This is essentially a scrap book, filled with newspaper cuttings, and fragments of handwritten letters and verse. I’ve ignored it in the past, partly because much of it is in, or about, Esperanto, of which I find a little goes quite a long way. However, inspired by my recent researches I’ve taken another look, and I see that there are actually some very interesting things there – interesting to me, at least.
Almost all the clippings have some family connection, although in some cases this has been rendered obscure by time. Why, for example, is there a piece from the Graaff-Reinet Advertiser of 26th March 1872, describing the poisoning of an entire family? I shudder to think. And what lies behind the cattiness of this anonymous letter?
The New Rector of St. Mary-at-Hill
Friday September 11, 1874
Sir,--I was extremely sorry to learn from your columns that the Rev. Arthur Trower had been selected by the Trustees of St. Mary-at-Hill for the important position of Rector of that parish, especially in the face of the very earnest and timely remonstrances of the parishioners. As Sir Henry Peek and one or two other true Churchmen are among the Trustees, I for one had hoped for better things, but I fear the result of the election must simply be regarded as confirming the old saying that “blood is thicker than water,” for I find that one of the Trustees bears the same name as the new Rector, and as the electing body is a small one, there can be little doubt that personal influence has gained the day.
Then there’s the account of the wedding of Miss G. C. E. Price to William Thomas Law, M.D., of the Brompton Hospital for Consumption and Diseases of the Chest on 20th October 1879. I don’t know who they were, though presumably there was some Butler connection – after all, the Butlers lived in Brompton Square at the time, and several were medics. Its main interest for me is the long list of all the wedding gifts, each attached to the name of the giver. Was this common practice? What an incentive to generosity! This is just a very small excerpt (I feel sorry for the woman who could afford nothing more than an antimacassar)...
Amidst the rest, I was pleased to see a letter from Thomas’s father (also Thomas), defending the cause of lady doctors such as his daughter Fanny. On March 16th 1880 he joined The Standard in condemning a hospital for refusing to appoint the best qualified doctor for a post, on the grounds that he was “married to a lady doctor”.
The ungenerousness and ungallantry of objecting to elect Dr. Sturgess as Senior Assistant Physician to the National Hospital on account of his being married to a lady doctor is obvious, and shines out in the more glaring colours from the fact that the Hospital owes its very existence to the unselfish, long-continued, and indomitable exertions of a lady—Miss Johanna Chandler—whose noble efforts, when they became known through the advocacy of the late Mr. Alderman Wire, were promptly seconded by the Baroness Burdett-Coutts, and, later, were, largely by the labours of women, carried into practical effect.
The book contains quite a lot of material relating to great-grandfather Thomas’s eldest brother, George W. Butler (b.1838), a cleric and, it turns out, Principal of the “Operative Jewish Converts Association” – which was, I think, more a society to find work for converts than an actively proselytizing body, though I’m not certain. George was fiercely anti-Rome, and author of pamphlets such as Who Hath Bewitched You? (1874), addressed to his fellow Evangelical clergy, whom he sees as in danger of being submerged in the excesses of neo-Gothic ritualism and the wash of the Oxford Movement. The whole pamphlet is pasted into my book, and it gives quite an insight into recent changes in church architecture, liturgy, dress, and so on. Here are few tasters from from George’s lengthy menu of popish plots:
The communion table is raised upon a stone platform approached by steps, and instead of standing upon bona fide legs like other tables, is often boarded up like a box. We dare not assert that these changes are intended to give the notion of an altar, because we should be contradicting the comforting assurance of a recent Episcopal declaration on the subject...
The sober cheerfulness of the better class of the churches of our childhood has given place to a tawdry mediaevalism. The walls are decorated with trumpery metal scrolls inscribed with text of Scripture in semi-hieroglyphic characters, the very reverse of those which a common-sense tradesman would choose wherewith to advertise his wares. These are emblazoned in gaudy colours more suited for a show at a market-place thatn for GOD’s house. Winged angels show their heads and shoulders at various corners. The comely chandeliers with their ground-glass globes are replaced by a corona lucis of brick-red relieved with light blue colour, with trefoil and passion-flowers of iron work. This stands in the chancel; while blinding naked gas-lights with triple jets glare at “evensong” in all the aisles. Signs and symbols, triangles, monograms, and fleurs-de lis, (and, if it be Easter-tide or Christmas, wreaths of evergreen and bouquets) are seen from end to end. The sign of the cross is ubiquitous. Outside—on the steeple, on the gables, in the churchyards, on the very gutter pipes it is conspicuous; Inside—on the walls, on the tessellated pavement, on the bench-ends, in all the fittings down to the very nail-heads on the doors, it constantly reappears. Every penny dropped into the alms-box must be sanctified by passing through a cruciform aperture...
First, there is the habit of intoning. It is usual now for the organist to give the reader the note on which he is to lead the congregation in confessing their sins, and offering their petitions before GOD. Even the sacred words of the Lord’s Prayer are treated in the same fashion. At the close of the paragraph the organ again chimes in, and the melancholy whine is raised into a howl in the final “A—MEN!” All through the service this doleful “A—MEN!” is heard at the close of every prayer; and, as if that were not enough it is now appended even to the hymns, in order to give them a more liturgical effect.
Looking at these books, I’ve been stalked by the feeling that whatever the Butlers’ other accomplishments, they didn’t have much of a sense of humour. Such jokes as there are are feeble and sickly, and I can only agree with Thomas’s Aunt Fanny (F.F.M. Christie), that in the case of this family at least prudish reticence has its value:
“What is the value of a silly jest?”
“Not half the breath that uttered it, at best;
And therefore, it had better be supprest.”
But the Rev. George of anti-Rome fame, Fanny’s nephew, far outdid her, and took the whole of fiction for his battleground, declaring in an extraordinary mixture of Plato and Mr Gradgrind that
Fiction is wrong in principle, and mischievous in operation, both mentally and spiritually... It creates a distaste for all that is worth reading. Fiction is a presumptuous forging of the hand of God in providence. There is no place for God in the fiction. Fiction trains the mind to see, and not to believe;-- to neglect the tokens of truth, and thus to fail to perceive the power of Scripture History. Fiction trains the heart to hear, and not to feel. Fiction, the parent of Infidelity, Worldliness, Hardness of Heart, and False Doctrine.
This is at the end of a flyer with a printed poem entitled “Fiction”, which ends with the stirring exhortation:
Oh! Clear away this heap of fancies
That cumbers and corrupts our youth:
Tales, fairy stories, and romances;
And let us only “buy the truth.”
The purpose of this flyer (price 3s per 100, or a dozen for 6d) was to encourage fellow Christians to join with George in founding a “Truthful Literature Society”. Whether this ever got off the ground I don’t know, but he certainly published a lengthier pamphlet called “Is it True?”, expanding on his theme. A flavour is given in the review from the West Middlesex Advertiser, October 16th, 1869:
“Is it True?” A protest against the employment of fiction as a channel of Christian influence, by the Rev. George W. Butler
We would call our readers’ most careful attention to the above mentioned pamphlet, advertised in our columns of to-day. The writer is one who has evidently bestowed much thought upon this subject. Indeed, the tide of fiction which is so rapidly encroaching upon all departments of literature, threatening with its constant flow to engulph the domains of solid fact, and even to swallow up the most prominent land marks of truth, demands the consideration of all. Are we to suffer, or shall we withstand this flood of figment? When magazines, with but few exceptions, even those of the other wise purest literary tone, possess their one or two romances; when the novel is the constant companion of the railway traveller, and the perusal of fiction is with many the chief occupation of their leisure moments, whether at home or abroad, it becomes a matter of moment to consider whether fiction can be legitimately or beneficially employed as a means of instruction, or even of education.
The additions that are continually being made to the literature of all branches of knowledge, renders it imperative that every statement advanced as fact should be subjected to the most rigorous criticism. By the constant weeding out of falsities only is it that realities can take root within the mind. Each year brings a phalanx of facts, that demands the powers of the whole mind to master; and these again, carry in their rear a crowd of attendant theories that require the utmost effort of the imagination to reduce to orderly submission. If the tracks of truth be unsearchable in their extent, how can we explore the fields of fiction.
But it is to fiction under its gravest, that is, its religious aspect, that our author directs especial attention. He first shows the effect and the nature of fictitious writings, and then proceeds to explain the distinction between the parable, so much used in the Bible, and the mere religious romance. He shows, moreover, the culpability of the fiction-writer in that he is tampering with the universal providence of god; and reminds his reader that in listening to the inventions of his author, he may unintentionally be listening to the craft of him that—
“was the first
That practised falsehood under saintly guise;
and further points out the presumption of those who make the Almighty Himself play a part in the story. But time will not permit us to enter upon any discussion of Mr. Butler’s arguments and conclusions, but we would recommend our readers to peruse and judge for themselves.
Personally, I think I've read enough.
Both my grandfather Montagu and his brother Guido were conscientious objectors in the Great War. I’ve known that for ever, but I wasn’t sure how hard a time they’d been given by the authorities for it, so I was pleased to find this account of Guido’s tribunal hearing, from The Surrey Comet, March 11, 1916:
Hearing of Further Claims for Exemption
Conscience Men and the War
Mr G. W. Butler, age 30, of Penrhyn road, one of the senior clerks in a large firm of chartered accountants in London, claimed exemption, his chief ground being that he was a Christian, and believed that, the teaching of Jesus Christ was opposed to all warfare, and if he engaged in any form of military service he should be guilty of disloyalty to his Saviour. He had also been a strict vegetarian for 12 years, and the sudden change to a flesh diet might injuriously affect his health. He also considered that his work as a chartered accountant was of national importance.
A letter was read from the firm, stating that it was of national importance that he should follow his professional vocation rather than serve in the Army. A letter from the applicant’s father, who is a clergyman of the Church of England, certified that his son had held his views conscientiously for many years.
Applicant said... he had held his present views since he was 16, and since then they had been strengthened by reading the works of Tolstoy.
... The Mayor asked him if he had ever thought what would happen if the Germans came. Applicant replied that when Christ was before Pilate, the latter said he had power to kill Him, but Christ told Pilate that he would have no power at all unless it were given him by God. On the same lines he should say that the Germans would have no power to do any harm to him or his friends without the permission—he did not say the approbation—of God.
The Mayor: You know what they did at Louvain, don’t you?—Certainly, but undoubtedly God could have prevented it.
Well, we may marvel at the line you take, Mr Butler, but we don’t question your bona fides.
Applicant was exempted from combatant service.