Charles Bradlaugh - Volume 1
I wish you would tell me things, and let me write the story of your life," I said in chatting to my father one evening about six weeks before his death. " Perhaps I will, someday," he answered. " I believe I could do it better than anyone else," I went on, with jesting vanity. " I believe you could," he rejoined, smiling. But to write the story of Mr Bradlaugh's life with Mr Bradlaugh at hand to give information is one thing: to write it after his death is quite another.
The task has been exceptionally difficult, inasmuch as my father made a point of destroying his correspondence; consequently, I have very few letters to help me. This book comes to the public as a record of the life and work of a much misrepresented and much-maligned man, a record which I have spared no effort to make absolutely accurate. Beyond this, it makes no claim. For the story of the public life of Mr Bradlaugh from 1880 to 1891, and for an exposition of his teachings and opinions, I am fortunate in having the assistance of Mr J. M. Robertson.
We both feel that the book throughout goes more into detail and is more controversial than is usual or generally desirable with biographies. It has, however, been necessary to enter into details, because the most trivial acts of Mr Bradlaugh's life have been misrepresented, and for these misrepresentations, not for his acts, he has been condemned.
Controversy we have desired to avoid, but it has not been altogether possible. In dealing with strictures on Mr Bradlaugh's conduct or opinions, it is not sufficient to say that they are without justification; one must show how and where the error lies, and where possible, the source of error. Hence the defence to an attack, to our regret, often unavoidably assumes a controversial aspect.
A drawback resulting from the division of labour in the composition of the book is that there are a certain number of repetitions. We trust, however, that readers will agree with us in thinking that the gain of showing certain details in different relations outweighs the fault of a few re-iterations.
In quoting Mr Bradlaugh's words from the National Reformer, I have for the sake of greater clearness and directness altered the editorial plural to the first person singular. I desire to express here my great indebtedness to Mrs Mary Reed for her help, more especially in searching old newspaper files with me at the British Museum, and in the compilation of the Index.
Charles Bradlaugh was an English political activist and atheist. He founded the National Secular Society in 1866, 15 years after George Holyoake had coined the term "secularism" in 1851. In 1880, Bradlaugh was elected as the Liberal MP for Northampton.
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