Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters/Chapter 11

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CHAPTER XI

LAST YEARS OF LIFE

1902–1912

Successful as was the period of work mentioned in the last chapter, it was soon followed by an event which produced a deep influence on the remaining years of Octavia’s life. Her mother had throughout her life been her most helpful guide and inspirer, and her death at the end of 1902 produced a blank which could not be filled. Yet, in spite of this blow, the last period of Octavia’s life was marked by much vigorous work, as will be seen by the quotations from her “Letters to her Fellow Workers.” The Ecclesiastical Commissioners had steadily increased her sphere of operations, and at the time of her death she and her fellow workers were managing property for the Commissioners in Southwark, Lambeth, Westminster, and Walworth.

But far more trying were the anxieties connected with the latest acquisition of house property in the West-end, since the houses in this district had been used for evil purposes; and others near them were still misused in the same way. This made it doubly difficult to raise the standard of living among the people, and to protect the respectable tenants from annoyance.

Yet even here the vigour and sympathy of her fellow workers gave her much encouragement, especially such utterances as that of the policeman mentioned in the letter dated November 28th, 1911.

In the Open Space movement she was much cheered by the acquisition of land at Gowbarrow overlooking Ullswater Lake; and she threw herself energetically into the plan for purchasing additional land on Mariners’ Hill, which had become peculiarly precious to her since the erection of the seat in memory of her mother.

But all this progress, in what she considered the proper work of her life, was interrupted, in 1907, by a duty which she was, at the time, rather disposed to look upon as likely to be barren of results. This was her appointment on the Royal Commission for enquiring into the working of the Poor Law. Nevertheless it will be seen from her letters that she heartily devoted herself to the rather exhausting labour of the visits to Institutions in various parts of the country, as well as the attendance at the sittings of the Commissioners. It should be mentioned also that the burden of her labours had been much increased by a recent carriage accident. The letter from Lord George Hamilton, the chairman of the Commission, shows that some, at least, of her colleagues found more value in her services than she was disposed to attach to them; and from other quarters, also, we have heard similar appreciation, from those who had opportunity of observing her work.

As so many words have been wasted on theories about her attitude towards the decisions of the Commissioners, I wish to call special attention to her letter to the Chairman, as showing the exact extent of her difference from, and agreement with, the conclusions of her colleagues.

Her steady dislike to undue Government interference with movements for assisting the poor showed itself also in 1909, in that part of her Letter to her Fellow Workers which refers to the attempts of the War Office to exploit the Cadet Corps.

In the same year she was greatly encouraged by the progress of the housing reform, carried on in Amsterdam and other towns by her Dutch friends, a progress which gave her special satisfaction.

But all these hopes and efforts were marred in 1910 by the loss of her sister Miranda, who from her earliest days had brought so bright and helpful an element into Octavia’s life, and Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/582 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/583 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/584 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/585 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/586 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/587 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/588 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/589 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/590 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/591 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/592 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/593 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/594 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/595 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/596 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/597 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/598 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/599 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/600 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/601 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/602 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/603 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/604 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/605 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/606 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/607 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/608 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/609 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/610 Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/611