Letters of Winifred Bevan ( née Gerrard) to her friend Annie Watson

[Rev. Wilson Eccles was minister of the Primitive Methodist church of Swinton circa 1903-1905. At the time, his sister-in-law Annie Watson (and her father Rev. John Watson D.D.) were living with the Eccles family. The Gerrard family also lived in the town. Winifred Gerrard was about 10 years younger than Annie.]

c/o Mrs. Lunt,
Lindel Lodge,
Nr. Fleetwood.
My abode only till next Wednesday.

August 18. 09.

Very many happy returns of the day & a happy day this time, Nance dear, and you should have a "decent" one this time. I've been hearing glowing accounts from all sides. Don't do too much ma chérie, enjoy yourself but don't spoil it by being afraid of wasting your time & being lazy.

There's a long history to tell you of my present. Saturday is your birthday, isn't it? The final one that I will send when I got home is a picture, but first I got you "Wisdom & Destiny" by Maeterlinck, & Synge's "The Playboy of the Western World", but Clement went off to Switzerland, when I was out, with the former, & I thought it wouldn't be fit to send when he got back (It is, he never opened it, so Bert is to have it), & then I read "The Playboy" & didn't like it nearly so well as another thing of Synge's I'd read & didn't think I liked it well enough to send you so I'm keeping that, & I do hope you'll like the picture. It's so difficult choosing such things for other people.

Well ! all this stuff is in a way necessary to tell you of something else. I got "Wisdom & Destiny" 3 weeks last Monday, because I'd read part of it when I'd got it for Mabel & thought I'd like to finish it before I sent it to you (which fact a few weeks previous i.e. the fact of only having read part I'd mentioned in Will Pearson's presence & he'd said he'd lend it me but I'd forgotten or got in a muddle.)

Well the Wednesday after this Monday I was at the Pearson's to tea & Will said he'd got "Wisdom & Destiny" for me at last, so I said I'd got it early for you so as to read it myself. However he saw me home. Nellie insisted on the necessity of him coming to the car so I had to submit. He said should we walk on - I said he'd only have to walk back but he felt like a walk, so we did. I looked out well for a car & went for it when it came. He then appeared in a little doubt & finally got on. When we got home he wouldn't come in (luckily, for they'd all gone to bed early) & gave me back a book I'd lent them & "Wisdom & Destiny", saying "You might as well take "Wisdom & Destiny", then you can mark it & that's the most interesting way of reading a book." I said "No indeed I shan't mark it", thinking I would not mark a book belonging to another person, but being in a hurry I took it.

Well, I was looking at it with Gladys & Miss Honor & said "He said I could mark it. He doesn't seem to have marked it himself". One of them said "No it looks fairly new. I, having vaguely seen some initials at the front said "He's put his initials in", & turned to them. One of them said "I don't see the P" & I realised the awful truth that it was W G not W P. I tried to make them something else but couldn't.

On the next Monday evening, coming from Sheffield, I met them on the Central Station, & went home with them, one reason & the chief for wanting to go was that Dr Todd son of Rev J? [question mark in original] Todd who was at Brunswick Wesleyan Church was going too & he's a great friend of theirs & looks very interesting & decent & I'd heard of his existence from Nellie & thought I'd like to see him. About 9 I left & Will went with me spite of protests but I didn't let him come on the car. I'm afraid I did it badly because I was tired & the book had got on my nerves & though I'd made up my mind I wouldn't have it I couldn't string myself up to say wouldn't.

Well, then he sent some photographs of myself which he had taken. I'll send you one if you like. I look very serious, & in the letter he said that as he'd not been permitted the pleasure of seeing me home, he had done these. & also (I'd come on the same train as them to M/c [Manchester] though we hadn't known it) had I seen them get on the train, as part way to M/c he'd had a distinct impression that I was on the [t]rain but dismissed it as impossible.

On the next Wed. after the Mond, Nellie spoke to me on the telephone & I asked her to give him my thanks for the photographs & tell him that I certainly had no idea of them being on the train & it was not a case of sub-conscious telepathy as he'd wondered if it was. On the Friday between the 2 Wednesdays Nellie had been up & I'd told her that Will had {lent | given} me "Wisdom & Destiny" to read, but when I got home I'd realised I had 3 weeks before I need send yours & was going to send his copy back but I found Clement had taken yours. (Thus my first way of getting rid of it fell through.) Then when I was there on the Monday Nellie had seen a copy of "Wisdom & Destiny" on a table & said "Whose is this, Will?" in a voice which showed she wondered about it, & he said it was his. So I knew she knew & when she was speaking to me on the telephone I said I'd found out that Will meant me to keep "Wisdom & Destiny" & I didn't want to. She persuaded me it would be too rude not to, so I asked her to give him my thanks! (Not one of the things have I mentioned myself to him. It was very rude not to thank him for the photographs but I forgot.) Nellie told him all I'd said about the book (not in a serious manner, as she told me) & he said it was hard lines on me having to keep it. The Saturday evening afterwards he called, only for ½ minute, being with a friend, & to my disgust I was very nice, just as I'd be nice to a girl if I was afraid I'd hurt her. He came last night to see Clement & I avoided him as much as possible without being fearfully rude & only saw him for about 10 minutes, but then I was quite nice & friendly.

It is a nuisance. I do wish I could help it. You see the whole thing is nothing. It's only I that am easily scared, & though I don't think he's made much fuss of girls, he's used to Nellie being friendly with boys as a matter of course, so I oughtn't to worry about it. I wish I weren't such a donkey. I was really worried for nearly a week after he gave me the book, until, indeed, I spoke to Nellie & she said it meant nothing & I must keep it. Though I didn't want it I was glad to have the ordeal of saying I didn't off my mind. I was asked there for last weekend but couldn't go & shall probably go in September. They want me to. Tell me if I should. I think I shall because I do like Nellie. That's the fag. I should be so disgusted if anything happened because of her. Oh it is a nuisance. It worries me too that there should be the very slightest chance of anyone liking me that I don't specially care for. I don't suppose there is any chance, but I wish I could show him that even if there were I shouldn't like him. I can't do it. I'm just ordinary & friendly & if anything kindlier than ever just because I want to be the other way. Don't write till you get home, but when you do write & tell me I needn't worry. I don't really. I think it would be very premature & unnecessary but I occasionally get it on the brain. And however I behave, whether I listen most absent-mindedly to his conversation, which I sometimes do, or anything it [???] he takes it smilingly & cheerfully & as a matter of course.

What a letter this is to write you for your birthday. I'm afraid there isn't a post leaves here till 4-45 p.m. tomorrow, but I hope it will arrive in time though I'm ashamed of it. Anyway I can't write more tonight, as I'm keeping Flo up, so goodnight mon amie. Do give me your opinion of the whole thing & how I should behave. I feel such a child.

[another sheet, marked "1"]

The rest of this letter was written last night, but it's all about me, so I must write a bit about you, sweetheart & I'd rather that came first. I wish you a very happy year. I expect you'll feel squirmy occasionally in it, but still -- . Write & let as much of it off on me as you like, if you have any of it. I think I'll understand. Why should I write like this when you're having such a nice time in Switzerland? But birthdays do sometimes make one consider what is coming. How is Dick getting on? & how does he like his new circuit? You might give him my respects when you write. I expect you're too happy to need a letter from me. I hope you'll manage to read this through. I did hope for one from you before you went away, but, of course, I understand & of course, I'd rather you didn't write when you're busy & don't waste your Switzerland time in writing.

Ah ! I'd be as loverlike as you wished if I were with you now.

I don't know why I've worried about Will because he always looks & talks quite ordinarily, so don't you worry. I don't suppose you would any way. How wonderfully frank I've been with you? Why? I suppose because you're you. Flo would love to know & might be hurt if she knew I hadn't told her, but then she might think there was something in it & anyway though it's nothing I wouldn't tell her. Goodbye, dearie, as nice a time as possible to you.


Oct. 31. 11.

My dear Nance,

I left Hornsea last Wednesday. I should have stayed till this week at least, but Grandma was seriously ill. She is at Ansdell with Aunt Marsh[?], of course, not in Swinton & I cannot see her, but Mother thought she would like me at home. I saw Grandma before I went away & she looked so sweet & pretty. It isn´t likely that she will live long. She has had three strokes lately. It is a dreadful pity that there should be horrid talk at a time like this - not about her of course. Auntie is never strong & now she is very much overwrought & says & writes things to people about themselves that I don´t suppose she would if she were well, & some of them take it very seriously & talk about it to everybody. I don´t think I should have mentioned it to you, but I thought I´d like to warn you in case you should hear anything about the bother from any one else that there seem to be points for and against everybody, & that everything needs taking with a pinch of salt. Poor Father has been having things said about him because he has tried to be fair all round. A little squabbling that´s forgotten as soon as it´s finished I can stand - though I don´t think it´s admirable, but this unwillingness to put up with other people´s weaknesses, & to see only the good in yourself & the bad in others ! - I exaggerate but still that is the sort of way in which many people who, I suppose are honestly trying to be Christian, behave. It seems to me so much more serious, this lack of trust in & love for one another that is so often found in Church members, than the decrease in numbers. Perhaps: one gets impatient & forgets that people grow slowly -- & how slowly one grows oneself ! but I wonder if some of the people I know weren´t better when they were younger.

I arrived home last night at 10 o´clock from a lecture & was very much dismayed to find a note asking me to give a 5 minutes paper on Dec. 9. to the Sunday School teachers on "How to get our Sunday School scholars to attend our Church Services" or something to that effect. Of course , I said things - I didn´t want the scholars at the church services - neither I do at least the younger ones if they have decent teachers. Also I hardly ever go to Sunday School and Chapel together more than once a day just now. I go to school if I´m asked to take a class, that´s all. So I don´t seem a very suitable person to give the paper - also I hate speaking on such surface topics. However, I don´t like people refusing to do things just because they think they´re unsuitable so I am going to do it. One thing that comforts me is that I´m hoping to shock them considerably. Do you think this doesn´t sound nice? I always am rather vicious when I begin to think about a paper. It isn´t a very fitting time, is it? The only thing is that it may make me express myself with a little force, also it´s fairly superficial I think. Well! You know, Mr. Midgley wrote & asked me to give the paper, & Clement says that however interesting a sermon on Sunday morning he always nods through it. -- & he has written to ask me to speak on "How to get the scholars to the services". We don't want them if they're going to go to sleep. I don't anyhow, rather be without them. If I were he, I should go home after school & slumber. Perhaps. He's often up in the night with his wife.

One of the things I want to say is that churchgoing in itself is no virtue & need not necessarily do people good. Of course, I think it's a good habit, & one often gets good when one isn't expecting it, but I think people are too much inclined to think that they are doing a really good thing in going to church - of course, they are if they get much good from it, & in that way, if they are getting better themselves they are doing good to other people - but if they're going to slumber all the time, well ! -

I am long winded today. I ought to be writing a paper. When I start I don't suppose I shall have anything to say. Mr. Hardy & Alice Gregory are giving papers too.

I am on the drawing room sofa & the door is open. The bare black branches of the trees are beautiful against the blue sky & white cloud. I hope you are feeling as well as possible & cheerful. I don't think this is a proper sort of letter to have written you. It should have been light & cheerful. This is cheerful but it might be lighter. How nice & fresh it is - but I'm afraid it will rain when Mother is ready for me to take her out.

Edie & Mrs. Hodge were so good to me. I do like them. & they tease me so nicely. I'm getting very cheeky now & answer back. I wish Edie were stronger. She gets gloomy at times when she is very tired. Give my respects to Dick. He is only staying 3 years in Malmesbury, isn't he? I wonder where you will go next. I thought of him when Mr. Ashe & Mr. Hooson of Hornsea talked of having a great many places between them. I forget how many, but certainly not more than Dick has alone.

Now I must put on my things to take Mother out.

Lots of love

Somerville College,

April 28. 12.

My dearest Nance,

I arrived here about six on Friday, having got onto a special train at Swindon which came through. I found one of our year in it. She hailed me as I was hastening along the platform in search of a carriage & helped to make the journey more amusing. I unpacked some of my things on Friday night, others I unpacked on Saturday morning, & after some hard work at hanging pictures, etc, got my room fairly straight. It doesn't look bad. It's nice & clean & light & airy, though very noisy. It looks onto the street - not straight on - over a little bit of garden, & is on the first floor. At present it is decorated with crabapple blossom, may, bluebells, etc, & looks quite cheerful. I am wearing my voile frock today, & I was told at the same time that it was sweet - or something of the sort -- & just like me !! Alas, it was some one who knows me very little who said that.

I achieved my object of pleasing Miss Penrose by my looks. She came up to some of us in the garden this morning & said "Doesn't Miss Gerrard look well?" & I stood & grinned foolishly while they all looked at me. Then someone asked her whether she thought that I looked fatter. She didn't say anything at once, so I said that I didn't think I was very much different. I haven't had time to have many feelings. I'm at the West, the other end from Marjory. For some things I'm very sorry. In one way I'm a bit glad. I know her best of everyone, but besides her I don't know anyone well at the Hall & I don't want to keep her from her other friends, & it's easier to give her up to them when I'm at this end with people I know. Everyone is very decent & says that it's nice to see me back. I get quite at a loss for different answers to make. I hope that baby is taking her food better & not making quite such a noise over it. By the way, it struck me on Dauntsey[?] Platform that I paid for the chops on Thursday or Wednesday & that you might pay for them again unless I warned you not to.

Mr. Selbie quoted from "The Everlasting Mercy" in his sermon this morning - the part about Christ ploughing our hearts. I liked his sermon very much. He said somethings that I have thought myself - I suppose that's almost inevitable in a sermon that one likes. One idea was quite new to me. He spoke of the parable of the sacrament & said that when Christ broke the bread, which he called his body, & poured the wine, which he called his blood, saying "This do in remembrance of me", he didn't mean break bread & pour wine, but break your body & pour your blood, i.e. sacrifice yourself, for others. I'm glad to have had it explained, because I had understood it in the other way & had not understood why he should say it.

I have started "Hilda Lessways" by Arnold Bennett. I mustn't get too much interested in it. I haven't read a word of anything today. I've just sat in the garden, been to church, talked, been to a coffee after lunch & to a tea, & written home. Mother & Father are coming about a week on Wednesday I think. The river is beautiful now. I was on it yesterday. Everything is dreadfully early. I say "dreadfully" because what will be left for the summer months?

My love to yourself & Kathleen, & Dick if you like, & many thanks to you both for giving me such a nice time. I enjoyed myself tremendously you know.

By the way, I was told last night that I'm never frightened or shy, & that I'm given to making rude remarks to people I know in the most innocent manner, so that lookers on are surprised I think. I can't mean them. What do you think? I say it's untrue, of course.

Yours Winifred

[printed letterhead]


August 7. [19xx]


Ma chère Ninon,

I have just time to write a short letter to you so that you may get it on Saturday night.

I missed you more than last time. It was dreadful. I couldn´t write a decent, cheerful letter to anyone & I had several to write to mistresses & others. Whenever I began to write I continued to think of you & couldn´t get you out of my head & so wrote the most dull, melancholy stuff, especially at the beginnings of the letters. One letter I wrote to Miss Ticehurst. By the time I´d written 3 pages I said to myself, "This won´t do. It´s absolutely unsuitable stuff to be writing to a mistress, especially one I know so little ! I must stop this." So I wrote a much longer letter than I should have done - 8 pages - the last 5 to counteract the effect of the 1st 3. Then I read it over & really couldn´t send the first 3 pages so I wrote another first sheet & it was all sensible & practical & didn´t show what I was feeling at all.

Now I alternate between a peaceful cowlike state & great longing for you. I do some housework, cut a great many flowers, read E. F. Benson´s "Image in the Sand", a queer pshycical [sic] novel, & see Mabel Kingsland, all of which is fairly conducive to a cowlike condition except the novel & even that is a little when one reads it lying outside in the sun, which by the way is about 6 times as cool here as in Guernsey.

As you were going to get a hat I should like you to have got it while I was there, though I think going to the doctor would have done your eyes more good than

[remainder of letter missing]

[written in pencil across the first page]

Please don´t apologize for scrawl. It makes me feel I ought to do so profusely. I´ve been talking such a lot to Mabel about her frocks & things for college. It would amuse you to hear me giving her advice.