Three years is a long time to leave a letter unanswered, and your letter has been lying without an answer even longer than that. I had hoped that it would answer itself, or that other people would answer it for me. But there it is with its question — How in your opinion are we to prevent war? — still unanswered.
It is true that many answers have suggested themselves, but none that would not need explanation, and explanations take time. In this case, too, there are reasons why it is particularly difficult to avoid misunderstanding. A whole page could be filled with excuses and apologies; declarations of unfitness, incompetence, lack of knowledge, and experience: and they would be true. But even when they were said there would still remain some difficulties so fundamental that it may well prove impossible for you to understand or for us to explain. But one does not like to leave so remarkable a letter as yours — a letter perhaps unique in the history of human correspondence, since when before has an educated man asked a woman how in her opinion war can be prevented? — unanswered. Therefore let us make the attempt; even if it is doomed to failure.
In the first place let us draw what all letter-writers instinctively draw, a sketch of the person to whom the letter is addressed. Without someone warm and breathing on the other side of the page, letters are worthless. You, then, who ask the question, are a little grey on the temples; the hair is no longer thick on the top of your head. You have reached the middle years of life not without effort, at the Bar; but on the whole your journey has been prosperous. There is nothing parched, mean or dissatisfied in your expression. And without wishing to flatter you, your prosperity — wife, children, house — has been deserved. You have never sunk into the contented apathy of middle life, for, as your letter from an office in the heart of London shows, instead of turning on your pillow and prodding your pigs, pruning your pear trees — you have a few acres in Norfolk — you are writing letters, attending meetings, presiding over this and that, asking questions, with the sound of the guns in your ears. For the rest, you began your education at one of the great public schools and finished it at the university.
It is now that the first difficulty of communication between us appears. Let us rapidly indicate the reason. We both come of what, in this hybrid age when, though birth is mixed, classes still remain fixed, it is convenient to call the educated class. When we meet in the flesh we speak with the same accent; use knives and forks in the same way; expect maids to cook dinner and wash up after dinner; and can talk during dinner without much difficulty about politics and people; war and peace; barbarism and civilization — all the questions indeed suggested by your letter. Moreover, we both earn our livings. But . . . those three dots mark a precipice, a gulf so deeply cut between us that for three years and more I have been sitting on my side of it wondering whether it is any use to try to speak across it. Let us then ask someone else — it is Mary Kingsley — to speak for us. ‘I don’t know if I ever revealed to you the fact that being allowed to learn German was ALL the paid-for education I ever had. Two thousand pounds was spent on my brother’s, I still hope not in vain.’1 Mary Kingsley is not speaking for herself alone; she is speaking, still, for many of the daughters of educated men. And she is not merely speaking for them; she is also pointing to a very important fact about them, a fact that must profoundly influence all that follows: the fact of Arthur’s Education Fund. You, who have read Pendennis, will remember how the mysterious letters A.E.F. figured in the household ledgers. Ever since the thirteenth century English families have been paying money into that account. From the Pastons to the Pendennises, all educated families from the thirteenth century to the present moment have paid money into that account. It is a voracious receptacle. Where there were many sons to educate it required a great effort on the part of the family to keep it full. For your education was not merely in book-learning; games educated your body; friends taught you more than books or games. Talk with them broadened your outlook and enriched your mind. In the holidays you travelled; acquired a taste for art; a knowledge of foreign politics; and then, before you could earn your own living, your father made you an allowance upon which it was possible for you to live while you learnt the profession which now entitles you to add the letters K.C. to your name. All this came out of Arthur’s Education Fund. And to this your sisters, as Mary Kingsley indicates, made their contribution. Not only did their own education, save for such small sums as paid the German teacher, go into it; but many of those luxuries and trimmings which are, after all, an essential part of education — travel, society, solitude, a lodging apart from the family house — they were paid into it too. It was a voracious receptacle, a solid fact — Arthur’s Education Fund — a fact so solid indeed that it cast a shadow over the entire landscape. And the result is that though we look at the same things, we see them differently. What is that congregation of buildings there, with a semi-monastic look, with chapels and halls and green playing-fields? To you it is your old school; Eton or Harrow; your old university, Oxford or Cambridge; the source of memories and of traditions innumerable. But to us, who see it through the shadow of Arthur’s Education Fund, it is a schoolroom table; an omnibus going to a class; a little woman with a red nose who is not well educated herself but has an invalid mother to support; an allowance of £50 a year with which to buy clothes, give presents and take journeys on coming to maturity. Such is the effect that Arthur’s Education Fund has had upon us. So magically does it change the landscape that the noble courts and quadrangles of Oxford and Cambridge often appear to educated men’s daughters2 like petticoats with holes in them, cold legs of mutton, and the boat train starting for abroad while the guard slams the door in their faces.
The fact that Arthur’s Education Fund changes the landscape — the halls, the playing grounds, the sacred edifices — is an important one; but that aspect must be left for future discussion. Here we are only concerned with the obvious fact, when it comes to considering this important question — how we are to help you prevent war — that education makes a difference. Some knowledge of politics, of international relations of economics, is obviously necessary in order to understand the causes which lead to war. Philosophy, theology even, might come in usefully. Now you the uneducated, you with an untrained mind, could not possibly deal with such questions satisfactorily. War, as the result of impersonal forces, is you will agree beyond the grasp of the untrained mind. But war as the result of human nature is another thing. Had you not believed that human nature, the reasons, the emotions of the ordinary man and woman, lead to war, you would not have written asking for our help. You must have argued, men and women, here and now, are able to exert their wills; they are not pawns and puppets dancing on a string held by invisible hands. They can act, and think for themselves. Perhaps even they can influence other people’s thoughts and actions. Some such reasoning must have led you to apply to us; and with justification. For happily there is one branch of education which comes under the heading ‘unpaid-for education’— that understanding of human beings and their motives which, if the word is rid of its scientific associations, might be called psychology. Marriage, the one great profession open to our class since the dawn of time until the year 1919; marriage, the art of choosing the human being with whom to live life successfully, should have taught us some skill in that. But here again another difficulty confronts us. For though many instincts are held more or less in common by both sexes, to fight has always been the man’s habit, not the woman’s. Law and practice have developed that difference, whether innate or accidental. Scarcely a human being in the course of history has fallen to a woman’s rifle; the vast majority of birds and beasts have been killed by you, not by us; and it is difficult to judge what we do not share.3
How then are we to understand your problem, and if we cannot, how can we answer your question, how to prevent war? The answer based upon our experience and our psychology — Why fight? — is not an answer of any value. Obviously there is for you some glory, some necessity, some satisfaction in fighting which we have never felt or enjoyed. Complete understanding could only be achieved by blood transfusion and memory transfusion — a miracle still beyond the reach of science. But we who live now have a substitute for blood transfusion and memory transfusion which must serve at a pinch. There is that marvellous, perpetually renewed, and as yet largely untapped aid to the understanding of human motives which is provided in our age by biography and autobiography. Also there is the daily paper, history in the raw. There is thus no longer any reason to be confined to the minute span of actual experience which is still, for us, so narrow, so circumscribed. We can supplement it by looking at the picture of the lives of others. It is of course only a picture at present, but as such it must serve. It is to biography then that we will turn first, quickly and briefly, in order to attempt to understand what war means to you. Let us extract a few sentences from a biography. First, this from a soldier’s life:
I have had the happiest possible life, and have always been working for war, and have now got into the biggest in the prime of life for a soldier . . . Thank God, we are off in an hour. Such a magnificent regiment! Such men, such horses! Within ten days I hope Francis and I will be riding side by side straight at the Germans.4
To which the biographer adds:
From the first hour he had been supremely happy, for he had found his true calling.
To that let us add this from an airman’s life:
We talked of the League of Nations and the prospects of peace and disarmament. On this subject he was not so much militarist as martial. The difficulty to which he could find no answer was that if permanent peace were ever achieved, and armies and navies ceased to exist, there would be no outlet for the manly qualities which fighting developed, and that human physique and human character would deteriorate.5
Here, immediately, are three reasons which lead your sex to fight; war is a profession; a source of happiness and excitement; and it is also an outlet for manly qualities, without which men would deteriorate. But that these feelings and opinions are by no means universally held by your sex is proved by the following extract from another biography, the life of a poet who was killed in the European war: Wilfred Owen.
Already I have comprehended a light which never will filter into the dogma of any national church: namely, that one of Christ’s essential commands was: Passivity at any price! Suffer dishonour and disgrace, but never resort to arms. Be bullied, be outraged, be killed; but do not kill . . . Thus you see how pure Christianity will not fit in with pure patriotism.
And among some notes for poems that he did not live to write are these:
The unnaturalness of weapons . . . Inhumanity of war . . . The insupportability of war . . . Horrible beastliness of war . . . Foolishness of war.6
From these quotations it is obvious that the same sex holds very different opinions about the same thing. But also it is obvious, from today’s newspaper, that however many dissentients there are, the great majority of your sex are today in favour of war. The Scarborough Conference of educated men, the Bournemouth Conference of working men are both agreed that to spend £300,000,000 annually upon arms is a necessity. They are of opinion that Wilfred Owen was wrong; that it is better to kill than to be killed. Yet since biography shows that differences of opinion are many, it is plain that there must be some one reason which prevails in order to bring about this overpowering unanimity. Shall we call it, for the sake of brevity, ‘patriotism’? What then, we must ask next, is this ‘patriotism’ which leads you to go to war? Let the Lord Chief Justice of England interpret it for us:
Englishmen are proud of England. For those who have been trained in English schools and universities, and who have done the work of their lives in England, there are few loves stronger than the love we have for our country. When we consider other nations, when we judge the merits of the policy of this country or of that, it is the standard of our own country that we apply . . . Liberty has made her abode in England. England is the home of democratic institutions . . . It is true that in our midst there are many enemies of liberty — some of them, perhaps, in rather unexpected quarters. But we are standing firm. It has been said that an Englishman’s Home is his Castle. The home of Liberty is in England. And it is a castle indeed — a castle that will be defended to the last . . . Yes, we are greatly blessed, we Englishmen.7
That is a fair general statement of what patriotism means to an educated man and what duties it imposes upon him. But the educated man’s sister — what does ‘patriotism’ mean to her? Has she the same reasons for being proud of England, for loving England, for defending England? Has she been ‘greatly blessed’ in England? History and biography when questioned would seem to show that her position in the home of freedom has been different from her brother’s; and psychology would seem to hint that history is not without its effect upon mind and body. Therefore her interpretation of the word ‘patriotism’ may well differ from his. And that difference may make it extremely difficult for her to understand his definition of patriotism and the duties it imposes. If then our answer to your question, ‘How in your opinion are we to prevent war?’ depends upon understanding the reasons, the emotions, the loyalties which lead men to go to war, this letter had better be torn across and thrown into the waste-paper basket. For it seems plain that we cannot understand each other because of these differences. It seems plain that we think differently according as we are born differently; there is a Grenfell point of view; a Knebworth point of view; a Wilfred Owen point of view; a Lord Chief Justice’s point of view and the point of view of an educated man’s daughter. All differ. But is there no absolute point of view? Can we not find somewhere written up in letters of fire or gold, ‘This is right. This wrong’? — a moral judgement which we must all, whatever our differences, accept? Let us then refer the question of the rightness or wrongness of war to those who make morality their profession — the clergy. Surely if we ask the clergy the simple question: ‘Is war right or is war wrong?’ they will give us a plain answer which we cannot deny. But no — the Church of England, which might be supposed able to abstract the question from its worldly confusions, is of two minds also. The bishops themselves are at loggerheads. The Bishop of London maintained that ‘the real danger to the peace of the world today were the pacifists. Bad as war was dishonour was far worse.’8 On the other hand, the Bishop of Birmingham9 described himself as an ‘extreme pacifist . . . I cannot see myself that war can be regarded as consonant with the spirit of Christ.’ So the Church itself gives us divided counsel — in some circumstances it is right to fight; in no circumstances is it right to fight. It is distressing, baffling, confusing, but the fact must be faced; there is no certainty in heaven above or on earth below. Indeed the more lives we read, the more speeches we listen to, the more opinions we consult, the greater the confusion becomes and the less possible it seems, since we cannot understand the impulses, the motives, or the morality which lead you to go to war, to make any suggestion that will help you to prevent war.
But besides these pictures of other people’s lives and minds — these biographies and histories — there are also other pictures — pictures of actual facts; photographs. Photographs, of course, are not arguments addressed to the reason; they are simply statements of fact addressed to the eye. But in that very simplicity there may be some help. Let us see then whether when we look at the same photographs we feel the same things. Here then on the table before us are photographs. The Spanish Government sends them with patient pertinacity about twice a week.* They are not pleasant photographs to look upon. They are photographs of dead bodies for the most part. This morning’s collection contains the photograph of what might be a man’s body, or a woman’s; it is so mutilated that it might, on the other hand, be the body of a pig. But those certainly are dead children, and that undoubtedly is the section of a house. A bomb has torn open the side; there is still a birdcage hanging in what was presumably the sitting-room, but the rest of the house looks like nothing so much as a bunch of spillikins suspended in mid air.
* Written in the winter of 1936-7.
Those photographs are not an argument; they are simply a crude statement of fact addressed to the eye. But the eye is connected with the brain; the brain with the nervous system. That system sends its messages in a flash through every past memory and present feeling. When we look at those photographs some fusion takes place within us; however different the education, the traditions behind us, our sensations are the same; and they are violent. You, Sir, call them ‘horror and disgust’. We also call them horror and disgust. And the same words rise to our lips. War, you say, is an abomination; a barbarity; war must be stopped at whatever cost. And we echo your words. War is an abomination; a barbarity; war must be stopped. For now at last we are looking at the same picture; we are seeing with you the same dead bodies, the same ruined houses.
Let us then give up, for the moment, the effort to answer your question, how we can help you to prevent war, by discussing the political, the patriotic or the psychological reasons which lead you to go to war. The emotion is too positive to suffer patient analysis. Let us concentrate upon the practical suggestions which you bring forward for our consideration. There are three of them. The first is to sign a letter to the newspapers; the second is to join a certain society; the third is to subscribe to its funds. Nothing on the face of it could sound simpler. To scribble a name on a sheet of paper is easy; to attend a meeting where pacific opinions are more or less rhetorically reiterated to people who already believe in them is also easy; and to write a cheque in support of those vaguely acceptable opinions, though not so easy, is a cheap way of quieting what may conveniently be called one’s conscience. Yet there are reasons which make us hesitate; reasons into which we must enter, less superficially, later on. Here it is enough to say that though the three measures you suggest seem plausible, yet it also seems that, if we did what you ask, the emotion caused by the photographs would still remain unappeased. That emotion, that very positive emotion, demands something more positive than a name written on a sheet of paper; an hour spent listening to speeches; a cheque written for whatever sum we can afford — say one guinea. Some more energetic, some more active method of expressing our belief that war is barbarous, that war is inhuman, that war, as Wilfred Owen put it, is insupportable, horrible and beastly seems to be required. But, rhetoric apart, what active method is open to us? Let us consider and compare. You, of course, could once more take up arms — in Spain, as before in France — in defence of peace. But that presumably is a method that having tried you have rejected. At any rate that method is not open to us; both the Army and the Navy are closed to our sex. We are not allowed to fight. Nor again are we allowed to be members of the Stock Exchange. Thus we can use neither the pressure of force nor the pressure of money. The less direct but still effective weapons which our brothers, as educated men, possess in the diplomatic service, in the Church, are also denied to us. We cannot preach sermons or negotiate treaties. Then again although it is true that we can write articles or send letters to the Press, the control of the Press — the decision what to print, what not to print — is entirely in the hands of your sex. It is true that for the past twenty years we have been admitted to the Civil Service and to the Bar; but our position there is still very precarious and our authority of the slightest. Thus all the weapons with which an educated man can enforce his opinion are either beyond our grasp or so nearly beyond it that even if we used them we could scarcely inflict one scratch. If the men in your profession were to unite in any demand and were to say: ‘If it is not granted we will stop work’, the laws of England would cease to be administered. If the women in your profession said the same thing it would make no difference to the laws of England whatever. Not only are we incomparably weaker than the men of our own class; we are weaker than the women of the working class. If the working women of the country were to say: ‘If you go to war, we will refuse to make munitions or to help in the production of goods,’ the difficulty of war-making would be seriously increased. But if all the daughters of educated men were to down tools tomorrow, nothing essential either to the life or to the war-making of the community would be embarrassed. Our class is the weakest of all the classes in the state. We have no weapon with which to enforce our will.10
The answer to that is so familiar that we can easily anticipate it. The daughters of educated men have no direct influence, it is true; but they possess the greatest power of all; that is, the influence that they can exert upon educated men. If this is true, if, that is, influence is still the strongest of our weapons and the only one that can be effective in helping you to prevent war, let us, before we sign your manifesto or join your society, consider what that influence amounts to. Clearly it is of such immense importance that it deserves profound and prolonged scrutiny. Ours cannot be profound; nor can it be prolonged; it must be rapid and imperfect — still, let us attempt it.
What influence then have we had in the past upon the profession that is most closely connected with war — upon politics? There again are the innumerable, the invaluable biographies, but it would puzzle an alchemist to extract from the massed lives of politicians that particular strain which is the influence upon them of women. Our analysis can only be slight and superficial; still if we narrow our inquiry to manageable limits, and run over the memoirs of a century and a half we can hardly deny that there have been women who have influenced politics. The famous Duchess of Devonshire, Lady Palmerston, Lady Melbourne, Madame de Lieven, Lady Holland, Lady Ashburton — to skip from one famous name to another — were all undoubtedly possessed of great political influence. Their famous houses and the parties that met in them play so large a part in the political memoirs of the time that we can hardly deny that English politics, even perhaps English wars, would have been different had those houses and those parties never existed. But there is one characteristic that all those memoirs possess in common; the names of the great political leaders — Pitt, Fox, Burke, Sheridan, Peel, Canning, Palmerston, Disraeli, Gladstone — are sprinkled on every page; but you will not find either at the head of the stairs receiving the guests, or in the more private apartments of the house, any daughter of an educated man. It may be that they were deficient in charm, in wit, in rank, or in clothing. Whatever the reason, you may turn page after page, volume after volume, and though you will find their brothers and husbands — Sheridan at Devonshire House, Macaulay at Holland House, Matthew Arnold at Lansdowne House, Carlyle even at Bath House, the names of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, and George Eliot do not occur; and though Mrs Carlyle went, Mrs Carlyle seems on her own showing to have found herself ill at ease.
But, as you will point out, the daughters of educated men may have possessed another kind of influence — one that was independent of wealth and rank, of wine, food, dress and all the other amenities that make the great houses of the great ladies so seductive. Here indeed we are on firmer ground, for there was of course one political cause which the daughters of educated men had much at heart during the past 150 years: the franchise. But when we consider how long it took them to win that cause, and what labour, we can only conclude that influence has to be combined with wealth in order to be effective as a political weapon, and that influence of the kind that can be exerted by the daughters of educated men is very low in power, very slow in action, and very painful in use.11 Certainly the one great political achievement of the educated man’s daughter cost her over a century of the most exhausting and menial labour; kept her trudging in processions, working in offices, speaking at street corners; finally, because she used force, sent her to prison, and would very likely still keep her there, had it not been, paradoxically enough, that the help she gave her brothers when they used force at last gave her the right to call herself, if not a full daughter, still a stepdaughter of England.12
Influence then when put to the test would seem to be only fully effective when combined with rank, wealth and great houses. The influential are the daughters of noblemen, not the daughters of educated men. And that influence is of the kind described by a distinguished member of your own profession, the late Sir Ernest Wild.
He claimed that the great influence which women exerted over men always had been, and always ought to be, an indirect influence. Man liked to think he was doing his job himself when, in fact, he was doing just what the woman wanted, but the wise woman always let him think he was running the show when he was not. Any woman who chose to take an interest in politics had an immensely greater power without the vote than with it, because she could influence many voters. His feeling was that it was not right to bring women down to the level of men. He looked up to women, and wanted to continue to do so. He desired that the age of chivalry should not pass, because every man who had a woman to care about him liked to shine in her eyes.13
And so on.
If such is the real nature of our influence, and we all recognize the description and have noted the effects, it is either beyond our reach, for many of us are plain, poor and old; or beneath our contempt, for many of us would prefer to call ourselves prostitutes simply and to take our stand openly under the lamps of Piccadilly Circus rather than use it. If such is the real nature, the indirect nature, of this celebrated weapon, we must do without it; add our pigmy impetus to your more substantial forces, and have recourse, as you suggest, to letter signing, society joining and the drawing of an occasional exiguous cheque. Such would seem to be the inevitable, though depressing, conclusion of our inquiry into the nature of influence, were it not that for some reason, never satisfactorily explained, the right to vote,14 in itself by no means negligible, was mysteriously connected with another right of such immense value to the daughters of educated men that almost every word in the dictionary has been changed by it, including the word ‘influence’. You will not think these words exaggerated if we explain that they refer to the right to earn one’s living.
That, Sir, was the right that was conferred upon us less than twenty years ago, in the year 1919, by an Act which unbarred the professions. The door of the private house was thrown open. In every purse there was, or might be, one bright new sixpence in whose light every thought, every sight, every action looked different. Twenty years is not, as time goes, a long time; nor is a sixpenny bit a very important coin; nor can we yet draw upon biography to supply us with a picture of the lives and minds of the new-sixpenny owners. But in imagination perhaps we can see the educated man’s daughter, as she issues from the shadow of the private house, and stands on the bridge which lies between the old world and the new, and asks, as she twirls the sacred coin in her hand, ‘What shall I do with it? What do I see with it?’ Through that light we may guess everything she saw looked different — men and women, cars and churches. The moon even, scarred as it is in fact with forgotten craters, seemed to her a white sixpence, a chaste sixpence, an altar upon which she vowed never to side with the servile, the signers-on, since it was hers to do what she liked with — the sacred sixpence that she had earned with her own hands herself. And if checking imagination with prosaic good sense, you object that to depend upon a profession is only another form of slavery, you will admit from your own experience that to depend upon a profession is a less odious form of slavery than to depend upon a father. Recall the joy with which you received your first guinea for your first brief, and the deep breath of freedom that you drew when you realized that your days of dependence upon Arthur’s Education Fund were over. From that guinea, as from one of the magic pellets to which children set fire and a tree rises, all that you most value — wife, children, home — and above all that influence which now enables you to influence other men, have sprung. What would that influence be if you were still drawing £40 a year from the family purse, and for any addition to that income were dependent even upon the most benevolent of fathers? But it is needless to expatiate. Whatever the reason, whether pride, or love of freedom, or hatred of hypocrisy, you will understand the excitement with which in 1919 your sisters began to earn not a guinea but a sixpenny bit, and will not scorn that pride, or deny that it was justly based, since it meant that they need no longer use the influence described by Sir Ernest Wild.
The word ‘influence’ then has changed. The educated man’s daughter has now at her disposal an influence which is different from any influence that she has possessed before. It is not the influence which the great lady, the Siren, possesses; nor is it the influence which the educated man’s daughter possessed when she had no vote; nor is it the influence which she possessed when she had a vote but was debarred from the right to earn her living. It differs, because it is an influence from which the charm element has been removed; it is an influence from which the money element has been removed. She need no longer use her charm to procure money from her father or brother. Since it is beyond the power of her family to punish her financially she can express her own opinions. In place of the admirations and antipathies which were often unconsciously dictated by the need of money she can declare her genuine likes and dislikes. In short, she need not acquiesce; she can criticize. At last she is in possession of an influence that is disinterested.
Such in rough and rapid outlines is the nature of our new weapon, the influence which the educated man’s daughter can exert now that she is able to earn her own living. The question that has next to be discussed, therefore, is how can she use this new weapon to help you to prevent war? And it is immediately plain that if there is no difference between men who earn their livings in the professions and women who earn their livings, then this letter can end; for if our point of view is the same as yours then we must add our sixpence to your guinea; follow your methods and repeat your words. But, whether fortunately or unfortunately, that is not true. The two classes still differ enormously. And to prove this, we need not have recourse to the dangerous and uncertain theories of psychologists and biologists; we can appeal to facts. Take the fact of education. Your class has been educated at public schools and universities for five or six hundred years, ours for sixty. Take the fact of property.15 Your class possesses in its own right and not through marriage practically all the capital, all the land, all the valuables, and all the patronage in England. Our class possesses in its own right and not through marriage practically none of the capital, none of the land, none of the valuables, and none of the patronage in England. That such differences make for very considerable differences in mind and body, no psychologist or biologist would deny. It would seem to follow then as an indisputable fact that ‘we’— meaning by ‘we’ a whole made trained and are so differently influenced by memory and tradition — must still differ in some essential respects from ‘you’, whose body, brain and spirit have been so differently trained and are so differently influenced by memory and tradition. Though we see the same world, we see it through different eyes. Any help we can give you must be different from that you can give yourselves, and perhaps the value of that help may lie in the fact of that difference. Therefore before we agree to sign your manifesto or join your society, it might be well to discover where the difference lies, because then we may discover where the help lies also. Let us then by way of a very elementary beginning lay before you a photograph — a crudely coloured photograph — of your world as it appears to us who see it from the threshold of the private house; through the shadow of the veil that St Paul still lays upon our eyes; from the bridge which connects the private house with the world of public life.
Your world, then, the world of professional, of public life, seen from this angle undoubtedly looks queer. At first sight it is enormously impressive. Within quite a small space are crowded together St Paul’s, the Bank of England, the Mansion House, the massive if funereal battlements of the Law Courts; and on the other side, Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. There, we say to ourselves, pausing, in this moment of transition on the bridge, our fathers and brothers have spent their lives. All these hundreds of years they have been mounting those steps, passing in and out of those doors, ascending those pulpits, preaching, money- making, administering justice. It is from this world that the private house (somewhere, roughly speaking, in the West End) has derived its creeds, its laws, its clothes and carpets, its beef and mutton. And then, as is now permissible, cautiously pushing aside the swing doors of one of these temples, we enter on tiptoe and survey the scene in greater detail. The first sensation of colossal size, of majestic masonry is broken up into a myriad points of amazement mixed with interrogation. Your clothes in the first place make us gape with astonishment.16 How many, how splendid, how extremely ornate they are — the clothes worn by the educated man in his public capacity! Now you dress in violet; a jewelled crucifix swings on your breast; now your shoulders are covered with lace; now furred with ermine; now slung with many linked chains set with precious stones. Now you wear wigs on your heads; rows of graduated curls descend to your necks. Now your hats are boat-shaped, or cocked; now they mount in cones of black fur; now they are made of brass and scuttle shaped; now plumes of red, now of blue hair surmount them. Sometimes gowns cover your legs; sometimes gaiters. Tabards embroidered with lions and unicorns swing from your shoulders; metal objects cut in star shapes or in circles glitter and twinkle upon your breasts. Ribbons of all colours — blue, purple, crimson — cross from shoulder to shoulder. After the comparative simplicity of your dress at home, the splendour of your public attire is dazzling.
But far stranger are two other facts that gradually reveal themselves when our eyes have recovered from their first amazement. Not only are whole bodies of men dressed alike summer and winter — a strange characteristic to a sex which changes its clothes according to the season, and for reasons of private taste and comfort — but every button, rosette and stripe seems to have some symbolical meaning. Some have the right to wear plain buttons only; others rosettes; some may wear a single stripe; others three, four, five or six. And each curl or stripe is sewn on at precisely the right distance apart; it may be one inch for one man, one inch and a quarter for another. Rules again regulate the gold wire on the shoulders, the braid on the trousers, the cockades on the hats — but no single pair of eyes can observe all these distinctions, let alone account for them accurately.
Even stranger, however, than the symbolic splendour of your clothes are the ceremonies that take place when you wear them. Here you kneel; there you bow; here you advance in procession behind a man carrying a silver poker; here you mount a carved chair; here you appear to do homage to a piece of painted wood; here you abase yourselves before tables covered with richly worked tapestry. And whatever these ceremonies may mean you perform them always together, always in step, always in the uniform proper to the man and the occasion.
Apart from the ceremonies such decorative apparel appears to us at first sight strange in the extreme. For dress, as we use it, is comparatively simple. Besides the prime function of covering the body, it has two other offices — that it creates beauty for the eye, and that it attracts the admiration of your sex. Since marriage until the year 1919 — less than twenty years ago — was the only profession open to us, the enormous importance of dress to a woman can hardly be exaggerated. It was to her what clients are to you — dress was her chief, perhaps her only, method of becoming Lord Chancellor. But your dress in its immense elaboration has obviously another function. It not only covers nakedness, gratifies vanity, and creates pleasure for the eye, but it serves to advertise the social, professional, or intellectual standing of the wearer. If you will excuse the humble illustration, your dress fulfils the same function as the tickets in a grocer’s shop. But, here, instead of saying ‘This is margarine; this pure butter; this is the finest butter in the market,’ it says, ‘This man is a clever man — he is Master of Arts; this man is a very clever man — he is Doctor of Letters; this man is a most clever man — he is a Member of the Order of Merit.’ It is this function — the advertisement function — of your dress that seems to us most singular. In the opinion of St Paul, such advertisement, at any rate for our sex, was unbecoming and immodest; until a very few years ago we were denied the use of it. And still the tradition, or belief, lingers among us that to express worth of any kind, whether intellectual or moral, by wearing pieces of metal, or ribbon, coloured hoods or gowns, is a barbarity which deserves the ridicule which we bestow upon the rites of savages. A woman who advertised her motherhood by a tuft of horsehair on the left shoulder would scarcely, you will agree, be a venerable object.
But what light does our difference here throw upon the problem before us? What connection is there between the sartorial splendours of the educated man and the photograph of ruined houses and dead bodies? Obviously the connection between dress and war is not far to seek; your finest clothes are those that you wear as soldiers. Since the red and the gold, the brass and the feathers are discarded upon active service, it is plain that their expensive and not, one might suppose, hygienic splendour is invented partly in order to impress the beholder with the majesty of the military office, partly in order through their vanity to induce young men to become soldiers. Here, then, our influence and our difference might have some effect; we, who are forbidden to wear such clothes ourselves, can express the opinion that the wearer is not to us a pleasing or an impressive spectacle. He is on the contrary a ridiculous, a barbarous, a displeasing spectacle. But as the daughters of educated men we can use our influence more effectively in another direction, upon our own class — the class of educated men. For there, in courts and universities, we find the same love of dress. There, too, are velvet and silk, fur and ermine. We can say that for educated men to emphasize their superiority over other people, either in birth or intellect, by dressing differently, or by adding titles before, or letters after their names are acts that rouse competition and jealousy — emotions which, as we need scarcely draw upon biography to prove, nor ask psychology to show, have their share in encouraging a disposition towards war. If then we express the opinion that such distinctions make those who possess them ridiculous and learning contemptible we should do something, indirectly, to discourage the feelings that lead to war. Happily we can now do more than express an opinion; we can refuse all such distinctions and all such uniforms for ourselves. This would be a slight but definite contribution to the problem before us — how to prevent war; and one that a different training and a different tradition puts more easily within our reach than within yours.17
But our bird’s-eye view of the outside of things is not altogether encouraging. The coloured photograph that we have been looking at presents some remarkable features, it is true; but it serves to remind us that there are many inner and secret chambers that we cannot enter. What real influence can we bring to bear upon law or business, religion or politics — we to whom many doors are still locked, or at best ajar, we who have neither capital nor force behind us? It seems as if our influence must stop short at the surface. When we have expressed an opinion upon the surface we have done all that we can do. It is true that the surface may have some connection with the depths, but if we are to help you to prevent war we must try to penetrate deeper beneath the skin. Let us then look in another direction — in a direction natural to educated men’s daughters, in the direction of education itself.
Here, fortunately, the year, the sacred year 1919, comes to our help. Since that year put it into the power of educated men’s daughters to earn their livings they have at last some real influence upon education. They have money. They have money to subscribe to causes. Honorary treasurers invoke their help. To prove it, here, opportunely, cheek by jowl with your letter, is a letter from one such treasurer asking for money with which to rebuild a women’s college. And when honorary treasurers invoke help, it stands to reason that they can be bargained with. We have the right to say to her, ‘You shall only have our guinea with which to help you rebuild your college if you will help this gentleman whose letter also lies before us to prevent war.’ We can say to her, ‘You must educate the young to hate war. You must teach them to feel the inhumanity, the beastliness, the insupportability of war.’ But what kind of education shall we bargain for? What sort of education will teach the young to hate war?
That is a question that is difficult enough in itself; and may well seem unanswerable by those who are of Mary Kingsley’s persuasion — those who have had no direct experience of university education themselves. Yet the part that education plays in human life is so important, and the part that it might play in answering your question is so considerable that to shirk any attempt to see how we can influence the young through education against war would be craven. Let us therefore turn from our station on the bridge across the Thames to another bridge over another river, this time in one of the great universities; for both have rivers, and both have bridges, too, for us to stand upon. Once more, how strange it looks, this world of domes and spires, of lecture rooms and laboratories, from our vantage point! How different it looks to us from what it must look to you! To those who behold it from Mary Kingsley’s angle —‘being allowed to learn German was ALL the paid education I ever had’— it may well appear a world so remote, so formidable, so intricate in its ceremonies and traditions that any criticism or comment may well seem futile. Here, too, we marvel at the brilliance of your clothes; here, too, we watch maces erect themselves and processions form, and note with eyes too dazzled to record the differences, let alone to explain them, the subtle distinctions of hats and hoods, of purples and crimsons, of velvet and cloth, of cap and gown. It is a solemn spectacle. The words of Arthur’s song in Pendennis rise to our lips:
Although I enter not,
Yet round about the spot
Sometimes I hover,
And at the sacred gate,
With longing eyes I wait,
Expectant . . .
I will not enter there,
To sully your pure prayer
With thoughts unruly.
But suffer me to pace
Round the forbidden place,
Lingering a minute,
Like outcast spirits, who wait
And see through Heaven’s gate
Angels within it.
But, since both you, Sir, and the honorary treasurer of the college rebuilding fund are waiting for answers to your letters we must cease to hang over old bridges humming old songs; we must attempt to deal with the question of education, however imperfectly.
What, then, is this ‘university education’ of which Mary Kingsley’s sisterhood have heard so much and to which they have contributed so painfully? What is this mysterious process that takes about three years to accomplish, costs a round sum in hard cash, and turns the crude and raw human being into the finished product — an educated man or woman? There can be no doubt in the first place of its supreme value. The witness of biography — that witness which any one who can read English can consult on the shelves of any public library — is unanimous upon this point; the value of education is among the greatest of all human values. Biography proves this in two ways. First, there is the fact that the great majority of the men who have ruled England for the past 500 years, who are now ruling England in Parliament and the Civil Service, have received a university education. Second, there is the fact which is even more impressive if you consider what toil, what privation it implies — and of this, too, there is ample proof in biography — the fact of the immense sum of money that has been spent upon education in the past 500 years. The income of Oxford University is £435,656 (1933- 4), the income of Cambridge University is £212,000 (1930). In addition to the university income each college has its own separate income, which, judging only from the gifts and bequests announced from time to time in the newspapers, must in some cases be of fabulous proportions.18 If we add further the incomes enjoyed by the great public schools — Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Rugby, to name the largest only — so huge a sum of money is reached that there can be no doubt of the enormous value that human beings place upon education. And the study of biography — the lives of the poor, of the obscure, of the uneducated — proves that they will make any effort, any sacrifice to procure an education at one of the great universities.19
But perhaps the greatest testimony to the value of education with which biography provides us is the fact that the sisters of educated men not only made the sacrifices of comfort and pleasure, which were needed in order to educate their brothers, but actually desired to be educated themselves. When we consider the ruling of the Church on this subject, a ruling which we learn from biography was in force only a few years ago —’ . . . I was told that desire for learning in women was against the will of God, . . . ’20 — we must allow that their desire must have been strong. And if we reflect that all the professions for which a university education fitted her brothers were closed to her, her belief in the value of education must appear still stronger, since she must have believed in education for itself. And if we reflect further that the one profession that was open to her — marriage — was held to need no education, and indeed was of such a nature that education unfitted women to practise it, then it would have been no surprise to find that she had renounced any wish or attempt to be educated herself, but had contented herself with providing education for her brothers — the vast majority of women, the nameless, the poor, by cutting down household expenses; the minute minority, the titled, the rich, by founding or endowing colleges for men. This indeed they did. But so innate in human nature is the desire for education that you will find, if you consult biography, that the same desire, in spite of all the impediments that tradition, poverty and ridicule could put in its way, existed too among women. To prove this let us examine one life only — the life of Mary Astell.21 Little is known about her, but enough to show that almost 250 years ago this obstinate and perhaps irreligious desire was alive in her; she actually proposed to found a college for women. What is almost as remarkable, the Princess Anne was ready to give her £10,000 — a very considerable sum then, and, indeed, now, for any woman to have at her disposal — towards the expenses. And then — then we meet with a fact which is of extreme interest, both historically and psychologically: the Church intervened. Bishop Burnet was of opinion that to educate the sisters of educated men would be to encourage the wrong branch, that is to say, the Roman Catholic branch, of the Christian faith. The money went elsewhere; the college was never founded.
But these facts, as facts so often do, prove double-faced; for though they establish the value of education, they also prove that education is by no means a positive value; it is not good in all circumstances, and good for all people; it is only good for some people and for some purposes. It is good if it produces a belief in the Church of England; bad if it produces a belief in the Church of Rome; it is good for one sex and for some professions, but bad for another sex and for another profession.
Such at least would seem to be the answer of biography — the oracle is not dumb, but it is dubious. As, however, it is of great importance that we should use our influence through education to affect the young against war we must not be baffled by the evasions of biography or seduced by its charm. We must try to see what kind of education an educated man’s sister receives at present, in order that we may do our utmost to use our influence in the universities where it properly belongs, and where it will have most chance of penetrating beneath the skin. Now happily we need no longer depend upon biography, which inevitably, since it is concerned with the private life, bristles with innumerable conflicts of private opinion. We have now to help us that record of the public life which is history. Even outsiders can consult the annals of those public bodies which record not the day-to-day opinions of private people, but use a larger accent and convey through the mouths of Parliaments and Senates the considered opinions of bodies of educated men.
History at once informs us that there are now, and have been since about 1870, colleges for the sisters of educated men both at Oxford and at Cambridge. But history also informs us of facts of such a nature about those colleges that all attempt to influence the young against war through the education they receive there must be abandoned. In face of them it is mere waste of time and breath to talk of ‘influencing the young’; useless to lay down terms, before allowing the honorary treasurer to have her guinea; better to take the first train to London than to haunt the sacred gates. But, you will interpose, what are these facts? these historical but deplorable facts? Therefore let us place them before you, warning you that they are taken only from such records as are available to an outsider and from the annals of the university which is not your own — Cambridge. Your judgement, therefore, will be undistorted by loyalty to old ties, or gratitude for benefits received, but it will be impartial and disinterested.
To begin then where we left off: Queen Anne died and Bishop Burnet died and Mary Astell died; but the desire to found a college for her own sex did not die. Indeed, it became stronger and stronger. By the middle of the nineteenth century it became so strong that a house was taken at Cambridge to lodge the students. It was not a nice house; it was a house without a garden in the middle of a noisy street. Then a second house was taken, a better house this time, though it is true that the water rushed through the dining- room in stormy weather and there was no playground. But that house was not sufficient; the desire for education was so urgent that more rooms were needed, a garden to walk in, a playground to play in. Therefore another house was needed. Now history tells us that in order to build this house, money was needed. You will not question that fact but you may well question the next — that the money was borrowed. It will seem to you more probable that the money was given. The other colleges, you will say, were rich; all derived their incomes indirectly, some directly, from their sisters. There is Gray’s Ode to prove it. And you will quote the song with which he hails the benefactors: the Countess of Pembroke who founded Pembroke; the Countess of Clare who founded Clare; Margaret of Anjou who founded Queens’; the Countess of Richmond and Derby who founded St John’s and Christ’s.
What is grandeur, what is power?
Heavier toil, superior pain.
What the bright reward we gain?
The grateful memory of the good.
Sweet is the breath of vernal shower,
The bee’s collected treasures sweet,
Sweet music’s melting fall, but sweeter yet
The still small voice of gratitude.22
Here, you will say in sober prose, was an opportunity to repay the debt. For what sum was needed? A beggarly £10,000 — the very sum that the bishop intercepted about two centuries previously. That £10,000 surely was disgorged by the Church that had swallowed it? But churches do not easily disgorge what they have swallowed. Then the colleges, you will say, which had benefited, they must have given it gladly in memory of their noble benefactresses? What could £10,000 mean to St John’s or Clare or Christ’s? And the land belonged to St John’s. But the land, history says, was leased; and the £10,000 was not given; it was collected laboriously from private purses. Among them one lady must be for ever remembered because she gave £1,000; and Anon. must receive whatever thanks Anon. will consent to receive, because she gave sums ranging from £20 to £100. And another lady was able, owing to a legacy from her mother, to give her services as mistress without salary. And the students themselves subscribed — so far as students can — by making beds and washing dishes, by forgoing amenities and living on simple fare. Ten thousand pounds is not at all a beggarly sum when it has to be collected from the purses of the poor, from the bodies of the young. It takes time, energy, brains, to collect it, sacrifice to give it. Of course, several educated men were very kind; they lectured to their sisters; others were not so kind; they refused to lecture to their sisters. Some educated men were very kind and encouraged their sisters; others were not so kind, they discouraged their sisters.23 Nevertheless, by hook or by crook, the day came at last, history tells us, when somebody passed an examination. And then the mistresses, principals or whatever they called themselves — for the title that should be worn by a woman who will not take a salary must be a matter of doubt — asked the Chancellors and the Masters about whose titles there need be no doubt, at any rate upon that score, whether the girls who had passed examinations might advertise the fact as those gentlemen themselves did by putting letters after their names. This was advisable, because, as the present Master of Trinity, Sir J. J. Thomson, O.M., F.R.S., after poking a little justifiable fun at the ‘pardonable vanity’ of those who put letters after their names, informs us, ‘the general public who have not taken a degree themselves attach much more importance to B.A. after a person’s name than those who have. Head mistresses of schools therefore prefer a belettered staff, so that students of Newnham and Girton, since they could not put B.A. after their names, were at a disadvantage in obtaining appointments.’ And in Heaven’s name, we may both ask, what conceivable reason could there be for preventing them from putting the letters B.A. after their names if it helped them to obtain appointments? To that question history supplies no answer; we must look for it in psychology, in biography; but history supplies us with the fact. ‘The proposal, however,’ the Master of Trinity continues — the proposal, that is, that those who had passed examinations might call themselves B.A. —‘met with the most determined opposition . . . On the day of the voting there was a great influx of non- residents and the proposal was thrown out by the crushing majority of 1707 to 661. I believe the number of voters has never been equalled . . . The behaviour of some of the undergraduates after the poll was declared in the Senate House was exceptionally deplorable and disgraceful. A large band of them left the Senate House, proceeded to Newnham and damaged the bronze gates which had been put up as a memorial to Miss Clough, the first Principal.’24
Is that not enough? Need we collect more facts from history and biography to prove our statement that all attempt to influence the young against war through the education they receive at the universities must be abandoned? For do they not prove that education, the finest education in the world, does not teach people to hate force, but to use it? Do they not prove that education, far from teaching the educated generosity and magnanimity, makes them on the contrary so anxious to keep their possessions, that ‘grandeur and power’ of which the poet speaks, in their own hands, that they will use not force but much subtler methods than force when they are asked to share them? And are not force and possessiveness very closely connected with war? Of what use then is a university education in influencing people to prevent war? But history goes on of course; year succeeds to year. The years change things; slightly but imperceptibly they change them. And history tells us that at last, after spending time and strength whose value is immeasurable in repeatedly soliciting the authorities with the humility expected of our sex and proper to suppliants the right to impress head mistresses by putting the letters B.A. after the name was granted. But that right, history tells us, was only a titular right. At Cambridge, in the year 1937, the women’s colleges — you will scarcely believe it, Sir, but once more it is the voice of fact that is speaking, not of fiction — the women’s colleges are not allowed to be members of the university;25 and the number of educated men’s daughters who are allowed to receive a university education is still strictly limited; though both sexes contribute to the university funds.26 As for poverty, The Times newspaper supplies us with figures; any ironmonger will provide us with a foot-rule; if we measure the money available for scholarships at the men’s colleges with the money available for their sisters at the women’s colleges, we shall save ourselves the trouble of adding up; and come to the conclusion that the colleges for the sisters of educated men are, compared with their brothers’ colleges, unbelievably and shamefully poor.27
Proof of that last fact comes pat to hand in the honorary treasurer’s letter, asking for money with which to rebuild her college. She has been asking for some time; she is still asking, it seems. But there is nothing, after what has been said above, that need puzzle us, either in the fact that she is poor, or in the fact that her college needs rebuilding. What is puzzling, and has become still more puzzling, in view of the facts given above, is this: What answer ought we to make her when she asks us to help her to rebuild her college? History, biography, and the daily paper between them make it difficult either to answer her letter or to dictate terms. For between them they have raised many questions. In the first place, what reason is there to think that a university education makes the educated against war? Again, if we help an educated man’s daughter to go to Cambridge are we not forcing her to think not about education but about war? — not how she can learn, but how she can fight in order that she may win the same advantages as her brothers? Further, since the daughters of educated men are not members of Cambridge University they have no say in that education, therefore how can they alter that education even if we ask them to? And then, of course, other questions arise — questions of a practical nature, which will easily be understood by a busy man, an honorary treasurer, like yourself, Sir. You will be the first to agree that to ask people who are so largely occupied in raising funds with which to rebuild a college to consider the nature of education and what effect it can have upon war is to heap another straw upon an already overburdened back. From an outsider, moreover, who has no right to speak, such a request may well deserve, and perhaps receive, a reply too forcible to be quoted. But we have sworn that we will do all we can to help you to prevent war by using our influence — our earned money influence. And education is the obvious way. Since she is poor, since she is asking for money, and since the giver of money is entitled to dictate terms, let us risk it and draft a letter to her, laying down the terms upon which she shall have our money to help rebuild her college. Here, then, is an attempt:
‘Your letter. Madam, has been waiting some time without an answer. But certain doubts and questions have arisen. May we put them to you, ignorantly as an outsider must, but frankly as an outsider should when asked to contribute money? You say, then, that you are asking for £100,000 with which to rebuild your college. But how can you be so foolish? Or are you so secluded among the nightingales and the willows, or so busy with profound questions of caps and gowns, and which is to walk first into the Provost’s drawing-room — the Master’s pug or the Mistress’s pom — that you have no time to read the daily papers? Or are you so harassed with the problem of drawing £100,000 gracefully from an indifferent public that you can only think of appeals and committees, bazaars and ices, strawberries and cream?
‘Let us then inform you: we are spending three hundred millions annually upon the army and navy; for, according to a letter that lies cheek by jowl with your own, there is grave danger of war. How then can you seriously ask us to provide you with money with which to rebuild your college? If you reply that the college was built on the cheap, and that the college needs rebuilding, that may be true. But when you go on to say that the public is generous, and that the public is still capable of providing large sums for rebuilding colleges, let us draw your attention to a significant passage in the Master of Trinity’s memoirs. It is this: “Fortunately, however, soon after the beginning of this century the University began to receive a succession of very handsome bequests and donations, and these, aided by a liberal grant from the Government, have put the finances of the University in such a good position that it has been quite unnecessary to ask for any increase in the contribution from the Colleges. The income of the University from all sources has increased from about £60,000 in 1900 to £212,000 in 1930. It is not a very wild hypothesis to suppose that this has been to a large extent due to the important and very interesting discoveries which have been made in the University, and Cambridge may be quoted as an example of the practical results which come from Research for its own sake.”
‘Consider only that last sentence. “ . . . Cambridge may be quoted as an example of the practical results which come from Research for its own sake.” What has your college done to stimulate great manufacturers to endow it? Have you taken a leading part in the invention of the implements of war? How far have your students succeeded in business as capitalists? How then can you expect “very handsome bequests and donations” to come your way? Again, are you a member of Cambridge University? You are not. How then can you fairly ask for any say in their distribution? You can not. Therefore, Madam, it is plain that you must stand at the door, cap in hand, giving parties, spending your strength and your time in soliciting subscriptions. That is plain. But it is also plain that outsiders who find you thus occupied must ask themselves, when they receive a request for a contribution towards rebuilding your college, Shall I send it or shan’t I? If I send it, what shall I ask them to do with it? Shall I ask them to rebuild the college on the old lines? Or shall I ask them to rebuild it, but differently? Or shall I ask them to buy rags and petrol and Bryant & May’s matches and burn the college to the ground?
‘These are the questions, Madam, that have kept your letter so long unanswered. They are questions of great difficulty and perhaps they are useless questions. But can we leave them unasked in view of this gentleman’s questions? He is asking how can we help him to prevent war? He is asking us how we can help him to defend liberty; to defend culture? Also consider these photographs: they are pictures of dead bodies and ruined houses. Surely in view of these questions and pictures you must consider very carefully before you begin to rebuild your college what is the aim of education, what kind of society, what kind of human being it should seek to produce. At any rate I will only send you a guinea with which to rebuild your college if you can satisfy me that you will use it to produce the kind of society, the kind of people that will help to prevent war.
‘Let us then discuss as quickly as we can the sort of education that is needed. Now since history and biography — the only evidence available to an outsider — seem to prove that the old education of the old colleges breeds neither a particular respect for liberty nor a particular hatred of war it is clear that you must rebuild your college differently. It is young and poor; let it therefore take advantage of those qualities and be founded on poverty and youth. Obviously, then, it must be an experimental college, an adventurous college. Let it be built on lines of its own. It must be built not of carved stone and stained glass, but of some cheap, easily combustible material which does not hoard dust and perpetrate traditions. Do not have chapels.28 Do not have museums and libraries with chained books and first editions under glass cases. Let the pictures and the books be new and always changing. Let it be decorated afresh by each generation with their own hands cheaply. The work of the living is cheap; often they will give it for the sake of being allowed to do it. Next, what should be taught in the new college, the poor college? Not the arts of dominating other people; not the arts of ruling, of killing, of acquiring land and capital. They require too many overhead expenses; salaries and uniforms and ceremonies. The poor college must teach only the arts that can be taught cheaply and practised by poor people; such as medicine, mathematics, music, painting and literature. It should teach the arts of human intercourse; the art of understanding other people’s lives and minds, and the little arts of talk, of dress, of cookery that are allied with them. The aim of the new college, the cheap college, should be not to segregate and specialize, but to combine. It should explore the ways in which mind and body can be made to cooperate; discover what new combinations make good wholes in human life. The teachers should be drawn from the good livers as well as from the good thinkers. There should be no difficulty in attracting them. For there would be none of the barriers of wealth and ceremony, of advertisement and competition which now make the old and rich universities such uneasy dwelling-places — cities of strife, cities where this is locked up and that is chained down; where nobody can walk freely or talk freely for fear of transgressing some chalk mark, of displeasing some dignitary. But if the college were poor it would have nothing to offer; competition would be abolished. Life would be open and easy. People who love learning for itself would gladly come there. Musicians, painters, writers, would teach there, because they would learn. What could be of greater help to a writer than to discuss the art of writing with people who were thinking not of examinations or degrees or of what honour or profit they could make literature give them but of the art itself?
‘And so with the other arts and artists. They would come to the poor college and practise their arts there because it would be a place where society was free; not parcelled out into the miserable distinctions of rich and poor, of clever and stupid; but where all the different degrees and kinds of mind, body and soul merit cooperated. Let us then found this new college; this poor college; in which learning is sought for itself; where advertisement is abolished; and there are no degrees; and lectures are not given, and sermons are not preached, and the old poisoned vanities and parades which breed competition and jealousy . . . ’
The letter broke off there. It was not from lack of things to say; the peroration indeed was only just beginning. It was because the face on the other side of the page — the face that a letter-writer always sees — appeared to be fixed with a certain melancholy, upon a passage in the book from which quotation has already been made. ‘Head mistresses of schools therefore prefer a belettered staff, so that students of Newnham and Girton, since they could not put B.A. after their name, were at a disadvantage in obtaining appointments.’ The honorary treasurer of the Rebuilding Fund had her eyes fixed on that. ‘What is the use of thinking how a college can be different,’ she seemed to say, ‘when it must be a place where students are taught to obtain appointments?’ ‘Dream your dreams,’ she seemed to add, turning, rather wearily, to the table which she was arranging for some festival, a bazaar presumably, ‘but we have to face realities.’
That then was the ‘reality’ on which her eyes were fixed; students must be taught to earn their livings. And since that reality meant that she must rebuild her college on the same lines as the others, it followed that the college for the daughters of educated men must also make Research produce practical results which will induce bequests and donations from rich men; it must encourage competition; it must accept degrees and coloured hoods; it must accumulate great wealth; it must exclude other people from a share of its wealth; and, therefore, in 500 years or so, that college, too, must ask the same question that you, Sir, are asking now: ‘How in your opinion are we to prevent war?’
An undesirable result that seemed; why then subscribe a guinea to procure it? That question at any rate was answered. No guinea of earned money should go to rebuilding the college on the old plan; just as certainly none could be spent upon building a college upon a new plan; therefore the guinea should be earmarked ‘Rags. Petrol. Matches’. And this note should be attached to it. ‘Take this guinea and with it burn the college to the ground. Set fire to the old hypocrisies. Let the light of the burning building scare the nightingales and incarnadine the willows. And let the daughters of educated men dance round the fire and heap armful upon armful of dead leaves upon the flames. And let their mothers lean from the upper windows and cry “Let it blaze! Let it blaze! For we have done with this ‘education’!”’
That passage, Sir, is not empty rhetoric, for it is based upon the respectable opinion of the late headmaster of Eton, the present Dean of Durham.29 Nevertheless, there is something hollow about it, as is shown by a moment’s conflict with fact. We have said that the only influence which the daughters of educated men can at present exert against war is the disinterested influence that they possess through earning their livings. If there were no means of training them to earn their livings, there would be an end of that influence. They could not obtain appointments. If they could not obtain appointments they would again be dependent upon their fathers and brothers; and if they were again dependent upon their fathers and brothers they would again be consciously and unconsciously in favour of war. History would seem to put that beyond doubt. Therefore we must send a guinea to the honorary treasurer of the college rebuilding fund, and let her do what she can with it. It is useless as things are to attach conditions as to the way in which that guinea is to be spent.
Such then is the rather lame and depressing answer to our question whether we can ask the authorities of the colleges for the daughters of educated men to use their influence through education to prevent war. It appears that we can ask them to do nothing; they must follow the old road to the old end; our own influence as outsiders can only be of the most indirect sort. If we are asked to teach, we can examine very carefully into the aim of such teaching, and refuse to teach any art or science that encourages war. Further, we can pour mild scorn upon chapels, upon degrees, and upon the value of examinations. We can intimate that a prize poem can still have merit in spite of the fact that it has won a prize; and maintain that a book may still be worth reading in spite of the fact that its author took a first class with honours in the English tripos. If we are asked to lecture we can refuse to bolster up the vain and vicious system of lecturing by refusing to lecture.30 And, of course, if we are offered offices and honours for ourselves we can refuse them — how, indeed, in view of the facts, could we possibly do otherwise? But there is no blinking the fact that in the present state of things the most effective way in which we can help you through education to prevent war is to subscribe as generously as possible to the colleges for the daughters of educated men. For, to repeat, if those daughters are not going to be educated they are not going to earn their livings, if they are not going to earn their livings, they are going once more to be restricted to the education of the private house; and if they are going to be restricted to the education of the private house they are going, once more, to exert all their influence both consciously and unconsciously in favour of war. Of that there can be little doubt. Should you doubt it, should you ask proof, let us once more consult biography. Its testimony upon this point is so conclusive, but so voluminous, that we must try to condense many volumes into one story. Here, then, is the narrative of the life of an educated man’s daughter who was dependent upon father and brother in the private house of the nineteenth century.
The day was hot, but she could not go out. ‘How many a long dull summer’s day have I passed immured indoors because there was no room for me in the family carriage and no lady’s maid who had time to walk out with me.’ The sun set; and out she went at last, dressed as well as could be managed upon an allowance of from £40 to £100 a year.31 But ‘to any sort of entertainment she must be accompanied by father or mother or by some married woman.’ Whom did she meet at those entertainments thus dressed, thus accompanied? Educated men —‘cabinet ministers, ambassadors, famous soldiers and the like, all splendidly dressed, wearing decorations.’ What did they talk about? Whatever refreshed the minds of busy men who wanted to forget their own work —‘the gossip of the dancing world’ did very well. The days passed. Saturday came. On Saturday ‘M.P.s and other busy men had leisure to enjoy society’; they came to tea and they came to dinner. Next day was Sunday. On Sundays ‘the great majority of us went as a matter of course to morning church.’ The seasons changed. It was summer. In the summer they entertained visitors, ‘mostly relatives’ in the country. Now it was winter. In the winter ‘they studied history and literature and music, and tried to draw and paint. If they did not produce anything remarkable they learnt much in the process.’ And so with some visiting the sick and teaching the poor, the years passed. And what was the great end and aim of these years, of that education? Marriage, of course. ‘ . . . it was not a question of WHETHER we should marry, but simply of whom we should marry,’ says one of them. It was with a view to marriage that her mind was taught. It was with a view to marriage that she tinkled on the piano, but was not allowed to join an orchestra; sketched innocent domestic scenes, but was not allowed to study from the nude; read this book, but was not allowed to read that, charmed, and talked. It was with a view to marriage that her body was educated; a maid was provided for her; that the streets were shut to her; that the fields were shut to her; that solitude was denied her — all this was enforced upon her in order that she might preserve her body intact for her husband. In short, the thought of marriage influenced what she said, what she thought, what she did. How could it be otherwise? Marriage was the only profession open to her.32
The sight is so curious for what it shows of the educated man as well as of his daughter that it is tempting to linger. The influence of the pheasant upon love alone deserves a chapter to itself.33 But we are not asking now the interesting question, what was the effect of that education upon the race? We are asking why did such an education make the person so educated consciously and unconsciously in favour of war? Because consciously, it is obvious, she was forced to use whatever influence she possessed to bolster up the system which provided her with maids; with carriages; with fine clothes; with fine parties — it was by these means that she achieved marriage. Consciously she must use whatever charm or beauty she possessed to flatter and cajole the busy men, the soldiers, the lawyers, the ambassadors, the cabinet ministers who wanted recreation after their day’s work. Consciously she must accept their views, and fall in with their decrees because it was only so that she could wheedle them into giving her the means to marry or marriage itself.34 In short, all her conscious effort must be in favour of what Lady Lovelace called ‘our splendid Empire’ . . . ‘the price of which,’ she added, ‘is mainly paid by women.’ And who can doubt her, or that the price was heavy?
But her unconscious influence was even more strongly perhaps in favour of war. How else can we explain that amazing outburst in August 1914, when the daughters of educated men who had been educated thus rushed into hospitals, some still attended by their maids, drove lorries, worked in fields and munition factories, and used all their immense stores of charm, of sympathy, to persuade young men that to fight was heroic, and that the wounded in battle deserved all her care and all her praise? The reason lies in that same education. So profound was her unconscious loathing for the education of the private house with its cruelty, its poverty, its hypocrisy, its immorality, its inanity that she would undertake any task however menial, exercise any fascination however fatal that enabled her to escape. Thus consciously she desired ‘our splendid Empire’; unconsciously she desired our splendid war.
So, Sir, if you want us to help you to prevent war the conclusion seems to be inevitable; we must help to rebuild the college which, imperfect as it may be, is the only alternative to the education of the private house. We must hope that in time that education may be altered. That guinea must be given before we give you the guinea that you ask for your own society. But it is contributing to the same cause — the prevention of war. Guineas are rare; guineas are valuable, but let us send one without any condition attached to the honorary treasurer of the building fund, because by so doing we are making a positive contribution to the prevention of war.
1. The Life of Mary Kingsley, by Stephen Gwynn, p. 15. It is difficult to get exact figures of the sums spent on the education of educated men’s daughters. About £20 or £30 presumably covered the entire cost of Mary Kingsley’s education (b. 1862; d. 1900). A sum of £100 may be taken as about the average in the nineteenth century and even later. The women thus educated often felt the lack of education very keenly. ‘I always feel the defects of my education most painfully when I go out,’ wrote Anne J. Clough, the first Principal of Newnham. (Life of Anne J. Clough, by B. A. Clough, p. 60.) Elizabeth Haldane, who came, like Miss Clough, of a highly literate family, but was educated in much the same way, says that when she grew up, ‘My first conviction was that I was not educated, and I thought of how this could be put right. I should have loved going to college, but college in those days was unusual for girls, and the idea was not encouraged. It was also expensive. For an only daughter to leave a widowed mother was indeed considered to be out of the question, and no one made the plan seem feasible. There was in those days a new movement for carrying on correspondence classes . . . ’ (From One Century to Another, by Elizabeth Haldane, p. 73.) The efforts of such uneducated women to conceal their ignorance were often valiant, but not always successful. ‘They talked agreeably on current topics, carefully avoiding controversial subjects. What impressed me was their ignorance and indifference concerning anything outside their own circle . . . no less a personage than the mother of the Speaker of the House of Commons believed that California belonged to us, part of our Empire!’ (Distant Fields, by H. A. Vachell, p. 109.) That ignorance was often simulated in the nineteenth century owing to the current belief that educated men enjoyed it is shown by the energy with which Thomas Gisborne, in his instructive work On the Duties of Women (p. 278), rebuked those who recommend women ‘studiously to refrain from discovering to their partners in marriage the full extent of their abilities and attainments.’ ‘This is not discretion but art. It is dissimulation, it is deliberate imposition . . . It could scarcely be practised long without detection.’
But the educated man’s daughter in the nineteenth century was even more ignorant of life than of books. One reason for that ignorance is suggested by the following quotation: ‘It was supposed that most men were not “virtuous”, that is, that nearly all would be capable of accosting and annoying — or worse — any unaccompanied young woman whom they met.’ (‘Society and the Season’, by Mary, Countess of Lovelace, in Fifty Years, 1882-1932, p. 37.) She was therefore confined to a very narrow circle; and her ‘ignorance and indifference’ to anything outside it was excusable. The connection between that ignorance and the nineteenth-century conception of manhood, which — witness the Victorian hero — made ‘virtue’ and virility incompatible is obvious. In a well-known passage Thackeray complains of the limitations which virtue and virility between them imposed upon his art.
2. Our ideology is still so inveterately anthropocentric that it has been necessary to coin this clumsy term — educated man’s daughter — to describe the class whose fathers have been educated at public schools and universities. Obviously, if the term ‘bourgeois’ fits her brother, it is grossly incorrect to use it of one who differs so profoundly in the two prime characteristics of the bourgeoisie — capital and environment.
3. The number of animals killed in England for sport during the past century must be beyond computation. 1,212 head of game is given as the average for a day’s shooting at Chatsworth in 1909. (Men, Women and Things, by the Duke of Portland, p. 251.) Little mention is made in sporting memoirs of women guns; and their appearance in the hunting field was the cause of much caustic comment. ‘Skittles’, the famous nineteenth-century horsewoman, was a lady of easy morals. It is highly probable that there was held to be some connection between sport and unchastity in women in the nineteenth century.
4. Francis and Riversdale Grenfell, by John Buchan, pp. 189, 205.
5. Antony (Viscount Knebworth), by the Earl of Lytton, p. 355.
6. The Poems of Wilfred Owen, edited by Edmund Blunden, pp. 25.41.
7. Lord Hewart, proposing the toast of ‘England’ at the banquet of the Society of St George at Cardiff.
8. and 9. The Daily Telegraph, 5 February 1937.
10. There is of course one essential that the educated woman can supply: children. And one method by which she can help to prevent war is to refuse to bear children. Thus Mrs Helena Normanton is of opinion that ‘The only thing that women in any country can do to prevent war is to stop the supply of “cannon fodder”.’ (Report of the Annual Council for Equal Citizenship, Daily Telegraph, 5 March 1937.) Letters in the newspapers frequently support this view. ‘I can tell Mr Harry Campbell why women refuse to have children in these times. When men have learnt how to run the lands they govern so that wars shall hit only those who make the quarrels, instead of mowing down those who do not, then women may again feel like having large families. Why should women bring children into such a world as this one is today?’ (Edith Maturin-Porch, in the Daily Telegraph, 6 September 1937.) The fact that the birth rate in the educated class is falling would seem to show that educated women are taking Mrs Normanton’s advice. It was offered them in very similar circumstances over two thousand years ago by Lysistrata.
11. There are of course innumerable kinds of influence besides those specified in the text. It varies from the simple kind described in the following passage: ‘Three years later . . . we find her writing to him as Cabinet Minister to solicit his interest on behalf of a favourite parson for a Crown living . . . ” (Henry Chaplin, a Memoir, by Lady Londonderry, p. 57) to the very subtle kind exerted by Lady Macbeth upon her husband. Somewhere between the two lies the influence described by D. H. Lawrence: ‘It is hopeless for me to try to do anything without I have a woman at the back of me . . . I daren’t sit in the world without I have a woman behind me . . . But a woman that I love sort of keeps me in direct communication with the unknown, in which otherwise I am a bit lost’ (Letters of D. H. Lawrence, pp. 93-4), with which we may compare, though the collocation is strange, the famous and very similar definition given by the ex-King Edward VIII upon his abdication. Present political conditions abroad seem to favour a return to the use of interested influence. For example: ‘A story serves to illustrate the present degree of women’s influence in Vienna. During the past autumn a measure was planned to further diminish women’s professional opportunities. Protests, pleas, letters, all were of no avail. Finally, in desperation, a group of well-known ladies of the city . . . got together and planned. For the next fortnight, for a certain number of hours per day, several of these ladies got on to the telephone to the Ministers they knew personally, ostensibly to ask them to dinner at their homes. With all the charm of which the Viennese are capable, they kept the Ministers talking, asking about this and that, and finally mentioning the matter that distressed them so much. When the Ministers had been rung up by several ladies, all of whom they did not wish to offend, and kept from urgent State affairs by this manoeuvre, they decided on compromise — and so the measure was postponed.’ (Women Must Choose, by Hilary Newitt, p. 129.) Similar use of influence was often deliberately made during the battle for the franchise. But women’s influence is said to be impaired by the possession of a vote. Thus Marshal von Bieberstein was of opinion that ‘Women led men always . . . but he did not wish them to vote.’ (From One Century to Another, by Elizabeth Haldane, p. 258.)
12. English women were much criticized for using force in the battle for the franchise. When in 1910 Mr Birrell had his hat ‘reduced to pulp’ and his shins kicked by suffragettes. Sir Almeric Fitzroy commented, ‘an attack of this character upon a defenceless old man by an organized band of “janissaries” will, it is hoped, convince many people of the insane and anarchical spirit actuating the movement.’ (Memoirs of Sir Almeric Fitzroy, vol. II, p. 425.) These remarks did not apply apparently to the force in the European war. The vote indeed was given to English women largely because of the help they gave to Englishmen in using force in that war. ‘On 14 August 1916, Mr Asquith himself gave up his opposition [to the franchise]. “It is true,” he said, “[that women] cannot fight in the sense of going out with rifles and so forth, but. .. they have aided in the most effective way in the prosecution of the war.”’ (The Cause, by Ray Strachey, p. 354.) This raises the difficult question whether those who did not aid in the prosecution of the war, but did what they could to hinder the prosecution of the war, ought to use the vote to which they are entitled chiefly because others ‘aided in the prosecution of the war’? That they are stepdaughters, not full daughters, of England is shown by the fact that they change nationality on marriage. A woman, whether or not she helped to beat the Germans, becomes a German if she marries a German. Her political views must then be entirely reversed, and her filial piety transferred.
13. Sir Ernest Wild, K.C., by Robert J. Blackburn, pp. 174-5.
14. That the right to vote has not proved negligible is shown by the facts published from time to time by the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship. ‘This publication (What the Vote Has Done) was originally a single-page leaflet; it has now (1927) grown to a six-page pamphlet, and has to be constantly enlarged.’ (Josephine Butler, by M. G. Fawcett and E. M. Turner, note, p. 101.)
15. There are no figures available with which to check facts that must have a very important bearing upon the biology and psychology of the sexes. A beginning might be made in this essential but strangely neglected preliminary by chalking on a large-scale map of England property owned by men, red; by women, blue. Then the number of sheep and cattle consumed by each sex must be compared; the hogsheads of wine and beer; the barrels of tobacco; after which we must examine carefully their physical exercises; domestic employments; facilities for sexual intercourse, etc. Historians are of course mainly concerned with war and politics; but sometimes throw light upon human nature. Thus Macaulay dealing with the English country gentleman in the seventeenth century, says: ‘His wife and daughter were in tastes and acquirements below a housekeeper or still-room maid of the present day. They stitched and spun, brewed gooseberry wine, cured marigolds, and made the crust for the venison pasty.’
Again, ‘The ladies of the house, whose business it had commonly been to cook the repast, retired as soon as the dishes had been devoured, and left the gentlemen to their ale and tobacco.’ (Macaulay, History of England, Chapter Three.) But the gentlemen were still drinking and the ladies were still withdrawing a great deal later. ‘In my mother’s young days before her marriage, the old hard-drinking habits of the Regency and of the eighteenth century still persisted. At Woburn Abbey it was the custom for the trusted old family butler to make his nightly report to my grandmother in the drawing-room. ‘The gentlemen have had a good deal tonight; it might be as well for the young ladies to retire,’ or, ‘The gentlemen have had very little tonight,’ was announced according to circumstances by this faithful family retainer. Should the young girls be packed off upstairs, they liked standing on an upper gallery of the staircase ‘to watch the shouting, riotous crowd issuing from the dining-room.’ (The Days Before Yesterday, by Lord F. Hamilton, p. 322.) It must be left to the scientist of the future to tell us what effect drink and property have had upon chromosomes.
16. The fact that both sexes have a very marked though dissimilar love of dress seems to have escaped the notice of the dominant sex owing largely it must be supposed to the hypnotic power of dominance. Thus the late Mr Justice MacCardie, in summing up the case of Mrs Frankau, remarked: ‘Women cannot be expected to renounce an essential feature of femininity or to abandon one of nature’s solaces for a constant and insuperable physical handicap . . . Dress, after all, is one of the chief methods of women’s self- expression . . . In matters of dress women often remain children to the end. The psychology of the matter must not be overlooked. But whilst bearing the above matters in mind the law has rightly laid it down that the rule of prudence and proportion must be observed.’ The Judge who thus dictated was wearing a scarlet robe, an ermine cape, and a vast wig of artificial curls. Whether he was enjoying ‘one of nature’s solaces for a constant and insuperable physical handicap’, whether again he was himself observing ‘the rule of prudence and proportion’ must be doubtful. But ‘the psychology of the matter must not be overlooked’; and the fact that the singularity of his own appearance together with that of Admirals, Generals, Heralds, Life Guards, Peers, Beefeaters, etc., was completely invisible to him so that he was able to lecture the lady without any consciousness of sharing her weakness, raises two questions: how often must an act be performed before it becomes tradition, and therefore venerable; and what degree of social prestige causes blindness to the remarkable nature of one’s own clothes? Singularity of dress, when not associated with office, seldom escapes ridicule.
17. In the New Year’s Honours List for 1937, 147 men accepted honours as against seven women. For obvious reasons this cannot be taken as a measure of their comparative desire for such advertisement. But that it should be easier, psychologically, for a woman to reject honours than for a man seems to be indisputable. For the fact that intellect (roughly speaking) is man’s chief professional asset, and that stars and ribbons are his chief means of advertising intellect, suggests that stars and ribbons are identical with powder and paint, a woman’s chief method of advertising her chief professional asset: beauty. It would therefore be as unreasonable to ask him to refuse a Knighthood as to ask her to refuse a dress. The sum paid for a Knighthood in 1901 would seem to provide a very tolerable dress allowance; ‘21 April (Sunday)— To see Meynell, who was as usual full of gossip. It appears that the King’s debts have been paid off privately by his friends, one of whom is said to have lent £100,000, and satisfies himself with £25,000 in repayment plus a Knighthood.’ (My Diaries, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, Part II, p. 8.)
18. What the precise figures are it is difficult for an outsider to know. But that the incomes are substantial can be conjectured from a delightful review some years ago by Mr J. M. Keynes in the Nation of a history of Clare College, Cambridge. The book ‘it is rumoured cost six thousand pounds to produce.’ Rumour has it also that a band of students returning at dawn from some festivity about that time saw a cloud in the sky; which as they gazed assumed the shape of a woman; who, being supplicated for a sign, let fall in a shower of radiant hail the one word ‘Rats’. This was interpreted to signify what from another page of the same number of the Nation would seem to be the truth; that the students of one of the women’s colleges suffered greatly from ‘cold gloomy ground floor bedrooms overrun with mice’. The apparition, it was supposed, took this means of suggesting that if the gentlemen of Clare wished to do her honour a cheque for £6,000 payable to the Principal of —— would celebrate her better than a book even though ‘clothed in the finest dress of paper and black buckram . . . ’ There is nothing mythical, however, about the fact recorded in the same number of the Nation that ‘Somerville received with pathetic gratitude the £7,000 which went to it last year from the Jubilee gift and a private bequest.’
19. A great historian has thus described the origin and character of the universities, in one of which he was educated: ‘The schools of Oxford and Cambridge were founded in a dark age of false and barbarous science; and they are still tainted by the vices of their origin . . . The legal incorporation of these societies by the charters of popes and kings had given them a monopoly of public instruction; and the spirit of monopolists is narrow, lazy, and oppressive: their work is more costly and less productive than that of independent artists; and the new improvements so eagerly grasped by the competition of freedom, are admitted with slow and sullen reluctance in those proud corporations, above the fear of a rival, and below the confession of an error. We may scarcely hope that any reformation will be a voluntary act; and so deeply are they rooted in law and prejudice, that even the omnipotence of parliament would shrink from an inquiry into the state and abuses of the two universities.’ (Edward Gibbon, Memoirs of My Life and Writings.) ‘The omnipotence of Parliament’ did however institute an inquiry in the middle of the nineteenth century ‘into the state of the University [of Oxford], its discipline, studies, and revenues. But there was so much passive resistance from the Colleges that the last item had to go by the board. It was ascertained however that out of 542 Fellowships in all the Colleges of Oxford only twenty-two were really open to competition without restrictive conditions of patronage, place or kin . . . The Commissioners . . . found that Gibbon’s indictment had been reasonable . . . ’ (Herbert Warren of Magdalen, by Laurie Magnus, pp. 47-9.) Nevertheless the prestige of a university education remained high; and Fellowships were considered highly desirable. When Pusey became a Fellow of Oriel, ‘The bells of the parish church at Pusey expressed the satisfaction of his father and family.’ Again, when Newman was elected a Fellow, ‘all the bells of the three towers [were] set pealing — at Newman’s expense.’ (Oxford Apostles, by Geoffrey Faber, pp. 131, 69.) Yet both Pusey and Newman were men of a distinctly spiritual nature.
20. The Crystal Cabinet, by Mary Butts, p. 138. The sentence in full runs: ‘For just as I was told that desire for learning in woman was against the will of God, so were many innocent freedoms, innocent delights, denied in the same Name’— a remark which makes it desirable that we should have a biography from the pen of an educated man’s daughter of the Deity in whose Name such atrocities have been committed. The influence of religion upon women’s education, one way or another, can scarcely be overestimated. ‘If, for example,’ says Thomas Gisborne, ‘the uses of music are explained, let not its effect in heightening devotion be overlooked. If drawing is the subject of remark, let the student be taught habitually to contemplate in the works of creation the power, the wisdom and the goodness of their Author.’ (The Duties of the Female Sex, by Thomas Gisborne, p. 85.) The fact that Mr Gisborne and his like — a numerous band — base their educational theories upon the teaching of St Paul would seem to hint that the female sex was to be ‘taught habitually to contemplate in the works of creation, the power and wisdom and the goodness,’ not so much of the Deity, but of Mr Gisborne. And from that we were led to conclude that a biography of the Deity would resolve itself into a Dictionary of Clerical Biography.
21. Mary Astell, by Florence M. Smith. ‘Unfortunately, the opposition to so new an idea (a college for women) was greater than the interest in it, and came not only from the satirists of the day, who, like the wits of all ages, found the progressive woman a source of laughter and made Mary Astell the subject of stock jokes in comedies of the Femmes Savantes type, but from churchmen, who saw in the plan an attempt to bring back popery. The strongest opponent of the idea was a celebrated bishop, who, as Ballard asserts, prevented a prominent lady from subscribing £10,000 to the plan. Elizabeth Elstob gave to Ballard the name of this celebrated bishop in reply to an inquiry from him. “According to Elizabeth Elstob. .. it was Bishop Burnet that prevented that good design by dissuading that lady from encouraging it”.’ (op. cit., pp. 21- 2.) ‘That lady’ may have been Princess Ann, or Lady Elizabeth Hastings; but there seems reason to think that it was the Princess. That the Church swallowed the money is an assumption, but one perhaps justified by the history of the Church.
22. Ode for Music, performed in the Senate House at Cambridge, 1 July 1769.
23. ‘I assure you I am not an enemy of women. I am very favourable to their employment as LABOURERS or in other MENIAL capacity. I have, however, doubts as to the likelihood of their succeeding in business as capitalists. I am sure the nerves of most women would break down under the anxiety, and that most of them are utterly destitute of the disciplined reticence necessary to every sort of cooperation. Two thousand years hence you may have changed it all, but the present women will only flirt with men, and quarrel with one another.’ Extract from a letter from Walter Bagehot to Emily Davies, who had asked his help in founding Girton.
24. Recollections and Reflections, by Sir J. J. Thomson, pp. 86-8, 296-7.
25. ‘Cambridge University still refuses to admit women to the full rights of membership; it grants them only titular degrees and they have therefore no share in the government of the University.’ (Memorandum on the Position of English Women in Relation to that of English Men, by Philippa Strachey, 1935, p. 26.) Nevertheless, the Government makes a ‘liberal grant’ from public money to Cambridge University.
26. ‘The total number of students at recognized institutions for the higher education of women who are receiving instruction in the University or working in the University laboratories or museums shall not at any time exceed five hundred.’ (The Student’s Handbook to Cambridge, 1934-5, p. 616.) Whitaker informs us that the number of male students who were in residence at Cambridge in October 1935 was 5,328. Nor would there appear to be any limitation.
27. The men’s scholarship list at Cambridge printed in The Times of 20 December 1937, measures roughly thirty-one inches; the women’s scholarship list at Cambridge measures roughly five inches. There are, however, seventeen colleges for men and the list here measured includes only eleven. The thirty-one inches must therefore be increased. There are only two colleges for women; both are here measured.
28. Until the death of Lady Stanley of Alderley, there was no chapel at Girton. ‘When it was proposed to build a chapel, she objected, on the ground that all the available funds should be spent on education. “So long as I live, there shall be no chapel at Girton,” I heard her say. The present chapel was built immediately after her death.’ (The Amberley Papers, Patricia and Bertrand Russell, vol. I, p. 17.) Would that her ghost had possessed the same influence as her body! But ghosts, it is said, have no cheque books.
29. ‘I have also a feeling that girls’ schools have, on the whole, been content to take the general lines of their education from the older-established institutions for my own, the weaker sex. My own feeling is that the problem ought to be attacked by some original genius on quite different lines . . . ’ (Things Ancient and Modem, by C. A. Alington, pp. 216-17.) It scarcely needs genius or originality to see that ‘the lines’, in the first place, must be cheaper. But it would be interesting to know what meaning we are to attach to the word ‘weaker’ in the context. For since Dr Alington is a former Head Master of Eton he must be aware that his sex has not only acquired but retained the vast revenues of that ancient foundation — a proof, one would have thought, not of sexual weakness but of sexual strength. That Eton is not ‘weak’, at least from the material point of view, is shown by the following quotation from Dr Alington: ‘Following out the suggestion of one of the Prime Minister’s Committees on Education, the Provost and Fellows in my time decided that all scholarships at Eton should be of a fixed value, capable of being liberally augmented in case of need. So liberal has been this augmentation that there are several boys in College whose parents pay nothing towards either their board or education.’ One of the benefactors was the late Lord Rosebery. ‘He was a generous benefactor to the school,’ Dr Alington informs us, ‘and endowed a history scholarship, in connection with which a characteristic episode occurred. He asked me whether the endowment was adequate and I suggested that a further £200 would provide for the payment to the examiner. He sent a cheque for £2,000: his attention was called to the discrepancy, and I have in my scrap book the reply in which he said that he thought a good round sum would be better than a fraction.’ (op. cit., pp. 163, 186.) The entire sum spent at Cheltenham College for Girls in 1854 upon salaries and visiting teachers was £1,300; ‘and the accounts in December showed a deficit of £400.’ (Dorothea Beale of Cheltenham, by Elizabeth Raikes, p. 91.)
30. The words ‘vain and vicious’ require qualification. No one would maintain that all lecturers and all lectures are ‘vain and vicious’; many subjects can only be taught with diagrams and personal demonstration. The words in the text refer only to the sons and daughters of educated men who lecture their brothers and sisters upon English literature; and for the reasons that it is an obsolete practice dating from the Middle Ages when books were scarce; that it owes its survival to pecuniary motives; or to curiosity; that the publication in book form is sufficient proof of the evil effect of an audience upon the lecturer intellectually; and that psychologically eminence upon a platform encourages vanity and the desire to impose authority. Further, the reduction of English literature to an examination subject must be viewed with suspicion by all who have firsthand knowledge of the difficulty of the art, and therefore of the very superficial value of an examiner’s approval or disapproval; and with profound regret by all who wish to keep one art at least out of the hands of middlemen and free, as long as may be, from all association with competition and money making. Again, the violence with which one school of literature is now opposed to another, the rapidity with which one school of taste succeeds another, may not unreasonably be traced to the power which a mature mind lecturing immature minds has to infect them with strong, if passing, opinions, and to tinge those opinions with personal bias. Nor can it be maintained that the standard of critical or of creative writing has been raised. A lamentable proof of the mental docility to which the young are reduced by lecturers is that the demand for lectures upon English literature steadily increases (as every writer can bear witness) and from the very class which should have learnt to read at home — the educated. If, as is sometimes urged in excuse, what is desired by college literary societies is not knowledge of literature but acquaintance with writers, there are cocktails, and there is sherry; both better unmixed with Proust. None of this applies of course to those whose homes are deficient in books. If the working class finds it easier to assimilate English literature by word of mouth they have a perfect right to ask the educated class to help them thus. But for the sons and daughters of that class after the age of eighteen to continue to sip English literature through a straw, is a habit that seems to deserve the terms vain and vicious; which terms can justly be applied with greater force to those who pander to them.
31. It is difficult to procure exact figures of the sums allowed the daughters of educated men before marriage. Sophia Jex-Blake had an allowance of from £30 to £40 annually; her father was an upper-middle-class man. Lady Lascelles, whose father was an Earl, had, it seems, an allowance of about £100 in 1860; Mr Barrett, a rich merchant, allowed his daughter Elizabeth ‘from forty to forty- five pounds . . . every three months, the income tax being first deducted’. But this seems to have been the interest upon £8,000, ‘or more or less . . . it is difficult to ask about it,’ which she had ‘in the funds’, ‘the money being in two different per cents’, and apparently, though belonging to Elizabeth, under Mr Barrett’s control. But these were unmarried women. Married women were not allowed to own property until the passing of the Married Woman’s Property Act in 1870. Lady St Helier records that since her marriage settlements had been drawn up in conformity with the old law, ‘What money I had was settled on my husband, and no part of it was reserved for my private use . . . I did not even possess a cheque book, nor was I able to get any money except by asking my husband. He was kind and generous but he acquiesced in the position then existing that a woman’s property belonged to her husband . . . he paid all my bills, he kept my bank book, and gave me a small allowance for my personal expenses.’ (Memories of Fifty Years, by Lady St Helier, p. 341.) But she does not say what the exact sum was. The sums allowed to the sons of educated men were considerably larger. An allowance of £200 was considered to be only just sufficient for an undergraduate at Balliol, ‘which still had traditions of frugality’, about 1880. On that allowance ‘they could not hunt and they could not gamble . . . But with care, and with a home to fall back on in the vacations, they could make this do.’ (Anthony Hope and His Books, by Sir C. Mallet, p. 38.) The sum that is now needed is considerably more. Gino Watkins ‘never spent more than the £400 yearly allowance with which he paid all his college and vacation bills’. (Gino Watkins, by J. M. Scott, p. 59.) This was at Cambridge, a few years ago.
32. How incessantly women were ridiculed throughout the nineteenth century for attempting to enter their solitary profession, novel readers know, for those efforts provide half the stock-in-trade of fiction. But biography shows how natural it was, even in the present century, for the most enlightened of men to conceive of all women as spinsters, all desiring marriage. Thus: ‘“Oh dear, what is to happen to them?” he [G. L. Dickinson] once murmured sadly as a stream of aspiring but uninspiring spinsters flowed round the front court of King’s; “I don’t know and they don’t know.” And then in still lower tones as if his bookshelves might overhear him, “Oh dear! What they want is a husband!’” (Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, by E. M. Forster, p. 106.) ‘What they wanted’ might have been the Bar, the Stock Exchange or rooms in Gibbs’s Buildings, had the choice been open to them. But it was not; and therefore Mr Dickinson’s remark was a very natural one.
33. ‘Now and then, at least in the larger houses, there would be a set party, selected and invited long beforehand, and over these always one idol dominated — the pheasant. Shooting had to be used as a lure. At such times the father of the family was apt to assert himself. If his house was to be filled to bursting, his wines drunk in quantities, and his best shooting provided, then for that shooting he would have the best guns possible. What despair for the mother of daughters to be told that the one guest whom of all others she secretly desired to invite was a bad shot and totally inadmissible!’ (‘Society and the Season,’ by Mary, Countess of Lovelace, in Fifty Years, 1882-1932, p. 29.)
34. Some idea of what men hoped that their wives might say and do, at least in the nineteenth century, may be gathered from the following hints in a letter ‘addressed to a young lady for whom he had a great regard a short time before her marriage’ by John Bowdler. ‘Above all, avoid everything which has the LEAST TENDENCY to indelicacy or indecorum. Few women have any IDEA how much men are disgusted at the slightest approach to these in any female, and especially in one to whom they are attached. By attending the nursery, or the sick bed, women are too apt to acquire a habit of conversing on such subjects in language which men of delicacy are shocked at.’ (Life of John Bowdler, p. 123.) But though delicacy was essential, it could, after marriage, be disguised. ‘In the ‘seventies of last century, Miss Jex-Blake and her associates were vigorously fighting the battle for admission of women to the medical profession, and the doctors were still more vigorously resisting their entry, alleging that it must be improper and demoralizing for a woman to have to study and deal with delicate and intimate medical questions. At that time Ernest Hart, the Editor of the British Medical Journal, told me that the majority of the contributions sent to him for publication in the Journal dealing with delicate and intimate medical questions were in the handwriting of the doctors’ wives, to whom they had obviously been dictated. There were no typewriters or stenographers available in those days.’ (The Doctor’s Second Thoughts, by Sir J. Crichton- Browne, pp. 73, 74.)
The duplicity of delicacy was observed long before this, however. Thus Mandeville in The Fable of the Bees (1714) says: ‘ . . . I would have it first consider’d that the Modesty of Woman is the result of Custom and Education, by which all unfashionable Denudations and filthy Expressions are render’d frightful and abominable to them, and that notwithstanding this, the most Virtuous Young Woman alive will often, in spite of her Teeth, have Thoughts and confus’d Ideas of Things arise in her Imagination, which she would not reveal to some People for a Thousand Worlds.’
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01