Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters/Chapter 2
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Early Work in London.
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EARLY WORK IN LONDON
Through all the bright and free life at Finchley, Mrs. Hill had never forgotten that her daughters would have to earn their living. Miranda, indeed, at the age of thirteen, had begun to earn as a pupil teacher in the private school of a friend; and her sister Margaret mentions in a letter the characteristic fact that Miranda had wished to give some of her first earnings to her half-sisters, who were starting a school. When, then, these sisters realised that Mrs. Hill was considering Octavia’s future work, they, in their turn, offered to give her a free education, as a start in life. On the other hand, Octavia’s artistic talent had already attracted the attention of Mrs. Hill’s friend, Miss Margaret Gillies; and she offered to train Octavia in her studio. Both these offers attracted Octavia herself; but Mrs. Hill did not wish to part with her. Whilst she was still hesitating, her attention was drawn to the notice of an Exhibition, to be held at 4 Russell Place, Fitzroy Square, of special preparations of painted glass, consolidated so as to make it suitable for tables and other purposes. She found that Miss Wallace, the patentee, was promoting the Exhibition, partly to secure work for some Polish exiles, in whom she was interested, partly with the more general aim of finding regular suitable paying employment for ladies.
Mrs. Hill mentions that her first thought was that Miranda, whose overflowing fancy seemed to her dangerously unpractical, might be roused to more steady work by such an occupation as this. But it was natural that it soon occurred to her that Octavia’s admitted artistic talent might also be utilised in this way. So she applied for admission for both her daughters to this work. But, as Miss Wallace was unable to carry on the business, Mr. Vansittart Neale most generously came forward with the capital, in order to carry it on on a co-operative basis. He asked Mrs. Hill to become the manager, which she very gladly consented to do, as she was much interested in co-operation and in the employment of women.
Such was Octavia's first introduction to London. The change from the healthy open-air life at Finchley, and from the beauty of the country, to the ugliness of her new surroundings told heavily on her spirits; and this depression was increased by the sudden sense of the evil and misery in the world. Among the workers at the Guild was a Miss Joanna Graham, who rapidly became a warm friend of Miranda's. She introduced both sisters to the "London Labour and the London Poor," then just brought out by Mayhew; also to the pamphlets and other essays written by the Christian Socialist leaders of the movement with which Mr. Neale had already brought them into contact. The pictures given by Mayhew of the life of the London poor, and the desire awakened by the Christian Socialists to struggle against evils, which seemed to her irresistible, produced in Octavia such a state of mind that she began to think that all laughter or amusement was wicked. Miranda, always able to see the humorous side of a question, tried to laugh her out of this extreme depression; and, when Octavia persisted, the elder sister composed an imaginary epitaph on herself, supposed to be written by Octavia:
"Her foibles were many, her virtues were few;
This produced a most startling letter of stern remonstrance from Octavia; so stern that one is relieved to find it closed by a loving message and followed by a P.S. "Love to all. Thank you for the apples."
Of course, this extreme gloom, unnatural in any young girl, was especially out of keeping with anyone of Octavia's buoyant temperament, and the happy busy life at the Ladies' Guild soon had its effect.
The following account given by Mrs. Hill in April, 1856, shows somewhat of the social life. "The ladies used to go to lectures together. In this case, the subject of the lecture became, next day, that of the conversation in the workroom. The conversation in general fell on interesting subjects, the favourite subjects being politics, religion, art, news, the country and its scenery, poverty and wages, etc. A very favourite subject was the derivation and definition of words; then the ladies would join their voices in chorus, taking different parts. Indeed a merrier company, 'within the limits of becoming mirth,' the writer never chanced to see. There was generally some joke in hand. In the winter, they often assembled in the evening at the Guild. Sometimes they drank tea together, and afterwards sang and danced joyously."
The artistic work at the Guild brought Octavia into contact with the Rogers family. Mr. G. Rogers was wood carver to the Queen, and produced some very interesting work. All his family had artistic leanings; but it was his daughter, who is best known by her writings on Palestine, who specially attracted Octavia, and for whom she formed one of those enthusiastic friendships which exercised so marked an influence on her life. A younger friend, whose name was afterwards to be so closely associated with Octavia's, was Miss Emma Cons. She, like Octavia, was much interested in art; and, on the other hand, her high girlish spirits called out in Octavia again the old love of exercise and fun that had shown itself so strongly in the Finchley days. Indeed Miss Cons was so much given to romps that Octavia's fellow workers (including her sisters) were rather startled at the attraction which her new friend had for her. But it is clear from the letters, produced here, that Octavia saw the real power concealed for the time under these hoydenish ways; and she marked her as one on whom she could rely, and from whom she expected much.
But it must not be forgotten that among the most important of these influences, then at work on Octavia, were the characters and teaching of the Christian Socialist leaders. Soon after joining the Guild she had begun to attend the lectures at the Hall of Association; and her attendance at Lincoln's Inn Chapel brought her in 1852 under the influence of my father, Rev. F. D. Maurice. She and Emily attended the daily morning service; and, after a time, my father used often to let them walk back with him, and he would answer many of Octavia's difficulties about religious and social questions. On one occasion she asked him if it would not be very nice if one could get rid of all responsibility. He laughed and said it would indeed be very comfortable. But that she did not shirk responsibility is shown by the following incident. It was in the early days of the Guild, when Octavia was only about fourteen, that she was alone in the house with the exception of Mrs. Horne, who was at the top of the house. It was Sunday; and everyone else had gone to Church. On coming out of a second-floor room she saw a man standing near the door of a large cupboard, in which she supposed he must have hidden. "How did you come up here?" she asked. "I came up the stairs," replied the man. "Then you will please to walk down again," said Octavia in a quiet tone. He obeyed her, and she walked behind him down three long flights of stairs, and saw him out at the front door. Her sense of responsibility was the greater because some money, belonging to the Guild, had been paid late on Saturday and was in the office.
After the Guild had been carried on for some time, Mr. Neale was asked to take over a new kind of work, which a lady had started in order to employ some Ragged School children. This was the making of a special kind of toy which she had invented; and Mr. Neale appointed Octavia head of the work-room. The following account is given by my wife and her sister Miranda. The management of the toy-making helped to "develop Octavia's business faculties. She had to pass the children's work, which was paid by the piece, to assign the various processes to each child, to choose the shapes and colours of the toy furniture, to price it, and to see that, when the suites were finished, they were neatly packed in boxes and sent over to the show room, where the ladies' glass work was also exhibited. From time to time she had to take stock, and to see if the sales justified the expenditure.
"Her daily intercourse with the girls taught her to know intimately the life of the poor. Most of the children came from very poor homes, and had, though so young, experienced great hardships. There was Louisa, an emotional, affectionate girl who had lost both parents, and helped to support herself and the aunt with whom she lived. She had worked at artificial flower-making, and told us how, when trade was busy, she had been kept late into the night, and had had to run frightened through the streets in the small hours of the morning, and tap at the window to wake her aunt. There was poor Denis whose face and neck were terribly disfigured with burns; but who had such a sweet pathetic voice that, when she sang, one forgot her ugliness. There was Clara, a tall, over-grown girl from a dirty home, who was half-starved and cruelly treated. She wore a low dress and short sleeves, and one could see her bones almost coming through her skin. On one occasion when her work was too slovenly to be passed, she burst into tears, and said that her mother would beat her if she did not take back the money expected of her. There was little Elizabeth, a stunted child of about nine, with so fierce a look that Octavia, in loving raillery, called her her little wild beast. She had never come with us on the Saturday-afternoon walks to Hampstead, but used to look wistfully after us. Once we pressed her very much to come, and then she exclaimed 'I cannot, I have to nurse the baby.'
"Another child was R. who was lost sight of, and later on was found in a dark cellar into which one descended by a ladder, where she sat all day to sell pennyworths of coal. She was half-starved and unkindly treated, but she seemed to take that as a matter of course; what she did resent was that her cat was starved. Later on Octavia sent her to an Industrial School; and after some years she emigrated, and wrote to tell of her happy married life.
"Harriet and her sister were of a higher class, and had a clean, respectable home. They were earnest Methodists. We lost sight of Harriet for forty years, and then found her very happily married. She had remembered Octavia with the deepest affection, and had preserved all her letters.
"The girls were in the habit of bringing their dinners to eat in the work-room, and what they brought was very poor fare. Octavia suggested that they should club together to buy their food, and that each girl in turn should cook it. The long table was cleared, and a white cloth laid, and the food served nicely. Octavia brought over her own luncheon to eat with the girls, and, after the Grace had been sung, it was a pretty sight to see the sad, careworn faces of the children light up, as they sat round the table while she talked to them. Among other things, she learnt to scrub the floor, in order to teach the children to keep the work-room clean.
"A good many of the girls were older than Octavia and inclined to be insubordinate, but she very soon established order, and that without recourse to punishment. The girls had been accustomed to be fined for offences, and they were quite amazed when they found this was no longer the case. On one occasion they refused to scrub the work-tables, which was part of their daily duty. Immediately Octavia and her two younger sisters set to work to do the scrubbing, and soon the girls gave in. They had been fined for swearing, but the swearing soon ceased, and they sang hymns or nice songs. Octavia was their leader and companion in all that they did, and this sharing in their work, and yet leading the way, won them all to obey as well as to love her. Sometimes, on a Saturday afternoon, she would take her little group of workers for a walk to Hampstead Heath or Bishop's Wood. Her sister Gertrude remembers walking in Highgate Lane on a spring afternoon with Professor Owen, who was quietly explaining something about the mosses on Lord Mansfield's fence—all being very still—when, to her surprise, the hedge was broken open, and, with a burst of joy, who should leap down from the bank with a staff in her hand and a straw hat torn by the thicket but Octavia, followed by a troop of ragged toy-workers, happy and flushed, each with a lap full of blue-bells. Octavia stayed for a minute to speak to her sister and the Professor; then off they all went back into the wood and away towards Finchley.
"Schools were not what they are now, and Octavia was amazed at the ignorance of these girls. They quite believed that wolves and bears might be lurking in the woods; and they did not know the names of any of the flowers. It was afterwards arranged that Miranda should give the girls lessons for an hour or so each afternoon."
In 1854 Dr. Southwood Smith left Hillside and moved to Weybridge, where his grandchildren were always welcomed in the same loving way that they had been at Highgate.
But, before he could move, he was seized with a severe illness which necessitated an operation. A few weeks later his granddaughter Emily was attacked by scarlet fever, and her life was despaired of by two doctors. Then her grandfather, in spite of his weak state, came back to London, and saved her life; and when she could be removed, took her to Weybridge to watch over her convalescence. This of course withdrew her from the toy work, and threw more of the burden on Octavia. A year later her youngest sister Florence was also withdrawn from the work by ill-health, and taken to Italy by her aunt, Miss Emily Smith, who gave her loving care for six years. It was in the summer of 1855 that an expedition of the toy-workers into the country led to the formation of some important friendships. Mrs. Harrison, to whose house at Romford they were invited, was the sister of Mrs. Howitt, and she and her family became warm friends of Octavia's. Some of the letters given further on were written to Mary, the eldest daughter, who was very artistic.
But even more important was the friendship then formed with Miss Mary Harris, a member of the Society of Friends, who was a great deal older than Octavia, and whose calm, loving nature was a great rest to her. From the time they first met till 1893, when Miss Harris died, Octavia poured out more of her secret thoughts to her than to anyone else, and when they were away from each other wrote to her constantly.
On the occasion of this visit to Romford another guest was Mr. Ellis Yarnall, the American, whose letters to Lord Coleridge have lately been published. He recorded in his diary the following description of Miranda and Octavia.
"Some young ladies were expected, and with them about twenty children, girls to whom they are teaching some decorative arts. The children played in the grounds; the young ladies (Miranda and Octavia) were with us at luncheon; and we had a great deal of talk about Mr. Ruskin, who is a friend of theirs. They described his eloquence as a speaker, his earnestness of manner, his changing countenance, even when he was silent, as though thoughts grave and gay were passing through his mind. It was plain to me that his strong intellect and bright fancy were having their true influence on these young persons, themselves highly gifted and altogether like-minded, eighteen and sixteen or thereabouts—sisters. I was astonished at the strength of intellect which they displayed. The talk of the elder one especially was, I think, more striking than that of any person of her age I ever knew. She reminded me of Corinne and other women of renown. What a pleasure it was to look at her fine face with the glow of enthusiasm upon it, and to wonder whether gifts like hers would not one day produce fruits which the world would value. Her description of the effect which the hearing of Beethoven's music on some late occasion had had upon her was an utterance of passionate feeling showing true poetic susceptibility.
"They are the granddaughters of Dr. Southwood Smith."
Towards the end of 1855 an important event took place, which led to Mrs. Hill's withdrawal from the Ladies' Guild. My father had been interested in Octavia's work for the Toy workers, and offered to take a Bible Class for them. The Theological Essays controversy was just then at burning point; and the ladies who had handed over the business part of the toy work, still considered that they had a right to interfere about the religious instruction of the children. These ladies were very Evangelical (as Evangelicalism went in those days) and they threatened to withdraw all pecuniary help and the support of the Ragged School Union, if my father was allowed to teach the girls. The managers of the business were so much alarmed at this threat that they asked my father to withdraw his offer. Mrs. Hill and her daughters were naturally very indignant at this; and Mrs. Hill's protests led to her losing the post of Manager at the Guild. She and Emily went to Weybridge. Miranda and Octavia continued to work for a time; but when it seemed likely that the Guild would fail, Miranda obtained daily teaching and Octavia applied to Ruskin to learn from him if there would be any chance of her supporting herself by painting. He replied most kindly, and asked her to let him have a table-top designed and painted by herself. This design was a spray of bramble leaves in all their brilliant autumn colours, encircling the centre space which formed a background that was dark at one part and gradually grew lighter, and finally changed into soft blue, suggesting storm clouds passing away, and leaving a bright sky. Round the edge, among the leaves, were the words of the Psalm, " He brought them out of darkness and out of the shadow of death, and brake their bonds in sunder."
This led to Ruskin's undertaking to train Octavia and give her work. Soon after this came the final crisis at the Guild; and Octavia obtained the appointment mentioned in the last letter of this chapter.
June 14th, 1852.
Thank you many many times for your sweet letter. It was such a comfort to me.
I am very well indeed now. I do not know when I have been better, except that I am rather weak. I am at Finchley with Minnie. I long dreadfully to go to town; but I think I can wait patiently till Wednesday.
I have been very unfortunate in being away from the Guild just at this time. Do you know Mr. Walter Cooper has been there? and Mr. Lewis and the trustees (Mr. Furnivall) go there so often; and all the bustle, and trying to feel Christian-like to Mr. and Miss ———. O, would it not have been delightful!
I have Miss Graham's books here; they are so interesting. I am so very happy when I am reading them. My interest gets deeper and stronger every day. I wish, oh! I so long, to do something, and I cannot. Andy! do you think I ever shall be able to do anything really useful?
I do not at all like Mr.———, or rather I entirely despise and dislike his opinions. I will tell you all about it when I see you. I will only tell you now that he likes "the subordination of the employed to the employer"; and he thinks "there is no tribunal so proper as the discretion of the employer to decide those delicate questions of the personal conduct of the employed." Did you ever hear of such a thing? Is it not horrible?
Mr. Furnivall I admire more and more the more I know and read of him; and, as to Mr. Ludlow, certainly there is not (excepting Mr. Furnivall) such a person in the whole world. He has the largest, clearest, best-balanced mind joined to the truest most earnest wish to help the working classes I ever met with (of course excepting Mr. Furnivall's).
I have read to-day his "Christian Socialism and its Opponents." All I can say of it, and all he writes is that it is grand, and that I never can forget it, or cease to be grateful for it. His lectures have sunk deeper into my heart than anything else; one reason is, I dare say, that they were the first; but they were most noble and grand; his own great soul seemed to breathe itself into his works. But I forget I shall get no sympathy from you. I must tell Miss Graham. Andy, do you think Mr. Furnivall will bring him to the Guild? Do you think he meant it; or, if not, do you think we ever shall know him?
The Festival will be on Monday. I am looking forward to it with such pleasure. I do so long to see you; it seems ages since I did; I want to know what you think about the 'Guild'; I do so want your advice, too, upon a thousand subjects. I have a good deal to read to you, which I have written since you were away. Give my dearest love to Miss Graham. Tell her I never can thank her enough for all the noble and beautiful books she has lent me; that, as to the Christian Socialist, I never never before read anything which inspired such earnest longing to do something for the cause of association; and it interested me so very much that the hours I have spent in reading that are never to be forgotten; they were unequalled in pleasure to any that I have ever spent in reading; and that, if I live years and years, I shall never forget, or cease to remember with gratitude that it was to her that I owe the great happiness of first reading a Socialist book, which I consider one of the greatest happinesses any one can have. Thank her, also, for the other books; tell her the "Cheap Clothes and Nasty" and "Labour and the Poor" are some of the most dreadful things I ever read. They have made a deep impression on me. How delightful the History of the Working Tailors' Association is!
Do you know I have a post at the Guild? I have to give out the stores and am responsible for them. The ladies have all sent me a book as a testimony of their gratitude to me for reading to them. How very kind it is of them! Dear Laura has written me such a sweet letter. I love to think of you among those lovely scenes by the beautiful sea, with dear Miss Graham. …
Your own loving little sister, Ockey.
I am sadly afraid the Journal will stop at Midsummer. What is to become of me???
July 27th, 1852.
Miranda to Joanna Graham,
We all declare that we have never spent a more glorious evening. I think I never saw such a face as Mr. Kingsley's. That face was the chief pleasure of all, though there was a most splendid collection of people there. We went a party of six, Ockey, Mama, Mary, I, Mr. Rogers, and Miss Cons. We met Walter Cooper at the door, and he was very kind and seemed glad to see us. The Hall was very crowded but he got seats for us. Mama and I were together. We looked round and got glimpses of the Promoters. Mary fixed on Mr. Neale at once and was delighted with him. She noticed his head among all the rest and admired it almost more than any. … Suddenly, amongst a great crowd of faces, Mary pointed out one to me and asked if that was Mr. Kingsley, and it was. Mary thought it noble. Mr. Neale introduced Kingsley to Mama, and he talked to her for some time … and Mr. Neale introduced Mr. Ludlow to Mama, much to Ockey's delight. … I think Mr. Kingsley's face extremely suffering and full of the deepest feeling. But there is such a sublime spirituality; he looks so far above this earth, as if he were rapt up in grand reveries; one feels such intense humility and awe of him. I hardly dared look at him; and the more I looked, the more I felt what a grand thing the human soul is when developed as it is in him. Professor Maurice was called to the chair, and he made a nice speech. He seemed as if he felt a great deal more than he could express, and therefore left feelings rather than ideas in one's mind. He said a great deal about self-sacrifice; though he said he felt almost ashamed to speak of self-sacrifice to working men, while he himself was in possession of all the comforts of life. He had to leave after he had made his speech; and, just as he was about to leave the platform, Mr. Cooper said that the Manager of the Builders' Association, Mr. Pickard, would read an address to Professor Maurice as an embodiment of the sentiments of the Associations, and that the Manager of the Printers would present him with a testimonial, the exclusive gift of the working men. The address of thanks was very nicely expressed; and then the testimonial, a silver inkstand, was presented. It was so touching to think of all those poor working men, who had worked so hard to earn the money to make the testimonial, and the beautiful spirit of gratitude. I could not restrain my tears. Professor Maurice answered the address and thanked them in the most heartfelt manner. After he left, Mr. Hansard was put in the chair, and Lloyd Jones spoke on Cooperative Stores. Mr. Newton spoke on Mechanics' Institutes, and said they were not at all satisfactory as far as they professed to educate the working men. Someone in the Hall got up and said that he knew of one gentleman on the Committee of these Institutes, who, in opposition to the majority of the Committee, threatened to resign if "Alton Locke" was allowed in the Library. I could not see Mr. Kingsley's face. … The next subject was the Industrial and Provident Societies Bill which had just been passed. Mr. Kingsley then made a short speech; one knew at once that it was a poet who was speaking. … Gerald Massey's is a very fine face. He has dreamy eyes and wild looking hair; but, after the others, he's not to be thought of.
October 22nd, 1852.
Oh Gertrude! I am so happy, so very very happy. I wish you were with me. You would so love all my beautiful things. I will tell you about them when you come. I have a little room, all to myself. When anything is wrong or unjust down stairs, I have only to come up into my own little room, and it is so still. It is full of such happy recollections. I have my nice books; all my great soul-inspiring books are here. Then I have all my writing things. I write a great deal now. I have such a beautiful book of extracts that I have made. I have usually some flowers; for the ladies are very kind in bringing me them. I have a few poor little plants that I am fond of. Then I have eleven dear little snails. They are such darlings. And then, Gertrude, I have my drawing things. I do not let anyone see my drawings. I do not do much. It is sad to think, after I have done anything, "And, after all your visions of grandeur and beauty, is this all you can produce?" I believe I am very wrong about my drawing; I never draw things for the sake of learning. I try things above me. I have such dreams, both day and night, of what I would do, and when I try what do I see? A little miserable scrap that is not worth looking at. Once I tried a figure. Of course it was frightful. … We have returned Ruskin. I do so miss it. It was so very beautiful. This evening I have found such an extract from "Modern Painters" that I shall copy it for you.
Do you go on with your drawing? I hope you do. Oh Gertrude! is it not a glorious thing to think that a divine thought should descend for ages and ages? Think of Raphael and Michael Angelo! (though I know but little of them).—To think that every grand feeling they had they could preserve for centuries! Oh what an influence they must have! Think of the thousands of great thoughts they must have created in people's minds; the millions of sorrow that one great picture (one truly great picture) would calm and comfort. Will that never be painted again? Do you think there will? And when? I am going to see the Dulwich Gallery soon. Is it not glorious? I wish you could see a bit of hawthorn I have here, such colours! I am writing a curious letter; just what comes foremost in my mind. … When I have finished work and go up to tea, if any one is out of spirits, it makes me so; and I feel (do you know what I mean?) a tear in my throat.
July 13th, /53.
I write to you because I wish to give you a happier impression of me than you can have from Tuesday. I am all alone; it is so still; and I am very happy; now I will try and account for the strange state I was in last night.
When I got into the country I felt that, if I stayed looking at sky and trees and flowers, my friends would think me dull and become dull themselves and spoil all enjoyment. So all the day my whole energies were "stretched" to be merry and lively. I felt that if I waited one moment to look at anything, I should never tear myself away, and I got into a wild state. I did enjoy very much the mere exercise, and the mirth, and happiness of every one. I hardly thought all this; I only felt it. Then, at the singing class, the strain being over, and having nothing to sustain me, I sank into low spirits. As we were singing "Oh come ye into the summer woods," a longing came over me to be there; a dim recollection of tops of the trees with the evening sun upon them, a panting desire to sit there, and cry myself quiet. …
But it is all too beautiful now; I could almost fancy myself at home. … As to my drawing, whether I will or no I must go on with that; and, though I do not hope, I trust. …
September 18th, /53.
I fully intended to come over to you to-day, but I have a sore foot, and can only limp to the classes. Private. On Wednesday evening I went to see Miss Cooper, and spent the whole evening there. Just as I was going William Cooper came in and told me (don't tell anyone) that they have discovered heresy in Professor Maurice's last book, and he will probably be expelled from the Church. I had not time to ask any questions, as Miss Cooper returned, and she is not to know. Professor Maurice came to town on Monday night, went to Walter Cooper on Tuesday before Miss Cooper was out of bed, and returned to the country in the evening. … On Thursday there was a Council. Walter Cooper looks very grave and rather ill and anxious. What all this betokens, I cannot guess; but I fear something sad.
Mr. Edwards will give us a large order for a skirting board of marble if we can do it for 8d. a foot; also an order for a painted glass conservatory.
If any of you love me, see if you can't send me a piece of Indian ink and a paint brush, and "The Land we live in," and look out for some toys, or books that you don't want—the latter two for the little child at the needlewoman's.
November 27th, 1853.
About Ruskin, it matters very little to me what The Times, or anything else, says of him. I see much, very very much, to admire in him, and several things which I could wish different. If, as I suppose, The Times accuses him of affectation of style and want of humility, I entirely deny the first charge; as I think there is never a single word he writes, which could have been left out without loss, or changed without spoiling the idea; and, if it means that each sentence of his has a beauty of sound as well as of meaning, I say that it is to me all the more right for that; and that to be able to reproduce that sound is a gift not to be neglected. … As to the second objection I say, if Ruskin sees a truth which is generally denied, he is right to proclaim it with his whole strength. He says not "I see it is so because I am a higher creature than you," but "I see it, because I have gone to God, and His works for it. You may all see it, if you will look, using the powers He has given you; only look in sincerity and humility. It is only because I am humble, because I am content to give up my own ideas and notions, to take the truth because it is God's, to believe that it is good and right. It is only so I can discover harmony in this universe, and I am sent (he says) with a loud voice to proclaim this to you."
December 5th, 1853.
Ruskin has been here. All went as well as I could possibly wish. He was most delighted with the things, as showing the wonderful power we possess of introducing and preserving colour. He gave us some most interesting and useful hints about colour, and ordered five slabs to be painted for him; adapting two of the designs he wanted from some we had, which Mr. Terry was to go to his house to do on Monday. He offered to lend us some things to copy. If you had seen the kind, gentle way in which he spoke, the interest he showed, the noble way in which he treated every subject, the pretty way in which he gave the order, and lastly, if you had seen him as he said on going away, his eyes full of tears, "I wish you all success with all my heart," you would have said with me that it was utterly wonderful to think that that was the man who was accused of being mad, presumptuous, conceited and prejudiced. If it be prejudice to love right and beauty, if it be conceited to declare that God had revealed them to you, to endeavour to make your voice heard in their defence, if it be mad to believe in their triumph, and that we must work to make them triumph, then he is all four, and may God make us all so! … All my sisters, Kitty and Mama, have given me Mr. Maurice's "Ancient Philosophy" and have written in it "From her sisters in affection and work." This sentence makes me very happy. I know it is true. I know our work has bound us together. … Another thing happened on Sunday which pleased me very much. Mr. Neale heard Miranda talking about my birthday; and he said he was going to give me Mr. Maurice's "Prophets and Kings of the Old Testament." He came on Sunday on purpose to bring it. It seems such a glory that he does look upon us as related to him, not merely as receivers of wages, that he considers us workers with him. All that I have struggled to accomplish, so long and so wearily, seems just now to be succeeding, all fruitless as the work has seemed; the seeds buried, dead as I thought them, have sprung above the ground.
January 10th, 1854.
Mr. Cooper gave me last night a copy of the Address of the congregation at Lincoln's Inn to Mr. Maurice. He had asked Mr. Ludlow for it on purpose for me, and Mr. Ludlow had written my name on it.
I got "Yeast" for Miranda. Have you ever read it, and do you remember that Barnakill forbids Launcelot to be an artist? It has made a great impression on me.
February 10th, 1854.
Miranda to Miss Joanna Graham.
You have not heard yet that there is great thought of enrolling the Guild as an Industrial Society, under the new Act. Would it not be very nice? Mr. Neale had drawn out a set of rules; and he sent them to Mama for her to approve or make her remarks upon. There are however some difficulties in the way.
I have not yet been able to write a recollection of that very beautiful class at Mr. Maurice's; but I hope to do it.
June 11th, 1854.
(Speaking of Hillside.)
I hope that I may never, as long as I live, forget the sunny, bright happy hours I have passed there. There remains in my mind a recollection, a vision of beauty connected with it, which can never be effaced. …
Mr. Maurice has been speaking to-day of sacrifice as the link between man and man, and man and God. It was such a sermon! One feels as if all peace and quiet holiness were around one; everything appears to have a beauty and calm in it, to which we can turn back in times of storm and wild noisy rivalries, as to the memory of sunny days, and to shed a light on all dark and difficult things, on sorrow and loneliness. …
It is so still! A garnet coloured glass is on the table full of bright golden buttercups, and grass; now the door is open they tremble in the wind, carrying one back to slopes of long grass full of buttercups and sorrel, as the evening wind sweeps over it.
September 17th, 1854.
(In the Lake Country.)
I have spent three happy evenings with Miss Rogers. I have had a very interesting conversation on religion with Charlie Bennett, Harry and Mr. Rogers. … You cannot think what pleasure your notes have been, telling us, as they do, of a life of rest and beauty. One doesn't seem to know much about that sort of thing, and yet they seem to speak of home to you, as not many things do. One thing will be that you will be able to understand Ruskin infinitely better than you would have done. I imagine that some of the descriptions, that appear to us bright images of things almost vague at times (they are so far off), will remind you of actual beauties that you have really seen, memories connected with life. Ruskin has done something to rescue many things from vagueness. He has embodied them in words which will convey these impressions they gave you, as nobody else ever has, I believe. …
I have been to Westminster Abbey with Miss Cons, have I ever spoken about her to you? It seems to me that she is capable of a very great deal. She said something the other day about Mr. Maurice and Walter Cooper that made me very angry. I told her I would never tell her anything again; however, instead of that, I told her a great deal more than I ever did before. I told her that it was he who had led me to the Church, who had shown me a life in the creeds, the services and the Bible; who had interpreted for me much that was dark and puzzling in life; how the belief in a Father, a Son and a Holy Ghost might be the most real faith, not a dead notion; that I might believe, not only that God was manifesting himself to each man in the inward consciousness of light and beauty in himself and all around; that those had led to infinite perplexities and doubts, but that a real person had come amongst us, who had known the Father, whose will had been brought into harmony with His; that He was stronger than doubts and sorrow and had overcome them; that He had declared that we might have life, that life was knowledge of God. From this conversation came a determination that Miss Cons and I should read the Theological Essays together.
… Oh if you could but see my ferns and all my things here. I have so many things I want to do in this room, but they all want money, sometimes as little as threepence, sometimes several pounds. It is perfect, because everything is progressing. The ivy will some day creep around the windows. I shall some day know my books better, and perhaps at last the room will be all grey stone, the window Gothic, and there may be pictures of my own painting; and the stony walls may be covered with wild masses of leaves standing out boldly in the sunlight, with their shadows sharp and dark on the grey background.
I began this letter to-day, as the first sunbeam fell on my flowers. Nobody could have been happier. Now I have run up from work to finish it, feeling very cross. Kitty has complained to Mama that Miss Cons and I make a great deal of noise. We never do anything but talk. Never mind! she'll find me silent enough.
March 14th, 1855.
I find on reflection that it will be a rather more difficult undertaking than I imagined to write to you every two days. However I will do my best.
You will have seen, by this time, what a wonderful event is about to take place in my life, and will, no doubt, have realized what it will be to me. But, however wonderfully you may all enter into my feelings, or even discover them, I do not think any of you can really understand what this is to me, unless you could have looked into my heart continually for three years, and seen how at first he was only a friend of Mr. Furnivall's; then how his books were everything and he nothing; then how his name suggested a vision of vague beauty and distant and indefinite glory. … Still he was distant, almost unreal. He might be in Italy, or Palestine, or he might be passing me at that moment. … Perhaps in a year or two hence I may tell you what my thoughts were, and are at this period;—but, all this time I was learning to admire him more and more, and now leave the rest till after Friday.
I send you a prospectus of the College, which I beg you will return. Walter Cooper was with us last night; but I don't think we heard any news.
Anna Mary (Howitt) has fulfilled her promise to lend me "Modern Painters." She sent them yesterday; I leave you to put in all the marks of admiration and the "oh how delightfuls!" according to your own fancies; working people have no time for anything but facts, (not that the delight of reading " Modern Painters " is less a fact than that the book is in this house), but———
I am very bright to-night, as you may perceive, and am writing this in the most comfortable way, in bed. Tell F. that I expect she is quite a woman, and is quite independent of my letters, and, as I promised to write to you, she must not expect letters from me; but she must accept my kindness to Pussie, and my care of her plants, as the affectionate proof of my remembrance and friendship. Will you, dear children, think of me very earnestly on Friday at two; and try to see poor Mansfield's grave? I suppose there is not a single fern. You know how much I want them.
I'm getting a toothache with sitting up in the cold; so I must lie down and read. I've written to accept Ruskin's invitation.
March 16th, 1855.
There is only one thing to speak about just now, Ruskin. I have been,—fancy! We could not get an omnibus which would pass the door, without waiting till it would be too late. We took one which brought us to Camberwell Gate; we tore along, thinking we were late, and too much engrossed by that idea, to see or think of anything else. At last we arrived at a green gate with a lodge. We asked for Mr. Ruskin, and were sent on to the house. Imagine a handsome mansion or large villa, a broad sweep of gravel road leading to it, bordered by a lawn, on which stood an immense cedar of Lebanon, on the other a bank covered with golden celandines in full flower, and shaded by immense elms. Ascending a flight of steps leading to a glass door, we looked into a handsome hall; a footman came and showed us upstairs; we entered Mr. Ruskin's study, and he was there. He received us very warmly, asked us about our journey there, and about the weather, which I then for the first time perceived. The room was lofty, the furniture dark, the table covered with papers, the walls rich with pictures, a cabinet full of shells, with a dead fern or two; and looking out of the window over a garden (I never looked at it) on to a field which sloped very gently, more like a bit of park, large trees on it, with their shadows strongly marked by the bright sun, and very still; beyond, slopes of meadow and woodland, over which the shadows of large white clouds kept passing. Mr. Ruskin was very kind, and showed us numbers of manuscripts, which I admired more than I had any idea of, and sketches. He evidently thought my design well done, admired the fir and bramble, blamed my not knowing exactly what colours I should put everywhere, and illustrated these things—that in a fine design each thing is of importance, that the effect of the whole would be spoilt by the alteration of any part; that simplicity of form is needful to show colour; that no colour is precious till it is gradated; that grass is more yellow than we think; that holly is not green (made only with blue and yellow) (sic) but with crimson and white in it; that it is impossible to have colour on paper so light and so living as in nature; that, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, work becomes coarser, more floral, less grotesque than in the thirteenth. We had a delightful conversation about one thing. I remarked what a world of beauty he was surrounded with; and he answered that, if I could change places with him, I should be no happier than I am now. I said I knew that very well; but I affirmed there was a positive pleasure in a beautiful thing. He said he was very covetous, always wanting more; and that he desired happiness, but from the success of what he was doing; that he would part with all he possessed, if he could thereby insure that some real illuminators would arise. We then, though quite consistent, appeared to change sides in the argument. I said that there was as much pleasure to be found in London as in the country; that the beauties were more valued when seen, and the scraps of beauty more loved. He said that man was not meant to be in a constant state of enthusiasm (of which by the way we stand in no danger); that the blessing of the country was more negative; that brick walls were a positive pain. I said that I was very glad to say that, although sometimes feeling crushed by the ugliness, I could forget it. He ended by saying that, as I was fond of the country, he hoped after May, when the weather was warm, I should often go down there; and then, altering the reason of the invitation, he said that, if I wanted to refresh my memory and come to see his MSS., I could come any day and chance finding him at home; or, if I would send a line the day before, he would try and be at home. This is not half of this conversation, and we had several others, to say nothing of illustrations and propositions.
And now, M., do you, or do you not wish to hear what I think of it; that that which is asked for is given; that, well-used, this friendship (?), so happily begun, may be a long and growing one; that I have seen a world of beauty; and that this might be the opening to a more glorious path; and that I would give years, if I could bring to Ruskin "the peace which passeth all understanding"?
March 19th, 1855.
I ought to have written yesterday; but, as I cannot write on Saturdays, I thought it was well to get to the right days again. You must not think it unkind, if I do not write to you again, as Mr. Ruskin has lately sent us some work to do. Of course I wish to do it; so, as there is other work wanted, I shall have to do it in the evening. Mr. Maurice also will be home on Wednesday; and I am not sure that we shall not be admitted to two meetings there are to be … Tell F. her kettle mourns day and night at its loneliness, and muses over its utter uselessness; and the bookcase looks sadly dejected, but it has not told me the reason.
Don't expect a merry letter to-night. I am rather dejected. … I often wish now I were quite free and could work at what I liked. … It requires a strong heart to go on working, without anyone caring whether you are longing to do anything else. I am going to work all the Fast day at Ruskin's things; and God give me a brave heart, for I am sure nothing else can.
Dear child, I hope you are happy and enjoying the country very much. I long to see Mr. Maurice again. When I do, I shall have more to tell you, if I have time to write. I am very wretched. I am not to begin Ruskin's work to-morrow … I am trying very hard not to complain. If I have attained so far thro' all obstacles of three long years, surely I shall be helped to go farther; and surely there is a reward, there is a use in all the long hours I have worked, all the energy I have given; surely there is a brighter day coming. He who works for man must look to man for his reward; but we have worked for God, and He will reward us.
March 21st, 1855.
Thank you very much for your letter. I am very much interested by your account of that clergyman. I should think from what you say, that his influence must be very good. The mere fact of the congregation being so poor and degraded would seem to shew it. It is very difficult to tell what the doctrines of a man are from one sermon: and very likely you heard the worst side of them.
I have been to Lincoln's Inn to-day, and have heard Mr. Maurice, and have seen Mr. Hughes, Mr. Kingsley and Mr. Ludlow. Mr. Cooper advises me to go and see whether we shall be admitted at the meeting. Mr. Kingsley will preach at Bethnal Green on Sunday evening. I am in the very heart of painting Ruskin's designs, really enjoying it.
I have a copy of the form of prayer for to-day, which you will like to read when you return. Mr. Maurice preached such a beautiful sermon about it. The text was the 1st to 8th verses of 1st Chapter of S. Luke. He said that, three weeks ago all England was startled by the news that the man whom she had looked upon as her most deadly enemy was dead; that whatever hopes statesmen or merchants might entertain of the result, had proved wrong; that many people said there must be a purpose in this event; that however sinful it might be to rejoice over it, they could not but believe that it was working towards some good end. To such people, he continued, I would answer, "assuredly not an emperor falls (because not a sparrow falls) without our Father in Heaven; and to Him who wills it every event will bring a blessing." And what should we learn from this? In the first place, we have all of us fancied that we were fighting against a man; whereas the fact is we are fighting against a principle, which is represented, perhaps in a nobler form than usual, in this man. People objecting to this say, "no, we are fighting against flesh and blood; we leave all abstractions to philosophers." I agree with them thus far. We are engaged with realities; if a principle be a mere theory, to be disputed about in books, it is nothing to living men; but, if it be that which gives energy and motive to action, then it has everything to do with them. We are fighting against that arbitrary power, which treats men as mere machines or tools, and is utterly indifferent to national life. There is great danger connected with the belief that our enemies are men, not principles. We are likely, we are almost sure, not to see the same enemy at home. We are all too much inclined to think that we live only to carry on our separate trades and professions. We happen, indeed, to carry them on together in a certain geographical position, which has been for some years called the island of Great Britain. We have, it is true, a common language. It is very convenient it should be so, just as it is very convenient to have a medium of exchange. It would hinder our buying and selling very much, if it were not so. It is also very important to have laws to punish those who injure their neighbours. These laws must be general, lest one class should gain the ascendency. We must also have a doctrine preached about future rewards and punishments. Of course about such an uncertain subject there can be little agreement; and therefore, if all compete in preaching, it will suit all tastes. We do not want a sense of national life. It is this indifference to it which we have been striving against thro' all generations. This common enemy unites us to all past ages; if we have lost sight of it, we lose the meaning of history. And this is the meaning of a Fast day. It speaks to us all as members of a nation; it tells us of a stronger bond than that of possessing a common enemy; that we possess a common Father; this gives prayer a meaning, and national life a reality. And this speaks to us individually. So long as we look upon the Emperor of Russia as our enemy we cannot expect to have to conquer him; (sic), and we cannot ask for help to do so" … Thank you for the promise of ferns. Bring several. Numbers here will be glad of them. We are having the garden dug, and shall be glad of all contributions. Can you bring a stone and a root from Mr. Mansfield's grave? … It is very late, past twelve (long).
March 27th, 1855.
Thank you for your two dear letters. They interested me very much indeed. Have you read "Brave Words"? I think G. and you might like to read it together. Mr. Maurice preached at Lincoln's Inn on Sunday morning. I did not know of it. Since I have known him I have missed hearing him four times, Stepney, Whitechapel, lecture on Newspapers, and last Sunday. It was a funeral sermon for Mr. Mansfield; and all his friends met together afterwards. They are going to have it every year. Mama went with me in the afternoon. The text was the 27th verse of the fourteenth of St. John. Mr. Maurice began by saying that these words were not understood at the time they were spoken. The events which followed them seemed the most awful contradiction of them; for even He who had spoken them appeared to have lost then the gift which He promised. The question was, What peace was it which He gave? It could not be peace in the world; the wars, the contentions showed that that had not been given. The Gospel which they brought to the world seemed to bring divisions not unity, strife not peace. It could not be peace in the Church; for a few weeks it seemed as if this might be the gift which Christ had left. They had all things in common; and then arose contentions, people pretending to have sold their possessions, and given the whole value of them to the Church, when they had retained half. Paul rebuking Peter; discussions about circumcision. Was it outward peace for themselves? Never had any set of men experienced so little as the Apostles. Was it inward peace, a cessation of all fierce war with evil, of all conflict? Surely not. For that which Christ promised He must have realised Himself. They had heard the cry on the Cross, and seen the agony in the garden; surely there never was a more awful fight with evil than that which He had carried on. Above all, they had forsaken Him themselves. If anything would add to their sense that they had no peace, it would be that when they thought they were ready to die for Him, they had left Him; the cross and death did not divide Him from them so much as their unfaithfulness. But all this showed that the peace which He promised could be no outward peace; that it could not be felt till they were ready to give up that. The sense of a friend, a deliverer, the revelation of a Father, would give them really a peace which the world did not give, and could not take away. I forget how it came in, but Mr. Maurice mentioned Christ's look to Peter which made him weep, and contrasted that with Judas's remorse. I would give you a better account of this sermon, but I ought to have written it before. It is now confused in my mind with Kingsley's, the one I heard on Wednesday, and with several things I have been reading.
We are not to execute our own designs for Ruskin, at any rate yet. I have been doing his letters in the work hours. … About what you and G. have been saying, I should answer, that I think you are quite right in maintaining that, if the war is right, we must be right in praying to God to help us in it; but I think there is a certain cowardice, a shrinking from looking facts in the face, when people say that they are not asking God to help them to kill men. That is not the end, but it is the means. What I think we want to see is that all things are as nothing in comparison with right; that we have no business to calculate results; that we are to give up comfort, homes, those who are dearest to us, life, everything, to defend right. I wish very much to have time to think what a nationality is, that it should be worth so much. I feel that it is worth everything. I suppose every nation has a separate work to do, which would be left undone were it extinct. I think a nation can never perish till it has so far neglected its mission that its existence has no more meaning. If it has fulfilled its work it will be given more to do; so with the Jews; they had borne witness to a living Ruler, a King of the people; they had had glimpses that the King would be more fully revealed; they believed that it was He who had brought them out of captivity, had strengthened them in battle. They had forgotten Him, and asked for a visible king like the other nations, when their glory was to be different from them, those other nations. The king was given; the prophet saw that there was a divine meaning in the cry for one; but Saul was the representative of the people, he was a mere general. He was wrecked; and yet there was a meaning in the offer. The earthly king might set himself up, might tyrannize over the people; but he was the continual witness of a power, which he might recognize and bow before; life was as nothing to the Israelites, nationality everything. And they did not fall because they thought so little of life; they thought too much of it, if you look upon life as merely the breath. But if life is the light of men, we have no evidence, we can have none, that it is in the power of man to take it away. They did not give it, and they cannot destroy it. If in Him was the life, in Him it is, and ever will be; we may surely trust to Him those whom He has made. The light which shined in the darkness was surely that which has been in our soldiers, in the long suffering they have had; their breath, their bodies man can destroy; but that which has given them strength is still theirs, when their last struggle on earth has ended, and they go perhaps to a more awful fight; but with a peace which cannot leave them. The Jews fell; they thought they were different from all the world, when they were most like it. They were boasting of their privileges, trusting in themselves; they evidently thought the highest sign of godliness was utter selfishness. They would have thought it a triumph for Christ, if He had saved Himself. He died that death might have no more darkness for us, no more loneliness; for He was light and life, that He might bear witness that breath is not the most precious thing; that there is One Who is always trying to destroy that higher life, but that it is His gift and He will preserve it. …
Mr. Maurice preaches next Sunday at Mile End.
It is very late, so good night. … Mr. Maurice asked very kindly how you were. He does not appreciate the noble patience with which you are waiting at Weybridge; but, if he does not understand it, we do sympathise.
April 19th, 1855.
Emily to Florence.
I have such a great deal to tell you that I don't know what to put first. You must know that Ruskin appointed to see Mr. Pickard at 2 o'clock at his house; and he was to take the letters that they have done as specimens at about half past twelve. Ockey came running into the work-room, half crying, half laughing, and came and whispered something to Miranda who left the room with her. Presently Miranda came back laughing, and saying that she had succeeded. … It came out that this was the case. … Ockey had wanted very much to go with Mr. Pickard; but he was going in his cart; and Ockey could not go in an omnibus and meet him there, because it would offend him; so Miranda persuaded Mama to let Ockey go in the cart. She says that she enjoyed it so much; Mr. Pickard was so kind and thoughtful. He did not drive up to the door in the cart, but left it at some distance. Ruskin received them very kindly and was very much pleased with the letters, and has given an order for two more to be done. When they left Ruskin, Mr. Pickard seemed determined that they should enjoy themselves. He wanted to explore a pretty road that there was; and soon he set his heart on going to the Crystal Palace; so he took Ockey there, and showed her all over the gardens which she had never seen before, and led her about from room to room. … At last Ockey began to fear that he would never leave, and that she should be late for the meeting at the Agency. However, she got back in time.
July 6th, 1855.
To Miss Harrison.
We shall be very happy to see your friends and your uncle, who I think I have had the pleasure of meeting at Mrs. Howitt's.
It gives us very great pleasure to see anyone who is really interested in our work. Sympathy is very precious, and the knowledge that we are not working utterly alone; it is a wonderfully interesting work, at times a difficult one; thrown so much together as we all are, we have to ask ourselves what it is that unites us, now that we have at last broken thro' the wall of ice that has surrounded these children's hearts, threatening to shape them into machines, not to educate them as human beings, having individuality, powers of perception and reflection; tho', thank God! it never could have achieved its work entirely because they would always have had power of loving, however blunted it might have been. … I do not think the influence that the rich and poor might have upon one another has been at all understood by either. I think we have all taken it too much for granted—a great deal more than we should have done that the giving is all on one side, the receiving on the other. … I have had a great success to-day, in destroying, I trust for ever, a six years' quarrel between two of the children. But a long work lies before us; and to-day's victory is but a small emblem of what must be. There must be many a cloud, and many a storm, and many an earthquake; and yet we must rise victorious, to lead these children to love truth, to realize it as more eternal, more real than any material substances; to teach them that in the principle of a sacrifice lies all strength; to open their hearts and eyes to all beauty; to bring out the principle of obedience and sacrifice, as opposed to selfishness and lawlessness. This is not a small work, and they must learn to do that which lies before them, to look upon the fulfilment of the duties which God has given them, in whatever position they may be, as that which will open to them the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a work which we must ask to be able to undertake in all humility, all energy, all earnestness, all faith; feeling that our only strength, our sufficient strength is that God is working with us.
I do not know whether I ought to apologise for writing such a long letter; but I hardly remembered what I was doing.
4, Russell Place,
July 16th, 1855.
To Miss Harrison.
It has given me much pleasure to receive your very kind letter. I thank you in my own name and in that of the children for your welcome invitation. It will give us very great pleasure to accept it. … Your letters have given me much pleasure because they are assurances that we are not working utterly alone; because we want this assurance; because the evil which is so great, and so near, is almost crushing, without a consciousness of having fellow labourers. It is such a very small number that can come within our reach; our influence is so limited even on those with whom we have most to do; there is "so much in ourselves that hinders us from understanding and loving these children as we should do; so much in them that hinders them from caring for our love. Fancy appealing to a child's sense of duty to do something which will delay her work, prevent her earning so much as she would otherwise have done, perhaps deprive her of a meal, very often of a new pair of shoes! How strong her sense of duty must be, how real right must seem to her (if she is to prevail), to counterbalance the reality of the dinner and clothes! How dare I hope, I very often ask myself, to awaken this sense? And yet I do go on acting as if it were existing; appealing to it, and receiving proofs of its existence continually. I dare not hope that I shall have the power of creating it. I dare not disbelieve that I ought to be the agent in awakening it. It is a very wonderful work in which we are engaged. It is a very awful work, when you feel how easily you can reach their hearts, how hard it is to reach their consciences; they will do anything for you, they will do hardly anything because it is right. And tho' this is dangerous, because so false a ground to stand upon, yet this inclination testifies of a precious truth. It might teach us, if we would only learn, how much all human beings must crave for personality; how cold, how dead, how distant are all abstractions. A soul diffused thro' nature, an ideal, an essence, a principle, may seem to satisfy a comfortably situated philosopher. It is sufficient to dream and speculate about; it is not enough to live upon. Even in his most easy moments, there will be strange questionings in him as to what connection this God of his bears to life; and there will come a time when the ground beneath him shall be shaken; when he shall ask what he is standing upon; when evil shall rise before him as something very real, very near; then he will have to ask whether there is nothing nearer, nothing more real; yes! in his old creeds (if they deserve the name) there is an essence pervading all things. An essence, when this is a real battle, when evil is gathered up in some person, is felt to be most terribly personal. If evil is all vague, all mysterious, and yet most real, is there no Person stronger than it, mysterious through His divinity? Yes! then all history, all life will testify there is such a one. Man has been trying to bow down even to himself; he has longed to worship, but it must be something definite, something eternal; such a one has been shown. Every man is to act as if it were so. You are all to speak to those around you, as if they had that in them which would recognise and reverence this Conqueror, this Knight; and yet as if they knew that He could only be God's warrior, because He came not to crush but to raise; and yet that, just because of this, He was bound to fight with evil, bound to destroy; and I do hope we may be able to awaken in the hearts of these children a knowledge that they are called soldiers of Christ, in whatever place they may find themselves; that it is their duty not to speak or act or think as if there were no evil; that it is no proof of trust in God to shut their eyes. They do see evil, they do feel it in themselves, they are bound to testify that God is stronger than the devil, light than darkness, life than death. There is all danger of our disbelieving this. I feel it in myself. I am frequently inclined to act as if I believed that another than a righteous God was ruling, especially in the hearts of others; as if there was nothing so strong as selfishness, nothing so mighty as self interest; and yet I am bound to claim for these children, to claim for all of us, the name of Christians, children of God, inheritors of His Kingdom.
July 24th, 1855.
To Miss Harrison.
… And now I must thank you all very very much for your kindness, which I am sure we shall never any of us forget. I am sure you will be glad to hear how much we all enjoyed the whole day. I am sure that it was to many of us a revelation not only of beauty and comfort, but of gentleness and generosity, which we have cause to be very grateful for. The children have never ceased talking about it; the boat, the water, the garden, the flowers are continual sources of delight. I asked them to-day if they had any message to you, as I was going to write. They seemed oppressed by a sense of wanting to say something. One of them said she had plenty to say, if she was going to write herself. There was an eager discussion in one corner as to whether it would be proper to send their love; but they ended by asking me to thank you all for them, as they did not know how. I felt very much inclined to tell them how very little I knew how; except that I thought the very love, which they seemed to think it would be shocking to express, was the only thanks which you would care anything about.
I have had a very sad day to-day. A scene with the children, bringing up old quarrels, repeating unkind things which should have been forgotten long ago; a recommencement of a feud, which I had so rashly hoped was destroyed for ever. I spoke to them very earnestly; there was not a dry eye in all the room; but I fear that very little lasting good has been done. I do not see what to do about it.
I went yesterday to Epping Forest with both the Tailors' Associations. There were eighty of us at tea; and, as they sat in the long room, covered with beech boughs, some of us were called upon to sing "Now pray we for our Country!" and I could not help thinking how real the prayers of the workers are, because their lives are so much together. With no doubt that the prayer would be answered, I could sing "Who blesseth her is blessed," and think of all those dear children at home, who are trying, and will, I trust, try more to Bless England; and I could thank God for such as you, because I am sure that, if England has not devoted children, and faithful servants, she must perish; and I could ask that such days as this may not be very rare, because the only meaning of our life, like the only meaning of her life, is union.
On Saturday the children were talking about their visit to you; and one of them said: "Ah! I should like to live there always." "So should I!" and "Oh that would be nice!" echoed round the room. They then said to me, "Should you not like to live there always?"
I was conscious of a very strong impulse urging me to answer "Yes." An idea of quiet (which has lately been occasionally my ideal of happiness) came over me, more especially a vision of your uncle's face, which always seemed to me to possess a divine expression of rest. I saw the danger; I yielded to the fear too much; I feared I was shrinking from work; and I said: "Do you want me to go? Do not you see there is work to be done here? I am of use." I saw the mistake in a moment; but something interrupted me, and I forgot the conversation. In about half an hour, I felt a little hand slide into mine, and hold it very tight. Harriet's large eyes fixed themselves on me, and she said in a trembling voice: "But, Miss Ockey, isn't there work to be done there, if one is willing to do it?"
I felt the rebuke very much. It spoke to a very strong tendency in me; and I told her that there was in all positions some work to be done, for which the world would be nobler; that we must all try to see the good which others were doing; but that I was sure we never could do any work well, until we were content to do our own well; that, until we had cultivated to the utmost the little garden in which our house stood, we must not cry for acres of distant land; that no change of circumstances, before death or after it, could ever make us conscientious or zealous, or gentle; and that I was quite sure that, if any one of them could have done more good in any other position, they would have been there.
Mama has asked me to be sure to say that Mr. Vansittart Neale is very much interested in your uncle's plan, and that he is here on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. … I am very sorry that I cannot send the plan of the Ladies' College in this letter; I will do so on the first opportunity. I send you two addresses which I wish you would read, as I should like you to know something of Mr. Maurice. If you could know, as I know, the unwearied energy, the untiring devotion with which he works; how he has established the Associations, the Working Men's College, and now the College for Working Women, you could not fail to respect him. But, if to this was added the consciousness that he had been the agent of showing you the ground on which you were standing, the sun by whose light alone you could work! It has been my very earnest prayer that I may be able to prevent some from living on speculations, even as long as I lived on them. When first I met your uncle, I had just begun to know Mr. Maurice, apart from the band with whom he was working,—just begun to long for the certainty of which he spoke;—to be utterly weary of conjecturing; and I think I owe a great deal to the impression of your uncle's face and voice. They seemed so calm, so fixed; but nothing except real work, real intercourse with people who needed comfort, could ever have given me strength. Again, after three years, we have met; and I am still crying for more earnest faith, but only for others now. I do thank him. I do thank you and every one who has helped me to make their lives more blessed and happy. I hope they may learn to work for one another in fellowship.
August 1st, 1855.
To Miss Harrison.
Thank you very much for your long, kind letter. It did my heart good to receive it.
You may indeed call me "Miss Ockie" if it pleases you; but I shall be glad if you will leave out the "Miss" altogether, if you like.
"Ockie" is a very familiar name associated in my mind with most of my sisters, and with the times when I ran wild in the country; a name which binds the past and the present together, which bears a continual protest against my tendency to forget my childhood.
"Loke" is my name with which is associated all my strength; it is Florence's own invention; whenever my sisters call me their brother, then I am "Loke." "Octavia" is Mama's name for me, whenever I am working with her. Whenever I am steady, I have a right to it. "Miss Hill" is bound up with very precious recollections, very happy associations. Mr. Maurice, Mr. Ruskin, and one or two others use it principally. But I now think I see in the children's name for me the union of all, the gathering up of the essence of each,—the casting away of its evil. It must bear witness, as the first does, that, however changed, I was once passionate, lonely. It must remind me of scenes long past; it must comprehend the strength of the second, the energy and perseverance of the third; it can do so because it is a working name; because there is no motive of strength or energy, without affection; it must be connected with the last name, because there is no sure ground for it, except in the words "This is My commandment that ye love one another."
This name is indeed dear to me now. I never can forget (I do not think the recollection will ever grow fainter) the way they received me on Saturday. I had been ill, but insisted upon working. One of them suggested that they should be quiet; and I never had such complete silence, although I did not once tell them to be quiet, because I thought it hard to cramp them simply because I chose to work; and the next morning when I returned from my early walk, they were all over the house, to catch the first sight of me. Four of them had been here since before seven, nine being their usual time. Those who lived near together arranged that whoever woke early should go to call all the others. Every one had something for me—flowers, books, fruit; they brought me the footstool; they anticipated every want that I had. I never saw such bountiful unconscious love and attention. … I should never have done telling you how kind they are. … I began reading out to them to-day; it succeeded admirably. I only wish I knew more people to do it. I can only give them three hours in a week, and that only during the autumn.
I do not know what you will say to me, dear Miss Harrison, for not sending this letter, but I have been very busy and much excited.
I have been, since I wrote it, to Mr. Ruskin's for the third time. But still it is a very wonderful event for me; and, I think, always will be; for not only is everything which he says precious—all opening new fields of thought and lighting them,—but also his house is full of the most wonderful pictures that I ever dreamed of. Not fifty Royal Academies could be worth one rough sketch in that house; and he is so inexpressibly kind, so earnest to help everyone, and so generous that one comes home inclined to say to everything, "Hush while I think about it"; and then to continue, "Whirl on! for I have a quietness, which has another Source than you, and which is given to influence you."
I go to-day to see the Sunday School, which most of my children attend; they press me very much to teach in it. Would to God that I could show them the deeper, mightier foundation than that they are standing on! I believe I am doing so in a way. I believe that, when I first came to them, I took the right ground. I was bound to assume, and I have assumed, that justice, truth, and self-sacrifice, are the principles that hold Society together; that its existence testifies to their strength; that what is true of Society at large is true of our Society; that it does not and cannot stand, except in proportion to their strength. I believe that this is the great Christian principle that there is no might nor greatness in Christ's life, no saving power in His death, no triumph in His resurrection, unless it is the eternal witness that obedience and self-sacrifice give to victory over lawlessness and selfishness.
I believe that, in so far as I am acting as if this were true, I am teaching them to be followers of Christ. What I wish I could teach them is to have a more personal religion. This I believe to be the great work that Sunday schools have done; they have little scope for teaching the other truths, even if they recognise them. Daily life must teach that. We are teaching it to one another here. They are making it a much more living faith for me than it has ever been before. May the God of England strengthen us all, to trust that He is King and that He is righteous.
Thank your sisters very much for the prospect of the leaves; they will indeed be treasures to all of us.
4, Russell Place,
September 21st, 1855.
Margaret—a toy-worker—to Emily Hill
I hope you are enjoying yourself. … We had such a beautiful lesson to-day about the world. I miss you very. I wish you would come back again. It is now twenty-five minutes to eight; it was very dark, and I and Harriet put a farthing together, and sent L. and S. out for a halfpenny candle. … Oh! our gardens are getting on so badly! We had an Irish stew for dinner to-day. Do come back as soon as you can; and I daresay you see numbers of snakes and snails, and glow-worms, and beautiful caterpillars and all sorts of insects. I daresay the leaves are falling fast. I daresay you are very happy together. When you went away, Louisa, Sarah, and Dennis did sob and cry so. I daresay when you are alone by yourself you are thinking of home, and it makes you very sad; but never mind; cheer up. S. earned two shillings and a farthing, and L. two shillings and two pence; and I earned two and twopence yesterday. Were we not good girls? and Miss Ockey was very pleased with us. We have finished that splendid, oh beautiful! book, "Steadfast Gabriel"; and I never saw such a beautiful book in my life. Sarah is always thinking of you, and I too. The account this week comes to £19 all but fourpence. We have most splendid boxes of toys in the show room, beautiful, elegant. I am writing the poetry that you like very much in my copy book. Good night. I must depart from the workshop.
October 16, 1855.
Tell Miss Cons that I often wish she were here; she would appreciate so much the beauty of everything. She would rejoice to look at the gigantic trees holding themselves so still, with, here and there, a branch all gold or copper coloured, and the brilliant berries; to trace the light wreaths of briony not yet transformed into streams of gold, but just changed enough from their summer green to tell you their own individual story, how they grew deep down in the hedge, and then climbed up clinging for strength even to thorny branches, even to leafless ones; they tell how they trust themselves, and tangle and knot themselves closer and closer; one wreath only impatient for light and sunlight, running up some spray of rose or bramble; and then, as if content to be made more and more like that sun, rests on its thorny pillar and stretches down its golden arms to its friends below, every leaf telling the same story as the whole plant; beginning in darkness, ending in light; beginning in life, ending in glorified death; beginning in green, ending in gold; beginning in massive strength, ending in spiritual power. But it is of you and A. I think, when, gathered round the fire in an evening, we talk of the Guild, of Kuskin, of the poor, of education, of politics and history.
October 19th, 1855.
To Miss Howitt.
Will you tell your Mama that I shall have great pleasure in writing to Maggie … How many days we have spent together! She remembers them, I find, with as much pleasure as I do. I do wonder whether we shall ever know each other better! Has she many friends of her own age? I have not very much time. Still there are some things (and this certainly one of them) which are well worth devoting time to.
I am very happy here. The country is very beautiful. The gold and red and purple leaves are very precious—partly because of their rarity. There are, as yet, no masses of colour,—no leaves of autumn foliage,—only single boughs, and sprays and leaves, standing out from among the green. The sunlight comes and goes, like one who knows the innermost soul of those around him, and loves to pierce into their mystery. The purple distance is, however, so far, so lovely, that it seems as if the sun even could not penetrate it;—like those sad, solitary beings whom one sometimes meets, who have no fellowship with those around;—still, in the darkness of night, there is union between them and the world that is nearer; and, as the sun is leaving the earth, and the twilight gathers in the East, the whole earth will be lighted by a wonderful mist of light—lighted and wrapped in it.
I must thank you again for the "Modern Painters." It has been a very great pleasure to me to have it. I grow to value it more and more every day.
As I daresay you would have heard from Charlton, we acted the "Bondmaid" yesterday. All the children came to see it. It was the only play that they had ever seen. I have not seen them since, and am very anxious to hear what they thought of it. It must have been a wonderful event in their lives. They are (as indeed I think we all are) a great deal too much wrapped up in our own affairs; and it must be very much because we know ourselves so much better than others. Therefore I do not fear to give way to what I know is a preference that the children feel for storybooks. They have even expressed it; and I reserve to myself the choice of books.
I would rather that they had a strong sympathy with men than with birds; therefore I would prefer them to read about men, particularly if they will learn to study the characters more than the events. Yet I value all natural history, all science, as bringing them to realities, saving them from dreams and visions. But I would have them to look upon all strong feeling, love, hate, gentleness, reverence, as being as real as stones and trees and stars. They are very suspicious. Now in books there can be no suspicion. All is declared to be good or evil. Deceit may be shown indeed, but devotion is shown also. I would not have them to believe all around them to be what it appears; for it is not so; but I must get them to believe that, in the deep souls of those even who appear the worst, there is a spark of nobleness, which it is in their power to reach, with which they are to claim fellowship, which they are to look upon as the only eternal part of men. It is for this reason that I do not fear, day after day, to read stories to those who are in the midst of hard work, poverty, sickness, hundreds of people, trials, hopes and deaths. Therefore I have asked you for those books, which are among the very few which I would let these dear children read.
December 2nd (1855?).
I am writing with my consolidated table before me. I do hope you will be able to see it before it goes to Ruskin's. Mama will I daresay tell you how I intend to spend my birthday. Do think of me at half past one, if you know in time.
Mr. Maurice asks how you are continually, and is very kind. He is gone to Cambridge, and will not be at Lincoln's Inn to-morrow. Is it not a pity? All goes on very well here; the children are very dear. I wish you could be with us to-morrow. I want you to see Ruskin. I trust it will be a fine day. … I have undertaken to teach the two C.'s writing and arithmetic. It is so nice. I am very happy, everyone is so kind. I am delighting in the thought of to-morrow. I do not know whether any other day would be the same, if one thought about it; but it does seem to me as if one's birthday held the same relation to other days that Mr. Maurice says a ruler does to his people,—as if it gathered up all the meaning of those other days, embodied the meaning of all of them; and so, if things happen, as it seems probable they will, I shall feel that, as, last year, I had to learn the value of the Church service read by Mr. Maurice, so this year I have to learn how precious it is when read by anyone, now that he is away; as last year I was to feel what a blessed thing a home was, where all members of it were together, so this year I must learn how much of the real spirit of home, unity, cheerfulness, may be brought out when many members of a family are scattered. … Many of the workers are coming to Lincoln's Inn. If I do not see Ruskin I shall think that it represents the past year. I have had intercourse with him on all subjects connected with art. If I do see him, I shall hope that it is emblematic of the coming year; … it is a strange thing that the sad, hard-working, selfish should cling to the bright, radiant, generous.
December 3rd, 1855.
To Miss Harris.
Miss Harrison tells me that she thinks I may write to you.—I need not tell you how much pleasure it gives me to do so, especially to-day, as it is my birthday.
All is quiet, everyone asleep, the room empty, the fire out; but I never knew a more cheerful scene. Everything seems bright and blessed, to-day, for me. I trust that it is so, and always will be, for you; that, after many dark shadows, fearful changes, hard work, (if you ever know such) there shall come calm joy like this. And not only after, but in the darkness. You have heard about those last strange changes that have taken place among us. In the very heart of them, I felt most deeply conscious how very mighty all good must be; how little our weakness would hinder God's work. This conviction gave me whatever strength, courage, power, I have had. In proportion as I lost light of it, I have been weak, timid, and wavering. They may chain our tongues and hands to a great degree, forbid us to read the Bible together, &c., but no human power can check the influence which continual sacrifice has; no one can hinder the conviction that these children are gaining,—all Love can overcome Evil. This is a Gospel which will prepare them for that more personal one, which these people will teach!
You ask what Miranda and I intend to do. Andy is teaching in the morning, and teaching my children in the afternoon. I am working here, where I will continue, as long as ever I have any strength, or as long as I am permitted to do so. My whole life is bound in with this Society. Every energy I possess belongs to it. If I leave here, I intend to continue to support myself if possible, if I can keep body and soul together. I have just completed some work for Ruskin. When I take it home, I intend to learn whether he thinks it of any use for me to go on drawing; whether there is any hope of employment; if so, I shall devote all spare time to it. If not, I intend to begin to study with all energy, to qualify myself as a governess; resting sure that whatever work offers itself may be done well, may become a blessed, noble, occupation.
I wish I could convey to you any impression of the picture I have seen to-day. Yes, if I could impart to anyone my own perception of the picture, could only let them have an opportunity of looking at it for as long as I did, I should have done something worth living for. That union of the truth with the ideal is perfect, solemn, glorious, awful and mighty. It will I trust never fade from my memory.
December 4th, 1855.
Thank you for all kind messages about us, or to us. I wish I could tell you about my children, of the blessed spirit which they are beginning to show continually. I wish I could tell you of the kindness of all our friends; above all I hope that you do possess that strong confidence in a great spirit of love, that you do see the effects of its strength in those, whoever they may be, for whom and with whom you have worked, a confidence not based on fiction or fancy, but on experience, on a clear perception of motives. I have had that faith for some years; but I am sure we shall all look back to this crisis as to a time which has tried, proved, and strengthened it. No one need suspect us of blinding ourselves to the existence of selfishness; our life would not permit it; but oh the joy, after a life of many sorrows, many changes, in which either no friends did stand by us, or we had not the power to see that they did, to see at last the time arrived when numbers of arms are stretched out to save us,—this is glorious! But, above and beyond the delight of gratitude for sympathy, what a blessing it is to feel how much there is in men that is generous, affectionate, sympathetic; to know that, if you are no longer to encourage this spirit among those with whom you have lived so long, God can and will strengthen it. If you may no longer bow before those with whom you live, when you see their wonderful nobleness, struggling with adverse circumstances, no longer learn humility from them, God himself will teach you in other places, and by other means. You dare leave all your labour to Him, because He has given you whatever of a right spirit you have exercised in it.
December 7th, 1855.
I have been trying to write to you every night, but have been too sleepy. It is now luncheon time, so I must not write much … I did indeed spend a glorious day on Monday. Emma Cons and I walked to Dulwich. Oh the delight of the frosty morning! the beautiful leaves as they peeped out from the banks! As we passed Ruskin's house, it seemed wrapped in mist; just as we came up, the sun broke out behind the house, which, however, quite shaded the garden, except that one ray darted thro' the glass doors of the hall, and pierced the darkest depths of the steady cedars; then on to Dulwich, where we met Miss Harris. I wrote a letter asking Ruskin to let us see his pictures. We drove to his house, sent the letter in; the answer was that the ladies were to be shown in. "Crawley" took us into the dining room and stirred the fire; the room was papered with red flock paper, and there were a number of almost purple leather chairs and a number of pictures. Crawley led us up to one saying, "This is the Slave Ship." Oh, you do not know how often I have read Ruskin's description of this picture, and have hoped that it was in his possession: I had not remembered it, however, since I had heard of this promised visit. It was such a surprise. I looked at it for some time; then I just looked at the other pictures in the room; one was the "Grand Canal at Venice" by Turner, which I hardly saw. There was a sketch by Tintoret of a doge at his prayers, very beautiful, with a picture of the second coming of Christ; the large picture, for which this was a study, is now in Venice. There were two or three William Hunts, two or three by Prout, who you know now paints architecture so beautifully. Crawley said, "Perhaps you can find enough to amuse (!!!) you for twenty minutes, until our other rooms are disengaged." Of course I was delighted; but, having once really looked at the Slave Ship, it was impossible to turn to anything else. I must not attempt to describe it, Ruskin having done so; … Crawley returned but too soon; told us about the other pictures, pointed out a figure of "our Saviour which Mr. Ruskin thinks a great deal of." Had he not done so, I should be standing before the Slave Ship now. Ruskin sent down a very kind message. I did not hear whether it was "his kind regards" as I was thinking; but the end of the message was "he would have been very glad to have come down to shew us the pictures himself, were it not that he was correcting his book, and had been much delayed by a severe cold." And then we went thro' three more rooms, and the hall full of pictures, which I had not time to see properly, but which remain in my memory like a bright vivid dream; quiet lakes with a glow of colour, cities in moonlight, and lighted with a wonderful glow of furnace light; emerging, wild, fantastically shaped grey clouds, blown by evening winds leaving the sky one glow of sunset light; fairs all bright; with an old cathedral quietly watching impetuous waves dancing against lonely rocks; solemn bays of massy rocks with a darkened line of evening sun against the sky; the sweep of the river beside rounded hills; but all done by an eye which sought for true beauty, not a line out of harmony, or that does not tell some precious tale. When I reached home W. said that Miss Sterling had called … "She said she was very glad you had taken a holiday." Well what do you suppose I did? I had dinner and set off to Queen's Square, where I was most kindly received. Mr. Maurice had just returned from Cambridge and had four gentlemen with him; so I did not see him or Mrs. Maurice. Kate was busy making ornaments for a Christmas-tree "for the boys." I was there a long time, and it was a complete success. Miss Sterling grows every day kinder.
(Then follows a list of the little presents given to her on her birthday by the toy-workers) …
December 19th, 1855.
To her Mother.
I have received your letter and will attend to the business. ... About coming to Weybridge. … Mr. Maurice tells me that he will preach at Lincoln's Inn on Tuesday morning. Of course I cannot miss that; but I will, if necessary, as a great sacrifice, give up the morning service, on one condition, that it is not made a precedent for expecting it again. … I very much wish to spend some part of Christmas with you, and to see you again; but I very much wish you would all be contented, if I spent Christmas Eve with you, as I would much value to do so. See how people feel about it, and let me know.
4, Russell Place,
December 24th, 1855.
To Miss Harris.
I know very well that you will like to hear of my little darlings. For some time past I have written but little about them, because I have been much interested about other things; and they have been but little to me, except that I have treasured their affection much. I know now how much I have neglected them, and am at last thoroughly awakened from my dream. But I very much regret to say that a spirit has entered into the work-room which I do not think healthy. When I was with you, I think I must have spoken of the hardness of working when one is suspected, and not steadily cared for. Now I have a far different cause of complaint;—an exaggerated admiration, an immovable belief that all I do is perfect, a dislike of anyone who even tells me to do anything which they see I do not wish to do. But I trust soon to bring this also to reason. I care little for what is called a merry Christmas; but it made me very sad to hear all last week calculations about puddings, discussions as to whether they could not manage to come in for two Christmas dinners, mixed with laments that they should have to nurse a baby all day; no real pleasure to look forward to, with a very strong feeling that they had a right to some. I could bear it no longer. I proposed that we should have a snapdragon all together some evening. They were overjoyed. We found we could have a grand one by paying twopence each. Still I found that it was but little, as it would last so short a time. I then thought of a Christmas tree. I am going to Grandpapa's to-morrow, and shall endeavour to get a little fir or holly. A11 the children bought small things for it last Saturday, and will I daresay, do so next;—tapers, apples, oranges, nuts, &c. I then asked them to bring all their sisters, and all their brothers under twelve. Many did not wish for the trouble of taking care of the little ones; but I have insisted, and I believe prevailed. Of course we shall have grand games, sea's rough, hunt the slipper, old coach, frog in the middle, blind man's buff, &c. The children must all have tea before they come. Fortunately there is no ice to break. We all know one another. Andy is going to write a little play for them to act; and I shall teach them it during work. This is a great delight to them. Another thing which I anticipate great pleasure from is dancing. They will enjoy it much. Really the spirit shown has been beautiful. One of the girls has asked her mother to make a cake and send it. One great distress is that some of them have nothing but heavy boots, and so will not be able to dance. Poor little things! I wish I could do for them all which I have it in my heart to do. It will be a strange party; there will be no hostess; or rather, we shall all be hostesses. Each will have contributed what she could. Another thing which I mean to do, if I find it possible without bringing ourselves into bondage, is to ask for contributions from the richer members of the Guild. I am sure it will do both them and us good. But I trust to show to others and to myself, how much of what is precious in a party is entirely independent of any expenditure, and eating; how possible it is to have much fellowship and gaiety without large outlay of money. I have renounced parties myself. There is no longer any pleasure to be found in them, which may not be found better elsewhere. This love of immense gatherings is unmeaning. The love of show is detestable. There is no time for conversation, no place for affection, no purpose in them, or none which I can understand. And yet I do feel that this party will be a very nice one. I do believe it will succeed. I have renounced parties, above all I have renounced Christmas parties. It is now certainly a time for rejoicing. I believe it; but, as one grows and lives, above all as year follows year, and there is removed from one's side one whose blessed smile has lighted our Christmas hearth, as the vacant chair becomes a witness of the lost one, as one is conscious of the "one mute presence watching all," when one has said in one's heart, "Why should we keep Christmas at all; witness as it is of change?" and one has answered, "Would the sense of change forsake you if you had no such time? Do you wish that it should leave you? Or has it taught you to put all trust in One who is unchanging, Who gives to all their work, Who binds all in one?" When one has felt all this, the mirth of Christmas is gone but not its value; witness, as it is, of that inward union of which we vainly strive to hold the outward symbol. We may spend it in the truest sense with those who have been called to other lands.
But these, my children, to whom care and anxiety are so familiar, and to whom all the beauty and poetry of life are so strange, so new,—I must bring home to them some of the gladness which they see around them; their only Christmas trees must not be those in confectioners' windows, at which they gaze with longing eyes. There is time enough for Christmas to become solemn, when it has become joyful and dear.
I thought that I loved these children when I was with you. I did not know how much it was possible to love them. I am very much pleased about another person, with whom I have been so long,—Miss Cons. She has now thoroughly established herself, and has begun to study, walk, think, draw, be entirely independent of me. More than this, when she came here, she had not a single person in the world to love or be loved by except her own family. … Our Miss Cons, however, has got to know friends; and whoever cares to break through her shell will be well rewarded. I am most pleased to find that there are several who have done so, and that she is gaining warm friends. I find in her a strength and energy which is quite refreshing, and consign to her much which I should otherwise undertake myself. I feel, in Miss Cons, whose growth I have watched eagerly, an amazing perseverance, a calmness, a power, and a glorious humility before which I bow, and which I feel may be destined to carry out great works more nobly. I am particularly glad that she has friends, as I find that now instead of giving her my society, I can only give her my friendship and sympathy.
Now dear Miss Harris good night. I do most fervently hope that you may have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.
January 11th, 1856.
To Mary Harris.
It is on loving, infinitely more than on being loved, that happiness depends. I feel how little the reception of one's services or love has to do with their power of giving joy. However, yesterday the children were particularly kind, dear little things! To-morrow the College begins again. Oh I am so glad the holidays are over! I have not heard from Ruskin. Perhaps I shall find a letter to-day. Shall I, I wonder, go to him to-morrow?
I am reading aloud to the children a very beautiful book by Miss Gillies; and it was so strange to meet with real things that I had done and said and heard said, long, long ago, when I used to stay there.
The Men's College is to be moved to Great Ormond Street; but whether our classes are going too I do not know. I hear that at one meeting it was proposed that women should be admitted to the General Meeting. The idea was laughed at. Someone then proposed that the women's classes should be held in the evening; and the question was referred to the Council.
January 27th, 1856.
Miranda to Joanna Durrant née Graham.
Ockey is so accurate and so certain in her statements that she has been able to refute all aspersions; and her excellent management of the toy work is so evident; all the details are so perfect, which is what Mr. Neale thinks so much of, that it is clear he is entirely on Ockey's side in the matter; though she has a good deal of pain, and has still some anxiety about it. As for her influence over the children, it strengthens day by day; those who have been constantly with us are so much impressed.
February 18th, 1856.
… My own plans are very uncertain; my own wish is to find such work as can be done in the workroom, so that I may superintend the children without receiving remuneration, but which may at the same time be sufficiently remunerative to allow me to earn more, and yet continue my studies. I shall speak to D. to-morrow to find out whether colouring photographs would meet these conditions, and whether I can get work at it. Another plan is to learn watch engraving. Bennett promises work to us, but cannot teach. I cling to the idea, as it affords a prospect of establishing a Guild gradually; the objection is the time which would probably intervene before I should acquire skill. I do not at all enter into D.'s plan of designing. I do not believe in it as remunerative; and it would separate me from that social work which I have learned to prize so highly. One other path is open. I have to write to Ruskin this week, and you will hear from me after I have done so. I ought to say that I told Mr. Neale my plans on Saturday; and he said he was very glad that I should get other work, the employment here being so uncertain. …
I speak (perhaps it may seem indifferently) of the utter failure of that for which we have all struggled so long and so hard. I do so, partly because I believe that what we have asked for has not failed; but I am not to speak of that now. I do so, because, although at present I am much bent upon securing a living for ourselves, I intend to accept no work however delightful, however remunerative (except as a temporary thing), which would deprive me of the power of working for others. I care but little for any system of division of profits, although it may bear witness for a great truth, and be the means of equalising remunerations, and avoiding disputes. That which I do care for is the intercourse, sympathy, self-sacrifice, and mutual help which are called out in fellow- workers; and this I believe to be worth striving for; this I mean to work for. I may seem to turn out of the path in this wearying wood; but it will only be a walk round a thicket, which hindered my progress; and free from debt, and with a clear conscience, I will work, even if I have (which, however, I do not believe) to work in another way for a short time.
February 27th, 1856.
Miranda to Mrs. Durrant.
There are many events going on here; but I do not wish to speak of them till they are certain. It is indeed delightful that Mama has found some one to take her articles. I long to read them.
Thank you for the present for the Scripture prints. I have refrained from at all touching on the subject of religion with the children, since Miss C.'s affair; because I thought Mr. Neale would not wish it introduced as a lesson. Miss C. did not approve of my reading the Bible with the children. They have often begged me to do so since; but I felt I had no right to do it in lesson time without Mr. Neale's permission; but I shall ask him now whether he objects. … Ruskin is delighted with Ockey's table, and means to give her employment in illumination, if she will learn it, and if she has the powers he believes she has; and she means to give an hour or two to the Toy superintendence, and the rest to illumination. Is not this very very good news? Ruskin has been so exceedingly kind to Ockey about it. She received to-day a present of a beautiful paint-box and all other materials she can want. I think she must be very happy. She has just completed some work. I mean the moral training of the Industrial children; so she can now leave the chief superintendence to another person, in the full confidence that all will go well, and she is just beginning another work that is delightful to her. And she has so many friends. The Sterlings, Mr. Maurice, Miss Rogers, Ruskin and nice Miss Harrison all seem so fond of her. She is very successful and deserves to be so, for she does everything so well.
March 18th, 1856.
We shall indeed be glad to see you. Come as early as ever you can on Thursday. I have succeeded in avoiding going to Pentonville. At present the arrangement is that Mr. P. has no connection with us, except that Kitty or any of us can cut and inlay for him in a workroom at our own house; that our house is to be entirely separate from the children's workroom; the former being cheaper if situated nearer Camden Town, and it being essential that the latter should be easy of access for Mr. Neale and others. We shall probably get it somewhere near Red Lion Square, Queen's Square and Lincoln's Inn. Hurrah! This morning all was doubtful, to-night all is going right. …
Dear Minnie, think well before you decide to come, whether you will choose to do so now, while all is bustle, change, confusion, arid contention, or after we are settled. We long very much to see you; and you would be of great use, and it would be a great comfort to have you with me to "baffle" everyone. Could you manage to stay till Tuesday, and go with me to Ruskin's? We would stay afterwards and see his pictures; and I could leave you at the Waterloo Station as we passed, coming home? You will hear Mr. Maurice too. I never can find time to-night to tell you all or one half of that which has happened only to-day. How much less then, that which has happened during the last week! Already I have more to do this week, than I could possibly do, if it were not absolutely necessary that it should be done. Mr. Neale has found a house, which he thinks would suit us; it must, however, be taken on lease; of course we can be neither legally nor morally bound to remain there. Our work may call us in other directions. I go to look for a toy-room to-morrow. Do come, darling.
Tell my own Mamma that we feel with her how terribly painful this scene would be to her; but we hope she will soon come to us. Ask her not to think me unkind or thoughtless for not writing oftener. I really cannot. I work almost without intermission, giving up Lincoln's Inn even, continually. Also when one has some great purpose to carry out, some great struggle to go through, or some things troubling one, one cannot write to any to whom it would seem strange—not to mention that which is going on within one. If she could see what we go through, at every crisis of such a change as this, how one is one day triumphant, another uncertain, a third uneasy; and if there is momentary rest, the reaction is so strong that one is bound down by it, she would not wonder. Give my dear love to her.
Harry Rogers has been here to-night, to tell me about gold, outlines, brushes, pens, burnishing, etc.
I trust soon to send Mamma my first balance sheet! Do come, come early, but be prepared, if you come, to work.
If I find that I have time on Saturday or Monday to go to Ruskin, without an appointment, we will perhaps run the risk of not seeing him, as we can probably see the pictures.
Give my dear love to Mamma; tell her I hope not to fail, and ask her to believe me to be for ever her fellow-worker and disciple.
March 29th, 1856.
To Miss Harris.
I have seen your cousin to-day, as perhaps you may have heard, and am very much pleased with him and all that he says, I am very, very sorry now that we did not keep to the subject, in which I suppose his principal interest lies, the employment of women. But somehow one so naturally speaks of that which one is doing; and so the conversation naturally turned to the employment and education of children; though I think you may have seen how conscious I have been lately of the intimate connection between the two subjects; principally because, unless you can develop the minds of your workers, they never can become intelligent, or qualify themselves to fill better situations.
Have you (and has Mrs. Simpson) seen Mrs. Jameson's "Sisters of Mercy"? It is a book in which I feel a great interest; and which I value, particularly as showing how women and men ought to work together.
Octavia to Miss Harris.
I am out of spirits to-day; because we had already succeeded in making a profit of twelve shillings a week—instead of a loss of two pounds—when Mr. —— came to-day and gave orders for really unnecessary fittings which will cost a good deal. It is more than any mortal (or at least, more than I) can bear; it is really no use working. Yes it is though.
13, Francis Street,
April 6th, 1856.
Mrs. Hill to Emily.
I write to tell you what I am sure you will consider very good news. Mr. Maurice has given Ockey the Secretaryship at the Women's College at a salary of ₤26 a year. She has to be there two hours only every afternoon; and, as the children cannot be left, you are to come and take her place in her absence. It is all settled; but you must come on Monday, that you may go on Tuesday to Ruskin with Ockey. …
Now are you not a happy child? …
Mr. Neale is so glad you are coming.
- Wife of R. H. Horne,
- A vivid account of the life of the toy-workers appeared on May 17th, 1856, in Household Words, under the title of "Ragged Robin."
- Mentioned in the letter of February 27th, 1856.
- Journal of Association.
- Promoters of Working Men's Association.
- A party of four people.
- Afterwards Lord Ripon.
- Three years earlier Dr. Furnivall lent Mrs. Hill Ruskin's "Modern Painters," and Octavia read it then for the first time.
- Charles Mansfield, author of "Letters from Paraguay, and one of the Christian Socialist leaders.
- During the Crimean War.
- Octavia never took any notes. Her recollections of the sermons are wholly from memory.
- The Czar Nicholas.
- By Charles Kingsley.
- 1851 or 1852, certainly not later.
- Builder connected with Co-operative Society.
- After the glass had been painted, a hard composition was put at the back to make it solid enough to bear a weight. Sometimes it broke in the process, and the painting had to be done over again.
- Turner's "Old Teméraire."
- Kate Sterling, afterwards Mrs. Ross.
- The morning daily service to which she was accustomed to go.
- The Toy-workers.