by Gaipa, Mark
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Lord L. (Leslie) Haden Guest 1877-1960
Medical doctor, pioneer in school hygiene, author and journalist, member of Parliament.
In his obituary published in the London Times, Haden Guest is described glowingly as “very much a man of parts,” having taken on, during his remarkable career, such diverse roles as surgeon, social reformer, author, and politician. Readers of The New Ageare familiar, however, with yet another side to Haden Guest: nearly every week from May 1907 until October 1908, he wrote the drama column for the magazine. This interest in theater and literature—which doesn't seem to carry through to his later life—may simply be a youthful indulgence that Haden Guest satisfied before he set out upon the serious work of his maturity. But there's nothing unusual in members of Orage's circle combining such distinct disciplines as politics, social medicine, and the arts. That Haden Guest was also a student of theosophy (a further part of his personality left unmentioned in his official Times obituary) only makes him more of a part of the New Age. Perhaps we can get a taste of Haden Guest's many sides in the way (in 1914) he described his recreations: “lecturing on socio-medical journals, theosophical and socialist questions and being lazy.” Only that last item would raise objections from anyone familiar with Haden-Guest's entire life.
Haden Guest was born in Oldham, Lancashire, in the North of England. His father, a physician, was active in leftist causes, opening his home to the likes of Annie Besant and other Fabians. (Haden-Guest's second wife, Muriel Carmel, tells how Haden Guest's father “went to America in his youth to liberate the Red Indians. He returned somewhat disillusioned.”) As a young man, Haden Guest followed his father's example, lecturing on social issues and working-class politics. He was educated at Hulme's Grammar School, went on to graduate from Owen's College, and eventually earned his medical degree from London Hospital. Haden Guest travelled to South Africa to serve in the Boer War; after the war he stayed on in Africa a few years to practice medicine. Upon his return to London, Haden Guest played a key role in establishing health clinics for the city's public schools (see M. D. Eder for comparison). It was during this period in his life, when Haden Guest was 30 years old, that he also worked as a drama critic for the New Age. In 1909, Haden Guest divorced his first wife, Edith Low (whom he had married in 1898 and with whom he had two sons), and the following year he married Muriel Carmel, the playwright and author whose work sometimes appears today under the name “Mrs. L. Haden Guest.” Haden Guest continued his medical work in London and published, before the war, a number of socio-medical texts, including The Case for School Clinics (1911) , a Fabian Society tract on school hygiene; Theosophy and Social Reconstruction (1911) , issued by the Theosophical Publishing Society; and Votes for Women and the Public Health (1912) , which Haden Guest wrote for the Women's Freedom League. During the World War, Haden-Guest worked for the Red Cross and helped to organize hospitals overseas.
Following the war, Haden Guest's professional interests generally moved from medicine to a more formal involvement with politics. Haden Guest founded the Labour Party Commonwealth Group, and from 1923 to 1927 he served as a Labour Party member of Parliament for North Southwark. About this time Haden Guest fell out with Labour and joined the Conservative party, running in the next election as an Independent Constitutionalist. By 1931, he had again aligned himself with Labour. After a string of political defeats, Haden Guest was re-elected to the House of Commons in 1933, this time representing North Islington. He held this post until 1950, when—upon becoming a baron—he was made a member of the House of Lords.
During the post-war years, Haden Guest was also involved in a series of investigative trips to different countries. In 1920 he served as a member of the Labour Delegation that travelled to Russia and met with Lenin and Trotsky; a few years later, he joined the Empire Parliamentary Delegation in its visit to Canada; and in 1938-39, he travelled with a couple of British commissions that investigated conditions in West Africa. A number of H's books grew out of his political trips: The Struggle for Power in Europe, 1917-1921. An outline economic and political survey of the central states and Russia (1921) , The new Russia (1926) , Canada as a career (1927) , and The New British Empire (1929) , which treated both Canada and Australia. Other titles by Haden-Guest include: The Nature of Future: a survey of hygienic conditions and possibilities in school and home life (1916) , The Care and Nursing of Babies and Children (1922) , The Labour Party and the Empire (1926) , Where Is Labour Going? (1927) , Is Labour Leaving Socialism? (1929) , and the grim wartime publication If Air War Comes; a guide to air raid precautions and anti-gas treatment (1939) .
- Carmel Haden Guest, David Guest: A Memoir (1939)
- F. A. Marteau, Who's Who in Press, Publicity, Printing (1939)
- The Medical Who's Who (1914)
- Obituaries of the London Times, 1951-1960
- the World Catalogue (on-line).