Parris, Touzeau, 1839-1907

A short biography of Touzeau Parris, secularist and anarchist, active in the Socialist league

Thomas Collins Touzeau Parris, usually known throughout his life as Touzeau Parris, was born in Honiton, Devon. He attended Bristol Grammar School and Bristol Baptist College. He became a Unitarian minister and chaplain for Samuel Courtauld, the mill owner. He helped his father sell books in Bristol. He became a secularist and was an agent for the secularist newspaper The National Reformer in Clifton, then a suburb of Bristol.

When in 1877 two leading secularists, Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant, were put on trial for publishing a work on birth control, Touzeau Parris and his wife Annie moved up to St. John’s Wood in London to help with the defence committee. He became a lecturer for the National Secular Society and was very popular on the speaking circuit.

From 1884 his firm of gelatine manufacturers, based in South Acton, appeared in business directories. In 1885 he was living in Hammersmith and in September of that year wrote to William Morris offering his help in the prosecution of Morris and other socialists arrested after a police raid on the International Club at 7 St. Stephen’s Mews. He appears to have joined the Socialist League in that year.

In July 1986 he lectured to the Hammersmith branch of the League on socialism from an anarchist point of view and appears to have developed anarchist communist positions. Later in the 1880s he became a neighbour of Morris, living at 23 Upper Mall until 1902, and becoming his good friend. Whilst continuing to be an anarchist, he remained , like James Tochatti, with the Hammersmith Socialist Society after the split in the League in November 1890, and despite the rejection of anarchism by the HSS in their manifesto. In February 1891 he was a member of the committee set up to organise a meeting to commemorate the Paris Commune, where Kropotkin and Gustave Brocher spoke. He was a propagandist and speaker for the HSS at the pitch at Bridge End Road and continued to lecture for the HSS even though at a meeting on the 6th May 1892 ( from which he was absent) there was questioning of anarchist views being expressed at the HSS outdoor meetings. Fortunately Philip Webb and Morris put forward a motion which led to the subject being dropped. He gave a graveside speech at the funeral of Mary Mowbray in that year. In 1894 he contributed articles to Tochatti’s anarchist communist paper Liberty.

On 13th January 1893 he sponsored a motion on establishing an alliance of all socialist groupings and was one of the five on the committee set up as a result. He was still a member of the HSS in 1896 and was its delegate to the international Socialist Congress held in London in that year. His last recorded activity as an anarchist was his participation in the meeting to commemorate the Chicago martyrs in 1896. In 1907 he fell seriously ill and as a result fell into poverty. His comrades rallied round to support him and Tochatti was to write to George Bernard Shaw to thank him for a cheque that he had written to help out saying that he was “still the old Parris, only very weak”. George Meredith was another who contributed to the fund. Parris died the same year at the age of 68 on October 28th at St. Columb in Cornwall, the money raised being given to his widow.

Nick Heath

Sources:
Random Recollections of Leicester Secular Society: http://www.leicestersecularsociety.org.uk/history_gimson.htm
Oliver, Hermia. The International Anarchist Movement in Late Victorian London
Quail, john. The Slow Burning Fuse.
Royle, Edward. Radicals, Secularists and Republicans