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Monday, 4 February 2013

Strolling about

Monday, February 4th., Cadogan Square, London.

Yesterday, walking on the Thames Embankment near Grosvenor Road, met Sidney Webb and his wife. Beautiful morning. they were quite happy strolling along. Of course I stopped them. I said to Sidney, "Well, how do you like things?" (meaning the first Labour government, being in the Cabinet, etc.). He said, "Oh, I think it's a jolly lark." Then they asked me rather anxiously what I thought of the Cabinet - that was their first question - and my answer pleased them. Discussed various individuals. Told me how people were impressed by the really business-like qualities of the new ministers. I said, "Evidently they are business-like - the praise is quite justified." "Well," said Mrs. Webb as they left, "they do work. You see they've no silly pleasures." I said, "I hope they have; I hope they have!" She wouldn't have it. And as they walked off Sidney said, about 'silly pleasures', "And here she is taking me out for a constitutional." Evidently he didn't like that. Clearly these two are never tired of their job. And they have no pleasures except their job, and no distractions except perhaps reading novels.

Sidney and Beatrice Webb, (respectively, born 1859, London—died 1947, Liphook, Hampshire; born 1858, Gloucester —died 1943, Liphook), English Socialist economists (husband and wife), early members of the Fabian Society, and co-founders of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Sidney Webb also helped reorganize the University of London into a federation of teaching institutions and served in the government as a Labour Party member. Pioneers in social and economic reforms as well as distinguished historians, the Webbs deeply affected social thought and institutions in England. The Webbs, and their Fabian Socialism, very deeply influenced British radical thought and British institutions during the first half of the 20th century. The exact extent of their influence will always be a matter of dispute, partly because once they had founded an institution (such as the London School of Economics) they were uninterested in directing its development, and partly because many of their ideas were taken up by others, and they were never concerned with demanding credit for them. Some of their effectiveness as a partnership can be attributed to the fact that their gifts were remarkably complementary—Sidney supplying the mastery of facts and publications, and Beatrice the flashes of insight. Of immense importance, too, was their complete contentment with each other and with the pattern of life they had chosen. This sublime satisfaction sometimes caused irritation to those who disagreed with their values and found them impervious to criticism. But no one ever doubted either their ability or their record of completely disinterested public service.

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