doing useful work
outside the duty incumbent on an ordinary individual of the special
class to which you belong.

The penalty attached to a wrong answer is greater if it err on the
side of vanity. There is the probability of ridicule, and what is
worse infinitely, the certainty of comparative uselessness.
Cynicism, too, helps humility to conquer in this crisis. It is so
very doubtful whether works (either of thought or of action) of the
moderately gifted man have any permanent effect. If he is
representative, he is a mere instrument, and many as good ones lie
to hand. If he resist the stream, he is powerless to divert the
fearful current of human tendency. My little dream was broken by the
friendly shake of kindly persons who caught me napping and
neglecting work in which they were interested. Mathematics, too,
effectually sobered me. It is a good foot-measure of ability which
can be used in private. On the whole, the new year begins with a
determination to devote myself first of all to practical life; if
there is energy to spare, "surely I can do what I like with mine

It would be amusing to make studies of human beings, with the same
care I bestowed on imitating bits of rock, stick and root. The six
months spent on drawing, though wasted as far as accomplishment
goes, certainly increased sensitiveness to colour and form. I
remember, that winter, what keen delight the curve of a tree branch,
the gradation of colour in a carrot or turnip, gave me. The vilest
things in Nature had an interest and even a beauty of their own.
And, since my life will be much spent in society, an attempt to
describe the men and women I meet will add interest to it, and give
me a more delicate appreciation of their characteristics.

In most of us there is a desire to express our thoughts, feelings or
impressions. Women generally choose music or drawing, but there is
really no more pretension in writing, so long as one does not humbug
oneself as to the value of the stuff written. And there is this
advantage, that language is the ordinary medium for influence in
practical life; and that, even if we ignore the great advantage of
writing in its development of thought, clearness and plausibility of
expression are good allied to the more important qualities of
character and mind. Morley says we moderns limit our ideas of
redeeming the time to the two pursuits of reading books and making
money; and, roughly speaking, the number of books read and digested
during this past year is equivalent in one's own estimation to work

It is a difficult question whether the present "intellectualism"
is overestimated in its good effects. Just at present, I fancy there
is a reaction against the idea that intellectual education is the
cure for all evils. Certainly, the persons who are universally
interested and universally useless make up rather a dreary society.
Does culture increase power to act? I am inclined to think it
increases the power but decreases the desire? [MS. diary, January 3,

The first point to be settled was how to reconcile the rival pulls
on time and energy, on the one hand, of family affection, backed up
by the Victorian code of feminine domesticity; and, on the other, of
a domineering curiosity into the nature of things, reinforced by an
awakening desire for creative thought and literary expression. Some
claims were beyond doubt. To be my father's companion in business
and travel was not merely a continuous delight but also a liberal
education. Personal sympathy as well as a sense of duty was roused
by my little sister's chronic ill-health. But there were other
assumptions with regard to the whole duty of woman that I refused to
accept. According to the current code, the entire time and energy of
an unmarried daughter--especially if she was the responsible mistress
of the home--were assumed to be spent, either in serving the family
group, or in entertaining and being entertained by the social circle
to which she belonged. There was, it is true, a recognised
counter-claim, the right to end this apprenticeship by accomplishing
her masterpiece, making a "good marriage," by which she would
graduate into the goodly company of prosperous matrons, thus adding
to the corporate influence of the family. A code implies a court to
interpret it. In my case, the solid phalanx of seven married
sisters, with the seven brothers-in-law in reserve as assessors,
proved to be, I gladly admit it, a tolerant and kindly jury of
enquiry and presentment. But, like other potential law-breakers, I
was determined to evade, or at any rate to limit, the court's
jurisdiction. In so far as the health and happiness of father and
sister were concerned, or the disposal of the family income, I fully
recognised the right of the family jury to intervene. But I silently
withdrew all my own aspirations and plans for selfculture and
self-expression from family discussion--a reserve which entailed
isolation and loneliness.

Alongside of this inward conflict is a recognition that (probably
owing to this egotism) I am losing ground in the affections of my
sisters. Of course there will be unavoidable criticism, and some of
it will be unjustified. It is no use being oversensitive--but if one
wishes to feel philosophically towards it, one must be honestly
convinced of the lightness and thoroughness of one's own intentions.
[MS. diary, December 1882.]

The rival claims on time and energy were rapidly adjusted by the
habit of getting through my intellectual work in my own room between
five and eight in the morning, leaving the rest of the day for
domestic cares and social duties.

Reading H. S.'s Psychology diligently every morning. These quiet
three hours of study are the happiest ones in the day. Only one
trouble continually arises--the stimulus a congenial study gives to
my ambition, which is continually mortified by a gleam of
self-knowledge; meeting with the most ordinarily clever person
forces me to appreciate my own inferiority. And yet, fool that I am,
I can't help feeling that could I only devote myself to one subject
I could do something. However, I suppose that the most commonplace
person every now and again catches sight of possibilities in his
nature which, from lack of other qualities, are doomed to remain
undeveloped. And why should we strain every nerve to know, when
every fresh atom of knowledge increases the surface exposed to the
irritating action of the unknown? What good does it do to ourselves
or others, even if we increase (which is an impossibility for the
ordinary mortal) the sum total of human knowledge? Character is much
more in need of development than intelligence, which in these latter
days has taken the bit between its teeth and run away with human
energy. Perhaps thought, with the philosophy it breeds, does
influence moral development, by raising our minds above the
consideration of personal mortification and personal gratification;
by enlarging our sympathies and by opening a safety valve to our
mental activity through which it can escape harmlessly. After all,
one sees more mischief done by unoccupied but active minds than
duties omitted by minds interested in other things besides their own
concerns. What distresses me about my own little work is the small
amount of material I have to work upon--the trivial subjectiveness
of my thought. That is what I am painfully conscious of when I meet
really clever men. My work, if it can be dignified by that name, is
so amateurish; and yet I don't know that I have a right to pretend
to anything better and more businesslike. All my duties lie in the
practical direction. Why should I, wretched little frog, try and
puff myself into a professional? If I could rid myself of that
mischievous desire to achieve, I could defend the few hours I devote
to study, by the truly satisfactory effect it has on my physical
nature. It does keep me in health--whether through its direct
influence on my circulation or through the indirect effect of a
certain selfsatisfaction it induces. Dissipation doesn't suit me,
morally or physically; and I don't see why I shouldn't be true to my
own nature and resist it. [MS. diary, January 1883.]

The following entries in my diary, during the first year of my newly
found position of an independent hostess in London society, reveal
the strain and stress of this internal struggle between the desire
for self-development and self-expression and the more conventional
calls of family duty, reinforced by the promptings of personal
vanity and social ambition.

Shall I give myself up to society [I ask the day before we take
possession of our London house] and make it my aim to succeed
therein; or shall I only do so as far as duty calls me, keeping my
private life much as it has been for the last nine months? On the
whole the balance is in favour of society. It is going with the
stream, and pleasing my people. It is doing a thing thoroughly that
I must do partially. It is taking opportunities instead of making
them. It is risking less, and walking on a well-beaten track in
pleasant company. The destination is not far distant; no unusual
amount of power is wanted to arrive there; and lastly, and perhaps
this is the reason which weighs most with me, there is less
presumption in the choice.

Therefore, I solemnly dedicate my energies for the next five months
to the cultivation of the social instincts--trusting that the good
daemon within me will keep me from all vulgarity of mind,
insincerity and falseness. I would like to go amongst men and women
with a determination to know them; to humbly observe and consider
their characteristics; always remembering how much there is in the
most inferior individual which is outside and beyond one's
understanding. Every fresh intimacy strengthens the conviction of
one's own powerlessness to comprehend fully any other nature, even
when one watches it with love. And without sympathy there is an
impassable barrier to the real knowledge of the inner workings which
guide the outer actions of human beings. Sympathy, or rather
accepted sympathy, is the only instrument for the dissection of
character. All great knowers and describers of human nature must
have possessed this instrument. The perfection of the instrument
depends no doubt on a purely intellectual quality, analytical
imagination--this, again, originating in subjective complexity of
motive and thought. But unless this latter quality is possessed to
an extraordinary degree, insight into other natures is impossible,
unless we subordinate our interest in self and its workings to a
greater desire to understand others. Therefore the resolution which
has been growing in my mind is, that I will fight against my natural
love of impressing others, and prepare my mind to receive
impressions. And as fast as I receive impressions I will formulate
them, thereby avoiding the general haziness of outline which follows
a period of receptivity without an attempt of expression. [MS.
diary, February 22, 1883.]

A pleasant bedroom in front of the house and looking towards the
west [I write when we are settled in Prince's Gate for the London
season]. In the afternoon I can sit here and watch the sun slowly
setting behind the Museum buildings and gardens . . . undisturbed by
the rushing life of the great city; only the brisk trottings and
even rollings of the well-fed horses and well-cushioned carriages.
Altogether, we are in the land of luxury; we are living in an
atmosphere of ease, satiety and boredom, with prospect and
retrospect of gratified and mortified vanity. Father has found
occupation in enquiring into, and to some extent organising, a large
railway amalgamation scheme: the promoters anxious to get his time,
and still more his name. Secretary Price called this afternoon.
Cleverly managed to insinuate the "we" into it. Father really
anxious for work. Still suffers silent agony and lonely grief for
mother; his sorrow is permanent though intermittent. There is a deep
sadness in decaying power, more terrible to me than death itself.
And all who have passed the prime of life, who have lived those few
golden years for work, must exhibit this decline in the power for
persistent work. I do not wonder that men should turn from human
nature to study, with absorbing interest, life in the lower forms.
There is so much that is terrible and awful in mental organisation,
lit up as it is by one's own self-consciousness, and surrounded by
that dark background of annihilation. Constantly, as I walk in one
of the crowded streets of London, and watch the faces of the men and
women who push past me, lined, furrowed, and sometimes contorted by
work, struggle and passion, and think that all this desire and pain,
this manifold feeling and thought are but a condition of force and
matter, phantom-like forms built up to be destroyed, a hopelessness
overtakes me, paralysing all power of wishing and doing. Then I sink
into inertia, relieved only by a languid curiosity as to the
variations in structure and function of those individuals who will
let me observe them and enquire of them. Cold-blooded enquiry takes
the place of heartfelt sympathy. But this one should shake off
sternly. . . . [MS. diary, February 1883.]

Huge party at the Speaker's--one or two of such would last one a
lifetime. Find it so difficult to be the universally pleasant. Can't
think what to say. Prefer on the whole the crowd in Oxford Street,
certainly the feminine part of it. "Ladies" are so expressionless.
Should fancy mental superiority of men greatest in our class. Could
it be otherwise with the daily life of women in society? What is there
in the life which is so attractive? How can intelligent women wish
to marry into the set where this is the social regime? [MS. diary,
March 1, 1883.]

Made calls. Lady P., great heiress of common extraction, married
baronet: this last a bland individual whose abilities have been
swamped in money. Large house in Prince's Gate, magnificently
equipped with "rareties" in china and furniture resulting in general
sombre and heavy look. She, a small, pretty, delicate-featured
woman, with maladive expression and certain seedy stylishness of
appearance and manner. Sitting next her a stout plain woman
gorgeously got up. Interrupted them in conversation on servants.
After first civilities:

Lady P. "I was telling Mrs. B. that the last cook who applied to me
asked 250 pounds per year, perquisites and freedom to buy his own
materials, and his Sundays to himself. Very kind and condescending,
was it not?--and he was actually an old servant of ours, who had left
us only two years; but really the presumption and dishonesty of
servants nowadays is preposterous. I found out only the other day
that my cook was disposing of 14 pounds worth of butter per week."

"Good gracious," I exclaimed, "how very disgraceful!"

Lady P. "But it is quite impossible to check it; one's whole
household is in the pay of the tradesmen who supply it. How can one
check it?"

Mrs. B. "The worst is that whatever you pay, for that after all one
does not mind, you cannot get what you want. Now do you think it a
right thing for the butler to be out every evening, and not only the
butler but the first footman, and leave only the boy of the
establishment to bring up coffee?"

Lady P. "The day after that happened both of them would go. But
then, as you said, there is the difficulty of masters. Only
yesterday Lady Wolseley was calling here and was complaining of Sir
Garnet--I mean Lord Wolseley.--She had actually rung the bell and told
Lord Wolseley exactly what to say to the man about his abominable
behaviour; she left the room, and as she went upstairs she heard
Lord Wolseley tell the man to put some coals on the fire!"

Mrs. B. "Really!" (Short pause while she is thinking whether she
could possibly bring in the Spanish Ambassador who called on her
some months ago, which she afterwards succeeded in doing.) "I see
you have got that chest from Christie's last sale; my husband said
there was little better than rubbish there, of course that excepted.
. . ." And so on. . . . [MS. diary, March 11, 1883.]

Now my life is divided sharply into the thoughtful part and the
active part [I note a month later], completely unconnected one with
the other. They are, in fact, an attempt to realise the different
and almost conflicting ideals, necessitating a compromise as to
energy and time which has to be perpetually readjusted. My only hope
is that the ideal one is hidden from the world, the truth being,
that in my heart of hearts I'm ashamed of it and yet it is actually
the dominant internal power. Fortunately for me, all external forces
support the other motive, so perhaps the balance is a pretty just
one. But it is a curious experience moving about among men and
women, talking much, as you are obliged to do, and never mentioning
those thoughts and problems which are your real life, and which
absorb, in their pursuit and solution, all the earnestness of your
nature. This doubleness of motive, still more this dissemblance
towards the world you live in, extending even to your own family,
must bring with it a feeling of unreality; worse, a loss of energy
in the sudden transitions from the one life to the other. Happily,
one thing is clear to me--the state of doubtfulness will not be of
long duration; and the work that is done during that state will not
be useless to me whichever vocation my nature and my circumstances
eventually force me into. I shall surely some day have the veil
withdrawn and be allowed to gaze unblinded on the narrow limits of
my own possibilities. [MS. diary, April 24, 1883.]

How comic this is, all this excitement about nothing. After a dinner
when I have talked, I am absolutely useless in the way of
brain-work. Francis Galton in his Enquiry into Human Faculty speaks of
the mind "rumbling over its old stories," but in the society life
one leads in London one's little brain is for the most part engaged
in chattering over its newest impressions. Conversation becomes a
mania and a most demoralising one. Even when alone, it is continued
in a sort of undertone; and the men and women one has met strut
about on the ghostly stage, monopolising, in their dematerialised
form, the little time and energy left. I suppose persons with real
capacity can take society as relaxation, without becoming absorbed
by it; but then, if it is to be relaxation, one must not have much
to do with all that elaborate machinery which moves it. As it is,
what between arrangements (which seem endless) and the strangeness
of this disconnected companionship with many different minds, all
superior in strength and experience to my own, the little mind I
ever had is out of joint and useless. When I am not organising I am
either talking with my tongue, or a lively conversation is going on
within the "precinct" of my brain. Reading and meditating are
equally impossible. A train of thought is an unknown experience. A
series of pictures, in which the human beings represented have the
capacity of speech and gesture, succeed one another. The mind seems
for the time to lose its personality, to be transformed into a
mirror reflecting men and women with their various surroundings;
one's own little ego walking in and out amongst them. . . .
Certainly "society" has carried the day--my own pursuits have gone
pretty well to the dogs. . . . One gets precious little by talking
[I reflect after another dinner party], let it be hoped that one
gives amusement. ... If only one could get some one nature and
examine it thoroughly. Except those of one's own family, observation
of different individuals is so hopelessly piecemeal; and is so
interfered with by a consciousness of one's own personality; by the
continual attempt to make use of the people one meets as
self-reflectors. [MS. diary, May 5, 1883.]

Interesting dinner here on the 18th. A Whig Peer on one side of me
--Joseph Chamberlain on the other. Whig Peer talked of his own
possessions; Chamberlain passionately of getting hold of other
people's--for the masses! Curious and interesting character,
dominated by intellectual passions, with little self-control but
with any amount of purpose. Herbert Spencer on Chamberlain: "A man
who may mean well, but who does, and will do, an incalculable amount
of mischief." Chamberlain on Herbert Spencer: "Happily, for the
majority of the world, his writing is unintelligible, otherwise his
life would have been spent in doing harm." No personal animus
between them, but a fundamental antipathy of mind. In what does this
originate? I understand the working of Herbert Spencer's reason; but
I do not understand the reason of Chamberlain's passion. But the
motive force which moves the man of action is seldom rational.
Philosophers will influence but never rule the world, at any rate
not until the human nature of the masses is fundamentally altered;
and then I imagine the philosopher will have advanced into a still
calmer sphere. . . . [MS. diary, June 1883.]

The following entries, six months later, giving my impression of Mr.
Chamberlain when he was the leader of the Radicals, may interest
some readers:

He told me the history of his political career; how his creed grew
up on a basis of experience and sympathy; how his desire to benefit
the many had become gradually a passion absorbing within itself his
whole nature. "Hitherto, the well-to-do have governed this country
for their own interest; and I will do them this credit--they have
achieved their object. Now I trust the time is approaching for those
who work and have not. My aim in life is to make life pleasanter for
the great majority; I do not care if it becomes in the process less
pleasant for the well-to-do minority. Take America, for instance.
Cultured persons complain that the society there is vulgar; less
agreeable to the delicate tastes of delicately trained minds. But it
is infinitely preferable to the ordinary worker. . . ."

The political creed is the whole man--the outcome of his peculiar
physical and mental temperament. He is neither a reasoner, nor an
observer in the scientific sense. He does not deduce his opinions by
the aid of certain well-thought-out principles, from certain
carefully ascertained facts. He aims, rather, at being the organ to
express the desires--or what he considers the desires--of the majority
of his countrymen. His power rests on his intuitive knowledge of the
wishes of a certain class of his countrymen; on his faculty of
formulating the same, and of reimpressing them forcibly on a mass of
indifferentminded men, who, because these desires are co-extensive
with their real or apparent interests, have these desires latent in
them. Whether these desires are normal, and the gratification of
them consistent with the health and well-being of the English body
politic, is a question upon which I certainly do not presume to have
an opinion. Chamberlain is an organ of great individual force; the
extent of his influence will depend on the relative power of the
class he is adapted to represent.

By temperament he is an enthusiast and a despot. A deep sympathy
with the misery and incompleteness of most men's lives, and an
earnest desire to right this, transform political action into a
religious crusade; but running alongside this genuine enthusiasm is
a passionate desire to crush opposition to his will, a longing to
feel his foot on the necks of others, though he would persuade
himself that he represents the right and his adversaries the wrong.
[MS. diary, January 12, 1884.]

And here is a description of a political demonstration at Birmingham
a few weeks after the date of the foregoing entry:

Below us, packed as close as may be, stand some thousands of men.
Strong barriers divide the hall into sections, and, as a newcomer
pushed in or a faint-hearted one attempts to retire, the whole
section sways to and fro. Cheers rise out of the general hum as a
favourite member of the "nine hundred" seats himself; and friendly
voices from the crowd greet the M.P.'s from neighbouring
constituencies, or delegates from other caucuses, as they take their
places on the platform.

The band strikes up, and the three members for Birmingham enter.
John Bright is received with affectionate and loyal applause, as he
stands for a moment before the children and the children's children
of his old friends and contemporaries. Muntz, a feeble-looking
elderly gentleman, with rabbit-like countenance and shambling gait,
forms an interval between Bright and Chamberlain; and, in his weak
mediocrity, looks comically out of place--a materialised vacuum
--between these two strong embodiments of humanity. Chamberlain, the
master and the darling of his town, is received with deafening
shouts. The Birmingham citizen (unless he belongs to the despised
minority) adores "our Joe"; for has he not raised Birmingham to the
proud position of one of the great political centres of the universe?

I was disappointed in Bright as an orator. Still, there was
something nobly pathetic in the old old story of Tory sinfulness
told by the stern-looking old man, who seemed gradually to lose
consciousness of the crowd beneath him, and see himself confronted
with the forces of the past. The people listened with reverence and
interest, and as one looked down upon them, and one's eye wandered
from face to face, this mass of human beings, now under the
influence of one mind, seemed to be animated by one soul. Perhaps
the intoxicating effect of the people's sympathy is due to the great
fact of the one in the many.

While Philip Muntz meandered through political commonplaces, and
defended himself from charges of lukewarmness and want of loyalty to
the Radical programme, the crowd once more became a concourse of
disconnected individuals. The subtle bond was broken which had bound
man to man and fused all into one substance worked upon by an
outside force. Laughter and loud-toned chaff passed from neighbour
to neighbour.

Conflicting cries of "Speak up, Philip," "Make way for a better
man," "We'll hear you," and hissed-down attempts to clap him into a
speedy end, showed the varying tempers of the mixed multitude. As
the time advanced, the backward portion became more and more unruly,
whilst the eyes of those in front gradually concentrated themselves
on the face of the next speaker. He seemed lost in intent thought.
You could watch in his expression some form of feeling working
itself into the mastery of his mind. Was that feeling spontaneous or
intentioned? Was it created by an intense desire to dominate, to
impress his own personality and his own aim on that pliable material
beneath him; or did it arise from the consciousness of helpful
power, from genuine sympathy with the wants and cravings of the
great mass who trusted him?

As he rose slowly, and stood silently before his people, his whole
face and form seemed transformed. The crowd became wild with
enthusiasm. Hats, handkerchiefs, even coats, were waved frantically
as an outlet for feeling. The few hundreds of privileged individuals
seated in the balcony rose to their feet. There was one loud uproar
of applause and, in the intervals between each fresh outburst, one
could distinguish the cheers of the crowd outside, sending its
tribute of sympathy. Perfectly still stood the people's Tribune,
till the people, exhausted and expectant, gradually subsided into
fitful and murmuring cries. At the first sound of his voice they
became as one man. Into the tones of his voice he threw the warmth
of feeling which was lacking in his words; and every thought, every
feeling, the slightest intonation of irony or contempt was reflected
on the face of the crowd. It might have been a woman listening to
the words of her lover! Perfect response, and unquestioning
receptivity. Who reasons with his mistress? The wise man asserts his
will, urges it with warmth or bitterness, and flavours it with
flattery and occasional appeals to moral sentiments. No wonder that
the modern politician turns with disgust from the cantankerous
debates of an educated "House" to the undisputing sympathy of an
uneducated and like-thinking crowd. Not extraordinary that the man
of passionate conviction, or of the will which simulates it and
clothes it in finely worded general principles, who ignores all
complexity in things, should become the ruling spirit, when the
ultimate appeal, the moving force, rests with the masses whose
desires are prompted by passion and unqualified by thought.

That evening at supper were entertained some twenty of the caucus.
The Chief sat silent in a state of suppressed exaltation; acutely
sensitive to sympathy or indifference, even from an outsider. His
faithful followers talked amongst themselves on local matters--
questions of party strategy and discipline--and looked at him from
time to time with respectful admiration.

The man's power as a leader and controller of men is proved by his
position in his own town. As far as one could judge from watching
the large parties of adherents who humbly ate and drank at the great
man's table, morning, noon and night, and from listening attentively
to their conversation with each other and with him, his authority
over the organisation he has created is absolute. He recognises no
distinction of class, and hi this, as in all other matters, he is
supported by the powerful clan to which he belongs. The Kenricks and
Chamberlains form the aristocracy and plutocracy of Birmingham. They
stand far above the town society in social position, wealth and
culture; and yet they spend their lives, as great citizens, taking
an active and leading part in the municipal, political and
educational life of their town. There is one eternal refrain in a
Chamberlain-Kenrick household: Birmingham society is superior in
earnestness, sincerity and natural intelligence, to any society in
the United Kingdom! Apparently, the conviction remains unshaken by
wider social experience, for the Cabinet Minister and his womenkind
repeat with warmth the same assertion in the London drawing-room.
Certainly, as far as my own experience went of the family and its
immediate surroundings, earnestness and simplicity of motive were
strikingly present.

The devotion of his electors no doubt springs partly from their
consciousness of his genuine loyalty and affection for them. But the
submission of the whole town to his autocratic rule arises from his
power of dealing with different types of men; of enforcing
submission by high-handed arbitrariness, attracting devotion by the
mesmeric quality of his passion, and manipulating the remainder
through clever presentation of their interests and consideration for
their petty weaknesses.

In his treatment of some members of the Association (I noticed this
particularly in his attitude towards Schnadhorst) he used the simple
power of "You shall, and you go to the devil if you don't." The
second power--that of attraction--is shown to a certain extent in
private intercourse with his intimate friends, but chiefly in his
public relationship towards his own constituency; and it is proved
by the emotional nature of their enthusiasm. It is to this power
that Chamberlain owes all the happiness of his life, and it is the
reaction of this power which intensifies his sympathies and also his
egotism. Whether it will develop so as to assume a form which will
extend beyond the immediate influence of his personality is one of
the questions which will decide his future greatness. At present he
fails to express it in his written words, except in the bitterness
of his hatred and contempt, which is but one side of his passion.

His diplomatic talent is unquestioned, and is shown in his
administration of public and local affairs and in his Parliamentary
work. [MS. diary, February 1884.]

In this whirl of town society life [I sum up towards the end of the
season of 1883] the superficial part of my small intellect and the
animal part of my nature are alike stimulated. My aim in life, the
motives which have moved me in the best times of the past are
blurred and misty. All now is uncertain. I wander hither and thither
in search after gratification, gradually exhausting the credit
account of "good motive"; the small experience I pick up being
saturated by an ever-increasing perplexity at the queerness of
things. Possibly, in our mental life, when we are not forced into a
groove of activity, we have periods of effort and periods of
receptivity, during which latter state we collect the materials we
afterwards form into action; into a governing motive. Anyhow,
though, on the whole, life in this phase is pleasurable, there still
remains lurking in the depths of one's nature a profound discontent;
a doubt as to the usefulness of this careless noting of things, and
a contempt for one's own nature in its enjoyment of these petty
gratifications, and a somewhat unpleasant surprise at the presence
of feelings hitherto ignored or quietly passed over as transient and
unimportant. [MS. diary, June 3, 1883.]

This is the last word in my diary about what used to be called, in
the reign of Queen Victoria, "Society," with a big S. The picture
stored in my memory of that unpleasing social entity, a state of
mind and form of activity, on the part of the upper ten thousand,
which, I am told by those who ought to know, was finally killed by
the Great War, has been set forth in the first chapter of this book.
Here I recall that the special characteristic which most distressed
me, during the two years I acted as hostess in my father's London
and country homes, was the cynical effrontery with which that
particular crowd courted those who possessed, or were assumed to
possess, personal power; and the cold swiftness with which the same
individuals turned away from former favourites when these men or
women had passed out of the limelight. Moreover, it was clear that
personal vanity, with its humiliating ups and downs of inflation and
depression, and with its still meaner falsification, was an
"occupational disease" of entertaining and being entertained; and,
realising my own constitutional weakness in this direction, flight
from temptation seemed the better part of valour. But dissatisfaction
with my own and other people's human nature was not the only, not
perhaps the main reason for my gradual withdrawal from social
functions throughout 1884 and 1885, in order to spend my free time
as a rent-collector in the East End of London. What happened was
that the time-spirit had, at last, seized me and compelled me to
concentrate all my free  energy in getting the training and the raw
material for applied sociology; that is, for research into the
constitution and working of social organisation, with a view to
bettering the life and labour of the people.

Looking back from the standpoint of to-day (1926), it seems to me
that two outstanding tenets, some would say, two idols of the mind,
were united in this mid-Victorian trend of thought and feeling.
There was the current belief in the scientific method, in that
intellectual synthesis of observation and experiment, hypothesis and
verification, by means of which alone all mundane problems were to
be solved. And added to this belief in science was the consciousness
of a new motive; the transference of the emotion of self-sacrificing
service from God to man.


In these latter days of deep disillusionment, now that we have
learnt, by the bitter experience of the Great War, to what vile uses
the methods and results of science may be put, when these are
inspired and directed by brutal instinct and base motive, it is hard
to understand the naive belief of the most original and vigorous
minds of the 'seventies and 'eighties that it was by science, and by
science alone, that all human misery would be ultimately swept away.
This almost fanatical faith was perhaps partly due to hero-worship.
For who will deny that the men of science were the leading British
intellectuals of that period; that it was they who stood out as men
of genius with international reputations; that it was they who were
the selfconfident militants of the period; that it was they who were
routing the theologians, confounding the mystics, imposing their
theories on philosophers, their inventions on capitalists, and their
discoveries on medical men; whilst they were at the same time
snubbing the artists, ignoring the poets and even casting doubts on
the capacity of the politicians?

Nor was the cult of the scientific method confined to intellectuals.
"Halls of Science"  were springing up in crowded working-class
districts; and Bradlaugh, the fearless exponent of scientific
materialism and the "Fruits of Philosophy," was the most popular
demagogue of the hour. Persecuted, proscribed and denounced by those
who stood in the high places of Church and State, he nevertheless,
by sheer force of character and widespread popular support, imposed
himself on the House of commons, and compelled it finally to abandon
its theological test for membership. Indeed, in the 'seventies and
'eighties it looked as if whole sections of the British proletariat
--and these the elite--would be swept, like the corresponding class on
the Continent, into a secularist movement. To illustrate this
idolisation of science, I give one quotation from a widely read
little book published in 1872, which, on account of the broad
culture and passionate sincerity with which the author identifies
science with the intellect of man, has become a classic, and which
foreshadows a universe over which the human intellect will reign as
the creator and moulder of all things, whether on earth or in heaven.

His triumph [the triumph of man regarded as pure intellect], indeed,
is incomplete; his Kingdom has not yet come. The Prince of Darkness
is still triumphant in many regions of the world; epidemics still
rage; death is yet victorious. But the God of Light, the Spirit of
Knowledge, the Divine Intellect, is gradually spreading over the
planet, and upwards to the skies. . . . Earth, which is now a
purgatory, will be made a paradise, not by idle prayers and
supplications, but by the efforts of man himself, and by mental
achievements analogous to those which have raised him to his present
state. Those inventions and discoveries which have made him, by the
grace of God, king of animals, lord of the elements, and sovereign
of steam and electricity, were all founded on experiment and
observation. . . . When we have ascertained, by means of Science,
the methods of Nature's operation, we shall be able to take her
place and to perform them for ourselves. When we understand the laws
which regulate the complex phenomena of life, we shall be able to
predict the future as we are already able to predict comets and
eclipses and the planetary movements. . . . Not only will man subdue
the forces of evil that are without; he will subdue those that are
within. He will repress the base instincts and propensities which he
has inherited from the animals below him; he will obey the laws
written in his heart; he will worship the divinity that is within
him. . . . Idleness and stupidity will be regarded with abhorrence.
Women will become the companions of men, and the tutors of their
children. The whole world will be united by the same sentiment which
united the primeval clan, and which made its members think, feel and
act as one. . . . These bodies which now we wear belong to the lower
animals; our minds have already outgrown them; already we look upon
them with contempt. A time will come when Science will transform
them by means which we cannot conjecture, and which if explained to
us we would not now understand, just as the savage cannot understand
electricity, magnetism, steam. Disease will be extirpated; the
causes of decay will be removed; immortality will be invented. And
then the earth being small, mankind will emigrate into space and
will cross airless Saharas which separate planet from planet, and
sun from sun. The earth will become a Holy Land which will be
visited by pilgrims from all quarters of the universe. Finally, men
will master the forces of Nature; they will become themselves
architects of systems, manufacturers of worlds. Man will then be
perfect; he will be a creator; he will therefore be what the vulgar
worship as God.33

This unhesitating reliance on the particular type of mental
activity, which is always associated with modern, or shall I call it
Western science, was by far the most potent ferment at work in the
mental environment in which I was reared, whether in the books I
read or the persons with whom I associated on terms of intimacy.
When the brain is young there are written words which serve as
masterkeys to unlock the mind. Long abstracts of, and extracts from,
George Henry Lewes's History of Philosophy appear in my diary in the
autumn of 1881. The gist of Lewes's argument is a contemptuous
dismissal of all metaphysics "as condemned, by the very nature of
its method, to wander for ever in one tortuous labyrinth, within
whose circumscribed and winding spaces weary seekers are continually
finding themselves in the trodden tracks of predecessors who could
find no exit." In contrast with this tragic failure of metaphysical
speculation the progress of modern science is eulogised in glowing
phrases: "Onward and ever onward, mightier and for ever mightier,
rolls this wondrous tide of discovery." Then follows his definition
of the scientific method, a definition which convinced me at the
time and still satisfies me. "Truth is the correspondence between
the order of ideas and the order of phenomena, so that the one is
the reflection of the other--the movement of thought following the
movement of things. This correspondence can never be absolute; it
must, from the very structure of the mind, be relative; but this
relative accuracy suffices when it enables us to foresee with
certainty the changes which will arise in the external order of
phenomena under given conditions." It was this "odd trick"
to be gained by the human intellect--this forecasting of the mind--by
which alone the game of life could be won, if not for the individual,
at any rate for the race, that captivated my imagination.

There is, however, a long way to go between realising the unique
value of an intellectual process, and mastering the technique and
obtaining the material essential to its application. The circumstances
of my life did not permit me to seek out one of the few University
institutions then open to women. It is true that "the Potter girls"
had enjoyed from childhood upwards one of the privileges of
University education. We had associated, on terms of conversational
equality, with gifted persons; not only with men of affairs in
business and politics, but also with men of science and with leaders
of thought in philosophy and religion. In particular, owing to our
intimacy with Herbert Spencer, we were friendly with the group of
distinguished scientific men who met together at the monthly dinner
of the famous "X Club." And here I should like to recall that, among
these scientists, the one who stays in my mind as the ideal man of
science is, not Huxley or Tyndall, Hooker or Lubbock, still less my
friend, philosopher and guide Herbert Spencer, but Francis Galton,34
whom I used to observe and listen to--I regret to add, without the
least reciprocity--with rapt attention. Even to-day I can conjure
up, from memory's misty deep, that tall figure with its attitude of
perfect physical and mental poise; the clean-shaven face, the thin,
compressed mouth with its enigmatical smile; the long upper lip and
firm chin, and, as if presiding over the whole personality of the
man, the prominent dark eyebrows from beneath which gleamed, with
penetrating humour, contemplative grey eyes. Fascinating to me was
Francis Gallon's all-embracing but apparently impersonal beneficence.
But, to a recent and enthusiastic convert to the scientific method,
the most relevant of Gallon's many gifts was the unique contribution
of three separate and distinct processes of the intellect; a
continuous curiosity about, and rapid apprehension of individual
facts, whether common or uncommon; the faculty for ingenious trains
of reasoning; and, more admirable than either of these, because the
talent was wholly beyond my reach, the capacity for correcting and
verifying his own hypotheses, by the statistical handling of masses
of data, whether collected by himself or supplied by other students
of the problem.

However stimulating and enlightening may be social intercourse with
men of mark, their casual conversations at London dinner-parties or
during country-house visits cannot take the place of disciplined
experiments and observation under expert direction in University
laboratories or hospital wards. Any such training, even where open
to women, was flagrantly out of bounds for a woman who had my
extensive and complicated home duties. Hence the pitifully
ineffectual attempts, recorded in my diary, to educate myself, first
in algebra and geometry, described in the opening of this chapter as
ending in nothing more substantial than a ghost; and secondly in the
following London season, in the intervals of homekeeping for my
father and little sister, and of entertaining and being entertained,
in physiology, partly under the direction of a woman science-teacher,
and partly by casual attendance on my brother-in-law, William
Harrison Cripps,35 the well-known surgeon, while he was making his
microscopic examination into cancer.

The first morning's work with Willie Cripps preparing specimens [
here follows an elaborate description of technique of microscopic
work]; read through W. H. C.'s Adenoid Diseases of the Rectum; had
great difficulty in understanding owing to technical phraseology and
my ignorance of the subject-matter which he discusses. In my
physiological studies must keep clear and distinct two lines of
enquiry (1) how a particular organic substance became as it now is,
(2) and what is at present its actual structure. Surely, a full
knowledge of the present structure should precede the study of
"becoming "; unless one was able to see every stage of the
evolution. [MS. diary, April 22, 1883.]

Enjoy sitting in that cool room, with fresh breeze through, and
green trees on both sides, in an out-of-the-way corner of London [I
write about one of the lessons with the science-teacher]. Before us
on the table, diagrams, microscopic sections, and various
dissections--these last do not distress me but give me genuine
pleasure to pick to pieces. One leaves behind all personalities, and
strives hard to ascertain the constitution of things, a constitution
which to us is eternal and dependent on no one manifestation of it.
To me there is a deep and perplexing pathos in this study of life
and death, which to some natures might become almost tragic, while
in others it develops that half-sad, half-enjoyable, spectator's
interest, pleasant in so far as it removes us far above the petty
struggles of mean motive and conflicting interest, and sad in as
much as it withdraws from our affections their permanency and from
our aspirations their motive. In me, such a study strengthens
necessarianism; and as I hurry down Tottenham Court Road, and jostle
up against men and women of the people, with their various
expressions of determined struggle, weak self-indulgence, and
discontented effort, the conviction that the fate of each individual
is governed by conditions born of "the distant past" is
irresistibly forced upon me. [MS. diary, May 1883.]

"Referring to your microscopic work," writes my guide, philosopher
and friend in the following autumn, "I wish you would take up some
line of enquiry, say such an one as the absorbent organs in the
leaves, roots and seeds of plants (you will find an indication of
them at the end of the Biology, but nobody has worked at them to any
extent). Great zest is given to work when you have a definite end in
view and it becomes both an interest and a discipline. By Xmas I
hope you will have something to show me." [Letter from Herbert
Spencer, October 8, 1883.]

But in spite of this injunction, and although I realised the value
of physical science as a training in scientific method, the whole
subject-matter of natural science bored me. I was not interested in
rocks and plants, grubs and animals, not even in man considered
merely as a biped, with the organs of a biped. What roused and
absorbed my curiosity were men and women, regarded--if I may use an
old-fashioned word--as "souls," their past and present conditions of
life, their thoughts and feelings and their constantly changing
behaviour. This field of enquiry was not, as yet, recognised in the
laboratories of the universities, or in other disciplined
explorations of the varieties of human experience. I may add, by the
way, that what turned me away from psychology, even the "psychology"
to be found in books, was what seemed to me the barren futility of
the textbooks then current. Instead of the exact descriptions of the
actual facts of individual minds, reacting to particular environments
and developing in various directions, I seemed to find nothing but
arbitrary definitions of mind in the abstract, which did not
correspond with the mental life of any one person, and were, in
fact, nothing but hypothetical abstractions from an idealised
reflection of the working of the author's own mind--that is, of a
superior person of a highly developed race--an idealisation which
apparently led to an ungrounded belief in the universal prevalence,
throughout human society, of that rare synthetic gift, enlightened
self-respect! I am afraid that, in my haste, I regarded the
manipulation of these psychological abstractions as yielding no more
accurate information about the world around me than did the
syllogisms of formal logic. For any detailed description of the
complexity of human nature, of the variety and mixture in human
motive, of the insurgence of instinct in the garb of reason, of the
multifarious play of the social environment on the individual ego
and of the individual ego on the social environment, I had to turn
to novelists and poets, to Fielding and Flaubert, to Balzac and
Browning, to Thackeray and Goethe. In all this range of truth-telling
fiction the verification of the facts or of the conclusions drawn
from the facts was impracticable. If I have any vain regrets for
absent opportunities it is exactly this: that I grew up to maturity
as a sociological investigator without a spell of observation and
experiment in the modern science of psychology.

Thrown back on books, books, and again books, I began to select
these, not in order to satisfy curiosity and extend interest in
life, but deliberately so as to forge an instrument of discovery
about human nature in society. The autumn and winter of 1881-82 find
me using Lewes's History of Philosophy as a guide through many
English, French and German thinkers and translations of Greek
philosophers. The following summer, the summer after my mother's
death, I begin a systematic study, lasting for over a year, of the
Synthetic Philosophy. But in spite of the guidance of its author I
remain a "doubting Thomas," though a miserably feeble one, about the
validity of the Spencerian generalisations.

The following entries in my diary are given, not in strict order of
date, but so as to illustrate my response to the current faith in
the scientific method and my attempts to grapple with some of the
problems involved in its application to human nature in society.

Mr. Spencer called yesterday, and left the Athenceum with us with a
letter of his to Mr. Mozley--who had insulted him by stating that he
(Mr. Mozley) had in boyhood derived similar ideas to Mr. Herbert
Spencer's from Mr. Spencer's father. In Mr. Spencer's reply he
states his doctrine of evolution so clearly and shortly, that though
I confess to but dimly understanding it, yet with a view to the
future I shall here transcribe it. [MS. diary, August 3, 1882.] [
Here follows transcript.]

Alfred36 and I had a long discussion over Mr. Spencer's resume of
his philosophy [I note ten days later], resulting in my taking it up
to bed and spending a couple of hours over it--eventually rushing
downstairs and plunging into First Principles--a plunge producing
such agreeable sensations that I have since continued the practice
every morning before breakfast.

A delicious early morning [I note during our sojourn in our
Gloucestershire home] looking towards the hill with sun, shadow and
mist uniting in effect, and spreading a mystic joy over trees and
slope. Quite clear in my mind that I am on the right way in reading
Herbert Spencer, and in the study of mathematics and geometry; but
not so clear as regards literary reading: was tempted, by foolish
vanity and desire to accomplish, to read French literature with a
view to an article on Balzac, whose extraordinary power of analysis
always attracts me. Surely these great analytical students of human
nature will be found of use in any future science of the mental life
of humanity, when psychology has advanced beyond the study of
primitive man, that is, of human characteristics in so far as they
distinguish man from other animals. But my instinct tells me that I
must work with order; that any attempt to escape from the direct
path of historical study will only produce friction of contending
purpose. [MS. diary, July 1882.]

There was one riddle in the application of the scientific method to
human nature which continuously worried me, and which still leaves
me doubtful. Can the objective method, pure and undefiled, be
applied to human mentality: can you, for instance, observe,
sufficiently correctly to forecast consequences, mental characteristics
which you do not yourself possess? Another stumbling-block was the
use, by Herbert Spencer and other sociologists, of the analogy
between the animal organism and the social organism for the purpose
of interpreting the facts of social life.

This objectivity [observation and verification] is possible in all
sciences which do not deal with human character and mind [I note in
a long review of the philosophy of Schopenhauer]. Even this must be
qualified; a certain subjective element creeps in when we discuss
the nature of animal intelligence, if once you admit that it differs
in degree and not in kind from human intelligence; and without this
admission the discussion is baseless and we must restrict ourselves
to the purely physical phenomena of animal life. But, when we come
to analyse human |intelligence, the subjective is prior to the
objective element. |The elements which build up these complex
existences which we call feelings, ideas and acts of will, can only
be discovered and examined within our own consciousness. By a long
and involved series of inferences, the conclusion of which
recommends itself to our faith by its congruity with all other
experience, and by its confirmation through correct anticipation, we
assert that these elements exist in other minds. An appreciation of
the exact combination of these elements in the thoughts, feelings
and actions of men can result only from a delicate interchange of an
objective and subjective experience. In the appreciation of a
thought or feeling no thoroughness of observation will make up for
the deficiency in personal experience of the thought or feeling
[concerned] . . . the possession of a mental quality is necessary to
the perception of it.37 The subject-matter with which the student
starts is rigidly limited by the limits of his own moral and
intellectual nature. The full realisation of this fact seems to me
of immense importance. Something beyond keen intellectual faculty is
necessary to the psychologist and sociologist. He must himself have
experienced types of those mental forces the action of which he
desires to foretell or the origin and nature of which he desires to
discover. . . .

And this enormous advance in complexity seems to me to vitiate the
justice of the analogy between the animal and social organism, used
as an argument and not simply as an illustration: though it does not
in any way diminish the necessity and usefulness of a thorough
knowledge of the working of the great laws of evolution on
comparatively simple matter, before attempting to study their action
on matter which is infinitely more complicated. In order to arrive
at true theories regarding the past and future development of
society we must study arduously the great social organism itself (a
process of incalculable difficulty in the present state of
historical knowledge), and not only such among social facts as seem
to illustrate a preconceived theory deduced from the elementary
workings of nature's laws on the lower planes of life. A conscientious
study of animal evolution will teach us the method of investigation
to be pursued, will train us in the processes of classification and
induction, and will provide us with innumerable illustrations and
suggestions; and further, it is absolutely necessary as forming the
physical side of the preliminary study into the nature of the social
unit man. [MS. diary, October 1884.]

Got back to books again: and stopped as usual by poor health. The
whole of my life, from the age of nine, when I wrote a priggish
little note on the right books for a child to read, has been one
continuous struggle to learn and to think, sacrificing all to this,
even physical comfort. When I think of the minuteness of my
faculties, which, so far as persistent work goes, are below the
average, and of the really Herculean nature of my persistency, my
own nature puzzles me. Why should a mortal be born with so much
aspiration, so much courage and patience in the pursuit of an ideal,
and with such a beggarly allowance of power wherewith to do it? And
even now, now that I have fully realised my powerlessness to
achieve, have perhaps ceased to value any achievement which I in my
dearest dreams thought open to me, even now, my only peaceful and
satisfactory life lies in continuous enquiry. Endless questionings
of the nature of things, more especially of the queer animal man,
and of the laws which force him onward, heaven knows where to? Of
the nature of that destination, whether it will answer the wherefore
of the long ages of misery and struggle? That old dream of a
bird's-eye view of the past, and through it a glimpse into the
future--that old dream, now recognised as a dream--fascinates me
still. With labour and pain I master some poor fact, I clutch it,
look at it over and over again like a miser with a coin of gold. At
times, I pour before me my little hoard of facts, a tiny heap it is,
some of it base coin too. I pass these facts through and through my
brain, like a miser passes the gold through his fingers, trying to
imagine that before me lies a world of knowledge wherewith I may
unite the knots of human destiny. [MS. diary, October 24, 1884.]


So much for the belief in science and the scientific method, which
was certainly the most salient, as it was the most original, element
of the mid-Victorian Time-Spirit. But the scientific method of
reasoning, so it seemed to my practical mind, was not an end in
itself; it was the means by which a given end could be pursued. It
did not, and as I thought could not, yield the purpose of life. What
it did was to show the way, and the only way, in which the chosen
purpose could be fulfilled. To what end, for what purpose, and
therefore upon what subject-matter was the new faculty of the
intellect to be exercised? And here I come to the second element of
the mid-Victorian Time pirit: the emotion, which like the warp
before the woof, gives strength and direction to the activities of
the intellect. I suggest it was during the middle decades of the
nineteenth century that, in England, the impulse of self-subordinating
service was transferred, consciously and overtly, from God to man.
It would be interesting to trace the first beginnings of this
elusive change of feeling. How far was it latent in the dogma that
underlay the rise of American Democracy, that all men are born free
and equal, with equal rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness? I recall the saying of a well-known leader of the
American ethical movement: "As a free-born citizen, I deny the
existence of an autocratic Supreme Being to whom I, and all others,
owe obedience and worship; it offends my American sense of
independence and equality!" How far was the passing of the Kingdom
of God and the coming of the Kingdom of Man implicit in the
"Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity" of the French Revolution, with
its worship of the Goddess of Reason? We certainly find this new
version of "the whole duty of man" in the characteristic political
maxim of the British Utilitarians, which prescribed, as the object
of human effort, the greatest happiness of the greatest number. With
a more romantic content we see it in the life and work of Robert
Owen, with his "worship of the supremely good principle in human
nature," which became a "social bible," promulgated by "social
missionaries" in a "social cathedral."

In the particular social and intellectual environment in which I
lived, this stream of tendencies culminated in Auguste Comte's union
of the "religion of humanity" with a glorification of science, in
opposition to both theology and metaphysics, as the final stage in
the development of the human intellect. And once again I note that
the reading of books was in my case directed and supplemented by
friendly intercourse with the men and women most concerned with the
subject-matter of the books. As a student I was familiar with the
writings of the most famous of the English disciples and admirers of
Auguste Comte. I had learnt my lesson from George Henry Lewes. I
delighted in John Stuart Mill's Autobiography, and had given to his
System of Logic and Principles of Political Economy an assiduous
though somewhat strained attention. Above all, the novels of George
Eliot had been eagerly read and discussed in the family circle. But
I doubt whether my sister Margaret and I would have ordered from the
London Library all the works of Comte himself if it had not been for
a continuously friendly intercourse with the Frederic Harrisons,38
at reciprocal dinner-parties in London, picnics in the Cliveden
Woods and week-end parties in our respective country homes. In after
years the Frederic Harrisons stand out from a host of former London
acquaintances as loyal friends, encouraging me in my first attempt
at authorship, and in due course welcoming as another friend The
Other One. But in those early days they appeared to me as "society
folk." For, in spite of heterodox opinions and courageous
association with men and women deemed to be undesirable and even
pernicious, this accomplished couple, possibly because they were at
once well-to-do and personally attractive, were full-fledged members
of political society, as distinguished from the narrower Court
circle and the more fashionable sporting set. At the social
functions of the Gladstonian Administration of 1880-1886 they were
much in evidence; more especially were they on terms of intimate
comradeship with the rising group of Radical statesmen and
journalists. Unlike the ruck of clever authors, successful
barristers, and minor politicians on the make, they selected their
acquaintances according to their own scale of values; and, once
chosen, they stood through good and evil repute by those whom they
deemed to be friends. A brilliant publicist, an insistent lecturer,
a most versatile and sympathetic conversationalist, Frederic
Harrison had also the greater distinction of being an original
thinker and a public-spirited citizen, always eager to appreciate
new ideas and encourage unrecognised intellectuals. It was he who
first explained to me the economic validity of trade unionism and
factory legislation; who taught me to resist the current depreciation
of the mediaeval social organisation; and who, in spite of his
extreme "positivism," emphasised the real achievements in their own
time of the Catholic Church and the craft gilds. The wife, with her
luminous dark eyes and consummate coils of hair, her statuesque
figure and graceful garments, was a befitting mate to the most
eloquent preacher of the religion of humanity. Always a "St.
Clothilde" to her Auguste, she listened with reverence to his words
from the lectern of Newton Hall, and added cultured comments to his
table-talk; whilst in his absence she regaled her friends with the
pleasantest form of gossip--the gossip about political and literary
personages--phrased with motherly beneficence, but spiced with just
enough denigrating wit to make the mixture thoroughly delectable.

To return to the pile of books from the London Library. The result
is memorised in a scene on the Westmorland moors in the autumn of
1879, two or three years before my mother's death.

Two girls, aged twenty-five and twenty-one respectively, stride
across the Rusland bog towards the Old Man of Coniston, in a driving
mist, with packets of sandwiches and cases of cigarettes bulging out
of short and shabby waterproofs. They are discussing vigorously
their readings from Auguste Comte. In these discussions the elder
one, Margaret, always takes the leading part, as she reads six hours
to the younger girl's two. The three stages in the development of
the human intellect are accepted without demur; "Though how does
this fit in with Buckle's climatic and increased productivity
theory?" reflects Beatrice, conscious of having just completed a
painstaking review of Buckle's History of Civilisation in her
private MS. Book--secret writing which not even her one pal among
her sisters is invited to read. Presently they come to rest on a
dripping stone wall. After vainly attempting to light a cigarette,
Margaret, with genial smile, glittering black eyes and long wisps of
lank brown hair flying in the winds, sums up her criticism.

"Dreadful old pedant; horrid French; what a dark chasm in style
between him and Voltaire. Some of his ideas detestable; others
absurd. That spiritual power, I hate it. Having kicked religion out
of the front door of the human intellect, why should it sneak in
through the servants' hall? For after all, Beatrice," with rising
acerbity, "all Comte's humans are servile. The man worships the
woman. Who wants to worship any one, leave alone a woman? And the
woman turns out, in the end, to be no better than a domestic servant
with no life of her own. Thank heavens, he puts the working man in
his right place; Great Hearts, may be; we've all got to think of
them in order to do them good. But they've just got to obey; no more
strikes; jolly good thing too!"

Short pause while Beatrice, having lit her cigarette by manipulating
the match-box (a trick taught her sitting out with a ballroom
partner in a country-house garden in the early hours of a July
morning), hands the stump to Margaret, who lights up and continues
in a more complacent tone.

"Rather like that notion of a committee of bankers to rule the
world. The Barclays, Buxtons, and Hoares strike me as a solid lot;
dull but solid; just the sort father likes us to marry, and one
likes one's sisters to marry."

"But why a committee of bankers?" interposes the younger one. "Why
not chairmen of railway companies, shipowners--for that matter,
timber merchants? Machinery, raw material, trade routes, what do
bankers know about them? And whether you like it or not, there's the
working class who've got votes and mean to have more."

Margaret, with a note of good-tempered contempt--"My dear child,
working men just don't count; it's money that counts, and the
bankers have got it. Not brains, but money." And with a rising
crescendo of conviction--"Credit; credit, Beatrice; it is credit that
rules the world. Men and women have just got to follow the bankers'
loans, or clear out. Over and again I have watched it. Remember how
Baring and Glyn beat father about that new railway in Canada, which
after all didn't pay. Father had the brains but they had the money;
and it was he who had to resign, not they."

Long pause: Beatrice doubts the sister's synonymous use of the
terms "money" and "credit." "Father said," she muses, "that the
amount of credit depended on the state of mind of the capitalist: a
state of mind which does not always correspond with the state of
affairs; hence trade booms and depressions. Money was a commodity
like any other commodity, except that it had a specialised use and a
legalised status. 'My little Bee,' he added, with his dear beaming
smile, 'might think out for herself whether cheques are money or
credit and let me know.' And I never did so," she ruefully

Margaret, having swung round and jumped off the wall on the other
Side--"Come along, Beatrice, we've got to get up there before we eat
our lunch; I'm getting hungry. . . . The plain truth is that all
this fantastic stuff about the future is nonsense. No one knows or
can know what is going to happen to the world. The root question
raised by Comte--the only one that concerns you and me, is whether
we are all of us, here and now, to tumble over each other and get in
each other's way by trying to better the world, or whether we are
each one of us to pursue his or her own interest according to common
sense. I'm for each one of us looking after our own affairs. Of
course I include family affairs. One has to look after father and
mother, husband and children, brothers and sisters. But there it
stops. Perhaps," slowly and doubtfully, "if there is time and money
to spare, sisters' children." Briskly dogmatic--"Certainly not uncles
or aunts; still less, cousins; they're not as good as business
associates, and only a shade better than London acquaintances. As
for the service of man, the religion of humanity; Heavens, Beatrice,
what does it mean? It is just underbred theology, with no bishops to
bless it."

So spake the Ego that denies. Some forty years afterwards, roused by
a mother's sorrow for one son dead on the battlefield, another in a
prison cell on grounds of conscience, the Ego that affirms impels
her to stand fast by the brotherhood of man, whether friend or
enemy; and in particular to sacrifice fast-failing strength to
prison reform, where she builded better than the world knows.39

HOW far, as a young girl, I agreed with my sister's acid testing of
the worship of man I do not recollect. Notwithstanding our
friendship with the Frederic Harrisons and other leading Comtists,
it certainly never occurred to me to join the Church of Humanity.
Yet five years afterwards I find, as the prefacing text to a new MS.
book, copied out in large letters for my own edification, the
following quotation from Auguste Comte:

"Our harmony as moral beings is impossible on any other foundation
but altruism. Nay more, altruism alone can enable us to live in the
highest and truest sense. To live for others is the only means of
developing the whole existence of man.

"Towards humanity, who is the only true great Being, we, the
conscious elements of whom She is the compound, shall henceforth
direct every aspect of our life, individual and collective. Our
thoughts will be devoted to the knowledge of Humanity, our
affections to the love, our actions to her service." [MS. diary,

Dined last night with the Frederic Harrisons and went with them to
the Positivist Hall in the City. "Live for others" was the text of
Harrison's address. He spoke bitterly of the gibes and sneers with
which Comte's doctrine had been received. He pointed out that
positivism was the only sincere religious form of the present day;
that all religions and sects were making the service of humanity the
keynote of religion; but refused to recognise that they did so. His
address seemed to me forced--a valiant effort to make a religion out
of nothing; a pitiful attempt by poor humanity to turn its head
round and worship its tail. Practically we are all positivists; we
all make the service of man the leading doctrine of our lives. But
in order to serve humanity we need inspiration from a superhuman
force towards  which we are perpetually striving. [MS. diary, March
15, 1889.]40

Social questions [I write in the MS. Diary of 1884] are the vital
questions of to-day: they take the place of religion. I do not
pretend to solve them. Their solution seems largely a matter of
temperament. Still, the most insignificant mind has a certain bias,
has an intellectual as well as a moral conscience. If We wilfully
defy the laws of our special mental constitution we must suffer the
penalty of a diseased and twisted nature, and must leave life
conscious of faithlessness to the faith that is in us. . . . A
higher standard of motive is asked for in social action than hi any
other. . . . The social reformer professes to be an uncompromising
idealist; he solemnly declares that he is working for the public
weal. His whole authority, derived from public opinion, arises from
the faith of the people in his honesty of purpose and strength of
understanding. If he uses his mind to manipulate facts, and twist
them so that they shall serve his own personal interests, if the
craving for power is greater than the desire for truth, he is a
traitor to the society towards which he professes loyal service. [
MS. diary, April 22, 1884.]

Now, without pretending to sum up the influence of the time-spirit
on the social activities of the last quarter of the nineteenth
century, what is clear is that upon me--in 1883, a woman of
twenty-five--it led to a definite conclusion. From the flight of
emotion away from the service of God to the service of man, and from
the current faith in the scientific method, I drew the inference
that the most hopeful form of social service was the craft of a
social investigator. And some such conclusion seems to have been
reached by many of my contemporaries. For detailed descriptions of
the life and labour of the people in all its various aspects,
sensational or scientific, derived from personal observation or
statistical calculation, become a characteristic feature of the
publications of this period, whether newspapers or magazines, plays
or novels, the reports of philanthropic organisations or the
proceedings of learned societies. It may be said that this novel
concentration of attention on the social condition of the people was
due neither to intellectual curiosity nor to the spirit of
philanthropy, but rather to a panic fear of the newly enfranchised
democracy. But this is looking at the same fact from another
standpoint. For even the most fanatical Socialist asserted that his
hopes for the future depended on a deliberately scientific
organisation of society, combined with the growth among the whole
body of the people of the desire and capacity for disinterested
social service.

It was in the autumn of 1883 that I took the first step as a social
investigator, though I am afraid the adventure was more a sentimental
journey than a scientific exploration. What had been borne into me
during My book studies was my utter ignorance of the manual-working
class, that is, of four-fifths of my fellow-countrymen. During the
preceding London season I had joined a Charity Organisation
committee and acted as one of its visitors in the slums of Soho; but
it was clear to me that these cases of extreme destitution, often
distorted by drink and vice, could no more be regarded as a fair
sample of the wage-earning class than the "sporting set" of London
society could be considered representative, either in conduct or in
intelligence, of the landed aristocracy and business and professional
class, out of which its individual members had usually sprung. How
was I to get an opportunity of watching, day by day, in their homes
and in their workshops, a sufficient number of normal manualworking
families to enable me to visualise the class as a whole; to
understand what was meant by chronic poverty and insecurity of
livelihood; to ascertain whether such conditions actually existed in
any but a small fraction of the great body of the people? Were the
manual workers what I was accustomed to call civilised? What were
their aspirations, what was their degree of education, what their
capacity for self-government? How had this class, without
administrative training or literary culture, managed to initiate and
maintain the network of Nonconformist chapels, the far-flung
friendly societies, the much-abused Trade Unions, and that queer
type of shop, the Co-operative store?


The romantic note in this adventure arose from finding, among my own
kith and kin, my first chance of personal intimacy, on terms of
social equality, with a wage-earning family. For out of the
homesteads of the "domestic manufacturers" of Lancashire and
Yorkshire had sprung the Heyworths, my mother's family. During the
last quarter of the eighteenth century some few of these master
craftsmen had risen to be mill-owners and merchants, the greater
number being merged in the new class of factory hands. My
grandfather, Lawrence Heyworth, belonged to the master-class; but he
married a pretty cousin, who had been born and bred in the home of a
power-loom weaver. This unknown grandmother--she died of tuberculosis
when my mother was yet a child--was, however, not the nearest tie
with the humble folk of Bacup. There was the beloved old nurse and
household saint, Martha Mills, nicknamed Dada [see Chapter Two,
paragraph which begins "Inseparably associated with my mother," and
following], who had been selected by my grandfather at the age of
eighteen to accompany my mother and her brother on their continental
journey, meeting at Rome my father and his sister; she watched the
coming of the marriage, and she had remained my mothers inseparable
companion until death parted them. With this explanation I fall back
on entries in my diary and letters to my father during my visit to

I have listened many a time to mother's old stories of Bacup life as
we paced up and down the walks of the Standish gardens or along the
Rusland lanes.

The last time, I think, was on a March morning at Standish [a few
weeks before her sudden death]. I remember well the sensation of the
soft west wind and of the sweet sights and sounds of the coming
spring, as I listened dreamily to those well-known tales mother
loved to tell--of her grandfather who would put on his old clothes to
go to the Manchester market if times were good, and call on his wife
to bring him his new hat and best coat if he felt his credit shaky;
of the old grandmother sitting bolt upright in her wooden stays in
her straight-backed chair, giving sage advice to her four sons; or
kneeling by her bed in the midnight hours praying to her God,
watched in the dim light of the moon or coming dawn by the
awe-struck little Laurencina.

And the sweet old tale of mother's first visit to Bacup.

Father and daughter arriving late after a long coach journey.

"I want my supper," cried little Miss Heyworth as her father tried
to carry her to bed. "I want my supper; I won't go to bed without my
supper." The idea of bed supperless associated in the little woman's
mind with disgrace and punishment.

"Let be, Lawrence," called out the tall quaint nightcapped figure
over the banister; "let the child have its supper if it will. Here,
Sarah, take the child and give it some milksop, the fire will soon
be blown up a bit." So dignified little Miss Heyworth was led into
the kitchen by sleepy Sarah and placed in a chair by the table, and
the fire blown up a bit. But having saved her dignity, poor little
Laurencina, dazed by the light and strangeness of the place, burst
out into sobs, between which the willing Sarah distinguished "I
want to go to bed, I want to go to Papa."

Eighteen months had passed away since that March morning. I Rosebud [
my youngest sister], Dada, and I were sitting by the | firelight in
the cosy little sitting-room at The Argoed [our Monmouthshire home].
I was listening again to old stories of Bacup life. Not the same old
stories, but descriptions of chapel and Sunday school, and long
walks along dirty lanes to prayer meetings in weavers' cottages.

"Surely, Da," said I, turning my eyes for a moment from the
fascinating scenes in a coal fire, "some of the Akeds must be our
kin." "Well, let's see," says our old nurse, putting her hands on
her knees and meditating; "there's John Aked, he's a reed-maker, now
out o' work, nephew of Mrs. Heyworth. Then he's got two brothers,
James, manager of the waterworks, and William, who is, I fancy,
rather queer; I don't think he does much. Then there's Mrs.
Ashworth, Miss Aked as was. I was apprenticed to her in the
dressmaking line before I went to Miss Heyworth. She married James
Ashworth, a mill-owner, a rich man; she's a widow now, and what you
call rather close with her money. I don't think there's any other of
your grandmother's relations left besides them as I have mentioned;
at least I am not aware of it."

"Da," said I, as I watched a narrow bridge of black coal give way,
tumble into the red-hot mass below and burst into flame; "I should
dearly love to go to Bacup next time you go." "Well, you know I can
always go; there's no occasion to wait for that," answered the dear
old woman, "but my friends up there would be astonished to see a
Miss Potter coming along with me; they are not accustomed to such
grand folk. I think they would be what they call 'flayed' by you."
"Oh!" cried I, jumping up with the delightful consciousness of an
original idea, "I wouldn't be Miss Potter, I would be Miss Jones,
farmer's daughter, near Monmouth."

Somewhat to my surprise the God-fearing Martha Mills eagerly agreed to
carry out the "pious fraud."

It was a wet November evening 1883, when Mrs. Mills and Miss Jones
picked their way along the irregularly paved and badly lighted
back-streets of Bacup. The place seemed deserted. There was that
curious stillness in the air which overtakes a purely manufacturing
town when the mills with their noise and their lights are closed
--the mill-hands with their free loud voices are "cleaning up" or
enjoying 'Biffin' by their own fireside.

"There, m'am, there's Irwell Terrace Chapel," said Mrs. Mills as
they stood for a moment on a little stone bridge, under which the
small river Irwell splashed as merrily as it could, considering its
free mountain descent, over bits of broken crockery, old boots and
pieces of worn-out machinery; "and there's the chapel-house
adjoining it," continued she, "where John Ashworth the chapel-keeper
lives, him as we're going to stay with." "Da," said Miss Jones in an
emphatic tone, "you really must not call me m'm; now wait a bit and
summon up your courage to tell that little lie, and remember the
words of the Apostle Paul, 'Whatever ye do, do heartily.'"

Here follow letters to my father dated November 1883:

[First Letter].--We arrived at Bacup about 6:30 and found our way along
very ill-lighted back-streets to this old-fashioned house at
the back of the chapel. We were received by a regular old Puritan
and his daughter (a mill-hand) in the most hearty fashion; prayers
being offered up for our safety and spiritual well-being while under
their roof. After we had enjoyed some delicious tea and home-made
bread and butter, various of the elders dropped in to welcome Mrs.
Mills, to whom they are evidently devoted, and who is quite a great
lady amongst them. She introduced me with the most bare-faced
effrontery as "Miss Jones, farmer's daughter, who had come here to
see town life and manufactures," and they all showed themselves
anxious to "lighten my ignorance" on things material and
spiritual. I have been quite received into the charmed circle of
artisan and small bourgeois life, and have made special friends with
John Aked, a meek, gentle-hearted man, who suffers from the
constitutional melancholy of the Aked family. I hear that a brother
and sister of Grandmamma Heyworth committed suicide, and two or
three of the family have been threatened with suicidal mania.
Perhaps it is from that quarter that we get our "Weltschmerz." This
morning he escorted us through Bacup, and I saw Rose Cottage and
Willow Cottage, where our grandmama lived and died. Also Bankside
and Fern Hill, the houses of the great Heyworth and Ormerod
families. We dined with John Wooded, his wife and only son (cousins
of Da's) and I have been listening to one continuous kind-hearted
gossip interspersed with pious ejaculations and shrewd remarks on
the most likely method of getting the good things of this world.
Certainly the way to see industrial life is to live amongst the
workers, and I am surprised at the complete way they have adopted me
as one of their own class. I find it less amusing and much more
interesting than I expected; and I am heartily glad that I made the

[Second Letter].--am going on most satisfactorily. I find a diary
out of the question; one has neither the time nor the place for
writing. These folk live all day in "company"; there are always some
mill-hands [cotton-weavers] out of work who spend their days
chatting in each other's houses. This house, too, is the centre of
chapel-goers, and is used by the relieving officer to distribute the

Bacup is quite a small manufacturing town. The "old gentry," "them
as really was gentry," have disappeared, and the present manufacturers
are self-made men, "who are much more greedy like than the old lot."
The Whitakers still own the land, but they come only to drain the
land of money, to the evident indignation of the inhabitants. The
Ormerods and Heyworths were looked upon "as real gentry." John Aked
told me yesterday (in a six-miles' walk with him across the country;
he is out of work) that "Lawrence Hey worth was one of those men who
married his servant, and she was my aunt; but I've heard tell by
those who've seen her, she was a bonny one to look at." I asked him
what had become of the family, and he said, "I've not heard mich of
them, save Mrs. Potter, and folk say she was an able, stirring body;
you've a look of that, Miss Jones, far more like a male than a
female to talk wi'."

They have not as yet the slightest suspicion: the old hands look at
me with admiration, "as a right useful sort of body as would be a
comfort to my father," and the young men with a certain amount of
amazement and fear. One shrewd old man smelt a rat and asked me
whether my father was not a Lord, and when I told him he was an
honest farmer, he strained all my knowledge of farming by
cross-questions as to stock, etc.; but at last he was disarmed, and
remarked that if he came south he would "coom un 'ave a chat wi' ye
father," and he would like to see these Welsh lasses "if they'd all
got sich white teeth and glistening 'air" as I; but he thought we
had it "middling snod (smooth) wi' ye, e'en warty" (even on
weekdays). The same shrewd old man told me a lot about the failure
of the company mills owned by working men; how the managers were
invariably tipped to take worse goods for the same money, and how
the committees of working men "got talkin' like."

Many of these are shut up; in fact, trade here is worse now than it
has ever been; but there is comparatively little poverty, and those
who remain out of work move on to the big towns where there are
more "odd jobs." The wife of the old man with whom we were "ta in"
was a jolly fat woman who talked such broad Lancashire that I could
scarce understand her; but in the course of the evening she
bashfully admitted that she "summat took a bit of backy," whereupon
I produced my cigarette-case and offered the company some "Welsh
cigars." You would have laughed, father, to see me sitting amongst
four or five millhands smoking quietly, having been voted "good
company," "interesting like" to talk wi'. Under the benign influence
of tobacco the elder ones came out with the history of their lives,
gave me a list of their various successive occupations, and some of
them of their series of wives. I was surprised at their
fair-mindedness, and at the kindliness of their view of men and
things; now they all recognise that men get on from having certain
qualities and that "na makin' of laws can alter that." This class of
respectable working man takes little or no interest in politics
(they have no votes); their thoughts are set on getting on in this
world and the next; their conversation consists chiefly of
personalities and religion. The old man and his daughter with whom
we were staying are a veritable study in puritan life on its more
kindly side; worth a dozen history books on the subject. We always
have prayers in the evening, and I have been constituted the reader
as I pronounce "so distinct like." It is curious how completely at
home I feel with these people, and how they open their hearts to me
and say that I'm "the sort of woman they can talk straight away
with." I can't help thinking that it would be as well if politicians
would live amongst the various classes they legislate for, and find
out what are their wishes and ideas. It seems to me we stand the
chance, in our so-called representative government, of representing
and working out the wishes of the idler sort of people, who, because
they have no quiet occupation absorbing their time and energy, have
time and energy to make a row, and wish to alter things because they
don't fit themselves. Of course it would be absurd to generalise
from such a narrow basis; but much that one sees and hears whilst
living with the working men and women as one of them, sets one
thinking that a little more patient observation might be advisable
before carrying out great organic changes, which may or may not be
right. Mere philanthropists are apt to overlook the existence of an
independent working class, and when they talk sentimentally of the
"people" they mean really the "ne'er-do-wells." It is almost a pity
that the whole attention of this politician should be directed
towards the latter class.

(Third Letter).--I have just received your letter. I will certainly
meet you at Manchester Monday, but don't on any account come here;
Da says they would never forgive her if they found it out!

The dear people have accepted me so heartily and entertained me so
hospitably as one of themselves that it would be cruel to undeceive

We dined this morning in a most comfortable cottage, owned by a
mill-hand with three sons, mill-hands. (The) afternoon I spent in
going over two or three mills, introduced by my friends to their
managers, and finished up by going through the Co-op, stores with
the manager. I told him I had been sent by my father to enquire into
the management of Co-ops, as you wanted to start one; and he took me
into his counting-house, showed me his books and explained the whole
thing. It is entirely owned and managed by working men. Membership
entails spending a certain amount there; and the dividend is paid
according to the amount spent per quarter, though it is not paid out
until the share is paid up through accumulation. In this way there
is a double check on the management; the shareholder requiring his
dividend, and the consumer requiring cheap and good articles, and as
the manager remarked, "Females look pretty sharp arter that." It has
been established twenty years or more and has never paid less than
12 per cent; the working expenses only come to 5 per cent, on
capital turned over. No member can have more than 100 pounds in
stock, and any one can become a member on the payment of three
shillings and sixpence entrance fee, and on the original terms. The
manager gave me a graphic account of his trouble with the committee
of working men; and interested me by explaining the reasons of the
failure of most of the Co-op, mills, all of which I will tell you
over our cigarettes.

We went to tea in another cottage, and have just been listening to a
somewhat dreary "spiritual oration" from our religiously minded
host. A miner by profession, he finished up by saying that "God
Almighty did all things right; that 'e'd bouried the coal sa deep
'cause if it 'ud ben o' the top the women would 'ave ta'en all the
cobs and left all the small." You would be amused at my piety, dear
father; yesterday, in one of the Sunday schools, I came to the
rescue of a meek elderly teacher who was being pertly questioned by
a forward young woman as to Adam's responsibility for our sin. I
asked her whether "she did not 'favour' her parents" and made her
draw the rather far-fetched inference. The meek elderly man shook me
warmly by the hand as we left, and enquired if "he could do aught
for me while I was in Bacup." But the only way to understand these
people is, for the time, to adopt their faith, and look at things in
their light; then one gets a clear picture (undisturbed by any
critically antagonistic spirit) of their life, both material and
mental. And to me, there is a certain charm and restfulness in their
simple piety and absolute ignorance of the world.

As regards the "material life" I am sometimes rather hard up for
meat, and my diet is principally oatcake and cheese, with the butter
which we brought with us. Every evening I have my cigarette in a
rocking-chair by the kitchen fire, having persuaded my friends that
all Welshwomen smoke. My host accepted a cigarette the first night,
saying, "I main 'ave a bit but a bitter ull go a long wa'"; so
after puffing once or twice he snuffs it out and puts it carefully
on the corner of the mantelpiece for the next night: "On musna' tak
too mich o' a gude thing, fur mooney is a slattering thing" (easily
spent). Their income is only 1 pound a week, so that without the
hospitality of our neighbours we should not have much to live on. We
go to Mrs. Ashworth's to-morrow, She is universally disliked, being
very rich and very close-fisted; and nobody receiving aught from her
now or knowing where it will go to at her death. In order to avoid
paying the tax on her carriage, she has taken it off the wheels, and
has some arrangement by which it is mounted when wanted: (so say her
cousins). I expect a good deal of condescension from her, as when we
met her the other day in the butcher's shop, where we were paying a
friendly visit, she gave me the slightest nod and did not shake
hands. . . .

Two memories arise out of the above-mentioned visit to Mrs.
Ashworth. In order to impress the Welsh farmer's daughter, my
purse-proud cousin brought out the photographs of her much-honoured
relatives, my grandfather Heyworth and his brothers, and his sons
and their children; luckily for me, she had no photographs of the
Potter family! And her death in 1892, without a will, led to a rare
example of unworldliness and moral fastidiousness on the part of
these Bacup cotton operatives. No less than eighty thousand pounds
was divided, according to the law of intestacy, in equal portions
among her next-of-kin, who happened to be two groups of surviving
first cousins; consisting, on the one hand, of eleven wage-earners,
one earning less than twenty shillings a week, and, on the other, of
the relatively wealthy sons of Grandmother Heyworth--the only
daughter my mother, being dead. The eleven wage-earners met
together, and, after prayer, decided that it was against Christian
brotherhood and natural equity for them to monopolise this
unexpected heritage, to the exclusion of the children of the
deceased first cousins; and they proceeded to divide their share in
equal amounts, among themselves and some thirty of the younger
generation, whose parents, being also first cousins of Mrs.
Ashworth, were dead. Thus the eleven legal heirs found themselves
possessed, not of thousands, but of hundreds of pounds each. They
naively notified their action to the Heyworth brothers in order that
these also might share out their portion with the children of their
dead sister. Needless to say, these "men of property" refused to
follow suit, on the common-sense ground hat "law was law, and
property was property"; and that there was no more reason for them
to share their own windfall with well-to-do nephews and nieces than
that they should give it away in charity, which no one would expect
of them.

[Third Letter continued],--I have spent the day in the chapels and
schools. After dinner, a dissenting minister dropped in and I had a
long talk with him; he is coming for a cigarette this evening after
chapel. He told me that in all the chapels there was a growing
desire among the congregation to have political and social subjects
treated in the pulpit, and that it was very difficult for a
minister, now, to please. He also remarked that, districts where
co-operation amongst the workmen (in industrial enterprise) existed,
they were a much more independent and free-thinking set. There is an
immense amount of co-operation in the whole of this district; the
stores seem to succeed well, both as regards supplying the people
with cheap articles and as savings banks paying good interest. Of
course I am just in the centre of the dissenting organisation; and
as our host is the chapel keeper and entertains all the ministers
who come here, I hear all about |the internal management. Each
chapel, even of the same denomination, manages its own affairs; and
there are monthly meetings of all the members (male and female) to
discuss questions of expenditure, etc. In fact each chapel is a
self-governing community, regulating not only chapel matters but
overlooking the private life of its members.

One cannot help feeling what an excellent thing these dissenting
organisations have been for educating this class for self-government.
I cant help thinking, too, that one of the best preventives against
the socialistic tendency of the coming democracy would lie in local
government; which would force the respectable working man to
consider political questions as they come up in local administration.
Parliament is such a far-off thing, that the more practical and
industrious lot say that it is "gormless meddling with it"
(useless), and they leave it to the "gabblers." But they are keen
enough on any local question which comes within their own
experiences, and would bring plenty of shrewd sound sense to bear on
the actual management of things.

Certainly the earnest successful working man is essentially
conservative as regards the rights of property and the non-interference
of the central government; and though religious feeling still has an
immense hold on this class, and forms a real basis for many lives,
the most religious of them agree that the younger generation are
looking elsewhere for subjects of thought and feeling.

It seems to me of great importance that the political thought should
take a practical instead of a theoretical line; that each section of
the community should try experiments on a small scale, and that the
promoters should see and reap the difficulties and disadvantages of
each experiment as it is executed. There is an immense amount of
spare energy in this class, now that it is educated, which is by no
means used up in their mechanical occupation. When the religious
channel is closed up it must go somewhere. It can be employed either
in the practical solution of social and economic questions, or in
the purely intellectual exercise of political theorising and
political discussion about problems considered in the abstract.

Forgive all these crudely expressed ideas. I have jotted them down
just as they have crossed my mind. I am immensely interested in what
I hear and see. But it is a daring thing in a young woman to drop
"caste"; and that is why I am anxious it should not be talked about.
I have sufficient knowledge of men to make them be to me as I
choose; but not every one would understand that one had that power,
and without it, it would not be a profitful or wise adventure. I
have seen two more Aked brothers. They are all delicate-featured,
melancholy men, with beautiful hands. There is a universal interest
in our family. I think they would be somewhat horrified if they knew
that this "stirring lass who is up in everything" was one of "the
fashionable Miss Potters who live in grand houses and beautiful
gardens and marry enormously wealthy men." But they evidently feel
that there is something very strange about me. Their generalisations
about "Welsh women" will be rather quaint by the time I go!

In living amongst mill-hands of East Lancashire [I reflect a few
months later] I was impressed with the depth and realism of their
religious faith. It seemed to absorb the entire nature, to claim as
its own all the energy unused in the actual struggle for existence.
Once the simple animal instincts were satisfied the surplus power,
whether physical, intellectual or moral, was devoted to religion.
Even the social intercourse was based on religious sympathy and
common religious effort. It was just this one-idea'd-ness and
transparentness of life which attracted my interest and admiration.
For a time it contrasted favourably with the extraordinarily complex
mental activity arising in the cosmopolitan life of London--an
activity which in some natures tends to paralyse action and
dissipate thought.

The same quality of one-idea'd-ness is present in the Birmingham
Radical set, earnestness and simplicity of motive being strikingly
present. Political conviction takes the place here of religious
faith; and intolerance of scepticism of the main articles of the
creed is as bitter in the one case as in the other. Possibly the
Bible, from its inherent self-contradiction, is a more promising
ground for the individualism than the Radical programme and the less
likely to favour the supremacy of one interpreter. Heine said some
fifty years ago, "Talk to an Englishman on religion and he is a
fanatic; talk to him on politics and he is a man of the world." It
would seem to me from my slight experience of Bacup and Birmingham,
that that part of the Englishman's nature which has found
gratification in religion is now drifting into political life. When
I suggested this to Mr. Chamberlain he answered, "I quite agree with
you, and I rejoice in it. I have always had a grudge against
religion for absorbing the passion in man's nature." It is only
natural then that, this being his view, he should find in the
uncompromising belief of his own set a more sympathetic atmosphere
wherein to recruit his forces to battle with the powers of evil than
in the somewhat cynical, or at any rate indefinitely varied and
qualified, political opinions of London society. [MS. diary March
16, 1884.]

To complete the tale, I give the entries and letters relating to
other visits in 1886 and 1889, after I had become an investigator in
the East End of London.

Three years passed away--and Miss Jones again came to Bacup. She had
lost her bloom of body and mind; some of her old friends hardly
recognised her. The now familiar scene of working-class life had
lost its freshness--adventure had lost its charm, and conscience had
become more uneasy, even of white lies! So she lived among the
people, keenly observant of the larger features of their life--but
haunted with a spiritless melancholy. The grand old puritan with his
vigorous, homely, religious feeling had passed away; the amiable and
gentle John Aked had gone to the rest vouchsafed by heaven even to
melancholy Akeds; young children had grown up to years of
discretion. Old Bacup remained unaltered among the bleak high hills.
The mills, now working busily overtime, nestled in the valley, long
unpaved streets of two-storied cottages straggled irregularly up the
hills. The old coaching inn, with its air of refined age, still
stood behind the new buildings representing municipal life; a
"Co-op." shop asserted its existence with almost vulgar prominence.
The twenty chapels of all denominations, the parish church, and the
"gentry-built" new church, stood on the same ground and are as yet
unemptied. Bacup life is still religious--the book of science,
insinuating itself into the mill-hand's cottage, has not yet ousted
the "book of life." The young man goes to chapel, but he will not
teach in the Bible class or the Sunday school. The books from the
free "Co-op." library interest him more; his talk about God is no
longer inspired by the spirit of self-devoting faith. But Bacup, in
spite of municipal life and co-operative industry, is spiritually
still part of the "old world." It knows nothing of the complexities
of modern life, and in the monotony of its daily existence likens
the hand-loom village of a century ago. The restless, the complicated
motive and the far-stretching imagination of cosmopolitanism find no
place in the gentle minds of Bacup folk. They are content with the
doings of their little town--and say that even in Manchester they
feel oppressed--and not "homely like."

I was interested in the mill-hand's life. So long as the hours do
not include overtime, the work is as healthful to body and mind as
it well could be. Sitting by the hands at work, watching the
invigorating quickness of the machinery, the pleasant fellowship of
men, women and children, the absence of care and the presence of
common interest--the general well-being of well-earned and well-paid
work--one was tempted to think that here, indeed, was happiness
--unknown to the strained brain-worker, the idle and overfed rich, or
the hardly pressed very poor. Young men and women mix freely; they
know each other as fellow-workers, members of the same or kindred
chapels; they watch each other from childhood upwards, live always
in each other's company. They pair naturally, according to
well-tested affinity, physical and spiritual. Public opinion--which
means religiously guided opinion--presses heavily on the misdoer or
the non-worker,--the outcasting process, the reverse of the
attracting force of East End life, is seen clearly in this small
community, ridding it of the ne'er-do-well and the habitual
out-o'-work. There are no attractions for those who have not sources
of love and interest within them; no work for those who cannot or
will not work constantly. On the other hand, ill-success and
unmerited failure are dealt with gently--for these people are, in
the main, thinking of another world, and judge people not according
to the position they have scrambled into in this, but according to
their place in a future Heaven--won by godliness and selfrenunciation.

Overtime brings needless waste of strength, taking more from the
worker and giving less to the employer. It means an existence of
physical drudgery, wearing out the body and rusting out the mind. It
leaves men with no appetite for food and a strong desire for drink
--brutalises them by unfitting them for social intercourse or common

This class eats too little, and above all, sleeps too little
--growing boys getting only six or seven hours' bed; and the
unfortunate mother who calls them lying awake half the night so as
to be in time, and sitting up for the latest and oldest to get to
bed. But overtime is forbidden for women and children, and it is
here that one sees the benefit of the Factory Acts, and consequent
inspection. Laisser-faire breaks down, when one watches these things
from the inside. The individual worker cannot refuse to work overtime
--if he does he loses his employment. Neither does he always wish to
refuse, for many are ignorant of the meaning of constant strain on
future life. It is idle to say that this bad effect of overwork is
not restricted to manual labour; but is more felt by brain-workers.
True, but in one case the remedy is easy to administer, in another
impossible. Factories are easily stopped--briefs, consultations and
literary study cannot be checked. Perhaps it would be far happier if
they could be. [MS. diary, October 1886.]

Letters to my Father, October 1886

(First Letter).--I should have written to you before, but I have had
a wretched cold in my head, which has made me feel stupid. I nearly
always have a cold once a year and generally about this time, but it
is unfortunate that it should come in this visit. Still, it has not
been bad enough to prevent me from going out among the people. Mrs.
Aked, with whom I am staying, is a jolly little Yorkshire widow,
delighted with an excuse for going again into "coompany," so we
spend most of our time in and out of the neighbours' cottages, and
very old friends insist on entertaining me. I can assure you "Miss
Jones" is a very popular person; and her London experiences draw
quite an audience in the cottages in which she takes her "tiffen."
. . . I am more and more charmed with the life of these people; with
their warm-hearted integrity and power to act together. I suppose
they are more or less a picked people from among the working class;
if not, this section of the working class are more refined in their
motives and feelings than the majority of the money-getting or
money-inheriting class. There is a total absence of vulgarity; no
attempt to seem what they are not, or to struggle and strive to be
better off than their neighbours. Then, it is the only society I
have ever lived in, in which religious faith really guides thought
and action, and forms the basis to the whole life of the individual
and the community.

The religious socialism of the dissenting communities is very
remarkable, each circle forming a "law unto itself" to which the
individual must submit or be an outcast. And as all the denominations
work heartily together (except the Church, which has here, on
account of an ill-conducted parson, a contemptible position), the
censorship on private morality is very severe, and a man or a woman
cannot well escape it without leaving Bacup. One sees here the other
side of the process through which bad workmen and bad characters are
attracted to the large town. In East End life one notices this
attraction, here one can watch the outcasting force. In the first
place, there are no odd jobs in a small community which depends on
productive industries. Unless a man can work regularly he cannot
work at all. Then a bad character is socially an outcast, the whole
social life depending on the chapel and the "Co-op."

The "Co-op." furnishes amusement and interest, free of expense to
all members, and through the system of deposit accounts, a mutual
insurance company. Trade unionism is not strong here; class spirit
hardly exists because there is no capitalist class; those mills
which are not companies being owned by quite small men of
working-class origin and connected with working people. Then, as a
great many working people have shares in the co-operative mills,
there is a recognised desire to keep down wages, which reacts on the
public opinion, and makes even the non-owning men take a fairer view
of the employer's position.

Three or four mill-hands were smoking here yesterday (my cigarettes!)
and they were saying that the workers were getting the best of the
bargain just at present. There is no bitter, uneasy feeling among
the inhabitants of Bacup, for there is practically social equality;
perhaps this accounts for the total absence of vulgarity. But one
wonders what will happen when the religious feeling of the people is
undermined by advancing scientific culture; for though the "Co-op."
and the chapel at present work together, the secularism of the
"Co-op." is half unconsciously recognised by earnest chapel-goers as
a rival attraction to the prayer meeting and the Bible class. One
wonders where all the feeling will go, and all the capacity for
moral self-government.

I think the safeguard will be in a strong local government, with
considerable power to check individual action; and of a sufficiently
small area to allow of the working people taking a real everyday
part, and not only at election times. For the active regulation of
their own and their neighbours' lives will be far less dangerous
than theorising and talking about things of which they have no
knowledge. They have been trained to act but not to think--and in
talking over "imperial politics" they do not show much intelligence
--for their one leading idea seems to be to cut down salaries!

Labouchere seems the principal favourite--man they would not
tolerate as a "Co-op." or "chapel" leader.

I am glad to say the better class stick to Mr. Chamberlain [my
father was an ardent "Unionist"]. The G.O.M. has sadly gone down
since I was last here--some good Liberals saying openly that he is in
his dotage.

To-morrow, if my cold is well enough, I am going to Manchester with
the draper's daughter to buy goods from the Manchester warehouseman.
Ask Mary to let me know how you got over your journey; my address is
Miss Jones, 5 Angel Street, Tony Lane, Bacup.

[Second Letter].--This is my last day here, as I am not going on to
Oldham; the weather is so raw and disagreeable and I cannot get rid
of my cold. I must tell you something about our daily life.

It begins at 5:30 with Mrs. Aked's pleasant voice: "Willie, Willie, be
sharp, first bell's rung." Willie is the youngest son, a pretty
blue-eyed youth who "favours" Grandmamma Heyworth. He is tenter to
a sheet weaver; is fifteen years old and earns five shillings. The
last week his wages have been pulled down to four shillings and
ninepence and he threatens to strike off work, but his mother tells
him if he does he shall be "without money." Titus (the oldest) is
off to work the same time (to the Keld' (sic) manufacture) and his
mother gives them both a "cup of tea" before they leave. Then the
good little woman sits down to her Bible and struggles through her
chapter (she is no scholar) until it is time for Walter to get off to
his work (eight o'clock) at the "Co-op." shop. He is a dull, heavy
boy, whose chief interest is in his smart ties. We breakfast at
8:30, Titus and a fellow-worker joining us--bread and butter and
tea-cake and good strong tea. Titus is a good, sensible lad, very
fond of music and still fonder of "his woman"--reads a good many
"Co-op." books on science, and wins prizes at the night schools. The
fellow-worker is an unmarried woman of thirty-seven, who says in a.
cheery way that "she's had her chance a' lost it, and canna look for
another" (in which sentiment I sympathise!).

Yesterday, I put a shawl over my head and went off with her to the
Mill--stayed an hour or so chatting with the hands while they
worked. They are a happy lot of people--quiet workers and very
sociable--men and women mixing together in a free-and-easy manner--but
without any coarseness that I can see; the masculine sentiment about
marriage being "that a man's got no friend until he's a woman of his
own." Parties of young men and women go off together for a week to
Blackpool, sometimes on cheap trips to London--and as the women earn
as much or nearly as much as the men (except the skilled work) there
is no assumption of masculine superiority. Certainly this regular
mechanical work, with all the invigorating brightness of machines,
and plenty of fellow-workers of both sexes, seems about the happiest
lot for a human being--so long as the hours are not too long. The
factory inspectors keep a sharp look-out on "overtime" for women and
children; and this week two masters were fined forty pounds and
costs. There is a strong feeling among the hands that overtime ought
to be stopped for the men; and I think it would be better if it
were. Latterly Titus has worked on till eight o'clock, and looks
thoroughly worn out. It seems to waste their strength compared to
the amount of work they do extra, and changes an existence of
wholesome exertion into wearisome drudgery. Yesterday I went to
middle-day meal with my old friend Alice Ashworth--an ugly, rough,
warm-hearted single woman of forty, daughter to the delightful old
puritan (now dead) we stayed with last time. Poor Alice lives alone
in a two-roomed cottage, works at the mill, and has nothing but the
memory of her father (who was a leader in all good things) and her
strong religious feeling to warm the desolate loneliness of her
life. "Set ye down in the vacant chair, Miss Jones [after a hearty
embrace]; it does me good to see any one who loved my father "; and
her ugly rough features were lit up with strong feeling. She talks
the broadest "Lankey," sometimes I cannot understand her--and her
language is Biblical--all her simplest ideas illustrated with Bible
texts. She is devoted to me, looks upon me with quite a wondering
admiration, and yet with a strong fellow-feeling of another
"lonesome" working woman. It was a high day for Alice, for she had
asked the chapel minister and other friends of former days to meet
me at tea. The minister, one of the "new college men," with
measured phrases and long words; a poor exchange for the
old-fashioned minister "called of God from among the people," no
more educated than his fellows but rising to leadership by force of
character. This man is more of a politician than a preacher--a
politician of the shallowest and most unreal type, using endless
words and not touching facts. He has a certain influence over the
people, through his gift of the gab; but even they half unconsciously
feel that the "real thing" is passing away, and grieve that there
[are] "na more plain men as feel the word of Christ." He is a snob
into the bargain, and talks of Stephen Gladstone as if he were his
most intimate friend--but then he is not of "Lankey" breed--he is a
Welshman. His wife and sister-in-law are of the shabby genteel--aping
the ways of the leisured class. Watching him among a large company
of simple-minded, clear-headed millhands, mal-using his long words
and affectedly twisting his hands, one felt the presence of the
"inferior animal," and dreaded the making of others of the like
pattern by the shallow intellectualism of "higher education."

But I have got off the "order of the day".

We generally dine at home off mutton and potatoes, and have gone
out "a tayin'" every day. That means going about three o'clock and
staying until nine, sometimes the whole party adjoining to another

The people are wonderfully friendly--the cottages comfortable and
well furnished, and the teas excellent. Of course the living is
trying to any one unaccustomed to a farinaceous diet, and after a
certain time the conversation would become wearisome to our
restless, excited minds, always searching after new things. Still,
living actually with these people has given me an insight, that is
difficult to express in words, into higher working-class life--with
all its charm of direct thinking, honest work and warm feeling; and
above all, taught me the real part played by religion in making the
English people, and of dissent teaching them the art of
self-government, or rather serving as a means to develop their
capacity for it. It saddens one to think that the religious faith
that has united them together with a strong bond of spiritual effort
and sustained them individually, throwing its warmth of light into
the more lonely and unloved lives, is destined to pass away. For
with their lives of mechanical work--with the many chances of
breakdown and failure meaning absence of physical comfort, they need
more than intellectualism--more than any form of "high thinking,"
which, even if it were worth anything to those who have it, is
beyond the reach of these people from their lack of physical energy.

Intellectual culture is a relaxation to the more active-minded and
successful, but it cannot be a resting-place to the worn-out or
failed lives. "Life in Christ" and hope in another world bring ease
and refinement into a mere struggle for existence, calming the
restless craving after the good things of this world by an "other
worldliness," and making failure a "means of grace" instead of
despicable want of success.

Poor Mary! who has had to read this letter to you!

On the last evening of my second visit I told my gentle cousins who
I was. I feared they would be offended: on the contrary, they were
delighted, and glad I had not told them before they had got to know

The Akeds, mother and son, have been staying with me (I write a year
afterwards). They are simple, true-hearted people, strong
Christians; I love these Lancashire folk. I showed them all over
London; the one thing they delighted in was the endless galleries of
books in the British Museum (the iron galleries where the books are
stored). Olive Schreiner (author of the South African Farm) was
staying here, she is a wonderfully attractive little woman brimming
over with sympathy. Titus Aked lost his heart to her; her charm of
manner and conversation bowled over the simple-hearted Lancashire
laddie, with his straight and narrow understanding. He gazed at the
wee little woman with reverence and tenderness, and listened
intently to every word she said. [MS. diary, October 4, 1887.]

Among my dear old friends [I write when visiting Bacup in 1889],
with their kindly simplicity. Cousin Titus is now married to a young
girl of sweet and modest expression and gentle ways, a fellow-worker
at the mill. Most days she works with him; but often takes a day off
and engages a "knitter" [? word illegible] to do her work. Titus
reads newspapers and periodicals, and takes music lessons, and
attends the mechanics' institute. The young wife spends her spare
time in visiting and needlework, and does not attempt "higher
interests." But she is full of kindness and affection for her
mother-in-law, and fairly worships her Titus. . . . [MS. diary,
Bacup, April 1889.]

. . . When I was at Bacup [I meditate after my first visit] I felt
as if I were living through a page of puritan history; felt that I
saw the actual thing, human beings governed by one idea; devotion to
Christ, with no struggle or thought about the world; in every action
of their daily life living unto God. And I realised the strength of
the motive which enlightened persons believe is passing away. I
realised the permeating influence, and wondered what would fill the
void it would leave, what inspiring motive would take its place? [
MS. diary, February 1884.]

The Bacup adventure gave a decisive turn to my self-development.

Every day actual observation of men and things takes the place of
accumulation of facts from books and boudoir trains of thought.
Undoubtedly the Bacup trip is the right direction. To profit by that
kind of observation I must gain more knowledge of legal and
commercial matters, understand the theory of government before I can
appreciate deficiencies in practice. The time is come now for a
defined object towards which all my energies must be bent. [MS.
diary, January 24, 1884.]

The die was cast, the craft was chosen. Through the pressure of
circumstances and the inspiration of the timespirit, I had decided
to become an investigator of social institutions.


31 Words and Idioms, by Logan Pearsall Smith, 1925, p. 98. The
distinction drawn in this delightful book (from which I take the
quotation from Sir William Alexander's Anacrisis, 1634) is between
authors who acquire their raw material by direct observation of and
original reflection on nature, and authors who study and imitate
other writers: a distinction akin to that between original work in
art or in science, on the one hand, and book-learning on the other.
The distinction made in the present chapter is slightly different:
it is between minds that follow their natural bent or native gifts,
and succeed or fail to impose themselves and their product on their
contemporaries; and minds that, consciously or unconsciously, seek
to satisfy an existing demand in the way of intellectual products;
guided, to use a coarse expression, by "the smell of the market." It
appears that I belonged to the latter category of instinctive
caterers. The question to my mind was, not whether I liked or did
not like the particular task, but whether the job needed doing and
whether it was within my capacity. The alternative to doing such a
job myself was to add to the function of caterer the function of
entrepreneur, and to get some one else to accomplish that part of
the work, which I found unpleasant or difficult. Hence the
employment of research secretaries.

32 For obvious reasons, names are frequently omitted in entries in
this and following chapters.

33 Pages 421, 422 and 425 of The Martyrdom of Man, by Winwood Reade,
first published in 1872. A new edition has been recently issued by
the Rationalist Press Association, with an introduction by F. Legge,
giving a short biography of this remarkable man.

34 Francis Galton and his wife were intimate with my sister Georgie
and her husband Daniel Meinertzhagen, at whose house in Rutland Gate
I first met them. Afterwards they frequented our house in Prince's
Gardens, where my sister Margaret became a special favourite, and
undertook to furnish him with a detailed descriptive chart of our
family history, which I believe he included in his work on family

Professor Karl Pearson's elaborate Life of Francis Galton gives a
singularly interesting account of Francis Gallon's train of thought
and methods of investigation.

35 William Harrison Cripps, F.R.C.S., the husband of my sister
Blanche, became afterwards senior surgeon at St. Bartholomew's
Hospital, London. His researches into cancer led him to the
conclusion that the undiscovered bacillus was localised in
particular districts, streets or houses; a conclusion for which
there seems some further evidence.

36 The husband of my sister Theresa--C. A. Cripps (now Lord Parmoor),
younger brother of William Harrison Cripps.

37 The following quotation from Hazlitt's essay on Shakespeare seems
to bear out the suggestion that the psychologist requires to have
experienced or to be capable of experiencing the emotions and
thought which he desires to portray or analyse: "The striking
peculiarity of Shakespeare's mind was its generic quality, its power
of communication with all other minds--so that it contained a
universe of thought and feeling within itself, and had no one
peculiar bias, or exclusive excellence more than another. He was
just like any other man, but that he was like all other men. He was
the least of an egotist that it was possible to be. He was nothing
in himself; but he was all that others were, or that they could
become. He not only had in himself the germs of every faculty and
feeling, but he could follow them by anticipation, intuitively, into
all their conceivable ramifications, through every change of fortune
or conflict of passion, or turn of thought. He had 'a mind
reflecting ages past,' and present: all the people that ever lived
are there." (Lectures on the English Poets, by William Hazlitt, p.
71, World's Classics Edition, 1924).

38 Frederic Harrison (1831-1923), M.A., D.C.L. (Oxford), Hon.
Litt.D. (Camb.), Hon. LL.D. (Aberdeen); president of the English
Positivist Committee, 1880-1905; member of Royal Commission on Trade
Unions, 1867-69; author of more than a score of books published from
1862 to 1919, and of innumerable articles, addresses, introductions,
prefaces, etc.; Professor of Jurisprudence and International Law to
the Council of Legal Education, London, 1877-89; Alderman, London
County Council, 1889-93.

39 In the autumn of 1880 Margaret married Henry Hobhouse of Hadspen,
Somersetshire. She had seven children--her youngest son being killed
in the War. She died 1920, her husband and five children surviving
her. In the last years of her life, owing to the imprisonment during
the War of her eldest child Stephen (who had joined the Society of
Friends, and had refused to be burdened with property or the
prospect of property) as an "absolutist" conscientious objector,
she published An Appeal to Caesar, and became interested in prison
reform, initiating the enquiry which eventuated in the remarkable
report by Stephen Hobhouse and Fenner Brockway, entitled English
Prisons To-day, 1922. Many of the proposals of this report have been
embodied in the recent transformation of prison administration hi
England, effected, not by Act of Parliament, but as a result of the
silent conversion of the Home Office bureaucracy.

40 I place here this later extract because it gives my reason for
not joining the "Church of Humanity."



THE decisive influence of social environment on the activities of
the individual was in my case even more immediate and obvious in the
selection of a subject for investigation than in the choice of a

Why did I select the chronic destitution of whole sections of the
people, whether illustrated by overcrowded homes, by the demoralised
casual labour at the docks, or by the low wages, long hours and
insanitary conditions of the sweated industries, as the first
subject for enquiry? Unlike my sister Kate, who had toiled for six
years as a volunteer rentcollector, I was not led into the homes of
the poor by the spirit of charity. I had never been moved by the
"hard cases" which, as I thought, "make bad law." What impelled me
to concentrate on the condition of the people as the immediate
question for investigation was the state of mind in the most vital
centres of business enterprise, of political agitation and of
academic reasoning.

There were, in fact, in the 'eighties and 'nineties two controversies
raging in periodicals and books, and giving rise to perpetual
argument within my own circle of relations and acquaintances: on the
one hand, the meaning of the poverty of masses of men; and, on the
other, the practicability and desirability of political and
industrial democracy as a setoff to, perhaps as a means of
redressing, the grievances of the majority of the people. Was the
poverty of the many a necessary condition of the wealth of the
nation and of its progress in civilisation? And if the bulk of the
people were to remain poor and uneducated, was it desirable, was it
even safe, to entrust them with the weapon of trade unionism, and,
through the ballot-box, with making and controlling the Government
of Great Britain with its enormous wealth and its far-flung

In the first chapter of this book I described how, in my childhood
and youth, the outlook of the family circle, though unusually
extended and diversified, did not include the "world of Labour." I
described how "the very term 'Labour' stood for an abstraction--for
an arithmetically calculable mass of human beings, each individual
being merely a repetition of the others." . . . "Water plentiful and
labour docile was a typical sentence in a company-promoter's report."

Owing to a shifting in business and family relationships, reinforced
by the transformation in British public opinion presently to be
described, this closed eye came to be opened, and opened widely. In
1879 my father resigned the presidency of the Grand Trunk Railway of
Canada, which he had held for ten years, and became once more
actively engaged in British business enterprises. To an alien
railway administrator, speeding over the vast spaces of a continent
that was steadily filling up with immigrants of all races, white and
yellow, brown and black, the conception of the manual workers as so
many "Robots" was natural, perhaps inevitable. To the manufacturer
or merchant of Great Britain, as to the financiers standing behind
them, faced as they were in 1879-85 by lock-outs and strikes
conducted by Trade Unions of undeniable power; having to meet in
official relations the workmen leaders, not only as negotiators on
equal terms, but also as members of the House of Commons, even, in
1885, as part of the Administration--the term "Labour" had come to
mean no abstraction at all, but a multitude of restless,
self-assertive, and loss-creating fellow-citizens, who could no
longer be ignored and therefore had to be studied. Hence there began
to appear on my mother's boudoir table, pamphlets and treatises for
and against the Wage-Fund Theory; whilst my father, with a puzzled
expression, sought enlightenment from Carlyle's Past and Present,
and began to take an interest in the experiences (as a volunteer
rent-collector in the East End of London) of his daughter Kate, and
in the conversation of such co-workers, thus introduced into the
family circle, as Octavia Hill and Samuel and Henrietta Barnett.
Moreover, it happened to be during these years that three
political-minded brothers-in-law joined the family group. There was
Henry Hobhouse (afterwards one of the members for Somerset and the
Chairman of its County Council and Quarter-Sessions), who married my
sister Margaret in 1880, and brought with him the cultivated
refinement and sense of social obligation characteristic of such
country gentlemen and public-service families as the Hobhouses,
Farrers, Aclands and Stracheys. There was Charles Alfred Cripps, who
married my sister Theresa in 1881; a brilliantly successful young
barrister, an accomplished dialectician, with a tolerant and
benevolent outlook on life; in after years destined to become a
Conservative M.P., and eventually, as Lord Parmoor, owing to his
hatred of war and distrust of "capitalist imperialism," to swing
into sympathy with the Labour and Socialist Movement, and to enter
the short-lived Labour Cabinet of 1924. I delighted in arguments
with him. And, last to join us, but eldest and most influential of
the trio, Leonard Courtney, then Financial Secretary to the Treasury
in Gladstone's Administration, won my sister Kate from her
philanthropic work in 1883, and brought to bear on our discussions a
massive intelligence and an amazing memory, combined with the
intellectual integrity and personal disinterestedness of a superman.
He and my sister, with a wide circle of political and literary
friends, made a new centre of light and leading to the whole family.
Of more immediate significance to myself was my deepened friendship
with my cousin Mary Booth and with her husband Charles Booth, whose
outstanding enquiry into the life and labour of the people of London
I describe in the following chapter. All these stimulating
personalities were so many "live wires" connecting me with the
larger worlds of politics, philanthropy and statistical investigation
in these very years subjected to the working of a new ferment of
thought and feeling.


"What is outside Parliament," wrote Mr. Gladstone to Lord Rosebery
in the first year of the triumphant Gladstonian Government of
1880-1885, "seems to me to be fast mounting--nay, to have already
mounted--to an importance much exceeding what is inside."41.

The new ferment was, in fact, barely discernible in the proceedings
of the House of Commons directed by the Gladstonian Cabinet of
1880-1885. For half a century British politics had been based on a
continuous rivalry between Whig and Tory; between landlordism on the
one hand, rooted in privilege and protection, and on the other,
capitalism claiming unrestricted freedom of enterprise in pursuit of
pecuniary profit. To these must be added the distinct but parallel
conflict between Nonconformity and the Established Church. From time
to time there had arisen a demand for a further extension of the
suffrage, and hot had been the disputes between the two great
parties as to the exact amount of property or degree of social
position necessary to fit a man for the exercise of the suffrage,
and as to the devices that might be invented for curbing the power
of majorities.

Now it was these old forces that were, in the main, represented by
the House of Commons elected in 1880. For it must be remembered that
the general election of that year had turned almost entirely on an
emotional, even a religious view, of foreign affairs, to the
exclusion of domestic issues, save for a repugnance to any increase
in public expenditure and a desire for an actual reduction of
taxation. Partly owing to this lack of lead, and partly to sheer bad
luck, this Parliament failed altogether to control its own
destinies, and floundered in the bogs of Bradlaughism, Ireland, the
Transvaal, and Egypt--all of them issues remote from the needs and
thoughts of the British electorate. Yet, as Gladstone had realised,
there were already portents of politics of a new type. Lord Randolph
Churchill, with his queerly assorted three fellow-benchers, Arthur
Balfour, Drummond Wolff and John Gorst, was feverishly stimulating
the organisation of the Tory working men into a ubiquitous electoral
network which would enable him, from time to time, to shake his fist
at Lord Salisbury. And there was Joseph Chamberlain, already
controlling a powerful Radical caucus, who had administered
Birmingham on the bold principle of "high rates and a healthy city,"
and who was now talking of taxation as a ransom due from those "who
toil not neither do they spin," and who was demanding, in his new
role of Cabinet Minister, adult manhood suffrage, free secular
education, and three acres and a cow for those who preferred
individual production on the land to work at wages in the mine or
factory. "There is a process of slow modification and development
mainly in directions which I view with misgiving," wrote the veteran
statesman to Lord Acton in February 1885. "'Tory Democracy,' the
favourite idea on that side, is no more like the Conservative Party
in which I was bred than it is like Liberalism. In fact less. It is
demagogism; only a demagogism not ennobled by love and appreciation
of liberty, but applied in the worst way, to put down the pacific,
law-respecting, economic elements which ennobled the old
Conservatism; living on the fomentation of angry passions, and
still, in secret, as obstinately attached as ever to the evil
principle of class interests. The Liberalism of to-day is better in
what I have described as ennobling the old Conservatism: nay much
better, yet far from being good. Its pet idea is what they call
construction, that is to say, taking into the hands of the State the
business of the individual man. Both the one and the other have much
to estrange me, and have had for many, many years."42 It was this
demoniacal constructiveness that a few years later the aged and
weary leader anathematised as "whole vistas of social quackery."

Why this demand for State intervention from a generation reared
amidst rapidly rising riches and disciplined in the school of
philosophic radicalism and orthodox political economy? For it was
not the sweated workers, massed in overcrowded city tenements or
scattered, as agricultural labourers and home workers, in village
hovels; it was not the so-called aristocracy of labour--the cotton
operatives, engineers and miners, who were, during this period,
enrolling themselves in friendly societies, organising Trade Unions,
and managing their own co-operative stores--it was, in truth, no
section of the manual workers that was secreting what Mr. Asquith
lived to denounce in the 1924 election as "the poison of socialism."
The working-class revolt against the misery and humiliation brought
about by the Industrial Revolution--a revolt, in spasmodic violence,
aping revolution--had had its fling in the 'twenties and 'thirties
and its apotheosis in the Chartist Movement of the 'forties. During
the relative prosperity of the 'fifties and 'sixties the
revolutionary tradition of the first decades of the nineteenth
century faded away; and by 1880 it had become little more than a
romantic memory among old men in their anecdotage. Born and bred in
chronic destitution and enfeebling disease, the denizens of the
slums had sunk into a brutalised apathy, whilst the more fortunate
members of skilled occupations, entrenched in craft unionism, had
been converted to the "administrative nihilism" of Cobden, Bright
and Bradlaugh.

The origin of the ferment is to be discovered in a new consciousness
of sin among men of intellect and men of property; a consciousness
at first philanthropic and practical--Oastler, Shaftesbury and
Chadwick; then literary and artistic--Dickens, Carlyle, Ruskin and
William Morris; and finally, analytic, historical and explanatory
--in his latter days John Stuart Mill;43 Karl Marx and his English
interpreters; Alfred Russel Wallace and Henry George; Arnold Toynbee
and the Fabians. I might perhaps add a theological category--Charles
Kingsley, F. D. Maurice, General Booth and Cardinal Manning. "The
sense of sin has been the starting-point of progress" was, during
these years, the oft-repeated saying of Samuel Barnett, rector of
St. Jude's, Whitechapel, and founder of Toynbee Hall.

When I say the consciousness of sin, I do not mean the consciousness
of personal sin: the agricultural labourers on Lord Shaftesbury's
estate were no better off than others in Dorsetshire; Ruskin and
William Morris were surrounded in their homes with things which were
costly as well as beautiful; John Stuart Mill did not alter his
modest but comfortable way of life when he became a Socialist; and
H. M. Hyndman gloried in the garments habitual to the members of
exclusive West End clubs. The consciousness of sin was a collective
or class consciousness; a growing uneasiness, amounting to
conviction, that the industrial organisation, which had yielded
rent, interest and profits on a stupendous scale, had failed to
provide a decent livelihood and tolerable conditions for a majority
of the inhabitants of Great Britain. "England," said Carlyle in the
'forties, "is full of wealth, of multifarious produce, supply for
human want in every kind; yet England is dying of inanition."44
"This association of poverty with progress," argued the American
advocate of taxation of land values, some forty years later, "is the
great enigma of our times. It is the central fact from which spring
industrial, social and political difficulties that perplex the
world, and with which statesmanship and philanthropy and education
grapple in vain. ... So long as all the increased wealth which
modern progress brings goes but to build up great fortunes, to
increase luxury and make sharper the contrast between the House of
Have and the House of Want, progress is not real and cannot be
permanent. The reaction must come."45 "At this very time," wrote
William Morris and H. M. Hyndman in 1884, "official returns prove
conclusively that vast masses of our countrymen are living on the
very verge of starvation; that much of the factory population is
undergoing steady physical deterioration; that the agricultural
labourers rarely get enough food to keep them clear of diseases
arising from insufficient nourishment; while such is the housing of
the wage-earners in our great cities and in our country districts,
that even the leading partisans of our political factions at length
have awakened to the fact that civilisation for the poor has been
impossible for nearly two generations under these conditions, and
that some steps ought really to be taken to remedy so monstrous an
evil. Drink, debauchery, vice, crime inevitably arise under such
conditions. For indigestion arising from bad food, cold arising from
insufficient firing, depression arising from unhealthy air and lack
of amusement, necessarily drive the poor to the public-house; while
even the sober have had, too often, no education which should fit
them for the full enjoyment of life. And drunken and sober, virtuous
and vicious--if they can be called vicious who are steeped in
immorality from their very babyhood--are all subject to never-ceasing
uncertainty of earning a livelihood, due to the constant
introduction of fresh machines over which they have no control, or
the great commercial crises which come more frequently and last for
a longer time at each recurrence. There is therefore complete
anarchy of life and anarchy of production around us. Order exists,
morality exists, comfort, happiness, education, as a whole, exist
only for the class which has the means of production, at the expense
of the class which supplies the labour-force that produces wealth."46
"The state of the houses," declared Cardinal Manning two years
later, "families living in single rooms, sometimes many families in
one room, a corner apiece--these things cannot go on. The
accumulation of wealth in the land, the piling up of wealth like
mountains in the possession of classes or of individuals, cannot go
on if these moral conditions of our people are not healed. No
commonwealth can rest on such foundations."47

This class-consciousness of sin was usually accompanied by devoted
personal service, sometimes by open confession and a deliberate
dedication of means and strength to the reorganisation of society on
a more equalitarian basis. One of the noblest and most original of
these latter-day confessors, Arnold Toynbee, expressed, on the eve
of his premature death-in words charged, it may be overcharged, with
emotion--at once his penitence and his hope for a nobler life for
the mass of his fellow-countrymen. "We--the middle classes, I mean,
not merely the very rich--we have neglected you; instead of justice
we have offered you charity, and instead of sympathy we have offered
you hard and unreal advice; but I think we are changing. If you
would only believe it and trust us, I think that many of us would
spend our lives in your service. You have--I say it clearly and
advisedly--you have to forgive us, for we have wronged you; we have
sinned against you grievously--not knowingly always, but still we
have sinned, and let us confess it; but if you will forgive us--nay,
whether you will forgive us or not--we will serve you, we will
devote our lives to your service, and we cannot do more. It is not
that we care about public life, for what is public life but the
miserable, arid waste of barren controversies and personal
jealousies, and grievous loss of time? Who would live in public
life if he could help it? But we students, we would help you if we
could. We are willing to give up something much dearer than fame and
social position. We are willing to give up the life we care for, the
life with books and with those we love. We will do this, and only
ask you to remember one thing in return. We will ask you to remember
this--that we work for you, in the hope and trust that if you get
material civilisation, if you get a better life, if you have opened
up to you the possibility of a better life, you will really lead a
better life. If, that is, you get material civilisation, remember
that it is not an end in itself. Remember that man, like trees and
plants, has his roots in the earth; but like the trees and plants,
he must grow upwards towards the heavens. If you will only keep to
the love of your fellow-men and to great ideals, then we shall find
our happiness in helping you; but if you do not, then our reparation
will be in vain."48

Now what infuriated the philosophic individualist, what upset the
equanimity of Tory squire, Whig capitalist and Conservative
professional man, was not the vicarious conscience of a pious peer
or philanthropic employer, it was not the abstract or historical
analysis of the industrial revolution by heterodox thinkers and
rhetorical authors, still less the seemingly hysterical outpourings
of university dons and sentimental divines; it was the grim fact
that each successive administration, whether Whig or Tory, indeed
every new session of Parliament, led to further State regulation of
private enterprise, to fresh developments of central and municipal
administration, and, worst of all, to the steadily increasing
taxation of the rich for the benefit of the poor. The reaction
against the theory and practice of empirical Socialism came to a
head under Mr. Gladstone's administration of 1880-1885, an
administration which may be fitly termed the "no man's land" between
the old Radicalism and the new Socialism. For this ministry of all
the talents wandered in and out of the trenches of the old
individualists and the scouting parties of the new Socialists with
an "absence of mind" concerning social and economic questions that
became, in the following decades, the characteristic feature of
Liberal statesmanship. Hence it was neither in Parliament nor in the
Cabinet that the battle of the empirical Socialists with the
philosophic Radicals was fought and won. Though the slow but
continuous retreat of the individualist forces was signalised by
annual increments of Socialistic legislation and administration, the
controversy was carried out in periodicals, pamphlets, books, and in
the evidence and reports of Royal Commissions and Government
committees of enquiry.

Foremost at that time among the literary defenders of the existing
order--shall I say the passing order?--was my old friend Herbert
Spencer, in the early 'eighties at the zenith of his world-fame as
England's greatest philosopher. Under challenging titles--The Sins
of Legislators, The New Toryism, The Coming Slavery, and The Great
Political Superstition--he contributed a series of articles in the
Contemporary Review of 1884, published a few months later in Man
versus The State, in which he ingeniously combined a destructive
analysis of current legislation and a deductive demonstration of the
validity of individualist economics and ethics, with a slashing
attack on the Liberal party for having forsworn its faith in
personal freedom. The gist of his indictment can best be given in
his own words: "Dictatorial measures, rapidly multiplied, have
tended continually to narrow the liberties of individuals; and have
done this in a double way. Regulations have been made in yearly
growing numbers, restraining the citizen in directions where his
actions were previously unchecked, and compelling actions which
previously he might perform or not as he liked; and at the same time
heavier public burdens, chiefly local, have further restricted his
freedom, by lessening that portion of his earnings which he can
spend as he pleases, and augmenting the portion taken from him to be
spent as public agents please. . . . Thus, either directly or
indirectly, and in most cases both at once, the citizen is at each
further stage in the growth of this compulsory legislation, deprived
of some liberty which he previously had.49 . . . How is it," asks
the indignant philosopher, "that Liberalism, getting more and more
into power, had grown more and more coercive in its legislation? How
is it that, either directly ^through its own majorities or
indirectly through aid given in such cases to the majorities of its
opponents, Liberalism has to an increasing extent adopted the policy
of dictating the actions of citizens, and, by consequence
diminishing the range throughout which their actions remain free?
How are we to explain this spreading confusion of thought which has
led it, in pursuit of what appears to be public good, to invert the
method by which in earlier days it achieved public good?" Then he
defines the distinctive policies of Whig and Tory parties throughout
the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: "If we compare these
descriptions, we see that in the one party there was a desire to
resist and decrease the coercive power of the ruler over the
subject, and in the other party to maintain or increase his coercive
power. This distinction in their aims--a distinction which
transcends in meaning and importance all other political distinctions
--was displayed in their early doings." And this degeneration of
Liberalism the philosopher attributes to a mistaken belief in the
validity of democratic institutions. "The great political
superstition of the past was the divine right of kings. The great
political superstition of the present is the divine right of
parliaments. The oil of anointing seems unawares to have dripped
from the head of the one on to the heads of the many, and given
sacredness to them also and to their decrees." ... "The function of
Liberalism in the past was that of putting a limit to the powers of
kings. The function of true Liberalism in the future will be that of
putting a limit to the powers of parliaments."50

Alas! poor Liberals! The outraged survivors of philosophic
Radicalism were far more eager to drive the Gladstonians back into
the rear-trenches of what was assumed to be orthodox political
economy than to stop the advancing scouts of the tiny sect of
Socialists. Indeed, these rival fanatics became the pets of
Conservative drawing-rooms and the sought-for opponents on
individualist platforms. "Anyway, I declare that I positively look
forward with pleasure to the day when Lewin's Socialists will
increase in numbers and power," says the cynical mugwump M.P. in
Auberon Herbert's brilliant symposium, A Politician in Trouble about
his Soul. "It will be refreshing to escape, even by their help, from
this atmosphere of perfumed lying. The real Socialists--I don't mean
any of the half-breeds, the Tory democrats, or the Gladstonites, or
the Christian sans-culottes, or whatever they call themselves--have
convictions, even if they are of the 'blood and iron' kind. I should
feel it a true pleasure to be shot by a genuine Socialist--or to
shoot him, as the matter might turn out--if only in return we might
be quit of the modern politician, who smirks and bows like the
draper's assistant, while he cheats us out of an inch in every yard.
Only, may it please the Lord to shorten the time and deliver us from
this universal sloppiness! If 'justice as our guide,' generosity,
and 'gracious messages' may be consigned once for all to the
rhetorical dust-hole, I shall breathe freely again, and feel
grateful to the men who say in a straightforward dialect, 'You are
the few, we are the many; we have the force, and we intend to have
the enjoyment. Do you keep, if you can; and we will take, if we

And here I venture on an interlude--an entry in my diary (an
irrelevance, corrects The Other One) descriptive of Auberon
Herbert52 at home in the New Forest.

Across the forest and the moor we rode on that February day; the man
and the elder girl and I to the home in the wilds. . . . From the
forest glade the ground slopes gently to a boggy boundary separating
the meadow from a vast expanse of moor. Round about reigns solitude.
The rough forest pony, the picturesque Channel Isle cattle, and the
wild deer, roam with equal freedom on the common land; but the
wooden fence bars them from the sacred precincts of a forest
freehold. On the highest part of this ground stands a little colony
of queer red-painted buildings; two large cottages and various small
outhouses, huddled together indistinct from one another and free
from any architectural plan. No attempt at a drive or even a path,
not even a gate. To enter the enclosure the visitor must needs dip
under a wooden paling. But once inside the larger cottage, there is
comfort, even taste. The floors are bare and clean scoured; here and
there warm-coloured rugs thrown across, while the monotony of the
wooden wall is broken by draped Eastern hangings. In the dining-room
the old forest hearth, bringing with it commoners' rights, stands
intact: the only part of the "Old House," still the name of the
colony, left unchanged; it forms a half circle, the chimney arising
straight from the stone hearth whereon a mass of peat and wood burns
brightly. Another sitting-room, a guest-chamber, the kitchen and
pantry on either side of the entrance, complete the rooms on the
ground floor. Above, three bedrooms and the family sitting-room
--this latter gable shape, with a ladder leading on to the roof.
There is comfort, even elegance, though a lack of finish, and a
certain roughness which has its own charm. Refined eccentricity, not
poverty, lives here. The outhouses clustering round the larger
cottages are still unfinished. Five ponies of all sorts and
conditions, safely termed "screws," stand in the stalls, and a
shaggy Shetland wanders in the meadow. I think there are cows, but
these are out in the forest during the day. Happily, no cocks and
hens to break the silence. A mangy dog, a time-worn retriever, and
three or four lively, well-fed cats compose the rest of the live
stock. In the smaller cottage live three maidservants; two men,
formerly "Shakers," serve in all capacities, for ponies, cows,
drawing of water, hewing of wood, and as messengers to the civilised

Auberon Herbert, head of this little home, is a tall stooping man;
he is already grey though only fifty years of age; and the look of
failing physical strength is stamped on face and figure. His
bearing, manner, voice--all tell the courtesy and sensitiveness of
good breeding; his expression is that of an intellectual dreamer,
tempered by the love of his fellow-creatures, whether human or
otherwise; and in the truthful sympathy of his grey eyes and in the
lines of his face you read past suffering and present resignation.
The younger son of a great English peer, he was brought up to the
amusements and occupations of his own class: public school,
university, army, sport and racing, and, lastly, politics, followed
in quick succession, with the always-present background of big
country houses and sparkling London drawing-rooms. But his choice
was not there. He married a woman of his own caste and, strangely
enough, sharing his own tastes, and these two refused to move in the
grooves of aristocratic custom. They settled down in a country farm
and carved life out according to their own conscience. Strange
stories floated up to London Society of their doings: Shaker
settlements, gipsy vans, spirit-rapping and medium-hunting; and,
worst of all, eating with their own servants! Now and again the
literary world was charmed by brilliant articles in the Fortnightly
or letters in the Times, and the political set was flustered and
amused by the outspoken and well-worded dialogue, A Politician in
Trouble about his Soul; which actually seemed written for the
purpose of disproving the usefulness of the politician! But
generally Auberon Herbert was looked upon as an enthusiast, a Don
Quixote of the nineteenth century, who had left the real battle of
life to fight a strange ogre of his own imagination--an always
immoral State interference: a creature, the uncouthness of whose
name was a sufficient guarantee for its non-existence.

Now the loved companion is dead. Two little girls, one thirteen and
the other seven, a boy away at a grammar school, are the beloved of
the solitary man. Both the girls are dressed in grey smocks, worsted
stockings, and thick clump boots. The elder is largely and loosely
made, with a warm complexion, dark eyes, and constantly changing
expression; sometimes awkward plainness, at other times bright
beauty; at all times a simplicity and directness and ready sympathy,
attracting love. The younger is a quick, grey-eyed, phlegmatic-tempered
child, with compressed mouth and decided little ways; a toss of the
head and a sparkle of the eye speaking decision and purpose of
character. A young Oxford man, pleasant, fairly intelligent, but in
no way out-of-the-common, lives in the house as tutor. Here in the
midst of great natural beauty, far away from all human intercourse,
these three lives slip slowly onward; the man towards old age and
death, the girls towards the joys and the troubles, the risks and
burdens of mature womanhood. . . .

After our long ride, fourteen miles round about from the station, we
were tired. Lunch over, we sank into comfortable chairs round the
blaze of peat and wood fire, sipped coffee, and smoked cigarettes.
Religiously minded individualism disputing with scientific
fact-finding; discordant tendencies, it is true, but mutually
tolerant. "A woman without a soul," said Auberon Herbert playfully,
"looking upon struggling society as a young surgeon looks on a case
as another subject for diagnosis. Cannot you see it is moral law
that should guide our action; and that the only moral axiom in
social life is free action for every man's faculties?"  [MS. diary,
February 8, 1888.]

Another two days with Auberon Herbert in the New Forest [I write
nine months later]. Long talks with him riding through the tangled
forest groves or by the peat fire in his small attic sanctum, these
latter lasting far into the night. The same gentle natured well-bred
man, but new lights on his character bringing out weaker qualities.
"All through my life I have forme sudden fancies, I have been
wrapped up in a man or woman and then discovered some imperfection
and turned from them. I am perpetually seeking the ideal and as
perpetually being disappointed. Like all idealists I am a little

There is a touch of egotism in his eccentric life; unwillingness to
bear the burdens of everyday existence. And his career proves the
impossibility of influencing men without constant contact; even to
me (a woman!) his proposals seem manifestly absurd in inadequacy of
means to ends. All the same, he has an attractive and highly
original personality, touching heights of moral beauty but showing
sometimes a ground-work of selfdeceiving egotism. There is a want of
masculine qualities, of healthy sturdiness. It is only the
transparent honesty of his nature and the absence of "earthiness"
that prevent this weakness from leading to morbid and untrue feeling.

I enjoyed the rides and scenery, and the constant companionship with
a refined and highly intellectual man, and his idealism is refreshing
--I wish to believe it is true. [MS. diary, December 14, 1888.]

So far as I was concerned, the net effect of this dialectical duel
between the philosophic Radical and the Socialist or socialistically
minded politician is best described in a letter which I drafted to a
London acquaintance--a letter which apparently I lacked the courage
to send, as it remains unfinished, undated and unsigned in the MS.
diary of July 1884. To-day, forty years afterwards, this presumptuous
and, I fear, priggish pronouncement has incidentally the merit of
demonstrating the anti-democratic and anticollectivist bias with
which I started out to investigate the working of social

I send you Man versus The State. I feel very penitent for talking to
you on social subjects, which I do not, and never hope to,
understand. Nevertheless, it is very distressing to be reduced to a
state of absolute agnosticism on all questions, divine and human;
and that state appears to me nowadays the fate of the ordinary
mortal born with an intellectual tendency.

Social questions would seem to me to require for their solution
greater intellectual power and more freedom from bias than the
problems of other sciences--d I do not quite understand the
democratic theory that by multiplying ignorant opinions indefinitely
you produce wisdom! I know the democrat would answer: "The political
instincts of the masses are truer than the political theories of the
wise men." But if we approach this great idol "the majority" and
examine the minds of those individuals of it who are within our
reach, we find them roughly divided into three classes: those who
are indifferent--whose nervous energy is absorbed in the struggle
for existence and well-being; those who accept political opinions as
a party faith without really understanding the words they use: and
lastly, that more promising material, politically considered, that
large section of the working classes who are passionately
discontented with things as they are and desirous to obtain what
they would consider a fairer share of the good things of this
world. But we all agree that there are laws governing distribution,
though we may differ as to their nature.

Are these discontented men, anxious for immediate relief, likely to
arrive at the truth about these laws? Would desperate anxiety to
relieve pain teach the patient or his friend the medicine likely to
affect it--if they had no knowledge of medicine?

Certainly, if one judges the political intelligence of the masses by
the speeches addressed to it by party speakers, especially the
speeches of those most successful in pleasing it--one cannot
estimate it very highly.

What body of scientific men, or even of ordinary shrewd business
men, spoken to on the subject that interested them most, whether
intellectually or materially, would tolerate that extraordinary
mixture of personalities, dogmatic assertions as to fact and
principle, metaphysical theories, grand and vague moral sentiments,
appeals to personal devotion^on the one hand, and self-interest on
the other, this extraordinary medley of sentiment, passion, and
expediency which makes up the argument of the politician?

And then if one turns from the practical man to the theorist I do
not know that one finds much rest there. Herbert Spencer seems to me
to be guilty of what Comte defines as materialism: he applies the
laws of a lower to the subject-matter of a higher science--his
social theories are biological laws illustrated by social facts. He
bases sociological laws on the analogy of the organism; and this
analogy, in so far as it deals with the identity of the functions of
the "being" called society with the function of the "being" called
the individual, seems to me unproved hypothesis.

One might as well attempt to describe the nature of organic life by
the laws which govern inorganic existence.

Then this analogy of the organism cuts both ways. Herbert Spencer
maintains that because society is a natural growth it should not be
interfered with. But it is quite possible to argue that the
government is a "naturally differentiated organ" (as he would
express it) developed by the organism to gratify its own sensations.
This might lead straight to a state socialism--gically it leads to pure
necessarianism, since whatever happens is natural, even the
death of the organism.

So I think, if I were a man, and had an intellect, I would leave
political action and political theorising to those with faith and
examine and try to describe correctly and proportionately what
actually happened in the different strata of society; more
especially the spontaneous growth of organisation--try and
discover the laws governing its birth, life and death.

I do not believe we can deduce social laws from the laws of another
science; nor do I believe that there is an intuitive perception of
them in the majority of men's minds--believe they will only be
discovered by great minds working on carefully prepared data, and
for the most part I think these data have yet to be collected and

In the meantime, as a citizen looking to the material and spiritual
welfare of my descendants, I object to these gigantic experiments,
state-education and state-intervention in other matters, which are
now being inaugurated and which savour of inadequately thought-out
theories--the most dangerous of all social poisons. Neither do they
seem to me to be the result of the spontaneously expressed desires
of the people; but rather the crude prescriptions of social quacks
seeking to relieve vague feelings of pain and discomfort experienced
by the masses. [MS. diary, July 1884.]

Less self-conscious and elaborately composed is an entry in my diary
three months later, after a discussion with my brother-in-law, C. A.
Cripps. I add it here because it reveals the deep-lying controversy,
between the Ego that affirms and the Ego that denies, upon the
issue, which was continuously present in my mind: Can we have a
science of society, and if so, will its conclusions be accepted as a
guiding light in public policy?

Stayed with the Alfred Cripps: Theresa fascinating as ever, slightly
depressed with poor health, but sweetly happy in her marriage.
Alfred keeps up his success at the Bar. Bought the family place and
taken to farming in these bad times, as a recreation! Evidently will
not go into politics, except as "a scholar and a gentleman." He is
not a leader of men; his opinions do not represent the desires of
the masses; they are the result of an attempt to deduce laws of
government from certain first principles of morality. His theory as
to the present state of political life is that the tendency is to
ignore principle and follow instinct; that this is based on the
fallacious belief that what the people wish is right. He believes in
principle, and in the possibility of reducing politics to a science.
Many cultivated men think, with him, that political action should be
governed by principle. But there is no body of doctrine upon which
they can agree. Hence they cannot organise themselves into a party
for working purposes. A reaction has set in against the doctrine of
the philosophical Radicals; [a doctrine] insisted upon with so much
dogmatism. . . . [This doctrine] seems to me to be a queer mixture
of metaphysical principles, such as the equal rights of men, etc.,
and of laws such as those of political economy; laws true, no doubt,
of the facts from which they were deduced, but recklessly applied to
cover facts with which they have no proper relationship or
connections. . . .

When one comes to ponder on this situation one feels how hopelessly
incapable one really is of forming political opinions. The most one
can do is to attempt to see truly what is actually happening,
without attempting to foretell what will, from that, result. And
even this more modest effort is immensely difficult for the observer
of moderate power and with moderate opportunities. Possibly within
that great organism, society, there may be changes now taking place,
unregistered by any outward action in political life; growth or
decomposition outside the activity of the political organ. And these
changes, whether for good or for evil, can only be discovered by the
most patient observation, by men of highly sensitive feeling and
well-trained intellect, and furnished with a comprehensive knowledge
of social facts, past and present. Great genius will be required in
social science. [MS. diary, November 6, 1884.]


The world of politics in the 'seventies and 'eighties was intimately
associated with the world of philanthropy.53 The social reformers in
Parliament, whether Conservatives or Liberals, belonged, almost
invariably, to the groups of public-spirited and benevolent men and
women within the metropolis or in the provincial towns who were
initiating and directing the perpetual flow of charitable gifts from
the nation of the rich to the nation of the poor. Now, it was
exactly in these decades that there arose, among the more
enlightened philanthropists, a reactionary movement--a movement more
potent in deterrence than the arguments of ratiocinating philosophers
or the protests of cross-bench politicians, because it was based on
the study of facts, and took the form of an alternative scheme for
grappling, then and there, with the problem of poverty. And here I
bring on the stage my friends the enemy--the Charity Organisation
Society--one of the most typical of mid-Victorian social offsprings.
In after years, when the latter-day leaders of charity organisation
and I had become respectively propagandists of rival political and
economic theories, we fought each other's views to the death. But in
these years of my apprenticeship (1883-1887) the C.O.S. appeared to
me as an honest though short-circuited attempt to apply the
scientific method of observation and experiment, reasoning and
verification, to the task of delivering the poor from their miseries
by the personal service and pecuniary assistance tendered by their
leisured and wealthy fellow-citizens. The leading spirits of the
Charity Organisation Society, when I first came across it in the
spring of 1883, had been, in 1869, its principal founders--tavia
Hill,54 Samuel Barnett, W. H. Fremantle,55 and a younger man who had
recently become its secretary and was to become its chief protagonist
--C. S. Loch.56 These initiators of charity organisation were all of
them distinguished for moral fervour and intellectual integrity. The
immediate purpose of the Society was to organise all forms of
charitable assistance so as to prevent overlapping and competition
between the innumerable and heterogeneous agencies. And from the
standpoint of the mid-Victorian time-spirit there was no gainsaying
the worth of the three principles upon which this much-praised and
much-abused organisation was avowedly based: patient and persistent
personal service on the part of the well-to-do; an acceptance of
personal responsibility for the ulterior consequences, alike to the
individual recipient and to others who might be indirectly affected,
of charitable assistance; and finally, as the only way of carrying
out this service and fulfilling this responsibility, the application
of the scientific method to each separate case of a damaged body or
a lost soul; so that the assistance given should be based on a
correct forecast of what would actually happen, as a result of the
gift, to the character and circumstances of the individual recipient
and to the destitute class to which he belonged. In the life of her
husband Mrs. Barnett gives a graphic description of the state of
mind of Octavia Hill and Samuel Barnett in the early days of charity
organisation. "Counting that the only method of improving social
conditions was by raising individuals, she [Octavia Hill] held that
it was impertinent to the poor and injurious to their characters to
offer them doles. They should be lifted out of pauperism by being
expected to be selfdependent, and, in evidence of respect, be
offered work instead of doles, even if work has to be created
artificially."57 "One old gentleman I remember who sat at the end of
the table, and therefore next to the applicants," reports to Mrs.
Barnett a member of one of the first C.O.S. committees, "slipped a
sixpence under the corner of it into a poor woman's hand, as Miss
Hill was pointing out to her the reasons why we could not give her
money, and offering her the soundest advice. The old gentleman was
afterwards called to account by your husband and melted into tears
for his own delinquency!"58

Now this trivial incident illustrates better than any general
explanation the subversive character of the movement, alike in
thought and feeling, initiated by the founders of the Charity
Organisation Society. To the unsophisticated Christian, even of the
nineteenth century, almsgiving was essentially a religious exercise,
a manifestation of his love of God, of his obedience to the commands
of his Lord and Saviour. "Give unto every one that asketh thee,"
"Sell all that thou hast and give unto the poor," were perhaps
counsels of perfection impracticable for the householder with family
responsibilities, and fit only for the saint whose entire life was
dedicated to the service of God. Yet this universal and unquestioning
yielding up of personal possessions for common consumption was
thought to be the ideal conduct; the precious fruit of divine
compassion. The spirit of unquestioning, of unrestricted--in short,
of infinite--charity was, to the orthodox Christian, not a process
by which a given end could be attained, but an end in itself--state
of mind--one of the main channels through which the individual
entered into communion with the supreme spirit of love at work in
the universe.59

How opposite was the state of mind and consequent conduct of the
enlightened philanthropists of mid-Victorian times! To the pioneer
of the new philanthropy, "to give unto every one who asketh thee"
was a mean and cruel form of self-indulgence. "These petty and
oft-repeated, while heedless, liberalities, by which many a
sentimentalist scatters poison on every side," had been the
contemptuous dismissal of almsgiving from the category of virtues by
the great Scot--bert Chalmers--e pioneer of charity reform in the first
half of the nineteenth century. "What educationalists have to
do," thunders an early exponent of the new doctrine, "is to instruct
(if they can be taught) the large dole-giving community, and to get
them punished, as did our ancestors some centuries ago; but, above
all, to purge the nation of the hypocrisy which sends the mendicant
to prison, while for the great parent central vice of dolegiving it
has only mild reproofs, or even gentle commendation. If you will
bring about the due punishment of this low vice; if you will somehow
contrive to handcuff the indiscriminate almsgiver, I will promise
you, for reasons which I could assign, these inevitable
consequences: no destitution, little poverty, lessened poor-rates,
prisons emptier, fewer gin-shops, less crowded madhouses, sure signs
of under-population, and an England worth living in."60 Or take a
saner statement by Samuel Barnett in 1874: "Indiscriminate charity
is among the curses of London. To put the result of our observation
in the strongest form, I would say that' the poor starve because of
the alms they receive.' The people of this parish live in rooms the
state of which is a disgrace to us as a nation. Living such a life,
they are constantly brought into contact with soft-hearted people.
Alms are given them--a shilling by one, a sixpence by another, a
dinner here and some clothing there; the gift is not sufficient if
they are really struggling, the care is not sufficient if they are
thriftless or wicked. The effect of this charity is that a state of
things to make one's heart bleed is perpetuated. The people never
learn to work or to save; out-relief from 'the House,' or the dole
of the charitable, has stood in the way of providence, which God
their Father would have taught them."61

The belief--it may almost be called an obsession--that the mass-misery
of great cities arose mainly, if not entirely, from spasmodic,
indiscriminate and unconditional doles, whether in the form of alms
or in that of Poor Law relief, was, in the 'sixties and 'seventies,
the common opinion of such enlightened members of the governing
class as were interested in the problem of poverty. Their hypothesis
seemed to be borne out alike by personal observation, the teaching
of history and deductions of the Political Economists. There was the
patent fact, crystal clear to intelligent workers among the poor,
that casually and arbitrarily administered doles undermined, in the
average sensual man, the desire to work; cultivated, in recipients
and would-be recipients, deceitfulness, servility and greed; and,
worst of all, attracted to the dole-giving district the unemployed,
under-employed and unemployable from the adjacent country. Thus were
formed, in the slums of great cities, stagnant pools of deteriorated
men and women, incapable of steady work, demoralising their children
and all new-comers and perpetually dragging down each other into
ever lower depths of mendicancy, sickness and vice. Nor was
historical proof lacking. How often were we told of the success of
the reform of the Poor Law in 1834, when the summary stoppage of
Outdoor Relief to the able-bodied and their families resulted in a
quick transformation of an idle and rebellious people into the
industrious and docile population of the countryside, ready to
accept the ministrations of the clergy and the steady employment at
low wages tendered by the farmer and the squire! To the abstract
economist of the period, the giving of alms or Poor Law relief
seemed, indeed, to have the double evil of not merely discouraging
the poor from working, but also of actually injuring the more
industrious by lessening the amount of the wage-fund distributed
among them in return for their labour. When we realise that behind
all this array of inductive and deductive proof of the disastrous
effect on the wage-earning class of any kind of subvention, there
lay the subconscious bias of "the Haves" against taxing themselves
for "the Have Nots," it is not surprising that the demonstration
carried all before it; and the tenets of the originators of the idea
of charity organisation found ready acceptance among the enlightened
members of the propertied class.

The argument pointed, indeed, not to any organisation of philanthropy,
but to its abandonment as a harmful futility. And yet these devoted
men and women, unlike the mass of property owners, were yearning to
spend their lives in the service of the poor. What was clear to them
was that the first requisite was the thorough investigation of each
case, in order to save themselves from being taken in by the
plausible tales of those who hastened to prey upon their credulity.
But when the circumstances had been investigated, and genuine need
had been established, what line was the enlightened "friend of the
poor" to pursue? The first idea was to eliminate those whose evil
state could be plausibly ascribed to their own culpable negligence
or misconduct. All enlightened philanthropy was to be concentrated
on "the deserving," the others being left to a penal Poor Law. Any
such line of demarcation was, however, soon found impracticable. It
was only in a small proportion of extreme cases, on one side or the
other, that any confident judgement could be pronounced as to
whether the past life of an unfortunate family had or had not been
marked, not only by freedom from patent vice or crime, but by such a
degree of consistent sobriety, industry, integrity and thrift as
warranted its classification among the deserving. Moreover, any such
classification by merit was found to have no relation to the
necessary classification according to needs. The most deserving
cases often proved to be those whom it was plainly impossible to
help effectively either by money or by the philanthropic jobbery
that got its favourites into situations. Most numerous were the
cases of chronic sickness, or those needing prolonged and expensive
medical treatment. Others, again, were hopeless without a complete
change of environment. There were innumerable other varieties ruled
out, in practice, because any adequate dealing with them involved an
expense altogether beyond the means available. Eventually the
Charity Organisation Society was driven to drop the criterion of
desert; "the test is not whether the applicant be deserving but
whether he is helpable," we were told.62 No relief was to be given
that was not "adequate," that is to say, such as could be hoped, in
due time, to render the person or family self-supporting. No relief
was to be given where the person was either so bad in point of
character, or so chronic in need, as to be incapable of permanent
restoration to the ranks of the self-supporting. All "hopeless" cases
--that is, persons whom there was no hopeful prospect of rendering
permanently self-supporting--(perhaps "because no suitable charity
exists")--were, however blameless and morally deserving had been
their lives, to be handed over to the semi-penal Poor Law. We may
admit that some such principles as these were, in practice, almost
forced upon any systematic private philanthropists. But it is
difficult to see how they could be made consistent with the duty,
persistently inculcated, of personal friendship with the poor. The
intruder in the poor man's hovel, mixing rigorous questioning as to
the conduct and income of every member of the family with
expressions of friendly sympathy, was supposed finally to decide in
innumerable instances that the case, though thoroughly deserving,
was so desperately necessitous as to be incapable of adequate help,
and so hopeless of permanent restoration that no aid whatsoever
could possibly be given. The one door opened by these "friends of
the poor" to all those they were unable to help privately,
deserving as well as undeserving, was that of the workhouse, with
its penal discipline "according to the principles of 1834." Thus,
well-to-do men and women of goodwill who had gone out to offer
personal service and friendship to the dwellers in the slums, found
themselves transformed into a body of amateur detectives, in some
cases initiating prosecutions of persons they thought to be
impostors, and arousing more suspicion and hatred than the
recognised officers of the law. The pioneers of organised charity
had made unwittingly an ominous discovery. By rudely tearing off the
wrappings of mediaeval almsgiving disguising the skeleton at the
feast of capitalist civilisation, they had let loose the tragic
truth that, wherever society is divided into a minority of "Haves"
and a multitude of "Have Nots," charity is twice cursed, it curseth
him that gives and him that takes. Under such circumstances, to
quote the phrase of Louise Michel, "philanthropy is a lie." For
human relationships, whether between individuals, groups or races,
do not thrive in an emotional vacuum; if you tune out fellow-feeling
and the common consciousness of a social equity, you tune in
insolence, envy and "the wrath that is to come."

The theory and practice of the Charity Organisation Society, in
spite of its vogue among those who counted themselves enlightened,
found small acceptance among the Christian Churches, any more than
among the impulsive givers of alms. Thus the C.O.S. found itself
baulked in its purpose of organising the multifarious charities of
the Metropolis; neither the Churches nor the hospitals, neither the
orphanages nor the agencies for providing the destitute with food,
clothing or shelter, would have anything to do with a society which
sought to impose methods that appeared the very negation of
Christian charity. Instead of serving as a co-ordinating body to all
the other charities, in order to prevent their harmful overlapping
and wasteful competition, the C.O.S. became itself the most
exclusive of sects, making a merit of disapproving and denouncing
much of the practice of other charitable agencies (for instance, the
social activities of the Salvation Army); and at the same time
failing to obtain anything like the army of personal "friends of
the poor," or anything approaching the great amount of money, that
would have enabled it to cope, on its own principles, with the vast
ocean of poverty that had somehow to be dealt with. The C.O.S. went
yet one step further. It had become apparent, even in early
Victorian times, that the greater part of the work of preventing
destitution, as distinguished from relieving it after it had
occurred, necessarily transcended individual capacity, and must be
undertaken, if at all, by a public authority, with compulsory powers
of dealing with private property, and at the expense of public
funds. The great Scottish forerunner of charity organisation, Thomas
Chalmers, whilst strongly objecting both to almsgiving and to the
outdoor relief of the Poor Law authorities, had equally strenuously
supported the public provision, even, if need be, gratuitously, of
universal schooling for the children and of universal medical and
surgical treatment, both institutional and domiciliary, for the sick
and infirm of all kinds; and most remarkable of all, a universal
provision, preferably by private philanthropy, of honourable
pensions and almshouses for all the aged who found themselves in
need of such aid. In London, Edwin Chadwick, who had so large a
share in the great Poor Law Report of 1834, was in these years still
able to describe how he had been at first convinced that it was the
indiscriminate, inadequate and unconditional outdoor relief of the
old Poor Law that was the cause of the great mass of destitution. A
very few years of actual administration of the Act of 1834 had,
however, taught him that the mere arrest of demoralising dole-giving,
admirable as it was, left untouched the fundamental causes of
destitution, especially among the most deserving. Within a decade
Edwin Chadwick had become as infatuated an advocate of positive
municipal action in the provision of drainage, paving, water supply,
open spaces, improved dwellings, hospitals and what not, as he had
ever been of the stoppage of outdoor relief and charitable doles.
But the C.O.S. had apparently forgotten the experience of these
forerunners. Its leading members added to their sectarian creed as
to the necessary restrictions of the impulse of charity, an equally
determined resistance to any extension of State or municipal action,
whether in the way of the physical care of children at school,
housing accommodation, medical attendance or old-age pensions,
however plausibly it might be argued, in the spirit of Chalmers and
Chadwick, that only by such collective action could there be any
effective prevention of the perennial recruiting of the army of
destitutes. Hence Octavia Hill, C. S. Loch and their immediate
followers concentrated their activities on schooling the poor in
industry, honesty, thrift and filial piety; whilst advocating, in
occasional asides, or by parenthetical phrases, the moralisation of
the existing governing class, and its spontaneous conversion to a
benevolent use of its necessarily dominant wealth and power.

The common basis underlying the principle of restricting private
charity to exceptional cases, and the analogous but not necessarily
related principle of governmental laisserfaire, is easily
discovered. However well aware these estimable leaders of the C.O.S.
may have been of personal shortcomings, they, unlike many of their
contemporaries, had not the faintest glimmer of what I have called
"the consciousness of collective sin."63 In their opinion, modern
capitalism was the best of all possible ways of organising
industries and services; and if only meddlesome persons would
refrain from interfering with its operations, the maximum social
welfare as well as the maximum national wealth would be secured for
the whole community. Barring accident to life and health, which
happens to both rich and poor, any family could, they assumed,
maintain its "independence" from the cradle to the grave, if only
its members were reasonably industrious, thrifty, honest, sober and
dutiful. Thus any attempt by private or public expenditure to alter
"artificially" the economic environment of the manual-working class
so as to lessen the severity of the "natural" struggle for
existence must, they imagined, inevitably undermine these essential
elements of personal character, and would, in the vast majority of
cases, make the state of affairs worse than before, if not for the
individual^ at any rate for the class and the race. Thus, in the
world of philanthropy as in the world of politics, as I knew it in
the 'eighties, there seemed to be one predominant question: Were
we, or were we not, to assume the continuance of the capitalist
system as it then existed; and if not, could we, by taking thought,
mend or end it?

The break-away of Samuel and Henrietta Barnett in 1886 from the
narrow and continuously hardening dogma of the Charity Organisation
Society sent a thrill through the philanthropic world of London. The
denunciation of indiscriminate charity in 1874 (quoted above) was
not recanted. But during the intervening twelve years' residence in
the very midst of the worst misery of the East End of London, the
Barnetts had followed in the footsteps of Robert Chalmers and Edwin
Chadwick. They had discovered for themselves that there was a deeper
and more continuous evil than unrestricted and unregulated charity,
namely, unrestricted and unregulated capitalism and landlordism.
They had become aware of the employment of labour at starvation
rates; of the rack-renting of insanitary tenements; of the absence
of opportunities for education, for refined leisure and for the
enjoyment of nature, literature and art among the denizens of the
mean streets; they had come to realise that the principles of
personal service and personal responsibility for ulterior
consequences, together with the application of the scientific
method, ought to be extended, from the comparatively trivial
activity of almsgiving to the behaviour of the employer, the
landlord and the consumer of wealth without work. Their eyes had
been opened, in fact, to all the sins of commission and omission,
whether voluntary or involuntary, committed by the relatively small
minority of the nation who, by means of their status or possessions,
exercised economic power over the masses of their fellow-countrymen.
Thus without becoming Socialists, in either the academic or the
revolutionary meaning of the term, they initiated or furthered a
long series of socialistic measures, all involving increased public
expenditure and public administration, of which Samuel Barnett's
advocacy in 1883 of universal State-provided old-age pensions may be
taken as a type--an advocacy which, be it added, eventually
converted Charles Booth, and led to his remarkable demonstration of
the expedience and practicability of pensions to the aged poor. But
what appealed most insistently to the rector of St. Jude's was not
the provision of the necessaries of life, but the provision of the
pleasures of life. "I do not want many alterations in the law,"
modestly explained Samuel Barnett to an interviewer in 1892, "but I
should like the best things made free. We want many more baths and
wash-houses, especially swimming baths; and they should be free and
open in every district. Books and pictures should be freely shown,
so that every man may have a public library or a picture gallery as
his drawing-room, where he can enjoy what is good with his boys and
girls. We want more open spaces, so that every man, woman and child
might sit in the open air and see the sky and the sunset. . . . We
want free provision of the best forms of pleasure. Denmark provides
travelling scholarships, and our school authorities are taking steps
in that direction. . . . Poverty cannot pay for the pleasure which
satisfies, and yet, without that pleasure, the people perish."64

How can I make my readers see, as they are engraved in memory, the
figures of Samuel and Henrietta Barnett, and the impression they
made on the philanthropic workers and social investigators of the
London of the 'eighties?

First the Rector of St. Jude's and founder of Toynbee Hall. A
diminutive body clothed in shabby and badly assorted garments, big
knobby and prematurely bald head, small black eyes set close
together, sallow complexion and, a thin and patchy pretence of a
beard, Barnett, at first sight, was not pleasing to contemplate!
Yet, with growing intimacy, you found yourself continuously looking
at him, watching the swift changes in expression, detached but keen
observation of the persons present, followed by a warmly
appreciative smile at something said; the far-away, wondering look
of a questioning mind, passing suddenly and unexpectedly into
emotional enthusiasm or moral indignation, and then melting back
again into the calmness of an argumentative intelligence. And as an
always present background for these rapid transformations, an utter
absence of personal vanity, an almost exaggerated Christian
humility, arising perhaps from what the modern psychologist calls a
permanent "inferiority complex"--an attitude especially marked
towards his adored and gifted wife!

What charmed his comrades at work in the East End, and I speak from
personal experience, was Barnett's fathomless sympathy; his
"quickness at the uptake" of your moral and intellectual
perplexities; his inspiring encouragement for your strivings after
the nobler self. But this nineteenth-century saint had his
limitations, alike as an ecclesiastic and a citizen. He had no
special intellectual or artistic gifts; he was neither a scholar nor
a skilled researcher; he was not a reasoner nor a scientific
observer; he had no personal magnetism as a preacher, no fluency as
a lecturer; he had no special talent in the choice and use of words.
Meticulous lawyers found him muddle-headed when explaining schemes
of reform; fanatics discovered indispensable links absent in the
consistent working out of a creed; and hard-sensed and literal-minded
men and women felt that he was Jesuitical in the way he jumped from
standpoint to standpoint in search of common ground upon which might
be based united action in the direction he desired.65 He was, in
fact, far too intent on what he conceived to be the purpose of human
life--a noble state of mind in each individual and in the community
as a whole--to concentrate on the process by which this end could be
reached. These shortcomings were the defects of one outstanding
characteristic. Samuel Barnett journeyed through life "as if" he
was in continuous communion with an external spirit of love; and
"as if" man's purpose on earth was to make this spirit of love
supreme in society. Men and women, however vicious or stupid they
might be, were approached "as if" each one of them had an immortal
soul. "Do you believe in personal immortality?" his wife asked him.
"I can imagine life on no other basis," he replied.66 More
expressive of Barnett's mentality than any words of mine is an entry
in his diary when a very young man, which his wife tells us was
always kept in his private drawer as his idea of life. "When I
calmly think what is best in life I see it is goodness; that which I
feel to be good, which means restraint from spite, impurity, or
greed, and which manifests itself in love. Goodness is more
desirable than power. I set myself to gain goodness. I check all
emotions towards its opposite and I reach out to contemplate itself.
I try to find what that is of which I feel my impressions of
goodness to be but a shadow. There is, somewhere, perfect goodness.
I commune with ideas of goodness which is equivalent to praying to
God. Across my vision passes a figure of perfect Man. I am seized,
borne on by Jesus Christ. In communing with Him I find the greatest
help to reaching goodness. I pray to Jesus Christ and through Him
come to the Father."67 Hence his never-failing optimism about the
future; tempered, be it added, by recurring waves of depression with
regard to the actual working of human nature as he surveyed it, in
his day-by-day experience of men and affairs, from the heights of
his own scale of values.

Thus Samuel Barnett was not wholly representative of the mid-Victorian
time-spirit: he carried over some of the mysticism of what we are
apt to call "primitive Christianity"; an overwhelming faith in the
validity of the dominant impulse of the Christ and the Buddha;
beneficence towards all human beings irrespective of their

Is it an impertinence to write about one who is still with us? My
excuse is that the Barnetts were an early example of a new type of
human personality, in after years not uncommon; a double-star
personality, the light of the one being indistinguishable from that
of the other.

At nineteen years of age, pretty, witty, and well-to-do, Henrietta
Rowland married the plain and insignificant curate who was her
fellow-worker in the parish of St. Marylebone; not solely, so I
gather from her own account, because he had won her admiration and
affection, but also as a way of dedicating her life to the service
of the poor. In many of her characteristics she was the direct
antithesis of her husband, and, exactly on this account, she served
as complement to him, as he did to her. Assuredly she was not
hampered by the "inferiority complex!" A breezy selfconfidence, a naive
self-assertion--sometimes to the borderline of bad manners
--was her note towards the world at large. Lavishly admiring, loving
and loyal towards friends and comrades, her attitude towards those
whose conduct she condemned--for instance, towards the heartless rich,
the sweating employer, or the rack-renting landlord--was that they
required "spanking," and that she was prepared to carry out this
chastisement, always assuming that she thought it would lead to
their reformation! She may have been influenced by her husband's
mysticism, but her native bent was a rationalist interpretation of
the facts of life. The emotion that was the warp of her weft was not
the merging of self in a force that makes for righteousness, but the
service of man, or rather of the men and women in her near
neighbourhood. To this vocation she brought a keener and more
practical intellect than her husband; a directness of intention and
of speech which excited sometimes admiration, sometimes consternation,
in her associates; and, be it added, a sense of humour which was
"masculine" in its broadness, offensive to the fastidious and
invigorating to those who enjoyed laughter at the absurdities of
their own and other people's human nature. For all the business side
of philanthropy, for initiation, advertisement, negotiation and
execution, her gifts rose at times to veritable genius.

To this sketch I add an entry in the MS. diary illustrating the
influence of the Barnetts over their fellow-workers.

Visit of three days from the Barnetts, which has confirmed my
friendship with them. Mr. Barnett distinguished for unselfconsciousness,
humility and faith. Intellectually he is suggestive; with a sort of
moral insight almost like that of a woman. And in another respect he
is like a strong woman. He is much more anxious that human nature
should feel rightly than that they should think truly, and being is
more important with him than doing. He told me that Comte, F. D.
Maurice and history had influenced him most. But evidently the
influence had been more on his character than on his intellect; for
intellectually he has no system of thought, no consistent bias--his
thought is only the tool whereby his feeling expresses itself.

He was very sympathetic about my work and anxious to be helpful. But
he foresaw in it dangers to my character; and it was curious to
watch the minister's anxiety about the morale of his friend creep
out in all kinds of hints. He held up as a moral scarecrow the
"Oxford Don"--the man or woman without human ties--with no care for
the details of life. He told his wife that I reminded him of Octavia
Hill; and as he described Miss Hill's life as one of isolation from
superiors and from inferiors, it is clear what rocks he saw ahead. I
tried to explain to him my doctrine of nervous energy; that you are
only gifted with a certain quantity, and that if it were spent in
detail it could not be reserved for large undertakings. But as he
suggested very truly, if all the thought and time spent on
egotistical castle-building or brooding were spent on others, your
neighbourly and household duties would be well fulfilled without
encroaching on the fund reserved for your work.

Mrs. Barnett is an active-minded, true and warm-hearted woman. She
is conceited; she would be objectionably conceited if it were not
for her genuine belief in her husband's superiority--not only to the
rest of the world (which would be only another form of conceit)--but
to herself. Her constant flow of spirits, her invigorating energy,
is incalculably helpful to her husband. Her nature is saturated with
courage and with truthfulness; her sympathies are keen and her power
of admiration for others strong. Her personal aim in life is to
raise womanhood to its rightful position; as equal [to] though
unlike manhood. The crusade she has undertaken is the fight against
impurity as the main factor in debasing women from a status of
independence to one of physical dependence. The common opinion that
a woman is a nonentity unless joined to a man, she resents as a
"blasphemy." Like all crusaders, she is bigoted, and does not
recognise all the facts that tell against her faith. I told her that
the only way in which we can convince the world of our power is to
show it. And for that it will be needful for women with strong
natures to remain celibate; so that the special force of womanhood
--motherly feeling--may be forced into public work.

In religious faith Mr. Barnett is an idealistic Christian without
dogma, and Mrs. Barnett an agnostic with idealism; in social faith,
the man a Christian Socialist, the woman an individualist. The woman
is really the more masculine-minded of the two. Mr. Barnett's
personal aim is to raise the desires of men and women--to cultivate
their higher tastes: to give the poor the luxuries and not the
necessaries of life. The danger which I foresee of mental strain,
and thence melancholy, he looks upon as imaginary. And I think
myself, that in my fear of melancholy for the race, I am governed by
the bias of my own rather morbid constitution. It was not an
overstrained mind which made our Aked relations suicidal: they were
innocent of intellectual effort. And I have inherited the suicidal
constitution, and, naturally enough, I connect it with other
qualities of my nature, whereas it may be only co-existent with
these qualities.

The Barnetts' visit braced me up to further effort and stronger
resignation. But in my work of observation, I must endeavour to get
in front of my own shadow--else I shall end by disbelieving in
sunshine! [MS. diary, August 29, 1887.]

The result upon my mind of the controversy between the rigid
voluntaryism of the Charity Organisation Society, on the one hand,
and on the other, the empirical socialism of Samuel and Henrietta
Barnett, was a deepening conviction that the facts collected by
philanthropists--by small groups of heroic men and women struggling,
day in and day out, under depressing circumstances, with crowds of
destitute persons clamouring for alms--were too doubtful and
restricted to lead to any proven conclusion as to the meaning of
poverty in the midst of riches. What was the actual extent and
intensity of this destitution? Could it be explained by the
shortcomings of the destitute persons or families themselves,
whether by delinquency, drunkenness, unwillingness to work, or a
lack of practicable thrift, all forms of bad behaviour which were
likely to be aggravated by the thoughtless almsgiving of the rich?
And in the case of admittedly deserving persons, was the destitution
existing in East London confined to particular areas, or to groups
of families exceptionally affected by epidemics or by temporary
dislocations of trade? Or were we confronted, as the Socialists were
perpetually reiterating, with a mass of fellowcitizens, constituting
a large proportion of the inhabitants of Great Britain, and made up
of men and women of all degrees of sobriety, honesty and capacity,
who were habitually in a state of chronic poverty, and who
throughout their lives were shut out from all that makes civilisation
worth having? My state of mind at that date can, I think, be best
expressed in the words of Charles Darwin, when he was puzzling over
the problem of the emergence of man.

I have often experienced [he writes to Sir Joseph Hooker] what you
call the humiliating feeling of getting more and more involved in
doubt, the more one thinks of the facts and reasoning on doubtful
points. But I always comfort myself with thinking of the future, and
in the full belief that the problems which we are just entering on,
will some day be solved; and if we just break the ground we shall
have done some service, even if we reap no harvest.68

Now it is exactly this process of "breaking the ground" over a
sufficiently large area, without too anxiously reckoning the
harvest, that I shall describe in the following chapter.


41 Mr. Gladstone to Lord Rosebery, September 16, 1880. Quoted in The
Life of William Ewart Gladstone, by John Morley, vol. iii. p. 4.

42 Mr. Gladstone to Lord Acton, February 11,1885. The Life of
William Ewart Gladstone, by John Morley, 1903, vol. iii. pp. 172-3.
As early as 1877 Goschen, in the House of commons, speaking as a
Cabinet Minister, declared: "It might be an unpopular thing to say
it, but Political Economy had been dethroned in that House and
Philanthropy had been allowed to take its place" [Life of Lord
Goschen, by A. D. Elliot (1911), vol. i. p. 163].

43 In his Autobiography (The World's Classics Edition, pp. 195-6)
John Stuart Mill thus describes his conversion to socialism. "In
those days I had seen little further than the old school of
political economists into the possibilities of fundamental
improvement in social arrangements. Private property, as now
understood, and inheritance, appeared to me, as to them, the dernier
mot of legislation: and I looked no further than to mitigating the
inequalities consequent on these institutions, by getting rid of
primogeniture and entails. The notion that it was possible to go
further than this in removing the injustice--for injustice it is,
whether admitting of a complete remedy or not--involved in the fact
that some are born to riches and the vast majority to poverty, I
then reckoned chimerical, and only hoped that by universal
education, leading to voluntary restraint on population, the portion
of the poor might be made more tolerable. In short, I was a
democrat, but not the least of a Socialist. We [Mill and his wife]
were now much less democrats than I had been, because so long as
education continues to be so wretchedly imperfect, we dreaded the
ignorance and especially the selfishness and brutality of the mass:
but our ideal of ultimate improvement went far beyond Democracy,
and would class us decidedly under the general designation of
Socialists. While we repudiated with the greatest energy that
tyranny of society over the individual which most Socialist systems
are supposed to involve, we yet looked forward to a time when
society will no longer be divided into the idle and the industrious;
when the rule that they who do not work, shall not eat, will be
applied not to paupers only, but impartially to all; when the
division of the produce of labour, instead of depending, as in so
great a degree it now does, on the accident of birth, will be made
by concert on an acknowledged principle of justice; and when it will
no longer either be, or be thought to be, impossible for human
beings to exert themselves strenuously in procuring benefits which
are not to be exclusively their own, but to be shared with the
society they belong to." The sentence that follows I put in italics
as it contains John Stuart Mill's pregnant definition of socialism.
"The social problem of the future we consider to be, how to unite
the greatest individual liberty of action with a common ownership in
the raw material of the globe, and an equal participation of all in
the benefits of combined labour."

44 Past and Present, by Thomas Carlyle, p. 1.

45 Progress and Poverty, An Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial
Depressions, and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth--The
Remedy, by Henry George, 1883, pp. 6, 7.

46 A Summary of the Principles of Socialism, by H. M. Hyndman and
William Morris, published 1884.

47 The Rights of Labour, by Cardinal Manning, republished and
revised in 1887, quoted in Life of Cardinal Manning, by Edmund
Sheridan Purcell, vol. ii. p. 647.

48 Arnold Toynbee, M.A., on "'Progress and Poverty': a Criticism of
Mr. Henry George," being a lecture entitled "Mr. George in England,"
delivered January 18, 1883, in St. Andrew's Hall, Newman Street,

49 I quote from the revised edition included in the volume entitled
Social Statics, Abridged and Revised; together with The Man versus
The State, by Herbert Spencer, 1892, pp. 271 and 290. In the
introduction to this reprint, Spencer notes that as far back as 1860
he had foreseen the trend towards Socialism inherent in political
democracy. [Westminster Review, April 1860.]

50 Man versus The State, pp. 277, 279, 369, 403.

51 A Politician in Trouble about his Soul, by Auberon Herbert, pp.
183-4 (1884).

52 Auberon Herbert, 1838-1906: third son of third Earl of Carnarvon.
Conservative candidate for Isle of Wight, 1865; Liberal candidate
for Berkshire, 1868; elected for Nottingham, 1870; retired, 1874.
One of Herbert Spencer's three trustees. Besides A Politician in
Trouble about his Soul, his principal publications were: The
Sacrifice of Education in Examination, 1889; A Plea for Liberty,
1891; The Right and Wrong of compulsion by the State, 1885; A
Voluntaryist Creed, 1908.

53 Among the social changes in my lifetime, in the London that I
have known, none is more striking than the passing "out of the
picture" of personal almsgiving. I do not pretend to estimate to
what extent the aggregate gifts of moneyed persons to individuals in
distress (including gifts to such organisations as Lord Mayor's
Funds, soup kitchens, shelters, etc.) may have fallen off; whilst
the total of benefactions to hospitals, colleges and other
institutions has plainly increased. But in the 'seventies and
'eighties individual almsgiving not only filled a large part of the
attention of the philanthropically-minded, but also overflowed
into Parliament, where, irrespective of political parties, these
philanthropists exercised an important influence on governments.
One  of the effects of the Charity Organisation Society was, first
to discredit individual almsgiving; and secondly, whilst replacing
the habit of unthinking charity by a doctrine repellent in its
apparent hardness, unwittingly to make it impossible for politicians
to become associated with it. The divorce between Parliament and the
once-influential doctrines of "enlightened charity" promulgated by
the C.O.S. was completed by the rise, in the twentieth century of
the Labour Party, with its insistence on social reconstruction,
based not on charity but on equity, and on a scientifically
ascertained advantage to the community as a whole.

54 Octavia Hill (1838-1912)--not related to Matthew Davenport Hill
and his equally well-known daughters, who were also active workers
in social reform and philanthropy--see Life of Octavia Hill, by her
brother-in-law, C. E. Maurice (1913); also "Miss Octavia Hill," by
Sir C. S. Loch, Charity Organisation Review for September and
October 1912. Octavia Hill gave evidence before the Royal Commission
on the Housing of the Working Classes in 1884, and before the Royal
Commission on the Aged Poor in 1893, and was a member of the Royal
commission on the Poor Laws and Relief of Distress, 1905-9.

55 W. H. Fremantle, at that time rector of the parish church of St.
Marylebone, afterwards Dean of Ripon.

56 Charles Stewart Loch (1849-1923), son of an Indian judge; created
a knight, 1915, on his resignation, owing to ill-health, of the
secretaryship that he had held for nearly forty years. "That he was
educated at Glenalmond and Balliol means comparatively little
[writes the editor of the Oxford Magazine in 1905, when C. S. Loch
was given the honorary degree of D.C.L.]; his life begins with his
appointment as Secretary to the Charity Organisation Society, and
even more, the life of the Society dates from his appointment. He
has formulated a principle, and created a type. The Society, when he
joined it, represented a praiseworthy, if somewhat Utopian, effort
to bring about cooperation in the charitable world, and unity among
its workers. It has since become the repository of wise counsels in
all matters concerning the relief of the poor. It is widely disliked
and universally trusted. Its friends are few, and they are voces in
deserto, but they win a hearing. That independence is among the
most valuable of the goods and chattels that a man possesses; that
to wound independence is to do grievous harm; to foster independence
is true charity; that character is nine-tenths of life; that the
State shares with indiscriminate charity the distinction of being a
mighty engine for evil--these and kindred precepts are summed up
under the name." He served on many Royal Commissions and committees
of enquiry, and published many papers and articles. His principal
book was Charity and Social Life, 1910. For sympathetic appreciations
of his work, see Charity Organisation Review for April 1923.

57 Canon Barnett, His Life, Work, and Friends, by his Wife,
vol. i. p. 35.

58 Ibid. p. 29.

59 This conception of almsgiving as an end in itself, a desirable
state of the soul comparable to prayer and fasting, seems still to
be the predominant attitude of orthodox Roman Catholics, derived as
it undoubtedly is from the teaching of the Fathers of the Church.
According to Origen, we are told by the historian of Christian
Charity in the Ancient Church, the first forgiveness of sins is
obtained by baptism, the second by martyrdom, the third is that
which is procured by almsgiving. Prayer and alms from the beginning
always accompanied each other, as the Scriptures had always combined
them. They form together the outward expression of the inward
sacrifice of the heart. Clement of Alexandria warns the faithful not
to judge who is deserving and who is undeserving. "For by being
fastidious and setting thyself to try who are fit for thy
benevolence, and who are not, it is possible that thou mayest
neglect some who are the friends of God." (See Christian Charity in
the Ancient Church, by G. Uhlhorn, pp. 121-50.)

60 Dr. Guy, in Walker's Original, p. 239 (quoted in Social Work in
London, 1869-1912, by Helen Bosanquet, pp. 6 and 7).

61 Canon Barnett, His Life, Work, and Friends, by his Wife,
vol. i. p. 83.

62 Principles of Decision, C.O.S. Papers, No. 5. I quote from the
revised edition, July 1905, as I have not the original leaflet.

63 One of the jarring notes of the C.O.S. was their calm assumption
of social and mental superiority over the poor whom they visited.
In these more democratic days, how odd sounds the following description
of Octavia Hill's "At Home" to her old tenants, related by Mrs.
Barnett with perhaps a touch of irony. "I recall the guests coming
in shyly by the back entrance, and the rather exaggerated cordiality
of Miss Octavia's greeting in the effort to make them feel welcome;
and Miss Miranda's bright tender way of speaking to every one
exactly alike, were they rich or poor; and old Mrs. Hill's curious
voice with its rather rasping purr of pride and pleasure and
large-heartedness, as she surveyed her motley groups of friends; and
the two Miss Harrisons [who presumably had entered the house by the
front door], those beautiful and generous artistic souls, the one so
fat and short and the other so tall and thin, and their duet,
purposely wrongly rendered to provoke the communion of laughter,
ending with the invitation to every one to say 'Quack, quack,' as
loudly as each was able, if only to prove they were all' ducks.'
Miss F. Davenport Hill was there, and Mr. C. E. Maurice and Miss
Emma Cons and Miss Emily Hill and Mr. Barnett. . . ." (Canon
Barnett, His Life, Work, and Friends, by his Wife, vol. i. p. 34).'

64 Canon Barnett, His Life, Work, and Friends, by his Wife,
vol. ii. p. 12.

65 Mrs. Barnett, with characteristic candour, quotes C. S. Loch's
somewhat ungenerous characterisation of her husband--be it added,
in the heat of controversy! "With Mr. Barnett progress is a series
of reactions. He must be in harmony with the current philanthropic
opinion of the moment or perhaps just a few seconds ahead of it.
Then having laid great stress on a new point, he would 'turn his
back on himself' and lay equal stress on the point that he had
before insisted on. Thus, he was at one time in favour of
suppressing outdoor relief and promoting thrift, now he favours
outdoor relief in a new guise" (this is Mr. Loch's phrase for
old-age pensions) "and depreciates thrift" (Canon Barnett, His Life,
Work, and Friends, by his Wife, vol. ii. p. 267).

66 Canon Barnett, His Life, Work, and Friends, by his Wife,
vol. ii. p. 379.

67 Ibid. vol. ii. p. 97.

68 Letter from C. Darwin to J. D. Hooker, January 20, 1859, Life and
Letters of Charles Darwin, by Francis Darwin, vol. ii. p. 144 (1887).


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