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Title: Reminiscences of Charles Bradlaugh
Author: Foote, G. W. (George William), 1850-1915
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Reminiscences of Charles Bradlaugh" ***

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By G. W. Foote

President of the National Secular Society AND Editor of "The




The following pages are reprinted, with some alterations and additions,
from the columns of the _Freethinker_. They are neither methodical nor
exhaustive. I had the privilege of knowing Mr. Bradlaugh more or less
intimately for twenty years. I have worked with him in the Freethought
movement and stood by his side on many political platforms. It seemed to
me, therefore, that if I jotted down, even in a disjointed manner, some
of my recollections of his great personality, I should be easing my own
mind and conferring a pleasure on many readers. Beyond that I was not
ambitious. The time for writing Mr. Brad-laugh's life is not yet,
but when it arrives my jottings may furnish a point or two to his

G. W. FOOTE, March 30, 1891.


When I came to London, in January, 1868, I was eighteen years of age. I
had plenty of health and very little religion. While in my native town
of Plymouth I had read and thought for myself, and had gradually passed
through various stages of scepticism, until I was dissatisfied even with
the advanced Unitarianism of a preacher like the Rev. J. K. Applebee.
But I could not find any literature in advance of his position, and
there was no one of whom I could inquire. Secularism and Atheism I had
never heard of in any definite way, although I remember, when a little
boy, having an Atheist pointed out to me in the street, Naturally I
regarded him as a terrible monster. I did not know what Atheism was
except in a very vague way; but I inferred from the tones, expressions,
and gestures of those who pointed him out to me, that an Atheist was a
devil in human form.

Soon after I came to London I found out an old school-fellow, and went
to lodge with his family: They were tainted with Atheism, and my once
pious playmate was as corrupt as the rest of them. They took me one
Sunday evening to Cleveland Hall, where I heard Mrs. Law knock the Bible
about delightfully. She was not what would be called a woman of culture,
but she had what some devotees of "culchaw" do not possess--a great deal
of natural ability; and she appeared to know the "blessed book" from
cover to cover. Her discourse was very different from the Unitarian
sermons I had heard at Plymouth. She spoke in a plain, honest,
straightforward manner, and I resolved to visit Cleveland Hall again.

Three or four weeks afterwards I heard Mr. Bradlaugh for the first time.
It was a very wet Sunday evening, but as 'bus-riding was dearer then
than it is now, and my resources were slender, I walked about three
miles through the heavy rain, and sat on a backless bench in Cleveland
Hall, for which I think I paid twopence. I was wet through, but I was
young, and my health was flawless. Nor did I mind the discomfort a bit
when Mr. Bradlaugh began his lecture. Fiery natural eloquence of that
sort was a novelty in my experience. I kept myself warm with applauding,
and at the finish I was pretty nearly as dry outside as inside. From
that time I went to hear Mr. Bradlaugh whenever I had an opportunity.
He became the "god" of my young idolatry. I used to think of him
charging the hosts of superstition, and wish I could be near him in the
fight. But it was rather a dream than any serious expectation of such an

When the new Hall of Science was opened I became a pretty regular
attendant. I heard Mr. Charles Watts, who was then as now a capital
debater; Mr. G. J. Holyoake, Mr. C. C. Cattell, Mr. Austin Holyoake.
and perhaps one or two other lecturers whom I have forgotten. Mr.
Austin Holyoake frequently took the chair, especially at Mr. Bradlaugh's
lectures, and a capital chairman he was, giving out the notices in a
pleasant, graceful manner, and pleading for financial support like a
true man. He was working hard for the success of the enterprise himself,
and had a right to beg help from others.

Mr. Bradlaugh, however, was the great attraction in my case. Perhaps
I was more impressionable at that time, but I fancy he was then at his
best as an orator. In later life he grew more cautious under a sense of
responsibility; he had to think what he should not say as well as what
he should. He cultivated the art of persuasion, and he was right in
doing so. But at the earlier period I am writing of he gave a full swing
to his passionate eloquence. His perorations were marvellously glowing
and used to thrill me to the very marrow.

Gradually I began to make acquaintances at the Hall. I got to know Mr.
Austin Holyoake and his charming wife, Mr. and Mrs. Bayston, Mr. Herbert
Gilham, Mr. R. O. Smith, and other workers. By and bye I was introduced
to Mr. Bradlaugh and shook hands with him. It was the proudest moment of
my young life. I still remember his scrutinising look. It was keen but
kindly, and the final expression seemed to say, "We may see more of each

In 1870 I wrote my first article in the _National Reformer_. For a year
or two I wrote occasionally, and after that with tolerable frequency. I
was also engaged in various efforts at the Hall; helping to carry on a
Secular Sunday School, a Young Men's Secular Association, etc. Naturally
I was drawn more and more into Mr. Bradlaugh's acquaintance, and when he
found himself unable to continue the Logic Class he had started at the
Hall he asked me to carry it on for him. Of course I was proud of the
invitation. But the Class did not live long. It was not Logic, but Mr.
Bradlaugh, that had brought the members together. Nor do I think they
would have learnt much of the art from Mr. Bradlaugh, except in an
empirical way. He had a very logical cast of mind, but as far as I could
see he had little acquaintance with formal Logic as it is taught by
Mill and Whately, whom I select as typical masters of Induction and
Deduction, without wishing to depreciate the host of other authorities.
Mr. Bradlaugh really gave his class lessons in Metaphysics; his talk
was of substance, mode, and attribute, rather than of premises and
conclusions. Mr. Bradlaugh and I were brought into closer acquaintance
by the Republican agitation in England after the proclamation of
the present French Republic. I attended the Republican Conference
at Birmingham in 1871, when I first met my old friend Dr. Guest of
Manchester, Mr. R. A. Cooper of Norwich, Mr. Daniel Baker, Mr. Ferguson
the Glasgow Home Ruler, and other veterans of reform. We held our
Conference on Sunday in the old meeting-place of the Secular Society,
which was approached by very abrupt steps, and being situated over
stables, was not devoid of flavor. On Monday the Conference was
continued in one of the rooms under the Town Hall. A long political
programme was concocted. I was elected Secretary, and had the honor
of speaking at the public meeting in the large hall. It was my first
appearance in such a perilous position. I was apprehensive, and I said
so. But Mr. Bradlaugh put his hand on my shoulder and told me not to
fear. His kind looks and words were an excellent tonic. When I rose
to speak I thought next to nothing about the audience. I thought "Mr.
Bradlaugh is listening, I must do my best." And now as I am writing, I
recall his encouraging glance as I looked at him, and the applause he
led when I made my first point. He was my leader, and he helped me in
an elder-brotherly way. Nothing could exceed his considerate generosity.
Other people did not see it, but I remember it, and it was typical of
the man.

One incident at the Conference is worth noting. It occurred in the
afternoon, when Mr. R. A. Cooper (I think) was in the chair. The
question of Free Education was being discussed. Mr. Bradlaugh did not
quite like it, nor did I. He asked me to go with him into an ante-room
and consider an amendment. What it was I can hardly remember, although I
recollect that Mr. Cooper was very sarcastic about it. Since then my own
opinion has changed, as I dare say Mr. Bradlaugh's had changed; and the
incident would not be worth recalling if it did not throw a light upon
Mr. Bradlaugh's philosophy. He was always in favor of self-help and
individual responsibility, and he was naturally hostile to everything
that might weaken those precious-elements of English life.

During the years immediately after the opening of the Hall of Science,
Mr. Bradlaugh was there a good deal. Sometimes he attended the
week-night entertainments and gave a reading from Shelley or Whittier
or some other poet. The audience applauded as a matter of course. They
always applauded Mr. Bradlaugh. But he was no reader. He delivered
his lines with that straightforward sincerity which characterised
his speeches. He cultivated none of the graces or dexterities of the
elocutionist. Besides, he was too original to be a successful echo of
other men. I think he only did justice to Shelley's lines "To the Men of
England." But this is a piece of simple and vigorous declamation; very
fine, no doubt but rather rhetoric than poetry.

Mr. Bradlaugh was anything but a cold man. I should say he was electric.
But his tastes, so far as I could discover, did not lie in the direction
of poetry. Certainly I heard him once, in those old days, read a great
part, if not the whole of Shelley's "Sensitive Plant." He loved Shelley,
however, as an Atheist and a Republican, and I suppose he took Shelley's
poetry on trust. But I do not think, though I speak under correction,
that he cared very much for poetry _as such_. I could never discover
from his conversation or writings that he had read a line of
Shakespeare--the god of Colonel Ingersoll. His mind was of the practical
order, like Oliver Cromwell's. He had a genius for public affairs. He
was not only a born orator, but a born ruler of men. Naturally he had,
as the French say, the defects of his qualities. And it may be that the
terrible stress of his life tended to repress the poetical side of
his nature, and less developed his subtlety than his strength. Yet
his feelings were deep, and his heart was easily touched. When William
O'Brien delivered that great speech in the House of Commons after his
imprisonment by Mr. Balfour, with all its needless indignities, there
were two men who could not restrain their tears. One was an Irish
member. The other was Charles Bradlaugh. One who witnessed the scene
told me it was infinitely pathetic to see that gigantic man, deemed so
hard by an ignorant world, wiping away his tears at the tale of a brave
man's unmerited suffering.

Mr. Bradlaugh used to attend the social parties pretty often in those
old days. He did not dance and he stood about rather awkwardly. It must
have been a great affliction, but he bore it with exemplary fortitude.
Once or twice I saw Mrs. Bradlaugh there. She had a full-blown matronly
figure. Miss Alice and Miss Hypatia came frequently. They were not
then living in the enervating air of London, and they looked extremely
robust. I also remember the boy Charles, of whom Mr. Bradlaugh seemed
very proud. He was a remarkably bright lad, and full of promise. But he
was carried off by a fever. Only a day or two after the lad's death Mr.
Bradlaugh had to lecture at the Hall. I was away, and I wondered whether
he would fulfil the engagement. He did fulfil it. A friend wrote to me
that Mr. Bradlaugh walked through the hall and mounted the platform with
a face as white and rigid as that of a statue. He made no reference or
allusion to his loss, but all could see he carried a bleeding heart.
His lecturing in such circumstances was characteristic. Weaker men would
have indulged their grief; he was made of sterner stuff, and would not
let it interfere with what he deemed his duty.

Splendid as was his eloquence at that time, Mr. Bradlaugh did not draw
the large audiences that flocked around him a few years later. The Hall
of Science was at first but half its present size, the platform standing
on the right as you entered, with a small gallery on the opposite side.
Its holding capacity could not have been more than half what it is at
present, yet I have seen the place far from full. But the audiences grew
larger and larger, and eventually the hall was increased to its present
proportions, although for a long time there was not cash enough to put
on a proper roof, and the building was defaced by a huge unsightly beam,
on each side of which there was an arch of corrugated iron.

Those were glorious times. Difficulties were great, but there was a
spirit at the Hall that laughed at them. How the foremost men about the
place did work! Mr. R. O. Smith and Mr. Trevilion, senior, could a tale
unfold. Whenever Freethinkers are at all dejected they should have a
chat with one of those gentleman. Perhaps it would make them ashamed of
their dejection, and fill them with the spirit of the heroic days.

Friends have told me with what energy Mr. Bradlaugh fought the battles
of the old Reform League. I _know_ with what energy he threw himself
into the Republican agitation that followed the downfall of Napoleon
III. He tried to get to Paris but failed. Jules Favre and his friends
did not want him. Favre himself was an eloquent historion, and no doubt
he felt afraid of a man like Mr. Bradlaugh. But if Mr. Bradlaugh could
not get to Paris he fought hard for France in London. Meetings at the
Hall of Science did not suffice. There was money from French sources and
St. James's Hall was taken for a big demonstration.

The Positivists shared in the proceedings. Their chief man was Mr.
Frederic Harrison. Mr. Bradlaugh and he were a tremendous contrast. In
fact a London paper (I think the _Echo_) remarked that Mr. Bradlaugh
spoke as well as Mr. Harrison wrote, and Mr. Harrison spoke as badly
as Mr. Bradlaugh wrote. There was some truth in this, though like most
epigrams it was not all true. Mr. Bradlaugh was a born orator, but not
a born writer. Yet he often wrote with a forthright power, naked and
unadorned, which could dispense with the aid of literary artifices.
During this English agitation on behalf of France, held firmly under
German feet, Mr. Bradlaugh came into contact with a French countess,
who, I believe, either supplied or was the channel of supplying the
necessary funds. As the lady is mentioned in Mr Headingley's _Life of
Charles Bradlaugh_, which was published with Mr. Bradlaugh's sanction,
there is no reason why I should not refer to her. She came several times
to the Hall of Science, and I was introduced to her. She had been a
beauty, and although time was beginning to tell on her, she retained a
good deal of charm and distinction, which, like a true Frenchwoman, she
heightened by the art of dressing. Then as now, of course, foul tongues
wagged in foolish heads, and Mr. Bradlaugh's enemies were not slow
to point to the French countess with prurient grimaces. Unable to
understand friendship between man and woman, owing to their Puritan
training or incurable rankness, they invited the orthodox in religion
and politics to note this suspicious connection. Something of this
malicious folly must have reached Mr. Brad-laugh's ears, but I imagine
he was too proud and self-contained to let it disturb him.

After the Birmingham meeting, and the founding of the Republican League,
of which Mr. Bradlaugh became president, and I secretary, he visited
Spain on private business, taking with him a message from the Conference
to Senor Castelar, the leading spirit of the short-lived Spanish
Republic. I remember writing out the message in a clear, bold hand, and
addressing the foolscap envelope in the same way. When Mr. Bradlaugh
fell among the Carlists he cursed my caligraphy. Happily, however, the
officer who scrutinised that envelope could not read at all, and Mr.
Bradlaugh escaped the consequences of being known to carry about letters
addressed to the devilish Castelar.

During Mr. Bradlaugh's first visit to America I was a frequent
contributor to his journal, and I corresponded with him privately. I
went down to Northampton and delivered a lecture at his request, under
the auspices of his electoral committee. The old theatre--a dirty,
ramshackle place as I recollect it--was crowded, and I had my first
taste of the popularity of Mr. Bradlaugh in the borough. Every mention
of his name excited the wildest enthusiasm.

While Mr. Bradlaugh was lecturing in the States a general election took
place in England. It was impossible for him to return in time, but his
friends looked after his interests. A committee was formed at the Hall
of Science to raise the necessary funds, and Mr. Charles Watts and I
went down to Northampton to conduct the election. We addressed outdoor
meetings in the day, and crowded indoor meetings at night.

Again I saw what a hold Mr. Bradlaugh had on his Northampton followers.
They sang "Bradlaugh for Northampton" in the Circus with all the fervor
of Scotch Covenanters on their hillsides "rolling the psalm to wintry

Mr. Watts and I did not win the seat for Mr. Bradlaugh, nor did he win
it himself at the next election, but we managed to increase his vote,
and he expressed his pleasure at the result.

Soon after the election Mr. Bradlaugh returned to England. Mr. Watts and
I went down with him to Northampton. There was a crowded public meeting,
I believe in the Circus; and I saw Mr. Bradlaugh, for the first time,
in the presence of his future constituents. They were simply intoxicated
with excitement. The shouts of "Bradlaugh" and "Charley" were deafening.
Hats and handkerchiefs were waved in the air. The multitude rose to
its feet and gave its hero a splendid welcome. Then we settled down to
speech-making, but all that followed was somewhat tame and flat after
that first glorious outburst of popular devotion.

The next election came quickly. It resulted in the return of a Tory
majority for Benjamin Disraeli, and Mr. Gladstone went off to sulk
in his tent. Two Tories were returned for Radical Northampton. Mr.
Bradlaugh let them in. He was determined to have one of the Northampton
seats. To get it he had to make himself inevitable. He had to prove that
if Northampton wanted two Liberal members, one of them must be Charles
Bradlaugh. It took him thirteen years to demonstrate this, but he
succeeded, as he succeeded in most things. At last, in 1880, he ran as
official Liberal candidate with Mr. Labouchere, and both were returned.
I assisted Mr. Bradlaugh during his second (1874) election. It was then
that I first saw Mrs. Besant. She had not yet taken to the platform,
but she was writing for the _National Reformer_, and her pen was active
during the contest. Mr. Watts was also there. Another figure I
remember was Mr. George Odger, who labored among the Trade Unionists
of Northampton in Mr. Bradlaugh's interest. George Odger was one of the
ablest of all the working-class leaders I have ever met. He came from my
own county, Devonshire, being born at Horrabridge, on the road between
Plymouth and Tavistock. He was honest to the heart's core, as well as
very able, but he was incurably indolent. You never could be sure of
him at a public meeting. He had to be looked up beforehand, or he
might forget the engagement and spend his time more agreeably. He was
passionately fond of the theatre, and could talk by the hour on
famous performances of old actors and actresses. During the daytime at
Northampton I had long chats with him. He objected to fine hotels,
and he objected to walking; so I had to sit with him in the garden of
a semi-rural public-house, where our conversation was altogether out
of proportion to our liquor. Odger liked beer; not much of it, but
just enough; it suited his palate and his purse; and as I drank next to
nothing, the landlord must have thought us unprofitable customers.

Mr. Bradlaugh had rooms at the George Hotel. It was the Tory house, but
he preferred it, and Mrs. Besant, Mr. Watts, and the rest of us, fed and
slept there during the election. This gave rise to a good deal of silly
talk among Mr. Bradlaugh's enemies.. One evening we were returning from
a Town Hall meeting, and the Tories had been holding a small meeting
at the "George." As we reached the foot of the stairs, we encountered a
knot of Tories. One of them was Mr. Merewether, the Tory candidate.
He was nearly of the same height as Mr. Bradlaugh, and well built. His
friends were holding him back, but he broke from them, exclaiming,
"Hang it! I _will_ have a look at him." He stood at the very foot of the
staircase and looked hard at Mr. Bradlaugh ascending. His expression was
one of good-tempered insolence. After a long look at Mr. Bradlaugh,
he returned to his friends, shouting, "Well, I'm damned if he's as
bad-looking as I thought."

I left Northampton before the close of the poll, Mr. Bradlaugh was
leaving the same night for America, having barely time to catch the boat
at Liverpool. I drove round with him before leaving, on a visit to some
of the polling stations. He had paid me a modest sum for my services,
but he found he had hardly enough to take him across the Atlantic, and
he asked me to lend him what money I had. I fished seven or nine pounds
out of my pocket--I forget which--and handed it to him. It was paid back
to me by his order a few weeks subsequently; and the incident would
not be worth mentioning if it did not throw a light on the libellous
nonsense of Mr. Bradlaugh's enemies that he was rolling in wealth.

While at Northampton with Mr. Bradlaugh, and on other occasions, I
saw something of his personal tastes and habits. He struck me as an
abstemious man. He was far from a great eater, and I never noticed
him drink anything at dinner but claret, which is not an intoxicating
beverage. On the whole, I should say, it is less injurious to the
stomach and brain than tea or coffee. He was rather fond of a cup of
tea seventeen years ago, and latterly his fondness for it developed into
something like a passion. More than once I found him at St. John's Wood
drinking a big cup of pretty strong tea, and was seduced by his genial
invitation into joining him in that reckless indulgence.

He used to smoke too in the old days, but he afterwards gave up the
practice for several years. About seven years ago, however, he resumed
it. I do not think he ever attained to the dignity of a pipe. He smoked
cigars. Some time in April, 1889, I spent an hour with him at the
House of Commons. He got the Speaker's leave to take me into the lower
smoke-room, and we "discussed" a cigar and some claret while discussing
some Freethought business. The claret he seemed indifferent to, but he
puffed the cigar with an air of enjoyment.

During the Northampton election times I used to take a good stiff daily
walk. All through my youth I had plenty of exercise in the open air, and
I still grow desperately fusty without a brisk tramp at least once
in the twenty-four hours. Mr. Bradlaugh generally took a drive, and I
remember telling him with youthful audacity that he ought to walk for
his health's sake. Of course it was difficult for him to walk in the
streets. His stature and bulk made him too noticeable, and mobbing was
very unpleasant. But he might have driven out of town and trudged a mile
or two on the country roads. My opinion is that his neglect of physical
exercise helped to shorten his life. Occasional bouts of fishing were
very well in their way, but _daily_ exercise is the necessary thing.
I do not forget the tremendous labor, physical as well as mental, of
lecturing on burning questions to large audiences. All that, however,
goes on in hot, crowded rooms, full of vitiated air; and it gives no
proper exercise to the legs and loins or the lower vital organs. After
one of my remonstrances Mr. Bradlaugh invited me to play a game of
billiards. It was the only time I ever played with him. His style with
the cue was spacious and splendid; The balls went flying about the
board, and I chaffed him on his flukes. He had not the temperament of a
billiard-player. Still, I have heard that he played a fair game at St.
Stephen's; but I can hardly believe it without first-hand testimony.
I am willing to believe, however, that he was a good chess-player.
Certainly he had a head for it But chess is a vile game for a
brain-worker, whose recreations should never involve a mental strain.

When I first knew Mr. Bradlaugh he was living at Tottenham. I never
visited him there, but I often called on him at his later lodgings in
Turner-street, Commercial-road. He occupied the ground floor, consisting
of two rooms. The back was his bedroom, and the front his library and
workshop. It was what the Americans call a one-horse affair. Shelves all
round the room were filled with books. Mr. Bradlaugh sat at a desk with
his back to the fireplace. On his right was the door communicating with
his bedroom facing him the door opening on the passage, and on his right
(? left) the street window. The room itself could hardly have been more
than twelve or thirteen feet square. I once told him he was too near the
fireplace, and he said it was sometimes good to have the poker handy. At
that I stared, and he told me the following story.

One day a gentleman called on him and was invited to take a chair. He
sat down facing Mr. Bradlaugh, and explained that he wanted advice on a
very particular matter. God Almighty had told him to kill someone, and
he had a difficulty in selecting a victim. Mr. Bradlaugh put his hand
behind him and quietly grasped the poker. The inspired gentleman put the
problem as a knotty one, and begged the assistance of the clever
Iconoclast. "Well," said Mr. Bradlaugh, keeping quite cool, "what do you
say to the Archbishop of Canterbury?" "The very man!" exclaimed the
inspired gentleman. He got Mr. Bradlaugh to give him the Archbishop's
address, and said, "Good-day," with a profusion of thanks. Mr. Bradlaugh
went to the door to look for a policeman, but none was visible, and the
inspired gentleman was soon out of sight.

"So you see," said Mr. Bradlaugh, "It's good to have the poker handy. I
never saw or heard of the man again, and I knew he couldn't get near the
Archbishop. There are too many flunkeys in the way."

Those were my struggling days, and Mr. Bradlaugh was very kind to me. I
remember the Sunday evening when I told him I thought of taking to the
Freethought platform. He pointed out the hard and thorny path I should
have to tread, but when he saw I was resolved on the attempt, he put his
hand on my shoulder and said, "There is no young man in the movement I
would sooner welcome."

In the very same room, on another Sunday evening a little later, I
first saw James Thomson. He came down to the Hall of Science with Mr.
Bradlaugh, in whose employment he then was, and I gave him the article I
had brought for the _National Reformer_. He shook hands very cordially,
and I was delighted to meet one for whose poetry I had a profound

It was also at the Hall of Science, about the same time, that I met the
eccentric Mr. Turberville, brother to Mr. Blackmore, the novelist. He
was a man of parts with a bee in his bonnet. He claimed kinship with
Turberville, a minor poet of the sixteenth century, and he loved to
talk of poetry. His knowledge of Shakespeare was profound and minute.
He admired Mr. Bradlaugh's perorations immensely, as well as his bold
defence of Freethought. He made out a will in Mr. Bradlaugh's favor,
but he subsequently made another will, and died in circumstances that
necessitated an inquest. By agreement, however, Mr. Bradlaugh obtained
£2,500 from the estate, and the windfall came opportunely, for his
struggles and litigations had involved him in considerable debt. I
know he often had to borrow money on heavy interest. One day, at
Turner-street, he told me that a creditor of this species had coolly
invited him to dinner. "Hang it," he said, "you can't dine with a man
who charges you sixty per cent."

Another recollection I have of Mr. Bradlaugh is in connexion with the
funeral of Mr. Austin Holyoake. The death of this gentleman was a great
loss to the Freethought cause. He was highly respected by all who knew
him. The geniality of his disposition was such that he had many friends
and not a single enemy. For some years he was Mr. Bradlaugh's printer
and publisher, and a frequent contributor to his journal. He was
foremost in every good work, but he was one of those modest men who
never get the credit of their labors. He died at 17 Johnson's-court,
Fleet-street, in an upstairs room above the printing office, where his
devoted wife had for many weeks nursed his flickering life. The funeral
was a notable event. Those of us who could afford it rode in the
undertaker's coaches, and the rest walked in procession to Highgate
Cemetery. I can still see Mr. Bradlaugh in my mind's eye, bustling about
on the ground floor, taking everything as usual on his own shoulders. He
sorted us in fours for the coaches, my _vis à vis_ being James Thomson.
At the graveside, after the reading of Austin Holyoake's own funeral
service by Mr. Charles Watts, Mr. Bradlaugh delivered a brief address
which he had written for the occasion. On the whole it was too much a
composition, but one sentence was true "Bradlaugh," and it sounds in my
ears still:--"Twenty years of friendship lie buried in that grave."

How such scenes are impressed on one's memory! As I write I see the set
face of Charles Bradlaugh. I behold the sob-shaken back and bowed
head of Herbert Gilham just in front of me. I hear and feel the cool,
rustling wind, like a plaintive requiem over the dead.

Once again, years afterwards, I saw Mr. Bradlaugh in the same cemetery,
supporting the helpless figure of Mrs. Ernestine Rose as she left the
open grave of the dear partner of her long life of labor for the cause
of human redemption.

Owing to circumstances, into which I need not enter, I saw little of Mr.
Bradlaugh between 1875 and 1880. When he was returned for Northampton
I rejoiced, and when he was committed to the Clock Tower I saw my duty
sun-clear. It was to participate as I could, and might, in the struggle.
My contributions to Mr. Bradlaugh's journal were resumed, and I spoke
at meetings in his behalf. In May, 1881, I started the _Freethinker_, my
oldest living child. Mr. Bradlaugh acted with his natural generosity.
He advertised my bantling gratuitously in his own journal, and gave it
every possible facility. This was not known at the time, but I ought to
state it now.

Throughout that long, terrible struggle with the House of Commons I was
with Mr. Bradlaugh on every point. If he made a single mistake I
have yet to see it indicated. My article in the first number of the
_Freethinker_ was entitled "Mr. Bradlaugh's Advisers." Its object was to
show the absurdity of the plentiful advice offered him, and the absolute
justice of the course he was pursuing.

Three weeks afterwards the bigots convened a ticket meeting at Exeter
Hall. The chief promoters were Earl Percy, Sir Bartle Frere, and butcher
Varley. Mr. Bradlaugh was afraid the meeting would have a pre-judicial
effect on public opinion in the provinces. The fact of the _tickets_
would be kept back, and the report would go forth that a vote was
unanimously passed against him at a big London demonstration. It was
necessary, therefore, that the meeting should be _spoiled_. And it
_was_. Mr. Bradlaugh gave me the task of moving an amendment. We had
a chat in his library at St. John's Wood, and as we parted he said, "I
rely on you, Foote." He looked at me steadily, holding my eyes as though
to read the depths.

We got tickets somehow. But the Protestant Alliance smelt mischief, and
Mr. Bradlaugh's supporters had to fight their way in. Two hundred and
fifty police were not enough to keep them all out. I was naturally a
marked man, and fighting had to be supplemented by diplomacy. When
the noble Smithson (Earl Percy), had drivelled for a few minutes as
chairman, and the resolution against Mr. Bradlaugh had been proposed
and seconded by Sir John Kennaway and Canon Taylor, I rose to move an
amendment. But the amendment was refused. The resolution was put, and
the Christians stood up and voted, while the organ played "God Save the
Queen." Then, at a signal, our people jumped on the forms, and rent the
air with cheers for "Bradlaugh." At another signal they all trooped
out, went off to Trafalgar-square with the big crowd outside, and passed
resolutions in Mr. Bradlaugh's favor. The bigots' meeting was completely
spoiled. They had to barricade the doors and keep out their own people
as well as the enemy; the hall was never half full, and their resolution
was passed after refusing an amendment, amidst loud execrations. Such a
lesson was taught the bigots that they never made another attempt. Mr.
Bradlaugh had trusty lieutenants and stern supporters, and the bigots
knew he would spoil every _private_ meeting that professed to be
_public_. He acted with wisdom and determination, and the result showed
he knew the stake he was playing for when he said, "I rely on you," with
that steady Napoleonic look.


Mr. Bradlaugh's legal exploits, if properly recorded, would fill a
good-sized volume. When his life is adequately written, as it will be
some day, this department will have to be entrusted to a skilled lawyer.
No other person could do anything like justice to a most important part
of the career of one whom the Tories used to call "that litigious man,"
when they were trying to ruin him in the law courts and he was only
defending himself against their base attacks.

Those who had only known Mr. Bradlaugh as a platform orator had some
difficulty in recognising him when they first met him in one of our
"halls of justice." His whole manner was changed. He was polite,
insinuating, and deferential. His attitude towards the judges was
admirably calculated to conciliate their favor. I do not mean that _he_
calculated. He had quite a superstitious veneration for judges. It was
perfectly sincere and it never wavered. He would not hear a word against
them. When he pleaded before them his personal sentiments ran in a line
with his best interests; for although judges are above most temptations,
their vanity is often sensitive, and Mr. Bradlaugh's manner was
intensely flattering.

Had he followed the legal profession, Mr. Bradlaugh would have easily
mounted to the top and earned a tremendous income. I have heard some of
the cleverest counsel of our time, but I never heard one to be
compared with him in grasp, subtlety and agility. He could examine and
cross-examine with consummate dexterity. In arguing points of law he had
the tenacity of a bull-dog and the keenness of a sleuth-hound. He always
fortified himself with a plethora of "cases." The table in front of him
groaned with a weight of law. Here as elsewhere he was "thorough." An
eminent jurisprudist once remarked to me, "there is little gleaning to
be done after Bradlaugh."

As a pleader before juries, however, I doubt whether he would have
achieved a great success. He was too much of a born orator. He began
well, but he soon forgot the limited audience of twelve, and spoke to
a wider circle. This is not the way to humor juries. They like to
feel their own importance, and he succeeds best who plays upon their
weakness. "Remember," their looks say, "you are talking to _us_; the
other gentlemen listen accidentally; _we_ make you or damn you."

My first recollection of Mr. Bradlaugh in the law courts is twenty-two
years old. How many survivors are there of the friends who filled that
dingy old court at Westminster where he argued before a full bench of
judges in 1869? He was prosecuted for note giving sureties in the sum of
£400 against the appearance of blasphemy or sedition in his paper. The
law was resuscitated in his single case to crush him; but he fought, as
he said he would, to the bitter end, and the Gladstone Government was
glad to repeal the obsolete enactments. The Crown retired from the
suit with a _stet processus_, and Mr. Bradlaugh was left with the
laurels--and his costs.

I obtained an hour or two's leave from my employment, and heard a
portion of Mr. Bradlaugh's argument It gave me a new conception of his
powers. That is the only impression I retain. The details have dropped
out of my memory, but there remains as fresh as ever the masterful
figure of Charles Bradlaugh.

The best view I ever had of Mr. Bradlaugh in litigation was in the old
Court of Queen's Bench on Tuesday and Wednesday, July 19 and 20, 1881,
when he cross-examined poor Mr. Newdegate. For a good deal of the time
I sat beside him, and could watch _him_ closely as well as the case. By
raising the point whether the writ against him for penalties had been
issued before or after he gave his vote in the House, he-was able to put
all the parties to the prosecution into-the witness-box and make them
give an account of themselves. Mr. Newdegate was one of the victims, and
the poor man made confessions that furnished Mr. Bradlaugh with ground
for a successful action against him under the law of Maintenance. Mr.
Newdegate was a hard-mouthed witness, but he-was saddled, bridled, and
ridden to the winning-post. His lips opened literally, making his
mouth like the slit of a pillar-box. Getting evidence from him was like
extracting a rotten cork from the neck of a bottle but it all came out
bit by bit, and the poor man must have left the witness-box feeling
that he had delivered himself into the hands of that uncircumcised
Philistine. His cross-examination lasted three hours. It was like
flaying alive. Once or twice I felt qualms of pity for the old man,
he was such an abject figure in the hands-of that terrible antagonist.
Every card he held had to-be displayed. Finally he had to produce the
bond of indemnity he had given the common informer Clarke against
all the expenses he might incur in the suit; When this came out Mr.
Bradlaugh bent down to me and said, "I have him." And he _did_ have him.
Despite the common notion that the old law of Maintenance was obsolete,
Mr. Bradlaugh pursued him under it triumphantly, and instead of ruining
"Bradlaugh," poor Newdegate was nearly ruined himself.

What a contrast to Mr. Newdegate was Mr. Bradlaugh! He was the very
picture of suppressed fire, of rampant energies held in leash: the
nerves of the face playing like the ripple on water, the whole frame
quivering, and the eyes ablaze. It was wonderful how he managed to keep
his intellect alert and his judgment steady. Six hours of such work
as he had in court that day were enough to tax the greatest strength.
Before it was over I saw bodeful blood-rims under his eyes. It did
not surprise me, on meeting him at the Cobden Workmen's Club the next
evening, to learn that he had been frightfully ill. "Mr. Bradlaugh," I
wrote at the time, "is a wonderfully strong man, but the Tories and the
bigots are doing their best to kill him, and if this sort of thing is to
continue very much longer they may succeed." Alas, they _did_ succeed.
That terrible struggle killed him. No man ever lived who could have
passed through it unbroken.

Mr. Bradlaugh was clearly right on the point raised, but the jury went
against him, apparently out of sheer prejudice. When he went out into
Westminster Hall he was loudly cheered by a crowd of sympathisers, who,
as the _Times_ sneered, "applauded as lustily as though their champion
had won." Precisely so. Their applause would have greeted him in the
worst defeat. He was not a champion on whom they had "put their money."
He represented their principles, and the _Times_ forgot, if it ever
knew, that men are devoted to leaders in proportion to the depth of the
interests they espouse. Conviction "bears it out even to the edge of

Now let me mention something that shows Mr. Bradlaugh's tact and
consideration. My work on the _Freethinker_ brought me no return. I had
just read the proof of an article for Mr. Bradlaugh's paper. While we
were waiting for the jury's verdict he referred to the article, and
guessing my need he said, "Shall I give you the guinea now?" My answer
was an expressive shrug and a motion of the eye-brows.

Taking the two coins out of his pocket, he wrapt them in a piece of
paper _under the table_, and presently slipped the packet into my hand.
The whole proceeding touches me deeply as I recall it. He might well
have thought only of himself in that time of suspense; but he thought of
me too, and the precautions he took against being seen to pay me money
were expressive of his inbred delicacy. Reader do not say the incident
is trivial. These little things reveal the man.

Little did I dream, as I watched Mr. Bradlaugh fighting bigotry in the
law courts, that the time would come when he and I would be included in
a common indictment and stand in a criminal dock together. But as the
French say, it is always the unexpected that happens. Early in July,
1882, I was served with a summons from the Lord Mayor of London,
ordering me to appear at the Mansion House on the following Tuesday
and take my trial on a charge of Blasphemy. Two other gentlemen were
included in the summons, and all three of us duly appeared. We were all
members of the National Secular Society, and Mr. Bradlaugh attended to
render any possible assistance. The case was adjourned to the following
Monday, by which time a summons had been served on Mr. Bradlaugh,
who took his place beside us in the dock. After an animated day's
proceedings we were committed for trial at the Old Bailey.

The object of this prosecution was, of course, to stab Mr. Bradlaugh in
the back. He had fought all the bigots face to face, and held them all
at bay; so they put a stiletto into Sir Hardinge Giffard's hands, and
paid him his blood-money to attack the hero from behind.

Mr. Bradlaugh had to play the fox again. He wanted to gain time, and he
wanted to be tried, if at all, in the Court of Queen's Bench. He always
told me that being tried at the Old Bailey was going like a lamb to
the slaughter, and that a verdict of guilty there would certainly mean
twelve months' imprisonment. The obvious resource, therefore, was to
obtain a writ of _certiorari_ removing our indictment to the superior
court. Happily it was in the long vacation, and application had to be
made to a judge in chambers. By another piece of good luck, it was Mr.
Justice Stephen who sat behind the table on the fatal morning when the
writ had to be finally granted or refused. It was obtained on July 29,
1882. Poor Mr. Maloney, who represented the prosecution, was no match
for Mr. Bradlaugh, who treated him like a child, and only let him say a
word now and then as a special favor.

Roaming the law courts with Mr. Bradlaugh, I was able to see his
intimate knowledge of legal practice. He threaded the labyrinth with
consummate ease and dexterity. We went from office to office, where
everything seemed designed to baffle suitors conducting their own cases.
Our case, too, was somewhat peculiar; obsolete technicalities, only half
intelligible even to experts, met us at every turn; and when we got out
into the open air I felt that the thing was indeed done, but that it
would puzzle omniscience to do it in exactly the same way again. Seven
pounds was spent on stamps, documents, and other items, and securities
for costs had to be given to the extent of six hundred pounds. As I
walked home I pondered the great truth that England is a free country. I
had seen with my own eyes that _there is_ one law for rich and poor. But
I could not help reflecting that only the rich could afford it, and that
the poor might as well have no law at all.

Mr. Bradlaugh next moved to quash the indictment. He argued that the
public prosecutor's fiat was bad, as it did not name the persons who
were to be proceeded against, and thus resembled a general warrant,
which in the famous Wilkes case the judges had held to be invalid. On
this point, however, two judges, one of them being Sir James Stephen,
gave judgment against him. The case was argued on Mr. Bradlaugh's part,
the judges said, with "great power and learning." For my part, I think
he showed a greater knowledge of "cases" than both the legal luminaries
on the bench, who laid their heads close together over many a knotty
point of the argument.

Beaten on the main issue, Mr. Bradlaugh was successful, however, on
the subsidiary one. Two counts were struck out of the indictment. The
excision made no difference to me, but a great deal of difference to
him. Two numbers of the _Freethinker_ were thus disposed of bearing
the imprint of the Freethought Publishing Company--under which name Mr.
Bradlaugh and Mrs. Beasant traded--and owing to the lapse of time it
was impossible to open a fresh indictment. Of course I saw what Mr.
Bradlaugh was driving at, and I could not but admire the way in which he
made light of this point, arguing it baldly as a formal matter on which,
as their lordships would see at a glance, he was absolutely entitled
to a judgment. They would see that he was still open to all the other
counts of the indictment, and therefore it might make very little
difference, but right was right and law was law. Under the spell of
his persuasive speech, it was amazing to see the judges smoothing their
wrinkled fronts. I fancy they gave him his second point the more readily
because they were against him on the first; indeed, they seemed to think
it a pity, if not a shame, that all his learning and ability should be
displayed for _nothing_.

Our indictment went into the list of Crown Cases Reserved, and did not
come on for trial till the following April. Meanwhile I was prosecuted
again, and failing to get a writ of _certiorari_, owing to the flagrant
bigotry of Baron Huddleston and Justice North, I was tried at the Old
Bailey, and sentenced to twelve months' imprisonment like a common
thief--as Mr. Bradlaugh had predicted.

During my trouble Mr. Bradlaugh lent me every assistance, furnishing
me with legal books and advice and visiting me in Newgate between the
first and second trials, while Judge North's underlings were preparing a
more pliant jury than the one which had declined to return a verdict of

In Holloway Gaol I lost sight of Mr. Bradlaugh and everyone else, except
persons I had no desire to see. But one morning, early in April, 1883,
the Governor informed me that Mr. Bradlaugh was going to pay me a visit,
having the Home Secretary's order to see me on urgent business. The same
afternoon I was marched from my cell into one of the Governor's offices,
where Mr. Bradlaugh was wailing. Compared with the pale prisoners I saw
day by day, he looked the very picture of health. Fresh, clean-shaven,
neatly dressed, he was a most refreshing sight to eyes accustomed to
rough faces and the brown convict's garb. And it was a friend too, and I
could take his hand and exchange human speech with him. How vivid is
my recollection of him at that moment! He seemed in the prime of life,
little the worse for his terrible struggles, only the gray a trifle more
decided about the temples, but the eyes full of light, and the mobile
mouth full of vitality. And now he is dead! Dead! It is hard to realise.
But I rang the muffled bell as he lay fighting his last battle, and I
followed his corpse to the grave; and I know that the worm is busy about
those leonine features, and the rain trickles through with a scent of
faded flowers. Yes, it is true; he _is_ dead. Dead like the king and
dead like the clown; yet living truly beyond the dust of death in
the lives of others, an inextinguishable light, a vivifying fire, a
passionate hope, an ardent aspiration.

                      Till the Future dares
     Forget the Past, his fate and fame shall be
     An echo and a light unto eternity.

On the morning of April 10, 1883, I put on my own clothes and was driven
in a four-wheeler from Holloway Gaol to the Law Courts, in company
with Warder Smith, who superintended the wing of the prison in which a
grateful country lodged and boarded me at its own expense. It was lovely
spring weather, and I felt like a man new-born.

Inside the court where the great Blasphemy case was to be tried I found
Mr. Bradlaugh with his usual load of law books. The court was crowded
with friends of the defendants and legal gentlemen anxious to witness
the performance.

Mr. Bradlaugh applied for a separate trial, on the ground that as there
was no charge of conspiracy it was unjust to prejudice his case by
evidence admitted against his co-defendants; and Lord Coleridge, who
obviously meant to see fair play, granted the application.

Mr. Bradlaugh's position was, in one sense, the most perilous he had
ever stood in. Just as his long litigation with respect to his seat in
Parliament was drawing to a close, and as he believed to a _successful_
close, he had to defend himself against a charge which, if he were
proved guilty, would entail upon him the penalty of imprisonment. Of
course it would not have been such imprisonment as I was suffering, for
Queen's Bench prisoners are generally sent to the civil side of Holloway
Gaol. But _any_ imprisonment at such a moment gravely imperilled his
prospects of success in the mighty struggle with wealth, bigotry, and
political prejudice. A sense of this fact weighed heavily upon him, but
it did not impair his energy or intellectual alertness; indeed, he was
one of those rare men whose faculties are sharpened by danger.

I need not dwell upon the evidence of the prosecution. It was
most unsatisfactory, and failed to connect Mr. Bradlaugh with the
_Freethinker_. Sir Hardinge Giffard, therefore, almost entirely confined
himself to playing upon the prejudices of the jury.

Mr. Bradlaugh was perfection itself in examining and cross-examining,
and was soon on the windward side of the judge, but his address to the
jury was too boisterous. He _felt_ too much. His adversary was not
under this disadvantage, and Sir Hardinge Giffard's address to the
jury, considered merely as a tactical display, was better than Mr.

On the second day of the trial (it lasted for three days) there
occurred a curious episode. Just before the adjournment for luncheon Mr.
Bradlaugh intimated that when the Court re-assembled he would call his
co-defendants as witnesses. Lord Coleridge replied in a low, suggestive
tone, "Do you think it necessary?" Mr. Bradlaugh rose and for the first
time I saw him tremble. "My lord," he said, "you put upon me a
grave responsibility." "I put no responsibility upon you," said Lord
Coleridge, "it is for you to decide." And the stately judge glided away
in his robes of office.

If Mr. Bradlaugh put his co-defendants in the witness-box, one of two
things might happen. They might decline to give evidence, as every
answer would tend to criminate themselves; or they might exculpate Mr.
Bradlaugh and procure their own damnation.

I do not blame Lord Coleridge for looking at the matter in this way.
But I naturally looked at it in a different light Mr. Bradlaugh was
my general, and I was his lieutenant, and it was clearly my duty to
sacrifice myself. I could release him from danger with half a dozen
words, and why should I hesitate to say them or he to exact them? I
was already in prison, and another conviction could add little to my
misfortune, whereas he was still free, and his continued freedom was
just then absolutely indispensable to our common cause. For my part, I
had not a moment's hesitation. But Lord Coleridge's words sank into Mr.
Bradlaugh's mind, and after luncheon he announced that he would _not_
call his co-defendants. His lordship looked pleased, but how he frowned
when Sir Hardinge Giffard complained that _he_ was deprived of an
opportunity! Lord Coleridge did not say, but he _looked_--"Have you no
sense of decency?" Sir Hardinge Giffard, however, was thick-skinned. He
relied on Mr. Bradlaugh's sense of honor, and made it the basis of an
artificial grievance. He even pretended that Mr. Bradlaugh was _afraid_
to call his co-defendants. But he overreached himself by this hypocrisy,
and obliged Mr. Bradlaugh to put his co-defendants into the witness-box.
We were formally tendered as witnesses, Mr. Bradlaugh going no further,
and leaving Sir Hardinge Giffard to do as he would. Of course he was
obliged to interrogate us, or look foolish after his braggadocio, and
in doing so he ruined his own case by giving us the opportunity! of
declaring that Mr. Bradlaugh was never in any way connected with the

Mr. Bradlaugh, of course, did not in any sense sacrifice me. It would
have been contemptible on my part to let him bear any responsibility for
my own deliberate action, in which he was not at all implicated, and
if I had not been tendered as a witness I should have tried to tender

After half an hour's deliberation the jury found Mr. Bradlaugh not
guilty. Standing up for the verdict, with pale set face, the grateful
little "not" fell upon his ear, and his rigidity relaxed. Tears started
to _my_ eyes, and I saw the tears in _his_ eyes as I squeezed his hand
in speechless congratulation.

My own trial followed Mr. Bradlaugh's, and I was not found guilty. Three
members of the jury held out against a verdict that would have disgraced
a free country; and as the prosecution despaired of obtaining a verdict
while Lord Coleridge presided at the trial, the Attorney-General was
asked to allow the abandonment of proceedings. This he granted, the case
was struck off the list, and I returned to my prison cell at Holloway.

Let me now go back to the crowning incident of that long struggle
between Charles Bradlaugh and the House of Commons. On May 10, 1881, the
House passed a resolution authorising the Sergeant-at-Arms to prevent
Mr. Bradlaugh from entering. On June 20, the jury gave a verdict in Mr.
Newdegate's favor for the £500 penalty and costs. A motion for a new
trial failed, and Mr. Bradlaugh appealed to the country. Enthusiastic
meetings were held in his behalf, and he prepared a fresh _coup_. It had
to be something striking, and it was. On the morning of August 3 Palace
Yard and Westminster Hall were thronged with his supporters. Every one
was armed with a petition, which he had a legal right to take to the
House of Commons. Mr. Bradlaugh himself drove up in a hansom cab, and
entered the precincts of the House by the private door. He made his way
to the door of the House itself and tried to enter by a sudden effort,
but he was seized by fourteen officials and stalwart policemen, picked
for the work, and thrust back through the private passage into Palace
Yard. Not expecting such indignity, he contested every inch of the
ground. Inspector Denning said he never thought that one man could
have offered such resistance. The small muscles of both his arms
were ruptured, and a subsequent attack of erysipelas put his life in

When he was finally thrust on to the pavement in Palace Yard his coat
was torn and the rest of his garments were disarranged. His face was
livid with the intense exertion when I saw him a minute afterwards.
There he stood, a great mass of panting, valiant manhood, his features
set like granite, and his eyes fixed upon the doorway before him. He
seemed to see nothing but that doorway. I spoke to him, and he seemed
not to hear. I believe a mighty struggle was going on within him,
perhaps the greatest struggle of his life. He had suffered a frightful
indignity, he must have been tempted to avenge it, and he had but to
hold up his hand to bring around and behind him the myriads who stood
outside the railings. The action would have been impolitic, but what a
temptation he crushed down, and what an effort it necessitated. Never
was his heroic nature more sorely tried. He justified his mastery of
others by his mastery of himself. How small in comparison seemed the
mob of his enemies! I never admired him more than at that moment. He was
superb, sublime. They had wound their meshes about him, and the lion had
burst them. One swift, daring stroke had frustrated all their plans. He
who was to be quietly suppressed by resolutions of the House had cut
the knot of their policy asunder, made himself the hero of the hour, and
fixed the nation's eyes on his splendid audacity.

Reaction set in after that terrible struggle, and he accepted a chair
that was brought him. Several members passed as he sat there. One of
them was the coward, Frank Hugh O'Donnell. He had a lady on his arm,
and he passed with her between himself and Mr. Bradlaugh, so that
her dress trailed over the hero's feet. It was a wretched display of
insolence and cowardice. But the lady must be exonerated. She looked
annoyed, her cheeks reddened, and her eyelids fell. It is so hard for
a woman to resist the attraction of courage, and the coward by her side
must have suffered in her estimation.

There was a crowded meeting that evening at the Hall of Science,
at which I had the honor of speaking, Mr. Bradlaugh's greeting was
tremendous. Two days afterwards he was seriously ill.

During that great constitutional struggle I was present at many
"Bradlaugh" meetings, and I never witnessed such enthusiasm as he
excited. No man of my time had such a devoted following.

The last "Bradlaugh" demonstration I attended was on February 15, 1883,
in Trafalgar-square. Seventy or eighty thousand people were present.
There were four speakers, and three of them are dead, Joseph Arch being
the sole survivor. Mr. Adams, of Northampton, lived to see his old
friend take his seat and do good work in the House of Commons, became
himself Mayor of Northampton, and died universally respected by his
fellow-townsmen; William Sharman, a brave, true man, is buried at
Preston; and Charles Bradlaugh sleeps his long sleep at Woking.

For another twelve months I attended no public meetings except the
silent ones on the exercise ground of Holloway Gaol, But I saw Mr.
Bradlaugh at several demonstrations on various subjects after my
imprisonment, and I could perceive no abatement of his popularity. He
had his enemies and detractors, but the spontaneous outburst of feeling
at his death proved his hold on the popular heart.

I must now leap forward to that dreadful illness which left him a
broken man. Years before, in 1882, when we were roaming the Law Courts
together, he tapped his chest as he coughed, and seeing my anxious
expression he told me that he brought up a good deal of phlegm in the
morning, and that strangers who heard him clearing his chest would
fancy he was very ill. But he looked so well that I soon dismissed the
unpleasant fact, though it returned before his breakdown when I saw
he was obliged to cancel engagements. I heard in 1884, though not from
himself, that he had some heart trouble. But I was far from prepared for
the shattering illness that laid him low in October, 1889.

When I called to see him after his partial recovery I was shocked by his
appearance. He looked twenty years older, grey, and infirm. I sat down
half-dazed. Theoretically I knew he was mortal, but I did not realise it
as a fact until I saw him thin and pale from the valley of the shadow of
death. His mind was clear enough, however; and although everything about
him was pathetic he was quite self-collected.

One thing he said to me I shall never forget. There had been talk of his
wavering in his Freethought, and as he referred to this folly he spoke
in grave impressive tones. Pointing to the humble bed, he said, "When
I lay there and all was black the thing that troubled me least was the
convictions of my life."

Words and accents were alike solemn. The cold shadow of death seemed to
linger in the room. A moment or two later he said with a broken voice,
"The Freethought party is a party that I love."

The memory of that interview will always be a precious possession. I
treasure it with the sacred things of my life. I had seen and touched
the naked sincerity of a great soul.

When Mr. Bradlaugh returned from India I called on him, and found him
greatly improved by his voyage. I waited for him a few minutes in his
library, as he was at lunch, and the doctors attached great importance
to regularity in his meals. He came into the room with a most genial
smile. His air was fresh and buoyant, and he walked over to me quickly,
holding out his hand all the way. I took it heartily, and had a good
look at him, which satisfied and yet dissatisfied me. He was certainly
better, but I could not help feeling that his constitution was
irrecoverably broken. Never again could I hope to see the grand
Bradlaugh of the old fighting days. His mind was as brave and alert as
ever, but the body was too obviously disabled.

He showed me some of his Indian presents, of which he was justly proud,
and then we sat down to chat. He was full of his voyage and the kindness
he had experienced on every side. His reception in India had exceeded
his highest anticipations, and he was looking forward to work in the
House of Commons on behalf of our great Dependency.

Speaking of his financial prospects, he told me he had received offers
of work from several magazine editors. But he added, "one doesn't know
how long it will last; 'tis a precarious business." His face clouded for
a moment, and I saw he was more troubled than he cared to say.

One thing he told me which I had no right to repeat while he lived, but
I may repeat it without a breach of confidence now that he is dead.

During his brief stay in India he could have had plenty of money if
he had been less scrupulous. There was nothing very dishonourable in
accepting money from rich Hindoos, for he was poor and broken in health,
and he was fighting for their best interests. But he was too proud to
take it, and when wealthy natives were calling on him, he always took
the precaution to have an English friend in the room.

"No," he said to me, "I cannot do that. I'll live like the old
Bradlaugh, or I'll go under."

He lived like the old Bradlaugh, and he went under. He took to the
platform again to earn a livelihood, and it killed him, as his doctors
had foreseen. I implored him at the time not to resume the lecturing. He
was going to fulfil an old-standing engagement at Manchester in the
vast St. James's Hall, and I begged him to cancel it. He replied that he
could not afford to forfeit twenty pounds. "What is that to your life?"
I asked. He only smiled grimly. His mind was made up, and he was not to
be bent by advice.

On Sunday morning, February 16, 1890, Mr. Bradlaugh resigned his
presidency of the National Secular Society, which he had held for so
many years. The Hall of Science was packed with members, chiefly from
the London district, but many of them from the provinces.

The scene was infinitely pathetic. One sentiment reigned in every heart.
The Old Guard was taking leave of its General. Some of them had fought
around him for thirty years, and the farewell was a mutilation of their
very lives. Tears were streaming down strong faces; and they coursed
down the strongest face of all, the face of Charles Bradlaugh, and
plashed on the table before him. For a while he let them fall, and then
he controlled his grief and rose to speak. But the words would not come.
His frame shook with a great sob, and he sat down again. A second time
he rose and failed. But the third time his strong will prevailed, and he
began to speak in low, trembling tones.

Never was I so struck with his oratorical powers as on this occasion.
Without once lifting his voice above the note of conversation, he swayed
the meeting for a full half-hour, as easily and universally as the wind
billows a cornfield.

In resigning the presidency he thought it his duty to nominate a
successor, and his choice was ratified by the meeting. He handed me the
president's hammer after a solemn, impressive apostrophe, in which he
expressed his hope that he might thank me, after many years, for good,
loyal work as leader; and when I had acknowledged the lofty honor he
rose to vacate the chair. Naturally I declined to let him do anything of
the kind, and for a moment the two Presidents stood together in friendly
altercation. But for once he gave way, and Charles Bradlaugh filled the
chair to the last.

Resigning the Presidency did not mean retirement from the National
Secular Society. At his own suggestion Mr. Bradlaugh was elected a
life-member. He was thus a member of the Society up to the last moment
of his life. Nor was he an inactive one. I frequently had occasion to
consult him, and one of his last bits of work was the drawing up of a
long document for the Society on Secular Burials.

Months rolled by, and the evening came for the great debate on the Eight
flours Bill between Mr. Bradlaugh and Mr. Hyndman. St. James's Hall was
packed to suffocation. I sat on the platform near my old leader, and
I saw how the effort was telling on him. His opponents in the meeting
behaved with incredible brutality. Some of them laughed aloud when he
said, "Believe me, this has tried me more than I had thought." But now
the hero they laughed at is dead, and they _know_ that he spoke the

The last time I saw Mr. Bradlaugh in public was on Wednesday evening,
December 10, 1890, when he lectured at the Hall of Science on behalf
of the Forder Testimonial Fund. I believe that was the last lecture he
delivered there, if not the last lecture he delivered anywhere. He dealt
with the Evidences of Christianity, in reference to Archdeacon Watkins'
lectures on the Fourth Gospel, and assuredly he was as firmly sceptical
as ever. At the close of the lecture he spoke of his theological
position, and declared that he could not conceive of any such change of
mind as glib gossipers were asserting of him.

The weather was extremely foggy, and Mr. Bradlaugh was ill. He ought
not to have been there at all. After struggling painfully through the
lecture, he sat down and waited for discussion. A Christian opponent
rose, and Mr. Bradlaugh replied; but, being in the chair, I would not
allow a second speech, and I was glad to see him well wrapt-up, and once
more in the care of his devoted daughter.


Having concluded my reminiscences of Charles Bradlaugh in relation to
the _events_ of his life, I shall wind up with a little personal talk of
a more general character.

I have already referred to Mr. Bradlaugh's extraordinary knowledge
of the law. This was strikingly illustrated after the so-called
Trafalgar-square riots. The Tories made a wanton aggression on the right
of public meeting in London, and found a ready instrument of tyranny
in Sir Charles Warren. No doubt there is much to be said against
promiscuous meetings in Trafalgar-square at all hours of the day and
night, but it was a high-handed act of brutality to prohibit _all_
meetings directly it was known that the London Radicals were convening
a Sunday demonstration on the Irish question. While the Radicals were
chafing under this insult they held several stormy meetings to discuss
their best policy, and at last a Committee was appointed to find out, if
possible, the legal rights, of the people and the Crown. I was a member
of that committee, and I am able to state that although we waited on
several eminent lawyers, it was only from Mr. Bradlaugh that we obtained
any light. The others talked vaguely about the right of public meeting,
and the primary and secondary uses of public thoroughfares, but Mr.
Bradlaugh gave us the _facts_ of the case. Trafalgar-square was Crown
property, its control was vested in the Commissioner of Works, and at
any moment it could be absolutely closed to the British public.

This had escaped the other lawyers, who did not find it in the Statutes
at Large, from which the Trafalgar-square Act, probably as being a
private one, had been excluded. Nor was it known to the Government when
Sir Charles Warren issued his first proclamation, As Chief Commissioner
of Police he had no authority-over the Square, and until he obtained
the order of its proper guardians, which he did a week later, his
proclamation was only a piece of waste paper, Mr. Bradlaugh saw this,
though he said nothing, when the demonstration committee called upon him
a few days before Bloody Sunday. He told them that he had an
engagement in the provinces on that day, but if they would postpone the
demonstration until the following Sunday he would himself lead it to
Trafalgar-square. His offer was not accepted, however; for the committee
resented the condition he stipulated, namely, that he should have
absolute control of the arrangements. They thought he was taking too
much upon himself. They did not reflect that if he who takes power
without responsibility is a despot, he who takes responsibility without
power is a fool. It was their action, and not his, that lost the battle.

Mr. Bradlaugh made no public parade of his brave offer. It was not his
way. But it is due to his memory that it should be put on record, so
that posterity may know the extent of his generous courage.

There can be no doubt, I think, that Mr. Bradlaugh was less popular with
the working-classes in London after he took peaceable possession of his
seat in Parliament. The London masses love a fighter, and while he was
battling for his seat he was, in my opinion, the most popular figure in
the metropolis. The Radical workmen never tired of his demonstrations.
He could bring fifty or a hundred thousand of them together at a few
days' notice. And the other speakers were, for the most part, only
padding to fill up the time. It was "Bradlaugh" the multitude came for.
They waited to hear him speak, they applauded him to the skies, and when
he had done they dispersed. And on such occasions he was magnificent. No
one can conceive the power of the man who never saw him at one of
these demonstrations. He stood like a Pharos, and the light of his face
kindled the crests of the living waves around him.

But he was out of sympathy with the Socialist movement, which began to
spread just as he took his seat; and being assiduous in Parliament,
he was drawn more and more from "the Clubs," where his libellers
and detractors wagged their tongues to some purpose. His strong
individualism, as well as his practical good sense, made him bitterly
hostile to the mildest proposals for putting the people's industrial
interests into the hands of Government departments. And being a man of
most positive quality, it was natural that he should excite the hatred
of the more fanatical Socialists; a sentiment which, I cannot help
thinking, he exasperated by his apparent denial of the generosity of
their aims. There are men in the Socialist camp (and I say it without
being a Socialist) who are neither "poets" nor "fools"--though it is
no disgrace to be the former; men who have studied with severity
and sincerity, who have made sacrifices for conviction, and who were
sometimes hurt by his antipathy. But, on the other hand, he was bitterly
goaded by Socialist adversaries, who denied his honesty, and held him up
to undeserved scorn as the hireling of "the classes"--a charge which the
more sensitive among them must now repent, for his death has revealed
his poverty.

Mr. Bradlaugh was naturally irritable, but the irritability was only on
the surface. The waves were easily raised, but there was plenty of quiet
sea beneath. Though giants are often phlegmatic, his big frame embedded
highly-strung nerves. When he was put out he could storm, and he was
misunderstood by those who took the mood for the man. Had they seen him
in the melting mood they would have learnt that Charles Bradlaugh was a
more composite personality than they imagined.

During the last year or two of his life he underwent a wonderful
softening. A beautiful Indian-summer light rested upon him. He was like
a granite rock, which the sweet grass has overgrown, and from whose
crevices peep lovely wild flowers.


As President of the National Secular Society he did a great work. I do
not think he had a pronounced faculty for organisation. But he was a
firm, sagacious leader, with the personal magnetism to attract devotion.
That he was never overbearing I will not affirm. But it is easy to
organise sheep. One good dog will do it. Mr. Bradlaugh had to hold
together a different species, with leaping legs, butting horns, and a
less gregarious tendency.

He was a splendid chairman to push through a mass of business, but he
shone less on ordinary occasions. An ideal chairman, when not promoting
his own schemes, should be like a midwife; he should aim at a quick
delivery and a safe birth. Mr. Bradlaugh did not always observe this
rule. But every man has the defects of his qualities, and even the sun
must be taken with its spots.

Mr. Bradlaugh's speeches at the annual Conferences of the National
Secular Society are better reading than his political speeches. Being
less in the world of practice there, and more in the world of principle,
he gave play to his ideal nature, his words took color, and metaphors
flashed like jewels in the sword of his orations. It was a signal proof
of his power, that after a whole day's exhausting work, both to himself
and his audience, he never failed to rouse the wildest enthusiasm.

Now that Mr. Bradlaugh is dead I do not hesitate to repeat what I said
during his lifetime, that his Freethought work was the most fecund and
important. Even his great battle against the House of Commons was
for religious freedom against bigotry, and his one great legislative
achievement was the Act dealing with Oaths and Affirmation. His
staunchest political supporters were his Freethought followers. His
lectures, his personal influence, and his reputation, leavened the
public mind more than his orthodox enemies suspected, and he created
a vast quantity of raw material to be utilised by his successors in
Secular organisation.


In the foregoing pages I have attempted no complete sketch of Charles
Bradlaugh. I have written, not a monograph, but a number of rough
jottings. Yet I hope I have conveyed an impression of the man, in some
degree faithful, to those who may have been imperfectly acquainted with
him; and I trust the features I have presented, however baldly outlined,
will be recognised by those who knew and loved him.

When all is said and done, I think the final impression one retains of
Charles Bradlaugh is his _heroism_. His was cast in a great mould of
mind and character, as well as body. Like every hero the world has ever
seen, he had his defects and failings, for it is given to no man to be
perfect. But positive excellence, with all its drawbacks, is far above
negative merit. "Thou shalt" is loftier virtue than "thou shalt not,"
and the hero is superior to the saint.

Charles Bradlaugh was a colossus of manhood. He was one to design, and
dare, and do. The beaten path of mediocrity had no attraction for that
potent spirit. He belonged to the heroic type which seeks perilous ways
and fresh conquests. Like the hero of one of Browning's poems, he was
"ever a fighter." In stormy times he naturally rose to the top. He was
one of the select few, not of those who enrich the world with great
discoveries, or new principles, or subtle perceptions of beauty--but
those who appeal to the heroism of man's nature, without which he is
at best but a splendid beast, and who minister to that sense of dignity
which is the supreme necessity of our race.

     The elements So mixed in him, that
     Nature might stand up
     And say to all the world,
     "This was a man!"

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