Elisina Grant Richards to Mildred Barnes Bliss, November 1, 1910
8 Rue de la Barouillère, 6e
Nov. 1st 1910Tuesday.
I am touched and happy that you will share William with me. My religious views are briefly these: Know God and Trust Him. The details which colour the beliefs of various Churches and Sects seem to me entirely unimportant from the religious point of view, though highly interesting from the human. If the Catholic Church refuses you as a Godmother, we will go together to another church.This matches Royall Tyler's sentiments, expressed in letter of October 25, 1910, and both respond to Mildred Barnes Bliss's concerns in her letter of September 25, 1910. I was brought up in the Catholic Church, and were I asked to renounce it I would not do so, because there is some inheritance in my blood which would make apostasy a crime. But the case of William is different, chiefly no doubt because my own feelings on the subject are vastly different from those of my motherCountess Joséphine de Castelvecchio (1857–1932). before me. Happily too Royall and I are quite agreed on this point as on many others.
Your Godson is very good, and is improving every day. He is very like his father and has a good head with plenty of room for a good brain. His eyes are blue at present, but as his hair is a light brown fluff, I am afraid he may choose to be like me in colouring. I would rather he were like Royall in every respect. I always felt my other children were mine—and nobody else’s. And perhaps this frame of mind influenced them a little for they are very individual, very like themselves and not very like anybody else. But now it is different. I have understood many things, and I am humbled in a sense, and awed. I would no longer dare to attempt to fashion a soul; but feel proud that I have been chosen as an instrument to perpetuate in tangible form the image of the man I love and to whom it seems to me I have belonged for all time.
William’s coming has brought me unexpected peace. There was one cord in my heart which could not help aching whenever it was touched. But now it aches no longer, he will give me the sweetness of which I stood in need to quicken and calm the pain. I do not mean I love the others less! I feel if possible more tenderly towards them because it seems to me that they have been disinherited of something very precious by the very circumstances of their birth. But I am no longer now a childless mother, and William seems to stretch out his little hands and enable the others to draw closer to my thoughts without hurting me and causing me to shrink away from the dear memory of them in pain.
Speaking of them brings me to what you call the business part of your letter.The rest of this letter responds to the offer of financial support made to Elisina Grant Richards and Royall Tyler by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss; see letter of September 17, 1910. I want you to understand that I am not squeamishly afraid of poverty myself, and that I do not place worldly possessions very high in the scale of human happiness. In my anxiety for the children two things count—and they are really one and the same: First, that I pray they should never think that I left them knowingly and willingly to an infinitely worse fate than they would have had if I had stayed with them; Second, that I pray that circumstances may not lead me to have to leave Royall even for a few weeks or months and go to them—which I might have to do if they were to be separated from their father by the ruin of his business.
Grant Richards has spoken of his determination to leave England if circumstances seemed to countenance such a source. I have never let anyone see my fears, I have boldly answered that I did not believe in such a possibility, and even when my heart was standing still with fear I refused to let the thought enter my head, so that no distant reflection of it should be unconsciously conveyed back to Grant Richards. But when I have been alone and safe from the observation or intuitions of others I have often turned sick with fear. Nothing could help me—only Time. And time has passed, and though the sword may be still over my head it hasn’t fallen. I believe you would understand Grant, if you could realize this: that he is of a stern Puritan stock on one side, and yet a man of the world and very full of vivid apprehensions of life. But deeply rooted in his heart is the conviction that his wife is his property,—and the idea of any independence of thought or action is merely incomprehensible on her part. He therefore no more respected my individual rights than I should recognize my horse’s rights to stray out of my paddock into the neighbor’s field. From the moment he married me I was his—by law. He thinks it a monstrous thing that I should add to the cleavage between us the impost of an outward separation. No feeling of seemliness of justice will ever allow him to release me of his name. The only feeling that could ever make him do so would be kindness to me, if he can allow it to become stronger than his own hurt: and if he does, he will stigmatize it as a weakness in himself to yield.
His first business was built up by himself alone, between the ages of 25 and 31—and it was a magnificent business, which sold in bankruptcy with every disadvantage—even to the non-completion of the purchase price by the purchaser—brought in £40,000 to the creditors. The débâcle was caused by his own sister’s husband—a solicitor, who has been certified insane since, while Grant was ill, being in charge of the business, he spread such lies that a panic ensued, much as a run on a bank will cause the bank’s failure. Events have proved—too late—how foolhardy the creditors were to decide on liquidation. The present business was started on a capital borrowed from an Insurance Company, and repayable in ten years. This means, that including the Insurance premiums, he is paying 8% for the money: and also, that by repaying the capital in six monthly installments he is practically cutting the ground from under his feet as he goes along. Hence, it would be of the very greatest and most material assistance to the business to have some money invested in it at a reasonable rate of interest. Grant is an honourable man: and from my point of view the fact that he would accept such an investment, is tantamount to a guarantee that he would not throw up his business while that money was invested in it—especially as it would enable him to work hard to some purpose of success—whereas, as you will gather from the Solicitor’s letter [see below], there is a network of material difficulties round him to handicap him unfairly at present.
In the circumstances, and for the children’s sake and my own—if, after taking full cognizance of the facts and some account of my imperfect explanations, you and your husband feel willing to invest some money in Grant Richards Ltd. I would accept it as a direct assistance and help given to me. I won’t hide from you that when I first read your letter your thinking of helping my children seemed to me almost fantastically touching, and my first impulse of agonized selfconsciousness was to shrink from the very idea. I turned matters over in my mind: I considered all the possibilities in both directions, and I decided if Providence by chance were in it, I should have no business to bar the way.
So I wrote Messrs Wainwright & Pollock, who are city solicitors of experience, and have conducted Grant business affairs over a perilous pass this Spring.
If you and your husband decided to do anything in this matter, it would be wise to do it directly through Messrs Wainwright & Pollock; and perhaps, when you have fully considered your answer it would be a good thing if you cabled to them, however, briefly, since the matter might have some importance in making future decisions.
Dear Mildred, in all this matter I have tried to meet frankly and loyally what I take to be your wishes, in the same spirit in which you have written to me. Believe me, truly I could never misunderstand anything you do or say.
I have written you a very long letter, and if any of it seems superfluous to you I hope you will excuse and understand it.
Yours always truly
I sent part of your letter to Mr. Wainwright, and asked him to answer the following questions:
What sum would assist the business effectively?
Is assistance essential to its continuance?
Is it merely advisable?
On what terms could a sum be invested in the business.
Would my husband countenance such an investment being made through my agency.
I gather from the account sent by Grant to Mr. Wainwright that £3000 would pay up all outstanding liabilities and bridge over the gap, as far as paying for new books and advertising of them on a fitting scale, until the moneys now due from booksellers come in. But of course, as Wainwright says, a lesser sum would be of great practical assistance.
I think that is all I can have to tell you.
Private and Confidential
Wainwright, Pollock & Co. Solicitors.
1. Church Court
King William Street
26 Oct 1910
Dear Mrs. Grant Richards,
I duly received your letter with enclosure which I return. Matters have been very quiet for some time and I therefore was not in a position to personally say what the financial position and prospects of G.R. LdGrant Richards Ltd. were and had to see Mr. Richards. The way that I put it was that an old enquiry as to finance had been mentioned again—that I knew nothing of the person suggesting it—their means or anything about them—but I was not at liberty to say through whom the enquiry came. By the transfer of the business to the Company and the wiping off a load of debt by the acceptance by trade creditors of preference shares the liabilities have been very materially reduced. Mr. Richards has written me a letter dealing with the position. You will see by this that on a cash basis the business is solvent and on an ordinary balance sheet basis—i.e. bringing in non-cash assets (such as stereos etc) it is much more than solvent. Also the volume of business is good and there is no lack of orders. At the same time of course cash capital is badly wanted as the margin between receipts and outgoings is almost nil (owing to legendary debts); and all business has to be done on a cash basis with the trade whilst booksellers require credit and without liquid cash to meet the difference, of course, business is much hampered. This is especially the case where a new book has to be financed and engravings etc paid for. Mr. Richards mentions £3000—less of course wd be a great assistance and the debentures would be the best security for any advance. The business now being a Company A/cs. have to be kept in a different way and it is proposed that as soon as the preference share issue is complete that two further directors should come on the Board—which would also be a protection to anyone putting up money. Mr. Richards did mention that if the financing were to be a sort of balancing of matters between you, he would have nothing to do with the matter, but I merely said I did not know the parties and it was quite possible they were mutual friends.
It seems to me that a good business exists, that with good attention to business confidence with the trade should soon be reestablished and with a little cash and proper finance (the Policy borrowing system was rotten though possibly the only means available) the business should be a large one and a good paying one. The presence of independent directors would assist in seeing money was applied purely for the business and working as far as possible on a cash basis would add to the profits by getting discounts.
I cannot myself make out from your enclosure what the intention is exactly but I hope it may mean an intention to invest as it would be an infinite pity from everyone’s point of view to see the business go—or if not go merely potter along. Trying to make finite margins meet is difficult and wearing work.
Yours very truly