Item 142 - Letter from Henry Sidgwick to his mother

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ADD.MS.c/99/142

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Letter from Henry Sidgwick to his mother

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  • 16 July 1870 (Creation)

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Acknowledges receipt of the money she sent to him. Refers to his pleasant existence in Berlin, and states that he intends to go soon to Halle, then to Göttingen, and on to Heidelberg, and hopes to meet up with her in Switzerland about the middle of August. Discusses the war; believes that it might have been prevented 'if more trouble had been taken to prevent real misunderstanding on the French side'. States that, while not regarding him as a statesman, he believes in Ollivier's honesty. Does not believe that Benedetti's last request was intended as a provocation, and contends that the king of Prussia could have rejected it courteously. Claims that the 'guilt of the war rests with France', who 'claim supremacy in Europe: every other civilised nation claims only equal rights.' Hopes that the Prince of Hohenzollern 'will now retract his retraction', but thinks this unlikely. Refers to his mother's question as to 'the "good" of such a poem as [Rossetti's] "Jenny" ', and claims to not understand her meaning. Believes it to be 'a perfectly truthful delineation of common-place fact', and explains that 'the pathetic effect of the poem is intended to spring from it's [sic] fidelity to commonplace...' States that if her objection were on the grounds that the subject is too disagreeable, he would argue that the range of tragedy would be limited a good deal 'if one excluded all disagreeable subjects.' Is sorry to hear about Arthur, and asks if ' "this tyranny" throw[s] more work on the assistant masters'. With regard to his personal letters, states that there is perhaps one in a hundred of them that he would not like to be read by anyone else, because of the nature of the subject matter. Hopes that she does not mind sending them on to him.

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Publication note

Part transcription in Sidgwick, Arthur, and Sidgwick, E. M, 'Henry Sidgwick'. London: Macmillan, 1906, p 232.

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