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Mary Llewelyn Davies to Sylvia Llewelyn Davies - 1


Letter from Mary Llewelyn Davies to Sylvia, late September or early October 1894.

[Sadly no original available]


K.L. Friday
[Sept. or early Oct. 1894]

My Sylvia,
No Mil [= mother-in-law] ever got a dearer or sweeter letter than I did the other day! And it was a joyful surprise, too, for I never thought it was from you! [I guess it was a pencil note enclosed in an envelope addressed by A.Ll.D.]
You tell me all so nicely, and I can so well fancy you lying in yr. blue bed, looking so delicious, and yr. two sons with you. Jack seems to make good progress — and never mind if you can't be all in all to him. It is better it should be so for your picking up your strength. May [Margaret] is so much interested and so keen to hear all M[auri]ce can tell her. I am delighted that Mrs S. is such a success. It does make all the difference if you like your M.N. [= Monthly Nurse]
Should you be surprised if I were to pop my head in one day next week? I have screwed up at last to come and put my poor old self in the hands of the Dentist — one Dowsett whom A. knows. I have asked for a consultation on Thursday at ten — and shall see what he advises and act according. I fear he will most likely recommend fearful steps — but I shall see. I am going to Mrs. Enfield's on either Tuesday or Wed. — most likely Wed. And I shall perhaps lie perdue there — only going out in a thick veil. So I shall come to you before — I wouldn't give you such a shock for the world!
The 2 boys go to Camb. tomorrow by early Ark, and I think the Booth girls will travel with them as far as Leicester. Margt. also leaves us for another little tour. So the Vicar and I shall be left to receive the Dean of Ely for Sat. and Sunday.
There was a dance last night at the Concert Hall given by Mrs. Gregg and Mr. Roper — Antonia and Crompton and I (in new brown Robe wh. Margt. thinks looks very well) honoured it. Angela looked "sweet". Tonight harvest festival. I shall be sleepy.
Goodbye. I must not tire you, darling. I hope A's cold is better? I shall love to hug you and the 2 sons.
Bless you all!

Peter's comments:

Jack Ll.D. had been born Sept. 11th, at 18, Craven Terrace: now the oldest survivor of all these happy and unhappy far off days. I think of the burden of melancholy the various sadnesses have placed on me through life, and reflect with sympathy that Jack's memories of the early times are longer and more vivid by nearly three years than mine. The photograph taken not many months after this, of S. with her two infants, G. and J., is the most beautiful and touching photograph known to me.
Antonia Booth married Malcolm (now Mr. Justice) Macnaghten.
This is the last letter of Mary Ll.D's that I have. Whether the tooth trouble had any bearing on it, I don't know, but she died the following year, 1895, her death being the first real sorrow to cloud the so far singularly happy lives of Arthur and of Sylvia, who had come to be so fond of her husband's mother. I have no letters at all referring in any way to her death, and no idea what was the immediate cause of it. The letters from and to her which I have included in this compilation show her to have been a most delightful person: a mighty good wife and mother, and a marvellous mother-in-law. I have no satisfactory photograph of her, but will try to get one from Dr. Mary Ll.D. and Theodore, who certainly have the pretty portrait of her when young, by Richmond, of which I will get a photograph taken if I can. J.Ll.D., with Margaret devotedly keeping house for him, stayed on at Kirkby Lonsdale for many years — till 1910 in fact, when at the age of 84 he resigned from all active participation in Church matters and went to live at 11, Hampstead Square. But from Mary Ll.D's death onwards, the Vicarage can have retained little of its former happy, busy, sociable, warm atmosphere. It is clear that S. visited Kirkby only at rare intervals after the death of her mother-in-law.

A very curious passage in one of Dolly Ponsonby's letters to me runs: “I expect you know that your grandmother was herself terribly ascetic, but never inflicted it on other people. She always had a cold bath in her room every morning, and sometimes broke the ice. I think this probably killed her in 1895 when she had a heart attack as a result of cold. When she died I realized the depth of Sylvia's feeling for her — in fact, I don't think I ever came across a mother and daughter-in-law so deeply attached. Sylvia could not talk about it.”
Lady P's two tales about Mary Ll.D — of her cold baths and her never going inside her husband's church — are so extraordinary that I should hesitate to believe them but for the remarkable and demonstrable accuracy of Lady P's recollections as a whole. Incidentally they combine, with one or two other little hints, to suggest that A.Ll.D. was more of a Crompton than a Davies in habit and character as well as in looks.

Later: A mass of other, earlier letters from and to Mary Ll.D. which have come into my possession since I wrote the above afford ample proof, I am half sorry to say, that she did often attend services both at Christ Church, Marylebone, and at K.L. The impression left on me, however, is that her attendance was a matter of duty, cheerfully enough done, rather than of devotion. No evidence occurs as to the cold baths. She was often ill and weak, over a long period of years, and it is more likely that her sudden death from heart failure was, at any rate partly, a consequence of having borne seven children in eleven years.


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