Item 126 - Letter from Venetia Stanley to [Edwin Montagu]

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MONT II/A/1/126


Letter from Venetia Stanley to [Edwin Montagu]


  • [6 June 1915] (Creation)

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[The British Hospital, Wimereux.]—Describes her feelings after seeing him off. Discusses Violet’s reaction to the news of their engagement and her own feelings about converting to the Jewish faith.

(Dated Sunday.)

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Sunday evening 8. P.M.

My beloved I’ve just got back. I walked a little way to wave to you but only saw Reggies fine upstanding figure on the bridge. Then I came sadly back. I believe even you would be satisfied with my state of mind, what a fool I am, why didnt I at anyrate make you stay for dinner and have a short walk tomorrow, why didnt I come home with you, why do I stay here an instant longer than need be, why do I make myself unhappy when I could be happy so easily. There is no answer to any of these questions except that I’m a fool who doesnt know what she wants. I’m afraid of plunging back into the horror of England again, and yet I want to be with you. You quite naturally dont think its in the least difficult for me to leave you, because you ask why the devil do I do it. If I minded half as much as you do you think I wouldnt. Darlingest dont ever think its you who keep me from England you are the only thing almost which draws me there. Everyone here seems much more dreary than when I left them, Conrad tomorrow is nothing to look forward to, I want to be with you.

How soon shall I get back into my groove do you think.

I am going to write to Violet, I shant tell her you’ve shown me her letter, the difference in our outlook on her actions & words is that I think she is really fond of us both and wants us to be happy but that she is & always has been ridiculously influenced by abstract moral principles which she has laid down and which make her judge everyone by a narrow standard tho’ at the same time owing to her marvellous power of dialectics, allowing herself the greatest laxity in everything she wants to do. If she were in my place she would be able to prove quite incontrovertibly that what she was doing was far the most splendid thing that had ever been done. Not that I should want her to prove anything but then I’m no use as a standard of what other people will think is right or wrong. All I mean to say by that is that she is not as you think resentful because we have settled our lives while hers is still in the melting pot. Dont lets have “pride” I mean dont lets resent anything she may say, I wish sometimes I minded things more, but darling I do love you very much and that the chief thing.

There is only one more thing I want to say. I feel after what you said about deserting Przemysl {1} when the Austrians had retaken it that I must baldly say what I feel about all this question. Were I to be washed a 1000 times in the water of Jordan & to go through every rite & ceremony that the strictest Jewish creed involves I should not feel I had changed my race or nationality. I go through the formula required because you want it for your mothers sake and also (I’m going to be quite honest) because I think one is happier rich than poor. (Dont forget tho’ that I am sure I can be just as happy with you if you have nothing.) You also say that if your sons were to wish to marry Christians you would feel they had also deserted. Is it race or religion you care about, or merely the label? If race then you are debasing it by marrying me whatever I do. Religion you know I care nothing about and shant attempt to bring up my children in. There only remains the label. And will that stick do you think? If we have children how do you think they will be brought up? Amongst Jews or amongst Christians? Wont their natural friends be Arthurs children, Anthony’s Geoffrey, & not your eldest brother or any of your relations. And this is not because I shall be seperating† you from your family but because you have never really belonged to them by ties of friendship, except with yr mother & one brother. The whole of what it amounts to is this. I shall nominally call myself one of you but that is the limit of what will happen and I am sure that yr children will not regard themselves as in anyway different from their friends. Perhaps you dont care a damn but after what you said I felt I had to make it clear to you that I shouldnt lift a finger to keep all the inhabitants of Przmysl {1} (I dont even know how to spell it!) from going over to the enemy. But I want you also to tell me honestly if this most superficial aquiesance† is enough. Darlingest dont think I am being influenced by what anyone has said this is only a question between you and me, I dont want to deceive you about my intentions. It is not whether I am right or wrong to change my label, but whether I am changing it enough. I cant do it more. I shall never think of myself as a Jew, any more than I think of you as one.

Bless you my most loved write to me very often, dont get impatient with me, make up your mind that I’m peculiar & whatever happens dont doubt my love. I long for you.

I’ll write tomorrow. Answer this letter if you can.

Your most loving


Written at the British Hospital, Wimereux.

{1} The last three or four letters of this word are purposely indistinct.

† Sic.

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