Item 168 - Letter from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence to F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

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PETH/7/168

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

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  • 18 June 1912 (Creation)

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1 folded sheet

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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.

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Transcript

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

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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.

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