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KROPOTKIN, Peter.

Autograph letter signed, "P. Kropotkin".

Boxborough Road, Harrow-on-the-Hill: 2 October, 1888 Stock Code: 129779
£1,350.00
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Autograph letter signed by the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin, settled in England after fleeing persecution in Russia and the continent, to an unknown recipient, finalising the arrangements for a provisional lecture of his to be given on 17 October 1888.

In the letter Kropotkin refers to one "Mr Appleton" as the organiser of this particular lecture, perhaps the American anarchist Henry Appleton. Appleton was a regular contributor to Benjamin Tucker's periodical Liberty, in which a number of Kropotkin's articles were printed during the 1880s and 1890s; Tucker also translated a number of Kropotkin's essays, reported on his activities in Europe, and published Kropotkin's wife's story of her time spent at Clairvaux prison with her husband. Despite planning trips to America for well over a decade, it was not until 1897 and 1901 that Kropotkin's health allowed him to tour the east coast to deliver two series of lectures, primarily on the theory of mutual aid and the history of Russia literature, and in both cases Tucker was in attendance. Though little biographical information is known about Appleton, he had a reputation as a brilliant speaker and writer and wrote sympathetically of Kropotkin and his cause; it is possible that he was in contact with the revolutionary about tentative talks.

After twelve years of imprisonment (in Russia, in 1874, and later in France, in 1883) and exile (from Switzerland, in 1881), Kropotkin moved to England in 1886, where he stayed until his return to Russia after the February Revolution in 1917. His first home in England was Harrow, from where the present letter is penned, chosen so as to be near to his friend and comrade Nikolai Tchaikovsky. It was here, and in his subsequent homes in Bromley and Brighton, that Kropotkin "found relative peace. Although he worked hard and was troubled by ill health, he no longer led the tense and hectic life of a professional revolutionary. Not that he had relinquished his revolutionary creed, but, as he acknowledged time and again, he suffered no harassment or interference there. His agitation, like that of most British anarchists, was in no way different from the type of activities pursued by law-abiding radicals. When his health allowed him, he gave public lectures to various audiences, attended protest meetings and political commemorations initiated by both anarchists and non-anarchists, and joined in the odd demonstration. In his first years in Britain he played an active role in the small anarchist Freedom Group and the publication of its paper Freedom, and later on in anarchist groups dedicated to the Russian revolutionary cause. Above all, he led the life of a scholar, concentrating his efforts on research and writing. His articles filled the pages of anarchist and non-anarchist journals at home and abroad and his pamphlets and books were directed to and read by people of all shades of opinion" (Shpayer-Makov, p. 381). In stark contrast to his far more volatile reputation of the previous decades, Kropotkin became almost an "exemplary English gentleman" (ibid.), an appearance which allowed his ideas and opinions a platform in the British press, from which he could encourage sympathy for the Russian cause. This letter dates from such a time, providing insight into the daily life of the "'saintly' anarchist" during his time in exile (ibid., p. 390).

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Description

Single bifolium (leaf size 179 x 115 mm), hand written across one page in ink.

Condition

Creased from folding as usual, final page sometime pasted to card mount and later removed, leaving some glue and paper residue.

Bibliography

See Haia Shpayer-Makov, "The Reception of Peter Kropotkin in Britain, 1886-1917", Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, 19/3 (1987), pp. 373-90.

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