Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/338

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316
CHAP.
LIFE OF OCTAVIA HILL

the encroachments of the builders from Hampstead. But the agent, who had the building scheme in hand, when he found that the purchase money was likely to be raised, succeeded in throwing such difficulties in the way, that the scheme was defeated; and Fitzjohn's Avenue rose upon the ruins of the memories and hopes, which I have described.

About the same time Octavia's attention was called to the attempt of some members of the Society of Friends to build over the Bunhill Fields burial ground; an attempt obviously dangerous to health, and shocking to the feelings of many whose friends and relations were buried in the ground. Again, after a struggle, Octavia was defeated in her attempt to save the whole of the ground.

These defeats convinced her of the desirability of rousing public opinion to the need of open space and fresh air for the poor; and it was while she was considering this matter that her sister Miranda read, to the pupils at Nottingham Place, a paper on the need of bringing beauty home to the people. This was a scheme, first, for decorating clubs and hospitals and other institutions used by the poor; secondly, for bringing first-class music within their reach; and, lastly, for preserving disused burial grounds and other open spaces. Octavia was so much impressed with her sister's suggestions that she persuaded Miranda to read her paper again before a meeting of the National Health Society. How much the movement was in advance of the public opinion of that time was shown by more than one incident.

Even on the very occasion when Miranda read her paper to the National Health Society a pause followed the reading; and then a lady started up, and tried to turn away discussion from the subject of the paper by introducing a reference to some new invention, which she considered much more important to health than the securing of open spaces could be. Octavia at once rose, and recalled the audience to the subject of the paper; and some sympathy was roused in the audience.

But, outside that circle, a chorus of scorn came from comic and Society papers; and, if mockery could have stifled a movement, this one would have been nipped in the bud. But cold water sometimes makes such things grow. Several notable and