Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/340

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318
CHAP.
LIFE OF OCTAVIA HILL

understand poor people needing amusement; but what good will open spaces do them? And now everybody recognises the importance of open spaces."

This change of public opinion was, no doubt, produced by the joint action of many people; and amongst Octavia's fellow-workers in this matter none was more sympathetic and efficient than Mr. (now Sir Robert) Hunter. He had taken an active part in the formation of the Open Spaces Committee of the Kyrle Society; as Solicitor of the Commons Preservation Society, he had been able to further, by timely advice, many of the movements for securing the legal rights of the public over various commons and greens; and, while residing in Lincoln's Inn Fields, he had been the soul of an attempt (then indeed a failure, but the prelude to a more successful effort) to persuade the municipal authorities to throw open the garden of Lincoln's Inn Fields to the general public. Indeed, with the possible exception of Lord Eversley, the open spaces movement owes more to him than to any other man.

But it will be easily understood that this important movement, even if it had been always successful, must have added a considerable strain to that sense of growing responsibility which was produced by the supervision of the tenants; and when accompanied with the kind of failures which I have mentioned, it often brought much vexation. And this period was also marked by the deaths of two of Octavia's most valued fellow-workers, Mrs. Nassau Senior (that most lovable and charming sister of Mr. Hughes) and Mr. Cockerell, a most able and sympathetic member of the Committee of the Workmen's Club, in which Octavia took so deep an interest.

While these and other troubles were already breaking down her strength, there came the additional trial of that misunderstanding with Ruskin, to which so much attention has unfortunately been called. As the correspondence has been published, I do not propose to refer at length to that painful incident. But I feel bound a little to anticipate events by saying that we have ample evidence that Ruskin regretted his hasty words; that he showed his renewed confidence in Octavia