Jane Barlow’s letter to Rev. Alfred Russel Wallace (29 Dec. 1901)

[Note: The letter is held in the British Library (Natural History Museum) as BL Add. 46441 ff. 230-231 - available online; notified to Ricorso by Anne van Weerden. The copy and transcription given here has been is made by Ricorso at the internet address [URL] supplied by van Weerden on 16.06.2019.]


The Cottage,
Co. Dublin.
Dec.[ember] 29th[1901]

Dear Dr Wallace,

It was very kind of you indeed to write about the little books, and your appreciation of my Father’s romance gives me the greatest pleasure. I was almost sure that it would interest you if you read it, but of course I was doubtful whether you would have leisure or inclination to do so. My Father is very much gratified by your letter, and with regard to your two criticisms wishes me to say that he has no doubt the Hesperian scientists soon found their hypothesis of a storm-causing satellite quite untenable, and that he agrees with you about the impossibility of so extensive a circle of acquaintances for people possessing merely human memory, but thinks it would be hard to fix limits for the development of the faculty among the Hesperians.

My stories have, I fear, all the defects you mention, and many more. I often wish I could do something that was not what Browning calls ‘patchy and scrappy’ but I am afraid that the limits of my faculties are very easy to determine.

The conclusion you sketch for a ‘witch’s will’ is certainly much more complete and dramatic than mine, but it is more tragical too. For I meant the last stanza to convey - though I failed to make it do so - that the old woman died suddenly just after her return, from over-exertion, perhaps, added to the grief of parting with her treasure; and as we might hope that she passed into a world where she would find a happier object in life than hoardingmoney, her kind action would in reality have been rewarded. But more probably her neighbours would have, as you say, made her endless peaceful.

I will read the Amber Witch at once. I have read many horrible accounts of witch-persecutions in Europe and America. They are a dreadful chapter of history, and must tend materially to increase the difficulties of apologist for Christianity.

With all good wishes for 1902, I am
yours very sincerely      
Jane Barlow[signature]

Letter to J. R. Wallace
  1. Date hand-written in another hand [ presum. Wallace].
  2. [Err. 1] Her father - Rev. William James Barlow (1826-1913), chair of History and Vice-Provost of TCD.
  3. Roberrt Browning, poet (1812-1889)

Additional: The Amber Witch (1838) is a novel by Wilhelm Meinhold (1797–1851), first published in German as Maria Schweidler, die Bernsteinhexe.

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