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6 December 1984
TheDiary of Beatrice Webb. Vol. III: ‘The Power to Alter Things’ 
edited by Norman Mackenzie and Jeanne Mackenzie.
Virago, 445 pp., £20, October 1984, 0 86068 211 0
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Beatrice​ and Sidney WebbFabian Socialists 
by Lisanne Radice.
Macmillan, 350 pp., £20, June 1984, 0 333 36183 0
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... The third and final volume of the Webb diaries, which covers the period 1905 to 1924, is appropriately subtitled ‘The Power to Alter Things’. Hitherto Beatrice had been mainly the stay-at-home book-writer and social entertainer, while Sidney pursued his activities in the London County Council as well as in the London School of Economics which the Webbs had ...
7 November 1985
... over the country. Distribution of wealth, it was felt, would take care of itself by means of massive and inevitable economic growth, so we didn’t really have to think about it. The predictions of BeatriceWebb, to the effect that Britain would go down in trade and wealth, that there would be a brain drain to America (on whose military strength we would become dependent), that we had too high a ...


Barbara Wootton

1 December 1983
TheDiary of Beatrice Webb. Vol. II: All the Good Things in Life 
edited by Norman Mackenzie and Jeanne Mackenzie.
Virago, 376 pp., £18, October 1983, 0 86068 210 2
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... The final entry in Volume One of this diary, dated 23 July 1892, left Beatrice safely married to her Sidney, but lamenting that, according to current convention, as ‘Mrs Sidney Webb’ she would lose both her names. The next entry is dated 16 August and is divided between a brief reference to two delightful days of ‘real honeymoon in the Wicklow Hills’ and interviews with ...

I do and I don’t

Barbara Wootton

21 October 1982
TheDiary of Beatrice Webb. Vol. I 1873-1892: Glitter Around and Darkness Within 
edited by Norman Mackenzie and Jeanne Mackenzie.
Virago, 386 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 86068 209 9
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... Beatrice Potter was born in 1858 at Standish on the edge of the Cotswolds. Her father, Richard Potter, was a well-to-do (mainly self-made) businessman to whom she was devoted. Relations with her mother seem ...
26 September 1991
Bernard Shaw. Vol. III: 1918-1950, The Lure of Fantasy 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 544 pp., £21, September 1991, 0 7011 3351 1
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... said of Ben Jonson, I suppose Shaw would have to be fitted into the second category. He had always been lucid, splendidly persuasive though failing to persuade, but he now grew too wild for credit. BeatriceWebb, who had at first disliked him, then saw his value and took him on for life. She was always at hand to scold and restrain him, but as time went by her task became too difficult. At one important ...


Peter Clarke

21 September 1995
LSE: A History of the London School of Economics and Political Science 
by Ralf Dahrendorf.
Oxford, 584 pp., £25, May 1995, 0 19 820240 7
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... in today’s money – should be applied by his executors ‘to the propaganda and other purposes of the said Society and its Socialism’. What he could hardly have anticipated was that Sidney Webb would use his position as an executor to deflect most of the money away from the obvious political uses that had been intended. George Bernard Shaw’s indignant account of a subsequent meeting of ...

Saintly Resonances

Lorraine Daston: Obliterate the self!

31 October 2002
Dying to Know: Scientific Epistemology and Narrative in Victorian England 
by George Levine.
Chicago, 320 pp., £31.50, September 2002, 0 226 47536 0
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... science and letters, and he shows it to be saturated in Christian tropes of humility, contempt of the body and dying in order to be reborn. Whether it’s Carlyle fretting about his unruly bowels or BeatriceWebb insisting on meagre meals, Darwin protesting that anyone with a modicum of patience could have equalled his achievements, or Pater preaching pure sensation purged of feeling, there is much ...
15 September 1988
Bernard Shaw. Vol. I: The Search for Love, 1856-1898 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 486 pp., £16, September 1988, 0 7011 3332 5
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Bernard Shaw: Collected Letters. Vol. IV 
edited by Dan Laurence.
Bodley Head, 946 pp., £30, June 1988, 0 370 31130 2
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Shaw: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies. Vol. VIII 
edited by Stanley Weintraub.
Pennsylvania State, 175 pp., $25, April 1988, 0 271 00613 7
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Shaw’s Sense of History 
by J.L. Wisenthal.
Oxford, 186 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812892 4
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Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. III: 1903-1907 
edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies.
Cambridge, 532 pp., £35, April 1988, 0 521 32387 8
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Joseph Conrad: ‘Nostromo’ 
by Ian Watt.
Cambridge, 98 pp., £12.50, April 1988, 0 521 32821 7
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... and professional association he may all the same – as Holroyd conjectures – have had other ideas, and even fancied himself the son of the flamboyant Lee rather than of his wretched father; BeatriceWebb, it seems, was sure he was Lee’s son. What he certainly owed to Lee was his early knowledge of music, the principal positive educational attainment of his Dublin childhood. Other benefits were ...
25 October 1979
A Victorian Courtship: The Story of Beatrice​ Potter and Sidney Webb 
by Jeanne Mackenzie.
Weidenfeld, 148 pp., £5.50
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... I can’t help it​ being “Beauty and the Beast,” ’ wrote Sidney Webb to Beatrice Potter shortly before their marriage in 1892, ‘ – if only it is not a case of Titania and Bottom!’ The courtship of this super-extraordinary pair – ‘two active self-centred people ...


Wendy Steiner

28 June 1990
The New Women and the Old Men: Love, Sex and the Women Question 
by Ruth Brandon.
Secker, 294 pp., £16.95, January 1990, 0 436 06722 6
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... and on: to Margaret Sanger, who disseminated information about contraception despite being hounded by the US Government, and abandoned her husband and at times her children to fulfil her mission; to BeatriceWebb, who eschewed sex and children for politics; to Edith Bland (the children’s writer E. Nesbit), who reluctantly enlarged her household with her husband’s mistress and illegitimate daughter ...

Going Native

Sheila Fitzpatrick: The Maisky Diaries

3 December 2015
The Maisky Diaries: Red Ambassador to the Court of St James’s 1932-43 
edited by Gabriel Gorodetsky, translated by Tatiana Sorokina and Oliver Ready.
Yale, 584 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 0 300 18067 1
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... Omsk and then to St Petersburg University, despite the existence of Jewish quotas. Although Maisky never identified as a Jew, that was how he was generally seen in English upper-class circles. Even BeatriceWebb, Maisky’s close friend, wondered at one point how Ribbentrop and the Nazis ‘felt towards the stocky, ugly Jew-tartar Soviet emissary, who compares more to a shrewd businessman negotiating in ...
9 October 1986
The Pebbled Shore 
by Elizabeth Longford.
Weidenfeld, 351 pp., £14.95, August 1986, 0 297 78863 9
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Leaves of the Tulip Tree 
by Juliette Huxley.
Murray, 248 pp., £7.95, June 1986, 9780719542886
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Enid Bagnold 
by Anne Sebba.
Weidenfeld, 317 pp., £15, September 1986, 0 297 78991 0
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... her temper rising, said: ‘I am within my rights ... I don’t have to be out until twelve.’ At this point the manager intervened with ‘This is the Hon. Mrs Frank Pakenham’ and ‘This is Mrs BeatriceWebb.’ The two then fell over each other to exchange civilities. As her Diaries show, Mrs Webb had fought a stiff fight not to be called Lady Passfield: but the author admits to no qualms about ...
11 December 1997
... at the centre of that immense panopticon called the Shaw Canon because reading or watching your work we’re addressed first by a tannoy then we enter your nearly Bauhaus foyer – nearly because BeatriceWebb designed its utility furniture – we look up and see a security camera on the ceiling – that’s not fair though I mean you were the last person to care about private property but you watch ...

Their Way

José Harris: On the Origin of Altruism

12 March 2009
The Invention of Altruism: Making Moral Meanings in Victorian Britain 
by Thomas Dixon.
British Academy, 420 pp., £60, May 2008, 978 0 19 726426 3
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... of the Victorian age – among them George Eliot, G.H. Lewes, the historian J.R. Seeley, the natural scientist John Tyndall, and many social scientists and social reformers such as Charles Booth and Beatrice Potter (later Webb). Moreover, many who could not accept the whole package of Comtean positivism still tacitly or explicitly acknowledged its intellectual inspiration. Both Darwin and Herbert Spencer ...


Keith Thomas: Working Methods

10 June 2010
... no wonder that many of the great 19th-century historians employed professional copyists. Prescriptions of this kind reached their apotheosis in the little essay on ‘The Art of Note-Taking’ which BeatriceWebb included in My Apprenticeship (1926). It propounded the famous doctrine of ‘only one fact on one piece of paper’. In his delightful autobiography, Memories Migrating, the late John Burrow ...

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