Read an excerpt from the diary

Crushed that she had not received a letter from her beloved, Charles Kingsley, in forty-five days, Fanny Grenfell made this illustrated entry on August 18, 1841.

After the first wild moments of disappointment were over this morning, I went down to the little Catholic Chapel wh[ich] was open early, & poured out my soul in prayer and tears – & the load was lightened – & then I went into the Forest; I never loved you so much as in this misery. It has opened volumes to me & in them I read my heart. Let Patience have her perfect work!

When I stopped writing this morng I looked out of my window & my eyes rested (that is rest!) on the Holy Cross & the little Chapel – & what one looks at in sorrow becomes at once consecrated; so I hastily sketched it in your book – dearest – I often go to that crucifix & pray underneath it for you and for myself – It is so soothing – He was as Men of Sorrows whose form is stretched upon it, & can sympathise, and I felt this morning as I stood beneath it, that He w[oul]d not lay upon me more than I c[oul]d bear – Oh! it is a blessed thing to be tried & chastened if it leads us one to the Cross – & I do feel that my present misery is a g[rea]t responsibility for its effects will be felt either as a blessing or a curse to my Soul – He is speaking in it – May my whole being listen.

Above those fir trees the Even[in]g Star rises, & I watch for it so anxiously after sunset which I see over those mountains behind the Cross.

Some nights it is too cloudy to see it, & I miss it so – but then there is always a light burning under the Cross wh[ich] I turn to instead. How I long for you to see all these things with me!

I am just come home from dining at Prince Esterhazy's. It was something to look forward to while I was there, saying these few words to you on my return. It is pleasanter to be among comparative strangers when one has a grief wh[ich] is completely solitary, than with those who love one to know all that is in one's heart; for then one's silence does not reproach one as something ungenerous. The day is wearing away, & tomorrow must come soon & with it an English Post.

Hope is a lover's staff – walk hence with that
And manage it against despairing thoughts

This is a hard task now. How curious the power of dreams to torture one. I said to F.B. before we parted for the night, "12 hours more before the Post & for 7 of those hours our misery will be forgotten in blessed sleep!" But it was not so. I dreamt a long letter came from you, & I opened it, Oh! how well I can see it now, & as I was eagerly beginning the first page, I woke with a feeling of agony, for to have read it in a dream w[oul]d have been a blessing. I slept again; & again a long long letter was brought to me in your hand – I opened it, I found it was my own writing inside – the Journal I had kept for you. Again disappointment woke me – & again I slept and dreamt the same dream, & read hastily the first few lines of your dear letter when I saw that you were going to refer, and to refer coldly I tho't to what I said in my last, & I trembled so violently that I shut up your letter, wishing to put off the evil moment, wh[ich] I felt I c[oul]d not face just then – & again in a tumult of feeling I woke. I was quite wild & felt as if my brain w[oul]d turn. I got up, & found the Post was come & no letters. Do you think it weak of me to record all this? Oh! that I had so faithful a transcript of your thoughts – as you will have of mine!

Aug. 19
Received the precious letter – all well thank God – & all most satisfactory – tho' the letter was shorter & less soft & warm, & you were right your candid confession of the absorbing influence of the studies did disappoint me at first. I c[oul]d not bear to think that any thing even tho' done for my sake c[oul]d make you think less of me – but after consideration I tho't it showed your strength of character, & I felt proud of it – still more proud of the perfect confidence this candid confession showed you had in me, for forgetfulness that you c[oul]d be ashamed of, you w[oul]d never dare to tell me of, unless it was by returning your myrtle. So all is well – & for all I ought to be deeply thankful – but I am a woman – & as such I feel what you as a man can never enter into.



Diary of Frances Eliza Grenfell (1814–1891), 1841–42. Gift of Sir John Pope-Hennessy in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Morgan, 1974.