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Letters from Charlotte M. Wilson to Piotr Kropotkin (1884-1917)

Archive: State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF)

Reference: Piotr Kropotkin Papers, Fond 1129, opisi 2, 2495

Date Range: 2 January 1884 - 8 April 1917

Number of letters: 7

Number of sheets: 19

Charlotte Mary Wilson (1854-1944) was an English Fabian and anarchist who co-founded Freedom newspaper in 1886 with Peter Kropotkin, and edited, published, and largely financed it during its first decade. She remained editor of Freedom until 1895. She is a pivotal figure in Kropotkin's emigration to, and time in, Britain. In the 20th Century she distanced herself from the anarchist movement and resumed her involvement with the Fabian Society (especially through the Fabian Women's Group) and eventually re-joined its Executive Committee briefly.

Charlotte Wilson to Piotr Kropotkin, 2 January 1884

It is with much hesitation that I venture to trouble you with this note. I have long considered if in any practical shape, I could express the respectful sympathy and admiration' I share with many of my countrymen. Offers 'help in research, looking out references in the British Museum Library.' You may be unable to get help from 'friends absurdly busy with literary work of their own, and that I might be useful in this way.' Pardon the 'intrusion.' My reluctance to suggest this was exacerbated by 'the superficiality of my scientific knowledge, and by distrust of my own ability.' But if it should happen that you would find this assistance a convenience and upon testing my powers' you find I deliver I would 'esteem it an honour to work for you. If I can be of no service, please do not trouble to reply.'

Charlotte Wilson to Piotr Kropotkin, 16 May 1889

I go on with this Thurs morn. Returned from London last night + received your welcome night. Its v good Mrs Randall's affairs are so promising. I attach a £4 cheque from Arthur. Dryhurst will bring you the list and the money she has collected when she sees you on Friday.

It will amount to at least 30/- as good Mrs Cash has given £1. Hope the Randalls will prosper on the other side of the Atlantic. 'I am afraid that you will Mrs R's services.' Unclear what is said next, I think they are happy for her and her better life abroad. It is capital about the 19th C article, a resume of it will make an article for Freedom.

As long as M Kropotkine has no objection. We ought to hace an article from him about this for the anniversary month. I wrote to him long ago about it but forgot to speak of it when we met. On thursday eve I spent 3 hours with Blackwell - he lives with his mother. She is lovely, only concerned for her 'Jimmy'.

What a comfort to find a socialist not distracted by domestic struggle. He is pushing the paper with much business capacity and is wide open to the necessity of caution in choosing associates. 'Marsh is helping him in his gentle well-meaning sort of way' and I am please to say that 'he is going to give up that stupid public house business and come to London...'

...where he can get employment in an orchestra.' He is a 'good violinist' and this work will certainly do the public a lot more good than the selling of alcohol to them. He will have some leisure time everyday to write but 'may be more useful in the business part of the work of the paper.' 'He and Blackwell seem to be making friends.' see each othr regularly. Even while buried in his beer business Marsh sends 'off all the smaller parcels of Freedom.' As to poor Pearson, in trouble again. 'He carries his anarchism into his daily life and encourages his mates to strike against every oppression and consequently is always losing his job.' I am seeing Pearson next week if poss but what can I say?

He is right to revolt and encourages others but his wife rightly complains they will starve with no work. Can I say to her - go on and fight the battle at the cost of starvation whilst I sit comfortably with my food. Blackwell is getting hold of a few promising young men and 'things look promising but they evidently want help with their thinking. Both morally and intellectually they want help in pulling themselves together.'

They think about things and have ideas here and there but struggle to connect them to one another and 'to the general thought of the times. To say nothing of the past.' They long to know and understand. All the 'intelligent thoughtful workmen' who have read the books and papers they come across seem like this, stood with their hands open towards the people they think might help them to connect things in their minds. 'Like a nest of birds with wide-opened beaks, blindly seeking to be fed.' Sometimes while lecturing this 'unexpressed yearning' is 'like a pain'. You want to satisfy it so much. It makes me so angry with people like ___

Who have a specially gifted mind and have a great knowledge of the history of human thought but don't use this to benefit the people and put their knowledge into a simple shape so as to help the thinkers of the disinherited class. Carr is like this as well, having devoted years to the study of thought and is strong in his economic and domestic work. He has the power 'to help the socialist movement by helping the man who must make the revolution to think clearly on a wider frame.' At Freedom however 'I reel in despair about being able to help them so very little.'

But one cannot squeeze wine out of an empty cask. And my head still continues empty of anything worth squeezing out. I am a good deal discouraged about it, because I can write well now,' and am able to walk and ride, but cannot write letter ('to say nothing more of serious work' for 30 mins 'without miserable sensations in my head.' Difficult to read: I struggle to do anything with connected thought. I should be making immediate arrangements about the meeting but that I am anxious to do the translation first and keep hoping to be able to focus on it. 'What you say about coming to Hampstead makes a dear and happy picture.'

It makes me want to go back there. Thank you for telling me about Y's (?) baby. Does he still come to you in the evenings? It makes me so glad to think of that. I understand why you need to stay at home. Is M. Kropotkine stronger and able to work pleasantly. Please thank him for his last kind note - which I have not yet answered, despite having many things to discuss but they are of second importance and I know he is quite busy

Charlotte Wilson to Piotr Kropotkin, 19 July 1905

Writing from Hollanderhof, Mainz

It is only since returning from the Bavarian Highlands beyond the region of newspapers from England that I have heard of Elisee Reclus' death. It is some time ago this happened. I had to write to you about this loss. Must be particularly bad for you and Sophie on the back of other losses. I feel very bad for you especially the deep feelings you must feel for the Russian events right now. Hope you are all well now. I have been in Germany for over 6 months now and have mostly recovered from the accident I had a year and a half ago.

On my way back to England, pls send me a line or two to The Nook, Peppard Common, Oxon. I would like to hear how things are with you and miss you all. Talks a lot of papers and issues, unclear. 'The world has changed much since we used to discuss matters in some ways.' I have been very much struck by the rapid increase of wealth here. There are new factories and works and town improvements - they seem to be avoiding the worst abuses that accompanied the development of the factory system in England. They seem to build more in the country and I hear their factories are better built and more well ventilated. They seem more concerned about health and comfort and people in the country seem more healthy and better dressed. There are signs of prosperity everywhere and I hope it means they will avoid some of the misery which has fallen upon England.

Charlotte Wilson to Piotr Kropotkin, 22 October 1905

Writing from The Nook, Peppard Common, Oxon

It will seem strange I did not reply to your kind letter of July 21st. I was v happy to receive it but suffered an attack of laryngitis at the time, of which I have not yet recovered, I was voiceless for 6 weeks. I still lose it occasionally and choke now if I talk much, or get in cold wind or dust. I'm quite well now, but it stops me visiting friends or having many visit.

I was down here all summer till this month. I visited London but had to get away again because of illness. I should have to go to some southern place like Bournemouth. I hope not but my Dr says it would be good. The consequence of all this is that I have seen almost none of my old friends since my return to England. I 'seem fated' to be plagued by illness and they 'make a recluse of me.' You must be living in Russia (metaphorically) and I would love to hear you speak about what is occurring there right now. I will write again, this is in part why I don't ask news from you about everyone. I hope you had a pleasant refreshing time in Brittany and are back feeling strong. I hear it is more beautiful and interesting than Normandy is. Seems to mention a Gerald being away for a year in De and in Fr.

Charlotte Wilson to Piotr Kropotkin, 18 June 1906

I have made enquiries from Mr Graham Wallas about the books. He says that should you feel inclined to give any of them to the education committee of the London County Council they will be very glad of them.' His address is 15 Lower Common Street, Putney, S.W.

I was so v pleased to see you Monday. Now I realise how incredibly busy you are I wished I had not ask you to come. Hope Sasha and Sophie return from Fr in good health. Would it suit you if I came visit on Tuesday, late, after the meeting at the London University. There is a train from Victoria getting to Bromley at 6.29. I would like to bring Gerald if I may to meet you.

Charlotte Wilson to Piotr Kropotkin, 8 December 1912

A line of warmest heartfelt congratulations. 'Always I think of you with real affection.' (this is Kropotkin's 70th Birthday)

Charlotte Wilson to Piotr Kropotkin, 8 April 1917

I have been thinking about you and your family a lot knowing what is happening in Russia must mean a lot to you. How much I wish I could come to see you and hear about it from you what you hope and fear from the future. Russia and America are leading the moral sense of the world now?' Talks about the times (not sure if this refers to the paper). I heard of your recent bad health. I am currently 'altogether immersed' in looking after prisoners and 'seem sometimes to have no life outside that. But the old friends and the old ideas are still there.'

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