From the Reeves* collection, this study of the slightly neglected writer L.P.Jacks (Lawrence Pearsall Jacks 1860-1955). His best known book was probably Mad Shepherds and Other Human Studies from which the drawing of 'Snarley Bob' comes (below.) There is an excellent article on him in Dictionary of Unitarian & Universalist Biography and Gutenberg have the entire text of Mad Shepherds.
A potential distinction was presented unknowingly to the citizens of Nottingham in 1860, the year when the eminent Lawrence Pearsall Jacks was born. I have a notion that he was a delicate child and frequently a trial to his parents; but I am sure that I am one among thousands to whom he has given hours of delight, either in speeches or in his fascinating literature.
Indeed I sometimes feel that he would have been much better known to the general public had he been nothing but a professional journalist, instead of one of the leading Unitarians of his long career; for his reminiscences are so well written and so fascinating that I often pay him the compliment of a second or third reading. I browse among his memoirs as frequently as those of Harold Nicolson's letters and diaries and Frank Swinnerton's autobiographies; for there is a touch of magic and intensity in his recollections which keep many a mesmerized reader fighting against sleep on numerous occasions. His was the vivid phrase, the unmistakable meaning, the frank opinion, the distilled wisdom of a long life among some of the most brilliant men of his era, and anyone who could claim him for a friend must have been a very privileged adult.
(by L. Leslie Brooke)
Few people whom I have met have been so enthusiastic in their appreciation of the great men to be found controlling the destinies of Oxford undergraduates, and Jacks, owing to his long years working with and meeting wardens, professors and dons, probably knew as many really outstanding scholars as any other man of his time, and even if his declaration that proportionately Oxford has known more great men than any other varsity in England is somewhat extravagant, many of us must revise our theory that most rare teachers are somewhat restricted in their general knowledge of mankind. Certainly the university's bounteous harvest encourages Jacks' belief: Lord Birkenhead, Asquith, Gladstone, Curzon, Gorst, Cosmo Gordon Lang, Grey, Ernest Barker, Amery, together with numerous great judges, lawyers, statesmen, ambassadors and other eminent figures, especially the members of All Souls, all make us realize what a wonderful training-ground for eminence an ancient university really is. Moreover, such a multitude of outstanding men would not be possible, as already suggested, without great teachers; and even my limited knowledge of Oxford worthies enables me to remember such names as Jowett, Fisher, Pewsey, Ruskin, Manning, Newman, Marett, Bowra, Cyril Burt, Spooner and Sparrow.
L. P. Jacks was fully aware of his good fortune in achieving the position of Principal of Manchester College, Oxford, which enabled him to live for many years among distinguished scholars, and the delighted readers of his recollections share many of his rich experiences.
One of his most exciting stories, however, relates to his boyish experience in witnessing a riot broken up by a fearless police sergeant with an effective truncheon, who was so unbelievably successful that a party of belated soldiers arrived to find that all was quiet in the Midlands. Few writers could have given a better description of a hectic hour. Nor can one forget his contempt for modern methods of dealing with thoroughly troublesome, useless and criminal people. Not that he expected always to be right. He has of course admitted ignorance on many subjects. I think it was in Near the Brink that he announced a hope to resume his education at some continuation school in the next world: a really original but typical suggestion.
I still adhere to the opinion that, as a professional journalist alone, Jacks would have been a triumphant success; but even so one has to admit that his publications varied in their interest to the general reader. His forty-five year editorship of The Hibbert Journal testified to his acquaintance with journalism, but I believe its appeal was limited. Then, his books on Religion would hardly be likely to have a large sale; nor would some of his additional publications; his Education through Recreation, for instance. It is a slim volume of a dozen short chapters and largish print, which at a pinch could be written in a couple of months; and during several successive years when he published one book per annum I imagine his publications varied very considerably in length. Then as regards his thirtyone achievements in authorship some of my preferences would be My American Friends; the Revolt against Mechanism; The Confession of an Octogenarian; Near the Brink and Life and Letters of Stopford Brooks.
As Jacks was assistant to Stopford Brooks in Bedford Chapel, London, and had married the reverend gentleman's daughter, he was obviously the comprehensive biographer of a well-known divine; hence I should expect such a publication to be a success. To return for a minute to Education through Recreation I am deeply impressed with an account of an instance of bold initiative regarding the branch of an Institute for Education started in one city. Cultural lectures were arranged and inaugurated, but the students were bored, attendance was poor, so the whole scheme was scrapped and community dancing was introduced, which was an immediate and sustained success, leading to further experiments in the arts.
At this point I recall the L.C.C. and evening classes. I used to be an eager student attending classes in law, economics, literature, Latin and French. At all times I noted in early autumn that the education committee organized a very efficient system of adult education and if one could be critical at all it would be to suggest that at times certain classes persisted longer than they ought to have done. Not that lecturers were frequently to blame. The general standard of lectures was high. I recall a class in House Jobbery mainly for women. Owing to little support it had to close, yet the few women left liked their teacher and were thrilled at their own progress in such things as mending fuses, giving first-aid to leaky kettles and all sorts of household goods of all sizes. It occurs to me that conceivably its successor the G.L.C. might also scrap certain doubtful programmes and act as promptly as a local branch of the Institute of Adult Education.
During several years as a student Jacks studied at Manchester University, Gottingen and Harvard. As he became widely known he received honorary degrees from Glasgow, Liverpool, Harvard, McGill and Rochester, U.S.A. It is obvious therefore that among leading thinkers in the world he was recognized as an authority on theology and adult education. It is possible, moreover, that beyond his intellectual eminence there was one significant quality in his personality which made other leading figures anxious to pay homage to an unusual man, I suspect they had learned that his integrity was impregnable.
It is always significant to me that he and Sir Oliver Lodge were kindred spirits. For my part, if I could have had a couple of hours with Jacks I should have liked to discuss his book: The Alchemy of Thought.
* Found among the papers of the long defunct literary agency Michael Hayes of Cromwell Road S.W.5 - parts of a manuscript memoir by one L.R. Reeve of Newton Abbot, South Devon. Mr Reeve was attempting to get the book (Among those Present: Very Exceptional People) published, but on the evidence of the unused stamp Hayes never replied and L. R. Reeve published the book himself through the esteemed vanity publisher Stockwell two years later in 1974.
L R Reeve had, in a long life, met or observed a remarkable selection of famous persons. He presents 'vignettes' of 110 persons from all grades of society (many minor or even unknown) they include Winston Churchill, Dorothy Sayers, H H Asquith, John Buchan, the cricketer Jack Hobbs, J.B. Priestley, H.G. Wells, Marconi, E.M. Forster, Duchess of Atholl, Marie Stopes, Oliver Lodge and Cecil Sharp -- 'it is unnecessary to explain that many I have known have not known me. All of them I have seen, most of them I have heard, and some of them have sought information, even advice from me." Reeve states that the unifying qualification all these people have is '… some subtle emanation of personality we call leadership, and which can inspire people to actions unlikely to be undertaken unless prompted by a stronger will."
Reeve was a teacher throughout his life and deputy head of 3 London schools, headmaster of Loughborough emergency schools, ex-president of London Class Teachers Association and very early member of the British Psychological Society (55 years)... I calculate he was probably born in about 1900. His style is markedly unexciting but he has much information unavailable elsewhere.. He sent several typed manuscripts to (from the smell) the chain-smoking agent Hayes…