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parents, who died within three weeks of each other, leaving her in the wide world without the means of support.
About that time I became a member of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, and felt, in consequence, greater security for the future, for, should sickness or want of employment come, I was certain of ten shillings per week for a considerable time; but, fortunately, things were more propitious : I was less out of employment than I had previously been. I found my wife the same affectionate, enduring, and struggling creature married as when single. Our courtship had glided amidst the sunshine of hope and the darkness of care uninterruptedly. We loved, and our fates were inseparable from the first, as they are now to the last.
The struggle of the Amalgamated Engineers for the abolition of piece-work and overtime soon afterwards took place. I remember nothing in the history of my life that had such a powerful influence on my mind as that struggle. I read, with the deepest interest, whatever appeared in the newspapers either in favour of or against it; and, although I had never taken any part in bringing it about, I was enthusiastically confident of success attending our cause. My sympathies were favourable to the men, not so much that I was one of their number as that I had sadly experienced the necessity, during the time I had been out of employment, of some better system than the prevailing one, where, to my own knowledge, numbers had been working eight or nine days per week, whilst hundreds, like myself, had been compelled to wander from town to town, oftentimes houseless and penniless, in search of that employment which, under a fairer system, might at all times be accessible. During that struggle I was led more attentively to the study of the relations of Capital and Labour, and, by its ultimate defeat, was led to the conclusion that strikes are not the best means of obtaining justice, but rather produce ruinous results to both parties. I am free to confess, that strikes are the inevitable results of oppression, and that oppression is the inevitable result of the system of society, which teaches the power of creating wealth independent of all moral or religious consideration. Entertaining this view, I have endeavoured at all convenient opportunities, to the best of my abilities, to advocate the principles of co-operation, which I believe can only
be successfully carried out through the conditions of moral and intellectual philosophy.
During the commencement of the dispute I was working, but soon afterwards was discharged through slackness, and was, in consequence of the struggle, necessitated to remain idle many weeks. It soon became evident to most of us that we must suffer a defeat. The money had been gradually diminishing, and consequent dissatisfaction prevailed. One by one men returned to their work. But one thing, and one thing only, prevented myself and many others from following their example. The Associated Employers produced a document, which no man possessed of independence of spirit could sign, without it were to prevent the sacrifice of his dearest and tenderest connections. Many of those brave-hearted men who would not submit to the despotism of the document, and who had the means, deserted their country for America and other lands. I hope sincerely long ere this they may have been amply rewarded for their noble adhesion to the integrity of principle. For myself, I had resolved never to sign, I knew what I had already suffered rather than sacrifice my honesty, and was determined to desert my country, or even my trade, should the worst come, sooner than submit my hand to a paper which would at once make me a social and moral slave. I collected what money I could raise with the intention of going to America, but the amount was not sufficient for the purpose, and, what I did obtain, was eventually absorbed in a chandler's shop in the neighbourhood of Clerkenwell. I was in business there three months, when, failing to succeed, I gave it up, finding myself, in a pecuniary point of view, something worse than when I started. But, however, I was working again for my former employer, who had not taken any part in the dispute, and things began to look brighter.
I look upon the maintenance of those higher principles of the mind, which stamp the character with integrity and man. hood, as of infinitely more value than the continually increasing prosperity which comes directly through adapting one's self to every circumstance favourable to success, regardless of conscience or duty; therefore I look at the unsuccessful termination of my business career as of little importance, since the time I was engaged in it served to save me the degradation of the document.
In November, 1852, I published the “Poet's Voice and other Poems,” which was at once ill-advised and foolish, for scarcely more than twelve months had elapsed since I first began writing, and the work itself bears testimony to my want of experience in the art of poetry at that time. Before going to press I had collected about sixty names as subscribers, at one shilling each, and was deluded with the idea of a good sale amongst my own order; however, when it came out, only thirty out of the sixty individuals took their copies, and I was saddled with an edition unsold, and several pounds printing expences to pay. I sent several copies to the Press, and received two notices, which I subjoin for the benefit of those who may desire to see them,
FROM THE “ WEEKLY DISPATCH." “The Poet's Voice and other Poems, by James Powell. These poems, the productions of a working man, one who has struggled 'midst the frowns of poverty, without the means to command the literature so abundantly found in the mansions of the rich, contain many beauties among some unavoidable crudities of thought and expression, and are creditable alike to his heart and feeling. These are the tastes that deserve to be cultivated, and if the aspiration is not always equalled by the inspiration, there is enough left to shew the possession of an intelligence of no mean proportions."
FROM THE “WEEKLY TIMES."
“The Poet's Voice and other Poems, by James Powell. Go back to your study, Mr. Powell, and do not print any more of your verses until you have mastered, at least, some of the rules of versification. Take your first lines :
• Behold the night! the People's dreary night!
O'er oraggy paths, deceptive to the sight.' What nonsense is this. What rugged sounds are here brought to grate upon the ear. Night is the very reverse of dreary to the People; it is then their freedom begins; it is then the shackles of their ill-paid toil fall from them; it is then they see the stars, which remind them of other and better worlds and their God, who has so beneficently provided for them. Did His boundless benefactions reach them without the 'foolish
lets and artificial hindrances made by men to mar men's happi
A short ugly syllable like Ig in Ignorance requires a great deal of art to place it in a position so as not to offend the ear; but the merest tyro would tell you that such syllables as rance and lures cannot be put close together. There are some good ideas in more than one of the poems, but the language is so fearfully harsh, so raw and uncultivated, that it is scarcely to be hoped, Mr. Powell, you can ever acquire the art and mystery of poetry.”
Soon after I had published the Poet's Voice I left London, having obtained a situation at Wolverton, in the service of the London and North-Western Railway Company, where I remained for upwards of twelve months, during which time I was contributing to a provincial newspaper, “The Buck's Chronicle and Gazette."
I delivered my first lecture at the Wolverton Mechanics' Institution, of which I was an active member, on “The Poetry of Feeling and the Poetry of Diction,” which, fortunately, was well received by an audience of about two hundred, and subsequently printed (by request) at the expense of a majority of the members.
My second lecture, on The best means of Elevating the Working Classes,” was delivered to a much smaller audience than the first, owing to the fact of its delivery taking place under disadvantageous circumstances.
It, of course, is unnecessary to mention every minute particular up to the present time; it must suffice the reader to know that since that time I have experienced difficulties attendant on the destinies of most working men who have to struggle with the competitive selfishness of the age; but amidst the anxiety and almost constant worry of my life I have realized the most felicitous pleasure from the study of poetry, and am conscious of possessing more enlightened and liberal views from its aid. To me poetry has been the heaven of my soul, where all its aspirations tend. I make no pretensions to the majestic genius of a Shakespeare or a Milton; I feel that the humblest individuals can do some good, and aid, to some extent, the cause of human freedom; and I am content to know that some, who perchance may never read the magnificent works of our grand old Bards, and probably be unable to
appreciate them if they should-may, from the humble efforts contained in the present volume, be led to a greater appreciation of the beauties of creation, and a stronger faith in the eternal principles of Progression.
To Mr. THOMAS YARROW, Managing Engineer of the Canada Works, I beg to return my sincere thanks, and to acknowledge the very courteous and generous manner in which he has assisted in getting the present volume published. To my fellow-workmen and others who have aided me in my very responsible undertaking I beg likewise to tender my heartfelt thanks.
J. H. P.