the poor don’t need your pity

…But John Galsworthy’s concern with the suffering of others was occasioned more by the pain knowledge of it gave him than by the pain experience of it gave them: It was the sensitive liberal’s position in succinct form.But once awakened in Galsworthy, this concern became altogether too powerful. It made, as it always does, for sentimentality as a cushion to protect from the harsher truths of the world whose insularity propagated a bacteria known as pity.

---Thomas Benjamin Kennington. The Pinch of Poverty 1891. Read More:

And pity, a form of self-indulgence , is an artistic enemy. Even at the turn of the century not all the poor were totally miserable all the time. Henry Mayhews social studies showed a rich variety of life, culture and entertainment of a subculture which mitigated the sufferings of destitution. But, one would never suppose otherwise on the strength of Galsworthy’s writings. Joseph Conrad even suggested that Galsworthy got a sadistic pleasure from depicting the daily travails of the weak and unfortunate.

----Although the quality of Mulready's works as paintings leaves much to be desired, they are important social documents. As art reviewer Keith Roberts has noted, "Children could be used to publicize the iniquities of the social justice system without seeming to attack the social structure; reform might well be achieved by appeals to the conscience through sentiment rather than by reasoned argument and criticism of an overtly political character." This was an approach that Charles Dickens knew well and deployed to devastating effect in his novels.--- Read More:

Galsworthy himself knew all this perfectly well. He warned others against it. “Pity is tripe” , he made one of his characters kep repeating to himself. But it was no good; in art as in life he remained a helpless victim of the soft touch. He was also, though, a genuinely generous man, ready and eager to lay out his money in a good cause even if it had no vestige of sentimental appeal. He is said to have made a point on living on only half his admittedly ample income and of giving away the rest. But, perhaps that was a sentimental gesture as well; or a kind of expiation for the source of the tainted money that he collected from the slums for his father.

Gustave Dore. Opium Den. 1872.---In contrast to Bentham’s desire to facilitate marriage and marital sex in his poor houses, Mill’s concern about breeding a new class of paupers led him to support the strict separation of the sexes in workhouses under the new poor law: 127 Ibid., CW ii, pp. 351–4. 128 See Principles of Political Economy (CW), ii, pp. 346, 351. 129 See “The Claims of Labour”, CW iv, p. 375. The higher and middle classes might and ought to be willing to submit to a very considerable sacrifice of their own means, for improving the condition of the existing generation of labourers, if by this they could hope to provide similar advantages for the generation to come. But why should they be called upon to make these sacrifices, merely that the country may contain a greater number of people, in as great poverty and as great liability to destitution as now?--- Read More: image:

Galsworthy’s first wife was the wife of his cousin Arthur. She hooked Arthur after a husband trawling tour of Europe which relieved her of the sordid rounds of luxury bargain hunting. A story was cooked up of mild Arthur as a drunk and brute and when Ada and John met at the annual cricket match between Eton and Harrow he probably saw her with new eyes. Pity, this time, was indeed akin to love. Intense sexual passion, Galsworthy led us to suppose, flared up between them and six months later, after much painful restraint, they became lovers. But more importantly, she pushed him to write.

Andrew Graham Dixon:Hicks’ most ambitious attempt at a social panorama, the picture was first exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition of 1860. According to a report by ‘Jack Easel’, in Punch, it attracted a huge number of admirers. “The crush represented in Mr HICKS’s picture gives only a faint idea of the crowd around it. The glimpses which you catch of it, between hats, over shoulders, and under arms, only increase the reality of the scene.” The “scene” is the Grand Public Hall at the front of St-Martin’s-le-grand Post Office, an impressive neoclassical edifice designed by Robert Smirke (who also designed the British Museum) and subsequently demolished in the early years of the twentieth century. The time is, as the artist’s subtitle indicates, 17.59. By 1860, the year when Hicks exhibited his picture, the daily rush to catch the last post at London’s largest Post Office – “the centre of that immense ramification through which circulates to all parts the private and commercial intercourse of nearly half the world,” as it was described in a leader in Times – had acquired legendary status. It was seen as a true modern phenomenon, a living symbol not just of the rapid spread of communication but of the accelerating pace of life throughout Victorian Britain. Read More:

Even when the blissful period of husband Arthur’s absence at the Boer War was coming to a close with his return and she positively left him, neither they nor John did anything about getting a divorce. It seems impossible to avoid the miserable conclusion that these two men, one forty the other thirty-four, were unwilling to hazard their allowances and possibly their inheritances should their fathers turn ugly. Right or wrong, Galsworthy was willing to play the game according to the family rules. If he had not been, he would never have become a writer since he wrote and published for ten years before making a dime from his work.

James Collinson. Bleeding the Freshman---For a secular utilitarian, the obvious alternative to moral restraint was contraception, and Mill was certainly associated with Francis Place in his campaign in the 1820’s to advocate the practice, and to publicize a means for its achievement. Mill himself had pseudonymously written three articles arguing in favour of birth control, and was briefly arrested for involvement in distributing handbills providing practical instruction....Another option was for the state to assume responsibility for supplying employment to all in return for legal restraint on procreation. The young Mill had, like Malthus, opposed such restraint: ‘I am far from wishing to regulate population by law, or by compulsion in any shape.’135 For the mature Mill however, legal restraint was a legitimate option...Read More: image:

Galsworthy tried to escape from his clubman’s image by impersonating, in his picaresque satirical novel, The Island Pharisees, a young Belgian beatnik he had met, an embittered wanderer never at a loss for a gibe at he establishment. It was no good; he kept the offbeat character but made the central figure a young man like himself. The latter was a mouthpiece, certainly, for an all out attack on the ugliness of the big cities, the horror of the slums from w

his own family drew much of its money, the willful blindness, the sexual hypocrisy, he found everywhere; but he was also irredeemably locked in the comfortable world of gentleman’s clubs, grand town mansions, and spacious, tranquil country houses blandly belonging to that upper-middle-class society that was so cruelly confining, then shunning, his Ada.


The myth that Jeremy Bentham ‘proposed birth control measures as a means of reducing pauperism and the poor rates’ in 1797, the year before the publication of Thomas Malthus’ famous Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), has proved strangely enduring. It is now more than 40 years since J.R. Poynter explained that the ‘evidence’ for this early advocacy rests upon a misreading of Bentham’s essay ‘Situation and Relief of the Poor’, published in Arthur Young’s Annals of Agriculture. Yet the claim has been made many times more since Poynter’s rebuttal, and has been repeated within the past three years in the pages of both The Lancet and The Journal of Legal History. To understand the endurance of the myth it is helpful to explain how it came to be believed in the first place. This is a story that relates to the American eugenics movement of the 1920s and 1930s, and features cameos by one of the main inspirations of the Chicago School of Economics, Jacob Viner (1892- 1970), and his principal animus, John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946).Read More:
For Mill, ignorance of the principle of population among the poor served the interests of the ruling class by provoking cut-throat competition among labourers, bidding down wages and extending working hours. Consequently, the poor were too exhausted to learn, and so trapped in a cycle of ignorance and exhaustion: “Education is not compatible with extreme poverty. It is impossible effectually to teach an indigent population”, while the poor were disqualified from “any but a low grade of intelligent labour.” Typically, Mill’s insistence was that what the poor required was honest, unpatronizing information, which facilitated their independence: “Whatever advice, exhortation, or guidance is held out to the labouring classes, must henceforth be tendered to them as equals, and accepted by them with their eyes open.” Read More:

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