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An introduction to Isa Craig's paper on emigration, which appeared in. . . .

The Scotsman
4 Jan 1859.

The Englishwoman's Journal begins the second year of its existence with such proof of undiminished vigour as to justify the hope that it is destined to a long and useful career among periodicals less exclusively devoted to the interests of "the sex."  It has all along been distinguished, and continues to be so, by a lady-like good taste and sense, which preserve if from offensive manifestations of "strong-mindedness" on the one hand, and an earnestness and definiteness of purpose raising it above the frivolity of crotchet and fashions on the other.  The opening paper in the present number, "Emigration as a Prevention Agency," by Isa Craig, was read at the Liverpool meeting of the Social Science Association, and will prove to its readers what the friends of its writer well know before, that Miss Craig's accomplishments as an author are not limited to that of verse.  It is a clear, well-reasoned essay, aiming at and keeping steadily in view one important point only, and perhaps driving towards that with a somewhat feminine determination to ignore the many difficulties that surround the whole subject. Nevertheless, its quiet, eloquent pleading, its examples of evils remedied, and the excellence of its purpose, ought to recommend its perusal to every philanthropic mind.  In a supplement to the original paper, Miss Craig defends the associative principle, and its working in matters of benevolence: not as superseding by any means, but as encouraging, systematising, and in fact in many cases rendering possible individual effort . . . .





[Ed.―see also "THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD", by Isabella Fyvie Mayo.]

The existence of this Association and the reception it has met with is a proof that the men and women of England are fully alive to the vast national and human interests involved in their present social condition.  That condition is not a gloomy one, but hopeful in the extreme.  It is no healthy activity which can only be roused in some terrible emergency.  But our law reformers are not passing their resolutions in terror of the scaffold, our sanitarians are not working under the scourge of a pestilence, nor our social economists deliberating in dread of a famine; yet wiser laws, better education, better morals, sounder health, and a safer social standing, are this day sought by the voice of the nation for all its members.  Though crime is decreasing, as a glance at our criminal statistics will shew, the friends of the reformatory movement and their exertions are on the increase; and if the country will steadily give to prevention what it saves on punishment, the interest of the investment will soon double the capital.

    Emigration is one of those wider causes which operate in the prevention of crime, and to draw the attention of the section to it as such, may lead, considering the place in which we meet, to a discussion elucidating the best means for applying it as a preventive agency.  It is only necessary for this purpose to indicate various points of the question.

    The condition of the working classes has the greatest influence on the production of crime.  A man or woman unable to read or write may be neither a burdensome nor a dangerous member of society, but a man or woman in want of daily bread and unable to procure it, must be one or the other, and is in danger of becoming both.  Thus crime is plentiful when employment is scarce.  Labour is the great agent employed in the reformation of criminals, and a criminal, so far as human judgment goes and so far as human means are concerned, may be held to be reformed who cheerfully submits to continuous toil.  So also is labour the great preventive; a principle which has been thoroughly recognised in the economy of our industrial schools.  There has unhappily, grown up among us a population born in and reared to Crime, which it is to be feared will find work for more than one generation of reformatory school-masters and prison disciplinarians, but it is on the whole a weak and a physically, as well as morally, diseased population, and is only kept at its strength by reinforcements from the non-criminal class.  The grand recruiting agent for this reinforcement is the want of employment.  The young workman, generally a mere lad, sent too early to work to retain much benefit from school instruction, is very often thrown out of employment when his apprenticeship expires.  He 'tramps', as it is called, in search of work; he comes to some one of our great cities and finds no opening.  The few shillings he arrives with are spent.  Wandering about the streets weary, dispirited, exhausted from insufficient food, and perhaps unable to procure a lodging for the night, God alone knows how far he is tempted above what he is able to bear.  Is not the best preventive against his joining the ranks of crime to be found in the ship ready to carry the workman to where his work awaits him?  And though it may not carry him in the destitute condition described, though it may carry away a goodly portion of the strength and enterprise of the country by whom such trials have already been encountered and overcome, every hundred it does carry may relieve a hundred such at home and give them room to grow to the stature of manhood.  Drunkenness is a well-known cause of crime, and that disastrous habit is generally acquired by the workman in those frequent unemployed intervals in which he is fain to resort to some stimulant to deaden his anxieties for the present and enliven his prospect for the future.  What was the condition of the people of Ireland before the Irish exodus, which it needed famine and pestilence to accomplish?  But the judgments of God are ever mingled with mercy, and the people who left those shores in gloom and anguish went forth to find that the earth 'is full of the goodness of the Lord'.  The Irish emigration only slackened when the country was relieved, and the condition of its people has continued rapidly and steadily improving.  Wages have risen and work is steadier, and as a consequence, crime has decreased.  Within the last three years, convictions in Ireland have fallen from seven thousand to four thousand.  In England, too, emigration has been at work as extensively as in Ireland, though the stream has poured out more calmly and constantly and not with such a sudden rush, and here, too, convictions have fallen from twenty-three thousand to fourteen thousand.  The dire lack of employment, and consequent debasing struggle for the bare necessaries of life, has told frightfully on the social condition of the humbler women of this country.  The most terrible phase in the criminality of the country is the number of its female criminals.  One-third of the convicts of the kingdom are women, but that is a shallow calculation.  Women are more often the accomplices of crime, its aiders and abettors, than its actual perpetrators.  Then also they are the victims of crimes, and the seducers to crimes, which do not come within the power of the law, while inflicting the deadliest wounds on society; and over and above their own lives of crime, they become mothers of criminals.  It is well known how brief is the unhappy career which our female criminals run.  How they are recruited it is not hard to guess, in a country where there are fifty thousand women working for less than sixpence a day, and a hundred thousand for less than a shilling.

    An army of ten thousand able-bodied women pass through our workhouses in a single year.  Liverpool alone supplies upwards of two thousand.  Many of these women are already criminal, while most of them are miserable specimens of humanity.  The Emigration Commissioners could not find acceptance for them in our colonies; thus, for want of a better industrial system, a want beginning to be recognised as a necessity in workhouse management, a noble chance was lost, which it is to be hoped will yet be redeemed, of cutting off a fruitful source of crime, and enabling hundreds of women to emigrate without the brand of convicted felon upon them, to destroy their chance and hope of a better life wherever they go.  Caroline Chisholm performed a noble reformatory work when she led out hundreds of destitute women, for it is such personal leadership that our destitute class are so much in need of, to prevent their falling into crime.  The government emigration has been steadily accomplishing no mean amount of good, in sending out female emigrants of respectable character, and that emigration is now, by means of unceasing efforts at improvement, almost all that could be desired.  A matron accompanies each band of single women sent out by the Commission, and it is contemplated to secure the permanent services of such matrons as have proved themselves capable of their arduous task, that a higher class of persons and a growing efficiency may be gradually attained for this important office.

    But is there no hope for the convicted felon?  Very little indeed with us.  The industrious and honest of his own class shrink from contact with him.  Few households will receive into their most menial offices a female convict, however well assured of her repentance and desire to commence a life of honest labour.  We can hardly utter in sincerity the 'go and sin no more' of our now happily, to some extent, reformatory prisons, when we thrust forth a convict—especially a woman—into the streets, knowing that no door save that of the house of infamy will open to receive her.  The 'Prisoners' Aid Society' might, were the means at its disposal, occupy completely this reformatory field.  Emigration is one of the means they have employed in disposing of the prisoners, both male and female, whom they have assisted, and with the best results.  It is doubtful whether much publicity concerning the working of such a society is to be desired, except so far as is necessary to secure support and give assurance of usefulness; but it is to be hoped that it will be enabled rapidly and widely to extend its operations.

    To come now to the children, whose reformation and prevention from crime is by many considered the most hopeful, if not the only hopeful, reformatory effort.  The question is arising in its most practical shape, what is to be done with them on leaving our reformatory and industrial schools?  There are the children ready to work, but is the work to be had ready and fit for them?  Managers and matrons of schools continually say that there is no difficulty in finding situations for their children; but that so soon as they are placed, especially the girls when received as inmates of respectable families, difficulties arise.  Sometimes the parents visit by stealth the houses where they live, and entice them to evil, luring them back to their old evil companionships.  Their antecedents are well known, one informing of the other, till it is impossible that they can maintain the powerful preventive principle of self-respect—depending, in all but the strongest minds, on the respect of others.  In short, they are frequently tempted to their fall.  Besides, every reformed child, whose industrial education has been carefully attended to and who obtains a good situation in consequence, takes the place of the child of the poor but honest working man.  Emigration here again presents a solution of the question.  Hundreds of boys and a few girls have been sent to the colonies from our reformatory and industrial schools.  The matron of the Bloomsbury Industrial School has twice proceeded to Canada with a little band of the picked girls of the institution under her care.  The result, so far as can be ascertained, has been most satisfactory.  In three hours after her arrival she could have disposed of the whole of the girls, but it was not desirable to place them in one town, where they could hold communication with one another and so create some of the evils which had been felt at home; they were therefore placed widely apart and with people whose characters were of ascertained respectability.  She states that she could then have disposed of two hundred as readily as of twenty.  Without a matron to take charge of these girls during the journey and to dispose of them judiciously on their arrival, the dangers of emigration, owing to the temptations that would surround them from the moment they were freed from superintendence, would render such a mode of disposal wholly objectionable.  On the other hand, sending out a small number of girls under a matron is an expensive process, and as such is not attainable by many institutions.  But might not some plan be adopted to meet this difficulty?  Might not a depot as it were, call it 'Industrial Home' or some similar name, be formed in this very town of Liverpool, supported by a union of the industrial institutions throughout the country, with a resident and a travelling matron, whither the children who gained the emigration prize for steadiness and proved honesty might be drafted, for the purpose of being forwarded to the colonies?  Government aid at this point would be far more desirable than at any other in the progress of industrial schools, and the good character of those sent out, and consequent readiness of colonists to receive them, might at length prevail on government to grant the children of such an institution free passage to all our colonies.

    Thus at every point emigration meets us as a preventive agent.  To the destitute but still honest workman, to the repentant felon, to the vagrant and criminal child—the sufferer not from its own sins but from the sins of others—it opens a wide door of hope and of escape from crime, while it benefits those who remain behind; relieving the labour market at home, and creating fresh markets abroad, and this latter is not to be overlooked even in a reformatory view of emigration.  One mode of elevating the working classes is to prevent the fall of a portion of them into the criminal class, another is to promote reformation by showing the criminal that crime is a losing game, while lastly we benefit the working classes by strengthening their attachment to the country.  Though we may advocate emigration we should not like to see the strength, the energy, and enterprise, of the best of our working population forsaking it.  The farmer whose lease is about to expire may exhaust his land, but it is to be hoped that the lease of the English people on English soil is not nearly run out, and that while we send many away to a better life in another country we are looking also to the strengthening of those who remain.


Since the above was written, a pretty wide survey of the reformatory movement, its guiding principles, and the ordering of its details, has been offered to the view of the writer, some features of which it may be interesting to notice.

    With regard to the principles which lead to the movement, there is now very little difference of opinion.  Here and there an opponent still starts up to denounce reformatory prisons and schools as a premium on crime, but he is met with facts which he fails to dispute and arguments which he declines to answer.  He says your criminal statistics prove nothing as to the causes of crime: at one time they are made to prove as its chief cause, ignorance; at another, density of population; at another, drunkenness; and at another, poverty and idleness.  No doubt a general analysis of the causes of crime is difficult from their complexity of working.  For instance, if a population is superlatively ignorant and poor, yet widely scattered, the absence of temptation and opportunity, from the absence of wealth to be preyed upon, removes one element of the calculation.  While in a superlatively educated district, where the population is dense (which only takes place where wealth is accumulated), where poverty alternates with fullness, and idleness with exertion, arising from the greater fluctuations in the distribution of employment and wealth among a population maintained at its highest by the attractions of these, the element of ignorance is to a great extent withdrawn, but the other elements preponderate so largely as to turn the scale completely against the former.  Yet it is not necessary to prove that ignorance is a cause of crime.  Let any one study the composition of the population of several districts relatively to their criminality, and they will find, as was admirably brought out at Liverpool, that where the aggregate of ignorance, density of population, poverty, and drunkenness was greatest, there crime was greatest, and it is at the aggregate of causes that the reformatory movement strikes and not at the removal of any one of them.  Take the outcast and vagrant child into the Ragged School, feed his already keenly awakened intellectual faculty with lessons of heavenly truth and of worldly wisdom, which it is happily no longer the fashion to despise, and train him to habits of continuous labour; you cannot say 'I know that child will grow up an honest man, while left on the streets he would infallibly have grown up a thief,' but you know that you have increased the first chance and diminished the other a hundredfold.  So with the entire movement: no-one can say, under a thoroughly carried out reformatory system, that crime will rapidly decrease down to its lowest point, or that it will recede from the reformatory movement and go on increasing in an alarming ratio, but you have increased the first probability and diminished the other in the same degree.  Two solitary but bitter opponents (Mr Elliott of London and Mr Campbell of Liverpool) stood alone at Liverpool in condemning, not any flaws in the working of the system, but the system itself.  Mr. Campbell acknowledged a decrease of crime, but maintained that it could be accounted for in various ways, the chief of these being good harvests and extensive emigration.  It was too soon, he said, to trace the effects of reformatories.  This is true, as it must be of any great experimental work yet in progress, and all social work is experimental more or less, but its principles have been approved and a sample at least offered of its results.  Again, he said, the attempt to elevate the lowest strata of society was utterly futile, and most dangerous to the class immediately above it, by holding out an inducement to take the last step and become criminals.  He knew he should be in a minority in such an assemblage of sentimental philanthropists, but as a cold-blooded economist he had come to that conclusion.  All these systems had a tendency to make people do everything in the mass and nothing by individual exertion, which was most socially injurious.

    To come to the more practical question of individual exertion, which is thus said to be hindered by the operations of societies.  The want of individual exertion is easy to be seen and much to be lamented, but the question is, would it be increased if the societies were to withdraw their operations?  Have not the societies by which the reformatory movement is carried on, sprung from the necessity for some other mode of action than individual, sprung from the want of scope for such action as would meet the case, tied up as the individual is by the thousand restrictions of our modern society?  How are those helpless masses to be dealt with who have fallen out of all connection with individual helping power?  To give an instance, and one such might be found every day in the year by any one who did not shut their eyes to it.  A stranger crossing the Mall in the early dark of a winter evening sees a young woman asleep on one of the benches, 'no one heeding her'.  The sleep might have been that of intoxication, at any rate it was death to lie there on the raw December night.  It was not, however, intoxication, but exhaustion.

    'Do go home,' said the stranger.

    'I have no home,' answered the girl.

    'Have you no friends in London?'

    'Not one.'

    'But you must have lived somewhere lately?'

    'I have sometimes a bed in a lodging house, sometimes no bed at all, only a bench in the park.'

    'But the workhouse at least is open.'

    'I was there.  St James's casual ward is full, if I went elsewhere it would be the same.  Plenty of us must sleep out in such nights as these.'

    She answered thus far quite sullenly; an expression of sympathy caused her to shed tears and answer in a different tone.  She spoke of her sufferings, cold and hunger among the least of these.  The feeling of utter hopelessness and helplessness.  The awakenings from broken sleep on the park bench during the cold dark nights.  The shiverings and the cramps that seized her, till in the darkness she fancied she had awakened in some place of torment.  She told no fine story: 'All my own fault,' she said.  She was not uneducated, and her conversation proved as much.

    'There are places of refuge.'

    'I know there are, but I have none to help me and I am past helping myself.'

    Now in such a case as this what can an individual do?  Pass by on the other side, saying 'There is no help for it?'  Here is a human being sunk to the lips in sin and suffering, unable to extricate herself, haunted by thoughts of self-destruction.  Let her alone: cold, hunger, and disease will soon put an end to her sufferings; or in the kindly December darkness, she may drop into the murky Thames.  This, perhaps, is the 'cold-blooded economical' way of disposing of the case, though we venture to say the economist would not care to put his principle to so severe a practical test.  But there is nothing very sentimental in the reformatory mode of disposing of it.  The 'cold-blooded economical' is rather the more sentimental of the two.  This is the reformatory method.

    The stranger could do nothing except give the small immediate aid necessary to procure the sufferer a bed in a model lodging-house, and having ascertained that with all the eagerness of life left in her she grasped at the hope of salvation, send her to one of the ten homes established in different parts of London by one Society—that 'for the Rescue of Young Women and Children'—with the addition of a letter to the secretary, though even that is not necessary.  Two hundred thus sent by strangers have been admitted during the past year into these homes.  None are sent away for whom accommodation can be found.  Some are restored to their friends, but the majority are restored to society as hard-working servants, a class from which the majority have fallen—and not such a bad economical product after all.

    It may be mentioned here that it is the rule of this society to receive applicants at once and without any formality; and also as a telling fact that its columns of subscriptions contain a list of upwards of sixty 'former inmates' whose contributions vary from one shilling to four pounds ten.

    Thus this and kindred societies aid, instead of superseding, individual effort.  Without their help the stranger must pass by on the other side, knowing that he or she can give no effectual assistance.  By their help he or she is summoned to individual exertion; summoned not only to add an item to the subscription lists, but to aid the effort and to promote general success.

    For the class of degraded women emigration does not offer a very fair field.  From the same cause which now forces us to keep our convicts at home and reform them if possible before sending them out from among us—namely, that the colonies will not receive them—must this unhappy class be kept among us at least until they have earned a character which may enable them to cover the stains of the past.  The Society we have mentioned, as well as the Reformatory and Refuge Union, which has lately employed female missionaries for the reclaiming of the lost of their own sex, have used, but very sparingly, the agency of emigration.  As an indication of the feeling which prevails in the colonies and is rapidly extending, and which ought to guide the leaders of the reformatory movement in availing themselves of the outlet of emigration, the following letter relating to the first emigration from the Bloomsbury School may be given.  It may be stated that the experiment was repeated this spring, but still on too small a scale to meet the wants and wishes of the colonists.

Sir, A few days since, you were good enough to insert a few lines from me, announcing the expected arrival of ten girls, about fourteen years of age, under the protection of the matron of the Bloomsbury Industrial School, and specially recommended by the good Earl of Shaftesbury to the favourable notice of M. Hawk.

    Upwards of sixty applications resulted from the publication of my letter, an evidence, if any were needed, of the want of such a class of domestic servants.

    Mrs Edmond having found at Montreal, and elsewhere on the road, suitable opportunities for placing out these children, very judiciously availed herself of them, though much to the disappointment of the applicants here.

    These young persons belonged to an Industrial and not a Reformatory School—a distinction to be borne in mind.

    The early employment and welcome reception of these young persons, and the great 'demand' for them, will assure the noble lord and the benevolent gentlemen associated with him, that another and larger 'consignment' next spring will be acceptable; but we must make it a condition that, should Toronto be their destination, we must be assured of their coming here direct.

    Every preparation was made for the suitable reception of Mrs Edmond and her little charges.  She arrived on Friday with two of the children, who have been placed out at service; and it is due to Mrs Edmond to say that her deportment made a very favourable impression upon all those with whom she was brought into communication.

                                                          I have the honour to be,
                                                                          Yours faithfully,
                                                                                        H. H.
August 10, 1857


1st February, 1859.

[Advertisement.]—Miss Isa Craig, the author of the Prize Poem on Burns, is the author also of several very beautiful poems in the "National Magazine" to which she is a valued contributor.  Two poems, "The Nest" and "The Master's Daughter," will be found if vol. 3; "The Hall of the Hollow" in vol. 4 [Ed—possibly Hal of the Hollow]; and "The Lost Drave" in vol. 5 and part 26, just published.  The "National Magazine" has among its contributors some of the best writers of the day, and is full of beautiful illustrations by first-rate artists.  The part for the present month contains also the contribution of a very interesting story by Robert Brough, and of "The Recollections of a Detective Officer."  Price 1s. in monthly parts, and 7s. 6d. in half-yearly vols.  London, W. Kent and Co., Paternoster-row and Fleet Street; and all booksellers in town and country.


2nd February, 1859.

[Advertisement]—Isa Craig and "The English Woman's Journal"—The new number of "The English Woman's Journal" for February 1 contains a new poem by Isa Craig, "The Ballad of the Brides of Quair."  Miss Craig has been a regular contributor to "The English Woman's Journal" since its commencement in March 1858.  Readers will find her full signature in the numbers of June and January to a poem and a press article.  Published by "The English Woman's Journal" Company limited, at their office 14a, Princes-street, Cavendish-square, W., and by Piper and Co., Paternoster-row. Price 1s.


3 February, 1859.

[Advertisement.]—Poetry by Isa Craig.—"The Court Journal" of Saturday, Feb. 5, will contain some verses on the birth of the first-born of the Princess Frederick William, written expressly for this paper by Isa Craig, the successful competitor for the Burns Prize Poem.  Price 6d., or sent post-free for six stamps, by W. Thomas, publisher, 26 Bridges-street, Strand, and all newsagents.


November 25, 1859.

The following letter from Miss Isa Craig is in support of the object to which our first leading article of last week was directed—

ENTLEMEN,—As you have called public attention to the subject of the employment of women, I beg to inform you that at a meeting of the council of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science yesterday it was moved by Mr. G. W. Hastings, and seconded by the Hon. Arthur Kinnaird, M.P., and carried,—"That the following be appointed a committee to consider and report to the council on the best means which the association can adopt to assist the present movement for increasing the industrial employment of women—the Right Hon. the Earl of Shaftebury, the Hon. A. Kinnaird, M.Р., Mr. E. Akroyd, Mr. Hastings, Mr. Horace Mann, Mr. W. S. Cookson, Mrs. Jameson, Miss Parkes; Miss Adelaide Proctor, Miss Boucherett, Miss Faithfull, Miss Craig."  If you will kindly insert this letter in your columns it will greatly facilitate the object of the committee, which is to obtain information as to the channels already open to female industry, and as to the opening of others into which it would desirable to direct it.  As secretary to the committee, I shall be happy to receive any communication on the subject, and am, Sir, yours obediently,


Waterloo-place, Pall-mall, S.W., Nov. 17, 1859.


(London, 1860)

"Miss Isa Craig is a native of Edinburgh, who, her friends not being rich, with praiseworthy industry and self-reliance trusted herself to the resources of a strong and cultivated intellect.  Having acquired some repute as a contributor to the Scotsman and The National Magazine, Miss Craig removed to London, where her talents were usefully employed by the National Association of Social Science; in which, and in other literary labours, this lady gained general notice and commendation."




WHILE the Scotch meeting of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science went far beyond any former one in the direction of practical usefulness, the Irish meeting certainly excelled in social brilliancy.  The Presidency of the Association is a yearly office, and Lord Brougham had already twice filled it; yet he again consented to act as President in deference to the strong wish expressed by the local committee that his first visit to Ireland should be in that capacity.  His opening address, setting aside its allusions to foreign politics, was an able and comprehensive survey of the entire field of social exertion.  In a few vigorous sentences, while laying down the principle of progress,—in which "each step prepared by the last facilitates the next," in which the only safe guide must be experience, and in which "we must ever be prepared to change our direction and our pace, and even to retrace our steps when we find we have gone too far in a wrong direction,"—he pointed out the value of an association which devotes itself to the application of that principle to the wide range of objects which its deliberations embrace.

    The Association investigates the present condition of a question, makes apparent the steps which have led to it, and the direction in which it is moving, and if that appears to be toward any danger or declension, its efforts, guided by the light of experience, are directed to the discovery of the best way in which the danger can be averted or the decline checked.  The pace of some improvement is found to be too slow for the rapid stride of the evil it is meant to overtake, and the association strives to bring to bear upon it the quickening influence of an advanced public opinion.  Education, for example, must be made to keep pace with an increasing population, and with the growing demands of a trade and commerce encircling the world.  The slow march of legislative improvement is often lamented, and the Association has from its commencement endeavoured and with some success to accelerate it.  A law, however, may lag behind the age without greatly impeding it, while if masses of the people lag behind, there must be plenty of prison accommodation provided for the more rebellious, and lengths of dreary workhouse wards for the more helpless of the laggards, the yoke of taxation must hang more heavily around the neck of the community and its every advance be retarded.  The education of the people has on these and other grounds equally just, occupied a prominent place in the proceedings of the National Association.

    As our space will not allow us to do more than refer to the proceedings of a single section of the Association's labours, we propose to confine our present remarks to the Education department,—a selection which the character of this Journal fully warrants.  In this section, then, local interest was, as might have been expected, most keenly roused by the discussion of National Education in Ireland.  This was in every sense the leading topic.  It led to all others, and all others seemed to lead up to it.  For whether the condition of pauper, or criminal children, or of children hovering on the brink of pauperism and crime, was under consideration, the great question at the root of all the difficulties was the same,—"How can we give a religious education and maintain liberty of conscience?"

    The first paper read in the department was on "The application of the principles of education to schools for the lower classes of society," by Mary Carpenter.  At the Glasgow meeting of the Association, Miss Carpenter read a paper "On the principles of Education," in which she maintained that the external training given to children to fit them for the duties of life should be an exercise for the purpose of developing the entire power of the human being, the religious and moral powers, the intellect, the affections and physical nature, and the governing power of will.  The application of these principles to the education of various classes of poor children was the object of her Dublin paper.  She showed that it was not in the common day-school that the whole round of a child's education was completed.  It could generally only deal directly with the intellectual part, though it ought, indirectly, to develop the moral as well as intellectual growth, and also might embrace the physical training and the education of the senses, at present not only neglected, but injured.  Home, she observed, was the school for the affections, and also for the religious feelings; and in all those cases where the school was also the home, the cultivation of these as part of the education of the child became imperative.  It was to the neglect of this entire cultivation that the sad results of pauper-schools might be traced.  No healthy intellectual result could even be approximated to by a system that left the affections barren and the will inactive if not antagonistic.  Reformatory schools owed their remarkable success to a method the very reverse of this.  Religious teaching, as well as physical training, had had their due place in these institutions; and, as a consequence, they were raising out of the very dregs of society intelligent, industrious, and upright men and women.

    It was felt that this went to the root of the matters in dispute between the various educational parties in Ireland.  The success of reformatories and industrial homes had been shown to be the distinct product of a combination of religious instruction with ordinary education, even their intellectual results were due to this; for the argument was convincing, and had the fullest testimony of experience in its favour, that the moral power governed the will, and the winning of that on the side of improvement had been more than half the victory over ignorance, evil propensities, and depraved habits.  It was this power that each party in turn showed that it desired, and not unnaturally, to wield.  The cultivation of the affections and the training to habits of industry might be left to the parents, but, as was the case in the discussion at Glasgow, only a small minority appeared content that secular and religious instruction should be in different hands.  Miss Carpenter took pains to show that there was a natural division of educational labour, and that all that she urged was that reformatory and pauper schools, having the entire responsibility of the children committed to them, and entire control over them, should make their system of education entire also: yet the impression which the minds of the majority of her hearers were alone predisposed to receive was, that the vindication of religious teaching in the school was complete, and thence that a separate set of schools for each denomination was the thing to be contended for, in order that the fullest scope should be given for such teaching.  It is easily conceded that the unrestrained influence of religion is the only thing possible for schools that are also homes.  It hardly needed the strong testimony from the experience of Catholic countries, brought forward by the Attorney-General, Mr. O'Hagan, in his eloquent address on punishment and reformation, to establish it in the minds of all present.

    The discussion on Miss Carpenter's paper was, however, a mere preliminary skirmish.  The real battle-field was the paper of the Rev. A. Pollock, "On the educational position of the Established Church in Ireland;" and though on the closing day of the meeting the question of National Education was re-opened, by the papers of Sir Robert Kane and Professor Kavanagh, the two days' discussion which followed the papers of Mr. Pollock and Mr. Ross was the great discussion of the Congress.  The publication of the papers will afford another and better opportunity for entering into a criticism of the views held by their respective authors.  At present it is only necessary to deal with their general effect on the meeting.

    In order to understand that effect, it is necessary to understand the position of educational parties in Ireland.  The National Board, as at present constituted, though retaining friends among the moderate Catholics, the Presbyterians, and liberal Churchmen, is surrounded by enemies.  One party proposed to remodel the Board on a more thoroughly liberal basis.  The arguments of this party were principally these:—The national system has been productive of the highest educational advantages; a separate system of denominational schools is less favourable to the interests of education, and may be used with much greater effect as an instrument of proselytism.  The present system has given us a generation better trained, more enlightened, and more liberal than any the nation has yet seen.  A return to the separate system would again divide the nation into hostile camps whose leaders would be more zealous for the success of their peculiar tenets than for the great national interests at stake.  These arguments were very ably sustained.  Mr. Pollock's plan, better known in Ireland as the Bishop of Ossory's, has proceeded from this party.  It is simply a proposal to reconstruct the Board, to place the secular education alone on a national footing, leaving the religious instruction entirely to the school managers, free from all inspection or restraint.  This scheme would not, in working, be very different from the present; it would retain the excellent secular instruction established by the Board, and get rid of what has been the great and real grievance urged against it, the deceit and petty tyranny too often practised in regard to religion.  The national system, in so far as religious instruction was concerned, was proved to be in reality denominational.  Why not, it was justly asked, call the schools by their right names—call a Protestant school a Protestant school, and a Catholic one Catholic?  Only about one-fifth of the national schools were mixed, and it could not but happen that when either the Catholic or the Protestant children were in a small minority, those children deserting school during the hours of religious instruction would be looked upon unfavourably by both master and fellow-pupils.  Then the pictures of the Catholic had to be covered up and the altar concealed from the little Protestants; and the Bible of the Protestant marked "Dangerous" for the protégés of the priest.  Over and above the petty deceptions to which such things lead, the daily reminder of religious differences must have an effect the reverse of beneficial on the minds exposed to it.

    Nothing short, however, of the entire annihilation of the Board will satisfy either the ultramontane party among the Catholics, or the adherents of the Church Education Society.  These two powerful and bitter opponents are at one on this point.  They demand a purely denominational system, that they may go forth fully armed with the money and authority of the State, to teach their respective creeds.  Why should we fear proselytism, says the Catholic champion?  The Catholics both fear it less and practise it less than their opponents, and in this they are wise.  The 12,000 children of Catholics at the schools of the Church Education Society are not likely, by the teaching they receive there, to become good Protestants, unless their parents are very bad Catholics indeed.  The counteracting influence of the creed taught by their parents and priests is strong enough to negative the teaching they receive at the school.  Exposure to conflicting teaching might indeed unsettle all religious belief, if the matters under controversy were not really too subtle for the understandings of the very young children attending the national schools.  The faith and practice of the parent and minister will have the preponderating influence on the faith of the child; and justly so. as, while the child is under the control of the parent, the discrimination is wanting which every conscientious mind would desire to see exercised in the adoption of a new religious belief.  Catholics are willing to take the risk of their children attending Protestant schools, or none at all, in order that where there are Catholic schools they may be entirely under their own control, and that no restriction be imposed on them in the matter of religious teaching.  Protestants, for the same reason, are willing to run the same risk, counting too on their being a rich and powerful minority, and able to make overwhelming reprisals; and also, it must fairly be added, on their firm hold of the truth!

    The effect of the discussion of these various differences of opinion was, at first sight, not very apparent.  There was much fear and trembling among the local promoters of the meeting as to the result, and it was even proposed that the subjects on which these differences were likely to be manifested should be passed over.  But this would have been to forsake the very aim and object of the meeting, and was not to be entertained.  The opposing parties were brought face to face, as they had never been before, and their differences were stated more broadly than ever.  To an onlooker the principle laid down by the Irishman, who was asked by his friend which side of the fight he ought to take, and answered, "No side at all, but whenever ye see a head hit it," might seem to prevail.  Whenever a head—of argument—did appear, it was hit strongly and fairly, sometimes from one side, sometimes from another, the dreaded controversy revealing that the real differences were fewer and less insurmountable than had been supposed.  The great principles of liberty of conscience and religious education came out clearly as common to parties who had believed that it was in principle, and not alone in modes of action, that they had been opposed; and so it became evident, as the latter are capable of infinite modification, that a meeting point was not impossible.  One result of the discussion has been to awaken the hope that such a meeting point may be discovered.

    The industrial or ragged day-school has not taken root in Ireland to the same extent as in the sister countries, owing to its having been made so much an instrument for proselytism.  It is found necessary, in order to retain the vagrant children in these schools, to give them one or more meals daily.  Thus many of them came to receive the opprobrious name of "Souper Schools."  The "soupers," while outwardly conforming to the religion of the sect establishing the school, commonly adhere in secret to their original faith, and withdraw their children gladly if a rival establishment of the right kind is started, distributing equally satisfactory doles of soup and bread.  This has disgusted honest Catholics and honest Protestants alike.  But the necessity for special schools for a class below the working-class, and still free from criminal habits, is felt in Ireland as well as in England.  Under the wing of a national school in Dublin there is a ragged school of a kind which appears to meet the necessities of the case, and seems to furnish a hint for the solution of some of the difficulties which have been encountered in providing for this class in England.  The children in the lower school form a distinct class; in the upper school they pay from 2d. to 5d. a week, while, in the lower, the parents are unable to contribute the smallest weekly sum.  To secure regular attendance it is found necessary to furnish the first meal of the day, a simple piece of bread, as the children are often kept at home till it can be earned or begged, so entire is the destitution of their homes.  The teachers of the two schools are distinct, the master testifying that their admission into the upper school of the miserable and wholly uncivilized children from the lower would degrade the whole tone both of the teaching and the discipline.  The bread is furnished by private charity, but otherwise the lower school is under the National Board, and is worked as a department of the upper one.  Is not this a very simple way of getting rid of some, if not all, of the embarrassments with which the friends of ragged schools have had to contend?  It gets rid of the objection of making permanent institutions for a class which ought not, in the opinion of many, to exist, though about the fact of its existence there is little doubt, and for the hope of its non-existence, to say the least, very little foundation.  It also allows for the children an easy transition into the higher class, whenever their improvement should be such as to warrant it.  A ragged day-school of this kind might form part of the machinery of any large national school in the poorer districts of a great town, and thus be worked more cheaply and advantageously than a separate establishment.  There is no reason why industrial training should not be added.

    The able address of Sir John Shaw Lefevre was confined almost entirely to University education, regarding which it afforded much valuable information.  In speaking of the Civil Service examinations, he stated that he considered the present results of elementary education anything but satisfactory.  These results were not to be estimated by the reports of inspectors, but a very fair test was afforded by the examinations as to the real acquirements possessed by masses of the population.  This is certainly just; very much of what the inspectors see is mere surface work, much that he hears mere loose information; only what is rooted in the nature is real education, and that alone can be retained and applied when the boy enters on the business of life; the rest must perish, and is therefore comparatively useless.  The Very Rev. Dean Graves, in his able paper on the Civil Service Examinations, states the principle which underlies the competition movement when he says, that the sound healthy brain which enables its owner to achieve the greatest success in intellectual efforts, extends its action through his entire frame, reaches the hands and feet, and imparts a general vigour and activity.

    On one evening in the week, the Association extended its influence to a still wider circle than the members and associates assembling in its departments.  Each of these departments had its exponent to an audience composed of the young men in connexion with the various literary and educational associations of Dublin.  The subject of education was allotted to Mr. G. W. Hastings, the Honorary General Secretary of the Association.  After giving an account of the progress of elementary education during the last generation, he pointed out some of the defects of the Privy Council system, which made that system far from popular in England, and which, as was shown at the meeting of the Association in Glasgow, was productive of little save dissatisfaction in Scotland.  He then most appropriately directed the attention of the meeting to the subject of evening schools and mechanics' institutes as the great remedies for the early withdrawal from school which the pressure for the means of subsistence rendered necessary for so large a portion of the community.  To the development of these institutions the future progress of national education would be largely indebted, for they were sustained by the great principle of self-education.  No education that was not voluntary could be really valuable.  Real education depended on individual effort, and what was gained by the boy at school, was too often lost by the youth in whom no interest in self-culture had been awakened, while the class who pursued education as one of the noblest aims of life, the class who supported mechanics' institutes and evening schools, carried up to manhood the thirst for knowledge, and had produced a band of intelligent workers, whose labours would hereafter be felt in the industrial progress of the country.

    The meetings of the National Association ought to be looked upon not as a time of reaping but as a time of sowing.  Fruit in the shape of practical social improvements can only be sought for in the future.  It is a seed-time from which a harvest of good may be expected to spring, when due time has been allowed for the rooting and ripening of the opinions which it scatters so plentifully.  Expectations so formed have already, in many instances, been realized; and those who are intimately acquainted with the working of the Association have been often cheered by seeing the results of some discussion bearing fruit in the locality of one of its early meetings, in a higher tone of municipal government, in vigorous and enlightened measures of sanitary and other reforms; in other instances by the knowledge that it has been the means of awakening and guiding individual effort, and in others still, that it has quickened the progress of the Legislature in the enactment of measures of national and lasting usefulness.

    In the great discussion which took place at Glasgow last year, opposing parties met for the first time face to face, and the hope sprang up that a full and free discussion of their differences and difficulties might furnish the means of reconciling the one and overcoming the other.  Let us hope that the Dublin meeting will lead to a similar approximation of opinion there.  Irishmen, like Scotsmen, have now found that they can meet and discuss their differences with mutual moderation, and part with a higher respect and tolerance for each other.  The difficulties attending a settlement of the education question in Ireland are not great, if dealt with in a spirit of candour and conciliation, and it may be trusted that such a spirit will permanently survive the week of the meeting which called it forth and tested it so severely.



8th March, 1865.


A case of some interest to authors ― Barle v. Strahan ― was heard in the Sheriff's Court this morning.  It was an action in which the plaintiff, who is an authoress, sought to recover £50 damages for non-return of a certain manuscript, defendant being proprietor and publisher of Good Words.  According to plaintiff's evidence, it appeared that she had written a series of papers of which she submitted a portion to Miss Isa Craig.  Miss Craig introduced a portion of the manuscript to the defendant, who agreed to forward it to Dr. McLeod, the Editor of Good Words.  It had never been inserted, and when plaintiff applied for its return, she could not obtain it.  Some letters had passed between the parties, and finally plaintiff sued defendant for the value of the missing manuscript.  His Honour suggested that a reference should be taken, but plaintiff declined, though her counsel, Mr. Kydd, strongly advised her to follow the course recommended.  Miss Isa Craig was then called, and stated that defendant had promised to forward the manuscript to the editor.  In cross-examination she admitted that she always protected herself when she sent in a paper to a magazine by keeping a copy.  The editors of magazines, as a rule, did not hold themselves responsible for lost copy.  She believed that the proprietors of the Cornhill Magazine would return manuscripts if written to for them.  She should think that as an act of civility to an author a manuscript would be returned if the writer applied for it.  His Honour could not see how the plaintiff made the defendant liable.  Upon this evidence the theory that the publishers or editors of magazines were bound to return manuscripts fell to the ground.  There only remained another point, and that was whether defendant had taken proper care of the copy.  In this instance defendant was a gratuitous bailee.  Mr Kydd pointed out that there had been a promise to give compensation.  His Honour ruled that there was no consideration for that promise.  Mr Hance then called the defendant, who admitted receiving the copy, but deposed to having forwarded it in the usual way to the editor for his approval.  The editor had not returned it.  His Honour, upon this, held that the defendant was not liable.  Plaintiff must be nonsuited with costs.  Mr Hance―Defendant waives all claim to costs.


4th June, 1866.

The petition for the representation of women, which was presented in the House of Commons last Thursday, with the list of names attached to it, has been printed in pamphlet form.  It states that, high authorities  having laid down that the possession of property carried with it the right of representation, the admission of some holders of property to this right and the exclusion of others is anomalous; and as the participation of women in the Government is consistent with the principles of the British Constitution, they being capable of sovereignty and eligible for various public offices, the petitioners pray the House to consider the expediency of providing for the representation of all householders, without distinction of sex, who may possess the necessary property of rental qualification.  The petition bears among others the names of Mrs. Alford, the Countess d'Avigdor, Mrs. J. E. Cairnes, Mrs. W. B. Carpenter, Rachel Chadwick, Mary Anne Gaskell, Lady Goldsmid, Isa Craig Knox, Lady Anna Gore Langton, Hon. Mrs. Thomas Liddell, Harriet Martineau, Mrs. Mary Somerville, Caroline Stansfield, Anna Swanwick, Susanna Winkworth, &c.


Glasgow Herald
16th July, 1872.

THE LITTLE FOLKS' HISTORY OF ENGLAND.  By Isa Craig-Knox.  With illustrations by R. E. Galpin.  Cassell, Petter & Galpin. (Pp.280.)

FEW things can be important in the education of little folks than that they should be thoroughly grounded in the history of their own country.  Yet nothing can be more unsatisfactory than the date-packed text books, crammed full of dry facts and an uninteresting array of figures and names, which are too frequently used in public schools for the instruction of the young.  In strong contrast to such historical manuals as those referred to is this little volume from the graceful pen of Isa Craig.  The history extends from B.C. 55, when Julius Cæsar first invaded Britain, till February 27, 1872, the day on which the public "Thanksgiving" was held in London to record the gratefulness of the nation for the recovery of the Prince of Wales.  Mrs Knox has treated her subject in a lively and interesting manner, making use of as few dates and statistics as possible, and narrating in a simple, natural style the leading incidents in English history.  The letterpress is illustrated by thirty-two well drawn and nicely executed wood-cuts, and supplemented by a brief but sufficient index, which will save youthful readers a great deal of trouble in the matter of reference.  It should be added that the book is free from all political or party bias, as books for children ought to be, and has the additional advantages of being clearly printed in large type, and published in a small and handy form.  Teachers will find it of great value, and in its enticing pages the youngest reader will discover abundant matter of amusement and instruction.


29th December, 1872.

. . . . The same publishers have also brought out a series of short tales, by Mrs. Isa Craig-Knox, which were written to illustrate the parables, and render them applicable to modern life.  We have for instance, a tale, entitled "Seedtime and Harvest;" others, "The Cumberer of the Ground," "Lost Silver," and finally, "The Good Samaritan."  Mrs. Isa Craig-Knox is so well known as a writer for young people, that it would be superfluous to say how well these stories are calculated to please them.  It will not be necessary to notice all these little books; but we will, as an example, give a sketch of the tale founded on the parable of the "Good Samaritan."  Mr Verral, one of the principal characters, is the editor of a monthly religious magazine, and enjoys a good repute for probity.  As his name is so well known and respected by the public, some designing commercial men succeed in entrapping him, and he is unconsciously made director of a bubble company.  Naturally the bubble bursts, and the police are set on the track of the directors.  These last have all escaped with the exception of Mr. Verral, who, as the only honest man among them, has not been warned of the approaching catastrophe, and is consequentially arrested at a railway station.  In his emotion the unfortunate man bursts a blood vessel, and is seated helplessly on a railway form, guarded by a policeman.  Two gentlemen pass by—both acquaintances of him—the one, a stern business man, merely shrugs his shoulders and turns away; while the other, the parish clergyman, and a most eloquent preacher, can only think of returning Mr. Verral's pew-money, lest the church should be corrupted by gifts from thieves.  While the honest victim is thus spurned by his fashionable friends—another acquaintance of a more humble kind steps out of a third-class carriage, hastens to Mr. Verral's rescue, insists on the policemen's treating him kindly, and sees him through all his difficulties, till at last Mr. Verral is acquitted of complicity in the swindle which has just been disclosed.  Such is the very simple manner in which Mrs. Craig-Knox has thought fit to illustrate the parables; and the lessons thus plainly taught can only do good, even if they do occasionally lack originality.

Ed.—"Tales on The Parables" appears to have been published both as individual stories (probably in soft-back, here referred to) and as a two-volume set, the second series of which is here reproduced.


Englishwomen's Review
1st Jan 1876


Girton College, Cambridge.

    Notwithstanding the opening of Newnham Hall, Girton College is too small, the applications for admission far exceeding the accommodation afforded for ladies anxious for university instruction, and it has been resolved to enlarge it so as to accommodate a score more students and to provide two new lecture-rooms.  This will cost £6,000.  A subscription has been opened for the expenses of the new buildings, and by the date of the publication of the last Journal of the Education Union, £1,500 had been already subscribed.  For a boys' school sufficient funds would at once be forthcoming; for women's education they are more difficult of attainment, yet still there is fair hope that among the wealthier friends of the good cause, they may be raised without too much delay.

    A letter from Isa Craigg Knox to the daily papers, called public attention to the present need of subscriptions.  In it she says:

    The college was founded in 1869 by the gathering together of some ten or a dozen students in a hired house at Hitchin, from whence, with added numbers, it removed in 1873 to a permanent building at Girton near Cambridge.  This building was erected at a cost of £15,000, the friends of the movement identical with those who laboured to obtain for the country the acknowledged boon of the University local examinations, raising contributions to the amount of £13,000.  Accommodation was provided for twenty-one students, with the necessary public and lecture rooms; the latter on a scale which would admit of the future extension of the other portions of the building.  Such an extension has already become imperative.  The number of students at present in residence is greater than the building was intended to receive, and unless additional accommodation is provided without delay it will be necessary to refuse admission to a number of candidates.  Apart from the cost of the buildings, the college is self-supporting, and the friends of wealthy students have already contributed liberally to the building fund; but as it is not intended exclusively for the rich, its founders find that they must appeal to a wider public, and they do so on public grounds.  Owing to the much-needed increase of a better class of girls' schools, through the action of the Endowed Schools Commission and other public bodies, the demand for highly trained and competent head mistresses is already greater than the supply, and adequate remuneration is beginning to be offered for their services, and nowhere, more certainly, can such training be received or such competence be tested than at Girton.

    There is every guarantee that the work of the college is real.  An entrance examination bars the way to the incompetent or trifling, and, through the generous help of members of the University of Cambridge, the high character of the teaching becomes indisputable.  The list of lecturers at Girton includes no fewer than eleven names of high academical standing.  The examiners in the various examinations for degrees have also given their assistance in testing the work of the students by University standards.  The certificates given have thus the value, if not the name, of a University degree, and several of the students have acquitted themselves so as to have deserved honours.  Such a certificate is, of course, a passport to the higher educational work, and it is to this work that the bulk of students look forward to devoting themselves.  In order not to exclude any who, with the requisite ability and attainments, may be desirous of further advancement, scholarships and exhibitions are being founded in connection with the University local examinations and the entrance examination of the college. * * * * * The proposed addition to the building will cost £6,000, and would then contain rooms for thirty-eight students, the mistress, and two assistant lecturers (ladies), with four lecture-rooms, a small laboratory, dining-hall, prayer-room, reading room, gymnasium, &c.  Contributions may be paid to the Treasurer, Mr. H. R. Tomkinson, 24, Lower Seymour street., London, W.; or to the Girton College account, at the London and County Bank, 21, Lombard street, E.C.; or to Messrs. Mortlock & Co., Cambridge.  The Report and other papers containing information may be obtained from Miss Emily Davies, 17, Cunningham place, N.W.






ISA CRAIG was born at Edinburgh, October 17, 1831.  She is the only child of parents that belonged to a middle-class family in Aberdeenshire.  When only a few months old her mother died; her father afterwards removed to Aberdeen, leaving his daughter to the care of her grandmother, who brought up her young charge in a very simple and secluded manner.  Isa's school education did not extend beyond three years, and was concluded in her tenth year.  After assisting in the various household duties she diligently devoted every spare hour to books, and these not of the newest or lightest kind—Gibbon, Addison and his contemporaries, Shakespeare, Milton, Cowper, and Burns being her teachers.

    When about sixteen Miss Craig ventured to write a short poem now and then, and was amply rewarded by seeing her nameless effusions in print.  In 1851 she began to contribute to the Scotsman newspaper under the signature "Isa."  Her verses attracted considerable attention, and in 1853 the proprietor of the paper called on his unknown contributor and proposed that she should undertake regular literary work for its columns.  In the summer of 1857 she visited a lady friend in London, by whom she was introduced to Mr. G. W. Hastings, who was then engaged in organizing the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, and was greatly in need of an efficient assistant.  Miss Craig at his request undertook the task of assisting him for the three months preceding the first meeting of the Association, which was held at Birmingham [Ed.—see The Reasoner 28 Oct., 1857].  After the meeting she was appointed by the council his assistant in the secretarial work of the society—a position which she held for nearly nine years, and only relinquished in May, 1866, when she was married to her cousin Mr. John Knox.  In 1858 she sent in a competitive poem "On the Centenary of Burns," which gained the prize of £50 over six hundred and twenty and was read at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham, to a vast audience collected to celebrate the centenary of the Scottish poet's birth.  The poem was dictated more by love for the poet than eagerness for the prize, for an the day of the award Miss Craig was absent, and being busily occupied had forgotten it altogether.

    Going on steadily with her work in the Associations, editing under Mr. Hastings its weighty volumes, and conducting its extensive correspondence, Miss Craig took no advantage of the popularity which the prize obtained for her.  She had published a volume of Poems in 1856, and in 1864 she brought out another volume entitled Duchess Agnes, &c., the fruits of her scanty leisure.  It is written in the dramatic form, and contains numerous fine passages.  Her latest volume, entitled Songs of Consolation, and dedicated to the memory of the Rev. Frederick Denison Maurice, is of a purely religious character.  Mrs. Knox has contributed prose and verse to Fraser's Magazine, Good Words, and various other periodicals, and has recently written an excellent Little Folk's History of England.  Her poetry, particularly in her shorter pieces, is characterized by much pathos and deep religious sentiment.  A distinguished critic says her poems "are far above the average, and possess such kindly qualities as will carry them home to many who do not live by the sensational alone, but appreciate true feeling, however shy—beauty, however subdued."



The Scotsman, 31 July 1931.

    In spite of the fact that Isa Craig's ode won the first prize at the Burn's Centenary Festival in 1859, very little is known about her.  There were over six hundred competitors for the fifty guinea prize.  The winning of the prize was, however, by no means a mere flash in the pan, for Isa Craig had several collections of her poems published, and people, who care to read them, will find many gems amongst them.

    The poetess was born in Edinburgh in 1831.  Her father, who belonged to an Aberdeenshire family, for many years carried on a business as a hosier and glover in South Bridge, Edinburgh.  Isa's mother died when she was a baby, and she was brought up by her grandmother.  Mr. Craig did not survive his wife long, so Isa was left to face life alone at an early age.  She found her way to London where she became secretary to the Social Science Association.  She was a very busy woman, and her poems were written in the intervals of leisure afforded by a life of toil.

    In a preface to one of her collections of poems she tells us that she followed no master in the art of song, and did not endeavour to work out any poetical theory. "I have simply expressed the thoughts and feelings suggested by nature and the scenes of life in the tone and language that came at their command.  Recognising in poetry an art to be cultivated with enthusiasm for its own sake, as well as the sake of the refined enjoyment which its exercise bestows, I have aspired as far as possible to render these poems artistic efforts."

    In many of her poems she reveals a great knowledge of human nature, pure diction, and tenderness of feeling, and her poem "The Garden" shows that she was a true lover of all it stands for, and in her sonnet to spring she says:—

"I love the Spring, although her changeful skies
 Weep oftener than smile—a child in tears—"

    As Isa Craig lived during the Crimean War, it is not surprising that she wrote several war poems.  Amongst them are "War," "When Our Heroes Return," "They Died at Alma," and "Night Watches."  She published one book of poems in 1856 and another in 1865. Many of her poems were published under the name "Isa."  She also wrote under the initial "C."

    In 1866 she married her cousin, John Knox, who was an iron merchant in London.  After her marriage she appears to have given up writing poetry.  Towards the end of her life she wrote serial tales for the "Quiver" and other monthlies.



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