Sunday, January 22, 2023

Emily Hobhouse: A Cornish humanitarian

Looking for an account of the meeting against the Boer War that Arthur Quiller-Couch chaired at Liskeard in 1899, I came across this tribute to one of the speakers, Emily Hobhouse.

It comes from the Western Morning News for Friday 11 June 1926, when she had just died at the age of 66. It's more about her male relatives than Emily, but it's a start as an introduction to someone I want to know much more about. (John Hall's book, whose cover I've used as an illustration here, looks the place to go for that.)

A Cornish Humanitarian

Opinions differ still as to whether the humanitarian zeal of Miss Emily Hobhouse always found the wisest outlet, but the noble motives this distinguished Cornish woman there are, so tar as I know, no two opinions. A great many people in London and elsewhere think of her as the Florence Nightingale of South Africa, and they will probably be present at Kensington Cemetery to-morrow when Miss Hobhouse's remains are laid to rest. 

Among them I should not be surprised to see Mr. Lloyd George, with whom many Cornishmen may remember Miss Houhouse spoke from the same platform at Liskeard in the 'nineties in connection with the South African War. The district was familiar to her, for it was at St. Ive near Liskeard that Miss Hobhouse was born. Her father, the Venerable Reginald Hobhouse, was then rector. He became afterwards Archdeacon of Bodmin. 

As the niece of Lord Hobhouse on her father's side and of Sir William Trelawney, for some time Radical member for East Cornwall, on her mother's, Miss Hobhouse was related to two Lord Byron's most intimate friends. Her work in the concentration camps South Africa was followed with sympathetic attention nobody more than her famous fellow-Cornishman, Leonard Courtney, then a commoner. 

Cornish settlers in Minnesota still remember gratefully, no doubt, the two years Miss Hobhouse spent in their settlement after the loss of her venerable father. Her brother, Professor Leonard Hobhocse, is probably Cornwall's most distinguished son the sphere of philosophical and sociological research. He is, of course, the author of the little book "Liberalism" the Home University Library.

Leonard Courtney, incidentally, became the 1st Baron Courtney of Penwith. He is described by Wikipedia as "an advocate of proportional representation in Parliament and acting as an opponent of imperialism and militarism".

He was MP for Liskeard between 1876 and 1885 as a Liberal, and then for Bodmin between 1885 and 1900. There, from 1886, he sat as a Liberal Unionist, but his radical views became an increasingly comfortable fit with that party.

He did not stand in Bodmin in 1900, and when he did stand for again in 1906 it was as a Edinburgh West. There he was defeated by a Liberal Unionist.

I'll look out for an account of that Liskeard meeting and for more on Emily Hobhouse. The more you know, the more there is to find out.

Later. A bit of googling has turned up a dramatic reconstruction of the Liskeard meeting and a South African film biography of Emily.

Later again. Despite what the contemporary report here says, Emily Hobhouse was cremated and her ashes were ensconced in a niche in the National Women's Monument at Bloemfontein.

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