THE DIARY OF BEATRICE WEBB: Vol. II, ""All the Good Things of Life"" 1892-1905 by Beatrice Webb

THE DIARY OF BEATRICE WEBB: Vol. II, ""All the Good Things of Life"" 1892-1905

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KIRKUS REVIEW

While last year's publication of Volume I offered some flickers of non-academic appeal (in the young Beatrice's conflict between romance and idealism, marriage and work), this second installment is almost exclusively for students of the Fabians and British turn-of-the-century politics. Though occasionally suffering from depression, and sometimes brooding on her old passion for rising politico Joseph Chamberlain, Beatrice repeatedly declares her utter happiness with her new, non-romantic husband, Sidney Webb. Together they devote all their energies to study, teaching, writing, meeting, lecturing: ""We must live the plainest, most healthful life in order to get through the maximum amount of work, and one must economize on all personal luxuries in order to have cash to spend on anything that turns up to be done."" Their credo is ""permeation""--""our policy of inoculation, of giving to each class, to each person, that came under our influence the exact dose of collectivism that they were prepared to assimilate."" And, in practice, during the 1892-1905 period, this involves books on trade-unionism and local government, the founding of the London School of Economics, and (most fascinatingly) the Webbs' tricky, often self-defeating relationships with the Liberal and Conservative parties. (Labour, their natural ally, is not quite for them: ""We have little faith in the 'average sensual man'. . . We are not in favour of the cruder form of democracy."") Beatrice's overall complacency does break down here and there--when hearing of Joseph Chamberlain's latest woes, when lamenting the Boer War, when pondering the motherhood vs. career question. (""Are the books we have written together worth. . . the babies we might have had?"") And she is a fairly lively portrait-sketcher--with H. G. Wells and the young GBS (""His stupid gallantries"" to an array of lady-friends) among the subjects. For the most part, however, this is diary-writing of a clear, formal, for-the-record sort: firmly interesting in terms of Fabian philosophy and tactics, impeccably annotated by the MacKenzies.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press