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Originally published in 1914.
EXCERPT FROM Prisons & Prisoners: Some Personal Experiences
DEDICATION TO PRISONERS
WHEN, for a short while, I shared your lot, I asked myself through all my waking hours if there were any friendly thought which could act beneficently for all prisoners, no matter how various the training of their previous lives, no matter whether distress of circumstance, drunkenness, selfish action, cruelty, or madness had been the cause which brought them into prison.
And there seemed this one thing. It is a single idea, but needs many words to give it shape. Lay hold of your inward self and keep tight hold. Reverence yourself. Be just, kind and forgiving to yourself. For the inner you of yourself is surely the only means of communication for you with any good influence you may once have enjoyed or hope some day to find, the only window through which you can look upon a happier and more lovable life, the only door through which some day you will be able to escape, unbarring it to your own release from all that is helpless, selfish, and unkind in your present self.
Public opinion, which sent you to prison, and your gaolers, who have to keep you there, are mostly concerned with your failings. Every hour of prison existence will remind you of these afresh. Unless you are able to keep alight within yourself the remembrance of acts and thoughts which were good, a belief in your own power to exist freely when you are once more out of prison, how can any other human being help you? If not the inward power, how can any external power avail? But if you have this comforter within you, hourly keeping up communication with all that you have known and loved of good in your life, with all the possibilities for good that you know of—in your hands, your mind, your heart—then when you are released from prison, however lonely you may be, or poor, or despised by your neighbours, you will have a friend who can really help you. There will be people who visit you in prison, and who watch over you at first when you come out. They will try to help you, but unless they truly understand your lot, understanding your goodness as well as your badness, and sympathising with your badness as well as with your goodness, they will seem far off from you. Who knows, though, but what you may help them? In my ignorance and impudence I went into prison hoping to help prisoners. So far as I know, I was unable to do anything for them. But the prisoners helped me. They seemed at times the direct channels between me and God Himself, imbued with the most friendly and powerful goodness that I have ever met. Prisoners, I wish I could give to you, for your joy, something of the help you gave to me, and that in many ways I could follow your example.
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Lady Constance Lytton (1869-1923) was a passionate suffragette and was imprisoned numerous times for her involvement in protests. This book, first published in 1914, is her vivid and moving description of prison conditions, hunger strikes and the trauma of force-feeding. A tale of inspiring stoicism.
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Book Description Virago Press, London, 1988. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110860686825