Item 118 - Letter from F. W. Pethick-Lawrence to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

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PETH/6/118

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

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  • 19 June 1912 (Creation)

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1 folded sheet

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Brixton Prison.—Encourages her with reflections on the ability of the human spirit to transcend material circumstances. Refers to his study of French and Italian, and his other reading, and describes a method of counting on the fingers.

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Transcript

Brixton Prison
19th June 1912

Dearest

How delightful it is to think that this actual paper will be carried to you & that I shall get a reply written by yourself! I have sent you in my thoughts many messages of love which I feel confident have reached you, just as yours have reached me bringing their rich benison with them; But the actual written word gives tangible shape & contact & certainty.

I have not been in any way anxious about you, & equally you have I am sure not been anxious about me. You know that the one thing, which alone always seems worth while to me, is that the human spirit should transcend the whole of the material world; & therefore you do not need to be told that not in the very smallest degree have I been dismayed or discouraged by my environment. Dearest, here in the stillness—that is, to me, essentially the stillness of earth life—I am conscious only of the great spiritual tie which binds us together & binds us to the great Power which guides us. These are days when one drinks of the deep wells of life & because the draft is pure & crystal it refreshes & invigorates far beyond any draft of ordinary daily life. Or again it is as though the noisy overtones which make the chords & discords of the work-a-day world were hushed, & the fundamental notes were heard alone in all their simple grandeur. Or again it seems to me as though of the beauty, which is in the outer world & which our senses detect, the spirit itself had become perceptible to our souls direct.

One of my great joys is to watch the sunlight in the evening on the walls of my cell; some-times the nights are dull & then I miss it, but more often the last hours are bright. It sinks below a house close by about a quarter past seven and is then shut off from sight; each evening the last rays go a little further on the wall than the evening before, but we are coming soon (next Friday) to the longest day & after that it will begin to go back again.

Now you will want to know all I have been reading; First let me say it is surprising how little time I seem to have though I scarcely miss a minute of the day. Nevertheless I have read a larger number of books since I came in. I haven’t made so very much progress in Italian so I daresay you will nearly have caught up to where I am reckoning in what I did before. In the Berlitz Book, which I think you have got also, I have got to page 50. For the last few days I have laid it aside for a study of French which has caught my fancy, but I shall come back to it again in a little while & then I shall probably go on until I finish the book. I have been fascinated with Trevelyans† story of the siege of Rome {1}. It is really the volume preceding the one on Garabaldi’s† Thousand, & it is in my judgment a good deal the finer of the two. Have you read it? I cannot remember. Then I have read over again the story of the Thousand & hope shortly to read the third volume which I understand is now out. I have also got Crispi’s account of the same events {2} but have not read it yet. I have also read a book on radium, & one on Faraday which have inter-ested me very much. During the last week I have been wrestling with Green’s history of England {3} & with a very ponderous life of Henry Newman {4} which though good is very heavy to di-gest. A great soul was Newman, but somehow I can’t help feeling that he lost his way; perhaps a wider understanding might make one see it differently. In addition to other things I have also read a good deal of lighter literature including Pecheur d Island† {5} which I think delightful & two books by Mark Twain—Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn—which Annie gave me. You should get May to send them to you[;] they are full of delicious humour.

May has been very good to me, so thoughtful & kind, sending me everything I could possibly want.

I think you will be amused to know that once when I was taking exercise by walking up & down my cell, I started counting my walks on my fingers & arrived at the following:—it is of course said that on the fingers of the two hands one can count from one up to ten, but that is only by reckoning each finger of each hand to count one only; if the fingers of the left hand are allowed to have a different value from the fingers of the right, one can count all the way from one up to 35 (that is six times six less one), & if the thumbs of each hand are also allowed to count differently from the fingers, then one can count all the way from 1 up to 99. One may even go further but if I do so you will say I am becoming like I was on the top of the omnibus on that famous occasion! Anyhow I don’t think you will mind this little digression. Perhaps you will be able to work it out yourself!

Dearest how close we have been together all this month for all the physical barriers that have been between us. I have treasured your beautiful words about Whit Sunday in my heart & they have been a great joy to me. I have thought very much about you and shall be thinking of you so in the next few days, but they will not be thoughts of anxiety but of confidence & assurance. You well know that my spirit is behind yours sustaining you in all that you do, & I know & have the certainty that your spirit is behind mine; & so together we are very strong.

Dearest the sun is shining brilliantly, it is a gorgeous & magnificent day! I am full of radiant life.

My very great love to you

Your husband.

P.S Your dear delightful letter has just come; you seem to have been able to write a day earlier than me. I have read it through with such pleasure & shall read it and reread it many times; but I am so anxious to get this off without any delay so that you may have it soon. Blessings on you for all your dear words. Ever thine

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One folded sheet. At the head is printed, ‘In replying to this letter, please write on the envelope:— Number 7294 Name Lawrence F W. P.’, the name and number being filled in by hand. The word ‘Prison’ of the address and the first two digits of the year are also printed, and the letter is marked with the reference ‘C1/12’ and some initials. Strokes of letters omitted either deliberately or in haste have been supplied silently.

{1} Garibaldi’s Defence of the Roman Republic, by George Macaulay Trevelyan (1907), the first book of a trilogy which also comprised Garibaldi and the Thousand (1909), and Garibaldi and the Making of Italy (1911).

{2} Probably The Memoirs of Francesco Crispi (2 vols., 1912).

{3} A Short History of the English People, by J. R. Green, first published in 1874, or perhaps his expanded History of the English People (4 vols., 1878–80).

{4} The Life of John Henry, Cardinal Newman, by Wilfrid Ward (2 vols., 1912).

{5} Pêcheur d’Islande (An Iceland Fisherman), by Pierre Loti (1886).

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