Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership

Title: My Apprenticeship (Volume 2)
Author: Beatrice Webb
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0700211.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: February 2007
Date most recently updated: February 2007

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at

To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to


Title: My Apprenticeship (Volume 2)
Author: Beatrice Webb

Published 1938




Charles Booth. The scope of his enquiry the four million
inhabitants of London. Methods of investigation. The use of the
census papers as a statistical framework. The method of wholesale
interviewing. The School Attendance Officers as witnesses. The
verification of the data. The eight-fold classification of the
people according to degrees of poverty. The degradation of
overcrowded tenements in mean streets. The poverty maps. The
difficulty of classification according to occupation. Charles Booth
a pioneer in method. The political effect of the Grand Inquest. The
"thirty per cent" in poverty. Destitution and a high birth-rate.
The irrelevance of charity. "Individualism in the arms of socialism
versus socialism in the arms of individualism."


The management of working-class dwellings. An experiment in
housing; the sacrifice of decency to economical and sanitary
structure. Its effect on manners and morals. The failure of the
experiment. The dead point in my career. A divided personality.
Mental misery. The revival of the religious spirit. A disciplined
life. Essays in social theory. Herbert Spencer as a critic. Studies
in East End life. Labour at the docks. The sweating system. Learning
to "sweat." I seek employment. Evidence before the Lords Committee
on Sweating. Disagreeable consequences. The Lords Report. My
definition of the sweating system: "all labour engaged in
manufacture escaping regulation by Factory Acts and Trade Unions."
The absence of a "responsible" employer. A science of society. All
administration is experimental. The fallacy of a "Natural" order of
society. Can the scientific method determine ends as well as means?


The Industrial Revolution: a stupendous success and a tragic
failure. The popular ideal of self-employment as a substitute for
the dictatorship of the capitalist. The alternative problem of the
woman worker. Professor Marshall's advice. My false step in signing
the appeal against the suffrage--why I was an anti-feminist. The
Co-operative Movement--co-operative theory and cooperative practice.
John Mitchell and the Co-operative Wholesale Society. The failure of
the "self-governing workshop." The success of the Consumers'
Co-operative Movement. The sphere of vocational organisation in the
government of industry. A dual control by consumers and producers.
Foreign trade may come to consist of reciprocal imports.
Conclusions. My father's last illness. His call for another
son-in-law. The man of my destiny. Courting the "clear and analytic
mind!" My Apprenticeship ends: Our Partnership begins.


(A) Personal Observation and Statistical Enquiry.

(B) The Method of the Interview.

(C) The Art of Note-taking.

(D) On the Nature of Economic Science.

(1) My Objections to a Self-contained, Separate, Abstract Political
(2) A Theory of Value.

(E) Why the Self-governing Workshop has failed.



So far, I have described as my intellectual environment the then
closely interrelated worlds of politics and metropolitan
philanthropy. I now come to a great enterprise which aroused my
whole-hearted sympathy and admiration; an enterprise in which I
played the minor part of an industrious apprentice. Here the impulse
came neither from politics nor from philanthropy, but from
scientific curiosity; from the desire to apply the method of
observation, reasoning and verification to the problem of poverty in
the midst of riches.

Now, every man is apt to overrate the significance of an event with
which he has been intimately associated. But the grand inquest into
the conditions of life and labour of the four million inhabitants of
the richest city in the world--an investigation carried on by
Charles Booth (entirely at his own expense) over a period of
seventeen years and published in as many volumes--seems to me to
stand out as a landmark alike in social politics and in economic
science. Prior to this enquiry, neither the individualist nor the
Socialist could state with any approach to accuracy what exactly was
the condition of the people of Great Britain. Hence the unreality of
their controversy. And if, as I am inclined to believe, a subtle
combination of quantitative and qualitative analysis is a necessary
factor in social studies, it may well be that Charles Booth's
elaborate plan of wide statistical verification of data obtained by
detailed observation of individual families and social institutions
will be recognised as an indispensable basis of sociological
science. In comparison with the preceding generations of social
researchers, I suggest that his method of analysis constitutes, if
not the starting-point, certainly the first sign-post directing the
student on one of the main ways to discovery. Unfortunately Charles
Booth, partly owing to his modesty and partly owing to his
voluminous output, failed, like so many other successful organisers,
to describe his own plan of campaign; and for this reason I do not
hesitate to attempt to sketch into my picture this eminent Victorian
and his work. In the short and modest memoir by his wife69 we are
given in bare outline the circumstance of his birth and breeding. We
are introduced into the family circle of the Booths, Fletchers,
Cromptons and Holts, for the most part Liverpool merchants and
ship-owners, Liberals or Radicals in political opinion, and
Unitarian by religious conviction. We are told that he lived at home
with his brothers and sisters, getting his education at the
first-grade secondary day school of the Royal Institution of
Liverpool; and passing, whilst yet in his teens, into a business
career through the office of Messrs. Lamport and Holt; spending his
leisure either in study or in disputatious talk within the large
family circle of brothers, sisters, and cousins; or engaging in
enthusiastic propaganda as a member of the newly formed Birmingham
Education League, with its programme of universal secular
education; or, through his friendship with working men, taking
thought about the affairs of the Liverpool Trades Council. One has a
vision of a group of families living simple and strenuous lives,
with a high standard of work, and small requirements in the way of
games, sport and less desirable forms of pleasure. Nor was the
higher thought neglected; for, owing to his intimacy with his two
cousins Harry and Albert Crompton, leading members of the "Church of
Humanity," Charles Booth came under the influence of Auguste Comte.
Perpetually discussing the philosophy of Positivism and the social
theories arising out of it with such leading Positivists as Dr.
Bridges and Professor Beesly, the Frederic Harrisons and the
Lushingtons, Charles Booth--to quote the words of the Memoir--"was
fairly captivated, and his formal adhesion to the ranks of
Positivism was held to be only a matter of time"--an expectation
which was not fulfilled; for "his nature, though enthusiastic, had
many needs, many aspirations difficult to satisfy, and not easily
combined within the limits of any formal body of doctrine." In 1871
he married the attractive and accomplished daughter of Charles
Macaulay, who happened to be my cousin, and who had met him for the
first time at the house of my eldest sister, the wife of R. D.
Holt.70 Meanwhile, his multifarious activities, carried on from
early morning to late at night, whether in the ship owning venture
which he started with his brother, or in political propaganda or
continuous reading, caused a severe breakdown in health, which
necessitated some years abroad, and a long period of inability to
work or even to read.

It was during the period of his convalescence, I think in the late
'seventies, that my cousin brought her husband for the first time to
stay with us. I recall with some amusement the impression made on a
girl's mind by this interesting new relative. Nearing forty years of
age, tall, abnormally thin, garments hanging as if on pegs, the
complexion of a consumptive girl, and the slight stoop of the
sedentary worker, a prominent aquiline nose, with moustache and
pointed beard barely hiding a noticeable Adam's apple, the whole
countenance dominated by a finely-moulded brow and large, observant
grey eyes, Charles Booth was an attractive but distinctly queer
figure of a man. One quaint sight stays in my mind: Cousin Charlie
sitting through the family meals, "like patience on a monument
smiling at"--other people eating, whilst, as a concession to good
manners, he occasionally picked at a potato with his fork or nibbled
a dry biscuit. Fascinating was his un-self-conscious manner and
eager curiosity to know what you thought and why you thought it;
what you knew and how you had learnt it. And there was the additional
interest of trying to place this strange individual in the general
scheme of things. No longer young, he had neither failed nor
succeeded in life, and one was left in doubt whether the striking
unconventionality betokened an initiating brain or a futile
eccentricity. Observed by a stranger, he might have passed for a
self-educated idealistic compositor or engineering draughtsman; or
as the wayward member of an aristocratic family of the Auberon
Herbert type; or as a university professor; or, clean shaven and
with the appropriate collar, as an ascetic priest, Roman or
Anglican; with another change of attire, he would have "made up"
as an artist in the Quartier Latin. The one vocation which seemed
ruled out, alike by his appearance and by his idealistic
temperament, was that of a great captain of industry pushing his
way, by sheer will-power and methodical industry, hardened and
sharpened by an independent attitude towards other people's
intentions and views--except as circumstances which had to be wisely
handled--into new countries, new processes and new business
connections. And yet this kind of adventurous and, as it turned out,
successful profit-making enterprise proved to be his destiny,
bringing in its train the personal power and free initiative due to
a large income generously spent.

Though I gather from the Memoir that business organisation was the
career of his choice,71 Charles Booth had also the scientific
impulse, in his case directed towards the structure and working of
society. Without the specific genius of Charles Darwin and Francis
Galton for imaginative hypothesis and for verification by
observation, experiment and reasoning, he likened these two great
scientists in possessing, in a high degree, the scientific
temperament: an overpowering curiosity about the nature of things;
originality in designing ways and means of research; and above all,
a splendid courage and persistency in the pursuit of knowledge.
Further, Charles Booth was singularly appreciative of any
suggestions, however irrelevant or far-fetched these might seem,
from fellow-workers and subordinates. In the prime of life he
delighted in upsetting generally accepted views, whether the
free-trade orthodoxy of Manchester capitalism, at that time in the
ascendant, or the cut and dried creed of the Marxian socialist.
Indeed, if he had a bias as an investigator, it was in favour of the
unlikely and unpopular explanation of a given series of facts. And
combined with intellectual curiosity was the positivist conception
of the service of man. In short, Charles Booth was, within my circle
of friends, perhaps the most perfect embodiment of what I have
described in a former chapter as the mid-Victorian time-spirit--the
union of faith in the scientific method with the transference of the
emotion of self-sacrificing service from God to man.

I will end this slight sketch of Charles Booth's personality by an
entry from my diary giving a glimpse of these favourite cousins as I
knew them in the first years of intimacy.

The last six weeks spent in London, with friends and sisters. The
Booths' house dark and airless, but the inmates exceedingly charming
and lovable. Mary, really a remarkable woman, with an unusual power
of expression, and a well-trained and cultivated mind. She makes one
feel, in spite of her appreciative and almost flattering attitude,
"a very ignoramus." To me there is a slight narrowness in her
literary judgements; they are too correct, too resting on authority?
hardly the result of original thought? Perhaps it is this very
orderliness of mind and deference to  authority which make her so
attractive as a woman; for, added to this culture and polish of the
intellect, there is a deep vein of emotion, of almost passionate

Charlie Booth has a stronger and clearer reason, with a singular
absence of bias and prejudice. It is difficult to discover the
presence of any vice or even weakness in him. Conscience, reason and
dutiful affection, are his great qualities; other characteristics
are not observable by the ordinary friend. He interests me as a man
who has his nature completely under control; who has passed through
a period of terrible illness and weakness, and who has risen out of
it, uncynical, vigorous and energetic in mind, and without egotism.
Many delightful conversations I had with these two charming cousins,
generally acting as a listening third to their discussions. [MS.
diary, February 9, 1882.]


It pleases me to find in the Memoir by his wife, confirmed by his
own words, that Charles Booth, in selecting the subject for
investigation, was influenced by exactly the currents of thought and
feeling, notably the controversies in the worlds of politics and
philanthropy, which I have described in the foregoing pages as
determining my own choice of a field for research.

Settled in London, where he had opened a branch of his shipowning
and merchant business, he became aware of the new ferment.

People's minds were very full of the various problems connected with
the position of the poor, and opinions the most diverse were
expressed, remedies of the most contradictory nature were proposed
[we are told by the author of the Memoir]. The works of Ruskin, the
labours of Miss Octavia Hill, the principles and practice of the
C.O.S., all contributed to the upheaval of thought and feeling. The
simple, warm-hearted and thoughtless benevolence of former ages was
held up to reprobation. ... In the opinion of some, the great evils
to be met were improvidence and self-indulgence. To relieve from the
consequences of these was to aggravate the mischief. Yet another
view was held, that the selfishness and vice of low lives were the
result of the selfishness and vice of high lives; that the first
duty of the rich was to produce among their poorer neighbours the
physical condition which alone could render decent existence
possible. Good air, more room, better clothes, better food and
similar advantages would exorcise the demon which ran rife.
"Stimulate private charity," said one school. "Relieve the rates. It
is the State-paid pauper who is the source of all harm." "Down with
charity," said another set; "the very word has become a degradation.
Let the State see to it that the toiling millions are fed and housed
as they should be." "Toiling millions!" would be replied. "The
people who are in want never really toil at all. They are wastrels,
lazy and ill-tempered. No one in England who will work need want."
. . . These various views, and many others, were listened to by
Charles Booth, and ever more earnestly did he seek an answer to the
question. Who are the people of England? How do they really live?
What do they really want? Do they want what is good, and if so, how
is it to be given to them?72

It is the sense of helplessness that tries every one [explains
Charles Booth in the paper read before the Royal Statistical Society
on the Condition and Occupations of the people of the Tower Hamlets
in May 1887]. The wage-earners are helpless to regulate or obtain
the value of their work; the manufacturer or dealer can only work
within the limits of competition; the rich are helpless to relieve
want without stimulating its sources; the legislature is helpless
because the limits of successful interference by change of law are
closely circumscribed. From the helpless feelings spring socialistic
theories, passionate suggestions of ignorance, setting at naught the
nature of man and neglecting all the fundamental facts of human

To relieve this sense of helplessness, the problems of human life
must be better stated. The a priori reasoning of political economy,
orthodox and unorthodox alike, fails from want of reality. At its
base are a series of assumptions very imperfectly connected with the
observed facts of life. We need to begin with a true picture of the
modern industrial organism, the interchange of service, the exercise
of faculty, the demands and satisfaction of desire. It is the
possibility of such a picture as this that I wish to suggest, and it
is as a contribution to it that I have written this paper.73


The East End of London, an area made up of the Tower Hamlets and the
Hackney School Board divisions, and comprising one million
inhabitants, was first surveyed. He chose this particular district
of the Metropolis, one quarter of the whole, because, to cite his
own words, "it is supposed to contain the most destitute population
in England, and to be, as it were, the focus of the problem of
poverty in the midst of wealth, which is troubling the minds and
hearts of so many people."74 Of this vast aggregate in its
completeness, he sought "to produce an instantaneous picture, fixing
the facts on my negative as they appear at a given moment, and the
imagination of my readers must add the movement, the constant
changes, the whirl and turmoil of life" [Poverty, i, p. 26].75 He
made no attempt at history or even at describing contemporary
development, but set himself to obtain, so to speak, an exact
cross-section at a given moment, full from end to end of precise
details, equally complete and equally microscopic over the whole
field. Out of this multitudinous and infinitely diversified
subject-matter he concentrated on two series of facts; first, the
relative destitution, poverty or comfort of the home, and secondly,
the character of the work from which the various bread-winners in
the family derived their livelihood. Thus there were two separate
and distinct enquiries carried on concurrently, each involving its
own group of investigators and its own methods of investigation.

The general plan of the enquiry, as applying to the whole of London,
is to divide the entire population by districts and by groups of
trades, each answering to a similar division in the census; and then
to deal with each district by a local enquiry, and with each group
of trades by a trade enquiry. The principal object of the district
enquiry would be to show the conditions under which the people live,
but it would also give their employments; the principal object of
the trade enquiry would be to show the conditions under which the
people work, but it would indirectly deal with their manner of life.
The double method would provide a check upon the results of each,
and much light be thrown upon the one enquiry by the other.76


How did Charles Booth obtain the mass and range of data required to
complete this scientific exploration into the life and labour of the
people of London?

The statistical framework outlining the whole, and defining the
parts of the gigantic undertaking, was afforded by the census
figures of 1881, afterwards corrected and amplified by the more
detailed census of 1891. With the scope and limitations of these
statistical documents Charles Booth was already familiar; for prior
to 1886 he had made a painstaking analysis of the figures giving the
occupations of the people of the United Kingdom in the series of
censuses from 1841 to 1881.77 This enquiry was undertaken in order
to ascertain how many persons depended at any one time for their
subsistence on any particular trade; and how the distribution of the
population among different industries and services had shifted from
decade to decade. Owing to the divergent classification of persons
and industries adopted by successive Registrars-General, the
scientific result of this analysis and re-classification was
disappointing. But it had given its author facility in the handling
of such figures and an influential introduction to the census
authorities. Thus, at the very outset of his enquiry he was able to
obtain, not only all the published documents giving the numerical
totals and rough classifications of the latest census, that of 1881,
but he was also given access, by special favour of the
Registrar-General, to the information, correct and incorrect,
recorded in the Householders' Schedules. The census of 1891 proved
to be of even greater value owing to the addition, in the
Householders' Schedules, of two new questions, vital to the
completion of the enquiry.78 Each head of family or occupier living
in fewer than five rooms was asked to state the number of rooms
occupied; and, in London at least, this information was in most
instances, obtained by the enumerators. Further, householders
employing domestic servants were called upon to state the number
they employed. Thus, Charles Booth was able to verify and revise, by
the practically contemporary and complete enumeration of the
Registrar-General, his classification of the entire population, from
top to bottom, testing poverty by the degree of crowding in the
dwelling, and affluence by the number of servants employed.

But it was clear to a scientific investigator that an enquiry
dependent on the filling up of a form by each household had to
restrict itself to the barest numerical data, and that such details
as were given could not always be depended upon as accurate. Even so
elementary a "qualitative" fact as occupation had proved to be
stated so vaguely as to be almost useless--employers, manual-working
wage-earners and salaried managers, together with the superannuated
and those who had merely left the trade, being, for instance, all
included under "builders." Hence individual enquiry and personal
observation were indispensable. Many such investigations had been
made, by all sorts of people and the most diverse agencies. But
these had always been carried out over small fields, specially
selected for one or other reason; and there were no means of
deciding whether, and to what extent, they were representative of
the whole people even of a single street. Charles Booth's invention
was the combination of the census with the personal enquiry into
each family, for the double purpose of making his survey co-extensive
with the entire field, without selection, and of uniting the
qualitative with the quantitative information thus obtained. By this
cross-verification of wholesale statistics by personal observation
of individual cases, and the verification of the sum of individual
cases obtained by personal observation by the statistics of the
census, Charles Booth was not only able to produce a complete series
of qualitative as well as quantitative descriptions of the
households and their environment, but also to present this triumph
of personal observation in a statistical framework covering the
whole four millions of people.

Such a colossal investigation, dealing with nearly a million
households, could obviously not be carried out, even in a decade, by
one investigator or by any ordinary group of investigators. Some
other instrument had to be found. This Charles Booth discovered in
what I shall term the Method of Wholesale Interviewing. "The root
idea with which I began the work," he tells us, "was that every fact
I needed was known to some one, and that the information had simply
to be collected and put together." [Final, p. 32.] In giving
evidence before the Royal commission on the Housing of the Poor,
Joseph Chamberlain had incidentally mentioned that the Birmingham
Town Council, in preparing its schemes for the clearance of slum
areas, had found useful the very complete knowledge of each family
possessed by the school attendance officers. Following this
suggestion, Charles Booth obtained permission to arrange, with each
of the sixty-six school attendance officers at work in the East End,
to give a series of evenings, with his notebooks, as a witness
submitting to patient examination by Charles Booth or one of his
secretaries as to the facts of each household.

In the Tower Hamlets division, which was completed first, we gave on
the average nineteen and three-quarter hours' work to each School
Board visitor; in the Hackney division this was increased to
twenty-three and a half hours. St. George's-in-the-East, when first
done in 1886, cost 60 hours' work with the visitors; when revised it
occupied 83 hours . . . the task was so tremendous, the prospect of
its completion so remote; and every detail cost time. . . . [But]
without this nothing could have been done. The merit of the
information so obtained, looked at statistically, lies mainly in the
breadth of view obtained. It is in effect the whole population that
comes under review. Other agencies usually seek out some particular
class or deal with some particular condition of people. The
knowledge so obtained may be more exact, but it is circumscribed and
very apt to produce a distortion of judgement. For this reason, the
information to be had from the School Board visitors, with all its
inequalities and imperfections, is excellent as a framework for a
picture of the Life and Labour of the People. [Poverty, i.
pp. 25-6.]

When Charles Booth extended the same methods of investigation to the
whole of the county of London, thus including a total of four
million inhabitants, he shortened his procedure of interviewing the
school attendance officers.

In passing from the special study of East London to a review of the
whole Metropolis the method of inquiry into the condition of the
people was slightly changed. In dealing with East London (and
afterwards with Central London and Battersea) the unit taken was the
family. In extending over the larger area the street has been
substituted as a working basis. Instead of noting the number of
children going to school from each household with the employment and
social position of its head, we have contented ourselves with
stating the number of children street by street, dividing them as to
class according to what is known of the parents, but giving only
general particulars of the occupations. The result is, that the
division of the population according to the conditions under which
they live has been maintained, but that according to employment has
been dropped. [Poverty, ii. p. 1.]

The information thus obtained, when fitted into the framework of the
census figures and used to verify and amplify the inevitable
inaccuracy of the Householders' Schedules, formed, as he told us,
the solid groundwork of the enquiry.

They [school attendance officers] are in daily contact with the
people and have a very considerable knowledge of the parents of the
school children, especially of the poorest among them, and of the
conditions under which they live. No one can go, as I have done,
over the description of the inhabitants of street after street in
this huge district (East London), taken house by house and family by
family--full as it is of picturesque details noted down from the
lips of the visitor to whose mind they have been recalled by the
open pages of its own schedules--and doubt the genuine character of
the information and its truth. Of the wealth of my material I have
no doubt. I am indeed embarrassed by its mass, and by my resolution
to make use of no fact to which I cannot give a quantitative value.
The materials for sensational stories lie plentifully in every book
of our notes; but, even if I had the skill to use my material in
this way--that gift of the imagination which is called "realistic"
--I should not wish to use it here. There is struggling poverty,
there is destitution, there is hunger, drunkenness, brutality, and
crime; no one doubts that it is so. My object has been to attempt
to' show the numerical relation which poverty, misery, and depravity
bear to regular earnings and comparative comfort, and to describe
the general conditions under which each class lives. [Poverty, i.
pp. 5-6.]

And here is a characteristic warning, from one who was primarily a
statistician, to the eager observer of individual persons and

To judge rightly we need to bear both in mind, never to forget the
numbers when thinking of the percentages, nor the percentages when
thinking of the numbers. This last is difficult to those whose daily
experience or whose imagination brings vividly before them the
trials and sorrows of individual lives. They refuse to set off and
balance the happy hours of the same class, or even of the same
people, against these miseries; much less can they consent to bring
the lot of other classes into the account, add up the opposing
figures, and contentedly carry forward a credit balance. In the
arithmetic of woe they can only add or multiply, they cannot
subtract or divide. In intensity of feeling such as this, and not in
statistics, lies the power to move the world. But by statistics must
this power be guided if it would move the world aright. [Poverty,
i. p. 179.]

On the few occasions when I attended these interviews it was
enlightening to watch how Charles Booth, or one or other of his
secretaries, would extract from the school attendance officer, bit
by bit, the extensive and intimate information with regard to each
family, the memory of these willing witnesses amplifying and
illustrating the precisely recorded facts in their notebooks. What
was of greater significance to "the industrious apprentice" than
any of the facts revealed was the way in which this method of
wholesale interviewing and automatic recording blocked the working
of personal bias. Each of the two or three hundred school attendance
officers had doubtless his own predilections; one would be an
optimist, another a pessimist; some were "proletarian" in their
sympathies, others were inclined to think an unemployed person was
unemployable. But with so large a group of witnesses these different
types of prejudice cancelled out. The same differences in
temperament or experience may have been at work with the
interviewers. But short of deliberate and malicious falsification it
was impracticable for any one taking part in extracting and swiftly
recording specific facts about every individual in every house in
every street throughout the Metropolis, to produce a result which
seriously, and a total which materially, falsified the aggregate of
particulars. In a wholly beneficent sense, the enquirers during the
actual process of investigation were not able to "see the wood for
the trees"; and were therefore incapable of prejudging, according to
their several expectations, the size, the shape or the value of the
wood as a whole. To change the metaphor, it was impracticable for
the investigators so to minimise or maximise each separate item so
as to produce a picture of the life and labour of the whole people
according to the predilections of any or all of them. Hence it is
not surprising that the completed results of the investigation
frequently contradicted (as we are told by the chief organiser) the
expectations of one or other investigator, and even of all of

The information obtained through the census papers and the school
attendance officers was extended and verified by innumerable other
witnesses, such as the teachers80 in the schools, the superintendents
of artisans' dwellings and rent collectors, sanitary inspectors and
relieving officers, ministers of religion, district visitors, the
C.O.S. and other philanthropic agencies. In the later stages of the
enquiry the results obtained by this process of interviewing were
supplemented and verified by the personal observation of the
organiser of the enquiry and his staff of investigators.

At the outset we shut our eyes, fearing lest any prejudice of our
own should colour the information we received. It was not till the
books were finished that I or my secretaries ourselves visited the
streets amongst which we had been living in imagination. But later
we gained confidence, and made it a rule to see each street
ourselves at the time we received the visitor's account of it.
[Poverty, i. p. 25.]

Finally, Charles Booth completed his survey by the kind of personal
experience of working-class life which I had enjoyed in 1883 among
the Lancashire cotton operatives, and which I have described in the
preceding chapter.

For three separate periods I have taken up quarters, each time for
several weeks, where I was not known; and as a lodger have shared
the lives of people who would figure in my schedules as belonging to
Classes C, D and E. Being more or less boarded, as well as lodged, I
became intimately acquainted with some of those I met, and the lives
and habits of many others came naturally under observation.
[Poverty, i. p. 158.]


As I have already explained, the main purpose of Charles Booth's
enquiry was to obtain an accurate statement of the number and
proportion of families living in a state of misery, poverty, decent
comfort and luxury respectively. But these vague words, which no two
persons will interpret alike, were plainly insufficient for any
purpose. He therefore formed for himself, after careful
consideration, an eightfold classification according to the actual
facts of each case, leaving it to the reader to affix to each class
what descriptive adjective he pleased. The table of the eight
classes under which all the four millions of people are marshalled,
together with the explanatory note, I give below.

A. The lowest class of occasional labourers, loafers and

B. Casual earnings--"very poor."

C. Intermittent earnings.

D. Small regular earnings.

(C and D together the "poor.")

E. Regular standard earnings--above the line of poverty.

F. Higher-class labour.

G. Lower middle class.

H. Upper middle class.

The divisions indicated here by "poor" and "very poor" are
necessarily arbitrary. By the word "poor" I mean to describe those
who have a sufficiently regular though bare income, such as 18 to 21
shillings per week for a moderate family, and by "very poor" those
who from any cause fall much below this standard. The "poor" are
those whose means may be sufficient, but are barely sufficient, for
decent independent life; the "very poor" those whose means are
insufficient for this according to the usual standard of life in
this country. My "poor" may be described as living under a struggle
to obtain the necessaries of life and make both ends meet; while the
"very poor" live in a state of chronic want. [Poverty, i. p. 33.]

And now we are in sight of the principal goal of Charles Booth's
scientific exploration into the life and labour of the people of
London. Sorting out the million families into his eight classes, he
was able to give a definitive estimate of the economic and social
condition of the whole of the inhabitants of the county of London.
This descriptive analysis, was, it is needless to say, far more
accurate and complete in respect of the 80 per cent of the community
coming under the jurisdiction of the school attendance officers than
it was of the 20 per cent consisting of the upper and lower middle
classes, about whom no information was obtained except the number of
domestic servants employed. But this restriction of the data was of
slight significance, seeing that the purpose of the investigation
was to ascertain, in relation to the total, the number of persons
living in a state of chronic destitution, the number of persons who
might be accounted as poor--that is, living on the line of bare
subsistence--and the number of persons belonging to the wage-earning
class who were in a state of comparative comfort. The information
obtained enabled him to construct a table showing the relative
percentages of the whole contributed by these three classes of the
population, together with another table classifying all this 80 per
cent according to the degree of overcrowding. In the two compact
tables given below the reader will find concentrated and condensed
the quantitative results of Charles Booth's stupendous analysis of a
million "Householders' Schedules," tested and amplified by the
method of wholesale interviewing of the school attendance officers
and also by the testimony of all sorts and conditions of men, and
reinforced by his staff's personal observations.


In volume II of the Poverty Series the whole population (
over-estimated at the time at 4,309,000) is divided and described as

Classes A and B (the very poor) . . . 354,444 or 8.4 per cent.

Classes C  and D (the poor) . . . 938,293 or 22.3 per cent.

Classes E  and F (comfortable working class, including all servants)
    . . . 2,166,503 or 51.5 per cent.

Classes G and H ("lower middle," "middle," and "upper classes")
    . . . 749,930 or 17.8 per cent.

Total of the above . . . 4,209,170

Inmates of institutions . . . 99,830.

(Estimated population, 1889) 4,309,000.

End of Table 1


(Group 1 and 2 together). 3 or more persons per room . . . 492,370
or 12.0 per cent.

(Group 3). 2 and under 3 persons per room . . . 781,615 or 19.0 per
cent. Common lodging houses, etc. 20,087 or 0.5 per cent. Total for
Group 3 19.5 per cent. (Group 4) 1 and under 2 persons per room 962,780 or
23.4 per cent.

Central (altogether 56.4 per cent):

(Group 5) Less than 1 person per room 153,471 or 3.7 per cent.

(Group 6) Occupying more than 4 rooms 981,553 or 23.9 per cent.
    Servants . . . 205,858 or 5.0 per cent
    Persons living in large shops, etc. . . .  15,321 or 0.4 per

Upper (altogether 12.1 per cent):
(a) 4 or more persons to 1 servant . . . 227,832 or 5.5 per cent
(b) to (h) 3 or less persons to 1 servant . . . 248,493 or 6.0 per

Inmates of hotels and boarding houses where servants are kept
    . . . 25,726 or 0.6 per cent.

Total of the above: 4,115,106.

Inmates of institutions . . . 96,637.

Total population: 4,211,743.

[Final, p. 9. It may be explained that the "servants" in Table II
are those employed by the "Upper" section (Classes G and H of Table I);
and they are included in the "Central" section as being of much the
same social grade as this 56.4 per cent, of the whole.]


These tables, however, whilst revealing the standard of life
measured in income and house-room, afford no information with regard
to the physical and social environment in which the different
classes of the community had perforce to live.

In the modern industrial city it is the poverty of the poor that, in
a quite literal sense, is their destruction. In the sunlit and
wind-swept spaces of a sparsely inhabited country, insufficient food
and scanty clothing do not necessarily spell either disease or
demoralisation. But huddled in the poor quarters of a great city, a
million poverty-stricken men, women and children, working, sleeping,
eating, mating and being born under the perpetual shadow of
buildings belching out smoke, sweating vermin and excreting filth,
make for themselves (though not, in the main, through their
individual misdoing) a physical and social environment in which all
but the strongest bodies and minds suffer continuous deterioration.
These evil circumstances do not admit of quantitative measurement
and statistical expression; even if we could weigh up and record the
smoke, the vermin and the foul gases, it would tell us little or
nothing about the physical misery and spiritual defilement of the
victims. Realising the importance of social environment, Charles
Booth added to his investigations into income and house-room a
detailed survey of the physical and social environment, an early but
elaborate essay in what I may call Social Topography, from which I
take one or two samples.

In the inner ring nearly all available space is used for building,
and almost every house is filled up with families. It is easy to
trace the process. One can see what were the original buildings; in
many cases they are still standing, and between them, on the large
gardens of a past state of things, has been built the small cottage
property of to-day. Houses of three rooms, houses of two rooms,
houses of one room--houses set back against a wall or back to back,
fronting it may be on a narrow footway, with posts at each end and a
gutter down the middle. Small courts contrived to utilise some space
in the rear, and approached by an archway under the building which
fronts the street. Of such sort are the poorest class of houses.
Besides the evidence of configuration, these little places are often
called "gardens," telling their story with unintended irony. But in
other cases all sentiment is dropped, and another tale about their
origin finds expression in the name of "So-and-so's rents"--not
houses, nor dwellings, nor cottages, nor buildings, nor even a court
or a yard, suggesting human needs, but just "rents." [Poverty, i. p.

The property is all very old, and it has been patched up and altered
until it is difficult to distinguish one house from another. Small
back yards have been utilised for building additional tenements. The
property throughout is in a very bad condition, unsanitary and
overcrowded; and it is stated (as a suggestive reason why so little
has been done in the way of remedy) that until very recently the
rent collector of the property was a brother of the sanitary
inspector! A number of rooms are occupied by prostitutes of the most
pronounced order. [Poverty, i. pp. 10, 11.]

Here the streets are blocked with those coming to buy, or sell,
pigeons, canaries, rabbits, fowls, parrots, or guinea-pigs, and with
them or separately all the appurtenances of bird or pet keeping.
Through this crowd the seller of shell-fish pushes his barrow; on
the outskirts of it are movable shooting galleries and patent Aunt
Sallies, while some man standing up in a dog-cart will dispose of
racing tips in sealed envelopes to the East End sportsman. [Poverty,
i. p. 67.]

Sheltpn Street was just wide enough for a vehicle to pass either
way, with room between curb-stone and houses for one foot passenger
to walk; but vehicles would pass seldom, and foot passengers would
prefer the roadway to the risk of tearing their clothes against
projecting nails. The houses, about forty in number, contained
cellars, parlours, and first, second, and third floors, mostly two
rooms on a floor, and few of the 200 families who lived there
occupied more than one room. In little rooms no more than 8 ft.
square would be found living father, mother and several children.
Some of the rooms, from the peculiar build of the houses (shallow
houses with double frontage) would be fairly large and have a recess
6 ft. wide for the bed, which in rare instances would be curtained
off. If there was no curtain, any one lying on the bed would perhaps
be covered up and hidden, head and all, when a visitor was admitted,
or perhaps no shyness would be felt. . . . Drunkenness and dirt and
bad language prevailed, and violence was common, reaching at times
even to murder. Fifteen rooms out of twenty were filthy to the last
degree, and the furniture in none of these would be worth 20
shillings, in some cases not 5. Not a room would be free from
vermin, and in many life at night was unbearable. Several occupants
have said that in hot weather they don't go to bed, but sit in their
clothes in the least infested part of the room. What good is it,
they said, to go to bed when you can't get a wink of sleep for bugs
and fleas? A visitor in these rooms was fortunate indeed if he
carried no thing of the kind away with him. . . .The passage from
the street to the back-door would be scarcely ever swept, to say
nothing of being scrubbed. Most of the doors stood open all night as
well as all day, and the passage and Stairs gave shelter to many who
were altogether homeless. Here the mother could stand with her baby,
or sit with it on the stairs, or companions would huddle together in
cold weather. The little yard at the back was only sufficient for
dust-bin and closet and water-tap, serving for six or seven
families. The water would be drawn from cisterns which were
receptacles for refuse, and perhaps occasionally a dead cat. At one
time the street was fever stricken; the mortality was high, and the
authorities interfered with good effect so that the sanitary
condition of the street just before it was destroyed was better than
it had been formerly. The houses looked ready to fall, many of them
being out of the perpendicular. Gambling was the amusement of the
street. Sentries would be posted, and if the police made a rush the
offenders would slip into the open houses and hide until danger was
past. Sunday afternoon and evening was the heyday time for this
street. Every doorstep would be crowded by those who sat or stood
with pipe and jug of beer, while lads lounged about, and the gutters
would find amusement for not a few children with bare feet, their
faces and hands besmeared, while the mud oozed through between their
toes. Add to this a group of fifteen or twenty young men gambling hi
the middle of the street and you complete the general picture.
[Poverty, ii. pp. 46-8.]

But all the inhabitants of these mean streets were not addicted to
gambling and drink; a fair number were respectable citizens; though
experience of their own environment sometimes led to seditious
views, if not with regard to the government of their country, at any
rate with regard to the government of the universe.

So, too, on the second floor there were till lately a father and
son, billposters, of good character. The man is a notorious Atheist,
one who holds forth on behalf of his creed under railway arches,
saying that if there be a God he must be a monster to permit such
misery as exists. This man suffers from heart disease and the doctor
tells him that some day in his excitement he will drop down dead.
His room is full of Free-thought publications On the third floor,
and in the other rooms below, there lived people of orderly habits,
the landlord being particular about his tenants. [Poverty, ii.
p. 65.]


And here I come to what was perhaps the most impressive achievement,
and certainly the most picturesque outcome of the whole enquiry. The
economic and social circumstances of all the families of London were
graphically displayed in a series of maps, carefully coloured,
street by street, according to the actual data obtained for each
street. Charles Booth had ascertained with precision the class in
which the residents in each street stood with regard to the number
of rooms occupied by each family. For the 80 per cent who were
wage-earners he had approximate figures of the level of family
incomes and of the degree of overcrowding in the homes. For the
remainder he had the number of domestic servants employed in
proportion to the numbers in the families. The streets could, in
fact, be put into the eightfold classification with as much accuracy
as the individual families. Thus, it was possible, with the labour
and time that Charles Booth never stinted, to display graphically on
these wonderful maps, by an eightfold coloration, the extent, the
local distribution and even the exact location of the misery, the
poverty, the comfort and the luxury of the whole Metropolis.

There is a map of the whole Metropolitan area divided into compound
blocks of about 30,000 inhabitants each, and shaded according to the
percentage of poverty found in each. And there is a map on a larger
scale (divided into four sections), on which is indicated the
character of every street so far as it extends, but this map is
squared off some way within the Metropolitan boundaries. The marking
of the streets in different shades and colours according to their
prevailing social character was done, in the first instance, from
the particulars given in the notebooks, of which some specimen pages
have been given. It was then revised by my secretaries, who for this
purpose walked over the whole ground, and also by the School Board
visitors. After this it was referred to the parish relieving
officers for each Union, and to the agents of the Charity
Organisation Society throughout London. The police were also
referred to with regard to the streets marked black. Finally, I have
consulted the clergy and their district visitors as to most of the
poorer parts, obtaining from them, by the way, interesting details
of typical streets. At each stage of revision amendments have been
introduced where needed, and the map may now, I think, be accepted
as practically correct. [Poverty, i. pp. 16, 17.]


Meanwhile the second part of Charles Booth's plan of campaign was
proceeding: that relating to the occupations of the people, "How
they work" as distinguished from "How they live." There was first
a trial trip, in which I co-operated, concerning the conditions of
employment and industries peculiarly associated with the East End of
London, such as labour in the London docks and wharves; and the
various branches of what was then called the "sweating system" in
the manufacture of slop clothing and the cheaper lines of boots,
furniture and cigarettes, and in women's work generally. These
monographs were completed and published in 1889 before the figures
of the 1891 census were available; and in the definitive edition of
1902-3 they find their place, not in the "Industry" series but in
vol. iv. of the "Poverty" series. In the elaborate and systematic
investigation into the occupations of the whole people, embodied in
the five volumes of the "Industry" series, I took no part; and I am
no more competent to describe it than any other student of the
published results. But in order to complete this survey of Charles
Booth's methods of investigation I will endeavour to give some
indication of the lines on which he proceeded.

We find again the plan of combining the personal observation and
testimony afforded by a large number of witnesses, with the
statistical framework given by the census of the whole population.
Unfortunately, the Registrar-General's classification of the
occupations to which the million families had ascribed themselves
ran to no fewer than three hundred and fifty "trades" or vocations
of one sort or another, and these, moreover, were lessened in value
by the fact that the terms used by those who filled up the
"Householders' Schedules" were in many instances ambiguous.
Charles Booth undertook the herculean task of re-classifying, on
this point of occupation, the whole million schedules, according to
a scheme of his own, arranging the aggregate into sixteen main
"industries," subdivided into about ninety subclasses.... For each
of the sixteen "industries" he was able to give an exact classification
of those engaged in it from top to bottom, according to their social
condition; and to show this graphically by tables exhibiting the
number and percentage existing at eight separate grades, according
to the number of persons per occupied room, and of the domestic
servants kept by each family--these particular indexes of social
conditions having been conclusively proved by the "Poverty"
enquiry to correspond closely with grades of family income. These
graphic diagrams of social condition "by industry" are in some
cases illuminating, though opinions differ as to whether the
particular grouping of occupations in an "industry" corresponds
with any "organic" character of the group or with any particular
problem to be solved. In some cases (as for instance that of "the
building industry"), in spite of the inclusion of the relatively
tiny numbers of the great contractors and the architects with the
manual working operatives, the diagram has obvious significance. At
the other extreme of the Public Services and Professional Classes,
which include in a single "industry" the Civil Service, the
doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists and ministers of religion, with
sweepers and dustmen and the waterworks employees, the diagram of
the social condition of the whole aggregate of families can have but
little value. Charles Booth's idea seems to have been to class those
occupations together in an "industry" which co-operated in
producing a particular commodity or a particular service, with a
view to discovering what grade of social conditions was being
afforded to those engaged in the production of each of them--a
classification which, in the opinion of some competent critics, is
not feasible on account of the interlocking of finance, commerce and
manufacture; and if it were feasible would not be of scientific
value, owing to the inclusion of persons of unrelated vocations and
widely separated standards of expenditure in each of the so-called

More plainly significant were the results yielded by the
classification into the eight separate grades of social condition of
each of the ninety relatively homogeneous subclasses,81 such as
woodworkers, municipal employees, etc.; to which was added a graphic
diagram, the product of immense industry, showing how the age
distribution of those engaged in the occupation compared with the
age distribution of the whole of the "occupied persons" of London.
These tabular statements and graphic diagrams were supplemented by
detailed statements as to whether the individuals concerned were
born in or out of London; where and how the occupation was carried
on; the rates of wages and methods of remuneration of the
wage-earners; the amount of "slack time"; the hours of labour and
sanitary conditions of the trade; the organisations existing in it;
and innumerable other details gathered from employers, foremen,
Trade Union officials and the personal observation of the

The method adopted has been varied according to the character of the
employment, but everywhere we have tried to obtain information from
all sides. Employers, trades union officials and individual workmen
have all been applied to. . . .As regards employers in each trade,
the plan adopted has been to approach as many as possible by
circular, asking from each an exact account of those employed,
whether men, women or boys, and the wages paid to each in an
average, or, better still, in a maximum and minimum week. This
appeal brought in every case a fair proportion of replies, and the
tabulated results may be accepted as showing the earnings ordinarily
made in the best class of firms. . . . For each section of industry
I have endeavoured to ascertain the extent to which the workpeople
are organised for trade purposes. Particulars of every trade union
or society of importance have been obtained. It is, however,
possible that some small society has, here and there, been omitted,
owing either to the difficulty of tracing it, or to information
being refused. The evidence of individual workers, I fear, falls
short of what might be desired. It is not always easy to obtain; but
when available adds much to the life of the picture. [Industry,
i. pp. 27, 28.]

I have been very kindly allowed to use the wages returns from many
London trades collected by the Statistical Department of the Board
of Trade in 1886-7, but not published, because it concerned trades
which were not of sufficient general importance, I have set my
figures and those of the Board of Trade side by side for comparison.
. . . The queries of the Board of Trade asked for the maximum and
minimum numbers employed in any weeks in 1885, with the total amount
paid for the same weeks$ and also the numbers employed in the first
week of October 1886, with full particulars of character of
employment, standard of hours worked, and wages for an ordinary
full week's work. We could not venture to ask so much, and contented
ourselves with the actual wages earned in an ordinary week (or in a
busy and slack week, of which we ourselves took the average). Our
figures are therefore actual, and include overtime or short time,
whereas the figures of the Board of Trade are for a full week's
work, taking no account of time lost or extra time made. [Industry,
i. p. 28.]


In the foregoing pages I have attempted to give in bare outline
Charles Booth's plan of campaign. I have now to estimate, I fear
even more imperfectly, the value of the product.

From the standpoint of science it seems to me that Charles Booth's
principal contribution was not the discovery of particular facts,
though, as I shall presently show, this revelation of the life and
labour of the people in London reverberated in the world of politics
and philanthropy, but his elaboration of an adequate technique in
obtaining a vision of the condition of the whole population, within
a given time. For it is only by this static account of a given
population that we can discover the relative proportions of
particular attributes--that we can make sure that the particular
instances of good or evil that have been observed are not merely
sensational exceptions. We may admit that the static method has
well-defined limits to its power of discovery. When not repeated at
intervals, according to strictly analogous schemes of classification,
it seldom discovers what has happened in the past, or what is likely
to happen in the future.82 And even when repeated, these statements
of contemporaneous facts, however analogous to one another and
photographic they may be, do not reveal the actual processes of
birth, growth, decay and death of the social institutions existing
at the time of each successive investigation. The experienced
investigator knows that, in order to discover the processes
underlying the structure and function, or the conditions of health
and disease for any given piece of social organisation, the
historical method83 is imperative; with its use of the documents and
contemporaneous literature belonging to each successive stage of the
organisation concerned, with its own ways of interviewing, and its
more continuous personal observation of particular organisations, to
which may occasionally be added freedom to experiment in
constitution-making and day-by-day administration. Only by watching
the processes of growth and decay during a period of time, can we
understand even the contemporary facts at whatever may be their
stage of development; and only by such a comprehension of the past
and present processes can we get an insight into the means of
change. But every method, like every instrument, has its limitations,
and we do not abuse a knife because it turns out not to be a fork!

Further, Charles Booth showed us for the first time how best to
combine the qualitative with the quantitative examination of social
structure. By a masterly use of the method of wholesale interviewing
(i.e. the use of a set of intermediaries who, in manageable number,
were themselves acquainted with the whole aggregate of individuals
to be investigated), amplified and verified by all sorts of
independent testimony and personal observation of various parts of
the immense field, he succeeded in making a qualitative examination
of a magnitude never before attempted. By combining this with the
merely mechanical enumeration of all the individuals in successive
censuses, and by drawing out the eightfold indexes of social
condition that he had discovered, he was able to give to his
qualitative categories a numerical measurement of an accuracy and
over a field far greater than had ever before been attempted. In
short, Charles Booth was much more than a statistician. He was the
boldest pioneer, in my judgement, and the achiever of the greatest
results, in the methodology of the social sciences of the nineteenth


What was the effect on public opinion, what were the reactions in
politics and philanthropy, of the revelation of the life and labour
of the common people made by this "Grand Inquest?" I was so
intimately associated as an "industrious apprentice" with the first
stage of these investigations, and my mind was, at the time, so
sensitive to impressions, implications and inferences, that I may
easily overstate the political and administrative results of Charles
Booth's labours. All I can do is to give my own conclusions; and it
is for the reader to discount them as he thinks fit.

The authoritative demonstration--a fact which could not be gainsaid
after the publication of Charles Booth's tables--that as many as 30
per cent of the inhabitants of the richest as well as the largest
city in the world lived actually at or beneath the level of bare
subsistence--came as a shock to the governing class.84 It is true
that the assertions of the Marxian Socialists, that the manual
workers as a whole were in a state of chronic destitution, and that
the poor were steadily becoming poorer whilst the rich were becoming
richer, were not borne out. Indeed, the high proportion of manual
workers--as many as 50 per cent of the whole population--who were
described as existing in relative comfort and security, was the
consoling feature of Charles Booth's table. But the philanthropist
and the politician were confronted with a million men, women and
children in London alone, who were existing, at the best, on a
family income of under 20 shillings a week, and, at worst, in a
state of chronic want; whilst this whole class of "poor" and "very poor"
were subject to physical and social surroundings which were proved
by innumerable test--from the death-rate at all ages, the prevalence
of endemic disease, and the raging of epidemics to the number of
vermin-infested and dinnerless children,85 from prosecutions for
drunkenness to convictions for "indecent occupation" of tenements
--to be disastrously deteriorating to the race, alike in body and
mind. How had this morass of destitution and chronic poverty arisen
during a period of unprecedented national prosperity?

Now the static method of investigation may not be able to discover
causes--that is, the processes by which things happen--but it
frequently yields invaluable clues, for other investigators to
follow up by one or other of the methods of research. What this
practically simultaneous examination of four millions of English
urban society revealed was a series of affiliations or concomitants
with the various degrees of destitution and poverty; not merely
overcrowding but also the analogous condition of the state of repair
of the houses; the sanitation; the lighting, paving and cleansing of
the streets, and, generally speaking, the degree of dirt, squalor,
noise and disorderly conduct characteristic of the various
neighbourhoods: all these conditions rising and falling with the
amount and the security of the livelihood of the family. An even
more significant fact was the rise and fall of the death-rate and
birth-rate according to the degree of destitution or poverty of the
families concerned. That the death-rate, and especially the
infantile death-rate, should be found to rise with a shortage of
food, warmth and breathing space, and above all, in the presence of
ubiquitous dirt and consequent flies, was of course expected; though
the actual doubling of the infantile death-rate among the denizens
of mean streets relatively to that of the inhabitants of West End
squares was sensational. But to one who had been brought up in the
political economy of Malthus, and taught to believe that every
increment of income and security would inevitably be accompanied by
additional children in working-class families, it was disconcerting
to discover that the greater the poverty and overcrowding, and
especially the greater the insecurity of the livelihood, the more
reckless became the breeding of children; whilst every increment in
income, and especially every rise in the regularity and the security
of the income in working-class families, was found to be
accompanied, according to the statistics, by a more successful
control of the birth-rate. And among other circumstances or conditions
found to be closely related to destitution and poverty were the
character of the occupations followed by the bread-winners, the
unsatisfactory methods of remuneration, the irregularity of the hours
of labour, the low degree of responsibility of landlord and employer
for the sanitation and the cubic space of the workplace. On these
points I shall have more to say in the following chapter. On the
other hand, popular illusions about certain malign forces at work in
the poorer districts were dispelled by these investigations. The careful
enquiry made by H. Llewellyn Smith (afterwards Sir Hubert Llewellyn
Smith, G.C.B., of the Board of Trade) disproved the common complaint
that underpaid agricultural labourers swarmed into London and
dragged down the rate of wages. It was proved beyond dispute that
the country labour almost always came in at the top, and not at the
bottom, of the wage levels. And the more sensational indictment of
what was assumed to be a constant stream of aliens flooding the East
End was finally disposed of by a precise enumeration of the aliens
already living in the East End, and an accurate estimate of the
relatively small annual increment afforded by the residuum between
the total entering the Port of London and the numbers recorded as
merely passing through London on their way to the United States of


In the rough and tumble of day-by-day public administration and
private enterprise we cannot stand and wait for an authoritative
social science: politicians, philanthropists and the plain citizen
alike have, here and now, to act or refrain from acting according to
any clues that may be available. Now I venture to suggest that
perhaps the most noteworthy clue afforded by Charles Booth's
investigation was the irrelevance of charitable assistance, whether
regarded as a good or evil influence, in determining the social
environment of the common people. Some forms of indiscriminate and
unconditional almsgiving--for instance, when competing religious
communities recklessly scattered gifts, in money and in kind, in
order to bring into their several folds persons who were indifferent
and even contemptuous of the religion that they were bribed to
confess--proved to be as diabolically black as they had been painted
by the C.O.S.; but it was a mere fraction of the population that was
thus debased. On the other hand, the administration of the Poor
Law "according to the principles of 1834," supplemented by
charitable assistance according to the tenets of the C.O.S., though
it reduced the Poor Rate and possibly diminished the amount spent in
charity by enlightened persons, had next to no effect either on the
poverty or on the misery of the poor. In the second volume of the
"Religious Influences Series," Charles Booth sums up his general
impression of the effect of the rich man's charity, even when
tempered by a strictly administered Poor Law and the active
intervention of the Charity Organisation Society. In the light of
this conclusion--surely the most weighty judgement ever passed on a
social experiment, all the more weighty because it is expressed with
moderation and kindliness--the whole controversy between rival
schools of poor relief and private charity is seen to be obsolete in
so far as the prevention of destitution is concerned.

It is very difficult to give any adequate idea of the extent of the
religious and philanthropic effort that has been, and is, made in
this district [Whitechapel, etc.]. No statistical device would be of
much avail to measure the work done, and description fails to
realise it. Great as the effort is in many other parts of London, it
is greatest here. Nowhere else are the leading churches so
completely organised to cover the whole field of their work; and
nowhere else are the auxiliary missions on so huge a scale. Money
has been supplied without stint; the total expended is enormous; and
behind and beneath it all, much of the work is sustained by the
self-devotion of very many and the exalted enthusiasm of not a few.
It can hardly be but that the sense of present help and kindly
sympathy brought home to the people must do good, and that the world
would be a blacker world without it. But these results are difficult
to gauge. Much that is done seems rather to do harm than good, and
on the whole all this effort results in disappointment and causes
men to turn to other methods.

Whitechapel, St. George's, and Stepney have been the scene of a very
great experiment in the reform of the Poor Law on the anti-out-relief
side. These three Unions, covering a very considerable area and
including a population that is in the aggregate equal to that of a
large provincial town, constitute in effect the district with which
we are now dealing. The experiment has been an almost unique
attempt. When it began the people were not only very poor, but
terribly pauperised, and the object was to instil independence and
so to raise the standard of life. A generation has elapsed, and we
can take stock of the results. . . . The district, owing to the
unusually small proportion of cases which from any point of view are
suitable for out-relief, is well adapted for such an attempt, and,
moreover, since it is part of their theory that private charity is
much less injurious to the spirit of independence than parish aid,
it has had the advantage (if it really be one) of being carried out
contemporaneously with an unexampled flood of private benevolence.
In this effort they have had the advantage also of close co-operation
with the Charity Organisation Society, for whose methods no greater
opportunity could ever be offered.

Complete success has been achieved in reducing outdoor relief
without any corresponding increase in indoor pauperism. But to those
who have advocated the principles which have produced these great
results it is the more disheartening to find that they meet with no
general acceptance. The example is not followed elsewhere, and even
here the principle is not beyond the risk of abandonment. The
continued presence and influence of the men I have named have been
needed to prevent relapse, and at Stepney with the change of
personnel there is already to some extent a change of policy.

Tested by the condition of the people, it is not possible to claim
any great improvement. The people are no less poor, nor much, if at
all, more independent. There are fewer paupers, but not any fewer
who rely on charity in some form. Private charity defies control,
and the work of the Charity Organisation Society has, in spite of
itself, become largely that of providing, under careful management,
one more source of assistance for those who would otherwise be
obliged to apply to the Guardians. [Religious Influences, ii.
pp. 50-53.]


So much for the negative influence on opinion of Charles Booth's
work. Was there no remedy for this condition of a million people,
over 30 per cent., of the richest city in the world? It is surely
significant that this wealthy captain of industry, by this time
Conservative in politics and strongly anti-Socialist in temper and
economic views, should have come out of his prolonged study with
proposals the very reverse of individualist. The force at work of
which he is wholeheartedly admiring, and in which he finds most
hope, is the essentially collectivist organisation of compulsory
education by the London Education Authority at the public expense
--an organisation that was, in these very years, being hotly
denounced as a form of Socialism.86

"The disease from which society suffers is the unrestricted
competition in industry of the needy and the helpless." [Poverty,
i. p. 162.] His particular remedy for the conditions that he had
revealed was for "the State" compulsorily to take entire charge of
the lives of the whole of "Class B"--"the entire removal of this
very poor class out of the daily struggle for existence I believe to
be the only solution of the problem" [Poverty, i. p. 154]. ". . .
for the State to nurse the helpless and incompetent as we in our own
families nurse the old, the young, and the sick, and provide for
those who are not competent to provide for themselves" [Poverty,
i. p. 165]. When we remember that, in London alone, Class B numbered
over three hundred thousand people, apart from those actually in
institutions; and that for the whole kingdom they would number over
three million people, the magnitude and the daring of this piece of
"Collectivism" were startling.

Nothing less than this [summed up Charles Booth] will enable
self-respecting labour to obtain its full remuneration, and the
nation its raised standard of life [Poverty, i. p. 165]. ... My idea
is to make the dual system, Socialism in the arms of Individualism,
under which we already live, more efficient by extending somewhat
the sphere of the former and making the division of function more
distinct. Our Individualism fails because our Socialism is
incomplete. In taking charge of the lives of the incapable, State
Socialism finds its proper work, and by doing it completely, would
relieve us of a serious danger. The Individualist system breaks down
as things are, and is invaded on every side by Socialistic
innovations, but its hardy doctrines would have a far better chance
in a society purged of those who cannot stand alone. Thorough
interference on the part of the State with the lives of a small
fraction of the population would tend to make it possible,
ultimately, to dispense with any Socialistic interference in the
lives of all the rest. [Poverty, i. p. 167.]

This proposal, it is needless to say, found supporters neither among
the individualists, who objected to State intervention as such, nor
among the Socialists, who preferred the "State tutelage" of the
rack-renting landlord and rate-cutting employer to that of the very
poor who were their victims. But a more popular and practicable
proposal--one already advocated by Samuel Barnett and the Fabian
Society--was given an immense prestige by Charles Booth's concurrent
investigation into the conditions of the aged poor throughout
England and Wales;87 and by his advocacy of the grant by the State
of non-contributory, universal old-age pensions, given as of right,
irrespective of affluence, to every person attaining a given age. It
was certainly due to his statistical investigations and incessant
propaganda, more than to any other factor, that the Old Age Pensions
Act was passed in 1908, to be greatly enlarged and extended in 1911,
1919 and 1924. And is it a mere coincidence that the two most
distinguished members of his staff of investigators were, within a
very few years of the publication of the completed edition in
1902-3, influentially associated with perhaps the two biggest
experiments in public administration and public control in the
interest of the manual workers that the century has yet seen? The
brilliant young statistician, who was Charles Booth's chief
intellectual adviser in the first stages of the great enquiry, found
himself, as Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith, G.C.B., in 1906-10
initiating and organising the national network of State Labour
Exchanges, and in 1911-14 of the elaborate provisions for the
able-bodied outside the Poor Law by compulsory unemployment
insurance, involving, as amended in 1918-24, an annual issue which
has run up, in the worst times, to over forty million pounds a year.
The other, who, Mrs. Charles Booth tells us, was "in many respects
the ablest of all"88--the late Ernest Aves--played a leading part in
the initiation and administration of the Boards established under
the Trade Boards Act of 1909 (extended in 1913-18), by which, in a
wide series of so-called sweated trades, employers were compelled by
law to pay to all their employees not less than a prescribed legal
minimum wage. Thus we have as the outcome of Charles Booth's poverty
statistics, not indeed State provision for Class B as such, but
State provision for the children of school age State provision for
those over seventy (and State provision for the blind over fifty),
State provision (under health insurance) for the sick and disabled,
and State provision for all those without employment (under
unemployment insurance). Meanwhile, in the sphere of collective
regulation, we have seen the repeated extensions of the Factory and
Workshops, Mines and Merchant Shipping, Railway! and Shop Hours
Acts; and the far-reaching ramification, of minimum wage and maximum
hours legislation. Indeed--perhaps being "wise after the event"--if
I had to sum up, in a sentence, the net effects of Charles Booth's
work, should say that it was to give an entirely fresh impetus to
the general adoption, by the British people, of what Fourier,
three-quarters of a century before, had foreseen as the precursor of
his organised communism, and had styled "guaranteeism"; or, as we
now call it, the policy of securing to every individual, as the very
basis of his life and work, a prescribed national minimum of the
requisites for efficient parenthood and citizenship. This policy
may, or may not, be Socialism, but it is assuredly a decisive denial
of the economic individualism of the 'eighties.

It was under the continuous pressure of this peculiarly stimulating
social environment--political, philanthropic and scientific--that I
sought and found a field of enquiry, and began the series of
observations and experiments described in the following chapter.


69 Charles Booth--A Memoir (Macmillan, 1918) [by Mrs. Charles
Booth]. Ship-owner and merchant by profession, Charles Booth became
in later life a Privy Councillor, F.R.S., and Honorary Doctor of
Oxford, Cambridge and Liverpool. He married Mary, daughter of
Charles Zachary Macaulay (brother of the historian), and
granddaughter of my own grandfather, Richard Potter, M.P. for Wigan.

70 Robert Durning Holt, who married my eldest sister Laurencina in
1867, was the youngest of five brothers of a remarkable family,
Unitarians and Liberals, which for a whole generation dominated the
management of two great and successful shipping companies of
Liverpool, took a prominent part in the municipal life, and were
munificent benefactors of the local University. My brother-in-law
was a member of the Royal Commission on London Government, 1893-94.
He was probably the only man who found himself actually gazetted as
a baronet against his will, his humorous letter of refusal having
been taken by Lord Rosebery as an acceptance. Reinforced by the
indignant protests of his wife (who vehemently objected, as a good
Radical, to all social inequalities) he insisted on the honour being

71 The attitude of Charles Booth towards profit-making enterprise is
described in the Memoir. "Those who imagined that a business life
must be dull, wanting in the interest and charm attending political,
literary, or scientific pursuits, filled him with amazement. To him
the living forces that stir the great pendulum of trade; the hazards
to be incurred in new portions of the work of a great concern; the
sharp reminders of failure given by the actual loss of money when
any undertaking had been begun too rashly, or conducted with
insufficient insight; above all, the contact with a set of men
working towards one end, and in hourly touch with the realities of
existence: all this delighted and absorbed him." (p. 93).

A significant and well-documented analysis of his outlook on public
affairs after twenty years of successful business and sociological
investigation is given in the chapter on Business, pp. 93-103, and
in that on Industrial Policy, pp. 155-171, in the Memoir by his

72 Charles Booth--A Memoir (Macmillan, 1912), by Mrs. Charles Booth,
pp. 13-15.

73 Condition and Occupations of the People of the Tower Hamlets,
1886-87, by Charles Booth, 1887, p. 7.

74 Condition and Occupation of the People of the Tower Hamlets,
1886-87, by Charles Booth, 1887, p. 4; a paper read before the Royal
Statistical Society, May 1887.

75 This huge enquiry, begun in 1886, resulted in a series of volumes
the publication of which extended over many years. The first volume,
dealing with the East End of London, appeared in 1889; and those
relating to Central and South London in 1891. These were included,
in 1902-3, with the remaining results of the enquiry, in a new and
definitive edition entitled Life and Labour of the People in London,
in which the subject-matter was rearranged, revised by the 1891
census, and extended to seventeen volumes. These volumes comprised
four on "Poverty" (which I shall cite as Poverty i. to iv.); five
on "Industry" (Industry i. to v.); seven on "Religious Influences" (
with which I do not deal except incidentally to the poverty and
industry enquiry); and a "Final Volume" entitled "Notes on Social
Influences and Conclusion" (to be cited as Final); together with a
case of coloured maps, mounted and divided into convenient sections.

76 Condition and Occupations of the People of the Tower Hamlets.,
1886-87, by Charles Booth, 1887, p. 2.

77 Journal of Royal Statistical Society, vol. 49, pp. 314-444,

78 It was stated by an official of the Board of Trade at the meeting
of the Statistical Society, December 1893, that Charles Booth was a
member of the official committee appointed to draw up the
Householders' Schedules and make other arrangements for the 1891
census. He himself tells us that "to meet the difficulty of novelty,
and to make sure that the enumerators' work was carefully and
intelligently performed, at any rate in London, I obtained the
Registrar-General's permission to place myself in communication with
the Registrars in each sub-district of the Metropolis, and through
them with the enumerators themselves. I personally saw all the
Registrars more than once, and discussed the subject with them,
pointing out the object to be attained, and the important uses that
could be made of the material to be collected; and my appeal was
very heartily responded to, both by them and by the enumerators.
Amongst so many men (there were over three thousand enumerators in
all) there could not be uniform excellence, and no doubt some may
have performed the work in a perfunctory manner, but, on the whole,
I was assured, and feel quite satisfied, that the work was well and
conscientiously done." (Industry, i. p. 12)

79 "I undoubtedly expected that this investigation would expose
exaggeration, and it did so: but the actual poverty disclosed was so
great, both in mass and in degree, and so absolutely certain, that I
have gradually become equally anxious not to overstate." [Poverty,
i. p. 5.]

80 "In describing the streets and various portions of London we
have drawn upon many sources of information, but it must be borne in
mind that the classification of the people rests in effect upon what
the School Board attendance officers have told us of the homes and
parents of the children in elementary schools. It has therefore
seemed desirable to check the results thus obtained by looking at
the same facts from the point of view of the teachers in the
schools, who, though lacking some means of information open to the
attendance officers as to the parents and homes, have a much more
intimate knowledge of the children themselves. Moreover, from the
regularity or irregularity of attendance, the condition in which the
children come to school, the demands for remission of fees, and in
many other ways, the teachers can, and usually do, acquire a very
considerable knowledge of the parents, and a fair idea of the
character of the home." [Poverty, iii. p. 195.]

81 Even in this re-grouping of the census figures, many of the
subclasses seem to me too heterogeneous to be of much value; for
instance, the tables and diagrams relating to the persons occupied
in medical pursuits include physicians and surgeons, nurses and
midwives, chemists and druggists, mineral toothmakers and bone-setters
--vocations too widely divergent from each other in income, social
status, degree of skill and character of training, to yield any
common measure of social condition.

82 Charles Booth realised this limitation of the static method: "My
principal aim is still confined to the description of things as they
are. I have not undertaken to investigate how they came to be so,
nor, except incidentally, to indicate whither they are tending; and
only to a very limited extent, or very occasionally, has any
comparison been made with the past. These points of view are deeply
interesting and not to be ignored, but are beyond the scope of my
own work. ... In a similar way an attempt is made to show hi what
manner the action of Local Authorities and County Council, Poor Law
Guardians and Local Government Board, affects the condition of the
people, but there is no pretence of going deeply into the principles
of government involved." [Religious Influences, i. p. 5.]

83 I use the term "historical" rather than any of the alternative
terms--evolutionary, genetic, kinetic and comparative method
--because it seems to me least open to misunderstanding by the
general reader. The "industrious apprentice" can be referred to the
concise text-book, Essentials of Scientific Method (by A. Wolf,
Professor of Logic and Scientific Method in the University of
London, 1925).

84 Subsequent enquiries into the condition of the people in other
urban centres of population, on the Booth plan (varied by such
statistical devices as "sampling" the population and extended by a
more intensive study of family obligations), have borne out, with
startling exactitude, the London statistics of poverty of 1881-1891,
i.e. thirty per cent, on or under the line of bare subsistence. See
Poverty, A Study of Town Life (York, 1902), by Seebohm Rowntree, and
Livelihood and Poverty (Northampton and Warrington), 1915, by A. L.
Bowley and A. R. Burnett Hurst. In view of the alarm arising out of
the present condition of the people owing to persistent unemployment
it would be of outstanding value if there could be started new
enquiries on analogous lines in all these places, including the
Metropolitan area.

85 The condition of the child was perhaps the saddest feature in
Charles Booth's picture: "Further than this, an official return,
made in 1889, gives over 40,000 children in the London Board
Schools, or nearly 10 per cent, of the number on the roll, as
habitually attending in want of food, to which number returns from
Voluntary schools add about 11,000 in the same condition. . . .
Puny, pale-faced, scantily clad and badly shod, these small and
feeble folk may be found sitting limp and chill on the school
benches in all the poorer parts of London. They swell the bills of
mortality as want and sickness thin them off, or survive to be the
needy and enfeebled adults whose burden of helplessness the next
generation will have to bear." [Poverty, iii. p. 207.]

86 "Among the public buildings of the Metropolis the London Board
Schools occupy a conspicuous place. In every quarter the eye is
arrested by their distinctive architecture, as they stand, closest
where the need is greatest, each one 'like a tall sentinel at his
post,' keeping watch and ward over the interests of the generation
that is to replace our own. The School Board buildings, as befits
their purpose, are uniformly handsome, commodious, and for the most
part substantial and well arranged. The health and convenience of
both children and teachers have been carefully considered, and, in
the later ones especially, have been increasingly secured. They
accommodate a little over 443,000 children, and haye been erected at
a cost of about four and a half millions sterling. Taken as a whole,
they may be said fairly to represent the high-water mark of the
public conscience in this country in its relation to the education
of the children of the people." [Poverty, iii. p. 204.] ". . . Of
these general influences the greatest of all is elementary
education, which, however, presents here no special features, and
embodies no special effort. . . . Habits of cleanliness and of order
have been formed; a higher standard of dress and of decency has been
attained, and this reacts upon the homes; and when children who have
themselves been to school become parents, they accept and are ready
to uphold the system, and support the authority of the teachers,
instead of being prone to espouse with hand and tongue the cause of
the refractory child. Schoolmasters need no longer fear the tongue
of the mother or the horsewhip of an indignant father." [Religious
Influences, ii. PP. 53, 54.]

87 The Aged Poor in England and Wales, 1894, by Charles Booth; also
Charles Booth--A Memoir (Macmillan, 1918), by Mrs. Charles Booth,
pp. 141-154.

88 Ibid. p. 130.


[1884-1890; aet. 26-32].

The four years between my visit to Bacup in 1883 and the publication
in 1887 of my first contribution to Charles Booth's The Life and
Labour of the People in London were crucial years of my life; the
period of greatest risk to health and happiness, a veritable
testing-time of character and intelligence. From being a lively and,
at times, goodlooking society girl, assumed to be ready to follow
her elder sisters' example in making a happy and otherwise
satisfactory marriage, I was transformed into, I will not say a
professional, but a professed brain-worker, overtly out for a career
of my own. What had altered my looks, if not my outlook, was my
frantic attempt, in the first two of these years, to combine three
or four lives in one: housekeeping and entertaining for my father
and sister in our London and country homes, with C.O.S. visiting in
Soho, and a short spell of rent-collecting in a block of low-class
dwellings at the East End of London; perpetual controversies with
politicians and philanthropists with an assiduous study of 'blue
books,' social histories and economic treatises. "A rather hard
and learned woman, with a clear and analytic mind," so records a
brilliant journalist in his reminiscences of these days. Some of
the opinions attributed to me by this friendly and too flattering
critic I do not recognise; but his observation about my general
attitude strikes me as singularly apt. "I'm afraid there is
something a little hard about it all. Unhappily, man has bowels
of compassion, and the individual case appeals so much more to
compassion than an undefined and unimaginable 'class.'"89

To me "a million sick" have always seemed actually more worthy of
self-sacrificing devotion than the "child sick in a fever,"
preferred by Mrs. Browning's Aurora Leigh. And why not? The medical
officer of health, who, made aware by statistical investigation of
the presence of malaria in his district, spends toilsome days and
troubled nights in devising schemes for draining stagnant pools and
providing for the wholesale distribution of quinine, has a
compassion for human misery as deep-rooted as, and certainly more
effective than that of the devoted nurse who soothes the
fever-stricken patient in the last hours of life. This type of
broad-based beneficence has been exquisitely expressed in two poems
by Sir Ronald Ross, the discoverer of the cause of malaria:

[Before his discovery, 1890-93.]

The painful faces ask, can we not cure?
We answer, No, not yet; we seek the laws.
O God, reveal thro' all this thing obscure
The unseen, small, but million-murdering cause.

[After his discovery, 1897.]

This day relenting God
Has placed within my hand
A wondrous thing; and God
Be praised. At His command,
Seeking His secret deeds
With tears and toiling breath,
I find thy cunning seeds,
O million-murdering Death.

I know this little thing
A myriad men will save.
O Death, where is thy sting?
Thy victory, O Grave?90

Not that I wish to imply that research, still less my own
investigation, into the cause and cure of poverty has yielded, as
yet, results in any way commensurate with Sir Ronald Ross's
researches into the origin and prevention of malaria. Still in its
infancy, the science of society has barely reached the years of
fruitful discovery. All I suggest is that the impulse of pity for
the needless misery of men, as distinguished from the suffering of
those individuals whom you happen to know, can be as operative in
the study of human nature in society as it is in that of the
pestilential poisons besetting the human body.


Casting about for some way of observing the life and labour of the
people, I seized the opportunity of my sister Kate's marriage91 to
assist Miss Ella Pycroft92 in taking over one of my sister's
commitments in the management of working-class dwellings in the East
End of London. About the harmlessness of this intrusion of the
relatively well-to-do into the homes of the very poor I had no
misgiving; rents had to be collected, and it seemed to me, on
balance, advantageous to the tenants of low-class property to have
to pay their money to persons of intelligence and goodwill who were
able to bring hardships and grievances to the notice of those who
had power to mitigate or remedy them. And this occupation was
certainly well fitted to form part of my apprenticeship as a social
investigator. Unlike philanthropic visiting under the parochial
clergy, or detective visiting under a C.O.S. committee, one was not
watching instances of failure in the way of adaptation to this world
or the next. What was under observation was the whole of a given
section of the population: a group of families spontaneously
associated in accordance with the social and economic circumstances
of the particular district. From the outset the tenants regarded us,
not as visitors of superior social status, still less as
investigators, but as part of the normal machinery of their lives,
like the school attendance officer or the pawnbroker; indeed, there
was familiarity in their attitude, for they would refer to one or
other of us as "my woman collector," a friendly neighbour being
given the superior social status of "the lady next door." And as
the management of this block of buildings was handed over to us from
the day of its opening in January 1885, my colleague and I had to
learn, by actual experiment, how to choose, from a crowd of
applicants, the tenants for 281 separate rooms; how to judge at
sight relative sobriety and trustworthiness; how to test by the
spoken and the written word the worth of references. Incidentally,
it was an advantage that Katherine Buildings, situated close to St.
Katherine's Docks, was itself an experiment. A group of
philanthropists, inspired by Octavia Hill, had undertaken the
difficult task of rehousing without financial loss, in a manner
both sanitary and cheap, the poorest of the poor: in particular, the
dock labourers who had been ousted from their homes by the
Metropolitan Board of Works in its demolition of insanitary slum
property. The policy adopted by these experimenters in working-class
housing was outlined by Octavia Hill in her evidence before the
Select Committee of the House of Commons on Artisans' and Labourers'
Dwellings Improvement, 1882, and before the Royal Commission on the
Housing of the Working Classes, 1885.

"It seems to me that one great difficulty that has been before the
people who have been interested in the Artisans' Dwellings Act is
that they want to take too many steps at once: they want to move the
very lowest class of poor out of, we will say, damp underground
cellars, where a large number of them have been living in one room,
at once into an ideal working-man's home. Now I grant that the
problem is very difficult, but supposing they take the two steps
separately, and be satisfied, for the moment, to build clean, light,
dry rooms above ground; and instead of building them in suites,
build them, as it is very easy to do, opening from a little lobby
from which four rooms enter, instead of making any of them passage
rooms; and they can either let one, two, three or four rooms, as the
people require; and whenever the standard of working people is
raised higher they can take more rooms." [Question 3002, Select
Committee on Artisans' and Labourers' Dwellings Improvement, H.C.
235 of 1882.]

"I think a very great deal more simplicity is needed in the
construction of the houses. It seems to me that where you remove the
very lowest class of dwelling, and wish to reaccommodate the same
people, you must adopt the very simplest manner of building, and
that I am afraid has not been done." [Question 8833.] ". . . They
should build what really is wanted, and what is essential to health.
. . . Primarily, I should not carry the water and the drains all
over the place; I think that is ridiculous. If you have water on
every floor, that is quite sufficient for working people. It is no
hardship to have to carry a pail of water along a flat surface. You
would not dream of altering the water supply in a tiny little house
now, and yet people carry their water up three or four floors there.
You would not dream of legislating to prevent that. Surely, if you
bring the water on each floor that is quite sufficient. In most of
the blocks of workmen's dwellings the water is laid on into every
tenement. That is not only a large cost to begin with, but it means
an enormous cost in keeping the thing up, and a larger cost still in
proportion as the tenants are destructive and careless. Of course,
the same thing applies to the drains, and it is not in the least
necessary that they should be laid on everywhere." [Question 8852,
Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes, C. 4402 of

"You ought to be able to give people things that they do not break.
I should make everything as strong as I could, and above all as
simple as I could. These people are not at all accustomed to the use
of appliances, and everything of that sort is a difficulty to them;
and I am quite certain that we ought not to give them elaborate
appliances for a long time yet." [Question 9003-4, ibid.]

So far as Katherine Buildings was concerned, the outcome of this
policy was a long double-faced building in five tiers; on one side
overlooking a street; on the other, looking on to a narrow yard
hemmed in by a high blank brick wall forming the back of the
premises of the Royal Mint. Right along the whole length of the
building confronting the blank wall ran four open galleries, out of
which led narrow passages, each passage to five rooms, identical in
size and shape, except that the one at the end of the passage was
much smaller than the others. All the rooms were "decorated" in
the same dull, dead-red distemper, unpleasantly reminiscent of a
butcher's shop. Within these uniform, cell-like apartments there
were no labour-saving appliances, not even a sink and water-tap!
Three narrow stone staircases led from the yard to the topmost
gallery; on the landings between the galleries and the stairs were
sinks and taps (three sinks and six taps to about sixty rooms);
behind a tall wooden screen were placed sets of six closets on the
trough system, sluiced every three hours; and these were allotted to
the inhabitants of the rooms on either side of them; in the yard
below were the dustbins. From a sanitary standpoint there was
perhaps little to be said against this supereconomical structure.
But the sanitary arrangements, taken as a whole, had the drawback
that the set of six closets, used in common by a miscellaneous crowd
of men, women and children, became the obtrusively dominant feature
of the several staircases, up and down which trooped, morning, noon
and night, the 600 or more inhabitants of the buildings. In short,
all amenity, some would say all decency, was sacrificed to the two
requirements of relatively low rents and physically sanitary
buildings. "Benevolence has had much to do with the erection of
dwellings in the neighbourhood," caustically observed Samuel
Barnett, a few years after the opening of Katherine Buildings, "and
in the name of benevolence, so as to encourage benevolence, some
argue that decoration must be given up, so that such dwellings may
be made to pay. Probably this is a mistake in economy: it is
certainly a mistake in benevolence. To treat one's neighbour as
oneself is not to decorate one's own house with the art of the
world, and to leave one's neighbour's house with nothing but the
drain-pipes to relieve the bareness of its walls."93

With this slight introduction I fall back on entries in the MS.
Diary--mere jottings of facts and impressions, the distracted and
diversified life I was leading forbidding lengthy explanation or
detailed description.

Another day at Whitechapel. Met Mr. Bond94 there and looked over
fittings. Stove suggested by architect a failure; the management
fails to go straight to the best authority and find out whether what
is proposed is likely to succeed. Afterwards talked with Mr.
Barnett. He is anxious that I should spend this unoccupied time in
getting more general information, and find out particulars about
medical officer, sanitary officer, relieving officer, School Board
visitor, and voluntary sanitary committee, their powers and duties.
[There follows an analysis of a manual of local government law, and
a summary of Sanitary Acts and Metropolitan Local Management Act,
etc., with details as to the Local Government officials in
Whitechapel.] Miss Pycroft spent three days with me; daughter of a
country physician. Free-thinking, had somewhat similar life to ours,
isolated from other country neighbours by opinions. Decided business
capacity, strong will and placid temper. Devoted to her father, with
whom she has the same intimate companionable relationship as we
have. Very anxious for work, and indifferent to life! We shall get
on, and we are anxious to have no other workers on the block. [MS.
diary, January 1885.]

I spend my time now in alternate days of work and rest. The physical
part of my work absorbs so much energy that I have little left for
thought and feeling. Work is the best narcotic, providing the
patient be strong enough to take it. All is chaos at present. Long
trudges through Whitechapel after applicants and references, and
tenants tumbling in anyhow. A drift population of all classes and
races; a constantly decomposing mass of human beings; few rising out
of it, but many dropping down dead, pressed out of existence by the
struggle. A certain weird romance with neither beginning nor end;
visiting amongst these people in their dingy homes. They seem
light-hearted enough, in spite of misery and disease. More often
feel envy than pity. Shall in the future, when other workers are
found, and when once I am fairly started in the practical work,
undertake less of the management, and use the work more as an
opportunity for observation. Mean some day to master, as far as my
power goes, what is theoretically thought out in social questions.
Earnestly hope I shall never get conceited again, or look upon my
work as more than the means for remaining contented and free from
pain. Relief to be alone. . . . Society constantly increasing; have
none of that terrible nightmare feeling about it of last year. But
work brings Society into its proper place as a rest and relaxation,
instead of an effort and an excitement. Trust I shall never make
social capital out of my work. That with me is a danger, as I enjoy
retailing my experiences, independently of any effect I may produce,
and the "vanity motive" comes in to strengthen desire. Perhaps the
past year of suffering will decrease my egotism and instead of cold
observation and analysis, all done with the egotistical purpose of
increasing knowledge, there will be the interest which comes from
feeling, and from the desire humbly to serve those around me. [MS.
diary, March 8, 1885.]

Feel rather depressed by the bigness of my work. When I look |< at
those long balconies, and think of all the queer characters, tenants
and would-be tenants, and realise that the character of the
community will depend on our personal influence, and that, again,
not only on character but on persistent health, I feel rather ||
dizzy. Home life adds to strain. Have cleared away all instructive
books, and taken to poetry and beautiful prose. Find restfulness in
beauty now that I have hard practical work and constant friction.
Emerson's essays delight me.[Review of Emerson follows.] [MS. diary,
March 13, 1885.]

Here for two or three days' rest. My work takes a great deal out of
me, and sometimes wonder how much of it I shall eventually do. Feel
so utterly done when I come back from Whitechapel, too tired to
think or feel. [MS. diary, The Argoed, our Monmouthshire home,
April 12, 1885.]

Working hard. Buildings are satisfactory; caretaker hopelessly
inadequate. Tenants rough lot--the aborigines of the East End.
Pressure to exclude these and take in only the respectable--follow
Peabody's example. Interview with superintendent of Peabody's. "We
had a rough lot to begin with; had to weed them of the old
inhabitants; now only take in men with regular employment."

The practical problem of management: are the tenants to be picked,
and all doubtful or inconvenient persons excluded? Or are the former
inhabitants to be housed so long as they are not manifestly
disreputable? May have some rough work to do, and I am gaining
experience. When overtired, the tenants haunt me with their
wretched, disorderly lives. Wish I had started with more experience,
and had been able to give my whole time to it. Half-hearted work is
always bad. [MS. diary, June 4, 1885.]

Visited Miss Cons95 at Surrey Buildings (South London Building
Company, cost 20,887 pounds, pays four per cent; no depreciation
fund). According to evidence before Royal Commission, only
three-quarters let. Working-class tenements, together with shops and
cottages; outside staircase, balconies round pleasure ground;
water-closets together, one to each tenement with keys. No sinks.
Wash-houses and drying grounds on roof. Trained by Octavia Hill. Not
a lady by birth, with the face and manner of a distinguished woman,
almost a ruler of men. Absolute absorption in work; strong religious
feeling, very little culture or interest in things outside the
sphere of her own action. Certainly, she is not a lover of fact or
theory: she was not clear as to the total number of rooms, unlets or
arrears. No description of tenants kept. Did not attempt to theorise
about her work. Kept all particulars as to families in her head. To
her people she spoke with that peculiar combination of sympathy and
authority which characterises the modern type of governing woman. I
felt ashamed of the way I cross-questioned her. As far as I could
make out from her books, her arrears amounted to within 1 pound of
her weekly rent--that is to say, on her working-class tenants. She
lives on the premises; collects other blocks, but devotes much time
to other work in connection with amusement and instruction of the
people. A calm enthusiasm in her face, giving her all to others.
"Why withhold any of your time and strength?" seems to be her
spirit. All her energy devoted to the practical side of the work. No
desire to solve the general questions of the hour. These governing
and guiding women may become important factors if they increase as
they have done lately; women who give up their lives to the
management of men; their whole energy, body and mind, absorbed in
it. Unlike the learned woman, the emotional part of their nature is
fully developed; their sympathy almost painfully active, expressed
in eyes clear of self-consciousness, and bright with love and the
pity from which it springs. They have the dignity of habitual
authority; often they have the narrow-mindedness and social
gaucherie due to complete absorption, physical and mental, in one
set of feelings and ideas. The pure organiser belongs to a different
type; she is represented by the active secretary of a growing
society, or the matron of a big hospital; and she is to a certain
extent unsexed by the justice, push and severity required. Not that
I despise these qualities, they are indispensable to any work. But
with the organiser, justice is a technical and not a moral
characteristic. Push and severity are not prominent qualities in
such guiding women as Miss Cons. For the guiding of men they use
personal influence based on feeling more than on reasoning.

Desirable that I should thoroughly master details of South London
Building Company management. [MS. diary, August 12, 1885.]

Took over the whole work from Miss Pycroft. Aim during her absence
--collecting and accounting, thoroughly and methodically. Arrears
diminished; rooms let; first-rate broker engaged; caretaker's work
observed; amount of repairs done by him estimated. Morality enforced
on buildings. Advantages of clear account of my own tenants written,
and general knowledge of Miss Pycroft's. Boys' club started; notes
on reading room taken. To do this must live a great deal on the
buildings, but not take rents on all days. Bullying people all the
week round system a waste of time. [MS. diary, August 13,1885.]

Delightful two days with Booths. . . . Discussed possibilities of
social diagnosis. Charlie working away with [a] clerk, on the
Mansion House enquiry into unemployment, and other work of
statistical sort. Plenty of workers engaged in examination of facts
collected by others; personal investigation required. Pall Mall
[Gazette] has started this but in worst possible way; shallow and
sensational. As to ideal of work; collecting well done; accounts not
yet done; arrears diminished and a few rooms let. Many of the most
respectable persons will not come in, owing to prejudice against
buildings, and to ours in particular. The coarseness of the
arrangements, want of attractiveness, and uniformity of the rooms a
great disadvantage. Broker found; or rather, a broker, typical Jew,
found me! Was I done? Paid 5 shillings for three warning visits. If
he gets two disreputable women out without further charge, I have
made a good bargain. Account of tenants got on with. If I get the
facts during the next four weeks, can write up the stories of East
End lives later on. [MS. diary, August 22, 1885.]

Struggling through the end of my work with painful effort: the old
physical longing for the night that knows no morning. Given up books
to Miss Pycroft. As to ideal of work, this much realised. Collecting
and accounts on the whole well and thoroughly done; arrears
diminished; twenty new tenants. On the other hand nine gone of their
own accord, six left under notice--balance of five. A very
indifferently written account of my own tenants. Boys' Club started
by Maurice Paul.96 Reading Room carried on by him. Spent three
evenings there, and started the idea, in my own mind, of introducing
a committee of men gradually into management of buildings.
Roadnight's work [a porter] not estimated; not satisfied with him;
wants more supervision than he gets. Suspect him of drinking; not
sufficiently to be a scandal, but too much to keep respect of
tenants. Failed in respect of Roadnight. Disagreeable row with one
of Miss Pycroft's tenants, and had to use summary measures. Badly
managed. Softness would have paid better than hardness. Difficult
ideal of conduct to be realised. Firmness in enforcing obligation
and respect for law, together with patient gentleness in the manner.
Succeeded in case of Haggarty, and failed in case of Schmidts,
because of this difference in my manner. Interesting conversation
with Ansing family; man Prussian Catholic, settled in Whitechapel
twenty-five years ago; woman English. Sweaters, that is, middlemen
between [retail] shop and hands, for the making of men's clothes.
Man with a rigid disapproval of Whitechapel population--not pity.
Woman more heart (on her tongue); should think she was fairly kind,
though naturally enough treating the hands for her own advantage,
not for theirs. Gave melancholy account of their habits in regard to
work. She told me, and one of her hands corroborated, that she
frequently spent the whole day hunting them up in public-houses, to
persuade them to finish work for which she had contracted. The
account she and her husband gave of the class we have to do with is
much the same as I should give with my small experience; except that
they omit certain lovable qualities, which apparently a lady arouses
into activity and appreciates. We all designate them as on the whole
a leisure class; picking up their livelihood by casual work, poor in
quality; by borrowing from their more industrious friends, and by
petty theft. Drunken, thieving and loose in their morality. I should
add, generous-hearted and affectionate, capable of self-control when
once you have gained their affection. As a class, not beggars; do
not expect you to give. Unlike the country poor in this matter. Also
warm in their feeling for family and friends. As a class, in a
purely business relationship in which no other moral principle
enters than that of fulfilling contracts--hopelessly unsatisfactory.
. . . To return to sweaters themselves. Seemed from their own
account to work hard enough: their whole energy of body and mind
going into their work. Apparently no recreation--always excepting
their Sunday spent at Chapel. Live well. Woman mentioned
incidentally that their butcher's bill for a party of eight came to
eighteen shillings per week. Bad debts, that is, stolen work, came
to a considerable item in their accounts. Intend to see more of
them. [MS. diary, September 15, 1885.]

A pleasant holiday among the hills [our Westmorland home]. Read
Taine's Ancien Regime with real enjoyment after ten days of
artisans' dwellings Blue Books. These philosophic histories are
delightful to ignoramuses. . . . [Then follows a review of Taine.] I
do not know how little or how much my energy will be equal to. But
while I hope to devote the greater part to my own subject, yet I
feel my knowledge of history is wholly inadequate even for my
special purpose. At the same time, a thorough detailed knowledge of
what actually is, will give me a much stronger imagination, will
furnish me with the raw material, the knowledge of men and women
under different conditions, by the aid of which, added to a
knowledge of past circumstances, the history of former men and women
may be instructive. A rigmarole way of expressing myself! . . . As
to scientific theories as to the evolution of society, a main
principle upon which to graft knowledge of special fact, I have none
except perhaps Comte's great generalisation of the processes of
human thought. I read with a sort of fervid enthusiasm Herbert
Spencer's First Principles, and accepted his perfect formula of the
course of life in all being. But his deductions from general theory,
used as first principles of social science, are to my mind
suggestive hypotheses, not proven laws. He irritates me by trying to
palm off illustrations as data; by transcribing biological laws into
the terms of social facts, and then reasoning from them as social
laws. A deeper knowledge of his work, based on a wider experience of
life, may make me in the end his true disciple. At present I am not.
I am biased by his individualism, not converted to it. I should like
to understand clearly what his theory is; and apart from mere
deduction from First Principles and general analogies, which seem to
me only to require skilful handling to cut into facts anyway, how he
has worked it out. I should like also to have mastered the general
outline of the reasoning of the scientific socialist. But I will
keep my own mind from theorising about society. . . .

One needs more knowledge of antecedent facts. . . . For instance, a
general knowledge of English history, with a due proportion of
"setting" from other contemporary history; a special knowledge of
the state of the working man in the different periods of our
history, and of the laws regulating commerce and industry: the
growth of industrial organisation and of its rival organisation;
influence of religion in determining political and social action;
rise and fall of various religious sects / with the peculiar
activities belonging to them; the difference of race in the
working-class communities; the growth of towns and the occupations
necessitated by these, and the reaction of these occupations on the
minds and bodies of the people; the formation > and dissolution of
classes, with their peculiar habits of body and mind. There is a
study for a lifetime! That is to be my general aim. My special aim
is to understand the condition of the working class in the way of
housing, by digesting the evidence of other people; testing and
supplementing it by my own observation and experiment. [MS. diary,
October 1885.]

To-morrow to London to begin a new year of work. The report I sent
to my Directors had an effect, and has made them reconsider their
plan for the new building. When Mr. Bond's letter asking my
attendance came I had forgotten all about my letter to him. Must
look up details to support my case. [This letter was a detailed
criticism of the sanitary arrangements at Katherine Buildings, more
especially concerning the waterclosets--their dominating position at
the head of each flight of stairs; their common use; and their
periodical sluicing; and a plea for self-contained tenements in the
new block, on the ground that, the more brutalised the class of
tenants, the more imperative it became to provide tolerably refined

Wish to get a complete account of the tenants of Katherine
Buildings; must think out facts I want to ascertain about each
family, and go straight at it. Will be obliged to go more deeply into
practical work in order to get opportunities of observation. It is
no use fighting against an irresistible tendency, however humble one
may be as to the worth of it. And why should not I have the
enjoyment now that I am young, of a thoroughly congenial pursuit?
Through the management of men, one will always get the opportunity
of studying them. Do not intend to become nauseated with my subject
--intend to go through a course of reading in history and social
science. Shall digest Herbert Spencer's Sociology and read Maine's
Popular Government. Shall begin the study of the English People in
periods so as to learn their characteristics and compare them with
their present ones, and understand the growth of local and political
organisation, and the transfer of power from class to class; the
material necessities and the ideas which lead to this transfer. [MS.
diary, October 23, 1885.]

I meant this morning to have worked at my Katherine Buildings book,
but unfortunately, or fortunately, my rent books were away. I think
I will keep Sunday for rest and writing a short account of my work
for the past week. . . . Met Directors, but I think failed to
convince them, as I had no alternative to offer which was based on
experience. Two long conversations with Mr. Barnett: I making my
suggestion of associating all agencies for housing in one body. Had
not thought this out, and was rather astounded at the way he took it
up and wanted me to elaborate a plan and become the moving spirit.
Shall I always disappoint myself and others when my strength comes
to be tested; or will my strength increase and enable me to carry
out what I intend? . . . As for work, I have done only my bare duty
at Katherine Buildings. I have begun a careful account of tenants.
Oh, for more energy! Went with two fellow-workers to the Victoria
Theatre; managed by that grand woman, Miss Cons. To me a dreary
performance, sinking to the level of the audience, while omitting
the dash of coarseness, irreverence and low humour which give the
spice and the reality to such entertainments. To my mind the devil
is preferable, and hi every way more wholesome, than a shapeless

Let me see what I mean by the association of the agencies for the
housing of the poor. About 150,000 persons live under the
superintendence of these agencies. I should like the experience of
each class of agency to be tabulated, giving a complete account of
their population, with occupation, family, income, where they came
from, whether employed in the neighbourhood, and other details. Also
method of superintendence (cause of ejectment, etc.); relative
expense of management and repairs, etc., I should like an annual
meeting and a reading of reports, and for these reports to be made
as complete as possible and published as proceedings. Also, that
this association should serve as a central office to provide
caretakers, superintendents and lady collectors. This is the outline
of what I wish to discover about the inhabitants of Katherine
Buildings: number of family, dead and alive; occupation of all
members; actual income from work, charity or private property; race,
whether born in London; if so, belonging to London stock? If not,
reason for immigration, and from what part of the country; religion.
As much of previous history as obtainable. [MS. diary, November 8,

A long day, from 9:30 to 5 o'clock, with Alfred [Cripps] and Colonel
Martindale at Albert and Victoria Docks, some way out of London on
the Essex Marshes.. Labourers, a much finer class [than those of St.
Katherine's Docks], English, practically permanently employed; live
in small two-storey houses. [Then follows a description of the
methods of employment.] But I should like to master the whole thing.
The courteous old gentleman seemed somewhat taken aback by my
questions and demand for statistics. But I shall get them if I have
patience. [Then follows a list of questions about methods of
remuneration and the way of engaging labour, which I intend to get
answered.] [MS. diary, November 12, 1885.]

Worked well: Monday, Katherine Buildings, one to nine o'clock;
afterwards saw over Whittingham Club. Tuesday, Katherine Buildings,
four hours; Wednesday, Albert and Victoria Docks from 10 p.m. to 6
a.m.; Thursday, idle morning, afternoon, Katherine Buildings;
Friday, seven hours' work on Katherine Buildings book; Saturday,
Katherine Buildings twelve to seven o'clock. Altogether forty hours,
including railway journey. [MS. diary, November 15, 1885.]

And here is an extract from a letter dated November 1885 to my
father, who was staying in our Westmorland home, whilst I had
returned to York House, Kensington:

In the afternoon I had four men who stayed from three to seven
o'clock. First a young S., a meek and mild pretty-looking young man,
whom I had always put down as a dancing idiot, but, remembering Mrs.
Barnett's admonition, I plunged into philanthropy and found out that
he was a hard-working "co-operator;" and he gave us a most
interesting account of the progress of the co-operative movement in

He has half promised to help me with the boys' club. It is
extraordinary how much earnestness there is in the air, and how shy
every one is of owning to it. Then entered the great Major W. who is
now quartered at (I can't remember the name, I am so stupid to-day),
who was most good-natured and tried valiantly to enter into our
conversation.97 . . .

Professor Newton98 and Mr. Bond (who had come to talk business)
completed our party, and we had a lengthy discussion on State
education, etc. Mr. Bond stayed afterwards. He said he regretted he
had shown my letter to the Board, as it had created a commotion, and
delayed the final issue of the plans. They are not going to decide
until Monday next, when they meet again. They have given way to us
about some minor points on our own buildings.

Anyway, one will have done one's duty and given them a fair warning.
I am working hard now at a book of all the tenants, past and
present, with description of occupation, family, etc., and a
statement of income and previous history and cause of leaving or
ejectment. I have undertaken to do the whole of it; and Miss Pycroft
[is] to give me particulars about her tenants. She and I are cut out
to work with each other, as she has the practical ability and power
to carry things through with steady work, and I have more initiative
and power of expression. What I lack is method and strength; both
fail me in critical times. I have a much greater show of ability
than reality, arising from my audacity of mind and plausible way of
putting things. My dear old Father, I am a sort of weak edition of
you! There is no doubt about it. I enjoy the planting, but don't
care for the tending!

On Monday I went to bed directly I came from Whitechapel. . . .
Yesterday I again went to Whitechapel, and dropped into the
Barnetts' to lunch. Mr. Barnett is very full of the idea of a
conference which would result in an association of the agencies for
Housing of the Poor. About 160,000 persons live under the
superintendence of these bodies; it seems a pity there should not be
some intercommunication and exchange of valuable experience and a
sifting of it for public purposes. But the whole thing wants
thinking out. Miss Hill was dining there that night to discuss it.
Mr. Barnett thought she would be adverse to it. But it seems that
the lady collectors are deteriorating as a body, and that some
stimulus is wanted to attract stronger and finer women into the
profession; and Mr. Barnett evidently grasps at any plan likely to
furnish this. I believe in the attraction of belonging to a body who
have a definite mission and a definite expression, and where the
stronger and more ambitious natures rise and lead. I admire and
reverence women most who are content to be among the "unknown
saints." But it is no use shutting one's eyes to the fact that there
is an increasing number of women to whom a matrimonial career is
shut, and who seek a masculine reward for masculine qualities. There
is in these women something exceedingly pathetic, and I would do
anything to open careers to them in which their somewhat abnormal
but useful qualities would get their own reward. They are a product
of civilisation, and civilisation should use them for what they fit,
and be thankful. At the best, their lives are sad and without joy or
light-heartedness; they are now beginning to be deeply interested
and warmed with enthusiasm. I think these strong women have a great
future before them in the solution of social questions. They are not
just inferior men; they may have masculine faculty, but they have
the woman's temperament, and the stronger they are the more
distinctively feminine they are in this.

I only hope that, instead of trying to ape men and take up men's
pursuits, they will carve out their own careers, and not be
satisfied until they have found the careers in which their
particular form of power will achieve most. . . .

The next entry in the diary, early in December 1885, is a gloomy
description of my father's sudden breakdown in health, the beginning
of a long and lingering illness lasting for six years. But in order
to complete the episode of rentcollecting I give a final entry,
when, a year afterwards, as a relaxation from daily attendance on my
father, I take over Miss Pycroft's work and her room in Wentworth
Dwellings near to Katherine Buildings, during her month's holiday.

It would not do for me to live alone, I should become morbid. . . .
But this East End life, with its dirt, drunkenness and immorality,
absence of co-operation or common interests, saddens me and weighs
down my spirit. I could not live down here; I should lose heart and
become worthless as a worker. And practical work does not satisfy
me; it seems like walking on shifting sand, with the forlorn hope
that the impress of one's steps will be lasting, and guide others
across the desert.

Where is the wish for better things in these myriads of beings,
hurrying along the streets night and day. Even their careless,
sensual laugh, coarse jokes, and unloving words depress one as one
presses through the crowd, and almost shudders to touch them. It is
not so much the actual vice, it is the low level of monotonous and
yet excited life; the regular recurrence to street sensations,
quarrels and fights; the greedy street-bargaining, and the petty
theft and gambling. The better natures keep apart from their
degraded fellow-citizens and fellow-workers, live lonely and
perforce selfish lives, not desiring to lead their more ignorant and
unself-controlled neighbours. Social intercourse brings out, and
springs from, the worst qualities in East London; as a society it is
an ever-increasing and ever-decomposing mass; the huge mass
smothering the small centres containing within them the seeds of
social life and growth. Even the faculty for manual labour becomes
demoralised, and its capability is reduced.

These buildings, too, are to my mind an utter failure. In spite of
Ella Pycroft's heroic efforts, they are not an influence for good.
The free intercourse has here, as elsewhere in this dismal mass, a
demoralising effect. The bad and indifferent, the drunken, mean and
lowering elements overwhelm the effect of higher motive and noble
example. The respectable tenants keep rigidly to themselves. To
isolate yourself from your surroundings seems to be here the acme of
social morality: in truth, it is the only creed one dare preach.
"Do not meddle with your neighbours" is perforce the burden of one's
advice to the newcomer. The meeting places, there is something
grotesquely coarse in this, are the water closets! Boys and girls
crowd on these landings--they are the only lighted places in the
buildings--to gamble and flirt. The lady collectors are an
altogether superficial thing. Undoubtedly their gentleness and
kindness bring light into many homes: but what are they in face of
this collective brutality, heaped up together in infectious contact;
adding to each other's dirt, physical and moral?

And how can one raise these beings to better things without the hope
of a better world, the faith in the usefulness of effort? Why resist
the drink demon? A short life and a merry one, why not? A woman
diseased with drink came up to me screaming, in her hand the quart
pot, her face directed to the Public [House]. What could I say? Why
dissuade her? She is half-way to death--let her go--if death ends
all. But with her go others; and these others may be only on the
first step downwards. Alas! there is the pitifulness in this long
chain of iniquity, children linked on to parents, friends to
friends, and lovers to lovers, bearing down to that bottomless pit
of decaying life.

The bright side of the East End life is the sociability and generous
sharing of small means. This, of course, brings in its train
quarrels and backbiting; for it is easier to give than to bear
ingratitude, or to be grateful. And as the "Public" is the only
meeting-place, the more social and generous nature is led away even
by its good qualities; while the crabbed mind and sickly
constitution isolates itself, and possibly thrives in isolation. The
drink demon destroys the fittest and spares the meaner nature:
undermines the constitution of one family, and then passes on to
stronger stuff. There are times when one loses all faith in
laisser-faire and would suppress this poison at all hazards, for it
eats the life of the nation. For hardworking men are tied to drunken
wives, and hardworking women to drunken husbands; so that the good
are weighted down, and their striving after a better life made

And yet there are glimpses into happy homes; sights of love between
men and women, and towards little children, and, rarely enough,
devotion to the aged and the sick. And, possibly it is this
occasional rest from dirt and disorder that makes the work more
depressing; for one must hear unheeded the sickening cry of the
sinking man or woman dragging the little ones down into poverty from
which there is no rising.

In spite of the numberless out-of-work it is difficult to find
really good workmen; for they become quickly demoralised and
lose their workfulness. This again is depressing, for how can
one help these people if they are not worthy of life from an
economic point of view? [MS. diary, November 8, 1886.]

During the spell of rent-collecting I had only one interview with
Octavia Hill, about which I find the following entry in my diary:

I met Miss Octavia Hill the other night at the Barnetts'. She is a
small woman, with large head finely set on her shoulders. The form
of her head and features, and the expression of the eyes and mouth,
have the attractiveness of mental power. A peculiar charm in her
smile. We talked on artisans' dwellings. I asked her whether she
thought it necessary to keep accurate descriptions of the tenants.
No, she did not see the use of it "Surely it was wise to write down
observations so as to be able to give true information," I
suggested. She objected that there was already too much "windy
talk": what you wanted was action; for men and women to go and work
day by day among the less fortunate. And so there was a slight clash
between us, and I felt penitent for my presumption. But not
convinced. [MS. diary, May 1886.]


The sympathetic reader may have noted a black thread of personal
unhappiness woven into the texture of my observations on East End
life. From the entries in my diary I gather that I saw myself as one
suffering from a divided personality; the normal woman seeking
personal happiness in love given and taken within the framework of a
successful marriage; whilst the other self claimed, in season and
out of season, the right to the free activity of "a clear and
analytic mind." But did the extent of my brain power--I was always
asking myself--warrant sacrificing happiness, and even risking a
peaceful acceptance of life, through the insurgent spirit of a
defiant intellect? For in those days of customary subordination of
the woman to the man--a condition accentuated in my case by special
circumstances--it would not have been practicable to unite the life
of love and the life of reason. The following entries in the diary
--the first written on the eve of taking over the management of
Katherine Buildings, and the others when my father's breakdown in
health had led to my withdrawal from active work--reveal me in the
grip of self-pity, "the commonest of all human failings," as Mr.
Arthur Ponsonby observes in his fascinating introductions to English

I find that I had my own view of the use of introspective diaries:
"Now that observation is my work I find it is necessary to keep two
books, as I did when reading was my source of information. Otherwise
the autobiography is eaten up by statistics of wages, hours of work,
interviews with employers and workpeople--no space for the history
of a woman's life. And without egotistical brooding, it is still
necessary to keep a record of individual growth; not merely as a
stepping-stone to higher life, but as a help in the future. How
often have I found strength in turning over back pages, in watching
the inevitable work its way in spite of my desperate clutches at
happiness, which were seemingly fore-doomed to failure." [MS. diary,
November 1, 1887.]

I don't suppose I shall ever again take that interest in myself to
make me care to tell my thoughts and feelings to the impersonal
confidant--my diary. At any rate there is a long lapse in my habit
of writing down what I see, think and feel. And yet I am loath to
say good-bye to an old friend, one who has been with me since I
first had experiences, and wished to tell them to some one, tho' it
were only to a phantom of myself. It would be curious to discover
who it is to whom one writes in a diary? Possibly to some mysterious
personification of one's own identity, to the Unknown, which lies
below the constant change in matter and ideas, constituting the
individual at any given moment. This unknown one was once my only
friend; the being to whom I went for advice and consolation in all
the small troubles of a child's life. Well do I remember, as a small
thing, sitting under the damp bushes, and brooding over the
want of love around one (possibly I could not discern it), and
turning in upon myself, and saying, "Thou and I will live alone and
if life be unbearable We will die." Poor little meagre-hearted
thing! And then I said, "I will teach thee what I feel, think and
see, and we will grow wise together; then shall we be happy." So I
went my own little way, and noted diligently what I saw, and began
on that to reason. Soon I found there were other minds seeing and
reasoning, who would in their strength carry me on my way. I
clutched at this help and they for pity's sake gave it me. But still
I loved only the Unknown one, and my feeling was constantly looking
inward, though my reason was straining its utmost to grasp what was
outside. Then came friendship in the guise of intellectual sympathy;
in later years, discovering its true nature in affection, gently
putting reason, with its eternal analysis, on one side. And last of
all came passion, with its burning heat; and emotion, which had for
long smouldered unseen, burst into flame, and burnt down
intellectual interests, personal ambition, and all other
self-developing motives.

And now the Unknown one is a mere phantom, seldom conjured up, and
then not grasped. Reason and emotion alike have turned towards the
outer world. To-day, I say humbly, "we have learnt, poor thing, that
we can neither see, think nor feel alone, much less live, without
the help of others. Therefore we must live for others, and take what
happiness comes to us by the way."

And all the time I was travelling in Bavaria this was the eternal
refrain running in my mind. I saw things; wrote about them; I lived
with an intimate friend. But day and night I cried secretly over my
past, and regretted the form which my past life had given me. For
who can undo the moulding work of years? We must live with the self
we have made. [MS. diary, October 15, 1884.]

On November 26, the day that London polled in the general election
of 1885, my father, who had gone out to vote, was struck down by
paralysis; and complete withdrawal, not only from business but also
from all social intercourse, became imperative. For me there ensued
months of anxiety and gloom, deepened and darkened by my own
personal unhappiness. My youngest sister, always in delicate health,
had to be persuaded to winter abroad with friends. My father's
business engagements and commitments had to be straightened out. As
for my own career, it looked as if it had come to a sudden and
disastrous end. The new occupation of rent-collecting had to be
given up; the comradeship with fellow-workers had to be severed; the
attempts at social investigation had to be abandoned. Spending the
winter months with my father at Bournemouth I was deprived of the
narcotic of work, and, for the first few weeks, this abstinence was

Life seems to my consciousness a horrible fact [I write in my diary,
February 12,1886]. Sometimes I wonder how long I shall support it.
. . . I am never at peace with myself now; the whole of my past life
looks like an irretrievable blunder. I have mistaken the facts of
human life as far as my own existence is concerned. I am not strong
enough to live without happiness. ... I struggle through each new
day waking with suicidal thoughts early in the morning; I try by
determined effort to force my thoughts on to the old lines of
continuous enquiry, and to beat back feeling into the narrow rut of
duty. . . . I look out to-night on that hateful grey sea, the
breaking and the vanishing of the surf on the shore; the waves break
and vanish like my spasms of feeling; but they return again and
again, and behind them is the bottomless ocean of despair.
Eight-and-twenty, and living without hope! Now and again deceived by
a movement of physical energy, and then falling back on the monotony
of despair. No future but a vain repetition of the breaking waves of
feeling. [MS. diary, February 12, 1886.]

But when intellectual curiosity is coupled with the habit of work
there is always the chance of recovery, and the needful stimulus to
renewed hope came quickly. Two days after that wail of egotistical
misery there came a letter! Not a love letter, dear reader, but a
prosaic communication from the Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette.
There had been a controversy in the newspapers about relief works in
the neighbourhood of London for the East End unemployed. Concerned
for the work and wages of the tenants of Catherine Buildings, I
wrote to protest against the attraction of still more labour to its
most overstocked market by any widely advertised public employment,
this letter being my first bid for publicity. "May we place your
signature at the head of your article?" was the gracious reply by
return of post. This slight recognition of my capacity as a writer
on social questions undoubtedly helped me over the "dead point."
But other influences were at work.

It is curious that old associations with this place [Bournemouth]
and perhaps other causes, have brought me again under the influence
of religion [I write in my diary a month later]. . . . Is it vanity,
this intense desire to devote my life to clearing up social
questions? The desire to do it is so strong with me that if I had
faith in my own power I could accept an existence of daily toil,
devoid of excitement, or what most persons would call pleasure, and
wanting in the holier happiness of wife and mother. If I believed I
had, in my intellect and character, a fit instrument for scientific
enquiry, and that I should strike truth, I could pass years of
uneventful learning, living to work, and sleeping to rest from work
in order to work again. But I dread self-deception. The most
pathetic of all lives are men and women cursed with a false estimate
of their own ability, and waking up late in life to the waste
blankness of unfulfilled instinct, missing even what is open to all

And then the isolation in the last days of existence. Surely one
would always have friends whatever happened? And I love my friends,
have never yet lost one. Even if I did not succeed in my main aim,
my life need not be quite cast away! I could still be a practical
help to those around me; an odd hand when help was needed. [MS.
diary, March 15, 1886.]

It is strange that the spirit of religion [I write more than a year
afterwards] always dwells in an unmarried life, devoted to work,
rather than on the restful usefulness of wifehood and motherhood.
Sometimes I wonder whether it is inflation; but the consciousness of
a special mission to society at large, rather than to individuals,
is certainly present in my better moments, ceasing only when I am a
prey to passion, self-consciousness and egotism. In those dark days
of worldliness and sensual feeling it died away; it rose again with
the resigned fulfilment of my daily duties. Faith in my own capacity
to do this work burns in communion with my faith in the Great
Spirit, before whom all things are equally small: it brightens or
darkens with this higher faith. And yet, when I examine myself with
sober judgement, I can see no reason for this faith in myself; any
more than, when I examine the outside world, do I find a reason for
my faith in God, and in all that God means. Neither can I see the
connection between these two faiths--why one should be dependent on
the other? ... And it is partly this consciousness of a special
mission, and this faith in my own capacity, that bring a strained
feeling into many of my relationships even to my nearest and dearest
friends. To them, whenever I hint at it, the whole idea seems
ludicrously out of proportion to what they know of my abilities. But
for the most part I hide this faith away, and my best friends know
not the spirit that moves me, slowly but inevitably, either to
specialised usefulness or to life-failure. [MS. diary, July 1888.]

At this point in my narrative I am tempted to make a trite
reflection because it is peculiarly applicable to this dead point in
my career. How little we mortals know what is good for us? When I
look back on that slough of despond into which I had been slowly
sinking from 1884 onward, the deepest and darkest pit being my
father's catastrophic illness in the winter of 1885-86, I seem to
see a guardian angel busily at work hardening my own purpose and
perhaps another person's heart! . . . ["Saved for me," interjects
The Other One.] However that may be, so far as progress in my craft
was concerned, this compulsory withdrawal from the distracted and
diversified life I had been leading was, on the whole, a gain.
Having sampled the method of observation and experiment, and
discovered my field of enquiry, what I most needed was historical
background; some knowledge of constitutional law and industrial
development, and some acquaintance with past and present political
and economic theory. With my small reserve of energy, the carrying
out of the elaborate scheme of study mapped out in the autumn,
concurrently with rent-collecting at Katherine Buildings, and
housekeeping and entertaining troubles the short-time brain-worker (
had I not observed it in the tragic case of Herbert Spencer?) is how
to pass the time, after you have exhausted your small store of
mental energy, without indulging in egotistical brooding over
imaginary grievances. This problem was happily solved in the life I
had to lead as companion to an invalid. Owing to my habit of early
rising, I was able to get through a good three hours' sustained
study and concentrated thought before breakfast; and this was about
as much intellectual effort as I was equal to. For the rest of the
morning there was plenty of occupation without strain: dealing with
my father's correspondence; reading aloud the morning papers;
walking by the side of his bath-chair, or driving out with him.
After the mid-day meal there was the ride, or the walk across
country, meditating on the morning's work, followed by another spell
of reading aloud, sometimes the favourite novels of Miss Austen or
Sir Walter Scott, or some newly published political biography. This
peaceful existence was varied by frequent visits of married sisters,
and by dashes up to London to meet a friend, or to look up a
pamphlet or a blue book in the British Museum reading-room. In one
respect I was exceptionally fortunate. Throughout his long lingering
illness my father retained his charm of character and temperament.

He has indeed the reward of a loving and self-devoted nature [I
write in my diary three months after his first stroke of paralysis].
His life is without friction and without regret; his only sadness
that deeply religious sorrow for mother's death. And even in that
there is more tenderness than bitterness; for he loves, to dwell on
it, and lives over and over again in his imagination those years of
married life of which nothing but the good is remembered. These two
months have been especially happy; enjoying his physical
healthiness, and not regretting his absence of strength, probably
because he is unconscious of it. Living in the lives of his children
who have been constantly round him--perhaps thinking that these lives
of nine women are more important to the world than they are--still,
that is pardonable in an aged parent tottering to the grave. [MS.
diary, April 4, 1885.]


During the following six months the current MS. books multiply
rapidly, packed with abstracts and criticisms of historical works--I
will spare the reader the catalogue.

There are two uses of historical study in its largest sense [I write
in the first weeks of these studies], indispensable knowledge of
fact as it enlightens social structure, and the equally indispensable
cultivation of imagination to enable you to realise the multiform
conditions and temperaments which make up human society. The
difficulty lies in keeping off by-ways: mastering the leading facts
thoroughly, and not attempting to study all the excrescences, often
the most fascinating part of the whole. [MS. diary, April 17, 1886.]

Reading books and writing about them had, however, ceased to be the
main instrument of self-education; I was beginning to have ideas of
my own, and I was intent on expressing them. In particular, I was
puzzling over the methodology of social science--What, for instance,
was the right relation of personal observation to statistical
enquiry? a problem which was, in these very months, being raised by
the first phases of Charles Booth's enquiry into the life and labour
of the people in London. The following entries describe my attempt
to solve this problem.

Charles Booth's first meeting of his board of Statistical Research
at City Office. Present: Charles Booth, Maurice Paul Benjamin
Jones,100 secretary of the Working Men's Co-operative Society,
London; Radley, secretary to a Trade Society, and myself. Object of
this committee to get a fair picture of the whole of London society:
that is of the four miles, by district and employment, the two
methods to be based on census returns. We passed Charles Booth's
elaborate and detailed plan for the work, and a short abstract of
it for general purposes. At present Charles Booth is the sole worker
in this gigantic undertaking. If I were more advanced in knowledge
of previous conditions it is just the sort of work I should like to
undertake, if I were free. . . . [MS. diary, April 17, 1886.]

Lunched with Mr. Barnett; he threw cold water on C. B.'s scheme;
said it was impossible to get the information required, and was
evidently sceptical of the value of such facts. [This remark,
probably a reaction from my super-enthusiasm for fact-finding,
cannot have represented Canon Barnett's eventual opinion of the
value of Charles Booth's Grand Inquest, for he proved to be a most
helpful associate in the enquiry.]

I suggested that "practical men," those who have actually to do
with the management of society, will not listen to general
principles, but will only believe in special application of these
principles demonstrated by fact. He replied that, if he had read
history right, it taught that ideas had more influence than facts,
that ideas influence character, and that character was the secret of
all life--all reforms should be judged by their effect on
character. (I believe in ideas, but in ideas following facts. . . .)
I agreed to this, adding that this truth or fact was one that
required to be carefully demonstrated: that no amount of a priori
reason would be of much value in persuading people; that the
scientific spirit had produced scepticism as to general principles,
and yet was not sufficiently far advanced to give faith in the
scientific method. [MS. diary, April 18, 1886.]

Met at C. B.'s office Mr. Loch, secretary of C.O.S. Enthusiastic for
accurate knowledge of the conditions of the poor. Evidently, from
his account, there are many who would like to devote themselves to
investigation. Borrowed from C. B. volumes of Statistical Society.
. . . Statistics defined as the science which treats of the
structure of human society, i.e. of society in all its constituents,
however minute; and in all its relations, however complex; embracing
alike the highest phenomena of education, commerce, crime, and the
so-called "statistics" of pin-making and the London dustbin. . . .
I am thinking that I might do well to explain what I mean by social
diagnosis, and publish it as an article in the autumn. If it were
well written it would help Charles Booth's organisation. [MS. diary,
May 4, 1886.]

I have quite made up my mind to try an article on social diagnosis.
It would take the form of showing, first how much we were influenced
in thought and action by descriptions of social facts; that social
sentiment was formed by these descriptions, giving rise to a cry for
political action or venting itself in voluntary effort; that
political action, when taken, was based on these descriptions of
social facts (see Commission on Artisans' Dwellings); therefore, the
question is not whether we ought to be governed by the sentiment and
thought arising from a complete or incomplete knowledge of social
facts; whether it would not be wiser to guide our action by the
decalogue, or the principles of Herbert Spencer. That is not the
question of the practical politics of Herbert Spencer. That is not
the question of the practical politics of the social science of the
present day. General principles are discredited with the public at
large, and with the type of man whom they elect to govern us.

Disagreement of the sociologists.

Very careful description of the rise of medical science--comparison
between politicians and doctors in their debates. [MS. diary, May 6,

Do not get on much with the accumulation of knowledge for my
article. It is absolutely necessary that I should get a proof from
history that we do act from the thought and sentiment formed by the
descriptions of social facts. To a large extent, as Charles Booth
remarked the other day, legislation is based on class feeling, or on
religious or anti-religious feeling, and merely uses facts to prove
its points, giving facts as data when they are really illustrations.
There are four points I must make: two only have I in any way
thought out.

(1) The method of statistical enquiry; illustrations of it in
Giffen's Progress of the Working Classes. The data used. (2) Fallacy
of the equal or identical nature of the units; and the illustrations
of this fallacy from Giffen's article, and in the various estimates
made of the income of the working class. Here I would insert
description of demoralised labour in big towns. (3) Fallacy of the
law that Labour, like water, goes to where it is best paid.
Statement of the other attractions of town life. (4) Fallacy
underlying the doctrine of averages as applying to wages.

Personal observation, and its liability to gross error unless
checked by the statistical method. Bias in the selection of facts.
The superior attraction of certain facts to certain temperaments;
instance women's work. Tendency of personal observation to take its
own experience of a class as a sample of the whole. This tendency
marked in philanthropists, and in politicians who draw their
inspiration from philanthropists. Paternal government possibly based
to some extent on this mistaken notion of the working class? . . .
Great difficulty lying in the way of the observation of social
organisation is the absence of certain qualities in the observers'
minds present in the subject observed. For instance, religion,
Bohemianism. Numerous enquirers check each other. [MS. diary,
May 24, 1886.]

The essay on Social Diagnosis, designed for immediate publication,
failed to get written. During the summer months of 1886, which were
spent with my father and sister at The Argoed, our Monmouthshire
home, I turned aside to develop a train of thought arising out of
the study of the writings of the political economists, from Adam
Smith to Karl Marx, from Karl Marx to Alfred Marshall, a notion with
regard to the relation of economics to sociology with a consequent
theory of value. But among my manuscripts dated eighteen months
later I find one entitled "Personal Observation and Statistical
Enquiry," which I give in an appendix. The reader who is to-day what
I was then, an industrious apprentice, may find it useful; not
merely because it explains, with the zest of an amateur, an
essential part of the technique of investigation, but also because
it reveals my ignorance of other methods of research. There is, for
instance, no sign that I had realised the need for the historical
method, with its use of documents and contemporaneous literature,
and its special task of discovering the sequence of events leading
to changes in the constitution and activities of particular

The "little thing of my own," with which I became infatuated during
the summer and autumn of 1886, took form in two long essays, one on
"The History of English Economics" and the other on "The Economic
Theory of Karl Marx"--neither the one nor the other being ever
presented for publication. I do not suggest that there is any
intrinsic originality in these essays; it may well be that all the
fallacies are to be found in the writings of other cranks, whilst
the grain of truth is in the books of the recognised political
economists. All I wish to imply is that the ideas embodied in these
essays did in fact originate in my own mind.

The diary brings back to memory both the pains and the purpose of
the discipline to which I was subjecting myself.

Oh! my head aches and my ambitious idea looms unreachably large and
distant. Political economy is hateful--most hateful drudgery. Still,
it is evident to me I must master it. What is more, I must master
the grounds of it; for each fresh development [of theory] corresponds
with some unconscious observation of the leading features of the
contemporary industrial life. At present the form I want is not
imaginable in this mass of deductions and illustrative facts. I need
to understand what are in fact the data upon which political economy
is based--what are its necessary assumptions. [MS. diary, July 2,

I have broken the back of the economic science as far as I want it--
there is perhaps another fortnight's study to fit me to write that
one paragraph correctly. Principles of political economy have never
been fixed--they have not only grown in number as fresh matter was
brought under observation, but the principles themselves have
developed with the greater care in the observation of each section
of the subject-matter already subjected to generalisation. [MS.
diary, July 18, 1886.]

Finished my essay on "The Rise and Growth of English Economics." I
think I have expressed my central idea so that it can be understood,
and gives a fairly correct sketch of the historical development. I
wonder whether, if it is published, it will be thought very
conceited? It isn't so. I can't help my ideas taking a positive
form; and if I try to express them in a hesitating way I am only
affected. It is either "I don't know, for I am not capable of
judging," or "I believe with my whole heart and soul that black is
black, and nothing will persuade me to say it is white." It is this
hopeless independence of thought that makes my mind so distasteful
to many people; and rightly so, for a woman should be more or less
dependent and receptive. However, I must go through the world with
my mind as it is, and be true to myself. [MS. diary, September 14,

The essay on "The Economic Theory of Karl Marx" was not finished
until the following spring.

Three weeks absorbed in my review of Karl Marx, now nearly ended. It
has cleared my own ideas; but whether it is written in a form that
will be accepted and "take" I don't know. Sometimes I feel elated,
and think that I have got the right end of the stick; at other
times, when I am depressed by fatigue, I see in my writing only
disjointed half-truths. Anyhow, intellectual production makes life
for a time enjoyable; lends to it a personal meaning. And now that I
must face many years of this loneliness, and absence of practical
interests, constant intellectual endeavour is the only safeguard
against morbid feeling. [MS. diary, February 25, 1887.]

Here again I will not burden my narrative by recalling generalisations
which I ultimately left on one side, partly because I recognised
that I had been carried out of my depth as a reasoner, and partly
because I doubted the desirability of a water-tight science of
political economy. But for the benefit of the reader who is also a
student I give the gist of these unpublished essays in an appendix;
my excuse being that this intolerable toil of thought was an
essential part of the apprenticeship I am trying to describe.
Indeed, I can conscientiously recommend the "industrious apprentice"
to go and do likewise! For however futile may have been these
imaginings as a contribution to sociology, they served me as
illuminating hypotheses--suggesting what proved fruitful lines of
investigation--in subsequent enquiries into East End labour and into
the Co-operative Movement.

My definition of the sphere of economics, involving, as it did,
studies in social pathology, brought me upstanding against the
dogmatic conclusions of my revered teacher, Herbert Spencer, whose
objections to my speculations I give hereunder.

"So far as I understand them," he wrote in answer to an abstract of
my argument which I had sent him, "the objections which you are
making to the doctrines of the elder political economists, are a
good deal of the kind that have of late years been made, and as I
think, not rightly made. The explanation of my dissent I must put
into a few sentences; using to explain my meaning the analogy which
you rightly draw between social life and individual life.

"(1) Physiology formulates the laws of the bodily functions in a
state of health, and absolutely ignores pathology--cannot take any
account whatever of functions that are not normal. Meanwhile, a
rational pathology can come into existence only by virtue of the
previously established physiology which has ignored it: until there
is an understanding of the functions in health, there is no
understanding of them in disease.

"(2) Further, when rational pathology has been thus established, the
course of treatment indicated by it is the course which aims as far
as possible to re-establish the normal functions--does not aim to
readjust physiology in such way as to adapt it to pathological

"(3) Just so it is with that account of the normal relations of
industrial actions constituting political economy properly
so called. No account can be taken by it of disorder among these
actions, or impediments to them. It cannot recognise pathological
states at all; and further, the understanding of these pathological
social states wholly depends upon previous establishment of that
part of social physiology which constitutes political economy.

"(4) And moreover, if these pathological states are due to the
traversing of free competition and free contract which political
economy assumes, the course of treatment is not the readjustment of
the principles of political economy, but the establishment as far as
possible of free competition and free contract.

"If, as I understand you, you would so modify politico-economical
principles as to take practical cognizance of pathological states,
when you would simply organise pathological states, and things would
go from bad to worse." [Extract from letter from Herbert Spencer,
October 2, 1886.]

The old philosopher's letter is interesting [I write in my diary a
few days later].

His first proposition is very characteristic. . . . Certainly, as a
fact, physiology has grown out of the study of human and animal life
in all its manifestations, birth, growth, disease and death.
Physiological truths have actually been discovered by the study of
pathology; and it is questionable whether the science of disease did
not precede the science of health. But Herbert Spencer has no
historical sense.

Second proposition [I had numbered the paragraphs in his letter]
shows how thoroughly he misunderstands my position. I have no
intention of prescribing a course of treatment; and his reference to
it proves that his observation and reasoning on social subjects are
subordinated to parti-pris on the art of government. As Bella
Fisher101 misunderstands me in the same way, somehow or other I must
have expressed myself wrongly.

Third proposition assumes that political economy is an account of
the normal relations within industry. The first step surely is to
find out what are these relations; then possibly we may, through
understanding the various economic diseases, discover what is
normal, or shall we say, what is healthy?

But, as I understand Ricardo's economics, he does not attempt to
discover, he merely assumes. It is possible that his assumptions may
turn out to be an account of normal action, but he does not prove
that his assumptions represent fact. But then he does not seem to
think that proof is necessary.

Fourth proposition. Again the question of treatment. "You would so
modify politico-economical principles as to take practical
cognizance of all pathological states." How strange! Evidently he
regards economic science as a branch of the art of government, not
as a branch of sociology; that is, the science of one part of human
nature. The object of science is to discover what is; not to tell us
according to some social ideal what ought to be. [MS. diary,
October 4, 1886.]

A fortnight later there is another entry about my old friend, on a
different note; an entry which incidentally reveals the unpleasant
effect on mind and body of the "hateful drudgery of political

To Brighton to see the old philosopher. A great mind run dry. But I
love the poor old man, and my warm feeling gladdens his life. His
existence one continual touching of his pulse to see how it fares
with himself--a torturing self-analysis of all his physical
feelings. Ah! me; there come times when one would recommend
universal suicide. For the whole business of living seems too
horribly tiresome to all concerned. And I feel seedy to-day--sick
and headachy and discouraged; but my spirit will return. I need a
change; and think the world is going to the Devil because / am
ailing in body and mind. Courage, my friend, courage. [MS. diary,
October 18, 1886.]


Towards the end of the first year of my father's illness a partial
return to active life became practicable. During the summer of 1886,
with the help of our "beloved physician" Sir Andrew Clark, my
Father's friend as well as his medical adviser, I persuaded my
father to give my brother-in-law, Daniel Meinertzhagen,102 a general
power of attorney. To the unfailing kindness and courtesy of this
near relative and able financier I owe my release from harassing
business, for which I was ill-equipped, and which, owing to the
speculative character of some of my father's investments, had caused
me continuous anxiety. And when it became evident that my father's
illness had passed out of the critical into the stationary phase, my
married sisters insisted that they should take turn and turn about
for at least four months of the year, so that, as they kindly put
it, I might feel free to amuse myself in society, travel or work.
The form that this recreation would take was promptly decided.

Two days in London with the Booths [I write at the end of the year].
Charlie is absorbed in his enquiry, working all his evenings with
three paid secretaries, I have promised to undertake "Docks" in my
March holiday. Dear sweet little Mary with her loving ways and
charming motherhood. . . . Leonard [Courtney] says little, and he
has no special regard for what I say, but his personality--perfect
integrity and courage--stands out like a rock. [MS. diary, December
5, 1886.]

After spending the winter with my father at Bournemouth I betook
myself to the headquarters of the "Friends," the Devonshire House
Hotel, Bishopsgate (which for several years became my London home),
and started work.

Thoroughly enjoyed the last month [I write towards the middle of my
holiday]. Have got statistical outline of dock labour for Tower

Certainly, enquiring into social facts is interesting work: but it
needs the devotion of a life to do it thoroughly. I feel that the
little bit of work I do will be very superficial, and that, until I
can take to enquiry as a life-work, and not only as a holiday task,
I shall do very little good with it. But I need much preparation. A
general but thorough knowledge of English history and literature: a
skeleton, the flesh and blood of which I could at any moment gain by
specialised study. A theoretical grasp of the growth of industry,
and of the present state of industrial organisation. Then the
thinking out of principles--of the limit to the subject-matter and
the question of methods. This, and a good deal more, I need before I
am fully prepared for direct observation. A study of this kind is
compatible with my home life, with its uniform duty of tender
devotedness. Perhaps I shall be free before I am fit for freedom!
Even now my freedom is considerable; more considerable than I have
enjoyed since mother's death. Four months of the year I shall be
able to devote to actual observations, and if I take my rest in the
country, that will not leave much more than six months to be spent
in literary preparation [of the material collected]. But as the
observation will necessarily be disjointed and incomplete, it will
serve more to clear my own ideas than form definite pictures of
life. My education is yet to come.

In the meantime I am enjoying my life. I see more reason for
believing that the sacrifices I have made to a special intellectual
desire were warranted by a certain amount of faculty. As yet I have
had no proof of this; my capacity has not been stamped as current
coin; the metal is still soft, and I know not whether it will bear
the right impression. Still, I feel power, I feel capacity, even
when I discover clearly my own limitations, for I think I discern
the way to overcome them. Alfred Cripps' criticism of my article
made me aware how very far off it was from good work; but it was
better than the last, and, unlike the last, I see how I can alter
and make it good.

And the old faith in individual work is returning--in the sanctity
of moral and intellectual conviction. [MS. diary, March 30, 1887.]

I feel rather low about the proposed paper on Dock Labour. Besides
bare statistics I want local colouring; a clear description of the
various methods of employing men, of types of character of men
employed, and where they live. Must realise the "waiting at the
gates," and find out for myself the exact hours at which the
different classes are taken on. [MS. diary, May 1887.]

There follows pages and pages of notes of interviews with dock
officials and the various grades of dock labourers and their wives.
Morning after morning I am up early, watching the struggle for work
at the dock gates; and observing the leisurely unloading of sailing
vessels compared to the swift discharge of steamers.

This morning [I record early in May] I walked along Billingsgate to
the London Docks. Crowded with loungers smoking villainous tobacco;
coarse talk with the clash of the halfpenny on the pavement every
now and again. Bestial content or hopeless discontent on their
faces. The lowest form of leisure--the senseless curiosity about
street rows, idle gazing at the street sellers, low jokes--this is
"the chance" the docks offer! I met Dartford, respectable tenant
K(Catherine) B(buildings), and he greeted me cordially. He is always
in work, and complains that he never gets a holiday--says that many
of the unemployed do not want to work, and get sacked for not
turning up. "I made a point of not mixing up with any one. Women get
thick together, and then there is always a row. The curse is the
daily payment; it is always a mistake not to give the woman the
money once a week instead of at odd times." Said [that] the worse a
man is, the more work he will get at the docks. [MS. diary, May

Go to the docks in the early morning [records another entry].
Permanent men respectable, sober, clean. Casuals low-looking,
bestial, content with their own condition. Watch brutal fight and
struggle: then sudden dissolution of the crowd with coarse jokes and
loud laugh. Look of utter indifference on their faces: among them
the one or two who have fallen from better things--their abject
misery. The mass of the rejected lounge down to another dock or spread
themselves over the entrance to the various wharves. About 100 of
the lowest will congregate in the "cage" in Nightingale Lane
waiting for the chance of a foreman needing them as odd men. If a
man weary of ennui and of an empty stomach drops off to sleep, his
companions will promptly search his pockets for the haphazard penny.
[MS. diary, May 1887.]

In the evening went to club in St. George's Yard and talked to
"preferables" at London and St. Katherine's docks. Robinson
socialist dock labourer; originally tobacconist. Emigrated, and
returned to England-because he became homesick. A rolling stone,
superior and interesting-looking. Bitter and hopelessly illogical.
The right to live and to marry and to have children, the basis of
his argument. Gives deplorable account of lack of employment at
Victoria Dock; an average of two or three days for each man.
Contract system spreading fast; eight men under contract system will
do the work of thirty employed direct by the Company. Says he
himself, when he is working for the company, tries to do as little
as he can. Says that socialism makes little progress among dock
labourers; they are incapable of organisation. Sees no remedy but a
complete reconstruction of society. The State might supply
"pleasant labour" for every one. Considers it a grievance that
labourers are not allowed to take the tobacco that is being
destroyed [by Custom House officials]; if it is found on their
persons they are imprisoned for seven days. Says he makes a point of
secreting tobacco on his person in order to defy the rule. Complains
that the women of the working class are no companions to their
husbands. "When I was courting my wife I could not get a word out of
her; it was just walking by her side and giving her an occasional
kiss. If a working man gets a good mother, and a woman that does not
drink, as his wife, that is as much as he can expect, And my wife
was not the first woman I courted. They are all alike in not talking
of anything but details." Kennedy said much the same thing when he
told Ella Pycroft that she did not know what it was to talk to a
woman without brains. Robinson admitted that capitalists are in a
poor way. He hates competition, machinery, employers and the
Executives of Trade Unions. [MS. diary, May 13, 1887.]

Among those I interview are the School Board Visitors for the
district; and here is an account of two interviews with Kerrigan,
School Board Visitor for the Stepney Division.

Describes his casuals, about 900, as hereditary casuals, London
born. The worst scoundrel is the cockney-born Irishman. The woman is
the Chinaman of the place: drudges as the women of savage races: she
slaves all day and night. Describes the communism of this class.
They do not migrate out of the district, but they are constantly
changing their lodgings: "they are like the circle of the suicides
in Dante's Inferno; they go round and round within a certain area."
They work for each other: hence low ideal of work. They never see
excellence in work. They never leave the neighbourhood. From the
dock-gate they lounge back to the street: "treating" and being
"treated," according as they have earned a few pence. Live chiefly
on "tobacco" which is a compound of sugar, vinegar, brown paper and
German nicotine. The teapot is constantly going--bread and a supply
of dried haddock which goes through a domestic preparation: dried in
the chimney and acquiring a delicate flavour by lying between the
mattresses of the beds. They never read. Except the Catholics, they
never go to church. On the Bank Holiday the whole family goes to
Victoria Park. "Permanent" men live outside the neighbourhood
--Forest Gate, Hackney, Upton, some even at Walthamstow. Kerrigan
does not think that corruption and bribery go on in the West India
Dock, as they do at the London and St. Katherine's. "Permanent" men
might be classed just above the artisan and skilled mechanics. They
read Herbert Spencer and Huxley, and are speculative in religious
and political views. Victoria Park the meeting-place of intelligent
working men. [MS. diary, May 1887.]

Most amusing day with Kerrigan, School Board Visitor living in
Victoria Park [I record a few days later]. Victoria Park lies in the
extreme east of London; it is surrounded by streets of small
two-storey houses of the genteel type--a porch and one bow-window,
Venetian blinds and lace curtains. These houses are inhabited by the
lower middle class; now and again there is a row of more modest
little dwellings, without the bow-window or the porch, or with a bow
of less publicity and consideration--houses inhabited by the tip-top
East End working class, mechanic or "permanent" labourers.

Sunday afternoons a great time in Victoria Park, not confined to
local people, but the meeting-place of the enthusiasts and the
odd-minded of the whole East End district. The first group we came
to were congregating round a small organ; they were old men, women
with children, and one or two stray youths; and they called
themselves "The Elder Branch of Primitive Methodists"(?). Verily
they looked "primitives"! Another group, larger and more combative,
was made up of the Young Men's Christian Association; City clerks,
spotty, seedy and smelly, but one or two among them inspired by
living enthusiasm. They were singing loudly of the Blood of Jesus;
of the eternal happiness, which is to wipe away the feeling of
grievance among the failures of this life, and to compensate for an
existence of dreary, half-starved drudgery. Some ten yards farther,
a small knot of working men crowded round two disputants, an English
mechanic and a Russian emigrant. Foreign emigration was the question
disputed; apparently both were agreed that the arrival of low class
labour ought to be stopped; but the Englishman insisted that it was
the foreigners' fault for coming, while the Russian declared that it
was the English Parliament who ought to prevent it by a heavy
poll-tax on the invader.

"What is the good of your Government?" jeered the foreigner in a
broken accent. "You call it representative, and say that you working
men make it. But you tell them to do a thing, and instead of doing
it they go on talking for twenty years, and then the time is past."
"Yes," said the wit in the crowd, "the English Parliament is like
the Christian who is always saying, 'I will arise and go to my
Father,' and yet he never gets up and goes."

The main crowds were gathered on a gravel space under trees. Here
was a nauseous nigger mouthing primitive methodism; a mongrel
between the unctuous sacramentalist and the Christy Minstrel. Back
to back with him, facing another crowd, there was a messenger from
the "Hall of Science." He was explaining to an attentive audience of
working men that man was an animal, and nothing but an animal. His
face was lined by sensuality, and moved by shallow quickness and
assertiveness of thought. He used scientific phrases, quoted freely
from Huxley, Darwin and German physiologists, and assumed a certain
impartiality in his treatment of rival religious theories of man's
development. The burden of his message from the sphere of science
was the animalism of man, the gross unreason of believing in any
higher nature. But the thickest crowd surrounded the banner of the
social democrat.103 From a platform a hoarse-voiced man denounced
the iniquities of the social system; in one hand he held Malthus, in
the other, Fruits of Philosophy. The subject was a delicate one--the
rival methods of checking population, late marriage versus
preventive checks. He, however, joined issue with both methods, for
he asserted that neither was needed. There was bread enough for all
if it was equally distributed. Men starving while warehouses were
stocked to overflowing; it was the commercial system that was at
fault, not the laws of nature. The crowd was not enthusiastic, only
interested and eager to listen to new suggestions. For the most part
they were men in full employment, and their speculative interest in
social reform was not whetted by positive hunger. Now and again,
when he denounced employers, there was a grunt of approval; when he
pointed out the cul-de-sac of competition there was even slight
applause. But when he turned from what is, to what would be if the
socialist dogma reigned supreme, there was simply scepticism
--readiness to listen but not willingness to perform. . . .

We wended our way back between these crowds to Mr. Kerrigan's
lodging. The back room of a small working-class dwelling served as
dining, sitting, sleeping, working room of this humble individual,
with the most ingenious arrangements for all his functions. Kerrigan
is an amusing Irishman; a seaman by profession, taken to School
Board visiting as a livelihood. Intensely interested in his
fellow-men, with extensive but uncultivated knowledge of science and
literature. He is a lover of books. His language is picturesque and
descriptive; he has a knack of ready generalisation, and his
personal experience among the East End poor falls readily into
definite pictures of different classes. In theory he is neither
destructive nor constructive, and seems without prejudices. I should
think too much entertained and interested to have many vices. There
was something pathetic in his intense pleasure in our visit and our
conversation. He gave us an excellent tea, and afterwards firstrate
cigarettes. What would the conventional West End acquaintance say to
two young women smoking and talking in the bed, sitting, smoking,
working and bath room of an East End School Board Visitor? [MS.
diary, Sunday, May 1887.]

Found it quite impossible to write in London; and wasted a week in
attempting to do so. Interesting dinner with B. Jones and Mr.
Hoffmann--Hoffmann is a Christian Socialist, and hopes that the
spirit of true Christianity will make it impossible for a man to
need the means of subsistence. Argues that all men have a right to
live and to live well. Does not recognise the fact that many men do
not fit their conditions and cannot be made to do so. He believes
that socialism should be the result of public opinion; and that a
socialist should preach at the corners of the streets the doctrines
they believe in. Would not meet the question of increased numbers,
assuming that every family was allowed to increase as it chose and
provided with the means of so doing. [MS. diary, May 1887.]

As a contrast to my East End experiences, I give a stray note about
a West End dinner-party.

Dined with Courtneys: John Morley, Arthur Balfour, Secretary for
Ireland, E. Russell, Editor of Liverpool Post and rising politician,
Mrs. Fawcett and Mrs. Dugdale. Arthur Balfour a charming person.
Tall, good-looking and intellectual. Says cynical and clever things,
which are meant to be cleverer than they turn out to be. Easy and
well-bred--of the old type of gentleman-politician, a type fast
fading out of existence. Is connected with the world of science
through his gifted brother, who died sometime since. The party most
harmonious; John Morley evidently in sympathy with Arthur Balfour,
in spite of their public opposition. John Morley amused us by
describing the Front Opposition Bench, and repeating Gladstone's
remarks on the speeches made. The conversation was easy and
pleasant, but it was all froth. No one said what he thought, and
every one said what he thought to be clever. [MS. diary, May 1887.]

In after years I learnt to appreciate the subtle intellect and
literary gifts of the author of the Defence of Philosophic Doubt and
the Foundations of Belief. Other entries of the MS. diary, of which
the following is a sample, reveal a bias against politicians in
general, and the gentleman politician in particular; and my
preference for the official peer, as compared with the hereditary

He [Lord Granville104] is an inconsiderable man, pleasant enough.
But mental insignificance, joined to great political position, is
irritating to a democratic mind. Like most "society men" he does
not care for the likes of me; and until last night he had not spoken
to me. But I having appeared in a pretty black gown, he came up to
me while I was discussing vehemently labour questions with Mr.
Cross, with whom I had struck up friendship. Lord Granville listened
with a puzzled air; and when I tried, out of politeness, to bring
him in, explaining to him the actual point we were thrashing out, he
looked still more utterly at sea, as if I had asked him to join in a
discussion on Chinese metaphysics. What could a woman, who really by
night-light looked quite pretty, want with such questions; still
less, how could she expect a polished man of the world to know what
she was talking about? So the noble Earl stood silently gazing in
mild surprise--I remember Chamberlain on Lord Granville "One does
not expect to sit next an old nurse in Cabinet Council"--and turned
away to tell a little story to some more congenial party. At
breakfast he came and sat next me, and I started him off on Lady
Ponsonby, and he seemed perfectly happy. After he had finished with
her he meandered on about others of like position, till I was lost
in the pursuit of dukes and duchesses, their personal characteristics
and pedigrees, and could not give the requisite sympathetic
appreciation. So he relapsed into silence.

With Lord Hobhouse105 I had a great deal of conversation, and very
sympathetic conversation it was. Liked him better than I have ever
done before and I think he returned the compliment. There is a
genuine ring about him; he lacks play of mind and is deficient in
humour, but he is thoughtful and conscientious to an almost painful
degree. Kindness and a chivalrous moral tone are his peculiar charm
--a sort of fine essence of integrity in all things. He interests me
as Henry's [my brother-in-law] uncle... [MS. diary, October 21,

And here are two other entries about John Morley, one before and one
after that given above.

Met John Morley yesterday at Kate's, and spent an evening with him
and the Courtneys alone. A lovable man I should think to his
friends. Quick sympathy and appreciation of the ideas of others. But
surely not a man of statesmanlike grasp or of practical sagacity?
An "intellectual," delighting in "the order of thought," not in
"the order of things." Spoke enthusiastically of Gladstone's power
of work, of his charm, and of his absorption in the idea then present
to his mind; he [Gladstone] obviously regarding men as shadows,
liking those best who gave him the ease of flattery and perfect
agreement. This, joined to what Huxley said at Bournemouth--that
Gladstone never sought truth for itself but always regarded
principles and opinions in so far as they were held and expressed by
a more or less number of people--throws some light on the character
of the G.O.M. [MS. diary, April 1886.]

I had a long talk with John Morley. He is anxious about the
socialists at Newcastle. Up till now he has treated them with
indifference, not to say contempt; but they mustered two thousand
votes at the last School Board election, and Morley began to take
them seriously. He was preparing for an interview at Newcastle, and
was full of the eight hours' movement and other social questions. In
his speeches he asserts that the social question is the one thing to
live for; he ignores imperial politics and wants to cut off England
from all foreign relations. And yet he has evidently never thought
about social questions; he does not know even the A B C of labour
problems. Oh! ye politicians! [MS. diary, February 11, 1889.]

It is strange, living in close correspondence with all sorts and
conditions of men [I wrote as, back in the country, I pondered over
the records of my London experiences], how one observes the same
fact about classes as about individuals. Each class seems to have a
certain range of ideas, and to be incapable of growing out of these
ideas, unless it ceases to be a class. And so it is with individuals.
Few individuals are capable of continual growth. It is the gift of
perpetual youth; and most of us sink, early or late in our lives,
into a state of intellectual self-complacency or indolent
doubtfulness. We settle down to one point of view, and naturally
enough our intellectual horizon remains eternally the same, as we
gaze constantly on one side of each object, forgetting that there
are at least four other--may be an indefinite number--of sides. [MS.
diary, August 1887.]

And here are my reflections, on the day of publication in the
Nineteenth Century, of my first essay as a recognised social

Yesterday we gave up York House; and my article on Dock Life appears
in the Nineteenth Century :106 exit hateful association, enter
promising beginning . . . it is the work I have always longed to do,
the realisation of my youthful ambition. . . . This summer I
dawdled, and wrote my paper with no enthusiasm and little effort. It
was accepted by the leading review, and is now printed two months
after acceptance.107 Two years ago I should have trembled with
delight. Now I look upon it as only the natural result of my labour.
. . . I know I have no talent, that I am almost lacking in literary
faculty. But I have originality of aim and method, and I have faith
that I am in the right track, and I have a sort of persistency which
comes from despair of my own happiness. My success will depend on my
physical strength and on whether I have sufficient moral back-bone
to banish self with its dark shadow, so that I may see things in
their true proportion without morbid exaggeration of what is
painful. [MS. diary, September 30, 1887.]

One of the results of my notoriety as a female expert on dock labour
appears in the following entry:

Meeting at the Tabernacle, Barking Road, Canning Town. I was
advertised to appear at this meeting of dock labourers. The hall was
crowded, the men fine, determined, though quiet-looking set, far
superior to the run of dock labourers at the dock gates. I was the
only woman present, and as I made my way up to the platform enjoyed
my first experience of being "cheered" as a public character. In the
little room behind the platform were assembled the speakers of the
evening, at which the renowned X. Y. was advertised to appear. The
chairman, Alderman Phillips, was a pleasant, good, little fellow,
with the small commonplace head and kindly features denoting
hard-working philanthropy. Two or three councillors; among others a
self-important little man who bustled into the room exclaiming "Well,
what's it all about? What's one to say?" and then, without waiting
for an answer, "I suppose the usual thing, elevation of the working
class: grandeur of unity, etc. etc." There was a considerable
confusion in the minds of the other speakers as to what they were to
say; for, with the exception of the secretary of the newly formed
association, they none of them knew anything about labour or dock
trade. I was pressed to second the resolution, but absolutely
refused to speak. Secretary Tillett opened the proceedings. A
light-haired little man with the face of a religious enthusiast;
might have been a revivalist.   Honest undoubtedly, but ignorant and
unwise.   He ranted against white slavery, subcontract and irregular
hours.   I do not think the meeting was impressed, though they
applauded his denunciation of subcontract.   He went on indefinitely
until the chairman checked him, and whispered that he had better
keep to the point and propose the resolution.   There followed the
series of councillors, whose words hardly justified their title. A
small man with a loud voice, a professional speaker, accustomed to
fill up gaps at public meetings, pranced up the platform and shouted
loudly, "When I see on the one side of me the starved dock labourers
with faces marked by the intolerable lines of overwork, surrounded
by a wretched family, a wife worn by strain, worry and labour, and
on the other side of me the bloated official of the dock company
with his brougham, his well-built house and his servants, I feel and
I say that, etc. etc." Happily at this moment the bulky form of
X. Y. was seen wending its way to the platform.   No one knew him
except the secretary.   He took the seat nearest to me, and asked
the chairman to give him the resolution to look at.   Then in a
stage whisper to the secretary, "I will give you 20 pounds, but
don't let my name appear. I don't want it to be known.   Of course
you will support me about foreign immigration."   When on his legs I
examined him.   He is a big man, with a red and somewhat bloated
face, and an equally corpulent body; black eyes with a suspicious
tendency to fiery bloodshot, and a heavy black moustache and
somewhat unctuous voice, and an intolerable gift of the gab.   I was
surprised, after his stage whisper, that the leading feature of his
speech was the announcement of his gift of 20 pounds. He dwelt on
the iniquity of pauper immigration; but to this audience of dock
labourers his denunciation fell flat, seeing that foreigners do not
patronise the dock gates.   He spoke fluently with the customary
three adjectives at every turn.   No sooner had he sat himself down
than he offered to take me back in his brougham, which I promptly
accepted. He was considerably "cheered" as we left the platform;
and I followed meekly in the train of the hero who had given 20
pounds. The man who opened the door of his brougham refused to take
the tip offered, which X. Y. characterised as "noble." The interest
of the conversation in our long drive homeward was slightly spoilt
by the strong smell of spirit which the philanthropist transferred
to the atmosphere of the closed brougham. I suggested that the night
air was pleasant; and to my extreme relief he forthwith opened the
window. His talk was the usual sympathy with the trouble and poverty
of the lower classes, interspersed with "When I saw Gladstone the
other day," "Only this day week I was staying with Tennyson," "The
day I had worked at the docks I went to lunch with Lord Rothschild."
We touched on the population question, and he said somewhat
alarmingly, "I need a noble woman to help me," at which I started
back, as just previously he had asked me to supper with him, which I
refused. Whether it was the effect of the public meeting or of the
spirit, X. Y. became rather too confidential. I was disgusted with
his reference to family life as a curse to a man: a delicate wife,
it seems, expected him to live with her for seven months out of the
twelve. "Of course if your family sympathises with your work it is
all very well," was his response to my assertion that family life
was the only thing worth living for. [MS. diary, December 1, 1887.]

The essay on "Dock Life in East London" was, even in my own
estimation, an inferior piece of work; the investigations had been
scamped for lack of time, and my conclusions with regard to the
disease of under-employment and its possible prevention, though
sound as far as they went, were, neither exhaustive nor sufficiently
elaborated to be helpful.108

But its immediate acceptance for publication by the editor of the
Nineteenth Century encouraged me to undertake another task in
connection with the Booth enquiry.

Settled with Charlie on the autumn's work; The Sweating System is to
be the subject of my next paper. I have it in mind to make it more
of a picture than the article on Dock Labour, to dramatise it. I
cannot get this picture without living among the actual workers.
This I think I can do. [MS. diary, August 12, 1887.]

The note of self-pity characteristic of the MS. diary of 1884-87 is
now superseded by a strain of self-complacency--"the second
commonest of all human failings," Mr. Arthur Ponsonby will doubtless
observe in his next volume on English diaries!

Lunched with Knowles (the editor of the Nineteenth Century). He was
very polite, and not only offered to take the article on the
Sweating System, but proposed one on Co-operation--the very subject
I had thought of writing on in the summer. I expect I shall do the
Sweating System for C. Booth, and that "The Present State of
Co-operation in England" will be my next paper in the Nineteenth
Century. Altogether, I am hopeful. I have made a steady rise in
literary capacity, as my diary shows. There is no reason why I
should not rise further. [MS. diary, November 1887.]

The enquiry into the sweating system, eventually narrowed down to
sweating in the manufacture of cheap clothing, resulted in five
separate essays, four appearing as articles in the Nineteenth
Century and (including two of the former) three as additional
chapters of Charles Booth's first volume, published in the spring of
1889.109 Moreover, my determination to present "a picture" as well
as a monograph led me into an experiment in the craft of a social
investigator which brought in its train some temporary notoriety;
and consequences, pleasant and unpleasant.

Whilst yet in the country, I started to plan out my campaign, so
that the autumn and spring holiday months should be used to the
greatest advantage. All the volumes, blue books, pamphlets and
periodicals bearing on the subject of sweating that I could buy or
borrow were read and extracted the Charles Booth secretariat was
asked to supply particulars of the workshops within the area
selected for exploration classified according to the numbers
employed in each friends and relatives were pestered for
introductions to public authorities, philanthropic agencies and all
such business enterprises (not only wholesale and retail clothiers,
but also shippers, sewing-machine companies and others) as were
likely to have contact with East End workers, whether sub contractors
or wage-earners. Once settled at the Devon shire House Hotel, my
time was mainly occupied in inter viewing employers and employed,
School Board Visitors Factory and Sanitary Inspectors and members of
the Jewish Board of Guardians; in visiting home-workers and small
masters whom I happened to know, and in accompanying rent collectors,
or the collectors of payments due for the hire of sewing-machines,
on their rounds of visits. In the intervals of these interviews and
observations I trained as a trouser-hand, successively in the
workrooms of the Co-operative Wholesale Society and in the
"domestic workshop" of a former tenant of Katherine Buildings, by
way of preparation for "finding work" during the busy season of
the spring months.

Here are sample entries from the MS. diary of the autumn and winter
of 1887-88:

Read through all the back numbers of the Briton [I write early in
September while still at The Argoed], a paper devoted to crusade
against sweating and foreign immigration; sensational outcry and
unproven facts; principal contributor a certain Jew, A. B., author
of pamphlet on Sweating System. Thinking he was an enthusiast, I
asked for interview and enclosed 5 shillings.

We met at C. Booth's office. Small man with low retreating forehead
and retreating chin; failed to explain anything, and utterly
ignorant of the facts even about the workers. Said he did not
believe in usual methods of trade unionism and disapproved of
co-operative production (disapproval afterwards explained by Mr.
Barnett). A "Member" friend of his was going to introduce a Bill
to abolish sweating; he [A. B.] intended "giving the House of
Commons a chance of remedying the grievances of the workers"; if it
failed to do so, he knew what he should advise the workers to do
--though he would not tell us the nature of his advice. The society of
which he was secretary numbered two hundred; and yet it was going to
transform the condition of the London tailors!

Mr. Barnett, with whom I afterwards dined, told me he was a regular
scamp, and embezzled the funds of a co-operative society; lived on
his wits. I felt rather ashamed of my gift of 5 shillings, and
anxious to retreat from my new acquaintanceship. So long as
Socialism has as exponents this sort of man there is little danger
that it will enlist the sympathies of the better sort of workman.
(MS. diary, September 1887.)

Arkell [one of Charles Booth's secretaries] dined here yesterday.
Have asked him to colour map, so as to see exactly where the trades
are localised. [MS. diary, October 4, 1887.]

My first experience of the tailoring shops was in the easy form of a
friendly visit, under my own name, to a "sweater" to whom I was
introduced as an enquirer by one of the tenants of Katherine
Buildings. This was, in fact, an "interview" under informal
conditions, and it finds record as such in my diary.

First morning learning how to sweat; Mrs. Moses, Oxford Street,
Stepney. Four rooms and a kitchen, 12 shillings, one room let,
3 shillings. Street deserted during daytime, with public-houses at
each corner. A small backyard. Three rooms on ground floor, two used
as workshop; two machinists, Polish Jews; the master acts as
presser. In back room mistress and first hand, a Scottish woman, and
two girls learning the trade. Coats turned out at 15 shillings, 2
pence each, trimmings and thread supplied by the sweater.
Buttonholes 4 pence halfpenny a dozen by woman outside. Mistress
said the woman by working very hard could earn 10 shillings a week,
with 2 shillings deducted for silk. Evidently these people work
tremendously hard; woman working from eight to ten without looking
round, and master working up to two o'clock, and often beginning at
five the next morning. The mistress was too busy to give me much
information; and I did nothing but sew on buttons and fell sleeves.
They all seemed very pleasant together. Went next morning, but they
were too busy to let me in; they had to "drive" to get [work
delivered in time] into shop. The master was grumpy and suspicious;
go there on Monday. [MS. diary, October 1887.]

Monday morning the work is slack for plain hands; Moses preparing
coats for machines, and Mrs. Irons, the Scottish woman, helping him.
The other young woman had taken her departure; she was not satisfied
with 2 shillings 6 pence a week and her training.

Mrs. Moses was communicative and told me about her business. She and
her husband worked for Hollington's; but foreman was brutal and pay
wretched; now she worked for Rylands, export firm. For coats she was
paid 15 shillings, 6 pence each, she finding the thread. She paid 4
pence halfpenny a dozen for buttonholes; and the widow who undertook
this work might earn 10 shillings a week, with deductions of 2
shillings for silk. First machinist paid 6 shillings a day; second,
3 shillings; the Scottish woman, 1 shilling, 6 pence. Mr. Moses
worked early and late during the coat season. The slack season was
the bad time for them; they "rid" themselves of the little
furniture they had. Certainly, if the workshop was indicative of the
rest of the house, there was not much capital to fall back on: one
or two deal tables whereon to set the work; a broken-down settee and
a few chairs; a ragged bit of blue paper tacked on to the
mantelpiece, and a broken vase and one or two old lamps were the
only visible signs of subsistence for out-of-work days. Mrs. Moses'
dress was of the dirtiest and most dishevelled. Mrs. Moses' history
was briefly this. She was born in London, and had never been in the
country; three years ago she had been up at the West End to the
"Healtheries" [the Exhibition at South Kensington], treated by a
brother-in-law. She went about once a year to the theatre, never to
the synagogue. She had children by her first husband, and her second
husband had a son. Presently she went to buy a bit of dinner,
returning with a fresh haddock. . . . Later on, I had a chat with
Mrs. Irons, while Mrs. Moses was washing the haddock in the
backyard. She also had her history of troubles. Was brought up a
tailoress in Glasgow, married a professional street-singer, who had
for some time kept a public-house. But her husband turned out badly
and now she was back at the tailoring with eyesight failing. To-day
she had brought a basin of stew for her lunch. She worked as long as
Moses wanted her--sometimes till ten o'clock--and spoke in a
friendly way of her master and "Missus," and was kindly with the
girl. She had been thirteen weeks out of work before she found this
place. Given to cant, but a sober and respectable woman. Told me
that drunkenness had decreased, but not immorality; "no young girl
thought any worse of herself for getting into trouble," and none of
them were satisfied with going to service.

The third morning another young woman came in to learn the trade;
work wretched, but both Mrs. Moses and Mrs. Irons were good to her.
Told me that she was come to learn the trade, and that she should
stay if her work suited them; thought to myself, it will be a long
time before your work will be worth the trouble of your training.
. . . I worked four days with Moses family, and we parted excellent
friends. The work must have been bad, for my sewing, they said, was
too good for the trade! [MS. interviews, October 1887.]

Interviewed H. and G. firms [Wholesale Clothiers]. Long conversation
with principal partners in each case. J. G. was a haw-hawy young man
in "masher" clothes, with silver-tipped cane and camellia in his
buttonhole. Said there had been a revolution in the tailoring trade;
small tailors were being wiped out. It was "now a trade in which
capitalists invested money, and worked on wholesale scale." Profits
regulated according to fixed scale based on cost of production. For
instance, if two contracts were taken for same cloth and same
pattern, at a higher and a lower price, the manager gave out the
work at corresponding figures, and if one middleman did not choose
to take the lower-priced garment, another did. As to provincial
production for stock and export, it was undercutting London. . . .
For work at a certain figure undoubtedly the factory system was most
to be relied on, but of course you could not get style, or even much
fit, if all the coats were cut out by machinery. Admitted that
starvation wages were given by some middlemen.  . . . H., wholesale
clothier (was a true little grinder), had a fussy selfimportant air,
nervous manner, and shrewd money-making expression. Scrupulously
attired, with orchid in his buttonhole. "Work paid better than it
ever was; middlemen confoundedly independent; if one man refuses a
job, no one else will take it." Said that, for strength and honesty
of work, undoubtedly provincial factory system was to be preferred,
and if he [H.] could afford to wait he sent down to the provinces.
He did very little bespoke work; firm entirely wholesale, dealing
principally in contracts. Was disgusted with sensationalism and
Burnett's Report.110 [MS. Interviews, Wholesale Clothing Trade,
October 1887.]

Amusing interview with L., factory inspector [at] Home Office.
Square-built man, with general impression of checked suit: I will
not swear that his three garments were all check; but the general
effect was a mottled and crossed appearance. Red face, tiny
greeny-grey eyes, and fat hands; whiskers and hair of the same tint
as his eyes; hair rapidly receding from his forehead. He welcomed me
with a funny self-important air; he was "delighted to see me in
connection with a subject that had occupied so much of his thought."
He knew that my object was to do good, etc. etc. That had been his
object, and he had laboured night and day to accomplish it. And then
he opened out in a burst of indignation against the Board of Trade
and Burnett's Report, He thought it disgraceful, stealing men's
brains; that is what Burnett had done. He had come to him, and
cross-examined him and put all he said, without acknowledgement,
into this report (Burnett had told me that L. had refused to give
him any information). What did the Board of Trade know about
sweating? What could it know? "I, on the other hand," continued Mr.
L., "have ferreted all the evil out, have spent sixteen hours out of
the twenty-four in the service of the Government, on this particular
question. I know all the iniquity that goes on in the East End; and
mind what I say, Miss Potter, it will not stop until the factory
inspector has more power." Charlie [Booth] became very impatient
with this tirade and cut it short by asking for special and definite
information. L. then gave us the usual hackneyed account of
"Sweating," a great deal of which we recognised as inexact and
absurdly sensational. Then Charlie, rather unwisely, asked him bolt
out: would he give him list of names and addresses of sweaters? "No,"
said L., somewhat testily, "I can't do that." And then as Charlie
explained his object, Mr. L. smiled at him with conscious
superiority, as much as to say, "You all of you are amateurs, and
think you know a great deal; but your ideas are impracticable." All
this was simply the result of the lack of sympathy C. had shown to
the man's wounded vanity. Altogether, I was sorry I had not been
alone with him; I should have managed him better, with softer and
less direct treatment. As it was, we got nothing out of him, except
the picture of a man smarting under the consciousness
of another man reaping the fruits of what he considered he had sown.
A good moral. The personal element in work is contemptible. [MS.
Interviews, Wholesale Clothing Trade November 5, 1887.]

At this point my autumn holiday ended, and I returned to attendance
on my father.

I have a good amount of loosely gathered material [I write after
spending three months with my father at Bournemouth]. C. B. has a
certain amount of statistical information. Remains to be done: a
complete statistical basis giving proportionate statement of various
classes of trades; and description of different types of tailoring,
so that I may give picturesque account of technique. The leading
ideas to be embodied in the paper: (1) correspondence of low form of
faculty with low form of desire; absence of responsible employer;
effect of foreign immigration on trade, with proportion of
foreigners engaged in trade. [MS. diary, February 5, 1888.]

Last days at Bournemouth. Hardly expect to return here. If father
lives, we shall move to Wimbledon next winter.111 Very happy during
these peaceful months, reading English history and literature. Long
rides and short walks, and listening to the band. Not felt it waste
of time, as I needed more study; though of course I should have
preferred to work straight onward with the investigation. But I am
so accustomed to take things as they come, and be thankful, that it
is little trouble to me to break in upon my plan. And now I enjoy my
life. I have fair health, faith in my own capacity to do the work I
believe in, and I have regained my old religious feeling, without
which life is not worth living to one of my nature. Intend to spend
ten days of my holiday in the West End, before I settle in to work.
And then a hard pull and a long pull to get the material wherewith
to make a really graphic picture of the London tailoring trade.
Thirty years is a good deal of sand in the hour-glass; and I must
justify all this long period of silent intellectual seed-time by

One good thing done; Herbert Spencer cured, at least for the
present. Living with us gave him courage to rise out of his state of
lethargy, and take to active life again. Now I hear he is running
about London, and thoroughly enjoying society. Poor old man! It is a
comfort to think one has been a help to him, and a small return for
his constant intellectual guidance and sympathy.

The leading idea of my paper will be the correspondence of low
faculty with low desire: proof of this--picture of life in a
sweater's den, picture of life of a man who wears the coat.

Shall turn my back on Society, except in so far as it is likely to
be useful to my work. . . . [MS. diary, February 12, 1888.]

This question of "Society" had been troubling me for some time.

I do not wish to forgo the society of my own class--and yet to enjoy
means wasted energy [I wrote a few months before the last entry].
Late hours, excitement, stimulants and unwholesome food, all
diminish my small stock of strength available for actual work. And
society has another drawback; it attracts one's attention away from
the facts one is studying, so that the impression is not so keen and
deep. To take a clear impression, the intellect must be in a
peculiar state--strong, and yet for the moment blank. That is why I
find so much difficulty in working at two subjects at the same time
--the facts of the one efface the facts of the other. And when
striking personalities intervene with the complicated problems of
their lives, it is so hard to drive them out of one's thoughts. For
the men and women of society are, naturally enough, more
interesting, as psychological studies, than the men and women with
whose circumstances you are not familiar, whose phraseology you do
not quickly understand. Gradually, if you give way, the ogre,
society, sucks you in, and you are lost to the bigger world of

I see before me clearly the ideal life for work--[I continue] I see
it attainable in my present circumstances. Love and cheerfulness in
my home-life; faithful friendship with a few--to those tied to me by
past association, to those bracing me by moral genius, to those who
will aid me to judge truthfully--and, lastly, charity and sympathy
towards women of my own class who need it, whether they be
struggling young girls, hard-pressed married women or disappointed
spinsters. Every woman has a mission to other women--more especially
to the women of her own class and circumstances. It is difficult to
be much help to men (except as an example in the way of persistent
effort, and endurance in spite of womanly weakness). For, do what
one will, sentiment creeps in, in return for sympathy. Perhaps as
one loses one's attractiveness this will wear off--certainly it
will! At present it is only with working men one feels free to
sympathise without fear of unpleasant consequences. . . . [MS.
diary, December 1887.]

Early in March I am once again at the Devonshire House Hotel:
"trying to grasp my subject--the trade and labour questions of East
End Tailoring," I write in my diary; and wishing "that I had more
strength and pluck."

So the first six weeks of my enquiry ends [I write four weeks
later]. Think I have broken the crust, and am now grubbing at the
roots of the subject. But much definite work I have not done. Most
of my time spent in training as a "plain hand" and it remains to
be seen whether my training will be of real use. Anyway, it has
given me an insight into the organisation, or, in this case into the
want of organisation, of a workshop, and into the actual handicraft
of tailoring.112 Otherwise my life has been extremely interesting,
and I am more than ever assured that / have capacity. . . . And now
there are no conflicting desires and few conflicting duties.
"Society," even now that it is unusually gracious and flattering, has
no charm for me. The other night, as I returned from a distinguished
party to which I had been enticed, I felt that I should not regret
the loss of attraction (as I shall inevitably lose it), for I did
not care for the result. Only for my work should I fear the loss of
the woman's charm; undoubtedly it smooths out obstacles. But then I
am so planning my life that the work I need it for will be done
before I lose it! [MS. diary, March 28, 1888.]

The last days of my active life for some months to come. On the
whole I have been very happy--full of interest and blessed with
content. I have not felt living alone. My work is now all in all to
me. When I am not at work I sit and dream, and chew the cud of all
I see and hear; when I am utterly exhausted I am not depressed; only
satisfied to wait for returning strength. Prayer is a constant
source of strength: to sit in that grand St. Paul's, with its still
silent spaces; there is a wonderful restfulness in that House of
God. And I enjoy the life of the people at the East End; the reality
of their efforts and aims; the simplicity of their sorrows and joys;
I feel I can realise it and see the tragic and the comic side. To
some extent I can grasp the forces which are swaying to and fro,
raising and depressing this vast herd of human beings. My
painstaking study of detail will help towards the knowledge of the
whole, towards which I am constantly striving; I shall leave steps
cut in the rock, and from its summit man will eventually map out the
conquered land of social life. [MS. diary, May 5, 1888.]

More than half through my paper, with the rest thought out [I record
six weeks after my return to The Argoed]. I think it will be a clear
detailed and comprehensive account of the facts of the Tailoring
Trade; but it will be too matter-of-fact for the taste of the
public--too much of a study of economic life, and not sufficiently
flavoured with philanthropy. [MS. diary, June 28, 1888.]

It was during the spring of 1888 that I experimented in the art of
investigation, by getting employment as a "plain trouser hand" in
several workshops, being soon dismissed from the first, but
voluntarily leaving the last and (from the standpoint of the worker)
lowest of the lot, in order "to better myself," when I had secured
all the information I required. In this brief adventure, besides
verifying my second-hand information about the conditions of
employment, I obtained the material for my one and only literary
"success"--"The Pages of a Workgirl's Diary," published in the
Nineteenth Century (October 1888)--a cheap triumph, seeing that the
article was little more than a transcript of the MS. diary, with the
facts just enough disguised to avoid recognition and possible
actions for libel; and experiences sufficiently expurgated to be
"suited to a female pen"!113 "Mais oui: vous avez fait un succes
avec ce 'Pages of a Workgirl's Diary'," observed the brilliant
Frenchwoman and candid friend, Marie Souvestre.114 "Mais que le
public anglais est bete!" [MS. diary, January 1889.] Smarting under
the cold reception given to my elaborate monograph  on "The East End
Tailoring Trade"--a painstaking and, I think, thoroughly competent
piece of work, appearing in the preceding issue of the Nineteenth
Century--for which I had received from the editor one guinea per
page as against two guineas per page paid for a dramatised version
of but a few of the facts--I endorsed her judgment. And if by any
chance the book that I am now writing should prove a "better seller"
than the most intellectually distinguished of our works--Statutory
Authorities for Special Purposes, 1689-1835 (which, I regret to say,
has had but a small sale)--I shall see rising up before me the
striking presence of my old friend, and hear her reiterate in
ghostly but sarcastic tones, "Mais que le public anglais est bete!"

Such were the pleasant consequences of my adventure. Now for the

Gave evidence before the Lords Committee [on the Sweating System]. A
set of well-meaning men, but not made of stuff fit for investigation.
As they had forced me to appear, they treated me kindly, and lunched
me in the middle of my examination. A few peeresses came down to
stare at me. . . . [MS. diary, May 12, 1888.]

Four days after, there is another entry:

Disagreeable consequences of appearing in public. Descriptions of my
appearance and dress; and offensive remarks by the Pall Mall
Gazette. The economic side of the question is an unattractive one,
and attracts abuse of all kinds from the least scrupulous class of
men. [MS. diary, May 16, 1888.]

In another ten days I am still more distressed:

Detestable misstatement of my evidence brings down unpleasant
imputations; all the harder to bear as I was pressed into giving
evidence, and was unwilling to speak of my personal experience of a
workshop. [MS. diary, May 25, 1888.]

The "detestable misstatement" was, as far as I remember, an
accusation that my evidence before the Select Committee of the House
of Lords was, in substance, mendacious; that in the shops in which I
had worked as a trouser-hand I was known and exceptionally treated;
and that, accordingly, my statement of the workers' conditions was
misleading. My accuser, the A. B. to whom I have already referred,
said that he knew the workshop in which I had thus pretended to
work. This was a misunderstanding which I was able easily to clear
up by a letter to the newspapers; it was plain that A. B. had
confused my first friendly interviews, at the workshops to which I
had been introduced as an enquirer (described in the foregoing
pages), with the transient engagements as a trouser-hand that I
subsequently got for myself at other workshops. But there was a fly
in the ointment. In my hasty answers to the Lords' cross-examination,
I had exaggerated the number of weeks during which I thus "worked";
and it was this exaggeration that got widely reported. When I received
the proof of my evidence my conscience was sorely tried by the
appended notice that no mistake was to be corrected other than any
made by the short-handwriter or compositor. Was I to leave my own
hasty exaggeration uncorrected? I disobeyed the injunction and
scrupulously reduced the number of weeks to less than the truth.
This double sin of saying what was not true, and then altering it in
what seemed a sly way, caused me many sleepless nights. To this day
I do not know whether witnesses are at liberty to correct their own
statements as distinguished from misstatements of their evidence by
the reporter. (The Other One tells me that I might have put the
correction in a footnote; but how was I to know that? Moreover, that
would have meant an admission of my inaccuracy!) Considering the
difficulty, to the ordinary untrained man or woman, of answering
unexpected questions with accuracy under the novel and disconcerting
experience of being cross-examined, it seems desirable that
witnesses should be permitted to correct, after quiet consideration,
their own statements of fact and opinion, even if these have been
correctly taken down by the shorthand-writer. What happens now is
that the cautious and experienced witness refuses to be led beyond a
reiteration of the contents of his "statement of evidence"
deliberately prepared for circulation, whilst the flustered novice
says what is not true, and, in nearly all cases, exactly what the
more skilled of his examiners intend him to say! I remember an
episode at an official enquiry, years afterwards, in which I took
part. "I object to Mrs. Webb's unfair cross-examination," complained
one of my colleagues.

The room was cleared. "Now, Mr. ," said I in my blandest tone, "I
have listened to you cross-examining a series of witnesses on the
abstruse point of the effect on tenement occupiers of compounding
for rates; and however ignorant of the whole subject-matter these
witnesses maybe, they invariably come out at your conclusion. So
long as you pursue this policy I shall continue to make each
successive witness say the exact contrary of what he has said to
you." In the interests of national economy--for I pointed out that
the travelling expenses and the shorthand report of each day's
evidence cost at least one hundred pounds--he and I silently agreed
to abandon our malpractice.

I skip eighteen months, in order to give the last scenes of my
relation to the House of Lords Committee on the Sweating System:

Dined with Lord Thring to meet Lord Monkswell to discuss the
Dunraven draft report, and help to draft an opposition. Lord Thring
is a dried-up little lawyer, upper-middle-class in origin, made a
peer for many years' faithful service as head of the Parliamentary
Drafting Office. His views are strictly economic; biased against
sensationalism, against State interference; in fact the high and dry
orthodoxy of 1850. The "sweating business" he regards as so much
"gas." But with the present combustible state of public opinion a
safety-valve must be provided. Hence in the Opposition Report he
will deny all Dunraven's sensational premises, but declare that
there are evils to be remedied (which he does not believe). The
remedies he suggests are utterly insufficient to cure the evils--if
they did exist--and he knows it. His attitude is typical of the
time; he dare not dare public sentiment; so he suggests remedies
which are absurdly roundabout, and bound to fail. "Of course we must
pat Trade Unions on the back," said he, "but I will die on the floor
of the House before I see Trade Unions made absolute by driving all
workers into factories where they have unlimited opportunities for
combination. Dunraven is playing the card of Tory democracy;
representing the middle class as the tyrants of society; and
himself, representing the Tory aristocracy, as the only guardians of
the interests of the poor. That is why it won't suit us to be quite
frank," he adds with cynical candour. "We must go in for the evils
as strongly as he does. But we must cut the ground from under his

After dinner, when we three were reading over and recasting Lord
Thring's notes, I managed, "in cutting the ground from under
Dunraven's remedies," to prepare the ground for my special erection,
which will appear as a review of the two reports in the Nineteenth
Century. If I can make them retain my proposal to transfer the
factory inspectors to the Labour Department of the Board of Trade,
or to the Local Government Board, I shall have laid the foundation
for a thoroughly efficient Labour Bureau. The enforced publicity of
all business accounts will be one step further. That done, we shall
be on the right road to transforming all property-holders into
voluntary officials of the State; paid by results instead of by
salaries; and compelled by self-interest to inspect each other's
work, the landlord the employer, the employer the landlord. Though I
am suspected of Socialism, my anti-sensationalism gives me a footing
among the sternest school of laisser-faire economists. This position
must be guarded jealously, if I am to be of some little use as a
reforming agency. [MS. diary, February 9, 1890.]

Uncomfortable dinner with Lord Thring and Mr. Vallance here [
Devonshire House Hotel]--the Assessment Clerk to the Whitechapel
Union. Lord Thring was as obstinate as an old dried-up lawyer of
seventy could possibly be; would not listen to my conscientious
official, but snubbed him severely. And to make matters worse, the
church bells began to ring wildly so that our voices were drowned in
spite of my determined shoutings. Poor old man; he came to chat with
a good-looking woman, and found an enthusiastic reformer possessed
by one idea, to make him accept a suggestion which he did not agree
with. All the same, I think I shall get into the Lords' Report the
thin edge of the wedge as to owners' [of the finished product; that
is, the original "giver out" of the material to be made up]
responsibility. His report, which he showed me, is three pages to
Dunraven's seventy: it begins with my definition of sweating as
certain conditions of employment; expressly omitting all reference to
sub-contract, subdivision of labour, machinery, foreign immigration,
to which Dunraven has devoted some twenty pages; it lays stress on
the defencelessness of female labour, the badness of general
sanitation. With regard to remedies, he proposes to repeal certain
clauses of the Factory Act which disallow the entry of the factory
inspector into dwellings without a warrant from the magistrates; he
adopts my idea of the transference of the Factory Department to the
Board of Trade or Local Government Board, and lays stress on the
advantages of publicity. Altogether, though it is utterly
ineffective, the report is sound so far as it goes, and will serve
as a foundation for my own proposals. [MS. diary, February 15,


The outcome of these studies in East End life, more particularly the
examination of the manufacture of slop clothing in the homes and
workshops of the East End, was an attempt, and I think a successful
attempt, to diagnose a specific social disease, and to suggest how
it could be mitigated, and probably overcome.

All those who had hitherto interested themselves in the evils of the
so-called "sweating system" had been obsessed with the sinister
figure of the "sweater," or rather of an endless series of
middlemen or sweaters, between the actual producer of slop-clothing
or cheap furniture, and the citizen who eventually bought the
article for his own use. Closely associated with the presence of
this middleman, or these middlemen, was the practice of subdividing
labour, so that the coat or the cabinet was the product, not of one
skilled craftsman, but of a group of poverty-stricken employees,
sometimes at work in the back premises of the sweater himself, and
sometimes individually toiling night and day in their own one-roomed
tenements. It was adding insult to injury in the eyes of patriotic
British citizens that the evil ways of these "grinders of the face
of the poor" were made easy by the inrush of Polish or Russian and
German Jews, whose desperate plight compelled them to accept work at
wages below the subsistence level of English workers. The following
extracts from the evidence of the best-known explorers of the
sweating system will illustrate the state of informed public opinion
at the time that I began my investigations.

"How do you define the Sweating System?" enquired a member of the
House of Lords Committee of the then great authority on the subject
--Arnold White, afterwards a Conservative M.P. "I think it is
impossible to give a scientific definition of the term," he
answered, "but it involves three ideas, which are sufficiently
distinct. The broadest definition that I can give of a sweater is,
one who grinds the face of the poor; the second is that of a man who
contributes neither capital, skill, nor speculation, and yet gets
profit; and the third is the middleman." [Question 404.]

"Any person who employs others to extract from them surplus labour
without compensation is a sweater," exclaimed Lewis Lyons, a
notorious socialist agitator. "A middleman sweater is a person who
acts as a contractor for labour for another man. A sweater is a
person who practises a subdivision of labour for his own private
ends. Now, my Lords, you will find that this definition speaks of a
sweater as subdividing labour. The subdivision of labour in the
tailoring trade would be about twenty-five, and I would just proceed
to explain. [Etc.]" [Question 1772.]

"As an illustration of what I mean," stated William Parnell, the
secretary of the Cabinetmakers' Trade Union, "I will say that if a
firm gets an order to supply furniture to a customer, and the firm
which gets that order does not itself manufacture the furniture, but
gives it out to a sub-contractor, that is the first step in sweating.
When these steps go from one to two, three, four, or five degrees,
it is quite evident, and every man will admit, that that is
sweating; but I think that the first step is as much sweating as the
last. The real effect of it is to reduce both the quality of the
article and the wages of the workman. I know of a case in which work
has been obtained by a large firm and given out to a sub-contractor,
who has given it out to another sub-contractor, who has given it out
again to a man supposed to be his foreman, and the foreman has then
given it out as piecework to the workmen. I will leave your
Lordships to judge whether, if that had been made by the firm who
obtained the order, the customer would not have received a better
article, and also whether the man who made it would not have
received better wages." [Question 2862.]

"Under any circumstances, this condition of affairs would have been
fraught with misery for most of those engaged in such work," states
John Burnett, the Labour Correspondent of the Board of Trade in
September 1887, "but matters have been rendered infinitely worse to
the native workers during the last few years by the enormous influx
of pauper foreigners from other European nations. These aliens have
been chiefly German and Russian Jews, and there can be no doubt that
the result has been to flood the labour market of the east end of
London with cheap labour to such an extent as to reduce thousands of
native workers to the verge of destitution. But for this special
cause there would be no demand for enquiry on the subject. The evil,
however, is becoming so intense as to raise a cry for its special
treatment. The previous conditions of life of the unhappy foreigners
who are thus driven, or come here of their own accord, are such that
they can live on much less than our English workers. They arrive
here in a state of utter destitution, and are compelled by the very
necessity of their position to accept the work most easily obtained
at the lowest rate of wages. In this way has grown up in our midst a
system so bad in itself and so surrounded by adherent evils as to
have caused, not only among the workers themselves, great suffering
and misery, but in the minds of others grave apprehensions of public

Now, it was this conception of the sweating system and its causes
that was embodied in the draft report of Lord Dunraven, the first
chairman of the House of Lords Committee on the Sweating System; a
draft which was rejected by the majority of the committee under the
chairmanship of Lord Derby and the leadership of Lord Thring. Lord
Derby and his colleagues finally decided that sweating was no
particular method of remuneration, no peculiar form of industrial
organisation, but certain conditions of employment; "earnings
barely sufficient to sustain existence; hours of labour such as to
make the lives of the workers periods of almost ceaseless toil; and
sanitary conditions which are not only injurious to the health of
the persons employed but dangerous to the public."116 When any one
of these conditions existed in extreme and exaggerated form--for
instance, if a woman sewing neckties in her own home strained every
nerve to earn only a halfpenny an hour--still more, when these
conditions were combined, as in the cellar dwellings in which the
Jewish boot-finishers worked sixteen or seventeen hours a day for a
wage of 12 shillings per week--then the House of Lords Committee
said that the labour was sweated, and that the unfortunates were
working under the sweating system.

What were the causes of these evil conditions of employment? Had
these causes been correctly described by the most prominent
witnesses before the House of Lords Committee and in the official
reports of Government Departments?

There was a measure of truth in John Burnett's statement that the
evil conditions of sweating in some departments of industry had been
initiated, or at any rate aggravated, by the inrush of poverty-stricken
Jews. The ease with which the untiring and thrifty Jew became a
master was proverbial in the East End. His living-room became his
workshop, his landlord or his butcher his surety; round the corner
he found a brother Israelite whose trade was to supply pattern
garments to take as samples of work to the wholesale house; with a
small deposit he secured, on the hire system, both sewing-machine
and presser's table. Altogether, it was estimated that with 1 pound
in his pocket, any man might rise to the dignity of a sweater. And,
when one Jew had risen to the position of entrepreneur, there were
always, not only the members of his own family, but also hundreds of
newcomers ready to become subordinates, many of whom were destined,
in due time, to become his competitors. But the Jews had, at any
rate, the merit that at the East End of London they "kept themselves
to themselves "; for instance, they monopolised the slop-coat trade
and bootfinishing; they seldom intruded into the manufacture of
vests and trousers, or into the factories in which the machining of
the work was done; and if the investigator surveyed all the
industries in which the evil conditions of sweating prevailed,
whether in the metropolis or in the provinces, the Jewish workers
were found to be but a fraction of the whole body of workers, and
also, to a large extent, a non-competing group, confined to the
manufacture of certain commodities, in many instances commodities
which had not been produced in the locality before. In short, if
every foreign Jew resident in England had been sent back to his
birthplace, the bulk of the sweated workers would not have been
affected, whether for better or for worse.

But though the immigrant Jews served as raw material for the
sweating system, no one suggested that they alone were responsible
for what was deemed to be a particular type of industrial
organisation. The real sinner, according to current public opinion,
was the unnecessary middleman or middlemen, whether British or
foreign, each middleman taking toll, like the mediaeval baron, from
all those who passed under his jurisdiction. Now what my observations
and enquiries (verified by Charles Booth's statistics) had proved
was that there were actually fewer middlemen between the producer
and the consumer, and, be it added, far less subdivision of labour,
than in the contrasted machine industry of the characteristic
factory system, as seen not only in such staple industries as
textiles or engineering, but also in the machine production of
"ready-made" garments, or boots and shoes, in the well-equipped
factories of Leeds or Leicester.

I pass now to my own explanation of the causes of the misery and
degradation laid bare by the House of Lords Committee on the
Sweating System.

"How would you define the Sweating System?" I was asked by a member
of the Committee.

"An enquiry into the Sweating System is practically an enquiry into
all labour employed in manufacture which has escaped the regulation
of the Factory Act and trade unions," I answered. [Question 3248.]

At this point I will quote from a paper that I read at the
Co-operative Congress held at Rochdale, June 1892, supplemented by a
quotation from the review in the Nineteenth Century for June 1890,
on the Report from the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the
Sweating System, 1888-89.

Some persons maintain that sweating is restricted to industries in
which sub-contract prevails [I tell the Co-operative Congress of
1892]; that, in fact, it is the middleman who is the sweater; that
this man grinds the face of the poor, and takes from them the fruits
of their labour. You will remember a cartoon that appeared in Punch
about the time of the House of Lords enquiry, in which the middleman
was represented as a bloated man-spider sucking the life-blood out
of men and women who were working around him. Now, before I studied
the facts of East London industries for myself I really believed
that this horrible creature existed. But I soon found out that
either he was a myth, or that the times had been too hard for him,
and that he had been squeezed out of existence by some bigger
monster. For I discovered that in the coat trade, and in the
low-class boot trade--which are exclusively in the hands of the Jews
--where the work is still taken out by small contractors, these
middlemen, far from being bloated idlers, work as hard, if not
harder, than their sweated hands, and frequently earn less than the
machinist or presser to whom they pay wages. On the other hand, in
those trades in which English women are employed--such as the
manufacture of shirts, ties, umbrellas, juvenile suits, etc.--the
middleman is fast disappearing. It is true that formerly the
much-abused subcontract system prevailed in these trades--that is to
say, some man or woman would contract with the wholesale manufacturer
to make and deliver so many dozen garments for a certain sum. He
would then distribute these garments one by one in the homes of the
women, or perhaps he would engage women to make them in his own
house. He might receive a shilling for the making of each garment,
but he would give only tenpence to the actual workers, pocketing
twopence in return for his trouble and risk. But of late years the
more enterprising wholesale manufacturers have thought it most
unjust that the middleman should pocket the twopence. To remedy this
injustice they have opened shops all over the East End of London,
where they give out work just as the middleman used to do, first to
be machined and then to be finished. But, strangely enough, they
still pay tenpence to their workers, the only difference being that
instead of the middleman getting the balance they pocket the
twopence themselves. Nor do they trouble themselves in the very
least where these garments are made. The women who support
themselves and perhaps their families by this class of work live in
cellars or in garrets, sometimes two or three families in one room.
This does not concern the wholesale manufacturer. No doubt he would
tell you that the middleman was the sweater and that he had
destroyed him. But, unfortunately, he did not destroy, or even
diminish, what the practical observer means by sweating. The actual
worker gains absolutely nothing by the disappearance of the
sub-contractor, middleman, or so-called sweater. In East London the
change has been, so far as the workers are concerned, from out of
the frying-pan into the fire.

And if we leave the clothing trade and pass to the lower grades of
the furniture trades, in which all the evils of sweating exist, we
may watch the poverty-stricken maker of tables and chairs hawking
his wares along the Curtain Road, selling direct to the export
merchant, or to the retail tradesman--or perchance, to the private
customer. In the manufacture of cheap boots in London, of common
cutlery at Sheffield, of indifferent nails at Halesowen, we meet
with this same sorrowful figure--the small master or out-worker
buying his material on credit, and selling his product to meet the
necessities of the hour; in all instances underselling his
competitors, great and small. Respectable employers, interested in a
high standard of production, trade unionists, keen for a high
standard of wage, agree in attributing to this pitiful personage the
worst evils of the sweating system. Here, not only do we fail to
discover the existence of sub-contract but even the element of
contract itself disappears, and the elaborate organisation of modern
industry is replaced by a near approach to that primitive higgling
of the market between the actual producer of an article and the
actual consumer--to that primaeval struggle and trial of endurance
in which the weakest and most necessitous invariably suffers.

I do not wish you to imagine that I deny the existence of the
sweater in the sweated industries. But I deny that the sweater is
necessarily or even usually the sub-contractor or employing
middleman. The sweater is, in fact, the whole nation. The mass of
struggling men and women whose sufferings have lately been laid bare
are oppressed and defrauded in every relation of life: by the man
who sells or gives out the material on which they labour; by the
shopkeeper who sells them provisions on credit, or forces them under
the truck system; by the landlord who exacts, in return for the four
walls of a bedroom, or for the unpaved and undrained back-yard, the
double rent of workshop and dwelling; and, lastly, by every man,
woman and child who consumes the product of their labour. In the
front rank of this, the most numerous class of sweaters, we find the
oppressed workers themselves. The middleman where he exists is not
the oppressor, but merely one of the instruments of oppression. And
we cannot agree with Punch's representation of him as a spider
devouring healthy flies. If we must describe him as a noxious insect
we should picture him much more truly as the maggot that appears in
meat after decay has set in. He is not the cause, but one of the
occasional results of the evil. He takes advantage of the
disorganised state of the substance which surrounds him, and lives
on it; if he does not do so, some other creature will devour both
him and his food. What we have to discover, therefore, is the origin
of the disorganisation itself.

Now, in all the manufacturing industries in which "sweating"
extensively prevails we discover one common feature. The great mass
of the production is carried on, not in large factories but either
by small masters in hidden workshops or by workers in their own
dwellings. And, as a natural consequence of this significant fact,
the employer--whether he be the profit-making middleman, wholesale
trader, or even the consumer himself--is relieved from all
responsibility for the conditions under which the work is done. The
workers, on the other hand, incapacitated for combination by the
isolation of their lives, excluded by special clauses from the
protection of the Factory Acts, are delivered over body and soul to
the spirit of unrestrained competition, arising from the
ever-increasing demand for cheap articles in the great markets of
the world. If we compare this state of things with the industries in
which sweating does not exist, we see at once that in the case of
the engineer, the cotton-spinner or the miner the men work together
in large establishments, and the employer becomes responsible for
the conditions of their employment. The mill-owner, coal-owner or
large iron-master is forced to assume, to some slight extent, the
guardianship of his workers. He is compelled by the State to provide
healthy accommodation, to regulate the hours of labour of women and
young persons, to see to the education of children, to guard against
and insure all workers against accident. Trade unions, arising from
the massing of men under the factory system, insist on a recognised
rate of wages. Public opinion, whether social or political, observes
the actions of a responsible employer in the open light of day.
Willingly or unwillingly, he must interpose his brains and his
capital between groups of workers on the one hand, and the great
mass of conscienceless consumers on the other. These are the
services exacted from him by the community in return for the profits
he makes. He is, in fact, the first link between the private
individual intent on his own gain, and the ideal official of the
Socialist State administering the instruments of production in trust
for the people. It is the absence of this typical figure of
nineteenth-century industry which is the distinguishing feature of
the sweating system.117

It is obvious [I write in my review of the Report from the Select
Committee of the House of Lords on the Sweating System], if we wish
to determine whether the presence of middlemen, machinery and
subdivision of labour are at once the cause and the essence of the
evils of sweating, we must take a wider survey of industrial facts
than that afforded us by the four volumes of evidence published by
the Committee. We must use the comparative method; we must lay side
by side with the organisation of production in the sweated trades
the organisation of production in those industries admittedly free
from the grosser evils of sweating. In short, to discover what
constitutes disease, we must compare the diseased body with the
relatively healthy organism. . . .

In the staple manufactures of the kingdom--in the cotton, woollen
and manufactured metal trades--we find, as a general fact, three
profit-making capitalist middlemen between the manual worker and the
consumer: (1) the master of the factory Or workshop; (2) the
wholesale trader, supplying foreign agents and English shopkeepers;
(3) the large or small retailer in direct contact with the consumer.
At the present time [1890] this may be considered the typical
organisation of English industry. In the manufacture of slop-clothing,
the three profit-making middlemen, typical of English industry--the
manufacturer, the wholesale trader and retail tradesman--are not
multiplied; on the contrary, they are in many instances reduced to
one or two hybrid figures--the small master who works as hard as, if
not harder than, those he employs (and may be therefore considered,
in many instances, as a manual worker), and the wholesale or retail
tradesman, manufacturing to some extent on his own premises, and
giving work out, not only to large and small masters, but direct
into the homes of the people. . . .

Alike from the obligations and the expenses of the factory owner,
the sweater is free. Meanwhile the slum landlord is! receiving, for
his cellars and attics, the double rent of workshop, and dwelling
without incurring the expensive sanitary obligations of the
mill-owner. In short, it is home work which creates all the
difficulties of our problem. For it is home work which, with its
isolation, renders trade combination impracticable; which enables
the manufacturer to use as a potent instrument, for the degradation
of all, the necessity of the widow or the greed of the Jew. And more
important still, it is home work which, by withdrawing the workers
from the beneficent protection of the Factory Acts, destroys all
legal responsibility on the part of the employer and the landlord
for the conditions of employment.... In this labyrinth of technical
detail I have been led by the insinuating logic of facts again and
again to the one central idea, round which gather scientific
description and practical suggestion--an idea which has loomed
larger and larger with a closer and more personal study of the
suffering and degradation of the workers--an idea which I conceive
to be embodied in all the labour legislation of this century: the
direct responsibility, under a capitalist system of private
property, of all employers for the welfare of their workers, of all
property owners for the use of their property. From the denial of
this personal service, in return for profits and rent, arise the
dire evils of sweating--evils described in simple but touching words
in the Lords' Report: "earnings barely sufficient to sustain
existence; hours of labour such as to make the lives of the workers
periods of almost ceaseless toil, hard and unlovely to the last
degree; sanitary conditions injurious to the health of the persons
employed, and dangerous to the public." It will be through awakening
the sense of this responsibility, through insisting on the
performance of this duty, by legislative enactment, by the pressure
of public opinion and by all forms of voluntary combination, that we
can alone root out and destroy those hideous social evils known as
the Sweating System.118

To state my "discovery" dogmatically: it seemed to me that, unless
"the capitalist system" was to destroy the body and soul of great
masses of the wage-earners, it was imperative that "free
competition" should be controlled, not exceptionally or spasmodically,
but universally, so as to ensure to every one a prescribed National
Minimum of Civilised Life. This, in fact, was the meaning that
Factory Acts, Public Education, Public Health and Trade Unionism had
been empirically and imperfectly expressing.


My participation in Charles Booth's grand inquest into the life and
labour of the people in London served as a training in the art of a
social investigator and confirmed my faith in the application of the
scientific method to social organisation.

In the course of this enquiry I had learnt the relation between
personal observation and statistics. However accurate and
comprehensive might be the description of technical detail, however
vivid the picture of what was happening at the dock gates or in the
sweated workshops, I was always confronted by Charles Booth's
sceptical glance and critical questions: "How many individuals are
affected by the conditions you describe; are they increasing or
diminishing in number?" "What proportion do they bear to those
working and living under worse or better conditions?" "Does this
so-called sweating system play any considerable part in the
industrial organisation of the four million inhabitants of London?"
Thus, though I never acquired the statistical instrument because I
had not the requisite arithmetic, I became aware that every
conclusion derived from observation or experiment had to be
qualified as well as verified by the relevant statistics. Meanwhile,
in another part of the technique of sociology--the gentle art of
interviewing--I think I may say that I became an adept. Hence I have
ventured, at the end of this book, to offer to those readers who may
happen to be "industrious apprentices" some hints about the method
of the interview. But, as I quickly discovered, this way of
extracting facts from another person's mind has but a limited use;
in many cases it has no value at all except as an introduction to
opportunities for direct personal observation. Even direct
observation has varying degrees of value according to the nature of
the opportunity. For instance, I discovered more about dock
labourers as a rent-collector than I did either by touring the docks
along with officials or by my subsequent visits to dockers' homes as
an investigator. Observation is, in fact, vitiated if the persons
know that they are being observed; and it was in order to avoid any
such hampering consciousness that I decided to try my luck in
getting work in a series of sweaters' shops. Moreover, as a mere
observer, having no position in the organisation, it is impossible
to experiment. As the managers of Katherine Buildings, my colleague
and I could select our tenants according to any principle or
prejudice; we could, with the consent of the directors, raise or
lower rents, permit arrears or ruthlessly put in the broker; and,
having chosen a policy, we could watch its results on the number and
character of the applicants, the conduct of the tenants or the
profit and loss account of the buildings. "Experimenting in the
lives of other people, how cold-blooded!" I hear some reader object.
Is it necessary to explain that such "experimenting" cannot be
avoided; that all administration, whether from the motive of
profit-making or from that of public service, whether of the factory
or the mine, of the elementary school or the post office, of the
co-operative society or the Trade Union--unless it is to be reduced
by precedent and red tape to a mindless routine--necessarily amounts
to nothing less than "experimenting in the lives of other people."
What is required to safeguard the community against callousness or
carelessness about the human beings concerned is that the
administrator should be effectively responsible, for all the results
of his administration to the consumers and producers of the
commodities and services concerned and to the community at large.
And it is, essential, if we are to learn from such "experiments,"
that the effect on other persons' lives should be observed and
recorded. Further, though it is perhaps a counsel of perfection, it
is desirable (as Bismarck pointed out) that the administrator should
learn not only from his own mistakes--which is expensive--but also
from those of other persons. In short, there can be no sound
administration, even for profit-making, without the use, consciously
or not, of observation, inference and verification; that is to say,
of the scientific method. The irony is that those persons who, as
participators in an organisation, and wielding authority in its
direction, have the most valuable opportunities for the use of the
scientific method, usually lack the requisite training, if not also
the leisure and the desire for this intellectual effort.

And here I must recall a queer, deep-rooted fallacy lying at the
very base of Herbert Spencer's administrative nihilism; an error in
reasoning pervading the capitalist world in which I was brought up.
Herbert Spencer asserted, and every capitalist assumed, that the
system of profit-making enterprise with which we were all familiar,
belonged to "the natural order of things," whereas any activity on
the part of the State or the municipality, or even Of the Trade
Union, such as factory acts, public health administration,
compulsory schooling and standard rates Of wages, were "artificial"
contrivances; or, to use the philosopher's own words, "clumsy
mechanisms devised by political schemers to supersede the great laws
of existence," and therefore bound--because they were "against
nature"--to be social failures. For instance, a rate of wages
determined by unrestricted individual competition was a "natural
rate of wages"; a rate of wages determined by combination or by law
was an "artificial wage," and therefore injurious to the commonweal.

To-day it is difficult to understand from whence came this curious
fallacy; probably it arose, like so many other fallacies, from a
muddle-headed use of words. For when we talk about things being
natural, on the one hand, and artificial on the other; when we say,
for instance, that a waterfall or a lake is natural or that it is
artificial, we attach to these two adjectives definite meanings: in
the one case the lake or the waterfall happens without the
intervention of man; in the other case it is due to human artifice.
But there is no such thing as social structure apart from human
beings, or independent of their activity. Thus, strictly speaking,
every development of social structure and function, from the family
to a police force, from the institution of personal property to the
provision of public parks and libraries, from the primitive taboo to
the most complicated Act of Parliament, is alike "artificial," that
is to say, the product of human intervention, the outcome of human
activities. The plain truth is that to apply the antithesis of
"natural" and "artificial" to social action is sheer nonsense.
Anything that exists or happens human nature in society, whether war
or peace, the custom of marriage or the growth of empire, the
prevention of disease or the wholesale slaughter of battle, and
"civilisation" itself, is equally "natural"; its very happening makes
it so. Moreover, if antiquity or ubiquity be taken as a test of what
is in conformity with a hypothetical "nature of man," governmental
intervention and also vocational organisation (from the ancient
castes of priests and warriors to the modern labour union) are not
only far older in human history than the form of industrial
organisation known as the capitalist system, with its divorce of the
worker from the ownership of the instruments of production, but are
also--when we remember the vast uncounted populations of Asia and
Africa--actually more widely prevalent among the inhabitants of the
earth to-day.

It is, indeed, obvious that every social transformation, every
development of human society, necessarily amounts, whether we like
it or not, to an experiment in the conduct of life. In the days of
my capitalist bias I denounced, as interferences with the natural
order of things, "these gigantic experiments, State education, State
intervention in other matters which are now being inaugurated" (see
Chapter Four, paragraph which begins "So far as I was concerned, the
net effect of this dialectical duel . ."). Why? Not, as I then
thought, because these "interventions" were "against nature," but,
as I now realise, because these particular experiments were at the
cost of my class for the assumed benefit of another class. A study
of British blue books, illuminated by my own investigations into the
chronic poverty of our great cities, opened my eyes to the workers'
side of the picture. To the working class of Great Britain in the
latter half of the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth
century--that is, to four-fifths of the entire population--the
"industrial revolution," with its wholesale adoption of power-driven
machinery and the factory system, its breaking up of the abrogation
of immemorial customs sanctioned by both religion and law (to which
ruthless revolution, I may observe, my family owed its position of
wealth--an explanation but not an excuse for my regarding it as
peculiarly in "the natural order of things!"), must have appeared
not only as artificial and unnatural, but also as a gigantic and
cruel experiment which, in so far as it was affecting their homes,
their health, their subsistence and their pleasure, was proving a
calamitous failure.

My reaction from this fallacy was an ever-deepening conviction of
the supreme value, in all social activity, of the "scientific

"This ceaseless questioning of social facts," the Ego that denies
was always insisting, "seems an interesting way of passing the time,
but does it lead anywhere?" The Ego that affirms could now answer
with confidence: "Seeing that society is one vast laboratory in
which Experiments in human relationship, conscious or unconscious,
careless or deliberate, are continuously being carried on, those
races will survive and prosper which are equipped with the knowledge
of how things happen. And this knowledge can only be acquired by
persistent research into the past and present behaviour of man."

"How things happen!" mocks the Ego that denies, "but that does not
settle what ought to happen."

"I thought I told you long ago," calmly answers the Ego that
affirms, "that with regard to the purpose of life, science is, and
must remain, bankrupt; and the men of science of to-day know it. The
goal towards which we strive, the state of mind in ourselves and in
the community that we wish to bring about, depends on a human scale
of values, a scale of values which alters from race to race, from
generation to generation, and from individual to individual. How
each of us determines our scale of values no one knows. For my own
part, I find it best to live 'as if' the soul of man were in
communion with a super-human force which makes for righteousness.
Like our understanding of nature through observation and reasoning,
this communion with the spirit of love at work in the universe will
be intermittent and incomplete and it will frequently fail us. But a
failure to know, and the fall from grace, are the way of all flesh."


89 Changes and Chances, by H. W. Nevinson, pp. 86-7.

90 Philosophies, by Sir Ronald Ross, pp. 21 and 53.

91 About my sister's work and marriage Canon Barnett writes: "This
year we lose Miss Potter. She has been a rent-collector since 1878,
and has found here so many friends that, desiring on her wedding day
to be among her 'own people,' she could only be among her friends at
St. Jude's. March 15,1883, will be long remembered by the many who,
on that day, followed their friend with kindly thoughts into her new
life, and shared the first meal which she took with her husband. We
shall not forget her, and she, I know, will not forget us" (Canon
Barnett, His Life, Work, and Friends, by his Wife, vol. i.
pp. 106-7).

92 Miss Ella Pycroft, who became a lifelong friend, retained the
management of Katherine Buildings, together with another block of
dwellings under the East End Dwellings Co., until May 1890. At that
time turning to educational work, after a year at the Cambridge
Training College for Teachers, and after adding to the
qualifications she had already held, she became, in 1893, Chief
Organiser of Domestic Economy Subjects under the Technical Education
Board of the London County Council, from which post she retired in

93 Canon Barnett, His Life, Work, and Friends, by his Wife,'
vol. i. p. 139.

94 Edward Bond (1844-1920). An Oxford "Double First" and Fellow of
Queen's College, and endowed with sufficient private means to lead
the life of unpaid public service, he became one of the leaders of
the Charity Organisation movement, and among other things, one of
the original directors of the East End Dwellings Co. He remained
throughout his life an uncompromising individualist; served for a
few years as a "Moderate" on the London County Council, and as the
Conservative M.P. for East Nottingham from 1895 to 1906. A fine
figure of a man with handsome features, large soulful grey eyes,
attractively set in dark pencilled brows and long silken lashes, he
alternated cultured comments with thrilling silences; and was the
beloved of the philanthropic set. Indeed, it was said that George
Eliot had him in mind in the characterisation of the most romantic
of her heroes--Daniel Deronda--though, unlike Deronda, he never

95 Emma Cons (1838-1912), one of the most saintly as well as the
most far-sighted of Victorian women philanthropists, deserves to be
more widely known. Trained under Octavia Hill as a rent-collector,
she revolted against the self-complacent harshness of doctrine of
the C.O.S. of the 'eighties; and became an independent manager of
working-class dwellings on the Surrey side. Realising that what was
needed, even more than sanitary but dismal homes, was the
organisation of the pleasures of the poor in great cities, she, in
1880, took over the management of the Victoria music hall, at that
time a disreputable centre for all that was bad--Charles Kingsley's
"licensed pit of darkness"--and ran it as a place of popular musical
entertainment, free from vice, and unsubsidised by the sale of
alcoholic drink. Supported by Samuel Morley, Miss Martineau and Lord
Mount Temple, Miss Cons kept this enterprise going until her death
in 1912, when she was succeeded by her niece, Miss Lilian Baylis,
who had been assisting her; and whose genius has since transformed
"the Vic," with its excellent operas, and its admirable productions
of nearly all Shakespeare's plays, appreciated by a wide circle of
enthusiastic wage-earning patrons, into something approaching the
British National Theatre.

96 Maurice Eden Paul (younger son of Kegan Paul, the accomplished
publisher of the 'eighties and 'nineties), at that time studying for
the medical profession. To-day he is, in conjunction with his wife,
a well-known translator of erudite foreign works, among many others
the seven volumes of Treitschke's History of Germany in the
Nineteenth Century. He has also been prominent as a member of the
Left of the International Socialist Movement, and has contributed
pamphlets and books on communism and invented the term "Proletcult"
as the title of a book (Parsons) on "proletarian" culture.

97 This gallant officer had commanded the Black Watch when it was
quartered at the barracks, Church Street, Kensington (the next
building to York House; an attractive Queen Anne mansion standing in
an extensive garden, which my father had recently bought, now (1926)
demolished), and he had sent his "Bagpipes" in their kilts to march
round and round our garden, whilst I was entertaining a party of
East End school children. Insisting on being initiated into
rent-collecting, he had scandalised my tenants by offering to pay up
the arrears of the most impecunious!

98 Professor Newton, afterwards Sir Charles Newton (1816-94) Keeper
of Greek and Roman Antiquities at British Museum and holder of Yates
Chair of Classical Archaeology at University College, London, was
the most personally attractive, as Dr. Richard Garnett, the Keeper
of the Books, was the most lovable member, of the B.M. officials
with whom I was then intimate.

99 English Diaries from the XVIth to the XXth Century, by Arthur
Ponsonby, 1924, p. 9. The following is Mr. Ponsonby's criticism of
the value of introspective diaries: "Although the honesty and
sincerity of the introspective writers may be beyond question, they
do not necessarily by their method give a faithful picture of
themselves. . . . We think we know ourselves better than others
know us. But the truth is we only know the inside half, and it is
doubtful whether any human being in varying moods can describe even
that accurately. Moreover, the little shop window we dress and
expose to view is by no means all that others see of us. We may be
very self-conscious about things which others hardly notice, and
throughout our lives we may be entirely unaware of some glaring
peculiarity which continually strikes our neighbours. A pelican is
not the least self-conscious about the size of his beak. A peacock
may be self-conscious about his tail; but he thinks, too, that he
has a beautiful voice. On the other hand, outsiders may believe that
some person is quite oblivious of certain failings till it is
discovered by his diary that he had been struggling with them all

"We have said that the honesty and sincerity of indiscreet and
unreticent writers are beyond question. This perhaps requires some
qualification. Self-deception is very prevalent. There is a good
deal of truth in Byron's remark in his diary, 'I fear one lies more
to one's self than to any one else'; or as Gladstone puts it, 'I do
not enter on interior matters. It is so easy to write, but to write
honestly nearly impossible'" (pp. 10-11.)

100 Benjamin Jones, for many years General Manager of the London
Branch of the Co-operative Wholesale Society, became one of my most
intimate associates in my enquiry into the Cooperative Movement;
author of Co-operative Production [2 vols., 1894], and, jointly with
[Right Honourable] Arthur Dyke Acland, of Working Men Co-operators

101 Nee Arabella Buckley (sister to Lord Wrenbury), formerly
secretary to Sir Charles Lyell and author of A Short History of
Natural Science and other books, was in those days one of my best
friends, encouraging me in my lonely studies and criticising any
essay sent her.

The following entries in the diary show that I submitted the article
on Karl Marx to other intellectual advisers--to my cousins the
Booths and to my brother-in-law Alfred Cripps, with the following

The Booths are delighted with my article; Charlie enthusiastic. They
sent it to Professor Beesly. Here is his answer. He overlooks the
whole point of the article, which is to distinguish between the
labour that is useful and the labour that is useless. That
distinction rests on the presence of another element--desire.
However, if my idea is true it is unlikely that it will be accepted
all at once, especially by men who are pledged by past utterances to
contrary opinions. But his criticism shows that I have not made my
point clear, and his practical suggestion as to writing and proper
references is useful. Evidently he does not think much of the
article, or rather, he does not like it. [MS. diary, February 12,

Alfred Cripps has read my article, and when I came to hear his
opinion he greeted me with "Well, Beatrice, I have never read a
stiffer article; I am not sure I understand it." We sat down to read
it over word by word. ... I see now that it must be rewritten in a
more concise and perfect form. [MS. diary, March 20 1887.]

102 Daniel Meinertzhagen, who married my sister Georgina in
1873, was the son of the senior partner, and himself eventually the
senior partner, in the old-established firm of foreign bankers and
merchants, Frederic Huth & Co., one of the leading "acceptance
houses." See A Bremen Family, by Georgina Meinertzhagen, including
interesting diaries of the Daniel Meinertzhagen of the period, when
touring in Great Britain, France and Switzerland in 1756, 1798 and
1799. My sister wrote also an account of our grandfather, Richard
Potter, entitled From Ploughshare to Parliament.

103 My first introduction to the Social Democratic Federation, and
the socialism based on "scientific materialism" which they
preached, was an interview with the accomplished daughter of Karl
Marx in the spring of 1883. And here is the entry in my diary:

Went in afternoon to British Museum and met Miss Marx in
refreshment-room. Daughter of Karl Marx, socialist writer and
refugee. Gains her livelihood by teaching literature, etc., and
corresponding for socialist newspapers; now editing Progress in the
enforced absence of Mr. Foote. Very wroth about imprisonment of
latter [for blasphemy].

"I couldn't see much joke in those particular extracts but there was
nothing wrong in them. Ridicule is quite a legitimate weapon. It is
the weapon Voltaire used, and did more good with it than with any
amount of serious argument. We think the Christian religion an
immoral illusion, and we wish to use any argument to persuade the
people that it is false. Ridicule appeals to the people we have to
deal with, with much greater force than any amount of serious
logical argument. The striking difference of this century and the
last is, that free-thought was the privilege of the upper classes
then, and it is becoming the privilege of the working classes now.
We want to make them disregard the mythical next world and live for
this world, and insist on having what will make it pleasant to

It was useless to argue with her--she refused to recognise the
beauty of the Christian religion. She read the gospels of damnation.
Thought that Christ, if he had existed, was a weak-headed
individual, with a good deal of sweetness of character, but quite
lacking in heroism. "Did he not in the last moment pray that the cup
might pass from him?" When I asked her what the "socialist
programme" was, she very sensibly remarked that I might as well ask
her to give me in a short formula the whole theory of mechanics.
Socialist programme was a deduction from social science, which was
the most complicated of all sciences. I replied that from the very
little I knew about political economy (the only social science we
English understood) the social philosophers seemed to limit
themselves to describing forces; they were more or less necessarians.
She did not contradict this. I do not know whether it is true or

In person she is comely, dressed in a slovenly picturesque way, with
curly black hair flying about in all directions. Fine eyes full of
life and sympathy, otherwise ugly features and expression, and
complexion showing the signs of an unhealthy excited life, kept up
with stimulants and tempered by narcotics. Lives alone, is much
connected with Bradlaugh set. . . . [MS. diary, May 24, 1883.] For
an account of this remarkable woman and her tragic end, see My Years
of Exile, by Edouard Bernstein PP. 158-65.

104 This was the second Earl Granville (1815-1891), who, after ten
years in the House of Commons (1836-46), was for a whole generation
the leading representative of the Whig and Liberal parties in the
House of Lords, and an influential member of every Government from
that side of the House. In 1857 he was made a Knight of the Garter.
In 1859 the Queen offered him the Prime Ministership, but he was
unable to form a Government. When I met him he had been alternately
Secretary of State for the Colonies and for Foreign affairs in
Gladstone's three Governments of 1868, 1880 and 1886. He was a
Fellow of the Royal Society; and Chancellor of the University of
London, 1856-91.

105 Hobhouse, Arthur, first Baron Hobhouse of Hadspen (
1819-1904); chancery barrister, 1845; Q.C., 1862; member of Council
of Governor-General of India, 1872-77; K.C.S.I., 1877; member of
judicial committee of Privy Council (without salary), 1881-1901;
raised to the peerage, 1885; see Lord Hobhouse, a Memoir, by L. T.
Hobhouse and J. L. Hammond, 1905.

106 Nineteenth Century, October 1877.

107 This article was afterwards included in the first instalment of
Charles Booth's enquiry published in the spring of 1889. In the
final edition (1902) it appears as the first chapter of vol. iv.,
Poverty Series.

108 The conclusions I reached are thus summed up: "In the
individualism run wild, in the uncontrolled competition of
metropolitan industry, unchecked by public opinion or by any
legislative regulation of employment, such as the Factory Acts, it
seems impossible for any set of individuals, whether masters or men,
to combine together to check the thoughtless and useless caprices of
that spoilt child of the nineteenth century--the consumer. A
possible remedy is a kind of municipal socialism, which many of us
would hesitate to adopt, and which in the case of the docks and
waterside would take the form of amalgamation under a Public Trust
--a Trust on which the trader, consumer and labourer would be duly
represented. This would facilitate a better organisation of trade
and admit the dovetailing of business And supposing the Public Board
did not undertake to provide the labour, they could at least throw
open the gates to a limited number of labour contractors working
under legislative regulations, who would be enabled by the extent of
their business to maintain permanent staffs of workmen. I believe
that the idea of a Public Trust is not regarded as without the
sphere of practical politics by dock and waterside authorities."
[Charles Booth's Final Edition (1902) Poverty Series, vol. iv.,
chapter on "The Docks," by Beatrice Potter, pp. 33-4.]

109 The four essays appearing in the Nineteenth Century were "Dock
Life in the East End of London," October 1887; "The Tailoring Trade
of East London," September 1888; "Pages from a Workgirl's Diary,"
October 1888; and "The Lords Committee on the Sweating System," June
1890. Of these, "Dock Life," "The Tailoring Trade," together with a
separate essay on "The Jewish Community of East London," were
included in Charles Booth's first volume, published in 1889; and in
his final edition of 1902 are to be found in Poverty Series, vols.
iii. and iv. Over and above these essays there was a paper read at
the Co-operative Congress, 1892, "How to do away with the Sweating
System." Three of these essays, "The Diary of an Investigator," "The
Jews of East London" and "How to do away with the Sweating System,"
are republished in our Problems of Modern Industry, by S. and B.
Webb, 1898.

110 This summarily condemned Parliamentary Paper was the Report to
the Board of Trade on the Sweating System at the East End of London,
by the Labour Correspondent of the Board of Trade, September 1887,
H.C. 331 of 1889.

John Burnett, who became one of my best friends in the world of
labour, was born at Alnwick, Northumberland, in 1842, became, after
the Nine Hours' Strike, a lecturer for the National Education
League, and joined the staff of the Newcastle Chronicle. In 1875, on
Allan's death, he was elected to the general secretaryship of the
Amalgamated Society of Engineers. He was a member of the
Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress from 1876 to
1885. In 1886 he was appointed to the newly created post of Labour
Correspondent of the Board of Trade, in which capacity he prepared
and issued a series of reports on Trade Unions and strikes. On the
establishment of the Labour Department in 1893 he became Chief
Labour Correspondent under the Commissioner for Labour and was
selected to visit the United States to prepare a report on the
effects of Jewish immigration. He retired in 1907 and died in 1914.
[See The History of Trade Unionism 1666-1920, by S. and B. Webb,
1920 Edition, pp. 314-15, describing the Nine Hours' Strike.]

111 After my youngest sister's marriage to Arthur Dyson Williams in
the autumn of 1888, and after wintering once again at Bournemouth, I
moved my father to a small house (which became my permanent home
until my father's death in January 1892) belonging to my sister Mary
Playne, and close to her husband's place in Gloucestershire.

112 The Report of John Burnett, the Labour Correspondent of the
Board of Trade, on the Sweating System in Leeds, 1888, recalls to my
memory a visit to Leeds at Whitsuntide 1888 (unrecorded in the MS.
diary), in order to compare provincial with metropolitan
conditions. "Miss Beatrice Potter was in Leeds collecting facts on
the state of trade there, and by her kindness I was allowed to
attend meetings which she had arranged between herself and the
workmen, and herself and the masters. With her I also saw Mr.
Abraham, a Jewish Rabbi stationed at Leeds, who is remarkably well
informed on most phases of the question then interesting the Jewish
community." [Report to the Board of Trade on the Sweating System in
Leeds, C. 5513,1888.]

113 Republished as "The Diary of an Investigator" in Problems of
Modern Industry, by S. and B. Webb, 1898. In this essay I omitted
the references in my MS. diary to the prevalence of incest in
one-room tenements. The fact that some of my workmates--young girls,
who were in no way mentally defective, who were, on the contrary,
just as keen-witted and generous-hearted as my own circle of friends
--could chaff each other about having babies by their fathers and
brothers, was a gruesome example of the effect of debased social
environment on personal character and family life, and therefore on
racial progress. The violation of little children was another not
infrequent result. To put it bluntly, sexual promiscuity, and even
sexual perversion, are almost unavoidable among men and women of
average character and intelligence crowded into the one-room
tenement of slum areas, and it is the realisation of the moral
deterioration involved more than any physical discomfort, that
lends the note of exasperated bitterness characteristic of the
working-class representatives of these chronically destitute urban

114 Marie Souvestre, daughter of the Academician Emile Souvestre--"le
philosophe sous les toits"--became the headmistress proprietor of a
fashionable boarding-school, at first at Fontainebleau and then at
Wimbledon. She was intimate with the radical and free-thinking set,
Morley, Chamberlain, Leslie Stephen, the Frederic Harrisons, Mrs.
Richard Strachey and Mrs. J. R. Green and their large circles of
like-minded friends. I give one entry descriptive of her meeting
with her intellectual antithesis, Auberon Herbert: "Auberon Herbert
dropped in before lunch yesterday. He was excited with the prospect
of converting Mrs. Besant to spiritualism; she had written to him
about his article in the Pall Mall and it will probably end in a
visit to the Old House. Strange will be the intimacy between these
two natures: Mrs. Besant, with her rabid Socialism, embittered, by
personal suffering, against the morality and the creed of
Christendom; and Auberon Herbert, with his idealistic individualism,
a character softened and perhaps even weakened by perpetually
dwelling on spiritual influences. While he and I were chatting in a
friendly way, enter Mlle. Souvestre. The brilliant and irreligious
French woman glanced with cold contempt at the strange figure of a
man reclining on a sofa, advancing in his soft weak voice untenable
propositions. It ended in a hot controversy in which I hardened into
the Frenchwoman's style of quick logical dispute. Auberon Herbert
left with a pained expression, and with no favourable impression of
the clever French schoolmistress, and her influence on his friend.
After he had gone, Mlle. Souvestre softened into affectionate
admiration and loving solicitude. A remarkable woman with a gift of
brilliant expression, and the charm of past beauty and present
attractiveness. Purely literary in her training, and without
personal experience of religious feeling or public spirit, she
watches these characteristics in others with an odd combination of
suspicion, surprise, and what one might almost call an
admiration. You feel that every idea is brought under a sort of
hammering logic, and broken into pieces unless it be very sound
metal. If the idea belongs to the religious sphere and is proof
against ridicule, it is laid carefully on one side for some future
hostile analysis." [MS. diary, March 10, 1889.]

115 Report to the Board of Trade on the Sweating System at the East
End of London by the Labour Correspondent of the Board, September
12, 1887, p. 4. [H.C. 331 of 1889.]

116 Fifth Report from the Select Committee of the House of Lords on
the Sweating System, 1888-89: Conclusions and Recommendations,
pp. xhi and xliii.

117 A paper read at the twenty-fourth annual congress of Cooperative
Societies, held at Rochdale, June 1892, by Beatrice Potter; see
Problems of Modern Industry, by S. and B. Webb, 1898, pp. 140-5.

118 "The Lords and the Sweating System," the Nineteenth Century,
June 1890. I must not burden the reader with the subsequent history
of this problem. But the student may find help in some brief
references. The idea of the sub-contractor, the middleman, the alien
or the Jew being the "cause" of sweating disappeared. Home work (
more strictly "out work") was generally recognised as the evil.
Only very slowly and very imperfectly did the suggestion get adopted
of imposing on some one as employer a definite responsibility for
the conditions under which the sweated home worker performed his or
her task. The first stage was by way of what is known as the
"particulars clause." The Factory Act of 1891, which quite failed to
incorporate what I desired, did at least put upon the factory
employer in the textile industries the obligation to supply all his
weavers, and (in cotton) also winders and reelers, with written
"particulars" of the terms on which they were working; and the
amending Act of 1895 not only extended this to all textile workers
but also enabled the Home Secretary to apply it to pieceworkers in
non-textile factories or workshops. The "particulars clause" was
accordingly so applied in 1897 to the manufacture of handkerchiefs,
aprons, pinafores and blouses, and to that of chains, anchors and
locks. (Industrial Democracy, by S. and B. Webb, 1897, pp. 310-11.)
By subsequent orders in 1898 and 1900 it was applied to felt hat
makers, to all textile workshops, to pen makers and, in this
connection most important of all, to the wholesale tailoring trade.

The next stage was the obligation imposed upon all persons who gave
out work to be done at home, to keep a register, open to inspection,
of the names and addresses of these out workers, whose homes could
thus be visited by the sanitary inspectors of the Local Health
Authority. This was effected by the Factory Act of 1901, which not
only re-enacted the above provisions but also (by section 116)
authorised their extension to out workers in any trades required to
keep registers of out workers. In 1903 the existing orders applying
to felt hat making and the wholesale tailoring trade were extended
to out workers; and in 1909 a comprehensive order was made
applicable to the out workers in all the wearing apparel trades.

But although all this went in the direction of putting
on the "giver out" of work, it amounted to little. We owe to the
unwearied persistence of Sir Charles Dilke, M.P., and to Lady Dilke,
in 1908 a House of Commons Select Committee on Home Work under the
chairmanship of Sir Thomas Whittaker, M.P., whose report (H.C. No.
246 of 1908), backed by renewed public agitation, led to the Trade
Boards Act of 1909 (9 Edward VII., c. 22), which enabled the Board
of Trade to apply, to any trade in which wages were exceptionally
low, provisions permitting a joint board representative of
employers, workers and the public, to fix minimum rates of wages for
definite working hours, employment below which was made an offence.
Incidentally (by section 9) this Act brought in the "shopkeeper,
dealer or trader who made any arrangement express or implied with
any worker," enacting that this "giver out of work" should be
"deemed to be the employer," so as to become liable if the rates
that he paid to his sub-contractor "after allowing for his necessary
expenditure in connection with the work" were less than the legally
fixed minimum rates.

This Act was amended, after nine years' experience, by the Trade
Boards Act of 1918 (8 and 9 George V., c. 32), and has done much to
raise the level of earnings, to lessen the excessive hours of
labour, and to protect the worker from cheating and oppression
throughout nearly the whole range of what used to be known as the
sweated trades. The apparent tendency of all this legislation has
been to drive the work into large factories, in which improved
machinery and more efficient organisation reduce the cost of
production so as to enable the better wages to be paid. (See The
Establishment of Minimum Rates in the Tailoring Industry, by R. H.
Tawney, 1915; Minimum Rates in the Chainmaking Industry, by the
same, 1914.)

A critical Departmental Committee appointed by the Ministry of
Labour reported in 1922 (Cmd. 1645 of 1922) somewhat unsympathetically
upon some of the details of the Trade Boards Acts, but no further
legislation has ensued. What, in my opinion, now (1926) needs doing,
in order to sweep away the remnants of the "Sweating System," is to
carry into law my suggestion; and to make thus responsible, for the
conditions of employment of all persons working on the job (by
whomsoever engaged), the original "giver out of work" the owner
both of the material given out and of the finished article
eventually returned to him who is ultimately the real employer, and
who ought to accept all the responsibilities of the factory


WHY I BECAME A SOCIALIST [1888-1892; aet. 30-34]

Whilst serving my apprenticeship under Charles Booth, I had reached
a tentative conclusion about the most far-reaching "experiment in
the lives of other people" that the world had then witnessed; though
it has since been equalled in ruthlessness, and excelled in speed
and violence, but not, I think, in thoroughness and permanence, by
the Russian Revolution that began in 1917.

The industrial revolution in Britain, which had its most intense
phase in the latter end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the
nineteenth century, cast out of our rural and urban life the yeoman
cultivator and the copyholder, the domestic manufacturer and the
independent handicraftsman, all of whom owned the instruments by
which bey earned their livelihood; and gradually substituted for
them a relatively small body of capitalist entrepreneurs employing
at wages an always multiplying mass of property-less men, women and
children, struggling, like rats in a bag, for the right to live.
This bold venture in economic reconstruction had now been proved to
have been, so it seemed to me, at one and the same time, a
stupendous success and a tragic failure. The accepted purpose of the
pioneers of the new power-driven machine industry was the making of
pecuniary profit; a purpose which had been fulfilled, as Dr.
Johnson observed about his friend Thrale's brewery, "beyond the
dreams of avarice." Commodities of all sorts and kinds rolled out
from the new factories at an always accelerating speed with
ever-falling costs of production, thereby promoting what Adam Smith
had idealised as The Wealth of Nations. The outstanding success of
this new system of industry was enabling Great Britain, through
becoming the workshop of the world, to survive the twenty years'
ordeal of the Napoleonic War intact, and not even invaded, whilst
her ruling oligarchy emerged in 1815 as the richest and most
powerful government of the time.

On the other hand, that same revolution had deprived the manual
workers--that is, four-fifths of the people of England--of their
opportunity for spontaneity and freedom of initiative in production.
It had transformed such of them as had been independent producers
into hirelings and servants of another social class; and, as the
East End of London in my time only too vividly demonstrated, it had
thrust hundreds of thousands of families into the physical horrors
and moral debasement of chronic destitution in crowded tenements in
the midst of mean streets. There were, however, for the manual
working class as a whole, certain compensations. The new
organisation of industry had the merit of training the wage-earners
in the art of team-work in manufacture, transport and trading. Even
the oppressions and frauds of the capitalist profit-maker had their
uses in that they drove the proletariat of hired men, which
capitalism had made ubiquitous, to combine in Trade Unions and
co-operative societies; and thus to develop their instinct of
fellowship, and their capacity for representative institutions,
alike in politics and in industry. Moreover, the contrast between
the sweated workers of East London and the Lancashire textile
operatives made me realise how the very concentration of wage-earners
in the factory, the ironworks and the mine had made possible, in
their cases, what the sweater's workshop, the independent
craftsman's forge and the out-worker's home had evaded, namely, a
collective regulation of the conditions of employment, which, in the
Factory Acts and Mines Regulation Acts on the one hand, and in the
standard rates of wage and the normal working day of the Trade
Unions on the other, had, during the latter part of the nineteenth
century, wrought so great an improvement in the status of this
regulated section of the World of Labour. It was, in fact, exactly
this collective regulation of the conditions of employment, whether
by legislative enactment or by collective bargaining, that had
raised the cotton operatives, the coalminers and the workers of the
iron trades into an effective democracy; or, at least, into one
which, in comparison with the entirely unorganised workers of East
London, was eager for political enfranchisement and education; and
which, as the chapels, the co-operative societies and the Trade
Unions had demonstrated, was capable of self-government. I wished to
probe further this contrast between the wage-earners who had enjoyed
the advantages of collective regulation and voluntary combinations,
and those who had been abandoned to the rigours of unrestrained
individual competition. But I wanted also to discover whether there
was any practicable alternative to the dictatorship of the
capitalist in industry, and his reduction of all the other
participants in production to the position of subordinate "hands."
For it was persistently asserted that there was such an alternative.
In this quest I did not turn to the socialists. Fabian Essays were
still unwritten and unpublished; and such socialists as I had
happened to meet at the East End of London belonged to the Social
Democratic Federation, and were at that time preaching what seemed
to me nothing but a catastrophic overturning of the existing order,
by forces of whose existence I saw no sign, in order to substitute
what appeared to me the vaguest of incomprehensible Utopias.

There was, however, another alternative lauded by idealists of all
classes: by leading Trade Unionists and the more benevolent
employers, by revolutionary socialists and by Liberal and
Conservative philanthropists: an experiment in industrial
organisation actually, so it was reported, being brought into
operation on a small scale by enthusiastic working men themselves.
This was the ideal of "self-employment," and the peaceful
elimination from industry of the capitalist entrepreneur; to be
secured by the manual workers themselves acquiring the ownership, or
at any rate the use, of the capital, and managing the industry by
which they gained their livelihood. It was this ideal, so I was
told, that animated the Co-operative Movement in the North of
England and the Lowlands of Scotland--a movement barely represented
in the London that I knew.

There were, however, drawbacks to such a scheme of enquiry. It
entailed breaking away from my fellow workers in London, thus
sacrificing skilled guidance and stimulating companionship. Further,
I doubted whether I had the capacity and training to undertake,
unaided, an enquiry into what was, after all, a particular form of
business enterprise. Would it not be wiser to follow up one of the
many questions opened out by Charles Booth's skilfully planned and
statistically framed exploration of industrial London? For instance,
he had suggested to me that I should take up the problem of the
woman worker, with her relatively low standard of personal
expenditure, her reputed willingness to accept wages below
subsistence rates in aid of her husband's bare subsistence earnings,
and even to work for mere pocket-money; whilst there was always
haunting the dreary days of the sweated female worker the alluring
alternative of the gains of casual lovemaking, too often ending in
professional prostitution. The following entries in my diary reveal
my hesitation. I also give the frankly expressed opinion of the
greatest living economist that I was unfit for the larger and more
independent task; though whether this authoritative condemnation of
my proposed enquiry into the Co-operative Movement diminished my
desire or increased my determination to do what I had a mind to do
is an open question!

In trouble--perplexed about my work [I write while I am still
collecting facts for the chapter on the Jewish community]. Charlie
wants me to do Woman's Work at the East End, and have it ready by
March; it means sacrificing part of February [my spring holiday] to
writing--at least a fortnight. Unless I could make it a part of a
bigger subject, would cut into my free time without occupying the
whole of it. It would unfortunately postpone Co-operation. On the
'other hand, female labour is a subject of growing importance: one
which for practical purposes is more important than Co-operation.
. . . Then the work is needed to complete Charles Booth's. I have
already a mass of material in my head which could be used for it,
and it would be doing work which lieth to my hand instead of seeking
far afield for it. [MS. diary, November 3,  1888.]

Delightful visit to the Creightons119 at Cambridge (I record six
months later). Interesting talk with Professor Marshall, first a
dinner at the Creightons, and afterwards at lunch at his own house.
It opened with chaff about men and women: he holding that woman was
a subordinate being, and that, if she ceased to be subordinate,
there would be no object for a man to marry. That marriage was a
sacrifice of masculine freedom, and would only be tolerated by male
creatures so long as it meant the devotion, body and soul, of the
female to the male. Hence the woman must not develop her faculties
in a way unpleasant to the man: that strength, courage, independence
were not attractive in women; that rivalry in men's pursuits was
positively unpleasant. Hence masculine strength and masculine
ability in women must be firmly trampled on and boycotted by men.
Contrast was the essence of the matrimonial relation: feminine
weakness contrasted with masculine strength: masculine egotism with
feminine self-devotion.

"If you compete with us we shan't marry you," he summed up with a

I maintained the opposite argument: that there was an ideal of
character in which strength, courage, sympathy, self-devotion,
persistent purpose were united to a clear and far-seeing intellect;
that the ideal was common to the man and to the woman; that these
qualities might manifest themselves in different ways in the man's
and the woman's life; that what you needed was not different
qualities and different defects, but the same virtues working in
different directions, and dedicated to the service of the community
in different ways.

At lunch at his house our discussion was more practical. He said
that he had heard that I was about to undertake a history of

"Do you think I am equal to it?" I asked.

"Now, Miss Potter, I am going to be perfectly frank: of course I
think you are equal to a history of Co-operation: but it is not what
you can do best. There is one thing that you and only you can do--an
enquiry into the unknown field of female labour. You have, unlike
most women, a fairly trained intellect, and the courage and capacity
for original work; and you have a woman's insight into a woman's
life. There is no man in England who could undertake with any
prospect of success an enquiry into female labour. There are any
number of men who could write a history of Co-operation, and would
bring to this study of a purely economic question far greater
strength and knowledge than you possess. For instance, your views on
the relative amount of profit in the different trades, and the
reason of the success of Co-operation in cotton and its failure in
the woollen industry might interest me; but I should read what you
said with grave doubt as to whether you had really probed the
matter. On the other hand, if you described the factors enabling
combinations of women in one trade and destroying all chance of it
in the other, I should take what you said as the opinion of the best
authority on the subject. I should think to myself, well, if Miss
Potter has not succeeded in sifting these facts no one else will do
so, so I may as well take her conclusion as the final one. To sum up
with perfect frankness: if you devote yourself to the study of your
own sex as an industrial factor, your name will be a household word
two hundred years hence: if you write a history of Co-operation it
will be superseded and ignored in a year or two. In the one case you
will be using unique qualities which no one else possesses, and in
the other you will be using faculties which are common to most men,
and given to a great many among them in a much higher degree. A book
by you on the Co-operative Movement I may get my wife to read to me
in the evening to while away the time, but I shan't pay any
attention to it" he added with shrill emphasis.120

Of course I disputed the point, and tried to make him realise that I
wanted this study in industrial administration as an education for
economic science. The little professor, with bright eyes, shrugged
his shoulders and became satirical on the subject of a woman dealing
with scientific generalisations: not unkindly satirical, but
chaffingly so. He stuck to his point and heaped on flattery to
compensate for depreciation.

"Here you are a beginner--a one-year-old in economic study, and yet
you have outstripped men like myself and Foxwell (who have devoted
all the years of our life to economic questions) on the one subject
of woman's labour. You have made a great success because you have a
talent for a special kind of investigation. And yet you insist on
ignoring your own talent and taking to work for which, pardon my
absolute frankness, you have no more ability than the ordinary
undergraduate who comes to my class. Naturally enough I feel
strongly about it. I stand to you in the relation of a consumer to
the producer. I am, in fact, one of your principal customers; and
yet, though I am willing to lavish gratitude on you if you will only
produce what I want, you insist on trying to produce what you cannot
make successfully, and when you have made it will be practically

I confess, after all this contempt sugared over with an absurdly
kind appreciation of my talent for one particular type of
investigation, I was relieved to find that in his forthcoming work
on political economy the dear little professor had quoted my
generalisation about the division of labour being characteristic
neither of the best nor of the worst type of production, but of the
medium kind. That generalisation, at any rate, is a purely
intellectual one, unconnected with the special insight of a woman
into the woman's life.

I came away liking the man, and with gratitude for the kindly way in
which he had stated his view; refreshed by his appreciation, and
inclined to agree with him as to the slightness of my strength and
ability for the work I proposed to undertake. Still, with the
disagreeable, masculine characteristic of persistent and well-defined
purpose, I shall stick to my own way of climbing my own little tree.
Female labour I may take up some day or other, but the Co-operative
Movement comes first. [MS. diary, March 8, 1889.]


What finally determined me to select as my next field of enquiry the
Co-operative Movement was the very fact that I suspect lay at the
bottom of Professor Marshall's high opinion of my unique
qualifications for the alternative question of woman's labour,
namely, that I was at that time known to be an anti-feminist. In the
spring of 1889 I took what afterwards seemed to me a false step in
joining with others in signing the then notorious manifesto, drafted
by Mrs. Humphry Ward and some other distinguished ladies, against
the political enfranchisement of women, thereby arousing the
hostility of ardent women brain-workers, and, in the eyes of the
general public, undermining my reputation as an impartial
investigator of women's questions. When pressed by Frederic Harrison
and James Knowles to write a reasoned answer to Mrs. Fawcett's
indignant retort to this reactionary document, I realised my
mistake. Though I delayed my public recantation for nearly twenty
years, I immediately and resolutely withdrew from that particular
controversy.121 Why I was at that time an antifeminist in feeling is
easy to explain, though impossible to justify. Conservative by
temperament, and antidemocratic through social environment,
I had reacted against my father's overvaluation of women relatively
to men; and the narrow outlook and exasperated tone of some of the
pioneers of woman's suffrage had intensified this reaction. I
remember at a luncheon given by an American lady to American
suffragists (who had not given me a cigarette to soothe my distaste
for the perpetual reiteration of the rights of women) venting this
irritation by declaring provocatively--"I have never met a man,
however inferior, whom I do not consider to be my superior!" My
dislike of the current Parliamentary politics of the Tory and Whig
"ins" and "outs" seemed a sort of argument against the immersion of
women in this atmosphere. But at the root of my anti-feminism lay
the fact that I had never myself suffered the disabilities assumed
to arise from my sex. Quite the contrary; if I had been a man,
self-respect, family pressure and the public opinion of my class
would have pushed me into a money-making profession; as a mere woman
I could carve out a career of disinterested research. Moreover, in
the craft I had chosen a woman was privileged. As an investigator
she aroused less suspicion than a man, and, through making the
proceedings more agreeable to the persons concerned, she gained
better information. Further, in those days, a competent female
writer on economic questions had, to an enterprising editor,
actually a scarcity value. Thus she secured immediate publication
and, to judge by my own experience, was paid a higher rate than that
obtained by male competitors of equal standing.


I was already sufficiently versed in the technique of
investigation to realise that it would be useless, and indeed
impertinent, to interview the directors and officials, employees and
members of the Co-operative Movement, without first preparing my own
mind. From my friend Benjamin Jones, the General Manager of the
London Branch of the Co-operative Wholesale Society, I borrowed a
collection of Congress Reports, 1869-1888, and twenty years' files
of the leading co-operative journal; and during the following year
(1889) I used the months spent with my father to work steadily
through this arid mass of print--an irksome task--rendered still
more tedious by the lack of any proper system of note-taking.122 How
well I remember the mental weariness, and even physical nausea, with
which, after some hours' toil, I would turn over yet another page of
the small and faint letterpress of these interminable volumes!

Just ten days reading at co-operative periodicals [I record midway
in one of these spells of reading]. Tiresome work: with apparently
little result, except a gathering of disjointed facts, none of which
I can at present verify. It is peculiarly tiresome because I have no
clear idea of the exact facts I am searching for; no settled plan of
the scope of my work. Two conclusions I have reached: (1) that the
Co-operative Movement means an association of working men to secure
a large share of the profits from the middleman, the trader and the
manufacturer, but that it fails entirely to check the fall of
prices, and consequently of wages brought about by competition for
the custom of the consumer; (2) that the notion that the present
Co-operative Movement arose out of the sentimental propaganda of
gentlemen idealists is not true: it grew upon the basis of
self-interest, and the idealism was grafted on to it. I am still in
doubt as to whether this idealism has done much good? The one use of
the "gentlemen" connected with the movement has been promoting
legislation to legalise co-operative societies. Also, profit-sharing
was not considered a sine qua non in the earlier phases of the
successful movement begun by the Rochdale Pioneers. [MS. diary,
June 29, 1889.]

Struggling with the Co-op. News and enduring all the miseries of
want of training in methods of work [I write some weeks later].
Midway I discover that my notes are slovenly, and under wrong
headings, and I have to go through some ten weeks' work again! Up at
6:30 and working 5 hours a day, sometimes 6. Weary but not
discouraged. [MS. diary, July 26, 1889.]

A grind, and no mistake! Six hours a day reading and notetaking from
those endless volumes of the Co-operative News. A treadmill of
disjointed facts, in themselves utterly uninteresting and
appallingly dry, and not complete enough to be satisfactory. And
there is the perpetual exercise of judgement--Is it worth while
reading this paper or that speech? the unsatisfactoriness of the
decision either way. If one does not read on, the fear that one has
missed a suggestion or a fact of importance; if one persists with
aching eyes, the dreary sense of time and effort wasted, if the
material turns out to be useless theorising, dreamy idealism, or
ill-considered and patently inaccurate description. A grim
determination to finish with it makes me sit at the work longer than
is good for body or mind. So I feel sick and irritable, and in my
off times I am desperately cross. However, it is satisfactory to
feel that one will never be beaten for lack of industry. ... "Genius
is given by God; but talent can be attained by any straightforward
intellect bent on doing its best." So says Flaubert, and I console
myself in my despondent hours with the thought that talent for
excellent work may be mine... . [MS. diary, August 20,1889.]

This arduous and continuous acquisition of peculiarly indigestible
material proved worth while. Not that I gained from these accounts
and reports of innumerable societies, from the papers and
discussions at conferences and congresses, from reminiscences of
aged Owenites, from the bitter controversies raging round about the
cooperative faith between the group of distinguished Christian
Socialists on the one hand and the working-class officials and
committee-men on the other, any explanation of the successes and
failures of the Movement. What I secured was a "bunch of keys":
key events, key societies, key technical terms and key
by the use of which I could gain the confidence of the persons I
interviewed, unlock the hidden stores of experience in their minds,
and secure opportunities for actually observing and recording the
working constitution and divers activities of the different types of
organisation within the Co-operative Movement.

Meanwhile, whenever I was free from attendance on my father, I
wandered through the Midlands, the Northern Counties of England and
the Lowlands of Scotland, attending sectional conferences and
members' meetings, and settling down for days or weeks at such
centres as Leeds, Newcastle, Glasgow and Manchester, in order to
interview every type of co-operator. In my current diary I note
visits to the stores of large towns and of small, as well as to
practically all the "self-governing workshops" and hybrid
co-partnerships then known as co-operative productive societies. A
few sample entries from the pages of my diary for the spring and
summer of 1889 will enable the student to follow the course and
manner of these adventures. Let me say, in passing, that the
investigator should make a point of recording "first impressions"
of scenes, events and personages. These first impressions correspond
with the hasty snapshots of the Kodak: they are proof that some such
event happened, but they are seldom portraits, and frequently
caricatures; they must never be taken as considered and verified
statements of fact. The value of these rapid sketches is that they
may afford clues to puzzle-questions--hypotheses that can be
subsequently disproved or verified--unexpected glimpses of the
behaviour of men under particular circumstances, when they are
unaware of being observed; and as such they are a useful supplement
to the mechanical and dry record of sociological detail contained in
analytic notes and statistical tables. For obvious reasons I
disguise the identity of some of the persons whom I describe, or
whose words are quoted.

Three days at Hebden Bridge staying with the widow of an
ironfounder. [I had come to Hebden Bridge to attend a conference
summoned by the Hebden Bridge Fustian Society, at that time the most
successful of the co-operative productive societies, but afterwards
absorbed in the Co-operative Wholesale Society.] Three daughters and
a son of twenty. Lower middle class just risen out of the working
class. Mother a shrewd, warm-hearted body: true Yorkshire
straightforwardness and cordiality. Daughters "genteel" but
pleasant girls. One does the housekeeping and is paid for it;
another is the accountant of the family business, and the third is
an assistant schoolmistress; whilst the son works at the business.
They all talk broad Yorkshire. They have few sympathies or interests
outside the life of gentility except the working-class mother, who
is a vigorous politician of the Gladstonian type. But though their
interests are not public, the family life is charming, and they are
good friends with every one. Indeed, Hebden Bridge resembles Bacup
in its fusion of the middle and working class. Upper class it has
none. My interest was in the vigorous co-operative life of the
place; I saw many co-operators and attended their meetings. Young
Oxford men are down here; and they and the co-operators form a
mutual admiration society between intellectual young Oxford and
co-operative working class. Co-operative working man: common
condemnation of the capitalist class and money-making brain-workers:
a condemnation the form of which bordered perilously on cant, and
was clearly the outcome of ignorance.

Back to Manchester by afternoon train. [MS. diary. March 21, 1889.]

Mitchell,123 chairman of the C.W.S., is one of the leading
personalities in the Co-operative Movement... he is an enthusiast
for the consumers' interests; a sort of embodiment of the
working-man customer, intent on getting the whole profit of
production, out of the hands of the manufacturer and trader, for the
consumer. ... As the representative of the Wholesale he is inspired
by one idea--the enlargement and increased power of the organisation
of which he is the head. He supports himself on the part proceeds of
a small woollen business, and draws perhaps 30 shillings a week from
the Wholesale to which he devotes his whole energies. With few wants
(for he is an old bachelor) he lives in a small lodging, eats
copiously of heavy food and drinks freely of tea: no spirits and no
tobacco. Corpulent, with a slow, bumptious pronunciation of long
phrases, melting now and again into a boyish bonhomie. ... He is a
good fellow, and in his inflated way a patriotic citizen, according
to his own ideal, the consumers' welfare. His Board of Directors are
entirely subordinate to him: they are corpulent, heavy eaters, but
for the most part they are neither more nor less than simple
tradesmen. They strike one as an honest set of men, above corruption
and proud of their position as directors of the central organisation
of working-class capitalists.

Three or four times I have dined with the Central Board. A
higgledy-piggledy dinner; good materials served up coarsely, and
shovelled down by the partakers in a way that is not appetising. But
during dinner I get a lot of stray information, mostly through chaff
and rapid discussion. Occasionally I am chaffed in a not agreeable
way about matrimony and husbands, and the propriety of a match
between me and Mitchell. But it is all good-natured, and I take it
kindly. After dinner, in spite of the Chairman's disapproval, we
smoke cigarettes, and our conversation becomes more that of business

If the Central Board of the Wholesale supplies me with food, the
Central Board of the Co-operative Union supplies me with office
room. I shall describe hereafter the different functions of these
two organisations. But in this daily record I wish to outline
personalities. Gray124 is working secretary of the Co-operative
Union (Neale125 is too old to be a living force). He is a nice young
man: that is the first impression: scrupulously turned out in
co-operative cloth made by a co-operative tailor. He is an idealist:
looking at co-operation not as a huge organised consumers' interest,
but as a true and equitable co-operation between capital and labour.
He is not a self-seeker; he is a refined and modest-natured man,
though, in his inmost soul, he has flights of ambition towards a
seat in the County Council or perhaps even in Parliament. He lacks
the energetic push of Mitchell, and his weary expression seems to
betoken that he feels he is fighting a lost cause. In spare moments
at the office he and I have many a cigarette together, and talks on
philosophy, religion and politics as well as co-operation. [MS.
diary March 28,1889.]

Here is a typical day among co-operators [I note a few days later].
Dined at one o'clock with the buyers at the Wholesale. Head of our
table, manager of drapery department: strong able man, straightforward
and business-like; to my right, Odgers, Secretary of Co-operative
Insurance Company; to my left, Head of Boot and Shoe Department; in
front, A. B., Chairman of the X and Y Co-operative Society, and C.,
cashier to the same society. Odgers is a positivist, an enthusiast
who gave up a salary of 200 pounds a year to become a co-operative
employee at 1 pound a week, inspired by J. S. Mill's chapter on
Co-operation. He is without humour, and without push or striking
ability. But he is one of those men who make the backbone of great
movements through steadfastness and integrity of character. "Where
shall we find the moral impulse wherewith to inspire the Co-operative
Movement? profit-sharing is played out" is his constant meditation.
The conversation at dinner naturally turned on profit-sharing.
Pearson and the other Wholesale employees were dead against it. It
had been tried at the Wholesale, and it was found impossible to work
out equitably. A. B., a large, fair-haired man who has recently
taken a considerable place in the Movement through his pleasant
manner, gift of the gab, and imposing presence (somewhat of a sham),
talked in favour of some ideal form of profit-sharing which he could
not define or explain, but which would be free of all the
shortcomings of other forms. Odgers maintained that each man should
have a fair wage (what is a fair wage?), and that profit was a
selfish thing and a taste for it not to be cultivated. Then came
coffee and cigarettes, and the conversation broadened out into the
discussion of man's general nature and the character of his motives;
and then narrowed down into an interesting description of the
difficulties experienced by the Wholesale at their Leicester works,
with the Boot and Shoe Trade Union. "If you can get at the officials
of the Unions they are sensible enough; but the men themselves are
simply childish, and they frequently refuse to follow the advice of
their own officials." Eccles Manufacturing Society was mentioned as
one successful instance of profit-sharing.

At five o'clock set out for Burnley to attend meeting of
shareholders of the Self-Help.126 This is one of the six weaving
sheds belonging to the workers themselves, who are responsible for
profit, loss and management. Each weaver must take shares to cover
cost of looms and room, and other workers in proportion. They hire
their room and power, and frequently their machinery. Two of these
societies have already come to grief; the one I visited has been in
low water; the workers paying sixpence per loom back out of their
wages to cover losses. The manager walked from the station with me.
Big, burly man; neither he nor the secretary looked up to the mark
of other managers and secretaries; and though that was only the
third quarter they were the second instalment of managerial brains
in its concern. He was full of complaint against those who were both
his masters and his workers. It was impossible to keep discipline
amongst them. They wanted first-class yarn to work and then expected
him to compete in the market with masters who were making up yarn at
half the price. They insisted on full Trade Union prices, whereas
small masters were paying seven and a half per cent less.

"They wants an aisy place; just to look at the machine and never so
much as tie a bit o' yarn; they wants list prices and a bit over,
and a couple of hours more holiday in the week into the bargain. And
then they cries and grumbles if there is no divi. at the end of the
quarter. The like of these places will never stand until they trust
a man and not heckle him out of his life with one thing or another!"

The meeting was dramatic. A long, low warehouse, wooden, banded with
iron, with here and there a wheel or belt peering through the
ceiling from the upper chamber filled with machinery. Long wooden
tables down the centre, upon which and upon the floor were heaps of
printers' cloth ready for packing, whilst scattered about were tin
twist-holders. When I entered with one of the directors these tins
were being collected to serve as seats. The chairman, one of the
weavers, a thin, weak individual, was poring hopelessly over the
rules and regulations of the society. Men, and women with shawls
thrown over their heads, were groping their way and squatting down
one after the other as near as possible to the president's chair;
and four jets of gas lit up the central position of the chair, and
behind us the long, high wooden table, all the rest of the room
being in darkness. The secretary was reclining on a heap of
material; the directors were some of them lying at full length on
the table, peering over the minute book, at which the secretary was
gazing indifferently. To the right of the chairman some of the elder
men were seated. To the left a band of youths were bent on
obstruction and rebellion. There was a loud muttering amongst these
youths and men, but the women shareholders were gossiping and
laughing. Bits of paper were pinned up on the beams supporting the
wall with the agenda of the meeting scribbled on them.

Minutes of the last meeting read; obstruction of weak but noisy
youth on some point of order which neither he nor the poor worried
chairman understood. Then the question of the committee's fees. This
was received in silence and hastily dropped by the chairman.

Next a personal explanation from a resigning director. This man was
a slow but respectable person; his long, rambling speech, frequently
obstructed by the small knot of boy shareholders, consisted of a
complaint against the want of loyalty among the directors to each
other. Everything said in committee, and many things not said, were
repeated by one or more of the directors to the general body of
shareholding workers.

"I might say this," ended up the injured man, "there is not one of
your committee as never opens 'is mouth; but no sooner 'as 'e left
the committee-room than 'e begins to ferment bad feeling. I will
just give you, gentlemen and ladies, an instance. We 'ad our
committee night and discussion as to lowering wages: it was
adjourned as we could not agree. But before noon next day 'alf the
hands in the shop came to me and insulted me because they said I
wanted to lower wages, when I know who put them up to it, too."

"Mr. Chairman, I think 'e's out of order," shrieked an evil-looking

"You needn't 'ave put the cap on if it didn't fit," growled the
director. "Next question," shouted out the mass of the members, not
inclined to take one side or the other.

"Election of new directors," drawled the secretary, and then
proceeded to deal out slips of paper. The names of the candidates
were written upon the agenda paper, but no one could see it, and
general confusion resulted. At length after a passing to and fro of
persons, an unpinning of the paper in one place and pinning it up in
another, the hundred or so members present were supposed to have
mastered the names. Voting was by ballot: each member writing down
the name of his candidate and throwing it into the teller's hat.

"Now for the stocktakers," cried the chairman. "Now, gentlemen and
ladies, you will have to look to the front of you in this. We must
get a man who is a practical man and knows the business straight
through. Will any one move and second any gentleman as he thinks

"John Ashworth"; "seconded." "I decline to stand: I did it last
time, to the best of my ability, and you weren't satisfied. You can
find another man this time."

"John Ardley"; "seconded." "My son won't stand," said a quiet old
man; "he doesn't know the business." The son looked sheepish. He
wanted the post and had put up two companions to propose and second
him; but he dare not dispute his father's view of his capacity.

"I propose," says the evil-looking youth who is standing for the
directorate, "that there be three stocktakers, and not two."

The chairman looks helpless; they have not got one yet, and he
cannot quite see how having to get three will make it easier. But he
accepts the suggestion and asks for three nominees. Some one who is
not present is nominated, seconded and carried. The chairman accepts
another for the second position. But the third? The secretary
whispers to the chairman that the motion for a third was not
seconded. "Aye," says the chairman with a sigh of relief.
"Gentlemen, the motion for the third stocktaker was not seconded, so
it falls to the ground."

And now the real business of the evening. A suggestion from a
leading member that they should make up better stuff and reduce the
cost by lowering wages. Why should they attend to the Trade Union
regulation: they were so many small masters each working for
himself, and they could work for what wage they pleased, and so on.
Then followed a rambling discussion, led off the point on to all
sorts of general principles and details! A knock at the outer door
startled the meeting. Was it the Trade Union official come to see
what they were up to? No, it was, alas! my cab, come to fetch me to
catch the last train to Manchester. As I drive rapidly down the
steep streets of Burnley I meditate on the mingled ignorance,
suspicion and fine aspirations of this small body of working-class
capitalists doomed to failure. [MS. diary, April 1889.]

Two months later I am attending the Annual Cooperative Congress; my
second congress, as I had been at the Dewsbury Congress, Whitsun
1888. In those early days of the Co-operative Movement these
gatherings were more informal, more intimate, and also more amateur
and quarrelsome, than the expert, self-respectful and politically
important Co-operative Congress of to-day. Judging by the length of
the entry in my diary, the Congress at Ipswich in June 1889 seems to
have been a happy hunting-ground for the social investigator. Here
is a portion of my rapid presentation of the personalities of this

Whirled down to Ipswich in a crowded excursion train. Arrived at the
White Horse Inn with Burnett, and Fielding, Manager of the Tea
Department. At the door my old friends of the Wholesale, including
Mitchell, welcomed me warmly. In the commercial room I find other
co-operators; an American professor and his wife. The next four days
a strange procession of men of all grades and conditions, the
majority belonging to the working and lower middle class, but
sprinkled with upper-class enquirers and sympathisers,--a politician,
two Toynbee young men, an Irish peer's son who has started a store
on his father's estate, the unassuming wives of the more distinguished
working men, and a few exceptional women, glorified spinsters like
myself. A rapid and somewhat unconsequential presentation of
economic, social and political theories, of industrial, financial
and economic facts, takes place in these conversations. Forty of us
are installed in the romantic "Pickwick" Inn, with its rambling
passages and covered courtyard; and here other leading co-operators
congregate, drink whisky and smoke tobacco. At the Co-operative
Congress there is an absolute equality: all live together on the
freest of terms; excursions and business are conducted under the
democratic co-operative system. . . .

It is Sunday evening and we are all assembled in the long coffee room
--scattered up and down in knots round a long table, some devouring
cold beef and tea, others chatting together. In one of these
parties, behold the hero of this year's Congress: the distinguished
man whom working-men co-operators have elected to give the inaugural
address, Professor Marshall of Cambridge. He looks every inch a
professor. A small slight man with bushy moustache and long hair,
nervous movements, sensitive and unhealthily pallid complexion, and
preternaturally keen and apprehending eyes, the professor has the
youthfulness of physical delicacy. In spite of the intellectuality
of his face, he seems to lack the human experience of everyday
life.... To-night, however, his desire to gain information outweighs
his nervous fear of a sleepless night, and he is listening with
mingled interest and impatience to the modicum of facts dealt out in
the inflated and involved phrases of Mitchell, the Chairman of the
Manchester Wholesale. As I approach I am greeted by my old friend.

"Now, Miss Potter, come and join me in a cup of tea. I was just
telling the Professor my view of the true nature and real use of the
great Co-operative Movement. What we want to do is to make the
purchasing power of a man's wage, whether received from us or from
other employers--and mind you" (continues Mitchell, tapping me
confidentially on the arm and lowering his voice), "at present--I do
not say what may happen in the future--at present the men we employ
is a mere handful to those employed by private firms--well, what I
was saying was" (raising his voice so that all might hear) "that our
great object was to increase the purchasing power of all men's wages
by returning the profits of trading and manufacturing into the
consumers' pocket. Now look you here; some people who don't
understand say we are not just to Labour. But I will take an actual
case. We have made a profit of 50,000 pounds on our productive
works. Now who should that profit go to? To the thousand working men
and working women who are already paid fair wages, and many of whom
spend these very wages at private shops, or to the million working
men and women who belong to our Movement and who have given the
capital and paid for the brains which have made these manufactures
grow up around us? It seems to me," concluded Mitchell, raising his
sonorous voice and thundering on the table with his fat fist, "it
seems to me, and I am moreover prepared to maintain it on religious,
social and political grounds, that the Wholesale's method of
organising production, combining as it does economy of capital,
efficiency of administration and regularity of demand, is the best
possible system of cooperation for the working man: and that if it
is loyally supported and indefinitely extended it will solve all
social problems, destroy poverty, eradicate crime and secure the
greatest happiness to the greatest number."

Mitchell having delivered himself of his usual tea-party peroration
and finding no one to dispute his points (the Professor was busily
engaged on the 50,000 pounds profit, combining that statement with
some other fact he had heard and calculating from the two some
result withheld from him), relapsed into the enjoyment of highly
sugared tea and much-buttered toast; his huge corpulent form, shiny
bald head, clean-shaven face, exhibiting a full, good-tempered
mouth, largely developed jaw and determined chin, so completely
affirmed the force of his argument in favour of organised
consumption, that it seemed useless to draw from him further verbal
expressions of it. A tall, slim and hungry-looking youth, a delegate
from some small but independent productive society, appeared on the
point of disputing it, but doubtless remembering that the Wholesale
was their best customer, thought better of his intention.

I turned to the group on the other side, including Benjamin Jones,
astride a chair, Burnett leaning back with stately dignity, and Dent
with his head half buried between his brawny arms and large,
powerfully made, workman's hands.127 Dent and Jones were disputing
vigorously; Burnett was listening with the weighty responsible
silence of a Government official. These three men are typical and
representative of the three great working-class movements; Jones of
associations for trading purposes, Burnett Of Trade Unions, and Dent
of workmen's clubs and of the self-governing workshop side of
co-operation. Benjamin Jones is a combination of a high-minded
grocer, a public-spirited administrator and a wire-puller. Within
the Co-operative Movement he is all three. Burnett has the dignity
of a skilled mechanic; the self-restraint of a great organiser; the
massive power of a leader of great strikes based on broad claims.
Dent128 is a much younger man, clear-headed and sympathetic, but an
enthusiast for abstract theories and perfect justice, still feeling
his way as to the best method of social reform. At present his
square forehead is contracted with thought, and in his dark grey
eyes there is an expression of worried perplexity.

"Now look you here, Dent," says Ben Jones in his confident cheery
manner; "I am simply going to state facts on Wednesday [Ben Jones is
President of that day]. I am going to give the older men their due;
they have done for the working class with the joint stock
companies129: what we have failed to do with our attempt at
profit-sharing; but it is no use making it into a shibboleth when it
is simply one method of reaching our common aim. If you want to go
to Japan you can go to the west or to the east; you can go ways that
seem absolutely opposite, but eventually they meet. It is the same
with these two methods of association; and all we can say is that
the store method has arrived at better results than the so-called
co-operative productive method."

"Well, if you are going to say that," replied Dent, "I don't see
what is the good of praising up profit-sharing. If the East way is
also the best way, we might as well give up the idea of the other."

"No, look you here! Profit-sharing is the best if we can work it
out: it is better for the men employed. I am not going to deny that,
else why should I be interested in the Co-operative Aid Society130
and spend my time and money on that? What I want is that both
systems should have fair play and no favour. But if you go and put
up the back of the Wholesale Board by this constant abuse you will
just make them shut the door to the other principle, and then it
will have no chance. Tom Hughes by his dogmatism and violence has
thrown the whole question of profit-sharing back for at least ten
years, and X. has absolutely stamped it out of the Wholesale
organisation, merely because he would not let it grow up from a
small beginning."

"I am not going to defend X. He is a schemer and has feathered his
own nest with his fine theories. But tom Hughes has lost money in
the Movement, and you had better not have a hit at him in your
address. The Southern Section look upon him as their leader. I
confess I am glad he is not here. We do not want a split between the
North and the South; X. is doing his best to start one."

"Not much chance of that while we hold the purse-strings," retorted
the said Jones with a chuckle; "and after all we satisfy both
parties. At Congress we pass resolutions in favour of profit-sharing,
and during the year we ignore them."

"The danger of the Movement," interposed Burnett, "is that
consumption is becoming so highly organised that these independent
productive societies will have no chance."

"Yes," said Dent, "I do not feel much inclined to help the store
movement. Every store that is started lessens the chance of
Productive Co-operation with profits given to the producer. No
sooner has the working-man touched his 'divi' and his one cry is

"He is much the same as other men," replies the matter-of-fact
Jones. "The sooner we get out of our head that the co-operator is the
most unselfish of men, the better. It is all cant and twaddle. The
co-operator is not one whit less selfish than other men, only he
goes about it in a more sensible manner and gets more return for his
selfishness. If we cannot prove that by giving a share of profits to
the worker we make him work better, we shall never convert even ten
per cent, of co-operators to profit-sharing. Now what I want to do
is to clear all this humbug out of the way; to look facts in the
face and start fair. And here is Miss Potter, who is going to study
the question and show us the way out of the difficulty. Come, Miss
Potter, leave Mitchell to his tea, and come and help me to make Dent
understand our view of the question."

"There is another question Miss Potter has to explain to us, one for
which she is far more responsible"--Dent remarks in a grave tone but
with a kindly light in his grey eyes--"why she lent her influence to
that appeal against the suffrage. I believe it is just this: she is
satisfied with her own position because she is rich and strong; she
does not see that other women need the power to help themselves
which would be given by the vote."

This I feel to be an unpleasant accusation, especially as Dent and I
are old friends and he speaks seriously. But before I have time to
advance any sober proposition or arguments the little Professor, in
tones of nervous irritability, intervenes.

"Miss Potter sees what the women suffrage people do not see; that
if women attempt to equal men and be independent of their guidance
and control, the strong woman will be ignored and the weak woman
simply starved. It is not likely that men will go on marrying if
they are to have competitors for wives. Contrast is the only basis
of marriage, and if that is destroyed we shall not think it worth
our while to shackle ourselves in life with a companion whom we must
support and must consider." There are two sides to that question,
think I, and the celibate condition of the human race can be brought
about by either party to the matrimonial contract. However, I
laughingly reply:

"Mr. Marshall, I pity you deeply. You are obliged to come to the
rescue of a woman who is the personification of emancipation in all
ways; who clings to her cigarette if she does not clutch at her
vote. Why don't you leave me to my fate? Convicted of hopeless
inconsistency, I might even give up smoking hoping thereby to
protect myself against my rights."

"That's just it," whispers Jones. "That's why these women are so
bitter against you. It is pure perversity on your side to say one
thing and act another."

"Surely, Mr. Jones, I am simply taking a hint from your admirable
method of controlling the Co-operative Movement; signing resolutions
in favour of one policy, and acting according to another."

"She's got you there, Jones." But the smile which played across
Dent's face gives way to a perplexed expression as he adds, "I
believe you are in earnest with your views; I should like some day
to have it out with you; a clever, strong woman like you must have
some reasons to give. I cannot say I think much of those in the
protest. Will you come down into the court yard?" he adds. "Maxwell
is there and some of the Scottish delegates: you might like to ask
them some questions."

"I will go anywhere for a cigarette."

The company disappears; the Marshalls retire to their room, I to the
smoking-room, where I spend the rest of a late evening in telling
fortunes from hands, and in a stray search for facts in the chaff of
a smoking-room conversation. . . .

On the whole the Ipswich Congress has been unsatisfactory to me
personally. . . . The little clique of exceptional women, with their
correct behaviour and political aspirations, give me most decidedly
the cold shoulder--this in a company of men annoys me more than it
should do. But the supreme discouragement of the Congress is the
growing consciousness that I am unfit for the work I have undertaken,
and that I am only at the beginning of my study of the Co-operative
Movement. The little Professor frightens me by asking in sinister
tones whether I have considered the effect of the appreciation of
gold in the years 1871-74 on the productive societies then started!
and tells me quite frankly that I have got the wrong end of the
stick. Still, I got a good deal out of him in my long interview in
his Cambridge study; and, though disheartened, I came away more than
ever determined to grasp my subject firmly. [MS. diary, June 1889.]

When in the country with my father, I ponder over my study of
co-operative theory and my observations of cooperative practice; and
I see visions of a more equitable distribution of wealth and a
higher standard alike of knowledge and brotherhood than had proved
to be practicable in profit-making enterprise.

How inexpressibly ugly are the manners and ways of a typical
middle-class man, brought up in the atmosphere of small profitmaking;
securing profit by "driving other chaps," a phrase which represents
in H.-C.'s mind the great world of invention and enterprise; for the
small manufacturing and retail tradesman's business is a matter of
driving and "doing" workers and customers. Experience of this class
makes me wonder whether profit is not on the whole a demoralising
force? Whether a system of standard salaries and standard wages,
such as is being gradually evolved by Trade Unionism and co-operative
enterprise, is not a higher form of industrial organisation? Should
not the use of a man's faculties after he has received his
maintenance be dedicated to society? Is not profit-making the
sharing of unlawful gain? And are not the forces of public opinion
and the natural evolution of industry tending in that way?

Some such conclusion I am coming to in my study of the Cooperative
Movement. It seems to me to have been essentially a movement not
towards the sharing of profits by workers, but towards an unconscious
realisation of the socialist ideal of officially managed business on
the basis of voluntary association; the difference between the
Co-operative Movement and mere joint stock association lying in the
fact that the religious element of work for humanity has entered
into it as a vivifying force. Moreover, embodied in its creed are
the ethics of industry: purity of goods; equal payment and care for
the workers. And yet I am slow to accept this theory as it is
contrary to the whole | idealism of the actual leaders [of the
Co-operative Movement]. [MS. diary, October 1889.]

Now, I do not reproduce these diary entries as affording any vision
of my investigation into the Co-operative Movement. They do but
indicate the nature of the "contacts" that I made, in order to
gain the necessary opportunities to examine the extensive and
somewhat amorphous piece of social tissue that I had undertaken to
study. So as not to repeat the book that I eventually wrote, I
confine the statement of my conclusions to the baldest summaries.

My first discovery had really some resemblance to that of the child
in Hans Andersen's story, who looked at the king when all the
courtiers were admiring his regal robes, and declared that the
monarch was, in fact, naked! The co-operators who, with the assent of
their intellectual supporters and admirers, kept on asserting that
the object of their movement was the abolition of the wage system
and the organisation of industry in the interest of the manual
working producers, had, in fact, by 1889, built up a great
industrial organisation of a hierarchical character exclusively in
the interest of working-class consumers. Far from abolishing the
wage system, all they had done was to extend it to the brain-worker.
What they had abolished was the profit-making entrepreneur \ In one
sense, as I shall presently show, they had abolished profits. Yet at
congress after congress the co-operators resolutely refused to
witness the transfiguration of their own movement. All I did was to
point out this transformation, whilst at the same time I explained
and justified it.

Within the Co-operative Movement of the 'eighties there were two
diametrically opposed schemes of industrial organisation: on the one
hand, government by the producers of the commodities and services
concerned, and on the other, government by the consumers thereof.
Control by the workers was professed, control by the consumers was
practised. My study of industrial history of the first half of the
nineteenth century enabled me to trace how the practice of the
co-operators had worked out differently from the idea with which
they had started.

Let us first consider the origin of that "charmer" within "the
order of thought" but "gay deceiver" within "the order of things,"
the idea of the "self-governing work shop."

What seemed clear, alike to the wage-earner himself and to the
intellectuals concerned about the chronic penury and insecurity of
the manual worker's lot in the midst of riches, was that all the
misery had arisen from the divorce which the industrial revolution
had brought about between the manual worker and the ownership, alike
of the instruments of production and the product itself. Why, it was
asked, should not this evil be undone, and the land given back to
the peasant cultivator and the tools again placed in the hands of
the craftsman and his apprentice?

Some such vision seems to have appeared to William Cobbett in the
rare intervals when his mind passed from asserting political rights
to considering the conditions of economic freedom. But any one born
and bred in a manufacturing district, whether employer or employed,
was aware that, under the circumstance of modern machine industry,
with its large establishments and subdivision of labour, this act of
restitution could not be made to the individual worker; it had
necessarily to be made to all the workers in a particular workshop,
factory or mine, for them in concert to carry on their industry.
Hence the conception of the "self-governing workshop"--an ideal of
surpassing attractiveness. To the workman it gave the feeling that
he would be his own master; to the Conservative it seemed a
reversion to the healthier conditions of a former time; to the
Christian it seemed to substitute in industry the spirit of
fellowship and mutual assistance for that of competitive selfishness.
Even to the mid-Victorian orthodox political economist, with his
apotheosis of pecuniary self-interest and his unbending faith in the
struggle for existence, the self-governing workshop seemed the only
practicable way of extending to all those who were cooperating in
production the blessed incentive of "profit on price," and thus
broadening the basis and strengthening the defences of an
acquisitive society.

Now it was this fascinating conception of the self-governing
workshop that was wrapped round and round the Cooperative Movement
when I first began studying it. To read the reports of the Annual
Co-operative Congresses between 1869 and 1887, one would imagine
that it was this conception of industrial self-government that was
the universally accepted goal of those who professed the cooperative
faith. All the lecturers and writers on cooperation, from the little
group of talented Christian Socialists led by F. D. Maurice, Charles
Kingsley, J. M. Ludlow, tom Hughes and Edward Vansittart Neale, to
distinguished political economists--John Stuart Mill, John Elliot
Cairnes and Alfred Marshall--held aloft, with more or less
enthusiasm, the banner of self-employment by groups of working men,
owning alike the instruments and the product of their labour, as the
desirable, and the only practicable alternative to the dictatorship
of the capitalist. Nor was this notion confined to middle-class
intellectuals. Had not the short-lived revolutionary movement of
1833-34, embodied in the "Grand National Consolidated Trades
Union," proclaimed its intention of transforming each Trade Union
into a national company, the agricultural union to take over the
land, the miners the mines, the textile unions the factories? The
Builders' Guild actually started on the erection of a Guildhall at
Birmingham and was inviting orders for houses. This syndicalist
Trade Unionism crashed to the ground within a few months of its
initiation.131 For another decade the pendulum swung in favour of
political revolution. But in 1848 the collapse of the Chartist
Movement led to a revival of the plan of self-employment. Under the
inspiration of F. D. Maurice and the direction of J. M. Ludlow, a
whole litter of little self-governing workshops were started within
the Metropolitan area, to be followed a few years later by a larger
experiment in self-employment by the Amalgamated Society of
Engineers.132 From that time onward there appeared at Cooperative
Congresses the representatives of a succession of co-operative
productive societies, cropping up and dying down with disconcerting
suddenness. After a succession of disastrous experiments by some of
the richer and more powerful unions, Trade Union officials, whilst
urging the co-operators to put in practice the faith they professed,
politely refused to use their societies' funds for the employment of
their own members. For in spite of all the allurements of the
self-governing workshop, whether it was deemed to be promoting the
spirit of Christian fellowship among the workers or stimulating
their pecuniary self-interest, the ideal of the control of industry
by the workers concerned had the supreme demerit that it would not
work.133 Either the co-operative productive society failed, after no
very lengthy endurance, or it ceased, in one way or another, to be
self-governing. At best, the concern was taken over by the
Co-operative Wholesale Society, or by a group of local consumers'
co-operative societies; at worst, it petered out as an employer's
profit-sharing scheme, with the workers excluded from any effective
share in the management of the establishment in which they worked,
whilst their Trade Union had been undermined; or it degenerated into
the lowest type of modern industry, the small master system, with
its inevitable "sweating" of subordinate workers, who were actually
excluded from membership.

To one who had been bred in a stronghold of capitalism, the
Consumers' Co-operative Movement seemed a unique romance in the
industrial history of the world. For this closely knit organisation
of hundreds of retail shops, grouped into two colossal trading and
manufacturing federations, was being administered by men of the
manual working class, at salaries which at that time did not exceed,
and frequently fell below, the earnings of a skilled compositor or a
foreman engineer. How could I explain, by the canons of capitalist
economics, the continuous growth of a great business enterprise,
which was not making the private fortune of any man or group of men,
but was increasing the individual incomes, the accumulated wealth
and also the economic freedom of a whole self-governing community,
to-day comprising a quarter or even a third of all the families of
Great Britain; wielding a working capital approaching a hundred
million pounds; doing a trade of nearly two hundred millions
sterling annually; and still, as at all times, effectively open to
any newcomer to join and participate in its benefits on equal terms
with the original promoters?

I found enlightenment, curiously enough, in a development of the
Theory of Value--implicit in my own hypothesis, to which I have
already referred,134 of the emergence of exchange value in the
correspondence of economic faculty with economic desire. The
self-governing workshop was rooted in the commonly held theory which
Karl Marx had accepted from David Ricardo, William Thompson and
Thomas Hodgskin, that "Labour is the source of Value." But this
"did not work"! What the Rochdale Pioneers had unwittingly
discovered, by the method of trial and error, was that the essential
element in the successful conduct of production is the
of the application of labour with some actually felt specific

Throughout my study of the Co-operative Movement during 1889, I had
in fact been watching the very process of trial and error by which
this community of working men was establishing a "New Social Order."
The eight-and-twenty flannel weavers at Rochdale started, in 1844,
to sell groceries to themselves, partly to free themselves from the
toils of "truck," but also with the idea of accumulating a capital
fund with which they might realise their ideal of self-employment in
flannel weaving135--very much as the congregation of a chapel
organises a bazaar to raise money for buying an organ. In order to
attract purchasers to their store, they pressed each new customer
to become a member of their society, and, as such, entitled to share
in its management and accumulate capital. In order to secure
continuous membership, they invented the device of "dividend on
purchase," whereby the margin between the cost of the article and
the retail selling price was returned to the purchaser himself, as a
sort of deferred rebate or discount on his purchases--a sum of money
which each purchasing member found automatically put to his credit
in the books of the society until this credit amounted to the one
pound qualifying share. From the use of one room in a member's
house, in which tea and other groceries were served out by
enthusiastic members without remuneration, the "Rochdale Pioneers"
became a steadily growing department store, employing clerks and
shop assistants, who, though usually sons or daughters of members,
were merely engaged at current wages. In those early days there was
no thought of profit-sharing with the employees, for the very good
reason that it seemed that there were no "profits" to divide, the
so-called "dividend on purchase" being merely a device for returning
to the consumer the whole of what proved to have been charged in
excess of the cost of production, and of carrying on and developing
the common services rendered by the society to its members. In this
indirect way the Rochdale Pioneers fulfilled Robert Owen's principle
of eliminating profit and extinguishing the profit-maker.

Now, the device of dividing the margin between cost and price among
customer-members, according to their purchases, has many direct and
indirect advantages. One peculiar and possibly unforeseen result was
that it established the Co-operative Movement on the broad
foundation of human democracy, in which each member, whatever his
holding, had one vote and one only. But it was a democracy of the
customers of the store, and thus of the consumers, not of the
producers of the commodities and services concerned, a democracy
which was by its very nature bound to be, as it has in effect proved
to be, perpetually open to newcomers, without limitation of class or
sex, for the simple reason that the larger the number of customers,
the greater the financial prosperity. It was, however, not merely a
new constitution for industrial organisation that the Rochdale
Pioneers had discovered. What was ultimately more important is that
they had tumbled, in a fit of characteristically British
absent-mindedness, to an essential factor of exchange value years
before the professional political economists had realised either its
nature or its importance. They were, in fact, Jevonians before
Stanley Jevons, in discovering that it was in recognised "utility,"
or specific demand, that lay the dominating and delimiting factor of
exchange-value. Unlike the self-governing workshops and industrial
partnerships, the eleven hundred cooperative stores, and their two
great federations, the English and Scottish Wholesale Societies,
produce, and cannot help recognising that they produce for a known
market. One of my experiences in the spring of 1889 was to watch how
the quarterly meetings of the delegates from the managing committees
of the stores, and the periodical buyers' conferences with the
expert officials of the Wholesale Societies, brought together in
conference, on the one hand, those who reported the wants of the
customers, and, on the other, the directors and managers of the
trading and productive departments which were undertaking to supply
these wants. What interested me was the unselfconsciousness of these
co-operators, whether members or officials, about the nature of
their activity. The self-governing workshop was born of a theory, or
was it a sentiment? and the whole movement of the associations of
producers has been, in one country after another, nursed and dandled
by successive generations of intellectual philanthropists and world
reformers, and even by capitalist governments. The Co-operative
Movement of Great Britain, manifested in the local store and the
national Wholesale Society, perhaps because it was genuinely of
working-class origin, achieved without intending; grew, indeed, to
maturity before there was any accurate formulation of the theory on
which it was based. To organise industry from the consumption end,
and to place it, from the start, upon the basis of "production for
use" instead of "production for profit," under the control and
direction, not of the workers as producers, but of themselves as
consumers, was the outstanding discovery and practical achievement
of the Rochdale Pioneers.

The question arises, why was it that, from 1869 to 1889, the
co-operators in congress assembled had never recognised this
transfiguration of their movement? I suggest an explanation. The
co-operative statisticians, lecturers and publicists of those years,
as well as the university professors of political economy,136 were
dominated by the barren distinction between "Distribution" and
"Production." The current assumption was that the economic
activities of the retail shop and the wholesale warehouse were so
radically different from those of the workshop and the factory, the
mine and the farm, that it was both practicable and desirable to
adopt an entirely different basis of government, and an entirely
different method of remuneration, for shopkeeping, warehousing and
cartage on the one hand, and for manufacturing, mining and
agriculture on the other. Not even the most enthusiastic believer in
co-operative production suggested that the retail store should be
managed by the counter-men, the packers or the Carmen, or their
elected representatives. On the contrary, the model rules of the
Co-operative Union, drafted by the leading exponent of the ideal of
the self-governing workshop, Edward Vansittart Neale himself,
expressly disqualified the employees of the store, just because they
were employees, not merely for election on the committee of
management, but even for participation, as ordinary customer-members
of the society, in voting for the committee! Nevertheless, it was
held by all the middle-class theorists and, in a muddleheaded way,
also by nearly all the working-class co-operators who troubled to
think about it, that the ideal government in any manufacturing
process was government by the workers in that process; and that it
was these men and women, and not the consumers of their products,
who ought to absorb any surplus that (after defraying incidental
expenses) might prove to remain out of the margin necessarily
existing between the bare cost of production in the factory and the
retail price paid over the counter by the customer. The practical
administrators who were at that time refusing to transform the
manufacturing departments of the larger stores, and those of the
Wholesale Societies, into self-governing workshops, and were even
declining to adopt: profit-sharing, did so only on the plea "that
the time was not ripe for it." I never heard them dispute the ideal
justice or ultimate expediency of associations of producers. Alone
among co-operators John Mitchell, the business genius who had built
up the English Co-operative Wholesale] Society, stood out as the
advocate of government by the consumers in the interests of the
consumers, not only in [ retail and wholesale trading, but in
manufacturing and mining, farming and ship-owning, insurance and
banking. Unfortunately he was not only intellectually inarticulate,
but also a megalomaniac about his subject; he failed to see the
limitation of government by voluntary associations of consumers to
industries in which the day-by-day consumers constitute both a
practicable and a desirable unit of association.137 This condition
is obviously unfulfilled among the users of roads and railways, or
in such common services as main drainage and hospitals, schools and
police, and much else that is necessary to the well-being of the
whole community over a long period of time, needing inevitably to be
paid for otherwise than item by item, over the counter, by the
individual consumers as such. This all-important limitation, I may
note in passing, had not occurred to me during my own investigations
of 1889; it was revealed to me, as I shall presently tell, in the
course of the development of "My Apprenticeship" into "Our
Partnership." What was more directly relevant to the controversy
raging in the Co-operative Movement as I knew it in the 'eighties
was Mitchell's inability to perceive that consumers' cooperation,
unless tempered by the intervention of the political State through
Factory Acts, and by due participation in the management of each
enterprise by powerful Trade Unions, might become an effective
coadjutor of the co-existing capitalist employer in the exploitation
of the worker.

My second discovery was that democracies of consumers, if they are
to be a desirable as well as a practicable alternative to private
profit-making, must be complemented by democracies of workers by
hand and by brain, that is, by Trade Unions and professional
societies. In attending the committee meetings of local stores or
lunching with the directors of the Co-operative Wholesale Society, I
noticed that they were completely absorbed either in discussing what
their members were buying and would in future buy, or in discovering
how the commodities or services could be produced at a lower cost
and of a better quality. Unless the manager of the store reported
the dishonesty or incapacity of a shop assistant, or unless a threat
of a strike disturbed the equanimity of the Board of the Wholesale
Society, they were absent-minded about the conditions of employment
of the rapidly increasing staff of the local stores and manufacturing
departments. A subordinate official would normally select whatever
additional staff was required, at whatever wages he found it
necessary to pay, under conditions not differing essentially from
those of neighbouring shopkeepers or manufacturers. The natural bias
of the committees of management, like that of all administrators,
was to "maintain discipline" and keep down cost of production. They
inevitably tended to ignore the way this maintenance of discipline
and lowering the cost of production might affect the daily life of
the employees. Though the co-operative society meant to be a "good
employer" (and did, in fact, sometimes lead profit-making
enterprise in such boons as the weekly half-holiday), it never
occurred to co-operative committees to allow the workers concerned
any "rights" beyond what was customary in profit-making
establishments. The position was rendered more serious by the fact
that in the 'eighties and 'nineties all commercial employees, and
more especially the shop assistants, were among the lowest paid, the
hardest worked and the most arbitrarily treated of the wage-earning
class,138 whilst the managers of the manufacturing departments of
the stores and the Wholesale Societies found themselves in direct
competition with the notorious sweated industries of cheap clothing
and cheap furniture.

For these and other reasons it became clear to me that the existence
of strong Trade Unions, enforcing standard rates and the normal
working day, and protecting the individual from arbitrary fines and
capricious dismissal, was an essential to the economic welfare and
sense of personal freedom of the worker within the consumers'
Co-operative Movement as it was in profit-making industry. Thus,
"government from above" had to be supplemented by "government from

Once again, therefore [I told the co-operators in 1891], by a
conjunction of co-operative and Trade Union organisation, we must
bring the producer and consumer face to face. I do not mean that the
bootmaker can sell his boots to the weaver, while the weaver
disposes of his cloth to the farmer's wife; this personal
relationship is no longer possible in a commercial system
transformed by the industrial revolution. Barter between individuals
must be superseded by negotiations, through authorised representatives,
between groups of workers and groups of consumers. Individualist
exchange must follow individualist production, and give place to
collective bargaining.

To gain a clear conception of the collective bargain-^-of the social
relation which will supersede the individual relation--let us
imagine, therefore, that this industrial democracy were fully
developed and that industry were organised by associations of
consumers (whether voluntary or compulsory, the Store, the Wholesale
Societies, the Municipality and the State), while all workers were
united in Trade Unions. Then the official of the Weavers' Union
would debate questions of wages and technical training with the
official of the Store or the Municipality; the college of surgeons
or physicians would, as at present, determine the standard and
subjects of examination for the medical student and fix fees for
medical attendance, subject perhaps to the democratic control of a
Minister of Health. The official of the Trade Union and the official
of the community would, it is true, represent the rival interests of
different sections of the community. But as members of one State the
interests of their constituents are ultimately identical. For under
a democratic organisation of industry it will be recognised that the
well-being of each individual will be indissolubly bound up in a
high standard of capacity among the whole body of citizens.

Nor is it difficult to discover the practical basis for a compromise
between the immediately conflicting interests of the consumer and
producer of special commodities or services, supposing that these
different groups of citizens should persistently refuse to recognise
the "larger expediency" of efficient citizenship among all classes
of the community. Fleeming Jenkin, in his Essay on Trade Unions, has
expressed it with admirable conciseness:

"But while the wants of men determine their pay, it is the demand
for men of that class which determines how many shall be employed at
that pay. This is a corrective to discontent. If their wants are
great, few or no men of the given class may get any pay at all. It
is the seller of labour who determines the price, but it is the
buyer who determines the number of transactions. Capital" (or the
community) "settles how many men are wanted at given wages, but
labour settles what wages the men shall have."

It is noteworthy [I add in a note to the above paragraph] that this
determination by a Trade Union or Association of Professionals of
the price at which they will work, or the educational qualifications
upon which they will insist, is not demurred to by the capitalist
class in professions such as the Law and Medicine, of which they
have practically the monopoly. But the limited and broken authority
of working-class Unions, the attempt on their part to secure a full
subsistence wage for their members, is bitterly resented as an
interference with individual liberty.139


Can I describe in a few sentences the successive steps in \my
progress towards Socialism?

My studies in East End life had revealed the physical misery and
moral debasement following in the track of the rack-renting landlord
and capitalist profit-maker in the swarming populations of the great
centres of nineteenth-century commerce and industry. It is true that
some of these evils--for instance, the low wages, long hours and
insanitary conditions of the sweated industries, and the chronic
under-employment at the docks--could, I thought, be mitigated,
perhaps altogether prevented by appropriate legislative enactment
and Trade Union pressure. By these methods it might be possible to
secure to the manual workers, so long as they were actually at work,
what might be regarded from the physiological standpoint as a
sufficient livelihood. Thus, the first stage in the journey--in
itself a considerable departure from early Victorian individualism
--was an all-pervading control, in the interest of the community, of
the economic activities of the landlord and the capitalist.

But however ubiquitous and skilful this State regulation and Trade
Union intervention might become, I could see no way out of the
recurrent periods of inflation and depression--meaning, for the vast
majority of the nation, alternate spells of overwork and unemployment
--intensified, if not actually brought about by the speculative
finance, manufacture and trading that was inspired by the mad rush
to secure the maximum profit for the minority who owned the
instruments of production. Moreover, "man does not live by bread
alone"; and without some "socialism"--for instance, public
education and public health, public parks and public provision for
the aged and infirm, open to all and paid for out of rates and
taxes, with the addition of some form of "work or maintenance" for
the involuntarily unemployed--even capitalist governments were
reluctantly recognising, though hardly fast enough to prevent
race-deterioration, that the regime of private property could not
withstand revolution. This "national minimum" of civilised
existence, to be legally ensured for every citizen, was the second
stage in my progress towards socialism.

There remained to be considered the psychological evils of a
community permanently divided into a nation of the rich and a nation
of the poor, into a minority always giving orders and a vast
majority always obeying orders. For the example of the United States
showed that a rise in wages and an improvement in technique, far
from promoting economic equality, might, through increasing
efficiency, and the consequently augmented yield of rent and
interest, produce even greater inequalities in wealth and personal
power between one citizen and another than prevailed in less
favoured capitalist countries. "Choose equality and flee greed,"
said Menander; for, as Matthew Arnold had explained to an unheeding
generation, "our inequality materialises our upper class, vulgarises
our middle class, brutalises our lower."140 At this point I remained
for some time, because I could see no alternative to the authority
of the profit-making employer.

Now it was in the constitution and activities of the consumers'
co-operative movement, as developed by the British working class,
with its production for use, and its elimination of the profit-maker,
that I perceived a possible alternative to modern business
enterprise, and one which would, at the same time, increase the
security of livelihood and equalise the opportunity for
self-development among the whole people. It was, in fact, by the
recognition that the essential feature in the co-operative movement
was not the advantages that it brought in the way of economical
housekeeping and the thrifty accumulation of continual small
savings, but the invention of a new type of industrial organisation
--the government of industry by the community of consumers, for
their common benefit as consumers--that my difficulties were removed.

To this organisation of commerce and industry by democracies of
consumers, I added the complementary organisation of democracies of
workers by hand and by brain, organised in Trade Unions or in
professional societies, in order to protect personal dignity and
individual freedom by giving to the community of workers in each
vocation such participation in the administration of their service as
might prove to be practicable and desirable. It was, indeed, with a
view to discovering the exact sphere of vocational organisation in
the government of industries and services that I decided, early in
1889, to make the British Trade Union Movement my next field of
enquiry, and I actually attended, in September of that year, the
Annual Trades Union Congress that was meeting at Dundee during the
critical week of the epoch-making strike of the London dock

In the ensuing year, whilst I was writing my little book, I got some
further illumination in discussions with a leading member of the
Fabian Society, out of which emerged (among other and more
personally significant transformations!) the recognition that the
municipality, and even the State itself, in so far as they undertook
the provision of commodities and services for their citizens, were,
from the economic standpoint, also associations of consumers, based
upon an obligatory instead of upon a voluntary membership. Thus, the
conception of the organisation of "production, distribution and
exchange" by the consumers, not for individual profit but for the
common good, could be extended from merely voluntary groupings,
associated for the purchase of household requisites, to the
obligatory association of all the residents of a city, for every
civic purpose; and I saw a new meaning in the steady growth of
municipal enterprise and other forms of Local Government. I may
note, in passing, that this analogy between the consumers'
co-operative movement and modern municipal socialism was further
strengthened when we discovered, in the course of our investigation
into the Local Government of the eighteenth century, that the
characteristic functions of the modern municipality had their
origin, not in the ancient municipal corporation based on vocational
organisation, but in voluntary associations of consumers which had
come into existence spontaneously for the very purpose of meeting
new needs and providing new services.141 Further study of the
constantly developing consumers' co-operative movement in all the
European countries opened a vista of the eventual supersession of
the export trade by a system of deliberately arranged reciprocal
imports, organised by communities of consumers, whether states,
municipalities or co-operative societies; each importing country
thus obtaining from other countries merely what it found it
desirable to order--thus avoiding all questions of protective
tariffs or "dumping." To-day we can see this system of reciprocal
imports actually begun among the Co-operative Wholesale Societies of
the various European countries, without any toll of profit to the
capitalist trader or banker, and without any occasion for either
booms or depressions of trade, or for loss or profit in the
mercantile sense.142

It was this vision of a gradually emerging new social order, to be
based on the deliberate adjustment of economic faculty and economic
desire, and to be embodied in an interlocking dual organisation of
democracies of consumers and democracies of producers--voluntary as
well as obligatory, and international as well as national--that
seemed to me to afford a practicable framework for the future
co-operative commonwealth.


The enquiry into the Co-operative Movement was carried out under the
deepening gloom of my father's last illness; and at times I
despaired of completing my task. In the pages of my diary, during
the autumn of 1889, I watch myself falling back for encouragement on
a growing faith in the possibility of reorganising society by the
application of the scientific method directed by the religious

Unfit for work: alone with poor dear father and his shadowlike mind
and irresponsible character. Depressed, I take up a volume of
Matthew Arnold's poems and read these words as the expression of the
ideal life towards which I constantly strive:

Of toil unsevered from tranquillity!
Of labour, that in lasting fruit outgrows
Far noisier schemes, accomplished in repose
Too great for haste, too high for rivalry!

This state of toil unsevered from tranquillity I sometimes feel I
have attained. Still, one is troubled (alas, too often troubled)
with the foolish dreams of personal success and with a deep
depression of personal failure. I love my work; that is my
salvation; I delight in this slow stepping towards truth. Search
after truth by the careful measurement of facts is the enthusiasm of
my life. And of late this has been combined with a realisation of
the common aim of the great army of truth-seekers: the ennobling of
human life. It has been enriched by the consciousness of the supreme
unity of science, art, morality; the eternal trinity of the good,
the beautiful and the true; knit together in the ideal towards which
humanity is constantly striving, knowingly or unknowingly, with
failure or success according to the ebb and flow of pure motive and
honest purpose. [MS. diary, August 17, 1889.]

Constantly during the last week, as I have eagerly read every detail
of the Strike [the famous Dock Strike of August 1889], I have been
depressed by my own powerlessness to suggest any way out of the
difficulty; I have been disheartened by a consciousness that my
little mite of knowledge is not of much avail--that the great
instinctive movements of the mass are perhaps, after all, more
likely to effect than the carefully reasoned judgements of the
scientific (or pseudo-scientific?) observer. . . . Then I have
realised that if we are to get a basis for action through knowledge
of facts, that knowledge must be far more complete and exhaustive
than it is ever likely to be in my time; certainly than it is likely
to be in my case. For instance, the little knowledge I gained of the
London Docks is practically useless. In order to offer an opinion of
any value, one would need to thoroughly master the facts about trade
at the docks; to realise exactly the methods of management; to
compare these with other methods of management so as to discover
deficiencies and possibilities. Is that kind of exhaustive
knowledge, even granting the opportunity and the ability and the
strength to acquire it, open to a mere observer? Is it not the
exclusive opportunity of the great organiser? On the other hand,
this realisation of the extent of the knowledge required shows me
that in my desire to master commercial and financial facts as a key
to the labour problem I was guided by a true instinct; that on my
capacity to master these facts will rest my power to influence for
good the condition of my people.

Finished up my work for the summer, and leave for a fortnight's
change to-morrow [this was the visit to the Trades Union Congress at
Dundee]. The summer has passed quickly away with the content of a
fully occupied life. The work has been hard and to a great extent
mechanical, and in my spare time I have usually been too tired to
enjoy beauty, so that my existence has been for the most part a mere
routine of sleep, work, food and exercise. Poor dear father, his
companionship is saddening, inexpressibly depressing in its
soullessness. And yet, now and again there are glimpses of calm
reason and warm feeling which make me wonder whether the general
habit of the family of cajoling and flattering him, of ignoring all
responsible thought or action in him, is right and sound? If there
be an immortal principle in him, are we degrading it? But the
assumption is that he is a creature whose effectual life is gone but
that love and duty bid us make him physically easy and mentally
content; that there is no room for moral progress or retrogression;
that morally he is dead. Sometimes I think that the repulsiveness of
the conclusion must mean untruth in the premises. At other times I
see in our method of treatment simply a logical view of the facts of
human life; a realisation of the inevitable. [MS. diary, August 31,

It was a hard week, scarcely a holiday [I write in my diary after a
lively description of the Trades Union Congress and its personalities,
which I reserve for some future account of our investigation into
Trade Unionism]. When I arrived early on Sunday morning at Auberon
Herbert's little cottage on the banks of Loch Awe I was thoroughly
exhausted, with a bad cold in the head into the bargain. A somewhat
dreary little plastered cottage, with none of the charm of "Old
House," supplemented by two wooden shanties; low brushwood and
unkempt grass surrounding it. In front of the Loch, behind the moor,
mountains rising in the distance, not wild or grand, not exactly
beautiful; pretty conventional lake scenery, nothing more. Inside,
no fires, and constant open windows; comfortless furniture. The
children (the boy this time at home) most attractive; the elderly
idealist interesting and becoming an intimate friend. But with his
nature, distance lends enchantment to the view! There is restfulness
in his gentle courtesy and idealistic aloofness from the passions
which move mankind. But both courtesy and idealism cover subtle
egotism and a waywardness of nature, a persistent determination to
follow his own caprices of thought and feeling, which make him
impracticable and inconsiderate in all the relations of life. (Is
this fair? He is charming with his children.) His little fads about
his health are ludicrous; no sound is to be heard before he is
called in the morning; no window to be shut in his presence; he
cannot take exercise but needs air, and nothing must interfere
with his afternoon sailing. What between vegetarianism and
valetudinarianism, he is rapidly sinking into old age, though he is
a healthy man of fifty.

I enjoyed my days there. Between us we started a novel, Looking
Forward--an answer to Looking Backward--for which I supplied the
plot and the characters, while he is to work out a reformed world on
individualist lines. He told me during the long evenings, looking on
to the moonlit lake, the story of his life. . . .

A solitary day at Stirling, feeling unutterably sad--a long night
journey--the exquisite beauty of the early morning spread over the
Monmouth valley as I drive up to our mountain home; the faithful
Neale with all things prepared; the breakfast table with a family
party of Playnes; cordial welcome; long gossip. The darling old
father is delighted to see "my little Bee"; in one word--"Home." And
now for work. [MS. diary, Sept. 22, 1889.]

This last month or so I have been haunted by a longing to create
characters and to move them to and fro among fictitious circumstances.
To put the matter plainly--by the vulgar wish to write a novel. In
the early morning hours when one's half-awakened brain seems so
strangely fruitful, I see before me persons and scenes; I weave
plots, and clothe persons, scenes and plots in my own philosophy.
There is intense attractiveness in the comparative ease of
descriptive writing. Compare it with work in which movements of
commodities, percentages, depreciations, averages, and all the ugly
horrors of commercial facts are in the dominant place, and must
remain so if the work is to be worthful. . . . The whole multitude
of novels I have read pass before me; the genius, the talent, the
clever mechanism or the popularity-hunting of mediocrities--what
have the whole lot of them, from the work of genius to the
penny-a-liner, accomplished for the advancement of society on the
one and only basis that can bring with it virtue and happiness--the
scientific method? This supreme ambition to present some clear and
helpful idea of the forces we must subdue and the forces we must
liberate in order to bring about reformation may be absurdly out of
proportion to my ability. But it alone is the faith, the enthusiasm
of my life, the work which I feel called upon to do. Still, I have
in my mind some more dramatic representation of facts that can be
given in statistical tables or in the letterpress that explains
them; some way of bringing home to rich and poor those truths about
social organisation that I may discover, illustrations of social
laws in the terms of personal suffering, personal development and
personal sin. But these must be delayed until I have discovered my
laws! And as yet I am only on the threshold of my enquiries, far
enough off, alas, from any general and definite conclusions. [MS.
diary, Sept. 30, 1889.]

The very demon of melancholy gripping me, my imagination fastening
on Amy Levy's story, a brilliant young authoress of seven-and-twenty,
in the hey-day of success, who has chosen to die rather than stand
up longer to live. We talk of courage to meet death; alas, in these
terrible days of mental pressure it is courage to live that we most
lack, not courage to die. It is the supreme courage of fighting a
battle for an unknown leader, for an unknown cause, that fails us
now and again. Poor Amy Levy! If there be no other faith for
humanity but to eat, drink and be merry, for to-morrow we die, she
has done well and wisely in choosing death, for to our natures such
contentment, such merriment, is not possible; we are the "unfit,"
and the sooner we leave our room to others, the better. But if this
be only a passage to other things, a pilgrimage among other pilgrims
whom we may help and cheer on the way, then a brave and struggling
life, a life in which suffering measures progress, has the deepest
meaning--in truth, embraces the whole and the sole reason for human
existence. [MS. diary, October 11, 1889.]

Five months' work here and at last I have got the table of contents
of my first book. Now I can let my imagination play at construction
instead of restricting all my energies to investigation. My spirits
begin to rise as I see the whole subject mapped out before me and
know exactly the extent of my discoveries and the boundaries of the
ground that must be covered. In a week or so I shall have sketched
out each chapter and shall have before me my plan of campaign for
the next six months. [MS. diary, November 1889.]

The final entry in the diary for the year 1889 was written during a
crisis in my father's illness which we all thought would be the
last. It is a long account of his life, the better part being used
as material in the first chapter of this book. Here I give the
concluding paragraphs as they stand in the MS. diary because they
reveal, more vividly than I can from memory, the happy relationship
throughout life between the father and his nine daughters.

Companionship with him was a liberal education in human nature and
in the affairs of the world; near relationship to him was a tie of
extraordinary tenderness and charm owing to the absolute
self-devotedness of his character. His own comfort, his own
inclinations were unconsidered before the happiness of his wife, the
welfare of his children. With him the domestic instinct was a
passion to which all else was subordinated. . . .

Darling father! How your children have loved you: loving even your
weaknesses, smiling over them tenderly like so many mothers. How we
have all combined to blind you to the realities of your illness:
nine diplomatists sitting round the old diplomatist, hiding things,
smoothing things; and you all the while perhaps the most polished
diplomatist of the lot; accepting the illusion as pleasanter than
the fact: delighting in the diplomacy that you have taught us. With
what gentle dignity you have resigned your grasp on life, though not
without an internal struggle, but all hidden from view.

"I know you did it for my good, dear child, but it is a little

These were his only words when, a year after his first stroke, I
refused absolutely to post his letter ordering his brokers to buy
for speculation. He tried it again, but this time I checkmated him
by writing privately to the brokers urging them on their honour to
discourage it: I remember the queer expression when he read their
letter--the passing look of irritation--then the bright glance at me
when he perceived my move--the affectionate tone in which he next
addressed me on some indifferent matter: the silent acknowledgement
of my good intention, the inward chuckle over the smartness of his
offspring; and from that moment the absolute and entire resignation of
his affairs into Daniel's hands; betaking himself exclusively to the
contracted routine of a shadow-like existence. His content would
have been painful if one had not felt that it was reasoned out on
his large unselfish philosophy of life; an idealised Epicureanism:
the happiness of the world (i.e. of those around you) and of
yourself as a unit of the world.

And now that he lies helpless, the vitality flickering to extinction:
his limbs motionless, his breathing laboured, the last pleasure in
his sleep, food and cigarette gone, he still brightens up to welcome
his "bright-eyed daughter"; to compliment a middle-aged married
woman on her good looks: to enquire how each husband is doing; to
ask how much he will leave to his children. In the long hours of
restlessness he broods over the success of his children, and finds
reason for peace and satisfaction. "I want one more son-in-law" (a
proof that he feels near his end, as he has discouraged the idea of
matrimony for me, put it off as something I could easily attain),
"a woman is happier married: I should like to see my little Bee
married to a good strong fellow," and the darling old father dreams
of the "little Bee" of long ago; he does not realise that she has
passed away, leaving the strong form and determined features of the
"glorified spinster" bending over him as a mother bends over her
sick child. [MS. diary, November 26, 1889.]


My father lingered on for another two years, barely conscious of his
surroundings. But within a few weeks of his call for "one more
son-in-law" there came "The Other One!"

This culminating event of my life--for did it not lead to the rapid
transformation of "My Apprenticeship" into "Our Partnership," and
therefore to the ending of this book?--clearly deserves a preface.
And this preface shall consist in a recollection of a mysterious
penumbra, making me aware of a new and significant Presence in my
environment at least a year before I was introduced to the little
figure with a big head who was to become the man of my destiny, the
source of unhoped-for happiness; and, be it added, the predominant
partner of the firm of Webb!

It was, I think, in the spring of 1888 that my friend J. J. Dent, at
that time General Secretary of the (working men's) Club and
Institute Union, talked to me, in tones of mingled admiration and
suspicion, about a group of clever young men who, with astonishing
energy and audacity, were haranguing the London Radical clubs;
contributing innumerable articles and paragraphs, signed or
unsigned, to the Star and the Daily Chronicle, and distributing, far
and wide, "Facts for Socialists," and other subversively plausible
pamphlets. One result of these activities was a stream of
resolutions to Liberal Headquarters and Liberal leaders, passed by
Radical clubs and Trade Union branches, in favour of the legal eight
hours day; of municipal ownership and administration of water, gas,
tramways and docks for the profit of the ratepayers; of an unlimited
extension of free educational and health services; and, in order to
meet the cost, of stiff taxation of wealth by increased and steeply
graduated income tax and death duties. "There are among them," said
he, "some very clever speakers, but the man who organises the whole
business, drafts the resolutions and writes the tracts, is Sidney
Webb." Other stray reports reached me to like effect, the gist of
which I find expressed, a few years later, in the report of Bernard
Shaw to the Fabian Conference of 1893.

"In 1888 [he told the Conference] we had not been found out even by
the Star. The Liberal party was too much preoccupied over Mr.
O'Brien's breeches and the Parnell Commission, with its dramatic
climax in the suicide of the forger Pigott, to suspect that the
liveliness of the extreme left of the Radical wing in London meant
anything but the usual humbug about working-class interests. We now
adopted a policy which snapped the last tie between our methods and
the sectarianism of the [Social Democratic] Federation. We urged our
members to join the Liberal and Radical Associations of their
districts, or, if they preferred it, the Conservative Associations.
We told them to become members of the nearest Radical Club and
Co-operative Store, and to get delegated to the Metropolitan Radical
Federation, and the Liberal and Radical Union if possible. On these
bodies we made speeches and moved resolutions, or, better still, got
the Parliamentary candidate for the constituency to move them, and
secured reports and encouraging little articles for him in the Star.
We permeated the party organisations and pulled all the wires we
could lay our hands on with our utmost adroitness and energy; and we
succeeded so far that in 1889 we gained the solid advantage of a
Progressive majority, full of ideas that would never have come into
their heads had not the Fabian put them there, on the first London
County Council. The generalship of this movement was undertaken
chiefly by Sidney Webb, who played such bewildering conjuring tricks
with the Liberal thimbles and the Fabian peas, that to this day both
the Liberals and the sectarian socialists stand aghast at him. It
was exciting while it lasted, all this 'permeation of the Liberal
party,' as it was called; and no person with the smallest political
intelligence is likely to deny that it made a foothold for us in the
press, and pushed forward Socialism in municipal politics to an
extent which can only be appreciated by those who remember how
things stood before our campaign."143

It was certainly surprising that, given all these activities of the
Fabian Society during 1888-89, and absorbed as I was in political
and economic problems, I failed to become known to any of the future
Fabian essayists (apart from a slight acquaintance with Mrs. Annie
Besant, then at the zenith of her power as a great popular orator)
until January 1890. The explanation is, that I had entered the field
of controversy from the standpoint of big enterprise, party politics
and metropolitan philanthropy, and was biased against socialist
solutions of political and economic problems; whilst the Fabians
entered this same field as Radicals and rebels, drawn, by a vision
of a new social order, from every vocation and many parts of the
country. Further, my craft being that of an investigator, I was
seeking enlightenment, not from socialist lecturers and theoretical
pamphlets, but from an objective study of the Co-operative Movement
and of Trade Unionism, the leaders of which were at that time
contemptuous of the socialism that they knew. The great Dock Strike
of August 1889, led, as it was, by three socialist workmen--John
Burns, tom Mann and Ben Tillett--together with the emergence of the
"New Unionism," with its reliance on political changes, altered the
orientation of the Labour Movement itself. Meanwhile I had realised,
as already described, that the working-class Co-operative Movement,
as distinguished from the middleclass projects of self-governing
workshops, industrial partnerships and schemes of profit-sharing,
was essentially "collectivist" in character and aims, having for
its object the elimination from industry of profit and the
profit-maker, by the substitution of an open democracy, managing by
the instrumentality of salaried officials the services that it
desired. Hence when, in October 1889, a friend forwarded to me the
recently published Fabian Essays as the true gospel of distinctively
British socialism, I read this daintily-turned-out volume from cover
to cover. In passing it on to J. C. Gray of the Co-operative Union,
I find that I incidentally remarked (in a letter which he afterwards
returned to me) that "by far the most significant and interesting
essay is the one by Sidney Webb; he has the historic sense," Those
interested in tracing "affinities" may find amusement if not
instruction in the fact that, in an appreciative review of Charles
Booth's first volume published in the Star in the preceding spring,
"The Other One" had observed that "the only contributor with any
literary talent is Miss Beatrice Potter!"

What interested me in this particular Fabian essay was an early
presentation of "the inevitability of gradualness."

Owing mainly to the efforts of Comte, Darwin and Herbert Spencer
[writes the Fabian essayist of 1889] we can no longer think of the
ideal society as an unchanging State. The social ideal from being
static has become dynamic. The necessity of the constant growth and
development of the social organism has become axiomatic. No
philosopher now looks for anything but the gradual evolution of the
new order from the old, without breach of continuity or abrupt
change of the entire social tissue at any point during the progress.
The new becomes itself old, often before it is consciously
recognised as new; and history shows us no example of the sudden
substitutions of Utopian and revolutionary romance.

Farther on in the essay the same thought is elaborated.

Advocates of social reconstruction [he tells his readers] have
learnt the lesson of democracy, and know that it is through the slow
and gradual turning of the popular mind to new principles that
social reorganisation bit by bit comes. All students of society who
are abreast of their time, Socialists as well as Individualists,
realise that important organic changes can only be (1) democratic,
and thus acceptable to a majority of the people, and prepared for in
the minds of all; (2) gradual, and thus causing no dislocation,
however rapid may be the rate of progress; (3) not regarded as
immoral by the mass of the people, and |thus not subjectively
demoralising to them; and (4), in this country at any rate,
constitutional and peaceful. Socialists may therefore be quite at
one with Radicals in their political methods. Radicals, on the other
hand, are perforce realising that mere political levelling is
insufficient to save a State from anarchy and despair. Both sections
have been driven to recognise that the root of the difficulty is
economic; and there is every day a wider consensus that the
inevitable outcome of democracy is the control by the people
themselves not only of their own political organisation, but,
through that, also of the main instruments of wealth production; the
gradual substitution of organised cooperation for the anarchy of the
competitive struggle; and the consequent recovery, in the only
possible way, of what John Stuart Mill calls "the enormous share
which the possessors of the instruments of industry are able to take
from the produce." The economic side of the democratic ideal is, in
fact, socialism itself.144

The reason for our meeting in the first days of January 1890 was in
itself a presage of our future comradeship in work. The critical
phase of my father's illness having once again passed away, my
sister Kate begged me to return with her husband to London for a
week's rest and recreation, a welcome opportunity to get material I
urgently needed for the first chapter of my forthcoming book. For
whilst planning out my analysis of the Co-operative Movement of that
day, I became aware that I lacked historical background. As was my
wont, I applied for help to the best available authority: in this
case to a London acquaintance, the distinguished historian of the
eighteenth century, W. E. H. Lecky. "Why was there no working-class
association in these years of turmoil and change?" I innocently and
ignorantly asked. The answer to this incorrect assertion, disguised
as a question, was a courteous, kindly and lengthy explanation of
the "reason why," meant to be helpful. But seeing that my mistaken
assumption was apparently accepted as the starting-point of the
answer, the professional historian led me nowhere. Not satisfied, I
was on the look-out for another guide. "Sidney Webb, one of the
Fabian Essayists, is your man," casually remarked a friendly woman
journalist. "He knows everything: when you go out for a walk with
him he literally pours out information." An interview was arranged
during my short stay in London. A list of sources, accessible at the
British Museum, including the then little known Place manuscripts,
various State trials, old Chartist periodicals, and autobiographies
of working-class agitators, was swiftly drafted, then and there, in
a faultless handwriting, and handed to me. A few days later brought
the first token of personal regard in the shape of a newly published
pamphlet by the Fabian on the Rate of Interest, thus opening up a
regular correspondence.

I give a few from many entries from the MS. diary revealing the new
ferment at work.

Already one month of the New Year past. Father lying in a
half-conscious, motionless state, recognising his children but not
realising ideas or feelings; his life a flickering shadow which at
times seems to disappear, then to gather substance, and for a while
you imagine that it is the dear familiar spirit lighting up the
worn-out frame.

I am, in the meantime, so long as life lasts, chained to his side;
all my plans for this six months of the year indefinitely postponed.
. . . Sometimes I feel discouraged. Not only am I baulked in
carrying out my work, but with the lack of all accomplishment I
begin to doubt my ability to do it. Continuous reading makes me feel
a mere learner, entangled in my own growth, helpless before this
ever-accumulating mass of facts, which must be carved into some
intelligible shape indicative of its main characteristics. At
present, the facts are heaped up around me, oppressing me with their

I feel, too, exiled from the world of thought and action of other
men and women. London is in a ferment: strikes are the order of the
day; the new Trade Unionism, with its magnificent conquest of the
docks, is striding along with an arrogance rousing employers to a
keen sense of danger, and to a determination to strike against
strikes. The socialists, led by a small set of able young men (
Fabian Society) are manipulating London radicals, ready, at the
first checkmate of Trade Unionism, to voice a growing desire for
State action; and I, from the peculiarity of my social position,
should be in the midst of all parties, sympathetic with all, allied
with none, in a true vantage ground for impartial observation of the
forces at work. Burnett and the older Trade Unionists on the one
side; tom Mann, Tillett and Burns on the other; round about me
co-operators of all schools, together with new acquaintances among
the leading socialists. And as a background, all those respectable
and highly successful men, my brothers-in-law, typical of the old
reign of private property and self-interested action. . . . And then
I turn from the luxurious homes of these picked men of the
individualist system, and struggle through an East End crowd of the
wrecks, the waifs and strays of this civilisation; or I enter a
debating society of working men, and listen to the ever-increasing
cry of active brains, doomed to the treadmill of manual labour, for
a career in which intellectual initiative tells: the bitter cry of
the nineteenth-century working man and the nineteenth-century
woman. And the whole seems a whirl of contending actions,
aspirations and aims, out of which I dimly see the tendency towards
a socialist community, in which there will be individual freedom and
public property, instead of class slavery and private possession of
the means of subsistence of the whole people. At last I am a
socialist! [MS. diary, February 1, 1890.]

Sidney Webb, the socialist, dined here [Devonshire House Hotel] to
meet the Booths. A remarkable little man with a huge head and a tiny
body, a breadth of forehead quite sufficient to account for the
encyclopaedic character of his knowledge. A Jewish nose, prominent
eyes and mouth, black hair, somewhat unkempt, spectacles and a most
bourgeois black coat shiny with wear. But I like the man. There is a
directness of speech, an open-mindedness, an imaginative
warm-heartedness which will carry him far. He has the self-assurance
of one who is always thinking faster than his neighbours; who is
untroubled by doubts, and to whom the acquisition of facts is as
easy as the grasping of things; but he has no vanity and is totally
unself-conscious. Hence his absence of consciousness as to treading
on his neighbours' corns. Above all, he is utterly disinterested,
and is, I believe, genuine in his faith that collective control and
collective administration will diminish, if not abolish, poverty. [
MS. diary, February 14, 1890.]

Every day my social views take a more decidedly socialist turn,
every hour reveals fresh instances of the curse of gain without
labour; the endless perplexities of the rich, the never-failing
miseries of the poor. In this household [there are] ten persons
living on the fat of the land in order to minister to the supposed
comfort of one poor old man. All this faculty expended to satisfy
the assumed desires of a being well-nigh bereft of desire. The whole
thing is a vicious circle as irrational as it is sorrowful. We feed
our servants well, keep them in luxurious slavery, because we hate
to see discomfort around us. But they and we are consuming the
labour of others and giving nothing in return, except useless
services to a dying life past serving. Here are thirteen dependents
consuming riches and making none, and no one the better for it. [MS.
diary, April 22, 1890.]

Glasgow Co-operative Congress. Exquisite Whitsun weather. A long
journey up in third-class saloon, I, in one of the two comfortable
seats of the carriage, with S. W. squatted on a portmanteau by my
side, and relays of working-men friends lying at my feet, discussing
earnestly Trade Unionism, co-operation and socialism. S. W.'s
appearance among them surprises, and, on the whole, pleases them.

"He is humbler than I have ever seen him before," says Vaughan
Nash;145 "quite a different tone."

"Let us all work together as far as we can go; by the time we have
got there, depend on it, we Co-operators will be willing to go
further," declares emphatically Hey, a member of the Central Board,
and Secretary to the Ironmoulders' Trade Union.

In the evening S. W. and I wandered through the Glasgow streets. A
critical twenty-four hours, followed by another long walk by
glorious sunset through the crowded streets, knocking up against
drunken Scots. With glory in the sky and hideous bestiality on the
earth, two socialists came to a working compact.

"You understand you promise me to realise that the chances are a
hundred to one that nothing follows but friendship. . . ." [Glasgow,
MS. diary, Whitsun 1890.]

A day out in Epping Forest: "When I left you yesterday [said he] (we
had travelled up from Haslemere, where I had stayed at the Frederic
Harrisons', and he with the Pearsall Smiths) I went straight home;
found two urgent letters, one from O'Brien begging me to write the
London articles for the Speaker; the other from Massingham telling
me I must review Marshall's new book for the Star. I went straight
to the Club and read right through Marshall's six hundred pages
--got up, staggering under it. It is a great book, nothing new
--showing the way, not following it. For all that, it is a great book,
it will supersede Mill. But it will not make an epoch in Economics.
Economics has still to be re-made. Who is to do it? Either you must
help me to do it; or I must help you. . . ." We talked economics,
politics, the possibility of inspiring socialism with faith leading
to works. He read me poetry, as we lay in the Forest, Keats and
Rossetti, and we parted. [MS. diary, July 27, 1890.]

Throughout the remaining months of 1890 we saw little of each other.
When not in attendance on my father, I was staying in Glasgow,
Manchester, Leeds, Leicester and other big industrial centres,
completing the co-operative enquiry and starting the investigation
into Trade Unionism. But letters in the faultless handwriting
followed me wherever I went, suggesting new sources of information,
or telling me of the doings of the Fabians. Occasionally he would
forget the "inevitability of gradualness," and there would be a
hitch. But he was soon forgiven after due penitence! In the spring
of 1891 I sent my newly-found counsellor proofs of my forthcoming
book on the Co-operative Movement. "I am disappointed," he wrote
with commendable sincerity; "this book ought to have taken six weeks
to write, not seven months. Why not let me help you in the
investigation into Trade Unionism? Whilst you interview officials
and attend Trade Union meetings, I can rush through reports and MS.
minutes at the Trade Union offices."

"I am a piece of steel," I warn my friend. "One and one placed close
together, in a sufficiently integrated relationship, make not two
but eleven," he answered unconcernedly. I recall another episode. In
April 1891 I went to stay with that most loyal of friends--Mrs. J.
R. Green--to give a course of lectures (my first experience of this
kind) at University Hall on the Co-operative Movement. The day
before my first lecture, just as I was leaving my home for: London,
the post brought me a letter from the editor of The Times, asking
for an advance report of my first lecture. How can I write a report
of a lecture which I have not yet given?" said I helplessly to the
little lady who acted as housekeeper and secretary. "Why not ask Mr.
Webb to do it?" was her startling suggestion, made demurely. "Not
half a bad idea," said I, in my coldest tone. "Write out a telegram
and I will send it," she urged. On arrival I found The Other One
chatting with Mrs. Green, whose friendship he had already won. Said
he, when we were left alone in the little study, "Give me your
syllabus, and just tell me what else-you are going to say." An
admirable statement of my argument, far more lucid than the lecture
itself, duly appeared in The Times the next day.

The Lincoln Co-operative Congress of 1891 found us journeying down
together. "I cannot tell how things will settle themselves," I
write in my diary; "I think probably in his way. His resolute,
patient affection, his constant care for my welfare--helping and
correcting me--a growing distrust of a self-absorbed life and the
egotism of successful work, done on easy terms and reaping more
admiration than it deserves--all these feelings are making for our
eventual union. Meanwhile father lingers on, and while he lives,
nothing can be decided." [MS. diary, May 1891.] In the course of the
summer The Other One and I became definitely but secretly betrothed,
my father's state making disclosure, even to my own family,
undesirable. Here are a few entries about my new outlook on life.

We had a queer party at Alice Green's towards the end of my stay:
five of the young Radicals--Asquith, Haldane, Grey, Buxton and Acland
--to meet five Fabians--Massingham, Clarke, Olivier, Shaw and S. W.,
with Alice and myself. It was not successful; though not quite a
failure, since all were pleasant and cordial. Asquith spoilt it. He
was the ablest of the lot, and determined that it should not go.
Haldane made himself most pleasant, and is really playing up; but
the machine of the Liberal Party is slow to move.146 [MS. diary, May
31, 1891.]

We are both of us [I write in my diary, July 7] second-rate minds;
but we are curiously combined. I am the investigator and he the
executant; between us we have a wide and varied experience of men
and affairs. We have also an unearned salary. These are unique
circumstances. A considerable work should be the result if we use
our combined talents with a deliberate and persistent purpose.

Since the hurry-scurry of that week [at the Newcastle Trades Union
Congress] [I write in the first days of my autumn holiday] I have
drudged in offices on records or trudged to interview after
interview. The work is stupendous, and as yet, the material does not
shape itself. I do little but work and sleep and then work again. My
fingers, cramped with hours of note-taking, threaten revolt, and my
brain whirls with constitutions, executives, general councils,
delegate meetings, district delegates, branches, lodges, socials,
with objections to piece-work and "subbing," demarcation disputes--
until all the organs of my body and faculties of my mind threaten to
form into one federated Trade Union and strike against the despotism
of the will! Meanwhile there is one bright moment: the clearly
written letter precipitated every morning; one half-hour of willing
obedience of the cramped fingers when I turn aside from my work and
talk with him. And in five days he will be here working by my side.
[September 25, 1891.]

I get so sick of these ugly details of time-work and piece-work,
overtime and shop-rent, and the squalid misfortunes of defaulting
branch officers or heckling by unreasonable members [I write to my
Beloved]. Who would choose to imprison the intellect in this smelly
kitchen of social life if it were not for the ever-present "thirty
per cent." [Charles Booth's statistics of those who were below the
line of poverty], with the background of the terrible East End
streets? The memory of the low, cunning, brutal faces of the loafers
and cadgers who hang about the Mint haunts me when I feel inclined
to put down the Trade Union reports and take up a bit of good

"You are not fit to write this big book alone [is his answer]; you
would never get through it. When I really get to work on it, you
will find me not only a help instead of a hindrance--but also the
indispensable help which will turn a good project into a big book."

A blessed time! He found me utterly worked out with a combination of
hard clerk's work and the insufficient food of a pitman's cottage in
a miners' village, whither I had gone for physiognomic. He took over
all the accumulated work, and while I have been lying on a sofa he
has been busily abstracting and extracting, amply rewarded, he says,
by a few brief intervals of confidential talk over the cigarette and
the afternoon cup of tea. With our usual coolness, I have taken a
private sitting-room (he staying at another hotel); and he spends
the day with me in the capacity of private secretary. The queer
little knot of hotel residents are so impressed with the bulk of my
correspondence and the long hours of work that I do not think they
suspect the intervals of "human nature"; they no doubt think that I
keep my amanuensis hard at it all the hours of the day! And now that
I am fairly well again, we are driving through the mass of reports
fast and well with the blessedness of companionship. Without his
help I doubt whether I could get through this bulk of material; I
have too little staying power for the bigness of my aims. [MS.
diary, October 10, 1891.]

The last evening of the blessed fortnight, and I have sent him
ruthlessly to interview the "Good Intent Coopers!" Yesterday evening
we spent at a public-house in Newcastle interviewing plumbers; and
to-day we have been hard at work on rules and reports. The danger I
see ahead is of one-idea'dness, an absorption in this somewhat ugly
side of humanity, an absorption which will be made even more
absolute by our companionship. It is hard to steer clear between
one-idea'dness and futile mental distraction. To-morrow I leave this
bleak North Country sea town [Tynemouth]. Each place I leave, where
we have worked together, I feel saddened at the thought that a bit
of happiness is past and gone. [MS. diary, October 16, 1891.]

On the first of January 1892 my father died; and six months later we
were married.

Here ends "My Apprenticeship" and opens "Our Partnership": a
working comradeship founded in a common faith and made perfect by
marriage; perhaps the most exquisite, certainly the most enduring,
of all the varieties of happiness.


119 In the autumn of 1888 I had been introduced to the Creightons by
our common friend, Marie Souvestre. From that time onward I enjoyed
their friendship, a privilege extended to The Other One when, four
years later, he appeared as my betrothed. I often wonder how many of
the young intellectuals of the 'eighties and 'nineties have, in
later life, looked back on the days spent in this delightful family
circle at Worcester or Cambridge, at Peterborough or Fulham, as one
of the inspiring influences of their lives. In my memory Mandell
Creighton appears as the subtlest, broadest-based and, I must add,
the most elusive intellect, as well as one of the most lovable
characters that I have come across in my journey through life. (See
The Life and Letters of Bishop Creighton, by Louise Creighton.)

120 I confess to a certain Schadenfreude in reading the following
extract from an obituary appreciation of Professor Marshall by
Professor C. R. Fay, a favourite pupil, now the well-known economist
and writer on Co-operation, as proving that, ten years after
publication, my little book still interested him!

"Gradually I arrived at my subject--Co-operation," recalls Professor
Fay. "I was under a bond with him to write down, on a separate page
in my notebook, the proposed title, altering it each week till it
fitted my ambition. At last it became 'Cooperation at Home and
Abroad, an analysis and description.' His only fear was that I
should be over-influenced by a pernicious \book written by Beatrice
Potter on this subject." (The Canadian \Forum, p. 147, 1925.)

121 The anti-suffrage "appeal" was published in the Nineteenth
Century for June 1889, and the replies mentioned in the following
letter from Frederic Harrison appear in the same Review for July

"The papers of Mrs. Fawcett and of Mrs. Ashton Dilke, though the
latter is far better in tone, are manifestly beneath the dignity and
force of the Appeal (Frederic Harrison writes to me on July 7, 1889).
Mr. Knowles (the Editor of the Nineteenth Century) and I are
cordially agreed in this, that you are the woman most fitted, on
every ground most fitted, to take up the task, and as I have been
active in urging your name as the champion, he has begged me to try
and induce you to undertake it. There is needed something more full,
more sympathetic and more definite than the Appeal. I really think
it is a duty you owe to the public. It is criminal to bury your
talent in a napkin in Monmouthshire. I do most earnestly implore you
as a social obligation to speak out what you think and to make it a
reply in fact, if not in form, to the dry democratic formulas of
Mrs. Fawcett."

The following entry in the MS. diary probably expresses the tenor of
my refusal to comply with this request:

"At present I am anxious to keep out of the controversy. I have as
yet accomplished no work which gives me a right to speak as
representative of the class Mrs. Fawcett would enfranchise:
celibate women. And to be frank, I am not sure of my ground; I am
not certain whether the strong prejudice I have against political
life and political methods does not influence my judgement on the
question of enfranchising women." [MS. diary, July 7, 1889.]

122 The industrious apprentice will find in the Appendix (C) a short
memorandum on the method of analytic note-taking, which we have
found most convenient in the use of documents and contemporaneous
literature, as well as in the recording of interviews and personal

123 J. T. W. Mitchell (1828-95), the most remarkable personality
that the British Co-operative Movement has thrown up, was the
illegitimate son of "a man in good position, but of ungoverned
character." Mitchell himself, so we are told by his biographer (John
T. W. Mitchell, by Percy Redfern, p. 12), "felt that he owed small
moral benefit to this side of his parentage." The mother "lived only
for the boy"; and, "although hard pressed, she would not allow her
child from her side." Apparently she gained her livelihood by
keeping a tiny beerhouse in a working-class street, supplemented by
letting lodgings to working men. From ten years old, when Mitchell
began as a piecer in a cotton mill, he earned his livelihood in the
textile industry, until he retired at the age of about forty-five
without means, to devote his whole energies to the development of
the Co-operative Wholesale Society, of which he was re-elected
chairman, quarter by quarter, for twenty-one years, 1874-95.
Throughout these twenty-one years of complete absorption in building
up the most varied if not the largest business enterprise in the
world at that time, Mitchell lived on the minute fees, never
exceeding 150 pounds a year, that this vast enterprise then allowed
to its chairman, in a small lodging at Rochdale, his total estate on
death amounting to the magnificent sum of 350 pounds, 17 shillings,
5 pence. He never married, and was romantically attached to his
mother. Soon after her death in 1874 he compassionately took to live
with him a neighbour--Thomas Butterworth--who had been imprisoned
for theft and found it impossible to get employment, and who became
first his devoted servant, and, inheriting small house property, his
devoted landlord and habitual companion till death parted them.
Throughout this long, altruistic business career Mitchell remained
an ardent advocate of temperance and an assiduous teacher of the
Sunday School at the Rochdale Chapel, to which he made a point of
returning, Sunday after Sunday, from the longest business journeys,
even if this involved travelling (third class) all night. In his
Presidential Address to the Rochdale Congress, 1892, he summed up
his faith: "The three great forces for the improvement of mankind
are religion, temperance, and cooperation; and as a commercial
force, supported and sustained by the other two, co-operation is the
grandest, noblest, and most likely to be successful in the
redemption of the industrial classes" (p. 89 of John T. W.
Mitchell, 1923, by Percy Redfern).

124 J. C. Gray (1854-1912) was the son of a Baptist Minister at
Hebden Bridge, and was trained as a clerk in the Audit Office of the
Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Co. Owing to his cooperative
sympathies and work, he was made General Secretary of the Hebden
Bridge Fustian Society in 1874; Assistant Secretary to the Central
Board of the Co-operative Union in 1883; becoming, on the death of
E. Vansittart Neale, General Secretary of the Co-operative Union in
1891, a post he retained until disabled by ill-health in 1910. His
sympathies were from the first with associations of producers rather
than with the Consumers' Co-operative Movement; and in 1886, at the
Plymouth Congress, he read an able paper on Co-operative Production,
outlining a scheme for the formation of self-governing productive
societies linked up with the Co-operative Wholesale Society. The
scheme was unanimously adopted by the Plymouth Congress, the
Directors of the Co-operative Wholesale Society remaining silent.
But here the matter ended. In after years, in order to prevent the
obstinate evil of overlapping between the various separate
consumers' societies, then become thick on the ground, he sketched
out a striking proposal for their amalgamation into a single
national society with local branches, as to which see The Consumers'
Co-operative Movement, 1921, by S. and B. Webb, pp. 307-9.

125 E. Vansittart Neale (1810-1892) a grandson of Mr. Vansittart of
Bishatn Abbey, M.P. for Berkshire during Pitt's Administration and a
lineal descendant of Oliver Cromwell, was educated at Rugby and
Oriel College, Oxford; practised as Chancery barrister, and was, in
1849, one of the founders of the Society for promoting Working Men's
Associations. I believe that in all the annals of British
philanthropy no more honourable example can be found of a life
devoted from first to last to the disinterested and self-denying
service of the wage-earning class. Possessed of considerable means,
he lavished money on the associations of producers started by the
Christian Socialists and their successors, until in 1855, owing to
the repeated failures of the enterprises, he had become a
comparatively poor man. From 1869 onward he organised the Annual
Co-operative Congress, becoming the unpaid General Secretary of the
Co-operative Union from 1873 to 1891. His greatest service to the
Co-operative Movement was acting as its legal adviser, drafting not
only all its rules and reports but also practically all the
legislation concerned with this form of industrial association. In
the last year of his life he recognised and deplored the permeation
of the Co-operative Movement by Fabian economics. "There seems"
(he wrote to Hughes in 1892) "to be a growing disposition to seek
the solution of social questions through municipal action, imbued
with wholesale production for the sole benefit of the consumer,
rather than through the growth and federation of true co-operative
societies which will benefit the consumer by raising up his position
as a worker. If this conception is to be served, I think we must
oppose to this consumers' flood such strength as can be got out of
union for the express promotion of co-operative production, with the
ultimate hope of getting the consumers' societies to see that the
spheres of production and consumption, though they should be closely
allied, must be kept distinct, if the permanent welfare of the
working population is to be secured by co-operation" (Memorial of
Edward Vansittart Neale, compiled by Henry Pitman, 1894, p. 9).
After his death, without any recognition by the public of his
prolonged social service, a memorial tablet was placed in St. Paul's
Cathedral at the expense of the Co-operative Movement.

126 For an account of this society from 1886 to 1892 see Cooperative
Production, by Benjamin Jones, vol. i. pp. 315-22. Further details
will be found in a more laudatory article by Thomas Blandford in
Labour Co-partnership for December 1894; see also New Statesman
Supplement on Co-operative Production and Profit-sharing, February
14, 1914, p. 21. The society still (1925) exists; but how far it has
continued to stand on its original basis that all workers should be
shareholders and all shareholders workers in the Society's mill is
not clear to me. In 1914 I see it noted that the whole enterprise
had been leased to the manager for ten years. In 1924 it was
reported to have 289 members (shareholders) with a share capital of
12,034 pounds, making sales during the year of 30,008 pounds, and a
profit of 1,053 pounds, after paying "salaries and wages" of 1,029
pounds to six "employees." How many of the 289 "members" are
employed as weavers in the mill is not stated.

127 These three men, John Burnett, Benjamin Jones and J. J. Dent,
had acted as my sponsors in the World of Labour, and here is an
entry descriptive of two of them:

"Seen something during my London stay of Burnett, Benjamin Jones
and J. J. Dent, the three most intimate of my working-men friends.
My friendship with the two former is becoming a close one and likely
to endure, as future work will bring us together. For Burnett I have
a strong admiration; he is singularly disinterested, with a reserve
of thought and feeling and a dignity of manner which make him
attractive. Jones is on a lower plane; but he, also, is an
enthusiast for the service of humanity; a pushing, fighting soldier
in the great army, ready to sacrifice himself personally, but
thinking any means good enough to fight the enemy; tolerating all
things true and false, good or evil, so long as they seem to work in
his direction. He strives night and day in order that mankind should
enjoy the 'results of goodness,' but forgets that the fruit cannot
exist without the tree. An enlightened selfishness in men and women
cannot bring about the peace of an unconscious self-devotion, to the
public good." [MS. diary, March 6, 1889.]

128 J. J. Dent, born 1856; a highly skilled bricklayer, who was in
1883 elected Secretary of the Working Men's Club and Institute Union
(a post he resigned when appointed in 1893 as Co-operative
Correspondent to the Labour Department of the Board of Trade,
remaining a member of the Executive and Vice-President of the
Working Men's Club and Institute Union until 1922), retired from the
Government service in 1919, after being made C.M.G. for service on
Emigrants' Information Office of Colonial Office. Throughout his
life he has been closely connected with the Co-operative Movement,
having already attended forty-one Annual Co-operative Congresses,
and assisted in the formation of many societies. He has also been
associated with the Workers' Educational Association and the Working
Men's College, and other educational organisations.

129 Benjamin Jones was here referring to some eighty cotton spinning
and cotton-weaving factories in Lancashire, then known as "Working
Class Limiteds." These cotton mills had been started and were being
managed by working men, the original capital having been contributed
either by the members of local co-operative stores, as in the case
of the Rochdale Manufacturing Company started by the Rochdale
Pioneers in 1854 (see note 135), or by other groups of artisans.
Some of these establishments began by sharing profits with the
workers, but by 1886 they had all dropped this method of remuneration,
and were, in constitution and activities, in no respect different
from ordinary capitalist establishments, being governed, not by the
representatives of the consumers or by the representatives of the
workers concerned, but by the shareholders, with voting power
according to the number of shares held. These limited liability
companies, formed principally by men of the wage-earning class, and
governed by boards of directors mainly drawn from the same class,
were on this account often alluded to by economists and others as
being "co-operative"; and, for historical reasons, they were, up to
about 1890, regarded as part of the Co-operative Movement, though
they were not at any time admitted to direct representation in the
Co-operative Congress.

130 The Co-operative Aid Society was an organisation helping groups
of working men to start self-governing workshops and was in those
days of muddled thinking mildly patronised by some of the leading
officials of the C.W.S. Here is an entry relating to it, dated
November 19, 1889:

"Attended Committee meeting of Co-operative Aid Association in Board
Room of London C.W.S.; Dent in the chair.

"Deputations from productive societies or would-be societies.
Ignorant but well-meaning young man, boot and leather examiner, who
wished to start West-end boot factory. 'The handsewn trade,' he told
us, 'is dying a natural death: every person takes machine-made boots
because of their cheapness." And yet it was in the hand-sewn trade
that he wanted to start a society! After a lengthy dissertation on
the foot being the most important member of the body, he produced a
written statement of wages, cost of raw material, prices given by
customers: a statement which showed the respectable profit of 30 per
cent. The small matter of management was of course left unconsidered;
the existence of a market was assumed.

"' To whom will you sell your boots?' asks one of the committee with
a puzzled expression.

"'Oh that's easy enough,' says the young man; 'the public will see
the advantage of our manufacture: they will know that our principle
is to do honest work; our wish to give satisfaction. I have not the
slightest doubt of our success'; and then follows another muddled
oration on co-operative ideals. At last the young man is dismissed
with a letter to David Schloss, an expert on the boot trade. More
deputations; and at 7:45 Vaughan Nash and I adjourned to Canito's
for supper."

131 See History of Trade Unionism, by S. and B. Webb, chapter iii.,
"The Revolutionary Period, 1829-42."

132 For information about British Christian Socialism and its
leaders see Christian Socialism, 1848-54, by Charles E. Raven, an
admirable account of the founders of Christian Socialism, though, I
think, an over-enthusiastic description of their advocacy of the
ideal of the self-governing workshop. F. D. Maurice and his friends,
who started with no experience of British business enterprise, seem
to have thought that because they themselves, as promoters and
financial guarantors, were inspired by benevolence, they could
transfer, with their capital, this emotion of service to the little
group of craftsmen they set up as profit-makers. As a matter of
fact, they were appealing to the self-interest of the workers, as
F. D. Maurice's friend, F. J. A. Hort, pointed out to his

"Just then I heard of the forthcoming Socialist Tracts, and added a
postscript wishing him success, but protesting against the cant of
praising the meritoriousness and benevolence of those who joined an
association. . . .

"Nor is selfishness a whit removed; he [the working member of the
Co-operative Productive Society] seeks '' our interest,' 'the
interest of that of which I am a part,' instead of 'my interest';
and I own I do not see what is gained by the change. Of course he
may be unselfish under such circumstances, but not more so than
under a state of competition" (Life and Letters of Fenton John
Anthony Hort, by his son Arthur Fenton Hort, vol. i. 1896, p. 152 and
pp. 141-2).

133 For the cause of this failure of Associations of Producers, I
must refer the student to Co-operative Production, by Benjamin
Jones, 1894, and my own Co-operative Movement in Great Britain,
1891, to which may be added The New Statesman Supplement of
February 14, 1914, on Co-operative Production and Profit-sharing,
by S. and B. Webb. For the convenience Of the student I give in the
Appendix (E) to this book the conpusions embodied in this
Supplement, now out of print.

134 See Appendix (D).

135 In 1854 the members of the Rochdale Pioneers' Society attempted
to carry out their ideal of a self-governing workshop; and a number
of them started the Rochdale Co-operative Manufacturing Society.
Until 1860 they divided profits on an  equal ratio of pence for every
sovereign of capital invested or wages paid. Presently the fourteen
hundred shareholders, of whom only three hundred worked in the mill,
objected to this division of the profit; and in 1862 the bonus to
labour was finally dropped out of the rules by a three to one
majority, the concern becoming a mere joint stock company. (See John
T. W. Mitchell, by Percy Redfern, 1923, pp. 27-9.)

136 In his carefully prepared address to the Ipswich Co-operative
Congress, Professor Marshall seemed to me disingenuous in insisting
(in contradiction of his statements as an economist) on there being a
fundamental difference between "production" and "distribution,"
and in refusing to see that the distinction between successful and
unsuccessful working-class co-operation lay not in difference of
function, that is, in the distinction between trading and
manufacturing, but in difference of constitution, that is, the
distinction between government by the consumers and government by
the producers respectively.

"I have already laid stress on the fact," he told the co-operators,
"that the success of the distributive societies is no proof of the
efficiency of working men as undertakers of business enterprises.
Their inherent advantages are so great that they may sometimes
prosper fairly even though their management is but second-rate; and
there is no question that some of them have done so. Their success
gives no ground for anticipating that a productive society would
succeed when it had to run the gauntlet of competition with private
firms managed by business men quick of thought and quick of action,
full of resource and of inventive power, specially picked for their
work and carefully trained" (Report of the Twenty-first Annual
Co-operative Congress, 1889, pp. 9-10).

Thus in suggesting that co-operative production had failed whilst
co-operative trading had succeeded, he ignored the already
successful manufacturing departments of the English and Scottish
Co-operative Wholesale Societies and of smaller federations of the
consumers' Co-operative Movement. In the thirty years that have
elapsed, manufacturing enterprise by the consumers' Co-operative
Movement has greatly increased in range and variety. The co-operators
have even begun, through an international organisation of consumers'
societies, to manufacture for export commodities to exchange for
co-operatively produced foodstuffs and materials of other countries.
Further, the consumers' Co-operative Movement has not only marched
triumphantly from retail trading to wholesale trading, and from
wholesale trading to manufacturing and importing raw products raised
by itself on its own plantations in tropical and semitropical
countries, but has also created a great financial organisation for
insurance and banking, thereby accumulating the necessary capital
for its constantly developing enterprise, and making itself
independent of profit-making bankers, brokers and underwriters.

137 John Mitchell seldom spoke at the Co-operative Congress. But at
the Carlisle Congress in 1887, stung by a violent attack by tom
Hughes on the policy of the Co-operative Wholesale Society in
starting manufacturing departments, he asserted that "There was no
higher form of co-operative production upon the face of the earth
than the Wholesale Society manifested in its co-operative works. ...
He would start productive works, when they would pay, in every
centre in the United Kingdom. and would never be satisfied until the
Wholesale manufactured everything that its members wore. ... If
co-operation was to be permanently successful, we should have to
finally settle this question--To whom does profit and the increment
of value belong? He held that, as it was created by the industrious
Classes, it belonged to them. Profit was made by the consumption of
the people, and the consumers ought to have the profit. ... He
advised co-operators never to be satisfied until they got control of
the entire producing, banking, shipping, and every other interest in
the country. The Wholesale had 100,000 pounds in Consols, and in
course of time co-operators might possess the whole of the National
Debt of this country. If co-operators saved their money they might
in time possess the railways and canals, besides finding employment
for themselves" (Report of Nineteenth Annual Co-operative Congress,
1887, pp. 6-7).

138 In 1893 Mr. (now Sir) William Maxwell, then Chairman of the
Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society, created great consternation
in the Movement by reading a paper at the Bristol Co-operative
Congress, in which he described what seemed to him the excessive
hours of labour exacted from co-operative employees. Taking only the
hours during which the stores were open, which understated the
actual day of the assistants by something like 5 or 10 per cent, he
showed that 93.5 of the societies were open for business for more
than 60 hours per week; 43.4 per cent, of them were open for more
than 66 hours per week; whilst 163 societies, or 13.5 per cent, of
those making returns, were open from 70 to no less than 85 hours per
week. Slowly and gradually did improvement take place. In 1909,
sixteen years later, there were still 40 societies in the last
category, 123 in the last but one, whilst 947, or 76.7 of the total,
were still open for more than 60 hours per week (The Working Life of
Shop Assistants, by J. Hallsworth and R. J. Davies, 1913, pp. 78-80;
quoted in The Consumers' Co-operative Movement, by S. and B. Webb,
1921, p. 189). For a description of the relations of the
Co-operative Movement to co-operative employees up to 1920 see
chapter iii. of that book.

139 I believe that this was the first use of exactly the phrase
"Collective Bargaining" as a process for settling wages. See The
Co-operative Movement of Great Britain, by Beatrice Potter,
1891, pp. 216-18. This little book has had a remarkable career,
especially in foreign parts, having been translated into about a
dozen languages, the earliest being a German translation by
Professor Brentano, published in 1892, and the latest to be
authorised, in 1925, being a Finnish version, Its largest
circulation is said to have been in Russia, in the early years of
this century, when it was used as a text-book in starting the
Russian Co-operative Movement. It has never been revised, or brought
down to date; and it has now been superseded by The Consumers'
Co-operative Movement, by S. and B. Webb, 1921.

140 See the essay on "Equality" in Mixed Essays, by Matthew
Arnold, p. 92.

141 For a description of these voluntary associations of consumers
becoming, through Local Acts, Local Government Authorities, see
English Local Government: Statutory Authorities for Special
Purposes, by S. and B. Webb, 1922; especially chapter vii, on the
emergence of the new principles of government, pp. 397-486.

142 The Consumers' Co-operative Movement, by S. and B. Webb,
1921, p. 289.

143 Fabian Tract No. 41, The Fabian Society: Its Early History, by
G. Bernard Shaw, 1892; also History of Fabian Society, by Edward
Pease, 1925.

144 Fabian Essays in Socialism, 1889, pp. 31 and 34-5. This original
edition should be compared with the latest reprint of 1920, with its
elaborate introduction; and with a fuller exposition of the same
thesis in vol. xii. of the Cambridge Modern History, republished by
the Fabian Society under the title Towards Social Democracy?

145 Vaughan Nash, C.B., C.V.O., born 1861, a lifelong student of
Trade Unionism and co-operation, was at that time a journalist. He
became for seven years the confidential private secretary of two
successive Prime Ministers, 1905-12; and then Vice-Chairman of the
Development Commission. With Hubert (afterwards Sir Hubert)
Llewellyn Smith he wrote The Story of the Dockers' Strike, 1890;
and, after visiting India during the famine of 1900, The Great
Famine, 1901.

146 All the five "young Radicals" became Liberal Cabinet
Ministers, and one of them (H. H. Asquith) was for eight critical
years Prime Minister; two of the Fabians (Sydney Olivier and Sidney
Webb) and one of the Liberals (R. B. Haldane) were members of the
first British Labour Cabinet, and Alice Stopford Green is on the
roll of the first Senate of the Irish Free State. In the world of
to-day the out-shining one of this star company is Bernard Shaw,
socialist and dramatist. Only two members of the party are dead
(1926)--H. W. Massingham and William Clarke--both of whom achieved
distinction in journalism.




(See Chapter Six Observation and Experiment, paragraph which begins
"The essay on Social Diagnosis. . . ")

[MS. dated The Argoed, September 27, 1887]

IT is a matter of everyday experience that our actions, whether
legislative or voluntary, individual or collective, are becoming
more and more inspired and guided by descriptions of our social
state. For better or for worse we have cast off the yoke of general
principles in dealing with social questions--we have abandoned the
English theory of laisser-faire, with its comfortable doctrines of
the sanctity of private ownership and the unmitigated good of free
contract and unrestricted competition. We have become pure
empiricists, treating each symptom as it appears on the surface of
society. And this change has been mainly accomplished by the strong
and irrepressible emotion aroused by the narration of facts. A
medical report of a specific disease raging in Manchester and other
north country towns brought about the first factory legislation of
1802. All the reforms of Lord Shaftesbury and his followers,
constituting the principal constructive legislation of the last
fifty years, were carried over the heads of political economists and
interested opponents through the indignation evoked by detailed
accounts of misery and crime. Our whole literature of blue books
testifies to the importance attached to the observation and
statement of social facts, in the actual making of laws. But it is
easy to discern the danger that lies immediately before us. Hitherto
sensationalism and special pleading have been more frequent than
scientific observation and correct diagnosis. It is a grave
misfortune that the representation of social facts has been left
almost exclusively to those who are strongly biased in favour of
state interference, and that the advocates of laisser-faire, instead
of seeking justification in social research, have entrenched
themselves behind assumptions which are now regarded as unfounded.
What is needed is a body of students who will seek truth for its own
sake, with the single-minded desire to present a true "picture," and
if possible an explanation of social life. And the first step must
be to ascertain a method of enquiry which will lead to a verified
statement of fact, and which will aid us to break through the outer
crust of events and to discover those hidden social forces which we
must either submit to or control.

There are two methods open to the student of the present state of
society: statistical enquiry and personal observation. Let us
clearly understand what we mean by these two expressions. An eminent
statistician defines the science of statistics as the "Quantitative
observation of aggregates." The simple meaning of this learned
expression is this: that statistics are based on the assumption that
as far as the question at issue is concerned, all the units dealt with
are equal. In the common uses of statistics this assumption is
obviously true. In the statistics of population, of births,
marriages and deaths, all qualitative difference between one
individual and another, or between one individual act and another,
is not only unimportant but is entirely irrelevant. Hence in the
collection of these statistics we need only mechanical enumeration.
For instance, if we could invent a census-taking machine, like the
automatic weighing machine, and if we could force the inhabitants to
pass over, under or through it, it would serve our purpose quite as
well as the most highly trained body of census officials. Anyhow it
is needless for the student to undertake the work of enumeration
himself; indeed in nearly all instances it would be impossible. He
sits at his desk and examines the figures laid before him. Therefore
the definition given above is correct: the student of statistics
does not observe individuals but aggregates; he does not note
qualities but he examines and compares quantities.

By personal observation, or as the Germans prefer to call it, "unit"
observation, we understand the examination of individual men, acts
or circumstances with a view to discover the specific characteristics
that distinguish them from other men, acts and circumstances. Thus
the striking difference between unit observation and mechanical
enumeration is this, that while mechanical enumeration simply notes
the repeated existence of similar units, and could therefore be
performed as efficiently by a machine as by a human being, unit
observation demands that peculiar power of the human intellect--the
discerning and registering of differences. Therefore if learned
language be insisted upon, and if we define statistical enquiry as
the quantitative observation of aggregates, we must define personal
observation as the qualitative observation of units.

Now in social science, as in all the other sciences of organic life,
quantitative and qualitative analysis must go hand in hand. For it
is self-evident that in all the more complicated statistics of human
life, "unit observation" should be a preliminary step to
statistical enquiry. For supposing the student wishes to ascertain
not only the sum total of the population, but the proportion which
different classes of men bear to one another, it is clear that he
must first discover and describe those qualities or circumstances
which are the specific characteristics of the classes with which he
is dealing. For instance, supposing he wishes to divide the
population according to physical temperament, he must first
determine the constitutional characteristics which make up the
bilious, nervous and sanguine temperaments respectively. And the
more extended his personal observation of individuals, the more
likely he is to arrive at a classification which will at once
include, and separate into definite classes, all the individuals of
the population. When he has completed this work of personal
observation, he can begin statistical enquiry. To accomplish the
work of enumeration he must find men capable of distinguishing and
registering the qualities, or group of qualities, which, according
to his classification, are characteristic of the different
temperaments. Assuming that there be definite and distinct
temperaments among men, the correctness of the first step will
depend on the student's power of determining salient features and
specific characteristics; and the correctness of the second step
will depend on the mechanical efficiency of the instrument used in
enumeration and on the logical soundness of any manipulation of the
figures arrived at. Thus, in all original investigation, the student
of social facts must combine personal observation with statistical
enquiry. On the one hand he must know and realise distinguishing
qualities and peculiar conditions, before he can enumerate the
persons possessing these qualities or living within these
conditions. On the other hand, in order that his observation may
rank as a social fact, he must show that these qualities or
conditions are characteristic of a sufficient body of men to form a
constituent part of society. To demonstrate this he must use the
statistical method: he must enumerate the number of men possessing
these characteristics; and if he is to arrive at any generalisation,
he must compare this number with other totals--for instance with
that of the entire population. Statistical enquiry without personal
observation lacks all sure foundation; while personal observation
unless followed by statistical enquiry leads to no verified
conclusion. The two methods are in reality two equally essential
acts in all scientific investigation of the structure and growth of
existing societies.

Let us turn from a theoretical demonstration of the true method to
an illustrative analogue of our actual method of social research.
Imagine the whole building trade suddenly divided into two rival
sets of workmen, the one perfectly understanding the excavating,
levelling and forming of foundations, while the other comprised the
whole army of bricklayers, stone-masons, plumbers, joiners and
glaziers. Supposing these two bodies of men not only refused to work
together or to learn each other's trade, but obstinately declared
that they were absolutely independent of each other's help; the one
body asserting that foundations needed no superstructure, while the
other affirmed that buildings required no foundations. Should we
advance in the making of cities? Would not all our attempts, however
much energy or substance we spent upon them, be reduced to one dead
level of unfinished structure and ruined edifice? And yet this is no
exaggerated picture of the state of affairs among the observers and
recorders of social facts. We have a large body of grave and
abstract-minded men who spend their lives or their leisure in the
examination of tables of figures; or to use their own expression, in
"the marshalling of the figures collected with scientific accuracy
and precision." So long as these figures represent so much size and
weight and value of dead matter, as in commercial statistics, the
foundations upon which a statistician rests his operations are
secure. The truth of his conclusion in these instances will depend
on correct measurement of the size, weight and value, and on the
logic of his train of reasoning. These processes of purely
statistical enquiry we may safely leave to the criticism of
fellow-statisticians. But when the figures represent, not dead
matter, but living men and women of various temperaments and
manifold conditions, we need some better assurance than mere
assumption that, as far as the question at issue is concerned, these
men and women are equal units. I will take an illustration from the
work of living statisticians.

Mr. Leone Levi and Mr. Dudley Baxter some years past published
estimates of the total income of the working classes, estimates
which have since been quoted with approval by Mr. Giffin. And how do
you think they arrived at their respective estimates? By multiplying
the number of individuals included in the various sections of the
working class as stated in the census, by the average wage of a
member of each section when in full work. For example, if the
carpenters numbered 10,000, and if the average wage of a carpenter
in full work were 30 shillings, then the total yearly incomings of
the carpenters would be 780,000 pounds. At this point, however, the
two authorities diverged: for Leone Levi allowed four weeks, while
Dudley Baxter allowed six weeks enforced holiday during the year.
What value can we attach to a calculation of the total incomings of
the working people which dismisses the burning question of the
"unemployed" with a haphazard guess? Surely the evident irritation
shown by intelligent working men, at the work of official and
semi-official statisticians, is justified by this almost impertinent
ignorance of the actual conditions with which they attempt to deal.
We may say with Carlyle: "According to the old Proverb, 'as the
statist thinks the bell clinks.' Tables are like cobwebs, like the sieve
the Danaides beautifully reticulated, orderly to look upon, but
which will hold no conclusion. Tables are abstractions, and the
object a most concrete one, so difficult to read the essence of.
There are innumerable circumstances, and one circumstance left out
may be the vital one on which all turned. Conclusive facts are
inseparable from inconclusive except by a head that already
understands and knows." As usual, Carlyle has discovered the kernel;
it is exactly this absence of personal experience which disfigures
the work of the ordinary statistician. Those who are able to examine
his basis refuse to believe in the soundness of his conclusions. He
fails to present to the public mind a verified statement of fact.

On the other hand every newspaper in the kingdom abounds with the
work of those who limit their research to personal observation.
Opposed to the grave and abstract-minded statisticians, and
intensely antagonistic in their bias, there exist among us a large
body of men and women with warm sympathies and quick perceptions,
who present to the public striking pictures of society. Death and
disease attract more sympathy and excite more feeling than healthy
growth; it is not surprising, therefore, that the diseased parts of
our society should be selected as the special subjects for study and
representation. The fallacy peculiar to the work of this class of
student is obvious. In Carlyle's words: "Each man expands his own
handbreadth of observation to the limits of the general whole"; more
or less each man must take what he himself has seen and ascertained
for a sample of all that is seeable and ascertainable! Thus a
respectable citizen, who had diligently read East London newspapers
on the evil of low-class foreign immigration, writes to his Member
of Parliament to enquire whether it be not true that every third man
in England is a foreigner! Those who watch the dislocated and
decaying life of poverty-stricken London talk of the whole working
class as demoralised and unemployed. It is exactly this tendency "to
expand the handbreadth of observation to the limits of the general
whole," accompanied by the humanitarian's interest in mental and
physical misery, which we call Sensationalism. There is only one way
to check this mischievous tendency. We must apply to these vivid
pictures the hard and fast test of statistical enquiry. We must
force those who present these striking statements to enumerate
exactly the number of persons possessing the characteristics or
living within the conditions described; we must compel them to
compare this number with that of the whole population. And until the
artist consents to bring his picture within a statistical framework,
we may admire it as a work of art, but we cannot accept it as a
verified statement of fact.


(See Chapter Six, Observation and Experiment, ". . . of another
technique of sociology--the gentle art of interviewing--I think I
may say that I became an adept. . . .")

IN all sociological investigation of existing social institutions
the student finds himself continuously seeking acquaintance with the
persons directly concerned with the working of these institutions in
order to "interview" them.

There are many uses of the interview. It may be a necessary passport
to the inspection of documents and to an opportunity of watching,
from the inside, the constitution and activities of some piece of
social organisation. For this purpose the requisites are a good
"introduction," brevity of statement, a modest and agreeable manner
and a ready acquiescence in any arrangement made, however inadequate
or inconvenient. Above all, have a clear conception of exactly which
documents and what opportunities you are seeking. Do not ask for too
much at the first start off; you can always ask for more; and an
inch given is better than an ell refused!

But by the Method of the Interview I mean an instrument of research
and discovery through the process of skilled interrogation. As a
device for investigation it is peculiar to the sociologist. It is
his compensation for inability to use the chemist's test-tube or the
bacteriologist's microscope.

The first condition of the successful use of the interview as an
instrument of research is preparedness of the mind of the operator.
The interviewer should be himself acquainted, I will not say with
all the known facts--that would be to set too high a standard--but
with all the data that can be obtained from the ordinary text-books
and blue books relating to the subject. For instance, to
cross-examine a factory inspector without understanding the
distinction between a factory and a workshop, or the meaning of the
"particulars clause"; or a Town Clerk without knowing the difference
between getting a Provisional Order, promoting a Local Act, or
working under a General Act, is an impertinence. Especially
important is a familiarity with technical terms and a correct use of
them. To start interviewing any specialist without this equipment
will not only be waste of time, but may lead to a more or less
courteous dismissal, after a few general remarks and some trite
opinions; at best, the conversation will be turned away from the
subject into the trivialities of social intercourse. For technical
terms and technical details, relating to past as well as to present
occurrences and controversies, are so many levers to lift into
consciousness and expression the more abstruse and out-of-the-way
facts or series of facts; and it is exactly these more hidden events
that are needed to complete descriptive analysis and to verify
hypotheses. I may note in passing that not to have read and mastered
what your client has himself published on the question is not easily

The second condition is of course that the person interviewed should
be in possession of experience or knowledge unknown to you. That is
not to say that persons without acknowledged reputations for
specialised knowledge must always be ignored; and that there should
be no speculative investment in queer or humble folk. It is, for
example, almost axiomatic with the experienced investigator that the
mind of the subordinate in any organisation will yield richer
deposits of fact than the mind of the principal. This is not merely
because the subordinate is usually less on his guard, and less
severely conventional in his outlook. The essential superiority lies
in the circumstance that the working foreman, managing clerk or
minor official is in continuous and intimate contact with the
day-by-day activities of the organisation; he is more aware of the
heterogeneity and changing character of the facts, and less likely
to serve up dead generalisation, in which all the living detail
becomes a blurred mass, or is stereotyped into rigidly confined and
perhaps obsolete categories.

More difficult to convey to the student is the right manner or
behaviour in interviewing.

Regarded as a method of investigation the process of interviewing is
a particular form of psycho-analysis. From within the consciousness
or subconsciousness of another mind, the practitioner has to ferret
out memories of past experiences--"orders of thought" corresponding
with "orders of things."

You may easily inhibit free communication, or prevent the rise to
consciousness of significant facts, by arousing suspicion. For
instance, whilst a careful plan of examination should be prepared,
no paper of questions should be apparent: and no attempt should be
made to take notes during the interview. Except in cases in which
your client is not merely according an interview but is consciously
co-operating in your investigation, it is a mistake to bring a
secretary or other colleague: caution is increased when a man
perceives that his words are being "witnessed."

It is disastrous to "show off," or to argue: the client must be
permitted to pour out his fictitious tales, to develop his
preposterous theories, to use the silliest arguments, without demur
or expression of dissent or ridicule. The competent social
investigator will not look bored or indifferent when irrelevant
information or trivial details are offered him, any more than a
competent medical practitioner will appear wearied by his patient's
catalogue of imaginary symptoms. Accept whatever is offered: a
personally conducted visit to this or that works or institution may
be a dismal prospect; it may even seem waste effort to inspect
machinery or plant which cannot be understood, or which has been
seen ad nauseam before, or which is wholly irrelevant to the
subject-matter of the enquiry. But it is a mistake to decline. In
the course of these tiring walks and weary waitings, experiences may
be recalled or elicited which would not have cropped up in the
formal interview in the office. Indeed, the less formal the
conditions of the interview the better. The atmosphere of the
dinner-table or the smoking-room is a better "conductor" than that
of the office during business hours. The best of these occasions is
that you can sometimes start several experts arguing among
themselves; and in this way you will pick up more information in one
hour than you will acquire during a whole day in a series of

When you have got upon confidential terms, your new friend may cite
private statistics or mention confidential documents; this should be
met by an off-hand plea for permission to see them. If a direct
offer be made to produce and explain documents, the interviewer has
scored a notable success and should follow it up on the spot. "I am
dreadfully slow and inaccurate at figures: I wonder whether I and my
secretary might come here to-morrow to look through these reports
again?" will often find good-natured acquiescence.

Bear in mind that it is desirable to make the interview pleasing to
the persons interviewed. It should seem to him or her an agreeable
form of social intercourse. I remember, in one of my early
adventures in "wholesale interviewing" with a whole party, even telling
fortunes from their hands, with all sorts of interesting results!
Without this atmosphere of relaxation, of amused interest
on both sides, it will often be impracticable to get at those
intimate details of daily experience which are the most valuable
data of the sociologist. Hence a spirit of adventure, a delight in
watching human beings as human beings quite apart from what you can
get out of their minds, an enjoyment of the play of your own
personality with that of another, are gifts of rare value in the art
of interviewing; and gifts which are, I think, more characteristic
of the woman than the man.

I need hardly add that once the interview is over, the first
opportunity should be taken to write out fully every separate fact
or hypothesis elicited. Never trust your memory a moment longer than
is necessary is an all-important maxim. Practice will make it easy
to reproduce on paper, that very evening or on the following morning
before starting out for the day's work, every phrase or suggestion
that needs to be recorded, even of several successive interviews.


See Chapter Six, Observation and Experiment ". . . an irksome task
--rendered still more tedious by the lack of any proper system of
note-taking." And following.

IT is difficult to persuade the accomplished graduate of Oxford or
Cambridge that an indispensable instrument in the technique of
sociological enquiry--seeing that without it any of the methods of
acquiring facts can seldom be used effectively--is the making of
notes, or what the French call "fiches."147 For a highly elaborated
and skilled process of "making notes," besides its obvious use in
recording observations which would otherwise be forgotten, is
actually an instrument of discovery. This process serves a similar
purpose in sociology to that of the blow-pipe and the balance in
chemistry, or the prism and the electroscope in physics. That is to
say, it enables the scientific worker to break up his subject-matter,
so as to isolate and examine at his leisure its various component
parts, and to recombine them in new and experimental groupings in
order to discover which sequences of events have a causal
significance. To put it paradoxically, by exercising your reason on
the separate facts displayed, in an appropriate way, on hundreds,
perhaps thousands, of separate pieces of paper, you may discover
which of a series of hypotheses best explains the process underlying
the rise, growth, change or decay of a given social institution, or
the character of the actions and reactions of different elements of
a given social environment. The truth of one of the hypotheses may
be proved, by significant correspondences and differences, to be the
order of thought that most closely corresponds with the order of

The simplest and most direct way of bringing home to the reader the
truth of this dogmatic assertion of the scientific value of
note-taking in sociological investigation will be first to describe
the technique, and then to point out its uses. Now, it may seem a
trivial matter, but the first item in the recipe for scientific
note taking is that the student must be provided, not with a notebook
of any sort or kind, but with an indefinite number of separate
sheets of paper of identical shape and size (I have found large
quarto the most convenient form), and of sufficient good quality for
either pen or typewriter. The reason why detached sheets must be
employed, instead of any book, is, as I shall presently demonstrate,
the absolute necessity of being able to rearrange the notes in
different order; in fact, to be able to shuffle and reshuffle them
indefinitely, and to change the classification of the facts recorded
on them, according to the various hypotheses with which you will
need to compare these facts. Another reason against the notebook is
that notes recorded in a book must necessarily be entered in the
order in which they are obtained; and it is vitally important to be
set free from the particular category in which you have found any
particular set of facts, whether of time or place, sequence or
co-existence. In sociology, as in mineralogy, "conglomerates" have
always to be broken up, and the ingredients separately dealt with.

Upon the separate sheets should be clearly written, so that other
persons can read them, and according to a carefully devised system,
with as much precision as possible, and in sufficient detail, a
statement of each of the facts, or assumed facts, whether the
knowledge of them has been acquired by personal observation, by the
use of documents, by the perusal of literature, by the formal taking
of evidence, by the interview, or by the statistical method, or in
any other way. A good deal of the ease and rapidity of the
investigation, and no small part of its fruitfulness and success,
will depend on the way in which the notes are--to use a printer's
word--displayed; and our experience suggests the following rules.

On each sheet of paper there should appear one date, and one only;
one place, and one only; one source of information, and one only.
Less easy of exact application, because less definite, and more
dependent on the form of the provisional breaking-up and
classification of the facts, is the rule that only one subject, or
one category of facts, even only a single fact, should be recorded
on each sheet. Of almost equal importance with this primary axiom of
"one sheet one subject-matter"--we may almost say "one sheet one
event in time and space"--is the manner in which the fact is
displayed on the paper. Here what is of importance is identity of
plan among all the hundreds, or even thousands, of notes. The date (
in the history of institutions usually the year suffices) should
always appear in the same place on all the sheets--say, at the
right-hand top corner of the paper; and the source of information,
or authority for the statement, in the left-hand margin. The centre
of the sheet will be occupied by the text of the note, that is, the
main statement or description of the fact recorded, whether it be a
personal observation of your own, an extract from a document, a
quotation from some literary source, an answer given in evidence, or
a statistical calculation or table of figures. Some of the sheets
may record suggested hypotheses, for subsequent comparison with the
facts; or even a "general impression," or a summary of a group of
facts, given in addition to a note of each of the facts themselves.
On what part of the sheet to write the name of the place at which
the event occurred, and the various headings and sub-headings to be
added by way of classification, constitutes the central puzzle-question
with which the sociological investigator is confronted in devising
the system for his note-taking. This cannot be definitely determined,
in any elaborate or extensive investigation, except in conjunction
with the principal classification or the successive classification
that may be adopted during the enquiry. Assuming that the
investigation is concerned with all the social institutions of one
place, and with no other places, the name of the place can, of
course, be taken for granted, and not recorded on the innumerable
sheets (except in so far as it may be necessary for the convenience
of other persons using the same notes, when it may be given by the
use of an india-rubber stamp once for all). In such an investigation
the principal heading, to be placed in the centre of the top of the
sheet, may be the name or title of the particular institution to
which the note relates, whilst the subheading (which can be best put
immediately under the date on the right-hand side) may denote the
particular aspect of the institution dealt with, whether it be, for
instance, some feature of its constitutional structure, or some
incident of its activities. If, on the other hand, the investigation
is concerned with social institutions in different places, the name
of the place at which each event takes place becomes an essential
item of the record, and it should be placed in a prominent position,
either in the centre of the page at the top, or as the first
sub-heading on the right-hand side beneath the date. The one
consideration to be constantly kept in view, in this preliminary
task of deciding how to record facts that constitute the
subject-matter of the enquiry, is so to place the different items of
the record--the what, the where, the when, and the classification or
relationship--that in glancing rapidly through a number of sheets the
eye catches automatically each of these aspects of the facts. Thus,
a carefully planned "display," and, above all, identity of
arrangement, greatly facilitate the shuffling and reshuffling of the
sheets, according as it is desired to bring the facts under review
in an arrangement according to place, time or any other grouping.
It is, indeed, not too much to say that this merely mechanical
perfection of note-taking may become an instrument of actual

"What is the use of this pedantic method of note-taking involving
masses of paper and a lot of hard thinking, not to mention the
shuffling and reshuffling, which is apparently the final cause of
this intolerable elaboration?" will be asked by the post-graduate
student eager to publish an epoch-making treatise on the History of
Government, or, perchance, on the History of Freedom, within the two
years he has allotted to the taking of his doctorate. The only
answer I can give is to cite our own experience.

The "Webb speciality" has been a study, at once historical and
analytic, of the life-history of particular forms of social
organisation within the United Kingdom, such as the Trade Union and
Co-operative movements, and English local government from the
seventeenth to the end of the nineteenth century. In these
successive tasks we have been confronted, not with the constitution
and activities of one organisation, in one particular year, in one
part of the Kingdom; but with a multiplicity of organisations,
belonging, it is true, to the same genus or species, but arising,
flourishing and disappearing in diverse social environments, at
different intervals throughout a considerable period of time,
exhibiting a great variety of constitutions and functions, subject
to successive waves of thought and emotion, and developing relations
with other institutions or organisations within the British and in
some cases within the world community. The task before us was to
discover, for instance, in the tangled and complicated undergrowth
of English local government, the recurrent uniformities in
constitution and activities showing the main lines of development,
together with the varieties in structure and function arising in
particular places, in particular decades, or within peculiar social
environments; some to survive and multiply, others to decay and
disappear. The main sources of our information were, as it happens,
records and persons located in the cities and villages of England
and Wales, sources which, for reasons of time and expense, had each
to be exhausted in one visit. But even if all this mass of MSS. and
printed records, and the hundreds of separate individuals concerned,
had been continuously at our disposal, whenever we cared to consult
them, it would still have been desirable to adopt a method of
note taking which would allow of a mechanical breaking-up of the
conglomerate of facts yielded by particular documents, interviews and
observations, in order to reassemble them in a new order revealing
causal sequences, and capable of literary expression. The simplest (
and usually the least fertile) way of expressing the results of an
investigation is to follow the strictly chronological order in which
the events occur, not according to their causal connections with
other events, but exclusively according to the dates of their
happening. But even for this narrow purpose the conglomerate
notebook is an impossible instrument148 unless the subject-matter
happens to be the life-history of a single organisation, the data
for which are all to be found in one document, and are themselves
given in that document in strictly chronological order. In our
investigations, dealing as they did with the life-history of
hundreds of separate organisations, the data for which were to be
found in innumerable separate documents, pamphlets, newspapers or
books, or were discovered in many observations and interviews, the
conglomerate notebook system would have involved disentangling and
rewriting, from all the separate notebooks, every note relating to a
particular year. By adopting our method of one sheet for one
subject, one place and one date, all the sheets could be rapidly
reshuffled in chronological order; and the whole of our material
might have been surveyed and summarised exclusively from the
standpoint of chronology. But, as a matter of fact, we had to use
the facts gathered from all these sources, not for one purpose only,
but for many purposes: for describing changes in the constitutional
form, or the increase or variation in the activities of the
organisation; or the localisation of particular constitutions or
activities in particular areas, or the connection of any of these
groups of facts with other groups of facts. By the method of
note-taking that I have described, it was practicable to sort out
all our thousands of separate pieces of paper according to any, or
successively according to all, of these categories or combination of
categories, so that we could see, almost at a glance, to what extent
the thousands of vestries which served as local authorities in the
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were entangled in the
court leet structure; in what particular year they began to apply
for Acts of Parliament closing or opening their constitutions;
whether this constitutional development was equally characteristic
of the statutory bodies of commissioners set up during the latter
part of the eighteenth century, and the early part of the nineteenth
century; whether, when and why exactly the referendum and initiative
were introduced and for what purpose; or at what stage of development
and under what set of conditions all these authorities ceased to
rely on the obligatory services of citizens and began to employ
persons at wages. Or to take an example from our investigations into
Trade Unionism. It was only by arranging and rearranging our
separate sheets of paper that we could ascertain how far piece-work,
or the objection to piece-work, was characteristic of a particular
kind of industry, or of a particular type of Trade Union, or of a
particular district of the United Kingdom, or of a particular stage
of development in the organisation concerned or of the movement as a
whole. Indeed, it is not too much to say that in all our work we
have found this process of reshuffling the sheets, and reassembling
them on our work-table according to different categories, or in
different sequences--a process entirely dependent on the method of
note-taking--by far the most fertile stage of our investigation. Not
once, but frequently has the general impression with regard to the
causal sequence of events, with which we had started our enquiry, or
which had arisen spontaneously during the examination of documents,
the taking of evidence or the observation of the working of an
organisation, been seriously modified, or completely reversed, when
we have been simultaneously confronted by all the separate notes
relating to the point at issue. On many occasions we have been
compelled to break off the writing of a particular chapter, or even
of a particular paragraph, in order to test, by reshuffling the
whole of our notes dealing with a particular subject, a particular
place, a particular organisation or a particular date, the relative
validity of hypotheses as to cause and effect. I may remark,
parenthetically, that we have found this "game with reality," this
building up of one hypothesis and knocking it down in favour of
others that had been revealed or verified by a new shuffle of the
notes--especially when we severally "backed" rival hypotheses--a
most stimulating recreation! In that way alone have we been able
"to put our bias out of gear," and to make our order of thought
correspond, not with our own prepossessions, but with the order of
things discovered by our investigations.

I realise how difficult it is to convince students--especially those
with a "literary" rather than a "scientific" training--that it is
by just this use of such a mechanical device as the shuffling of
sheets of notes, and just at this stage, that the process of
investigation often becomes fertile in actual discoveries. Most
students seem to assume that it is the previous stage of making
observations and taking notes which is that of discovery. I can only
speak from our own experience, of which I will give two examples.
When we had actually completed and published our History of Trade
Unionism (1894), after three or four years' collection of facts from
all industries in all parts of the kingdom, which we had arranged
more or less chronologically, we found to our surprise that we had
no systematic and definite theory or vision of how Trade Unionism
operated, or what it effected. It was not until we had completely
re-sorted all our innumerable sheets of paper according to subjects,
thus bringing together all the facts relating to each, whatever the
trade concerned, or the place or the date--and had shuffled and
reshuffled these sheets according to various tentative hypotheses
--that a clear, comprehensive and verifiable theory of the working
and results of Trade Unionism emerged in our minds; to be embodied,
after further researches by way of verification, in our Industrial
Democracy (1897).

A further instance occurred in connection with my work on the Poor
Law Commission. It had been commonly assumed on all sides that the
Local Government Board and its predecessors had continued throughout
to administer the "principles of 1834." On my insisting upon an
actual examination of the policy pursued through the seventy years,
I was deputed by the Commission to examine and report what had
actually been the policy. This involved the examination of every
manifestation of policy, such as the successive statutes, general
orders, special orders, circulars, etc., numbering in all some
thousands. These were all analysed by subjects, on separate sheets
of paper, under my direction. To these data was added an analysis of
the letters of the Local Government Board, from 1835 to 1907,
addressed to a dozen of the principal Boards of Guardians (an
analysis made by permission of these authorities from their
letter-books), as well as their records of the inspectors' verbal
decisions and advice to-guardians. When the task was completed,
neither the able assistants who had done the work, nor I who had
directed it, had the least idea what the policy on each subject had
been at each period. It was not until the sheets had been sorted
out, first according to subjects, and then according to date, that
the fact and the nature of a continuous but gradual evolution of
policy could be detected, differing from class to class of paupers;
until, in 1907, each class had come to be dealt with according to
principles which were obviously very different from those of 1834.
The report of this investigation was presented to the Poor Law
Commission, with the interesting result that we heard no more of the
"principles of 1834!" It was subsequently published as English Poor
Law Policy (1910).

I append two samples of our sheets of notes; one recording an
interview, and the other an extract from an official document.



Rodgers, T. Cr. Chairman Bd. of Gns.

Got himself elected People's Auditor about 1887, in order to exclude
a worthless man. For many years the Auditors had been re-elected
without question--in 1886 (?) a worthless man, who lived by his
wits, got himself nominated at last moment, on the chance of the
existing holders not taking the trouble to be formally nominated.
And so got elected, for the sake of the small emolument.

Rodgers, then on the Evening News, got himself nominated the
following year, & held it for 5 years. Found out many irregularities,
which he exposed in Evening News--principal being the failure to
collect the contributions of owners towards Private Improvements
(paving streets)--there was 40,000 pounds outstanding, on which
owners were paying no interest, whilst Corpor. was borrowing the
money at interest. Corporation then turned him out of the
Auditorship. He had had to fight the election every year, and lost
it at last.

Recently he had been elected a Councillor. Was not satisfied with
the way the business was done. Would prefer L.G.B. audit.




Newcastle Imp. Act 1892.

Committees proceedings,
Aug. 4. 1892. p. 568.

Council resolves:

"That the powers and duties of the Council under Part 9. (Sanitary
Provisions). Part 10, (Infectious Diseases) and Part 11 (Common
Lodging Houses) of the N'castle-upon-T. Improvement Act 1892 be
delegated to the Sanitary C'tee until 9 Novr next or until the Council
otherwise direct."

Similarly, Powers relating to Streets, Buildings, and Plans are
delegated to Town Imp. Ctee.


THE following notes on the Nature of Economic Science and on the
Theory of Value at once summarise and extend the arguments which I
imperfectly expressed in the essays referred to in Chapter Six
Observation and Experiment, "My definition of the sphere of


I see few advantages, and many disadvantages, in collecting together
all the activities concerned with the production and consumption of
wealth, in all the various stages of social evolution, and in all
the different varieties of social organisation by which this
function is performed; and in making this object or purpose the
subject of a self-contained science styled Political Economy, apart
from the study of human behaviour in society--that is to say, of
social institutions, or Sociology. The implied claim of the orthodox
or Ricardian economics to constitute such a science of wealth
production in general has already been assailed by a competent
authority. "The science of Political Economy," sums up that lucid
and ingenious thinker, Walter Bagehot, "may be defined as the
science of business, such as business is in large productive and
trading communities. It is an analysis of that world so familiar to
many Englishmen--the 'great commerce' by which England has become
rich. It assumes the principal facts which make that commerce
possible, and as is the way of an abstract science it isolates and
simplifies them; it detaches them from the confusion with which they
are mixed in fact" [Economic Studies, by Walter Bagehot, 1888,
p. 5]. Bagehot had in mind what economic students are apt to forget,
namely, that "big business" of the nineteenth-century type, which
Ricardo was considering, is not the only form of wealth production;
and is, in fact, in marked contrast with other forms such as chattel
slavery, tribal ownership, peasant agriculture, the manorial system,
independent handicrafts, domestic manufactures, and what not. Even
to-day there are in the world other social institutions, besides
profit-making capitalistic business, which produce no small amount
of "wealth" even in the narrowest sense of the term. For instance,
there are, in the twentieth century, state forests and mines, banks
and post offices, steamship lines and railways; and municipal
departments of gas and electricity, tramways and docks, dwelling-houses
and restaurants. I need not again describe the Consumers'
Cooperative Movement, with its multifarious industrial enterprises
carried on without the incentive of profit-making.. Thus the Ricardian
economics--if Bagehot's justification of its validity has any authority
--has no right to the position of the science of wealth production.
Political Economy, as professed and taught, deals with only one of
many social institutions engaged in or concerned with wealth
production; and it is misleading to ignore those other social
institutions by which wealth has been, and is now being produced
among hundreds of millions of people unacquainted with the "big
business" or profit-making capitalism, for which Ricardo sought to
formulate the "laws" that his successors have been, during the
past century, so diligently refining and elaborating.

Why not drop, once and for all, the whole notion of a science of
Political Economy? The term itself is a foolish one, which confuses
the political with the industrial organisation of the community.
Even when the modern term Economics is substituted, the "science"
inherits a misleading delimitation of content and a faulty method of
reasoning. What needs to be studied are social institutions
themselves, as they actually exist or have existed, whatever may be
the motive attributed to the men and women concerned; and whatever
may be the assumed object or purpose with which these institutions
are established or maintained. The organisation of "big business,"
or profitmaking capitalism, is, at the present time, one of the most
important of social institutions; and it deserves a whole study to
itself, which may or may not yet warrant the name of a science, but
for which an appropriate description should be found. This study of
profit-making capitalism or modern business organisation would take
its place alongside the separate studies of other social
institutions, such as the family; consumers' co-operation; the
vocational organisations of the various kinds of producers; local
government; the state (or political organisation); international
relations; the intellectual, aesthetic and religious interests of
man, and possibly a host of other departments of what can only be
regarded (and may one day be unified) as Sociology.

And this change of the definition or sphere of what is now termed
Economics or Political Economy--which Hearn, it may be remembered,
wished to call Plutology--would to-day be as much to the advantage
of profit-making capitalism as it would be to the advancement of
truth. It would almost necessarily involve the abandonment of the
abstract, or purely deductive method, without the possibility of
precise verification of its inferences, which Ricardo's authority
imposed on successive generations of British economists. Now one of
the many mischievous results of the abstract and deductive method
has been the underlying assumption, used as a premise for its
deductive reasoning, that pecuniary self-interest is, in fact, the
basis of modern business enterprise, all else being ignored as
merely "friction." Thus it is assumed that all the activities of
profit-makers are inspired solely and exclusively by pecuniary
self-interest. This is, to my thinking, to do them injustice. Public
spirit and personal vanity, delight in technical efficiency and
desire for power, political and social ambition, the spirit of
adventure and scientific curiosity, not to mention parental love and
pride of family, and even racial prestige, all contribute to the
make-up of the dominant personalities of the business world. Whether
competitive profit-making or capitalism promotes greed and
oppression, and depresses public spirit--like the analogous
accusations that State employment favours slackness and lessens
initiative, and that vocational organisation furthers exclusiveness
and stale technique--are all alike questions to be investigated.
"By their fruits ye shall know them"--I would add, more especially
by the spiritual fruits, i.e. by the characteristic state of mind
which any particular institution brings about in the individual, and
in the community, the character which it produces, as manifested in
the conduct of individuals and organisations. I believe that we have
here a most fruitful field for enquiry. We might discover that each
type of organisation (or absence of organisation), each social
institution, has its own peculiar "social diseases," which will
lead to senility or death unless arrested--arrested, possibly, by
the presence or the development of another and complementary social

Assuming that we give up the conception of a separate abstract
science of Political Economy or Economics, the adjective "economic"
might then be reserved to define the relations between men arising
out of their means of livelihood or subsistence; or, to put it in
another way, which can be weighed and measured in terms of money--
whatever may be the social institution in which these relations
occur; exactly as we use the terms racial, political, legal,
sporting or sexual, to describe the types of relationships having
other objects or ends. Thus we should have the economics of art, or
of sport, or of marriage, or of medicine, as the case might be, just
as we have the legal aspects of business enterprise, of the family
or of municipal government.

A necessary implication of this new classification would be that
what would have to be investigated, described and analysed are the
social institutions themselves, as they exist or have existed, not
any assumed "laws," unchanging and ubiquitous, comparable with the
law of gravity, any failure of correspondence with the facts being
dismissed as friction. A second corollary is that these social
institutions, like other organic structures, have to be studied, not
in any assumed perfection of development, but in all the changing
phases of growing social tissue, from embryo to corpse, in health
and perversion, in short, as the birth, growth, disease and death of
actual social relationships. And their diseases may even be the most
interesting part of the study!

Let us explore some of the advantages to be gained by this new
departure. For instance, confronted with the accumulation of
demoralised labour in our big towns, and notably at the dock gates,
the mechanistic doctrines of the orthodox economists are waste
words. The so-called "economic law" "that labour goes where it is
best paid," one of the many deductions from the metaphysical theory
that all men follow their pecuniary self-interest, is here glaringly
falsified by events. Labour in this case goes where it is worst
paid, and remains there. Can we discover the sequence which leads to
this state of affairs? Taking the class of casual labourers as a
whole, we observe that their economic faculty is intermittent, and
that the majority of these individuals have always been, or have
become, mentally or physically unfit for persistent work. We can
even watch the process by which a countryman habituated to steady
and continuous work at regular wages becomes, under given
conditions, the under-employed, and eventually the unemployable
worker. The attractions of the big towns are obvious. The
distributive trades, and the industries of construction, offer more
odd jobs and more short jobs than the manufacturing or mining
industries; the metropolitan life yields greater amusement for
leisure hours than the life of the countryside or manufacturing

The existence of this particular leisure class may be summed up in
the seemingly paradoxical statement: the difficulty of living by
regular work and the ease of living without it! And I doubt whether
those who, either by birth or temperament, belong to, or through
circumstances have drifted into, this class of casual labourers
suffer much discontent with their condition. For their economic
desire, besides being inefficient, has sunk to the lowest level of
subjective quality. In spite of physical misery, they prefer a
leisurely life, in the midst of the debased excitements of a big
town, to a working life with comparative comfort under monotonous
conditions. They enjoy to the full a social intercourse unshackled
by moral conventions and unrestrained by the public opinion of a
small community--but (unlike the social life of the analogous class
in "good society") inspired by a most genuine spirit of warm-hearted
generosity. They are an attractive people, with all the charms of a
leisurely and cosmopolitan view of life, free from intellectual and
moral prejudices and as different from the true working class as are
the individuals who compose the leisure classes of "London Society"
from the professional classes in London and from the higher middle
class of our provincial towns. But they are essentially parasitic,
and like other parasitic growths, they tend to reduce the substance
they feed on to their own condition.149

To sum up: Unused economic faculty rapidly deteriorates into the
intermittent state--and efficient economic desire, if satisfied
without the obligation to produce, quickly becomes parasitic--a
conclusion which I had failed to reach from the abstract economics
of Ricardo and Marshall.

My subsequent enquiry into the low wages, long and irregular hours
and insanitary conditions of the slop-clothing trade of East London
(published in 1888) revealed an analogous correspondence between a
low type of economic faculty on the one hand, and, on the other,
poverty-stricken economic desire; resulting in the production and
use of the "balloon coat" and "soaped-up trousers," commodities as
hideous in appearance as they were wasteful in wear. As the extreme
contrast to this specially ignominious correlation of low faculty
and low desire, with its ugly offspring of slop-clothing, let us
look back on the mediaeval cathedral, the outcome of a combination
of the faculties of the anonymous God-intoxicated designer, leading
his groups of craftsmen, individually enthusiastic in the execution
of their manual arts, with the effective desire for a House of God
on the part of successive pious founders and the undoubting
community, which was then the congregation of the faithful. As a
contemporary, and a more complicated, contrast with the sweater's
workshop we may visualise the scientifically efficient factory of
the American business combine, organised by experts paid princely
salaries, affording regular employment at good wages, relatively
short hours of work, hygienic conditions and "welfare" institutions
for a mass of carefully graded employees--accompanied, it is true,
by hierarchical discipline and arbitrary promotion and dismissal,
the monotony of endless repetition work in extreme subdivision of
labour--producing in enormous quantities standardised commodities of
respectable quality and undeniable utility, whether "packet foods,"
gramophones, motor-cars or munitions of war, all accurately designed
to satisfy, in the main, merely the animal instincts of
self-preservation, the desire for common pleasures, and the greed
for power.

The keenness with which I was following up this conception of
economics as the study of the economic behaviour of particular
individuals and classes led me to discover one notable exception to
the rule, under the conditions of labour at the East End of London,
of progressive deterioration of the wage-earners, alike in their
production and their consumption of commodities. In the chapters on
the East End Tailoring Trade and on the Jewish Community,
contributed to Charles Booth's first volume (published in 1889), I
thus describe the exceptional characteristics of the immigrant Jew.

"In the East End tailoring trade the characteristic love of profit
in the Jewish race has a twofold tendency; to raise the workers as
individuals, and to depress the industry through which they rise.
Contractors and workers alike ascend in the social scale; taken as a
whole they shift upwards, leaving to the new-comer from foreign
lands the worst-paid work, the most dilapidated workshop and the
dirtiest lodgings."150

"As an industrial competitor [I write in my subsequent chapter on
the Jewish Community in the same volume] the Polish Jew is fettered
by no definite standard of life; it rises and falls with his
opportunities; he is not depressed by penury, and he is not
demoralised by gain. As a citizen of our many-sided metropolis he is
unmoved by those gusts of passion which lead to drunkenness and
crime; whilst, on the other hand, he pursues the main purposes of
personal existence, undistracted by the humours, illusions and
aspirations arising from the unsatisfied emotions of our more
complicated and less disciplined natures. Is it surprising,
therefore, that in this nineteenth century, with its ideal of
physical health, intellectual acquisition, and material prosperity,
the chosen people, with three thousand years of training, should in
some instances realise the promise made by Moses to their
forefathers: 'Thou shalt drive out nations mightier than thyself,
and thou shalt take their land as an inheritance?'"151


My brooding over the Theory of Value led me to the conception that
value arises in the satisfaction of a desire by the exercise of a
faculty. In "value in use," this union of exercise and satisfaction
may take place in one individual, as in the man eating the food
which he has produced; in "exchange-value" the union necessarily
involves a relation between two or more individuals.

Price is simply the expression in terms of money of the equation at
which a given faculty and a given desire, under given conditions,
consent to unite and generate exchange value: it is, so to speak,
the marriage settlement of economic life, and like many other
matrimonial arrangements it is not always to the advantage of both
parties. And moreover, in this vale of tears many faculties and many
desires do, as a matter of fact, remain unmarried; and thus fail to
generate exchange value. Indeed, it should be one of the main
objects of applied sociology to bring about the largest measure of
unbroken continuity and mutual satisfaction in an ever-increasing
stream of marriages between the economic faculties and economic
desires of the human race.

Now Karl Marx and his disciples, following Thompson, Hodgskin and
Ricardo, refused to recognise that it took the two to create the
third. According to his theory of value, economic faculty, or, as he
preferred to call it, "labour," is the sole origin of value; he
assumed that economic desire is, like the ether, always present; and
can therefore be neglected as a joint parent of value.152
Consequently, he overlooked all the processes by which the
correspondence or union of a particular faculty with a particular
desire is actually attained. To read Marx, one would think that it
was only necessary to make a yard of cloth in order to create
exchange value equal to the cost of production, together with a
handsome surplus! In the weird Marxian world, whilst men are
automata, commodities have souls; money is incarnated life, and
capital has a life-process of its own! This idea of an "automaton
owner," thus making profit without even being conscious of the
existence of any desire to be satisfied, is, to any one who has
lived within financial or industrial undertakings, in its glaring
discrepancy with facts, nothing less than grotesque.

With regard to the Co-operative Movement, it was my conception that
exchange value resulted from the correspondence or union of economic
faculty with economic desire that gave me the clue to what was then
a new idea, and what proved to be a true idea now universally
accepted, namely, that the British Co-operative Movement owed its
success to the fact that it was, in essence, an organisation of
consumers, controlling the production and distribution of
commodities in the interests of the consumers; and not, as had
hitherto been asserted, not only by the idealists of the movement,
but also by the Political Economists, an organisation of the
producers, for the purpose of owning the instruments of production
and controlling their own employment. Further, it seemed to me that
this organisation of consumers did not, of itself, supply a healthy
organisation of industrial activities. To save it from internal
disorder and degeneration, there needed to be some participation in
control by the representatives of the various classes of producers:
that, in fact, the manual workers' Trade Unions, together with the
brain-workers' professional organisations, were a necessary
complement to the Consumers' Co-operative Movement, as they are also
to the Political State and its derivative--municipal government.

Was it fantastic to suggest that this idea of the democratic
government of industry as a joint affair of consumers and producers
had some affinity with the idea of exchange value being the result
of a correspondence or union between economic faculty and economic
desire? "The proper relationship of Trade Unionism and co-operation
[so I tell a conference of Trade Union officials and co-operators in
1892] is that of an ideal marriage, in which each partner respects
the individuality and assists the work of the other, whilst both
cordially join forces to secure their common end--the Co-operative


(See Chapter Seven, Why I Became a Socialist, ". . . the ideal of
the control of industry by the workers concerned had the supreme
demerit that it would not work.")

THE Special Supplement on Co-operative Production and Profit-sharing,
published with the New Statesman of February 14,1914, (now out of
print) surveyed, up to that date, the success and failure of
associations of producers in France, Belgium, Italy, Germany and
Great Britain respectively. For the purpose of this analysis,
associations of producers were classified under three heads--the
Self-governing Workshop, Partial Autonomies (where the employees
exercise no effective control) and Dependents on Co-operative Stores
or other associations of consumers; capitalist profit-sharing and
co-partnership schemes being dealt with in a separate section of the

As this Supplement is not easily accessible, I reproduce our
conclusions on the causes of the ill-success of Associations of
Producers generally, and of the Self-governing Workshop in

"If we survey, as a whole, the past three-quarters of a century of
zealous and devoted work that has, in half-a-dozen different
countries, been put into forming Associations of Producers which
should themselves own the instruments of production and manage their
own industries, it is impossible to avoid a feeling of disappointment.
In none of the countries in which thousands of these societies have
been started do more than hundreds exist to-day; and most of these
are still in their struggling stage. They are, too, for the most
part, in industries permitting of business on a small scale; and
their enterprises neither employ any large numbers of workers, nor
administer any considerable amount of capital. Moreover, those
societies which have had any marked financial success, or have grown
to any size, prove, for the most part, to have departed considerably
from the form of the Self-governing Workshop--to such an extent,
indeed, that it is not far off the truth to say that the chance of
success seems to increase the further that form is left behind! The
actual outcome of all the effort and devotion is that, even in
France and Belgium, Italy and Great Britain, the countries in which
alone these Associations of Producers have been successful at all,
only a microscopical fraction of the manufacturing industry is
to-day carried on by anything like the Self-governing Workshop, in
the efficacy of which the Socialists of 1830-80 usually believed, or
by any really democratically controlled Associations of Producers in
any form whatsoever. Nor is it only in comparison with the
capitalist organisation of industry that the Associations of
Producers appear both feeble and futile. As we shall see in the
second part of our Report, other forms of the democratic
organisation of industry have, during the same three-quarters of a
century, grown apace, and are, in some cases, increasing even more
rapidly than the capitalist organisation itself.

"We cannot ascribe the failure of the Associations of Producers to
the fact that they have had to depend on voluntary recruiting or
that they were exposed to capitalist competition, or that they were
made up of manual workers and were entirely dependent for ability on
what the manual workers could supply. For all these considerations
apply, as we shall see, also to the great and growing Co-operative
Movement of Associations of Consumers, which has succeeded as
markedly as the Associations of Producers have failed. Indeed, so
far as financial and intellectual assistance from the other classes
is concerned, the Associations of Producers have, at all times, in
all countries, enjoyed much more help and encouragement and support
than the Association of Consumers. Similarly, of government favour,
at least in France and Italy, they have had much more. In Great
Britain, where the Government has done nothing for either form of
Co-operation, it is the Associations of Producers that have always
been patronised, advertised and eulogised by the great industrial
and political magnates, as well as by the Press. It is these
Associations of Producers that have always enjoyed, too, the special
sympathy, encouragement and support of those other industrial
organisations of the manual working class, the Trade Unions.

"Nor can we attribute the relative ill-success of the Associations
of Producers to the character of the individual workmen who have
taken part in them. Alike in France and Belgium, in Italy and Great
Britain, these Associations have constantly attracted many of the
finest intellects and noblest characters that the wage-earners have
produced. The disinterestedness, the untiring zeal, the
long-suffering, patient devotion that have been put into many of these
societies cannot be described otherwise than as heroic. It is sometimes
suggested that these Associations have suffered from lack of
capital. But in many cases capital has been forthcoming in
abundance, whilst lack of capital has not prevented other
working-class organisations from building up gigantic industrial
enterprises, any more than it has stood in the way of individual
capitalists amassing colossal fortunes out of beginnings even
smaller than those of Associations of Producers.

"We are driven to conclude, on the evidence, that the relative
ill-success of Associations of Producers--their almost invariable
experience of finding themselves thwarted, their high hopes
disappointed, and their very continuance a perpetual struggle--is
due to something in themselves, to be sought for in that which is
common to all, whatever their trades and whatever their countries.
It is not merely that the manual workers seldom have at their
command the sort of managerial ability that wins success in
capitalist industry. As we shall see in Part II of this Report, the
Associations of Consumers have proved that this difficulty can be
overcome. We infer that it is the very form of Associations of
Producers that is ill-adapted to survive. Applied to the democratic
control of industry, such a form seems to suffer inherently from
three leading disadvantages which may be seen militating against
efficiency in practically all the recorded experiments. The group of
workmen who make a particular commodity, though they may know all
the technical processes of their industry, do not seem able, when
they control their own enterprise, to secure, in a high degree,
either (1) adequate workshop discipline, or (2) the requisite
knowledge of the market, or (in) sufficient alacrity in changing
processes. With regard to workshop discipline, experience seems to
indicate that, with human nature as it is at present, it does not do
for those who have in the workshop to obey the manager, to be, as
committee-men, the direct employers of the manager. This drawback,
however, might conceivably be got over by the spread of education
and goodwill. More serious seems the almost necessary ignorance of
the manual working producer with regard to the market for his
commodities. Knowledge of the market means not only an acquaintance
with the channels of trade, but also a wide and accurate
appreciation of what it is that the users or consumers of the
commodity really desire and appreciate--a knowledge that must not be
limited merely to the statements that customers have actually made,
for there is much that will never be put into words. The successful
capitalist entrepreneur, like the representative of the consumer on
the committee of a co-operative store, is always on the alert to
divine and discover what each section of customers desires, and is
going to desire.

"With regard to alacrity in changing processes, the actual
producer, in any system of specialised industry--particularly if he
fears to lose by the change--is at a special disadvantage just
because he is himself a producer. The man who has learnt a
particular art or skill, and who has spent many years of his life in
a particular process, is necessarily to a large extent incapacitated
from responding quickly, and without resistance, to the need for
change. His very absorption in his own speciality, which has given
him his high degree of technical skill, stands in his way when it is
a matter of discerning and recognising the advent of a new
alternative; it may be a new material, it may be a new process, it
may be a new machine, it may be some entirely different commodity
that serves the old purpose better. When it is at last forced upon
his notice, he cannot admit that it is superior to the old; he
declines to believe that the consumers can be so ill-advised as
actually to prefer the new. The producer, in fact, is naturally and,
as it seems, inevitably biased against a change which will be
apparently to his disadvantage. The capitalist entrepreneur or the
agent or representative of a consumers' democracy, on the contrary,
has no such bias, and is prompt to seize his advantage by the
introduction of any novelty, regardless of its effect on the old
style of producers.

"We think that it is these inherent drawbacks of the Self-governing
Workshop, rather than any accidental or remediable defects, that
account for both the relative failure everywhere of this form of the
organisation of industry, and for the interesting line of
development which it has taken in Great Britain, and, to a lesser
extent, also in Belgium and Germany. In France and Italy, as we have
seen, the constitutions of the Associations of Producers are
virtually stereotyped by the conditions which the Governments impose
in return for their favours. But in Great Britain these little
establishments have remained free to alter as experience has
directed. What we see is that the Self-governing Workshop is hardly
ever, for any length of time, a stable form. Its essential feature,
the union in the same persons of manual workers and managers, hardly
ever endures. It is always tending to revert to the ordinary
separation of the capitalist system, of non-working capital owners
who control, of a manager subject to them who directs, and of manual
working wage-earners who obey. But there is, in Great Britain as in
Belgium and Germany, an alternative tendency in which we see both
instruction and hope. Many of the Associations of Producers have
tended to become attached, as subordinate adjuncts, to a more or
less formal federation of groups of Co-operative Associations of
Consumers, which are able to furnish all the capital required for
the most efficient production, which supply almost a 'tied' market,
and which provide, on the committee of management, representatives
of a working-class constituency who are not subject to the special
drawbacks of the actual producers of the commodities. The manager
finds in such a committee the support needed for the maintenance of
discipline and for the introduction of any innovations that are
called for. The manual workers themselves, though forgoing
management, may retain the position of security, independence and
personal dignity which participation in ownership can afford. This
is the position into which, as we have shown, the Hebden Bridge
Manufacturing Co., the co-operative printing societies of Manchester
and Leicester, and a whole group of other successful Associations of
Producers, have unconsciously drifted. This is the position, as we
believe, such of the other British Associations of Producers as
survive will more and more tend to assume. A similar tendency, we
note, is remarked by M. Vandervelde among those of Belgium."154 [The
New Statesman; Special Supplement on Cooperative Production and
Profit-sharing; February 14, 1914, pp. 20-22.]

Five years after this Supplement was published, there came, in Great
Britain, out of what was called Guild Socialism, in 1919-23, a
remarkable recrudescence of substantially the old kind of
Associations of Producers. Ignoring the repeated experiences of the
preceding ninety years, enthusiasts formed dozens of little "guilds"
of builders, tailors, printers, furniture makers, etc., which seem
to me to have had the same characteristics as their innumerable
predecessors. If anything, their failure was more complete and
catastrophic. A full and candid description of this latest
experiment in Associations of Producers would be of great value.

There is one thing that, after further reflection, I would add to
our repeated examination, between 1888 and 1923, of the attempts to
carry on industry by associations of any kind, whether of producers
or of consumers or of capitalists. Neither an invention nor a work
of art emanates from group government, whether of producers or
consumers or of profit-seeking shareholders. Given the appropriate
basis for group government, all sorts of industrial operations may
be successfully conducted, indefinitely expanded, and endlessly
developed in range and variety, without forgoing democratic control,
and with even greater security and continuity than profit-making
capitalism. The collectively controlled enterprise may be, as
experience has demonstrated, quick to adopt a new invention,
enterprising in experiment, and courageously patient in trial until
success is attained. But invention, like artistic production, must
be the work of an individual mind; or, very occasionally, of the
free interplay of the minds of two or three co-workers, untrammelled
by any "management," whether co-operative or governmental or
capitalistic. How far and by what means social organisation can
promote and increase either inventive or artistic genius deserves
further study. The inventor or the artist must have sufficient
leisure of body and mind, and sufficient freedom from the incessant
anxieties as to daily bread, to set his spirit free. Too severe and
too prolonged a penury depresses genius, and finally kills off its
possessors. On the other hand, the possession of wealth, and
especially the inheritance of wealth, seems almost invariably to
sterilise genius. It is hard for even the most diligent enquirer in
all countries, down all the centuries, to discover even half-a-dozen
inventors or artists of genius who have found themselves, on
arriving at manhood, in possession of any considerable wealth. It
must, I think, be admitted that, for those without a competence,
neither patents nor copyrights work satisfactorily in furnishing
genius with its opportunity. Nor can we conclude that governments
and co-operative societies are more successful patrons of inventive
or artistic genius, especially when it breaks out in new and
unexpected lines, than profitmaking capitalism. How much can be done
for genius by universal education; by scholarships and fellowships
(which might be instituted in connection with great industrial
undertakings as well as universities); by lightly tasked
professorships and even sinecure appointments with no other duties
than observation and reflection; by "measurement and publicity,"


147 The art of note-taking has been recognised by German and French
historians alike as necessary to the scientific historian. "Every
one agrees nowadays," observe the most noted French writers on the
study of history, "that it is advisable to collect materials on
separate cards or slips of paper. . . . The advantages of this
artifice are obvious; the detachability of the slips enables us to
group them at will in a host of different combinations; if necessary,
to change their places; it is easy to bring texts of the same kind
together, and to incorporate additions, as they are acquired, in the
interior of the groups to which they belong" (Introduction to the
Study of History, by Charles Langlois and Charles Seignobos,
translated by C. G. Berry, 1898, p. 103). "If what is in question,"
states the most learned German methodologist, "is a many-sided
subject, such as a history of a people or a great organisation, the
several sheets of notes must be so arranged that for each aspect of
the subject the material can be surveyed as a whole. With any
considerable work the notes must be taken upon separate loose
sheets, which can easily be arranged in different orders, and among
which sheets with new dates can be interpolated without difficulty"
(Lehrbuch der historischen Methode, by Bernheim, 1908, p. 555).

148 An instance may be given of the necessity of the "separate
sheet" system. Among the many sources of information from which we
constructed our book The Manor and the Borough were the hundreds of
reports on particular boroughs made by the Municipal Corporation
Commissioners in 1835. These four huge volumes are well arranged and
very fully indexed; they were in our own possession; we had read
them through more than once; and we had repeatedly consulted them on
particular points. We had, in fact, used them as if they had been
our own bound notebooks, thinking that this would suffice. But, in
the end, we found ourselves quite unable to digest and utilise this
material until we had written out every one of the innumerable facts
on a separate sheet of paper, so as to allow of the mechanical
absorption of these sheets among our other notes; of their complete
assortment by subjects; and of their being shuffled and reshuffled
to test hypotheses as to suggested co-existences and sequences.

149 A more detailed description of the behaviour of the lowest class
of casual labourers is given in my subsequent article on "The

"These men hang about for the 'odd hour' of work one day in the
seven. They live on stimulants and tobacco, varied with bread and
tea and salt fish. Their passion is gambling. Sections of them are
hereditary casuals; a larger portion drift from other trades. They
have a constitutional hatred to regularity and forethought, and a
need for paltry excitement. They are late risers, sharp-witted
talkers, and, above all, they have that agreeable tolerance for
their own and each other's vices which seems characteristic of a
purely leisure class, whether it lies at the top or the bottom of
society. But if we compare them with their brothers and sisters in
the London Club and West-end drawingroom we must admit that in one
respect they are strikingly superior. The stern reality of
ever-pressing starvation draws all together. Communism is a
necessity of their life: they share all with one another, and as a
class they are quixotically generous. It is this virtue and the
courage with which they face privation that lend a charm to life
among them" (Charles Booth's Life and Labour of the People, Final
Edition (1902), Poverty Series, vol. 4, chapter on The Docks, by
Beatrice Potter, pp. 31-2).

150 See Charles Booth's Life and Labour of the People, Final Edition
(1902), Poverty Series, vol. 4, chapter iii., on The Tailoring
Trade, by Beatrice Potter, p. 61.

151 Charles Booth's Final Edition (1902), Poverty Series, vol. 3,
chapter on The Jewish Community East London, by Beatrice Potter,
reprinted in Problems of Modern Industry, by S. and B. Webb
(1898), pp. 43-4.

The train of thought arising from this conception of economics as to
the study of different types of economic behaviour finds expression
in a note to Industrial Democracy (1897), by S. and B. Webb, pp.

"We are unable here to do more than refer to the existence of these
popular ideas as to the standard of life. How they originate--why,
for instance, the English workman should always have insisted on
eating costly and unnutritious wheaten bread, or why some classes or
races display so much more stubbornness of standard than others,
would be a fruitful subject for economic enquiry. We suggest, as a
hypothetical classification by way of starting-point, that the races
and classes of wage-earners seem to divide themselves into three
groups. There are those who, like the Anglo-Saxon skilled artisan,
will not work below a customary minimum standard of life, but who
have no maximum; that is to say, they will be stimulated to intenser
effort and new wants by every increase of income. There are races
who, like the African negro, have no assignable minimum, but a very
low maximum; they will work, that is, for indefinitely low wages,
but cannot be induced to work at all once their primitive wants are
satisfied. Finally, there is the Jew, who, as we think, is unique in
possessing neither a maximum nor a minimum; he will accept the
lowest terms rather than remain out of employment; as he rises in
the world new wants stimulate him to increased intensity of effort,
and no amount of income causes him to slacken his indefatigable
activity. To this remarkable elasticity in the standard of life is,
we suggest, to be attributed both the wealth and the poverty of the
Jews--the striking fact that their wage-earning class is permanently
the poorest in all Europe, whilst individual Jews are the wealthiest
men of their respective countries."

152 Commodities, therefore, in which equal quantities of labour are
embodied, or which can be produced in the same time, have the same
value. The value of one commodity is to the value of any other, as
the labour-time necessary for the production of the one is to that
necessary for the production of the other. "As values, all
commodities are only definite masses of congealed labour-time."
. . . (Capital, by Karl Marx; translation edited by Friedrich
Engels, 1887, vol. 1, p. 6.)

153 A paper read at a conference of Trade Union Officials and
Co-operators, Tynemouth, August 15, 1892; reprinted in Problems of
Modern Industry, by S. and B. Webb, 1898, p. 208.

154 Emile Vandervelde, La Cooperation neutre et la Cooperation


Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur Dyke.
Administrative Nihilism.
Aked family, the.
Allen, Grant.
Anti-Corn Law League.
Arnold, Dr.
Arnold, Matthew
Art, provision for.
Asquith, Rt. Hon. H. H. see Oxford and Asquith, Earl of
Asquith, Mrs. M., see Oxford and Asquith, Countess of
Aves, Ernest.

Bacup, working-class cousins at.
Bagehot, Walter.
Balfour, Earl of.
Barnett, Canon and Dame Henrietta.
Baylis, Lilian.
Beaconsfield, Earl of.
Beesly, E. S.
Beringer, Oscar.
Bernstein, Edouard.
Besant, Annie.
Birth Control; relation of, to destitution.
Blandford, Thomas.
Bond, Edward.
Booth, Rt. Hon. Charles.
Booth, Mary
Bowley, A. L.
Bradlaugh, Charles.
Brassey, Thomas.
Brentano, Luigi
Bright, Rt. Hon. John.
Brockway, Fenner.
Burnett, John.
Burns, Rt. Hon. John.
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney (afterwards Earl Buxton).

Cairnes, John Elliot.
Capitalist enterprise: my father's connection with; ethics of;
    attitude of Charles Booth to; relation of, to poverty; the
    sweating system and; relation of, to economic science;
    description of;
Carlyle, Thomas.
Census, use of, by Charles Booth.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. Joseph.
Charity, see Philanthropy.
Charity Organisation Society.
Chevalier, Michel.
Children, condition of; violation of.
Churchill, Lord Randolph;
Clark, Sir Andrew.
Clarke, William.
Cobden, Richard.
Comte, Auguste.
Cons, Emma.
Co-operation, Consumers'; the Self-governing Workshop; Annual
    Congress of Movement; rival schools of.
Co-operative News.
Co-operative Wholesale Society.
Co-operative Union.
Courtney of Penwith, Lady.
Courtney of Penwith, Lord.
Creighton, Mandell (Bishop of London), and Mrs. Louise Creighton.
Crimean War, wooden huts for.
Cripps (Potter), Blanche.
Cripps, Charles Alfred, see Parmoor, Lord
Cripps (Potter), Theresa.
Cripps, William Harrison.

"Dada," see Mills, Martha.
Darwin, Charles.
Dent, J. J.
Diaries, MS., beginning of; use of.
Dilke, Mrs. Ashton.
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles and Lady Dilke.
Dobbs (Potter), Rosalind Heyworth.
Docks, London.
Dunraven, Earl of.

East End Dwellings Company.
Eccles Manufacturing Society.
Ego that affirms and the Ego that denies, the.
Eliot, George. 313
Eliot, Canon.
Ellicott, C. J. (Bishop of Gloucester).

Fabian Society.
Factory and Workshop Acts, see State regulation.
Fawcett, Mrs. M. G.
Fay, C. R.
Fisher, Arabella.
Foreign Immigration. (see also Jews).
Froude, James Anthony.

Galton, Francis.
Garnett, Dr. Richard.
George, Henry.
Gladstone, Rt. Hon. W. E.
Goethe, Wolfgang von.
Granville, Earl.
Gray, J. C.
Green, Alice Stopford (Mrs. J.R.)
Grey of Fallodon, Viscount.
Guild Socialism.

Haldane, Viscount.
Hammond, J. L.
Harrison, Frederic, and Mrs. Harrison.
Hebden Bridge Fustian Manufacturing Society.
Herbert, Hon. Auberon.
Heyworth (family of).
Heyworth, Lawrence.
Heyworth, Lawrencina (afterwards Mrs. R. Potter).
Hill, Octavia.
Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Henry.
Hobhouse, Lord.
Hobhouse (Potter), Margaret.
Hobhouse, Stephen.
Hodgskin, Thomas.
Hodgson, Brian Houghton.
Holt (Potter), Laurencina.
Holt, Robert Durning.
Hooker, Sir Joseph.
Housing, working-class.
Hughes, Thomas.
Huxley, Thomas Henry.
Hyndman, H. M.

Incest, prevalence of.
Individualism, see Administrative Nihilism.
Industrial Revolution, the.
Interview, the method of, see Social science.
Invention, provision for.

Jackson, Martha, see Mills, Martha.
Jeune, Dr. (Bishop of Peterborough).
Jews, the.
Jones, Benjamin.

Kingsley, Charles (Canon of Westminster).
Knowles, Sir James.

Labour; the cotton operatives; classification of, according to
    occupation; casual; (see also Trade Unionism).
Labour Party.
Lecky, W. E. H.
Levy, Amy.
Lewes, George Henry.
Lewis, Sir George Cornewall.
Local Government, see Municipal enterprise.
Loch, Sir Charles Stewart.
London Society.
Ludlow, John Malcolm.

Macaulay, Charles Zachary.
Macaulay, Lord.
Macaulay, Mary, see Booth, Mary.
Mann, tom.
Manning, H. E. (Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster).
Marshall, Alfred.
Marshall, Mrs. Alfred.
Marx, Eleanor.
Marx, Karl.
Massingham, H. W.
Mathematics (and a ghost).
Maurice, F. D.
Maxwell, Sir William.
Meinertzhagen, Daniel.
Meinertzhagen (Potter), Georgina.
"Middleman," the.
Mill, John Stuart.
Mills (Jackson), Martha ("Dada").
Mitchell, John T. W.
Monkswell, Lord.
Morley, Viscount.
Morris, William.
Municipal enterprise.

Napoleon, Louis (Emperor of the French).
Nash, Vaughan.
Neale, Edward Vansittart.
Nevmson, H, W.
Newton, Sir Charles.
Nonconformist chapels.

Olivier, Lord.
Owen, Robert.
Oxford and Asquith, Earl of; Countess of.

Parasitic social classes, see Docks; Labour (casual); London
Parmoor, Lord.
Paul, Maurice Eden.
Pensions, Old Age.
Playne, Arthur.
Playne (Potter), Mary.
Political economy.
Ponsonby, Arthur.
Potter, Blanche, see Cripps, Blanche Potter, Catherine ((Kate, Kitty)
    see Courtney of Penwith, Lady Potter, Georgina, see Meinertzhagen,
    Georgina Potter, Laurencina (sister of Beatrice Potter), see
    Holt,      Laurencina Potter, Laurencina (mother of Beatrice
    Potter), Potter,      Margaret, see Hobhouse, Margaret, Potter,
    Mary, see Playne, Mary Potter, Richard (father of Beatrice
Potter, Richard (grandfather of Beatrice Potter).
Potter, Rosalind, see Dobbs, Rosalind Potter, Theresa,    see
    Cripps, Theresa.
Poverty, Charles Booth's enquiry into; {see also Socialism).
Price, W. E.
Psychology; riddle of.
Pycroft, Ella.

Raven, Charles E.
Reade, Winwood.
Redfern, Percy.
Religion; of the household saint; decay of Christianity; personal
experience; doctrine of the Atonement; Buddhism; Protestantism;
    the Roman Catholic Church; sacramental Christianity; the
    religion of humanity; of my working-class relations; almsgiving
    as religious exercise; of Samuel Barnett.
Rent collecting, see Housing
Ricardo, David.
Rochdale Manufacturing company.
Rochdale Pioneers' Society.
Ross, Sir Ronald.
Rowntree, B. Seebohm.
Russell, Hon. Bertrand.

Schloss, David L.
School attendance officers.
Schools, elementary, good effects of the.
Schreiner, Olive.
Science; optimism of; agnosticism of; method of; halls of;
Senior, Nassau W.
Shaw, G. Bernard.
Smith, Adam.
Smith, Sir Hubert Llewellyn.
Smith, Logan Pearsall.
Social Democratic Federation.
Social environment, my own; of the poor;
Social science, possibility of a; complexity of; note-taking, art
    of; method of wholesale interviewing; method of the interview;
    Francis Galton's method in; Charles Booth's contribution to;
    social diagnosis as the basis of.
Socialism; successive stages in; of Karl Marx.
Souvestre, Marie.
Spencer, Herbert.
State enterprise.
State  regulation.
Statistics, see Social science.
Sweating system; House of Lords Committee on.

Tagore, Rabindranath.
Taine, Henri.
Tawney, R. H.
Thompson, William.
Thring, Lord.
Tillett, Benjamin.
Toynbee, Arnold.
Toynbee Hall.
Trade Boards
Trade Unionism; need for.
United States; visit to.
Utilitarians,  economics  of the; ethics of the.

Value, Theory of.
Vandervelde, Emile.

Ward, Mrs. Humphry.
Webb, Sidney (The Other One)..
White, Arnold.
Williams, Arthur Dyson.
Wolf, A.
Women's Movement, the.


This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia