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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.

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.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



9th Letter.

[The following paragraph has been cancelled:

Jan. 3. Where do the days go? It is more than a week since I sat down with pen & paper to tell the story of our daily life—& impressions crowd so fast & thick that it is impossible to live in the past, though the past may mean a week ago only—it seems as though we had never lived till Now! But at least I can make a record of the things we have seen & done. I must go back then to the day after Christmas.]

Dec. 26. Assuan. Last night we closed our eyes on the white moonlight. The doors of our balcony have been left open wide. I am wakened with a cry of excitement. Next moment I am standing with F on the balcony—looking out into a world of dreamland & fairy tale. The hills, the desert, the river and the rocky islands & boulders of the Cataract are made of gold—living gold. It is the robe of the Dawn who has come to tell that a Day all glorious is on its way from Heaven. It is not half past five yet. The others are out too. The glamour of the wonderful world is on us.

Presently we ring for tea & enjoy the luxury of our soft white ample beds, after the more merely utilitarian little camp beds of the tents. Then a walk before breakfast and at 9 o’clock, we start for Philae: Fred & Hetty do the grand, & drive off in state in a carriage & 4 white horses—with ‘Ali’ in the box—Marie & I with ‘Enani’ follow in humbler fashion on donkeys, who take us at a good gallop over the desert. We arrive almost together at the dismounting point, & we get a nice boat with a[n] awning to take us across the river—it is small enough to thread its way under the archways of the Temple, & between the pillars—& into all the little Courts—for the whole of the Temple is in the water now, since the great Dam has been made at Assuan. The men sing as they row to the accompaniment of the tom-tom. We are in no hurry to leave our little boat, so we put off landing until it is time for lunch—which is served to us on the flat roof of the Temple—by our new men—who produce the little cup of Turkish coffee afterwards which is the finishing touch to a meal. After some happy loitering in this, the most beautiful of ancient Temples, in the sunshine & shade (for this bright blue day is never one whit too warm) we take our boat again & row down to the Barage†—inspect this wonder of engineering, & then take another boat down the Cataract, back to the Hotel—in time to see the Sunset from the Verandah while we rest & have tea. Out again for a walk in the evening glow until time comes to dress for dinner.

Dec. 28. An amusing morning in the Bazaars—and Farewell to Assuan, where we have spent such a jolly time. Directly after lunch we embark in one of Cook’s post-steamers for a 24 hours journey back to Luxor. But oh, oh, oh, we are like spoilt children sent to school. In our Cabins are “Rules & Regulations”—notices stuck about everywhere—“It is strictly forbidden”. We are mere tourists now—to be “personally conducted” & allowed so many minutes to “do” this temple & that. We stop four times to see temples en route, are pursued with beggars—pestered with guides. We are thankful to leave it all behind at Luxor. We send Ali back to Camp with the luggage, & cross the river to Thebes with Enani—& spend the afternoon in the Temples of Sethos & Ramases—& call on the Quibells, some very nice people who give us tea. Back to our Camp for dinner.

Dec. 29. Up at 6 o’clock—& ride into Luxor with Fred to meet his sister Carrie & her friend who are arriving by one of Cook’s steamers. Back to the Camp for breakfast & then back to Luxor again. Carrie is going to join us & we are to have a whole day at Thebes. The earlier we get off the better, as we have a difficult road & no shelter from the sun. A long ride along a valley of barren desolation brings us to the Tombs of the Kings. There are 25 open to visitors—we visited only the three most interesting—the tomb of Sethos I, father of the Pharoah who began to persecute the Children of Israel, and of Ramses III—the Pharaoh who was not lost in the Red Sea—whose Mummy was discovered about 2 years ago {1}. These tombs have all the same construction, a descent into the rock, then a series of passages & chambers, the walls & ceiling covered with painting & inscription—at the end of all in the deepest & final chamber the sarcophagus. After lunch in a cave which forms the entrance of a blocked up tomb, and a long rest in the cool shadow listening to Enani telling stories, we climb a very steep path over the Libyan Mountains & descend into the next valley, where is the Temple of the Queen Hatases {2}. We crossed the river again in the sunset—are invited by C. to the Luxor Hotel to tea. Afterwards, Carrie & her friend come back to the Camp to dinner.

Dec. 30.

We bid farewell to Luxor—the Camp is packed up—after lunch—we have tea with C. at the Hotel—they see us off in the train. We have a comfortable night journey & arrive at Oasta at 5.30 the next morning, where we are met by a crowd of men, and can see in the dim shadow of morning eleven camels bulking black against the sky. A spot near the station is selected for a temporary camp—& breakfast is served, then things are packed up once more & we mount our dromedaries, the Camp is put on the baggage camels & off we go. It is nearly three hours before the belt of cultivated land has been traversed & the border of the great desert is reached.
We have our lunch served to us under the shadow of a little white mosque—while the men go forward & get the Camp ready. At last we are in the desert—it is around us like a great sea—pearly lights & purple shadows from the infinite of sand waves—all the purity of space! Now we know that at last we have begun to live & to be free. Three days have come & gone since then—three days & nights. Where have they gone? They represent one mood of absolute content & fulness of life. First there has come the sunrise & the early morning—then the early start—the ride, on the first day, to the Medum Pyramid, the oldest building in the world—the halt for lunch & a rest, the ride back to the Camp for tea—the walk into the sunset—the music & dancing & poetry of the bedouin arabs at night—on the second day the moving of the Camp on for 10 miles or so—the pitching on {3} the Camp again before sunset—& oh the new wonder that glorious sunset & the glory of the rosy earth & the gleaming [of] our white tents in the distance—as we turned to look. And this is to be our life for the next 17 days.


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

{1} This appears to be a mistake. The mummies of Sethos (Seti) I and Rameses III were among those in the cache at Deir el-Bahri discovered by Gaston Maspero in 1881, and were publicly unwrapped by him five years later.

{2} Reading uncertain. The queen is now usually known as Hatshepsut.

{3} A slip for ‘of’.

† Sic.

Circular letter by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

Concludes her account of her visit to Egypt.



10th Letter.

{1} A new life begins for us on the last day of the year, when in the darkness before the dawn we turned out of the train at Ouasta, & upon a piece of waste ground a few minutes from the station, seen bulking blackly against the sky, a group of 11 camels & 12 men, who are to carry us and to guard us on {2} our belongings on our journeyings for the next three weeks. Enani, Ali, Mursi, & the Cook had travelled down from Luxor in our train—so that our party now numbers 20 in all—this is the tribe of the “Sheikh Ibrahim”. The breakfast tent is quickly put up, and tea & omelette served—& one or two hours spent in a sort of Parliament between Enani & various members of his family, who had come to meet him & give us a send off—but eventually the baggage is placed on the protesting camels, and we mount our dromedaries, whose language would certainly not bear repetition. To mount a camel is a very simple & ordinary bit of routine, when you get used to it—but the first time you wonder what is going to happen. Your beast is lying down with his legs doubled right up under him—when you have settled yourself in the saddle, you give him the signal, & with a vehement swear-word, he throws himself up on his front knees, & then throws up his behind legs & finally stands four square. Then he has three movements, a walk, an amble, both fairly comfortable as long as both are slow, & a fast trot or run, for which you rise in your stirrups as on horseback—this is very comfortable & the faster he goes the jollier it is; a dromedary (i.e. running camel) easily outpaces a horse, even in a short journey—& can go a far greater distance in a day.

We set our heads straight for the Desert, which we see, in the distance beyond the bounds of cultivation,—a world of gold and amber.

We reach it before the halt for lunch—and the tents are pitched in the midst of the glistening expanse of sand & tiny sea-shells. No sign of footprint, except our own, the pure untrodden sand, rippling to the horizon, is like a great sea. The sun as it sinks touches the innumerable wave ridges with glory & fills every one of the tiny hollows with purple—every little pebble, every shell has a shining face—purple shadow. The colour shifts & changes; long after the sky is darkened the desert glows—then the stars rise and the lanterns are lit & hung about the tents. Now the shadows of something moving, is seen just outside the radius of the light—it is a wild jackal prowling round in the chance of food. The men suggest making a “Fantasie”—and they gather in a big circle outside our dining-tent, their faces lit by the lanterns—two of the men have wonderful voices, rich & resonant, & one has all the bedawin poetry by heart, & several are dancers, so we see all the dances & hear all the songs of the desert, while in the background the camels contentedly chew the cud & ocassionally† swear at one another, in a mild way.

The next morning comes serenely. We are not moving camp today, but we ride out in our dromedaries to see the Medoum Pyramid, the oldest building known in the world—taking our lunch with us & coming back to tea.

The next day we move to Edwa; & the next day send to Medinet for our letters, & “laze” all day in the shadow of the tents, and watch the sun as he runs his race, grows to his full majesty of strength, lingers to embrace his world, & bids his passionate farewell. Our walk in the evening brings us to a spot that must once have been a burial place, for the sand is strewn with human sculls† & bones.

Yielding to the programme made for us by our major domo, Enani, we, on the next day leave the desert & enter into the Fayoum to see Medinet the cheif† town—but we refuse to camp near the town & make tracks the same day back to the desert. But before we can get out of the area of cultivation we come in for a night’s rain & a consequent delay, as the wet tents cannot be packed up. The Sheikh Ibrahim gives his men a sheep wherewith to make merry, and at night a great bonfire is made & we sit round it in a circle—a dancing girl comes from the nearest town, with her kinsfolk; and a great Fantasie is held. The Bedawin rifle-dances & sword dances of the men are much more interesting than those of the woman. Enani dances with perfection of agility & grace—now & then to relieve the feelings, a rifle is fired off or a revolver—a weird scene by the fitful blaze of the bonfire. At last the woman & her people ride away on their donkeys, and the fire is kept alight all night by the watchmen, the voices die down & there is silence in the camp.

How glad we are the next morning to see the sun again & to make tracks for the desert betimes. A long day’s journey brings us out of the system of canals which makes the Fayoum a triumph of artificial irrigation, the last bridge is crossed & just before sunset the rolling sand spaces are reached & the tents are pitched. Fred & Marie, Hetty & I go for a long walk, fascinated by the beauty & the colour—in the distance a caravan passes through the purple shadow of sunset & men are prostrating themselves on the ground & praying. The faint crescent of the new moon is visible for a short space before it follows the sun beneath the horizon. It is nearly dark before we get back to the tents, & Enani & Ali have come out to meet us, each with a gun—ever-watchful, ever alert. Day after day the journey is continued. Only once, for about 24 hours do we get really out of reach of water. That is a wonderful night we spend on the high desert; with the sand-hills about us, & between them the foot tracks of the wolf, the jackal & the gazelle. We lie at night on the side of a cone hillock of sand and watch the stars rise & swing across the heavens, while Enani tells us stories from the Koran, and we recall & relate some of the old world stories; until Silence with a beating heart comes & sits in our midst and we are folded up in night & space and sky. It is from the top of this same hill that we watch the sun rise glorious in the morning & scatter before him the hoar frost of the night, and shine upon the white salt rock & pebbles of cornelian stone. A call from Mursi that breakfast is ready brings us back to the tent for an early start has to be made for this our longest desert journey—we have about 20 miles to do. We travel slowly as {3} first with the caravan; all the party keeping together in the same track; Enani playing his flute & the men singing & clapping hands, & some of them doing a fantastic dance with their rifles. We are alone in the midst of the high desert with a boundless distance. After about three hours or four, we halt for lunch beside a ruined pyramid, & let the luggage camels & men go forward. What a lunch!

[At this point occurs the following cancelled passage, the substance of which is repeated later:

We are escorted back about 5 & fetched again at 6 o’clock, & have a great dinner—an enormous turkey, stuffed with raisins & nuts, pigeons, half a sheep, & other dishes—everything of the very best. Only the Sheikh himself partakes of this meal with us, the other men feast outside, & afterwards when the room has been cleared, they troop in & sit round & the evening is spent telling stories. The Sheikh Ibrahim reads his arabic story, exciting expressions of infinite wonder & admiration—& then the Sitt Gebir reads her story of Big Claws & Little Claws. We ride home about 11 o’clock o’clock† after a very jolly evening, everybody very pleasant.

The whole of the next day is spent in seeing some of the wonders of Sakkarah, the tombs of the Kings]

served by Enani & Ali—& what appetites! & what ever new delight & joy that unfailing “one more pot of apricot jam” gives, that is like the widow’s curse {4}. How does Enani manage to procure it every day? And then after lunch the rest—while Enani plays his flute or makes the stones sing as he throws them through the air. But we must not delay too long—the baggage camels are already far away—we mount & quicken our dromedaries to a fast trot. On & on we go but no sight of the caravan—we seem to have lost all trace of human life; but suddenly we see a track again & Enani recognises the foot print of Halifa’s camel—slightly deformed that foot is with corns, the bare foot of Halifa himself keeping abreast with it. He tells us a thrilling story of his last expedition in the unexplored far desert in the Soudan—with the French traveller & his wife, who went where no white man had ever been, & wearing the dress of Algerian pashas. Once, when in the midst of the desert, they let the baggage camels & caravan go forward as we had done today—a sand storm came & obliterated the tracks & presently they realized that they were lost.

To lose your caravan when many days’ journey from the nearest habitation is to lose your life. Enani in an rage of dismay, levelled his rifle at the head of the guide who had been taken on for this stage of the journey—“You have lost the way, you lose your life”. The French lady began to cry—poor little Pasha!—the gentleman interposed with the reminder that the main hope of ever finding the caravan lay with the guide if he would keep his head. Just then Enani looking all round, picked up a bit of flint newly struck off, & following this clue came presently on more traces of the caravan & ultimately sighted it in the distance—to the great joy of all. The hours of the afternoon slip by & we push on—the sun is getting low, and still we see neither caravan or camp. The sun is already setting before we sight our tents which have been set up, & the camels are lying down relieved of their burdens—& best of all, tea is ready as we ride up tired & hungry.

The next day’s journey brings us to Sakkarah with the wonder of its Pyramids & Tombs. We have scarcely pitched our Camp & had our tea, before we receive a visit from the Sheikh of the village, & his kinsfolk. Sheikh Mohamed is the brother in law & friend of Enani, his family generations before had discovered the buried treasures of the ancient kings; amongst other things a banana tree, made of gold, and many gold vessels & ornaments, and became rich, & now own a greater part of the village. The Sheikh is a man of substance with houses & lands, flocks & herds, wives & children. He is a tall dignified man with a gentle face, slightly deaf & therefore somewhat slow in conversation—but full of courtesy & kindliness: he has come to bid us welcome & to invite us to a Feast which he proposes to make in our honour. We all sit round & drink coffee together & exchange cigarettes, and after awhile† the guests retire though they spend the night with Enani in the Camp & come from time to time to salute us. We are invited to the Feast at 3 o’clock, but stipulate for a return to Camp for an hour’s rest before the evening. Punctually at 3 o’clock, the Sheikh Mohamed arrives with the Cheif† men of the village to escort us to his house. He brings his beautiful arab horse for our “Sheikh Ibrahim” to ride; we, (the three wives) ride on camels & the procession starts. We feel like a circus as we go along making a sensation in the village street. We arrive at the house, enter the courtyard on our camels, dismount & are shown into the Guest-chamber, a large stone square building with tall windows, fitted with divans & a carpet. Here we are served with tea, and after we have finished, the sheikh & his family drink tea—& then the men of importance file into the room & the talk begins—of the wonder of London, of the wonder of the Nile, the Maker of Egypt & of irrigation, of grains & harvests, of sheep & cattle & horses—their relative sizes & weights in this country & our own; then we are taken to see the garden, and Marie, Hetty & I are invited into the Women’s quarters, to see the cheif† wife first, Enani’s sister, a pretty girl who receives us shyly & entertains us, serving coffee & asking us questions about our journey—later on, we are introduced to the other wives & their children.

We now return to the Camp, for a short interval, being escorted back & duly fetched again. We sit down to a great feast, which only the Sheikh himself & Enani at our invitation partake with us—an enormous turkey stuffed with nuts & raisins, pigeons, half & sheep & various other dishes; everything of the very best & thoroughly well dressed. We are able to do our duty, having saved up all day on purpose that we might not fail. Turkish coffee in tiny cups concluding the meal, the room is cleared & then the men pile in & sit round the room, & stories are told by one & another—and “the Sheikh Ibrahim” reads his story which he has prepared & written in arabic, amidst universal expressions & {5} admiration & wonder, & “the Sitt Gebir” follows with Big Claws & Little Claws—and about 11 o’clock, we are once more escorted home, having spent a most interesting & delightful time, and everybody highly pleased & satisfied with everybody else.

The next day is given up to seeing some of the wonders of Sakkarah—we ride into Memphis to see the two recumbent colossal figures of Rameses the Great—which are the all that is left of a great temple. One figure lies on his back on a slight eminence, the other is built over by a rude hut & lies prone. A wooden flight of steps spans it, so that one can climb & look down upon the face, which is strong, gentle & full of great calm—in every line of the body, in the tightly clenched hands, in the forward thrust of the knee there is majestic decision. This is the Pharaoh that first began to oppress the Children of Israel & his personality touches me still, through the limestone block fashioned to his image. Mounting again we ride out of the village & up on the desert to see the tomb of Thy,—4500 years old. Thy was the royal architect & manager of the Pyramids in the time of the Pharoahs of the 5th dynasty—and his tomb is full of interest. The masonry is carefully pointed & the walls covered with mural reliefs—drawings of men & animals cut into the stone, the attitude & characteristic expression of the animals especially is wonderful. There are pictures of men feeding cranes, & fattening geese, of men building ships, reaping, winnowing, shipbuilding, fishing, ploughing, sailing ships, fighting—all full of vigour & humour & life. We also saw the Tombs of the sacred bulls. This was an awful place, the heat was stifling. These tombs are hewn out of the solid rock, there are galleries with chambers 26 ft high, which contain the huge stone coffins in which the mummies of these sacred bulls were laid. These monster coffins are made of a solid block of granite 65 tons in weight, & must have been fetched from Assuan more than 600 miles away. I was glad to get out of these underground galleries, heated & evil smelling, the weird darkness made visible by the light of one or two guttering candles—& reach the blessed sunshine & sweet air of the upper world again.

And now the last day of our caravan journey dawns. From Sakkarah, we see the distant Pyramids of Ghizeh, the “Great Pyramids”, & there is our last halting place. Once more we approach the greatest miracle of Man—the divine Thing made by Man in his own image—the Sphinx. In spite of our regret that our journey is nearly over, hearts beat high with happy excitement. It is a sort of homecoming. All the landmarks become familiar. At last one sees the hollow in the sand where the Sphinx rests, with that odd thrill—half fear, half eagerness one always feels at that sight.

But She is not for us—not yet: surrounded (as we come nearer, we see the crowd) by noisy sightseers. We pitch our Camp, and that evening when “dinner” has called that crowd home, we go to pay our homage to the great Being whose body is the foundation rock of the world, & whose soul is the soul of the universe. The silence & shadow of night deepens on the desert—and a great wind is born of the darkness—sweeps upon our tents—and some strange excitement is in the air which drives sleep away & sets the life-currents running quick & warm in blood & brain. With the first glimmer of dawn we are up—and Freddy makes by the aid of our little spirit lamp 4 cups of arrowroot, which we carry off & eat by spoonfuls as we go, to see the glow of morning brighten in those wonderful eyes & the sun rise upon the face so rapturously patient, that has been raised to greet day and night with all their changes, with the same glorious acceptance for more than 6000 years.

This day our camp life ends.

Once more we ride up on the high desert for a last run on the dromedaries. The glistening stretch of sand & pebbles shine and stretch away into seemingly infinite distance: there is a high wind & great purple shadows fly after us & sweep us up in their robes. The afternoon is spent in farewells & in packing. Before sunset the tents are all down, & now we mount “Sabeah” & “Rameses” & their brethren & procede† in cavalcade to Mena House—where we dismount—and after handshakings & lengthy farewells—which (we comfort ourselves with the thought) are after all not final farewells, we are ready to enter the ‘House Beautiful’ & return to civilization again. There is delight and wonder in that change—and a new realization of the victory gained by man over the limitations set by Nature. Water, pure water in a big white bath, filling it up to the brim, hot water too—no limit to it! Electric light! wardrobes! dinner in evening dress, with the music of violins!

But in the moonlight out there in the Desert is the great Reality, and we are lured to leave music & light behind—& draw near to the Silence & Simplicity of that Presence which is the Everlasting Yea. Evening by evening all {4} the following week finds us there—driven by a longing to have that peace, that certainty, that divine acceptance, that vision stamped indelibly on mind & memory. On the night before we leave for England—the moon is wrapt away in thick clouds & the rain is falling, but the face of the Sphinx is lifted expectantly towards the new Day.


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

{1} ‘Dec. 30th’ has been struck through at the head of the letter.

{2} A slip for ‘and’.

{3} A slip for ‘as’.

{4} This word is indistinct.

{5} A slip for ‘of’.

† 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.

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

Dahabeeyah ‘Bolbol’.—Continues her account of her visit to Egypt.



Dahabijeh Bolbol. Nov. 23rd 1904

My darling Laddie. Almost a week gone by—but we have not yet come more than 20 miles out of 600. We have only had the North wind twice for a few hours in the afternoon—though it is the reputed one wind for November, December & January! When you get this we shall have reached Ouasta (I spelt it “Wasta” {1}) about 57 miles from Cairo. But you must not think that it is a disappointment. If only it were not a question of time limit, one would not care how long one loitered on the way. If we were to get a steady North wind we should be at Luxor in 14 days: a week before you come. I can hardly believe how happy we are! It seems ridiculous to go on day after day & night after night in one long dream of delight. We have everything to make us happy—a very contented & happy crew—everybody pleased—and our every wish & whim gratified. Talk about Mammy-babies! As for the little lady Hetty, it is most amusing—she won’t stir foot or finger for herself! It is “Abdul!” or “Ali!” or “Mursi!” if she wants a fly brushed off her noes. So different from the Hetty at Caversham!

We have a splendid cook, everything served so nicely—piping hot—& so nice. I have realized the possibilities of an omelette. The Turkish coffee is delicious & is served as often as one wants it. Toast for breakfast—& apricot jam! The waiter “Moorsi” always at hand, reading one’s wishes from one’s face before the word, & the fly-wisk† in his hands, always ready to brush the flies away. They keep every thing nicely covered up, even the salt & pepper pots have sliding glass covers. I have never seen the flies on any food—I wish folks would be as careful in England. We have a bath & a shower bath—& a tap of water in each room—every luxury! We shall have this cook & waiter in the desert, so I need not worry about your not getting the right food or being properly looked after! Though I find it next to impossible to look either forward or back—I think that Camp in the desert will be the very best part of all. You & I have a little tent for ourselves: oh Freddy how we shall love the whole thing. I don’t want you to sleep in hotels at all, except the first night & the last night you are in Egypt. I want to know just how much time you have to give: what seems a long time when you think of it at home is nothing at all when you are living this life—the sense of division of time seems to vanish. If you can spare 5 weeks you will be able to have at least two or three days with us on the Bolbol—but if you can spare only 4, we shall have to get on to Assouan first. We are all looking forward tremendously to your coming—the men are most interested in you—& you will get a great welcome. I think of you, not as though you were in London, but as though you were waiting at Luxor or Assouan. I simply cannot turn my thoughts Northward—they won’t go. I have never before been away without being able to look forward to going home. But now I feel no wish at all except to keep on—the days are not long enough & they follow each other all too quickly—I want weeks & months just going on like this. I am sure you will have noticed in my letters that I am quite rambling & incoherent. I don’t seem able to put words together—one is receiving impressions so quickly; one wants to stop & feel—to shut out the light & reconstruct in the dark. Even at night-time, there is the full goblet right to the second when one falls asleep. At first I was too happy to sleep—but now I sleep 8 or 9 hours right away. And yet the charm is so elusive & made up of such constantly shifting small things.

At this moment for instance—here moored alongside the bank, sitting under this awning on the deck—a delicious breeze blowing, the blue sky reflected in each ripple of the river—the opal gleam of the water as a whole—the rosy hills in the East—the big barges of hay in front of our bows, with their great curved masts, the barefooted, blue robed arabs at their various tasks—our crew squatting on the bank gossipping with the peasants—bargaining sometimes—laughing—telling stories—one of the men roasting the coffee over a little fire—men, women, children & animals passing—& light & colour, atmosphere & incident changing every minute. One wants nothing more than to sit in one’s chair dreaming oneself into this life & this world. Then when one thinks of all the wonderful past! We were walking this morning—such a perfect day—we felt we could easily have done the 30 miles to Ouasta.

And now I have to tell you how I got your dear letters on Monday—three of them. As we had not started, I went into Cairo & found out from Cook’s that a mail from England was expected that afternoon. So I asked them to keep back the letters until a certain hour & sent Ali in to fetch them. While he was away, the North wind came & they spread the sails—we could not go far of course. We left another man on the bank to tell Ali where to catch us up—& all too soon we had to anchor & wait. He came at dark bringing the letters & oh how glad I was—for Sweetheart, I was getting hungry—it was the 5th day. I read your letters & read them again—so glad. I am sending you a little list of some little things I should like you to bring out. Three weeks tomorrow! & a fortnight tomorrow you will be starting. Oh I do hope you will find everything as we find it—that you will feel the same enchantment. It will all be so very different from anything you have ever done before. I can’t imagine anything better for a holiday—to forget, to have to forget everything—to leave the whole world behind. You must try & read “The Garden of Allah” on your way out. You can skip a great deal, leave out the descriptions & go on to the main points of the story. I found every word fascinating—not one too many, but mere words do not delight you as they delight me. Don’t think you will read it after you come: you must read it now before you start, or else on the journey.

I told you in my last letter {2}, that I want to have 6 months with you camping & journeying in the desert: another time we will have a dahabijeh—but no! I don’t think that would suit you quite so well—& though I love this, I love the other life still more. Enani wants to teach me to ride when we get on the desert—“to gallop like the wind”. I want to ride like that. Don’t you see how very very short the time is for all we want to do? I shall feel when I have to go home as I used to feel on summer evenings when I was playing in the garden—& they took me in to bed before the sun had set!

I am asking you, (see my modest list) to bring me some packets of self toning printing papers. I also want you to send me by post ½ packets of printing paper self-toning. I could not get any in Cairo.

The Kodak & developer have turned out a great success, though there have been some failures & the conditions of developing have not been quite ideal in some ways: our first were spoilt a bit with the Nile mud—yesterday something awful happened, I don’t know what—we had a whole roll of a dozen films—the day’s history—all total blanks.

Nov. 24th. But yesterday’s the films {3} were splendid. I have printed one of each & fixed them to send in my circular letter {4}. I am glad to hear that things are moving along at home. What a lot you will have to tell me! I do not yet know the name of your boat. I think you will like Josephine Plunkett very much. I don’t want you to meet her husband—he stands for everything we are fighting against—an honorable & upright man, but his outlook on life comprises everything we hate. Some of her ideas Josephine gets from him—her contempt & fear of the Arabs. Bullying is their one idea of governing, and the relationship is war—always war, with the big guns on our side—& big guns our only safety. She cannot understand Hetty’s relationship with them at all. She besought me to buy a revolver & have it loaded under my pillow! I said I would rather spend the money on a good filter! She was really very conscious about us. Of course it is absolutely ridiculous. There are at least two men who would die before any harm came to us. This time three weeks, if all is well—you will be here with us. We passed about 4 o’clock this afternoon, the village where we had intended passing the first night on the boat—a week ago! We have been going well today though. The moon-rise this evening was like another dawn—a tawny shadowy dawn. It has been a wonderful day. Marie says I look as I used to look when I was still going to school & in truth this life suits me right well. I should like to see two more moons come to the full in Egypt.

If you could get a small portable volume of Heroditus† I should like to have it out here.

I am sending the photos in the circular letter—you had better take possession of the “Peace, perfect peace” one—it might shock some of our good folks.

We began a story today, which is to last for many days—Enani told us Chapter 1. It was quite easy today to understand the arabic—we hardly had to pull up at all. Every day it opens a little more to one. . .

And now my best & dearest, my one great thing, I send you back my heart. Come, come quickly, for everything is ready for you. Come to the heart of the sun & to the heart of the woman to whom you belong. Come, live, taste the forgetfulness which is the sleep & re-creation of the soul—& carry back the might & beneficence of the sun-lord. God keep you & bless you & hold safely in his hand in store for me, the happy day when I shall see again your face.

Your Littley Patz


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

{1} See PETH 7/161.

{2} Not extant.

{3} Presumably a slip for either ‘yesterday’s films’ or ‘yesterday the films’.

{4} PETH 7/150.

† Sic.

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

Holloway Prison.—Discusses business relating to properties and investments, and refers to a forthcoming Exhibition.



Holloway Prison
March 4th 1909 {1}

My dear Husband.

I knew that there would be many matters of private business you would want to discuss with me & that if possible you would obtain a permit for an interview so that we could discuss them verbally which is of course the only satisfactory way. Since however that is not possible, I am glad to be able to tell you what I wish about the one or two matters which you mention. As regards “The Bungalow” property. The tenant you tell me leaves when the lease runs out. That is this month I believe. You say he has friends who will take it on at a lower rental. But I am not inclined to lower the rent, at any rate for the present. This is a good time of the year for letting such a property. And I do not think there will be any difficulty in finding tenants. I do not wish to sell in any case. You know I have always considered that we do well to hold that land. Being so near to London, it is bound to go up in value.

“The Mascot.” If you are renovating or decorating, the colour which I should wish to predominate is the blue that is the real dutch blue. You have a sample of it in the almanak† that hangs over my little desk in the Mascot dining room. I know you will superintend what is necessary in the garden. Rapley knows a great deal about the work & my wishes with regard it. I know how perfect & how beautiful everything will be. My special joy is in those May tulips. Some beautiful flowers were brought into the ward this morning—daffodils & some double golden tulips. Though no one told me where they came from, my heart told me. Flowers are a great joy to those who are here. So is music. Every afternoon when I am out at exercise I hear music. A Band in the street plays well known airs.

With regard to “The Sundial”. This house is let until the end of May. Will you write to the George Foxes & ask if they want it for June, or if not whether I shall reserve any other time of the year for them. From middle of July to end of August, it is let to the Esperance Club. I have not seen the books which you have presented to the Library. But no doubt I shall do so in good time. I have Shakespeare & other literature. I have not been at all dull. The week has gone quickly. I sleep like a baby—& feel that I haven’t a care or worry in the world. No news comes from the outside world. But I know perfectly well that everything is happening as I should wish. I have absolute confidence that all is well. No newspapers, not even our own could tell me more surely. You say hard work suits you. Well, a quiet life with domestic occupations seems to suit me, for I too feel very well & mean to come back thoroughly rested & fit for work. I hope you will fill up my dates for beginning of May. I shall not entangle myself with the machinery until after the Exhibition. Lady Connie will go to Annie in Bristol before Easter but do not make any other engagement out of London for her. Lady Connie should open the Exhibition on one of the three days. If this commends itself to you you can proceed to arrange it without delay. I am sure it would be the right & appropriate thing.

Dont you think it strange that out of over fifty people charged with the same offence, I am the only one to get sentence of two months. Two or three have been arrested twice before for the same offence. & Mrs Despard the leader of another deputation was sentenced to a month only. Why this divergence? I should like it explained.

I have had a letter from Mort about the business of the investments in trust for me under my Father’s will & estate. He says that he is inclined to sell the Columbian National Railways. There has been a considerable rise lately, he says, but he is not impressed with the stability of the investment. I told him I should like to see him & my brother Tom about this & various other matters, but if that would cause delay in this particular case, he can refer to you & if you think well he can sell. He also mentioned important developments in the Gazette. Have I not a legal right to see our family solicitor & trustee to transact private family business? This right should be claimed if it is a right.

Our financial report & balance sheet should receive my signature. Will you ask if the M.S. or proof can be sent to me to sign. If this is not granted, the explanation should be given in the Report, of the reason it goes out to the world without the signature of the Treasurer.

Now Goodbye. And “God bless us all—every one”[.] There is every reason why joy & love & infinite thanks should fill all our hearts. To me, this is a time of expectancy, of happy waiting for the spring. The bursting of new life & beauty—the eternal miracle & revelation. Just as the earth keeps already the joy of a great secret, so I keep already the promise of the future & hold its festival in my heart. My thoughts go to you all, & yours,—the thoughts of you all—come to me full of blessing. Special love to my Mother & to Aunt Ellen, who—

Emmeline Pethick Lawrence


The letter is written on a printed form. Other handwritten details on the sheet include the number (2141) and name of the prisoner, and some pencil notes in Fred Pethick-Lawrence’s hand.

{1} ‘Prison’ and ‘190’ are printed.

† Sic.

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

Holloway Prison.—Refers to the restrictions placed on their correspondence. Is convinced that all with be well with them both, as they are accomplishing their purpose in life. Describes her surroundings and usual activities, and discusses her reading. Expresses confidence in his courage and judgement.



Holloway Prison
June 18th 1912.

Dearest. What a joy to write to you at last! A fortnight ago I should have written in spite of our agreement. But then it occurred to me that if you accepted my letter, it would mean that no news of the outside world or of your many friends would reach you. As for me—well you knew then and you know now how it is with me. And I knew then & I know now how it is with you—Well—infinitely well! For, the purpose to which we were born & for which we were mated is accomplished. The hour is come & we are delivered. Since I received my letter a fortnight ago, & especially since I saw my sisters last Saturday, I have had those definite tidings of you for which of course I was longing. Indeed my assurance born of knowledge of you, & faith in the universal sustaining Life of which we partake—& then the news of you that I have received from those who have seen you, are the last drop in my cup of content. It will not surprise you when I tell you that these past weeks have been a time of peace. Like the hermits of old, I often feel inclined to exclaim—

O beata solitudo!
O sola beatitudo!

My surroundings lend colour to the convent idea! My room on the ground floor is vaulted above & partitioned by an arch. There are four pointed windows that open top & bottom—in aspect quite ecclesiastic. They look out upon a bank of shrubs & an overshadowing tree, through the leaves of which, the morning sunlight shimmers & throws flickering shadows & lights on floor & wall. Behind them is a sunny path & a tiny garden. It is a little shut in, a little dark except on very bright days. But I feel close to “Mother Earth” & rejoice once more in that sense of union, so vital to the life of my senses. I hear the blackbirds & thrushes morning & night & can watch a very bold & fat robin lording it over the sparrows. At night I can hear the rain falling & trickling through the ground & I can see the brightening sky at dawn. And my earth hunger is appeased. The days pass quickly & are all too short for what I want to put into them. First thing in the morning come the newspaper—before breakfast. First a glance, then a good hour is spent over them. Four hours out of every day are spent in the sunshine. While I was with the others we played very vigorous games. Now my companion & I often take chairs out & she will read aloud some French Play while I work. Sylvia is designing a banner for us to embroider. We shall each have an embroidery frame & shall take them out of doors. My device is “May God defend us, as our Cause is just.” Hers that phrase of Milton’s “O Liberty, thou choicest Treasure.” It will be nice to have some substantial piece of work to remain as a witness & memorial of 1912. Every day I get some Italian done. I like Hugo’s Simplified System very much. I have 3 books. 1. Italian Grammar. 2. Key to Exercises. 3. Italian Reading Simplified. The pronunciation of every word is reproduced in English spelling & the accent noted which is very helpful. I don’t get through 5 books a week like you! But then I have a never-ending conversation going on with one of whom it may be said—“Age cannot wither her nor custom stale, Her infinite variety.” We are great pals & very happy in our intercourse. I am just now deep in a book which I shall pass on to you presently. “Sabatier’s Life of St Francis.” It will (I think) interest you. I read it 15 or 16 years ago. I think I have described to you how Hugh Price Hughes introduced the book & how the influence of it finally broke up his Sisterhood & sent the ardent minds out to seek new paths. Much of the old charm & force of the book comes back to me. It is written by a French mystic, with a flair for the poetry of religion—a mind that understands S. Francis & is in tune with it. Here is one little passage as a sample. Speaking of S. Clare & S. Francis he says: “When he doubted his mission & thought of fleeing to the heights of repose & solitary prayer it was she who showed him the ripening harvest, men going astray with no shepherd to lead them, & drew him once more again into the train of the Galilean, into the number of those who give their lives a ransom for many.” The two characters, in their relative strengths are very interesting. St Clara was the better fighter. She was not so easily taken in with fair words. It was she who withstood the Pope, years after S. Francis had allowed his ideal to be overshadowed. Strange to say, she brought Pope Gregory IX to submission by a sort of Hunger Strike. This is the story. He forbade the preaching Friars to go to her Convent at St Damian’s, without express permission from the Holy See. She forthwith dismissed from the Convent those Friars whose business it was to protect the Nuns & supply them with food. “Go” she said. “Since they deprive us of those who dispense to us spiritual bread, we will not have those who procure for us material bread.” The writer goes on to add “He who wrote that “the necks of kings & princes are bowed at the feet of the priests” was obliged to bow before this woman & raise his prohibition.” Now isn’t that interesting? Mr Healy who came to see us yesterday & promised to see you today is sending me a book about another very wonderful woman saint & mystic. All these things—the thought of those who lived these real intense lives in the past fascinate me deeply. One feels a close sense of union with these striving hearts. Thus with study, with reading, thinking, talking, with needle work & all the little interests & occupations of the hour, the night follows the morning, & the morning the night & time slips along like the swift current of a quiet river. I certainly have no wish to be out in a world where Manhood Suffrage stalks & raves!! Dearest, you must keep this letter as a curiosity. It represents a triumph of the human will. Some day I will tell you the story & we will laugh over it together. At first I felt more like crying! But I shall make you curious! It is a funny world, full of lights & shadows like my tree outside! You do not need that I should refer to any matters of importance. You see the newspapers just as I do, & you know all that you want to know of the world outside your own world. But the words of that song that you used to sing when I first knew you come back to me—“My heart & yours are full of light.” You remember the song? All of it? I do not for one moment forget the promise that I would not entertain any anxiety or fear on your behalf, nor do I forget your promise to the same effect. Courage & Judgment. You remember how we said once these two qualities must go together. I have absolute confidence in your judgment to do what is wisest & best & absolute confidence not only in your courage but in your strength to carry out what will & conscience suggest to you, with perfect serenity & calm resolution. We can have faith in each other because we draw from an inexhaustible Source of Life which is ever open to us. Above & beyond all we trust our destiny & the Hand that guides it. Will you—I wonder will you—read this long letter right through? Your letter that I brought with me here is always near at hand. I often read it. It is enough. That last moment at The Old Bailey! That too is enough. I think we two are the happiest & luckiest people in all the world. You will read between these lines (!!) all that I would say. Goodbye. We go through these next two weeks before we can exchange another letter—we go together.

Ever your loving Wife


The letter is written on a printed form. The details entered by hand include, besides what is printed above, the prisoner’s number (15581) and name. A few slight alterations have been made to the punctuation of the original.

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

(Aboard a ship, crossing the Atlantic.)—She and Susan were seasick for a few days, but took part in last night’s concert. Has met an American called David R. Smith, who is interested in finance.

(Letter-head of 87 Clement’s Inn, W.C.)



Oct. 24. 1914

My Dearest. Just a week ago since our ship cast her moorings {1}—and I saw you waving from the shore. Well! Thank the Lord that its over! (It isn’t often you have known me in the mood to bless the Fate that decrees to all things an end.) The first two days were all right and I said to myself—“Hallo! we’re in for luck”. I contented myself with putting all sedentary occupations aside—& ran about the ship or rested quietly on my deck chair & enjoyed the various incidents & the flashing of lights in the Channel at night. On Monday a change came & from that morning until today we have had rough very cold windy & wet weather. I have been more or less upset the whole time, & it has been anything but joy to be alive. But there is one thing you can always comfort yourself with at sea. And that is the thought that however bad it actually is, it might be inconceivably worse! I had every reason to take this consolation to myself, what with my comfortable cabin, & my perfectly sweet & charming companion. For two days she was down too, & we could only send messages through our stewardesses. She did not want me just then, nor I her. But on Wednesday she was frisking round & during the last three days has beguiled many a tedious hour with reading & talking to me. Yes, Susan is a great success. She is the most popular person on the ship & quite deserves to be so. For she is as kind & good-natured as she is charming & pretty.

Last night there was a concert & Susan & I provided the pièces de resistance. I told funny stories for twenty minutes & she played the accompaniments, sang three times & recited twice: All our efforts were appreciated & everybody was very friendly. Barry Pain is on board & he recited his War Poem—“The Kaiser & God”[.] He is the most unattractive man imaginable—ugly, awkward, scowling & surly. I liked the poem & his rendering of it as little as the man himself. I ought in fairness to say that I have not spoken to him. I have not seen him speak to anybody. Tell MaiMai that I’ve blessed her for that tin of Bengers Food that she put in. It has been my one standby. On the strength of Bengers alone, I was able to rise & dress myself & carry through at the Entertainment last night. My only chance is to give the ship food the clean cut. They haven’t Bengers or anything of the kind on board. There are no milk puddings in their daily fare. I get milk brought to my cabin & make it myself—& as long as I touch nothing else, I can get along. Actual sickness is not so bad as the acute indigestion which any deviation brings on. For two days, until I thought of Bengers, I took nothing but Appolinaris water. How I have blessed that priceless tin! {2}

There is a man on board that would interest you very much, i.e. his talk would. He is just a typical American. Came up the first day & buttonholed me. “I’m David R. Smith, and I want you, Mrs Pethick Lawrence, to answer me one question.” Well, he has gone about the ship, knocking down the front doors of reserves whenever he could, treading on toes, receiving snubs like a duck takes water, finding out the mothers who have no servants to look after their children, wheeling perambulators, & getting up the Concert. He’s looking for me now to read me a chapter from his Father’s book on political economy. But what would interest you is this—he is an enthusiast upon Finance & a better teacher even that yourself. He is convinced that he can make me understand the whole Money question if I will give him two solid hours. He is a keen Bryanite {3}. He is frightfully excited over his tenshillings English notes—the first Paper Money actually stamped as legal tender—“the best money going in the world” he says. Well I cant reproduce his arguments or facts, but I simply long to {4} you to be in my place. This Money question is to him what Suffrage is to us or Salvation to “the Army”. He has taken his stool to the street corner night after night, till an audience has grown from a boy & a dog to a crowd blocking the whole square. He is thankful to have me to spend his energy on. In spite of the above description David R Smith is no charmer. He comes a howler in taste again & again—& his compliments make me squirm. Poor Susan has suffered. He asked her to sing “Tipperary” as it needed “a good looking woman”! But the man’s intellect, energy & initiative are overwhelming!

Today the sun shines again, & if we have a good day I can get out my newspaper cuttings & other material & set to work on my American speeches. I’ll put in a little note for yourself & you can send this letter to Mother[,] Mary Neal, Aunt Ellen & friends. My love to them all.



The address printed at the head is 87 Clement’s Inn, W.C., but the letter was evidently written on board ship.

{1} Emmeline was aboard the Atlantic Transport liner Minnehaha, which left London on Saturday, 17 October, but her name is not among the passengers who boarded at that port.

{2} Followed by a space, which has been taken to be the equivalent of a paragraph break.

{3} A supporter of the Democratic politician William Jennings Bryan.

{4} A slip for ‘for’.

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

Women’s Cosmopolitan Club, 133 East 40th Street (New York).—Is recovering from tonsilitis. Discusses the plans for her lecture tour, and refers to the kindness of her hosts.



Women’s Cosmopolitan Club, 133 East 40th Street
Oct 27. 1914

My dearest. Just a little postscript to my letter yesterday. The doctor came yesterday as soon as I had posted it—& I was bundled into bed—reporters were sent away & the receiver taken off my telephone!

Susan was suddenly transformed from secretary into nurse—a part she plays most excellently. The unpleasant symptoms began at once to yield to the treatment & I feel quite on top of them already. Tonsilitis is the name of the malady.

Though I haven’t been in New York twenty four hours, I feel I am going to like it immensely & am going to have a simply ripping time. My lectures are not yet arranged owing to various hitches—that I neednt explain. But I saw Feakins yesterday & we got on very well[.] I like him as a business man very much. He thinks my fee a very moderate one, & would have taken me on at 250—at the same time, things are very awkward just now. 1. Shortness of time for arrangements[.] (2.) People financially hit by the war. (3.) November given up to the Elections & campaign in full swing everywhere—nobody any time to take on anything till they are over. (4.) C.P. {1} & Annie Kenney speaking, & queering the pitch. So far as I can find out neither of the above are bothering to make any business arrangement.

If I am having a good time & am asked by Feakins to give him a chance by staying over December, would you object? I dont want you to be or to feel deserted, but since the voyage is such an ordeal—(it was 7 days sheer purgatory this time) it seems a pity now I am here, not to stay if I’m wanted. Should it suit your work or your plans to come out here later on, I believe you would enjoy it, for I am quite sure I am going to have many friends here. I cant tell you how sweet & kind everybody is to me. The only person with whom I cannot “blossom” is Mrs S. Blatch. Its a case of “didn’t like her”. But I am not going to let that stand in the way! She can be very very useful to me & I mean to please her, & do her credit. There is a crowd of splendid girls, like the Lewisohns & Alice Wright. And numbers of interesting men & women who are inviting me to their homes. My quarters here are perfection—absolute comfort & harmony—no ugly luxury—just like the dear Lewisohns themselves. I found beautiful roses in my room & a sweet note from them. But they came after I had been bundled to bed yesterday & Susan had been instructed by the doctor to keep everybody outside. I shall send you all the cuttings I can get before post time. You might send them on to V. f. W. {2} & perhaps Miss Offley will afterwards collect & keep them. Your very happy comfortable & lucky



{1} Christabel Pankhurst.

{2} Votes for Women.

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