Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Louisa Sarah Bevington (14/5/1845 - 28/11/1895) - Anarchist Poet


Louisa Sarah Bevington English poet, journalist, essayist, Darwinist and anarchist communist, was born. at St John's Hill, Battersea on 14th May 1845, the eldest of eight children to Quaker parents; Alexander, a member of Lloyds of London and his wife Lousia.
Details of her early life are scanty although in the census of 1861 she is listed as a scholar at Marlborough House, Winchcombe Street, Cheltenham. At the time her parents and siblings are listed as residing at Walthamstow with their four house servants and a coachman.
Louisa wrote poetry from a young age and she had two sonnets published in October 1871 in the Friends' Quarterly Examiner.
Her first collection, ‘Key Notes’, a slim volume of only 23 pages, was published under her pseudonym Arbor Leigh in 1876. A second publication, ‘Key-Notes: 1879’, written under the name L. S. Bevington also took issue with some Christian codes of conduct.
In her article in The Nineteenth Century in October 1879, ‘Atheism and Morality’, her secular pose provoked a clerical response. In December the same year, Bevington concluded a two-part essay entitled ‘Modern Atheism and Mr. Mallock’. This was in response to an attack on atheism in the same paper by a young Oxford graduate. Louisa put forward a spirited defence of secular morality.
Louisa received a letter from the philosopher Herbert Spencer, confirming that rationalists showed greater humanity than adherents of organized religion. Her exposition of this was published in The Fortnightly Review in August 1881 as ‘The Moral Colour of Rationalism’.
In 1882 ‘Poems, Lyrics&Sonnets’ contained both metrical experiments as well as remarks on the stagnant state of Christianity. Her politics were coming into focus.
In 1882, she went to Germany and in 1883 married a Munich artist Ignatz Felix Guggenberger. She found married life in Germany dull and humdrum. The marriage lasted less than 8 years and she returned to London in 1890.
Having formed a strong sense of social justice from her  Quaker parents, but became an agnostic and anarchist;and associated with international atheists and anarchists circles in which she preferred the use of her maiden name. In 1891 she commented to a preference for "L. S. Bevington" over "Miss Bevington", as she objected to the values "Mrs" and "Miss", although she did sign that letter "L. S. Guggenberger".
Louisa quickly gained credence as an anarchist poet and was also helped by her friends Charlotte Wilson and Peter Kropotkin who had founded the anarchist paper Freedom in 1886. Louisa sought distance from advocacy of bombs and dynamite and became associated with another paper, Liberty, edited by the Scottish anarchist and tailor James Tochatti, for which she wrote numerous articles and poems. She was also a contributor to The Torch, which was edited by the Rossetti sisters, nieces of the painter. She also authored the Anarchist Manifesto in 1895 for the short-lived Anarchist Communist Alliance. She also translated an essay on the Paris Commune by Louise Michel who became her friend.
At the age of 50 in 1895, Bevington was still active but was suffering from bad health, namely heart disease that had been afflicting her for years. She managed to write some articles for Liberty in that year and her last collection of poems for Liberty Press.
Louisa Sarah Bevington died due to dropsy and mitral heart disease on 28th November 1895 at the age of fifty in Willesden Green. Her funeral at Finchley cemetery was attended by her old comrade James Tochatti, Kropotkin, and the Rossetti sisters, among others. Whilst her poems, very much a product of late Victorian times, have not aged all that well, the articles and pamphlets she wrote in which she strongly argued for anarchism, still bear a look. 
 Louisa Sarah Bevington- The Secret of the Bees
 How have you managed it? bright busy bee!
You are all of you useful, yet each of you free.

What man only talks of, the busy bee does;
Shares food, and keeps order, with no waste of buzz.

No cell that's too narrow, no squandering of wax,
No damage to pay, and no rent, and no tax.
No drones kept in honey to look on and prate,
No property tyrants, no bigwigs of State.

Free access to flowers, free use of all wings;
And when beelife is threatened, then free use of stings. 
No fighting for glory, no fighting for pelf;
Each thrust at the risk of each soldier himself. 
Comes over much plenty one summer, you'll see
A lull and a leisure for each busy bee.

No overwork, underwork, glut of the spoil;
No hunger for any, no purposeless toil.

Economy, Liberty, Order, and Wealth!
Say, busy bee, how you reached Social Health?


Say rather, why not? It is easier so;
We have all the world open to come and to go.

We haven't got masters, we haven't got money,
We've nothing to hinder the gathering of honey.

The sun and the air and the sweet summer flowers
Attract to spontaneous use of our powers.

Our work is all natural nothing but play,
For wings and proboscis can go their own way.

We find it convenient to live in one nest,
None hindering other from doing her best.

We haven't a Press, so we haven't got lies,
And it's worth no one's while to throw dust in our eyes.

We haven't among us a single pretence,
And we got our good habits through sheer CommonSense. 
 Louisa Sarah Bevington- In Memorium

Mad, as the world calls mad,
  See Anarchy’s few;
Fighting the False and the Bad
  In all that they do;
Forcing a way for the Glad,
  The Pure, and the True.

Bolder and clearer it grows
  The Anarchist task;
Liberty’s plausible foes
  To assail and unmask;
Handing the torch as it glows
  To all who may ask.

 Great! oh, exceedingly great,
  The Anarchists’ claim!
Fusing the falsehood of State
  In unquenchable flame;
Breaking the fetters of fate
  In Humanity’s name.

Breathing with fiery breath
  On the mammonite crew;
Fearless, in splendor of faith,
  Of the worst they can do;
Blessed, in life and in death,
  O beneficent few! 

 Louisa Sarah Bevington - Revolution

 Ah, yes! You must meet it, and brave it;
Too laggard too purblind to save it;
Who recks of your doubting and fearing
Phrase bound 'Evolution?'
Do you not hear the sea sounding it?
Do you not feel the fates founding it?
Do you not know it for nearing?
Its name Revolution.
What! stem it, and stay it, and spare it?
Or will you defy it, and dare it?
Then this way or that you must change you
For swift restitution.
Do you not see men deserving it?
Do you not hear women nerving it?
Down with old Mammon! and range you
To aid Revolution!
The last hour has struck of our waiting,
The last of your bloodless debating,
The wildfire of spirit is speeding
Us on to solution.
Do you not thrill at the uttering?
Do you not breathe the breeze fluttering
Round the brave flag of our pleading?
The world's Revolution! 

 Louisa Sarah Bevington - My Little Task

 I THROW a guess out here or there,
I breathe a hope into the air,
I feel a dumbness like a prayer.

What, with this fencèd human mind,
What can I do to help my kind?
I such a stammerer, they so blind!

Nothing; save through the single gate
Of utterance throw my little weight
To swell the praise of what is great.

Nothing; save in my every song
Heap cold discredit on the wrong,
And cheer the march of right along.

And when I hear the lark's pure mirth,
Or see sweet flowers gladden earth,
Sing forth the mood that feels their worth.

Or when a bitter woe in me
Is healed by tender sympathy,
To let the healing songful be.

So add what force a singer may,
To ring opinion's echoing sway
A few chords mellower day by day.

Through chiming all that's pure and true,
Through hymning steadfast love anew,
This is the most that I may do.

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