Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Autumn Wind, Arthur Romney Green, 1901

From the collection Poems (Astolat Press, Guildford, 1901):

Arthur Romney Green,
Astolat Press, Guildford, 1901

The sad, the wild, the Autumn Wind,
   All vanished sweet things
From the dark heaven I call to mind;
   The deathly odour clings
Of summers that are left behind
    On my tempestuous wings.

Awhile from leafy bough to bough
   I led the summer on;
And many a lover’s whispered vow
   Bore to the joyful sun;
But all the sweets of summer now
   The sweets of love are gone.

And now, to speak their general grief
   In one severer strain,
From places of the withered leaf
   I mourn the life, how vain,
The loves, the joys of men, how brief,
   Through all the night complain;

Their spring, how desperately sweet
   With promise – only given
The summer of a short conceit-
   Their leaf-like souls, how driven,
When earth is dead beneath their feet,
   On all the winds of heaven!

from Arbor Vitae,
Godfrey Blount, Fifield, 1910, 3rd edition

Joseph King's first Parliamentary speech 23 Feb 1910

Joseph King was elected Liberal MP for North Somerset in the early 1910 general election which ran from 15 January to 10 February.  The election produced a hung parliament, with the Conservative Party  led by Arthur Balfour and their Liberal Unionist allies receiving the largest number of votes, but the Liberals led by H. H. Asquith winning the largest number of seats, returning two more MPs than the Conservatives. Asquith formed a government with the support of the Irish Parliamentary Party, led by John Redmond.  A second election was soon held in December. (wikipedia)

Joseph King, MP
from Haslemere Educational Museum

On the 23rd February 1910 Hansard records Joseph King speaking in the House of Commons for the first time on a debate following the King Edward VII's speech (referred to in Hansard as 'His Majesty's gracious speech') at the opening of Parliament two days earlier on the 21st February.  MPs were debating free trade and tariff reform.

The Only Hope is Tariff Reform c.1906 poster,
People's History Museum, Manchester

I think that Joseph King's first words to Parliament reveal his strength of character, and his alignment with the 'peasant'(!).  By questioning the view of the average population about the Parliamentary debate, King tries to ground the debate to address the interests of the everyday person.

Hansard records the proceedings as thus:

Mr Joseph King
“I have only sat in this House for two or three days, but I have already become conscious that the light in which Members regard the burning questions of the day is somewhat different from that in which they are regarded outside.  I cannot, for instance, imagine so much excitement being created in an ordinary assembly of either Liberals or of politicians of various kinds by the question which excited this House on the two previous days, and which has caused so much comment and discussion in the Lobbies…Surely if there was one question in connection with Tariff Reform which was universally discussed at the recent elections, except possibly in those industrial districts like Sheffield, where the subject was judiciously kept in the background, it was the effect of the proposed taxes on food upon the cost of the living of the people.  The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, when challenged upon this subject, gave us the very interesting information that he for one was against all taxation on foreign wheat or flour, and he warned the House that there were many others beside himself who shared that opinion.

The Glutton,
The Budget League, (supported by the Liberals) poster,
1910 UK general election,
People's History Museum, Manchester

Mr H. W. Forster
My hon. Friend was referring not to foreign corn, but to Colonial corn.
Mr King
That only strengthens my argument. These Gentlemen from the manufacturing districts want Tariff Reform for the benefit of their manufactures, but they will not have it at any price when it is at all beneficial to the landed interest. I venture to express the opinion which I frequently expressed on public platforms during the course of the General Election, that the Tariff Reform policy is one of intellectual poverty and moral perversion. 
It is an intellectually poor policy, because it cannot yet convince the representatives of the working classes that it is going to do them any benefit whatsoever. I am sure if any speech profoundly held this House to-night it must have been the masterly speech we had from the hon. Member for Leicester. I had been acquainted beforehand with the lines on which the Labour Members treated the Fiscal Question, but I must confess I was surprised, delighted, I might even say inspired by the eloquent treatment the hon. Member meted out to this Question from the point of view of the Labour party.
I desire to call attention to what seems to be a very significant omission in the language of this Amendment, which, I suppose, has been borrowed from the Amendment to the Address proposed last year by the same right hon. Gentleman. Why should he choose again to put forward exactly the same words on this occasion? Circumstances have altered a good deal, as he himself has admitted, but in one respect, surely, the Tariff Reform policy has advanced. It is now absolutely pledged by the words and promises of the Leaders at any rate of the party, to a tax upon food. But the probable and promised effects of such a tax find no place whatever in the language of this Amendment. I venture to suggest that that is a very remarkable and very serious omission. It is remarkable for this reason, that the right hon. Gentleman who comes down to this House and proposes the Amendment says nothing in the Amendment about the important problem which, I venture to say, has exercised the thoughts and attention of more members of the electorate than any other single aspect of this Fiscal Question during the recent election. We must remember that during the election the Leader of the Opposition issued a letter to very many Conservative and Unionist candidates, and, although this letter was couched in personal and almost intimate terms to the individual candidate, it was circulated throughout the length and breadth of the land, and it was, in fact, a stereotyped document distributed broadcast over the country. I would venture to call the attention of the House to the words which the Leader of the Opposition used in encouraging and helping his supporters by this circular letter.
Tariff Reform poster,
UK general election,
January 1910,
LSE library

 They were:— I am not surprised that your Radical opponent is attempting to raise the old and often contradicted misrepresentation as to the effect of Tariff Reform on the cost of living of the working classes. I have frequently and explicitly stated that no increase will take place. 
It seems to me that that is rather audacious language even for the very agile, and I think I may say versatile politician who leads the Tariff Reform party. I ask the House to notice especially the form in which this pledge and promise is made, for it is both one and the other—nay, more, it is a pledge, a promise, and a prophecy that, under Tariff Reform, there will be no increase in the cost of living. It is not that there will be no increase, relatively, in the cost of food. I take it the cost of living covers not only the cost of meat and drink consumed, but also that of clothing, furniture and all the other necessaries of life. I assert that the pledge, promise and prophecy of the Leader of the Opposition is that Tariff Reform is going to make no increase in the cost of such living, and I repeat that that is very audacious and extravagant language. Indeed I am not surprised that in the few remarks which the proposer of this Amendment offered on the subject of food taxes he avoided anything like a recurrence of the pledge or promise made by the Leader of the Opposition. It is apparent to anyone who takes a broad view of the course of events, not only in this country but throughout the world, that the cost of food has risen, is rising, and is likely to me still further. And it is likely to rise still further independently of tariffs, for certain well-recognised reasons. There is, for instance, a great disinclination on the part of people all over the world to live in the country so long as they can live in the town. There is a disinclination on the part of capitalists to embark upon large methods and schemes of agricultural production so long as they can get outlets for their capital and energies in industrial, manufacturing, and commercial occupations. Then there is this great fact, the significance of which is only just beginning to be recognised. Ten years ago we were almost being fed by the United States of America. At the present time we are receiving from the United States practically no wheat at all, and in a few years we shall probably see the United States not only ceasing to export food stuffs of any kind, but themselves becoming importers of food stuffs from other countries. That is a remarkable and significant fact and it is one which leads to this conclusion, that, at this time, for us to embark upon a policy which means restricting the markets in which we may buy the food of our people is a bad and foolish policy. I say that any wise and far-sighted statesman looking out upon the facts and looking out upon the general tendency of trade and commerce and the development of agriculture all over the world, would naturally be led to the conclusion which is the conclusion of Free Traders, at any rate, that we must preserve the right to buy food for our people in any market the world offers us.
Liberal advert,
UK election campaign
January 1910

I venture to call the attention of the House to two further facts of great importance and significance in this connection. One is this, that the great progress and development of the Eastern nations of the world, especially Japan and China, means that those countries are living at a higher standard and taking on the ways of living and the higher living, such as we have hitherto associated only with European countries or their colonies. For instance, China and Japan are now ceasing to sustain their working classes purely upon rice, and are adding meat and cereals—wheat and other food, in a way which, it is agreed, was quite unknown to them two or three years ago. That is another significant fact, and all these facts tend to the conclusion that the price of food will rise not only in our country but all over the world. It makes me wonder still more at the audacity—I will say the reckless audacity—of the Tariff Reform party who not only in the rank and file of the irresponsible members of that party, but by the leaders of that party have given the pledge which they have done, that Tariff Reform will cause no increase in the cost of living of the working classes.
Labour, January 1910
UK general election poster,
LSE library
Taunton, neighbouring constituency to North Somerset

In view of the reckless, illogical and unwarrantable nature of those promises I am not surprised that much which we have seen upon the hoardings and in the literature during the recent election has been entirely dropped in this Debate by Members on the other side of the House. I had the honour of fighting and holding by a substantial majority a seat which runs into the great city of Bristol. I am glad to say that in Bristol and the surrounding constituencies we held our own with somewhat reduced majorities, and the representation of that great industrial area is the same in this Parliament as it was in the last. We can number five Liberal and Free Trade Members against one Conservative and Tariff Reformer, but in every case in every fight in that district we had to contend with placards, posters, statements, leaflets and speeches asseverating that it was due to the Liberal policy that the price of bread had increased, a statement which the right hon. Gentleman who proposed this Amendment was very careful to go out of his way entirely to deny. Such is the difference between Tariff Reform in the constituencies and Tariff Reform on the floor of the House of Commons. It is just the same, of course, with their naval scare. Their naval scare shows Tariff Reform Unionists or Conservatives, or whatever other alias they may call themselves by, in just the same light. We were actually warned that, it might be before Parliament met, an invasion would appear, and I was expecting, when I came down to this House on the first day, that there was, at any rate, one subject, at all events, upon which I should hear some enlightened opinions and some valuable suggestions. I anticipated that there would be, at any rate, a demonstration in force from Members opposite to secure if possible that before one or two days had passed at least a dozen "Dreadnoughts" should be laid down.
Liberal 1910
UK general election poster
People's History Museum, Manchester

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. Emmott) 
 I am afraid I must remind the hon. Member that we are now on an Amendment and the question of the Navy does not arise on that Amendment.
Mr King 
I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for your timely warning, and that is a subject which we may be able to refer to on another occasion. I will not detain the House much longer, but I should like just to quote some significant words which would seem to me to apply with extraordinary appropriateness at the present time—words which came from an authority the bona fides of which no one in this House will deny—I mean the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley (Mr. Jesse Collings). Writing now some eighteen years ago, he used these words: There are signs that the advocates of Protection will be to the fore with elaborate arguments to prove that a duty on corn would benefit the farmer, the labourer, and the nation; in other words, to show that a country can, in some mysterious way, be benefited by raising the price of food. Discussions of this nature will be a sheer waste of time, inasmuch as it may be taken as an absolute and settled fact that the people of this country will not submit to any tax whatever on foodstuffs imported into this country. I commend those words to the House, because I believe they sum up in singularly forcible language the present position.
Tariff reform poster,
LSE library

 Spoken though they were eighteen years ago, they ought to be borne in mind, and they convey a warning, and a serious warning, too, to those who come forward at the present time and tell us that a tax on food 
will increase the prosperity of this country and reduce its cost of living. We have seen during the last two days in this House how a Minister with one clear, definite object in view before him, can be pestered, or at any rate perplexed, by a variety of councillors, admittedly his friends and supporters, yet declaring that success in the great object in which he and they are united can only be obtained by one definite or particular line of action. If that is the case with regard to the policy which this House is going to pursue in reference to the one object to which this Session is to be devoted, what will be the state of things if in an evil day—an evil day which I do not anticipate—the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition crosses over with a variegated party behind him, yet united upon one subject—that, they want Tariff Reform in one form or another? How is he going to square the interests which are represented by the speech we have just listened to with the interests which will be voiced by the Member for that very agricultural constituency Wimbledon? Their point of view with regard to Tariff Reform is entirely different. It cannot be squared, and, as a warning and as a very cogent argument against this Amendment, I cite this fact, that the Tariff Reform party are not united in their policy, they cannot be united in their policy, and they will, if ever they get into power, be still less united in their policy than they are at present. It is with this firm conviction that Tariff Reform is not only a futile, but an impossible, a reckless, and an unwise policy, that I have great pleasure in opposing this Amendment.

January 1910,
UK general election,
LSE library

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Nesting Boxes for Birds by Joseph King

There is reasonably freely available writing on the Peasant Arts movement by Godfrey Blount, Ethel Blount, Greville McDonald and Maude Egerton King.  There is little by Joseph King.  The only Peasant Arts Society published pamphlet by Joseph King is Nesting Boxes for Birds, a surprising subject for a politician.

Nesting Boxes for Birds, Joseph King,
The Gallery of Handicraft

The book was published by The Peasant Arts Society, from their 8 Queen's Road, London address and The Gallery of Handicraft, Kings Road, Haslemere.  I do not think I have come across the name 'The Gallery of Handicraft' before, another company of the Peasant Arts movement.  It is clear that Joseph King was a bird lover.  The illustrations of the book differ in style from Godfrey Blount's drawings, I wonder whether Joseph King illustrated his own book?

The Peasant Arts Society, 8 Queens Road, London and
The Gallery of Handicrafts, Kings Road, Haslemere

extract from Nesting Boxes for Birds,
Joseph King

King seems keen to link the subject of nesting boxes to legislation, beginning the book by saying "All men love the wild birds.  To hear their chirp or listen to their song, and to watch their manners or their habits make up a distinct joy in life.  Even Parliament has recognised this, and has passed laws that the wild birds may be protected and preserved.  It has been made punishable to take the eggs or the young, or to kill the old birds within certain periods, which are generally the breeding seasons.  County Councils and other authorities spend a great deal of trouble to enforce these laws.  But why are such efforts made to preserve and protect the wild birds?"

illustration from
Nesting Boxes for Birds, Joseph King
King illustrates numerous nesting boxes and suggests they are used for:

"A  A hollowed-out trunk, to be bound firmly under the branch of an oak or other large tree with horizontal branches.  ....

B A box with large aperture for flycatchers.  ....

C  Redstart box (German type).....

D  Flycatcher shelf, to be placed in recess of a window or in a corner under a low eave, to be hung on nails....

E  Basket-work nesting place, hung against wall close under eaves....for pigeons, or less smaller birds.  (In use in the Perigord district of France.)

F  Tubular entrance for a tit's box...."

Presumably redstarts and flycatchers were common in Haslemere at the time of writing this book.  It is likely that nesting boxes were made and hung in Foundry Meadow.

King concludes the book with an interesting suggestion:

"A Possible New Industry

A rural industry might well be started and maintained in these useful and pretty bird boxes.  Though there are in Germany regular manufacturers who turn out hundreds of nesting boxes every season, at reasonable prices, and in a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials, yet in England, so far as is known, there is no maker of nesting boxes to whom any one can apply for what could, with advantage and profit, become a recognised saleable article.  Here is an opening for an enterprising worker!

Where to Buy Nesting Boxes

At the Peasant Arts Society, 8 Queen's Road, Bayswater, W., and at the Handicraft Gallery, Foundry Road, Haslemere, Surrey, nesting boxes for tits or starlings, price 2s. each may be obtained.  But there is no regular English maker (so far as the writer knows) who produces a regular supply of various models, such as are produced by not a few makers in Germany.

Literature on the Subject

...A leaflet on the subject (2d. per dozen; 1s. 3d. per 100), written by the writer of this pamphlet, may be obtained from the Society for the Protection of Birds, 3, Hanover Square, London, W."

illustration from
Nesting Boxes for Birds,
Joseph King
In 1906 Joseph King is quoted in the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Birds notes and news (29 September, 1906) in relation to the front page article on nesting boxes which begins "The popularity of nesting boxes for wild birds - long in favour in Germany and Switzerland - has so greatly increased in our country in the last year or two, and the difficulty in obtaining suitable boxes appears to be felt by so many persons who would like to encourage birds to nest in their woods and gardens, that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has established a central depot in London, near Tower Bridge, where boxes of various patterns will be stocked".  King is referred to in the advice that "They should be kept out of the reach of cats, and Mr Joseph King recommends a bit of thorny branch tied near the entrance to keep off intruders."

Bird Notes and News,
March 1906-December 1907
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Friday, 2 November 2012

Haslemere Independent Labour Party, Kings Road, 1908

As I have written before, Arthur Romney Green was one of the founding members of Haslemere's Independent Labour Party.  He established this group with his friend Harold Murray.

Susan Elkin writes "Harold Murray, a dentist, and his wife Bertha were socialists who had arrived at Haslemere with their two children not long after the Green's move there.  Green, wanting to be active to their cause, was instantly drawn to them...

"Green and Murray started an Independent Labour Party (ILP) group which met in the showroom above Green's workshop.  Sometimes as many as 40 or 50 people attended the meetings: a mixture of small tradesmen, artisans, the men who worked for Green and, sometimes, a sprinkling of local bigwigs.  Speakers came down from London, including Henry Golding who became a close and dear friend to Green.  They even organised a debate in Haslemere Town Hall between Ramsay MacDonald and John St Loe Strachey, editor of The Spectator.  This, they believed, was the first important debate on socialism to be hold outside London." (Life to the Lees, Natula Publications, 1998).

Debate on Socialism, 1908,
Ramsay MacDonald and John St Loe Strachey,
Haslemere Branch of the Independent Labour Party
The booklet recording the debate says that it was held in the School Hall, not Haslemere Hall as Elkin states.  It is interesting to see the booklet is published "by the Haslemere Branch of the Independent Labour Party, King's Road, Haslemere", so the recorded address for the branch would have been Arthur Romney Green's workshop on Kings Road.

The debate was "arranged under the joint auspices of the Haslemere branches of the Independent Labour Party and the Church of England Men's Society" which seems like an interesting combination of societies.  Presided over by the Lord Bishop of Dorking, MacDonald and Strachey were accompanied on the platform by "Mr Harold Murray (chairman of the Haslemere branch of the Independent Labour Party), the Rector of Haslemere (the Rev. G. H. Aitken)" and others.  The Rev. Aitken was the vicar of St Christopher's Church described as "the guiding spirit behind its creation".  This working relationship between the Independent Labour Party and the Church of England, placing Green's friend and the vicar of St Christopher's together is the closest link I have found between the Peasant Arts movement and St Christopher's Church.  Arthur Romney Green is likely to have been on the platform also, as it is noted that there were other representatives of the Independent Labour there, but he is not separately named.

Whilst I have read of this debate being held in 1908, I had not seen the subject of the debate before:

"That the only way to arrive at a just economic basis of Society, is by the application of the principle of collective ownership and control of land and capital" 

Ramsay's first speech of the evening sets out a main theme "I am therefore going to consider to-night the question of distribution, the social distribution of wealth, the economic basis of society judged from its results in the distribution of wealth.  Now my proposition in connection with that is that existing distribution is absolutely unjust, and by unjust I mean that it is not in any way the expression of the service given by the owners of property to society; that you have got men and women owning property to-day who have given no service to society for the property they own, and that as they have become possessed of that property owing to the present constitution of society, it becomes our duty to re-constitute society so that the distribution of wealth proceeds upon lines or economic and social merit. 

"...So by the present system of unregulated capitalism you have every successful business in the country tending to become over capitalised.  The charge of the capitalist is becoming heavier and heavier and the power of the worker to demand a fair share of the result of his effective labour is becoming less effective from an economic and social point of view."

Strachey responds at one point relaying a story of a woman who had been neglectful of her children saying ““Look here, so long as the Salvation Army’ll feed my children and look after them I won’t, - so there!”  That is the way in which a half and half Socialism is eating into the fabric of the family and injuring it.”

Harold Murray speaks at the end of the debate, adding “There is no doubt at all in my mind that some of the points that have been made against us to-night by Mr Strachey have been made simply because he knows too few Socialists to be able to appreciate the fact that they cannot have a bad effect upon Society but only a good one.  All the Socialist I have ever known – and I am a Socialist of twenty-five years standing – have been exceptionally good men, and I have not found a bad one amongst them (laughter and applause).”

Rev. G. H. Aitken seconds the motion and is the last speech of the night recorded.  “…I believe that at this particular moment there is nothing we need more in England to-day than that we should understand one another.  I believe, perhaps that I am voicing the feeling of many when I say that my whole heart goes with Mr. Ramsay MacDonald.  We want, I believe, everything he wants.  We desire that just economic basis for Society.  We desire that our people should more and more share in the good things given to us in this beautiful world of ours, and we are ready, not merely to give money which is the least – I was going to say the worst – way of effecting it, but we are ready to give our time, our thought and our life in order that we may, put the best at the disposal of all.  But while we feel that, we are not yet convinced in our heads that this principle of the collective ownership and control of land and capital is, at present at any rate, the practical way of doing what we desire.  There may be, in some future age, the possibility of its being realised but of that I know nothing.    

"But to-night what I seem to see here is the spirit of the age standing up and calling the banns of marriage between Knowledge and Love.  When Knowledge and Love are united in holy wedlock in this land of ours – I do not profess to be a prophet, and I do not say what the off-spring will be, but I am perfectly certain that the off-spring will be what it ought to be, for the good of the whole of this nation.  And until Knowledge and Love are so united, we cannot have that ideal State for which we all long and which we are all trying, I hope, in our little ways, to work for."

Hungarian folk art & the peasant influence

On a recent short trip to Budapest I was struck by the prominence of folk art in the tourist spots, contrasting with the absence of handmade textiles back in Haslemere, Surrey.  The Hungarian tradition of handmade crafts has stood the test of time much better than the small Haslemere movement which did not manage to engage much of the Haslemere population for very long, let alone span the country.

It is clear that the Kings and Blounts were influenced by the peasant art of central Europe and in some of the latter day handicrafts of Hungary, this influence is still evident.  The textile colours reminded me of the bright blue vegetable dyed fabrics from the Peasant Arts movement.  The simple decoration of the mezeskalacs (gingerbread biscuits) design showing a symmetry of two doves reminded me of some of Godfrey Blount's compositions.  It was lovely to chance across various pieces of folk art whilst casually walking around the city.

Hollo Muhely,
Vitkovics Mihaly u.12

Folk Flowers,

Memories of Hungary shop,
Bazilika, Budapest

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