Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Letters in Troubled Times - Part Four: Loss in London

As of late, the news of the new administration has overshadowed the looming threat of Islamic terrorism.  Although Aleppo should shout reason enough for us not to forget that it is alive and well.

Another attack on London last week also brought it to the forefront of our radar. Some seem shaken (relatives of the victims); for others it seems a benign occurrence, like that of petty theft or less.  I,too, feel desensitivity creeping in.

Matt Dunham / AP

I reached back to a letter during WWI to get a perspective on the what it feels like to live with the imminent threat of attack. Back then, though, they seemed to know and recognize their enemy.

This was written from a woman in England to my great grand-aunt, Miriam Sears Crompton in the US. (married to my great-grand Uncle Randolph Crompton).

Feb 27th, 1915

My Dear Mrs Crompton, (Miriam Sears Crompton)

I am so sorry to hear that you have been ill and can most sincerely sympathize, having been ill myself all winter.  What with the war and over our family troubles life is a bit too hard for most of us nowadays.  What one asks oneself Where is God?  Why does a "merciful" Providence allow such things to happen as are happening? 

At present we have not really felt the pinch but it is coming with a vengeance.  One can see that.
I am feeling so terribly alone in the world for I have no relation nearer than a distant cousin, and even my lawyer, whom I always leaned upon for business matters, is more interested in the war than in his clients and one feels absolutely adrift.  When one feels well one can face anything, but when one is sickly, all the time things look very black and dreary.  It has been a most unhealthy winter, and as everyone was overwrought from long anxiety, when flu came it found only too many victims, and we none of us can shake it off.

It cheers one to see our recruits go marching past as they do several times a day, for they look so healthy and so keen.  On the other hand it makes one heart-ache to think how few men return from the front.

How good of you all to work so hard and help the Allies.  There's no end to the help.  One longs to be a millionaire, for every day one has appeals, but with using food rations and a much diminished income it is but little one can do.  We are all getting so tired, and yet one must go on. We are lucky to be far enough away not to fear air raids and such like.  We hope we shall be spared them in Devon, but one never knows.  In fact at the present time one would not be surprised at anything. One really doesn't know what to believe, for all the papers seem to contradict each other, both sides invariably claim the same victory, one day Germany is starving, next day on "The best Authority" she has enough food stuff for a year and so on.  I feel so sorry for all the poor creatures whose relatives are "missing" or "prisoners of war."

 But now there is something cheerful.  Please send my love to the nice Rosamond when you write, and tell her she really must not tumble off her horse again.  I suppose she will be having school before we know where we are.  One envies your so pleasant a companion.  Just now though, all the mothers are alone, as any girl who can nurse is busy, and some are all at the front, and I console myself with that thought that even had I children they wouldn't be with me now.

The modern mother is no longer a person who can look forward to a cozy old age well looked after by her children.  It seems to me parents are rather in the way nowadays as they prevent the modern girl from "living her own life" as she puts it.  I trust dear Rosamond will be nice and old fashioned in that respect and look upon you as a pleasant and delightful duty and that there is no relationship in the world to equal it.

Spot now demands to be taken for a walk and his obedient Missus must go.  Please give my kind regards to Mr Crompton and accept much love from me and all good wishes for better health.

Perhaps some day when the war is over you will all be coming to England and then you must spare a week end for me, at least.

Yours affectionately,
Edith Nesbit 

Vintage photos - Pinterest

I imagine if my great aunt's friend was well she would have contributed to the war effort, as many women did. Here are some who joined the Fire Brigade. 

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And we, like these compassionate and courageous women, four thousand miles away and a century later, must do what we can to give relief to our terror-torn humanity.

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