Fraud or Fool? An Open Letter to the Bishop of London

My Lord Bishop,—The Press reports you as saying recently, at a meeting convened by the State Children’s Association, that “Any boy now being taught in their Poor Law Institutions might sit on the throne of the Archbishop of Canterbury, if he had the brains and power.”

The most charitable construction that can be put upon this startling announcement is that you lack information, and since you are in a position which could readily enable you to obtain such information, you are a fool. As you should have learnt from one of your own textbooks, “A fool despises instruction.”

The inability to definitely posit you as fraud or fool by no means demonstrates that you are neither. In the hazy atmosphere compounded of episcopal mendacity and aristocratic thickheadedness which represents your mental equipment, your public utterances loom up tinged with varying proportions of the murky ingredients which gave them being.

The moral kink treads hard upon the intellectual twist. Folly and Falsehood were ever twin monsters of one brood.

I will not press you to give your definition of the word “power.” The habit you have fallen into of using sounding phrases which may haply disguise insincerity of heart, and clearness of mind, precludes you from giving precision to terms which cry aloud for such treatment at your mouth—”blind mouth,” Milton would have said. Your formal adherence to creeds and doctrines which you dare not examine, your futile juggling with the metaphysical niceties of an outworn creed, your £10,000 a year, are a bar, an ever increasing barrier, between yourself and intellectual candour.

What of your Ordination Oath, when one of your own clergy brazenly proclaims the prostitution of his office and of his intellect ”in his own pulpit at St. Margaret’s Church,” by declaring he mouths “formularies to which, as an individual, he cannot ex animo subscribe” ?

“Power”! Your statement with regard to the word in question simply means that “Any boy now being taught in their Poor Law Institutions might sit on the throne of the Archbishop of Canterbury if he could manage to do the trick.” “Any boy can punch his neighbour in the eye if he can.” “What will happen will happen.” 0=0. Startling conclusion ! Cerebation extraordinary—which brings me to the question of


I understand from your utterance that you hold intellect to be one of the main necessities for success in life. That is a fair inference from your statement. You give adhesion to the taradiddle which declares to the French youth that every private carries in his knapsack the baton of a marshall ; you hold that the humblest clerk in the Admiralty, by strict attention to duty, may one day “become a ruler of the King’s navee”—inferentially that your exalted position is owing partly to an extra dose of grey matter.

A bitter fool !

I wonder what the assembled company in Park Lane thought. Did none wince at that nonsensical nullity of yours concerning “power”? I know naught of Lady Buxton, eke of Lady Courtney, but Mrs. Barnett ? The good lady who so severely takes the servant girl to task for her lack of coherent thinking, who has deplored the lack of “light” among the class which she vainly endeavours to sugar ! And the “secondary and elementary school teachers” present ! Peradventure, the secondaries and elementaries were at Park Lane on strict business bent. “Les affaires sont les affaires, n’est’ce pas.” If the question is not personal, did the presence of those same purveyors of specially doctored capitalist lore afflict you with a sort of sympathetic itching ? On the grounds of a common humanity, sharply and inevitably opposed as you and I must be, my Lord Bishop, on the political field, I sympathise with you for any discomfort you may have felt in the direction indicated. The creepiness of the “secondary” and “elementary” is of so loathsome a nature that a bishop should be spared that infliction.

Perpaps a quotation from Ruskin may help you to grasp my view-point on the question of Success and Brains. The Socialist Party of Great Britain does not swear by Ruskin. It occasionally, perforce, swears at him. But, at any rate, he did see certain isolated facts clearly, if he failed to correlate them, and made a kaleidoscopic colour smudge of what was intended to be an ordered harmony. “In a community regulated only by laws of supply and demand” successful persons are “industrious, resolute, proud, covetous, prompt, methodical, unimaginative, and ignorant.” Not much room for brains here. Per contra, “the persons who remain poor are the entirely foolish, the entirely wise, the entirely merciful, just and godly person.” Eh ! Ruskin wasn’t orthodox ? You repudiate him as witness ? My Lord of London, Right Reverend Father in God, bland participator in the profits distilled from the life’s blood of the workingman, reeking with the shame of the unsexed working woman, bloody with the agony-drops of children,—will ye accept the ruling of the phantom figure which you and yours have exploited in your own interest for so long, and whom you have solemnly declared to represent the highest attainable wisdom ? You are never tired of telling us the “His Life” was the highest teaching, irrespective of precept. So. And yet your Incarnation of Highest Truth, your Very-God-of-Very-God-Man made a sorry hash of his life, reproaching the Unbegotten-Very-God-of-Very-God in his dying agony. I beg pardon. You say, ha ! He attained the highest success. M’yes, but that was not the kind of success you contemplated when beaming on the Park Lane assembly. The archbishop’s throne, the bishop’s chair, have not, of recent years, been associated with martyrdom. What you indicated was, that the poor little worker’s kiddy stood an excellent chance of collaring the £15,000 a year attached to the “throne” of Augustine’s successor.

A word in conclusion. Your cant and rant have no longer much weight with the class that has worked religion for all it is worth, in the only way that it could be worked, viz., for the befooling and undoing of the worker. But you need not therefore despair. If your class has its philosophic doubters, its ethical philanders, its Cheynes and its Hensons, there are still the


there are still the “Socialist” bleaters who find such solace in a quiet hour on their knees that they become permanently afflicted with housemaid’s knee on the brain, meek firebrands, valiant worms, revolutionary P.S.A’ers, to whom you may still address your pagan patter and mushy moralising. A tip, my Lord. Next time you address a gathering on a similar subject, why not invite a few of the meek-eyed crowd herein indicated ? That you may bore each other to mutual damnation is the final wish of


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