Moncure Daniel Conway.

Autobiography, memories and experiences online

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led me to the perception that between the brothers there was a
moral resemblance so dose that one might be regarded as a sort
of inversion of the other.

In my long experience, which has been in various countries,
I have never known a man more absorbed in moral and benevo-
lent work than Professor Newman. The self-devotion that his
brother gave to a church, Francis gave to humanity. Without
belief in any reward after death, he espoused the unpopular
reforms of his time with an almost ascetic zeal. He never entered
a theatre, abhorred wine and tobacco, had no dub, played no
games, avoided fashionable dinners, though his presence and
manners would have made him wdcome in the finest society.
These apparent " sacrifices " — made not for future reward nor
even to please God — ^were not real sacrifices at all. With a
natural fondness for sport, he had so taken the suffering of the
oppressed world into his heart that the so-called gaieties of life
oppressed him. Like King David, who refused water from the
well of Bethlehem because men had risked thdr lives in obtaining
it, the artificial " pleasures " of Ufe had appeared to him blood-
stained, and his thirst for them died. He once told me of some-
thing he heard from his brother in defence of persecution ; at
that moment I was afraid to broach to himself two subjects of

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moral importance : he carried his prohibition doctrine and his
opposition to the medical supervision of prostitution to the verge
of intolerance. My phase of Necessitarianism — to which his
own theism temporarily led me — seemed to him to affect moral
responsibihty so grievously that he was cool to me until I got
through with it ; but I was then afraid to tell him that my escape
was by giving up beUef in a dynamic deity. I once reproached
him — as omr long friendship permitted — for imdervaluing the
flowers and the ornamental side of life. But he said, " I have
within me such a fimd of amusement that I cannot be dull on
the dullest day or with the dullest surrounding. If shut up in a
wretched inn or station room on a wet summer's day, and I
have but a bit of paper and pencil, I am quite happy in some
mathematical problem, if nothing more important is at hand to
occupy me."

And those two brothers, John Henry and Francis William
Newman, were the sons of an old follower of Thomas Paine !

Professor Newman was deeply interested in all questions
related to women, and gave me a note of introduction to a young
lady of education and means endeavouring to become a physician.
This was Miss Garrett, afterwards widely known as Dr. EUzabeth
Garrett Anderson. Having failed in every attempt to enter any
of the medical colleges or the hospitals, but finding that the law
could not prevent her from entering the profession if she had
attended a certain nimiber of lectures, she was fulfilling the hard
conditions. Travelling for some miles into the thickest part of
the city to Lock Hospital, I found her occupying a room in the
old gate — anciently the porter's lodge. Miss Garrett came to the
door herself, and was apparently the only occupant of the Gate.
She was about twenty-one, pretty, with clear and kindly grey
eyes — a person one would expect to see whirling in a dance in
Belgravia. But here she was far away in poor and lowly White-
chapel ; in her hand not a dainty fan but a dissecting knife,
and on her table — ^horror ! — a severed human arm.

As she told me the story of her effort to obtain medical
knowledge, she was a more poetic figure than Mariana at her
moated grange. Happily the instructors in the hospital thought
so too ; although it was as inconsistent with professional regula-
tions as with Miss Garrett's self-respect to instruct gratuitously.

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they took pains with her teaching. Sitting there alone, she
listened to medical lectures and paid her fees — in fact, had es-
tablished a medical college, of which she was the only student.
This was all done without any air of mart5nrdom or of pride. She
entered on her medical practice in London without encountering
hostility from medical men, mingled in the best society, and proved
to the sceptical that a lady could be at once a successful prac-
titioner and a happy wife and mother.

Several ladies of the Garrett family contributed to the enlarge-
ment of woman's sphere in London in practical ways. A sister
of EUzabeth Garrett became the wife of Professor Fawcett, M.P.,
and was an able exponent of the legal and ethical aspects of
such matters. Mrs. Fawcett generally headed delegations of
women to the government. A younger sister, Agnes, and her
cousin Rhoda Garrett, joined together to become house decorators.
They were attractive young ladies. They told me their adventures
in trjdng to obtain training in their art. They went to the chief
firm in London, whose manager was inclined to make fun of their
proposal to become apprentices. Finding them skilful as de-
signers, he said that if they were not women he could give them
positions as subordinate directors in certain kinds of work. " But,
he said, " young women couldn't get along with workmen. How
could you swear at them ? And think of nice ladies running up
ladders ! " One of them said, " As for swearing at the workmen,
they would not need that if it were ladies who made requests ;
and, as for the ladders, bring one here and see whether we can
chmb it or not ! " The manager foxmd some work for them,
and in a year or two they opened their own establishment in
Gower Street, and rose to success on the tide of enthusiasm for
house decoration.

At the beginning of the twentieth century it is difficult to
imagine the situation of women in 1864. At that time two
American ladies — Miss Sewall of Boston and Miss Helen Morton
of Pl3miouth — had found admission to the Salp6tri^re Hospital
in Paris ; but Englishmen awakened slowly to the fact that their
whole duty to woman was not fulfilled in having a queen. The
late Lord Coleridge used to come to the gatherings of women, and
I remember his demonstration of the intolerable mediaevalism
surviving in English laws relating to women. Since then the

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advance in the position of woman appears to me almost the only
progress made in civilisation. And although during most of
those years I clamoured with women for their political enfranchise-
ment, I believe that it was largely due to their helpless dependence
on the absolutism of men that the outrageous laws were removed
— through very shame.


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Online LibraryMoncure Daniel ConwayAutobiography, memories and experiences → online text (page 39 of 41)