Letter from the Rev. John Llewelyn Davies to his son Arthur, from Switzerland, 12 July 1891
[No original available]
Zermatt, 12th July 1891.
My dearest Arthur,
It is no small satisfaction to find that Sylvia is proving herself so strong and sound and courageous and capable of enjoyment; but it is more delightful to us that a closer acquaintance with her is making us like her better and better, and is strengthening her claims on our affection. No one could be a pleasanter companion; to your mother she makes herself a perpetually charming and helpful daughter. I rejoice that she has come with us on this tour. It has certainly been so far a most prosperous one.
I am astonished at what Margaret and Sylvia can do. After a very severe ascent yesterday, Theodore and Sylvia danced down steep places as if they were just starting. And Margaret has accomplished considerable excursions without being at all the worse. Indeed we all, including your mother, seem to be at our best. But I have made up my mind, without grudging, that I must content myself with efforts suited to my years. The guide who took me up the mountains thirty years ago is a disabled, but cheerful, veteran with a bad leg. We have both been pleased to see each other.
We are continually hoping that the time of your engagement may not be much prolonged. I have so much confidence in your prospects that I should not be on the side of urging delay. I think we may be able to give you some help for your first year or two.
Your most Affects father.
The reunion between John LLD and his old guide, Joseph Taugwald, must have been a great occasion for both. They were already famous figures in the annals of the Alpine Club thirty-three years after their pioneer ascent of the Dom, and to describe Taugwald simply as "the guide who took me up the mountains" is a characteristically unassuming way of referring to their exploits.
Characteristic also, I suppose, is the somewhat pedantic phraseology of the letter as a whole — very different from the more modern, free and easy style of the Cromptons in their letters. Whether this particular letter, despite the appreciation it showed of Sylvia's qualities, gave much real satisfaction to Arthur, may perhaps be doubted. There is a non-committal vagueness about the last sentence which seems to leave things rather in the air. A later letter from A. to his father, however, shows that in the end J.Ll.D. was as good as his word, though to what extent is not revealed. But the long engagement, two and a half years, must have been a severe strain.
S. became particularly fond of Theodore Ll.D, and named him as an example for us in some notes which she wrote down shortly after A's death, the year following Theodore's. I have a copy of Bullen's "Lyrics from the Elizabethan Song Books" which Theodore gave to her at Christmas 1891.
Writing sixteen years later, from Postbridge, to J.M.B., who was at Zermatt recovering from his divorce, S. recalled her mountaineering exploits on this occasion and wondered how she had been able to do such things — "perhaps because I was twenty and very happy."
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