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First published in 1920


(All rights reserved)



TN February 1913 the Nineteenth Century
and After published an article by Canon
Barnett in which he dwelt on the stunted lives
of the poor, and urged the duty of cheerfully
meeting the financial responsibilities which
would be involved in remedying the conditions
under which they lived. From various readers
came the request that my husband would
expand the ideas contained into a small book.
Though he was much out of health the call
to serve the poor met with the usual response,
and he had been at work about six weeks on
the book when he became too ill ever to finish

Usually he and I worked at our publications
together, but circumstances prevented me from
doing my share then, and now it has come to
me to do it alone. I do not know that I should


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Perils of Wealth and Poverty

have judged the book to be worth issuing
as now it is, of course, out of date had not
I recently realized how deeply my husband's
thoughts on social problems have interested

This knowledge has come through many
hundreds of personal letters which have been
written to me since the issue of The Life of
Canon Bamett in November 1918. They have
come from people of all classes of mind, all
standards of education, all shades of ecclesi-
astical and political opinion, who have united
in grasping the spirit underlying his work,
and who are grateful for seeing social problems
through his eyes, and being shown, by the aid
of his diagnosis, the relation of apparent symp-
toms to the hidden deep-seated diseases.

It is these letters which have encouraged
me to offer to the public my husband's last
book, unfinished as it was, and freely edited
as it has had to be. In this labour I have
been assisted by his friend and mine, the Rev.
V. A. Boyle, who in the early Toynbee Hall
days voluntarily acted as his Vicar's private



secretary, and by his alert sympathy became
almost uncannily acquainted with his mind.
By this knowledge he has effectively helped
in the production of the book, by supplying
the facts and figures that were omitted, by
deciphering the hieroglyphics of many of my
husband's notes, and remembering with almost
faultless precision where Canon Barnett had
expressed similar thoughts or kindred ideas.

For each chapter he has written a synopsis
of the contents, which is helpful in these days
of hurry, and after Chapters II, III, IV, V,
VII and VIII, added notes which elucidate
the foregoing pages. To me, therefore, little
has been left to say in this Preface. But I
would like to draw attention to three character-
istics of my husband, which are abundantly
exemplified in this small volume.

The first is the realization that " A man's
a man for a' that," This was so naturally a
part of his mental eyesight that he never con-
sidered the circumstances surrounding poverty
as part of the man or woman. To him, dirt
and smells, dumbness or uncouthness, were


Perils of Wealth and Poverty

only, in the Carlylean sense, clothes of the
character to be wholly ignored, as he sought
the human being himself. How often have
I heard him quote Ruskin's sentence : " There
is nothing wrong with the poor but their
poverty/' In the same spirit he would never,
even in thought, allow a man's wealth to create
a barrier of division ; though, just as he sought
to provide more for the poor so as to free
their souls for growth, so he sought to relieve
the rich of their encumbering wealth so as to
obtain for them liberty to progress. In both
cases he sought their souls, and tried to reach,
in spite of circumstances, to the core of indi-
vidual humanity.

The second characteristic that often appears
in these pages, though exhibited perhaps some-
what dryly and without poetry, was Canon
Barnett's great love of childhood and faith in
youth. He seemed to find in children a re-
newal of his conviction of God in man, and
fresh assurance that the world was born again
to achieve nobler ideals. Perhaps it was their
exuberant life that made the young so attrac-



tive to him, and drew from him utterances
like the following :

The bright spots in darkest London are the children.
Their laughter breaks in on the harsh notes of the
street traffic ; their freedom lifts for a moment the
clouds of care from burdened brows. Their serious-
ness in play often opens to passers-by visions of a more
satisfying pursuit than that of money or pleasure.
Children are still the images of the greatest in the
Kingdom of Heaven, they are still apostles of truth.

The third characteristic is something more
than a quality of mind, for his faith in God
and the ultimate triumph of His Will was
the woof and warp of my husband's nature.
It was this which both goaded him and res-
trained him, gave him the hope which kept
him ever young, and the certainty that con-
strained men to follow where he led.

As he says in his Introduction to this book,
it is written for the ordinary man of goodwill,
who, though ready to serve his fellows, would
probably resent being expected to have a
religious basis for his action. Thus no call is
made to the religious faith of the reformer,
but it was Canon Barnett's faith which created


Perils of Wealth and Poverty

all his work, and united in him both destructive
and constructive forces. To attain no ! even
to take one step towards a higher goal he
would cheerfully trample on his own work,
and sacrifice that of others. He often quoted
the " How Otherwise ? " of Robert Browning's
Ivan Ivanovitch, who had broken the law against
murder in order to establish a higher standard
for human conduct than even the preservation
of life.

His faith in God was perhaps all the stronger
because he cherished it silently, and retained
in all his dealings with others a modesty about
his own spiritual condition and a courtesy
towards theirs.

That he would have retained his faith had
he lived through all the welter and confusion
of the last five years, I firmly believe, but
it would have taken greater wisdom than his
to have known when to call good evil, or evil
good, when to hate evil and how to love those
who delighted in its creation ; but he would
have bidden us be hopeful in spite of police
strikes, alien bills, rings, trusts, profiteering,



class housing-legislation, and medical provision
for the necessity of vice. And he would have
been more than hopeful over some of the
present-day facts. He would have rejoiced in
some of the glorious fruits of the late terrible
war ; the loosening of class-bonds, the appre-
ciation of war-comrades for each other, the
freeing of women from sex-disabilities, the
higher wages, the recognition of the rights of
the disinherited, the acceptance of respon-
sibilities by the industrial classes, the thought-
fulness of many with leisure to think, the
public spirit of the learned. All these evidences
of national progress in answer to the prayer
" Thy Kingdom come on earth " would have
gladdened my husband's heart ; and above
them all he would have thanked God for the
League of Nations, a great tree which will
scatter seeds and have many off-shoots, but
whose roots will need to be watered by thought
of others' needs, and strengthened by the
might of meekness and the sympathy of self-




WHEN I was asked by Mrs. Barnett to
edit this last book written by Canon
S. A. Barnett, I felt that it was not only a
pious duty but a welcome privilege to comply
with the request, and thus once again after
many years, to work for my old friend and
chief. All who loved and knew him will, I
am sure, value this little volume. But for
those whose minds are not so familiar with
his thoughts, it seems well to prefix to each
chapter a brief synopsis, and in some cases to
add comments as well as extracts from his
earlier writings when they elucidate his mes-
sage, or seem to complete the meaning. The
work as he left it was complete in outline,
though much of it was only in notes, but by
the aid of others of his MSS. and from long
familiarity with his methods and abbreviations
it has been possible to expand these notes


Perils of Wealth and Poverty

without, I hope, losing their terseness of style
and illumination of suggestion.

Since he wrote the volume in March 1913
wonderful changes have occurred in the con-
ditions affecting industrial life. The great in-
crease of wages, the decrease in the hours of
work, the new burdens of taxation, and the
rise in the cost of living, are revolutionizing
the distribution of national wealth, and have
already made many of the allusions and statis-
tics of 1913 inapplicable to present conditions,
but they have been retained so as to preserve
the pre-war atmosphere. Also in the life of a
nation effects continue to operate long after
their causes have disappeared, and some of
the consequences of the conditions here des-
cribed will be felt even when these conditions
have been altered. Canon Barnett derived
the statistics in this book, which he meant to
call The Cheerful Taxpayer, chiefly from Mr.
B. Seebohm Rowntree's and Mr. L. G. Chiozza
Money's writings, from which he quotes freely,
being evidently deeply impressed by the way
in which they gave statistical form to his own
first-hand experience.

In several places he left blanks, so that the
figures might be filled in when he had obtained


Note by the Editor

them from authoritative sources. These I have
endeavoured to supply from the statistics of
1913, and in this I have had the valuable
assistance of Mr. S. P. Grundy of Barnett
House, Oxford, to whom I here desire to express
my thanks. He is only responsible for the
references and not in any way for the use made
of them.

The interest of the book, slight and unpre-
tentious as it is, consists in the evidence of an
outstanding combination in Canon Barnett,
namely, the union of strong, practical sense,
based on a long experience of the industrial
and submerged classes, with a passionate faith
in the spiritual significance of life, and the
importance of offering only the best to the
lowest of the children of the God Whom he

Among the best gifts in his opinion was
that of knowledge, enabling men to think.
Indeed, his prayer seems to have been that of
the Psalmist, " Give me understanding and I
shall keep Thy law ; yea, I shall keep it with
my whole heart." No one can do God's will
and keep His law unless he gets an under-
standing of facts and conditions, and so all
his working life, Canon Barnett was studying


Perils of Wealth and Poverty

the problems of poverty. As a young man
he had the invaluable help of that wise and
enlightened friend of the poor, Miss Octavia
Hill, and after his marriage, of the brave and
truthful mind of Mrs. Barnett. Their first
published book opens with an article on " The
Poverty of the Poor," in which, dwelling
chiefly on physical poverty, Mrs. Barnett anti-
cipates enquiries which are now considered
essential, by giving a series of family budgets
or rather bills of fare of her neighbours, and
contrasting them in their deficiencies with the
official dietary of the Whitechapel workhouse
and with an ideal hygienic minimum dietary
of which she writes :

How drear and uninteresting is this food compared
with that on which people of another class normally
live ! No refreshing cups of afternoon tea ; no pleasant
fruit to give interest to the meal. Nothing but dull
keep-me-alive sort of food and not enough of that to
fulfil all nature's requirements.

In the article " Practicable Socialism," which
gives its title to that book, Canon Barnett
views poverty from another angle, the poverty
of life which besets the majority of the people.


Note by the Editor

Speaking first of the labourers earning 205.
a week, he says :

They have few thoughts of joy and little hope of rest ;
. . . their lives all through the days and years slope
into a darkness which is not " quieted by hope/' Even
if wages be 403. a week, the condition is still one to
depress those who on Sunday thank God for their
creation. The skilled artisan having paid rent and
club money and provided household necessaries, has
no margin out of which to provide for pleasures, for
old age, or even for the best medical skill. There can
be for him no quiet hours with books or pictures, while
his children and friends make music for his solace.
He can invite no friends for a Christmas dance ; he
cannot wander in the thought of future, of pleasure,
or of rest. England is the land of sad monuments.
The saddest monument is, perhaps, " the respectable
working man " who has been erected in honour of
Thrift. His brains, which might have shown the
world how to save men, have been spent in saving
pennies ; his life, which might have been happy and
full, has been dulled and saddened by taking " thought
for the morrow."

It is worth noting Canon Barnett's steady
development from the individualism of his
early thought to the position taken in this
little book. His Nineteenth Century article,
April 1883, begins with an anecdote of a well-
known American clergyman who said, " Ten
years' work in New York made me a Christian
Socialist." " This remark," adds Canon Bar-

17 B

Perils of Wealth and Poverty

nett, " illustrates my experience." He goes
on to show the very limited and unsatisfactory
results achieved by individualism. Faced by
a situation which he feels ought not to exist
the question arises " Why should not the
State provide what is needed ? " He briefly
mentions the favourite Socialist remedies of
State workshops and land nationalization only
to sweep them away as at that time impractic-
able. He then reviews existing " socialistic "
laws and suggests possible developments of
the Poor Law and of the Education Acts-
taking the form of Old Age Pensions, Labour
Colonies, Adequate Free Medical Relief, a
Complete System of Free Education, Public
Libraries, Public Baths, Public Gardens, Healthy
Homes, Public Playing-fields, the Church on a
democratic basis.

But all this will cost much money ; the rate-
payers would not stand it. He wrote :

I agree that the present ratepayers could not pay
heavier rates. There must be other means of raising
the money, such as graduated taxation, a new assess-
ment of the land tax, abolition of sinecures and waste
in every public office and (in the case of London)
the release of the wealth locked up in the endowed
Charities. . . . When it is clearly seen that wealth may
provide some of the means by which our fellow countr


Note by the Editor

men may be saved from dreariness and sickness if not
from sin, then the difficulty as to the way in which the
money may be raised will not long hinder action. . . .
Here are men and women. Are they what they might
be ? Are they like the Son of Man ? How can
they be helped to reach the standard of their manhood ?
That is the question of the day.

In later writings Canon Barnett expanded
these suggestions as they were tested by ex-
periment. For instance, on the training of the
unemployed in Labour Colonies, he expended
some of his best thought and effort. He lived
to see adopted many of the measures which
were only suggestions in 1883. But he realized
that to complete the Social Reform at which
he aimed there must be a very different dis-
tribution of the profits of industry from the
existing system by which one-third of the
entire income of the United Kingdom is enjoyed
by less than one-thirtieth of the people. This
redistribution he demands in the interest of
the rich themselves as well as of the poor.
In an article published in 1911 he writes :

It may be that it is neither to the advantage of the
owner nor of the community that one man should
possess more wealth than he can use for his enjoyment,
or personally direct for the development of the common
happiness. . . . Perhaps, therefore, the existence of


Perils of Wealth and Poverty

millionaires points to something wrong in the con-
stitution of society and should be made impossible
or illegal.

Canon Barnett's deepest interest was always
in religion, and his final indictment of poverty
was that it hindered religion :

It seems a hard thing, but I believe that it is on the
line of truth, to say that the dock labourer cannot
live the life of Christ ; he may by loving and trusting,
live a higher life than that lived by many rich men,
but he cannot live the highest life possible to men of
his time. To live the life of Christ is to make manifest
the truth and to enjoy the beauty of God. The
labourer who knows nothing of the law of life which
has been revealed by the discoveries of science, who
knows nothing which, by admiration, can lift him out
of himself, cannot live the highest life of his day, as
Christ lived the highest life of His day.

With these convictions Canon Barnett felt
bound to keep bringing the facts of poverty
before the public. As the results of later
investigations became available, they fully con-
firmed his own experience. The question still
remained how the reforms to which they pointed
were to be attained. On this point he himself
saw clearly, and never doubted that, however
powerful might be considerations of public


Note by the Editor

spirit and of compassion, the only motive
that would supply sufficient driving force to
make the needed efforts and effect the needed
reforms, was a religious motive. He felt it to
be the duty of a Christian Minister to con-
template the problems in their eternal relation,
to learn their spiritual implications and then,
like the prophets of old, to preach them in
their religious aspect. He appealed therefore,
to the rich and the comfortable classes to
share their good things with the poor, and to
make the sacrifices needed to abolish the shame
and peril of poverty, not only from policy or
from pity or from fear, but as a duty required
by God.

Thus his life can be said to have been
spent in efforts to overcome the evil of social
conditions which kept back the poor from
worshipping the God of their fathers.



PREFACE ...... 5

NOTE BY THE EDITOR . . . . -13


Scope of book Not for experts But for busy persons of
goodwill Poverty, the great fact of modern life Its causes
Legislation, industrial system, Poor Law Drink, luxury,
charity Its effects On national health, morality, policy
Remedies Education, mutual aid, religion


Great poverty alongside great wealth Tramps and deer
parks Bond Street and Salvation Army shelters Examples
of poverty, widows, unskilled labourers The poor not good
witnesses Philanthropists and writers too sentimental or
sensational H. W. Nevinson an exception Autobiography
of a working woman Statistics of poverty from Riches and
Poverty The rich a small minority One-third of national
income enjoyed by one-thirtieth of population Two-thirds
of accumulated wealth in the hands of one -seventieth
Poverty the lot of the majority


Perils of Wealth and Poverty




Poverty not recognized as a national peril like war or
revolution Modern poverty unlike mediaeval, the enemy of
growth of body and mind Poverty of the English people a
hindrance of such growth Examples Effects of poverty,
ignorance, destitution, physical deterioration, weakness of
government, class antagonism The nation in peril because
of poverty


The charity of the heart and the charity of almsgiving
Doles Societies Institutions Charity ^no remedy for
poverty Bad effect of charity on poor, self-help weakened,
ill-will increased On rich, self-complacency promoted,
justice obscured, philanthropy a hobby, the poor as pets
Attempted reforms, but continued failure The future of
charity, as a pioneer, as co-operating with official action, as
supplying the human touch


Increase of income the true remedy for poverty Redistribu-
tion of national income necessary Objection to one
suggested remedy, Tariff Reform Is private property
sacred? What law has made, law can modify Objection
to another suggested remedy, Socialism What law has
already done Old age pensions National health insurance
Two directions where law might act at once Public
health and education



Good health a remedy of poverty Poverty and disease-



Cleanliness and health "Hot water, cold water"
Cleanliness difficult and expensive What law has done,
pure water, smoke prevention, air space, sanitation What
law could do, easy cleanliness, feeding of children, medical
care, sanatoria, convalescent homes, more money for health
\/ Wealth wasted on non-essentials made available to
combat ill-health



Education a remedy of poverty and a necessity of free
democracy Freedom impossible without education Igno-
rance the foe of progress, a danger to the State Freedom
before reform, and education before freedom What law
cannot do What law can do Provision of buildings
Adequate training and salaries for teachers Smaller classes
Longer school life Maintenance of scholars "Educa-
tional Highway " Lord Haldane on national system of
education, "as essential as a Navy" More money for
education Niggardliness fatal


Taxes unpopular Evasion practised and excused Objec-
tions to taxes as crippling national growth As wasted by
officials As a tyrannous exaction " I will not be made to
give" Objections now obsolete Taxes not necessarily
crippling to national growth Waste stopped by vigilance
The general will better than the individual anti-social will
Possibility of law by means of taxes to remedy Poverty,
Disease, Ignorance Coward and shirker unpopular
Sorrowful because of their possessions " God loveth a
cheerful taxpayer "

Perils of Wealth and


Scope of book Not for experts But for busy persons of
goodwill Poverty, the great fact of modern life Its
causes Legislation, industrial system, Poor Law
Drink, luxury, charity Its effects On national health,
morality, policy Remedies Education, mutual aid,

little book is not written for experts,
or officials, or students, or visitors among
the poor. It is written for the use of the
thousands of busy men and women who have
little time for the study of problems and little
money to give away. They are good citizens,
valuable to the community for their hard and
regular service, the backbone of the electorate,
and the people on whom the nation depends
for the fulfilment of its call. They are not



Perils of Wealth and Poverty

talkers, but they have, I believe, the national
sense, and would, if they could see their way,
take some pains to secure the common welfare.
Poverty affects the common welfare and if it
is not wisely dealt with, wealth is in vain.
The aim of this book, therefore, is to direct
thought to the subject, so that without ceasing
to be busy, the readers, by their talk, their
votes, and their acts, may work together to
decrease poverty.

I have set myself to show that poverty is
the great fact in modern society. People
impressed by the pageant of wealth at the
Coronation, reading the figures of trade, and
seeing the riches of respectable streets may
doubt the fact. I have called in evidence
the reports of undoubted witnesses and quoted
statistics which cannot lie. I have then gone
on to consider some of the causes which in
the midst of such wealth, have developed such
a sore. The causes are many. Some of the
conditions have been brought about by the
legislation which has established our industrial
system, with its influential propertied and
capitalist classes ; some by the Poor Law,
which has developed destructive rather than
constructive elements ; others by the drink



traffic, which has endowed a trade whose
interest it is to make a profit out of human

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