W.T. Stead to Bramwell Booth, (December 13, 1885)
Quoted in Harold Begbie, The Life of General William Booth (2 vols., New York, 1920)
Holloway, Dec. 13, ’85
I more and more come to the conclusion that I am a very spoiled child of Divine Goodness; I have far more than my share. I am happier in prison than ever I have been out of it, and you poor people who are free are plagued with ill health and all kinds of afflictions.
I am in a little Heaven 15 feet square, wonderfully uplifted and jubilant. A wonder with all who came to see me for my exceeding high spirits and almost riotous joyfulness.
I am working like a slave, in first-rate health and full of themes and plans and hopes and faiths.
I wish you could come and see me for half an hour. It would do you good, only it might make you envious and sad that you were not in gaol.
I have never in all my life felt such a strong presentiment and conscious foreknowledge of coming power and influence all over the world. How it is to come to pass I don’t know. But it is coming soon. Then I shall be glad to get to gaol again to be saved from a mob that will try to kill me, and then after a further period the mob will clutch me before I can get to such a safe shelter as this; my work being done, the mob will kill me and my memory and death will raise up far more workers than my life has done, so the good work will go on.
All this is very present to me. But altho’ I am as ever strongly drawn to the Army and more than ever penetrated by the thought that I am not fit to tie the shoe-laces of the humblest of your cadets, I am not going to join the Army. My work lies otherwhere. A great idea and luminous has dawned upon me in the solitude here that my work, that is to say the work of God wants me for, is to raise up a band of men and women who will labour to save England and collective humanity and the kingdom of this world with — say a tenth part of the same zeal and devotion that you Army people show in saving individuals.
We want a revival of civic virtue, of patriotic religion, of the Salvation of the State and its political and collective action. You look after the individual. It is right, it is the root of all. But I look after the composite and collective individuals. I want to organize a Salvation Army of a secular sort with a religious spirit in it, and if God wants it done and He thinks that I am the man for the job “I’m game,” as the saying is.
I have just read The Salvation War for 1884 through at a sitting. I think you had better send me all your “Wars.” My chapter on you and your work must necessarily bear largely on the Woman side of it.
Pray for me — not in generalities — there are lots doing that, but that in writing about the Army in the third Chapter of the Episode about the new Crusade I may say just the right thing to help you in the right way…
I am, yours in great peace and joy,
W. T. STEAD.
P.S. — Report how Leoni is getting on. Is she saved yet? Is there anybody you know who could do anything for Norral’s daughter — that policeman, you know, who seduced his daughter? Was going to drown herself, and Mrs. Butler had her. The man has bolted and the woman is hanging aimlessly on P.M.G., threatening to go to Lloyds and tell them how the P.M.G. has exposed and ruined her husband, Gibbons, etc. She is thirty-two and very helplessly useless.