Home Chartist Movement History of Chartism Reviews Main Index Site Search


"The tyrannous discipline of the 'Bastille,' or Union Workhouses erected under the New Poor Law of 1834 . . . the vengeful feeling created, in our starved manufacturing districts, towards the harsh provisions of that Law, was the fiercest and bitterest I ever heard expressed by working men."

Thomas Cooper, from his introduction to 'The Purgatory of Suicides'.

"Chartism is one of the most natural phenomena in England."

Thomas Carlyle, from "Chartism."

"It is notorious that all the great remedial measures which have proved the most effective checks against the abuses of capitalistic competition are of English origin.  Trade Unions, Co-operation, and Factory Legislation are all products of English soil.  That the revolutionary reaction against capitalism is equally English in its inspiration is not so generally known."

Professor H. S. Foxwell: Introduction to Menger's The Right to the Whole Produce of Labour.




"There are two distinct aspects to Chartism as generally conceived down to 1840, and as conceived after that date by the National Charter Association.  On the one hand, it is an agitation for the traditional Radical Programme; on the other, it is a violent and vehement protest from men, rendered desperate by poverty and brutalised by excessive labour, ignorance, and foul surroundings, against the situation in life in which they found themselves placed.  This protesting attitude had been brought, by the teachings of leaders and the prosecutions of authority, to a pitch of bitterness hardly now conceivable."

"It was from the Chartists and their forerunners that Marx and Lasalle learned much of the doctrine which was only to come back to these islands when its British origin had been forgotten."

Mark Hovell, from "The Chartist Movement."


ALTHOUGH born towards the end of the Victorian era, Mark Hovell and Julius West (actually a Russian by birth—just) cannot be considered Victorian authors; so why include them within a library devoted to Victorian writers?

    A number of the poets and authors listed in the Index to this Victorian writers website were involved actively in the Chartist movement and left us their perspectives on that period of British socio-political history, mainly the decade from 1838.  Of these, William Lovett, James Watson and Ernest Jones were most closely involved with the movement, but Adams, Arnott, Bezer, Cooper, Holyoake, Linton and Massey also gave of themselves generously in promoting the aims of the People's Charter.  They left us their impressions and feelings ― sometimes in prose, sometimes in verse ― of this struggle of the British working-class against the oppression and injustice inflicted upon them by a society dominated overwhelmingly by a wealthy and privileged (male) minority. . . .

". . . . Deeply impressed with the conviction of the evils arising from class legislation and of the sufferings thereby inflicted upon our industrious fellow subjects, the undersigned affirm that a large majority of the people of this country are unjustly excluded from that full, fair and free exercise of the elective franchise to which they are entitled by the great principle of Christian equity and also by the British Constitution, ‘for no subject of England can be constrained to pay any aids or taxes, even for the defence of the realm or the support of the Government, but such as are imposed by his own consent or that of his representatives in Parliament.’"

The "Sturge Declaration" . . . from , "The Chartist Movement."

    Mark Hovell, a professional historian writing some 50 years after the dust thrown up by the pleas and demands of those turbulent times had mostly settled ― for in Hovell's day universal suffrage had still to be achieved ― and with research material by then more readily available, was able to provide a wider and more objective assessment of the Chartist movement* than could such as William Lovett, a poor, self-educated man who had suffered incarceration for sedition within the appalling prison conditions of that age and experienced a life not greatly better at other times . . . .

". . . . their memoirs share fully in the necessary limitations of the literary type to which they belong.  There are failures of memory, over-eagerness to apologise or explain, strong bias, necessary limitation of vision which dwells excessively on trivial detail and cannot perceive the general tendencies of the work in which the writers had taken their part.  But, however imperfect they may be as set histories of Chartism, we find in most of them that same note of simplicity and sincerity that had marked their authors' careers.  If these records make it patent why Chartism failed, they give a shrewder insight than any merely external narrative can afford of the reasons why the movement spread so deeply and kept so long alive.  They enable us to understand how, despite apparent failure, Chartism had a part of its own in the growth of modern democracy and industrialism."

The artizan historians . . . from "The Chartist Movement."

A study to both perspectives is important ― indeed, essential ― to gain a good (but can it ever be complete?) understanding of the rise of the Chartist movement, ultimately to become Victorian England's most successful political failure . . . .

". . . . how many of the greatest movements in history began in failure, and how often has a later generation reaped with little effort abundant crops from fields which refused to yield fruit to their first cultivators? . . . . in the long run Chartism by no means failed . . . . the principles of the Charter have gradually become parts of the British constitution . . . . its restricted platform of political reform, though denounced as revolutionary at the time, was afterwards substantially adopted by the British State . . . . before all the Chartist leaders had passed away, most of the famous Six Points became the law of the land . . . . the Chartists have substantially won their case.  England has become a democracy, as the Chartists wished, and the domination of the middle class . . . .  is at least as much a matter of ancient history as the power of the landed aristocracy."

Chartism's place in history, from "The Chartist Movement."

"The movement's failures lay in the direction of securing legislation, or national approbation for its leaders.  Judged by its crop of statutes and statues, Chartism was a failure.  Judged by its essential and generally overlooked purpose, Chartism was a success.  It achieved, not the Six Points, but a state of mind.  This last achievement made possible the renascent trade union movement of the 'fifties, the gradually improving organization of the working classes, the Labour Party, the co-operative movement, and whatever greater triumphs labour will enjoy in the future."

Chartism's place in history, from "A History of the Chartist Movement."

    Mark Hovell was to become one of many young men of great promise whose lives were wasted in the slaughterhouse of the Western Front.†  It is to the credit of his friends that his manuscript was prepared for posthumous publication, for The Chartist Movement has become a classic of its type.§  Julius West—who at Professor Tout's request had reviewed Hovell's manuscript and proofsβ—also died young, in 1918 at the age of twenty-seven, of influenza.  A History of the Chartist Movement was prepared by J. C. Squire for publication, appearing in 1920.

    I have transferred from within the body of Hovell's book Professor Tout's brief biography of an all-too-brief life, which appears below followed by J. C. Squire's Memoire of Julius West.


* Hovell's account covers the main period of Chartism to the summer of 1842 when his incomplete manuscript ends.  Professor Tout concludes the story, drawing on Hovell's notes, knowing his lectures on Chartism and being aware of his intentions for what would have been the final section of his book.

Second Lieutenant Mark Hovell, 1st Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment).  Killed in action 12 August, 1916. Son of William and Hannah Hovell, of Brooklands, Cheshire; husband of Fanny Hovell, of Milton Cottage, John St., Sale, Cheshire. Langton Fellow of Manchester University, 1911-14. Mark Hovell lies in Vermelles Military Cemetery,  Pas-de-Calais (Plot: III. N. 7).

§ Manchester University Press, 1918; 1925 (revised; this online edition) ― reprinted 1963 and 2008 (by Kessinger Publishing from the 1918 edition).

β "It remained to prepare the book for the press.  As a first step I was advised by Mr. Wallas to submit the manuscript to Mr. Julius West, the author of a recently completed History of Chartism, whose publication is only delayed by war conditions.  Mr. West has been kind enough to go through the whole manuscript and also to read the proofs.  His help has been of great service, not only in correcting errors, resolving doubts, and removing occasional repetitions, but also in advising as to the form which the publication was to take.  He also drew up the basis of the bibliography.  Mr. West informs me that his study and Hovell's have some points of almost complete agreement, notably where both differ from recent German writings.  It is hardly needful to say that Mr. West had come to his conclusions before this book had been put in his hands."


Vermelles Military Cemetery

The Guardian
11th August, 1947.

JAQUES――HOVELL. ― On August 9, at Sale Congregational Church, by the Rev. George Benton, NORMAN CLIFFORD JAQUES, D.A. (Manchester), younger son of Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Jaques, of Prestwich to MAJORIE, only daughter of the late Mark HOVELL, M.A. and Mrs Hovell, of Sale.



 a brief biography by
Professor T. F. Tout.

THE author of this book [The Chartist Movement] belonged to the great class of young scholars of promise, who, at the time of their country's need, forsook their studies, obeyed the call to arms, and gave up their lives in her defence.  It is well that the older men, who cannot follow their example, should do what in them lies to save for the world the work of these young heroes, and to pay such tribute as they can to their memory.

    Mark Hovell, the son of William and Hannah Hovell, was born in Manchester on March 21, 1888.  In his tenth year he won an entrance scholarship at the Manchester Grammar School from the old Miles Platting Institute, now replaced by Nelson Street Municipal School.  It was the earliest possible age at which a Grammar School Scholarship could be won.  From September 1898 to Christmas 1900 he was a pupil at the Grammar School, mounting in that time from IIc to Vb on the modern side.  Circumstances forced him to leave school when only twelve years of age, and to embark in the blind-alley occupations which were the only ones open to extreme youth.  Fortunately he was enabled to resume his education in August 1901 as a pupil teacher in Moston Lane Municipal School, whose head master, Mr. Mercer, speaks of him in the warmest terms.  Hovell also attended the classes of the Pupil Teachers' College.  From November 1902 to February 1904 a serious illness again interrupted his work, but he then got back to his classes, and at once went ahead.  Mr. W. Elliott, who first gave him his taste for history at the Pupil Teachers' College, fully discerned his rare promise.  "He was," writes Mr. Elliot, "undoubtedly the brightest, keenest, and most versatile pupil I have ever taught, and his fine critical mind seemed to delight in overcoming difficulties. He was a most serious student, but he possessed a quiet vein of humour we much appreciated.  We all looked with confidence to his attaining a position of eminence."  This opinion was confirmed by the remarkable papers with which in June 1906 he won the Hulme Scholarship at our University, which he joined in the following October.  This scholarship gives full liberty to the holder to take up any course he likes in the University, and Hovell chose to proceed to his degree in the Honours School of History.  During the three years of his undergraduate course he did exceedingly good work.  After winning in 1908 the Bradford Scholarship, the highest undergraduate distinction in history, he graduated in 1909 with an extremely good first class and a graduate scholarship.  In 1910 he took the Teachers' Diploma as a step towards redeeming his pledge to the Government, which had contributed towards the cost of his education.

"People now are prone to look upon the stormy and infuriate opposition to the Poor Law as based upon mere ignorance.  Those who think so are too ignorant to understand the terrors of those times.  It was not ignorance, it was justifiable indignation with which the Poor Law scheme was regarded.  Now, the mass of the people do not expect to go to the workhouse and do not intend to go there.  But through the first forty years of this century almost every workman and every labourer expected to go there sooner or later.  Thus the hatred of the Poor Law was well founded.  Its dreary punishment would fall, it was believed, not upon the idle merely, but upon the working people who by no thrift could save, nor by any industry provide for the future."

Mark Hovell ― the seeds of Chartism . . . from "The Chartist Movement."

    The serious work of life was now to begin.  It was the time when the Workers' Education Association was first operating on a large scale in Lancashire, and he was at once swept up into the movement, being appointed in 1910 assistant lecturer in history at the University with special charge of W.E.A. classes at Colne, Ashton, and Leigh, to which others were subsequently added.  He threw himself into this work with the greatest energy.  He took the greatest pains in presenting his material in an acceptable form.  His youthful appearance excited the suspicions of some among his elderly auditors.  They used, Mr. Paton tells me, "to lay traps for him.  He seemed to know so much, and they wanted to see if it was all 'got up for the occasion.'  But he was a 'live wire.'  He used to heckle me fine after education lectures at College."  This early acquired skill in debate soon rode triumphant over the critics.  He did not content himself simply with giving lectures and taking classes.  In order to get to know his pupils personally, he stayed over week-ends at the towns where he taught.  He had long Sunday tramps with his disciples over the moors, and though he never flattered them, and was perhaps sometimes rather austere in his dealings with them, he soon completely won their confidence and affection.  I remember the embarrassment felt by the administrators of the movement, when a class, which had had experience of his gifts, almost revolted against the severely academic methods of a continuator of his course, and was only appeased when it was fortunately found possible to bring him back to his flock without compromising the situation.  He continued in this work as long as he was in England, and when the winter of 1913-14 took him to London, he had the same success with the south-country workmen as with the men he had known from youth up in the north.  Mr. E. H. Jones, the secretary of his Wimbledon class, thus describes the impression he made there with a course on the "Making of Modern England":

    Many of the students had misgivings as to the success of what appeared to them as a dull, drab, and dreary subject.  These doubts were further increased when, at the first preliminary meeting, a slim, quiet, unassuming, and nervous young man got up, and in a hesitating manner outlined the chief features of the course.  The first lecture, however, was sufficient to ensure the success of the venture.  His thorough knowledge of the subject, his clear and incisive style, together with a charming personality, held the attention of the class.  His realistic description of the condition of the people, especially of the working classes, during the early part of the nineteenth century — the homes they lived in and the lives they lived — showed us at once a man with a large heart, one who sympathised with the sorrows and the sufferings of the people.  His great desire was to serve his fellows by educating, and so exalting the manhood of the nation.  We, who knew him, understand the motives which prompted him to offer his life for the sake of our common humanity.  He hated tyranny; the beat of the drums of war had no charms for him, unless the call was in the cause of Justice and Liberty."  [The Highway, December 1916, pp. 56-57.]

    This appreciation is not overdrawn.  There was nothing in Hovell of the clap-trap lecturer for effect.  His rather conservative point of view knew little of short cuts, either to social amelioration or to the solution of historic problems.  He offered sound knowledge coupled with sympathy and intelligence, and it is as much to the credit of the auditors as of the lecturer that they gladly took what be had to give.

    Howell's lecturing, important as it was, could only be subsidiary to the attainment of his main purpose in life.  As soon as he graduated, he made up his mind to equip himself by further study and by original work for the career of a university teacher of history.  His degree course had given him a practical example of the character of two widely divergent periods of history, studied to some extent in the original authorities.  One of these was the reign of Richard II., which he had studied under the direction of Professor Tait.  He had sent up a degree thesis on Ireland under Richard II., written with a maturity and thoughtfulness which are rarely found in undergraduate essays.  This essay he afterwards worked into a study which we hope to print, when conditions again make academic treatises on mediaeval problems practical politics.  It was evidence that he might, if he had chosen, become a good mediaevalist.  But his temper always inclined him towards something nearer our own age, and his other special subject, the Age of Napoleon I., seemed to him to lead to wide fields of half-explored ground in the first half of the nineteenth century.  He attended for this course lectures of my own on the general history of the period, and made a special study of some of the Napoleonic campaigns, which he studied under the direction of Mr. Spenser Wilkinson, then lecturer in Military History at Manchester, and now Chichele Professor of that subject at Oxford.  It was Mr. Wilkinson's lectures that first kindled his enthusiasm for military history.

    Howell's main bent was towards the suggestive and little-worked field of social history, and his interest in the labour and social problems in the years succeeding the fall of Napoleon was vivified by the practical calls of his W.E.A. classes upon him.  I feel pretty sure that it was the stimulus of these classes that finally made him settle on the social and economic history of the early Victorian age as his main subject.  It was upon this that he gave nearly all his lectures to workmen.  Indeed, much of the vividness and directness of his appeal was due to the fact that he was speaking on subjects which he himself was investigating at first hand.  A deep interest in the condition of the people, a strong sympathy with all who were distressfully working out their own salvation, a rare power of combining interest and sympathy with the power of seeing things as they were, made his progress rapid, and increasing mastery only confirmed him in his choice of subject.  Finally he narrowed his investigations to the neglected or half-studied history of the Chartist Movement, and examined with great care the economic, social, and political conditions which made that movement intelligible.

". . . . In truth the aspect of Great Britain in these days was sufficiently terrifying.  From Bristol to Edinburgh and from Glasgow to Hull rumours of arms, riots, conspiracies, and insurrections grew with the passing of the weeks.  Crowded meetings applauded violent orations, threats and terrorism were abroad.  Magistrates trembled and peaceful citizens felt that they were living on a social volcano.  The frail bonds of social sympathy were snapped, and class stood over against class as if a civil war were impending."

Mark Hovell ― the year 1839 . . . from "The Chartist Movement."

    Hovell's teachers were not unmindful of his promise, and in 1911 his election to the Langton fellowship, perhaps the highest academic distinction at the disposal of the Arts faculty of the Manchester University, provided him with a modest income for three years during which he could carry on his investigations, untroubled by bread problems.  He now cut down his teaching work to a minimum, and threw himself wholeheartedly into his studies.  Circumstances, however, were not very propitious to him.  He was a poor man, and was the poorer since his abandonment of school teaching involved the obligation of repaying the sums advanced by the State towards the cost of his education.  The work he now desired to do was perhaps as honourable and useful as that for which he had been destined.  It was, however, different.  He had received State subsidies on the condition that he taught in schools, and he chose instead to teach working men and University students.  So far as his bond went, he had, therefore, nothing to complain of.  The Board Education, though meeting him to some extent, was not prepared, even in an exceptional case, to relax its rules altogether.  While recognising the inevitableness of its action, it may perhaps be permitted to hope that the time may come, even in this country, when it will be allowed that the best career for the individual may also be the one which will prove the most profitable to the community.  Otherwise, the compulsion imposed on boys and girls, hardly beyond school age, to pledge themselves to adopt a specific career may have unpleasant suggestions of something not very different from the forced labour of the indentured coolie or Chinaman.

    Other difficulties stood in Howell's way.  He had to continue his W.E.A. classes until he had completed his obligations to them, and it required moral courage to avoid accepting new ones.  The University also had its claims on him, and untoward circumstances made his lectureship much more onerous than it had been intended to be.  In the spring of 1911 a serious illness kept me away from work, and between January and June 1912 the University was good enough to allow me two terms' leave of absence.  On both occasions Howell was asked to deliver certain courses of my lectures, and I shall ever be grateful for the readiness with which he undertook this new and onerous obligation.  But he gained thereby experience in teaching large classes of students, and it all came as part of the day's work.  Despite this his study of the Chartists made steady progress.

    A further diversion soon followed.  Up to now Hovell's work had lain altogether in the Manchester district, and Wanderjahre are as necessary as Lehrjahre to equip the scholar for his task.  The opportunity for foreign experience came with the offer of an assistantship in Professor Karl Lamprecht's Institut für Kultur und Universalgeschichte at Leipzig for the academic session of 1912-1913.  This offer, which came to him through the kind offices of Sir A. W. Ward, Master of Peterhouse, was the more flattering since the Leipzig Institute was a place specially devised to enable Dr. Lamprecht to disseminate his teaching as to the nature and importance of Kulturgeschichte.  Reduced to its simplest terms Lamprecht's doctrine is that the social and economic development of society is infinitely more important than the merely political history to which most historians have limited themselves.  Not the State alone but society as a whole is the real object of the study of the historian.  Various doubtful amplifications and presuppositions involved in Lamprecht's teaching in no wise impair the essential truth of the broad propositions on which it is based.

"The night falls fast, and finds me brooding thus
 O'er evils that afflict my fatherland:—
 The night falls fast, yet brightly luminous
 Beam out the cotton mills that round me stand,
 Where garish gas turns night to day; and hand,
 And eye, and mind of myriad toilers win
 The wealth of England, but cannot command
 A certainty of bread,—though, for her sin,

Woman, like man, doth weave, and watch, and toil,
        and spin."

Thomas Cooper . . . from "The Paradise of Martyrs".

    Hovell's own studies of social history showed him to be predisposed to sympathy with the master. But he had never been in Germany, and his German was almost rudimentary. However, he worked up his knowledge of the tongue by acquiring from Lamprecht's own works the point of view of the great apostle of Kulturgeschichte.  Accordingly by the time Hovell reached Leipzig, he bad acquired the keys both of the German language and of Lamprecht's general position.  He found that Lamprecht's Institute, though loosely connected with the University, was a self-contained and self-sufficing seminary for the propagation of the new historic gospel, and looked upon with some coldness and suspicion by the more conservative historical teachers.  It was a wise part of the system of the Institute that certain foreign "assistants" should present the social history of their own country from the national point of view.  Towards this task Howell's contribution was to be an exposition of the social development of England in the nineteenth century, so that his Chartist studies now stood him in good stead.  He was, however, profoundly convinced of the high standard required from a German University teacher, and made elaborate preparations to give a course of adequate novelty and thoroughness.  Unfortunately he found that the students who gradually presented themselves were far from being specialists.  They were not even anxious to become specialists, and were nearly all somewhat indifferent to his matter, looking upon the lectures and discussions as an easy means of increasing their familiarity with spoken English.

    The beginning was rather an anxious time, especially when presiding over and criticising the reading of the referate, or students' exercises, which alternated with his set lectures.  He was impressed with the power of his pupils to write and discuss their themes in English, though glad when increasing familiarity with German enabled him also to deal with their difficulties in their own tongue.  The only other academic work that he essayed was taking part in Professor Max Förster's English seminar.  The lightness of the daily task gave him leisure for looking round, and seeing all that he could see of Germany and German social and academic life.  He attended many lectures, delighting especially in Förster's clear and stimulating course on Shakespeare, broken on one occasion by a passionate exhortation to the students to forsake their beer-drinkings and duels, and to cultivate manly sports after the English fashion, so as to be able the better to defend their beloved Fatherland.  He was much impressed by Wundt, the psychologist, "a little plain and unassuming-looking man dressed in undistinguished black, lecturing with astounding clearness and strength, at the age of 81, to a closely packed and attentive audience of fully 350 students, who look on him as the wonder of his age, and are eager to catch the last words that might come from the lips of the master."  He heard all that he could from Lamprecht himself, with whom his relations soon became exceedingly cordial.  He found him genial, friendly, and good-natured, and he was impressed by his dominating personality and missionary fervour, his broad sweep over all times and periods, the width of his interests, and the extent of his influence.  He sincerely strove to understand the mysteries of the new science.  The very abstractness and theoretical character of the Lamprechtian method was a stimulus and a revelation to a man of clear-cut positive temperament, schooled in historical teaching of a much more concrete character.  It was easy to hold his own in the English seminar where the discussions were in his own tongue.  But he gradually found himself able to take his share in Lamprecht seminar, where all the talk was in German.  "My reputation among the students," he writes, "was founded on my knowledge that the predecessor of the Reichsgericht sat at Wetzlar." It was a proud moment when he had to explain that the master's confusion of the modern English chief justice and the justiciar of the twelfth century was the natural error of the foreigner.  He was still more gratified when called upon by Lamprecht to read an elaborate treatise in German on the der englische Untertanenbegriff, the English conception of political subjection.  His only embarrassment now was that he could never quite convince himself that there was any specifically English conception of the subject at all, and that he rather wondered whether Lamprecht knew whether there was one either.  But however much he criticised, he never lost his loyalty to the man.  His doubts of the Lamprechtian system became intensified when he found underlying it errors of fact, uniform vagueness of detail, and cut-and-dried theoretical presuppositions against which the broad facts of history were powerless to prevail.  One of his last judgments, made in a letter to me in June 1913, is perhaps worth quoting:

    Professor Lamprecht is lecturing this term on the history of the United States.  His course is exceedingly interesting, but I am bound to say that his history strikes me as highly imaginative.  He never speaks of the English colonies.  They are always "teutonisch," except when (as to-day) be says in mistake "deutsch."  Thus Virginia in 1650 was "teutonisch."  He persistently depreciates the English element on the strength of the existence of a few Swedish, Dutch, and German settlements.  By some magic English colonists cease to be English as soon as they cross the ocean, so that their desire for freedom and political equality owes little or nothing to the fact of their being English.  He carefully distinguishes even Scots from English.  He views the history of America down to 1763 as an episode in the eternal struggle of the "romanisch " and "teutonisch" peoples, and the beginning of the decided triumph of the latter, whose greatest victory of course was in 1870-71.  I am firmly convinced that he neither understands England, nor the English, nor English history.  Still, although I don't agree with half he is saying, I find his method of handling things interesting; he stimulates thought, if only in the effort to follow his.

    The whole period at Leipzig was one of intense activity.  Hovell enjoyed himself thoroughly.  He was always eager to widen his experiences, and found much kindness from seniors and juniors, Germans and compatriots.  He made a special ally of his French colleague, who did not take Kulturgeschichte quite so seriously as he did.  The two exiles spent the short Christmas recess in a tour that extended as far as Strasburg, where they moralised on the contrasts between the new Strasburg, that had arisen after 1871, and the old city, that still sighed for the days when it was a part of France.  At Leipzig Hovell revelled in the theatres, in the Gewandhaus concerts, the singing of the choir of the Thomas Kirche, and the old Saxon and Thuringian cities, churches, and castles.  He was specially impressed with the orderly development from a small ancient nucleus of the modern industrial Leipzig, with its well-planned streets and spacious gardens, with which the Lancashire towns which he knew contrasted sadly.  He attended all manner of students' festivities, drank beer at their Kneipen, and witnessed, not without severe qualms, the bloodthirsty frivolities of a students' duel.  He was present when the King of Saxony, whose personality did not impress him, came to Leipzig to spend a morning in attending University lectures and an afternoon in reviewing his troops.  He saw Gerhard Hauptmann receive an honorary degree, and delighted in the poet's recitation of a piece from one of his unpublished plays.  He was so quick to praise the better sides of German life that he was condemned by his French colleague for his excessive accessibility to the Teutonic point of view.  His appreciation of German method extended even to the police, whom he eulogised as efficient, and not too obtrusive in their activities.  He recognised the thoroughness, economy, and thriftiness with which the Germans organised their natural resources.  He spoke with enthusiasm of the ways in which the Germans studied and practised the art of living, their adaptation of means to ends, their avoidance of social waste.  He was struck with the absence of visible slums and apparent squalor.  The spectacle of the material prosperity obtained under Protection led him to wonder whether the gospel of Cobden in which, like all good Manchester men, he had been brought up, was necessarily true in all places and under all conditions.  But he had enough clarity of vision to see that there was another side to the apparent comfort and opulence of Leipzig.  He was appalled at the lack of method and organisation when individual enterprise was left to work out details for itself, as was notably instanced by the slipshod, happy-go-lucky ways in which the affairs of the Institute and University were conducted.  He watched with keen interest elections for the Saxon Diet or Landtag, when Leipzig's discontent with the constitution of society rose triumphant over an electoral system as destructive to the expression of democratic control as that of the Prussian Diet itself.  Things could hardly be well when Leipzig returned, by overwhelming majorities, both to the local and to the imperial Parliaments, Social Democrats pledged to the extirpation of the existing order.  A constitution, cunningly devised to suppress popular suffrage, and manhood voting yielded the same result.

". . . . The Chartists first compelled attention to the hardness of the workmen's lot, and forced thoughtful minds to appreciate the deep gulf between the two "nations" which lived side by side without knowledge of or care for each other.  Though remedy came slowly and imperfectly, and was seldom directly from Chartist hands, there was always the Chartist impulse behind the first timid steps towards social and economic betterment.  The cry of the Chartists did much to force public opinion . . . ."

Hovell: Chartism's place in history . . . from "The Chartist Movement."

    Another aspect of German opinion was strange and painful to him.  He had been taught that in Germany the enthusiasts for war were as negligible an element as the "militarists" of his own land.  But he soon found that the truth was almost the reverse of what he had expected.  From the beginning he was appalled, too, by the widespread evidence of deep-rooted hostility to England, even in the academic circles which received him with the utmost cordiality.  The violence of the local press, the denunciations of England by stray acquaintances in trains and cafes, seemed to him symptomatic of a deep-set feeling of hatred and rivalry.  He saw that Lamprecht studied English history in the hope of appropriating for his own land the secret of British prosperity, and that Förster exhorted the students to play football that they might be better able to fight England when the time arrived, and that both were confident that the time would soon come.  He was disgusted at the crass materialism he saw practised everywhere.  He was particularly moved by a quaint exhortation to the local public to contribute handsomely to celebrate the Emperor's jubilee by subscribing to a national fund for missions to the heathen.  No one saw anything scandalous or humorous in a spiritual appeal based on the most earthly of motives, and centring round the arguments that a large collection would please the Kaiser, and that, as England and America had used missionaries as pioneers of trade and might, Germany must also "prepare the way for world-power by the faithful and unselfish labours of her missionaries in opening up the economic and political resources of her protectorates."  He saw that Deutschland über alles meant to many Germans a curious dislocation of values.  An agreeable young privatdocent, who visited him later in England, showed something of the same spirit when, coming with a Manchester party on an historical excursion to Lincoln, he saw nothing to admire in the majestic city on a hill nor in the wonderful cathedral.  Far finer sites and much better Gothic art were, he solemnly assured us, to be seen in Saxony and the Mark of Brandenburg.  Very few of his many German friends had Hovell's keen sense of humour.

    Hovell's stay in Germany was broken by a visit to England at Easter 1913, when he attended the International Historical Congress in London, where he introduced me to Lamprecht.  I was much impressed with the fluency and accuracy which Hovell's German speech had now attained, as well as with the cordiality of his relations to his large German acquaintance.  He returned to Leipzig for the summer semester, and was back in England for good by August.

    The novel Leipzig experiences had thrown the Chartists into the shade, the more so as Hovell found the University Library capriciously supplied with English books, and catalogued in somewhat haphazard fashion.  But he profited by the opportunity of a careful study of the important works which notable German scholars had recently devoted to the neglected history of modern British social development.  He found some of these monographs were "too much after the German style, rather compendia than analytical treatises, but useful for facts, references, and bibliographies."  Others of the "more philosophic sort" gave him "good ideas," and he regarded Adolf Held's Zwei Bücher über die sociale Geschichte Englands "specially good."  Steffen's Geschichte der englischen Lohnarbeiter, the translation of a Swedish book by a professor at Göteborg, and M. Beer's Geschichte des Socialismus in England were also extremely useful.  But he was soon on his guard against the widespread tendency to wrest the facts to suit various theoretical presuppositions, and to realise the fundamental blindness to English conditions and habits of thought that went along with laborious study of the external facts of our history.  Though he by no means worked up all his impressions of German authors into his history, the draft, which he left behind him, bears constant evidence alike of their influence and of his reaction from it.  It was at this time he first saw his work in print in the shape of a review of Professor Liebermann's National Assembly in the Anglo-Saxon Period, contributed to a French review.

    On returning to England Hovell established himself in London, where he worked hard at the Place manuscripts (unhappily divided between Bloomsbury and Hendon), the Home Office Records, and other unpublished Chartist material.  During the winter he took a W.E.A. class at Wimbledon.  By the summer of 1914 he was ready to settle at home again and to put together his work on the Chartists.  His fellowship now coming to an end, he undertook more W.E.A. courses in the Manchester district for the winter of 1914-1915, and a small post was found for him at the University, where he received charge of the subject of military history.  This study the University prepared to develop in connection with a scheme for preparation of its students for commissions in the army and territorial forces.

    No sooner were these plans settled than the great war broke out.  The classes in military history were reduced to microscopic dimensions, since all students keen on such study promptly deserted the theory for the practice of warfare.  Though anxious to follow their example, Hovell remained at his work until the late spring of 1915, finding some outlet for his ambition to equip himself for military service in the University Officers' Training Corps, in which he was a corporal.  In May, as soon as his lectures to workmen were over, he applied for a commission.  He had nothing of the bellicose or martial spirit; but he had a stern sense of obligation and a keen eye to realities.  Like other contemporaries who had sought experience in Germany, he fully realised the inevitableness of the struggle, and he knew that every man was bound to take his place in the grave and prolonged effort by which alone England could escape overwhelming disaster.  "I don't think," he wrote to me, "I shall dislocate the economy of the University by joining.  What troubles me is of course my book.  I have written nearly a chapter a week since Easter.  At this rate I shall have the first draft nearly completed by the end of another three months, and I am therefore very keen to finish it.  If there were no newspapers I could keep on with it; but the Chartists are dead and gone, while the Germans are very much alive."

    In June Hovell was sent to a school of instruction for officers at Hornsea, where they gave him, he said, the hardest "gruelling" in his life, and from which he emerged, at the end of July, at the head of the list with the mark "distinguished" on his certificate.  He was gazetted in August to a "Kitchener" battalion of the Sherwood Foresters, the Nottingham and Derby Regiment.  But officers' training had not yet become the deftly organised system into which it has now developed.  When Hovell joined his battalion at Whittington Barracks, near Lichfield, he found himself one of a swarm of supernumerary subalterns, who had no place in the scheme of a battalion fully equipped with officers.  As there were no platoons available for the newcomers to command, they were put into instruction classes, hastily and not always effectively devised for their benefit.  He rather chafed at the delay but enjoyed the hard life and the new experience.  It was soon diversified by a course of barrack-square drill with the Guards at Chelsea, by an informal assistantship to a colonel who ran an instructional school for officers, by a very profitable month at the Staff College at Camberley, where he soon "felt quite at home, seeing that the place is so like a University with its lecture-rooms and libraries and quiet places," and by a period of musketry instruction in Yorkshire, where an evening visit to York gave him his first practical experience of a Zeppelin raid.  Altogether a year was consumed in these preliminaries.

    In June 1916 Hovell was back with his battalion, now camped in Cannock Chase.  On June 3 he married Miss Fanny Gatley of Sale, the Cheshire suburb in which his own family had lived in recent years.  A little later he wrote: "We managed a whole week in the Lake District, where it rained all the time.  Then I went back to my regiment and my wife came to stay two miles away."  Then the attack on the Somme began, and "we heard rumours that officers were being exported by the hundred."  On July 4 he received orders to embark, and crossed to France a week later.  There were some vexatious delays on the other side, but at last he joined one of the regular battalions of his regiment in a small mining village.  The battalion had been cruelly cut up in the recent fighting on the Somme, and the officers, old and new, were strangers to him.  But by a curious accident he found an old friend in the chaplain, the Rev. T. Eaton McCormick, the vicar of his parish at home.  He was now plunged into the real business of war, and did his modest bit in the reconstitution of the shattered battalion.  "I blossomed out," he wrote, "as an expert in physical training, bayonet fighting, and map-reading to our company.  All the available N.C.O.'s were handed over to my care, and they became enthusiastic topographers."

    Before the end of the month the battalion was reorganised and moved back into the trenches.  On August 1 he wrote to me in good spirits:

    Behold me at last an officer of a line regiment, and in command of a small fortress, somewhere in France, with a platoon, a gun, stores, and two brother officers temporarily in my charge.  I thus become owner of the best dug-out in the line, with a bed (four poles and a piece of stretched canvas), a table, and a ceiling ten feet thick.  We are in the third line at present, so life is very quiet.  Our worst enemies are rats, mice, beetles, and mosquitoes.

    This first experience of trench life was uneventful, and the battalion went back for a short rest.  The remainder of the story may best be told in the words of Mr. McCormick, writing to Hovell's mother to tell her the news of her son's death.

    Mark and two other officers of the Sherwood Foresters dined with me on Wednesday last, August 9.  We were a jolly party and talked a lot about home.  After dinner he asked me if it would be possible for him to receive the Holy Communion before going into the trenches, and next morning I took him in my cart two miles away, where we were having a special celebration for chaplains.  That was the last I saw of him alive.  He went into the trenches for the second time in his experience (he had been in a different part of the line the week before) on last Friday.  On Saturday night at 9.10 P.M., August 12, it was decided that the Sherwood Foresters should explode a mine under the German trenches.  Mark was told off to stand by with his platoon.  When the mine blew up, one of Mark's men was caught by the fumes driving up the shaft, and Mark rushed to his rescue, like the brave lad that he was, and in the words of the Adjutant of his battalion, "we think he in turn must have been overcome by the fumes.  He fell down the shaft and was killed.  The Captain of the company went down after him at once and brought up his body.". . .  They knew that he was a friend of mine, as I had been telling the Colonel what a brilliantly clever man he was, and what distinctions he bad won, so they sent for me, and the men of his battalion carried his body reverently down the trenches.  We laid him to rest in a separate grave, and I took the service myself.  It was truly a soldier's funeral, for, just as I said "earth to earth," all the surrounding batteries of our artillery burst forth into a tremendous roar in a fresh attack upon the German line.... He has, as the soldiers say, "gone West" in a blaze of glory.  He has fought and died in the noblest of all causes, and though now perhaps we feel that such a brilliant career has been brought to an untimely end, by and by we shall realise that his sacrifice has not been in vain.

    Over a year has passed away since Hovell made the supreme sacrifice, and the cannon still roar round the British burial-ground amidst the ruins of the big mining village of Vermelles where he lies at rest.  While north and south his victorious comrades have pushed the tide of battle farther east, the enemy's guns still rain shell round his unquiet tomb from the hitherto impregnable lines that defend the approach to Lille.

    Nothing more remains save to record the birth on March 26, 1917, of a daughter, named Marjorie, to Hovell and his wife, and to give to the world the unfinished book to which he had devoted himself with such extreme energy.  This work, though very different from what it would have been had he lived to complete it, may do something to keep his memory green, and to suggest, better than any words of mine can, the promise of his career.  But no printed pages are needed to preserve among his comrades in the University and army, his teachers, his friends, and his pupils, the vivid memory of his strenuous, short life of triumphant struggle against difficulties, of clear thinking, high living, noble effort, and of the beginnings of real achievement.  For myself I can truly say that I never had a pupil for whom I had a more lively friendship, or one for whom I had a more certain assurance of a distinguished and honourable career.  He was an excellent scholar in many fields; he could teach, he could study, and he could inspire; he had in no small measure sympathy, aspiration, and humour.  He possessed the rare combination of practical wisdom in affairs with a strong zeal for the pursuit of truth; he was a magnificent worker; he kept his mind open to many interests; he had a wonderfully clear brain; a strong judgment and sound common-sense.  I had confidently looked forward to his doing great things in his special field of investigation.  How far he has already accomplished anything noteworthy in this book, I must leave it for less biased minds to determine.  But though I am perhaps over-conscious of how different this book is from what it might have been, I would never have agreed to set it before the public as a mere memorial of a promising career cut short, if I did not think that, even as it is, it will fill a little place in the literature of his subject.  When he finally set out for the front he entrusted to me the completion of what he had written.  I have done my best to fulfil the pledge which I then gave him, that should anything untoward befall him, I would see his book through the press.

 ". . . . in 1917, in the midst of the Great War, Parliament is busy with a third wide extension of the electorate which, if carried out, will virtually establish universal suffrage for all males, and, accepting with limitations a doctrine which Lovett considered too impracticable even for Chartists, will allow votes to women under a fantastic limitation of age that is not likely to endure very long" [Ed. ― in fact, until 1928.]

Hovell ― Chartism's place in history . . . from "The Chartist Movement."



"The Chartists were especially interesting as being in some sort pioneers of the modern Labour movement in which West had grown up; but he might have been drawn to any other such subject had he found another that had been so neglected by English historians.  It did not take him long to discover that some current opinions would have to be revised; that the physical menace of the Chartist movement had often been exaggerated, and its historical importance generally ignored."

J. C. Squire

J. C. Squire.

JULIUS WEST was born in St. Petersburg on March 21 (9th O.S.), 1891.  In May, when he was two months old, he went to London, where from that time onwards, his father, Mr. Semon Rappoport, was correspondent for various Russian papers.  At twelve years of age West entered the Haberdashers' (Aske's) School at Hampstead.  He left school in 1906, and became a temporary clerk in the Board of Trade, assisting in the preparation of the report on the cost of living in Germany, issued in 1908.  On leaving the Board of Trade, he became a junior clerk in the office of the Fabian Society, then in a basement in Clement's Inn.  (It was there that in 1908 or 1909 I first saw him.)  To get to the Secretary's room one had to pass through the half-daylight of a general office stacked with papers and pamphlets, and on some occasion I received the impression of a new figure beyond the counter, that of a tall, white-faced, stooping youth with spectacles and wavy dark hair, studious-looking, rather birdlike.  The impression is still so vivid that I know now I was in a manner aware that he was unusual long before I was conscious of any curiosity about him.  I had known him thus casually by sight for some time, without knowing his name; I had known his name and his repute as a precocious boy for some time without linking the name to the person.  He was said to read everything and to know a lot of economics; a great many people were getting interested in him; he was called West and was a Russian, a collocation which puzzled me until I learned that he was a Jew from Russia who had adopted an English name.  Although still under twenty, he was already, I think, lecturing to small labour groups when I got to know him more intimately.  He knew his orthodox economics inside out, and was in process of acquiring a peculiar knowledge of the involved history of the Socialist movement and its congeners during the last hundred years.

    He was, in fact, already rather extraordinary.  His education had been broken off early, and he always regretted it; but I have known few men who have suffered less from the absence of an academic training.  Given his origins, his early struggle, his intellectual and political environment, the ease with which he secured some sort of hearing for his first small speeches to congenial audiences, one might have expected a very different product.  It would not have been surprising, had he, with all his intellect, become a narrow fanatic with a revolutionary shibboleth; it would not have been strange if, avoiding this because of his common sense, he had been drawn into the statistical machine and given himself entirely to collecting and digesting the materials for social reform.  He took a delight in economic theory and he had a passion for industrial history: the road was straight before him.  But the pleasure and the passion were not exclusive.  Although it is possible that his greatest natural talents were economic and historical, and (as I think) likely that had he lived his chief work would have been along lines of which the present book is indicative, he was in no hurry to specialize.  He had a catholic mind.  Behind man he could see the universe, and, unlike many Radicals of his generation, behind the problems and the attempted or suggested solutions of his time, he could see the wide and long historical background, the whole experience of man with the lessons, moral, psychological and political, which are to be drawn from it, and are not to be ignored.  You may find in his early writings (though not in this book) all sorts of crudities, flippancies and loose assertions; he was young and impulsive, he had been under the successive influences of Mr. Shaw and Mr. Chesterton, and lacked their years and their command of language; he had a full mind and a fluent pen which, when it got warm, sometimes ran away.  But at bottom he was unusually sane; and his sanity came in part from the intellectual temper that I have sketched, but partly from a sweet, sensitive and sympathetic nature which made injustice as intolerable to him as it was unreasonable.  He did not always (being young and having had until the last year or two little experience of the general world of men) realize how people would take his words; but I never knew a man who more quickly or more girlishly blushed when he thought he had said or written something wounding or not quite sensible.

"The great interest of the Chartist period is the active quest for ideas which was then being carried on, and its first results.  Within a few years working men had forced upon their attention the pros and cons of trade unionism, industrial unionism, syndicalism, communism, socialism, co-operative ownership of land, land nationalization, co-operative distribution, co-operative production, co-operative ownership of credit, franchise reform, electoral reform, woman suffrage, factory legislation, poor law reform, municipal reform, free trade, freedom of the press, freedom of thought, the nationalist idea, industrial insurance, building societies, and many other ideas.  The purpose of the People's Charter was to effect joint action between the rival schools of reformers; but its result was to bring more new ideas on to the platform, before a larger and keener audience."

West: ideas put forward by the Chartist Movement.

    Julius West's life was conspicuously a life of the mind.  But if the reader understands by an intellectual a man to whom books and verbal disputations are alone sufficient, reservations must be made.  It is true that he was a glutton for books: he collected a considerable library where Horace Walpole, Marx, Stevenson, Mr. Conrad, Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb and Marlowe stood together.  His father writes: "He was a great reader, and his literary taste even as a schoolboy was remarkable.  He scorned to read books written specially for children, but used to enjoy the reading of classical writers even at the age of seven or eight years, and his knowledge of all Shakespeare's dramas was astonishingly complete."  But he was restless and roving rather than sedentary.  He was capable of running great physical risks and enduring hardships beyond his strength; he travelled as much as he could, and had the authorities admitted him into the Army, he would, unless his body had given out, have made a good soldier.  He did not mistake books for life; but one had the feeling that life to him was primarily a great book.  His nature was emotional enough: he fell in love; he was deeply attached to a few intimate friends; and there was an emotional element in his politics and his reactions to all the strange spectacles he saw in his last years of life.  But ordinarily what one thought of was his curiosity rather than his emotions; his senses not at all.  If at one moment one had peeped into his affectionate nature the next one was always carried off into some "objective" discussion.  His curiosity about things, his love of debate, gave him a refuge during trouble and an habitual resort in ordinary times.  He seemed incapable of any idle thing.  Most of us, with varying frequency, will make physical exertions without obtaining or desiring reward beyond the effort and the fatigue; or we will lie lapped in the gratification of our senses, happy, without added occupation, to drink wine or sit in silence with a friend and tobacco, or encumber a beach and feel the hot sun on our faces, or loll in a green shade without even a green thought.  Or we will travel and see men and countries, or take part in events for the mere exhilaration of doing it.  But whatever his physical activity, Julius West would always have been the curious spectator, observing and learning, recording and deducing, with history in the making around him; and, whatever his physical inactivity, his brain would never have been asleep, or his senses dormant.  If one walked with him, there were few silences; a punt on the river with him would have meant (unless he were reading) eager, peering eyes and speculations either about the surrounding objects, and what people had said about them, or else about Burke, Bakunin or some such thing.  For all his energy, I never knew his ambition, or was clearly convinced that he had any other ambition than to see and learn all he could, and produce his results.

    He attempted all sorts of literary work; parodies, short stories, criticism.  It was to be expected that the criticism would be chiefly concerned with doctrine, and that the other work would be defective and full of ideas.  Partly, I suppose, all this writing was the by-product of an intellectual organ which could not stop working but demanded a change of work; partly his very curiosity operated: he saw what other men had written, and he wanted to find out what it would be like to write this, that and the other thing.  But he had neither the sensuousness nor the selfishness (if that hard word may be used of that detachment and that preoccupation) of the artist, nor the reverence for form that demands and justifies an intense application to general detail which is not, to the hasty eye, very significant.  As a rule he was exclusively preoccupied with the general purport of what he wanted to say.  But it was not unnatural that a young man with his heart, his imaginative intelligence and his wide reading, should have begun his career as an author with a book of poems. (The book published by Mr. David Nutt in 1913 was called Atlantis and Other Poems.)  It was ignored by the reviewers and the public; he would not have denied that it deserved to be; but it was very interesting to any one interested in him.  A great part of it (remember, most of the verses had been written by a boy under twenty-one) was very weak; short poems about mermaids, sunken galleons, maidens, dreams, ghosts and witches, written in rhythms which are lame, but displaying in the ineffective variety of their form the restless ingenuity, the hunger for experiment of this young author; and here and there lit up by a precocious thought or phrase.  A man with a greater share of the poetic craft was likely to do better with a larger subject and a looser structure, and much the best poem in West's book is Atlantis, a narrative in about five hundred lines of blank verse, with a few songs embedded in it.  The blank verse is as good as most; few men of West's age could write better; and he could without contortion move in it, and make it say whatever he wanted it to say.  He represents the Lost Continent as dwindled to a small island and inhabited by people conscious of their impending doom, weighed down with the memory of what their country's forests and fields and birds were like before the last wave.  The subject offered an obvious chance as a visible spectacle, and the poet (feeling this) made an attempt to paint the features of the city, describing its houses and temples and festivals.  The attempt was unsuccessful; it was when he reached more congenial ground that West showed his originality and his power.  With one of the most alluringly "picturesque" and melodramatic subjects in the world under consideration, he put all the obvious things behind him and spent his time considering what effects such a situation as that of the doomed remnant of Atlanteans would have had upon the minds of men.  Passionate love became almost extinct:

                 and 'twas thought 'twas well
No helpless childish hands there were to pull
Their elders' heartstrings, making death seem hard
And parting very bitter, and the end
A bitter draft of pain, poured by a hand
Unpitying, a draft of which the old
Were doomed to drink more than a double share.

The poets

Did all but cease th' eternal themes to sing
And in their place sang songs about the End.

The philosophers ran to strange doctrines about the perfectibility of the survivors from the next deluge or starkly expounded the End, or were

Buffoons who sought to turn the End a thing
For jest;

and across the city sometimes flashed a band of fanatics proclaiming this shadowed life to be an illusion from which those who had courage and faith could escape.  Voices spoke, sad or resentful, of men cheated out of their due years; one fierce

For us an aimless life, an aimless Death . . .
That I should have the power for once to live,
To be a creature strong with power to kill,
To stay, but for a little while, the strength
That hems us in!   That I might taste the joy
Of conflict with an equal force to mine,
Conflict of life and death, not purposeless,
Not vain, as we now feebly struggle on. . . .
That I could have the gift of knowing hate,
Black hate that animates before it kills. . . .
O, to do aught with force, not rest supine.

In this boyish poem we can see West's mind trying to realize Atlantis as a whole community, where characters vary and doctrines clash; as a vessel holding, at a certain position in time and space, the human spirit.

    Whether he would have written more poetry I do not know.  I doubt it; at all events he had little time and many distractions, and he looked like growing confirmed in other pursuits.  In 1913 he went into the office of the New Statesman, for which, intermittently, he wrote reviews (usually of books about Eastern Europe) and miscellaneous articles until he died.  He remained in the office for a few months; then left, and became a free lance writing for various papers, lecturing, and starting work on the present book and others.  I think his second publication was a tract, notable for its sagacity and its wit, on John Stuart Mill.  He was busy with several books when the war broke out, which in the end was to kill him at twenty-seven.

    I forget if it was in August, 1914, that he first tried to join the Army.  A layman might have supposed that both his eyes and his lungs were too weak, but a doctor told him that he was good for active service.  Whenever it was that he volunteered—his first attempt was early, and there were others after his short visit to Russia and Warsaw in 1914-15—he made a discovery.  He had not realized—if he had ever known it the conception had dropped out of his mental foreground—that he was not a British subject.  But they told him so, and said that his status must be settled before he could have a commission.  He had arguments: his parents were Russian subjects and he himself was born in Russia; but his parents were merely visiting Russia when he was born, and he submitted that he was at that time really domiciled in England.  The argument, it seemed, had no legal validity; and, denied citizenship in the only home he knew or wanted, he at once went, very set and intent, to a solicitor's office in Lincoln's Inn Fields where I had the odd experience of assisting, as I believed, to naturalize a man I had never thought of as a foreigner.  This, he thought, would settle it; he would soon be in the Army.  But no.  The hierarchy at this point thought of something new.  He was a Russian, an Ally of military age; if he wished to fight he must join the Russian army; we would not naturalize him here.  It would have been difficult to conceive a more grotesque suggestion, if one knew the man.  He had left Russia when a baby in long clothes; he spoke Russian (at that time) with difficulty; he looked at Russia and her institutions from an English point of view; he was married (he had been confirmed in the Church of England) to the daughter of an English clergyman; all his friends were English and most of them in uniform and it was suggested that if he really desired to serve the Allied cause he should divest himself of all his ties and go off to mess in the snows of Courland or Galicia with bearded strangers from the Urals and the Ukraine.  The suggestion was repulsive to him, quite apart from the fact that it might mean years of unbroken exile.  He was, however, allowed to join an ambulance corps in London.

    Before long he was off to Petrograd on a flying tour as a correspondent; thence to Moscow and Warsaw, within sound of which the German guns were booming: Russian Warsaw with enemy aeroplanes overhead and expensive Tsarist officers revelling in the best hotels.  He saw the Grand Duke Nicholas on November 17, 1914, in the greatest Cathedral of Petrograd at a gorgeous service of commemoration of the miraculous preservation of the Tsar Alexander II: that was six years ago!  He returned, and for a year and more was in England, editing Everyman and writing books at a great pace.  Then his wife died.  Another opportunity of going to Russia offered, and a man always restless took it as a means of escape from himself.  He was in Petrograd in the early months of the Bolshevik regime.  He lived (a few letters came through) in a state of high excitement, seeing everything he could, visiting the Institute and the Bolshevik law courts, attending meetings at which Lenin and Trotsky spoke, dogged everywhere, for he was suspected, daily expecting to be shot from behind.  Being a democrat and a believer in ordered progress he was very angry with the Bolsheviks; having a zest for queer manifestations of life he found an immense variety of interest and amusement in their conduct.  When he returned he was full of stories of rascality.  Lenin, on the point of character, was in many ways an exception; but he was tricked wholesale by German Jew agents disguised as Bolsheviks.  One of them, high in the Bolshevik Foreign Office, had even judiciously edited the Secret Treaties, the publication of which so edified the Bolshevik public and so surprised the world.  Daily great stacks of documents were served out to the Bolshevik press, a dole for this paper, a dole for that; but the busy German spy had taken the last precaution to ensure that the documents which involved the Allies should come out, and that those which most seriously compromised Germany should not.  West became pretty familiar with many of the revolutionary figures, and enjoyed working in such an extraordinary scene.  But he recognized that his excitement was hectic and bad for him; he suffered to some extent from the famine conditions of Petrograd; the cold was terrible, and that and the indoor stuffiness which it led to affected his chest.  He had to get away.  In February, 1918, he left with a party of English governesses and elderly invalids.  He was not an old man nor a governess; he was in effect an English journalist of fighting age who might be carrying valuable information; but he was fortified with some lie or other, and with the rest of the pathetic caravan he went over the ice and through the German lines.  The enemy were at that time in occupation of the Aland Islands, and West told a romantic story of the night he and his companions spent in a village there guarded by the German soldiers: a night filled with snow, a silence broken by guttural voices talking of home and the fortunes of the war in Flanders.

    He got through to Stockholm and from there home, where, unexpected and unannounced he floated in on me, keen and volatile as ever, but looking ill.  He ought then to have taken a long rest; but he was asked to go off to Switzerland—then a hotbed of enemy and pacifist intrigue—and he thought that with his experience and his knowledge of languages (he now knew Russian, French, German, Dutch, and Roumanian) it was his duty to go.  But it killed him.  He came back, hollow-eyed and coughing, and went first to an hotel in Surrey, and then to a sanatorium in the Mendips.  His friends did not know how ill he was; he wrote cheerfully about books and politics, asked for more books, was glad he had found an invalid officer or two with cultivated tastes.  But he just saw the war out.  A complication of influenza and pneumonia developed, and he died.

    During the war he had published several books.  Two—Soldiers of the Tsar and The Fountain—were issued by the Iris Publishing Company, the proprietor of which, now dead, deserves a book to himself.  The first was a collection of sketches written mostly in Russia in 1914; the second a tumultuous race of satires and parodies probably modelled on Caliban's Guide to Letters.  The agèd Reginald at the end observes:

And oh, my children, be not afraid of your own imaginations.  Once in the distant ages before our universe was born, when Time was an unmarked desert, and God was lonely, He let the fountain of His fancies Play, and life began.  Be you, too, creators, for there is none, even among my own grandchildren, who has not in him a vestige of that impulse which made the earth.

The book was written on this principle; perhaps the fountain played too fast; but its many-coloured spray shows how various was the manipulator's knowledge and how active his mind.  The other books were G. K. Chesterton: a Critical Study (Seeker), an abridged translation of the de Goncourt Journal, published by Nelson's, and translations of three plays by Tchekoff and one by Andreieff.  The translation from the Goncourts, produced at a great pace, is really good: lively, vivid, idiomatic.  The monograph, though independent and containing plenty of reservations, was an exposition of the theory that Mr. Chesterton "is a great and courageous thinker."  West, though not blind to his subject's genius as artist and humorist, characteristically concentrated on his opinions about religion and politics; his own were revealed en passant.  "The dialogues on religion contained in The Ball and the Cross are alone enough and more than enough to place it among the few books on religion which could safely be placed in the hands of an atheist or an agnostic with an intelligence."  Magic and Orthodoxy together "are a great work, striking at the roots of disbelief."  During the war "those of us who had not the fortune to escape the Press by service abroad, especially those of us who derived our living from it, came to loathe its misrepresentation of the English people. . . . Then we came to realize, as never before, the value of such men as Chesterton."  It was an impulsive book, but there was a great deal of very acute analysis in it.  The one book, however, which has a reasonable chance of long survival is the present History of Chartism.

"One after the other the Chartist leaders found themselves in prison.  The winter of 1839-40 saw the Home Office prosecutions in full blast, but by the middle of 1840 their work was completed and virtually, without exception, the principal sources of Chartist energy were no longer able to cause the Government any anxiety.  About this time the total number of Chartists thus out of the way was between three and four hundred."

West: the period of repression.

    Now it really is rather remarkable that this book should have come from the same man, the same very young man, as the works mentioned above.  We still produce, and it is a good thing we do, men who take an interest in everything and talk, whether shallowly or with the instinct of genius, or both, about literature, science and politics, relating them all.  But if a man does this, one can never expect him to be also a specialist (except, rarely, in some literary subject) who is capable of research and loves documents.  An essay on Chartism we might expect; an exposition of its real or supposed principles; an idealization of the movement.  But we do not expect a man with the habits of the literary-political journalist to grub for years amongst pamphlets and manuscripts in the British Museum, and produce a chapter of history containing and relating a "mass of new facts."  But that is what West did, and he did it concurrently with his other miscellaneous work; editing, reviewing, translating, speaking, and the rapid composition of topical books.  The Chartists were especially interesting as being in some sort pioneers of the modern Labour movement in which West had grown up; but he might have been drawn to any other such subject had he found another that had been so neglected by English historians.  It did not take him long to discover that some current opinions would have to be revised; that the physical menace of the Chartist movement had often been exaggerated, and its historical importance generally ignored.  But, whatever might have been his conclusions, he loved finding things out; almost anything would do.  He had a prodigious memory that would enable him to correct at a moment's notice a misstatement as to the percentage of one-roomed tenements in Huddersfield, or the name of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in Mr. Gladstone's first Government.  He could read anything with interest and he forgot nothing that he read.  At the British Museum he went through all the available Chartist literature like a caterpillar.  Then one day, with great excitement and amusement, he came to tell me that he had discovered at the Hendon annexe scores of manuscript volumes put together by Francis Place which had never been examined by any previous English writer.  Every sort of Chartist trifle had been "pasted up" by the industrious tailor; the obscurer the newspaper from which Place's cuttings came, the greater West's pleasure.  He liked them for their own sakes; but he retained his sense of proportion, and I do not think that those more competent to judge than I, who read this book, will think that West swamped his general outline with his own lesser discoveries.  And he had none of the jealous greed of the baser kind of research worker.  He would have given his results to any one.  When he was nearly through his book, there was announced a book on somewhat similar lines by another young student, the late Mr. Hovell.  West showed no fear that his own work might be rendered worthless, but (I think) volunteered to assist in preparing it for the press.

    I will add no more, for his most important achievement and his memorial are here—except that the proofs of the volume have been read by myself, no expert; and that had he lived to revise them himself he would probably have removed what errors may be found.





[Home] [Chartist Movement] [History of Chartism] [Reviews] [Main Index] [Site Search]

Correspondence should be sent to