Friday, 23 December 2016

Kropotkin on Edinburgh.

 I landed under the name of Levashóff, the name which I had used in leaving Russia; and avoiding London, where the spies of the Russian embassy would soon have been at my heels, I went first to Edinburgh.

When I landed at Hull and went to Edinburgh, I informed but a few friends in Russia and in the Jura Federation of my safe arrival in England. A socialist must always rely upon his own work for his living, and consequently, as soon as I was settled in the Scotch capital, in a small room in the suburbs, I tried to find some work.

As soon as I was at Edinburgh I wrote a note in English about these explorations, and sent it to “Nature,” which my brother and I used regularly to read at St. Petersburg from its first appearance. The sub-editor acknowledged the note with thanks, remarking with an extreme leniency, which I have often met with since in England, that my English was “all right,” and only required to be made “a little more idiomatic.” I may say that I had learned English in Russia, and, with my brother, had translated Page’s “Philosophy of Geology” and Herbert Spencer’s “Principles of Biology.” But I had learned it from books, and pronounced it very badly, so that I had the greatest difficulty in making myself understood by my Scotch landlady; her daughter and I used to write on scraps of paper what we had to say to each other; and as I had no idea of idiomatic English, I must have made the most amusing mistakes. I remember, at any rate, protesting once to her, in writing, that it was not a “cup of tea” that I expected at tea time, but many cups. I am afraid my landlady took me for a glutton, but I must say, by way of apology, that neither in the geological books I had read in English nor in Spencer’s “Biology” was there any allusion to such an important matter as tea-drinking.

I got from Russia the Journal of the Russian Geographical Society, and soon began to supply the “Times” also with occasional paragraphs about Russian geographical explorations. Prjeválsky was at that time in Central Asia, and his progress was followed in England with interest.
However, the money I had brought with me was rapidly disappearing, and all my letters to Russia being intercepted, I could not succeed in making my address known to my relatives. So I moved in a few weeks to London, thinking I could find more regular work there. The old refugee, P. L. Lavróff, continued to edit at London his newspaper “Forward;” but as I hoped soon to return to Russia, and the editorial office of the Russian paper must have been closely watched by spies, I did not go there.

In the summer of 1882 I spoke, in broken English, before the Durham miners at their annual gathering; I delivered lectures at Newcastle, Glasgow, and Edinburgh about the Russian movement, and was received with enthusiasm, a crowd of workers giving hearty cheers for the nihilists, after the meeting, in the street. But my wife and I felt so lonely in London, and our efforts to awaken a socialist movement in England seemed so hopeless, that in the autumn of 1882 we decided to remove again to France. We were sure that in France I should soon be arrested; but we often said to each other; “Better a French prison than this grave.”
Those who are prone to speak of the slowness of evolution ought to study the development of socialism in England. Evolution is slow; but its rate is not uniform. It has its periods of slumber and its periods of sudden progress.

-From memoirs of a revolutionist

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