The Anarchist Prince: A Biographical Study of Peter Kropotkin

By George Woodcock; Ivan Avakumović | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER V
"THE WHITE JESUS"

I

KROPOTKIN'S fourth arrival in England, at the beginning of March 1886, marked the commencement of a long and relatively stable epoch of his life. From that date until 1917, his existence was quite different from that of the explorer up to 1872 or the conspirator, agitator, and prisoner of the active and troubled years from 1872 until his release from Clairvaux. Now began the period of the saintly scholar, the retired theoretician who saw his social ideal advancing, not so much in the revolutionary endeavours of a restricted movement as in the broad forward progress of society towards a libertarian way of life. His outlook was still coloured by hope, but, towards the end, a consciousness of threatening war flecked his vision with pessimism, with a foreboding that events might delay unavoidably the realisation of his ideal. During this period he returned to scientific work, elaborating his sociological writings and taking his place as a respected figure in international learning. Many circumstances, his failing health, the character of the English labour movement, the atmosphere of mutual tolerance and legality in which its work was carried on, perhaps even the half-submerged feeling that his early agitational efforts had not brought the rapid results he had anticipated, led him to retreat more and more from the work of day-to-day propaganda.

For years he lived in virtual retirement in the outer suburbs of London and, at the end, as far away as Brighton, only returning to the capital for brief periods of research or to deliver occasional lectures. When he went abroad in the years after 1896, it was either as a popular lecturer or as an invalid seeking to escape the English winter, which had become harmful to a con-

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