Dunia Garcia-Ontiveros – our Head of Bibliographic Services – continues our series of blogs looking at the works that we have featured in The London Library’s Found on The Shelves series, published with Pushkin Press to coincide with our 175th anniversary. Here she looks at three works aimed at advising the young, that have been collected together in Life in a Bustle: Advice to Youth.
At The London Library we firmly believe in keeping the vast majority of our books on the open shelves for our members to discover and enjoy. However, a few treasures are kept under lock and key. One of these is the collection of ca. 5,000 pamphlets bequeathed by Sir Claude Montefiore and the three titles contained in Life in a Bustle come from this collection.
Sir Claude Joseph Goldsmid Montefiore (1858-1938) is mainly remembered as the founder of Liberal Judaism in Britain and for his contribution to Biblical studies but there was another side to him. Montefiore was a true philanthropist; he was born to wealth and like so many other men and women in 19th and early 20th century Britain he believed that privilege came with a responsibility to give something back. He devoted some of his time and considerable wealth to furthering causes close to his heart, such as education and social welfare. He served briefly as a co-opted member of the London School Board, was president of Hartley College (a precursor of Southampton University) and he played a crucial role in the establishment of the Froebel Educational Institute, a teacher training college in Roehampton.
It was at the Froebel Institute that Sir Alfred Milner (1854–1925) gave a talk on 21 January 1897 at Montefiore’s request and this address to the Institute’s students is the first of our pamphlets. The title of his talk was simply Bustle and he was certainly better qualified than most to talk on the subject of trying to do too much in a rush. He began his career by being called to the Bar and writing for the Pall Mall Gazette but soon moved into politics and the civil service. Milner was self-disciplined, energetic and, like his friend Montefiore, believed in the importance of ‘public usefulness’. At the time of warning his audience about the dangers of ‘Hurry’ he was Chairman of the Board of the Inland Revenue and on the brink of leaving for Africa to take up first the Governorship of the Cape of Good Hope, later that of Transvaal and Orange River Colony and finally becoming High Commissioner for South Africa. When he says:
“Life is infinitely fuller, more varied, more interesting than it ever was. But on the other hand it requires more judgement, more balance of mind, more strength of character to make the best of it.”
We are hearing the words of one who knows what it is like to have many demands on his time but has mastered the art of managing them:
“Economy of time, in the sense of always having some time to spare, some time in hand, is essential to the successful conduct of life in a society like that in which we live, so busy, so hurrying, so full of unexpected calls upon its members”
and knows how precious this limited resource is:
“Of all luxuries I know few equal to the unexpected collapse of a business engagement through no fault of one’s own. A present of time!”
The next piece of timeless advice comes from Percy Arthur Barnett (1858-1942). His is The Little Book of Health and Courtesy, written to give boys and girls essential guidance on personal hygiene, table manners and how to show consideration for others. Just as Milner was an expert on the subject of bustling, Barnett was eminently well qualified to give advice to young people on how to conduct themselves. He was an authority on education having been a college professor, school inspector and principal of a teacher training college in Britain as well as Superintendent of Education in Natal by the time he wrote the book in 1905. Upon his return home he was appointed Chief Inspector of Teacher Training for the Board of Education and later Civil Advisor to the War Office on army education. But there was something else in Barnett’s history that perhaps compelled him to write the book: he spent part of his childhood in the Jews’ Hospital and Orphan Asylum in Norwood. The man who was once an orphan wrote a little book to help other children who maybe didn’t have parents to guide them either. Although some of his advice may seem a little dated “If strangers or elderly persons come into a room where a boy chances to be wearing his hat or cap, he should at once take it off…”, most of it will never cease to be true “The real root of all good manners is good feeling. Teach yourself to be kind.”
The last piece in the book is another address to students of the Froebel Institute, this time delivered by Montefiore himself in December of 1915. The title On Keeping Young and Growing Old, contains the substance of Montefiore’s address, in which he advised the trainee teachers to “achieve the wisdom of age, and also retain the heart of youth”. The same playfulness in the character of this serious scholar that would sometimes move him to surprise his friends by spontaneously reciting a fragment of Alice in Wonderland inspired him to tell the trainee teachers on that cold December day that “It keeps us young to continue to feel pleasure in croquet or chocolate”.
The advice contained in this little book on slowing down, being kind to others and remembering to savour and enjoy life is as relevant today as it was more than a hundred years ago.