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Letter from F. W. Pethick-Lawrence to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

‘The Echo’ Office, 19 St Bride Street, Fleet Street, E.C.—Is sorry he can’t be with her this afternoon, but he will be especially nice to ‘the two dear kiddies’ at the weekend. His evening (at Trinity) went well, and the Master said that the ‘dear boy’ (Frank Pethick) was much loved.

(Cf. 6/64–5 and 6/71.)

Letter from F. W. Pethick-Lawrence to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

‘The Echo’ Office, 19 St Bride Street, Fleet Street, E.C.—Expresses his love and admiration for her, and acknowledges her need to go (to Egypt) and gather wisdom.



‘The Echo’ Office, 19 St Bride Street, Fleet Street, E.C.
Aug 8 1906 {1}


I have been longing for the time to come when I should be free to be able to write to you—not tht† I have any news to tell you but simply because I want to write to you so much & tell you how I love you.

You see Girlie you are so much more than all the other things in my life[—]you are the great rest, you are the great solvent in which all the other things of life become fluid. You are the great Ocean into which I flow, you you darling—ah I seem to understand sometimes the full measure of the divine law of the world that permeates all our being, and by that law I need you absolutely not merely to construct or achieve but simply to be.

Beloved it is difficult to tell my soul-thought in words & yet I know you will understand.

Beloved you said yesterday that you had once a store of wisdom & you had shared it with me, & now you needed to go & gather a further store lest haply you should be left behind: beloved I know that the thought which lay behind your words was true because your heart is so great & strong & beautiful, & yet the words are only true in part to me for though you have shared with me your store of wisdom, you are ever in front of me. And the very travail of your being, for which I reverence you, is the outward & visible sign of that union of you dear woman life with the Earth, with Nature, & with th† Holy Spirit which places you forever as my umbilical cord to keep me living.

Sweetheart the words upon paper will not reveal to you: but behind them is the loving heart of your laddie & the living fingers who know the tenderness & the delight of your being.

And I am just yours dependent on you for being




A couple of words are unconventionally abbreviated.

{1} The first three figures of the year are printed.

† Sic.

Letter from F. W. Pethick-Lawrence to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

‘The Echo’ Office, 19 St Bride Street, Fleet Street, E.C.—Sends a welcome to await her on her arrival in Egypt.



‘The Echo’ Office, 19 St Bride Street, Fleet Street, E.C.
Oct 26 1904 {1}

So you will expect “a word of welcome from you boy to await you”—thts† what you said last night—Ah but your boy had it in his heart before tht†; you don’t suppose tht† when his Mums goes away, the laddie doesn’t make all preparations: you don’t suppose he doesn’t care do you girlie. Why course he does & a great hug “prevents” e & follows e.

“Mena House”. May it be a sweet place to e, little one, while you are there, and a dear memory afterwards. Here awaits your laddie’s Welcome.

Welcome girlie to Egypt, welcome to all the entrancing wonders of the East, & to the mysteries of ages, to the records of thousands of years of human thought & human toil & human love.

May this land hold for you joys & happiness & full delight till laddie comes himself to you and then just more still.

His heart is in your keeping & his life is just yours you darling.

Kiss Marie & Hetty for me & drink my health to night in the very best.

One more great hug



A few words are unconventionally abbreviated.

{1} The first three figures of the year are printed.

† Sic.

Letter from Lady Durning-Lawrence to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

13 Carlton House Terrace, S.W.—Invites her and Fred to spend a few days at Ascot before she (Emmeline) goes to Egypt. The differences between Fred’s views and those of herself and her husband have prevented them from being close in the past, but ‘time … has passed on’.



13 Carlton House Terrace, S.W.
Oct 27

My dear Emmeline

In response to your letter we shall be glad if you & Fred will come down to Ascot next Saturday & stay till Monday or the Saturday after or if neither of these proposals are possible can you run down for the day so that we may see you before you leave for Egypt—

If you come for the day do not come Monday or Tuesday as I am changing the monthly to the permanent nurse on those days

I shall always retain my love for Fred & so will his Uncle, but our thoughts & views have gone in such opposition† directions that intimate intercourse seemed difficult

Time however has passed on—Baby goes on well & you will like to see her & her surroundings before you leave

Believe me

Y[ou]rs affect[ionatel]y
Edith J. Durning-Lawrence


† Sic.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

(Place of writing not indicated.)—Describes her voyage to Egypt.



Sunday. Nov. 6

Beloved. Are your wishes, magicians? Why did you not tell me before you had this power to make smooth & radiant the way for those whom you love. All the days have been blue & serene—with lovely light, & all the nights sparkling with stars. The scent of Mimosa or of sweeter & more heavenly flowers has come morning by morning across the golden pathway of the risen sun & the great circle of life has been bounded only by the sky. Yes, the sea is wonderful, & to live in its breast & to feel the pulse & the breath of its being is wonderful. It brings a great forgetfulness—a release from personal life, a sense of the great stretch of universal being. It is Sunday, the sun nearing the horizon in the west, & another day will soon have passed—& all too soon this dream of contentment will be over. It has been quite unbroken. We have been just living in the warmth & light, almost grudging the hours of sleep, so sweet & dreamless & happy with the lullaby of the waves & the rythmic† pulse of the great heart whose throbbing speeds us on. We have been quiet, partly because the passengers are a somewhat sober lot, but perhaps because we have not gone out of our way to know people—there seems hardly time, for we shall be in port on Tuesday. They are not attractive, & oh so sordidly clothed; the women I mean. Motley flannel blouses on dark nondescript skirts, regardless of any sort of colour harmony—not one speck of brilliant beautiful colour—except in the lascar sailors! their scarlet caps & blue linen tunics are quite a relief. Mine is the only white suit, I have been so glad of it, I put it on the first thing & have worn nothing else except in the evening—& Marie & I have flaunted our orange & crimson scarves! The ‘officier’ I told you about {1} who came & sat down by us at breakfast turned out to be the Captain—he is such a nice man—an Irishman—I like him very much—he read prayers this morning. Last night at 11 o’clock we passed Stromboli & from its peak, red flames darted up to the stars at intervals. So you see we were not without our 5th of November fireworks.

At 2 o’clock this morning I woke with that fresh alertness, one owes to perfect sleep; & looked through my port hole, & saw that we were going through the Straits of Messina—we were very near; the mountains of Italy (at least the coast-line looked mountainous in the starlight) rose up against the sky like a land of imagination & dreams.

I said this morning I should like to take a picture of Marie in her berth in the morning, with the sparkle of delight in her eyes—looking in her excitement quite pretty. She & Hetty are very happy & we are all splendidly well, with great hunger! This is certainly a voyage “made easy for young beginners”. I must not expect that it will be always like this—must I?

The time that could be spared from the sea, & perhaps more time than ought to have been spared, has been given to my most fascinating book—“The Garden of Allah” {2}. You ought to bring it for the voyage. I don’t know whether you will get on with it; you will find the same physcholigal† detail that tried your patience rather in Felix {3}—but if you once get through that, I think you would get absorbed. I think it is quite one of those books that may be called “a miracle”. To me, it is quite superhuman, in truth & power & charm. Sentence by sentence it is a delight; one reads the very words again & again from sheer delight in them.

Sunday evening.

Never in my life have I known quite this sense so continued, of being lulled body & soul: laid to sleep in the arms of a great motherhood, as perhaps in the days before the memory was awake—so satisfied, as you say, it is “an eternity”, for “time” is not, nor past, nor future—only the song of the sea & the song of life. It is almost as if one had passed out of the body—I mean at times, when one sits hour after hour in the dark loath to stir or break the spell. I think of all I have left as if they belonged to another life—and of you as if you were coming coming† to me from the other side. We get a long evening—for we go down to dinner at 6 o’clock, as there was no room for us at the ordinary dinner at 7.30. It suits us well—we have the deck to ourselves from 7 o’clock till 9—it is par excellence the hour for dreams.

I heard some people talking today who have a very wretched cabin. “And we booked in June” they said. They are going to New Zealand & are hoping to change & get better berths at Port Said! How lucky we are! If we were on the other side of the boat, we should be very hot: but we could wish for nothing better in any way. We have no “places” except for dinner; breakfast & lunch are served during certain hours, & one just sits down where there is room. This means a new neighbour every time & rather tells against making friends. Some sports are arranged for tomorrow. But for such a very short voyage one wants nothing but—heaven!

I think of you & Carry tonight at The Sundial. How I hope you are having a good time & a ‘real’ time together. And dear Podger! You will have got my letter from Marseilles I hope. I keep thinking that you will be just where I am now in 5 weeks time. I could sail round & round the world for ever & aye, if the sea were always as it is now, & if you were always coming in 5 weeks’ time! I was so glad to get your dear telegram, it just came as if to say that you had prepared & made all this glory—& your darling letter—there never was such a fellerie† as you! Oh I want you to have all this rest & cessation, that we are having now & afterwards out there, an awakening, a revelation—the baptism of heavenly fire from the lands of the ardent sun.
Do you remember Swinburne’s lines from his Songs before Sunrise—

Out, under the moon & stars!
Out under the ardent sun!
Whose light, on prison bars
And mountain heads, is one.
Our march is everlasting, till time’s march is done! {4}


All too soon is our voyage coming to an end. Presently there will be packing—money-changing, bustle & then a train journey of 4 or 5 hours—landing us in Cairo about midnight. This part of the journey has been “bliss”, may the next part, as Marie says, not be “blister”! No—the fascination of Egypt together with a kind of awe & terror, the awe of the unknown & yet the near—grows upon one. Surely, surely the desert out there holds some gift for me & for you! How one longs for the power of song. At night in the dark looking out from the deck, I have thought what it would be to be able to sing, like the nightingale in Summer nights—it seems unnatural to be so dumb. In the life to come, there will be new powers of expression given to the soul. I begin to understand the conception of “Nirvana”. The wonderful East! One begins to——

Well, well, enough! There is a Burmese gentleman on board; he has been teaching us a little Arabic, & has given us his card—so that if we ever go to Burmah——

Where shall we not go? Oh Schatz what will be the end? Hetty was telling me wonderful things today out of a book called “The Dawn of Astronomy” by Sir Norman Lockyer—these old temples were so built that on one day of the year, the sun or the star in whose honour they were built shines right in to the inner shrine—the Holy of Holies. You could get it out of Mudie’s {5}—wouldn’t it be rather a lovely book for the journey.

But I expect you will not have much time for reading. We went in for the Sports yesterday—but did not get any prizes. I expect you will come to me laden with trophies. I am afraid we rather grudged the time! I want you to bring me Swinburne’s “Songs before Sunrise”, if you will—it will set me in tune for Mazzini: they are all inspired by Mazzini & the awakening of Italy.

I promised to lend Mac. my fiddle. It is at The Mascotte. Next time you go to Holmwood will you bring it back. I want you here now. Beloved, dearest, dearest, I am ever yours, ever yours, your Woman.

P.S. I am sending you the first two sheets of my Journal {6, which I want you to circulate please. Marie said when she saw me writing to you, “What a waste it seems, all that for one man!!” She is developing into quite a ‘rascal’.

You might let Mary Neal see this Journal before fo[r]warding to Mother.


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} Presumably in the letter from Marseilles referred to later in this letter, which is not extant.

{2} A novel by Robert Hitchens, first published in 1904.

{3} Probably Felix Holt, by George Eliot.

{4} A slight misquotation from Swinburne’s poem ‘A Marching Song’, from the collection Songs before Sunrise (1871), dedicated to Giuseppe Mazzini, who is referred to later in this letter. The published words are as follows:—

“Out under moon and stars
And shafts of the urgent sun
Whose face on prison-bars
And mountain-heads is one,
Our march is everlasting till time’s march be done.”

{5} i.e. Mudie’s circulating library.

{6} PETH 7/147, which in fact comprises three sheets.

† Sic.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Gives an account of her journey to Egypt with her sister Marie and Henrietta Lawes.



1st Letter

That important & long looked-for day has come at last, Nov. 3rd, which is to begin a new chapter of life, & marks the starting point of one more journey. “To follow the road wherever it leads”—whither will it lead? To lands of the ardent sun, to the wonderland of the East.

London is lightly veiled in a bright mist, the Thames glistens, there is a smell of the falling leaves: at Victoria station a little group of dear friends are gathered to bid us farewell, & speed us with good heart, upon our way. The whistle is blown, we are starting, now we leave behind those dear faces that we love—in that moment is concentrated that pain of parting that every journeying means. Oh how beautiful in the soft golden light, are the curves of field & upland, and the trees in their glowing colour: how more than beautiful at that time of lingering farewell—those smiles of our native land will be treasured till we return.

And the blue sea laughs a greeting at Dover, and all is sparkling bright. And now we are in the train for Marseilles rushing down to the sea all through the night, and at 7 o’Clock next morning we see our good ship Victoria in the Dock {1}: it is like a bit of our native land once more. With her, we shall be at home on a distant sea. Soon we are aboard, and the first question is “Where is our cabin? What will it be like?” Here it is—29 to 31! What a dear little place! a port-hole, which the Steward opens; three little berths; but oh how are we going to get all our luggage in?—“oh that will be all right”—we take it on trust, & presently find that everything has found its right niche—& the longer we live in this cabin, the more spacious it seems. It must have elastic sides! Breakfast is ready. The Captain comes & sits down by us & we have a talk. We find he knows Canning Town very well. On the Quay, there are fruit-sellers & flower sellers & gay stalls, covered with beads & shawls & as we pass up & down the gangway, these things are held out to us with beguiling smiles & “cheep, cheep, cheep”. There are acrobats—singers asking for pence—& lascars in scarlet caps & blue linen smocks & bare feet running up & down the gangways. At noon, we get under way & we steam out in the full sunshine, out into the midst of a shining sea, calm as a lake. It is quite hot, quite a relief to once more find summer clothes & put away all recollections of November! We are back in June. And now begins a time of delicious leisure and perfect well being: a voyage with all the conditions absolutely perfect: the cabin is on the North side of the ship & is cool by day & night. Day after day the sun rises in a wide clear sky & sets in radiant glory, sometimes with a pageant of clouds, suddenly called & marshalled out of the infinite.

And out of the glowing dusk, first Jupiter & then other stars appear, & later grand old Orion looks down upon us.

We have no set places at table, except for dinner, when the party is so large that it has to be divided. We dine at 6 o’Clock, just a few of us, the passengers from Marseilles. Breakfast & lunch we take between certain hours—they are moveable feasts. From some points of view this is a poor plan, but it suits us very well. For us the voyage is so short that we do not want to spend our time in making friends with men & women, but to enter into fellowship with other things—with the sea, whose breath we feel—above all with that.

About midnight on Friday, we pass the volcanic island of Stromboli, & from its peak, from time to time, a dull glow brightens into a flame that leaps to the stars & dies again in darkness.

On Saturday morning, I woke at 2 o’Clock, & on looking through my port hole saw that we were passing through the straits of Messina. We were very close to the Mainland. The coast line in the Starlight looked mountainous—it rose against the clear pale sky line like a dreamland.

Apart from that, we have had little incident. One day was given up to some amusing sports, & every day one makes a few more acquaintances. But for the most part one sits on the deck & it is hard to tell whether sleep or waking is sweetest. Now the meaning of Nirvana begins to dawn on my mind. To be thus at rest, released by the greatness of sea & sky & sun & stars from the limits of personality, to come to one’s spiritual inheritance in the earth & the universe, to realize no past & no future, only an eternal present. All too soon is this calm to be disturbed. The last day comes, & once more one has to think of packing of luggage & trains & tips!

Already there is a quiver in the air, & something more in the rays of the sun than hitherto. Something tells of the nearing East.

Once more there is a future & a near future that holds definite things, that depends on & calls for action. What are its hidden gifts?

For that answer we must wait.


This undated letter was evidently written on the last day of Emmeline’s sea voyage, Tuesday, 8 November. The events of the early part of her journey, as related herein, are misdated. A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original, which is erratic and often indistinct.

{1} For lists of the passengers see The Homeward Mail from India, China, and the East, 8 Oct. 1904, p. 1448, 15 Oct. 1904, p. 1486, 22 Oct. 1904, p. 1521, and 29 Oct. 1904, p. 1556.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Mena House Hotel (Cairo).—Describes her first few days in Egypt.



Mena House Hotel. Nov. 10. Wednesday evening {1}.

Beloved. I scarcely know how to sit down & write to you tonight. My heart is too full. I could sit still for hours wrapt in a garment of joy. Every sense satisfied to the uttermost—one’s whole being steeped in sensation. Nothing has ever been the least bit like it—light & colour & wonder. I don’t think I have ever felt so splendidly well, so vitalized, so filled with life. Your dear dear letter coming as the last touch of completeness to the day’s glory! My love for you & the possession of your great love is the glow behind the sunset—the glow that never fades. Bye & bye I shall sit down calmly & write something consecutive. But at this moment that is impossible. Still, I will tell you that we had a delightful 4 hours in Port Said {2}. Our boat arrived about 2 P.M. & the train left at 6.45. We strolled into the town & drank coffee on the arcade of the Hotel Continental, where we were infinitely amused by the street sellers who laid their wares before us. Hetty chaffed & chaffed with them all. We went round the shops too. Then—but oh, you darling I simply can’t write anything but my love to you & again & again tell you how happy I am—how happy we all are! I never saw Marie look like she looks now, her eyes shining with radiant happiness & excitement. She says she sends you ever so much love, & I am to tell you she will write, but not now, & to say—she simply does not know where she is, & can only walk round & smile! She & Hetty have made great plans about getting work here, & running a dahabehah together & I do believe something or other will open up to them. Hetty & Marie & I are speaking of you constantly & longing to have you here too. Freddy, I don’t want work to suffer, as you know, but if it is feasible do arrange to lengthen your stay as much as possible. I am sure you will want to stay.

Mena House is perfect—you will love the style of the place, I never saw anything to please me more—architecture, space—every detail. The curtains are just cotton, but perfectly charming—& the atmosphere of place & people is most harmonious: we have separate bedrooms & we pay 12/6 a day.

Freddy, I am absolutely ashamed of this letter—utterly ashamed of it: I have so much to say that I can’t say it. But tomorrow out in the desert—there I will write to you & tell you all. And I will send this to catch the mail. But I can only tell you this—there is something here that is quite different from anything I have ever known, though it is something I have guessed at—dreamed of—there is something here that fills up one’s mind with light & glory—& calls new things into being. Oh Freddy, if I were a man I should bring the woman I loved here—out of the Shadow into the light, out of the cold into the heart of the sun—where day lights its burning torches heralding the night.

I did not think, I hardly dared to this it would really be like this—that one’s flights of imagination could really be fulfilled. It’s just absolutely different from Europe—you might be one another planet.

Well Freddy. Goodbye now. Goodbye dear. And God bless you. Your very happy Woman.

Hetty is splendid—we could not possibly be more lucky in our little drago-woman. I would far rather have her from quite a business point of view than any courier, however good. She is in her element here & is a capital little manager & organizer. As we all three have exactly the same preferences, there could not possibly be a more mutually satisfied little party.

I will just add that we stayed at Shepheard’s Hotel last night, did a good deal of business in Cairo & had a fascinating time in the Bazaars & came out here at sunset. More anon.

Hetty asks me to enclose this letter.

This rambling incoherent letter of mine is for you alone of course—no one else. I shall write up my general letter tomorrow {3}. I hope you got my telegram sent off this morning. I thought “The Echo. London.” would find you. Did you think me reckless extravagant? I had to—& if it had cost 10 times as much would have been worth it!


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} The day of the month is incorrect. The 10th was a Thursday.

{2} On Tuesday, the 8th.

{3} PETH 7/148.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Describes her arrival in Egypt and her first few days there.



2nd letter.

As we came into the harbour of Port Said on Nov. 8th we were all on deck—watching the various craft, straining eager eyes to see more of the movement on the shore. Goodbyes & good wishes had to be interchanged—the tried & the safe had once more to be left behind, the call of the untried & the new, had to be answered.

Hardly had the Victoria dropped her anchor, when the coal barges began to move to her side. Large ferry boats crowded with black figures, covered in begrimed sacking made for her, & the men swarmed up her sides: they held their shovels above their heads & began to work at once, with a wild weird rhythmical chant. It was like a scene in the underworld. I hope I have some photographs which will come out well. We were carried off from the Boat in a little steam launch & landed at the Quay, when we quickly passed our luggage through the Customs, & made arrangements to have it taken to the station—& then having 4 hours to spare we wandered into the streets & bazaars, & sat on the Verandah of the Hotel Continental, drinking coffee, while the street sellers came round, showing fans, and beads & postcards, & jewelry—and a good deal of laughing & bargaining went on. We bought a few little things & got a vast amount of amusement out of it. The streets were planted with acacia trees which gave delightful shade—the whole scene was like Earls Court on a much larger scale, with the sharp lights & shadows of an Eastern sun, intensifying all the effect. The glamour of sunset began to fall, and from the station we saw our first Egyptian sunset—a sheet of burning amber. We reached Cairo about midnight after a very happy & comfortable journey. We rattled through the lighted streets in Shepheard’s van, were shown to our rooms at once, made our first bow to the mosquito curtains—slept, & woke in the morning to see that our windows opened upon a garden with tall palm trees & red paths, a black robed arab pacing up & down.

Cairo,—Well, no city I have ever yet seen is a bit like it, but the spirit of it, is the spirit of Paris—colour, light—animation that Europe knows nothing of—fascination every turn. After a certain amount of business had been accomplished we took a little carriage & drove down to the Bazaars—where we had a great time & great fun—they brought us coffee, & turkish delight—& perfumes—& spread out their wares: it was very hard to tear myself away but it had to be done, for we must send our luggage off to Mena House in a cart—and we ourselves must take the train & get there in time for dinner. The sun was setting, as we caught our first sight of the Pyramids—from this moment the fascination of the country deepens & deepens upon us. Mena House is perfectly beautiful, in design & architecture & in every detail. It is built in the style of a mosque & is in itself a work of art—& a museum of beautiful things: not one thing out of place—all absolutely harmonious. It opens right on the desert. Something unnameable & undescribable takes possession of our spirit, filling us with happiness & excitement, a sort of fulness & overflow of life. The next morning we go out on the desert & our lunch is sent out to us. The arabs come about us & sit down & talk—and show their scarabs & treasures—they show us their letters from English friends, of which they are very proud. A funeral winds its way over the desert to the little Arab cemetery in the sand, amid voices of wailing—camels pass—Arabs riding upon horses & donkeys. In the sun the heat is great but when we sit under the shadow of the Pyramid it is quite cool, even cold. Hetty is inquiring for her old friend, a Bedouin sheikh, Abdul Enani Hatab—presently he comes across the desert to greet her, a tall fine-looking Arab, in robes of silk, and a very beautiful turban of richest Damascus silk. This is the man who besought Hetty to become the queen of his tribe. He spent the day with us—in the afternoon we took camels & rode to the Sphynx—& watched the sunset & stayed until it was dark. An old Sheikh, a sand diviner came & sat down by Marie & talked to her. We were alone with the Arabs—our camels lying there waiting—and the glamour of the desert strong upon us all. The next day again we go out to the Sphinx at sunset & Abdul tells us a wonderful story of the desert—in low thrilling tones as the night darkens—he has “a great boxful of stories” he says. We are right in it all now, bathed in the desert, steeped in the desert. Only two days! It seems impossible—all too wonderful, like a dream. We are talking now of travelling further south in a dahabeah, with tents for camping out, & coming back on camels in caravan. Abdul & his brother come from Beni Mora, the scene of Hitchen’s new book—“The Garden of Allah”—they know Amara, & all the places in that book. It is just four weeks journey on camels through the desert. I should like to go that journey some day.

Circular letter.
Please follow the same order as before. In haste to catch mail.


This letter appears to have been written on 11 November, the date of the last events described in it. A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original, which is erratic and often indistinct.

Letter from Marie Pethick to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Mena House Hotel, Cairo.—Describes her activities with Emmeline and Hetty Lawes in Egypt. Is keen for him to join them.



Mena House.
Pyramids Cairo.

13. November 1904.

My dear old Fred. Do’ee hurry up & join us out here—and arrange to stay a long long time. We are having one of Emmeline’s own special times—everything as perfect as it can possibly be. Hetty makes an ideal courier—gives me a most delightful introduction to her beloved Bedowin sheikhs & we are going to become genuine Arabians before we have done. Emmeline & I are both very keen on learning the language as quickly as possible as we are missing so much every hour we do not understand it. By the time you come out we shall hope to speak quite fluently. We are all longing show you our charming daharbejeh & to introduce you to Enani & Latif—the dragomen. They are most patient & attentive in teaching us Arabic & are quite as keen as we are on our getting to know it. You ought to have been with us last night as we were watching the sunset afterglow by the side of the Sphynx—no other Europeans anywhere near—a few cloaked figures to be seen every here & there. I was wrapped up in a Sheikh’s cloak & he was singing Arabian songs to us & telling us about the manners & customs of his people. This was Abdul Latif Khattab—the brother of our special dragoman, Abdul Enani. He was begging Emmeline this morning that she should ask Enani if he could come with us on the daharbeyah. He didn’t want any money at all—only he wanted to help us & teach us Arabic. It would be very delightful if he came as well as Enani. Enani tells most wonderful stories but Latif sings these weird Arabic chants.

We have been busy this afternoon developing films—some have been most successful. We want to get them printed & ready to send home as soon as possible.

Emmeline is looking fine—so well & happy—I have never seen her looking better. Am longing for you to see her. Am sure we shall none of us ever want to settle down in England again. Every day is crammed full of interest—& such variety. The time flies & yet this week has held more than any other week in our life I should say. It is almost impossible to believe that it was only five days ago we got off the boat.

I see Emmeline is writing you pages & pages—with a full account of the program I expect. Shan’t we have a glorious time in the caravan—pitching our tents by the way. Am longing for your to join us but I don’t want so much of our time to have gone. I do so hope you will get a splendid man to take on your Echo so that you will not be obliged to hurry home.

Much love to you from us all—

Always your loving sis
Marie W A {1}


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} The reading and significance of these letters are unclear.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

Mena House Hotel (Cairo).—Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



Mena House Hotel. Nov. 12. 04 {1}.

Oh dear Man & husband of mine. The letter from you that I am longing for, will come tomorrow, but not before my greeting to you will have gone forth. This is my second Sunday evening away from you. I wonder where you are today & what you are doing & thinking of? It is sweet to think that the further days bring me from you, the nearer they bring you to me—as the Porpoise said to Alice, “The further off from England, the nearer ’tis to France.” {2} I am longing for you to come. Today for the first time I begin to accept my new surroundings with a little less of that surprise which is the joy of first acquaintance—but one gains more than one loses as that first acquaintance becomes a more familiar friendship. We were up at 5.30 this morning walking to the Sphinx to see the sunrise. The morning was cloudy & a sharp shower of rain drove us to take refuge in the Temple. The two Bedawin brothers, Abdul Enani & Abdul Latief Khattab, were with us of course—and they amused us while we were waiting, with story & song. We have been every day to the Sphinx, 3 times at sunset & today at sunrise—and every time we have been alone except for the Arabs. We are so early, no tourists are here yet. The Arabs tell delightful stories. Enani’s story the night before last was too delicious—I must get him to tell it over again to you. It was about a man who fell in love with a lovely little girl—“his head go all giddy & he get a pain in his stomach” (but I must not spoil it). Latif his brother is too sweetly & deliciously funny for words. Last evening we simply doubled up with uncontrollable laughter—till he said quite grieved, “You spoil my story.” He was telling us about a man who lived in the village who married one bea[u]tiful girl, and presently “he shift that one, & many another, he shift her & many another—beautiful girl—he shift her & many another—the fourth was a bad wife—he like to shift her, but he is afraid.” Abdul Latif thinks one wife is enough—one good wife. He made sure that he got a good one. “But you didn’t see her, Abdul, how could you know?” “Oh yes, I see her.” “How did you manage that, Abdul?” “Oh I manage that easy. I am the devil.” If I could paint the childlike innocence of the man’s expression! It was at this point he besought us not to spoil the story! There are such pictures, & so many funny delightful things I want to tell you. We are learning Arabic quite fast: and never had teachers such obvious delight in teaching. And never have I known such gracious willing service always eager & waiting—always ready. “Shepherd” in his palmiest days does not touch it.

I engaged Abdul Enani Khattab yesterday to take a Dahabeyah for us, which we had seen the day before. It has 2 single cabins & 1 double cabin—a little deck, a big upper deck, dining room & ‘domestic offices.’ I contracted with him, to pay him a fixed sum per day. I will enclose the copy of contract. He has just returned from an engagement of 8 months with a gentleman & his wife who paid him £5 a day & sometimes under specified conditions £8 a day, exclusive of wine & spirits & railway expenses—inclusive of all beside. I saw the contract. They gave him a beautiful gold watch with his name & theirs engraved & a book of amateur photos of the tour as a parting present, also splendid testimonials. I said I could not pay that money. He suggested £4. 10. per day for the 3 persons. I thought £1 per person per day was enough to pay. We finally agreed on £3. 10. for 3 persons per day. I don’t think that is a bad or unfair contract for either side. When I asked the Manager of the hotel to take charge of valuables while we were away, he said we need have no fear, as with Enani we should be absolutely safe from any trouble with any of the Arabs en route—he & his brothers & relations are attached to the hotel. The Manager says it is quite unnecessary to speak to Lord Cromer about it. Hetty suggested we should tell Lady Cromer when I call tomorrow, the name of the Dahabiyeh & the places of call—as the Shekhs of every village would, at a word from headquarters, become special guards: I shall speak to her about it anyway. I shall also see the Consul. A doctor at Cairo, I forget his name (it is Dr Murison) {3}, an old friend of Hetty’s, interviewed Enani & told him if the ladies were ill, they were to telegraph to him at once & he would come to them! So you see we have taken every reasonable step & every possible precaution—for though we all instinctively trust our Bedawin Shekh & feel very safe under his care, yet I wanted to be able to tell you that responsible people on the spot were prepared to vouch for his honesty & capacity as a dragoman. The Brother Abdul Latif has come coaxing to me several times; “I want to go with you, you ask my Brother Enani—he will do everything you want—you ask him.” I said this morning, “Well, but Abdul I cannot pay you any money. I am paying quite enough.” “I don’t want you to give me money. I want to go with you to keep you. I want to go for the fun!” After that, what can I do but speak to Enani: though I don’t see how there is going to be any room! Now I do so want you if possible, when you come, to stay 5 or 6 weeks—because then we can have 2 weeks with you in the Dahabeyah, & 3 weeks camping & caravanning back—& you ought to have 2 or 3 days with the Sphinx to finish up. You see if all goes well, & if Allah wills, we are going to have the very lov[e]liest time we have ever had in our lives—quite unique—& such as in all probability we shall never have again. And we can’t bear to have any little bit of it without you having at least a share in the experience. The contract includes 7 or 8 weeks—it was the very shortest I could make—to make the necessary arrangements worth while.


Copy of Contract, between Mrs Lawrence & Party & Abdul Enani Khattab.

We sign that we engage with the dragoman Enani Khattab a journey in dahabeyeh from Cairo to Luxor for £3. 10. per day for 3 persons. All the expenses of the journey as well as all the food & breakfast, lunch, tea & dinner are to paid by Enani except wine & spirits.

The boatmen undertake to pull the boat with the towing rope if there is not enough wind.

When we leave the boat at Luxor, we take the train to Assouan {4}; the expenses on the railway will be at our charge—also the railway tickets of Enani, cook & waiter. When we leave the boat the contract for the caravan will be £4 a day for £4† persons for 21 days; dromadaries, tents, food, cuisine, servants, etc., are all paid for by Enani.

Assouan to Ouasta {5} we take the train at our own expense. From Ouasta through the Fayoum {6} to Mena, we take luggage camels & caravan at Enani’s expense. The contract to date from Nov. 17. 1904.

Signed & sealed,
E. P. L(awrence).
H. L(awes).
M. L. P(ethick).
A. E. K(hattab). {7}

That is rather a lovely programme, isn’t it? I fancy there are not many people who visit Egypt for 10 weeks get as much into it & out of it. I think this caravan life is just what you want—there is so much to do, & oh so much to learn—& all you do & all you learn is saturated in sunshine! But the spirit of hurry & rush would spoil it all. They have a proverb here—“El agela minesh shaitan.” (Haste is from the devil.) I want the sense of leisure to steal into your life & take possession of it. I am quite sure that after these years of close, arduous & absorbing work, 8 or 9 weeks of absolute leisure would be time well invested—& would yield you rich returns. I know what January is—a month of low ebb in everything. I believe you could be well spared—how I wish you could get a good man to take charge while you are away—but you have tried that, I know. Well, you must do just what you feel is for the best—if we have to shorten our time a little, “ma’laish”! “Malaish” is like that Russian word that Bismarck had engraved on his ring. It means “It signifies nothing” or “Nothing matters”! & is the spirit of the life in the desert. It makes everything go with a laugh.

My own darling Laddie, I hope that you are well & happy & that everything is going well. You are always in my heart. I often think how eager you were that I should come here—how you went & took those tickets & sent us off in the very right time. You knew I should love the East—you always said so. I did not know or imagine half the fascination of it. I have never felt anything a bit like it. There is something in my blood that responds to it all: the Arab people seem less foreign to me than the majority of the people of my own race—and we have a language in common—which is gradually extending! The Europeans out here look at them quite differently—they hold them in great disdain & order them about—and trust an Arab!—no, they would not dream of it! The visitors here illustrate the great gulf between East & West—they are totally different & a complete want of understanding separates them. But Hetty—I don’t know where she gets it from—can do anything she likes with these Arabs who know her—they simply worship her. She is like a little queen amongst them. You should have seen Enani laugh when she told him we must all have our baths every day in the desert. “Where is the water to come from, Sit? the camels drink only once a week!” “Where the water is to come from I know not; that is your business, Abdul Enani. You must get it.” The talk between them in Arabic sounds like one long happy chuckle: Naharach seid Embarak. (Light shine on thee, may thy day be blessed.)

Dearest, ever yours,

Monday morning. Just had your darling letter. Oh but it makes me want you awful bad. Enani very happy today—has got a much bigger & better dayabeyeh—just going off to look at it now.

In haste,


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} The day of the month is incorrect, since the letter is said to have been written on a Sunday evening and the 12th was a Saturday. Moreover, the abortive excursion to the Sphinx to watch the sun rise is mentioned in PETH 7/149 as having taken place on Sunday morning. It was probably the present letter that Marie described Emmeline writing in her own letter of the 13th (PETH 7/164).

{2} A quotation, of course, from the Mock Turtle’s song in the tenth chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; but these words were in fact uttered by the whiting.

{3} The words in brackets were interlined later.

{4} Aswân.

{5} El Wasta.

{6} El Faiyûm.

{7} The letters in brackets were added later in pencil.

† Sic.

Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

The Pyramids (Cairo).—Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



The Pyramids. Nov. 15th 1904.

My darling. Your letters of yesterday—I had two letters[,] one written on the way to Dorking—the other on the Sunday morning from The Sundial—they have brought me very near to you & have filled my heart with love & with sweet thoughts & with happy thoughts of your coming. I have been trying to picture that today. I wonder where we shall be? I expect at Luxor. Unless I hear that you can’t spare more than 3 or 4 weeks. If that is so, I shall leave the boat as soon as we reach Luxor & set up the Camp at once—so that we may get all the programme finished. But I should like you to have a week on the houseboat with us—oh so much, for we are going to be such a happy party. An old friend of Hetty’s—Ali—has turned up today. He got Hetty’s letter & started at once from 75 miles away & was quite overcome with happiness. Abdul Enani engages him to be our servant & he has gone right back to fetch his clothes—& to join the boat Il Bolbol—“The Nightingale”—on Thursday. He can sing too, & he brings his fishing net,—if the ladies like fish, he will promise them as much as they can eat. He can speak no English at all: we are daily struggling with the arabic language & a little friend of Hetty’s, “Ibrahim” came today & gave us a lesson in the arabic writing. I have learnt all the letters in the printed alphabet. He sat with us on the desert this evening & told us about his journey to the sacred city of Mecca. If the will to learn were all, we should soon be able to read, write & speak arabic, or if the will to teach were all—one is impatient with one’s own mind & memory—one learns, & forgets the next minute. We called on Lady Cromer yesterday—she is in Alexandria just now—we left cards—we also called on Mr Cope’s friend Mrs Vere Alston, but she was not at home. She & Judge Alston are coming today to stay at Mena House for a week—so we shall soon know them. We shall be in Cairo all day tomorrow, many things to see & to do there—the days need to be twice as long. There seems no time at all for photographs, or letters, or lessons (Books have been put aside altogether) {1}: so many claims upon eye & mind & interest all at once. This week has spelt but one word—fascination. Here is a little prayer I often say—

“Ya moufeta el abouab
Ifta linna el bab.”

“Oh Keeper of doors, open the door to us.” Open the door—one cries in one’s head—give us to understand this wonderful new world insight into the secret & source of it. It is all so new,—so new—founded on fundamental conceptions so different from all we have learnt before.

Dearest, I was so glad to hear of your happy time at The Sundial—the sunny weather, the lovely motor rides—& of the opportunity given you of being a comfort to your dear little Carry—I was thinking of you much. It was a capital idea asking Marion too. So glad to hear all going well at Holmwood. Dear Podger! give him my love. What a great deal we shall have to talk about. That transfer of the ‘Standard’ “gives one furiously to think”. I am very very sorry. The fight against material resources is a very desperate one & a very long one. It is the history of the 20th century which has just begun & I doubt if the end of the century will see the victory of the good cause, though I am sure that victory will ultimately emerge. Even here, one sees the terrible evil of money divorced from human relationship or human responsibility. Dear, this battle that you speak of, God help us to be wise & courageous. God leave us one another, if it be his will, & leave us our great love, & make us able to fulfil to the uttermost his will concerning us. We will ask nothing more. We will cling to nothing more. I thank God that in these days when there is so much that is unstable—I have in my husband, a rock. I have faith in life, but that is not surprising, when I live my daily life with a man to which right & honour come before every thing else in the world. My rock & my fortress—my sword & my shield.

I have been thinking that we make far too small a claim on our God. These Arabs who for a whole month keep a fast all day & who say so simply “My God helps me, so that I have no hunger or thirst, no wish to eat or drink. I do His will & He gives me the strength”, teach us much. They seem to miss the wear & tear, the strain—they throw that on the God whose command they obey & are saved physically.

God bless you my darling.

Ever yours.
Your wife.


A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

{1} The words in brackets were added above the line.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



3rd Letter

Nov. 13th 1904. Monday.

How strange to think that we have been barely 6 days in this country! Every day one seems to live a life time in interest & happiness. So much to see, so much to learn. That first morning in Cairo—the excitement & ever new delight of the Bazaars, the glory of colour, the interest everywhere. We very soon entered into the fun of bargaining. It is a game—carried on with laughter & good humour on both sides—no one is angry or displeased whether the wares are accepted or not (they always are accepted) and everybody is pleased. We were very pleased with our own bargaining: I bought a dress length of very pretty washing silk for 15 shillings—and another lovely delicate silk for 18 shillings—and several other things with which I am delighted: a string of prayer beads of cut amber & antique silver is the most beautiful, although a ring with a green mecca stone, set with a dozen little sunset-purple opals I would not lose for many times over the sum I paid for it. It is a Mascot ring I am sure. The first moment I saw it, I knew it was meant for me to bring good luck: Marie picked out a very pretty blue scareb† & asked how much. “Oh nothing—you take it if you like it.” Meanwhile all the beautiful things in the shop are spread out before you & you sit, drinking coffee, or making an occasional snap shot, laughing & talking—& enjoying the moving panorama. A visit to the perfume bazaar is delightful to all the senses at once—the booths are lined with lovely Turkey rugs—every little booth, a scheme of colour & a joy to the eyes. You choose your man, & sit down on the rugs, & he gives you samples of all his perfumes—touching your arm, your hand with a little glass stopper with a pad of cotton wool—then you choose violet, banana, attar of roses, or what you will & you choose your bottle. I bought sandalwood & amber. It was great fun examining all the bottles to make sure that they gave room for the perfumes—the seller enjoys it as much as you—& he seems all the better pleased that you don’t mean to be cheated. I could spend days in the bazaars, they are so fascinating. And yet in the evening it was good to get out to the calm & quiet of the Pyramids, & to catch our first sight of them glowing against a sky of amber & gold. The road from Cairo to Mena stretches for 5 miles & is a long avenue of beautiful acacia trees. The Nile water still floods both sides of the road, it seemed like crossing a long straight bridge over a lake of liquid light. This is the most beautiful hotel I have ever seen—it is a perfect work of art—perfect from design to the merest detail: quite the very best style: the spirit of the whole management too is very harmonious and happy—so that from the first moment we settle down & feel quite at home.

The next morning—Wednesday—we are up early & out under the shadow of the 2nd pyramid. The wind is cool & we need our coats—though in the sun, it is hot. So far however we have never felt the heat unpleasantly—the weather is like a very fresh clear day in early June. We have taken letters & books—but we might as well have left them at home. Very soon we have the Arab boys about us, showing us treasures & bringing us letters from their former clients now in England. Very proud of these letters they are, & they like to hear them read aloud. The Fast of Ramadan has begun, for 1 month religion forbids the Arab to eat, or drink, or smoke from sunrise to sunset: they must look to Allah & pray five times a day. They tell us Allah helps them so that they feel no hunger & no thirst. Allah makes them strong & takes all desire away. In the city it is easy to forget Allah, & many there do not keep the fast at all, but here in the desert, Allah is so near that you cannot forget, but you want to pray, & to live a good life. Meanwhile, Hetty has sent word to her Arab Shekh Abdul Enani Khattab that she is here & presently he is seen striding over the desert, he sees us & begins to run, salutes her & us with the right hand touching his brow, his lips & heart in token of submission, devotion & truth—& the Eastern Good Morning—“Naharak saiid Embarak” (“May the Light shine upon thee—may thy day be blessed”.) His face is lighted up with joy & he becomes from that moment our servant, carries our things & follows us, & is ready to render with eagerness any possible service. Josephine Plunkett (Hetty’s sister) joins us with her three children & we spend the day together—send to the hotel for a lunch basket, & return about 4 o’clock to have tea in the Verandah. Then we see Josephine drive off in the dogcart—& meanwhile Abdul has got our camels waiting & we have our first experience of mounting & riding a camel. It has been described often, but it was very funny: the camel kneels down & then one takes ones seat, the beast groaning & swearing horribly—he then gets up & quickly strides along—it is (to me) a comfortable & easy motion. I felt quite happy both when the camel was walking or running—& the others were quite happy & easy too. The sun had already set when we reached the Sphinx, and the sky & desert were rosy with the wonderful afterglow. No tourists were about. We dismounted, and we watched in silence that wonderful monument, hewn out of the desert rock six thousand years ago: looked in silence until there seemed a stir in the colossal figure, until a soul dawned in those wonderful eyes & held us fascinated as if by a spell. The Arabs, who with a kind of instinctive perception had left us alone, now joined us & we soon found that we had each a servant, only too ready to talk & entertain us. It grew dark. I could not see Marie or Hetty—they were each the centre of a separate little group: within call; and when, all too soon we were warned by the hour that [we] must must† return to the hotel, we mounted our camels & rode back under the stars, with a delicious night wind in our faces.

Now follows day after day with something in each of repetition, and yet full of ever new & ever changing aspects of delight. Evening by evening finds us by the Sphinx. Sometimes listening to a story or a song—no one in sight except sometimes a few silent black figures squatting in the sand or sometimes a passing camel—our two Arabs ready to do anything to please us. Here we sat one evening, while all the hills & all the desert glowed rosy & then purple, Marie lying on the sand wrapped in a Shekh’s black cloak, & the other two wrapped in our thick coats—listening to stories fascinated and amused. No description can give the charm of that atmosphere or of that moment. One might come to Egypt a dozen times again & miss it. One {1} Sunday morning we were up early to see the sunrise—but for once, the sun failed us & a sharp patter of rain made us take refuge in the temple.

Wednesday. Nov. 16th.

The last day of our stay at the Pyramids. Arrangements have been going on all this time & our dear little houseboat, which is to be our home for the next four weeks is nearly ready. We are looking forward to a new life & a new experience with great delight. We seem to start with everything perfect. “Enani,” and “Latief” & “Ali” for our servants—men devoted to Hetty, & all ready to vie with each other to please us—everything very comfortable—a boat big enough for a party twice our number & yet not too big to move quickly before the wind.

All letters can be sent to Cooks Office Cairo—as we keep in continual touch with that office all the way—& letters will duly reach us with small delay.

Think of us, dear Friends for the next month in our little dahabeyah “Bolbol”—flying the English flag, & gliding up stream through all the changing lights of day & night.

Thursday. Nov. 17th.

Farewell to Mena House Hotel! We leave with feelings of goodwill to all. Never was there a more delightfully managed hotel—waiters, servants and all the officials ready to help & serve in every way—everything refined & gracious & free from any sense of commercialism. It is a great pleasure to think that we are coming back. And our dragoman the Shekh Enani is waiting, attired in his most gorgeous array—tussore silk robe, flowing blue coat, with purple silk lining—new shoes of the brightest yellow, new turban & sash of richly coloured silk, & prayer beads of white moonstones. And the boat is waiting—and our first lunch is ready. Josephine Plunkett & her boy & the baby are coming to lunch. Everything is deliciously cooked & served, a bottle is champagne is opened, healths are drunk, all is gay. Who cares that there is scarcely any wind, & what there is of it blows from South instead of from North. Are there not plenty of things to be done in Cairo? We all start of[f] after lunch and spend an afternoon in the very most dreadfully quick way, any time can be spent—shopping in Cairo. Home, that is The Bolbol—for the sunset, & for dinner—turkish coffee on deck, & then a Fantaseheh by the crew. The crew proper numbers 8, cook, waiter & 2 servants makes 12, not counting the Shekh or ourselves. A little open fire of wood is burning on the lower deck, one lamp is hung above, & the men sing round in a circle, chanting, & beating the tom-tom, & the cymbals—or clapping with their hands—till one after another is moved to take the floor & gives a native dance—Nubian, Ethiopian, Abyssinian, Soudanese. The sight is grotesque, & fascinating beyond words. How one longs for the pencil of a Mortimer Memphis. Moonlight, & lapping of the water, the cry of a water bird, the faint breath of night, make a charm that keeps one from sleep for very delight—then—heaven let loose, & the dawn, & the great sun, & the best omelette I have ever tasted, almost converting me to omelettes—& still no favouring wind. Another day in Cairo, a call on Josephine—purchase of a filter, flags & various little things. Another sunset, another merry evening, more new dances—& sleep. Another glorious dawn—& another day without wind. We write a French letter for Enani to his last—what shall I call them, patients?—children?—the people with whom he travelled for 8 months—they were believers in spirits—& oh what stories Enani tells & how we laugh. We ask them to send some spirits quickly to blow the boat up the river; Mussi the waiter comes in & hears something about it & almost falls on the floor with fright—if the spirits come he goes! At last he believes that we are joking. We had better go & see the Museum at Cairo. The things we have not seen would make a long list: but one or two very last purchases—we must first make curtains to replace the half tumbled ones in the boat, Japanese lanterns—a guitar, which we hire for 2 months—which they insist on our taking away without paying—“it will do when you come back”—& lo & behold the time has gone & we are due back at the boat for lunch.

A little breeze in the afternoon brings all the little boats out on the other side—oh so pretty—with crossed sails like two wings—but the breeze soon dies away. We write our letters as well as we can for the distraction of the eye—such a silvery sunny sky & river—the sun sets—the gun goes from the citadel—the arabs may take their first bit of food & drink for the day. An audible “grace” goes up at the welcome sound—wonderful the patience & endurance & good spirits, of these people during the last & trying fast:

Goodbye to our friends. Goodnight. We are going to pay another call on the Sphinx tonight. Think of us all as we think of you. God bless you all.


Some of the dates in this letter are clearly incorrect. For instance, the date at the beginning of the letter, 13 November, was a Sunday and not a Monday. A few alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original, which is erratic and often indistinct.

{1} Probably a slip for ‘on’.

† Sic.

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