Edward Carpenter's Autobiography
The Edward Carpenter Archive
by Simon Dawson

Chapter 13 - PERSONALITIES II | Comment and Feedback

Forward to Chapter 14 - London and Lectures

THE part that Olive Schreiner played in trying to avert the Boer War, and to expose the scoundrelly commercial machinations which led to it, is well known. Curiously enough, while England was being worked up by a lying Press into a fury of indignation against President Kruger I knew already early in 1899 about the real state of affairs and the plot of the financiers to force on a reckless and selfish war - not only from 0live Schreiner herself but from a man who came at that time to Millthorpe from Johannesburg.

This was Lisle March-Phillipps - who afterwards wrote With Rimington and other books about the war. He was a young man of about thirty, who after an upper-class education on the usual lines had had the good sense to go abroad and see a little of the world for himself; had drifted out to South Africa, and had actually worked in tbe mines and shared the life of the miners. Disgusted with what he saw of the Beit and Joel and Rhodes and Barney Barnato gang - their meanness to their employees, their slanders against Kruger, their nonsense lies about British "women and children," and foreseeing the inevitable conflict, he hurried home - thinking doubtless also that he might do something to make the actual truth known in England. For some reason, not very clear to me as we had had no previous communication, he came straight to Millthorpe, and walking in one afternoon sat a long time telling me all about the affair. I saw at once that his errand was authentic and that he knew what he was talking about, and from that time did my best in my small way, at public meetings and lectures, to get the matter seen in its true light, and to check the rising war-tide. All of no use of course. The gulled sentimental sloppy British public poured itself out in a torrent of rubbish - as a broken reservoir might pour through the slums and alleys of a manufacturing town; and it was hopeless even to protest. It is one of the saddest things to find how easily the great majority of a nation may be caught and swept away by some trumped-up catchword, often of the most flimsy character. I wrote a warning leaflet entitled Boer and Briton and circulated some twenty thousand copies of it. I spoke with L. H. Courtney (now Lord Courtney) and others at a public meeting at Bradford, and at various other meetings. Mr. W. T. Stead did his best to warn the nation as to what was happening; Cronwright-Schreiner came over from the Cape, and joined with H. W. Nevinson in a crusade through England and Scotland. To no purpose: they only got mobbed and insulted for their pains. Finally March-Phillipps, anxious to see at close quarters all that was going on and unable to get a billet as war-correspondent, went out again and joined Rimington's Scouts; and after the war was over - returning to Millthorpe and taking a cottage there - remained near us a good part of the summer and wrote his very graphic and interesting account of the campaign as witnessed and taken part in by him. [Footnote 1]

It was at an early period of the Socialist movement - in 1884 I think - that I first came across Henry Salt and his gifted life-companion and wife, and it is to their initiative that I owe the gain of a close and long-enduring friendship. Salt and his brother-in-law, J. L. Joynes, were two young Eton masters who had in their time been collegers and scholars of Eton and afterwards graduates of King's College, Cambridge. Carried along on the rising tide of Socialism they both (much to their credit) broke away from the highly respectable traditions of these foundations. Henry George of Land Tax fame was in the country, and Joynes actually associated himself with George, and went with him in 1881 or '82 on a propagandist campaign to Ireland. This might well have passed unobserved at Eton, had it not happened that at some obscure place he and George were both temporarily arrested and had to spend the night under lock and key. The notoriety this gave to Joynes was fatal to his career, and he had to resign his mastership. Henry Salt and his wife about the same time gave almost worse offence. They adopted vegetarianism - a thing almost unheard of at Eton except in the dubious connection of Shelley; they revolted in their personal habits from the luxury and indulgence of the life there; and they protested against the coursing of hares, and other inhumanities favored by both boys and masters. It soon became clear to them that they could not remain in surroundings so uncongenial, and that they too would have to sacrifice a professional career and comparative affluence for the greater blessing of liberty and a simple living; and it was at the time when they were revolving their schemes of liberation and of migration into other spheres of life that I came - through Jim Joynes - to know them.

Joynes and his sister were singularly unlike externally, yet singularly alike in the depths of their hearts and in their devotion to each other. Both were tall and long-limbed: she dark, raven-haired, with large eyes and sensitive, somewhat sad, Dante-like profile; he red-haired with high complexion, small bluish eyes, heavy features. She was intensely emotional, too emotional, but - as such people often are - highly musical; and her literary gift was certainly one of the most remarkable I have known - though unfortunately, except in her letters, rarely utilized. He was intensely logical, concentrated, determined - though underneath ran a strong current of poetic feeling - as witness his little book of excellent verses On Lonely Shores (1892). Both of them did good work in connection with the Socialist and Labour movement, he more especially by lecturing and writing for the Social Democratic Federation and other such organizations; and she rather more by personal sympathy and helpful friendship towards the rank and file of the workers; both of them were devoted lovers of Nature, and of a natural plain way of life; and their devotion to each other only ended with his too early death in 1893.

These two and Henry Salt were among the pioneers in the early eighties of the great Socialist and Humanitarian and Nature movements which are destined to play such: an important part in the new Democracy. Henry Salt's work in founding the Humanitarian League (in 1891) and presiding over its very various activities has been so really extensive and far-reaching that it is difficult to estimate - the more so because unlike so many leaders of movements he has always kept his own name consistently in the background. As a matter of fact he has not only been the main originator of the important work done, but has been the guiding hand and inspirer of the many committees which have had to be formed in order to deal with the various subjects - with Vivisection, Blood Sports, 'Murderous Millinery,' Reform of the Prisons, the Game Laws, Slaughter-house Reform, Corporal Punishment, Diet Reform, Rights of Native Races, and so forth. Besides this the long list of his publications - on Shelley, on James Thomson (B. V.), on H. D. Thoreau, Richard Jefferies, Lucretius, etc., shows the trend of his mind and his liberating influence in the matters of religion and social freedom and a large-minded Nature-study.

At one time he and I composed jointly "A Church Service for the use of the Respectable Classes" - which I am afraid however has never yet been properly published. It consisted of a Preface, in the manner of our Prayer-book Preface of 1661, of a sort of Athanasian Creed (on the Trinity of Land, Capital and Interest) called the creed of St. Avaritius, of a Litany (on the lines of salvation through dividends and social advancement), and a final Processional Hymn. Of this last, as it has already been printed among some of Salt's verses, the two first stanzas may here be given:-

For Respectables are we
And you presently will see
Why we confidently claim to be respected:
In well-ordered homes we dwell
And discharge our duties well -
Well dressed, well fed, well mannered, well connected.

We have heard the common cant
About poverty and want
And all that is distressing and unhealthy;
Some cases may be sad,
But the system can't be bad
Which affords such satisfaction to the Wealthy.

And so on.

On one occasion a boy brought to Mrs. Salt a young rook which had been hurt (so he said) by falling out of its nest, and as she and her husband had been staying with us, the bird became for some time an inmate of our establishment. But though it became familiar, as was natural, with us, and would fly in and out of the door or window, and perch on hand or head quite freely, its devotion to Mrs. Salt was something almost uncanny. Indoors or outdoors it would be with her; and if she went into town for a few hours, or anywhere that she could not take the bird, she had to escape by ruse, or by simply caging the creature first. When she sat on the lawn it would delight to play and dance around, and to pick daisies with its beak and place them in her lap, or bright and shining pebbles from the gravel walk. Anything more like an engaging human child it would be hard to imagine. And it certainly seemed to know by some intuition of her return after absence along the road, and if caged would become very restless, or if free would fly to meet her. Once after a long absence, when she appeared Once more - in the midst, as it happened, of a small crowd of people - the bird with a loud cry suddenly flew down from a tall tree and alighted forthwith upon her shoulder - much to the astonishment of the onlookers. Later, and after some months of this kind of life, the bird one day disappeared; nor could we ever find out what had happened to it - whether an accident or the mere "call of the wild" back to rook-land. It was seen no more, alive or dead; and one human heart at any rate felt the loss very deeply.

I have mentioned 1881 as the year in which Towards Democracy 'came to me,' and insisted on being given form and expression. It is curious that the same year (or 1882) saw the inception of a number of new movements or enterprises tending towards the establishment of mystical ideas and a new social order. Mother Shipton's prophecy with its strange prognostication of mechanically propelled cars and flying machines ended up with the words:-

And the world to an end shall come
In eighteen hundred and eighty-one.

The world did not come to an end, but in a certain sense a new one began; and just in those two years quite a number of societies were started with objects of the kind indicated. Hyndman's Democratic Federation, Edmund Gurney's Society for Psychical Research, Mme. Blavatsky's Theosopihical Society, the Vegetarian Society, the Anti-vivisection movement, and many other associations of the same kind marked the coming of a great reaction from the smug commercialism and materialism of the mid-Victorian epoch, and a preparation for the new universe of the twentieth century. Amongst these was one which especially claimed to fulfil the prophecies of Mother Shipton and to be the herald of a New Age. This was the Hermetic Society. It consisted practically of two people - Edward Maitland and Anna Kingsford; for though there was a nominal membership I think it may be said that the other members had little or no voice in it. And its idea was to read into the stories of Jesus, and of Moses and Abraham and so forth, their inner significations, to interpret in fact much of the New and Old Testaments not as historical matter but rather as eternal truths, allegories and emblems of the drama of each human soul. Thus the miraculous birth of Jesus, his exile in Egypt, his temptation in the wilderness, his toils and suffering, his Betrayal, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension were not external histories of a certain man, but inner histories of you and me and all mankind.

This method of interpreting the myths of past days, which we now in the twentieth century so well understand and which explains for us the origin of a vast number of legends and at the same time accounts for their popularity, was in 1881 - except for some few previous hints by Swedenborg and others - quite unrecognized. And we owe much to Edward Maitland and Anna Kingsford that they gave it, as well as some valuable collateral matter, to the world. Of course they did not fully recognize - though they did in part - how much of the story of Jesus, for instance, is purely legendary and mythical. But even if they had known it to be entirely legendary, that would not probably have greatly altered their views - though it would certainly have deprived their gospel of the supernatural halo with which they delighted to invest it.

It was this affectation, if I may use the term, of a supernatural mission which rather spoilt the work of these two well-meaning people - as it has spoiled alas! the work of so many 'prophets' and teachers in the past. To the egotism of the human being there is no end; and if such an one can only persuade others that he has some supernatural source of knowledge and power, or persuade himself (or herself) of the same, there is no limit to the devilry or folly into which he will plunge - as witness the history of the priesthood all down the centuries. In the case of Ann Kingsford and Edward Maitland it was not devilry which was the trouble, but the other thing! Having reached a certain insight or intuition, or whatever you may call it, into the inner meanings of life, they both became so inflated with heavenly conceit over their discovery that they really grew quite foolish and intolerable. As it happened I had known Maitland since I was a boy. When I was eighteen or twenty years of age he a grown man, and known in the literary world as the author of The Pilgrim and the Shrine, used sometimes to come to my father's house at Brighton. He was an interesting talker, well up in literature and science, and always keen on some new idea or discovery, but even then somewhat egotistically absorbed in his own thoughts and conversation. When he met the lady, however, who became his great life-inspiration, it must be said that he submerged all his own claims to prophetic gifts in a whole-hearted recognition of hers. He laid his soul at her feet.

Anna Kingsford was certainly a remarkable woman. As a young girl she had had strange visions. When Maitland met her (she being twenty-seven) she must from all descriptions have been singularly beautiful. He describes her as "tall, slender and graceful in form; fair and exquisite in complexion; bright and sunny in expression. The hair long and golden, but the brows and lashes dark, and the eyes deep-set and hazel, and by turns dreamy and penetrating. The mouth rich, full, and exquisitely formed." While Mrs. Fenwick Miller says: "I thought her the most faultllessly beautiful woman I ever beheld; her hair is like the sunlight, her features are exquisite, and her complexion - I can use no other term than faultless - not a spot, not a flaw, not a shade."

Add to these natural gifts a good medical training in the Schools of Paris, a fair knowledge of Greek and Latin, considerable literary ability and a generous and undisguised use of cosmetics, and you have a strange but powerful combination. Edward Maitland met her in 1874 (he was then fifty and she twenty-eight), and practically thenceforward dedicated his life to her. (It must however be remembered that the intimacy caused no estrangement from Mr. Kingsford, the husband, who remained a close friend to them both.) The reinforcement of Anna Kingsford's intuitive and prophetic gift by Maitland's incisive and logical mentality certainly had a valuable result, and their combined work left a notable mark on the time. Jointly from 1881 (to 1888 when Anna Kingsford died) they carried on a strong Crusade against Vivisection - one of the earliest protests made; and they published besides a series of works -The Perfect Way, Clothed with the Sun, The Virgin of the World, etc - bearing the esoteric and theosophic message to which I have already alluded. Of these The Perfect Way, which shows both the systematic clearness of the one mind and the inspiration of the other, is perhaps the most important. It embodies in fairly clear outline those ideas of Indian and Gnostic origin which were at that time curiously descending upon the Western world, and which no doubt quite independently began about the same time to be spread abroad by Mme. Blavatsky and the Theosophic Society. Portions of this book, and large portions of Clothed with the Sun were apparently spoken by Mrs. Kingsford under trance conditions, and have a certain fine quality and atmosphere about them. They seem to indicate things actually seen in the inner world of being, but they suffer, as such communications must do, from the medium through which they come. Large portions of The Perfect Way degenerate into mere drivel, and large portions of Clothed with the Sun are offensive (as their authoress herself often personally was) with a kind of spiritual arrogance. It is curious that those two prophetesses Anna Kingsford and Sophie Blavatsky - though so very different in personal exterior - should have been so like each other in many respects. Both undoubtedly had access to trance-conditions and to some region of astral intelligence or earth memory; both (as happens in such cases) dug out for us some shining jewels of truth, but mixed at the same time with a huge mass of rubbish. (No words can describe the general rot and confusion of Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine.) Both were emotional in their different ways to an abnormal degree; and both were, fortunately for themselves, associated with coadjutors of coo1 and intellectual temperament - Mrs. Kingsford with Maitland, and Blavatsky with Mrs. Besant. Both had really great and remarkable gifts; and both, not withstanding their high calling, descended to strange and unworthy subterfuges - Blavatsky to common juggleries and Anna Kingsford to a most deliberate and disagreeable 'pose.' At the Hermetic Society's meetings the latter would take the chair in state - after the style of the Great Panjandrum - and if any humble member of the audience asked a simple question like "Do you think, Mrs. Kingsford, that the soul survives after death?" - she would draw herself up, close her eyes, and say "I know," and sit down again! On one celebrated occasion I remember that at the close of the meeting, Edward Maitland rose and referring to the epoch-making speech of the Lady-president on "The finding of the Christ," pointed out that that very meeting was indeed a world-event. For just as the Kings of the East came across the ford of the Jordan to lay their treasures at the feet of the infant Saviour, so now the treasures of Eastern thought were being brought across the world for the birth of a new Redeemer in the West, and by one whose name was most appropriately and prophetically none other than Kingsford! After that we could naturally do nothing but dissolve along our different lines - in tears, or laughter, or through the doorways and passages, as the case might be. We poor little mortals must be grateful for what illuminations we can get, however quaint or queer the mediating personalities may be.

The years from 1881 onward were certainly a new era for me. They not only brought me Towards Democracy, but they marked the oncoming of a great new tide of human life over the Western World, and so - partly through the book itself - brought me into touch with a number of people and movements. It was a fascinating and enthusiastic period - preparatory, as we now see to even greater developments in the twentieth century. The Socialist and Anarchist propaganda, the Feminist and Suffragist upheaval, the huge Trade-union growth, the Theosophic movement, the new currents in the Theatrical, Musical and Artistic worlds, the torrent even of change in the Religious world - all constituted so many streams and headwaters converging, as it were, to a great river. To be in fairly close touch, as time went on, with these movements and their English representatives - with men and women like John Burns, Cunninghame Graham, Mrs. Despard, H. M. Hyndman, Bernard Shaw, Keir Hardie, the Bruce Glasiers, Pete Curran, Ramsay Macdonald, Walter Crane, Sydney Olivier, H. W. Nevinson, H. G. Wells, Annie Besant, F. R. Benson, Granville Barker, Iden Payne, Mona Limerick, Isadora Duncan, Margaret Macmillan, Lowes Dickinson, G. P. Gooch, G. M. Trevelyan, Roger Fry, Rutland Boughton, Granville Bantock, Laurence Housman, William Rothenstein, J. R. Campbell, E. W. Lewis, the Sidney Webbs, Olive Schreiner, Isabel Margesson, Edith Ellis, Alfred Russel Wallace, Oliver Lodge, George Barnes of the A.S.E., C. T. Cramp of the A.S.R.S., Stephen Reynolds of the Fisheries, Raymond Unwin of Garden Suburbs, Cecil Reddie of Abbotsholme, James Devon of the Prisons Commission, Edward Westermarck, Havelock Ellis, and so forth - was indeed an extraordinary inspiration and encouragement. Practically all these (and I have not mentioned the foreign friends and coadjutors) were giving their lives to the furtherance of some tributary of the great movement, and each of them represented hundreds or perhaps thousands of others who were doing the same. One felt that something massive must surely emerge from it all.

It was no wonder that Hyndman - whose name I have put near the beginning of this list - becoming conscious as early as 1881 of the new forces all around in the social world was filled with a kind of fervour of revolutionary anticipation. We used to chaff him because at every crisis in the industrial situation he was confident that the Millennium was at hand - that the S.D.F. would resolve itself into a Committee of Public Safety, and that it would be for him as Chairman of that body to guide the ship of the State into the calm haven of Socialism! The S.F.D. was constituted in the early eighties; when 1889 was impending it was obvious that that year, as centenary of the first outbreak of the French Revolution would be the fateful date. I remember his telling me, not without gleeful rubbing of hands, that the whole Society of London Stevedores (whom he had been addressing at the Docks) was behind him to a man, and would come without fail to his support. 1889 however passed, with nothing more effectual than the Socialist Congress at Paris - at which a great deal of dissension and difference of opinion was manifested. Then came '99, the last year of the century and clearly big with destiny; and he piled his hopes upon that. But it alas! only gave birth to the Boer War - which put things back for many a year. And after that 1909 and other dates did but provide further material for disappointment. And yet all the time the Socialist clock was really going forward, and though there was no sudden revolution or conversion, the nation steadily and almost unconsciously became saturated with the new ideas. Hyndman - though no doubt disappointed from time to time - stuck gamely to his 'cause' - and it was largely through his personal exertions that the educational work begun by him in '81 was carried to such fruition that in 1914 with the German War the Government and the country suddenly adopted large sections of the Socialist programme (without calling them Socialist of course) as the most natural thing in the world!

That neither Hyndman in his time, nor Morris in his, nor the Fabian Society in theirs, nor Keir Hardie, nor Kropotkin, nor Blatchford, nor any other individual or body, succeeded in capturing the social movement during these years and moulding it to his or their hearts' desire, must always be matter for congratulation. For once pocketed by any clique it would have pined and dwindled into an insignificant thing; but, as I have just tried to show, the real movement of this period has been far too great for such a destiny. It is like a great river, fed by currents and streams flowing into it from the most various directions and gathering a force which no man can now control and a volume too great to be confined.

One regrets that Hyndman's efforts to get into Parliament have never been crowned with success. Not that he would have been any use in the House as a party-leader (Labour or Socialist). Much the reverse; for though personally the most good natured man in the world he held an extraordinary gift for falling foul of all his friends in the political arena. But because it would have been a satisfaction - and there would have been a certain poetical justice in it - to see Hyndman face to face with the bogeys of his own propaganda, the representatives of the established order, and trouncing them to his heart's content. With an excellent command of statistics and finance, a good knowledge of political conditions and the diplomatic personnel over Europe, two great causes close to his heart in the championship of our colored subjects in India: and our white wage-slaves at home, and with a vigorous and ready tongue, he would surely, off his own bat, have made the House sit up, and compelled its attention to some neglected things. Nevertheless he would never I think under any circumstances have been a great force in politics; for curiously enough notwithstanding his mental vigour and energy there was a certain want of weight about his personality which prevented his influence carrying very far. On the platform, with his waving beard and flowing frock-coat, his high and spacious forehead and head somewhat low and weak behind, he gave one rather the impression of a shop whose goods are all in the front window; and though a good and incisive speaker his frequent gusts of invective seem out of keeping with the obvious natural kindliness of the man and rather suggested the idea that he was lashing himself up with his own tail.

The frock-coat and tall hat were always of course de rigueur with him - not I imagine that they were particularly congenial to his Socialist ideals, but because they were a necessary part of his outfit and 'make-up' on the stage of the Stock Exchange; for no doubt the Stock Exchange as the centre of our Commercial system will cling to these old symbols of the industrial capitalist era to the very last.

A young friend of mine, who was at one time clerk to Albert Grant of City fame, told me the following story. One day while he was sitting in Grant's office H. M. Hyndman was announced, and walked in, frock-coat and all. My friend left the room while the two conferred - the well-known Socialist with the even more well-known German Jew and Company-promoter. Grant's reputation was not of the highest - or if it could be called "high" at all it was only in the sense in which game is sometimes so called. When the visitor was gone and my young friend returned to the room, Grant said, rubbing his hands "Do you know who that is? Do you know who that is? That is Mr. Hyndman, the great Socialist. You see, you see, with all their talk, even they cannot get on without me."

I do not for a moment suppose that Hyndman's dealings on this occasion were anything to be ashamed of; but Albert Grant's transactions were commonly thought to be of a shady character. Perhaps to make up for that, he bought with some of his gains the site of Leicester Square, converted it into a public garden, and presented it to the public. In consideration of this, and possibly other things, he was made a Baron - Baron Grant. Whereupon some wag wrote the following distich:-

Princes can Rank confer, but Honour can't;
Rank without honour is a barren (Baron) grant.

I have mentioned Walt Whitman more than once in the foregoing pages, and I think I ought not to let this chapter pass without referring to the ardent little coterie at Bolton in Lancashire who for many years celebrated his birthday with songs and speeches and recitations, with decorations of lilac-boughs and blossoms and the passing of loving cups to his memory. J. W. Wallace was the president, and Dr. Johnston, Fred. Wild, J. W. Dixon, Charles F. Sixsmith, were some of the earlier members of this little club, which met quite frequently from 1885 onward for twenty years or more. If there was a somewhat Pickwickian note about its revels still no one could doubt the sincerity of its enthusiasm. It helped largely to spread the study and appreciation of Whitman's work in the North of England; it welcomed Dr. Bucke on his arrival from Canada with congratulatory addresses and hymns of its own composing; some of its members (the three first-mentioned) crossed the Atlantic on a pilgrimage to the good grey poet; and Dr. Johnston wrote a quite excellent little book A Visit to Walt Whitman descriptive of Whitman's personality and surroundings, which I believe is now being reissued from the Press in conjunction with some Notes on the same subject by Wallace. In later years I have been able to count Dr. Johnston and Charlie Sixsmith among my own constant friends.

I will conclude this chapter with a few brief notes on my almost life-long friend Arunachalam. I feel that I owe a great debt to him because long ago, in '80 perhaps or '81 he gave me a translation of a book, then little known in England, the Bhagavat Gita - the reading of which as I think I have said before, curiously liberated and set in movement the mass of material which had already formed within me, and which was then waiting to take shape as Towards Democracy, As when a ship is ready to launch, a very little thing, the mere knocking away of a prop, will set her going; so - though it was something more than that - did the push of the Bhagavat Gita act on Towards Democracy. It gave me the needed cue, and concatenated my work to the Eastern tradition.

I first came across Arunachalam at a meeting of the Chitchat or some such society at Cambridge, when he was an undergraduate of Christ's and I a newly made Fellow of Trinity Hall. As in the case of other Hindus his extraordinary quickness and receptiveness of mind had very quickly rendered him au fait in all our British ways and institutions. With engagingly good and natural manners, humorous and with some of the Tamil archness and devilment about him, he was already a favourite in his own college - and at that time these early comers to the Universities from India were certainly received by our students with more friendliness and sense of equality than they are to-day. His father having been a wealthy man and occupying a good position in Ceylon, Arunachalam had received a good education and was fairly well up in Greek and Latin, French and German, and their literatures, besides his Eastern languages, like Tamil and Sanskrit. Altogether he was a very taking, all-round sort of fellow, capable of talking on most subjects, and full of interested inquiry about all. Many were the afternoons or evenings we spent together - walking or boating or sitting by the fireside in College rooms - and I learned much from him about the literature of India and the manners and customs of the mainland and Ceylon. When he left Cambridge he went to London and studied Law for some years, and then going out to Ceylon joined the Civil Service there, and in due time became Judge, Registrar-General, and finally Member of the Legislative Council. In 1890 he wrote to me about the Gnani Ramaswamy whose acquaintance he had made, and asked me to come out and meet him; and I gladly went - for it just chimed in with my wishes at the time; and, as I have told in my Visit to a Gnani and elsewhere, for six weeks or so we called on the Guru every day and absorbed all he had to say on the traditional esoteric philosophy of India in general and of the Tamils in particular. After settling in Ceylon, Arunachalam paid from time to time various visits to England, at one time to bring his wife over, at another to put his sons to College, and so on. The last occasion was in 1913 when he received a tardy recognition of his really important services to the Crown in the form of a knigthood.

On these occasions, whether he was conversing with the humblest of my friends at Millthorpe or at Sheffield, or with high officials and great ladies in London his manners had always just the same charming frankness and grace about them, which established at once the human relation as the paramount thing. And yet this man, whose artistic culture and practical knowledge of the world was miles above most people he met, had often to suffer from the boorish rudeness of Anglo-Indians in his own land, or of belated Britishers on board ship. Alas, for the vulgarity of my countrymen!

I cannot leave him without one little anecdote. Being a guest on some occasion at a Mansion House dinner he was duly of course introduced to the various bigwigs present, and took his seat with the rest; but immediately caused consternation (being a vegetarian) by refusing turtle-soup and other carnivorous dishes in favour of spinach, potatoes and the like, and finally nearly wrecked the whole show by asking for a glass of water! Such a thing had never been heard of before. Waiters hurried to and fro, but water could not be found; and at last, with many apologies, he was asked to put up with a bottle of Apollinaris ("Whiskey, sir, with it?" "No, thank you")!


  1. With Rimington, by L. March-Phillipps (Arnold, 1901). {Return to main text}

Forward to Chapter 14 | Return to Top of Page