FROM OXFORD TO WHITECHAPEL
I suppose power is the thing that everyone desires to exercise. I too, but...the power of knowledge and experience seems the only thing worth having.
Letter to my mother, at age 23, January 25, 1903.
F OUR years at Oxford left me at twenty-two with no clear idea as to what I should do next. But of the things said to me by my elders in those years one thing above all stuck in my mind. "While you are at the University," said Edward Caird, Master of Balliol, to me and to others, "your first duty is self culture, not politics or philanthropy. But when you have performed that duty and learned all that Oxford can teach you, then one thing that needs doing by some of you is to go and discover why, with so much wealth in Britain, there continues to be so much poverty and how poverty can be cured." Edward Caird, at the close of the nineteenth century, was speaking under the impact of Charles Booth's revelation of Life and Labour in London.
Caird's advice, however admirable in itself, threw no light on the problem of how I should set about the necessary task of earning my living as speedily as I could. Discovering the causes and cures of poverty was not in those days a recognised profession, with an income. But there were two or three prize fellowships in the offing, which might provide an income without commitment to a profession; I had followed religiously the first part of Caird's advice, and by sticking to my books had done just well enough in the Schools, ending with Literae Humaniores in June 1901, to make trying for a fellowship seem worth while. My father, who had been a judge in India, favoured my taking up the law and, though he had no money to spare, he was ready to back his fancy by helping to keep me at Oxford for another year. So, having failed in my first fellowship try, in Literae Humaniores at Merton in September 1901 (won by one of my nearest Balliol friends, H. W. Garrod), I came up for another year at Balliol, to work for the B.C.L. under Edward Jenks and to have a go at law fellowships in the following year. As it fell out, no less than three prize fellowships in law were due to be awarded in the autumn of 1902 -- at Merton, University and All Souls.
I did not in fact stay the whole of another year at Oxford. My closest