The Webb Diaries are hardly new to students of Webb-iana: they are quoted from in her two volumes of memoirs; Margaret Cole...


THE DIARY OF BEATRICE WEBB, VOL. I, 1873-1892: Glitter Around and Darkness Within

The Webb Diaries are hardly new to students of Webb-iana: they are quoted from in her two volumes of memoirs; Margaret Cole published extracts after Webb's death; and the MacKenzies' The Fabians made extensive use of them. Now, however, the MacKenzies offer a definitive--though heavily edited--version: ""banal travelogues"" and other tedium have been omitted; ""the aim throughout has been to preserve the spirit, the spontaneity and the substance of the diary."" So this first volume, taking Beatrice up to the marriage with Sidney Webb, offers the most familiar side of the young Beatrice--earnestly self-improving, questing for a credo--along with her relatively hidden, impulsive, romantic aspect. (The introductory material firmly emphasizes this conflict, relating it to the contrast between Beatrice's expansive father and more puritanical mother.) Addressing herself at 16, in 1874: ""You are really getting into a nasty and what I should call an indecent way of thinking of men, and love. . . . Do try and build no more casties in the air."" And this inner struggle continues throughout--as Beatrice studies with Herbert Spencer, searches for a viable Faith, ambivalently enters Society, commits herself to social work, to family duty, to research. . . but also must wrestle with a stubborn romantic yen for rising Liberal politico Joseph Chamberlain, who might be a despotic husband: ""I shall be absorbed into the life of a man whose aims are not my aims; who will refuse me all freedom of thought. . . ."" With great difficulty, then, Beatrice opts for the purer priorities--and, despite misgivings about Fabianism (""I wish I were absolutely convinced. . . . My individualist antecedents have still a hold on me""), she endures the courtship of Sidney Webb, settling for a marriage ""based on fellowship--a common faith and a common work"" . . . to ""an ugly little man with no social position and less means. . . ."" True, the MacKenzies told this whole story well in The Fabians. But Webb specialists (and seekers after quasi-feminist models) may want to sample the documentation first-hand--in this sensible, scholarly edition.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1982


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1982