after I came to London I commenced writing articles for newspapers
and periodicals, some of which were inserted and others were not;
and some of those which were inserted were paid for, and others were
not. But what I did after a time, and with more effect, though it
brought no financial grist to the mill, was to join and take an active
part in the formation and promotion of certain political and social
organisations. At that time political reform societies were more real
and more in earnest than, as a rule, they have been since. Parliamentary
Reform Acts tranquillised a portion of the public mind, and diminished
the necessity for political agitation; and subsequent experience has
shown that there was more eagerness shown by many to get the suffrage
than to use it with advantage when got. The nation is more indebted
to committee work than is generally supposed. It frequently happens
that some well known man, in or out of Parliament, becomes the leader
or chief mouthpiece of some public question, and gets the lion's,
or more than the lion's, share of publicity or applause. But in many
cases it is the less-known men who, unseen, in committee, arrange
proceedings, discuss ways and means, prepare public meetings, provide
suitable literature, and by various methods promote propagandist activity.
It fell to my lot to mingle from time to time, mostly in committee
action, with several reforming organisations.
||I was a member
of the committee of the Early Closing Association; of the Society
for the Abolition of Capital Punishment; of the Political and Financial
Reform Association; of the Society for the Abolition of the Taxes
on Knowledge; of the Society for the Suppression of the Opium Trade;
of the Peace Society; of the Ballot Society; of the Committee for
the Abolition of Flogging in the Army and Navy; and of more than one
committee for the promotion of National Education. These societies
did not exist and act simultaneously, but at different times from
1845 to 1880. Though officered generally by different persons at different
times, the societies specified were in spirit and in aim parts of
sprang from similar necessities, were nurtured by similar motives,
represented so many phases of the National Reform Movement, and assisted
to educate the head and heart of the people.
succinct account of the societies mentioned, with many of the well-known
names connected with them, the work they did and the influence they
exerted on legislation and national life, would make an interesting
historical chapter. That is beyond my purpose or my power to supply.
I may, however, mention one or two incidents. In 1848 Emerson visited
this country, when he delivered several lectures in Manchester. I
was at the time a member of the London Early Closing Association,
which was in a state of monetary stagnation. Hearing that Emerson
had arrived in London, I suggested that he should be invited to deliver
two or three lectures for the benefit of the Association, and Mr John
Lilwall, its secretary, and I were appointed to wait on him. We did
so, and were received with captivating courtesy. We told him how we
were situated, and wanted to be lifted out of debt; and we felt sure
that he, by lecturing on our behalf, could do so. He hesitated, and
said he was scarceley prepared to give any more lectures in England.
I ventured to say that two or three of the lectures he had delivered
in Manchester might be repeated to different audiences in London.
In reply, he said he could not do so, and one reason was that if he
were conscious, when lecturing in London, that one of his audience
had heard him give the same lectures in Manchester, he should feel
most uncomfortable -a proof of the peculiar sensitiveness of his nature.
He, however, promised to think over the matter, and let us know his
||Two or three
days after Emerson wrote and accepted our proposal, and undertook
to give three lectures-the first on Montaigne, the second on Napoleon,
and the third on Shakespeare. I need scarcely say the committee were
delighted. Exeter Hall, at that time the most notable meeting place
in England, was taken, and the necessary preparations were made for
the delivery of the lectures. The tickets of admission sold rapidly;
we had splendid audiences and gratifying results. After paying all
expenses we netted £150, paid our debts, emerged from difficulty,
blessed Emerson, and went on our way rejoicing.
the occasion of the last lecture I first saw Thomas Carlyle, at that
time a dark, shaggy man, self-centred and impassive. He sat in the
same position, with folded arms and crossed legs, and not moving a
muscle during the deliver of the lecture. The audience now and then
cheered the lecturer right heartily, while Carlyle sat still as a
statue. The chair was occupied by Mr. Monckton Mimes, M.P. and poet,
and afterwards, on the nomination of Lord Palmerston, Lord Houghton.
Mr. Mimes, in returning thanks for thanks, said the audience at the
moment was in the presence of three historic facts-namely, Emerson,
Shakespeare, and Exeter Hall. He might have said four such facts by
referring to the presence of Thomas Carlyle.