Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/581

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CH. XI
549
POOR LAW COMMISSION

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

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

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

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

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

But all these hopes and efforts were marred in 1910 by the loss of her sister Miranda, who from her earliest days had brought so bright and helpful an element into Octavia’s life, and