H.M. Hyndman

Further Reminiscences

Chapter IV
Lady Warwick and Amsterdam

THE contrasts in the life of a Socialist who is unable to withdraw wholly from active work in the world of capitalism are, I think, more clear-cut and noticeable than can be the case with anybody else. At any rate, I have had such contrasts impressed upon me at times in very dramatic fashion.

My first visit to Amsterdam, for instance, was in the early ’seventies, when I still accepted the ordinary views of industry and finance. I went to Amsterdam with the well-known American financier, the late Mr. Frank Parish – who was the first man I knew to keep a set of rooms permanently in London and Paris, with all he required for his personal comfort in both capitals; so that he habitually crossed from the one city to the other without any luggage at all. I envied him this commodious arrangement. Parish was going to Amsterdam to sell the bonds of the afterwards well-known Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, then controlled by Messrs. Palmer, Dillon & Bell – the latter an old Trinity Hall man. I was crossing on business of my own, in which Parish likewise was interested. The Denver and Rio Grande issue was, as I well remember, for First Mortgage Thirty-Year Gold bonds, bearing interest at the rate of 7 per cent per annum in gold, the principal being repayable at par. Parish sold the whole of them to the banking firm of Wertheim & Gompertz at the price of 70, with a bonus to the purchasers of 33⅓ per cent in the stock of the railway company. This turned out an uncommonly good business for both sides. The Americans obtained enough money to build their road, out of which they all made fortunes. Messrs. Wertheim & Gompertz, with their clients, received 10 per cent upon their actual cash investment for thirty years, were then paid off at par, which represented a gain of 42 per cent on the purchase price, and held besides their 33 per cent of profitable shares. A very appetising venture. But the Dutch bankers of those days knew very well what they were about in the matter of United States issues, and took up loans in all the Northern and Western States at a time when the less far-sighted finance houses of London, Paris, and Berlin were holding aloof.

My friend Parish and myself stayed at the Amstel Hotel, then just built and rather remote from the town. The Amsterdam we then saw was quite the Amsterdam of the old time and, I judged, of the old smell. Many of the canals now filled in were then open for traffic, and although the city was declared by its inhabitants to be exceptionally healthy, you never would have guessed this if you had only followed your nose. What struck me most about the Amsterdam of that day was its air of well-preserved and solid antiquity and the apparent well-being of the mass of the people. There were no poor to be seen who could be compared for a moment with the sad hopelessness and squalor of the masses of paupers in our own great towns. The Amsterdam of my first visit was indeed a place to remember, and I shall always cherish the impression produced upon me by the splendid Dutch pictures, there and at The Hague, which seem so much more at home in their native surroundings than they can possibly appear in the most sumptuous foreign galleries on either side of the Atlantic.

Then too I saw a vigorous manifestation of that ancient Dutch patriotism which has by no means yet died down. Parish and I visited the Exhibition together on one occasion when the then King and Queen were present. The comparatively recent annexation of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany, following upon the ruthless seizure of Schleswig-Holstein from Denmark in the previous decade, had given the Dutch cause to fear that an attempt might be made by arrogant Prussian militarism to extend the frontier of the new German Empire so as to embrace Holland and convert Amsterdam and Rotterdam into German ports. Thus it came about that this particular function was made the occasion for a display of patriotic enthusiasm the like of which I have never witnessed in any country. It was the more impressive by reason of the calm and stern, not to say stolid and phlegmatic, character of the thousands of Dutch people who took part in it. The scene was as if the old Burghers who had fought and beaten the picked troops of Spain at the height of her power had returned to Amsterdam once more, in order to encourage their descendants to yet another resistance to the death if the need should arise. The spirit of the old Covenanters of our own island breathed all round us, with the same feeling of religious exaltation at the prospect of going forward to encounter, no matter what odds, which animated Cromwell’s Ironsides and the unconquerable starvelings of Londonderry. The Dutchmen made the great Exhibition building resound with their cheers and patriotic cries. It may be that this full-bodied love of political freedom and deep veneration for their great past may have decreased somewhat among the Dutch of our day, and that the relentless if peaceful pressure brought to bear from the east, in season and out of season, has begun to tell. But I am not sure the Prussians would do well to rely too much upon that. International Socialist as I am, I have ever upheld the right of historic nationalities to work out their own destinies, and there is no nation in the world which has more fully earned its title to independence than the Dutch.

The next time I was in Amsterdam was in connection with a big diamond venture brought to England from South Africa by a man named George Armstrong, who had had much experience in this line. There was good reason for Amsterdam to interest itself in such a mine, if rich enough; inasmuch that the great diamond “Ring” had diverted the trade to a large extent to London, and much suffering had been caused locally by the transfer. It was a funny business altogether. The Englishmen with whom I was associated were quite ignorant of Continental habits and methods, and seemed to have no idea that there could be any other reasonable way of carrying on a negotiation than their own. That the delays were provoking, and Dutch caution at times irritating, is quite true, but for that they should have been prepared.

As day after day passed, however, without coming to any conclusion, they lost patience altogether and denounced the Dutch and all their works with much vigour. One by one they went back to London. Only my Dutch friend, who had originally come over to introduce us, and myself were left. He, too, at last became quite hopeless of success, good though the affair itself at that stage was admitted to be. Though, therefore, I protested against our departure with the matter unsettled, I felt I could scarcely remain by myself, and, overnight, albeit I refused to leave on the morrow, I was by no means sanguine of success. Our main negotiation had been conducted with an old Jew diamond dealer and cutter named Daniels, who had behind him in the deal five or six of the richest banking and financial firms in the city. But, as I say, we had made no progress, and overnight it seemed as if I should be forced to accompany my Dutch introducer back to London.

In the morning I was of a different mind, and I told my friend Mr. Van der Sluÿs that I meant to have another turn at old Daniels myself. He still declared it was useless, and that I should only put myself in a false position. I replied that I did not care a straw about the false position: my full intention was to obtain the money needed for working capital before I left the good people of Amsterdam. So we went, my friend very reluctantly, to call upon Mr. Daniels. How it all came about I have never been quite able to understand to this day; though I did all the talking myself, and drew the agreements too. But certain it is that, to the stupefaction of Van der Sluÿs, and really to my own amazement, I captured the recalcitrant Daniels, and after him the entire array of solid Dutch financiers along the whole line of their weightiest men, from the Hopes, Wertheim & Gompertz, and Labouchere & Owens, even unto Kremer, Van Egen, and others of like standing.

A Dutch Company was formed, a great success was apparently achieved, and the shares went to a big premium. With my usual loyalty, or fatuity, in such matters, I held stoutly on and would not sell. Later, from various causes, the Dutchmen themselves being in full control, the whole thing fell into the water. A woful case of wasted energy and misplaced confidence in the matter of gem-mining of this sort. Worse still, two of the originators of the scheme, Daniels himself and one of the Englishmen, committed suicide, and a third, I was informed, had a try at it. Altogether a very sad reminiscence indeed, though happily the suicides did not take place by reason of this particular venture. My dealings with Amsterdam, therefore, had been exclusively financial, and I regarded the Dutch metropolis from the point of view of the mere man of business, intent only on his own chances of money-getting, tempered by enjoyment of the old historic city and its splendid works of art.

How different my visit of 1903. I had but just recovered from a dangerous illness, and went with my wife, from Brasted, where we were then living, with Mrs. Wilhelm Liebknecht and the famous old Parsee champion of justice to India, Dadabhai Naoroji, to stay at the same Amstel Hotel where, as said, I had put up with Frank Parish some thirty years before. I was present to attend as delegate from the Social-Democratic Federation to the International Socialist Congress held in Amsterdam in that year, and as member of the International Socialist Bureau. It is certain that I was far more full of zeal for the cause of Socialism than I had ever been for the success of any of my financial projects. I regarded everything likewise, as all who know what a change of view the comprehension and the adoption of Socialism brings about in a man will understand, from quite a different standpoint from that which I occupied on the occasion of my first stay.

No longer could I consider the great city, for example, as one complete whole, with the various classes and occupations neatly dove-tailed into one another. For the diamond-workers were at this time locked out, and their condition altogether was far worse than a casual visitor, looking only at the fine building which constituted the headquarters of their trade union, might imagine it to be. Amsterdam was now quite a modern city compared to what it had been: canals filled in, trees planted along their lines, an excellent service of electric cars in every direction, flats of all sorts and sizes built up – there was nothing to find fault with in these respects, and handsome public edifices added to the general appearance of continuous improvement.

But with the brighter and more expansive life at one end of the scale had come already, and quite obviously, a harder struggle for existence at the other. Rents, prices of necessaries of life, the cost of small luxuries had risen, whereas the rates of wages had to some extent fallen. Amsterdam had become a still dearer capital to live in, and the workers, of course, felt the pinch the most.

It was remarkable, however, that though the dominant classes in the Dutch metropolis were very far from being favourable to Socialism, and indeed had quite recently been persecuting the local Socialists, they and the whole of the inhabitants seemed to consider it an honour that we had chosen their capital as the seat of our Triennial International Socialist Congress. Certainly, we were all of us treated with the greatest possible courtesy by the officials and others brought into contact with us; though, beyond doubt, they were not equally considerate to their own townsfolk who indulged in the luxury of sharing our opinions. The fear of the old “International” had passed away, in the course of the thirty-two years since Marx had practically broken it up at The Hague, and we of the new International were regarded as a collection of somewhat fanatical but quite respectable enthusiasts. International generalities in favour of a worldwide Social Revolution were, to the practical Dutch bourgeoisie, nothing but vague theorising: when it came to direct national demands by their own working class for better conditions of existence all round, that was quite another matter, to be dealt with in a totally different way, as our comrades had already found to their cost.

But of Socialist Congresses in general, and of this of Amsterdam in particular, I speak elsewhere. The most interesting feature of it to me personally was the incident I now relate. I was sitting as one of the delegates, in the body of the hall used for our principal gathering, when a little piece of paper was thrust into my hand by one of the Socialist attendants, on which was written “Lady Warwick,” and something to the effect, confirmed by the comrade who brought it, that she was waiting to see me outside. I confess for the moment I was taken a little aback. I, of course, knew the Countess by reputation, and had admired portraits of her, but I had never met her nor even seen her in person. It is not too much to say that I was a good deal prejudiced against her in consequence of the common talk. Though, also, I had heard Lady Warwick had leanings towards Socialism, I could not believe – though why I scarcely know – that she had any genuine sympathy with our movement.

I say “why I scarcely know” deliberately, because I recognise that there is every reason for an able, highly cultivated man or woman to embrace Socialism as the only possible solution of presentday ills and antagonisms, and there was nothing to prevent Lady Warwick, or for that matter any intelligent aristocrat, from accepting the Socialist doctrines, or indeed to preclude them from working for their realisation in fact. Of course I went out into the corridor in reply to the note, and met the lady herself. Those who know Lady Warwick know also the impression she produces upon any one who encounters her for the first time. Hers is a splendid face and figure, and the effect produced by her appearance was almost startling amid the rather sombre surroundings of a Socialist Congress. For Lady Warwick, apart from her natural advantages, was extremely well-dressed, looked full of animation and vigour, and appeared as if she had not a care in life. Altogether quite an unusual personage to attend such a gathering as an ordinary visitor.

After a few commonplaces, I went with her to a seat in the gallery. When the Congress broke up for luncheon she made the acquaintance of the leading men in the various international parties and attended the great open-air demonstration which was held in the evening, walking round to the different platforms and taking notes of the speeches delivered by Bebel, Van Kol, Vandervelde, Roubanovitch, Jaurès, Vaillant and others. I would have given something myself to have avoided that meeting, for I was not fit to walk the distance and I did not feel at all equal to speaking in the open air. However, Socialism has its small martyrdoms, and nobody is ever supposed to be ill in the ranks. It was a veritable Feast of Pentecost, and a perfect Babel of tongues, seeing that, as nobody could speak the language of the country everybody thought he had a right to talk the lingo he understood best; but Lady Warwick lasted it all out and came back to the same hotel that we were staying at.

During and after dinner we talked Socialism continuously. One of the critics of my previous volume, writing about my interview with Lord Beaconsfield, referred to the remark of that statesman to me: “I am listening to you, Mr. Hyndman,” and said: “This is usually the fate of those who meet Mr. Hyndman.” I am afraid it was Lady Warwick’s. When I discovered that she was prepared to give ear I opened the floodgates of talk, and if she was not swept away that was scarcely my fault. All that Socialism has been, was, and in my opinion should be, all the problems it would solve, all the freedoms it would grant, all the delights it would secure, tumbled forth in reckless disregard of the feelings of Lady Warwick or any one else present. My wife gazed at me with ferocious intentness. I believe at one moment the sharp point of her shoe made a deep impression on the calf of my leg. She even tried interruption. All to no purpose. History came hard on economics, science swallowed up sentiment, prognostication overwhelmed theory, synthesis devoured analysis. Lord, how I did go on!

For my part, I consider it the best possible evidence of Lady Warwick’s real devotion to Socialism that she not only hearkened unto this diatribe and asked questions up to a very late hour, but that, in spite of all this interminable rush of volubility, she actually joined the Social-Democratic Federation, remained with that organisation for eight years, gave us, as I note below, all the help she could in every possible way, and is now, at the time of writing, an active member of the British Socialist Party. If, having survived my vehement adjurations, that is not complete evidence of sincerity, I should like to know what is. But it must not be supposed that Lady Warwick accepted my dogmatic dissertation without investigation or protest. She had manifestly studied Socialism before, and her criticisms, questions and objections were those of a capable mind. It is quite certain that Lady Warwick did not adopt the Socialist faith – I observe I am falling into a religious form of diction – without having fully considered it from every point of view. This is an important point in view of statements which are so lightly made about those who take up with Socialism.

Tall, graceful and well-proportioned, with a vast mass of fair hair, clear blue eyes, and a perfect complexion, Lady Warwick might well be considered, as in fact she was, the most beautiful woman of her time. Not knowing what fear is, possessed of a moral courage in politics as remarkable as her intrepidity in the ordinary affairs of life, with a charm of manner alike in the drawing-room and in the market-place which captivates rich and poor, and with a capacity for both speech and writing which entitle her to consideration apart from her beauty or her rank, it is not surprising that Lady Warwick should have made her mark upon her day and generation. In my opinion her career has only begun. In really stirring times her qualities will manifest themselves more conspicuously than it is possible they should in the transition period we are now passing through. The various currents which at present divert even the most enthusiastic from their direct course will then be absorbed in the one great main stream. Aristocrats had, to a large extent, the lead in the great bourgeois uprising in France at the end of the eighteenth century. The educated middle class will, apparently, play the same part in the vast social revolution which is manifestly preparing all over the civilised world. But here, in Great Britain, there will, I venture to predict, be at least one aristocratic figure in the van of the great struggle on the side of the people, and that will be the Countess of Warwick.

There are not wanting those who say plainly:

“If Lady Warwick feels all she says she feels for the sufferings of the poor, and is so fervently enthusiastic for the realisation of Socialism, why does she not, having had a pretty good enjoyment of all that is delightful in life so far, sell all that she has and give to the poor?”

That, of course, applies not only to Lady Warwick but to all who are living upon rent, interest or profit in any shape, and are taking no part in the actual direct work of producing and distributing wealth. But, as I have often pointed out, in this case as in others, surrender by one, under existing economic conditions, only means appropriation by another. The system of wage-earning and profit-taking is not to be broken down by mere personal sacrifice, no matter how noble such forgoing of wealth and position may appear from the old ascetic morality point of view. Brahma, Buddha, Christ, Confucius, Mohammed, all the saints and prophets and martyrs who ever lived and died, have not affected the form of society so much as the invention and application of a single new engine of production. The ultimate goal of self-abnegation is St. Simeon Stylites perched on his pillar, or old Diogenes snarling in his tub.

It will not help forward slave-emancipation for the employer, or capitalist, or landlord, who is eager for the social revolution, to divest himself or herself of all property and to descend into the slave class. Probably the person who did so would become not only useless but, as likely as not, harmful to the movement. All that the most earnest striver after the enfranchisement of the wage-earners can do, who is not a wage-earner himself, is to use wealth, ability, influence, attainments for the purpose of helping on the development which will remove the whole dominant class from its bad pre-eminence. I have seen too many sad evidences of what is the result of such careless indifference to facts ever to advise any Socialist to cut loose from his economic basis. There is quite enough natural drain in the course of an active Socialist life to render it quite unnecessary to seek for opportunities of useless individual beneficence. But there is no need to argue this farther. Lady Warwick has already done more than was altogether reasonable in her anxiety to help the movement.

The scene changes to a very different locality from that of Amsterdam. It is a fine English mansion in Essex. Part of it old and beautiful and commodious; the other part very commodious but neither beautiful nor old. The Victorian style of architecture in the latter does not go well with the Elizabethan; and happily, from the artistic point of view, creepers hide many of its defects at Easton Lodge. The Lodge, which in France would be called a chateau, faces south and north. To the north there is a very fine view of a rich country stretching far away into the distance, and affording a prospect much more attractive than we Londoners are in the habit of thinking of as existing in Essex. On this side lie the gardens, which are exquisitely laid out, with a charming Italian water garden in their midst, tennis-courts and lawns spreading out above and far away below to a fine sheet of water, with a Japanese house at the bottom amid fine trees. Some lovely cedars cut the sky into parallel slices nearer the house.

The flowerbeds, laid out with the glowing colours of magnificent begonias, as I first saw the place, contrast finely with the refreshing green of the grass and the trees, while small groups of people here and there gave life to the scene. Once well clear of the house and its terrace you could descry to the right, nestled in among the foliage, a glorious Indian tent, covered inside with Oriental decorations and inscriptions, bringing the mystic thoughts and poetical conceptions of bright old Hindustan into the cool practical atmosphere of matter-of-fact old England. Maybe some great Rajah or proud Nawab used to sit on his musnud beneath that splendid canopy, and receive the adoration, or decree the torture and execution of his adherents. It is now dedicated to the twin devotions of talk and tea. But many a time, as I have sat there in the glow of the evening sun, I have seen the turbaned attendants gathered round a group of stalwart warriors, resplendent in their armour and eager to accompany their lord to the fray, while the queer Oriental music hummed in my ears. That tent, so placed among the trees and shrubs, speaks of Beejapore or Agra, of Seville or Cordova, rather than of England and Essex.

To the south of the house, in front of the entrance and beyond a spacious round lawn and ditch, lies one of the finest and best-kept cricketgrounds in the county; while to the left is a grand array of stabling, with a lofty watertower over an Artesian well, as well as sufficient evidence that, though horses were numerous, the day of the motor-car has also fully come, by the presence of landaulettes and tonneaux of well-known makes. Beyond all this thickly wooded greenery surrounded the open spaces of the park, which made the pretty cricket pavilion and the white tents just erected more conspicuous.

This Easton Lodge was the property of the lady whom we had met in Amsterdam. Her forbears had made their home here for some hundreds of years. There is no doubt about the lineage and descent of the Maynards, I believe, and their quarterings are all right. Race goes for something, and, personally, I much prefer the long-drawn inheritance of landowning expropriation and its representatives to the architects of their own fortunes and self-made men at large, whose genealogy is as short as their purses are long. I should like to inhabit a planet free from both capitalists and landlords. Expropriated landowners, however, should always be sure, if I had my way, of a supper and shakedown in Venus or Mars. We speak as we find.

But as things go today it was not at all the right thing that Lady Warwick should turn Socialist, or that the Earl of Warwick, one of the most courteous, accomplished and charming gentlemen in England, should have a possible co-partnery in the nationalisation of their own land, represented by his wife and himself alike at Warwick Castle and Easton Lodge. What could it all mean? And then the Earl of Wemyss, our unwearying, not to say bitter, opponent of the Liberty and Property Defence League, was actually Lady Warwick’s own uncle. How was this magnificent old patriarch to accommodate himself to such a turning against things as they ought to be, on the part of his niece?

To tell the truth, he behaved far better in the matter than much less eminent people. But it was natural that other Tory friends of equally high degree with herself, and politicians of light (dim) and leading (from behind), should protest vigorously against Lady Warwick turning Social-Democrat. To have some sympathy for Labourism was all very well, if a trifle eccentric. There was no real danger in Labourism, nor, at that time, even in Trade Unionism. But downright revolutionary Socialism! – that was quite another matter. What could a refined and highly educated Countess of ability, accustomed to enjoy the good things of this world in the widest sense and with the most delicate discrimination what could she be doing in such a galley as that which held furious subversionists of the most unseemly and inelegant description, and, in particular, the irreconcilable and virulent writer of these lines? What indeed? Nobody could make it out.

Mr. Frederic Harrison, whose opposition to Socialism has been as determined as his advocacy of Positivism has been unwearying, took the change very seriously, and said Socialism must indeed be making way in this island when it had captured “ the chatelaine of one of our great historic families.” Just so. There was the rub. That Lady Warwick should adopt the real Religion of Humanity – for, saving Mr. Frederic Harrison’s presence, that is what Socialism is in all truth and soberness today – would not have been of so much account had she been the daughter of an ennobled brewer, or banker, or lawyer, or contractor, or colliery-grabber, or moneylender, or capitalist newspaper-owner. Peers and peeresses of that exalted pedigree are tolerably thick upon the ground. But that the heiress of all the Maynards should speak as an out-and-out Socialist to crowded audiences was quite another affair. It was, indeed, a very courageous thing to do. For the prejudice against us was still very strong. We were not only enthusiastic but dangerous fanatics. Not dangerous, perhaps, so much today, but certainly tomorrow.

It was quite amusing to hear the views expressed even about myself by some whom in earlier days and amid more conservative surroundings I had known very well. There was one lady who expressed herself very strongly to my address. We heard of it from a famous Court dressmaker who belonged to our party, but whom nobody in his senses would have imagined for a moment to be as subversion ary a Social-Democrat as any among us. She was trying on a specially handsome garment for an important customer, when the latter said, “Do you have any trouble with your people now?” – “Oh no, my lady, I pay them well and look after them, and I believe they are quite contented.” – “I thought, perhaps, some of these new opinions might have got in among them and stirred them up against you. You know what I mean, Socialism, and so on.” – “No; I have so much to do I really haven’t time to read or to think about such things.” – “You never heard anything about this Mr. Hyndman and his set?” “Never, my lady.” – “We used to meet him and knew him well, but we hear he has now become quite a low fellow, associating with dreadful people.” All which was duly told, the narrator shaking with laughter, and describing the scene and her own gravity with all the natural theatrical touch of a Frenchwoman, to my wife and myself.

To join the Social-Democratic Party, national and international, at such a time was, therefore, I repeat, a very courageous and noble thing of Lady Warwick to do. It meant a very great deal more to her than the mere commonplace acceptance of a set of political and social doctrines which she did not feel herself called upon to champion actively. There are, I daresay, not a few men and women of her order who secretly sympathise with us and go no farther. Ties of family or fear of loss of position or dislike of the working people – who are not possessed of all the virtues and all the charms of life, I freely admit – restrain them. These considerations did not restrain the Countess of Warwick. But she is the only woman of her class to do it in Western Europe, and no man of her rank has yet had either the ability or the pluck to emulate her. They prefer to wait and see. In this case, as of late in some others on a lower social plane, the woman has displayed more capacity and has evinced more determination than the man.

The truth is, that Lady Warwick’s enjoyment of life and unwearying appreciation of all that is most exciting and delightful and exhilarating in the world render her the more intolerant of a social system in which – though the power to produce wealth is so great that it becomes under existing conditions a direct cause of crisis and poverty – there is no hope that the mass of the actual producers will ever obtain any considerable share of it, with the accompanying joy in life which attends the removal of all anxiety and the full development of and outlet for every physical and mental faculty I say that Lady Warwick’s experience of what is in her case and what might be in that of others, makes her not only intolerant but bitterly hostile towards a series of social inequalities and antagonisms which, even supposing them to have been inevitable in the past, could easily be put an end to by conscious and capable social effort now and in the future. That, I know, is her view of things, for I have not infrequently heard her express it. And from dislike and contempt to active revolt is no long step. The material basis of poverty and deterioration being understood, all the rest follows quite naturally. In fact, I have always found that the most resolute Socialists – those who are least likely to be led astray by mere sentimental flapdoodle and eager desire to make twelve o’clock at eleven – are precisely those who see most clearly and enjoy most fully all that is delightful in human existence. It is the puritan prigs and indecent prudes of the movement who sell out and turn round.

Sympathy with poverty, hatred of oppression, generous democratic feeling for the people, and sincere desire that all around her should have a thoroughly pleasant life had always kept Lady Warwick in close touch with popular aspirations, long before she became a Socialist. Though herself a large employer of agricultural labour, she was one of the most active supporters of Joseph Arch – Joseph Surface, as I christened him after a certain meeting in Southwark – at the very commencement of his earlier honest campaign; though the great Lady of the district she sent her children to the common school in their early years to associate with the children of the workers; though the owner of thousands of acres of land she declared herself in favour of land nationalisation, and of the handing over of Warwick Castle, meanwhile, as an architectural and archaeological treasure-house for the nation. All this shows that Lady Warwick inherited with her ancestral domains a strain of genuine sympathy with the people of England, which grew with her growth and gained strength from her experience.

Her career has been steadily progressive all through, and her acceptance of revolutionary Socialism, wholly divorced from miserable asceticism and hypocritical puritanism, was only a natural development following almost inevitably upon her previous line of thought and action. Precisely this it was which angered the reactionists. That a lady of culture and refinement should see in revolutionary Socialism the means of bringing within reach the realisable ideal of her own Social aspirations, and should take an active part in educating the mass of her countrymen and countrywomen as to what such material and yet ideal Socialism signified for her as well as for them was inevitably a shock to those who felt sure that Social-Democracy must involve the sweeping away, not of misery and want, degradation and ignorance, but of all the higher parts of human civilisation.

And here, of course, the congenital malignity of society stepped in to make things still more ugly and disagreeable. Lady Warwick, beautiful, accomplished, impulsive, generous, and extravagant, has been an easy mark for malicious gossips and scandal-mongers. The tale-bearing of Courts has always been not only ill-natured but inventive, as we know, from the days of the Roman Empire and long before then. Calumny does not stick at trifles when an end has to be gained, or an influential person is to be injured. It is safe to say, for instance, that ninety-nine people out of a hundred who know about Lady Warwick merely from common talk and ordinary newspaper chit-chat believe that Lady Warwick, then Lady Brook, was present at Tranby Croft when that most unpleasant and still not wholly explained incident of cheating at cards took place at the Wilsons’, round the table where the late King was playing as Prince of Wales. Yet Lady Warwick was neither at Tranby Croft on that occasion, nor has she ever visited the place in her life. Nevertheless, a whole series of discreditable assumptions have been built up against her, based upon the certainty that she was there at the time. Nor, probably, will this campaign of misrepresentation be allowed to die out, especially in the United States, in spite of Lady Warwick’s positive denial in the Times.

And this is only one of a long series of misstatements of a similar character. Of course no one, possessed of her vigour, initiative and courage, could fail to have the defects of her qualities. Socialists, no matter what class they may happen to belong to, are not exempted from the common lot of humanity in that respect. And Lady Warwick belongs to a more spacious age than ours. As I have not been able to refrain from saying to her more than once, she ought to have been born into the fifteenth century, the golden age of our history, when the mass of the people in this island were well-off and independent, when the position of Chatelaine of a great family was recognised without envy, and accepted without servility, and when “largesse, largesse” carried with it no sense of condescension on the part of the giver, and evoked no feeling of humiliation on the part of the receiver. This latter part of her duties as a great lady she would undoubtedly have understood and have carried out to perfection in those happy days of the English peasantry.

Such was the succession of reflections which coursed through my mind several times at Easton Lodge, when I have seen Lady Warwick crossing the lawn to her guests, or, as we sat conversing about many things under the trees, or above the lily-bespangled water with pergolas framing in the picture on either hand. But never did the possibility of it all come home to me more forcibly than when Lady Warwick invited all the active members of the Social-Democratic Federation down to a day’s pleasuring at that delightful place. It was a lovely summer day. The gardens and the lawns, the cricket-ground, tennis-courts, park and woods looked their very best, and the whole scene lent itself to enjoyment and jollity. Several hundred people came. Needless to say the whole thing was admirably done in every way. Those present had games of all kinds at their disposal, the full run of the place for the satisfaction of their curiosity and power of admiration. Excellent fare was laid out in a spacious tent, and for that day at any rate every one felt that the cares of competitive life were lifted from off their shoulders and could understand what was meant by Lafargue’s “Right to Leisure” – active repose, lulled by the beauty of the surroundings, coming after services rendered to the community. The charm and delight of civilised existence sandwiched in for a few hours between the hard realities of capitalist life. What is even more pleasant to recall is the fact that, though a large portion of the visitors came from some of the poorest parts of London, and the house, as well as the grounds, was thrown open to all who chose to wander through it, a broken glass door, slammed too forcibly by accident, was the sole record of damage done, and none of the beautiful things which lay scattered around in the house were mislaid or injured. It is certain that if the highest happiness consists in securing happiness for others, Lady Warwick herself was a happy woman that day.

In fact, there is some difficulty for me in regarding Lady Warwick except as a hostess, and I fancy there are not a few in the like position.

The fifteenth century came back again to my mind out of the past at the splendid pageant at Warwick Castle, or, when afterwards looking out from the Castle itself over the ruins of Elizabeth’s Bridge, and as the exquisite landscape of wood and water happily commingled faded slowly from sight in the gloaming, I tried to live again into the feudal period, and watch the stir and colour of those grand and cruel old days sweep along in gorgeous array, lit up by flambeaux, into the darkness of the night. If I once began that I could never leave off, not even when the raucous cry of the numberless peacocks broke in upon the grateful cawing of the rooks, who had not then taken their sudden and mysterious departure from their ancestral tree-tops. [1]

There is something so fascinating and seductive in the effort to materialise, as it were, in thought and in writing the unsubstantial visions of history, and to people once more with the inhabitants of a bygone age the halls and corridors, the reception rooms and boudoirs of a great baronial castle, or a fine old manorial house, that, in such farther reincarnations as, unknown to myself, may be vouchsafed to me, I hereby reserve and claim the larger part of my coming pilgrimages on this planet for one continuous endeavour thus to call up from the centuries the men and women who went before us, through what will then be our England, in their habit and complexion as they lived. It is certain that the sight of Lady Warwick strolling in the gardens of Easton Lodge or Warwick Castle would greatly help in this imaginative re-creation.

But it is too late, much too late, for all this now. So I only recall with pleasure those talks now and again when I have endeavoured – such was my zeal or my rashness – to win over Lord Warwick to our material religion, or when I argued at the time of the Georgian Budget that, if only they would but see it, then was the time for the aristocrats to have gone in boldly on the side of the people, who were being taxed millions against the paltry thousands about which the modern nobles of England raised so pitiful yet so shrill a cry. I looked on with blank amazement as I saw men of knowledge and ability who had spoken boldly of their “patriotism” and their “order” surrender at discretion before even the battle was joined. I have no sympathy with the great landowners of Great Britain (now for the most part mere sleeping partners in the profit-mongering production and sweating slave-drivery of the capitalist class which does the actual dirty work), whose forbears grabbed the Church lands and stole the commons of our country, with a nefarious meanness scarcely to be equalled by the very worst of the cotton and coal lords.

Nevertheless, I do feel with Robert Owen that, bad as the nobles and landowners of the old time, with their descendants and supplanters, were and are, they both were and are better than the leading representatives of the capitalists, whose crushing economic and social tyranny has degraded and embittered millions of our people. I could not understand then, and I fail to comprehend now, why a man like the Earl of Warwick of ancient descent, sportsman and soldier, artist and man of the world, should have given in rather than fight the thing out to a finish, side by side with that robust old lawyer Halsbury, or the still more ferocious firebrand Willoughby de Broke. Though I should have found myself to a certainty in the opposite camp to my kind and courteous host, I should, I confess, have liked to see the House of Lords making a stand against the most corrupt [2], unscrupulous, and tyrannical House of Commons known to our history. It would at least have fallen with dignity instead of being kicked downstairs with contempt. And possibly this influences me in some degree: it is certain we Socialists, with us Lady Warwick herself, must have gained in this pleasing encounter between the kites and the crows.

“How was it you nobles allowed yourselves to be beaten so badly?” was asked of one of them after the great French Revolution. “Nous étions des lâches” – we were cowards, was the reply. Not physical cowards. No one could accuse them of that. They went to the scaffold under terrible conditions, with the coolest courage; and their womenkind, who practised mounting the steps to execution on orange boxes in their prison, so that they might in no wise derogate from their aristocratic deportment and elegance when they completed their final toilette and reception, were even more intrepid and dignified than the men. No, it was not physical but moral courage they lacked. They felt that their whole system was in decay and had outrun its usefulness; though their conception of this fact, perhaps, never took clear shape in their minds. It was, happily for them, under widely different conditions that the aristocracy here felt impelled to give way, and I am quite confident that the capitalists will be still more incompetent and morally pusillanimous when their turn comes, and they are really put to the test.

But it was not the winning side which Lady Warwick took when she threw in her lot with Socialism nine years ago. Very far, indeed, from that. Still less was it the winning side which she supported, at great personal and pecuniary sacrifice, in the General Elections of 1906, 1910, and 1910 again. Nothing could have been more depressing than the results of my own candidatures at Burnley on each occasion. We were so near and yet so far in the first two, and in the last it was nothing short of a complete slump – the votings were even worse. I consider it wonderful that she has stuck to the cause, with practically no success to brighten her path, during these long years. Last summer and this, when Tillett and Thorne and Jones had that very difficult task at the East End of London, when at any moment local as well as national feeling might have turned, and, in fact, was turning against them, Lady Warwick went up frequently from Easton to encourage the strikers in their work, though she had plenty of troubles of her own on hand at that time. Possibly she thought more would come from that movement and the strike of the miners than really resulted; but that is only to say that, quite unlike the great majority of her class, she was anxious that the workers should make their power felt and should force the economic and social conflict and class war to an issue, before the wage-earners themselves were ready to appreciate the opportunities which lay ready to their hand.

That, as said, the lady has the defects of her qualities is no more than is true of any man or woman possessed of her capacity for initiative, her generous desire to help all downtrodden people, and her impulsive anxiety to rush to the front at any period of stir. But, so far as I am aware, no woman of her rank in Western Europe has gone out of her way to aid the emancipation of the masses from their enslavement of our day as the Countess of Warwick has done. That she has not neglected the development of her children or weakened the ties of her family life by so doing, is obvious to all who have the least knowledge of her domestic surroundings.


1. In 1911 the rooks at Warwick Castle held innumerable conferences of a most solemn character. At the end they all took their departure. The countryside was filled with consternation. Some terrible disaster would assuredly befall the family. Nobody could find out whither they went. This year (1912) I hear they have returned as suddenly as they left.

2. I am told this is quite wrong. There is no corruption in the House of Commons. Isn’t there? How about the National Telephone purchase? What of the Standard Oil privileges? Why was the South African Inquiry closed down? Who bought Marconi shares? etc. etc.

Last updated on 1.11.2007