Item 63 - Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

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PETH/7/63

Title

Letter from Emmeline Pethick to F. W. Lawrence

Date(s)

  • 19 July 1900 (Creation)

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3 sheets, 1 of them folded

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Colville House, Lowestoft.—Has moved into a cottage with the sick child. Dis-cusses her reaction to the news of Lawrence’s decision (to go to South Africa), and explains why she was so quick to tell ‘the Daddy’ (Mark Guy Pearse) about Law-rence’s proposal.

————

Transcript

C H, L {1}
19. 7. 00

D Mr L {2}

It is Thursday evening, half past six, and the superb day is at at† its highest of splendour—floods of golden light and flight of birds, and dance and hum of insects; and as I sit at my window, and know that there is a chance of one more word from me to you reaching you certainly if posted to-night at half past eight, I can’t help it. Great sweet peace and joy, thanks for all the infinite beauty and the great gift of life are mine. I want to give them with all the blessing of my soul as my last giving, before you leave England.

First let me tell you that I have moved the child and myself into a suitable cottage, two large good rooms—one upstairs for the child, into which I have moved two little hospital beds, and a room downstairs for myself looking into the garden, where I am now sitting. The danger is now removed from the rest of my little ones, the little patient is going on speedily, and as far as it is possible to foresee all is well.

It has been an anxious two days, but I do really think that now everything has been successfully guarded and that there is no further need for anxiety. Your two letters yesterday—you can understand that it would be so—were an overwhelming surprise for the moment. Like Alice in Wonderland, sudden Cheshire cat like disappearances rather upset my nerves!!! Ask the Daddy {3}; he will tell you that he always begins to say Goodbye 10 minutes before he has to go, a concession to this known weakness. I like to prepare my mind, collect my thoughts, remember all the important things that ought to be said. I like a certain order and restraint. I like to be composed and dignified!! I never present any common sense or wisdom until I have had time to think. Therefore I like people to give me time to think!! But of course you couldn’t. Well, it don’t matter.

I have laughed to myself. Of course you cannot understand letters, at least not mine. It is quite hopeless. You see, you would always want me to be there to explain them to you. Moral: never waste a moment of your precious time or a fraction of your … brain cells in trying to. With your mathematical brain you would of course seize the most obvious meaning, and if so, unless I were on the political talk or on the moral philosophy talk or some abstract subject, you would be sure to be wrong. For instance, the Lord only knows what you made of the statement that the most difficult thing for me to do is to wait; what I meant was, that I couldn’t sit doing nothing, saying nothing, while there yet remained anything to be done or said before the fist fell; of course I can wait for circumstances, for things and events that are the common of† destiny, but I won’t wait with [a] word in my mouth that is ready to be spoken. I can’t face regret for a thing I might have prevented. I can’t have a long uncertainty, that there is any possibility of ending. Enfin, I couldn’t bear to think of you going into the unknown, alone.

Now, there is just one word more I want to say. I want to explain to you—not that I have the least fear of your misunderstanding, but I want to explain (that’s right) why I was so quick to tell the Daddy. He was so impossible the other night. I never knew him like that before. But the truth was that his dear old heart was broken up. There was all that gladness and outflowing love to you that he spoke of, but there had been the other thing too, what I knew there would be—the ghastly dread that now he wouldn’t be so necessary; and he had come to me every day that week to be comforted and have the tears kissed out of his dear eyes. Now he knows and is quite quite satisfied. You see, I knew just how it would be. And I was going away, and by the time I get back he will be going away until next September. And I didn’t know what the future was going to bring, and if we (he and I) had once been separated, it would have been awful. Either he might not have been the first to know (his sacred right) or it would have been a letter; and even if I could have made it all right afterwards, I should have heard the heart’s cry from the distance, and should have known no rest day or night till I could have got to him. I had to guard against that. But our confidence is quite quite {4} safe with him, the most absolutely safe that is is possible to be. We (he and I) have got into the habit of never speaking of each other to anyone; the world is too vulgar to be trusted. We have always known that, and that sort of reserve has become second nature to both of us. He has been my foothold on this world. He picked me up on the lonely shore, a baby washed in by the waves, and he has carried me ever since.

Well now, this is really all, positively the one last appearance. And go with this, mon brave!

Your
E

PS. I should get a letter from you to-morrow. I shall not answer it. But you will know that it is all right, nothing {5} but the blessing of perfect peace from me to you. You will rest assured.

You will understand—yes.

—————

This letter is written untidily in pencil. Some of the readings are conjectural. A number of abbreviated words (such as ‘mathl’, ‘wd‘, ‘diffict’, ‘to-m’) have been expanded. The letter-head bears the address of Mansfield House, Canning Town, E.

{1} i.e. ‘Colville House, Lowestoft.’

{2} i.e. ‘Dear Mr Lawrence’.

{3} Mark Guy Pearse.

{4} The second ‘quite’ is underlined twice.

{4} At the head of the last sheet, which begins here, is a cancelled version of the beginning of the letter, up to ‘window’, verbally identical.

† Sic.

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