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Robins, Elizabeth (1862–1952), actress, writer, and feminist Image
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Letter from Elizabeth Robins to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

(Steyning Police Station, and) Backset, Henfield, Sussex.—Describes her visit to the police station to register as an American. Recalls her stay with the Pethick-Lawrences in London.



Oct. 30. ’14
Backset, Henfield, Sussex

My dear Mr Lawrence:

You have been wondering—or no, you will have realized why I have not written more than that line of thanks for the cabled news.

I wont† go into any boring details, but I haven’t been up to much. I must put off making any further plans for a few days longer. I had to turn out today—grey & drizzling—for what do you think? To take the train to Steyning & to register myself as an American. Here I sit in the Steyning Police Station waiting for the return of Supt. Airs from Lancing—tho why he is in Lancing after saying in reply to my letter that I was to come with as little delay as possible, I leave you to —


At that moment he came in but has again gone out to see to some one else. I have often won-dered how your book is prospering. Dont you find it very difficult in these days to concentrate yr. thought? I do ‥ & yet the imaginary world is a refuge at times from the real. We are lucky, you & I, to have two.
Oh these Jacks in office! ‥ this creature with the waxed mustachios & the air of being Ruler & Guide to the Universe … has been somewhat impertinent & I am ruffled. I wd have said these were more German than English manners. I wait now for a cab for the rain is heavier now.

Home again

This letter was to be more than anything my warm & never forgetting thanks for those days in that magical island of peace & comfort in the midst of Babylon—tho’ Babylon wasn’t a sea as I seem to be making out. There is something special about 119—I like to remember what you told me of its history . . . & quite sure am I, that the spirit that went to the gift has taken up its abode there, to rest & make glad not only the woman it was dressed for but her friends. And yours, may I say? I am too exhausted to write Miss Start tonight as I intended. But tomorrow.

Yours most sincerely,
Elizabeth Robins.


† Sic.

Carbon copy of a memorandum about Elizabeth Robins

(One phrase has been added by hand.)



Miss Elizabeth Robins (Mrs. Elizabeth Robins Parks)

1. has lived in England for the last 50 years. Left in August 1940 because of urgent message from her brother, Colonel Raymond Robins, who was dangerously ill. Has tried at intervals to return but advised by her American as well as English friends to wait till transport conditions seemed less dangerous or rather—as she is completely fearless—till war needs allowed her to return. Tho’ American born was so anxious to return that suggested English naturalization if necessary, in 1943. {1}

2. Is a property owner—house and land at Henfield, Sussex. This is and has been for several years past used as a place of rest and recuperation for all classes of workers, and is always greatly in demand. The Committee, of which she is a most important member—are overwhelmed with applications for rest and are most anxious to take steps about extension, but as the house is an old Elizabethan structure it is impracticable to consider this without her presence on the spot as regards advice and guidance as well as sanction.

As regards land, part of the fields is let to a farmer who is not making adequate use of the land from the point of view of food production. War Agricultural Executive Committee official said when approached that it was her job as landlord to get on to the tenant’s track.

3. Has nearly finished the 2nd volume of her memoirs but needs access to papers and records to finish it. These are of course here.

4. As she is now over 80, her time is not so long for the settling and disposal of her affairs, and she is most anxious to return to see about certain schemes she is anxious to put in motion as regards furthering and in a modest way helping good Anglo American relationship and its necessity as regards the future Peace of the World.


{1} ‘Tho’ American … in 1943’ added by hand.

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