Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/35

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THE LADIES' GUILD

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