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Title: Josephine E. Butler
       An Autobiographical Memoir

Author: Josephine E. Butler

Editor: George W. Johnson
        Lucy A. Johnson

Release Date: November 16, 2016 [EBook #53534]

Language: English

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Butler after G. Richmond, A.R.A. circa 1852.
title page

All rights reserved

Josephine E. Butler


With Introduction by



J. W. Arrowsmith, 11 Quay Street

Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Company Limited



It is very difficult worthily to record the history of one of the noblest women who ever lived, but, having been asked by the Ladies’ National Association for the Abolition of Government Regulation of Vice to prepare a Memoir of Mrs. Josephine Butler, we have tried to tell her life story as far as possible in her own words, by means of extracts from her writings, with just sufficient thread of explanation to hold them together. The present volume is therefore to a large extent an autobiography, taken chiefly from her Recollections of George Butler, and from Personal Reminiscences of a Great Crusade; but selections have also been given from most of her principal publications, so as to give some idea of her extensive literary work. We have not included any private letters, as it was her strongly expressed wish that these should not be published.

Many of the quotations have been abridged, but they have not otherwise been altered, except in a few cases where dates, etc., have been corrected. We have however ventured,vi for the sake of securing a continuous narrative, occasionally to combine passages taken from different sources.

As this volume is intended to give an account of Mrs. Butler’s own life and work, it has not been possible fully to sketch the history of the movement, with which her name was specially identified, or to allude to many of those associated with her in that movement, whose labours she so heartily appreciated, and whose friendship she so greatly valued.

We are much indebted to the editors of Joséphine E. Butler: Souvenirs et Pensées (Saint-Blaise, Foyer Solidariste, 1908), having in many cases used the same extracts as are given in that volume. We have also to thank Mrs. Butler’s representatives and various publishers (Horace Marshall & Son, Macmillan & Co., and others) for permission to quote from copyright works.

G. W. J.
L. A. J.

May 1st, 1909.



REPEAL 170 viii


JOSEPHINE BUTLER, circa 1852 Frontispiece
JOSEPHINE BUTLER, circa 1876 144



Josephine Butler was one of the great people of the world. In character, in work done, in influence on others, she was among that few great people who have moulded the course of things. The world is different because she lived. Like most of the very great people of the world, she was extremely cosmopolitan. She belongs to all nations and to all time. The work she did, the people she influenced, prove this. Her Voice in the Desert has been translated into most languages of Europe, and has spoken like the voice of a compatriot to the people of every land. She was a great leader of men and women, and a skilful and intrepid general of the battles she fought. As an orator she touched the hearts of her hearers as no one else has done to whom I have listened. She aimed at a perfectly definite object, but round that object there gathered in her mind many others, all converging to the same end. She left behind her wherever she went new thoughts and new aims and new ideals.

Around her central thought grew up many others, and a host of good works have been left in many countries as living memorials of her influence. She thus not only led a greatx crusade, but she helped to raise the characters of the individuals engaged in it.

But while I write of her public work, it would be but half the truth unless I said a word about her personally. She was at home in every class of society. She was very beautiful, and of a very gracious presence, and the impression made by first seeing her and hearing her voice has, I expect, been forgotten by none who ever met her. She was of a very artistic temperament. She was a good painter, an extremely good musician. She was a bold rider, and active, though always of a somewhat weak health. Her industry and application was unbounded. She was very full of humour, and, while deeply in earnest, had the faculty of being at times charmingly gay. She dressed with great taste and simplicity. She, above all things, loved her home and her husband, and that love was wholly returned.

I have said she was extremely cosmopolitan, and all who have known her know how true that is. At the same time she was a great lover of her own country, and particularly of the borderland between England and Scotland, where she was born, and where she now lies buried in the churchyard of Kirknewton, where many of her ancestors lie. For she came of an old Border family; and bravery, and the alertness of battle, and the power of self-sacrifice, and the indignation against wrong which characterised her, came to her, perhaps, partly through her descent.

She was a great reader of the Bible, and a humble suppliant before the throne of God.xi But, while her own beliefs were clear and definite, she had no narrowness in her views, and the very names of those who have been her foremost supporters show how wide her sympathies were, and how acceptable she was to people of all creeds, as well as of all politics and of all climes.

She had to endure much, especially in the early stages of her crusade—the averted glances of former friends, the brutal attacks of ignorant opponents—but the inspiration of a mighty purpose enabled her to rise above all that, and to preserve a serenity of mind and of manner through it all.

And now, what is the sum of it all? It seems to me to be this, that we must all be glad that she lived. We are each of us individually better, and the world as a whole is better, because she lived; and the seed that she has sown can never die.




Josephine E. Butler.


Josephine Elizabeth Grey was born at Milfield Hill, in the county of Northumberland, on April 13th, 1828. She was the fourth daughter of John Grey, and of his wife Hannah Annett. In her Memoir of John Grey of Dilston, she writes thus of her birthplace and family.

It seems to me that any life of my father must include, to some extent, a history of the county in which he was born, lived and died. He loved the place of his birth, sweet Glendale. His affections were largely drawn out to that Border country; not only to the living beings who peopled it, but to the scenes themselves—the hills, the valleys, and the rivers. All through his life there will be found evidence of the heart-yearnings towards them; and these are shared by his children, to whom there seems no spot on earth like Glendale. This attachment to our native country is perhaps stronger among us than among some families, because for so many generations back we were rooted there. Greys abounded on the Borders; they were keepers2 often of the Border castles and towers, living a life not always very peaceful in regard to their Scottish neighbours.

Glendale is rich in romantic associations: every name in and around it brings to the mind some incident of war, or lover’s adventure, or heroic exploit recorded in English ballads, or sung to sweet Scottish tunes, or woven later into the poems of Sir Walter Scott. It is a very beautiful range of hills which skirts Glendale to the west; their very names, Yeavring Bell, Heathpool Bell, Newton Torr, Hetha, Hedgehope, and Cheviot—were delightful to my father’s ear. Directly in front of our old home, Milfield Hill, lies the scene of innumerable fights between Scotch and English, Milfield Plain, and from its windows might have been seen the famous battle of Humbledon Hill.

Flodden Hill, about a mile north of Milfield Hill, hides beneath its soil traces of the great battle of 1513: broken pieces of armour of men and horses were sometimes dug or ploughed up, and brought to the house, to be treasured up as relics. Many a time did my father recite to his children every incident of that battle, as he rode or walked with them over Flodden, sometimes resting at the “King’s Chair,” or by “Sybil’s Well.” His memory was so good that he could go through almost the whole of Marmion, and other poems relating to that woeful day,

When shivered was fair Scotland’s spear,
And broken was her shield.

His dislike of the Stuarts was great, but he would tell, with a sorrowful sympathy, how the3 “flowers of the forest,” the noble youth of Scotland, “were a’ wede away.”

After the battle of Flodden the Border warfare degenerated into a system of recriminative plunder, which continued till comparatively recent times. It is only a few generations back that our Northumbrians used to watch the fords all night long, with their trained mastiffs, to prevent the Scotch from carrying away their cattle. At one of the early meetings of the Highland Society at Kelso, my father said: “There was a time, and that at no distant period, when, had it been possible for such animals as we have seen to-day to exist, it would have required the escort of our honourable Vice-President, Sir John Hope, and his cavalry in bringing each lot to the show-ground, to secure it against the chance of being roasted among the heather of the Highlands or boiled in the pots of Cumberland.”

But the time came for this fair Border country to wake up to new life. Probably no part of England has undergone so rapid a change as Northumberland has done in the last eighty or ninety years. The half-barbarous character which I have been describing clung to the people long after it had given place to civilisation elsewhere. The soil and climate were rugged, and resisted for a long time the first efforts at cultivation; but its inhabitants, rugged too, were energetic, and the impulse once given, it required not many years to place Northumberland at the head of agricultural progress.

The part which my father had in bringing about this great change in Northumberland, and in the4 progress of agriculture generally, was not inconsiderable. How great the change must have been, in a short time, those of us can imagine who have witnessed the rich harvests of the last twenty years, and the merry harvest-homes on Tweedside and Tillside. Not less striking, perhaps, was the change brought about later on the banks of the Tyne. When he migrated thither in 1833, Tyneside, which is now so richly cultivated, presented in many parts miles of fox-cover and self-sown plantations of fir and birchwood.

John Grey was born in August, 1785. He was the son of George Grey, of West Ord, on the banks of the Tweed, and of his wife, Mary Burn. He himself thus writes of his ancestry, in answer to a question addressed to him by a friend.


“He [an antiquarian] imagines that he brings the Greys down from Rollo, whose daughter Arletta was mother of William the Conqueror; but I think their Norman origin is doubtful. Undoubtedly, however, they were derived from a long line of warriors, who were Wardens of the East Marches, Governors of Norham, Morpeth, Wark, and Berwick Castles in the old Border days, and were also dignified by great achievements in foreign wars. Sir John Grey, of Heaton, 1356, was valorous in the army of Henry V, and gained, or had conferred on him, castles in Normandy, and the title of Tankerville, which is now an offshoot of the old stock. His figure is given as a knight of great strength and renown, and he was distinguished by the capacious forehead which is said to have marked the race through all ages; see the late Charles Earl Grey for its full development. [The writer was not less remarkable for this feature than any who bore the name.] A son of Sir John Grey, Governor of Morpeth Castle 1656, gave offence by a marriage with a buxom daughter of a farmer, at Angerton. In the records it is shown that he had an annuity from the family estate at Learmonth. From this offshoot comes our degenerate tribe!”

My mother’s parents were good people, descended from the poor but honest families of silk-weavers, driven out of France by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. They were in the habit of opening their hospitable doors to everyone in the form of a religious teacher, of whatever sect, who happened to pass that way. One of my mother’s earliest memories was of being lifted upon the knee of the venerable John Wesley, a man with white silvery hair and a benevolent countenance, who placed his two hands upon the head of the golden-haired little girl and pronounced over her a tender and solemn benediction.

In 1833 John Grey was appointed to take charge of the Greenwich Hospital estates in his native county, and moved to a new house built for him at Dilston, in the vale of the Tyne.

Our home at Dilston was a very beautiful one. Its romantic historical associations, the wild, informal beauty all round its doors, the bright, large family circle, and the kind and hospitable character of its master and mistress, made it an attractive place to many friends and guests. Among our pleasantest visitors there were Swedes, Russians and French, who came to England on missions of agricultural6 or other inquiry, and who sometimes spent weeks with us. It was a house the door of which stood wide open, as if to welcome all comers, through the livelong summer day (all the days seem like summer days when looking back). It was a place where one could glide out of a lower window and be hidden in a moment, plunging straight among wild wood paths and beds of fern, or find oneself quickly in some cool concealment, beneath slender birch trees, or by the dry bed of a mountain stream. It was a place where the sweet hushing sound of waterfalls, and clear streams murmuring over shallows, were heard all day and night, though winter storms turned those sweet sounds into an angry roar.

I have thought that the secret of my father’s consistency lay in the fact that his opinions had their root very deep in his soul and affections, that they were indigenous, so to speak, not grafted from without. God made him a Liberal, and a Liberal in the true sense he continued to be to the end of his life. In conversation with him on any public questions, one could not but observe how much such questions were matters of feeling with him. I believe that his political principles and public actions were alike the direct fruit of that which held rule within his soul—I mean his large benevolence, his tender compassionateness, and his respect for the rights and liberties of the individual man. His life was a sustained effort for the good of others, flowing from these affections. He had no grudge against rank or wealth, no restless desire of change for its own sake, still less any rude love of demolition; but he could not endure to see oppression or wrong of any kind7 inflicted on man, woman, or child. “You cannot treat men and women exactly as you do one pound bank-notes, to be used or rejected as you think proper,” he said in a letter to The Times, when that paper was advocating some ill-considered changes, beneficial to one class, but leaving out of account a residue of humble folk upon whom they would entail great suffering. In the cause of any maltreated or neglected creature he was uncompromising to the last, and when brought into opposition with the perpetrators of any social injustice he became an enemy to be feared. Some who remembered him in early manhood have described his commanding presence when he stood forth on public occasions as the champion of Liberal principles, “unsubdued by the blandishments of his partisans, and unabashed by the rancour of his opponents.” There was seldom to be found a flaw in his argument or a fault in his grammar on those occasions, when “he carried confusion and dismay into the enemy’s camp.” Yet the force which his hearers acknowledged lay in his love of truth, his clearness of judgment, and the known innocency of his life, rather than in rhetoric. The true key to an occasional bitterness against those whom he thought wrong-doers lay also in his great sensitiveness to wrong done. There was no self-satisfaction in his denunciation of evil; the contemplation of cruelty in any form was intolerable to him. He would speak of the imposition of social disabilities of any kind, by one class of persons on another, with kindling eyes and breath which came quickly; but he always turned away with a sense of relief from the subject of the evil-doers, or the evil8 done, to the persons who suffered, whose position his compassionate instinct would set him at once to the task of ameliorating. His children remember the large old family Bible, which he used punctually to bring forth every Sunday afternoon and peruse for hours, and his appeals to them to listen to the grandeur of certain favourite passages, which he often read aloud. The Book of the Prophet Isaiah was a great favourite, and his love for such words as the following, which he often quoted, was an index of the complexion of his mind: “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?”

The Greys were a loving family, but of all the family Josephine’s life-long favourite was her sister Harriet, afterwards Madame Meuricoffre. In her she realised the perfect fulfilment of Christina Rossetti’s lines—

There is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.

My sister Harriet and I were a pair, in our family of six daughters and three sons. We were never separated, except perhaps for a few days occasionally, until her marriage and departure from her own country for Naples. We were more, I may venture to say, than many sisters are to each other; we were one in heart and soul, and one in all our pursuits. We walked, rode, played, and learned our lessons together. When one was scolded, both9 wept; when one was praised, both were pleased. In looking back to those early days, the characteristics which stand out the most in my memory are her love of free outdoor life, of nature, and of animals. It may be said that these are common to most country-born children, but they were very strongly marked in her.

Among the many good dogs who were personal friends in our family was one, Pincher, whom she loved much. She was sometimes missing when lesson hours came round, and would be found in Pincher’s kennel, quite concealed from view, holding pleasant converse with her dear dog. A tragic event occurred. Twelve of our father’s sheep were found one early morning cruelly worried and bleeding to death in the field. Suspicion fell on Pincher, although there were other dogs of the agents and farmers about, who were much more probably the criminals; but their masters preferred to impute the crime to our dog. Pincher was tried, condemned, and executed, he, poor dog, wagging his tail to the last, and offering his paw, in sign, my sister said through her tears, of forgiveness of his murderers. She was heart-broken, and cried herself to sleep many nights after, her persuasion of the injustice of the sentence making her sorrow very bitter. Trifling incidents often rest in the memory when important things are forgotten. I recall, some time after this, that when we were in the schoolroom, drilled by a strict governess in close attention to our books, the silence was nevertheless broken by my sister’s voice asking suddenly, and with a pathetic earnestness, “Miss M——, had Pincher a10 soul?” “Silence!” was the reply. “Attend to your books! No silly questions!” But this same question has arisen many a time in the hearts of both of us, when we have witnessed the death of those dear companions, and seen the dumb and almost awful appeal in their dying eyes, fixed upon those whom they loved with a love which seemed out of all proportion to the limitations of their being. The desired solution of the child’s question, “Had Pincher a soul?” was a momentous one for her; but the child’s heart was then, as often, little understood.

Her interest in animal life was not restricted to the nobler beasts. She made collections of creatures as low in the scale as newts and frogs and other aquatic and amphibious beings, declaring that they also were worthy of affection. We had our little beds side by side, and above them there was a shelf on which she arranged these creatures in rows of pots and jars filled with water. An accident occurred one night—the shelf gave way and emptied its burden of pots and jars and water and creatures into our beds. The incident rather damped my ardour in the pursuit of this branch of natural history, I believe, but not so with her. I recollect how tenderly she gathered up the newts, frogs, &c., and replaced them in fresh water, hoping they had got no harm. We had many pets—ferrets, wild cats from the woods, and owls. Some of the latter were magnificent people, with their large eyes and look of profound wisdom worthy of the classic attendant of Pallas Athene. Ponies also we had. On one of these, a beautiful snow-white pony called Apple Grey, many11 of us had our first lessons in riding. My sister’s ideal at one time of the vocation, which she would choose above others, was that of a circus girl, and in the hope of possibly realising some day that ideal, she began early to practise equestrian exercises. Putting off her shoes, she would leap on to the unsaddled back of Apple Grey, and standing up, guiding her only by the bridle, would essay to trot and then to canter round the fields. By perseverance, and after many falls, she had attained to some degree of excellence in these gymnastics, when her thoughts were turned in other directions than that of the vocation of a circus girl.

She wrote some years later of the death of this dear pony: “Poor old Apple was shot to-day by the side of her grave in the wood. They say she died in a moment. Papa could not give the order for execution, but the men took it on themselves, as she could scarcely eat or rise without help. It was the kindest thing to do. Think of the gallops and tumbles of our young days, and all her wisdom and all her charms! Emmy and I have got a large stone slab, on which Surtees the mason has carved, ‘In memoriam, Apple,’ and I shall beg a young weeping ash from Beaufront to plant on her grave.

Her right ear, that is filled with dust,
Hears little of the false or just

now, and if she is gone to the happy hunting grounds, so much the better for her, dear old pet.”

We had our sorrows; clouds sometimes seemed to darken our horizon; and we would speak together in whispers of some family grief which was12 not wholly understood by us, or of certain things in the world which seemed to us even then to be not as they should be. We had a handsome brother, John, who used to entertain us in a gentle way with stories of the sea, which we loved to hear; and who on one occasion returned home with his pockets filled with young tortoises for us. He died at sea. We were awed by the grief of our father and mother. We reminded each other of Mrs. Hemans’ Graves of a Household

He lies where pearls lie deep;
He was the loved of all, yet none
O’er his low bed may weep.

Later our eldest sister married and went out to China. Her letters from the Far East were read aloud in the family, and our curiosity and interest were immensely stirred by her descriptions of that country, of storms at sea, of the customs and ways of the people, of her visit to the house of a great Mandarin, &c. China seemed then much farther away than it seems now.

Living in the country, far from any town, and, if I may say so, in the pre-educational era (for women at least), we had none of the advantages which girls of the present day have. But we owed much to our dear mother, who was very firm in requiring from us that whatever we did should be thoroughly done, and that in taking up any study we should aim at becoming as perfect as we could in it without external aid. This was a moral discipline which perhaps compensated in value for the lack of a great store of knowledge. She would assemble us daily for the reading aloud of some solid book, and by a13 kind of examination following the reading assured herself that we had mastered the subject. She urged us to aim at excellence, if not perfection, in at least one thing.

Our father’s connection with great public movements of the day—the first Reform Bill, the Abolition of the Slave Trade and Slavery, and the Free Trade movement—gave us very early an interest in public questions and in the history of our country.

For two years my sister and I were together at a school in Newcastle. My sister did not love study, and confessed she “hated lessons.” The lady at the head of the school regretted this. She was not a good disciplinarian, and gave us much liberty, which we appreciated, but she had a large heart and ready sympathy. In spite of the imperfectly learned lessons, she discerned in my sister some rare gifts—a spark of genius (a word which would have been strongly deprecated by my sister as applied to herself); and used furtively to gather up and preserve (we discovered afterwards) scraps of original writings of my sister, and copy books full of quaint pen-and-ink drawings. She also appropriated, and would privately show to friends, a book, a History of the Italian Republics, on the margins of which throughout my sister had illustrated that history in a most original and humorous manner.

The following extract from one of Josephine Butler’s last letters, written to friends in Switzerland in 1905, tells how her “travail of soul” on behalf of oppressed womanhood began at an early age when she was only seventeen.


My father was a man with a deeply rooted, fiery hatred of all injustice. The love of justice was a passion with him. Probably I have inherited from him this passion. My dear mother felt with him, and seconded all his efforts. When my father spoke to us, his children, of the great wrong of slavery, I have felt his powerful frame tremble and his voice would break. You can believe, that at that time sad and tragical recitals came to us from first sources of the hideous wrong inflicted on negro men and women. I say women, for I think their lot was particularly horrible, for they were almost invariably forced to minister to the worst passions of their masters, or be persecuted and die. I recollect the story of a negro woman who had four sons, the sons of her master. The three eldest were sold by the father in childhood for good prices, and the mother never knew their fate. She had one left, the youngest, her treasure. Her master, in a fit of passion, one day shot this boy dead. The mother crawled under a ruined shed of wood, and with her face to the earth she prayed that she might die. But first she prayed, for she was a Christian, that she might be able to forgive her cruel master. The words, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you,” sounded in her heart; and she cried to heaven, “Jesus, help me to forgive!” And so she died, her poor heart broken. I remember how these things combined to break my young heart, and how keenly they awakened my feelings concerning injustice to women through this conspiracy of greed of gold and lust of the flesh, a conspiracy which has its counterpart in the white slave owning in Europe.


Something of her struggles at this period is shown in the following memories, recorded in 1900.

My early home was far from cities, with parents who taught by their lives what true men and women should be. Few “priests or pastors” ever came our way. Two miles from our home was the parish church, to which we trudged dutifully every Sunday, and where an honest man in the pulpit taught us loyally all that he probably himself knew about God, but whose words did not even touch the fringe of my soul’s deep discontent.

It was my lot from my earliest years to be haunted by the problems which more or less present themselves to every thoughtful mind. Year after year this haunting became more tyrannous. The world appeared to me to be out of joint. A strange intuition was given to me whereby I saw as in a vision, before I had seen any of them with my bodily eyes, some of the saddest miseries of earth, the injustices, the inequalities, the cruelties practised by man on man, by man on woman.

For one long year of darkness the trouble of heart and brain urged me to lay all this at the door of the God, whose name I had learned was Love. I dreaded Him—I fled from Him—until grace was given me to arise and wrestle, as Jacob did, with the mysterious Presence, who must either slay or pronounce deliverance. And then the great questioning again went up from earth to heaven, “God! Who art Thou? Where art Thou? Why is it thus with the creatures of Thy hand?” I fought the battle alone, in deep recesses of the beautiful woods and pine forests16 around our home, or on some lonely hillside, among wild thyme and heather, a silent temple where the only sounds were the plaintive cry of the curlew, or the hum of a summer bee, or the distant bleating of sheep. For hours and days and weeks in these retreats I sought the answer to my soul’s trouble and the solution of its dark questionings. Looking back, it seems to me the end must have been defeat and death had not the Saviour imparted to the child wrestler something of the virtue of His own midnight agony, when in Gethsemane His sweat fell like great drops of blood to the ground.

It was not a speedy or an easy victory. Later the conflict was renewed, as there dawned upon me the realities of those earthly miseries which I had realised only in a measure by intuition; but later still came the outward and active conflict, with, thanks be to God, the light and hope and guidance which He never denies to them who seek and ask and knock, and which become for them as “an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast.”

Looking my Liberator in the face, can my friends wonder that I have taken my place, (I took it long ago)—oh! with what infinite contentment!—by the side of her, the “woman in the city which was a sinner,” of whom He, her Liberator and mine, said, as He can also say of me,17this woman hath not ceased to kiss My feet.”


No record of Josephine Butler’s life would be at all true or complete which did not include some account of her husband. His strong and gentle spirit greatly influenced and aided her in all her public work, not only with whole-hearted sympathy, but with active co-operation whenever he had leisure from his other duties. The following pages are taken from her Recollections of George Butler.

In visiting some great picture gallery, and passing along amidst portraits innumerable of great men—of kings, statesmen, discoverers, authors or poets—I have sometimes been attracted above all by a portrait without a name, or without the interest attaching to it of any recorded great exploit, but which, nevertheless interests for its own sake. Something looks forth from those eyes—something of purity, of sincerity, of goodness—which draws the beholder to go back again and again to that portrait, and which gives it a lasting place in the memory long after many other likenesses of earth’s heroes are more or less forgotten. It is somewhat in this way that I think of a memorial or written likeness of George Butler, if it can but be presented with a simplicity and fidelity worthy of its subject. His character—his singlemindedness, purity, truth, and firmness of attachment18 to those whom he loved—seem to me worthy to be recorded and to be had in remembrance.

M. Fallot, in the Revue du Christianisme Pratique, sketches in a few words the character of the revered teacher of his youth, Christophe Dieterlin, whose mortal remains rest beneath the hallowed soil of the Ban de la Roche, in the Vosges, surmounted by a rock of mountain granite—a suitable monument for such a man. When his pupil questioned him concerning prayer, he replied: “The Lord’s Prayer is in general sufficient for me. When praying in these words, all my personal preoccupations become mingled with and lost in the great needs and desires of the whole human race.” “He was a Christian,” says M. Fallot, ”hors cadre, refractory to all classification, living outside all parties,” a child of Nature and a son of God. These words might with truth be applied to the character of George Butler. It would be difficult to assign him a definite place in any category of persons or parties. He stands apart, hors cadre, in his gentleness and simplicity, and in a certain sturdy and immovable independence of character.

George Butler was born at Harrow on the 11th of June, 1819. He was the eldest son of a family of ten—four brothers and six sisters. Nothing very remarkable in the way of hard study or distinction can be recorded of him during his school career. When questioned in later life concerning any excellency he attained there, he would answer, reflectively, that he was considered to be extremely good at “shying” stones. He could hit or knock over certain high-up and difficult chimney-pots with wonderful precision, to the envy of other mischievous19 boys, and I suppose to the annoyance of the owners of the chimney-pots. His father, the Dean of Peterborough, wrote to me in 1852: “Your references to George’s early days make me feel quite young again. He certainly was a nice-looking boy, and had a pretty head of hair; at least I thought so, and the remembrance of those nursery days is pleasant to me. But oh! those early experiments in the science of projectiles upon the chimney-pots of the Harrovian neighbours—why remind me of them, unless you are yourself possessed of the same spirit of mischief?”

But school life was not all play for George Butler. He showed an early aptitude for scholarship, gaining among several prizes that for Greek Iambics. In the autumn of 1838 George went up to Trinity College, Cambridge. During the year he spent at Cambridge the sense of duty and of responsibility for the use of opportunities and gifts which he possessed lay dormant within him. Those who loved him best often thanked God, however, as he did himself in later life, that he had escaped the contamination of certain influences which leave a stain upon the soul, and sometimes tend to give a serious warp to the judgment of a man in regard to moral questions. A remarkable native purity of mind, and a loyal and reverent feeling towards women, saved him from associations and actions which, had he ever yielded to them, would have been a bitter memory to such a man as he was. In the interval between leaving Cambridge and going to Oxford he spent several months in the house of Mr. Augustus Short (afterwards Bishop of Adelaide). It was while under his roof that he imbibed a true love of work, and learned20 the enjoyment of overcoming difficulties, and of a steady effort, without pause, towards a definite goal.

One of his life-long and most valued friends, the Rev. Cowley Powles, writes: “It was, I think, in 1841 that Butler got the Hertford Scholarship. I remember meeting him just after his success had been announced. I was coming back from a ride, and he stopped me and said: ‘I have got the Hertford.’ The announcement was made in his quietest voice, and with no elation of manner, though his countenance showed how much he was pleased. Never was there a man with less brag about him.” In 1843 George Butler took his degree, having obtained a first class. He kept up his connection very closely with Oxford for four years, making use of the time for various studies, and taking pupils or reading parties during the long vacations. In 1848 he was appointed to a Tutorship at the University of Durham, which he retained for a little more than two years. It was during the latter part of his residence there that I first made his acquaintance.

The following, written after our engagement, shows his extreme honesty of character, while it indicates in some faint degree his just and unselfish view of what the marriage relation should be; namely, a perfectly equal union, with absolute freedom on both sides for personal initiative in thought and action and for individual development.

“I do not ask you to write oftener. I would have you follow the dictates of your own heart in this; but be always certain that whatever comes from you is thrice welcome. I write because I feel it to be necessary to my happiness. I have lately written21 to you out of the fulness of my heart, when my soul was deeply moved to strive after a higher life. But often my letters will be about trifling matters, so that you may be tempted to say, ‘Why write at all?’ Yet, after all, life is largely made up of trifles. Moreover, I do not wish to invest myself in borrowed plumes. I do not want you to find out later that I am much like other people, perhaps even more commonplace than most. I would rather your eyes were opened at once. I cannot reproach myself with ever having assumed a character not my own to you or to anyone. Such impostures are always too deeply purchased by the loss of self-respect. But I fear that you may have formed too high an estimate of my character—one to which I can never come up; and for your sake I would wish to remove every veil and obstacle which might prevent your seeing me just as I am. If I were only to write to you when my better feelings were wrought upon, you might think me much better than I am, so I will write to you on every subject and in every mood. Those lines which I sent to you gave no exaggerated picture. I have often felt in a very different spirit to that in which we should say ‘Our Father.’ The praying for particular blessings, which is enjoined by the words of the Lord Jesus, ‘Ask, and ye shall receive,’ has appeared to me at times as derogatory to the omniscient and all-provident character of God. Can He, I have thought, alter the smallest of His dispensations at the request of such a weak and insignificant being as I am? This vain philosophy, the offspring of intellectual pride, has had more to do with blighting my faith than wilful sin or the worl22d’s breath! But though I have ‘wandered out of the way in the wilderness,’ I do not despair of taking possession of the promised land. You say you can do so little for me. Will it be little, Josephine, if, urged by your encouragement and example, I put off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light? Blessings from the Giver of all blessings fall upon you for the joy you have given to me, for the new life to which you have called me! I should think it undue presumption in me to suggest anything to you in regard to your life and duties. He who has hitherto guided your steps will continue to do so. Believe me, I value the expression of your confidence and affection above ‘pearls and precious stones’; but I must not suffer myself to be dazzled, or to fancy that I have within me that power of judging and acting aright which would alone authorise me to point out to you any path in which you ought to walk. I am more content to leave you to walk by yourself in the path you shall choose; but I know that I do not leave you alone and unsupported, for His arm will guide, strengthen and protect you. I only pray, then, that you may be more and more conformed to the image of Him who set us a perfect example, and that He will dispose my heart to love and admire most those things in you which are most admirable and lovely.”

During the years 1848-49 the Dean of Peterborough frequently wrote to his son expressing his desire to see him turning his mind towards the ministry—hoping that he would decide on taking orders. The Dean was sincerely convinced that there was nothing which ought to make his son23 hesitate to take so serious a step, and that the duties of a clergyman would have a beneficial effect on his character, tending to his highest good and happiness. That, however, was far from being his son’s view of the matter. While appreciating his father’s motives in urging him in this direction, and replying in general terms with a gentle courtesy, he seems to have felt convinced that it was impossible for him to follow his advice in the matter. Finally he wrote: “I thank you, my dear father, for your welcome letter. I think I have already told you that I have no internal call to, nor inclination for, the Church. On the contrary, I should feel I was guilty of a wrong action if I embarked in any work or profession for neither the theoretical nor the practical part of which I had any taste. And if this be true of ordinary professions, is it not so in a tenfold degree in the case of the Church? I feel at present no attraction towards the study of dogmatical theology, or any branch of study in which a clergyman should be versed; and I cannot get over the scruples I have against such a step as you advise. I am at present engaged, usefully I hope, in a place of Christian education, closely connected with a cathedral church, with abundant opportunities of adding to my stock of knowledge in various subjects, as well as of imparting to others what I know. I do not see, at present, any necessity for planning any change in my mode of life.”

How was it then, it may be asked, that he did actually elect to become a clergyman some six years later? The answer is, he had gradually become convinced that the work of his life was to be24 educational, and the desire arose in his mind to be able to stand towards the younger men or boys who should come under his care in the position of their pastor as well as their teacher. He weighed the matter gravely for a long time before becoming a clergyman; but after having taken the step, he never repented of having done so. To the end of his life, however, his character continued to be essentially that of a layman. In 1851 he wrote:—

“You know that I don’t like parsons; but that is not to the point. If I should ever take orders, I don’t mean to be a mere parson; for if I were like some of them whom I know I should cease to be a man. I shall never wear straight waistcoats, long coats and stiff collars! I think all dressing up and official manner are an affectation; while great strictness in outward observances interferes with the devotion of the heart; and though it may indicate a pious spirit—and therefore deserves our respect—it shows, as I think, a misconception of the relation in which we stand to God, and of the duties we owe to man. It seems to me, after all, that being a good clergyman is much the same thing as being a good man. I have a longing to be of use, and I know of no line in which I can be more useful than the educational, my whole life having been turned more or less in this direction. It is a blessed office that of a teacher. With all its troubles and heart-wearyings and disappointments, yet it is full of delight to those who enter upon it with their whole heart and soul, and in reliance upon our great Teacher. I know of no occupation which more carries its present reward with it.”


Our marriage took place on the 8th of January, 1852, at Dilston. Shortly afterwards we settled at Oxford, which became our home for five years. In reviewing the work done by George Butler in the course of his educational career, one cannot but be struck by the fact that he was somewhat in advance of his time. There are men theoretically in advance of their times, who do good service by their advocacy of progressive principles in writing or in speech. With him it was more a matter of simple practice. He perceived that some study useful or necessary for the future generations, and in itself worthy, had scarcely an acknowledged place in the curriculum of the schools and universities, or that some new ground necessary to be explored was still left untrodden; and without saying much about it, without any thought of being himself a pioneer in any direction, he modestly set himself to the task of acting out his thoughts on the subject. His absolute freedom from personal vanity withheld him from proclaiming that he was about to enter on any new line, and at the same time enabled him to bear with perfect calm, if not with indifference, the criticisms, witty remarks and sometimes serious opposition which are seldom wanting when a man or woman ventures quietly to encroach upon the established order of things in any department of life. At Oxford he was the first who brought into prominence the study of geography. His geographical lectures there were quite an innovation, creating some amusement and a good deal of wonder as to how he would succeed. It was a subject which had hitherto been relegated in an elementary form to schools for boys and girls, and26 was unrecognised, except by a very few persons, as the grand and comprehensive scientific study which it is now acknowledged to be.

At Oxford the subject was entirely new, at least to the older members of the university, who, however, to their credit, came to the lectures, and listened with teachable minds to truths novel to them concerning the world they were living in. We drew large illustrative maps for the walls of the lecture room. I recall a day when I was drawing in a rough form an enlarged map of Europe, including the northern coast of Africa and a part of Asia Minor. It happened that several fellows and tutors of colleges called at that moment. I continued my work while they chatted with him on the curiosity of his introduction in Oxford of so elementary a study. The conversation then turned on letters we had just received from Arthur Stanley and Theodore Walrond, who were visiting Egypt. “Where is Cairo?” someone asked, turning to the map spread on the table. I put the question to an accomplished college tutor. His eye wandered hopelessly over the chart. He could not even place his hand on Egypt! I was fain to pretend that I needed to study my performance more closely, and bent down my head in order to conceal the irreverent laughter which overcame me.

George Butler was one of the first, also, who introduced and encouraged the study of Art in Oxford in a practical sense. In the winter of 1852-53 he obtained the permission of the Vice-Chancellor and Curators to give a course of lectures on Art in the Taylor building. These lectures were afterwards27 published by J. W. Parker, under the title of Principles of Imitative Art. While promoting the study of Art in Oxford, working with pupils, and examining in the schools, he undertook to write a series of Art criticisms for the Morning Chronicle and afterwards for another paper, visiting for this purpose the galleries and yearly exhibitions in London. This he did for a year or two.

“It was amusing,” he wrote to his mother, after his first visit in this capacity to the Society of British Artists, “to see the ‘gentlemen of the press’ (of whom I was one!) walking about dotting down observations. I travelled up to town with Scott, the architect, who has engaged me to attend a meeting of his workmen, and give them an address on ‘Decorative Art and the Dignity of Labour.’ Josephine and I are both engaged in copying some drawings by Turner in the Taylor Gallery.”

Indefatigable in his efforts to master any subject which attracted him, he was also equally ready and anxious to impart to others any knowledge he had thus gained. He found time among his other occupations to make a very thorough study of some ancient Oscan inscriptions, with engravings of their principal monuments, which he found in the Bodleian Library. He became much interested in that portion of history—almost lost in the mists of the past—which is illustrated by the marvellous records and monuments of Oscan, Umbrian, and Etruscan life in the great museum at Bologna. He worked at and completed, during one of the long vacations, a series of enlarged copies in sepia of the small engravings and prints of these28 monuments in the Bodleian. These enlargements were suitable for wall illustrations, for a set of lectures which he afterwards gave on the “Ancient Races of Italy.” It was very pleasant to us when we visited Florence together, some years later, to see the originals of some of the Cyclopean ruins of which we had together made large drawings, those gigantic stones of all that remains of the ancient Etruscan walls of Fiesole, up to the lovely heights of which we drove one clear, bright winter’s day.

I have many other memories of our life at Oxford—some very sweet, others grave. I recall with special pleasure our summer evening rides. During the first two years we spent there my father kindly provided me with a horse, a fine, well-bred chestnut. My husband and I explored together all the rising grounds round Oxford. Behind our own little garden there were tall trees where nightingales sang night and day for a few weeks in spring. But it was in the Bagley Woods and in Abingdon Park that those academic birds put forth all their powers. We sometimes rode from five in the afternoon till the sun set and the dew fell, on grassy paths between thick undergrowths of woods such as nightingales love to haunt, and from which issued choruses of matchless song.

Our Italian studies were another source of enjoyment. Dante Rossetti was then preparing matter for his book, Dante and His Circle, by carefully translating into English the Vita Nuova and lyrical poems of Dante, together with other sonnets and poems written by some of his predecessors, such as Cavalcante, Orlandi and Angiolieri of Siena. Mr. Rossetti sent to us occasionally for criticism some of29 his translations of the exquisite sonnets of Dante, the English of which he was anxious to make as perfect as possible. We had visited Rossetti’s studio at Chelsea, where he had shown us his portfolios of original sketches for his great paintings, besides many unfinished drawings and pathetic incidents expressed in artist’s shorthand—slight but beautiful pencil designs. My husband’s critical faculty and classical taste enabled him to return the sonnets submitted to his judgment with occasional useful comments. There was little to find fault with in them, however.

Aurelio Saffi was at this time in exile and living in Oxford. He had been associated with Mazzini and Armellini in the Triumvirate which ruled in Rome for a short period, and was parliamentary deputy for his own native town of Forli. He was a cultivated and literary man, with a thorough knowledge of the Italian poets. As an exile his material means were at that time very slender. My husband sought his acquaintance, and invited him to give a series of evening lectures on Dante in our own drawing-room. These were attractive to some, and increased the personal interest felt in Saffi in the university. Twenty-seven years later, having returned to Italy from exile, Saffi was presiding at a great congress in Genoa where we were. He alluded, with much feeling, to the years he had spent in Oxford; and turning to my husband, who was near him, he said:30 “It is twenty-seven years to-day that, an exile from my native land, I had the happiness of being received in your house at Oxford, and I have never forgotten, and shall never forget, the hospitable and gracious reception given to me by you and your worthy companion. The times are changed; a long interval has elapsed, and it is to me a great joy to-day to greet you once more, and on my native soil.”

But this pleasant life at Oxford had its shadow side. I had come from a large family circle, and from free country life to a university town—a society of celibates, with little or no leaven of family life; for Oxford was not then what it is now under expanded conditions, with its married fellows and tutors, its resident families, its ladies’ colleges, and its mixed, general social life. With the exception of the families of a few heads of houses, who lived much secluded within their college walls, there was little or no home life, and not much freedom of intercourse between the academical portion of the community and others. A one-sidedness of judgment is apt to be fostered by such circumstances—an exaggeration of the purely masculine judgment on some topics, and a conventual mode of looking at things.

In the frequent social gatherings in our drawing-room in the evenings there was much talk, sometimes serious and weighty, sometimes light, interesting, critical, witty and brilliant, ranging over many subjects. It was then that I sat silent, the only woman in the company, and listened, sometimes with a sore heart; for these men would speak of things which I had already revolved deeply in my own mind, things of which I was convinced, which I knew, though I had no dialectics at command with which to defend their truth. A few remarks made on those evenings stand out in my memory. They may seem31 slight and unimportant, but they had a significance for me, linking themselves, as they did, to long trains of thought which for some years past had been tending to form my own convictions.

A book was published at that time by Mrs. Gaskell, and was much discussed. This led to expressions of judgment which seemed to me false—fatally false. A moral lapse in a woman was spoken of as an immensely worse thing than in a man; there was no comparison to be formed between them. A pure woman, it was reiterated, should be absolutely ignorant of a certain class of evils in the world, albeit those evils bore with murderous cruelty on other women. One young man seriously declared that he would not allow his own mother to read such a book as that under discussion—a book which seemed to me to have a very wholesome tendency, though dealing with a painful subject. Silence was thought to be the great duty of all on such subjects. On one occasion, when I was distressed by a bitter case of wrong inflicted on a very young girl, I ventured to speak to one of the wisest men—so esteemed—in the university, in the hope that he would suggest some means, not of helping her, but of bringing to a sense of his crime the man who had wronged her. The sage, speaking kindly however, sternly advocated silence and inaction. “It could only do harm to open up in any way such a question as this. It was dangerous to arouse a sleeping lion.” I left him in some amazement and discouragement, and for a long time there echoed in my heart the terrible prophetic words of the painter-poet Blake—rude and indelicate as he may have been32 judged then—whose prophecy has only been averted by a great and painful awakening—

The harlot’s curse, from street to street,
Shall weave old England’s winding-sheet.

Every instinct of womanhood within me was already in revolt against certain accepted theories in society, and I suffered as only God and the faithful companion of my life could ever know. Incidents occurred which brought their contribution to the lessons then sinking into our hearts. A young mother was in Newgate for the murder of her infant, whose father, under cover of the death-like silence prescribed by Oxford philosophers—a silence which is in fact a permanent endorsement of injustice—had perjured himself to her, had forsaken and forgotten her, and fallen back, with no accusing conscience, on his easy, social life, and possibly his academic honours. I wished to go and speak to her in prison of the God who saw the injustice done, and who cared for her. My husband suggested that we should write to the chaplain of Newgate, and ask him to send her to us when her sentence had expired. We wanted a servant, and he thought that she might be able to fill that place. She came to us. I think she was the first of the world of unhappy women of a humble class whom he welcomed to his own home. She was not the last.

A travelling circus came to the neighbourhood. A young woman who performed as an acrobat somehow conveyed to us her longing desire to leave the life in which she was plunged, the most innocent part of which was probably her acrobatic performances.33 She had aspirations very far beyond what is usually expected from a circus woman. She wanted to serve God. She saw a light before her, she said, and she must follow it. She went secretly to churches and chapels, and then she fled—she did not know where—but was recaptured. It was a Sunday evening in hot summer weather. I had been sitting for some time at my open window to breathe more freely the sultry air, and it seemed to me that I heard a wailing cry somewhere among the trees in the twilight which was deepening into night. It was a woman’s cry—a woman aspiring to heaven and dragged back to hell—and my heart was pierced with pain. I longed to leap from the window, and flee with her to some place of refuge. It passed. I cannot explain the nature of the impression, which remains with me to this day; but beyond that twilight, and even in the midst of the pitiful cry, there seemed to dawn a ray of light and to sound a note not wholly of despair. The light was far off, yet coming near, and the slight summer breeze in those tall trees had in them a whisper of the future. But when the day dawned it seemed to show me again more plainly than ever the great wall of prejudice, built up on a foundation of lies, which surrounded a whole world of sorrows, griefs, injustices and crimes which must not be spoken of—no, not even in whispers—and which it seemed to me then that no human power could ever reach or remedy. And I met again the highly-educated, masculine world in our evening gatherings more than ever resolved to hold my peace—to speak little with men, but much with God. No doubt the experience of those years34 influenced in some degree my maturer judgment of what is called “educated public opinion.”

My motive in writing these recollections is to tell what he was—my husband—and to show how, besides all that he was in himself and all the work he did, which was wholly and especially his own, he was of a character to be able from the first to correct the judgment and soothe the spirit of the companion of his life when “the waters had come in even unto her soul.” I wish to show, also, that he was even more to me in later life than a wise and noble supporter and helper in the work which may have been called more especially my own. He had a part in the creation of it, in the formation of the first impulses towards it. Had that work been purely a product of the feminine mind, of a solitary, wounded and revolted heart, it would certainly have lacked some elements essential to its becoming in any way useful or fruitful. But for him I should have been much more perplexed than I was. The idea of justice to women, of equality between the sexes, and of equality of responsibility of all human beings to the moral law, seems to have been instinctive in him. He never needed convincing. He had his convictions already from the first—straight, just and clear. I did not at that time speak much, but whenever I spoke to him the clouds lifted. It may seem a little strange to say so, but, if I recall it truly, what helped me most of all at that time was, not so much any arguments he may have used in favour of an equal standard, but the correctness with which he measured the men and the judgments around him. I think there was even a little element of disdain in his appreciation of35 the one-sided judgments of some of his male friends. He used to say, “I am sorry for So-and-So,” which sounded to me rather like saying, “I am sorry for Solomon,” my ideas of the wisdom of learned men being, perhaps, a little exaggerated. He would tell me that I ought to pity them. “They know no better, poor fellows.” This was a new light for me, I had thought of Oxford as the home of learning and of intellect. I thought the good and gifted men we daily met must be in some degree authorities on spiritual and moral questions. It had not occurred to me to think of them as “poor fellows!” That blessed gift of common sense, which he possessed in so large a degree, came to the rescue to restore for me the balance of a mind too heavily weighted with sad thoughts of life’s perplexing problems. And then in the evenings, when our friends had gone, we read together the words of Life, and were able to bring many earthly notions and theories to the test of what the Holy One and the Just said and did. Compared with the accepted axioms of the day, and indeed of centuries past, in regard to certain vital questions, the sayings and actions of Jesus were, we confessed to one another, revolutionary. George Butler was not afraid of revolution. In this sense he desired it, and we prayed together that a holy revolution might come about, and that the Kingdom of God might be established on the earth. And I said to myself: “And it is a man who speaks to me thus—an intelligent, a gifted man, a learned man too, few more learned than he, and a man who ever speaks the truth from his heart.” So I was comforted and instructed. It was then that I began to see his portrait given, and36 I see it still more clearly now as I look back over his whole past life, in the 15th Psalm: “Lord, who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle? Or who shall rest upon Thy holy hill? Even he that leadeth an uncorrupt life, and doeth the thing which is right, and speaketh the truth from his heart. He that hath used no deceit in his tongue, nor done evil to his neighbour, and hath not slandered his neighbour. He that setteth not by himself, but is lowly in his own eyes, and maketh much of them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth unto his neighbour, and disappointeth him not, even though it were to his own hindrance.”

The winter floods which so often surrounded Oxford during the years of which I am writing are probably remembered with a shudder by others besides myself. The mills and locks, and other impediments to the free flow of the waters of the Isis, were, I believe, long ago removed, and the malarial effect of the stagnation of moisture around the city ceased with its cause. But at that time Oxford in winter almost resembled Venice, in its apparent isolation from the land, and in the appearance of its towers and spires reflected in the mirror of the floods. “It rained,” wrote George in January, 1856, “all yesterday, and to-day it is cold and damp. Indeed, immediately after sunset the atmosphere of Oxford resembles that of a well, though that is scarcely so bad as the horrible smell of the meadows when the floods are retiring. Then one is conscious of a miasma which only a strong constitution can long resist.”

My health failed. I became weak and liable to attacks of chills and fever. We drove out occasionally37 to the heights above Oxford, to reach which we were obliged to pursue for some distance a road which resembled a sort of high level or causeway (as in Holland) with water on each side. Looking back from the higher ground, the view of the academic city sitting upon the floods was very picturesque. Indeed, the sound of “Great Tom” knelling the curfew from his tower had a very musical and solemn effect as it came over the still waters, resembling a little in pathos the sound of a human voice giving warning of the approach of night; or, like Dante’s Squilla di lontana

The distant bell
Which seems to weep the dying day;

but poetry and sentiment could not hold out against rheumatic pains and repeated chills.

I spent several months of that year—1856—in Northumberland with our children, my husband joining us after he had completed his engagements as a public examiner in London. His letters, during the few weeks of our separation, seemed to show a deepening of spiritual life—such as is sometimes granted in the foreshadowing of the approach of some special discipline or sorrow. He seems to have felt more deeply during this summer that he must not reckon on the unbroken continuance of the outward happiness which had been so richly granted to us.

To Mrs. Grey.

Oxford, June 6th, 1856.


“I am glad to feel that my treasures are in such good hands and life-giving air. I hope their presence at Dilston will contribute to the assurance that marriage is not a severance of family ties, but that both Josephine and I revert with the fondest attachment to old scenes and dearly loved friends at Dilston.”

To his wife.

June, 1856.

“I am grieved to hear of your sufferings; but you write so cheerfully, and express such a loving confidence in One who is able to heal all our sicknesses, that I dare not repine. However sad at heart I may sometimes feel about you, I will try to bring myself face to face with those mighty promises which are held out to those who ‘rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.’ And then I hope we shall still be able to go hand in hand in our work on earth.”

To his wife.

July 13th, 1856.

“I have been reading Tennyson’s ‘Maud,’ and correcting my review of it for Fraser’s Magazine. Reading love stories which end in death or separation makes me dwell the more thankfully on my own happiness. It is no wonder that I am sanguine in all circumstances, and that I trust the love and care of our Almighty Father, for has He not blessed me far beyond my deserts in giving me such a share of human happiness as falls to the lot of few? Yet He has given us our thorn in the flesh, in your failing health, and our uncertain prospects. But these shall never hinder our love; rather we will cling to that more closely as the symbol and earnest of the heavenly love which displayed itself in that wondrous act—on39 Calvary—which the wise men of this world may deem of as they will, but which to us will ever be the most real of all realities, and the sure token of our reconciliation with God.

“I think we are well fitted to help each other. No words can express what you are to me. On the other hand, I may be able to cheer you in moments of sadness and despondency, when the evils of this world press heavily upon you, and your strength is not sufficient to enable you to rise up and do anything to relieve them, as you fain would do. And by means of possessing greater physical strength, and considerable power of getting through work, I may be enabled to help you in the years to come, to carry out plans which may under His blessing do some good, and make men speak of us with respect when we are laid in our graves; and in the united work of bringing up our children, may God so help us that we may be able to say, ‘Of those whom Thou gavest us have we lost none.’”

While exercising much self-denial and reserve in making such extracts as the above, I give these few as affording glimpses of his inner mind and deep affection; for his character would be very inadequately portrayed if so prominent a feature of it were concealed as that of his love for his wife, and the constant blending of that love with all his spiritual aspirations and endeavours. That love was part of his being, becoming ever more deep and tender as the years went on. I have spoken of the strength and tenacity of his friendships. These qualities entered equally into his closest domestic40 relations. In the springtime of life, men dream, speak, write and sing of love—of love’s gracious birth and beautiful youth. But it is not in the springtime of life that love’s deepest depths can be fathomed, its vastness measured, and its endurance tested. There is a love which surmounts all trial and discipline, all the petty vexations and worries, as well as the sorrows and storms of life, and which flows on in an ever deepening current of tenderness, enhanced by memories of the past and hopes of the future—of the eternal life towards which it is tending. It was such a love as this, that dwelt and deepened in him of whom I write to the latest moment of his earthly life, to be perfected in the Divine presence.

On joining us at Dilston, an arrangement was made with the vicar of the parish of Corbridge (in which Dilston was situated) that he should take his duty, occupying his house for the autumn, during his absence from home. Dissent prevailed largely in the neighbourhood. But during the time that he acted as the clergyman of the parish the church was well filled. Many Wesleyans came, who had not before entered its doors, as well as several families of well-to-do and well-instructed Presbyterian farmers—shrewd people, well able to maintain their ground in a theological controversy. They were attracted, no doubt, partly by the relationship of the temporary minister to my father, who was so much beloved and esteemed throughout the county, and a constant worshipper in the village church, and partly by the simple Christian teaching for which they thirsted, and which they now found. There was little real poverty. We visited the people41 sometimes together, and their affections were strongly gained.

Our return to Oxford was not auspicious. The autumn fell damp and cold. It was decided that I should go to London to consult Sir James Clarke, on account of what seemed the development of a weakness of the lungs. I recall the tender solicitude which my husband showed for me on the journey, and also the kindness of the venerable physician. I was scarcely able to rise to greet him when he entered the room. At the close of our interview he merely said, “Poor thing, poor thing! You must take her away from Oxford.” We proposed to return therefore at once to make necessary preparations for the change, when he interposed, “No, she must not return to the chilling influence of those floods, not for a single day.”

This was no light trial. Our pleasant home must be broken up; all the hopes and plans my husband had cherished abandoned; the house he had taken and furnished at some expense as a Hall for unattached students thrown on his hands. To carry it on alone, to be separated for an indefinite time from each other, was scarcely possible. There seemed for the present no alternative. He accepted calmly, though not without keen regret, what was clearly inevitable. The difficulties of our position were for a time increased by a serious reverse of fortune experienced by my father, who had always been ready to aid on occasion the different members of the family. There had occurred a complete collapse of a bank in which he was a large shareholder. The loss he sustained was great. The spirit in which he42 bore the trial raised him still higher in the estimation of those who already so highly valued and admired him. Trouble followed upon trouble for a time, and my husband suffered all the more because of some inward self-reproach for having failed to exercise sufficient providence and foresight in the past. His greatest anxiety was for me; but that happily was gradually lightened as time went on.

Through the kindness of his friend, Mr. Powles, my husband was called to take temporarily the charge of a chapel at Blackheath, in the summer of 1857, which gave him useful and congenial ministerial work while continuing his literary pursuits. He had gone on in advance to arrange for our removal to Blackheath.

To her husband.

St. Barnabas Day,

June 11th, 1857.

God bless you to-day and always, and make you a “Son of Consolation” to many in the time to come, as you have been to me. Earthly success is no longer our aim. What I desire above all for you is the fulfilment of the promise: “They that are wise shall shine as the light, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever.” I had an encouraging conversation yesterday with——, which fell in with the train of my thoughts regarding you and myself. She said she had seen many cases in which individual chastening had preceded a life of great usefulness, though the subject of the chastening had thought at the time that his life was passing away, wasted or only spent in learning the lesson of submission. She thought that those to whom the discipline of life comes early rather than late ought43 to thank God; for it makes them better able to minister to others, and to walk humbly with their God. May that be the case with us. The little boys remembered your birthday before they were out of bed this morning, and have made an excursion to Nightingale Valley in honour of it.



In the autumn of 1857 my husband was invited to fill the post of Vice-Principal of the Cheltenham College. He accepted the invitation, and we went to Cheltenham the same year. He here entered upon his long course of assiduous and untiring work as a schoolmaster—a work which covered a quarter of a century, beginning at Cheltenham in 1857, and continued at Liverpool from the winter of 1865-66 until 1882. We gained much at Cheltenham in an improved climate, and in the cessation of material difficulties and anxieties. We lived in a large house, in which, for some years, we received a number of pupils. It was characteristic that it should have supplied some of the best athletes of the College, and many successful competitors in the school games, in feats of strength, activity and skill. My husband considered physical training to be an essential part of the education of youth.

Our summer vacations continued to be spent largely at Dilston; we went however one year to Switzerland with our eldest son. We visited Lucerne and its neighbourhood, and afterwards the Rhone Valley, Chamounix, and the great St. Bernard, passing a night at the hospice, where we profited much by our intercourse with the beautiful dogs, one45 of whom, a veteran called Bruno, the forefather of many a noble hound, attached himself to us, and made himself our cicerone among the rocks in the desolate surroundings of the monastery. Another summer excursion was, with two of our children, to the Lakes of Killarney, including a visit to my brother, Charles Grey, who lived then in a house of Lord Derby, at Ballykisteen, in the “golden vale” of Tipperary. In both these years my husband brought home many sketches. The grey rocks skirting the borders of Killarney lakes, with their richly-coloured covering of arbutus and other flowering trees and evergreens, were tempting subjects for water-colours.

My father had been a friend of Clarkson, and a practical worker in the movement for the abolition of the slave trade. When the War of Secession in America broke out, my husband’s sympathies were warmly enlisted on behalf of those who desired the emancipation of the slaves, and he perceived that that was indeed the question, the vital question of justice, which lay at the root of all that terrible struggle. This was one of several occasions in our united life in which we found ourselves in a minority; members of a group at first so insignificant that it scarcely found a voice or a hearing anywhere, but whose position was afterwards fully justified by events. It was a good training in swimming against the tide, or at least in standing firm and letting the tide go by, and in maintaining, while doing so, a charitable attitude towards those who conscientiously differed, and towards the thousands who float contentedly down the stream of the fashionable46 opinion of the day. In this case the feeling of isolation on a subject of such tragic interest was often painful; but the discipline was useful, for it was our lot again more emphatically in the future to have to accept and endure this position for conscience’ sake.

I recollect the sudden revulsion of feeling when the news was telegraphed of the assassination of President Lincoln; the extraordinary rapidity of the change of front of the “leading journal;” and the self-questionings among many whose intelligence and goodness had certainly given them the right to think for themselves, but who had not availed themselves of that right. I remember the penitence of Punch, who had been among the scoffers against the abolitionists of slavery, and who now put himself into deep mourning, and gave to the public an affecting cartoon of the British Lion bowed and weeping before the bier of Lincoln. A favourite scripture motto of my husband’s was, “Why do ye not of yourselves judge that which is right?” But he was not argumentative. He loved peace, and avoided every heated discussion. His silence was, perhaps, sometimes not less effectual by way of rebuke or correction of shallow judgments than speech would have been. Goldwin Smith, one of the few at Oxford who saw at that time the inner meanings of the American struggle, paid us a visit. It occurred to us, while listening to some pointed remarks he was making on the prevalent opinion of the day, to ask him to write and publish something in reply to the often-repeated assertion that the Bible itself favours slavery. “The Bible,” he replied,47 “has been quoted in favour of every abomination that ever cursed the earth.” He did not say he would write; but the idea sank into his mind, and not long after he sent us his able and exquisite little book, entitled Does the Bible sanction Slavery?—a masterly and beautiful exposition of the true spirit of the Mosaic law, and of the Theocratic government and training of the ancient Hebrew people in relation to this and other questions. This book was naturally not popular at the time, and I fear it has long been out of print. (It was published in 1863.)

In this connection it is interesting to record, that two other notable books owed their inspiration in a large measure to Josephine Butler. The Patience of Hope, by Dora Greenwell, published in 1859, was dedicated to J. E. B., with the inscription—A te principium, tibi desinet (from thee begun with thee my work shall close). Te sine nil altum mens inchoat (without thee nothing high my mind essays). Frederic Myers, who had been at school at Cheltenham College, in his Fragments of Inner Life,1 tells how“Christian conversion came to me in a potent form—through the agency of Josephine Butler, née Grey, whose name will not be forgotten in the annals of English philanthropy. She introduced me to Christianity, so to say, by an inner door; not to its encumbering forms and dogmas, but to its heart of fire. My poems of St. Paul and St. John the Baptist, intensely personal in their emotion, may serve as sufficient record of those years of eager faith.” St. Paul, published in 1867, was dedicated to J. E. B., with the inscription—ᾗ καὶ τὴν ἐμὴν ψυχην ὀφείλω (to whom I owe my very soul). In 1869 Myers48 gave up a Lectureship at Trinity in order to devote himself to the promotion of the higher education of women, and he was one of the small band of university men, who worked hard with Josephine Butler and her colleagues on the North of England Council, to which we shall refer later on.

Among the public events which interested us most during these years was the revolution in Naples, the change of dynasty, and Garibaldi’s career. Our interest was in part of a personal nature, as my sister, Madame Meuricoffre, and her husband were in the midst of these events. She had succeeded Jessie White Mario in the care of the wounded Garibaldians in the hospitals, and was personally acquainted with some of the actors in the dramatic scenes of that time. Having told her that my husband had set as a subject for a prize essay—to be competed for in the College at Cheltenham—“The unification of Italy,” my sister mentioned it to Garibaldi, in expressing to him our sympathy for him and his cause. He immediately wrote a few lines, signing his name at the end, to be sent, through her, to the boy who should write the best essay on the subject so near to his heart.

A part of the summer holidays of 1864 were spent at Coniston in the house of Mr. James Marshall, which he lent to us. His sister, Mrs. Myers, had been our kind and constant friend at Cheltenham. It was a beautiful summer. We had returned to Cheltenham only a few days when a heavy sorrow fell upon our home, the brightest of our little circle being suddenly snatched away from us. The dark shadow of that cloud cannot easily be described.49 I quote part of a letter written some weeks after our child’s death to a friend.

Cheltenham, August, 1864.

These are but weak words. May you never know the grief which they hide rather than reveal. But God is good. He has, in mercy, at last sent me a ray of light, and low in the dust at His feet I have thanked Him for that ray of light as I never thanked Him for any blessing in the whole of my life before. It was difficult to endure at first the shock of the suddenness of that agonising death. Little gentle spirit! the softest death for her would have seemed sad enough. Never can I lose that memory—the fall, the sudden cry, and then the silence. It was pitiful to see her, helpless in her father’s arms, her little drooping head resting on his shoulder, and her beautiful golden hair, all stained with blood, falling over his arm. Would to God that I had died that death for her! If we had been permitted, I thought, to have one look, one word of farewell, one moment of recognition! But though life flickered for an hour, she never recognised the father and mother whom she loved so dearly. We called her by her name, but there was no answer. She was our only daughter, the light and joy of our lives. She flitted in and out like a butterfly all day. She had never had a day’s or an hour’s illness in all her sweet life. She never gave us a moment of anxiety, her life was one flowing stream of mirth and fun and abounding love. The last morning she had said to me a little verse she had learned somewhere—


Every morning the warm sun
Rises fair and bright;
But the evening cometh on,
And the dark, cold night.
There is a bright land far away,
Where tis never-ending day!

The dark, cold night came too soon for us, for it was that same evening, at seven o’clock, that she fell. The last words I had with her were about a pretty caterpillar she had found; she came to my room to beg for a little box to put it in. I gave it her and said, “Now trot away, for I am late for tea.” What would I not give now for five minutes of that sweet presence? The only discipline she ever had was an occasional conflict with her own strong feelings and will. She disliked nothing so much as her little German lessons. Fräulein Blümke had called her one day to have one. She was sitting in a low chair. She grasped the arms of it tightly, and, looking very grave and determined, she replied, “Hush, wait a bit, I am fighting!” She sat silent for a few moments, and then walked quickly and firmly to have her German lesson. Fräulein asked her what she meant by saying she was fighting, and she replied, “I was fighting with myself” (to overcome her unwillingness to go to her books). I overheard Fräulein say to her in the midst of the lesson: “Arbeit, Eva, arbeit!” To which Eva replied with decision, “I am arbeiting, Miss Blümke, as hard as ever I can.”

One evening last autumn, when I went to see her after she was in bed and we were alone, she said:51 “Mammy, if I go to heaven before you, when the door of heaven opens to let you in I will run so fast to meet you; and when you put your arms round me, and we kiss each other, all the angels will stand still to see us.” And she raised herself up in her ardour, her face beaming and her little chest heaving with the excitement of her loving anticipation. I recall her look; not the merry laughing look she generally had, but softened into an overflowing tenderness of the soul. She lay down again, but could not rest, and raising herself once more said, “I would like to pray again” (she had already said her little prayer); and we prayed again, about this meeting in heaven. I never thought for a moment that she would go first. I don’t think I ever had a thought of death in connection with her; she was so full of life and energy. She was always showing her love in active ways. We used to imagine what it would be when she grew up, developing into acts of mercy and kindness. She was passionately devoted to her father, and after hugging him, and heaping endearing names upon him, she would fly off and tax her poor little tender fingers by making him something—a pincushion or kettle-holder. She made him blue, pink, white and striped pincushions and mats, for which he had not much use. But now he treasures up her poor little gifts as more precious than gold. If my head ached, she would bathe it with a sponge for an hour without tiring. Sweet Eva! Well might the Saviour say, “Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” She was so perfectly truthful, candid and pure. It was a wonderful repose for me, a good gift of God, when troubled by the evils in the world or my own thoughts, to turn to the perfect52 innocence and purity of that little maiden. But that joy is gone now for us. I am troubled for my husband. His grief is so deep and silent; but he is very, very patient. He loves children and all young creatures, and his love for her was wonderful. Her face, as she lay in death, wore a look of sweet, calm surprise, as if she said, “Now I see God.” We stood in awe before her. She seemed to rebuke our grief in her rapt and holy sleep. Her hair had grown very long lately, and was of a deep chestnut brown, which in the sun flashed out all golden:—

Hair like a golden halo lying
Upon a pillow white;
Parted lips that mock all sighing,
Good night—good night!
Good night in anguish and in bitter pain;
Good morrow crowns another of the heavenly train.

This sorrow seemed to give in a measure a new direction to our lives and interests. There were some weeks of uncomforted grief. Her flight from earth had had the appearance of a most cruel accident. But do the words “accident” or “chance” properly find a place in the vocabulary of those who have placed themselves, and those dear to them, in a special manner under the daily providential care of a loving God? Here there entered into the heart of our grief the intellectual difficulty, the moral perplexity and dismay which are not the least terrifying of the phantoms which haunt the “Valley of the shadow of Death”—that dark passage through which some toil only to emerge into a hopeless and final denial of the Divine goodness,53 the complete bankruptcy of faith; and others, by the mercy of God, through a still deeper experience, into a yet firmer trust in His unfailing love.

One day, going into his study, I found my husband alone, and looking ill. His hands were cold, he had an unusual paleness in his face, and he seemed faint. I was alarmed. I kneeled beside him, and, shaking myself out of my own stupor of grief, I spoke “comfortably” to him, and forced myself to talk cheerfully, even joyfully, of the happiness of our child, of the unclouded brightness of her brief life on earth, and her escape from the trials and sorrows she might have met with had she lived. He responded readily to the offered comfort, and the effort to strengthen him was helpful to myself. After this I often went to him in the evening after school hours, when, sitting side by side, we spoke of our child in heaven, until our own loss seemed to become somewhat less bitter.

The following is from a brief diary of the close of that sad year—

October 30th.—Last night I slept uneasily. I dreamed I had my darling in my arms, dying; that she struggled to live for my sake, lived again a moment, and then died. Just then I heard a sound, a low voice at my door, and I sprang to my feet. It was poor Stanley (our second son), scarcely awake, and in a fever. I took him in my arms, and carried him back to his bed, from which he had come to seek my help. In the morning he could not swallow, and pointed to his throat. Dr. Ker came and said he had diphtheria. My heart sank. I54 wondered whether God meant to ask us to give up another child so soon.

His illness was very severe, and for some days he hovered between life and death. But we were spared the added sorrow we dreaded. When he was sufficiently recovered, it was thought better that I should go with him abroad, to escape the winter’s cold, and for a change of scene from that house round which clung the memory of such a tragic sorrow. My husband and other sons came to London with us, and a pleasant and able courier was engaged, who accompanied me and my little convalescent to Genoa, where we had been invited by kind relatives living there.

At the end of this visit it was arranged that I should accompany my sister to Naples, when we learned that the railway and roads were flooded, and that travelling by land would be difficult and even dangerous. Being unwilling to give up the long-cherished hope of a visit to my sister’s home, I proposed that we should go by sea. My sister, though fearing a sea voyage for me in winter, assented to the arrangement, and as the weather was then very calm we started with good hopes. I had not, however, realised the gravity of the shock which my health had sustained before leaving England.

On this voyage she was taken very seriously ill, nigh unto death. “I was kneeling,” writes her sister,55 “and rubbing her hands and feet, trying to warm them; and while my imagination was realising all the terrors, my heart was praying desperately to God that He would make a way of escape, that He would work a miracle for us. And He did. The three boys went away and all prayed to God to save her. After a time I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was the captain. He said: ‘I saw the other mail vessel coming north, and I have signalled her. If she sees us you shall go on board and return to Leghorn. Make haste!’ I drew a long breath and said: ‘Thank God, I think we are saved!’ I felt the horror melting away in a measure, and hope springing up. We rolled her up, and I went for the weeping children, and found the kind young Sicilian officer comforting them. I thanked him. He said, in Italian, something about the love of Christ, so kindly. I had said very little about her. People must have been impressed with her look, and thought her dying, to take such extreme measures as to stop the two Government steamers on the high seas.”



In the winter of 1865 my husband received one day a telegraphic message from Mr. Parker, of Liverpool, asking him if he would be willing to take the Principalship of the Liverpool College, vacated by the retirement of Dr. Howson, who became Dean of Chester. He accepted the invitation as providential, and went to Liverpool to see Mr. Parker, the directors of the college, and others interested in the choice of a new principal. There was no hesitation about the matter, and he was shortly afterwards elected. Our removal to Liverpool took place in January, 1866.

Liverpool is one of the largest seaports of the world. No greater contrast could have been found than it presented to the academic, intellectual character of Oxford, or the quiet educational and social conditions at Cheltenham. Its immense population, with a large intermingling of foreign elements, its twelve miles of docks lined with warehouses, its magnificent shipping, its cargoes and foreign sailors from every part of the world and from every nation of the earth, its varieties in the way of creeds and places of worship, its great wealth and its abject poverty, the perpetual movement, the coming and57 going, and the clash of interests in its midst—all these combined to make Liverpool a city of large and international character, and of plentiful opportunities for the exercise of public spirit and catholic sentiment. The college shared the characteristics of the city in the midst of which it was set. Among its eight to nine hundred pupils there were Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Negroes, Americans, French, Germans, and Spaniards, as well as Welsh, Irish, Scotch and English. These represented many different religious persuasions. A man of narrow theological views would scarcely have found the position as head of such a school agreeable. Firmness and simplicity of faith, truth, charity and toleration, were qualities which were needed in the administrator of such a little world of varied international and denominational elements. The principalship must be held, by the rules of the college, by a member of the Church of England, and the directors had been happy in finding churchmen who were willing to accept the conditions presented, and able to work well in the midst of them. There were, as pupils at the college, the sons of two half-civilised African kings, Oko Jumbo and Jah-Jah. Their fathers having been old and sworn enemies, the two little fellows began their school acquaintance with many a tussle true to the inherited instinct. They were good boys, however, and one of them—afterwards a convinced and consistent Christian—became a missionary among his own countrymen, in spite of much opposition and even persecution, it was said, from his own father.

When we came to Liverpool in 1866, and my58 husband and sons began their regular life at the College, going there early and returning in the evening, I was left many hours every day alone, empty-handed and sorrowful, the thought continually returning, “How sweet the presence of my little daughter would have been now.” Most people, who have gone through any such experience, will understand me when I speak of the ebb and flow of sorrow. The wave retires perhaps after the first bitter weeks, and a kind of placid acquiescence follows. It may be only a natural giving way of the power of prolonged resistance of pain. Then there comes sometimes a second wave, which has been silently gathering strength, holding back, so to speak, in order to advance again with all its devouring force, thundering upon the shore. But who can write the rationale of sorrow? And who can explain its mysteries, its apparent inconsistencies and unreasonableness, its weakness and its strength? I suffered much during the first months in our new home. Music, art, reading, all failed as resources to alleviate or to interest. I became possessed with an irresistible desire to go forth and find some pain keener than my own, to meet with people more unhappy than myself (for I knew there were thousands of such). I did not exaggerate my own trial. I only knew that my heart ached night and day, and that the only solace possible would seem to be to find other hearts which ached night and day, and with more reason than mine. I had no clear idea beyond that, no plan for helping others; my sole wish was to plunge into the heart of some human misery, and to say (as I now knew I could)59 to afflicted people, “I understand: I too have suffered.”

It was not difficult to find misery in Liverpool. There was an immense workhouse containing at that time, it was said, five thousand persons—a little town in itself. The general hospital for paupers included in it was blessed then by the angelic presence of Agnes Jones (whose work of beneficence was recorded after her death); but the other departments in the great building were not so well organised as they came to be some years later. There were extensive special wards, where unhappy girls drifted like autumn leaves when the winter approached, many of them to die of consumption, little cared for spiritually; for over this portion of the hospital Agnes Jones was not the presiding genius. There was on the ground floor a Bridewell for women, consisting of huge cellars, bare and unfurnished, with damp stone floors. These were called the “oakum sheds,” and to these came voluntarily creatures driven by hunger, destitution, or vice, begging for a few nights’ shelter and a piece of bread, in return for which they picked their allotted portion of oakum. Others were sent there as prisoners.

I went down to the oakum sheds and begged admission. I was taken into an immense gloomy vault filled with women and girls—more than two hundred probably at that time. I sat on the floor among them and picked oakum. They laughed at me, and told me my fingers were of no use for that work, which was true. But while we laughed we became friends. I proposed that they should learn a few verses to say to me on my next visit. I60 recollect a tall, dark, handsome girl standing up in our midst, among the damp refuse and lumps of tarred rope, and repeating without a mistake and in a not unmusical voice, clear and ringing, that wonderful fourteenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel—the words of Jesus all through, ending with, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” She had selected it herself, and they listened in perfect silence, this audience—wretched, draggled, ignorant, criminal some, and wild and defiant others. The tall, dark-haired girl had prepared the way for me, and I said, “Now let us all kneel, and cry to that same Jesus who spoke those words”; and down on their knees they fell every one of them, reverently, on that damp stone floor, some saying the words after me, others moaning and weeping. It was a strange sound, that united wail—continuous, pitiful, strong—like a great sigh or murmur of vague desire and hope, issuing from the heart of despair, piercing the gloom and murky atmosphere of that vaulted room, and reaching to the heart of God.

But I do not want to make a long story of this. The result of my visits to the hospital and quays and oakum sheds was to draw down upon my head an avalanche of miserable but grateful womanhood. Such a concourse gathered round our home that I had to stop to take breath, and consider some means of escape from the dilemma by providing some practical help, moral and material. There were not at that time many enlightened missions or measures in the town for dealing with the refuse of society. There was the Catholic Refuge of the Good Shepherd, some61 way in the country; an old-fashioned Protestant Penitentiary, rather prison-like in character; another smaller refuge; and, best of all, a Home recently established by Mrs. Cropper. But it must not be supposed that the majority of my oakum shed friends were of a character to seek such asylums. Many of them—and especially the Irish Catholics—prided themselves on their virtue; and well they might, considering their miserable surroundings—girls who for the most part earned a scanty living by selling sand in the streets (for cleaning floors), or the refuse of the markets to the poorest of the population. Usually they were barefooted and bonnetless. The Lancashire women are strong and bold. The criminals of the oakum sheds and prison, sent to “do a week” or a month there, had most frequently been convicted of fighting and brawling on the quays and docks, of theft or drunkenness. There was stuff among them to make a very powerful brigade of workers in any active good cause. But there were others—the children of intemperate and criminal parents—who were, humanly speaking, useless, not quite “all there,” poor, limp, fibreless human weeds. These last were the worst of all to deal with. I had the help at this time of a widowed sister who was visiting Liverpool, and who, in spite of very delicate health, threw herself heroically into the effort to help this work without a name which came upon us. We had a dry cellar in our house and a garret or two, and into these we crowded as many as possible of the most friendless girls who were anxious to make a fresh start. This became inconvenient, and so in time my husband and I ventured to take a house near62 our own, trusting to find funds to furnish and fill it with inmates. This was the “House of Rest,” which continued for many years, and developed, about the time we left Liverpool, into an incurable hospital, supported by the town. It was there that, a little later, women incurably ill were brought from the hospitals or their wretched homes, their beds in hospital being naturally wanted for others.

A few months later, encouraged by the help offered by a certain number of generous Liverpool merchants and other friends, we took a very large and solid house, with some ground round it, to serve as an industrial home for the healthy and active, the barefooted sand girls, and other friendless waifs and strays. We had a good gathering of friends and neighbours at a service which my husband held at the opening of the industrial home. His “dedication prayer” on that occasion was very touching, and full of kindness and heart-yearning towards the poor disinherited beings whom we desired to gather in. This house was very soon filled, and was successfully managed by an excellent matron, a mother. Besides the usual laundry and other work, we were able to set up a little envelope factory in one of the spacious rooms. This work called out some skill and nicety, and interested the girls very much. Several tradesmen and firms bought our envelopes at wholesale prices, and we also supplied some private friends disposed to help us. As chaplain, friend and adviser in these two modest institutions, my husband showed the same fidelity and constancy which he did in every other seriously accepted or self-imposed duty. He often said that it was a rest and63 refreshment to him to visit our poor people in the evening, and more especially on Sunday. In the House of Rest were received “incurables” so-called (of whom not a few recovered). There was a very peaceful atmosphere in that house answering to its name—a spirit of repose, contentment, and even gaiety among the young inmates, scarcely clouded even by the frequent deaths, which came generally as a happy and not unexpected release, and were regarded by the living as a series of fresh bonds between the family in heaven and that on earth.

Drink was the great, the hopeless obstacle which I found among them. It was on this side that they would lapse again and again. Though it involved no change in my own habits, I thought it was best to take the pledge. I joined the Good Templars, who had many lodges in Liverpool.

Shortly before the creation of these two homes, we had a visit from my sister, Madame Meuricoffre. She and her husband, with their dear little girl, Josephine, had come from Naples to England, and had paid a visit to our father in Northumberland. They had, a short time before, lost a beloved child, their little Beatrice, during an outbreak of the cholera in Naples. The surviving little girl seemed to droop after the death of her companion. She (little Josephine) took ill on the way from the north, and before they reached Liverpool this darling of her parents had gone to join her beloved sister in the presence of God. The parents came to us in deep sorrow, bringing with them the earthly remains of their child.

My sister joined me in my visits to the sick,64 criminal, and outcast women of Liverpool. We visited the wards of the great hospital together. The strong sympathy of her loving nature quickly won the hearts of desolate young girls, while she greatly strengthened me in the hope that we might be able to undo some of their heavy burdens.

Among the first who came to us to our own house, to die, was a certain Marion, who seemed to us a kind of first-fruits of the harvest, in the gathering in of which we were to be allowed in after years to participate. The first time I saw her was in a crowded room. Her face attracted me: not beautiful in the common acceptation of the word, but having a power greater than beauty; eyes full of intelligence and penetration; a countenance at once thoughtful and frank, with at times a wildly seeking look, as if her whole being cried out, “Who will show us any good?” She was ill, her lungs fatally attacked. I went up to her, and with no introduction of myself said, “Will you come with me to my home and live with me? I had a daughter once.” She replied with a gasp of astonishment, grasping my hand as if she would never let it go again. I brought her home, my husband supported her upstairs, and we laid her on the couch in the pretty little spare room looking on the garden. She lived with us, an invalid, three months, and then died. It was difficult to suppress the thought, “If she had not been so destroyed, what a brightness and blessing she might have been in the world.” Untaught, unacquainted with the Scriptures till she came to us, she mastered the New Testament so thoroughly in that brief time that her acute65 questions and pregnant remarks were often a subject of wonder to my husband, who spent a portion of almost every evening with her in her room, conversing with and instructing her. Some of the intellectual difficulties which assail thoughtful students occurred to her. I witnessed many a severe struggle in her mind. She would often say, “I will ask Mr. Butler about it this evening.” But her questions were sometimes such as cannot be answered, except by God Himself to the individual soul. This she knew, and through many sleepless nights her murmured prayers were heard by her attendant, “preventing the night watches.” My husband said her remarks concerning the nature of a true faith sometimes strikingly resembled portions of the writings of a well-known modern philosophical thinker, which she had never read, for she had read nothing. I speak of her intellect, but her heart was yet greater. What capacities for noble love, for the deepest friendship, had been trampled under foot in that dear soul.

A well-known divine came to visit us, and hearing of our poor invalid, kindly offered to see and converse with her. My husband and I agreed that we would say nothing to our friend of Marion’s past life, for we thought that, saintly man though he was, he probably had not faith enough to do justice to her and to himself in the interview if he had this knowledge. (There are few men whose faith comes up to that measure.) When he joined us again downstairs his face was radiant, and he spoke, not of any teaching or comfort which he might have conveyed to her, but of the help and privilege66 it was to himself to have held communion during a short half hour with a dying saint, so young, yet so enlightened, and so near to God.

I recall the day of her death. It was a cold, snowy day in March. In the morning my husband went to see her early, before going out to his college work. She could scarcely speak, but looking earnestly at him said, as if to reward him for all his painstaking instructions, and guessing what he wished to know, “Yes, God is with me, sir; I have perfect peace.” Her long death-struggle lasting twelve hours, joined with the peace and even joy of her spirit, was very affecting. Though it was bitterly cold, she whispered, “Open the windows, for the love of God.” Her long black hair, thrust wildly back, was like the hair of a swimmer, dripping with water, so heavy were the death-dews. She became blind, and her fine intelligent eyes wandered ever, with an appealing look, to whatever part of the room she thought I was in. Towards sunset she murmured, “Oh, come quickly, Lord Jesus.” During that long day she continually moved her arms like a swimmer, as if she felt herself sinking in deep waters. Then her poor little head fell forward, a long sigh escaped her parted lips, and at last I laid her down flat on her little bed. My husband and sons returned from college, and we all stood round her for a few minutes. She had become a household friend. She looked sweet and solemn then, her head drooping to one side, and with a worn-out look on the young frail face, but a look, too, of perfect peace.

A few days before her death I telegraphed, at her67 request, to her father, who had had no tidings of his lost child for five years. He was an extensive farmer, well to do and honourable, living in a beautiful district in the midland counties. We were surprised, on his arrival, to see a very fine-looking country gentleman, as one would say, reminding us, in his noble height and figure and dignified presence, a little of my own father. He carried with him a valise and a handsome travelling rug. We took him to her room and retired. Their interview was best witnessed by God alone. After two hours or so I opened the door softly. He was lying on a couch at the opposite side of the room from her in a deep sleep, tired probably more by strong emotion than by his journey. She raised her finger for silence, and with the look and action of a guardian angel whispered, “Father is asleep.”

After her death her poor mother came to attend her funeral. I had filled Marion’s coffin with white camelias, banking them up all round her. With her hands crossed on her breast, and dressed as a bride for her Lord, she looked quite lovely. I found the mother alone, kneeling by the coffin in an agony of grief and of anger. She said (her body rocking backward and forward with emotion), “If that man could but see her now! Can we not send for him?” And she added, “Oh, what a difference there is in English gentlemen’s households! To think that this child should have been ruined in one and saved in another!” Yes, it might have been good for “that man” to have been forced to step down from his high social position and to look upon her then, and to have known the abyss from which she68 had been drawn, to the verge of which he had led her when she was but a child of fifteen.

Marion had “prophesied” to me, before she died, of hard days and a sad heart which were in store for me in contending against the evil to which she had fallen a victim. I recall her words with wonder and comfort. She would say, “When your soul quails at the sight of the evil, which will increase yet awhile, dear Mrs. Butler, think of me and take courage. God has given me to you, that you may never despair of any.”

Snow lay thickly on the ground when we laid her in her grave in the cemetery. When we came back to the house I was trying to say something comforting to the mother, when she stopped me and said, “My heart is changed about it all. The bitter anger won’t come back, I think; and what has taken it all away was the sight of Mr. Butler standing by the grave of my child, and the words he spoke. Oh, madam,” she said, “when I looked at him standing there in the snow, dressed in his linen robe as white as the snow itself, and with that look on his face when he looked up to heaven and thanked God for my daughter now among the blessed, I could hardly refrain from falling on my knees at his feet, for he seemed to me like one of the angels of God! I felt happy then, almost proud, for my child. Oh, madam, I can never tell you what it was to me to look on your husband’s face then! My heart was bursting with gratitude to God and to him.”

There were others about the same time whom we took home, who died in our own house, and were laid in graves side by side in the cemetery. Of one I69 have a clear remembrance, a girl of seventeen only, of some natural force of character. Her death was a prolonged hard battle with pain and with bitter memories, lightened by momentary flashes of faint hope. She struggled hard. We were called to her bedside suddenly one evening. She was dying, but with a strong effort she had raised herself to a sitting position. She drew us near to her by the appeal of her earnest eyes, and raising her right hand high with a strangely solemn gesture, and with a look full of heroic and desperate resolve, she said, “I will fight for my soul through hosts, and hosts, and hosts!” Her eyes, which seemed to be now looking far off, athwart the hosts of which she spoke, became dim, and she spoke no more. “Poor brave child!” I cried to her, “you will find on the other shore One waiting for you who has fought through all those hosts for you, who will not treat you as man has treated you.” I cannot explain what she meant. I have never been quite able to understand it; but her words dwelt with us—“through hosts, and hosts, and hosts!” She had been trampled under the feet of men as the mire in the streets, had been hustled about from prison to the streets, and from the streets to prison, an orphan, unregarded by any but the vigilant police. From the first day she came to us we noticed in her, notwithstanding, an admirable self-respect, mixed with the full realisation of her misery. And that sense of the dignity and worth of the true self in her—the immortal, inalienable self—found expression in that indomitable resolution of the dying girl:70 “I will fight for my soul through hosts, and hosts, and hosts!”

In the following winter my father died. On the 23rd of January, 1868, we were summoned by a telegraphic message from my sister, Mrs. Smyttan, who had lived with him during the last years of his life. But none of us saw him alive again. The end had been sudden, but very tranquil. His health was excellent to the last. On the morning of January 23rd, as he was passing from his bedroom to his study, he sat down, feeling faint, and raising his forefinger as if to enjoin silence, or intent upon a voice calling him away, he died without a struggle, and apparently without pain, in the eighty-third year of his age.

The family group which was gathered in that house of mourning was incomplete, for many were far away. One of the sisters wrote to the absent ones:

“Two days after our dear father’s death there was such a storm of wind for twenty-four hours as I scarcely remember. The house shook and heaved, and the sky was as dark as if there were an eclipse. The river roared and the windows rattled. We all cowered over the fire, and talked of him and of old days, trying to free ourselves from the sad, restless impression produced by the storm. We heard a crash, and on going upstairs found the window of the room where he lay blown in, the glass shivered about the floor, and the white sheet which had been thrown over the kingly corpse blown rudely away. There was something so irreverent about it, pitiful and weird-like; but he was not disturbed by it—he was beyond all storms, in an infinite and everlasting calm. He looked so grand, and lay in such a majestic peace. His forehead, so high and broad and smooth,71 his soft grey hair smoothed back. I was much struck by the powerful look of his square jaw, and the union of tenderness and strength in the whole outline of his head and face. I felt almost triumphant about him; and yet how sorrowful such moments are, even when one can look back with thankfulness. The sorrow is not for one’s own loss only; the presence of death in one so dear brings one for a moment into close relation with all the sorrows of earth. When Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus it was not for Lazarus and his sisters only. He saw then and felt all the bereavements which would bow down the hearts of men to the end of time.”

The company of voluntary followers to the grave was a very large one, all on foot. Around the tomb, where he was laid by the side of our dear mother, there stood a large and silent gathering of children and grandchildren, friends, servants, tenants and others. As we passed along the vale of Tyne on our way back to Lipwood we were much impressed by the outward results—in the high cultivation and look of happy prosperity of the country—of a long life usefully spent. And this feeling was shared by all the dwellers there, who, equally with ourselves, could mark in all around them the impress of his mind and hand. But only those who had had the happiness of his friendship and confidence could know, with his children, how much of strength and sweetness seemed to be gone away from earth when that great heart had ceased to beat.

One of the most prominent characteristics of our family life during all these years at Liverpool was72 that of our common enjoyment of our summer tours. There were circumstances which made our annual excursions more than the ordinary tours of some holiday-makers. In the first place, many of my own relatives were settled in different parts of the Continent, thus giving us a personal connection with those places. In order to pay a visit to the homes of some of them it was necessary to cross the Alps, while other near relatives lived in France and Switzerland.

It sometimes happens that the ordinary English traveller knows little of the general life of the people among whom he travels, of the history of the country, its politics, its social condition and prospects. He is content to gather to himself enjoyment from the beauties of Switzerland or the Tyrol, or Italy, while knowing little of the dwellers in those beautiful lands. A wider and a richer field is open to those who care to seek and explore it. My husband was not content without making himself acquainted, to a considerable extent, with the contemporary history of the countries through which we passed. His aptitude for languages aided him in intercourse with people of different nationalities; so that our family relationships abroad, and our friendships with many public men, as well as humble dwellers in continental countries, gave to our visits there a varied interest. These vacation tours were to us like sunlit mountain tops rising from the cloud-covered plain of our laborious life at Liverpool. Moreover, the enthusiasm which he had, and which was shared by his sons, for geographical and geological research, together with our modest artistic efforts, added greatly to the interest of our travels. It was felt to be73 unsatisfactory to attempt to draw mountains and rocks without knowing something of their geological construction. During a visit which Mr. Ruskin paid us at Liverpool, he was turning over a portfolio of drawings done by my husband, and held in his hands for some time two or three sketches of the Aiguilles towering above the Mer de Glace, and other rocks and mountain buttresses in the neighbourhood of Chamounix. He said it gave him pleasure to look at those (he being a keen observer and student of mountain forms everywhere). “Your outlines of these peaks, Mr. Butler,” he said, “are perfectly true: they are portraits. Very few people are able or care to represent the forms so correctly. For the most part artists are more anxious to produce an effective picture, than to give precisely what they see in nature.”

Our sons inherited their father’s out-door tastes. Our summer tours were therefore a source of the keenest enjoyment to us all. We saved up our money for them, worked towards them, and looked forward to them as a real happiness.

Signed portrait of George Butler



Among the subjects concerning which my husband advanced with a quicker and firmer step than that of the society around him in general, stands that of the higher education of women. It may be difficult for the present generation to realise what an amount of dogged opposition and prejudice the pioneers of this movement had to encounter only some twenty-five years ago. We have made such rapid strides in the direction of women’s education, that we almost forget that our ladies’ colleges, higher examinations, and the various honours for which women compete so gallantly with men, are but of yesterday. Miss Clough called at our house in Liverpool one day in 1867, to ascertain the state of mind of the Principal of the Liverpool College in regard to the beautiful schemes, which were even then taking shape in her fruitful brain for the benefit of her fellow-women. I think she was heartily glad to find herself in a house where not a shadow of prejudice or doubt existed, to be argued down or patiently borne with until better days. My husband even went a little further, I believe, than she did at that time, in his hopes concerning the equality to be granted in future in the matter of educational75 advantages for boys and girls, men and women. An active propagandist work was started soon after by James Stuart, of Trinity College, Cambridge, who made Liverpool his head-quarters during his first experiment in establishing lectures for ladies, which developed into the University Extension Scheme. It was arranged that the first course should embrace four of the most important towns of the North of England, constituting a sort of circuit. It seemed desirable that a man of experience and weight in the educational world should inaugurate this experiment by a preliminary address or lecture, given to mixed audiences, in each of these four towns. My husband undertook this task. His first address was given at Sheffield, where he was the guest of Canon Sale, who approved heartily of the movement. Without unnecessarily conjuring up spectres of opposition in order to dismiss them, he carefully framed his discourse so as to meet the prejudices of which the air, at that time, was full. It was generally imagined that a severer intellectual training than women had hitherto received would make them unwomanly, hard, unlovely, pedantic, and disinclined for domestic duties, while the dangers to physical health were dolorously prophesied by medical men and others. In concluding his inaugural address, my husband said:76 “A community of women, established purposely to educate girls and to train teachers, was not known in Christendom till the institution of the Ursulines by Angela dà Brescia, in 1537. So unheard of at this time was any attempt of women to organise a systematic education for their own sex, that when Françoise de Saintange undertook to found such a school at Dijon she was hooted in the streets, and her father called together four doctors learned in the laws, ‘pour s’assurer qu’instruire des femmes n’était pas un œuvre du démon.’ Even after he had given his consent, he was afraid to countenance his daughter, and Françoise, unprotected and unaided, began her first school in a garret. Twelve years afterwards she was carried in triumph through the streets, with bells ringing and flowers strewed in her path, because she had succeeded. Her work lived and grew because it was right. So take courage, ladies, struggling now at this day for the right to cultivate to their full extent the faculties and gifts which God has bestowed upon you. You must fight your own battles still. At all times reforms in the social position of women have been brought about by efforts of their own, for their own sex, supplemented by men, but always coming in the first instance from themselves.”

The visit of Miss Clough to the Butlers, already referred to, led to the formation at the end of 1867 of the North of England Council for promoting the Higher Education for Women, a body representing associations of school-mistresses in several large northern towns. Josephine Butler was President of this council from 1867 to 1873, and Miss Clough was Secretary for the three first strenuous years of its existence. The first work of the Council was to organise lectures for women, which had already been begun by Mr. Stuart, to whose genius the inception of the University Extension Movement was due. Mr. Stuart’s first course on astronomy was given, in the autumn of 1867, in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds77 and Sheffield, and was attended altogether by five hundred and fifty women. These lectures were followed by other similar courses organised by the Council, and the idea rapidly spread. In 1868 Mr. Stuart gave his first lectures to working-men at Crewe. These two independent tributaries, lectures to women and lectures to working-men, combined into one stream, which grew into the University Extension system first adopted by the University of Cambridge in 1873. The North of England Council was one of the bodies which memorialised the University, at the end of 1871, in favour of the lecture system being taken up and put on a permanent basis by the University. Their memorial urged the proposal not only on behalf of women, but also on behalf of working-men, who had alike shown their desire for higher education by attending in large numbers the lectures already given.

The Council also interested itself in the question of examinations for women, and in 1868 presented the following memorial to the University of Cambridge, signed by five hundred and fifty teachers, and three hundred other ladies:


“We, the undersigned, being either connected with or engaged in the education of girls, desire to bring under your consideration the great want which is felt by women of the upper and middle classes, particularly by those engaged in teaching, of higher examinations, suitable to their own needs. The Local Examinations, to which by a Grace of the Senate, passed April, 1865, girls under eighteen have now for three years been admitted, have proved of the greatest advantage in stimulating and steadying the work in Girls’ Schools. Students above eighteen are not, however, admissible to these examinations, nor are they of a sufficiently advanced character to meet the wants of such students, especially of those who have adopted, or wish to adopt, teaching as a profession. We therefore beg that, taking into consideration the grave necessities of the case, you will be pleased, either by extending the powers of the Syndicate for conducting the Local Examinations, or in some other way to make provisions for such examinations as shall adequately test and attest the higher education of women.”

Josephine Butler by her personal efforts obtained many of the signatures to this memorial, and herself went to Cambridge in support of it. Miss Clough wrote of this expedition that “the charm Mrs. Butler put into all the details she gave, showing the desire of women for help in educating themselves, made the subject, which might have been considered tedious, both interesting and attractive, and thus drew to the cause many friends.”2

To friends in the North.

June, 1868.

One of our friends at Cambridge amused himself with counting up the number of gentlemen who talked privately and kindly to me about it—there were forty-eight. So you see there is a great deal of sympathy there. It is not so easy for me to tell you what I felt, as what actually happened. I felt the reality of the good that must come from this movement. It would have pleased you, I feel sure, as it pleased me, to see the grave and kindly tone of these dons. I was talking to one elderly Professor with grey hair and a somewhat stiff expression, and I happened to speak of the struggle which the lives of many women of the middle classes is, and of the gratitude we felt when men of weight and real goodness came forward to help us, and this elderly don was deeply moved. The tears came into his79 eyes, and he could scarcely answer me. He said: “I fear we get selfish here, and forget how much there is of work and sorrow in the world outside of us.” Professor Maurice came to my room one day and talked a long time to me. He said at leaving: “If there is anything else which you and your friends think Cambridge could do to be of use, I trust you will suggest it; it does us more good than it does to anyone else.” I trust that a time is coming when barriers between men and women and one class and another may give way before the influence of true Christian charity, and a desire to help and be helped.

The memorial met with a ready response from the University by the establishment in the following year of the Examinations for Women, which a few years later were called the Higher Local Examinations, and were open to men as well as women.

“These two things—the organisation in the northern towns of lectures given, by University men, which led to University Extension, and the establishment of an examination for women which led to the Cambridge lectures, and so to Newnham College—were the Council’s most striking achievements; but it had a hand in various other important educational enterprises.”3

For instance the Council worked hard, and with some success, in endeavouring to induce the Endowed Schools Commissioners to secure that some part of the endowments of Public Schools should be devoted to the education of girls.80 “Mrs. Butler made an able as well as a zealous President of the Council, and while she herself took an active part in almost everything that was undertaken, she also did good service in kindling the enthusiasm of others by her eloquence and enthusiasm.”4 Although she retired from the Presidency in 1873 on the ground of ill-health, she attended its last meetings at York in 1874, when she read a paper on Economic Science as a part of the Education of Girls. In that year the Council was dissolved, having finished its pioneer work, and feeling that the movement could henceforth be carried on by other organisations, which had by that time come into existence.

In 1868 Josephine Butler published her first pamphlet, The Education and Employment of Women. Starting with the census figures of 1861, she meets the old argument that woman’s sphere is the home, and only the home, by pointing out that the proportion of wives to widows and spinsters over twenty was only about three to two (in 1901 the proportion was even less), and that over three million women were earning or partly earning their living. This number had risen in 1901 to over four millions. She refers to the miserable wages received by women workers, from the teaching profession downwards, due in part to the comparatively low state of education among girls, and in part to the restrictions upon their employment in various directions, both causes being ultimately traceable to the fact that “they are unrepresented, and the interests of the unrepresented always tend to be overlooked.” Hence she pleads for the higher education of women and the removal of all legal and other restrictions upon their employment. She incidentally urges the mixed education of boys and girls. As against the argument that the more extended employment of women would injure men, she prophesies, in the words of F. D. Maurice,81 “Whenever in trade or in any department of human activity restrictions tending to the advantage of one class and the injury of others have been removed, there a divine power has been at work counteracting not only the selfish calculations, but often the apparently sagacious reasonings of their defenders.” Surely this prophecy has been fulfilled, as it appears from the Report of the Poor Law Commission recently issued, that, taking a wide outlook of the whole industrial situation, there has been no tendency in the past twenty years for women workers to displace men. (Pp. 322-5.)

In 1869 Josephine Butler edited and wrote an introduction to a volume of essays on Woman’s Work and Woman’s Culture. The essays were by Frances Power Cobbe, Jessie Boucherett, George Butler, Sophia Jex-Blake, James Stuart, Charles H. Pearson, Herbert N. Mozley, Julia Wedgwood, Elizabeth C. Wolstenholme, and John Boyd-Kinnear. In her introductory essay she lays stress on the fact that any disabilities, from which women suffer, cause injury and loss to men, no less than to women themselves. She admits that woman’s sphere is home, but she wishes the home idea to be realised in wider spheres than within the four walls of a single household. She pleads that to grant the demands of women for higher education, and for unrestricted liberty to engage in any employment, will tend to the restoration of true home ideals; first through the restored dignity of women, and secondly through the opening out and diffusion of the home influence and character into the solution of social problems, by the relegation to women of some of the more important work of dealing with our vast populations. This she illustrates in the following passage.

In the present pretty general realisation of the futility, if not the positive harm, of many forms of private philanthropy, and the often-repeated deprecation of meddling individuals, who pauperise the community by their old-fashioned, lady-bountiful way of dispensing alms and patronage, we do not82 perhaps quite foresee the reaction which is setting in, with a tendency so strong in the opposite direction that it brings us into the danger of once more missing the philosophy of the whole matter. The tendency at present is to centralisation of rule, to vast combinations, large institutions, and uniformity of system. I have a doubt about any wholesale manipulation of the poor, the criminal, scholars in schools, etc. I believe it to be so far from being founded on a philosophical view of human nature and of society, that if carried to extremes the last state of our poor will be worse than the first. For the correction of the extreme tendencies of this reaction, I believe that nothing whatever will avail but the large infusion of home elements into workhouses, hospitals, schools, orphanages, lunatic asylums, reformatories, and even prisons; and in order to attain this there must be a setting free of feminine powers and influence from the constraint of bad education, and narrow aims, and listless homes where they are at present too often a superfluity. We have had experience of what we may call the feminine form of philanthropy, the independent individual ministering, of too mediæval a type to suit the present day. It has failed. We are now about to try the masculine form of philanthropy—large and comprehensive measures, organisations and systems, planned by men and sanctioned by Parliament. This also will fail if it so far prevail as to extinguish the truth to which the other method witnessed in spite of its excesses. Why should we not try at last a union of principles which are equally true? “It is not good for man to be alone” was a very early83 announcement in the history of the world. Neither is it good for man to work alone in any matter whatsoever which concerns the welfare of the great human family; and the larger the work be which he undertakes, unassisted by her whom God gave to him for a helpmate, the more signal will be the failure in the end.

We quote another passage from this essay to show how here, as always, she founded herself on the appeal to Christ as the highest authority in matters of principle and of action.

The author of Ecce Homo has set the example to those to whom it did not occur to do so for themselves, of venturing straight into the presence of Christ for an answer to every question, and of silencing the voice of all theologians from St. Paul to this day, until we have heard what the Master says. It may be that God will give grace to some woman in the time to come to discern more clearly, and to reveal to others, some truth which theologians have hitherto failed to see in its fulness; for from the intimacy into which our Divine Master admitted women with Himself it would seem that His communications of the deepest nature were not confined to male recipients; and what took place during His life on earth may, through His Holy Spirit, be continued now. It is instructive to recall the fact that the most stupendous announcement ever made to the world, the announcement of an event concerning which the whole world is divided to this day, and which more than all others is bound up with our hopes of immortality, the resurrection of Christ,84 was first made to women. Nor can we wonder, looking back over the ages since then, and seeing how any truths asserted by women, not at once palpable to the outward sense or provable by logic, have been accounted as idle tales, that of the first apostles it should have been said, “The words of the women seemed unto them as idle tales,” when they declared that Christ was risen. Among the great typical acts of Christ, which were evidently and intentionally for the announcement of a principle for the guidance of society, none were more markedly so than His acts towards women; and I appeal to the open Book, and to the intelligence of every candid student of Gospel history, for the justification of my assertion that in all important instances of His dealings with women His dismissal of each case was accompanied by a distinct act of Liberation. In one case He emancipated a woman from legal thraldom. His act no doubt appeared to those who witnessed it as that of a dangerous leveller, for while He granted to the woman a completeness of freedom from the tyranny of law which must have electrified the bystanders, He imposed upon the men present, and upon all men by implication, the higher obligation which they had made a miserable attempt to enforce upon one half of society only, and the breach of which their cruel laws visited with terrible severity on women alone. They all went out convicted by conscience, while the woman alone remained free; but, be it observed, free in a double sense—free alike from the inward moral slavery, and from the harsh, humanly-imposed judgment. The emancipation granted to another in the matter of hereditary85 disabilities was signal. In a moment He struck off chains which had been riveted by the traditions of centuries, and raised her from the position, accepted even by herself, of a “Gentile dog” to one higher than the highest of the commonwealth of Israel. In another case His “Go in peace,” and words of tender and respectful commendation to one who had been exiled from society, contrasted solemnly with His rebuke to His self-satisfied host, who, while firmly holding his place among the honoured of this world, marvelled that Christ should not seem to be aware what manner of woman it was who touched Him. To another, before ever she had spoken a word, He cried, “Woman, thou art loosed!” and to objectors He replied, “Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound lo these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” The tyrannies and infirmities from which He freed these persons severally were various and manifold, and this does but increase the significance of His whole proceeding towards them. Search throughout the Gospel history, and observe His conduct in regard to women, and it will be found that the word liberation expresses, above all others, the act which changed the whole life and character and position of the women dealt with, and which ought to have changed the character of men’s treatment of women from that time forward.

While in His example of submission to parents, of filial duty and affection, in His inculcation of the sacredness of marriage, and of the duty of obedience to laws which ought to be obeyed, His86 righteousness far exceeded the righteousness of the Pharisees of His own or of the present day, it seems to me impossible for anyone candidly to study Christ’s whole life and words without seeing that the principle of the perfect equality of all human beings was announced by Him as the basis of social philosophy. To some extent this has been practically acknowledged in the relations of men to men; only in one case has it been consistently ignored, and that is in the case of that half of the human race in regard to which His doctrine of equality was more markedly enforced than in any other. It is no wonder that there should be some women whose love for this Saviour exceeds the love which it is possible for any man to feel for Him, and that, retiring from the encounter with prejudices which are apt to lurk even in the minds of the most just and most generous of men, they should be driven to cast themselves in a great solitude of heart before Him, for He only is just, He only is holy, He only is infinitely tender.

In the same year, 1869, Josephine Butler published the Memoir of John Grey of Dilston, a most interesting biography of a good man, who faithfully served his native county throughout his life, and took a keen interest in all the stirring political events of the first half of the last century. An Italian translation of this Memoir was published in Florence two years later.



We now come to the period when Josephine Butler began the great work of her life, the crusade against the State regulation of vice. This system had its rise in France, being brought into operation in Paris by Napoleon on the eve of the establishment of the French Empire in 1802. Other continental countries followed the example of France, and several attempts were made to introduce the system into England, but without success until 1864, when a temporary Act was passed “for the prevention of contagious diseases at certain naval and military stations.” This Act was renewed in 1866, and was further extended (to eighteen towns) in 1869. In other countries the system was “suffered to crouch away in the mysterious recesses of irresponsible police regulations.” England was the only country which had “had the courage or the audacity to launch the system in all its essential details in the form a public statute.”5 This, which at first seemed a triumph for regulationists, proved the very reverse, since the publicity thus given to the matter was the starting-point of a fierce opposition begun in England, and afterwards spreading to the Continent, until it undermined the very foundations of the system. It is not indeed yet destroyed in continental countries, for it is hard to pull down structures which have stood firm for a century, but it is everywhere discredited;88 and this has come about chiefly through the heroic labours of Josephine Butler and her fellow-workers. In one of her early speeches she tells of her first call to this work.

I first became acquainted with this system as it existed in Paris. I was one of those persons—they were few, I believe—who read that very brief debate in the House of Commons in 1866, when Mr. Henley and Mr. Ayrton alone, but clearly and boldly, entered their protest. It was in that year that the knowledge first broke upon me that this system, which I had so long regarded with horror, had actually found a footing in our England. It seemed to me as if a dark cloud were hanging on the horizon, threatening our land. The depression which took possession of my mind was overwhelming. A few days ago I found a record of those days in an old manuscript book long laid aside. In turning over its leaves I found a note of that debate in the House, the date, and a written expression, which I had since forgotten, of a presentiment which at that time filled my mind, that in some way or other I should be called to meet this evil thing face to face—a trembling presentiment, which I could not escape from, that, do what I would, I myself must enter into this cloud. I find there recorded also a brief prayer, beseeching that if I must descend into darkness, that divine hand, whose touch is health and strength, would hold mine fast in the darkness. I can recollect going out into the garden, hoping that the sight of the flowers and blue sky might banish the mental pain; but it clung too fast for a time for any outward impression to remove it, and89 I envied the sparrows upon the garden walk because they had not minds and souls capable of torment like mine. But now, when I look back, I see that the prayer has been heard, the divine hand has held mine, often when I knew it not. And, friends, God can give more than power to bear the pain; there is a positive joy in His service, and in any warfare in which He, who conquered sin and death and hell, goes before us, and is our re reward.

Before the Act of 1869 was passed, Daniel Cooper, Secretary of the Rescue Society, aided by a few friends, took active steps to protest against these laws; but, as he afterwards wrote, he “felt an almost utter despair in seeing that, after putting forth our pamphlet and writing thousands of letters imploring our legislators, clergy, principal public men and philanthropists to look into the question, such a stoical indifference remained. We felt, on hearing of your Association, that Providence had well chosen the means for the defeat of these wicked Acts. The ladies of England will save the country from this fearful curse, for I fully believe that through them it has even now had its death-blow.” Dr. Worth and Dr. Bell Taylor of Nottingham also raised their voice against the system early in 1869, and they, with the Rev. Dr. Hooppell and Francis Newman, took part in the first public demonstration against the Act, on the occasion of the Social Science Congress meeting at Bristol in October, 1869, when the National Anti-Contagious Diseases Acts Association was formed.

The appeal to take up this cause reached me first from a group of medical men, who (all honour to them) had for some time been making strenuous efforts to prevent the introduction in our land of the principle of regulation by the State of the social90 evil. The experience gained during their efforts had convinced them that in order to be successful they must summon to their aid forces far beyond the arguments, strong as these were, based on physiological, scientific grounds. They recognised that the persons most insulted by the Napoleonic system with which our legislators of that day had become enamoured, being women, these women must find representatives of their own sex to protest against and to claim a practical repentance from the Parliament and Government which had flung this insult in their face.

It was on landing at Dover from our delightful summer tour in 1869, that we first learned that a small clique in Parliament had been too successfully busy over this work of darkness during the hot August days, or rather nights, in a thin House, in which most of those present were but vaguely cognisant of the meaning and purpose of the proposed constitutional change.

During the three months which followed the receipt of this communication I was very unhappy. I can only give a very imperfect impression of the sufferings of that time. The toils and conflicts of the years that followed were light in comparison with the anguish of that first plunge into the full realisation of the villainy there is in the world, and the dread of being called to oppose it. Like Jonah, when he was charged by God with a commission which he could not endure to contemplate, “I fled from the face of the Lord.” I worked hard at other things—good works, as I thought—with a kind of half-conscious hope that God would accept that91 work, and not require me to go further, and run my heart against the naked sword which seemed to be held out. But the hand of the Lord was upon me: night and day the pressure increased. From an old manuscript book in which I sometimes wrote I quote the following:—

September, 1869.—“Now is your hour, and the power of darkness.” O Christ, if Thy Spirit fainted in that hour, how can mine sustain it? It is now many weeks since I knew that Parliament had sanctioned this great wickedness, and I have not yet put on my armour, nor am I yet ready. Nothing so wears me out, body and soul, as anger, fruitless anger; and this thing fills me with such an anger, and even hatred, that I fear to face it. The thought of this atrocity kills charity and hinders my prayers. But there is surely a way of being angry without sin. I pray Thee, O God, to give me a deep, well-governed, and lifelong hatred of all such injustice, tyranny and cruelty; and at the same time give me that divine compassion which is willing to live and suffer long for love to souls, or to fling itself into the breach and die at once. This is perhaps after all the very work, the very mission, I longed for years ago, and saw coming, afar off, like a bright star. But seen near, as it approaches, it is so dreadful, so difficult, so disgusting, that I tremble to look at it; and it is hard to see and know whether or not God is indeed calling me concerning it. If doubt were gone, and I felt sure He means me to rise in revolt and rebellion (for that it must be) against men, even against our rulers, then I would do it with zeal, however repulsive to others may seem the task.


Appeals continued to pour in. I read all that was sent to me, and I vividly recalled all that I had learned before of this fatal system and its corrupting influence in continental cities—the madness and despair into which it drives the most despised of society, who are yet God’s redeemed ones, and the blindness and hardness of heart which it begets in all who approach it in its practical administration, or in any way except in the way of uncompromising hostility. And the call seemed to come ever more clearly.

So far I had endured in silence, I could not bear the thought of making my dear companion a sharer of the pain; yet I saw that we must needs be united in this as in everything else. I had tried to arrange to suffer alone, but I could not act alone, if God should indeed call me to action. It seemed to me cruel to have to tell him of the call, and to say to him that I must try and stand in the breach. My heart was shaken by the foreshadowing of what I knew he would suffer. I went to him one evening when he was alone, all the household having retired to rest. I recollect the painful thoughts that seemed to throng that passage from my room to his study. I hesitated, and leaned my cheek against his closed door; and as I leaned I prayed. Then I went in, and gave him something I had written, and left him. I did not see him till the next day. He looked pale and troubled, and for some days was silent. But by and by we spoke together about it freely, and (I do not clearly recollect how or when) we agreed together that we must move in the matter, and that an appeal must be made to the people. (Already93 many members of both Houses of Parliament, bishops and responsible officials had been appealed to, but so far in vain.) I spoke to my husband then of all that had passed in my mind, and said, “I feel as if I must go out into the streets and cry aloud, or my heart will break.” And that good and noble man, foreseeing what it meant for me and for himself, spoke not one word to suggest difficulty or danger or impropriety in any action which I might be called to take. He did not pause to ask, “What will the world say?” or “Is this suitable work for a woman?” He had pondered the matter, and looking straight, as was his wont, he saw only a great wrong, and a deep desire to redress that wrong—a duty to be fulfilled in fidelity to that impulse, and in the cause of the victims of the wrong; and above all he saw God, who is of “purer eyes than to behold iniquity,” and whose call (whatever it be) it is man’s highest honour to obey; and his whole attitude in response to my words cited above expressed, “Go! and God be with you.”

I went forth, but not exactly into the streets, to cry aloud. I took the train to the nearest large station—Crewe—where there is a great manufactory of locomotives and a mass of workmen. I scarcely knew what I should say, and knew not at all what I should meet with. A friend acquainted with the workmen led me after work hours to their popular hall, and when I had delivered my message, a small group of leaders among the men bade me thrice welcome in the name of all there. They surprised me by saying,94 “We understand you perfectly. We in this group served an apprenticeship in Paris, and we have seen and know for ourselves the truth of what you say. We have said to each other that it would be the death-knell of the moral life of England were she to copy France in this matter.”

From Crewe I went to Leeds, York, Sunderland and Newcastle-on-Tyne, and then returned home. The response to our appeal from the working-classes, and from the humbler middle class in the northern and midland counties and in Scotland, exceeded our utmost expectations. In less than three weeks after this first little propagandist effort, the working-men of Yorkshire, recognised leaders in political and social movements, had organised mass meetings, and agreed on a programme of action, to express the adhesion of the working-classes of the north to the cause advocated.

Meanwhile the Ladies’ National Association for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts had been formed towards the end of 1869, and on the last day of that year their solemn protest appeared in the Daily News. This protest is here given in full, because from it can be sufficiently gathered the nature and scope of the Contagious Diseases Acts, and also because it sums up the objections which were then and have ever since been raised by those who have strenuously opposed the regulation of vice involved in those Acts, and in the similar systems in operation in other countries; objections based upon the two fundamental principles of an equal moral standard for men and women, and of the equal treatment of men and women by the law of the land.

“We, the undersigned, enter our solemn protest against these Acts. (1) Because, involving as they do such a momentous change in the legal safeguards hitherto enjoyed by women in common with men,95 they have been passed not only without the knowledge of the country, but unknown in a great measure to Parliament itself; and we hold that neither the Representatives of the People nor the Press fulfil the duties which are expected of them, when they allow such legislation to take place without the fullest discussion. (2) Because, so far as women are concerned, they remove every guarantee of personal security which the law has established and held sacred, and put their reputation, their freedom, and their persons absolutely in the power of the police. (3) Because the law is bound, in any country professing to give civil liberty to its subjects, to define clearly an offence which it punishes. (4) Because it is unjust to punish the sex who are the victims of a vice, and leave unpunished the sex who are the main cause both of the vice and its dreaded consequences; and we consider that liability to arrest, forced medical treatment, and (where this is resisted) imprisonment with hard labour, to which these Acts subject women, are punishments of the most degrading kind. (5) Because by such a system the path of evil is made more easy to our sons, and to the whole of the youth of England, inasmuch as a moral restraint is withdrawn the moment the State recognises, and provides convenience for, the practice of a vice which it thereby declares to be necessary and venial. (6) Because these measures are cruel to the women who come under their action—violating the feelings of those whose sense of shame is not wholly lost, and further brutalising even the most abandoned. (7) Because the disease which these Acts seek to remove has never been removed by any such legislation. The advocates of the system have utterly failed to show, by statistics or otherwise, that these regulations have in any case, after several years’ trial, and when applied to one sex only, diminished disease, reclaimed the fallen, or improved the general morality of the country. We have on the contrary the strongest96 evidence to show that in Paris and other continental cities, where women have long been outraged by this system, the public health and morals are worse than at home. (8) Because the conditions of this disease in the first instance are moral not physical. The moral evil, through which the disease makes its way, separates the case entirely from that of the plague, or rather scourges, which have been placed under police control or sanitary care. We hold that we are bound, before rushing into experiments of legalising a revolting vice, to try to deal with the causes of the evil, and we dare to believe, that with wiser teaching and more capable legislation, those causes would not be beyond control.”

Over one hundred and twenty names were attached to the Protest when it first appeared, but the number very soon reached two thousand, including those of Josephine Butler, Harriet Martineau, Florence Nightingale, Mary Carpenter, Mary Priestman, Agnes McLaren, Ursula Bright, Margaret Lucas, all the most prominent women in the Society of Friends, and many others well known in the literary and philanthropic world. A friendly Member of Parliament wrote:“Your manifesto has shaken us very badly in the House of Commons; a leading man in the House remarked to me, ‘We know how to manage any other opposition in the House or in the country, but this is very awkward for us—this revolt of the women. It is quite a new thing; what are we to do with such an opposition as this?’”

Since some have supposed that the opponents of the Acts objected to any measures for the diminution of the special diseases in question—because forsooth! that would involve an interference with God’s method of punishing sin—it may be well to point out that Josephine Butler took a very different line in her first pamphlet on the subject, An Appeal to the People of England, by “an English Mother,” published early in 1870. In this she first goes over the whole97 ground of objections to the arbitrary and compulsory character of the Acts in a masterly and moving argument; and then proceeds to plead earnestly for a better and humaner way of dealing with the matter, and in the forefront of her proposals she places the provision of the most ample free hospital accommodation, worked on an absolutely voluntary basis, and as far as possible by woman doctors; and she argues from experience that this would be more likely, than any compulsory system, to lead to a decrease of disease, while at the same time affording more hope of moral influences prevailing, and leading to reformed lives, as well as cured bodies.



Among our first and best helpers in our own town was my cousin, Charles Birrell, a Baptist minister, who had a church in Liverpool. There existed a strong friendship between him and my husband. Mr. Birrell was a gifted man, of a dignified presence, and a beautiful countenance; he was refined and cultivated, and was eloquent in speech. He was elected in 1871 to be President of the Baptist Union, in which he pleaded our cause. He had been ill, but came to our meeting at Liverpool. Early in 1870 I find in my book of scanty records—written at the time for my own use alone—the following:—

Thank God, all doubt is gone! I can never forget Charles Birrell’s prophetic words at our meeting yesterday concerning the future of this work. He rose from his sick bed to speak them, and stood there, a witness for God, pale and ill, but with a holy joy in his whole countenance, seeing God rather than the people around him, and sending us forth to our work with confidence. Then my husband’s benediction! The words of those two—their prayers, their counsels—must never be forgotten. God sent them to us to dispel all lingering doubts or hesitation—kind, pure-hearted, unworldly men, messengers of hope and assurance! And now it is revolt and99 rebellion, a consecrated rebellion against those in authority who have established this “accursed thing” among us. We are rebels for God’s holy laws. “What have I to do with peace” any more? It is now war to the knife. In a battle of flesh and blood mercy may intervene and life may be spared; but principles know not the name of mercy. In the broad light of day, and under a thousand eyes, we now take up our position. We declare on whose side we fight; we make no compromise; and we are ready to meet all the powers of earth and hell combined.

She addressed many meetings this year besides those mentioned in the last chapter, travelling for the purpose over 3700 miles before the middle of June; and when the North of England Council held its meetings in that month she expressed a wish to resign the Presidency of that body, in order to reserve her strength and energies for her new work (her resignation however did not take effect, as stated on a previous page, until three years later). Her wish to resign is explained in the following speech.

I proposed at our meeting yesterday to resign the office of President of this Council, as soon as it may be convenient to the Council to allow me to do so. It is not because I am not deeply interested in the cause which this Council represents. I may say I am more deeply interested in it than ever, for I see in the education of women one of the most ready and necessary means of freeing poorer women from the awful slavery of which I have seen so much lately. Nor do I undervalue the higher culture of the individual as a means towards the attainment of the100 highest personal happiness. The strangely providential guidance of all our schemes has lately been deeply impressed on my mind. We started our educational schemes, I believe, in an honest and humble spirit, and they appeared to us the readiest path towards aiding our fellow-women—the distressed, the needy, and the wasted; and I believe our labour has not been in vain. But in this, as in all our work on earth, we needed further enlightening and teaching. Looking back on my own experience of the past year, it appears to me as if God in His goodness had said to me, “I approve your motive and your work; but you are trying to lay on the topstone while there is an earthquake shaking your foundations. You must first descend to the lowest depths before you can safely build up.” And then He showed us a plague spot. He showed us a deadly poison working through the wholesale, systematic, and now legalised, degradation of women. He showed us the ready elements for a speedy overthrow of society, which the educated would not be able to stem. Not that our work in the cause of education has in any sense been a failure—far from it; but we need a still larger infusion into these noble schemes for educating the masses of the spirit of self-sacrifice, even of martyrdom. We need to have our hearts still more deeply penetrated with pity, and to be more resolutely bent on making all our practical efforts tend to the revival of justice, and of a pure and equal moral standard and equal laws. While therefore I continue to regard the cause of education as a most sacred cause, I come to the present meeting with a sad heart; and I only propose to relinquish101 the office I now hold because I feel that God has called me to a more painful one. All members have not the same office; all are not called to descend to the depths of woe, and to cast in their lot among wretched slave-gangs, in order to help the slaves to carry the weight of their chains, if not to break them away. This work, I think, is mine; but there is other work not less holy, which aims not less directly at a future emancipation. But while I feel all the greater dependence on, and deeper gratitude, to you my fellow-workers in this Council and others, for the work you are doing, and for the work you will do, in the cause of humanity, I am obliged to confess to you that, for my own part, I fear I may not in future be able to give the needful time to this work, nor to bring to it the vigour and spirit which it demands and deserves. I wish to leave this work in abler and freer hands. It has my deepest sympathy. It points perhaps to the most important of all the means by which we hope, against hope, to undo the heavy burdens, and let the oppressed go free, and inaugurate a purer and sounder national life. To keep pace however with this portion of the great work, one requires to have the head and heart tolerably free, and that cannot be the case with one who is called to deal with the most miserable, to walk side by side, hand in hand, with the outcast, the victim of our social sins, whose name one scarcely dares to name in refined society. I have great hope, I am full of hope for the education cause, and for the anti-slavery cause, in which we are engaged. Nevertheless one’s very soul grows faint before the facts of 1870, and though that faintness of soul may102 complete one’s fitness to be a fellow-sufferer with the slave, it does not increase one’s fitness for a work which requires intellectual energy.

The National Association, which was daily increasing in vitality and in boldness of operation, effectually prevented the further extension of the system we opposed, and by means of successful contests at by-elections—pre-eminently that of Colchester in October-November, 1870, where the Government candidate, Sir Henry Storks, was defeated on this one question by over 400 votes—forced the Government to look seriously into the matter. I give some prominence to this hotly-contested election at Colchester, as it proved to be somewhat of a turning-point in the history of our crusade. A public meeting had been arranged for in the theatre. I was with our friends previous to this meeting in a room in a hotel. Already we heard signs of the mob gathering to oppose us. The dangerous portion of this mob was headed and led on by a band of keepers of houses of prostitution in Colchester, who had sworn that we should be defeated and driven from the town. On this occasion the gentlemen who were preparing to go to the meeting left with me all their valuables, watches, &c. I remained alone during the evening. The mob were by this time collected in force in the streets. Their deep-throated yells and oaths, and the horrible words spoken by them, sounded sadly in my ears. I felt more than anything pity for these misguided people. It must be observed that these were not of the class of honest working people, but chiefly a number of103 hired roughs and persons directly interested in the maintenance of the vilest of human institutions. The master of the hotel came in, and said in a whisper, “I must turn down the lights; and will you, madam, consent to go to an attic which I have, a little apart from the house, and remain there until the mob is quieter, in order that I may tell them truly that you are not in the house?” I consented to this for his sake. His words were emphasised at the moment by the crashing in of the window near which I sat, and the noise of heavy stones hurled along the floor, the blows from which I managed to evade. Our friends returned in about an hour, very pitiful objects, covered with mud, flour, and other more unpleasant things, their clothes torn, but their courage not in the least diminished. Mr. James Stuart, who had come purposely during the intervals of his duties at Cambridge to lend his aid in the conflict, had been roughly handled. Chairs and benches had been flung at him and Dr. Baxter Langley; and a good deal of lint and bandages was quickly in requisition; but the wounds were not severe.

I should have prefaced my recollections of this election conflict by saying that on our first arrival in Colchester we went, as was our wont, straight to the house of a Quaker family. Mrs. Marriage, a well-known member of the Society of Friends, received us with the utmost cordiality and self-possession. At her suggestion we began our campaign with a series of devotional meetings, gathering together chiefly women in groups, to ask of God that the approaching events might be over-ruled for good, and might open the eyes of our Government to the104 vital nature of the cause for which we were incurring so much obloquy. Among the women who helped us most bravely were Mrs. King and Mrs. Hampson; there were also many others.

I may be excused, perhaps, for mentioning an amusing incident of the election. I was walking down a by-street one evening after we had held several meetings with wives of electors, when I met an immense workman, a stalwart man, trudging along to his home after work hours. By his side trotted his wife, a fragile woman, but with a fierce determination on her small thin face; and I heard her say, “Now you know all about it; if you vote for that man Storks, Tom, I’ll kill ye!” Tom seemed to think that there was some danger of her threat being put in execution. This incident did not represent exactly the kind of influence which we had entreated the working women to use with their husbands who had votes, but I confess it cheered me not a little.

To her sons.

Colchester, Nov., 1870.

I have tried several hotels; each one rejects me after another. At last I came to a respectable Tory hotel, not giving my name. I had gone to bed very tired, and was dropping asleep, when I heard some excitement in the street, and a rap at my door. It was the master of the hotel. He said, “I am sorry, madam, I have a very unpleasant announcement to make.”“Say on,” I replied. He said,105 “I find you are Mrs. Josephine Butler, and the mob outside have found out that you are here, and have threatened to set fire to the house unless I send you out at once.” I said, “I will go immediately. But how is it that you get rid of me when you know that though I am a Liberal I am practically working into the hands of Colonel Learmont, the Conservative candidate?” He replied, “I would most gladly keep you, madam; undoubtedly your cause is a good one, but there is a party so much incensed against you that my house is not safe while you are in it.” He saw that I was very tired, and I think his heart was touched. He said, “I will get you quietly out under another name, and will find some little lodging for you.” I packed up my things, and he sent a servant with me down a little by-street to a small private house of a working-man and his wife. Next day I went to the C—— Inn, the head-quarters of our party. It was filled with gentlemen, in an atmosphere of stormy canvassing. The master of the inn whispered to me, “Do not let your friends call you by your name in the streets.” A hurried consultation was held as to whether our party should attempt to hold other public meetings or not. It seemed uncertain whether we should get a hearing, and it was doubtful, if I personally would be allowed by the mob to reach the hall where we had planned to hold a women’s meeting. Some of the older men said, “Do not attempt it, Mrs. Butler; it is a grave risk.” For a moment a cowardly feeling came over me as I thought of you all at home; then it suddenly came to me that now was just the time to trust in God, and claim His loving care; and I want to tell you, my darlings, how He helped me, and what the message was which106 He sent to me at that moment. I should like you never to forget it, for it is in such times of trial that we feel Him to be in the midst of us—a living Presence—and that we prove the truth of His promises. As I prayed to Him in my heart, these words came pouring into my soul as if spoken by some heavenly voice: “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust. Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” (Psalm xci.) Are they not beautiful words? I felt no more fear, and strong in the strength of these words I went out into the dark street with our friends.

The London Committee had commissioned the two Mr. Mallesons to come down to help us. I like them much, they are so quiet and firm. Someone had also sent us from London twenty-four strong men of the sandwich class as a body-guard. I did not care much about this “arm of flesh.” It was thought107 better that these men should not keep together or be seen, so they were posted about in the crowd near the door of the hall. Apparently they were yelling with the regulationist party, but ready to come forward for us at a given signal. The two Mr. Mallesons managed cleverly, just as we arrived, to mislead the crowd into fancying that one of themselves was Dr. Langley, thus directing all their violence of language and gestures against themselves. Meanwhile Mrs. Hampson and I slipped into the hall in the guise of some of the humbler women going to the meeting. I had no bonnet or gloves, only an old shawl over my head, and looked quite a poor woman. We passed safely through crowded lines of scoundrel faces and clenched fists, and were unrecognised. It was a solemn meeting. The women listened most attentively while we spoke to them. Every now and then a movement of horror went through the room when the threats and groans outside became very bad. At the close of the meeting some friend said to me in a low voice, “Your best plan is to go quietly out by a back window which is not high from the ground, while the mob is waiting for you at the front.” The Mallesons and two friendly constables managed admirably. They made the mob believe I was always coming, though I never came. Mrs. Hampson and I then walked off at a deliberate pace from the back of the hall, down a narrow, quiet, star-lit street. About thirty or forty kind, sympathising women followed us, but had the tact to disperse quickly, leaving us alone. Neither of us knew the town, and we emerged again upon a main street, where the angry cries of the mob108 seemed again very near. I could not walk any further, being very tired, and asked Mrs. Hampson to leave me, and try to find a cab. She pushed me into a dark, unused warehouse, filled with empty soda-water bottles and broken glass, and closed the gates of it. I stood there in the darkness and alone, hearing some of the violent men tramping past, never guessing that I was so near. Presently one of the gates opened slightly, and I could just see in the dim light the poorly-clad, slight figure of a forlorn woman of the city. She pushed her way in, and said in a low voice, “Are you the lady the mob are after? Oh, what a shame to treat a lady so! I was not at the meeting, but I heard of you, and have been watching you.” The kindness of this poor miserable woman cheered me, and was a striking contrast to the conduct of the roughs. Mrs. Hampson returned saying, “There is not a cab to be seen in the streets.” So we walked on again. We took refuge at last in a cheerfully lighted grocer’s shop, where a very kind, stout grocer, whose name we knew—a Methodist—welcomed us, and seemed ready to give his life for me. He installed me amongst his bacon, soap and candles, having sent for a cab; and rubbing his hands, he said, “Well, this is a capital thing; here you are, safe and sound!” We overheard women going past in groups, who had been at the meeting, and their conversation was mostly of the following description: “Ah, she’s right; depend upon it, she’s right. Well, what a thing! Well, to be sure! I’m sure I ’ll vote for her whenever I have a vote!” I have now got to my lodgings in the working-ma109n’s house, which are very small, but clean. I hope to be with you on Saturday. What a blessed Sunday it will be in my quiet home.

My husband had personal friends in the Government, and on most questions he sympathised with their policy; it was the more painful therefore to have to maintain a prominent position personally in the perpetual attack and protest on this question. He was often reminded by cautious friends of the very distant prospect of any possible retirement from school work which he must now contemplate, so far as that retirement (or promotion of any kind) depended on the goodwill of those then in power. He perfectly understood this from the first, and his experience for many years from this time was that of an ever receding prospect in that direction. He continued to speak and write for the just cause whenever opportunity presented itself, patiently wearing his harness as a laborious schoolmaster for twelve long years after this date. Though it was a trial to him to be at variance in any way with personal friends or public men whom he regarded with esteem, yet it was not possible for him to set motives of policy or his own private interests above fidelity to a cause and a principle which he considered vital.

In March, 1871, I was called to give evidence before the Royal Commission which had been appointed. I was not fully aware until recently, when looking over his letters, how his tender solicitude for me had followed me in all my endeavours, in every varying circumstance. His duties at the110 Liverpool College forbade him accompanying me to London on this occasion; and even if this had not been the case, he would not have been allowed to remain with me during the examination in the House of Lords. He had, unknown to me, written to the Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Massey, commending me to his kindly consideration. For it was a formidable ordeal, being, as I was, the only woman present before a large and august assembly of peers, bishops, members of Parliament, representatives of the military and naval services, doctors, and others; my questioners being in a large majority hostile, and the subject serious and difficult. On the morning before I was called I received a number of letters, addresses of sympathy, and notices of united prayer for my support from associations of working-men in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Leeds, Birmingham, and many other towns.

Several of these letters from working-men were published under the title of Vox Populi.

To her husband.

March, 1871.

It is over. It was even a severer ordeal than I expected. It was distressing to me, owing to the hard, harsh view which some of these men take of poor women, and of the lives of the poor generally. They had in their hands and on the table everything I have ever written on the subject, and reports of all my addresses, marked and turned down; and some of the Commissioners had carefully selected bits which they thought would damage me in111 examination. Frederick Maurice was not present, I am sorry to say; but Mr. Rylands, Mr. Mundella, and above all Sir Walter James, I felt, were my friends. The rest were certainly not so. To compare a very small person with a great one, I felt rather like Paul before Nero, very weak and lonely. But there was One who stood by me. I almost felt as if I heard Christ’s voice bidding me not to fear. I handed to the Chairman a large packet of the letters and resolutions from working-men. He said, “We may as well see them; for no doubt that class takes some little interest in the question.” I should think so! Let them wait till election times, and they will see! One of the Commissioners asked, “Are these bonâ-fide working-men?” I replied, “Yes, and well-known men. There is more virtue in the country than you gentlemen in high life imagine.” He then asked, “If these laws were put in operation in the north, do you believe they would be forcibly resisted?” I replied, “I do.”

To her husband.

March, 1871.

I shall be so glad to get back to you, and to breathe fresher air. I am sure your prayers have been heard in regard to my evidence before the Commission. I don’t think I did justice to the Commissioners in my first letter to you. I was so tired and depressed and dissatisfied with myself after the long ordeal, that I saw it all through rather a dark medium. But now I am full of thankfulness to God. I think I may quote to you what Mr. Rylands said to-day to Mr. Duncan McLaren and112 others: “I am not accustomed to religious phraseology, but I cannot give you any idea of the effect produced except by saying that the influence of the Spirit of God was there. Mrs. Butler’s words and manner were not what the Commission expected; and now some of them begin to take a new view of what they have hitherto called the ‘religious prejudice.’” He added that Lord Hardwicke came to speak to him afterwards, and that he seemed moved, and said, “If this is a specimen of the strength of conviction in the country on moral questions, we must reconsider our ways.” I tell you all this, dear husband, that we may learn more and more to wait upon God, who hears prayer. I spent yesterday with dear Fanny in her rooms. Home to-morrow.



Josephine Butler’s publications in 1871 included Sursum Corda, the substance (much expanded) of a speech delivered at the annual meeting of the Ladies’ National Association, two Addresses delivered at Croydon and at Edinburgh respectively, and The Constitution Violated, the most solid and weighty of all her utterances on the Contagious Diseases Acts. The main argument of the last mentioned work is given in the following pages.

The enactments called the Contagious Diseases Acts, passed respectively in 1866 and 1869, may be regarded from several points of view. With their medical aspect and the statistical consideration of their results on public health it is not my intention to deal. It has been dwelt on by other people and in other places fully.

The moral side of the question is undoubtedly the most important, and has been dwelt upon by the religious portion of the community, almost to the exclusion of others, although it may be truly said that it of necessity includes all others.

There is however one aspect of the question which has not been sufficiently set forth, that is, the constitutional aspect, including the effect which such114 legislation must have on our social and moral life as a nation, from a political point of view.

I am convinced that the people of this country are as yet but very partially awakened to the tremendous issues involved in the controversy before us, considered as a matter of constitutional rights; therefore it is that I venture, though I am no lawyer, to bring before them its extreme importance under that aspect. For this time of agony for the patriot, who can in any degree foresee the future of that country which violates the eternal principles of just government, drives many of us, unlearned though we be, to search the annals of our country, to enquire into past crises of danger, and the motives and character of the champions who fought the battles of liberty, with that keenness and singleness of purpose with which, in the agony of spiritual danger, the well-nigh shipwrecked soul may search the Scriptures of God, believing that in them he has eternal life.

On the occasion of an infringement of a constitutional principle by Parliament itself, a century ago, Lord Chatham, when urging the House of Lords to retrace this fatal step, used the following words: “If I had a doubt upon this matter, I should follow the example set us by the most reverend bench, with whom I believe it is a maxim, when any doubt in point of faith arises, or any question of controversy is started, to appeal at once to the greatest source and evidence of our religion—I mean the Holy Bible. The Constitution has its political Bible also, by which, if it be fairly consulted, every political question may and ought to be determined. Magna Charta, the Petition of Rights, and the Bill of115 Rights form that code which I call the Bible of the English Constitution. “6

In following out this advice of Lord Chatham, it is to these authorities that I wish to appeal in determining the exact nature of those principles of the Constitution which I assert have been violated. I am aware that in doing so I may incur criticism on account of my ignorance of legal terms and definitions, and on account of unskilfulness in the arrangement of the matter before me. I shall be satisfied however, if I succeed in commending my subject to those to whom I particularly address myself—I mean the working men and working women of England. Neither they nor I have had a legal training, but we may alike possess a measure of that plain English common sense which, to quote again Lord Chatham’s words, is “the foundation of all our English jurisprudence,” which common sense tells us that “no court of justice can have a power inconsistent with, or paramount to, the known laws of the land, and that the people, when they choose their representatives, never mean to convey to them a power of invading the rights or trampling upon the liberties of those whom they represent.”7 Further on in this essay I shall show that Parliament, in making the Contagious Diseases Acts, has invaded and trampled on the liberties of the people.

Among the clauses in Magna Charta, there is one upon which the importance of all the others hinges, and upon which the security afforded by the others116 practically depends. This clause, and the supplementary clause which follows it, have been those whose subject has formed, more than any other, matter and occasion for the great battles fought for English liberty and right since the charter was signed by King John.

They are the thirty-ninth and fortieth clauses of King John’s Charter, and the twenty-ninth of that of King Henry III, and are as follows:—



“These clauses are the crowning glories of the great charter.”8 Mr. Hallam calls them its “essential clauses,”9 being those which “protect the personal liberty and property of all freemen, by giving security from arbitrary imprisonment and spoliation.”10 The same high authority observes that these words of the great charter, “interpreted by any honest court of law, convey an ample security for the two main rights of civil society.” The principles of this clause of the great charter, which, if we look backwards, are lost in antiquity, were subsequently confirmed and elucidated by statutes117 and charters of the reign of Henry III and Edward III entitled “confirmationes cartarum.”“The famous writ of Habeas Corpus was framed in conformity with the spirit of this clause; that writ, rendered more actively remedial by the statute of Charles II, but founded upon the broad basis of Magna Charta, is the principal bulwark of English liberty, and if ever temporary circumstances, or the doubtful plea of necessity, shall lead men to look on its denial with apathy, the most distinguishing characteristic of our constitution will be effaced. “11 The same powerful testimony is given by De Lolme, Guizot and De Tocqueville.

It is precisely these very clauses, thus endearingly eulogised by these great historians and lawyers of various nations, which stand violated both in letter and in principle by the Contagious Diseases Acts.

It is not requisite for my purpose to enter into a critical examination of each of the words and phrases of the great clause of Magna Charta referred to, nor even to quote a selection of comments on these words and phrases from the voluminous writings which exist on the subject. There are two expressions however, as to the meaning of which I shall make a few remarks. The first, as bearing more particularly on the subject in hand, viz. the phrase “or anyways destroyed,” and the second, the words “by the law of the land,” in order that I may with respect to these words correct a misunderstanding which may arise in the mind of a reader who reads them without the light of those subsequent comments and charters which have elucidated Magna Charta.


As to the first phrase, Blackstone, as well as other writers, gives a very wide signification to this word “destroy,” and in general terms it may be said that they agree in understanding that these words of the charter sternly forbid any proceeding on the body of an accused person unless after trial by jury. If it were possible for me here to describe in detail that proceeding which the Acts in question sanction upon the body of a person suspected or accused, who has been condemned without any jury trial, no further words of mine would be needed to convince my readers that this proceeding comes within the scope of that word “destroy.” The expression in Magna Charta, “We will destroy no one unless by the judgment of his peers,” is by the great lawyers interpreted to mean that no proceeding of any kind whatever of a compulsory nature shall be permitted on the person of anyone except after jury trial. Blackstone and others, to make the matter more plain, minutely define those cases in which alone this prohibition of Magna Charta may be set aside, viz. in the punishment of young children by their parents, and of pupils by their masters, but even these were to be kept within the bounds of decency and humanity. I will only quote the words of De Lolme12 on this subject:119 “Thus it was made one of the articles of Magna Charta, that the executive power should not touch the person of the subject, but in consequence of a judgment passed upon him by his peers; and so great was afterwards the general union in maintaining this law, that the trial by jury which so effectually secures the subject against all the attempts of power, even against such as may be made under the sanction of the judicial authority, hath been preserved till this day.”

The words “by the law of the land” have been taken by some not to refer to jury trial. Attempts have been made to justify illegal proceedings by this interpretation. This has given rise to arguments and enactments, by means of which the relation of these words to jury trial has been settled beyond dispute. And it is these arguments and enactments which, as much as anything else, have thrown light on the ancient institution of jury trial, and have confirmed, as a lasting and inalienable part of the Constitution, this ancient “law of the land.” One of the most marked discussions on this subject, ending with the establishment of the principle which we have laid down, that jury trial is the one constitutional form of trial recognised in Magna Charta, took place in the reign of Charles I, when Judge Selden, at the time of the arrest of the five members, made a famous speech, pleading for the release of Sir E. Hampden from illegal imprisonment, on the ground that these words, “by the law of the land,” showed that it was illegal to imprison him by any other method than that of jury trial.

We who have combined to oppose this legislation maintain that this Act is unconstitutional, because it submits a case, in which the result is to the party concerned of the most enormous consequence, to trial without jury. We are well aware, while making this statement, that there is a class of cases in England which at this present time are tried without a jury. But these cases are what are called120 “minor cases.” Now we maintain that a woman’s honour is a point of very grave importance to her, and that no State can thrive in which it is not regarded as a very sacred question. And we maintain that a case which is to decide as to the question of a woman’s honour is by no means, nor by any stretch of language or imagination, capable of being called a “minor case.” We therefore maintain that this law, which places the determination of the fact as to a woman’s honour solely in the hands of a single justice of the peace, is as great an infringement of constitutional right as if the determination of the fact as to whether a man were guilty of murder or not were placed in the hands of a single justice of the peace. We maintain absolutely that to deprive of jury trial a woman whose honour is the subject in question is a breach of the English Constitution, as fundamentally expressed in that clause of Magna Charta, of which we have already pointed out the importance: “We will condemn no one except by the judgment of his peers.”

In answer to our objections to these Acts, it is utter vanity and folly in anyone to plead that they apply only to women who are prostitutes. Can it be supposed that there is any man in England so foolish as to think that the safeguards of English law exist for the sake of the guilty only? They exist for the sake of the innocent, who may be falsely accused, as well to protect them when accused, as to lessen the chances of unjust accusation. And can it be supposed that we are so blind as ever to be able to fancy that it is impossible that under this law an innocent woman may be accused? On the121 contrary, it is obvious that the question of a woman’s honour is one in which mistaken accusations are peculiarly likely to occur.

For the rich and great there may be little danger in dispensing with jury trial in this particular instance. As there are classes in society whose position and wealth place them above any chance of being erroneously accused of theft, so there are classes whose position, wealth and surroundings place the women belonging to them equally above any chance of being erroneously accused of being prostitutes. To this fact we may probably trace the apathy and indifference of so many of the upper classes to the passing of the Contagious Diseases Acts, and the urbanity with which they assure us that our fears are ungrounded, and that the operation of these Acts can seldom err. Again we must quote the words of Junius: “Laws are intended not to trust to what men will do, but to guard against what they may do.” But at the same time can we accept the assurance that the action of the officials who carry out these Acts will never be in error? We certainly cannot. Ladies who ride in their carriages through the streets at night are in little danger of being molested. But what of working women? What of the daughters, sisters, wives of working men, out, it may be on an errand of mercy, at night? And what most of all of that girl whose father, mother, friends are dead, or far away, who is struggling hard in a hard world to live uprightly and justly by the work of her own hands,—is she in no danger from this law? Lonely and friendless and poor, is she in no danger of a false accusation122 from malice or from error, especially since one clause of the Act particularly marks out homeless girls as just subjects for its operation? And what has she, if accused, to rely on, under God, except that of which this law has deprived her, the appeal to be tried “by God and my country, by which she is understood to claim to be tried by a jury, and to have all the judicial means of defence to which the law entitles her.”13

We have been reproached for making this question a class question. We accept the reproach, if reproach it be, because we say that it is a question for the poor rather than for the rich. It was not we who initiated this distinction, but the majority of the upper classes soon taught us that they considered it no question of theirs. They told us plainly that the subject was too unpleasant to be treated as one of public interest. But while with this plea they endeavoured to silence us, we found that they generally lent the weight of their influence, and not always apathetically or ignorantly, to the promotion of this legislation. To them this legislation involved no present and immediate diminution of freedom for themselves, and they seem to have been blindly ignorant, or selfishly forgetful, that their children and children’s children would be, as well as the children of the poor, inheritors of the fatal consequences of violated liberties, and that the chains which they now weave for others will in time entangle themselves. But when we turned to the humbler classes we found that they knew that it is a question for them, and that they, more123 intelligent in this than the upper classes, knew that it was also a question for this whole country of England, whose political liberty depends on the preservation of the rights of all. “The trial by jury ever has been,” says Blackstone,14 “and I trust ever will be, looked upon as the glory of the English law. It is the most transcendent privilege that any subject can enjoy or wish for, that he cannot be affected in his property, his liberty, or his person but by the unanimous consent of twelve of his neighbours and equals, a constitution that I may venture to affirm has, under Providence, secured the just liberties of this nation for a long succession of ages.”

I cannot therefore but regard the present as a crisis as great as any crisis through which this nation has ever passed. This country was once called on to decide whether it would permit the king, for his satisfaction, to override this thirty-ninth clause of Magna Charta, and it decided most emphatically that he should not. It is now called on to decide whether it will permit Parliament itself, for the sake of the lusts of certain men, to override this same clause. It remains for the people of England to decide this question, and a very solemn choice is given to you, my countrymen, at this moment: Are these men to have protection in their vices, or will you retain your liberties? If any of my readers then came to the consideration of this matter with the idea that there might be something to be said for this law medically, and that though there might be something undefinedly wrong in it,124 yet it embodied at least a benevolent intention, let him then remember that he has, at the next election, to answer for himself and his country: Shall we have liberty in lust, or shall we have political freedom? We cannot retain both.

Early in 1872 the Home Secretary, Mr. Bruce, introduced a Bill to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts, and to substitute provisions dealing with the subject in a different manner. Some opponents of the Acts at first were inclined to accept this compromise, but Josephine Butler issued a Letter on the subject of Mr. Bruce’s Bill, and a leaflet entitled, A Few Words addressed to True-hearted Women, in which she closely examined the measure, and showed that it was really open to the same moral and other objections that had been raised against the Acts which it was intended to replace. The agitation against the Bill, which was thus roused, led to its ultimate withdrawal. In this year also she published another pamphlet, The New Era, dealing with the fight against the regulation system in Berlin, the lessons to be learned from past failure, and the source from which hope for the future was to be derived.

The repealers at this period took part in several by-elections, notably that at Pontefract, when scenes of greater violence than those at Colchester occurred, showing the fierce feelings roused by this moral controversy. We cannot attempt to record the whole course of the seventeen years’ struggle, to notice the separate leagues and societies formed to oppose the Acts, the large number of public meetings, petitions to Parliament, and other active measures taken by the Abolitionists; but some idea of the vigour of the fight may be gathered from the fact that in one year, 1873, over two hundred and125 fifty public meetings were held, besides fifteen important conferences, at most of which Josephine Butler took a leading part.

In spite of great encouragements now and again, we were from year to year forced to confess that the prospect of victory was much more distant than we at first imagined. Looking back over those years, we can now see the wisdom of God in allowing us to wait so long for the victory. For the mere legislative reform, or rather undoing and repairing, which was our immediate object, was but a small part of the great and vital movement which it was His design to create and maintain for the purifying of the nations; and if we had obtained a speedy triumph there would not have been that great awakening of consciences which we have witnessed, resulting in practical and lasting reforms. At times the struggle between opposing principles was very severe; and hostile criticisms, censures—public and private—accusations, invective, and bitter words fell upon us at certain crises as thickly as the darts of Apollyon on Christian’s armour at the entrance of the dark valley. Motives of the worst kind were sometimes imputed, among the most frequent being that of a lurking sympathy, not with the sinners alone, but with their most hateful sins. A certain class of our enemies thought themselves happy, it seemed, in inventing a dart which they believed would strike home in our own case; they sought diligently to spread an impression that some tragic unhappiness in our married life was the impelling force which had driven me from my home to this126 work, and coarse abuse was varied by hypocritical expressions of pity and sympathy.

But they were the most unworthy alone—the lewd fellows of the baser sort naturally—by whom this kind of scourging was inflicted or attempted. It only had the effect of strengthening our indifference to all selfish, impure, and interested opposition, and of deepening our thankfulness for the good gifts of peace and unity of heart in our home. Such manifestations however taught us much of the deeper meanings of these “signs of the times.” Much more serious practically was the opposition of honourable opponents, men of education, high character and honesty, who in some cases had openly given their names in favour of a principle and a measure which happily many of them learned to regard later with suspicion and abhorrence.

On May 21st, 1873, the first debate and division in Parliament took place on our question, which had been courageously and ably pioneered in the House of Commons by William Fowler, a member of the Society of Friends, and which afterwards (when Mr. Fowler lost his seat for Cambridge) was taken in hand with equal ability and courage by Sir Harcourt Johnstone. My husband congratulated me and himself heartily on the division. The majority against us was 137, yet he could rejoice! And justly so, for in counting up our probable friends in the House we had not dared to hope that we should have as many as those who actually voted for us, viz. 128.

It was on this occasion that old Mr. Henley spoke in the House of Commons the following solemn127 words (respect for his personal character caused members on both sides of the House to listen in perfect silence, a silence so great that though his voice was feeble all he said was distinctly heard): “It is complained,” he said, “that this agitation is carried on by women; but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that women are most affected by this legislation. We men do not know what women suffer. Unless they tell us, we cannot know. In this matter women have placed their feet upon the ‘Rock of Ages,’ and nothing will force them from their position. They knew full well what a cross they would have to bear, but they resolved to take up that cross, despising the shame. It was women who followed Christ to His death, and remained with Him while others forsook Him, and there are such women amongst us now.”

In a division on the question of Women’s Suffrage, which occurred about this time, Mr. Henley, who had till then been opposed to granting the parliamentary franchise to women, voted in favour of it, and spoke a few very touching words. He told me, that the experience he had now had of the injustice, which Parliament (not excluding the good men in Parliament) is capable of inflicting on women, had convinced him that they (women) must labour for and obtain direct representation on equal terms with men.



On the 25th of June, 1874, a few friends of the Abolitionist cause met to confer together at York. All were filled with a profound sense of the solemnity of the purpose which had brought them together. It was a time of deep depression in the work. Those who were present fully recognised the powerful array of organised forces against which they had to contend; they were filled with a kind of awe in the contemplation of those forces, and the magnitude of the difficulties with which they were called to grapple. At the same time everyone of the group seemed animated by a deep and certain conviction that the cause would triumph. The circumstances under which this conference took place were such as to call strongly for the exercise of that faith which alone can animate reformers to contend against a sudden increase of an evil, at whose destruction they aim. The voice of the Abolitionist had for a time been partially stilled by the clash of parties in the General Election. For a time even the most energetic workers were unable to see what steps for the continuance of the work could most effectively be taken. Having hitherto felt themselves engaged in a battle for the abolition of the State sanction of vice in Great Britain only, they had become aware that a large129 and powerful organisation on the Continent was seeking to increase the efficacy of the vice regulations, and for that purpose was appealing confidently to England to take the lead in organising, under all the Governments of Europe, an international scheme for the application of these regulations to every country, and to every seaport throughout the world. After a period of silence for united prayer, the Rev. C. S. Collingwood, Rector of Southwick, Sunderland, addressed the little group around him in words which have never been forgotten by those who passed through the trial of faith of that year—words which were assuredly inspired by God, and were His message to us at that period of anxious suspense.

In the course of the speech he said:130 “Our ceasing to be heard in Parliament for a time, or in the Press, or by public meetings, means necessarily so much clear gain to the other side. We have a most solemn charge, and cannot even maintain our ground except on the condition of ceaseless warfare. Much of the hostile pressure comes from abroad, and we shall do well to consider the propriety of carrying the war into the enemy’s country by establishing relations with leading and earnest opponents of the regulation of sin, say in France, Belgium, Prussia, Italy, etc., and stimulating opposition in these countries, and perhaps holding our own international congress. There can be no doubt that in all the countries subjected to this degrading system a few sparks would create a great fire of indignation and revolt against the immoral system. When Granville Sharp, in 1772, obtained the famous decision that a slave is free as soon as he touches English territory, he did not think it one of the first steps towards the general abolition of the slave trade, and of slavery everywhere; but it was so. And thus, when some noble ones among us raised a cry of horror and indignation on finding that supervised vice had presumed to desecrate our English soil they little guessed how far their voices would reach, nor what the work was upon which they unwittingly were entering, nor what the victories which they were to achieve. But they have already been able to produce great effects in Africa, Australia, and the United States; and, though still unsuccessful at home, we and they believe that the opposition which has commenced in England will obtain its utmost success here, and that a force of public opinion and true sentiment is being slowly generated, which will cross all lands and seas, and in its progress sweep away everywhere the monstrous organisation of vice, against which we lift our voices to-day.”

These words found an echo in the breasts of all present, and from that conference all departed feeling that a new era was dawning upon the whole movement, which could only lead to the final triumph of the cause of justice and morality far beyond the limits of our own country.

Before separating, the conference passed a simple resolution, accepting Josephine Butler’s proposition to open correspondence with opponents of the Regulation system abroad. This opening of correspondence “was in its beginning an apparently feeble—as it was indeed a laborious—undertaking, carried on somewhat in the vague and in the dark.” The results however were so far encouraging that later in the year she resolved to undertake a personal131 mission to the Continent. Shortly before her departure a meeting of women to wish her “God speed” was held at Birmingham, chiefly promoted by the Society of Friends. Mrs. Richardson, of York (who, like her sister, Mrs. Kenway, of Birmingham, was one of Josephine Butler’s oldest and dearest fellow-workers), wrote of this meeting:“I desire that you may be reminded of the meeting which took place immediately before her departure, and to which all then present, and she herself, largely attributed the remarkable success which was permitted to attend her labours, believing it to have been the direct answer to earnest prayer offered up there, and from many other friends elsewhere who were with us in spirit that evening. The meeting was called for the express purpose of united prayer to God on Mrs. Butler’s behalf—that He would guide and protect her on every hand, and prosper the work upon which she was about to enter.... After the reading (of Psalm xci), Mrs. Wilson offered prayer for God’s presence and blessing on the meeting, that it might tend to the help and strength of Mrs. Butler, and of all present. Mrs. Butler then gave a little account of how this widening prospect of the work had grown upon her. The necessity of seeking the sympathy and co-operation of other countries had been brought forcibly before her mind at the time of a conference at York in June, when this feature of the subject had taken great hold of the meeting; and knowing that it could, for obvious reasons, be more successfully carried out if universally adopted, she reminded us that those who were promoting the hateful system of regulated vice in continental nations were watching with anxiety the action of England in this direction, and rejoicing to see that it was beginning to take deep root here, and that whereas amongst them it was a police regulation only, here Parliament had seen fit to make it the law of the land. Mrs. Butler expressed her conviction that it132 must be made known abroad that many in England had determined, by God’s help, to bring to an end the entire system, and desired the sympathy and co-operation of those in other countries, who, she knew, had long groaned in secret under the burden of an evil which they felt powerless to grapple with. From that time Mrs. Butler had increasingly felt that the task must devolve upon herself of setting a spark to the smouldering embers, and in connection with this prospect the words of the Scriptures had constantly been before her mind: ‘I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.’ She believed the time had now come when she must give herself up to this new branch of the work."15

Josephine Butler herself wrote to a friend concerning this meeting:—

As we sat, during those calm silences which I so much love in Friends’ meetings, when God seems even more present than when any voice of prayer is breaking the hushed stillness, I did not think any more of the cold winter, long journeys, cynical opposition and many difficulties I knew I was going to meet. I knew that God is true, and that certainly I should be able to trample on the lion and adder. My thoughts were carried far beyond this near future, and a vista seemed to rise before me of the years to come—of some great and marvellous and beautiful manifestation of the power of God, of gathering hosts, an exceeding great army, before whom will melt away the monstrous wickedness which men of the world believe to be indestructible, and of the redemption of the slave.


She left England in December, accompanied by one of her sons, and joined later by her husband and other sons and Mr. Stuart. Some idea of the extent and nature of her work during this journey through France, Italy and Switzerland may be gathered from the following letters.

To Mr. Stansfeld.

December, 1874.

I think I told you that I spent a part of my last afternoon in Paris, at the Prefecture of Police. The memory of that interview is so exceedingly painful to me that I feared I should be unfitted for my work if I dwelt upon it. I was struck by the grandeur of the externals of the office, and by the evidence of the irresponsibility and despotic sway over a large class of the people possessed by the man Lecour. I ascended a large stone staircase, with guards placed at intervals, and many people coming and going, apparently desiring audiences. The Prefect’s outer door is at the top of the staircase, and over it, in conspicuous letters, are engraved the words; “Arrests—Service of Morals” (the arrests being of women only). In looking at these words the fact (though I knew it before) came before me with painful vividness, that man in this nineteenth century has made woman his degraded slave, by a decree which is heralded in letters of gold, and retains her in slavery by a violent despotism which, if it were applied to men, would soon set all Paris, and not merely a few of its buildings in flames. The words “Service des Mœurs” is the most impudent proclamation of an accepted falsehood. Too clearly and palpably is the true meaning of it “Service de Débauche”; and M. Lecour’s conversation134 throughout showed and confirmed most powerfully the fact (though he himself may be blind to it) that it is immorality, not morality, for which his office makes provision. I was kept waiting some time in the handsomely furnished room of the Prefect while he finished his interviews with people who had preceded me. While seated by the fire, with the newspaper in my hand which had been given to me by a liveried servant, I heard the whole of the conversation (it was impossible not to hear it) which passed. It left a very sorrowful and terrible impression on my mind. An elderly man was there, who appeared to be pleading the cause of a woman, perhaps a near relation, or in some way dear to him. M. Lecour spoke of the woman as one whom he had full power to acquit or to condemn, and there was a lightness in his tone which contrasted strikingly with the troubled gravity of the other, who more than once interrupted the volubility of the Prefect with the words, spoken in a voice of sullen, repressed emotion, “But you have accused her.” I thought of the words, “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” Such a power in a merely human, but most awful sense, is possessed by that irresponsible ruler of the women of Paris; but his credentials are not divine. As I left his place I felt oppressed with a great sadness, mingled with horror; and, in thinking of M. Lecour, I recalled the words about “man, drest in a little brief authority,” who “plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven as make the angels weep”; and not only that, but as make women die, cursing God, in horror and despair.


To Mr. Stansfeld.

Antibes, December, 1874.

I should like our friends to know how much the little faithful band of sympathisers in Paris recognise our mission as from God. There has lately been a great religious movement in France, as in some parts of England. Meetings for prayer are still held constantly. It seems also that there was among some a feeling of suspense, of expectation, almost of discomfort, in the belief that action, and aggressive action, ought to follow, and must follow, the deepening of spiritual life and the clearer apprehension of their personal relations with the Father in heaven. They have been feeling it is not enough to meet and pray, and to try for themselves to draw ever nearer to God. There must be a deeper meaning in this spiritual awakening; there must soon be a call to battle. Thus then without knowing what had been passing in Paris, and ignorant of the fact of a religious awakening, I spoke to them what I felt, and said that the only meaning of our being on earth at all was to be combatants; that the only condition of our spiritual health is war, unceasing war, against the whole kingdom of Satan, and against all evil things. I found some of these good men pondering these matters, and I began to see the connection in their minds between this call to oppose the evil round them and the previous movement. They saw, and confessed that the deepened personal life of the soul meant increased responsibility, and they recognised the guidance of God in this second call; and as the path became clearer to me I saw how “God leads the blind by a way they know not of.”


From her sister.

Naples, New Year’s Eve,
Midnight, 1874-1875

Beloved of my Soul,

“I want to spend this solemn hour with you. My heart is overflowing with gratitude to Him whose cross you bear. This year, which you told me began with such discouragement, and with the revelation of such new, untold horrors that you would not repeat them, has finished gloriously with the carrying of the standard of the fiery cross over the sea and into another land; and you—it is as if (no, there is no if about it) God surrounds you with His shield.

“Everyone out of England to whom I told your mission said you would be insulted and outraged in Paris, and could not do any good.

“Even people who believe in your mission told me of the way irreverent Frenchmen turn to ridicule anything spoken with a foreign accent; spoke of the dangers you would incur, and the impossibility of your making any impression. When they talked thus I smiled and said, ‘Wait and see: this is of God, and He will justify His handmaid.’ I felt so clearly that God gave it you to do; and whatever the world may think, God knows what He is about.

“He is not an idealised Joss, who lives in churches. He is present among us. He can manage even the Paris police. How He laid your enemies under your feet! Sometimes I got frightened because of your weak chest, and the bitter weather, and I longed to be with you, that I might at least run about after you with spirit-lamp and tea-caddy, or muscat wine, cloves and sugar to cheer you. Two days ago I got137 your first letters to your dear husband, which he sent on to me. It must not happen that you do not get here. With all you have to do, it seems cruel to bring you so far; but it would be sweet that you should once be in my dirty Naples, and dear George also. I recall all his kindness and goodness, since old Oxford days, until that crowning goodness of receiving us with our dead treasure as his guests, the pretty guest chamber ready for her, in spite of all the unhealed wounds the sight must have opened in your hearts. All that comes up, and we long to have you as our guests, to repay the kindness.

“Your mission is too high and holy to be understood! Is it not wonderful how people go on thinking it lovelily humble and sweetly meritorious to go on picking off a bad-smelling leaf here and there from the upas tree, instead of taking the Sword of God and striking at its very tap root—nipping here and there the results of its growth, instead of cutting off the source of its life?”

To her husband.

Naples, January 13th, 1875.

We have had an excellent meeting here. The circumstances which led to it were very affecting, and I must tell you all when we meet. You know that my one object in coming here was to see my darling Hatty, and to rest awhile with her in her beautiful home. I neither planned nor expected a continuance of my mission here; but God ordered it otherwise, and without our seeking it at all, the work came to us. Two gentlemen called and gravely desired to learn whether I would address a company138 of friends on the subject of our mission, if they undertook the arrangements. I was much touched and somewhat surprised. I said I could not refuse their request. They then asked me to accompany them to the office of the English Consul, to ask him to preside at the meeting. We parted at the Consul’s door, they to get circulars of invitation printed, and to make other arrangements, and I to confer with Hatty about the ladies who would be most likely to support us. In every step however the initiative was taken by others, and we only followed the guidance which was so distinct, that we could have no doubt at all about the Voice, saying, “This is the way; walk ye in it.” How often have I longed to have Hatty, my childhood’s beloved companion, associated with me in this holy work. You can imagine how sweet it is to me; and how full, and tender, and penetrating are her sympathy in, and her understanding of, the whole matter. The children are very good, Thekla a most lovable little maiden. Our days are very pleasant. Hatty takes me in her carriage the most beautiful drives. The first evening the sunset was lovely. Capri and Ischia were bathed in a sweet, pale rosy light, and the feathery cloud resting on Vesuvius was reddened and golden, and all these were again reflected in the smooth, pale blue waters of the bay. I wish every moment that you were here.

At the meeting we had no expressed opposition, but I was aware of an opposing current of thought and opinion in the room, which we were able to trace to its source, namely an English doctor. I thought he looked ominous as he entered with a great bundle139 of the Lancet under his arm, and I observed him whispering impatiently to his neighbours on each side as I spoke. It almost makes one smile to see that miserable Lancet brought forward as an authority in a great moral and humanitarian question like this. You can believe that Hatty and I returned to the house with our hearts full of thankfulness to God, and having arrived there that the word of command, “Tea, Giovanni,” was given with more thirsty eagerness than usual. Hatty says she believes Giovanni thinks our afternoon teas are a species of “culto,” which we “pagani” observe with great solemnity and punctuality. It was an afternoon meeting, as you will see. I should tell you that a resolution was passed, of sympathy with the work and the workers. Our friends here look anxiously to what may be done in Rome, and think that if some of the deputies and leading men would take up the question, and then send an invitation to them in Naples to co-operate with them, it would give the best chance for practical results here.

To her sister.

Turin, January 29th, 1875.

I live over again in thought the sweet days I spent with you. I look back upon that time as something sacred; but it leaves a blank in my heart. I realise more than before what a loss it is to us to be so far and so long separated, and I feel more than ever the tenacity of early affection, and the ties of kindred. Ah! how often I lie awake at night thinking of those hours we spent together. It was a sunshine and happiness to prepare me for the hard140 work which was to follow; and which is a suffering piece of work, though full of interest and hope. Going from city to city, tired and weary, always to meet with sharp opposition and cynicism, and ever new proofs of the vast and hideous oppression, is like running one’s breast upon knife points, always beginning afresh before the last wound is healed.

You understand, don’t you? I utter this little cry to you, but I am not despondent. This is really only physical weakness, I think, for I have to praise God for good work accomplished, and for souls inspired to work. “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” The hour of our redemption has struck! I say “our” for we have not only remembered those that are in bonds, as being bound with them, but actually suffered with them in spirit for long, long years. This may be but the beginning of the breaking of our bonds, and to our finite minds the Deliverer may seem long in coming. To the Lord a thousand years are but as one day, and one day as a thousand years; but the time is coming—is coming most surely. One thing we know, and that is, that all this cruelty and sin, this blinding and misleading of souls, this selfish profligacy, this slaughter of the innocents, this organised vice, this heavy oppression, this materialism which sets the body above the soul, profaning the sacred name of science, and making of her a “procuress to the lords of hell”—all this we know is hateful in the eyes of the Holy God, and we know that it must perish before the light of His countenance, when the arm of the Lord shall be revealed, and when His own arm shall bring salvation. Even out of the depths therefore we will141 praise Him, and rejoice for the day that is coming. Be strong in faith, my dear one; do not despair even for those poor captured victims, from their childhood forced into sin and shame, whose sorrowful sighing seems for a time to rise in vain to heaven. Can we love them so much, and doubt that God loves them far more than we? Our utmost pity is but a drop compared with the ocean of His pity for them. I feel a kind of triumph in that beautiful arrangement by which He has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the strong. It matters nothing at all what we are, provided we are but entirely willing to be made the instruments of His will, His agents in this world. I do not think we know the meaning of the word strength until we have fathomed our own utter weakness. I sometimes think of the lines about the “Steadfast Prince”—

To these my poor companions seem I strong,
And at some times, such am I, as a rock
That has upstood in middle ocean long,
And braved the winds and waters’ angriest shock,
Counting their fury but an idle mock:
Yet sometimes weaker than the weakest wave
That dies about its base, when storms forget to rave.
I from my God such strength have sometimes won,
That all the dark, dark future I am bold
To face—but oh! far otherwise anon,
When my heart sinks and sinks to depths untold
Till being seems no deeper depth to hold.

Did I tell you how I had been pleasantly haunted before I left home by the words, “Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.” I often used to wake up suddenly at night with a fear142 lest I had been presumptuous to think of such a mission as this; and then these words would again and again sound in my soul, and almost in my ears, as if an angel had spoken them. Yes, it is true, if that hand opens the door, not all the powers of earth nor of hell can prevail to shut it.

To her sister.

Lausanne, February 13th, 1875.

My work is over in Switzerland. A hard ten days’ work rather. My evenings are rather lonely, and the cold at times is bitter; at Chaux-de-Fonds it was really cruel. But it is over; and I can only see the good part of it now. At several places committees have been formed. Switzerland has responded wonderfully. Let us thank God! As in Italy a man was found to devote his life wholly to the work, so in Switzerland a man has come forward ready for any service—it is M. Humbert. Is it not touching to see how God prepares hearts? I have asked him to meet me in Paris, that we may try and find a man in France also who will give his life to the cause. I got your precious telegram to-day. It seemed to bring a breath of southern warmth into the cold. There is a terribly sharp wind to-day. I long to hear from you again, for I feel as if I had found you again after many days. We shall now, though parted for long, weary seasons, work in heart and in prayer at least together; hope, believe together, and together “watch for the morning.” I wrote my last letter home in one of those large Swiss railway carriages, with tables and chairs, and a nice fire in the corner. I was alone, and piled logs143 of wood on my fire, and was quite warm, and at ease. They fence out the cold perfectly in the houses here. It is only out of doors that one feels it. The scenes on the Jura reminded me of pictures of the winter retreats of chamois, or of bear-hunting in Norway. Those enormous pines, such as George drew, look so handsome with their loads of newly-fallen snow and pendants of icicles, like jewels, in the sunlight. I was asked to go to Bienne and Basel, but I could not stay. I regret most of all not going to Zurich. There is life there, and it will join us, I am sure. But I feel I ought not to delay longer here. Our meeting here was a most excellent one of men and women in a church. Mr. Buscarlet spoke after I had spoken; he had in his hand a copy of the Edinburgh Daily Review, which he had just received from Scotland, and out of which he read, translating it as he went on, part of the speech of Mr. Stansfeld at Edinburgh, and giving the statistical proofs, so ably stated by him, of the physical failure of these laws. It was listened to with great interest. After every meeting in Switzerland some practical step has been agreed upon, and I have confidence that the separate efforts will develop ere long into a connected, organised work. It has been agreed that the speech made by Professor Aimé Humbert, at Neuchâtel, shall be printed and widely circulated. This is being put in hand at once. I was glad to hear a citizen of Berne say, with grave conviction, that he believed the greatest obstacle they would have to contend against in Germany would be from the German habit of judging, which denies to woman her place as man’s equal, makes her the mere house-wife and144 child-bearer, and gives her no voice at all even in these matters, which concern women most terribly and closely. This, he said, would be a dead weight; but they must fight against it, protest against it; for it was upon this equality and the equality of the moral standard for both sexes that the whole reform we seek must rest for its success. I was glad to hear this sentiment from a German-speaking Swiss, and to hear the same conviction, in other words, strongly expressed by others. Another Swiss gentleman said it seemed to him that it would be around this question that the great battle of the “droit de l’individu,” the principle of personal responsibility and freedom, would be fought in Europe—that right which the party of privilege, the absolutists, on the one hand, and the socialists on the other, destroy or deny. I had a most pleasant evening at the Buscarlets’. I love Madame Bridel. She has written to her son-in-law, M. E. de Pressensé.

Signed Portrait of Butler

To Joseph Edmondson, and other friends.
Paris, February, 1875.

I write to you, dear friends, who may care to read this letter, a last letter before leaving France, and I want to tell you once more how wonderfully God has worked in this matter. I am filled with awe and gratitude when I think of it. I see His hand in all, and I think your prayers have followed and surrounded me: were it not so, I should hardly know how to account for many extraordinary interpositions when I was in extremities, and the kindness I have met with in every place. It is a touching history,145 and I now want to beg my friends in England not to be wanting in faith any more concerning this foreign work. I felt last autumn that most of my friends agreed to this part of the work because I wished it, rather than because they saw for themselves that it was a logical sequence to, and a necessary expansion of, our home work. Oh, if they could only see how hearts on the Continent are leaning towards England in this matter! We all fancied that our England was the only country which felt rightly, the only people which had groaned as just and good people under this evil and tyranny. It is not so. In no place which I have visited have I found a complete acquiescence in the evil, and in every place there has been, at one time or other, some active opposition breaking out here and there. But the evil has been too strong, and Governments have been too strong. Protests however have been made in almost every city at some time or other. Good and noble souls have laboured in secret, heroically, to try to undermine the system, and some have suffered persecution and contempt for the cause. I tell you all this because I want you to see, as I do, how providentially it seems that the open appeal to international effort should have come from England now. I want you to see how God has been training us, not for our battle in England alone, but for this battle of principles all over Europe. I am convinced that we should be simply fools if we were to be contented with achieving our own repeal victory. What do those English people, who care only for the interests of England, suppose would happen if we were to get146 repeal? Would they go back to their politics, their homes, their families, and be in no more danger? Not a bit of it. If we left the Continent unmoved and unhelped, we should not be safe for a year on our own soil. Whence did this particular evil come to us? Did it not come from the Continent? And what would hinder the infection from again invading us? But when once the open conflict is begun abroad, the case will be altered.

To her husband.

Paris, February, 1875.

It was a relief and rest to me, after seeing many sad places, to pay a visit to the “Maison des Diaconesses,” and to see the good work done there—the schools, hospital, and refuge. I dined with the deaconesses, and afterwards one of them took me to see the poor girls they rescue from misery and vice. They were all assembled, and this deaconess said to them, in a sweet, gentle voice, “I want you to look at this dear lady, my children. Yes, look at her well, for she is your friend, and perhaps you may never see her again. She is our friend; she has come to Paris to say that our bonds shall be broken.” And then she continued, speaking almost as a person speaks in a dream, and very solemnly,“Our bonds shall be broken. A time shall come when vice shall no more be organised and upheld by the law, to crush us down to hell. You understand what I mean, my children. Ah, you understand too well! She has come to Paris to oppose the great machinery which makes it so easy to sin, and so hard to escape. She brings you a message from Jesus to-day, my147 children, and asks you to love Him, and to look forward in hope. For our bonds shall be broken—ours; for we are sisters, we suffer with you.”

She explained further to them, very delicately and solemnly, till one saw they began to feel they had a part with us in the good war. I said a few words, and then we all sang a hymn together, about our bonds being broken, at the end of which this deaconess played a few notes on her harmonium, on which she had accompanied us, in which there came a minor tone of sadness for one moment, which seemed to express the hidden agony of the heart so well known to us, while we spoke only of hope to the poor girls.



The year 1875 has few clear recollections for me personally, in direct connection with our cause. Six years of work, and more especially the winter months spent in very difficult work on the Continent, had over-taxed my strength. My health gave way, and was only restored by several months of rest, during which I heard only the distant echoes of the conflict, while I remained at home.

During this autumn Une Voix dans le Désert was ably edited by M. Aimé Humbert, and brought out in French and German, and widely circulated. It consisted of my addresses given on the Continent during the previous winter. These addresses, spoken in French, were never published in English, but were translated year by year into other languages—Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Russian. The following letter refers to this work.

To M. Humbert.


I feel with you every day that some such voice is needed just now. It would perhaps have been better had we been able to bring out a complete book as our first, a book which should contain all the scientific and juridical arguments, as well as a149 complete review of historical facts relating to this subject. But such a complete book is at this moment impossible. I therefore beg you to communicate what I now say to Messieurs Sandoz and Fischbacher (publishers). We want statistics and facts—yes,—but would English statistics and facts alone, drawn from a limited experience, be much or generally valued in other countries? I think not, if they stood alone. Facts from a larger area we must have later, and we shall have them, for, thank God, they stand as indestructible witnesses everywhere of the folly and futility of the attempt to regulate vice. How much more powerful, how overwhelming in fact, would it be for our opponents, and how strengthening for our cause, if we could show facts and statistics gathered from every country, and over a larger period of time. This is precisely what we are now aiming at. We have received all the most recent reports from Italy, France, Germany, and other countries. On every hand there is confession of the failure of regulation. Mireur, Jeannell, Diday, Deprès, Pallasciano, Huet, Crocq, all confess to hygienic failure. The proposals of some of these men to ensure future success (a success which they confess they have never yet ensured) are of such a wild and ghastly nature, that one has only to read their books to see that the beginning of the end is at hand. From out these statistics there appear, here and there, deeply pathetic facts, such as these: that four-fifths of the poor girls subjected to this tyranny (according to one writer) are orphans; many are foreigners in the country of their enslavement; many are young widows. Does not150 our God, who is the God of the Fatherless, of the Widow, and of the Stranger, take note of these things? You see that in a year or two we shall have a mass of evidence against this system which will give the doctors and materialist legislators a hard task to refute. I care little that men accuse me, as you say, of mere sentiment, and of carrying away my hearers by feeling rather than by facts and logic. Even while they are saying this they read my words, and they are made uncomfortable! They feel that there is a truth of some sort there, and that sentiment itself is after all a fact and a power when it expresses the deepest intuitions of the human soul. They have had opportunity for many years past of looking at the question in its material phases, of appreciating its hygienic results, and of reading numberless books on the subject—statistical, medical, and administrative. Now for the first time they are asked to look upon it as a question of human nature, of equal interest to man and woman; as a question of the heart, the soul, the affections, the whole moral being. As a simple assertion of one woman speaking for tens of thousands of women, those two words “we rebel” are very necessary, and very useful for them to hear. The cry of women, crushed under the yoke of legalised vice, is not the cry of a statistician or a medical expert; it is simply a cry of pain, a cry for justice, and for a return to God’s laws in place of these brutally impure laws invented and imposed by man. It is imperfect, no doubt, as an utterance, but the cry of the revolted woman against her oppressor, and to her God, is far more needful at this moment than any reasoned-out151 argument. I think therefore, and my husband agrees with me, that it is better to publish the Voice in the Wilderness simply as the utterance of a woman, and to do it quickly. It will rouse some consciences, no matter how imperfect men may find it. On the eve of a war it may be said that the sound of the trumpet is imperfect because it only calls to the battle, and that we want to see the troops, their arms, and the strength of muscle on either side. Yet the call to battle is needed; the close grappling with the foe will follow. It is only when the slave begins to move, to complain, to give signs of life and resistance, either by his own voice, or by the voice of one like himself speaking for him, that the struggle for freedom truly begins. The slave now speaks. The enslaved women have found a voice in one of themselves, who was raised up for no other end than to sound the proclamation of an approaching deliverance. Never mind the imperfection of the first voice. It is the voice of a woman who has suffered, a voice calling to holy rebellion and to war. It will penetrate. Then by and by we shall come down on our opponents with the heavy artillery of facts and statistics and scientific arguments on every side. We will not spare them, we will show them no mercy. We shall tear to pieces their refuge of lies, and expose the ghastliness of their covenant with death, and their agreement with hell. We and our successors will continue to do this year after year until they have no ground to stand upon.

Shortly after her return to England she had given an account of her mission, at a conference held in152 London, “in the course of which she showed that her own work abroad had had very little of a creative character, but had rather served to bring out and give expression to sentiments and convictions already existing in the various countries she had visited.” It was resolved at this conference to form a federation of the friends of the movement in all countries. “The British, Continental and General Federation for the Abolition of Government Regulation of Prostitution” was formally constituted at a meeting in Liverpool on March 19th, Mr. Stansfeld being chosen as President, Mr. W. Crossfield as Treasurer, and M. Aimé Humbert, of Neuchâtel, as Continental Correspondent. Mrs. Butler was appointed Hon. Secretary, with Mr. H. J. Wilson as co-Secretary pro tem. (he was succeeded a few months later by Mr. Stuart, who this year became Professor Stuart). The heavy work of correspondence connected with the starting of the Federation, added to the fatigues of the preceding winter’s work on the Continent, proved to be too much for her bodily strength, and she was compelled to give up all work for several months. The work however experienced no check, for during these months Mr. Wilson in England and M. Humbert on the Continent, by their untiring energy and earnestness, succeeded in gaining many adherents to the Federation, which was thus early put on a firm foundation.

In the following April the late Rev. J. P. Gledstone and Mr. H. J. Wilson started on a journey to the United States, where they met many leaders of the old anti-slavery party and other kindred spirits, whom they enlisted into sympathy and co-operation with the Federation. Writing to Josephine Butler twenty years later, Mr. Gledstone recalled the occasion of their starting on this journey: “It was, I remember, a cold, stormy Thursday in April, 1876, when you persisted in accompanying Mr. Wilson and me to the river, to see us on board the Adriatic. The153 anti-regulation struggle has seen some uncommon things; I think so now, as I recall your slender form seeking shelter from the keen wind that swept through the little tug that conveyed us to the huge steamer lying in the middle of the Mersey—two strong men sent out on their mission and cheered to it by one woman!”

This year Josephine Butler published anonymously, for the Social Purity Alliance, The Hour before the Dawn: an Appeal to Men. A French translation of this pamphlet was published the same year in Paris. Her name appeared on the title-page of the second edition, issued six years later. Its sustained eloquence and passionate, pathetic appeal combine to make it one of the finest of all her writings. It reveals the profoundest sympathy for all men, as well as women, who have sinned and are struggling to rise again. To such she preaches a gospel of hope, and shows that though the past is irreparable, there is always an available future. We can only give one extract, selected because of its autobiographical interest.

I look back to the years when my soul was in darkness on account of sin—the sin, the misery and the waste which are in the world, the great and sad problems of life, the prosperity of evil-doers, the innocent suffering for the guilty, the cruelties, the wrongs inflicted and never redressed, and the multitudes who seem to be created only to be lost. A great cloud gathered over me. Anger, fear, dismay filled my heart. I could see no God, or such as I could see appeared to me an immoral God. Sin seemed to me the law of the world, and Satan its master. I staggered on the verge of madness and blasphemy. I asked,154 “Does not God care? Can God bear these things?” He is silent, the woe deepens, and the question is still sent up from generation to generation, Hath God not seen? Will He not help? Does He look down from His eternal calm of heaven an indifferent spectator? Can it be that the Eternal rests content that any human beings whom He has created should perish for ever? That men should destroy themselves in spite of God is a terrible thought, but not so terrible, not so fatal to hope, to love, and to faith as the thought, full of deadly poison, that God cares not—that the heart of Him who redeemed us is cold, when my own is filled with an agony of compassion. This bitter thought taking possession of my soul, did not beget despondency, or lassitude, or indifference, leading me to close my eyes and fold my hands; but it stirred up the rebel within me. I could not love God—the God who appeared to my darkened and foolish heart to consent to so much which seemed to me cruel and unjust, and removable by an act of His power. I was like one who is leaning over a great gulf, whence none who fall into it ever return. “In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and He heard me.” The pride and rebellion gave way before deep and heavy sorrow; and then all the sorrow gathered itself up into one great cry. I asked of the Lord one thing—that He would take of His own heart and show it to me; that He would reveal to me His one, His constant attitude toward His lost world; that as I had shown Him my heart He would show me His heart, so much of it as a worm of the earth can comprehend and endure, so much of it as the finite can receive from the Infinite (for to know His love for the155 world and His sorrow for the world, as they are, would break any human heart. I should, in the moment of such a revelation, expire at His feet: a man cannot so see God and live). Deep calleth unto deep; His own helpful spirit, out of the depths of my heart, making supplication for me with groanings unutterable, calling to the deep heart of Christ, awakened echoes there which called back again to mine.

Continuing to make this one request through day and night, through summer and winter, with patience and constancy, the God who answers prayer had mercy on me. He did not deny me my request—that He should show me of His own heart’s love for sinners, and reveal to me His one, His constant attitude towards His lost world; and when He makes this revelation He does more—He makes the enquiring soul a partaker of His own heart’s love for the world. The doubt, the dark misery growing out of the contemplation of the sorrows of earth and the apparent waste of souls are no longer able to drive me into sullenness and despair, for I have found the door of hope. I do not say—for I speak neither more nor less than I have learned of God—that the perplexity is solved, that the sorrow is gone. Sorrow is with me still, the enduring companion of my life. I do not pretend to be able to explain the secrets of God and the great problems of life with any clearness of speech to satisfy another. But I have found the door of hope. He has the key of all mysteries, and we are then nearest to the solution of every painful mystery, when we have drawn nigh and heard from Him the secrets of His heart of love. Now I know when my156 heart is strangely stirred by the sight of a vast multitude in some great city that my heart’s yearnings over them are but the faintest shadowings of His heart’s yearnings over them; that my love, which would embrace them all, is but as a drop of water to the ocean of His love, which would embrace them all. But in vain! Words are not found in which to express what it is which Christ may reveal to the soul which has waited on Him in determined love and grief, with this one request, “Show me Thy heart’s love for sinners, and Thy one, Thy constant attitude towards Thy lost world.” Seek it, friends, and you shall know how far it solves the sorrowful problems of earth, though you too may find it to be among the things which it is not possible or lawful for a man to utter. Where, where in heaven or on earth, if not here, will you find an answer alike to the great questions of life which vex your heart, and to the problem of yourself, that single being, so fearfully and wonderfully made?

In the late autumn of 1876 a newspaper war suddenly broke out in France kindled by numerous cases of arbitrary and cruel action on the part of the Police des Mœurs, and frequent arrests both of men and women for resisting or even speaking against that force. As a result the Paris Municipal Council, which was opposed to the system, appointed a commission of enquiry, and the commission invited certain persons from different countries who had studied the question to give evidence before it. Mr. and Mrs. Butler, Mr. Stansfeld and Professor Stuart were invited from England, and they went to Paris for this purpose in January, 1877.


The members of the commission were not wholly of one mind on all points, and it was rather a severe exercise of brain and memory to meet and satisfy the various questions of a company of quick-witted, logical Frenchmen. It was an exercise however, which left one feeling stronger and happier, because of the sincerity of motive which we felt animated the questioners.

Some days after giving our evidence a great meeting was held in the Salle des Écoles, Rue d’Arras. The hall was densely crowded. There was a considerable proportion of “blue blouses,” working men from St. Antoine and Belleville quarters, students from the Latin quarter, and some members of the Chambers and of the Senate, besides Municipal Councillors. There was also a good attendance of women. The several addresses given were listened to with extraordinary attention and interest, and in a quietness which was remarkable considering the mercurial and excitable nature of a portion of that audience. So keen was the sympathy (having its roots deep in bitter experience) of the poorer part of the audience, especially the working men, that it was necessary in some degree to restrain all that it might have been in our hearts to say on the injustice and cruelty of the system of which the victims were drawn so largely from their own ranks.

Another large meeting was held in the Salle de la Redoute, which was crowded with respectable working women. With the memory of all I had seen and heard in Paris of the condition of the honest working woman, hunted from street to street and from room to room by the police, and looking at the158 troubled and earnest faces all turned towards me, I could not refrain from uttering these words: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the honest workwoman of Paris has not where to lay her head.” Many burst into tears, or hid their faces in their hands. In coming out from the meeting, several poor girls came to me, their faces swollen with weeping, and said, “Ah, madam, how true those words were about the foxes!”

The Federation had met for its first annual conference in London in 1876, and from that time it has held annual conferences in various cities abroad or in England; the meeting every third year being called a congress, and being of a larger and more important character. The first congress, at Geneva, is described in the following letter.

To a relative.

Geneva, September, 1877.

I can only give you a brief sketch of the past week; full reports will be published. The anxiety which we could not but feel went on augmenting up to Friday. On Friday we began to see daylight, and all has ended well. Many of us are tired and stupefied for want of sleep, but at the same time inwardly giving thanks to God.

This Congress has been a wonderful event. There were 510 inscribed members, besides the numerous public which attended the meetings. It is, they say, the largest Congress that has ever been held in Geneva. On the first days people continued flocking in from all nations. There were Greeks who came from Athens, and Russians from St. Petersburg and159 Moscow. There were Americans, Belgians, Dutch, Danes, Germans, Pomeranians, Italians, French and Spaniards. Señor Zorilla, the late President of the Spanish Cortes, spoke on Wednesday, and was nominated as one of a committee to consider what action should be taken in Spain. On Sunday, in the cathedral, Pastor Rœrich preached a powerful sermon to a very large congregation on the question before the Congress, and in all the churches we and our work have been prayed for.

We always anticipated that when the final resolutions should come to be voted upon then would be the real war, and so it was. When the voting began, our faithful bands of ladies worked and watched in their different sections quite splendidly. First we had a considerable conflict in the Social Economy Section. Then came the voting in the Legislative Section, in the smaller hall of the Reformation, which was densely crowded. Professor Hornung presided. The discussion lasted three hours. Some lawyers were present, who are now busy in the prospect of the revision of some parts of the penal code of Switzerland, notably a young jurist, an able man who spoke well, but as a downright opponent. There followed a stormy scene, which the President with difficulty controlled. People of many different languages stood up at the same moment, each with a finger stretched out, demanding to speak. “Je demande la parole” sounded from all sides of the room. Mr. A——, the young jurist, made the President indignant by asserting that a resolution drawn up by him was not juridique. Seeing that M. Hornung is Professor of Jurisprudence at the160 Geneva University, and possesses the very highest reputation, this was rather strong, and I do not wonder it irritated him. But it did good, for it stimulated him to come out on the last day of the Congress with a splendid judicial speech, by far the best and clearest utterance of the kind I have ever heard in any country. We shall translate and circulate it. Hornung is a delightful man. He has that good gift of God, an enlightened intellect, as well as a pure heart, together with great refinement and gentleness of manner. At one o’clock, when we were all feeling the need of food, and our throats were dry with the dust of the room, an Italian advocate got up and declared there had not yet been enough discussion of each point. The chairman was aghast. He had expected the voting to be got over just at that moment. A kind of barking, House of Commons cry arose of “Vote, vote!” while the President stood open-mouthed, attempting to read the resolutions so as to be heard. A sort of stampede seized some of the German and Swiss members, and they made for the door. Half the meeting would have gone out, and so damaged the worth of the voting. So I ventured to shut the door and set my back against it, declaring that no one should have any food until he had voted! This half startled and half amused the assembly, and they all sat down again obediently. After another half-hour of discussion, it was agreed that we should meet again for a final voting at half-past six the next morning.

On the same day the resolutions of the Moral Section were passed very satisfactorily. Then came the Hygienic Section. The discussion here was so161 long that it was also adjourned until an evening hour. At eight o’clock that evening we all went to the hall of the Hygienic Section, and there sat crowded together, or stood, amidst a scene of intense interest, till midnight. Dr. Bertani of Rome took a leading part. Our ladies all went to the meeting; but they had been up so early, and had worked so hard all day, that by 11.0 p.m. this is the scene which one of my sons described as having observed at the back of the hall, “a long row of ladies all sound asleep”; but they had appointed a watcher—Mrs. Bright Lucas—who sat at the end of the row, and whom they had charged to keep awake, and to give them the signal whenever voting began on each clause of the resolution. Mrs. Lucas was wide awake, with eyes shining like live coals! We had prayed that God would direct this meeting, and it was wonderful and beautiful to see how the truth prevailed. Dr. de la Harpe, the President, acted well throughout. At the end I shook hands with him and Dr. Ladame, thanking them for their excellent words. Dr. de la Harpe replied, “You owe us nothing; it is you and your friends who must be thanked, who have brought us so much light.”

At the end of the Congress all the resolutions came out satisfactorily. We owe a good deal of this result to Professor Stuart’s tact and patience in talking to the different presidents individually. We think our resolutions are on the whole excellent as a statement of principles—clear and uncompromising; and shall we not thank God for this? His hand has been over us for good all this time, convincing men’s hearts and consciences, and controlling their words162 and actions. The earnest daily prayers offered up have not been in vain. These resolutions will be sent to every Government and to every municipal council throughout Europe. They have been telegraphed to the English press in extenso. My son George was charged with the work of telegraphing, and had necessarily to exercise much alertness and activity. M. Humbert is impressed with the excellence of whatever work he undertakes.

In the Legislative Section we had an energetic discussion over the seduction laws of different countries, and the recherche de la paternité, subjects not immediately in our programme, but closely touching it. The discussion became so hot, that it seemed difficult for some of the members to remain calm at all. Signora Mozzoni, a delegate from Milan, burst into tears over it, and one or two of our good gentlemen lost their tempers a little. One cannot wonder, for this is one of the important questions upon which people of different nations and creeds hold very different views. Miss Isabella Tod and Mrs. Sheldon Amos took a line on the point of the age to which protection should be given, in which I could not quite follow them, and I felt obliged for once to oppose my own countrywomen. Professor Hornung was pleased with what I said, as it seems it accorded with the views of most continental jurists.

The young advocate who had opposed us called yesterday to say that he had come round to our views, chiefly influenced by that desperate little impromptu legal discussion among the ladies. He had imagined, he said, that we were a number of “fanatical and sentimental women,” but163 “when he heard women arguing like jurists, and even taking part against each other, and yet with perfect good temper, like men (!), he began to see that we were grave, educated, and even scientific people!” He came afterwards to every meeting, and, as he said, weighed all our words.

I think I have not mentioned the resolutions at the Section of Bienfaisance, under good Pastor Borel’s presidency. Those also were very satisfactory.

Josephine Butler published in 1878 a biography of Catharine of Siena. A French translation of this was published nine years later at Neuchâtel. Mr. Gladstone wrote to George Butler, expressing his intense interest in the book, and adding: “It is evident that Mrs. Butler is on the level of her subject, and it is a very high level. To say this is virtually saying all. Her reply (by anticipation) to those who scoff down the visions is, I think, admirable.” We give but one quotation.

Here I must pause to speak of that great secret of Catharine’s spiritual life, the constant converse of her soul with God. Her book, entitled The Dialogue, represents a conversation between a soul and God, mysterious and perhaps meaningless to many, but to those who can understand full of revelation of the source of her power over human hearts. All through her autobiography (for such her Dialogue and Letters may be called) no expressions occur more frequently than such as these: “The Lord said to me,” &c.; “My God told me to act so and so”; “While I was praying, my Saviour showed me the meaning of this, and spoke thus to me.” I shall not164 attempt to explain, nor shall I alter this simple form of speech. It is not for us to limit the possibilities of the communications and revelations, which the Eternal may be pleased to make to a soul, which continually waits upon Him. If you are disposed, reader, to doubt the fact of these communications from God, or to think that Catharine only fancied such and such things, and attributed these fancies to a divine source, then I would give you one word of advice, and one only: go you and make the attempt to live a life of prayer, such as she lived, and then, and not till then, will you be in a position which will give you any shadow of a right, or any power, to judge of this soul’s dealings with God.



In 1879 her writings included two pamphlets, Government by Police and Social Purity, the latter being an address delivered at Cambridge. This year the Federation held its Conference at Liége. A bright and vivid account of the meetings at Liége, from the skilful pen of Madame de Morsier, is given in the Reminiscences of a Great Crusade, which shows that these annual gatherings of crusaders from various countries were not wholly devoted to serious discussions of a painful subject, but became occasions for true human fellowship (even touched with gaiety) between persons of divers tastes and experiences. The account concludes thus: “And now, little town of Belgium, sitting on the banks of the Meuse, surrounded with green hills, let me take one parting look at you! We have only known you a few days, and now you live in our memories a luminous point in the past. Many of us arrived within your walls strangers to each other, and have parted friends; some arrived sorrowful, discouraged, asking what would be the end of all this? They return peaceful, and fortified with the conviction that work is happiness, and conflict a duty. Manet alta mente repostum.

The agitation in Paris against the Police des mœurs, referred to in the last chapter, had been continued, and led this year to the resignation of M. Lecour, who was appointed chief “bell-ringer” of Notre Dame; and this was followed by further166 enquiries and newspaper revelations, and the subsequent resignation of the Prefect of Police and other members of his staff, and later of the Minister of the Interior. In these events M. Yves Guyot and other members of the French branch of the Federation took a prominent part. Early in 1880 Mr. Alfred Dyer and Mr. George Gillett visited Brussels to investigate cases of English girls, many of whom were minors, alleged to be detained in the licensed houses of that city against their will, and with the connivance of the police. Some of these girls were rescued, and being brought to England, were placed under the care of Josephine Butler.

Another of the poor refugees helped by Pastor Anet to escape from Brussels came to our house in Liverpool. She appeared to be in pain, and on being questioned she replied that she was suffering from unhealed stripes on her back and shoulders from the lash of this tyrant.

I drew from her, when alone, the story of her martyrdom. The keeper of this house in Brussels, enraged with her because of her persistent refusal to participate in some exceptionally base proceedings among his clients, had her carried to an underground chamber, whence her cries could not be heard. She was here immured and starved, and several times scourged with a thong of leather. But she did not yield. This poor delicate girl had been neglected from childhood. She was a Catholic, but had had little or no religious teaching. She told me, with much simplicity, that in the midst of these tortures she was167 “all the time strengthened and comforted by the thought that Jesus had Himself been cruelly scourged, and that He could feel for her.”

Before her capture she had one day seen in a shop window in Brussels an engraving of Christ before Pilate, bound and scourged. Some persons, no doubt, may experience a little shock of horror at the idea of any connection in the thoughts of this poor child between the supreme agony of the Son of God and her own torments in the cellar of that house of debauchery. We often sincerely mourn over these victims as “lost” because we cannot reach them with any word of love or the “glad evangel.” But He “descended into hell,” into the abode of the “spirits in prison,” to speak to them; and I believe, and have had many testimonies to the fact, that He visits spiritually these young souls in their earthly prison many a time, He alone, in all His majesty of pity, without any intervention of ours.

Josephine Butler published in May a statement making definite charges of gross ill-treatment of young girls in Brussels, and these charges were substantiated in a deposition on oath, made in response to a formal application from the Belgian authorities, under the Extradition Act. Some months later she sent a copy of her deposition to the editor of Le National in Brussels, intending it merely to be used in connection with evidence, which he had to give before a Commission then sitting on the subject. He however published it in Le National, and it created a great sensation throughout Belgium.

To her sister.

You can imagine that on first hearing of this I felt a little troubled, and as if I had been “given away.” Also persons friendly to us, such as Lambillon, Hendrick and others, who had given us168 information from a good motive, were angry at seeing their names published as having had any knowledge whatever of these evil things; and I was pained to think of their pain.

I was pondering all this one evening, when I suddenly recollected that on New Year’s Day of this year, and for many days after, I had taken upon me to make a special and definite request to God for light to fall upon these “dark places of the earth, wherein are the inhabitants of cruelty.” Some strong influence seemed to urge me to make this request. I used to kneel and pray, “O God, I beseech Thee, send light upon these evil deeds! Whatever it may cost us and others, flash light into these abodes of darkness. O send us light, for without it there can be no destruction of the evil. We cannot make war against a hidden foe. In the darkness these poor sisters of ours, these creatures of Thine, are daily murdered, and we do not know what to do or where to turn, and we find no way by which to begin to act. Send us light, O our God, even though it may be terrible to bear.” I had made a record of this petition, and then I had forgotten it. But not so our faithful God. His memory is better than mine! He did not forget, and He is now sending the answer to that prayer. Then I thought of the words, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe.” Here is the very thing I had asked for, brought about in a way I had not dreamed of.

One consequence of these revelations was the dismissal of M. Lenaers, the Chief of the Brussels169 Police des mœurs, followed by the resignation of his principal subordinate. Another consequence was the formation of a strong committee in London for the suppression of the white slave traffic. The proposals of this committee in regard to legislation were ultimately adopted in that portion of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885, which deals with offences connected with other countries. The matter was still further advanced many years later, largely owing to the efforts of Mr. W. A. Coote, by the Governments of Europe signing the International Convention for the suppression of the white slave traffic, 1904. This Convention has no doubt done something towards the suppression of this traffic, but as Josephine Butler frequently pointed out, and as was emphasised in the discussions at the Conference of the Federation in 1908, there is a grave risk, that in those countries, in which the authorities still license immoral houses, the police will not honestly and thoroughly endeavour to prevent the traffic upon which the profits of those houses so largely depend.



In the spring of 1882 George Butler resigned the Principalship of Liverpool College, and three months later Mr. Gladstone appointed him to a Canonry at Winchester. This year Josephine Butler published The Life of Jean Frederic Oberlin, the gentle and beloved Pastor of the Ban de la Roche (1740-1826), who not only ministered to his people in things spiritual, but also in things material, teaching them to make roads and to grow potatoes. Like John Grey, he changed the whole aspect of the country side, and in his old age his great services were recognised by the award to him of the gold medal of the Royal Agricultural Society of France, and by the King bestowing on him the dignity of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. The following passage illustrates the great principle of his life—ora et labora.

In our own busy and exciting times, when competition (even in good works) is apt to distract and disturb the heart and the brain of the followers of Christ, to the detriment of calmness and depth, we all require to be reminded of the one and only source of true life and power. Our young, hard-worked ministers, and many other Christian workers, both old and young, engaged in the multitudinous active duties which they are required in these days to fulfil to the last tittle, and in favour of which171 they too often postpone even the work of waiting upon God, know by bitter experience the deadening effect on the soul of the enforced whirl of active engagements—benevolent, pious, and laudable as these may be. But by whom are these chains enforced, to the disadvantage of the spiritual life? By the tyrant society—even a Christian society, which can in its turn become tyrannical. It would be better to rebel somewhat against this tyranny, to resist the pressure of over-work, and to determine to be often alone with God, even if our hours with Him appeared to rob earth of a small particle of our poor services.

Bernard of Clairvaux, when engaged in a correspondence with persons and orders throughout the whole of Europe, battling single-handed with an amount of work which might overwhelm any modern Secretary of State, found that on the days when he spent the most time in prayer, and in listening to the voice of God and the teachings of the Spirit, his letters were the most rapidly written and persuasive, and his active work the most promptly and successively accomplished. His many schemes, evolved from his own ingenious brain, widened into or were lost in the far greater plan and purpose of God; anxiety was allayed; power—the power of the Holy Spirit, to which he had opened his heart—flowed forth, and was felt in every word he wrote or spoke, and in his very presence and looks.

Oberlin reserved stated hours for private prayer during the day, at which times none, as a rule, were permitted to interrupt him. These hours came to be172 known to all his parishioners, and it was usual for carters or labourers, returning from the fields with talk and laughter, to uncover their heads as they passed beneath the walls of his house. If the children ran by too noisily these working people would check them with uplifted finger, and say, “Hush! He is praying for us.” At times his soul was moved to an agony of intercession for his people; he travailed in birth for them. Sometimes he was in darkness on their account. His natural kindness to all becoming, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, a constant and yearning desire for their salvation, he would spend hours on his knees pouring out his soul in prayer for them with “strong crying and tears.” He felt the awful nature of the responsibility of one who is called to be an overseer of the flock of God, and who must give an account of the souls committed to him. “Oh, my people, my people, my children, my friends!” he would cry in his prayers—apostrophising them, and pleading with them as well as for them, though he was alone with God.

In 1883 Josephine Butler published the remarkable story of The Salvation Army in Switzerland, telling how the workers of the Army in Geneva had attracted some of the poor slaves of the State-protected houses, who “escaped or succeeded in obtaining release, and once more in the light of day, they listened to the glad tidings of salvation;” and how the keepers of these houses, “like the sellers of the shrines of Diana, fearing that the hope of their gains was threatened,” secured bands of roughs, who disturbed the Army’s meetings, until at last the authorities, being unable or unwilling to keep order,173 expelled Miss Catherine Booth and Miss Charlesworth from Geneva as disturbers of the peace! Later Miss Booth was imprisoned at Neuchâtel, but was released after a trial at which the illegality of her treatment was exposed. She was however shortly after expelled from the Canton; but despite persecution the Army has since prospered in Switzerland.

The next two letters refer to Mr. C. H. Hopwood’s resolution condemning the compulsory examination of women under the Contagious Diseases Acts, which could not be moved, being crowded out by the debate on the Address.

To her son Stanley.

February 27th, 1883.

We have had some hard work lately. Father and I went to Cambridge for a quiet Sunday. It was bright and pleasant there, and the Fellows’ garden was beginning to put on its spring clothing. Then we came up to London to prepare for the coming on of our question in the House. A Member of Parliament, whom we met at Cambridge, told us that the amount of pressure brought to bear at this moment by the country was, he thought, “unprecedented in the history of any agitation.” Our friends are active in every nook and corner of the country: even from remote villages petitions come pouring in. Also many single petitions, such as from Cardinal Manning and the Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland. Mr. Hopwood told us that several M.P.’s came to him yesterday, and said they must vote with us, though before they had been hostile. “It is a strange thing,” said one, “that people care so much about this question. All my leading constituents have urged me to vote with you.” One of our174 strongest opponents, a military man, said to him, “Well, you have had extraordinary support from the country; it is evident that yours is the winning side.”

I was in the Lobby a few days ago, and saw a petition lying in someone’s hand, on the back of which was written: “Petition from 1553 inhabitants of West Ham.” You know that these are poor working fathers and mothers, some of whom have lately had their children stolen. They have had less than a week to collect these names. These silent figures are eloquent. There is a distinct change of tone in the House, and your father and I believe that it dates from the time that we came forward publicly to confess God as our leader. Our cause was openly baptised, so to speak, in the name of Christ, and our advance has been steady ever since. Also I thought I saw what I never observed before in the sceptical and worldly atmosphere of Parliament, i.e. signs of a consciousness of a spiritual strife going on. Some members spoke to us of the spiritual power in our movement, while on the other hand there is a seething and boiling of unworthy passions, such as would appal one if one did not remember that it was when the great Incarnation of purity drew near to the “possessed” man of old that the “unclean spirits” cried out.

To return to my story. Some of our friends in Parliament telegraphed to us at Cambridge that no debate would come on, on account of the arrears of talk on the Address. This is disappointing. Mr. W. E. Forster’s management of Irish affairs necessitates much discussion.


We have arranged for a great meeting for prayer. We shall hold it close to the House of Commons during the whole debate, if there is one, and all night if the debate lasts all night. We have invited about twenty of our best friends in the House to join us. This meeting has been advertised in The Times, The Standard and Daily News. Some of our parliamentary friends counselled this course, saying that it was well that all the world should know with what weapons and in whose name we make war, even if they scoff at the idea, as of course many do.

To her son.

February 28th, 1883.

We went to the House at four o’clock yesterday. Justin McCarthy was speaking. There was still to the last a chance of Mr. Hopwood’s resolution coming on, but perhaps not till midnight. I did not remain in the Ladies’ Gallery, but came and went from the prayer-meeting to the Lobby of the House. We saw John Morley take the oath and his seat. The first thing he did after taking the oath was to sit down by Mr. Hopwood and say, “Now tell me what I can do to help you to-night, for the thing our Newcastle electors were most persistent about was that I should oppose this legislation.” I then went to the Westminster Palace Hotel, where we had taken a large room for our devotional meeting. There were well-dressed ladies, some even of high rank, kneeling together (almost side by side) with the poorest, and some of the outcast women of the purlieus of Westminster. Many were weeping, but when I first went in they were singing, and I never176 heard a sweeter sound. There were some cultivated voices amongst them, and the hymns were well chosen. I felt ready to cry, but I did not; for I long ago rejected the old ideal of the “division of labour,” that “men must work and women must weep.” A venerable lady from America rose and said, “Tears are good, prayers are better, but we should get on better if behind every tear there was a vote at the ballot box.” Every soul in that room responded to that sentiment. I never saw a meeting more moved. The occasion and the circumstances were certainly pathetic. As we continued to pray we all felt, I think, a great pity come into our hearts for those men who were at that moment in the House so near to us, who wield so great a responsibility, and so many of whom will have a sad account to give of their use of it.

Charles Parker told me next day that at that time several M.P.’s were walking about the Lobby, and that two young men, not long in Parliament, said to him, “Have you heard, Parker, that the ladies were to hold a prayer meeting to-night to pray for us? But I suppose it is given up, as this debate is to be postponed.” Mr. Parker, better informed, said, “On the contrary, that is just what they are doing now, praying for us. It throws a great responsibility on us.” The young men, he said, looked very grave. Father had to return home, I went back to the House, while other women remained and continued their intercessions. All Westminster was wrapped in a haze, out of which glared only the great light on the clock tower. I walked through the mist, feeling rather sad, and177 wondering how much longer this horrible yoke would remain fastened on the neck of a people who wish to get rid of it, and how long women will be refused a voice in the representation of the country. I climbed up the wearisome gallery stairs, and from the grating saw a crowd of our gentlemen friends from the country sitting in the Strangers’ Gallery opposite. How patiently they sat through those long hours. Some of them had come even from Scotland for the purpose. Father had gone home, but just above the clock I saw George, and tried to catch his eye, but he, believing that I was at the other meeting, did not look towards our gallery or see me. I sat on till midnight for the chance of our resolution coming on. By and by Mr. Hopwood asked the Speaker’s leave to make a statement. He then made a very good speech, explaining, rather to the country than to the House, how it was he was prevented from bringing on his resolution, and saying that Parliament and the Government should have no peace on the question, for the country was aroused, and nothing could lessen their present determination. He called them to witness to the needless waste of time there had been in talking and recriminations before midnight. Mr. Trevelyan told me he thought our opponents had purposely prolonged the debate on the Address.

I must tell you that just in the second hour of our prayers your telegram was handed to me. I thought it was some business, and was pleasantly surprised when I saw it was from St. Andrews, so far off, and yet it brought you so near, and just at a moment when it was peculiarly precious to me.


After another half hour at the meeting, I returned once more to the Lobby of the House, and found some of our friends waiting about. They took me out on the terrace along the river front. The fog had cleared away, and it was very calm under the starlit sky. All the bustle of the city was stilled, and the only sound was that of the dark water lapping against the buttresses of the broad stone terrace, the water into which so many despairing women have flung themselves.

I forgot to tell you that before the debate began I ventured into the circular hall or lobby next to the House itself, having caught sight of the venerable face of old Mr. Whitwell. He remembered me, and shook hands. I stood near him in a corner, as if he had taken me under his protection. The first word he said to me was, “Has it ever struck you that there is no one thing in the whole of Christ’s discourses to which He has given such emphasis as that of the certainty of prayer being answered? Now you may be sure our persevering prayers will be answered in this matter.” I saw several other friends, among them your member, Mr. Williamson, who said, “Tell your son that I have presented his petition from St. Andrews, and that I support the prayer of it with all my heart.” I am glad to tell you Albert Grey and Robert Reid, father’s old pupil at Cheltenham, are with us on the question. I met Cardinal Manning in the Lobby, and had a pleasant talk with him. He is much in earnest about all good movements. He has been ill, and looked even thinner than a spider! He said he would do all he could for us, through his influence, on the Irish Catholic vote.


On April 20th Mr. Stansfeld moved the resolution condemning compulsory examination, which Mr. Hopwood had been prevented from bringing on in February, and it was carried by 182 votes to 110. In accordance with this resolution, the Government suspended the operation of the Acts in the following month.

To her sister in Naples.

Winchester, April, 1883.

Some day I trust I shall be able to tell you in detail of the events of the last few days. I longed for your presence during the debate; it was for us a very solemn time. All day long groups had met for prayer—some in the houses of M.P.‘s, some in churches, some in halls, where the poorest people came. Meetings were being held also all over the kingdom, and telegraphic messages of sympathy came to us continually from Scotland and Ireland, France, and Switzerland and Italy. There was something in the air like the approach of victory. As men and women prayed they suddenly burst forth into praise, thanking God for the answer, as if it had already been granted. It was a long debate. The tone of the speeches, both for and against, was remarkably purified, and with one exception they were altogether on a higher plane than in former debates. Many of us ladies sat through the whole evening till after midnight; then came the division. A few minutes previously Mr. Gerard, the steward of the Ladies’ Gallery, crept quietly in and whispered to me, “I think you are going to win!” That reserved official, of course, never betrays sympathy180 with any party; nevertheless, I could see the irrepressible pleasure in his face when he said this.

Never can I forget the expression on the faces of our M.P.’s in the House when they all streamed back from the division lobby. The interval during their absence had seemed very long, and we could hear each other’s breathing, so deep was the silence. We did not require to wait to hear the announcement of the division by the tellers: the faces of our friends told the tale. Slowly and steadily they pressed in, headed by Mr. Stansfeld and Mr. Hopwood, the tellers on our side. Mr. Fowler’s face was beaming with joy and a kind of humble triumph. I thought of the words: “Say unto Jerusalem that her warfare is accomplished.” It was a victory of righteousness over gross selfishness, injustice, and deceit, and for the moment we were all elevated by it. When the figures were given out a long-continued cheer arose, which sounded like a psalm of praise. Then we ran quickly down from the gallery, and met a number of our friends coming out from Westminster Hall.

It was half-past one in the morning, and the stars were shining in a clear sky. I felt at that silent hour in the morning in the spirit of the Psalmist, who said: “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion we were like unto them that dream.” It almost seemed like a dream.

When Mr. Cavendish Bentinck was speaking against us I noticed an expression of pain on Mr. Gladstone’s face. He seemed to be pretending to read a letter, but at last passed his hand over his eyes and left the House. He returned before Mr. Stansfeld made his noble speech, to which he listened attentively.


Later in the year she referred to this victory in a speech at Birmingham, which was printed under the title The Bright Side of the Question, and from which we quote the two following paragraphs.

I will say then to the women here one word. Dear women, I recall a scene; you will understand me. The night of the memorable debate in April, lasting many hours, there were meetings of women not far from the House of Commons—a crowd of women upon their knees through a great part of the night. I crept out of the House of Commons, where I was in the Ladies’ Gallery, and joined those meetings for a few moments. It was a sight I shall never forget. At one meeting there were the poorest, most ragged and miserable women from the slums of Westminster on their knees before the God of hosts, with tears and groans pouring out the burden of their sad hearts. He alone knew what that burden was. There were mothers who had lost daughters; there were sad-hearted women; and side by side with these poor souls, dear to God as we are, there were ladies of high rank, in their splendid dresses—Christian ladies of the upper classes kneeling and also weeping. I thank God for this wonderful and beautiful solidarity of the women of the world before God. Women are called to be a great power in the future, and by this terrible blow which fell upon us, forcing us to leave our privacy and bind ourselves together for our less fortunate sisters, we have passed through an education—a noble education. God has prepared in us, in the women of the world, a force for all future causes which are great and just.

We shall not stop, our efforts will not cease182 when this particular struggle is at an end. God has called us out, and we must not go back from any warfare to which He shall now call us in the future. We praise, we thank Him for what He has done already for us, and for what He is going to do, for we shall one day have a complete victory. We can echo the words of that which is written: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour, for He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaidens.” And remember, women, if we are faithful unto death, from henceforth all men shall call us blessed. Yes, generations to come, your children and your children’s children will call you blessed, because you have laboured for purer morals and for juster laws.

The actual repeal of the laws was retarded, and we began to feel in 1885 that we must make strenuous efforts. There had been on several occasions solemn meetings of a devotional character on the question, notably one which lasted several days, and where all the churches were represented. This was promoted by the Society of Friends. An “All Day of Prayer” was called in February, 1885. A paper was issued in advance, giving the subjects to which each succeeding hour would especially be devoted.

During the year which followed this meeting James Stuart worked with all his heart and might in Parliament for the success of our cause. I believe that the Cabinet were rather surprised when a petition was presented to them by him, signed by two hundred Members of Parliament on both sides of the House, adjuring the Government to give immediate attention183 to this question, as the patience of the people of England had been sufficiently tried.

At the General Election this year, Josephine Butler issued A Woman’s Appeal to the Electors, some extracts from which are here given.

By whom are we in future to be governed? Women are asking this question on the eve of the approaching elections, even more anxiously, I believe, than men; more anxiously, because they themselves are still denied the right and power of expressing by their votes their opinion of the candidates who are crowding forward asking to be allowed to represent them in Parliament, and to have a share in making the laws by which they and their children, their households, and even their nurseries, are in future to be influenced for good or for evil. As a woman, I am deeply thankful that at last the question of private and personal character is coming to the front in the selection of our representatives. I hope the day is past in which it could be said or believed that it was possible for a man who was corrupt in his private life and character to be a useful, just, or beneficent ruler. Who can reckon up the miseries, the wrongs, the soul murders, and the destruction of young lives which have been going on for years past, owing in a great measure to the shameful state of our laws on questions bearing on morality, that shameful state being obstinately maintained year by year by men in Parliament whose very presence there is a block to all good and pure measures?

I would suggest that each candidate should be asked questions in some such form as the following:—


(1) Will he vote for the total repeal of the C.D. Acts?

(2) Is he prepared to vote for a parliamentary enquiry into the reason why the prosecution of Mrs. Jeffries was dropped, and why Inspector Minahan was dismissed from the police force?

(3) Is he prepared to vote for, or to ask a question in Parliament on the subject of a parliamentary enquiry as to the circumstances which have induced the prosecution by the Treasury of Mr. Stead, Mr. Booth, and their assistants, to whose labours the Criminal Law Amendment Act has been mainly due; while no prosecution has been undertaken by the Treasury against any single one of the real offenders, whose crimes these persons have done so much to expose?

We may, and do hope for a purer Parliament, if the electors will wake up to the tremendous issues now before this country, issues immeasurably greater than those depending on the triumph of this or that political party; but when we shall have secured a purer Parliament, the struggle for a purified nation and a saved people will only be at its beginning. Unless God by the might of His Holy Spirit works powerfully and widely in the hearts of our people—in our own hearts, each one of us—we shall not be saved as a people in the mighty shaking of the nations which is at hand. The diseases of our own hearts and of our social system, if but slightly healed, will break forth again; moral corruption will set in again like a flood-tide; the noble watchwords of to-day will become the rotten and wretched Shibboleths of to-morrow; we shall have185 “a name to live while we are dead.” For my part, I have not an atom of faith in any reform, moral, social, or political, which has not at its root a real repentance before God, a ruthless banishing from the heart and life by individuals of all that is opposed to justice, purity, and holiness, and a quickening of every power of the soul by the breath of the Spirit of God. Christian politicians, lovers of our country, let us, while we work, also pray—unitedly pray—that God will arise and, taking our nation in hand, will chasten, train, and mould it for the carrying out of His own purposes in the future of the world.

The actual repeal of this legislation was carried in April, 1886. My husband and I were at the time staying with my sister in Naples. It was a great joy to us to receive a telegram on April 16th, signed by Mr. Stuart and Mr. Stansfeld, saying: “The Royal Assent has this day been given to the Repeal Bill.” I thanked God at that moment that Queen Victoria had washed her hands of a stain which she had unconsciously contracted in the first endorsement of this legislation.



We again visited Grindelwald (in 1885), where we had the joy of meeting once more the Meuricoffre family. We had magnificent weather, favourable to mountain and glacier excursions. The nights were especially beautiful towards September, when there was a fine display of autumn meteors. It was my turn on this occasion to be obliged to hurry home, leaving my husband for a little longer enjoyment of the mountains. I was called home in order to advise in the matter of the action of our poor protégée, Rebecca Jarrett, who had been engaged by Mr. Stead to help him in his difficult researches. Two years previously we had opened at Winchester, as we had done at Liverpool, a little House of Rest, which served as a shelter for poor girls and young women who were recognised failures, morally and physically. Some were sick, rejected by hospitals as incurable; others friendless, betrayed and ruined, judged for one reason or another not quite suitable for other homes or refuges. We also took into the House of Rest however a few persons of more mature age, not invalids, who had fallen into trouble and misfortune, and who sometimes became excellent helpers in our work. Among these latter was the woman I have mentioned, who had put behind her187 and abjured her miserable past, and who showed much intelligence and tenderness as our aid in the work of rescue. The task however to which she was invited in London was of a different kind, and too heavy a responsibility for her. Hence the summons I received to come home and support her, and also in part to answer for her conduct, as she had been living with us.

It will be remembered that Mr. Stead and Rebecca Jarrett were tried on a charge of abduction, and sentenced to imprisonment. At the trial this poor woman, being cross-examined about her past life, told an untruth, and this was used by the prosecuting counsel as discrediting her whole evidence, with the result that the case against her and Mr. Stead was greatly damaged. Early in 1886 Josephine Butler published the story of Rebecca Jarrett, in order“to present the exact truth about her in justice to herself, and to Mr. Stead, for whom she acted; and also to give some incidents of personal history, which may tend not only to palliate these departures from truth, of which she was guilty, but to show that the situation in which she was placed was pathetic—even tragic—and one from which there was, humanly speaking, no escape.” She tells how before the trial some old associates, fearing what Rebecca might reveal concerning them, had gone down to her at Winchester, and pursued her with appeals and threats; and how she, after earnestly entreating them to lead a better life, had given them a solemn promise that she would not get them into trouble; and then how, under severe cross-examination in the court——

She answered truly as far as she could, until it came to the giving of an address which would have188 involved others in trouble. Then there flashed across her the promise made in her evil days, and the promise made later from better motives, under her new character. There rose afresh in her mind the desire that those to whom she had given her promise should see that a reclaimed woman would not break her word. She was standing between two oaths—the first, made to her old friends; the second, made in the witness-box, to speak “nothing but the truth.” Reader, were you ever in such a position—between two solemn promises, both of which you desired to keep, but which were opposed the one to the other? If you ever were, you can feel for this weak young convert to truth, and you can pity her weakness. Yes, she told a lie. She looked across the Court at me with an expression on her pale face which I shall never forget. That night, on returning to her lodgings, she spent several hours on her knees, weeping as if her heart would break; no word of consolation availed for her. It was in vain to try to comfort her. She cried, and screamed to God,“O God, I have told a lie; I have perjured myself in the witness-box; I have lied before the world; I have ruined this cause, and I have got all my kind friends into trouble! And yet, O God, Thou knowest why I did it—oh, Thou knowest why I did it. Look into my heart; Thou knowest why I did it!”

To a friend.

April 10th, 1886.

Last Sunday we had a delightful day at Pozzuoli, where Sir William Armstrong is establishing great ironworks for making ironclads for the Italian Government. He has sent out from England some189 forty or fifty picked men. They are all Northumbrians, and choice men in every respect for bodily strength and high character. They are also tried and skilled workmen. Mr. Stephen Burrowes, my sister’s helper in her work for the sailors, suggested that a Workmen’s Rest or Home for our English workmen and others should be established at once at Pozzuoli. Our party went in five or six open carriages to Pozzuoli—all the Meuricoffre family and others of the Swiss and Protestant community of Naples. Our dedicatory service presented a curious combination of associations of different centuries and various countries. The spot where we assembled was close to the ruined Temple of Serapis. It was also in the near neighbourhood of the large Roman amphitheatre of the times of Tiberius. Before us was the sea, its gentle waves beating on the shore—the shore, as you know, where St. Paul first landed in Europe, a prisoner, on his way to Rome. Opposite was Baiæ, where Nero held his infernal court—itself lovely and peaceful in appearance—and Capri, the sharp outline of whose steep rock, whence Tiberius used to fling his slaves headlong into the sea as an after-dinner amusement, stood clear against the pure blue sky. This whole neighbourhood has all its old entrancing charm still, and that wonderful beauty which made it of old the last resort of people satiated with every other form of luxury. It was the ideal of a summer Sabbath evening. My husband offered up a dedicatory prayer, invoking the blessing of God on the design which we had come to inaugurate, on every workman who should work there, and on the dear Meuricoffres and all who work with them for the190 good of the people around them. He alluded in his prayer to the advent in that very place of the great apostle of the Gentiles, charged with the precious gift for Europe—the Gospel of our salvation. Then we sang hymns, some of the old favourites of the English workmen. It was strange to hear those familiar songs, pronounced with the strong Northumbrian guttural, ascending from the ruins of the Temple of Serapis—a blending of associations past and present, heathen and Christian, ancient and modern. When the men found out that my sister and I were Northumbrians they could scarcely suppress their joy; and after that, whenever she or I made a remark, however trivial, they cheered. Most of them came from Blyth and Morpeth. They were chiefly Wesleyans, and politically supporters of Thomas Burt, M.P. Our drive home in the evening was delicious beyond description. It was perfectly calm, with a lovely sunset, the trees already flashing into their summer tints, and the air full of that most delightful scent of the early orange and lemon blossom which comes out while the trees are still covered with their golden fruit. It was a memorable day for us, as a pleasant family gathering and full of Christian hope.

This summer George Butler was very ill for several weeks with rheumatic fever. On his partial recovery, he was advised to try the baths at Homburg, and from thence they travelled to Aix-la-Chapelle and to Switzerland, where he became seriously ill again, and had to remain till December.

I must now record a passage of my own personal experience at this crisis, which will be variously191 interpreted by any who may read it, but which I shall state with all simplicity for the encouragement at least of those who believe and know that there is a “God in heaven Who heareth prayer.” I had passed a sleepless night, in vain attempts to soothe the sufferings and allay the fever of my dear invalid, myself weak and exhausted, and now full of pain. The night was long, dark and cold, both spiritually and materially. Towards morning he fell into a troubled sleep. I went softly into a little ante-room, leaving the door open between. A feeling of despair came over me. My own strength was failing, and he was worse. Who would now minister to him, I asked, and was there to be no end to these repeated and heart-breaking disappointments? When Elijah fled into the wilderness, and gave himself up to bitter thoughts, in the depths of his discouragement the voice came to him, questioning, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” bidding him arise out of his depression. So to me it seemed at that moment that a voice came—or rather, I would say, a light shone—into the very heart of my darkness and despair. The promises of God in the Scriptures, with which I had been familiar all my life, came to me as if I had heard them for the first time. I fell on my knees and kept silence, to hear what the Lord would say to me; for, for my own part, I had nothing to say. My trouble was too heavy for speech. “The prayer of faith shall save the sick.”“Call upon Me in the time of trouble, and I will deliver thee.” “Is this true?” I exclaimed. Yes, I knew it was true. It seemed to become a very simple matter, and grace was given to me, in my pain and weakness,192 to say only, “Lord, I believe.” The burden was removed. I returned to my husband’s room, and sat silent for a while until he moved, and the day broke. I brought him his breakfast, and said to him confidently, “You are going to be better to-day, beloved.” He smiled, but did not speak. Two hours later our kind doctor came. He took his temperature and felt his pulse, and with a sigh of relief he said, “Well, dear Canon, a wonderful thing has happened. A great change has come. You are much better.”

A lady told me later that at a party of friends in Berne, Dr. Demme had spoken of this recovery, and said that it had been very remarkable,—a “Divine interposition” in answer, as he believed, to prayer: he added that my husband had had inflammation of both lungs and pleurisy, as well as the serious heart attack, adding, “any one of which was enough to kill most men.”

After my husband’s serious illness in 1886, I had resolved in my own mind never again to be absent from him for more than a few hours, if possible, during our united lives. I refused all invitations to attend meetings in London or elsewhere, sometimes, I fear, to the surprise as well as the regret of my fellow-workers in public matters. My choice was however deliberate, and I have never had cause to regret it. He had, I thought, sufficiently suffered by my frequent absences from home, during many years of our married life, while engaged in opposing a great social wrong, and he had borne this trial without a murmur. He was now advanced in years,193 and less strong, and these things seemed to me to constitute a most sacred claim to my personal and constant devotion to him. Never, except for a day or two during the serious illness of a dear sister, did I consent to be separated from him. Even on that occasion I was told by those at home that he seemed to feel my absence sadly, and that at the sound of a footstep or wheels on the drive, he would go to the window to see if by any chance it was his wife who had returned, though he knew that it was scarcely possible.

In this period of quieter life, Josephine Butler by no means rested from literary work, or from active interest in the abolitionist cause. Besides a large amount of correspondence, chiefly connected with the work of the Federation, she issued in 1887 two pamphlets, The Revival and Extension of the Abolitionist Cause, and Our Christianity tested by the Irish Question. In the first she refers to the C.D. Laws then in force in many of the Colonies and in India, and to the traffic in women which the system had facilitated. These Laws were shortly after repealed in most of the Crown Colonies and in India.

In the Irish pamphlet she shows how in the attempt to rule Ireland by a succession of Coercion Acts the same constitutional principles had been violated as in the case of the Acts against which she had so long fought. She traces the long sad story of England’s treatment of the sister isle, the real and solid grievances, which had naturally led to the demand for Home Rule.

Certain classes of persons in England have always maintained that successive Irish leaders and patriots were mere mischief makers, the cause and not the exponents of the prevailing discontent. If their194 mouths could be stopped, they imagine, there would be no more disaffection in Ireland, or such as there was would be easily repressed. This was their manner of judging of Flood, of Grattan, of Curran, of O’Connell. They could not learn, and are as far from learning to-day as ever, that you cannot heal the broken heart of Ireland by gagging those whom she sends over here to plead for her. They were relieved when the prison doors closed upon one after another of Ireland’s patriotic but unhappy sons; they were hopeful of quieter times when O’Connell died, worn out and sad. As one of their own poets said, “They broke the æolian harp, and then wrote an epitaph on the wind;” the wind which gave voice to the harp, a voice sometimes sad and low, and wailing, sometimes giving forth a shriek full of agony and vengeance. They imagined it was dead. Such has ever been the manner of looking at national griefs by people who lack sympathy with all aspirations after self-government, freedom, and the manhood of a nation, and who believe you can beat the souls of men into submission by physical force. They bring out their handcuffs and their cannon; they create the silence of desolation, and then they call it peace.

In order to give a complete idea of my husband’s kindliness of nature, and to fill in some characteristic touches of his home life, I must speak of our affectionate companions—our dogs. Our first dog friend was Bunty (the origin of the name is obscure). He lived with us many years at Liverpool, and came with us to Winchester. He was a dog of excellent195 parts; not of pure breed, chiefly otter hound. He had beautiful eyes, full of human expression. He had a strong sense of humour. It is generally said that dogs hate to be laughed at. This was not the case with Bunty. He could bear to be laughed at, would enter into the joke, and, so to speak, turn the laugh against himself, by behaving in a manner which he well knew would excite laughter. He shared many pleasant holidays with us. He died in 1883. My husband had the free hand of a sculptor. A few things which he carved in stone were worthy of preservation, among them a perfect likeness of this good dog in an attitude of watchful repose. Beneath he carved the words—ΑΡΙΣΤΟΥ ΚΥΝΟΣ ΣΗΜΑ. “Some of my friends,” he wrote, “find a difficulty in believing that I carved Bunty’s likeness in stone. Froude says, some centuries hence, when the monument is disinterred and its inscription discovered, some Dryasdust will start a theory that a Greek colony once inhabited the Close.” Bunty’s successor was Carlo, a handsome thoroughbred retriever, quite black, with shining curls—a sensible, gentlemanlike dog, excellent in his own special art of retrieving birds, and an uncompromising guard and watchdog. His attachment to his master, whom he outlived for two years, was profound. This poor dog was very wretched and melancholy when his master left his home for the last time and returned no more. He would seek him in every corner of the house, and along the riverside where he had been accustomed to walk with him or watch him fishing; and returning, would rest his chin on the arm of his master’s empty study chair, as if waiting196 for the familiar hand to pat his head. His dumb grief was very touching.

In May, 1888, Josephine Butler started The Dawn, a quarterly sketch of the work of the Federation, and in the pages of this periodical she continued to speak words of encouragement and warning to her friends for over eight years, after which its issue ceased. She and her husband attended the Conferences of the Federation at Lausanne in 1887, and at Copenhagen in 1888; and to the end of his life, notwithstanding his increasing weakness, they were able to enjoy together peaceful visits to relatives in Switzerland and Italy. It was on their way home from one of these visits, that George Butler died in London on March 14th, 1890. Two years later Josephine Butler published her Recollections of George Butler, from which we have already quoted so much, and from which we must now make one more quotation.

We read in the Gospels that the disciples of Christ found themselves one dark evening separated from the Master, “in the midst of the sea”; that He saw them from the shore “toiling in rowing, for the wind was contrary.” Such is sometimes the position, spiritually and morally, of one who has up to a certain point “fought a good fight and kept the faith,” but against whom arise contrary winds and buffeting waves; one for whom “fightings without and fears within” have proved too severe, and who is now “toiling in rowing,” with faint heart and gloomy outlook—the presence of the Master no longer realised to reassure and guide. “Old Satan is too strong for young Melancthon,” said one of the reformers of the sixteenth century, and the same197 enemy has proved many a time since then too strong for much humbler workers. The problems of life at times appear so perplexing as to be incapable of any solution. The lines of good and evil, of right and wrong, light and darkness, appear blurred; and the weak and burdened spirit loses the hold it had retained hitherto of the highest standard, fidelity to which alone can bring us again out of darkness and trouble into light and hope.

Canon Butler and his retriever Carlo.

Moses for the hardness of the people’s hearts allowed a relaxation of the severity of the original law given from on high, and so suffered the moral standard to be lowered in some of the most important relations of life. There was a time when it seemed to me that hearts are harder now than even in the old days, and when the stern ethics of Christ—the divine standard—seemed to become impossible as a matter of practical enforcement. Horribly perplexed, I was tempted to give up the perfect ideal. It is in this way, I think, through lack of faith, that compromises creep in among us—compromises with error, with sin, with wrong-doing, unbelief taking root first in the individual soul, and then gradually spreading until a lower standard is accepted in family life, in society, in legislation, and in Government. And at last, as even in our own land, we may see publicly endorsed and signed what the Hebrew prophet calls “a covenant with death” and an “agreement with hell.” Such an acceptance and public endorsement of a compromise with evil proclaims the failure of faith of a whole nation, and the beginning of a “downgrade,” in which virtue is regarded as no longer possible for man.


To speak of clouded moments of one’s own life involves no small effort. But in justice both to my husband and to the movement I have tried to serve I am impelled to do so. There are some people who, if they remember at all that moral uprising against national unrighteousness in which we took part, still regard it as an illusion, and its advocacy as a “fad,” or even as a blot on an otherwise inoffensive career—something which must always require explanation or apology. But there are others who understood from the first its true meaning and far-reaching issues, and who have perhaps imagined that an unbroken consistency of action, based on an immovable strength of conviction, must at all times have characterised any man or woman destined to take a representative part in it. A sense of justice forces me to confess that the fact (in regard to myself) was not always as they imagined; for there was a time when I resembled the faint-hearted though loyal disciple, who, when venturing to walk on the waters, in an evil moment looked away from Christ and around upon the weltering, unstable floor on which he stood, and immediately began to sink. When moreover the sense of justice of which I speak regards one who was and is dear to me as my own soul, then I am doubly forced to speak, and to give “honour to whom honour is due” by telling of the wisdom which God gave him in encouraging and supporting through a few troubled years the tried and wavering advocate of a cause in which both faith and courage were put to a severe test.

A deeply-rooted faith—a personal, and not merely a traditional faith—in the central truths of Christ,199 and moral strength, the fruit of that faith, were in him united with other qualities which were needful for the task he so well fulfilled. Others whom I have known—teachers and fathers in God—have had this moral and spiritual faith in a high degree, together with an eloquence and power in argument to which he had no pretension. But few—it seemed to me at least—possessed such patience as he had, such long-suffering, such a power of silent waiting, such a dignified reserve, and such a strong respect for individuality as to forbid all probing of inner wounds, or questioning of motive or action, even in the case of one so near to him as myself. He had great delicacy and refinement in dealing with the bitterness or petulance of a soul in trouble. He had great faith in his fellow-creatures. And these, together with his unfailing love, like the sun in the heavens surmounting the hours of cold and darkness, gradually overcame the mists which had wrapped themselves round the heart and obscured the spiritual vision of her for whom he never ceased to pray.

At this time his voice, when simply reading the words of Christ at family prayers, used to sound in my ears with a strange and wonderful pathos, which pierced the depths of rebellious or despairing thought. At times his attitude—probably unconsciously to himself—assumed in my eyes an unaccustomed and almost awful sternness. Sometimes my unrest of mind found vent in words of bitterness (which however only skimmed the surface of the inward trouble), and I waited for him to speak. Then he seemed to rise before me to a200 stature far above my level, above that of other men, and even above his own at other times, while he gently led me back to great first principles and to the Source of all Truth, presenting to me, in a way which I could sometimes hardly bear, the perfection and severity of the law of God, and our own duty in patient obedience and perseverance, even when the ascent is steepest, and the road darkest and longest. He very seldom gave me direct personal advice or warning. He simply stood there before me in the light of God, truthful, upright, single-minded; and all that had been distorted or wrong in me was rebuked by that attitude alone; and a kind of prophetic sense of returning peace, rather than actual peace, entered my soul, and my heart replied, “Where you stand now, beloved, I shall also stand again one day, perhaps soon, on firm ground, and in the light of God.” And my soul bowed in reverence before him, although never could he bear any outward expression of that reverence. It seemed to hurt him. He would gently turn away from it. He spoke firmly when he differed from any doubtful sentiment expressed or argument used. His simple “no,” or “I think you are wrong,” were at times more powerful to me, than the most awful pulpit denunciation or argumentative demonstration of my error could have been; and then, even if he condemned, his love and reverence never failed.

He knew the Psalms almost by heart, and the inspired words which he always had so ready were more potent for me, when spoken by him, than any other thing. His religion, and his method of201 consoling, were not of a subtle or philosophical kind; and he was all the better a comforter to me because he did not—perhaps could not—easily enter into and follow all the windings of my confused thinkings and doubtings and revolted feelings. Strong swimmer as he was, I felt in my half-drowned state his firm grasp, and his powerful stroke upon the waters as we neared the land; and when by his aid my feet stood once more upon the solid rock, I understood the full force of the grateful acknowledgment of the Psalmist, “Thou hast kept my feet from falling, and mine eyes from tears.”

I have not up till now dwelt upon the wrongs and sorrows which we were forced deliberately to look upon and measure, nor shall I do so. Could I do so, my readers would not wonder at any suffering or distress of brain caused by such a subject of contemplation. Dante tells us that when, in his dream, he entered the Inferno and met its sights and sounds, he fell prone “as one dead.” I once replied to a friend, who complained of my using strong expressions and asked the meaning of them, as follows: “Hell hath opened her mouth. I stand in the near presence of the powers of evil. What I see and hear are the smoke of the pit, the violence of the torture inflicted by man on his fellows, the cries of lost spirits, the wail of the murdered innocents, and the laughter of demons.” But these, it will be said, are mere figures of speech. So they are, used purposely to cover—for no words can adequately express—the reality which they symbolise. But the reality is there, not in any dream or poetic vision of woe, but present on this earth; hidden202 away, for the most part, from the virtuous and the happy, but not from the eyes of God. Turning from the contemplation of such unspeakable woes and depths of moral turpitude, it was a strength and comfort beyond description, through the years of strife, to look upon the calm face of my best earthly friend. It was a peace-imparting influence. And now that I walk alone and look only at his portrait, even that seems to take me into the presence of God, where he now dwells among the “spirits of just men made perfect,” and to whisper hope of the approaching solution of the great mystery of sin and pain.

I often recall an incident, which occurred at Winchester in the cathedral, a trifle in itself, but which dwells in my memory as an illustration of the help he gave to me spiritually in time of need. It was during the service on Sunday. I suddenly felt faint, the effect of a week of unusual effort and hard work. Wishing not to disturb anyone or make a scene, I took the opportunity, when all heads were bowed in prayer, to creep down from the stalls as silently as possible, past the tomb of William Rufus, and down the choir, holding on when possible by the carved woodwork of the seats. A moment more, and I should have dropped. I could scarcely steady my steps, and my sight failed, when suddenly there passed a flash of light, as it seemed, before my eyes, something as white as snow and as soft as an angel’s wing; it enveloped me, and I felt myself held up by a strong, loving arm, and supported through the nave to the west door, where the cool summer breeze restored me. It was my husband. He was203 in his own seat near the entrance to the nave, and his quick ear had caught the sound of my footstep. Quite noiselessly he left his seat and took me in his arms, unobserved by anyone. The flash of light (the angel’s wing) was the quick movement of the wide sleeve of his fine linen surplice, upon which the sun shone as he drew me towards him.



Josephine Butler’s constant advocacy of Women’s Suffrage is illustrated by the following short speech given at a conference in the City Temple on July 20th, 1891.

I told your chairman that I would come forward just to tell you that I cannot say anything. Still perhaps I may be able to put one little thought before you. I am sorry that fear and timidity are growing up again, and that a fresh conspiracy of silence threatens us.

God gives us a phraseology, a pure and chaste and holy indignation, which makes it possible for us to go to the bottom of these things without offending the chastest ear. For twenty-one years I have worked with my dear fellow-workers in a public manner against these hateful laws, which one of the resolutions pronounced and which I pronounce as accursed. During these twenty-one years there was one thing which made our battle harder than it would have been. We have had to fight outside the Constitution. We have been knocking at the door of the Constitution all these years, and there are men who even now tell me that they would give us anything in the way of justice except the parliamentary vote. We have205 been talking about certain Members of Parliament who are not fit to occupy that position. Give the women a vote, and see what will be the result. In all my work my one strength has been the strength of the Almighty, sought and won by constant prayer; and the prayer which I now offer in my secret chamber is that the veil may be taken away, and the selfishness—the perhaps unconscious selfishness—may be removed from the hearts of men who deny women equality, and keep them outside the Constitution. Think what we could do in the cause of morality, think of the pain and trouble and martyrdom that we might be saved in the future, if we had that little piece of justice.

The same question is dealt with in a letter written in the following year to a meeting in London of the World’s Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

We may pray and we may preach about these things, and we may raise our voices to some little extent during the excitement of a contested election; but that is not enough. My friends, we must have the suffrage. It is our right, and it is cruel, and a continued injustice, to withhold it from us. It has lately been said that the women generally of the country have not shown any desire for the suffrage. Some years ago I can assert that the women of the country showed a very great desire for it. Men do not know that at the bottom of that desire, underneath many other good motives, there lies a bitterness of woe which is the most powerful stimulus towards the desire for representation in the Legislature. I am sometimes afraid that one of206 these days some other terrible injustice may be enacted in Parliament through which women will again suffer as they did under those laws I have alluded to. Perhaps it might not be an altogether bad thing, if it caused women to utter once more the bitter cry to which none of our legislators could pretend to be deaf. But have we not, as it is, sufficient trouble, and misery, and degradation among our own sex to make us utter even now the bitter cry—a cry however at the same time of hope, courage and confidence?

In June, 1893, Josephine Butler published The Present Aspect of the Abolitionist Cause in relation to British India: a letter “giving a recital illustrative of the truth that a golden thread of Divine guidance runs throughout the lives and work of those who give themselves to the cause of truth, leading them out of every labyrinth of difficulty towards the goal at which they aim.” She tells how information having been received from various sources that the Regulation System had been continued in several of the Indian Cantonments, notwithstanding the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act in 1888, and official denial having been made of the allegations to this effect, the British Branch of the Federation decided to make a thorough investigation of the actual state of affairs, which was carried out in the early part of 1892 by two American ladies, members of the World’s Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Mrs. Andrew and Dr. Kate Bushnell.

The wonderful manner in which Providence answered our wish and prayer to find suitable instruments for so serious an investigation I shall now relate. In the year 1878 I was staying with my207 sister, Madame Meuricoffre at her country home on the borders of the Lake of Geneva. One exquisite summer evening we sat together, with another friend, on the shore of the lake. The water and the snow-capped mountains were lighted up with gorgeous tints of rose and amber from the setting sun. In such an hour of calm repose it is sometimes granted to us to see with greater clearness the past, the present and the future of God’s dealings with us, and of any work to which we have been called. My mind had long been troubled by the thought of the growing and gigantic nature of the Abolitionist work in the various countries of the world, and of the need and lack of women workers. I knew that women must always continue to be at the heart and in the forefront of the work in order to ensure success. I saw around me hundreds of true and faithful women whose hearts were deeply stirred on the question. But where were those, I asked, who would form the powerful phalanx needed for the one object of continued attack on and resistance to that masterpiece of Satan, official or State recognised and regulated prostitution?

These thoughts I expressed to my sister and my friend. It was one of those moments in which, whether in sadness or perplexity, or passive waiting for light, it is sometimes given to us to realise, as with the disciples at Emmaus, that “Jesus Himself drew nigh.” We were asking ourselves: “Whence shall this army of women come? Where shall we find them? What will be the sign of their fitness for this work?” We sat some time in silence; and then I recollect there came to me one of those moments208 of re-assurance and hope, which are sometimes granted during such silence of the soul. I somewhat dimly recall now that there came before my mind’s eye a host of women presenting themselves from different quarters of the globe, speaking different languages, and possessing various gifts, but all having the special call and the necessary qualifications for this great conflict. It reminded me of the incident recorded in Swiss history, during one of Switzerland’s brave struggles in defence of her freedom; that occasion, I mean, when a great white mist covering the mountains in the early morning rolled upwards, and disclosed to the astonished gaze of the invading army entrenched in the valley a long procession of angels, clad in white, descending the mountain side; an apparition which so alarmed the enemy that it is said they lost nerve, turned, and were defeated. This was but a stratagem devised by a number of shrewd peasant women, inhabitants of the mountain villages, who dressed themselves in white and slowly descended the mountain, thus working upon the superstitious fears of the enemy. So the white-robed army appeared to my mental vision on this occasion. The mists cleared away, and the hosts were descending to the plains to engage in this great spiritual conflict. It was one of those mental pictures which do not fade, a prophetic thought, the fulfilment of which I have been led to remark year by year as noble women of different lands have from time to time appeared just as they were wanted in this cause. Since then I have not doubted as to the advent of the women workers who would be needed in great crises, and especially when209 the physical forces of the pioneers become exhausted and they must contemplate passing on and leaving the work to other hands. I shall give in the unstudied language in which Dr. Kate Bushnell and Mrs. Elizabeth Andrew recounted it to me, their own narrative of their call to this work. Dr. Kate Bushnell writes:—

“One hot summer day, while searching my Bible for light, I turned first as by accident to Joseph’s dream. As it did not interest me, and seemed inapplicable to my need, I turned the pages quickly, and my attention was next arrested by the account of Belshazzar’s dream, and Daniel’s interpretation. This seemed to me as foreign to my expectations of help as the other, and turning the leaves over to the Gospel of St. Matthew, I read there that ‘when Herod was dead, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt.’ My feeling was that I had been baffled in my search for consolation and help in the sacred pages. Being very weary, I threw myself on my couch, thinking of the darkness of Egypt in my own plans. I said to the Lord that I was so stupid in understanding His guidance, that I thought He might have to send me the instructions I needed through a dream, and to guide me at times as He did His simple children of old. I fell asleep almost instantly, and dreamed that I felt myself tossed on the billows of the Atlantic on my way to England to see Josephine Butler.” [At this time we had never met nor corresponded.—J.E.B.]210 “It became plain to me that she had something for me to do. It was one of those brief, refreshing periods of unconsciousness, from which I awoke almost instantly, but with a strong impression that I must write to Mrs. Butler. This I did, telling her that I came to her much under such an impulse as urged Peter to go to Cornelius, and that I was deeply impressed that she could counsel me as to my future course. She replied, giving me a brief account of the situation in India, telling me that she and some of her friends had been earnestly praying that God would raise up an English-speaking woman to go to that country, and make careful enquiry into the condition of things there, with a view to ridding that conquered people of the oppressive tyranny and shame imposed upon them by the Army authorities, who she had reason to fear had never carried out the will of Parliament in abolishing the system of regulation. This letter I showed to Mrs. Andrew, and we took counsel together. Mrs. Butler had asked me to come over to England, if possible, that we might talk face to face on this matter. Mrs. Andrew was then on the eve of starting for England, and very soon after my decision was taken to join her and to begin our world’s tour together, taking in the special Indian work, if after full consultation with Mrs. Butler this should seem advisable.”

Similarly Mrs. Andrew told how she had received inspiration for this special work from reading Mr. Stead’s Life of Josephine Butler—when “the Spirit’s voice whispered to me, ‘You have not worked, you have not loved as she has worked and loved.’” The pamphlet proceeds to tell the story of these ladies’ investigations, and the wonderful way in which they touched the hearts and won the confidence211 of the poor Indian women. They found that all these women, “whether of high or of low caste, Hindoo or Mohammedan, and of whatever nationality, whether brought up in virtue and afterwards betrayed, or brought up from infancy in vicious surroundings,” felt a deep sense of the degradation of their position; and that “the fire of their hatred and indignation all centred upon the heart of the regulations, the examinations, and the violation of womanhood which these examinations were felt to be.” Mrs. Andrew and Dr. Kate Bushnell gave evidence before a Departmental Committee as to the action of the Cantonment officials, and the truth of their reports was amply substantiated by the further evidence which the Committee obtained in India. The Report of this Committee led to the passing, in 1895, of an Act which prohibited all examination or registration of women in the Indian Cantonments.

Josephine Butler in 1894 published The Lady of Shunem, a series of Biblical studies, “addressed to fathers and mothers, more especially to mothers.” We give three extracts from this volume.

Is it not a thought, a fact which should wake up the whole Christian world to a truer and clearer view of life as it is around us, that the first record of a direct communication from Jehovah to a woman is this of His meeting with the rejected Hagar, alone in the wilderness? It was not with Sarah, the princess, or any other woman, but with Hagar, the ill-used slave, that the God of Heaven stooped to converse, and to whom He brought His supreme comfort and guidance. This fact has been to me a strength and consolation in confronting the most awful problem of earth, i.e. the setting apart for212 destruction, age after age, of a vast multitude of women—of those whom we dare to call lost—beyond all others lost—hopelessly lost. We ourselves, by our utmost efforts, have only so far been able to save a few, a mere handful among the multitude; and of the others, unreached by any divinely-inspired human help, we are apt to think with dark and dismal foreboding. We forget that though they may be quite beyond the reach of our helping hands, they are never beyond the reach of His hand—His, who “being put to death in the flesh” was “quickened by the Spirit, by which also He went and preached to the spirits in prison.”

Into the vilest prison-houses of earth (I believe) He descends alone many a time, to save those souls buried out of the sight and ken of His servants and ministers, even as He—He alone, unaccompanied by any chosen ministers—descended into Hades and “preached the Gospel also to those that are dead,” that they who have been “judged according to men in the flesh” may “live according to God in the Spirit.”

That God should permit evil seems to some minds as immoral as that He should Himself create and dispense it. This portion of the subject is surrounded with difficulty and mystery. It leads us back to the great unanswered question concerning the origin of evil. Nowhere would a dogmatic utterance of any kind be more out of place and presumptuous than here.

The glimpses of truth, the broken lights which we possess concerning the divine government of213 the world, come to us often as a succession of paradoxes, among which however the humble seeker finds at last the truth which satisfies the heart and fortifies the spirit, if it does not seem exactly to fit in with our poor logic. God certainly suffers His children, even His highest saints, to fall now and again under the power of some of those evil things which we recognise as having been introduced into the world as the attendants of sin and death. He allows sickness to visit them. In the prolonging of such visitations however He is, I believe, sometimes only patiently waiting for the sufferer to claim deliverance; and it is frequently a long time before His child recognises the fact that he may glorify God by giving Him the opportunity of rebuking his disease as much as he is doing by an unquestioning submission. “Wilt thou be made whole?” is often His question to a sufferer, as to the cripple at the Pool of Siloam, as if He would say, “I am ready to rebuke the oppressor and to heal thee, when thou art ready to take this blessing.”

Those who are tempted to be angry with God for allowing misfortunes and evils to fall upon us, or who meet these in a spirit only of a sullen acquiescence, have not yet fully realised that it is only through conflict and through trial of our integrity that we can become in the highest sense sons and daughters of God. Christ Himself was “made perfect through suffering.” There are persons who seem to think that God could, if He pleased, by a single act of His will, by a wave of His hand, cause all evil to cease out of the universe this very day, this very hour. Whether He can do214 so or not is beyond our power or province to know or to enquire. But it is evident to one who studies humbly His Word and His Providence in the light of His Spirit, that God has been pleased to submit Himself for a season to a certain limitation of His power; and we may be sure that this is for an end that will be much more excellent and glorious than we can now conceive of, when the work of grace in the salvation of the world is fully accomplished.

“He could not there do many mighty works, because of their unbelief.” Here we have a clearly confessed limitation of His power, while at the same time the words point to that blessed truth and marvel of the appointed working together of God’s will and man’s will, the union of the divine and the human for the fulfilment of His loving purposes, and the final triumph of good over evil. If the above words be true that “He could not,” is not the converse true also, that He could, and that He can, do many mighty works because of the faith He finds in man? It would seem that God needs the faith of man as an allied spiritual agency, for the constant generating of the force by which He will finally “subdue all things unto Himself,” when the rebel power, the opposing will, will exist no more.

It is a wonderful and solemn thought that we, who believe in Him, we fathers and mothers, who have the strongest of all human motives to exercise the faith which He loves and approves, can supply to our God the conditions which He has told us He needs, and which He claims of us, in order to save not only our own children, but whole generations to come, who shall be fellow-workers with Him215 in bringing in the reign of righteousness on the earth.

I thank God that I long ago got far beyond being taunted with youth, and suspected of an enthusiasm which is a mere ardour of the blood, untried by experience of life. The sweet visions of my early youth, when I used to sit under the shade of the trees in my father’s home, and read of the holy martyrs and dream of a golden age, are nothing compared with the hope and enthusiasm which God gives me now, and which He has continued to give me while health failed, and some present hopes were blighted, and my way began to be strewn with the graves of those I loved, and I trod the lonely path of widowhood, and the world’s worst evils continued to glare in my eyes. I have had sharp, deep wounds, and long conflict of soul; but now ought not I, if anyone ought, to tell out the hopes which God gives me, and to speak of the ever-widening horizon which I see illumined by His redeeming love?

Return unto thy rest, O my soul;
For the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.

The following paragraph is part of an interview given in Wings, the official organ of the Women’s Total Abstinence Union, January, 1895.

I have often had occasion, in the course of many years of arduous work, again and again to meet groups of my fellow-workers, especially on the Continent, who have confessed themselves subjected to periods of deep depression and disappointment. Having gone through the same experience myself,216 and having been driven back upon God again and again, when everything seemed dark and hopeless, He has taught me some precious lessons which I have been called to impart sometimes to others. The central truth to which I have learned to hold fast is this truth—that death must precede resurrection; that in every cause which is truly God’s cause failures and disappointments are not only familiar things, but even necessary for the final success of the cause. It is the lesson of the Cross. That scene on Calvary was for the moment, or seemed to be, the wreck of all the hopes of the followers of Christ. The spirit of the poor disciples walking on the road to Emmaus who said, “We trusted that it had been He who should have redeemed Israel,” is a true picture of the experience probably of every true reformer. But when God has Himself led us into some of His secrets, and the inner meaning of His providential guidings, we no longer despond; for we come to know that it is a law in the Kingdom of Grace that death must precede resurrection. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” For many years past therefore I have been able, by God’s grace, not only to acquiesce in apparent failure time after time, but even in a measure to rejoice, knowing that the way is thus being prepared, both in our own hearts and in the outward circumstances, for a more complete victory in the end.



A Doomed Iniquity was the title of a pamphlet issued by Josephine Butler in 1896. It embodied an authoritative condemnation of State Regulation of Vice from persons of very different trains of thought, in France, Germany, and Belgium, who regarded the question from various points of view—scientific, political and religious—but all agreed in proclaiming the complete failure and injustice of the system, “of which they have had a far longer experience than we in England had.” The first was from Dr. Charles Mauriac, who at one time strongly defended the system, but had now published a book on the hygienic aspect of the question, in which he declared that the old coercive method was “breaking to pieces on all sides like a worm-eaten building on the point of falling to ruin,” and advocated a new method “which will emancipate woman from the last remnants of slavery, and render her free, as men are, to enter a hospital and to leave it without constraint whenever it seems good to her.” The second was from Herr Bebel, the leader of the Socialist party in Germany, who pointed out the failure, cruelty and injustice of the system—a flagrant injustice which was “only possible because it is men alone who govern and who make the laws.” The third opinion was given in a memorial to the Pope, from the Belgian Society of Public Morality, signed by all the Catholic bishops of Belgium, and others including the Prime Minister, praying his218 “Holiness to condemn, with an authority which is recognised by the whole world, this system so fatal to the well-being of souls, and so dangerous to the social order.”

Herr Bebel’s statement had been written to a Swiss friend, for use in the struggle at Geneva, referred to in the following letters, when a blind popular vote endorsed the recognition by the administration of “tolerated houses.” It is worth noting that eleven years later the Federal High Court of Switzerland pronounced the establishment of such houses in Geneva to be illegal: “comme contraire aux bonnes mœurs,” adding, “le fait qu’il serait autorisé par l’administration ne saurait lui enlever ce caractère.”

To various friends.

Geneva, March 25th, 1896.

I have been called to witness a dark page in the history of human life. It is pain to me to have to record it; but its lessons are needful and solemn, and I wish I had a voice to reach to the end of the civilised world, that those lessons might be heard. How many years we have had the hard task imposed on us of trying to show people—good people—the horrible principles embodied in the State regulation of vice, and the results which must necessarily follow—and they would not, will not believe us.

I must tell you first the dark side, and we must not shrink from letting it be known far and wide; and then I will go back and record the events of the last fortnight, among which you will find many things which will make you glad, as they have made us glad, in the midst of so much horror. Well you already know the result of the Popular Vote. We had 4068 as against 8300—a crushing defeat. But presently I must explain to you how the people were misled by219 the Government; so that this cannot be quite truly said to be the verdict of the people, though to all the world it seems so. It will be and is a great triumph for our adversaries everywhere. As M. Ador said (one of our friends in the Grand Council), it is (he believed) the first time in the history of the world when a moral question of such import has been submitted to the verdict of the people, and their verdict is in favour of continued legalised vice; and it is the first time that the popular vote has been taken on the basis of the “Droit d’Initiative,” a recent law in Switzerland from which much good was expected.

The horrors revealed last week, and especially those of Sunday night, have however so far exceeded the dismay caused by the immense majority against us, that I must speak first of those. And you will not wonder when I say that I am glad, as many others are, that the gates of this Inferno were thrown open, and that the results of a hundred years of Government organised and protected vice have been for once fully revealed. In a meeting on Monday of our gentlemen (who now number some hundreds of really convinced and militant abolitionists) they asked me some questions about our English battle, and in answering I said,220 “Gentlemen, you are able to face the truth, which is that Geneva is governed by the brothel keepers (tenanciers). They are the masters of the city, the masters of the situation. It is they, with their following, who have now given a mandate to the Council of State and the Grand Council, to strengthen their position, and to plant more firmly than ever in your midst government by tenanciers.” They all agreed. “It is true, it is true,” they cried. “It is of no use to disguise it.”

Sunday morning—the voting day—rose brilliantly, a blue sky without a cloud, and the most brilliant sunshine. Mme. de Gingins and I went to an early service in a Free Church, where most of our friends go. They sent me a message to speak a few words. (All scruples about women speaking in churches vanished like a slight cloud before the midday sun in the presence of such a solemn day for the people, when all the faith and courage and patience of women were as much wanted as those of men.) There was great life in that morning service, at the end of which most of us had the Sacrament together, in almost absolute silence. I should rather have liked that we had all received it standing, with a drawn sword in one hand, as the old crusaders did! The spirit of war however was there, as well as the Master’s benediction: “My peace I give unto you.” On the way home we elected to take a drive all round the city, Mme. de Gingins and I in her carriage, which waited for us. The streets were already (at 10 a.m.) very crowded, but the people were quiet, it being so early. I looked with sympathy at the faces of numbers of poor and honest-looking workmen, who seemed to be anxious.

Oh, I never saw anything like the beauty of the Rhone that day, rolling its magnificent waves and curling, dancing waters along (the waters about which Ruskin has half a chapter of eloquent description). The main colour is a clear sapphire blue, shading off into sky blues, purples and pale rose colours, and flecked with streaks of golden sunlight. Geneva is a221 beautiful city, and the birds were singing, and the young leaves appearing on the avenues of trees.

At 5 p.m. we went, by the invitation of M. Favre, to his house, where he had invited all the leading abolitionists to assemble to hear the result of the poll, and, if necessary, to stay all night—sixty or seventy of us!—because it was well known if we had had a victory the vengeance of the tenanciers’ mob would have made it perilous for any of us to pass through the streets.

I shall never forget that memorable evening and night. M. Favre is the most prominent man of Geneva, belonging to the old nobility. His house is just a little removed from the town, on a little rising ground whence you see all Geneva lying like a map before you. It is one of the fortresses of the old nobles, before the Reformation, and it was there that some hundreds of Huguenot refugees from France were harboured by an ancestor of M. Favre in the times of Louis XIV. There is a huge stone archway by which you enter a great courtyard, whence stairs ascend in the open air to different parts of the fortress. It is all of solid rock and stone; no mob would have a chance to enter, and here the refugees of March 22nd, 1896, were received. When we first went about fourteen of us had dinner, and food was kept going in the dining-room till midnight for all the abolitionist presidents at the different urns who kept dropping in till 10 p.m. Those, who came from the country arrondissements, of course got in rather late, some of them having narrowly escaped rough handling. M. Bridel came last, and they telephoned for news of him, but no answer came. His wife was222 very pale and anxious, but at last he appeared. The voting in his quarter had continued late. Last of all, M. de Meuron came from La Fusterie, where all the votes had been collected and counted, and where the final result was given out. It was a great shock and grief to all, and hard to bear. About forty or fifty men (who had been at the urns all day) were assembled in that room, with their dusty boots (having had no time to change) and their tired faces, and stood for nearly an hour in groups in that large room of the Huguenot fortress discussing all the circumstances. As I looked at their good faces and heard their words, I felt more encouraged than I have ever yet been in Geneva. These were the men who make corps d’élite, who lead forlorn hopes, and who by this very defeat and disaster are welded into a more complete and convinced body of combatants than could ever have been formed by a victory, and I felt the strong brotherhood which had grown up among them in a short time. There were Democrats and Conservatives, Protestants, Catholics and Freethinkers, but all “straight men,” honest, and in great earnest. When they had conversed some time, afterwards they proposed that we should resolve ourselves into a committee, which we did, forming a circle. That consultation was wonderfully practical, and to the point. Slowly, but surely, a spirit of resoluteness, and even encouragement, took the place of the first feeling of dismay. It was a memorable assembly; I shall never forget it.

Then we began to feel and to hear from our fortress the beginning of the demoniacal orgies of that night. M. Favre made M. and Mme. de Meuron223 stay all night, and a few others, as the threats of the mob were rather alarming. We all stayed till nearly midnight. We had among our faithful following a number of humble men and women, who came in now and again to report on what was passing, and next day the worst they had told us was more than confirmed. When the result of the poll was known, the leading tenanciers, with their banners and following, forced their way into the large Church of the Fusterie, at the entrance of which the final result of the voting had been made known, and then began scenes and processions which had been organised beforehand. It is a pain to write of it; but it is well that the worst should be known, well that the Genevese should have had the awful revelation of the vileness of what they have been harbouring in their midst. You may know perhaps, that every house of debauchery under Government sanction and protection is obliged to hang up a red lamp over the door, as a guide to visitors. So that now, and especially since Sunday night, that powerful institution which now rules Geneva is designated as the “Lampe rouge.” They had organised processions in case of a victory, with designs and red lamps. They marched through the whole city, a mass of devilry and obscenity which, I suppose, could hardly be seen anywhere else, except perhaps in Paris. Soldiers had been posted all about the Fusterie, but nevertheless the “red lamps” rushed into the church and marched round it inside, locking the gendarmerie out. The latter could not even succeed in forcing their way round the outside of the church, so dense was the crowd. Inside it seems the “red lamps” held a sort of service224 to the devil—tramping, swearing, and singing songs of the utmost blasphemy and obscenity. Having “consecrated” their red lamps in the large church, they went on to all the other churches, and filled the air in front of each with their blasphemies. Then branches of the procession went running to the different places which they hated most, and where they hoped to find some abolitionists—first to the Young Men’s Christian Association, but they had an avant-courrier in the person of one of our scouts, who ran faster and told that the “red lamps” were coming, so that all the men assembled in that building had just time to get out and disperse, and only windows were left to be battered in. They went to our Federation office, but it was locked up and all dark—M. Minod being with us in the Huguenot fortress. Then a number of them made a furious rush to the Eaux Vives, to break into M. de Meuron’s house, but it was also locked up and not a soul in it. They demonstrated furiously in front of it. So through the long hours devilry reigned in this city, which on that early Sunday morning had looked so fair. It was an open and impudent saturnalia, flaring its open shame before the eyes of all, “La Lampe rouge” carried everywhere, like a divinity, and the decent part of the population cowering before it, or getting out of sight.

In one matter the kind prayers of our friends were answered. Just about midnight, when we in the fortress wanted to get home, and anxieties were felt as to our getting back without being attacked, a tremendous rain fell for about an hour, though till then the sky had been clear. It seemed sent by God. It damped the unholy ardour of the followers of the225 “Lampe rouge,” and drove many of them into their retreats, so that at that hour we were able to get home without being recognised, as there was darkness as well as heavy rain. I do not think there was much bodily injury. At one moment, in front of the Fusterie, one of our presidents at the urns was knocked down in the crowd, and seemed likely to be trampled, and a student of the university drew his sword (one of those swords concealed in a walking stick) to defend our friend. A great commotion followed, and the student was arrested. There was a great deal of violence, but no serious hurt. The “red lamps” finally assembled before the office of the Genevois, and the editor was called to harangue them. I think he felt a little ashamed of the devilry he had helped to call up, and begged them to keep quiet and go to bed, assuring them that “pietism,” i.e. Christianity, was killed for ever in Geneva from that night. Oh! shade of Calvin!

Now to explain in a degree the great majority against us. I sent you some of the voting papers. Is it any wonder that such a paper should puzzle the ordinary elector? You know how stupid electors often are. I doubt if our own people in England would all have voted right if the question had been put to them in that complicated form. If the question had been, “Do you desire the abolition or the maintenance of the maisons tolérées?” every man, woman, and boy would have understood, because the maisons tolérées are as much in evidence and known as the cathedral or the market-place. But the question put before the electors was226 “(1) Do you approve of the projet de loi de l’initiative? Yes or no. (2) Do you approve of the projet de loi of the Government? Yes or no.” You can see what a throwing of dust in their eyes this was. Working men were asking, What does it mean?—honestly asking; and you know that during the past five weeks our party were not allowed to hold meetings to instruct the people. Every meeting was broken up by the “Lampes rouges,” and finally every hall and room was closed against us by a police order. Attempting to speak in the streets or roads, our friends were stoned and assaulted, and silenced by noise. Freedom of public meeting and freedom of speech no longer exist in Geneva. You will see that stated in the Press which is favourable to us again and again. If we had had those liberties it is believed that we might have had a majority of votes. Working women told us that their husbands were good men, but meant to abstain from voting altogether, because they did not clearly understand the questions. Many hundreds abstained altogether. Then, thirdly, the Genevois had worked so hard, and others too (of the Government), to tell the people that we had deeply injured La Patrie, and troubled Geneva, and spoiled the prospects of the Exhibition—that foreigners had done this, i.e. Vaudois, Bernese, Germans, etc., and that all the agitators were paid by an English lady, who had been sent from London with hundreds of pounds in her pocket. The poor people were misled by this kind of stuff. When one considers all these traps and deceptions put before them, to say nothing of the drink, one almost wonders that there were found 4000 who voted for abolition.


To various friends.

April 7th, 1896.

We have been gaining true adherents every day since the 22nd, persons who have been moved by the force of circumstances and by their own conscience openly to join the Abolitionists. Among these are several professors of the university. I think I did not explain in my last that one cause of our having such a minority of votes is as follows: Party politics rule at Geneva. The appearance of a new party in the State, a party of Justice and Morality, displeased the Conservative, the Democratic, and the Radical parties alike. The Democratic especially, as they are the majority, and most of our abolitionist friends are Democrats. The “National party,” which is above mere petty party politics, was of course a stone of discord thrown among them, which disgusted them much; and several voted against us on the 22nd out of sheer anger and revenge. Yet the truth is working, and some are even now repenting of their vote, while several abstained at the last moment.

On Monday morning, after Sunday night’s horrible scenes, I walked along in the sweet sunshine to our office to see how things looked, and there I found a group already of distinguished men gathered round M. Minod’s large table, who had just come in one by one to relieve their hearts and consult together. We can recollect when we in England had the same experience in the midst of general or party politics. We were not agreeable to either side in Parliament. Troublesome “faddists” they called us, and an occasion of trouble and division among the different political parties. In228 two great elections at least we troubled the Government considerably by the confusion we brought into the Liberal camp. In fact we were obliged to make ourselves disagreeable in order to be listened to at all, and at last we prevailed. I told a good deal of this to our Geneva friends, who are much reproached for sounding a note in the political circles which is neither of one side nor the other, but altogether a new note. I recalled Christ’s words, “I am not come to bring peace on earth, but a sword.”

Another encouragement is the coming out of so many doctors. A few weeks ago we did but know of one who was favourable; but only four days before the election thirty-three doctors made up their minds, and even had their names printed as adherents to our principles, on large pink and blue placards, which were stuck all over the walls of Geneva. Then we were much encouraged by the bearing of the students of the university, and other young men. Those students had several meetings of their own, called with a serious purpose, and not prompted from the outside. One of them reported to me a final meeting they had among themselves for voting. Eighty-five per cent. of the students present declared themselves strongly in favour of Abolitionist principles. One young man was courageous enough to get up and protest that an early introduction to vice was a sign of manliness, adding that many of the virtuous students were weak fellows, etc.! The eighty-five went for him like a pack of young hounds after some noisome wild animal, with howling and fury. The misguided young man judged it best229 to get out of the room, which he did very rapidly indeed. Of course there is a certain youthfulness about these manifestations, but it rejoiced our hearts to see so many of the young population inspired with just and generous principles. The youths of the “Etoile” too, who are of a humbler class in society, were intelligently and ardently on our side. These poor fellows, with some of the university, formed themselves into a kind of body-guard to follow and quietly surround M. de Meuron, Bridel and others when they tried to hold meetings, and to stand between them and the showers of stones and dirt thrown at them. It was kind of them, poor boys! God will not forget it.

One of the things which made the most impression on me of all in Geneva was M. Favre’s prayer at a great gathering of the most earnest, recently-awakened people. Was it a prayer? Yes—partly, and yet at times it was like a confession made to us, to Switzerland, to the world. He spoke as a prophet, in broken sentences, and out of a heart bowed down under a sense of guilt and deep responsibility, with a great need pressing on him to “cry aloud” as Jeremiah used to do. And he did not beat about the bush as people too often do in their prayers and confessions. He said quite simply, in a voice shaken with emotion,“Oh, how heartless and cruel we have been, we Christians, all these years since 1875, when God sent His gentle messenger to us, of whom we heard with coldness and disapproval. How cruel we have been! O God! we have left this little handful of despised Abolitionists these twenty years, unhelped and230 unheeded; left them without a word of sympathy and without friends, a little band, as we thought, influenced by some fanciful motive. All these years we have passed them by. Forgive us, O servants of God, forgive us! We have spoken of the higher life and of consecration, and we have believed that we were serving God by dwelling on the heights, separated from the mass of sin and sinners below us; and now we see our error, and we mourn. Now we see who Thy faithful ones are, O God—these humble and just ones who have sown in tears these long years, and whom Thou wilt recognise when they shall be called home bearing their sheaves with them, while we—O brothers, let us fall down in the dust before Him.” And so he ended, as Daniel in his great prayer of intercession, “O God, we have sinned and our fathers have sinned. O God, forgive; O God, hear; O God, hearken and do.” I have not got the words exactly (it was in French), but this is the sense; and I listened almost in awe, as others did. It was the cry of distress, of a heart pent up with the bitterness of repentance; a noble utterance as of a true soul bowed in sackcloth and ashes. Therefore I am glad, glad, glad that all this has happened, for how can repentance and new life ever come to the careless, and to the most reckless sinners, unless it first comes to the “household of God?”

I must not omit to tell you of my visit to M. Favon. On the Saturday evening, the day before the voting, Madame Ruchonnet came from Cully to go with me to see him. He is, you recollect, our great opponent, editor of the Genevois. He received us with much231 courtesy, and even gentleness, as if grateful for our visit. We had a long conversation, for about an hour. One thing in our conversation opened my eyes a little more on the situation. He said: “But, dear lady, what an awful thing, what a tyranny beyond all other tyrannies it would be, should your party triumph, to have a renewal of the ancient sumptuary discipline, of the prying into the secrets of every household and of family life! It would be the most wicked of tyrannies.” I was astonished, and with difficulty persuaded him that such a thought was as detestable to us as to him; that we had historical evidence (in the Pilgrim Fathers) of the folly and futility, as well as shame, of attempting to reach private immorality by the law, which means necessarily by police and the most hateful espionage. I was thankful in my heart that since the beginning of our crusade I had been convinced in my conscience and understanding of the folly, and even wickedness, of all systems of outward repression of private immorality, for which men and women are accountable to God and their own souls; but not to the State.



The year 1896 was marked by the publication of Personal Reminiscences of a Great Crusade, in which Josephine Butler gives a vivid history of the first ten years of the strenuous fight against the Contagious Diseases Acts. She hoped to be able to continue the history in a subsequent volume, but ill-health prevented the fulfilment of this design.

In the following year the question of the health of the Indian Army came very prominently again before the public eye. The passing of the Act of 1895, which absolutely prohibited the compulsory examination of women, had been followed by a marked increase of disease, perhaps largely due to the fact that the new measure had been accompanied by the closing of the special hospitals in many of the Cantonments, so that no opportunity was afforded of testing the effect of substituting the voluntary system of hospital treatment (always advocated by Josephine Butler and her fellow workers) for the old compulsory system. But, whatever the cause may have been, the statistics were such as to produce a panic among persons, who were not accustomed to study statistics, and did not therefore realise that figures relating to a few years may often deceive, and that a true judgment can only be gained by careful comparison of facts and figures spread over long periods. The panic was so great that a Departmental Committee was appointed at the India Office to enquire into the matter; and the Government received several memorials on both sides of the233 question. One of the memorials, praying for the reintroduction of the regulation system, was signed by women, including princesses and other ladies of title. This roused Josephine Butler to issue a passionate and powerful pamphlet, Truth before Everything.

My own countrywomen have been the first in the world to set their seal to the infernal doctrine of the necessity of vice, and to proffer to our Imperial Government before the whole world, what Lady Frederick Cavendish rightly styles their “counsels of despair.” The scene has changed indeed; we accept the fact, and look it full in the face. For my own part, I do so without alarm for our cause, and scarcely even with surprise, although my heart is wounded with a sense of shame, and I mourn for those whose eyes are blinded to the truth. Men and women alike in the most exalted social classes frequently possess extraordinarily little knowledge of the conditions of life among the poor, and consequently little sympathy with the humbler people who are the most liable to suffer under grievances imposed officially, over and above the hardships incidental to their condition. High rank itself tends to confuse and obscure the mental vision on a subject concerning which, of all others, we need to know the instincts and convictions of the people, and to make room for the expression of the great heart of toiling and suffering humanity, which still so largely beats true among us, and in all lands.

The Government however did not reintroduce the old regulation system, but while they expressly laid down that no registration, and no periodical and234 compulsory examination of women should be permitted, they suggested that the special diseases in question should be made notifiable and dealt with in the same manner as other contagious diseases. Accordingly a new Cantonment Act was passed in the same year, and new Cantonment Regulations made, under which women suspected of being diseased may be expelled from the Cantonments, unless they submit to medical treatment. Abolitionists have always objected to these Regulations, which are still in force, with some later modifications, because they appear capable of being worked in such a way as to involve indirectly, but no less truly, the whole method of compulsion, which was inherent in the old system, and because the Act of 1895, which expressly prohibited registration and examination, has been repealed.

In May, 1897, Josephine Butler contributed to Wings a short article on the “Joy of God,” part of which is here given.

Jesus spoke much of His joy in His last wonderful conversation with His disciples: “That my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John xv, 11). His joy is His Father’s joy. I do not believe that that joy is ever interrupted. It flows on like a mighty river, like God Himself, its source—infinite, unceasing, unfathomable joy; and Jesus offers us to be sharers in it. It is not possible that the joy of God can be interrupted by the works of the devil, by his apparent present victories. God’s joy continues, eternal like Himself, through all the evils and sorrows and horrors of earth, and of the kingdom of darkness, for He sees beyond all. He knows that the end will be victory. Jesus feels for His people’s sufferings, and suffers with them; nevertheless235 His joy is not diminished. It seemed to me one day, as if for a moment I saw the Divine face looking down at all that is taking place in these days, and (if I dare to express it) it seemed as if there were tears in those Divine and pitying eyes: yet all the time there was a smile upon the lips, for while He pitied He knew what the end would be, and He smiled.

It was a half-waking vision I had when I was recovering from illness at Lausanne. I felt as if the obstacles in the way of all our efforts for reforms and for blessing were like huge high walls blocking the way and darkening the daylight on every side. But as I looked, and as I felt the pitying, smiling face of God, and all these walls got lower and lower, till they were quite low, and above and around them all was God’s great sky, His open, clear, and glorious heavens, I sprang on the top of one of these low walls (like some of the low vineyard walls in Switzerland), and I shouted for joy and victory!

Later in the year she contributed a series of articles to Wings, which were republished under the title, Prophets and Prophetesses: some thoughts for the present times. A French translation of this was also issued. The rest of the present chapter contains extracts from this volume.

How greatly are prophets and prophetesses needed in these days, days in which the air is filled with a confusion of voices—some of them mocking voices, some of them wailing and sorrowful voices—when false prophets abound, lying spirits, demon worshippers and materialists. The promise stands236 in the Scriptures of God that He will send true prophets and prophetesses in the latter days. Where are they? Why is that promise not abundantly fulfilled? It will be fulfilled if we, who believe His word, combine to ask its fulfilment. The word, to prophesy, is best translated by the learned as “to show forth the mind of God” on any matter. What a high gift! What a holy endowment this, to be enabled to show or set forth to man the mind or thought of God! In order to attain to that gift, the soul must live habitually in the closest union with God, in Christ, so as to realise the prayer of the saint who cried, “Henceforth, O Lord, let me think Thy thought and speak Thy speech.” Many even of our holiest men and women live too active, too hurried a life, to be able to enter deeply into the thought of God, and thence to speak that thought to the thirsty multitudes who are dimly seeking after Him, and in their hearts crying, “Who will show us any good?”

That women as well as men were destined by God to be prophets was fully acknowledged by St. Paul, by his acts as well as his words. He gave careful directions as to how women were to appear as prophetesses, so as to avoid the malicious criticism of the enemies of the new-born faith, ever on the watch for some ground of accusation against the Christians. It is an astonishing and a melancholy thing that the churches and their ministers, and the Christian world in general through all these generations, should apparently have ignored or made light of the following blessed fact, the fact that on the day of Pentecost, the great day when the Holy Spirit237 was poured forth on that multitude of all peoples and nations gathered in Jerusalem, when the New Dispensation was inaugurated in which we now live, the Apostle Peter, in his magnificent first Pentecostal sermon, proclaimed the actual fulfilment on that day, and for all the days to come, of the promise of the prophet Joel, “I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out of my Spirit.”“This has come unto you,” said St. Peter, “which was spoken by the Prophet Joel.” Is it possible that the Church has ever fully believed this, has ever truly heard or understood this mighty utterance from heaven, recorded first in the Hebrew Scripture, and again at the great inauguration of the Dispensation under which we are now living, a Dispensation of Liberty, Life, Impartiality, Equality, and Justice, in which there is, or should be,“neither male nor female, neither Jew nor Greek”?

When Kepler, the great astronomer, was congratulated on the wonderful discovery he had made—in what are now called Kepler’s Laws, on which Newton based his own still greater discoveries—he (Kepler), full of Christian humility, replied, “I have only thought God’s thoughts after Him.” We need, and we ask of God, prophets and prophetesses, seers, who will see as God sees, and who will judge of all things in the light of God. They will be very unpopular, these seers, if they are faithful. Many of the humbler people will hear them gladly, but the world will not love them. Quite the contrary. Conventional morality does not like to be disturbed;238 the respectable as well as the disreputable prejudices of ages are hard to root up.

Never did the world and the Church need seers more than at the present time. Looking at any of the great questions before us now—the relations of nation to nation, and of the Anglo-Saxon race to the heathen populations of conquered countries; questions of gold-seeking, of industry, of capital and labour, of the influence of wealth, now so great a power in our country and its dependencies; questions of legal enactments, of the action of Governments, and innumerable social and economic problems—we may ask, How much of the light of heaven is permitted to fall on those questions? How many or how few are there among us who ask, and seek, and knock and wait, to know God’s thought on these matters? The few, who do so, cease to accept as a guide a daily newspaper, or the opinion of the Press generally, or the verdict of any class, theological, social, or political; nor even are they satisfied to set their minds at rest by an appeal to the best and wisest of the servants of God. But in their measure they follow in the steps of the prophets of old. It is in the solitude of the soul, alone with God, that His thoughts are revealed. It is in great humility, in separation from the spirit of the world, in asking and receiving His spirit, “the spirit of truth,” which “shall guide us into all truth,” that we learn to think His thoughts.

It requires much courage to be alone with God, to elect to retire for a time, and even for long times, and to listen to His voice only. It requires more courage than is needed to meet human opposition239 or to battle with an outward enemy, and is altogether different from worship in the congregation with others around us. Let anyone who doubts this make the trial, in humble determination, “I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me,” until Thou admittest me to the inner sanctuary of Thy presence, and speakest to me. For it is then that the keen searchlight of His presence reveals the innermost recesses of the soul, so that the creature who has been bold enough to seek such a solitary interview with the Creator shall fall on his face, as Daniel did, in self-abasement: “I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days.” It is then that all which is of self, all subtle egotism—the egotism which takes such a multitude of forms—is searched and hunted out of the soul. It cannot live in His presence. The praise of man becomes as dust beneath the feet, and the soul trembles even to receive any honour of men, or to be recognised in this world as of any worth.

It is then also, that the great enemy of souls essays to draw near, bringing all his forces to bear on that divinely bold but humbled creature, and seeking to wreck the blessing which he knows must come of such an interview between Christ and a human soul. It is then that he disputes every inch of the ground sought to be won on that day by the Saviour, and by the disciple whom His spirit has stirred up to draw thus awfully near to Him. Jesus was “led of the Spirit” into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil. It is in the very heart of this great dispute between our God and Satan, and in such a solitude, that some of the deepest truths are240 learned, and that God speaks. Then the enemy is defeated, and only the light is left, the light which was sought and which reveals God’s thought. And what is the sequel of such an encounter? There are many who can bear witness that the enemy, discouraged by the courage of the humble and determined soul, departs never to return, and then it pleases the Lord sometimes, in His great love and pity, to grant to His child, in a measure, that communion which the Hebrew saint had, with whom God spoke face to face as a man speaks with his friend.

We are not all called to be teachers, or to declare aloud the mind of God; not all called to prophesy. But all are invited to draw near to Him, to come nearer and nearer, and the humblest, the least gifted or least intelligent, who will elect to receive ever at first hand and from the fountain-head, and not only from secondary sources, light, life and knowledge, becomes, whether he knows it or not, a medium of spiritual life and true thoughts to others, in proportion to the grace given to him.

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” These words are frequently understood to be spoken of the other life beyond the grave, and of the beauties and glories of our heavenly home, which, as yet, no eye of those living on earth has ever seen. This limited interpretation is not warranted by the241 latter half of the announcement, “But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit.” The illumination of the Spirit is not a promise of the future only; it is given here on earth to all who seek and wait for it in truth and singleness of heart. We are living to-day under the dispensation of the Spirit, and there is no limit to the fulness of the promise to those who ask.

Those things therefore, those hidden and deep things of God which we cannot apprehend by the natural eye or ear, and which cannot be conceived by the highest and purest flights of imagination of one whose thoughts do not yet flow in unison with God’s thoughts—those things may be revealed to us by His Spirit; and they are so revealed to those whom from time to time He draws aside for solitary communion with Him, and whom He may, if He wills, appoint to speak His speech to all who will hear. One needful condition for attaining to the seeing eye and the hearing ear in the things of God is soul-leisure, quietness, calm and concentration of spirit. Earth’s voices must be silenced for a time, that the voice of God—the“still small voice”—may be heard by the waiting soul. “In returning and rest shall ye be saved. In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.”

I seem to hear a deep sigh from the heart of many a true servant of God, “faint yet pursuing,” whose soul is athirst for the Living God and for the calm and the silence in which he may hear the Divine voice, but who sees no way of escape from the pressing claims of earthly duty. The case of such (which has also been my own) calls forth my deepest242 sympathy. “With God all things are possible.” Cease from conflict with circumstances, from this “toiling in rowing,” from this breathless swimming against the tide. Put the matter into His hands. “There was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour” at His command; silence even of the angelic voices. He can create a silence around you, and trace a clear path for your feet to enter into the Holy of Holies, where you shall find Him and hear His voice.

But even then—perhaps you tell me—when the pressure of earthly claims is lightened, and a season is granted in which nothing from without holds you back, and you enter alone into His presence, even then it is found impossible to concentrate the mind, to shake off outward anxieties and the intrusion of restless thoughts concerning the work of your life. The well by which you rest is deep and full, but you have “nothing to draw with.” The opportunity is there, but the soul is dry, and the brain inexpressibly wearied. Again, “with God all things are possible,” and “all things are possible to him that believeth.” Put this also into His hands—this incapacity for rest, even when the hour of rest is granted. He knows the deep desire of your heart to draw near to Him. Your desire for communion with Him is prompted and created by His own desire to draw near to you, to grant you the anointed eyes of a humble seer, and to impart to you His own deep secrets of love.

But to many this thirst of the soul is unknown, or once known is suffered to rest unslaked. Many continue to postpone and to subordinate the claims243 of the spiritual life to the constantly pressing claims (sacred claims also) of their fellow creatures, and of the good works in which they are engaged. At the last, when earth’s claims are fading and the spirit is called into the presence of God, conscience will speak, and the poor soul may reproach itself in the spirit of the lament which Shakespeare put into the mouth of Wolsey in his last moments: “O Cromwell, Cromwell! had I but served my God with half the zeal that I have served my king!” In the clearer light of eternity all things assume their right proportion. We have worked, we have slaved for duty, we have worn ourselves out in the service of humanity. That is good, that is noble; yet an inward voice will tell us in some silent hour that we should have worked better and served humanity better had we possessed the moral force to withdraw at times from life’s crowded avenues, had we firmly refused some of the thousand claims which pressed upon us in order that our speech and our action might have possessed more of the Divine, more of “spirit and of life.”



The Storm-Bell rings,—the Trumpet blows;
I know the word and countersign;
Wherever Freedom’s vanguard goes,
Where stand or fall her friends or foes,
I know the place that should be mine.—Whittier.

This was the motto of the Storm-Bell, a periodical in which Josephine Butler published her thoughts month by month from January, 1898, to August, 1900. We give in this chapter some specimens of these thoughts of hers.

Sir James Stansfeld, the dear friend and leader of our cause, has passed over to the other side. There are judgments on earth of men’s acts, and there are judgments in heaven. It is not improbable that the parts of his life and character regarded as the least praiseworthy on earth will appear up there as the brightest parts of all. He had nothing to gain, and much to lose by separating himself in a measure from his colleagues in office, and setting aside chances of brilliant promotion and political prestige in order to descend with us into the inferno of human woe, to bring a gleam of hope to that world of doomed women, who more than all human sufferers are cast out from the favour of earth and the light of heaven. I have seldom met with a man who had so much of the woman’s heart in this matter. He had so deep a245 respect for womanhood, even at its worst, and so much tenderness for the fallen, that—like another great friend of Mazzini—he felt“instinctively the impulse to lift his hat when he met one of that sad sisterhood in the street, as a mark of his reverence for her poor wrecked womanhood, which would not have been ruined but for the co-operation (to use no sterner word) of the stronger being—man”.

When he first appeared for us in public, and for years after, he was pretty well baited and abused in newspapers of the Saturday Review type as a “faddist,” a champion of the “shrieking sisterhood,” a “friend,” in fact, of “publicans and sinners.” All that is past for him. His record is in Heaven. He does not need, he never needed, and never desired the poor praise of men. The quality which stands out the most prominently in my remembrance of him is his courage, his dauntless hope and confidence of final victory in a good cause. That cheerful confidence, that pluck characterised him to the very last. I wish there were more like him in this. I never remember to have heard a word from him indicating a feeling of depression about our work, not even at its darkest times. Good workers in a good cause, even when they know it to be God’s cause, sometimes fall into a minor key, and utter sad wails concerning the gathering clouds, the dark outlook, and the power of evil. I do not think, that with all his command of speech, our friend would have known how to formulate any such wail.

He was a born forlorn hope leader. No one is fit or safe to lead, or even I would say to follow, in a misunderstood and unpopular cause, or ever so246 humble a forlorn hope, who has not attained to so much of self-control as to be able to close his lips if he has reason to fear any utterance may be coming forth from them which is not a note of victory. Courage and faith are highly infectious. A sigh, or a sad look, or a “but” from a leader is equally infectious, and not in a good sense. Sometimes they are disastrous. And after all what is this kind of courage except moral faith? It is that faith in God and in His eternal promise which removes mountains, and which sees hope in the darkest hour, and more than hope—certainty of victory. The love of justice and liberty was born in him; it was in his bones, so to speak. From his youth upward he was an uncompromising defender of those principles, which have contributed to the true greatness of England; and so far he was, as he often said himself, a Conservative, for he was jealous for the conservation of principles and truths, which Tories and Radicals alike lose sight of when personal and party ambition begins to take the first place with them, to the exclusion of what is nobler and worthier than one’s wretched self or one’s poor party. He was also an international man in the best sense. His friends, good men of other countries, felt the warmth of his friendship and the soundness of his judgment to be untainted by narrow or insular prejudices.

A great Spanish politician, Señor Emilio Castelar,16 published some thirty years ago a manifesto, in which 247he set forth the doctrines and principles of what he considered a true and moderate Republicanism. He expressed his belief that Democracy can never attain to any lasting reforms and real progress unless it holds in respect the best elements of national life—its history, religious faith, and most honourable traditions; and he therefore earnestly called upon the Liberals of Spain (a minority impatient of the stagnation of life in their nation) to give up their position of conspirators, to avoid all violence, and to seek reform by organised and legal action, and so to educate themselves and their countrymen for a better state of government and national life. His words and actions won for him and his group of friends the title of Los hombres de manana, “the men of to-morrow.”

For the salvation of our country, and indeed of the world, we need that there should arise amongst us men of to-morrow, and women of to-morrow, that there should be watchmen on all our watch-towers, more than in times past, who will “watch for the morning,” and be able, with a clear and unfaltering voice, to answer the cry of their brethren, “Watchman, what of the night?” Such men and women of to-morrow will possess a living, though often a silent power, in the midst of all the noise and hurry of our social and political life; they will be not only the party of true progress, but the party of true conservatism, watchers for and guardians of the preservation of precious principles which are constantly threatened with destruction.

It is not enough to be wide-awake men of to-day. There is an urgent need for some among us to look248 on in advance. We need seers as well as workers. History teaches us how much we need them, and how much of human suffering has been needlessly inflicted and prolonged by the want of such seers among men. Especially is this evident in the moral and political life of a nation. A leader in politics of the early half of the century, speaking of a wrong to which he wished to put his hand in order to remove it, said, “We did not know, we did not perceive; and only now we are learning, and only now we begin to see.” There is a deep sadness in this confession, even when humbly and honestly made. It brings to our minds the words, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, if thou hadst known the things that belong to thy peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes.” It is well to ask ourselves truthfully before God, “How far has such ignorance the character of moral guilt?” And it is well that we should realise that that moral guilt of ignorance needs none the less to be repented of and purged away because it is shared by thousands and because it may even be chiefly laid to the charge of generations gone by. Daniel the prophet was a great patriot and a wise politician. His confession was, We and our fathers have sinned; and prophet-like, and like a high priest of the people, he pleaded with God, as if he himself bore on his shoulders alone the guilt of the whole nation, in the past and the present.

It is impossible for the Christian patriot to look forward to the future of our English race, and even into the next few years, without some misgiving. The outlook also for the whole of Europe and of the world seems charged with the clouds and portents249 of a coming storm. “The morning cometh, and also the night.” The shadows of night will deepen, and the darkness increase awhile, before the glad cry is heard: “The morning cometh.”“Now is come the kingdom of our God and of His Christ.” God grant that heaven-taught spirits may again arise among us, not only one here and there, but many, like the stars appearing in the firmament as the shadows of evening deepen into night. God has such in preparation, I cannot doubt. They are arising—the prophets and prophetesses, the seers of the latter days. They are found and will be found among those who elect to live in the silence very near to God, and who realise in the most tenderly human sense the saving friendship of Christ.

A mother writes: “I fear he is going to the bad.” This she says of her son, her only son, who has left home to serve his country. “I fear he is going to the bad, but I must,” she says, “be like the woman in the Bible, who came to Jesus to cast the devil out of her daughter, and would not leave Him till He did it.” Yes, poor mother, you must, you must. That is your only hope; and you will conquer, only hold on. A mother’s love is most like the love of God of any human love. He made the mother’s heart, and He knows it to its depths. Secrets have been revealed to mothers which have not been shared by any other human being. Your heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. You shall not be “afraid of evil tidings.” If troubling reports reach you, and if things seem to have come to the worst, and friends speak coldly of your son, and shake their250 heads (as even Christian friends will do) over your hope and confidence, yet hold on. You have suffered, they perhaps have not. They are “miserable comforters,” though they think they are speaking truly, and for your good. Listen to the voice of God only; look into the face of Jesus only—as she did, the Syrophenician mother, of whom the disciples only said, “Send her away.” Those, who have never known a mother’s woes, know little of the consolations God has for mothers, nor of the secrets which He reveals to them. “I have been with God in the dark. Go, you may leave me alone!” Thus a mother spoke concerning her dead son, when neighbours bewailed him as a lost soul. “I have been with God in the dark,” not in the light only, when there is hope and outward evidence to cheer the heart, but in the dark. It is in the dark that His light shines the brightest. One hour with Him, alone, in the dark, in the gloom of despair and helpless woe, has taught me more than years when I walked in the light of happy and hopeful circumstances. I fear nothing now, for I have been alone with God in the dark. Hold on, poor mother! Christ has given us His word of honour. That is enough for you and me.

A picture is now held up before the eyes of the whole world of the consequences which may wait upon an injustice inflicted on a single human being. All eyes are fixed upon the bitter conflict raging around the fate of that solitary prisoner in the Devil’s Island. A combination of unusual and wondrously significant circumstances has caused this case to become a cause célèbre, engrossing the interest of251 the whole civilised world. We may thank God indeed for the deep teachings of this terrible drama. But let us think for a moment of the thousands who have suffered as much, and more than this typical victim; of the crushed hearts of the host of women and men whose martyrdom has been known to none but God; or if known or guessed, has been unheeded, the sufferers being of humble rank, of character suspect, friendless, poor, and uncared for. Their cry has entered into the ears of the God of Sabaoth, as much as the “sorrowful sighing” of those noble prisoners of to-day. That great injustice, against which the “elect spirits” of France are so nobly protesting, could scarcely have been perpetrated among a people trained in respect for justice, and in a measure of self-restraint. It has beneath it a foundation of stricken souls and outraged hearts. It has been built up upon a Golgotha. Those who have eyes to see are beginning to see that the smoke of the impious sacrifice of even one of the humblest and most insignificant of human beings may serve to cloud the heavens, and to shut out the favour of God from a nation; and what must it be when that one is multiplied by thousands?

For thirty years past I have pleaded as well as I could the cause of the outcast. The time may not be long in which I shall be permitted to continue to plead it in this world. Pardon me then, Christian people—and all just men and just women, Christian or not—for uttering this cry from the depths of my soul at this close of the year, and approaching close of the century. The happiest of women myself in all the relations of life, God has done me the great252 favour of allowing me in a manner to be, for these thirty years, the representative of the outcast, of “the woman of the city who was a sinner.” It is her voice which I utter. Oh, hear it, I beseech you! It is by right of the great sorrow with which God pierced my heart long ago for His outcasts, that I speak; a sorrow which will never be wholly comforted till the day when I shall see millions of those cold, dead hands now stretched upon the threshold of our social and national life lifted to the throne of God in adoring and wondering praise for His final deliverance.“Thy dead men shall live”—all who have been done to death in sorrow and anguish; and God shall wipe the tears from all faces. And even for the present, for the near future there is hope, abundant hope, for Jehovah reigns, and the day of sifting has dawned.

My heart is often pained by hearing good women reiterate the statement that “men cannot be expected to exercise the self-restraint which is expected of women.” They say, “Men cannot be strictly virtuous; we women do not know what they have to overcome, nor the force of their temptations; in fact they must sin.” And women, even Christian women, whisper this the one to the other, even to their daughters, and so the low standard is perpetuated. The women who foster this opinion seem not to perceive that in announcing it they are (unconsciously probably) bringing a terrible accusation against God. They are representing Him as not only an illogical, but a cruel and unjust Being. What are the facts? God has created man with a253 conscience and with a will. He has given to man a Law and has attached penalties to the breaking of that Law; and yet you say that He has so created man that it is not possible for him to obey that Law. If this doctrine is widely accepted by women, it is no wonder that so many of them are atheists at heart. How can you, how can I reverence such a God as you represent Him to be? You might as well ask me to love and worship Baal or Moloch or Juggernaut as such a God as that. But it is not as you say. Look a little deeper.

It has been imposed upon me from time to time during my long life work to speak with men on this point—not only with men of blameless life, but with others who have fallen low. “Is it indeed the very truth,” I have asked, “that you absolutely cannot resist temptation?” And the answer has generally been, if coming from an honest heart, “I could resist if I determined to do so;” or,“I could once have resisted and overcome, but now——” Ah, there is the secret, the sorrowful truth! After repeated and continual yielding, the will of man comes to be broken down. There comes upon him that most fatal of all moral diseases, the paralysis of the will; what he could do once he can no longer do. The will is as the citadel of a beleaguered city; when the citadel is taken the whole city yields, and then it may be and is true that there comes a time when the man cannot any longer combat or resist.

Shall we then, in so terrible a case as this, seeing such men and such women gliding down the slippery incline, regard them as hopeless, as beyond recovery? Shall we go on repeating the fatalist’s doctrine, which254 we hear so much around us, that it cannot be helped, it must be so, the man must go on sinning, he cannot recover himself? No, a thousand times no. With God all things are possible. He can restore power to the paralysed will, even as He can raise the dead. He does it, and we have seen with our eyes these His miracles of power and love.

And how, you ask me, by what means may such a restoration be accomplished? Replying from my own experience, I would say it is brought about very frequently by means of the divinely energised wills of others—chiefly of those creatures so dear to God, those mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and friends who have, through the teaching of the heart and the inspiration of God, learned and embraced that holiest of all ministries, the ministry of intercession. It has been said that the nearest, shortest way to a man’s heart is round by the throne of God. It is true. Direct advice, counsel, and warning to those who err may sometimes be effectual, and especially with the young. But too often they are wholly useless, and even excite antagonism. But the love, the power, the promise of God never fail.

But you tell me, “Oh, I am not good enough to pray for others, and to receive answers to my prayer.” This is a great mistake. What is our goodness to God? We are none of us good. Think of all the people mentioned in the Gospels who sought after Christ. What was it that brought them to His feet? It was not their goodness, but their great needs, wants and desires, their miseries, their sicknesses, their deep heart griefs, and the griefs and miseries of those dear to them. Our only claim in coming to Him is255 that we need Him and want Him. There is none other. It is written that God “turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends.” We learn to know God in drawing near to Him on behalf of others. We fathom the deeper treasures of His love in pleading for those whom we love.

I hear people say sometimes, “But I have prayed for So-and-so for weeks, for months, and I have received no answer.” This reminds me of a little boy who made some childish request of God, and ended his prayer by saying, “I will wait three weeks, God, and no more.” We limit God. We measure the great work of His Spirit by the span of our little lives. We must rise above that thought, with courage and patience, and persistent trust and confidence, remembering that His years are not limited. He has all eternity to work in, all eternity in which to remember and fulfil our hearts’ desires.

When the case is one the issues of which reach into eternity, when it is the bringing from darkness into light of an immortal spirit, when it is the training and teaching of a soul, the correction of faults which sometimes requires a whole life’s discipline, or the evolution of some great good from a family’s or a nation’s griefs, then all childish impatience is out of place, foolish, and fatal often to the very fulfilment of that which is desired. “Though it tarry, wait for it,” said the seer, “because it will surely come.”

But your sad hearts are asking still concerning the wanderers whom you love. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? There is, there is. There is hope, not only for the weak and erring, but for the criminal who has been guilty of256 the moral death of another, for him on whose head rests the guilt of cruelty and treachery. “Nazarene, Thou hast conquered,” were the last words of Julian the Apostate, at the close of a lifetime of rebellion and defiance. The Nazarene is a great conqueror. The heart of the most scornful of the rebels against God’s holy laws may be broken, softened and laid bare to the healing dews of heaven; and his eyes may be opened to see, like Hagar, close at hand a well of water which he knew not of.

In speaking of life and love to some of the most fallen and wrecked of men and women, it has sometimes appeared as if I were speaking into the ears of a corpse, of one in whom there remains no longer any conscience or will to respond to the call of God. Sometimes I have been answered by the wildest blasphemies on the part of men, who later asked with hungry eyes, “Tell me truly, is there any hope for me?” Love is not easily persuaded that the moment of death has arrived. Love, like Rizpah, watches with a constancy stronger than death by the silent corpses of her dearly beloved and longed-for, with all her strength denying that they shall be given as carrion to the wolves and the vultures.

Suffer me to recall an incident, one only. On entering the ward of a large city hospital, reserved for women of the lowest class, I met the chaplain leaving the ward, his hands pressed upon his ears in order to shut out the sound of a torrent of blasphemy and coarse abuse, hurled after him by one of the inmates to whom he had spoken as his conscience had prompted him, and under a sincere sense of duty. I drew near to that woman. She257 was hideous to look at, dying and raging; a married woman who had had children and lost them, who had lived the worst of lives, descending lower and lower. She had been kicked (as it proved, to death) by the man, her temporary protector. Her broken ribs had pierced some internal organ, and there was no cure possible. Though dying, she was hungry, as indeed she had been for years, and was tearing like a wild beast at some scraps of meat and bread which had been given to her. An unseen power urged me to go near to her. Was it possible for anyone to love such a creature? Could she inspire any feeling but one of disgust? Yes, the Lord loved her, loved her still, and it was possible for one who loved Him to love the wretch whom He loved. I do not recollect what I said to her, but it was love which spoke. She gazed at me in astonishment, dropped her torn-up food, and flung it aside. She took my hand, and held it with a death-grip. She became silent, gentle. Tears welled from the eyes which had been gleaming with fury. The poor soul had been full to the brim of revenge and bitterness against man, against fate, against God. But now she saw something new and strange; she heard that she was loved, she believed it, and was transformed.

I loved her. It was no pretence, and she knew it. At parting I said, “I will come again,” and she gasped, “Oh, you will, you will!” I came again the morning of the next day. The nurse told me that she died at midnight, quiet, humble, “as peaceful as a lamb,” always repeating,258 “Has she come back? She will come again. Is she coming? Yes, she will come again.” If I had been asked, as I sometimes am, “But had she any clear perception of her own sinfulness, did she understand, etc.?” I could give no answer. I know not. I only know that love conquered, and that He who inspired the love which brought the message of His love to the shipwrecked soul knew what He was doing, and does not leave His work incomplete.

It is told among the many beautiful incidents of the early Church, that a young Roman soldier, converted to Christianity, and received as a catechumen, awaiting baptism, was called to serve in the field with the legion to which he belonged. The night after a battle, he found himself lying under the stars wounded and faint. Near him a fellow-soldier in the same condition as himself was groaning heavily. The night was cold, and his comrade’s wounds were exposed to the frosty air. “Take my cloak,” whispered Martin; and though in sore pain, and shivering himself, he folded his cloak tenderly around his comrade and fell asleep. Then there arose before him in his sleep a strange and beautiful vision. He saw in the skies a number of angelic beings and saints in light, in the midst of whom stood the Saviour, clothed in “raiment white and glistening,” and—strange!—wearing on His kingly shoulders, over the resplendent white, the poor, torn, bloodstained cloak of a Roman soldier. As Martin gazed in astonishment, the Saviour smiled, and turning to His angelic attendants said,259 “Behold Me with the cloak which Martin the catechumen hath given Me! For inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.”

In one of the African provinces of Rome, partly Christianised, there occurred in the second century a sore famine. The inhabitants were driven to terrible straits. In a certain town, it is recorded by one of the old chroniclers, there lived a saintly bishop—not one of “my lords” of modern times, dwelling in a palace, but a humble shepherd or overseer of a scanty flock gathered out of the heathen city in which he dwelt. There lived in the same city a poor street musician, called Xanthus, an ignorant fellow of no good reputation. When the famine had endured some months, and Xanthus’ body presented the appearance of a walking skeleton, he saw, one evening in the twilight, a female form at the corner of a street, with the figure and bearing of a refined lady, though closely veiled and wearing a poor, used, black robe. She was holding out her hand for alms and receiving none, and worn and faint she yielded to the stress of hunger, and was about to accept the last terrible resource of selling her own person to a passer-by, who was apparently far above want. Penetrated with a sudden feeling of pity and horror, Xanthus interposed, and reverently begged the lady to accept of such poor help as he could give her. “Lady, I have little, but all I have shall be yours until these times of tribulation are over.” She moved towards him without replying, her tears alone proving her grateful acceptance of his aid. He led her back to her abode, and from that time forward he worked for her day and night, plying to the utmost his poor skill as a musician, affecting a cheerful manner, and260 adding to his fiddling various tricks and jokes to arrest the attention of the citizens who crossed his path. Every day he brought to the lady (for such she was) his modest gains, finding her food, and waiting on her, deeming it an honour that she should accept the help of such a creature as he.

The famine over, she was restored to her former position; but Xanthus fell ill, and his music and jokes were no more heard in the streets. Friendless and forlorn, he lay dying, when the good bishop above-named was visited in a dream by a heavenly messenger, who bade him go to such a street and such a house and find there a man called Xanthus, for “the Lord would have mercy on him.” Awaking from his sleep, the good bishop obeyed. He entered the place—more like a dog’s kennel than a human dwelling—where Xanthus lay. “Xanthus!” he cried, “the Lord Jesus Christ hath sent me to you to bring you glad tidings.”“How! to me—to me—your God has sent you to me! No, there is a mistake. I am the street-fiddler, Xanthus, the most miserable, God-forsaken of men—a man who has done nothing but ill all his life.” Then the good bishop recalled to the memory of Xanthus (this having been revealed to him) the day when he turned back a tempted fellow-creature from sin, and the weeks in which he sustained her, at the cost of his own life; and he added, “The Lord bids me say to you, that, for this cup of cold water you have given to one of His redeemed creatures, you shall in no wise lose your reward. Your sins are forgiven. Christ says to you, ‘This day you shall be with Me in paradise.’” And so it came to pass that Xanthus died that day,261 his poor heart, it is said, broken; but not with sorrow; broken through excess of joy, through the thrill of astonished gladness at the heavenly greeting, and the wondrous announcement that the Lord of Glory had deigned to notice and acknowledge the one redeeming act of his life. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.”

Not in the times of old, but quite lately, in Hyde Park, London, on a sultry day in summer, there lay under one of the trees a poor sheep, panting, dying from the heat. By its side there kneeled a little ragged boy, a street arab, his tears marking gutters in the dust of his soiled face. He had run down to the water again and again and filled his little cloth cap with water, which he held to the mouth of the sheep, bathing its nose and eyes, until it began to show signs of returning life, speaking to it all the time loving words such as his own mother may have spoken to him. A gentleman walking near stopped, and looking with amusement at the child, said, “You seem awfully sorry for that beast, boy.” The cynical tone of the speaker seemed to grieve the little boy, and with a flushed face he replied, in a tone of indignant and tearful protest, “It is God’s sheep.” The gentleman grunted and walked away. I felt the presence there of One who said to that child: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto Me.”

If the spirit of that boy were fully shared by even a fraction of our Christian population, the brutality and sin of the vivisection of God’s creatures would262 soon become a forbidden and unknown thing among us. Our Lord’s words concerning the humblest of the animal creation are no mere figure of speech. He meant what He said. There is a penalty attached to contempt for or oblivion of those words of His, as of every other word He spoke. “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God.” The price of a sparrow was half a farthing, but in case one of four sold might possibly be very small, ill-fed, and not worth its half-farthing, a fifth was “thrown in” to insure the purchaser from loss. Yet even the presumably worthless fifth sparrow was “not forgotten before God.” When the prophet Jonah was in a bad humour because his prophecy of destruction to Nineveh had not been fulfilled, and his sheltering gourd had withered, God said to him: “Thou hast had pity on the gourd, which came up in a night, and perished in a night: and should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?”“His mercies are over all His works.” He cares for every living thing.



An International Conference was held in Brussels in 1899, for the purpose of considering and promoting international action for the preventive treatment of venereal diseases. As the programme of the Conference was expressly limited to the administrative and medical aspects of the question, and took no account of matters of moral and social order, the Abolitionist Federation declined to take any part officially in the proceedings, although individual members of the Federation accepted invitations to attend. The results of the Conference were a surprise to everyone, being in the nature of a triumph for Abolitionist principles. The prophets, who had been called together to bless the Regulation system, found themselves almost with one accord led by the spirit of truth to curse it. This Conference, and the Conference of the Federation which took place the same year at Geneva, were dealt with in The Storm-Bell in three articles, which are here given with some omissions.

It was very impressive to me and others to hear at our Geneva Conference an account of the Brussels Conference from Dr. Fiaux of Paris, who had attended it, and who with others had nobly fought the battle of the Abolitionists. His report was of such a nature as to fill our hearts with thanksgiving, wonder and praise. The Conference of Brussels, as264 my readers know, was convened with the confessed purpose of proposing an appeal to the European Governments to establish a uniform system of Regulation—of in fact patching up, if possible perfecting and making universal the unlawful and degrading system which we oppose. The conveners of the Conference were however, it seems, sincere and open-minded men; and the numerous medical and other disputants, who came delegated from different countries of Europe, and who were attached to the evil system, regarding only the material and medical side of the great question, appear to have been shaken in their views, and to have been compelled, even by the confessions of some leading Regulationists, to see that their theories are untenable, and that the system they have so many years upheld is as it were hanging in rags, a miserable failure, an old worn out and infected garment, into which it is worse than useless to introduce patches of new cloth.

Almost all the delegates, of whom the immense majority were Regulationists, acknowledged during the Conference that they had come there to learn, implying that they had need of knowledge. There seemed to prevail an open-mindedness, which had not been anticipated. Some of the English medical delegates, full of the old prejudices in favour of the system of combined slavery and license, must have gone home knowing more than they did before. Finally two resolutions were passed. One of the resolutions was in favour of an appeal to all the Governments to take measures for the better protection of minor girls, in order to prevent their being265 drafted into the service of organised vice; and another was to the effect that it is desirable that doctors should be better educated in the matter of the maladies in question. These harmless resolutions were voted unanimously.

An observant delegate wrote: “We all have the impression that the Regulationists now fully recognise us (of the Federation) as a force which they must in future reckon with.” A clearer idea of the influence, which was at work in winning for us this victory, was granted to me while listening to Dr. Fiaux’s report at Geneva. He spoke of an influence which hovered over the Conference from the first day to the last; an influence which restrained, which prevented rash or erroneous propositions, an influence which he believed to proceed from the gradually increasing tide of awakened and changed public opinion, and to which he attributed a kind of spiritual force, a restraining and guiding force. He asserted that it was felt by all, that it tended to check all violence of opposition, and disposed the minds of the delegates to accept a position of enquiry, and to begin again afresh the study of the question, rather than to hold to the conservation of the system, in which they could not any longer place absolute confidence. More than once Dr. Fiaux endeavoured to describe this influence, raising his hands above his head to illustrate something which hovered over the assembly, resting above it and making itself felt. Those of us, who have asked that an influence above and beyond all, that we ourselves by our utmost effort can exercise, might come to our aid when the opposing266 principles should thus meet in conflict, will understand what all this means, and will give thanks.

We have often watched the light thistledown, the winged seed, mount in the air and disappear, carried by the breeze who knows where? We only know it will settle somewhere, drop, die, live again, and spring up to bear in its turn “fruit after its kind.” The career of that special seed is denounced by cultivators as mischievous. But there are good seeds also with wings, which silently travel about the world, plant themselves and bear fruit for which all men bless them. It is of the latter kind that I want to say a word.

I do not think that as yet any adequate appreciation of the character of our last September Conference in Geneva, and its results, has appeared in our English Abolitionist Press. I should like, if possible, in some degree to supply that omission. That Conference has been spoken of in several English reports as “a Conference of members of the Federation.” It was not exactly so. It would be quite correct to say it was a Conference organised by the Federation (and splendidly organised it was by the brave little group of members of the Federation in Geneva). But we have never yet had such a crowded Conference organised by us, at which were present so few members of the Federation. We were a mere handful from England. Several of our allies whom we generally see from other countries did not appear, while many of our prominent members on the Continent and in England were prevented from coming by illness or other circumstances. Yet we267 had crowded sessions every day and all day. The striking feature of that Conference was the influx to it of new adherents to our principles, many of whom we had never seen, or never even heard of. Adherents to our principles they were, but not members of the Federation; nor did they, with very few exceptions, become there and then members of the Federation. And herein lies the encouragement of which I wish to speak. It is in connection with this fact that I wish my English friends to take courage and thank God with me. They flocked to us—these new adherents to our principles from France, from Belgium, from Germany, from Italy, etc. There were among them persons of many different creeds and opinions, and an extraordinary number of leaders of the Press from different countries, more especially of that enlightened Press minority in France who fought so hard and so noble a battle (in the Dreyfus case) in favour of justice. There were with us also many distinguished ladies—distinguished morally and intellectually—who for the first time greeted us as allies. Those who were at the public evening meeting in the Great Hall of the Reformation must have been struck by the immense variety of nationality, character, creed, and opinion of those who took part in it; and at the same time by the perfect unity, heart, and downrightness of that vast assembly in regard to the great question of Justice for which the Federation labours. Many were asking,268 “How has this come about? What energising and purifying wind has been blowing through Europe to bear towards us this new unexpected ‘cloud of witnesses’ to testify that truth gains ground in its own mysterious way?”

It seems to me that we—the Federation—are like persons who, wishing to propagate some beautiful flower, should have carefully laid out a garden, hedged it round, dug it well, and then sown in it abundantly the seed which was to produce the beautiful flower. We took great pains with our garden. We sowed our seeds in rows, neatly and measuredly, perhaps a little formally. We arranged with our under-gardeners, training them, and turning them off if they did not suit. Perhaps we pottered a little sometimes, but always with the one desire at heart of seeing some day a great harvest of this beautiful flower—a flower of such pure colour, and wholesome hygienic qualities. Sometimes we sighed, in times of drought or of failure of “hands” for the work. But lo! a day came when the assembled gardeners, coming together to reckon up the results of their work, happened to look over the hedge, and with astonishment noted that the country all round, fields and hillsides, on which they had not bestowed any personal labour, were ablaze with the azure of the beautiful flower which they had cultivated so carefully in their garden. They had forgotten that seeds have wings, and that they could silently distance the garden fence and fly afar. So with the principles which we have cultivated.

There were at Geneva young men, pastors from the French provinces, whose prayers at our morning devotional meetings were an echo of the depths of my own heart; and there were young women, some very young, looking in whose faces I asked269 myself, “How and where have these young people learned that zeal for justice, that pity for oppressed womanhood, and that grave view of life which we of the Federation could however never, and less now than ever, imagine to be the monopoly of experienced workers?”

The Conference of Brussels pre-eminently brought to us the lesson of the “Winged Seed.” The speech of Dr. Fiaux, of Paris, who came from that Conference to Geneva to tell us its results, was to me full of teaching of which possibly the speaker himself was not wholly conscious. It told of the power and silent progress of a truth carried abroad by the Spirit which “bloweth where it listeth.” The lesson of the “Winged Seed” goes far beyond our own special crusade. We may apply it in the darkest times. For Truth (like Love) cannot die. Therefore we will take heart and labour on, though the End is not yet.

A very friendly critic, in giving a report of the Geneva Conference in September last, asked the question, “Where was Mrs. Butler?” when some sentiment or proposition was announced which seemed not quite in harmony with the principles of the Federation. He added, “But doubtless her silence was to be attributed to her desire to hold the Federation together. She is naturally concerned about the Organisation.” I wish to answer the question, and to rectify the mistaken impression. I was absent from the discussion in question. I am not able to listen to discussions from morning to night, owing to diminished strength of body, and I270 must leave matters in the hands of younger and abler combatants. But on the other matter, my supposed attachment to our organisation, I want to say a word. I have no faith whatever in organisations except so far as they are a useful means for making known a truth or dispensing help to those who need it, and when they are completely subordinated to those ends. They are apt to become a snare to those who invent them and work them, unless great care is taken to revive continually within them the life by which alone they can usefully exist.

The history of the Jesuits and that of some other great organised societies are monuments of the idolatrous tendency in human beings, of their habit of degenerating to the worship of some gigantic and intricate earthly creation from that of the Unseen, the Living God. Such organisations may become in time the instruments of a propagandism the very opposite of that proposed by their founders; and they may end by following in the stately march of a cruel and murderous Juggernaut, crushing the life out of men and women, and all bespattered with the “blood of the poor innocents.” Short of such a ghastly development as this, vast organisations (the leaders of which may come to be themselves misled by pride or vanity, or the praise of man, to imagine that the life is still in their wheels when it is fast passing out from them) become effete, lifeless and unfruitful. The more they are in evidence before the world, the more showy they become, the more do they lose real power. Their hold on God is insensibly loosened, their members forget the271 command to “call no man master.” There creeps in upon them frequently a tyrannising spirit. Their leaders become a prey to the great delusion of the Russian ecclesiastical tyrant, that uniformity is a beautiful thing, and that it represents power. Uniformity is not a beautiful thing. There is no uniformity in God’s creation, either in the natural or the spiritual world. The insistence on uniformity crushes out individuality and hinders initiative. It clips the wings of the best human gifts and capacities. It introduces the opposite of that “glorious liberty of the children of God,” which sets each soul free to develop into that good thing which He created it to become. “You shall all speak alike, all work in the same way, all adopt the same manner, and obey implicitly the same rule.” This command is itself paralysing to freedom and to individual development and power. But when it comes to, “You shall all think alike, all believe the same things, all receive what your leaders teach, and act in accordance with a uniform creed,” then there comes down a spiritual blight, which ultimately leaves a body without a soul. It is best then that such an organisation should break up and disappear. If its existence is prolonged it may become the tenement of a spiritual influence which is directly evil, while still wearing the outward garb of what was originally good.

But our humble Abolitionist Federation! Is it likely to incur such a fate? No, I do not believe it ever will, for up to now it has continued humble; moreover it has never been strongly centralised, and never in any sense has it been tyrannised over by272 those who may be called its leaders. It is a union of free workers, who are at liberty to work along their own lines and in their own methods, in each country and each group. I hope it will not surprise any of my readers if I say that I should not grieve or be greatly disturbed if our Federation were to break up and fall to pieces to-morrow. Observe that I do not here speak of the people who form it, of the friends and fellow-workers of years past, as well as of welcome new-comers whom I trust and love. These are the life of the work. They are the living beings in whose souls reside the deep conviction, the strength of principle, and the unselfish purpose which have carried on our propagandist work till now, and which will continue to carry it on, with or without any special organisation. These persons will always have a warm place in my heart, for they have been and are my revered “yoke-fellows” in a just and holy cause; and when their own life-work is over they will bequeath to those who come after them the spirit which alone has made our labours fruitful. All my care is for the principle which we have been called to proclaim, not for the machinery through which the drudgery of the work has been facilitated. God does not need our poor machinery. He can create other methods of spreading a truth, if those now existing had better come to an end.

There is a deep meaning in that mysterious vision of Ezekiel, of the living creatures and the wheels. They were together lifted up from the earth, and guided through space wherever God willed; the wheels, wheel within wheel, an intricate mechanism, moved upwards and onwards, with the ease and273 power of a soaring eagle, because the Spirit was in the wheels, the Spirit which was as lamps of fire and as lightning. I have sometimes thought if the Spirit had left those creatures and that mass of wheels, with what a crash they would have come down to the ground! So long as we have that Spirit, even our wheels will have life, and our humble organisation will continue, as it has done till now, to glide past all dangers, and to win true hearts to our cause.



When I received the announcement of the passing away, at ninety years of age, of Mr. Arthur Albright, my thoughts were carried back to many years ago. I felt a kind of peace in the thought that this brave Christian has been permitted to live to such a ripe old age. It is an encouragement to us all to observe, as we do in so many cases, that the most strenuous workers for justice and truth, who have been foremost in the ranks of combatants for the right, are often strengthened in body and in nerves to endure for a greater number of years than others who perhaps live more for themselves.

I have not seen Mr. Albright for very many years. In the seventies I frequently met him at the annual meetings of the Friends at Devonshire House. One incident stands out very vividly in my mind, and I may be permitted to recall it just in the manner in which it comes back to me. In the earliest years of our agitation for repeal (I think it was in 1870) I was at Birmingham, where naturally my message was received with unhesitating cordiality by leading members of the Society of Friends. Among these stood foremost Mr. Arthur Albright and his friend and relative Mr. John E. Wilson, who have both now gone to their rest. (My most intimate friends in the275 whole matter were Mr. and Mrs. Kenway, in whose house I always stayed in Birmingham.) After a large meeting held there, there was a discussion as to whether it would not be well at once to attack the British stronghold of Regulation, viz. Plymouth, where already that system had begun to bear its corrupt and tragic fruits, there having been already several suicides of poor girls forcibly brought within its tyranny. These Quaker gentlemen put it to me, Was I willing to go, because they felt that, at that period of our crusade the cause must be presented prominently as a woman’s cause, and be represented by women? I answered, “Yes; probably it is right to go.” These gentlemen replied that they would with pleasure charge themselves with any expenses that the journey and the meetings might involve. Well, I packed up my things, and with a somewhat trembling heart, counteracted by the supreme love of battle which was born in me, I went with a few friends to the railway station to proceed to Plymouth. There I was somewhat startled to find myself closely followed on the platform by these two friends above mentioned. Mr. Albright was tall, straight, thin, and in figure as in principles, as firm as a bar of iron. Mr. Wilson was also tall, broader, and perhaps more imposing looking. I turned to thank them for their kindness in coming to see me off. The reply in a very gentle voice was, “Oh, we go with thee; we could not leave thee alone.” There came, I recollect, to my heart quite a thrill at that moment of admiration and gratitude. I thought to myself, “This is true chivalry.” These were responsible business men, who had their duties every day in276 Birmingham. I do not think that either of them were great speakers. Mr. Albright was a silent man, but his few words were weighty, and his convictions were immovable; he was one of those Quakers whom the poet Whittier described as “a non-conductor among the wires.” They came with me to Plymouth, together with other early friends of our cause. At the great and stormy meeting which we had there they stood by me, sat behind me when I had to speak, and I felt that their presence was a tower of strength, though they said so little. The day of our meeting was a day of overpowering heat. The battle in which we were engaged was equally hot, and the Quaker calm of my kind friends was better to me than even the breeze that blew through the open windows. These may seem to be trifling remembrances, but, strange to say, such memories live sometimes in the brain when greater things are forgotten.

Long ago I asked a gift of God—companionship with Christ. Shall I murmur because He, having granted my request, grants it not in the way that I expected? I thought of Mary sitting at His feet, hearing His word calmly, happy and wise; but that is not the companionship He grants me to-day (Good Friday). To-day it is the companionship with Him of the penitent malefactor, nailed to a neighbouring cross. I cannot grasp His hand, nor sit at His feet, nor lean on His breast as the beloved disciple did, for I am bound hand and foot, stretched on my cross till every nerve and muscle strains and aches. I can only turn my head to that side where the Lord hangs277 in pain also, so near that I can hear His breathing, His sighs, the beating of His heart; but separated by the cross. The cross which brings me so near to Him is the hindrance to a still nearer approach. I can speak to Him in few and faint words from my cross to His, but without the tranquil rest and consolation which I once knew in His presence, and such as the family of Bethany knew, whom He loved. But did He not also love that dying malefactor? and did not those two, in some sense, resemble each other as they hung there, a spectacle to men and angels, more than Martha or Mary resembled Him as they sat at His feet, or ministered to Him with busy hands?

I recall these things to sustain me in the midst of mournful questionings. He has chosen the manner of our companionship, and therefore it is dear to me. No pleasant walks on the slopes of the Mount of Olives, no evening converse or public teaching on the shores of the lake or on the green hillside, no sweet ministerings by the wayside or in humble dwellings to His human needs. These are not His choice for me. In the morning of life I chose for myself—I chose the beautiful and good things set before me; and now in the evening, when the shadows are closing round, He chooses for me. If I have worn a crown of roses, shall I not gladly change it for one of thorns, if it brings me nearer? When my earthly paradise faded, and its best human companionship was withdrawn, and I was left alone, then my Lord remembered my first request—for companionship with Him. And how could He choose better than He had chosen—to share His solitude, to know the sweet and awful278 companionship of suffering, of darkness, of the vision of the whole world’s sin, for which He was wounded to death, and of the slow hours counted in silent pain? I thank thee, O God!

The following message was written for the Conference of the Federation held in Paris in June, 1900.

In the midst of all that is now being done to promote a higher morality and to win men, our soldiers and others, to accept the higher standard, there is still, I think, a tendency to forget, or at least to feel less, our responsibility towards the immediate and the saddest victims of the social evil—the women, the young girls of the so-called outcast class. May I once more put in a plea for them? Unable now to work among them in any practical way, yet the thought of them is ever with me. There are memories which nothing can efface, forms which visit me again in the night season, faces which look through the mists of the past and seem to plead for some word from me, some reminder addressed to our busy workers and noble social reformers—a word to recall to them that279we are still in bonds; we are still in State prison-houses, in beleaguered cities where a famine of all that heart and soul crave, and the disease-impregnated atmosphere are wearing us out and holding us until the last breath of hope is extinguished and we die; and yet no sound of any relieving army reaches our ears, no glad tramp of swiftly-flying horses bearing our deliverers; no cry from the watch-tower, Relief is on the way! We are here while you are preaching purity, more manliness to men, more courage to women, more love for humanity. Have you forgotten us?” From the Maisons tolerées of Geneva, of Paris, of Berlin, from slave pens and prisons all over the Continent comes this cry to those who have ears to hear.

At the meeting of our Abolitionist Federation about to be held in Paris will that voice be heard, or will it be lost amidst the excitement of those days, amidst the pressure of a thousand interests and the voices of appeal from many workers in innumerable good causes? And yet a few streets distant there are and will be abodes filled with human beings—our sisters, driven outside the pale of all law, hemmed round and crushed down by a cordon and by weights of arbitrary police rules, slaves and prisoners to whom no light comes, to whom no word of hope penetrates. They have been so welded into a compact class by human egotism that even the good and kind among men and women are apt to forget that they are no more criminal than others who are free, and to look upon them as a peculiarly degraded portion of humanity.

May I recall a few memories? In Paris some twenty or more years ago my husband and I, on our way to an evening meeting, shortened our route by going through an obscure by-street. As we passed there darted out of the darkness a girl gaily dressed, painted, but no fille de joie, no dressing or paint could hide the marks of slavery and pain. She made for me, she threw her arms round my neck, her cheek for one moment pressed against mine, the tears coursing down through the paint which hid the pallor underneath, and calling me by my name, she said (in280 French), “We love you! Oh, we love you!” I had no time to respond. She, seeing or feeling the approach of a policeman or something, tore herself away and darted back into the darkness. Like a meteor out of the darkness this vision appeared, and into the darkness it returned, leaving no trace behind. I never heard of her again. I know nothing. Where is that spirit now? Where? I ask it of God. She told me she loved me (she and her doomed comrades). Shall I ever have the opportunity of returning to her those dear words? We had been having meetings, in which sympathy was expressed for these captives. Some few of them, in spite of police surveillance, had managed to creep into our meetings, and perhaps they had read something in the newspapers.

Dare I to ask our friends who will assemble in Paris to keep their ears open to this cry, and to remember that there, close by, in the midst of all the charms of the Exhibition, and the interest of social gatherings and meetings on behalf of every good end, there, close by, are crushed hearts and maddened spirits, whose existence as an officially acknowledged social necessity is a crime prophetic of woe for that charming city en fête just now, but which must pass under a cloud sooner or later, if for these and other slaves the sword of justice is not unsheathed?

In the years past I visited sometimes houses of ill-fame in my own country, where the law is with us and not against us in entering such places. I recall one day sitting in a room with some score of young women of the unhappy sisterhood. They were seated mostly on the floor around me, some with an expression of weariness or indifference on their faces,281 some hard, others gently inquisitive. I spoke to them (do not be surprised, any friend who may read this) of the sweetness of family life, of the blessing of the love of a pure and chivalrous man, and of happy married life, of the love of little children, the gaiety, the gladness they shed in the home, of the delight even of the humblest household work in such conditions in a home where true love reigns, and of the affection between a true husband and wife, which deepens and becomes more holy as life goes on. Was it cruel? It might seem so. But the effect was not so. All round me there were heads bowed low; no more hardness nor indifference, but tears dropping on clasped hands and faces hidden on the shoulders of their companions. The room seemed to be full of the sound of sighing and sobbing; it seemed to me a wail—almost like the wail of lost spirits:“Too late! too late! That is not for us. Once we had now and then such a dream, but now—nevermore!” I dropped on the floor to be nearer and in the midst of them, and spoke words which I cannot remember, but to this effect:“Courage, my darlings! Don’t despair; I have good news for you. You are women, and a woman is always a beautiful thing. You have been dragged deep in the mud; but still you are women. God calls to you, as He did to Zion long ago, ‘Awake, awake! Thou that sittest in the dust, put on thy beautiful garments.’ It may be that the picture I have drawn is not for you, yet I dare to prophesy good for you, and happiness even in this life; and I tell you truly that you can become, in this life, something even better than a happy wife and mother—yes, something better. You can help282 to save others. You can be the friend and companion of Him who came to seek and to save that which was lost. Fractures well healed make us more strong. Take of the very stones over which you have stumbled and fallen, and use them to pave your road to heaven. My beloved ones, I have come to tell you of a happiness in store for you, greater than any earthly happiness.”

Did I speak to them of their sins? Did I preach that the wages of sin is death? Never! What am I—a sinner—that I should presume to tell them that they were sinners? That would have stirred an antagonism in their hearts, a mental protest:“Perhaps you are not much better than we. If you had had to go through what we have gone through, if you had been neglected, poor, betrayed, kicked about by society——” Ah, yes, I knew all that; and I knew that the vision of what they might have been had stirred in every poor heart of them a sad, dreary sense of loss—of irreparable loss—and a keen sense of shame and of bitter regret that they were what they were.

And the seal set upon every such message was the seal of the blessed name of Christ the Lord, the Lover of the lost, the Friend of sinners; of Him who welcomed the sinful woman, the sister of those who are called in police reports “habitual prostitutes,” “abandoned women,” “recalcitrants,”“social nuisances”; of Him who accepted her tears, who suffered her to kiss His feet; of Him who said, “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which is lost”; the noble Shepherd who goes forth in search of His lost sheep, following it over hill and dale, rock and torrent, and through the wide, waste wilderness283 —till when? till He sees that that erring creature does not want to be saved, is too stupid and silly and perverse, too tainted with vice to be saved, and then does He turn back and give it up? No. It is written: “He goeth after the sheep that is lost until He finds it.” How is it that the Chief Shepherd never turns back (as we do) from the search after a lost soul, or His vast lost humanity? The answer comes to me—because of His faith. He had faith in God the Father, and He had faith also in that human nature created by God. He sees what we cannot see—the spark, all but extinguished, in the most wretched soul of man or woman, which can be fanned into a flame when the Divine breath breathes upon it.

We know that the words translated in our Scriptures, “Have faith in God,” are now more truly translated, “Have the faith of God.” In order to follow our lost sheep until we find them—never stopping short of that—it seems that we must have, in some degree at least, the faith of the Son of God; His faith in the creative power of the Father of the human race, who can create and recreate, and His faith in the possibility of resurrection for every dead soul.

Among those whom we call “lost women” I have known better rescuers of other lost women than I have known among the truest Christians who have kept firmly in the paths of righteousness. There are among them—perhaps not many, but some—whose ardour and spirit of self-sacrifice in the work has amazed us. Their own experience drives them on, and once given and having accepted such a work, they rise to a height, or rather, I might say, they284 stoop to a depth, of self-abnegation which comes near to the highest ideal of saintliness. “We are poor creatures,” as one of them said; “we have done badly. We can do little, but at least we may be of use in raking a few of our dear fellow-sinners out of the mud.” And they have raked them out of the mud—those lost diamonds in the dust, trodden under foot. They have plunged into the dust heaps and refuse of society, and brought out thence treasures which, when cleansed—even as we all need to be cleansed—become as the stars which shine for ever and ever.

Is it any wonder that such memories visit one in the night season, and that a prayer rises from the heart that the God of Love may send a message of fire into the hearts of our so-called purity workers, our higher morality pleaders, a message which will not be ignored or set aside, but which will compel them to seek a way to the direct deliverance of these captives and the breaking of their chains. And if these workers feel that this work is not theirs, or that they are not fitted for it, or called to it, then I pray that God will prepare and call up a relief army, a forlorn hope brigade from among the humble, the uneducated, the poor and unambitious, who are not so “awfully busy” with good works that they cannot turn aside to lift the wounded or carry the dead; and that He will give to this relief army to fight, in this humble but holy war with the inexpressible bravery, endurance and self-sacrifice with which men are fighting to-day in another war.

I know it will be said, as it is often said:285 “But rescue work is such discouraging, such hopeless work. It is far better to act on public opinion, to elevate the morality of men, to educate the young in principles of justice and purity, to strike at the root, at the causes of prostitution. What you are counselling is but ambulance work for picking up and helping the wounded. Is it not far better to abolish war, which necessitates ambulance work?” All this is quite true. I have preached it many a time myself. Nevertheless, while we are still in the midst of war can we, in the name of pity, neglect our wounded and leave them to die? “This ought ye to have done, and not to have left the other undone.”

Moreover womanhood is solidaire. We cannot successfully elevate the standard of public opinion in the matter of justice to women, and of equality of all in its truest sense, if we are content that a practical, hideous, calculated, manufactured and legally maintained degradation of a portion of womanhood is allowed to go on before the eyes of all. “Remember them that are in bonds, as being bound with them.” Even if we lack the sympathy which makes us feel that the chains which bind our enslaved sisters are pressing on us also, we cannot escape the fact that we are one womanhood, solidaire, and that so long as they are bound, we cannot be wholly and truly free. We continue to be dragged down from that right place and influence which we aim at by the deadweight of this accursed thing in the midst of us.

This year (1900) Josephine Butler wrote two books about the South African War. In the first, Native Races and the War, she endeavours to prove that the treatment of the native races of South Africa, though it had286 “not yet in England or on the Continent been cited as one of the direct causes of the war,” really lay “very near to the heart of the present trouble.” We suspect that the writing of this book was partly due to the fact that her patriotic spirit recoiled at the violent denunciations against England, especially by continental writers, for having entered upon the war from base and covetous motives; but perhaps she fell into the opposite extreme of exaggerating the faults of President Kruger’s Government. In any case, whether or not she proves her thesis that the native question had anything to do with the origin of the war, all will agree with her view, that “Great Britain will in future be judged, condemned or justified according to her treatment of those innumerable coloured races, over whom her rule extends;” and that “race prejudice is a poison which will have to be cast out if the world is ever to be Christianised, and if Great Britain is to maintain the high and responsible place among the nations which has been given to her.” In Silent Victories she does not deal with controversial questions, but tells the simple story of humane and spiritual work carried on amongst the troops by various religious agencies, giving many pathetic incidents from soldiers’ letters from the front, which showed that in the midst of the horrors of war silent victories were won in many hearts, lifted from selfishness to true manhood and brotherliness.

Tolstoi’s latest novel, Resurrection, has been reviewed by several well-known literary men on the Continent. In reading their able articles I am surprised by the absence in them of any full appreciation of the vital chord which has been struck by this master hand, on one side of the great question of justice. The masculine reviewers (I speak of continentals, not yet having read reviews which have287 appeared in England) seem to have missed in a measure hearing the note which goes straight to every woman’s heart. The book might be called the amende honorable made by the masculine conscience to the womanhood of the world, for the centuries of wrong inflicted by the absence of the recognition of an equal moral standard for the sexes. It has brought hope to many, showing how the truth is marching on, how the winged seed has taken root, not only in obscure ground, and in humble minds, but in the mind of a great genius, whose voice has sounded aloud and afar the justice of the movement, for which so many of us have prayed and laboured, and the injustice under which so many have suffered and died—their sorrows and their death taken no account of because they were the helpless victims of the tyranny appealed against.

The Resurrection which Tolstoi pictures is the resurrection of conscience in a man who arises to do the whole of his duty towards a fallen woman, a woman of the streets in fact, whose first seducer he had been. The book is full of sad and tragic scenes, depicted with the author’s unrivalled power; but it stands for truth, for justice, for the right, and in the hand of the giant Tolstoi, it is like a clarion sounding the dawn of a new day. Millions will read this book, appearing as it has done in several languages at the same moment, an accomplished work of art, a marvel of composition, of achievement, even of translation, for it is translated into French by a masterly pen. No man having read it can help having heard the call of conscience.


Madame Pieczynska, who has lived in Russia and Poland, wrote to me as follows: “For me this book is a great event to be thankful for, even unto God. I am told that it is received with enthusiasm in Russia, though it has been mutilated by the censor before being allowed to appear. I hope you will share our impressions about it. To some the hero’s character will probably appear invraisemblable. Let me assure you that it is nevertheless a true and not exceptional type of the Slavian youth of the period, more entire, more extreme in his tendencies, good or bad, than English, French or Swiss men are. The Slavian race is not as yet like those others at the climax of civilisation. It is still growing, ascending, shaping its characteristics, while the others are mature or even growing old. In Russia, in Poland, there is not such a crowding of humanity; there is more room to expand, and to stretch out a thought even to its last consequences. Hence we have Nihilists, strange sects, and such men as Nekhludow and Tolstoi, whilst in some countries mediocrity reigns supreme, everyone elbowing his neighbour closely, and allowing him no extraordinary move, be it onward and upward, or downward. The hero of Tolstoi will undoubtedly be called by many an exalté, but none the less ‘Truth will be justified of her children.’”

Madame Pieczynska’s words are true, for in spite of the reserves and objections which will fill the minds of many readers of Resurrection, it is good and right that there should be foreshadowed for all men the question which will have to be faced and answered in the great Day of Judgment by all seducers,289 corrupters and despisers of women. I will not attempt to give the story, which has been reported in many reviews; but will only add that there are sentences in the book, confessions of an awakened, “resurrected” conscience, and recitals which no Abolitionist among us could read unmoved, and which, when once read, will not easily be forgotten. It would be hopeless to endeavour to bring together here in any adequate degree these remarkable passages. The sister of the hero, a good, kind, prosperous, society woman, asks him with sincerity: “But do you believe it possible that a woman who has lived such a life can ever again be really elevated, morally re-instated, and restored to the nobility of womanhood?” She waits for a reply, imagining that that question is the one which presses most on her brother’s mind, while he is thus determined to sacrifice all for his former victim. His reply embodies a thought, which rarely, if ever, occurs even to the best of men. “That is not the question which I have to answer. The question which I have to answer is: Is there hope for me? Can I be rehabilitated, morally restored, and elevated to the true dignity of manhood?”



The death of her brother-in-law, Tell Meuricoffre, in the spring of 1900, and the death of his wife in the autumn of the same year, were a great sorrow to Josephine Butler, increasing the feeling of loneliness that so often comes to the aged; but amid all her weakness and loneliness in these last years, hope, illimitable hope, was the dominant note of her soul, as she looked forward to the “smile and the ‘good morning’ with which God would greet her” on the other side.

1900 signed photo of Butler

To the Editor of the Shield.

April, 1900.

You ask me for a few words on the character and career of my brother-in-law, the Chevalier Tell Meuricoffre, who fell asleep on Thursday, March 22nd. It would hardly be possible for me to write of him impersonally, while even as a sister, to whom he was very dear, it is not quite easy. But I will try. I cannot speak of him in any direct connection with the cause which your paper represents, for he never came personally to the front in our work, though in sympathy he was with us and with his dear wife, my sister, who has been for several years a member of our International Committee, and some of whose published letters reveal a deeper insight than I have ever observed in any other person into the intimate291 relations of our question with the spiritual life of individuals and nations. Mr. Meuricoffre’s was a very full, varied and most useful life. Swiss by parentage, he was born and lived almost all his life in Naples, where he fulfilled some of the highest citizen functions in a manner to attract the esteem of his fellow-citizens of every nationality and creed. Now that he is gone a thousand testimonies are pouring in to his sterling worth, and to the affection he had inspired far and wide. He was the head and support of the Swiss Protestant colony in Naples—a very numerous society—and the promoter of countless good works, such as the International Hospital, which he created for the reception of strangers arriving in Naples, who did not find any such safe or good treatment in the other hospitals of the city. Truth, purity, uprightness, singlemindedness, and a most munificent generosity were among his characteristics. Noblesse oblige seemed to be his motto. He did not let his left hand know what his right hand did. Besides his public acts of benevolence, he aided privately numbers of individuals and families whose needs or misfortunes were a secret to all except himself. He was the most open-handed of men. He and my husband were great friends, and in several points they resembled each other. If the world were more largely peopled with such men as these two, we should not have needed, dear Editor, to maintain so continuous and arduous a struggle as we have had for justice and mercy at the hands of men. Mr. and Mrs. Meuricoffre used to spend a part of each summer at their beautiful Swiss home on the borders of the Lake of Geneva; and292 it was here that many delightful family gatherings took place, assembling from Italy, England and France. We have golden memories of those times, where we (from England) used sometimes to rest, in order to prepare ourselves for approaching conferences of the Abolitionist Federation in Switzerland. Some of your readers may remember Mr. Meuricoffre’s presence at the conference in Berne in 1896, and my sister’s words spoken in the sacristy of the large church at Colmar, the year before, when she pleaded for the poor child victims in Italy.

The occasion of the Colmar meeting, referred to in the above letter, is described in the following extract from a journal kept by Josephine Butler in 1895.

This week at Colmar was altogether sweet. My darling Hatty made a lovely impression on all our friends. I shall never forget her words spoken at a preliminary meeting in our salon at the hotel, where arrangements for the week were discussed. One saw there was a tendency, in the preparing of certain resolutions, to drop to a lower standard in the proclaiming of principles (in order to disarm opposition, it was said). Her few words spoken very gently, but firmly, led the whole company up to the higher standard—that of Christ; and our old and valued friend, Professor Felix Bovet, thanked her for recalling them to that standard. At one of our early morning devotional meetings, which were held in the sacristy of the large Protestant Church, her voice went to my heart, and to that of many, as she stood up and prayed for poor Italy, and for Naples293 especially, asking God to send some of His inspired teachers and workers there. But most of all there dwells in my heart the memory of that early morning when, before going to the sacristy, I went to her room. I had been ill and exhausted all the day before. She kneeled down, half dressed as she was, and drew me down beside her, and putting her arm round me, and drawing me close to her side, she poured out her soul in such a loving petition for me, weeping as she prayed, and yet with such firm faith and loving assurance as people only have when they feel God very near, and realise His will to grant what is asked. Her voice sounded to me like that of some ministering angel, pleading pleading face to face with God—a voice trembling with emotion and yet steadied by the sense of the dear and awful presence of the Christ to whom she spoke. And her prayer was large and far-reaching, embracing those dearest to us, and “the little ones, the lost lambs of Jesus.” Wonderful strength and health were given to me for the remaining days at Colmar.

In 1901 she published In Memoriam, Harriet Meuricoffre, consisting mainly of letters from her sister, which are written with a delicacy of literary style, and reveal the extreme sweetness of her character. The following extract from one of these letters shows how these two sisters were more than sisters—heart-friends:294 “How I wish I was near you; not that I could do anything, but I sometimes feel as if my intense love for you might almost surround you like the vapour which forms itself around the human hand, and enables it to plunge into molten metal at white heat, and not be scorched. I feel sure that God will keep you all through these days, and give you strength for each hour. At what hour have you meetings for prayer? It is so sweet to draw near to Him early in the morning before all the rumbling, and shouting and dust come between heaven and earth. Every morning, my best beloved, I will be holding you up to Him, between six and seven o’clock. Let a quick little thought of this cross your mind while dressing. My whole heart is with you, and will be, every day and all the days.”

In 1903 she published The Morning Cometh: A Letter to my Children, under the pseudonym of “Philalethes.” This little book, like The Lady of Shunem, is a Bible study, chiefly on those passages which point to the larger hope and the restitution of all things. We give three extracts from it.

I’ve heard within my inmost soul
Such glorious morning news.

In the course of the last twenty years or so, and especially in that of the last five or six years, a flood of light has been poured upon the meanings of the sacred writers, and most of all on the text of the teaching of Christ and His Apostles. This light has come gradually to me, and to many, like new life. Up to the time that this light shone out fully, it has seemed that we had all received only half a gospel of glad tidings; now it is a whole gospel, for which thousands have been waiting; and the joy it brings is great, and will be greater, the more we enter into and are made to understand the love of God and His divine purpose for the salvation of all. “The Larger Hope,” as this new light is sometimes called, and which might be called the Illimitable Hope, is295 rapidly becoming more clearly seen and joyfully accepted.

The unscriptural teaching concerning eternal punishment has created thousands of atheists, sceptics and defiant scoffers at Christianity, and has made many just-minded and tender-hearted people very unhappy, bringing the grey hairs of many in sorrow to the grave—in sorrow for a lost world—or a lost child (supposed through false teaching to be lost, but not lost). Having conversed of late years with a few of such sorrowful persons, and with some who have been driven by false representations of the character of God to the verge of a complete and final rejection of all faith in Him, I have seen the relief it has brought when the other side has been set before them. I have seen countenances light up as with a new hope, and the man or woman addressed like one who has thrown off a burden of years, and who now begins to breathe freely, delivered from an intolerable oppression.

There is a story, told by an American poet, of an explorer who was rowed down the River Amazon one night from sunset to sunrise, the dark river gliding with a serpent’s stillness between forests of giant trees wound round with snake-like creepers. Suddenly at midnight a cry, a long despairing moan of solitude arises, a cry so full of agony and fear, that the heart of the traveller stands still as he listens. The oarsman starts, drops his oar, crosses himself and whispers, “The cry of a lost soul.”“Nay, a bird perhaps,” the traveller says.296 “No, señor, not a bird; we know it well. It is the tortured soul of an infidel, an accursed heretic, that cries from hell. Poor fool! he shrieks for ever in the darkness for human pity and for prayer. May the saints strike him dumb! Our Holy Mother has no prayer for him; for having sinned to the end, he burns always in the furnace of God’s wrath.” The traveller made no answer to the baptised pagan’s cruel lie, which lends new horror to the deepening shadows as the boat’s lamp burns dim, and the black water slides along without a sound or a ripple. But lifting his eyes to the strip of the starry heavens visible between the dark walls of forest, he sees the cross of pardon (the beautiful constellation, the Southern Cross) lighting up the tropical sky, and he urges aloud his strong plea: “Father of all, Thou lovest all; Thy erring child may be lost to himself, but never lost to Thee. All souls are Thine. Through all guilt and shame, perverseness of will and sins of sense Thou forsakest not. Wilt Thou not, eternal source of good, change to a song of praise the cry of the lost soul?” And a sense of peace and assurance fell upon the soul of the traveller as the first streak of dawn summoned all nature to her morning song of praise.

You and I have been together among the Alps, in the early hours of the dawn, when all nature was freshly baptised with the dew of the morning, and such an exquisite purity was in the silent air, that we seemed to be breathing the heavenly ether of a new-born earth. And we have together looked upon those pure, snow-covered peaks, those fair sentinels of heaven, in the evening glow, bathed in the rose and gold of the setting sun; appearing at the last297 moment of farewell to the day, as if lighted by some light from within themselves. At such times we have felt that it was hardly possible to imagine anything more beautiful, more awful in grandeur and purity than this. May it be that we shall see these same familiar features renewed in the times of the new heavens and the new earth?—all that tends to decay and death, all storms, violence and destructive forces done with for ever, and this beautiful earth again such as we have seen it and loved it at its best, but infinitely better and more beautiful than its present earthly best. Its present unrest, the violent and terrifying forces working within its bosom are, it may be, the travail pangs which will usher in the new earth.

To the Editor of the Shield.

January 1st, 1905.

I feel impelled, in spite of much physical weakness, to send a message of New Year’s greeting, through your organ, to such of my old friends and associates in our Crusade who are still living, as well as to the younger generation of workers, many of whom I have never seen.

I believe we all realise that we are living in troubled times, both as to our own land and to the world in general. I do myself realise it deeply. Yet no note of discouragement is allowed by “the God of Hope” to sound in my soul. I say this emphatically—and my friends may believe that this hope has not its source in any natural buoyancy, for I am suffering much. I should like just to reiterate the old everlasting298 truth that “Jehovah reigns.” It is my belief that His presence among us will be felt in proportion as evil and perplexity increase on all sides. He hears the bitter cry which is arising from earth. The “distress of nations” spoken of in Scripture is His distress who bore the sins and the griefs of the whole world. Do not, dear friends, think of Him as far off, and of His earth as a “God-forsaken planet.” It is still always His earth, and at a time when faith seems to decay, He will arise in His majesty and love. “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no Intercessor; therefore His own arm brought salvation.”

I am with you, my dear old and young companions in arms—with you in spirit and in sympathy at this season and always.

This year she was able to welcome a great moralvictory for the Abolitionist cause. For the Extra-Parliamentary Commission, appointed by the French Government in 1902, though originally not counting more than three Abolitionists among its seventy members, formally condemned the system of the Police des mœurs. It remains however to be seen what the French Chambers will do with the matter.

The following letter is a specimen of the touching manner, in which she mourned the loss of her friends, as one by one they passed away.

To a friend.

March, 1905.

It would be difficult for me in my present circumstances of weakness to write, as it has been suggested, the story of the life and work of my dear late colleague, Margaret Tanner. Others, I trust, will299 give the facts of her long and faithful career. But I cannot refrain from writing to you a few words from my heart, about her who has so lately been called to her rest, and to the higher service which, I believe, is granted in that rest to those who have faithfully served God on earth.

She and I have been allied in work since the autumn of 1869. It is a long retrospect, and many memories crowd upon me as I look back on our special work of the Ladies’ National Association. We have always worked in perfect harmony, although differing markedly in natural character. To speak honestly, as one conscious of faults, which were however overruled (for we were educated in the work itself to which we were called), I was too impetuous, impulsive and sometimes rash. The keen sense of injustice which possessed both her and me, was apt at times to fill me with bitterness of soul. She, on the contrary, was always calm, steady, equal, gentle—a true representative of the Society of Friends. I think I never heard her say an unkind word of anyone, or pass a harsh judgment on persons who were unjust and cruel, although abhorring the injustice and the cruelty. She was very humble, and wonderfully self-effacing. With all her gentleness, she had the utmost firmness, never wavering in the least in principle; and her grasp of principle and her sense of justice were allied to a lifelong, tenacious perseverance in duty, and in devotion to our cause to the very end. She would say that she owed much to me. Few people guess how much I owed to her, to that firm, quiet individuality. She was full of pity for the outcast and oppressed, and in this we300 were wholly one. Her memory is very sweet and fragrant to me; and I am full of a grateful remembrance of the influence which her character has had on me.

I recall many visits I made to Durdham Park, where she lived much, and worked with her sisters. The drawing-room meetings we held there, and the traditional beautiful hospitality of Friends, are a bright and peaceful memory to me. There was inspiration in those meetings, and they were fruitful in practical results. Lastly, may I say that I noted with reverent love the spiritual ripening of the character of that dear friend, towards the close of her long life of faithful labours. Her love for me was deep and tender, and mine for her. The last time I saw her, the light of Heaven was on her aged face, which bore the marks of the patience which had had its perfect work.

What follows is part of the message sent by Josephine Butler on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the Federation, meeting at Neuchâtel in September, 1905.

The inception of our work, which has grown so wonderfully, began very much earlier than anyone knows. You will be surprised perhaps, when you know all. What I have to tell you illustrates two truths, which are, to my mind, confirmed by the inner history of all vital evolutions of which we know anything in the past history of the human race. The first of these two truths or principles is, that in order to produce a movement of a vital, spiritual nature301 someone must suffer, someone must go through sore travail of soul before a living movement, outwardly visible, can be born. This was so in the greatest movement of eternity—the evolution of the Christian faith. To that end Christ suffered, as we know (in a measure) to what a degree; but the depth and infinitude of His suffering we cannot know. It is what the Greeks called “The unknown and unknowable agony.” Scripture speaks of the “travail of His soul.” In an infinitely smaller measure I believe that the evolution of any vitally good principle, or truth, must be and always is preceded by suffering, by travail of soul.17 It is not all who join in the vital movement who need to suffer; by no means. Their sufferings are less probably, as time goes on. The truth visibly born into the world carries with it the conviction and intellectual adhesion of a multitude of good and just persons. There is still labour and strain, and weariness and disappointment, and inward conflict to be borne by those who join the good cause; but not often, I think, the long, silent period of conception and child-bearing which precedes the actual appearance of the living child in the world. This has a close connection with much that Christ said about the hidden life of the seed sown in the Kingdom of God. The smallest of seeds, He said, falls into the ground, remains long concealed there, apparently dead, unseen by any. But in time it appears an infant plant, and, as He said, becomes the greatest of all trees, so that the birds of the air rest in its branches.

The second truth which, I think, is illustrated by302 our experience is this: a movement which is of God, of divine origin, and which is rooted in the will of Him who is the God of Justice, is and must be preceded by prayer. It must have its origin in His own inspiration. Therefore I feel that, in one sense, my own answer to the question,“Was our movement a Christian movement at the beginning?”—my own answer must be, “Yes, it was,” but not in the sense in which it is understood, or misunderstood, by some, such as Dr. Fournier, who think that a number of “women and clergymen,” a great party of orthodox Christians, sprang up in England, in the name of religion, to lead this movement. It may seem a paradox, but it must be stated truly to my inner circle of friends, that this movement was born of God, secretly inaugurated by years of silent prayer—prayer offered in the name of Jesus; and that at the same time it was far from being a movement patronised by Christians at first. Indeed the Christian churches were only very slowly and gradually gained to the condescension of looking at the question. Bishops and clergy, and ministers of different denominations poured upon our little early group all the disdain they felt for us.

Our first years were a conflagration created by the spark of wrath against injustice which our cry of revolt had produced. Our vast populations of the middle and working classes, especially the latter, rose against the legislation we opposed, because it was class legislation. This fact was the iron which entered into the soul of our English people; the fact that men of the upper classes had broken down our ancient safeguards, written in our Constitution since303 the days of King John, in order that the sons of the upper classes might benefit (as was supposed) by the destruction of the daughters of the people. The wrath of the common people quickly broke into a flame which shook Parliament and our legislators, and in time took hold of the churches, and which turned our country into a veritable battlefield for justice, apart from all religious considerations. I allow that there were among our working men a few groups of devout men, who held meetings quietly for prayer about that question, especially in Scotland; but the great question always was that of justice and class selfishness. There were also, I must recall, individuals among the upper classes who were with us from the first—rare spirits whose sense of justice was outraged by this legislation—certain Members of Parliament (of blessed memory), certain dignitaries of the Church—such as Canon Fowle, who scandalised the respectable community by preaching in his Cathedral on several occasions against the Regulation; such as my revered husband and a few of his clerical friends; and one bishop, whose largeness of view, I believe, was owing to his having been a colonial bishop, accustomed to hear the enlightened views of the poor heathen over whom he exercised his pastoral functions.

Some of the prominent workers with us from the first were Unitarians (including Sir James Stansfeld). I suppose that these would hardly be considered to be orthodox by evangelical Christians. We never asked of our adherents what their religious views or non-views were. We joined hands with all who came to us, and there were many malcontents among these,304 people who had been ill-used by society, poor failures, people who had been deeply wronged and who longed for retribution; people whose woes cried to heaven, even if they had never learned to send the breath of prayer upwards to Him who bore all our woes.

From the first we had the adhesion and support of noble Jews. I may mention Samuel Montagu, M.P. for Whitechapel, the Jews’ quarter in London. He, Montagu, is a “Hebrew of the Hebrews.” He gave us personal and political help. Some of the members of the Montefiore family joined us. The Chief Rabbi of London helped us. We had letters of adhesion rapidly from Zadok Kahn, Grand Rabbin of Paris; from Astruc, Grand Rabbin of Brussels; and from Ben Israel, Grand Rabbin of Avignon. Ben Israel sent to me and my husband a remarkable book which he had written on the heroic and prominent women, prophetesses and others, of the early Hebrew times. His book showed an intelligent study of the Hebrew Scriptures, and an innate and profound respect for womanhood. These Hebrews whom I have mentioned cannot certainly be ranked among orthodox Christians; yet we felt they were an added strength to us.

I may mention that in 1875, when the first British section of the Federation was formed, a distinguished Indian, Babu Keshub Chunder Sen, joined us, and was elected a member of our first International Committee. This committee was formed in Liverpool, where we resided then, and on it were placed men of various views, some of them decidedly agnostic. Keshub Chunder Sen visited us in our305 house in Liverpool, and our family were impressed by the sublime calm and elevation of his spirit, in the deep conviction that good would triumph over evil. He was not a Christian.

I think I have said enough to show that we gathered all who desired justice, or who suffered from injustice.

May I mention the order in which the tide of divinely-inspired persons or societies gradually gathered round us. This order, most curiously, is precisely similar to that which existed in the case of the great war in America against negro slavery, which you know, was strongly upheld (I mean slavery was) by many of the churches in America. Our first adherents were of the Society of Friends, the Quakers, that quiet and peaceful body of persons whose active, practical help is always offered to suffering peoples all through the world, in accordance with the rule of George Fox, the founder of their sect, who established the “Committee for Sufferings.” It is the noble obligation of this committee, which exists to this day, to look abroad over all the sufferings of the world, whatever they may be and in whatever land, and to endeavour to alleviate those sufferings. These dear people rallied to us very early. Among them my heart urges me to mention a few of the individuals of that body who joined us and aided us silently with unspoken prayer, and outwardly with brave and wonderful courage. I allude especially to my very early comrades, Margaret Tanner and Mary Priestman. The former has recently entered into her rest; the latter is now old and infirm. You can picture these two ladies and myself, sitting face to face, in306 gentle consultation. “What shall we do?” One of them replied, “Well, we must rouse the country.” Brave woman! So gentle, so Quakerly, yet convinced that we three poor women must rouse the country. Indeed God does use the weak things of the world to confound the strong. So we formed gradually our “Ladies’ National Association,” the mother, or rather the grandmother of all the societies in which women worked. I should also like to record the memory of several noted Friends in Birmingham, who laboured for us, and some of whom are still alive. I recall too the name of Edward Backhouse, of Sunderland, a true prince of generosity, whose powerful aid helped us through many difficulties in the early days of our campaign. Mr. Thomasson was a pillar of strength to us for many years. Their names are written in heaven.

The religious societies who gave us adherents gradually were, as I have said, first the Friends, then the humblest communities, the Primitive Methodists, the Bible Christians, the United Methodists; then the Wesleyans, who later became a powerful aid to our cause, under the leadership of the late Hugh Price Hughes, a fiery-hearted Welshman, a convinced Abolitionist, and an eloquent pleader for justice. Then followed, but slowly, slowly, and with divided opinions, the Baptists and the Congregationalists, among whom there were some who remained blind to the meaning of our movement for a very long time. The Scottish Churches slowly followed, the narrowly Calvinistic character of some of them tending to cramp their sympathies. Two great leaders of the more enlightened part spoke valiantly307 for us as early as 1869. I refer to Dr. Guthrie and Dr. Duff, the well-known missionary to India. Nevertheless some few years later, valiant corps of Abolitionists were formed in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Bridge of Allan, men and women, especially women, who laboured with Scottish tenacity and perseverance till quite recent years. I think I have said enough on this subject in reply to the objection that we have departed from our original position, or on the other hand that we were a clique of pious people of no width of view.

May I add a few words to you, my friends, on a subject which is, I am sure, stirring many hearts just now. You feel, I believe, as I do, that Christianity, the true Church of Christ (I use the word in its largest sense), is inclusive, and not exclusive. When the disciples of Christ saw a man casting out devils, who was not a member of their group, they forbade him to do so. What did the Master say? “Forbid him not, for he that is not against us is for us.” We have no intimation that this man ever joined the circle of the disciples, and yet of him the Master said: “He is for us.” I have seen many just men who give life-long labour to casting out the evil spirits of tyranny, oppression and injustice; and of these, whatever their formula of belief may be, the Judge of all will say, “Well done.” There are many outside the Christian pale in whom the Spirit of Christ is working, and many of those who are nominally antagonists of Christianity have been thrown into the position in which they are by the very force of that Spirit within them which leads them to recoil from the manifest unchristliness of the teaching308 of many of the churches and the intolerance of so-called Christian governments. The true Church of Christ is wider than all communions and creeds. In some of those creeds our God has been so maligned, so caricatured, may I say, that many have been turned into rebels, or apparently rebels, whose hearts are not really estranged from the true God. That poor, unhappy and outwitted son of the Patriarch Isaac, who had in an evil hour sold his birthright for a miserable mess of pottage, cried with a loud and bitter cry: “Hast thou but one blessing, O my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father!” Yes, the Eternal Father will bless the apparently rejected son. There is more than one blessing for the sons of men, however much they may have erred, whose inmost hearts utter this bitter cry. The Good Shepherd said: “I have other sheep which are not of this fold. Them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice!” There I rest.

You will pardon this expression of my heart’s conviction. I do not speak as an orthodox adherent of any church, but as one whom sorrow and love have taught that none of the great human family are forgotten by Him who redeemed them, by the Eternal Father whose name is LOVE.

The following is part of the reply written by Josephine Butler to an Address sent to her from those present at this Neuchâtel Conference.

I should like, before concluding, to express in words a thought which has come to me in my later experience. In the sacred writings there is a scene recorded309 concerning the birth of Christ. The aged Simeon had waited all his life for the advent of the promised Messiah. He took in his arms the infant Christ, and after proclaiming Him as the promised Saviour of the human race to the end of time, he said to the mother of the Babe, “A sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” The sword-piercing of the heart of womanhood has been, and will continue to be, in an infinitely humble degree the revealer of the thoughts of men. The sorrow of the holy mother of Christ, the woman of the sword-pierced heart, is still bearing fruit.

In going from city to city on the continent of Europe, I have felt that I must needs meet this sword-thrust with open arms, and the promised result has followed. The thoughts of many hearts have been revealed among the élite of earth, among whom I include every creature of whatever rank, rich or poor, whose regard is directed towards the light, who desires justice and abhors injustice: the thoughts of these begin to be expressed openly, in speech and in action. On the other hand, the thoughts are revealed of those who desire at all costs to hold fast their base privileges, and to defend the means by which these privileges are safeguarded. The thoughts of these also take expression in speech and in action. Silence and acquiescence are at an end. It is now war to the death through the revelation and outward expression of men’s hearts for good and for evil. The sword-pierced heart of holy motherhood—a motherhood which lives by sympathy in many a woman who is not actually a mother—will continue310 to work in this mission of revealing, and we know on which side will be the final victory.

When the question shall be asked, “What of the night, brothers? What of the night?” the answer which I would leave with you, friends, is this:

The Angel of the Dawn alights,
The pale peaks glisten with His presence fair.

My last words to you, in case I may not be permitted to remain long among you, will be words of hope—all of hope. It cannot be said that now, aged, and often in pain and in much weakness, it is any natural buoyancy which upholds me. It is a granted hopefulness. The “Angel of the Dawn” is ever present. Deeply fixed in my soul is the conviction that the power and love of God are about to be manifested in proportion to the troubles of our times, and far beyond them. Is He not the Creator of the universe, of the myriads of the stars of heaven—God “once manifested in the flesh” in the person of the Christ? Everywhere—east, west, north, and south—those whose eyes are open see in this our day manifestations of a spiritual power, of a loving, divine pressure on the souls of men, of a holy compulsion bringing them to a new consciousness, and drawing them irresistibly to the source of Light and Life. I believe that every effort, however humble, which is being made for the triumph of good over evil will be found to be a contribution towards the final victory, and towards the fulfilment of the Divine promise that the “knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” I am emboldened, therefore, to hand on to you this message of joyful and undying hope, from311 “the God of Hope and of all consolation.”

To a young worker in America.

February 26th, 1906.

You say that “many persons do not welcome new recruits, lest they should make mistakes.” They will no doubt make some mistakes, but they will learn as we did by our errors. This brings me to express the thought that has been uppermost in my mind for some years past, viz. that the great hope for the future movement is in the young manhood of our day—in the generous heart of youth. Young women too must and will come forward. But I press the fact of the need of a great army of young men; for the great evil which we combat is the result of the egotism of men, and of the deeply-rooted idea that the sin of impurity is a greater sin in a woman than in a man. This unequal standard is the devil’s invention, and dates from very early times, in spite of the severe and sublime teaching in that matter of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

It must be the part of the young manhood of our days to make a place for womanhood, to restore them to their rightful position before the law of God, and before the laws of the land. And here I wish to emphasise the fact, that it is not only the pure and blameless of our youth who are called and who can work effectually in this advance guard of the army of the future. Let me tell you something of my own long experience. I have seen young men whose lives have been far from blameless, some in whose hearts rankled an oppressive sense of the wasted past, even a terrible remorse—I have seen such throw themselves into the battle (not in a conspicuous position, to be312 seen of men), in order to take a noble revenge against their former selves, and die, if need be, as leaders of a forlorn hope, making merely a bridge of their own dead selves for worthier comrades to pass over to victory.

So, I beseech you, let none of goodwill hold back. “Many a wounded soldier hath won the day.” Society is in peril from dangerous wounds which will not close until the young, the brave, the reckless, for Christ’s sake shall throw themselves into the yawning gulf. Christ rejects none. It is to His glory that He is able to furnish precious material out of the very rubbish of the earth, that He should gather up the fragments that remain that nothing be lost, and direct to one holy end all these scattered and desecrated energies.

Josephine Butler lived the last few years of her life at Wooler, near to Milfield, the place of her birth. There she died peacefully in her sleep, on December 30th, 1906, and was buried in the churchyard of Kirknewton, where many of her ancestors had been buried.

Surely we may say of her, but very slightly altering the words of Bunyan: As she drew nigh unto the beautiful Gate of the City, she asked, “What must I do in the Holy Place?” and the shining Ones answered,313 “Thou must there receive the comfort of all thy toil, and have joy for all thy sorrow; thou must reap what thou hast sown, even the fruit of all thy Prayers and Tears, and suffering for the King by the way. There also thou shalt serve Him continually, whom thou desired’st to serve in the World, though with much difficulty because of the infirmity of thy flesh. There thine eyes shall be delighted with seeing, and thine ears with hearing the pleasant voice of the Mighty One. There thou shalt enjoy thy friends again, that are gone thither before thee; and there thou shalt with joy receive even every one that follows into the Holy Place after thee.” As she entered in at the Gate, then I heard in my Dream that all the bells in the City rang again for joy, and that it was said unto her, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”



The Education and Employment of Women. Pp. 28. (Macmillan) London, 1868.

Introduction (Pp. lxiv) to series of Essays on Woman’s Work and Woman’s Culture. (Macmillan) London, 1869.

Memoir of John Grey of Dilston. Pp. 360. (Edmonston & Douglas) Edinburgh, 1869.

Revised edition of same. Pp. 310. (H. S. King & Co.) London, 1874.

Italian translation of same. Florence, 1871.

An Appeal to the People of England on the Recognition and Superintendence of Prostitution by Governments. By “An English Mother.” (Banks) Nottingham, 1870.

On the Moral Reclaimability of Prostitutes. (National Association) London, 1870.

Italian translation of same. Rome, 1875.

The Duty of Women. Address at Carlisle. (Hudson Scott) Carlisle, 1870.

Sursum Corda. (Brakell) Liverpool, 1871.

The Constitutional Iniquity of the C.D. Acts. Bradford, 1871.

Address in Craigie Hall, Edinburgh. (Ireland) Manchester, 1871.

Address at Croydon. (National Association) London, 1871.

Letter to the Order of Good Templars. (Brakell) Liverpool, 1871. (?)

Vox Populi. (Brakell) Liverpool, 1871.

The Constitution Violated. Pp. 181. (Edmonston & Douglas) Edinburgh, 1871.

The New Era. Pp. 56. (Brakell) Liverpool, 1872.

Letter on the subject of Mr. Bruce’s Bill. (Brakell) Liverpool, 1872.

A Few Words addressed to True-hearted Women. 1872.

Legislative Restrictions on the Industry of Women. [By J. E. B. and four others.] (Personal Rights Association) London, 1873. (?)


Letter to a Friend on recent Division in the House of Commons. (Brakell) Liverpool, 1873.

Speech at Bristol to Vigilance Association. (F. Bell & Co.) London, 1874.

Some Thoughts on the Present Aspect of the Crusade. (Brakell) Liverpool, 1874.

Letter to the L.N.A. (Brakell) Liverpool, 1875.

Une Voix dans le Désert. (Sandoz) Paris and Neuchâtel, 1875.

German translation of same. Neuchâtel, 1875.

Italian translation of same. Rome, 1875.

Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Russian, Spanish and Dutch translations of same. 1876 and later years.

State Regulation of Vice. Speech at Hull. 1876.

The Hour before the Dawn. [Anonymous.] (Trübner) London, 1876.

Second edition. By J. E. Butler. (Trübner) London, 1882.

French translation of same. (Grassart) Paris, 1876.

Discours prononcé à l’hôtel Wagram. Paris, 1877.

Discours prononcé dans la Salle de la rue d’Arras. Paris, 1877.

Discours prononcé dans la Chapelle Malesherbes. Paris, 1877.

Discours prononcé dans la Salle de la Redonte. Paris, 1877.

The Paris of Regulated Vice. (Article in Methodist Protest.) 1877.

Adieux à Genève. Geneva, 1877.

Ceux qui prient. Paris, 1878.

Catharine of Siena. Pp. 338. (Dyer Bros.) London, 1878.

French translation of same. Fontaines, 1887.

Government by Police. Pp. 64. (Dyer Bros.) London, 1879.

Social Purity. Pp. 48. (Morgan & Scott) London, 1879.

Dutch translation of same. La Haye, 1884.

Souvenir des réunions à Vevey. Fontaines, 1879.

Deposition regarding treatment of English Girls in Immoral Houses in Brussels. (Printed for private circulation) 1880.

Extrait d’une lettre à l’occasion des investigations de M.X. à Bruxelles. Neuchâtel, 1880.

Discours au Congrès de Gênes: La traite des blanches. 1880.

Discours au Congrès de Gênes: Des lois sur le vagabondage. 1880.

Discours au Congrès de Gênes: La provocation. 1880.

Discours prononcé à l’issue du Congrès de Gênes. 1880.

Address at Tenth Anniversary of L.N.A. (Brakell) Liverpool, 1880.

A Call to Action. (Hudson) Birmingham, 1881.

Portions of Address at Conference of Women in Geneva. (Hazell, Watson & Viney) London, 1881.


Letter to the Mothers of England. Liverpool, 1881.

French translation of same. Neuchâtel, 1882.

Lettre d’une Mère. Neuchâtel, 1881.

Lettre à ses amis et compagnons d’œuvre. Neuchâtel, 1882.

Allocution dans la séance d’ouverture de la Conférence de Neuchâtel. 1882.

Allocution à la Chapelle de la Place d’Armes. Neuchâtel, 1882.

Discours d’Adieux à la Conférence de Neuchâtel. 1882.

Life of J. F. Oberlin. Pp. 190. (Religious Tract Society) London, 1882.

The Salvation Army in Switzerland. Pp. 304. (Dyer Bros.) London, 1883.

Dangers of Constructive Legislation in Matters of Purity. (Arrowsmith) Bristol, 1883.

The Bright Side of the Question. (Arrowsmith) Bristol, 1883.

Questions morales. Lausanne, 1883.

Appel aux dames présentes au Congrès de La Haye. 1883.

Discours dans la séance d’ouverture du Congrès de La Haye. 1883.

Le point du jour. (Discours à la Haye) Neuchâtel, 1883.

Allocution aux femmes de Gênes. Neuchâtel, 1883.

The Principles of the Abolitionists. (Dyer Bros.) London, 1885.

French and German translations of same. Undated.

The Work of the Federation. (Federation Offices) London, 1885.

Marion, histoire véritable. Neuchâtel, 1885.

German translation of same. Neuchâtel, 1885.

Rebecca Jarrett. (Morgan & Scott) London, 1886.

L’œuvre du relèvement moral: Discours prononcé à Naples. Genève, 1886.

Dutch translation of same. La Haye, 1886.

Danish translation of same. Copenhagen, 1887.

Our Christianity tested by the Irish Question. Pp. 62. (Fisher Unwin) London, 1887.

The Revival and Extension of the Abolitionist Cause. (Doswell) Winchester, 1887.

Letter to International Convention of Women at Washington. (Morgan & Scott) London, 1888.

Zwei Vorträge über das staatlich regulierte Laster. Mülheim, 1888.

The Dawn. [Quarterly.] (Burfoot) London, 1888-96.

Woman’s Place in Church Work. (Article in Review of the Churches.) London, 1892.

Recollections of George Butler. Pp. 487. (Arrowsmith) Bristol, 1892.

Letter to World’s Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Bristol, 1892.


St. Agnes. (J. Cox) London, 1893.

The Present Aspect of the Abolitionist Cause in relation to British India. (Federation Offices) London, 1893.

French translation of same. Genève, 1894.

The Lady of Shunem. Pp. 143. (Horace Marshall) London, 1894.

The Constitutional Iniquity. (Federation Offices) London, 1895.

Lettre à Madame Duplan. Lausanne, 1895.

Two Letters of Earnest Appeal and Warning. (Federation Offices) London, 1895.

A Doomed Iniquity. (Federation Offices) London, 1896.

Address to L.N.A. (Arrowsmith) Bristol, 1896.

Personal Reminiscences of a Great Crusade. Pp. 409. (Horace Marshall) London, 1896.

French translation of same. Paris, 1900.

German translation of same. Dresde, 1904.

Russian translation of same. Varsovie, 1904.

Truth Before Everything. (Dyer Bros.) London, 1897.

Lettre à une ami sur la lutte contre la réglementation dans l’Inde. 1897.

Letter to Conference in London. (Published in the Shield) London, 1897.

French translation of same. 1897.

Some Lessons from Contemporary History. (Friends’ Association) London, 1898.

The Storm-Bell. [Monthly.] (Burfoot) London, 1898-1900.

Prophets and Prophetesses. (Mawson) Newcastle, 1898.

French translation of same. Neuchâtel, 1898.

Native Races and the War. Pp. 152. (Gay & Bird) London, 1900.

Silent Victories. Pp. 87. (Burfoot) London, 1900.

Receiving. (Article in Wings.) London, 1900.

L’émancipation telle que je l’ai apprise. Neuchâtel, 1900.

La cause de la femme et l’avenir du foyer. (Article dans la Revue de Morale Sociale.) Genève, 1900.

Souvenirs humblement recommandés aux amis de la femme réunis à Paris. Genève, 1900.

The three last-mentioned papers also appeared in English in The Storm-Bell.

In Memoriam, Harriet Meuricoffre. Pp. 308. (Horace Marshall) London, 1901.

Réflexions sur la Fédération. (Article dans la Revue du Christianisme Social.) 1902.

English translation published in the Shield.

The Morning Cometh. By “Philalethes.” Pp. 56 (Grierson) Newcastle, 1903.


Lettre aux Membres de la Commission administrative de la Fédération. 1904.

English translation published in the Shield.

Du travail des femmes dans les fabriques. Neuchâtel, undated.

Deux entretiens avec ses sœurs de la Suisse: La mission de l’heure actuelle. Neuchâtel, undated.

Un mot aux femmes. Genève, undated.

Feuille volante de l’Association du Sou, No. 20. Genève, undated.

The Social Purity Movement. Undated.

Many of the above publications are out of print, but some of them may be obtained at the Offices of the Federation, 17 Tothill Street, Westminster, S.W., or 3 Rue du Vieux-Collège, Geneva.



1 Fragments of Prose and Poetry, by Frederic W. H. Myers, 1904 (Longmans, Green & Co.), p. 22.

2 Memoir of Anne J. Clough, by Miss B. A. Clough, 1903 (Edward Arnold) p. 129.

3 Ibid. p. 131.

4 Ibid. p. 135.

5 The Laws in force for the prohibition, regulation or licensing of vice in England and other countries. By Sheldon Amos, 1877 (Stevens and Sons), pp. 15 and 227.

6 Speech of the Earl of Chatham on the exercise of the judicature in matters of election, 1763.

7 Lord Chatham’s Speeches.

8 Creasy, English Constitution, p. 148.

9 Middle Ages, chap. ii, p. 324.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

12 De Lolme on the Constitution, p. 354.

13 De Lolme, p. 171.

14 Blackstone, book iii, p. 378.

15 The New Abolitionists [by James Stuart], 1876 (Dyer Brothers), pp. 8-10.

16 Castelar gave his personal adhesion to the principles of our abolitionist crusade in 1877, and one of his friends, Señor Zorilla, attended our first congress.

17 See pp. 13-16 supra.

Transcriber's Notes

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected. Variations in hyphenation, spelling and punctuation remains unchanged.

Chapter 20, "pleading pleading face to face with God" is probably an error but could be emphasis, so is unchanged.

End of Project Gutenberg's Josephine E. Butler, by Josephine E. Butler


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