Charles Kingsley, Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet

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From that time, all fear of serious danger passed away. The Chartists were completely discouraged, and their leaders in prison; and the upper and middle classes were recovering rapidly from the alarm which had converted a million of them into special constables, and were beginning to doubt whether the crisis had been so serious after all, whether the disaffection had ever been more than skin deep. At this juncture a series of articles appeared in the Morning Chronicle on "London Labour and the London Poor," which startled the well-to-do classes out of their jubilant and scornful attitude, and disclosed a state of things which made all fair minded people wonder, not that there had been violent speaking and some rioting, but that the metropolis had escaped the scenes which had lately been enacted in Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and other Continental capitals.

It is only by an effort that one can now realize the strain to which the nation was subjected during that winter and spring, and which, of course, tried every individual man also, according to the depth and earnestness of his political and social convictions and sympathies. The group of men who were working under Mr. Maurice were no exceptions to the rule. The work of teaching and visiting was not indeed neglected, but the larger questions which were being so strenuously mooted—the points of the people's charter, the right of public meeting, the attitude of the labouring-class to the other classes—absorbed more and more of their attention. Kingsley was very deeply impressed with the gravity and danger of the crisis—more so, I think, than almost any of his friends; probably because, as a country parson, he was more directly in contact with one class of the poor than any of them. How deeply he felt for the agricultural poor, how faithfully he reflected the passionate and restless sadness of the time, may be read in the pages of "Yeast," which was then coming out in "Fraser." As the winter months went on this sadness increased, and seriously affected his health.

"I have a longing," he wrote to Mr. Ludlow, "to do something—what, God only knows. You say, 'he that believeth will not make haste,' but I think he that believeth must make haste, or get damned with the rest. But I will do anything that anybody likes—I have no confidence in myself or in anything but God. I am not great enough for such times, alas! 'nè pour faire des vers,' as Camille Desmoulins said."

This longing became so strong as the crisis in April approached, that he came to London to see what could be done, and to get help from Mr. Maurice, and those whom he had been used to meet at his house. He found them a divided body. The majority were sworn in as special constables, and several had openly sided with the Chartists; while he himself, with Mr. Maurice and Mr. Ludlow, were unable to take active part with either side. The following extract from a letter to his wife, written on the 9th of April, shows how he was employed during these days, and how he found the work which he was in search of, the first result of which was the publication of "those 'Politics for the People' which made no small noise in their times"—

"April 11th, 1848.—The events of a week have been crowded into a few hours. I was up till four this morning—writing posting placards, under Maurice's auspices, one of which is to be got out to-morrow morning, the rest when we can get money. Could you not beg a few sovereigns somewhere to help these poor wretches to the truest alms?—to words, texts from the Psalms, anything which may keep even one man from cutting his brother's throat to-morrow or Friday? Pray, pray, help us. Maurice has given me a highest proof of confidence. He has taken me to counsel, and we are to have meetings for prayer and study, when I come up to London, and we are to bring out a new set of real "Tracts for the Times," addressed to the higher orders. Maurice is à la hauteur des circonstances—determined to make a decisive move. He says, if the Oxford Tracts did wonders, why should not we? Pray for us. A glorious future is opening, and both Maurice and Ludlow seem to have driven away all my doubts and sorrow, and I see the blue sky again, and my Father's face!"

The arrangements for the publication of "Politics for the People" were soon made; and in one of the earliest numbers, for May, 1848, appeared the paper which furnishes what ground there is for the statement, already quoted, that "he declared, in burning language, that the People's Charter did not go far enough" It was No. 1 of "Parson Lot's Letters to the Chartists." Let us read it with its context.