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Eleanor Clough to Margaret Llewelyn Davies - 1907

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Letter of condolence from Eleanor Clough to Margaret Ll.D., 23 April 1907


Castletop, Burley, Ringwood.
[23 April 1907]

Dear Margaret,
I have been thinking of you all day.
So many recollections have been passing through my mind. Do you remember that charity ball at which Arthur and Sylvia danced and danced together? I can see your mother’s face watching them, and remember her voice saying: “Arthur is rather excited.” It was the second time they ever met. And then I remember going to see them at Abinger when little George was 5 or 6 weeks old. I remember Sylvia bringing him down for my mother and me to see, then handing him over to Arthur, and I can see him kissing the little thing’s fingers, as he carried him up the stairs.
The last time we saw him was here, a few years ago when he brought George for a night on a bicycling expedition. We sat on the lawn where I am writing now.
We used to think he was like a young warrior in an Italian picture. And now one knows that he was one.
The thought of him will be an inspiration to many.
You will not mind my writing, I know, but you will not think I look for you to write.
Ever your affectionate,
Eleanor Clough

[Peter's comments:]

I wish I could place the writer of this singularly beautiful letter – as perfect an example as I ever remember reading of how to do this sort of thing. Various Cloughs were family friends of the Davieses, and there has been more than one mention in Arthur’s letters of visits to Abinger. She was related to Arthur Hugh Clough, the poet, I think, as well as to the Anne Clough who was closely concerned with the beginnings of Newnham when Emily Davies was singularly engaged with Girton.

How difficult it is to describe masculine beauty. “Like a Greek god” is dreadful somehow, partly because it has become so trite. Dolly Ponsonby’s choice of “Greek coin profile”, to describe her impression of Arthur seen through the window at Rustington, reading by the soft lamp light, in 1903, is better, but loses a little by its resemblance to the “Greek god” cliche. And I don’t think his features corresponded at all closely to what is generally meant by the classical standard. I much prefer Eleanor Clough’s “young warrior“ etc. It had never struck me before I read this letter, but I seem to have seen heads painted by Uccello, Masaccio and others which, if they do not exactly resemble Arthur’s, suggest that he might well have been taken by them as a model in his youth without any idealisation.
As I believe I have mentioned earlier on, his looks seem to me to have come not at all from the Davies side of his parentage, though to what extent he was a representative Crompton in physique, I can’t say. But I think his beauty was not less striking than Sylvia’s, and, for my part, I confess that, much as I venerate all their other lovely qualities, it is the thought of their beauty which, more than anything else, brings the lump to my scrawny throat.

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