Josephine Butler to Mr Johnson

Scope and Content

Written from Ewart Park, Wooler, Northumberland.

Has to neglect writing to many friends because correspondence had become too heavy for her. But now she has Miss Humbert and hopes with her efficient help to avert 'a complete collapse'. Asks if he can tell her anything about the position of the Abolition question in the Colonies. Comments on the awful state of France with their 'fury against the Jews and craven fear of the Army'. Of the Dreyfus affair 'It is a horrible injustice'. She wonders what 'poor Lady Henry Somerset's communication is to Lord George Hamilton'.

Administrative / Biographical History

Feb 3 [1898].

'I know something of the Dreyfus family ... It is a horrible injustice.' This was the 1st reference to the notorious Dreyfus case in JB's letters. After that the references were numerous. In 1894 Dreyfus, a French general staff officer, was accused of selling military secrets to Germany. A French court martial before whom he was brought in that year convicted him of treason and he was sentenced to degradation and imprisonment on Devil's Island. The case flared up again in 1896 and soon divided Frenchmen into two irreconcilable factions. The quarrel disrupted French life for ten years. Fresh evidence was found pointing to other possible guilty parties. In 1899 a new court martial was ordered.

But it was not till 1906 that the Supreme Court of appeal cleared Dreyfus who was reinstated. In the First World War he was made a General.

'I wonder what poor Lady Henry Somerset's communication is to Lord George Hamilton.'

In the Shield of Mar 1898 p 89 is given the text of the letter from Lady Henry Somerset written from Eastnor Castle to Lord George Hamilton and dated 27 Jan 1898. She says that because her letter to him of last year (21 Apr) 'has been taken by many to mean that I am on the side of the accepted view of State regulation', she is writing 'to withdraw any proposals made in that letter.'

Text of her letter was also given in the 'Christian' for 10 Feb with a comment on it in the issue for 17 Feb.

Biog: Mr Johnson, Miss A Humbert, Lady Henry Somerset, Lord George Hamilton, Dreyfus family