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Elisina Grant Richards to Mildred Barnes Bliss, August 20, 1910

Bourron France.Bourron-Marlotte, a commune in the Seine-et-Marne department in the Île-de-France region in north-central France.

August 20th 1910Saturday.

Dear Mildred

Your letterSee enclosure of letter of May 13, 1910. to me was so kind and understanding that I hope you will understand and forgive my not having answered it sooner. The words I wished to write have been in my head often. But outside things have combined to distract and preoccupy me, and unless I had told you all my troubles my answer would have probably seemed perfunctory.

I knew something of you already, as you no doubt guess, by sympathetic understanding. I too knew the kind of friendship that you and Royall have been blessed with, and how rare it is. You will be glad to know from me that my life was all wrong before I met Royall, and is all right now. We made up our minds to go away together nearly a year before we did so. From the moment that we faced the only way out of the tangle honestly everything seemed simple and right and reasonable.

I daresay you wonder why I didn’t go away from my husband before. The explanation I can give you, but whether you admit its force depends on your experience of life. I didn’t believe in happiness for me and I didn’t believe in love; but I felt that I had been placed by Fate in a warm corner of the field where I had to stand hard knocks; and retreating was like deserting in my eyes.

Most women in my position would have given you a different reason: the children. But I have known in my heart for a few years past that I was being so hemmed in and badgered that in a short time I would have been no use to them—no use as myself, though outwardly still a kind of tutelary presence to which their eyes were accustomed. As it is I shall be there when they need me, quite strong and ready to help them. They are too much like me not to turn to me and need me later on.

As you heard no doubt, my husband offered me to send the children to my small Cornish cottage last May. I gladly accepted to go to them, on the understanding that he would not attempt to delay me in England, directly or indirectly beyond the time arranged for my visit. He did not keep his word. He sent for my brotherLuigi Palamidessi (1876–1929), brother of Elisina Tyler and Linetta Richardson. In South Africa, where he lived most of his life, he was known as Louis David Marcello de Castel. from S. Africa to talk to me. As it is, my brother, who very naturally regrets that I should be living, as his wife, with a man to whom I am not married, has ended by saying to me and to my husband that he has satisfied himself fully that life with him was impossible. The second sort of pressure he put upon me has been very painful to withstand. I am as yet by no means free of anxiety and apprehension. After I left him, Grant went nearly off his head. His business suffered in consequence, and the stability of his credit. He has said and repeated that in the present circumstances the load is greater than he can bear. His lawyer told me that even a small sum comparatively would effectually meet urgent contingencies, a matter of a thousand pounds or so; but that sum not being available, unless he pulls himself together at once and thoroughly it is quite likely that his creditors will lose confidence and close in upon him. His business is one which depends first of all upon his personal efficiency—upon his personality. You see that it is the children’s future, almost their daily bread, certainly their education which is at stake. I gave up all claim to any money I had and which is in his business, last January, to enable the present arrangement to be arrived at. I have no more to give. No friend of his would try to force him to collect himself by thrusting this amount upon him—even if it were possible to make known to strangers the condition of mind he is in. Besides, he has no friends: he is a man who stands alone.

Never, for one moment, believe me, have I wavered in the path I have chosen. Come what may, I know I have obeyed the right call. But I have prayed, and do pray that this cup of bitterness may be taken from me. In the face of what might happen, perhaps even my children might one day say that I had snatched at happiness reckless of others. Believe me, dear Mildred, one has to be very sure before one can keep one’s heart high through all the stress I have endured. Apart from the fact that I am very happy—that we are both very happy—every day is right with itself and with the other days. I have often thought in the last years of the last prayer of Socrates:Socrates (ca. 469–399 BCE), a classical Greek philosopher. The prayers of Socrates are known through the dialogues of his student, the classical Greek philosopher Plato (424/423–348/347 BCE). See B. Darrell Jackson, “The Prayers of Socrates,” Phronesis 16, no. 1 (1971): 14–37. to live so that the outward circumstances of life may fulfill the inner harmony of one’s soul.In Plato’s Phaedrus 279, B8-C3: “Dear Pan, and ye other gods who dwell in this place, grant that I may become beautiful within, and that such outward things as I have may be in agreement with the things within. May I count him rich who is wise; as for gold, may I have so much of it as no one but the reasonable man should be able to bear and carry.” T. G. Rosenmeyer, “Plato’s Prayer to Pan (Phaedrus 279 B8-C3),” Hermes 90, no. 1 (1962): 34.

Before, I kept my inner self alone and apart, so as not to get myself maimed,—not that I hoped to be of use to anyone—but because I have always believed in the rightness of being a polished and serviceable thing. Now I thank God that I didn’t compromise.

We shall live in Paris—we are going there about September 14th, at 8 Rue de la Barouillère (6ème).The rue de la Barouillère is today the rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste de la Salle in the sixth arrondissement of Paris. The building at 8, rue de la Barouillère, now demolished, was begun in 1879. See "Lettre 'L' (de 'rue de La Barouillière' à 'rue La Vrillière')," Paris 1976–1939: Les permis de construire. The apartment is small but very sunny and bright. My baby will, be born there sometime early in October. Both Royall and I are very glad; and in France, mercifully, his declaration that he recognises the child gives it a right to bear his name, and makes it legally his.

I might have been better pleased if it had arrived when we could have straightened our relationship according to custom before the eyes of the world. But it is very doubtful if my husband will ever divorce me. He says now that he never will, because he believes pity for the children will take me back to them. But time softens many things and one cannot tell. Anyhow now is better than never, and now even seems very good. So please don’t doubt or wish it otherwise. Let me think you will be a friend to Royall’s baby as you have been willing to be a friend to its mother.

When two people love and trust one another this is a desirable and joyous thing to happen. I have indeed wrested Life from out an almost hopeless tangle: and Life triumphantly is crowning me. This is what I feel: and even if you don’t approve, you will not scoff.

Thank you and thank you again for your friendship and please accept mine, and my warm gratitude.

Yours very truly

Elisina Grant Richards

Associated Places: Bourron-Marlotte (France)