Edith Morley and the Letter to The Times

In my post about the opening ceremony of the Great Hall, I expressed surprise that Edith Morley treated the exclusion of women, including herself, with amusement rather than anger.

Another of these ‘lighter incidents’ that was given similar treatment in her ‘Reminiscences’ (p. 143) concerns her first letter to The Times. Here’s how she starts the story:

‘Nor must I forget ‘my’ first letter to The Times. Mrs [Emmeline] Pankhurst wanted publicity for some aspect of the suffrage question and wrote a letter which she thought my title might get accepted. So signing it with my initials only, I obediently copied and sent it off.’

As a result, on the day of publication a Times journalist turned up at the London Road Campus wanting her opinion on the issue in question. The interview never took place however:

‘When he heard that I was the Professor Morley he had taken so much trouble to track down, his language was not exactly parliamentary: ‘Sold again’ and a bang on the table were his parting shots as he stormed out of the room without troubling to elicit my opinions.’ (p. 143).

1st page enlarged
Title page of the most heavily annotated of Morley’s three original typescripts of her memoir. On this one she has added the subtitle by hand (University of Reading Special Collections)

As well as the way this incident is treated so lightheartedly, it is one of several occasions in the memoir where I am surprised by what  Morley neglects to tell us. Even though she insists that her memoir is not an autobiography, and self-deprecatingly refers to it as ‘these rambling reminiscences of my activities’ (p. 182), I would have expected her to say something about the details of the letter, the year of publication, the precise topic, and (if I have identified it correctly) the reaction that it provoked.

The Times Digital Archive contains all the letters addressed to the editor of The Times during Edith Morley’s lifetime, but I was puzzled by her statement that she had signed it with her initials only. If the published letter only ended with E.( J.) M., how had the journalist identified her so quickly? I searched the archive using both her name and her initials, and the earliest letter that I could find was published on 2nd May 1914. It concerned the Home Secretary’s proposals in The Criminal Justice Administration Bill and it ended with Morley’s full signature:

‘E. J. MORLEY (Member of the Penal Reform Association). University College, Reading, April 30.’

The letter draws attention to alleged flaws in four clauses of the bill. These raised issues concerning women in general and for militant activists in particular. It is, therefore, exactly the kind of topic that Emmeline Pankhurst might have asked Professor Morley to give her name to.

The claims by Morley/Pankhurst are these:

    • Clause 10 enabled fines to be paid from the sentenced persons’ belongings, or from money they had on them at the time of arrest. It was therefore ‘aimed at passive resisters’ because they would be ‘deprived of the right to refuse to pay a fine, the imposition of which they consider to be unjust.’ (NB The numbering of this clause was an error; In the final Act of Parliament Clause 10 dealt with Borstal Institutions; the relevant clause was Clause 4).
    • Clause 13 would allow prisoners sentenced to jail terms of 10 days or less to be held in police cells rather than a prison. The letter argues that such cells were often ‘dark, unventilated, insanitary, and verminous.’ Furthermore, there were rarely women attendants on duty at night, and male officers were in the habit of entering women’s cells, allegedly to prevent suicide.
    • Clause 14 would allow magistrates to deal with malicious damage to property up to the value of £20 (instead of the previous £5), thus depriving  many of those charged of the right to trial by jury.
    • Clause 17 would give the Home Secretary the power to have prisoners subjected to surgical operations without their consent. This had the potential for serious abuse.

The letter ends:

‘Thus under cover of some very necessary reforms, an attempt is being made to smuggle through certain dangerous innovations in what is miscalled “criminal justice administration.”‘

The Home Secretary of the time, Reginald McKenna, was sufficiently provoked by the Morley/Pankhurst criticism that he immediately arranged for a certain S. W. Harris of the Home Office to issue a rebuttal. It is worth noting that women prisoners were a sensitive matter for McKenna; only the previous year he had been savagely mocked by a gruesome cartoon in The Daily Herald that depicted him force feeding an unnamed, bound and blindfolded suffragette, referring to him as ‘Forcible-Feeder-in-Chief to the Cabinet’.

The Harris/McKenna letter appeared in The Times on 6th May 1914, four days after the one signed by Morley. It addresses each of the four points in turn, and accuses Mr. E. J. Morley of having ‘misread the clauses he discusses.’ The letter asserts that:

    • the provision would not apply to “passive resisters” (Clause 4);
    • allowing money to be removed from someone’s person to pay a fine merely corrected a legal anomaly (Clause 4);
    • that  imprisonment would not be in ordinary police cells but in specially certified accommodation like the Liverpool Bridewell with female attendants for women prisoners (Clause 13);
    • the magistrates’ jurisdiction over wilful damage up to the value of £20 was an extension of existing powers and terms of imprisonment for such offences were to be reduced (Clause 14).
    • with regard to non-consensual surgical operations, the claim was denied, stating that the Home Secretary would have no more than the power to authorise removal to a hospital where an operation could be carried out more efficiently .

It will come as no surprise that Morley and/or Pankhurst were less than impressed by these statements; five days later on 11th May 1914, their second letter appeared, again signed E. J. Morley of University College, Reading. I am not aware of the extent of Pankhurst’s involvement, but their arguments were that Harris/McKenna has adopted a much too narrow definition of ‘passive resister’ and the provision would indeed apply to them; that police cells were not ‘suitable places’ for prisoners detained for more than one or two nights; that there was no explicit requirement in the bill for the availability of female attendants; that Harris/McKenna had failed to respond to the matter of trial by jury –  furthermore,  prisoners in magistrates’ courts received convictions based on unreliable police evidence; and that if the Home Secretary was not empowered to authorise operations on prisoners, why weren’t the words ‘with the consent of the prisoner’ included in the bill?

I have been unable to find any further correspondence on the legislation either from Morley, Pankhurst, or Harris. There are, however, letters about the arrest, imprisonment and maltreatment of Sylvia Pankhurst, and in June of the same year S. W. Harris submitted another rebuttal on behalf of the Home Secretary with the title: ‘The militants:  the motive of suffragist crime.’ This again concerned women prisoners and the matter of force feeding. It contained a denial that prison doctors were not willing to do everything possible to prevent the death of suffragettes from starvation.

Post Script

The Criminal Justice Administration Act was passed in August 1914. The introductory text describes it as:

‘An Act to diminish the number of cases committed to prison, to amend the Law with respect to the treatment and punishment of young offenders, and otherwise to improve the Administration of Criminal Justice.’

I have not been able to access earlier drafts of the Bill and cannot therefore give precise details of any changes that were included in the final Act of Parliament. Nevertheless, I can confirm that in the final version, Clause 13 allowed detention in police cells, bridewells and other places, ‘Provided that no place so certified shall be used for the detention of females unless provision is made for their supervision by female officers.’

In addition, Clause 17 appears to presuppose the prisoner’s agreement to hospital treatment or surgical operation by the inclusion of the word ‘consent’.

Thanks

To Charlie Carpenter, Academic Liaison Librarian, who discovered Edith Morley’s second letter and helped me negotiate the Times Digital Archive.

Sources

Criminal Justice Administration Act 1914. (c.58). [Online]. London: HMSO. [Accessed 15 June 2022]. Available from: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo5/4-5/58/enacted

Harris, S. W. (May 6, 1914). Criminal Administration: Home Secretary’s reply to criticisms of the Bill [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40516, p. 4.

Harris, S. W. (June 17, 1914). The militants: the motive of suffragist crime [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40552, p. 10.

Lawson, M. (June 18, 1914). The case of Sylvia Pankhurst [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40553, p. 15.

Morley, E. J. (May 2, 1914). The Criminal Justice Administration Bill: the Home Secretary’s proposals [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40513, p. 4.

Morley, E. J. (May 11, 1914). The Criminal Justice Administration Bill: the Home Secretary’s proposals [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40520, p. 3.

Morley, E. J. (1944). Looking before and after. Reminiscences of a working life.  Original Typescript, University of Reading Special Collections, MS 938/7/4, Folder 3.

Morley, E. J. (2016). Before and after: reminiscences of a working life (original text of 1944 edited by Barbara Morris). Reading: Two Rivers Press.

Murray, F. & Schutze, H. (March 19, 1914). Mrs. Pankhurst’s imprisonment: a medical statement of injuries [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40475, p. 5.

Edith Morley’s Sheep and Goats

In an earlier post about Community, I commented on Edith Morley’s opposition to the idea of a separate Common Room for women. In her Reminiscences this is how she describes the SCR at Acacias following the move to London Road in 1905:

An excellent and most attractive Senior Common Room could at once be established, opening on to delightful lawns which were reserved for the use of its members. …members of all faculties and departments, of both sexes and every status meet together, cement friendships, thrash out problems, argue, discuss and hear each other’s point of view. …everyone meets his colleagues naturally and on equal terms.‘ (pp. 102-3).

It seems that she carried the principle of non-segregation into her teaching. S. J. Curtis recalls the experience of her English class when training to be a teacher in 1911-14:

‘Special Method lectures were then given by members of the academic staff. Certain highlights of those times still stand out clearly in my mind. There was Professor Edith Morley who in her course on the teaching of English intensely disliked seeing the men occupying one side of the lecture room and the women the other, and who literally produced a mix-up by her injunction for the sheep and goats to mingle themselves. I have never been quite sure in my own mind as to which sex each epithet applied.’ (p. 23).

As noted in a previous post, S. J. Curtis went on to become Reader in Education at the University of Leeds and a distinguished expert on the History of Education and the Philosophy of Education. His textbook on the ‘History of Education in Great Britain‘, first published in 1948, ran to seven editions.

Acacias and the Senior Common Room, 1907. The path in the foreground has since been grassed over but traces can still be seen.  (University of Reading Special Collections)
SOURCES

Curtis, S. J. (1949). Early days. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (pp. 23-5). University of Reading.

Morley, E. (2016). Before and after: reminiscences of a working life (original text of 1944 edited by Barbara Morris). Reading: Two Rivers Press.

University of Reading Special Collections, Photographic Archives.

From Magic Lanterns, the Kymograph and Gramophone Records to the Amstrad Portable

London Road, 1987

When I joined the School of Education at London Road in 1987 I was impressed by the resources. Nothing fancy—no interactive whiteboards, no internet access, but overhead projectors, carousel slide projectors, VHS and revolving green ‘blackboards’. There was a Technical Support Unit with a studio, and computers in the Old Red Building with the SPSS statistical package.

Ground-floor Seminar Room, L16, London Road, September 1987 (now the G4 office area)

In July 1988, Dr Bridie Raban (now Professor Raban) organised the distribution of an Amstrad PPC 640 . The 640 was a folding portable computer with two disc drives and a small monochrome screen. It was extremely heavy and came with a rucksack.

The (Magic) Lantern

To the original College staff, all the above would have been a real luxury. In the 1890s and early 1900s Reading College and University College Reading didn’t even have its own magic lantern. The following item appears in the Reading College accounts for the first time in 1898-9:

‘Hire of Hall and Lantern for Popular Lectures’ (£8 7s 6d)

Similar entries were repeated for the College and the University College until 1901-2. The cost varied from a high of £22 1s 0d (1899-1900) down to £1 0s 0d (1901-20).

Lanterns came in many forms. Over time, light sources had progressed from candles to incandescent light bulbs, but we have no way of knowing what kind was in use during the early days of the College. Even though electric sources were available by this time, oil lamps and gas bags for oxygen were still used in the 1880s, as this catalogue shows:

Adverts for (Magic) Lanterns from a Slide Catalogue (Manchester 1881)

The ‘Lime Light arrangements’ refers to applying an oxy-hydrogen flame to calcium oxide. It needed bags of both oxygen and hydrogen.

The slides were usually bought or hired and, for a small additional cost, could be accompanied by a text to be read aloud. Some of the themes make uncomfortable reading nowadays. Presumably academics composed their own text and maybe, in some cases, produced their own slides.

Flier for Lantern Slides, 1884

The only reference I have found to a named person using a lantern concerns Edith Morley. The University College Calendar for 1908-9 announced that she was to give the College Hall Thursday Evening Lecture on Nov 19, 1908:

‘“In Shakespeare’s England” (illustrated by lantern views)’

There is nothing remarkable about this; the use of lanterns in education has a long history. Nevertheless, Morley was certainly no slouch when it came to technology and was even something of a pioneer.

The Kymograph

To see why, we need to jump 20 years from University College Reading to the University of Reading. According to the Proceedings for 1928-9:

‘The Professor of English Language [Prof Morley] reports that a start is being made in the study of practical phonetics. Equipment needed for this work includes a kymograph and a linguaphone and records.’ (p.33)

I wasn’t familiar with kymographs so I contacted Jane Setter, Reading’s Professor of Phonetics, who sent me a link to ‘Jane talking phonetics on the Alan Titchmarsh Show’. The kymograph, a device for measuring air pressure, is explained after 1:55, but the whole 5:40 sequence is well worth watching.

In Professor Setter’s opinion:

‘it was probably more useful in research, but could be used to train specific features of speaking.’

Let us consider the research angle first. Even though Morley was Professor of English Language, her publications were predominantly in the area of literature and I can find nothing in her annual returns that would suggest practical phonetics as an area of original research. It can’t be ruled out, however. She was certainly engaged in the field of phonetics and phonology: as far back as 1905-6, when she was in sole charge of English, the Report of the Academic Board states that classroom resources for English included ‘A physiological atlas and model larynx help with the study of phonology.’ And phonetics figured in the examination syllabuses for English, largely in connection with the history of language and its application to literary texts. Advised reading included the familiar names of Daniel Jones (‘The Pronunciation of English’) and Henry Sweet (‘The Sounds of English’).

Professor Setter’s suggestion that the Kymograph might also have been used to train features of speaking is consistent with a feature of the English examination syllabuses that appeared in the University’s first Calendar in 1926:

‘All examinations in English will include a test in reading aloud.’ (p.172)

The following year the ‘will’ was softened to ‘may’, but otherwise this wording remained in the syllabus right up to the 1977-78 academic year.

Gramophone Records

The theme of the sounds of English and gramophone records is resumed in the Proceedings of 1934-5 in the Vice-Chancellor’s annual statement:

‘Professor Morley’s proposal to have gramophone records made to illustrate the earlier stages of spoken English has been endorsed by a large number of teachers in British Universities and adopted by the Linguaphone Institute. A beginning is to be made with records of Anglo-Saxon, Chaucer and Shakespeare.’ (p.36)

Two years later we learn of the outcome of the project:

‘Professor Morley reports that the gramophone records of English pronunciation (Anglo-Saxon, Middle English and Eighteenth Century English) to which reference was made two years ago, are now on the market. They are in use in the Department and are proving of great assistance.’ (p.34)

There seems little hope that Morley’s original discs are still around. There is no reference to them in the University Library, the Edith Morley Archive or elsewhere in the Special Collections. If they still do exist they are likely to be 78 rpm, 10 inch (25 cm) flat discs made of brittle shellac.

A Set of Linguaphone Records from the 1930s

The Linguaphone Group did not respond to my enquiries so I contacted Professor David Crystal to see if he had come across anything related to Edith Morley when he joined the newly formed Department of Linguistic Science in the 1960s. (A graphic account of one of his own phonetics lectures at Reading can be found in his memoir ‘Just a Phrase I’m Going through’! pp.113-5). Given his own work on Original Pronunciation, who better to ask? His reply was illuminating and gave me the relevant search terms for the British Library Sounds Archive:

‘I don’t recall any mention of her when we arrived in Reading in 65….Your Linguaphone ref points very clearly to DJ [Daniel Jones], as he was at the forefront of those recordings of Shakespeare etc. They’re in the British Library archive now. But there’s no mention of Edith in the DJ biography I have here, nor in the BL archive.’

As far as I can see, the recordings Morley mentioned belong to the collection, English Pronunciation Through the Centuries: Selected Extracts from Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, and Later English’ published in 1935. Two of the recordings of Shakespearean English can be heard at the  British Library Sounds website. Morley’s exact role in their production, however, remains a mystery.

SOURCES

British Library Sounds: https://sounds.bl.uk/Accents-and-dialects/

Chapman Family papers: photographic catalogues and advertisements.

Crystal, D. (2009). Just a phrase I’m going through: my life in language. London: Routledge.

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Linguaphone_English_Pronunciation_Throug.html?id=z0uMXwAACAAJ&redir_esc=y (accessed 18 October 2021).

Morley, E. (2016). Before and after: reminiscences of a working life (original text of 1944 edited by Barbara Morris). Reading: Two Rivers Press.

Reading College. Annual Reports, 1898-9 to 1900-01.

University College Reading. Accounts and Reports, 1901-2 & 1905-6.

University College Reading. Calendar, 1908-9.

University of Reading. Calendar, 1926-7 and 1927-8.

University of Reading. Proceedings, 1928-9, 1934-5, 1936-7.

THANKS

To Professor Jane Setter for her advice, and for the link to her appearance on the Alan Titchmarsh Show.

To Professor David Crystal for tracking down the recordings and giving me permission to quote from his emails.

To Adam Lines, Special Collections Academic Liaison Officer, for searching for references to the recordings.