Horatio Bottomley, the only son of William King Bottomley (1827–1863), a tailor's cutter, and his wife, Elizabeth Holyoake, was born at 16 St Peter's Street, Bethnal Green, on 23rd March 1860. His father, who suffered from mental problems, died in a "fit of mania" in Bethleham Hospital, three years later. His mother died of cancer when he was only four years old.
Bottomley was cared for by his mother's brother, William Holyoake. Another brother, George Jacob Holyoake, the editor of The Reasoner one of the most important working class journals of the 19th century, helped to pay for Bottomley's keep. Holyoake used his journal to campaign on a wide variety of different social and political issues. Holyoake was a critic of Christianity and suggested that it should be replaced by a belief system based on reason and science. Holyoake called this new theory Secularism and by the middle of the early 1860s there were over forty Secular Societies in Britain. Bottomley was someone who was influenced by Holyoake's views.
In 1869 Bottomley was placed in Sir Josiah Mason's Orphanage in Birmingham. According to his biographer,A. J. A. Morris: "To help alleviate his misery and humiliation Bottomley created a world of fantasy from which he never again entirely escaped. When at fourteen he ran away from the orphanage he was shunted between the homes of relatives and various lodging houses in Birmingham and London."
Bottomley arrived in Brighton in 1875 where he found work work at a jeweller's shop. He lived in a small garret bedroom over a chandler's shop at 3, Little East Street. During this period he was also a member of the local debating society. Bottomley eventually returned to London and in 1877 he found employment as an office boy in an ironworks in Euston Road and lodged with a widow in Battersea. He enrolled at Pitman's College and in 1879 joined a firm of legal shorthand writers, in Holywell Street.
Bottomley also worked as a proof-reader to George Jacob Holyoake and Charles Bradlaugh, another leading figure in the secular movement. His biographer, A. J. A. Morris has argued that: "Bottomley bore a striking resemblance to Bradlaugh - not in stature, for he was short and stout, but in features. He countenanced, even encouraged, the rumour that he was the natural child of the great Victorian freethinker." Henry J. Houston, who researched his life, claimed: "It was always a foolish rumour, and never had any more basis than a rather striking facial resemblance between the two men. If Bradlaugh had been Bottomley's father he was the type of man who would have looked after his son, and not left him to struggle with the world as he did in the early days." It is possible that Bottomley was the source of the rumour as he did not like the idea of his father dying in Bethleham Hospital.
In May 1880, Bottomley married a dressmaker's counter assistant, Eliza Norton (1860–1930), daughter of Samuel Norton, a debt collector of Battersea. According to Houston: "It is agreed by all who remember her in those days, a most attractive and pretty young lady. Her family was humble but eminently respectable." They had one child, a daughter. Bottomley now decided to become a journalist. He had a strong interest in politics and founded several journals that reported the debates of local parliaments. He quickly acquired a small group of magazines and journals that in 1885 constituted the Catherine Street Publishing Association. In 1888 he helped establish The Financial Times.
In 1889 he floated the Hansard Publishing Union. Within two years he was obliged to file for bankruptcy and was charged with conspiracy to defraud. It was generally assumed that he would be found guilty but, conducting his own defence brilliantly, he was acquitted. Bottomley now founded the Joint Stock Trust and Institute as the vehicle for floating the Western Australian gold mining companies he now promoted.
In 1897 The Financial Times reported that he was "a man of millions". Bottomley purchased a large house, The Dicker, near Eastbourne. He also had a second home in Monte Carlo, where his wife lived. A. J. A. Morris has pointed out: "He enjoyed many mistresses, preferring lively, petite, blonde, working-class girls. He always treated them with courtesy and generosity. The current favourites - he liked to have two if not three in tow at a time - were set up in rented flats and showered with flowers and gifts." Frank Harris, one of his friends, commented that he had an "intense greed for all the sensual pleasures".
One of the tasks of Henry J. Houston was to arrange his meetings with his many mistresses: In one respect at least, Horatio Bottomley resembled many of the most notable - and some of the most notorious - men in history. After every big physical and mental effort, whether in finance, the law, public oratory, journalism, or politics, he turned with unfailing regularity to the fair sex for solace, oblivion, and refreshment. Few men took more genuine delight in the society of women, and it is impossible to understand the character of the man without a knowledge of his attitude towards them.... For a public man he was amazingly reckless in his feminine friendships. Utterly devoid of conventional views on the relationship of the sexes, he was occasionally hard to convince that a public man was under an inescapable obligation to be circumspect in public. Repeatedly I have had to point out to him - not always with any effect - the unwisdom of travelling while on public business with a lady to whom he was not married, however innocent the association might be."
Bottomley also had a luxury apartment in Pall Mall and owned several racehorses. He twice won the Cesarewitch and several other races, but never achieved the successes in the Derby or the Grand National, even though he spent a great deal of money trying to achieve this ambition. He also lost a great deal of money on failed betting coups.
In 1902 Bottomley bought the evening newspaper, The Sun. He was unable to increase its circulation and he sold the newspaper in 1904. Two years later, with the support of the Odham's Press, he launched the John Bull Magazine in May 1906. The journal's masthead asserted that it was written "without fear or favour, rancour or rant" to uphold the interests of the common man.
Bottomley desired a career in politics and after joining the Liberal Party, he was elected to represent Hackney South in the 1906 General Election. By this time there were rumours about his business activities. In one debate in the House of Commons he described himself as the chancellor's "more or less honourable friend". He did not help his case by saying that all political parties "are organised hypocrisies" and political leaders "for the most part do nothing or seek only to serve their own ends".
Bottomley appointed Henry J. Houston as his personal assistant just before the 1910 General Election. He later recalled: "I had for a long time been a close student of politics, working ardently for my local political association, and I followed with interest the political work of Horatio Bottomley." Bottomley was no longer a supporter of the Liberal government and rejected the Liberal whip, and claiming he preferred "to occupy a position of dignified detachment". He formed the John Bull League and called on an alliance with right-wing MPs in order "to continue to criticise the Liberal party unhampered by Cobdenite shibboleths". He argued for the government of Herbert Henry Asquith to be replaced by one of business leaders.
In February 1912, facing demands from the Prudential Assurance Company, he admitted that his liabilities exceeded his assets by £200,000. As a bankrupt he could no longer remain an MP and on 24th May, he left the House of Commons.
On the outbreak of the First World War, Bottomley told his personal assistant, Henry J. Houston: "Houston, this war is my opportunity. Whatever I have been in the past, and whatever my faults, I am going to draw a line at August 4th, 1914, and start afresh. I shall play the game, cut all my old associates, and wipe out everything pre-1914" Houston later recalled: "At the time I thought he meant it, but but now I know that the flesh, habituated to luxury and self-indulgence, was too weak to give effect to the resolution. For a while he did try to shake off his old associates, but the claws of the past had him grappled in steel, and the effort did not last more than a few weeks."
In September 1914, the first recruiting meetings were held in London. The first meetings were addressed by government ministers. Bottomley told Houston: "These professional politicians don't understand the business. I am going to constitute myself the Unofficial Recruiting Agent to the British Empire. We must have a big meeting." His first meeting at the Albert Hall was so popular that according to Houston, Bottomley "was unable for two hours to get into his own meeting."
Bottomley wrote to Herbert Henry Asquith about the possibility of becoming Director of Recruiting. Asquith replied: "Thank you for your offer but I shall not avail myself of it at the moment. You are doing better work where you are." Asquith, aware of his popularity, encouraged him to do this work in an unofficial capacity. It has been claimed at the time that he was paid between £50 and £100 to address meetings where he encouraged young men to join the armed forces. Henry J. Houston claimed that he spoke at the Empire Theatre, Leicester Square, and delivered a ten minutes' speech each night for a week at a fee of £600. Later, Bottomley "secured a week's engagement, two houses nightly, at the Glasgow Pavilion, where he received a fee of £1,000."
In 1914 David Lloyd George, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was given the task of setting up a British War Propaganda Bureau (WPB). Lloyd George, appointed the successful writer and fellow Liberal MP, Charles Masterman as head of the organization. The WPB arranged for journalists like Bottomley to visit the Western Front.
It has been calculated that Bottomley addressed twenty recruiting meetings and 340 "patriotic war lectures". Although he had been highly critical of the government, at the meetings he always stated: "When the country is at war, it is the duty of every patriot to say: My country right or wrong; My government good or bad." He also falsely claimed that he was "not going to take money for sending men out to their death, or profit from his country in its hour of need." Bottomley claimed that he used the meetings to publicise John Bull Magazine and according to Houston, he drew over £22,000 from the journal for his efforts.
At one meeting a man in the audience shouted out: "Isn't it time you went and did your bit, Mr. Bottomley?" Bottomley replied: "Would to God it were my privilege to shoulder a rifle and take my place beside the brave boys in the trenches. But you have only to look at me to see that I am suffering from two complaints. My medical man calls them anno domini and embonpoint. The first means that I was born too soon and the second that my chest measurement has got into the wrong place."
To persuade young men to join the armed forces he gave the impression that the war would be over in a few weeks. In a speech at the Bournemouth Winter Gardens in September, 1915, he argued: "Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to pull yourselves together and keep your peckers up. I want to assure you that within six weeks of to-day we shall have the Huns on the run. We shall drive them out of France, out of Flanders, out of Belgium, across the Rhine, and back into their own territory. There we shall give them a taste of their own medicine. Bear in mind, I speak of that which I know. Tomorrow it will be officially denied, but take it from me that if Bottomley says so, it is so!"
Houston argued in his book, The Real Horatio Bottomley (1923): "He began to accept what were practically music hall engagements disguised as recruiting meetings, and I was very definitely of the opinion that he was drifting in the wrong direction. Nevertheless for some time it went on... Bottomley insisted that a substantial contribution (from the income generated from the meetings) went to his War Charity Fund... Three years later I discovered that the fund did not receive a penny of the money."
In one speech Bottomley argued: "Every hero of the war who has fallen in the field of battle has performed an Act of Greatest Love, so penetrating and intense in its purifying character that I do not hesitate to express my opinion that any and every past sin is automatically wiped out from the record of his life." George Bernard Shaw went to one of Bottomley's meetings and afterwards commented: "It's exactly what I expected: the man gets his popularity by telling people with sufficient bombast just what they think themselves and therefore want to hear."
Bottomley argued in the John Bull Magazine that Ramsay MacDonald and James Keir Hardie, were the leaders of a "pro-German Campaign". On 19th June 1915 the magazine claimed that MacDonald was a traitor and that: "We demand his trial by Court Martial, his condemnation as an aider and abetter of the King's enemies, and that he be taken to the Tower and shot at dawn."
On 4th September, 1915, the magazine published an article which made an attack on his background. "We have remained silent with regard to certain facts which have been in our possession for a long time. First of all, we knew that this man was living under an adopted name - and that he was registered as James MacDonald Ramsay - and that, therefore, he had obtained admission to the House of Commons in false colours, and was probably liable to heavy penalties to have his election declared void. But to have disclosed this state of things would have imposed upon us a very painful and unsavoury duty. We should have been compelled to produce the man's birth certificate. And that would have revealed what today we are justified in revealing - for the reason we will state in a moment... it would have revealed him as the illegitimate son of a Scotch servant girl!"
In his diary, Ramsay MacDonald recorded his reaction to the article. "On the day when the paper with the attack was published, I was travelling from Lossiemouth to London in the company as far as Edinburgh with the Dowager Countess De La Warr, Lady Margaret Sackville and their maid... I saw the maid had John Bull in her hand. Sitting in the train, I took it from her and read the disgusting article. From Aberdeen to Edinburgh, I spent hours of the most terrible mental pain.... Never before did I know that I had been registered under the name of Ramsay, and cannot understand it now. From my earliest years my name has been entered upon lists, like the school register, etc. as MacDonald. My mother must have made a simple blunder or the registrar must have made a clerical error."
MacDonald received many letters of support, including this one: "For your villainy and treason you ought to be shot and I would gladly do my country service by shooting you. I hate you and your vile opinions - as much as Bottomley does. But the assault he made on you last week was the meanest, rottenest lowdown dog's dirty action that ever disgraced journalism."
Lord Northcliffe also employed Bottomley to write a weekly column for The Sunday Pictorial. It is claimed that this alone earned him nearly £8,000 a year. In one of his articles under the heading: "A Million Coloured Troops: Act of Madness Not to Launch Them Against the Huns" he urged the government to mobilize the British Empire. He also wrote stories about German atrocities and suggested that the British Army should respond with their own "frightfulness".
In 1916 Bottomley helped Noel Pemberton Billing, get elected as the independent MP at the East Hertfordshire by-election. Billing was also the editor of The Imperialist. Both men used their newspapers to claim the existence of a secret society called the Unseen Hand. Bottomley even claimed that this group was responsible for the death of Lord Kitchener. Other supporters of this campaign included Lord Northcliffe (the owner of The Times and The Daily Mail), Leo Maxse (the editor of The National Review), the journalist, Arnold Henry White (the author of The Hidden Hand) and Ellis Powell (the editor of the Financial News). Bottomley claimed that members of the Unseen Hand were working behind the scenes to obtain a peace agreement with Germany.
As Ernest Sackville Turner, the author of Dear Old Blighty (1980) has pointed out: "One of the great delusions of the war was that there existed an Unseen (or Hidden, or Invisible) Hand, a pro-German influence which perennially strove to paralyse the nation's will and to set its most heroic efforts at naught... As defeat seemed to loom, as French military morale broke and Russia made her separate peace, more and more were ready to believe that the Unseen Hand stood for a confederacy of evil men, taking their orders from Berlin, dedicated to the downfall of Britain by subversion of the military, the Cabinet, the Civil Service and the City; and working not only through spiritualists, whores and homosexuals."
According to A. J. A. Morris: "His (Bottomley) patriotic appeals were barely disguised music-hall turns. The praise he received served to feed his latent megalomania. His political ambitions had always tended towards fantasy so that when, in December 1916, Lloyd George became prime minister Bottomley declared that he was ready to serve his country in some official capacity or other. He did not seem to realize that he was indelibly associated with dishonesty. Just as the blatant vulgarity of his writing in John Bull shamed journalism, so his speeches, with their ignominious appeals for sacrifice, degraded public life."
A.J.P. Taylor claimed that Bottomley made £78,000 from his "recruiting" and "patriotic" meetings. He used this money to pay off his debts and in the 1918 General Election he was returned as the independent MP for Hackney South. Soon afterwards stories began circulating about Bottomley's corrupt activities. This included his highly successful Victory Bond Club that he ran via John Bull Magazine. This scheme involved buying government Victory Bonds. It was claimed that he had corruptedly obtained over £900,000 in this way.
Bottomley was a strong critic of the Russian Revolution. In 1918 he became convinced that the journalist, Arthur Ransome, was a Soviet spy. In reality, Ransome was working for MI6. When he heard that he intended publishing a story on this in the John Bull Magazine Ransome immediately contacted his spymaster in Russia, Robert Bruce Lockhart, and told him that Bottomley intended to describe him as a "paid agent of the Bolsheviks" and asked him for help. He pointed out that he had been asked by Sir George Buchanan to be "an intermediary to ask Trotsky certain questions, my attempts to get into as close touch as possible with the Soviet people have had the full approval of the British authorities on the spot. I have never taken a single step without first getting their approval."
Ransome went onto argue that he was under orders to provide pro-Bolshevik reports: "As for my attitude towards (the Bolsheviks), please remember that you yourself suppressed a telegram I wrote on the grounds that its criticism of them would have put an end to my good relations with them and so have prevented my further usefulness. Altogether, it will be very much too much of a good thing if, after having worked as I have, and been as useful as I possibly could, I am now to be attacked in such a way that I cannot defend myself except by a highly undesirable exposition (to persons who have no right to know) of what, though not officially secret service work (because I was unpaid) amounted to the same thing." Lockhart contacted Bottomley and the article was never published.
In March 1922 he was charged with fraud. Tried before Mr Justice Salter at the Old Bailey, Bottomley was found guilty on twenty-three out of twenty-four counts and sentenced to seven years' penal servitude. His legal appeal was rejected and he was expelled from the House of Commons. He was released from Maidstone Prison in July 1927 after serving five years.
Bottomley launched a new journal, John Blunt. He also went on a speaking tours. However, he was unable to overcome his image as a swindler and both ventures ended in failure. His biographer, A. J. A. Morris, has pointed out: "He cut a pathetic figure and, a broken old man, he stumbled into obscurity. In 1930 his wife died and his daughter emigrated to South Africa. Of his former friends and acolytes all deserted him except Peggy Primrose, who shared her home with him."
Having traced his father's grave, and, later on, his mother's, I was able to establish many facts about H.B.'s early life. I found that he was born at 16, St. Peter Street, Bethnal Green, and was named Horatio William. His mother was formerly Miss Elizabeth Holyoake, a sister of Mr. George Jacob Holyoake, the founder of the Co-operative movement.
Bottomley's mother was greatly attached to Charles Bradlaugh, and it was her custom to go to all his lectures and meetings and sit on the platform with Baby Bottomley in long clothes.
H.B.'s father had, at some time prior to 1860, been confined in a well-known London asylum as a mental case. I am unable to give the details as the authorities inform me that only relatives can be permitted to inspect the records, but I have evidence of the fact that H.B.'s father died in a "fit of mania." H.B. always told me that his father died of consumption.
On the death of his mother, in 1865, H.B. and his sister passed under the care of their uncle, William Holyoake, the artist. Holyoake's brother, George Jacob, the author of " Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life," helped to support the young Bottomleys by paying a small sum each week to a widow lady at Battersea, a Mrs. Wormley. It was a case of the poor helping the poor. Mr. Holyoake had eight or nine children of his own, and he was finding that agitation, however sincere in its inspiration and beneficial to humanity in its results, produced a very precarious livelihood for the father of a large family...
We have remained silent with regard to certain facts which have been in our possession for a long time. First of all, we knew that this man was living under an adopted name - and that he was registered as James MacDonald Ramsay - and that, therefore, he had obtained admission to the House of Commons in false colours, and was probably liable to heavy penalties to have his election declared void. But to have disclosed this state of things would have imposed upon us a very painful and unsavoury duty. We should have been compelled to produce the man's birth certificate. And that would have revealed what today we are justified in revealing - for the reason we will state in a moment... it would have revealed him as the illegitimate son of a Scotch servant girl!
One of the great delusions of the war was that there existed an Unseen (or Hidden, or Invisible) Hand, a pro-German influence which perennially strove to paralyse the nation's will and to set its most heroic efforts at naught... As defeat seemed to loom, as French military morale broke and Russia made her separate peace, more and more were ready to believe that the Unseen Hand stood for a confederacy of evil men, taking their orders from Berlin, dedicated to the downfall of Britain by subversion of the military, the Cabinet, the Civil Service and the City; and working not only through spiritualists, whores and homosexuals.
These lectures were organized on a strictly business basis. The usual terms made with the proprietors of halls all over the United Kingdom stipulated for anything between 65 per cent. and 85 per cent. of the gross takings for admission, the proprietors providing the poster display, advertising, music, lighting and hall.
In addition to the "gate" receipts, H.B. received remuneration from the proprietors of John Bull on the following basis. One meeting per day, £25; two meetings per day, £17 Z10s. per meeting. Poster displays, amounting to many hundreds of pounds in cost, were also supplied by John Bull without charge.
It will thus be seen that the war provided H.B. with an excellent source of revenue. The expenditure of nervous and physical energy involved in the lecture tour was enormous. Every night when I got him away from a meeting to the hotel I had to strip him and give him a thorough towelling. He was invariably saturated right through to his morning coat with perspiration.
He needed a great deal of care as a result, and I found it necessary to travel special blankets for him. The first thing I used to do when we arrived at a hotel was to place the special blankets on his bed. That was done mainly at the request of Mrs. Bottomley, but it was a necessary precaution...
In September, 1915, we travelled down to Bournemouth to address our first two meetings, one in the afternoon and the other in the evening at the Winter Gardens controlled by Sir (then Mr.) Dan Godfrey...
Early next morning we motored on to Torquay, where he addressed two more meetings at a profit of £212, and caught the sleeping car back to London the same night.
"This opens up a new source of income, Houston," he said to me, as we discussed the lectures in the train." It has surprised even you, hasn't it? You must set to work in earnest now and get me booked up three days a week all over the country."
His energy was unbounded, and for days he was desperately restless because a short time had to elapse before all the arrangements could be completed.
"Why can't we get to work at once, Houston?" he exclaimed impatiently. "We are losing money and wasting time."
Before many days had passed I had fixed as many meetings as he could manage. We went on to Margate and other places, the receipts usually being about £100 a meeting. Then, on the first Sunday in October, we went to Blackpool, where he addressed two meetings and came away with about £300! On several occasions afterwards we revisited Blackpool, and he was always certain of making £300.
Gradually money became the ruling passion with H.B. in connection with the lectures. It was an obsession with him. If I arranged a big evening meeting for him in a large town, he would insist on My arranging an afternoon meeting on the same day at some neighbouring place, even if it was quite a small place, where he could not hope to make more than £40.
Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to pull yourselves together and keep your peckers up. I want to assure you that within six weeks of to-day we shall have the Huns on the run. We shall drive them out of France, out of Flanders, out of Belgium, across the Rhine, and back into their own territory. There we shall give them a taste of their own medicine. Bear in mind, I speak of that which I know. Tomorrow it will be officially denied, but take it from me that if Bottomley says so, it is so!
In one respect at least, Horatio Bottomley resembled many of the most notable - and some of the most notorious - men in history. After every big physical and mental effort, whether in finance, the law, public oratory, journalism, or politics, he turned with unfailing regularity to the fair sex for solace, oblivion, and refreshment.
Few men took more genuine delight in the society of women, and it is impossible to understand the character of the man without a knowledge of his attitude towards them. In practice, if not in theory, he exemplified the Nietzschean philosophy that "man shall be educated for war, and women for the recreation of the warrior."
The battles H.B, fought were battles of wits, and if there was frequently an armistice it was never a protracted one ; but every time he stole away from the battlefield it was to seek feminine society. Occasionally, as I shall show, he had to go no farther than his tent on the battlefield!
For a public man he was amazingly reckless in his feminine friendships. Utterly devoid of conventional views on the relationship of the sexes, he was occasionally hard to convince that a public man was under an inescapable obligation to be circumspect in public. Repeatedly I have had to point out to him - not always with any effect - the unwisdom of travelling while on public business with a lady to whom he was not married, however innocent the association might be...
He was most happy in the society of his wife and daughter, and it was frequently to them that he flew for solace and recreation. Unfortunately the health of Mrs. Bottomley has never permitted her to live for more than a few weeks at a time in England, but often after a specially arduous period he would make a quick journey to the south of France to spend a few days in the bosom of his family, and be at peace from the clamorous calls of his affairs.
When that was rendered impossible by time or distance, almost any feminine society was acceptable as a substitute. His women friends ranged from the highest ladies in the land to the humblest waitress in the grill room of an hotel, and he was equally at home with both types.
He had only four recreations - horses, tennis, billiards, and women - and his favourite was the last. He knew little about horses, much about tennis and billiards, but he knew most about women.
In his incessant travels he made a large number of feminine acquaintances. There was one little girl, a waitress named Maggie, employed in the grill room of a north of England hotel, to whom he was greatly attached. Whenever we arrived there, and however late the hour, he would seek her out in the grill room rather than be served by anyone else in the visitors' dining room or his private sitting-room. Even when she was off duty, I have known him send for her in order that she should attend to his needs, and she was always as pleased to come as he was to see her.
Once, after an absence of two or three months, we returned to find that she had taken a new post in Lancaster. H.B. was disconsolate. I was instructed to inquire for her address and send her the following wire: "Come and shake hands with me."
The telegram was promptly answered in person, and after an hour's chat, during which Maggie received a substantial gift, they parted once more, leaving H.B. perfectly contented with having had the society of a simple girl whose disposition attracted him.
A month or so later, when we went north for a visit to Carlisle, I had to send Maggie a wire asking her to be on the platform at Lancaster for a few moments' conversation as we passed through.
The Anti German Union, in which George Makgill was obviously such a central figure, has been suggested by Gerry Webber as a forerunner of the British Commonwealth Union, which in turn gave rise to National Propaganda and itself became the British Empire Union....
That Sir George Makgill was active within this complex network of inter-related organisations is however beyond doubt. In the London telephone directory for 1917 he is listed as the Honourary Secretary of the British Empire Union based at 346 Strand Walk (the office of the Diehard newspaper "The Morning Post"). In 1918 the "business secretary" of the British Empire Union was listed as Reginald Wilson, who was later associated with National Propaganda, and its successor the Economic League. Makgill was also, in the same years, the General Secretary of the British Empire Producers' Organisation, which had certainly been courted by the BCU as a potential sponsor, as early as 1917. A further link with this Diehard, anti-socialist network around National Propaganda, is suggested by an entry in The Times on December 17th 1920, in which it was announced the Makgill was standing as a candidate for Horatio Bottomley's People's League in a Parliamentary election in East Leyton. Bottomley was a jingoistic, right wing populist closely associated with the diehards. His group was one of the more successful "patriotic labour" movements which sprang up after the extension of the franchise to attract and encourage anti-socialist working class votes.
Never at any time in his life was H.B. a successful business man. The plain stories of his various commercial ventures are eloquent proof that he entirely lacked the fundamental qualities for success in business.
Though he was capable of conceiving grandiose schemes - many of them quite impracticable, by the way - he could form no conception of the detail work necessary to carry them through. That always had to be left to others, and H.B. was very much at their mercy so far as the detail work was concerned.
When he pleaded ignorance in the recent prosecution as to the procedure adopted in regard to important detail work of the Victory Bond Clubs, he told the simple truth. I never had anything to do with those Clubs - my work having been solely concerned with his parliamentary and political activities during the last few years - but I am quite certain that he not only did not know what procedure was adopted, but was incapable of understanding it.
Intricate details of organization bothered him, and he would not patiently allow anyone to explain them to him. That was work he paid others to do for him, and he did not want to know how it was managed. "That is a matter of detail," was a favourite expression of his.
Temperamentally, he was never constituted for business. He always preferred flashy methods to the patient work that builds up solid commercial enterprises. He never took the long view. If he made £25,000 on a big deal, he would not put it into business and let it do its work of earning a regular income. He looked upon that £25,000 as so much treasure wrung from life, to be devoted to providing sunshine in the present. The future could look to itself. He was always a hand-to-mouth man.
He had, in fact, a temperament more common to journalists than business men, and like most journalists he was more successful in making money when the business side of the concern was in other hands.
He was, too, naturally an indolent man, though he could be induced to work in terrific spurts when it was necessary for the achievement of something upon which he had set his heart. But the prolonged steady application of his energies was foreign to his nature.
It will occasion no surprise, therefore, when I record that no business venture he ever touched lasted. Even the Hansard Union, which was probably the soundest in conception of any scheme he ever devised, was admitted by him in later life to have been thoroughly impracticable.