Letter from George Mudie to Robert Owen

Scope and Content

This manuscript letter opens with Mudie declaring he wishes to "reunite" with Owen in "practical endeavours" following their "long estrangement". This was caused by Mudie dreading the "fearful consequences" for some of Owen's doctrines due to his advocacy of "actual co-operation".

Mudie continues to cast light of some of the issues which caused his parting of ways with Owen - not least because Owen refused to place Mudie on the board of The Philanthropic Society because, he said, he was "too far advanced in knowledge". Mudie believes had Owen continued to co-operate with him, then the "cause of co-operation would many years ago been established".

A comprehensive outline of Mudie's activities since his "estrangement" from Owen follows; his involvement in the setting-up of the community at Orbiston and the considerable problems he encountered in relationships with his fellow trustees; his return to London in 1832 where he had the pleasure of seeing Owen lecture at Gray's Inn Road; of his "zeal in the cause of co-operation... unabated", despite being made a "martyr" to it in Edinburgh, and his realisation that he would be an "unwelcome intruder" and also of Owen entertaining ideas he was disagreeable with; his undertakings in Edinburgh, including founding the United Interests Society in 1825-26 which had some 600 members and opened both a store on South Hanover street in the city and "bake-house" for baking their own bread, but which floundered when Mudie was taken ill; and his latest "very feeble" efforts to establish a small weekly periodical and form a new co-operative society in London under the title The New Benefit Society.

Mudie writes he founded a The Co-operative and Economical Society in "Spafield [London]" in 1825, and from this he believes over 1100 co-operative societies were established across Great Britain and Ireland. However, these societies were mainly concerned with "supplying themselves with the necessities" and experience has taught Mudie that co-operation of this form "is unlikely to ever succeed"; instead "co-operators must actually congregate and live together in one hive".

Reference is made to the attempt to establish a community at Spa Fields in London, with Mudie noting that he was the only "influential co-operator" willing to live with the working classes, and if but one more influential man had joined "success would have been insured". During his 2 years spent living at Spa Fields, Mudie lived in "perfect harmony" with 21 other working class families and only left the community when his employers at The Sun newspaper forced him to chose between living with the community or lose his job.

The letter closes with Mudie explaining that he has been for a long time "unemployed and distressed" and wishes to know if he can be of help in producing a periodical or some other similar work."


Stamped number: 1665