[PARRY, Sir Charles Hubert Hastings (1848-1918).] Composer.
Archive of letters to Parry from Maude Herbert, written prior to their wedding in 1873, and from Maude's sister Mary.
The archive consists of 47 letters from Maude, many of them extensive, only a few lacking envelopes, from Wilton House, Salisbury, Hawarden Castle, Chester and Cowes, dated from the postmarks, where legible, 6 September 1864 to 20 September 1871 though there is one very much earlier letter, written when Maude was probably in her early teens; there are 21 letters from Mary, from the same places, dated from November 1869 to December 1870. Some of the letters are from both sisters. In addition there is a letter from Agnes Gladstone, asking that a song be dedicated to her, containing a letter from Maude and a letter from Maude's brother George, 13th Earl of Pembroke, inviting Parry to Cowes. The majority of the letters are written to Parry either at Exeter College, Oxford or to Highnam Court. These letters do not seem to have been available to Parry's biographers, Charles L. Graves (2 vols. 1926) and Jeremy Dibble (1992), who quotes extensively from Parry's letters to Maude but only once from Maude to Parry - a letter not included in the present group.
Maude Herbert and Parry were childhood friends, the friendship forged by visits to Wilton House, the Herbert home in Salisbury. The friendship grew to infatuation during the summer of 1863, when Parry accompanied his cousin Eddie Hamilton for the summer at Wilton, and became firm during the first two weeks of August 1864, when Parry again visited Wilton. Maude's mother, Lady Herbert, who hoped to make a more aristocratic marriage for her daughter, slowly came to realise the strength of their feelings for each other and strongly disapproved. The two lovers wrote and met secretly, with Mary's approval and help.
'I begin a second letter to you, as this morning has brought its terrors. Mama has set her heart upon your going to New Zealand with George, & so has the young person himself. Now I don't think for an instant that your father wd allow it for it wd be the ruination of yr prospects, but in case he is persuaded, I entreat you to refuse. No words can express how strong I feel abt it. ...'Despite Lady Herbert's disapproval, the couple became secretly engaged in 1870. Maude's brother, George, insisted that Lady Herbert be informed of the engagement and so, reluctantly, Maude told her. The result was a furious letter from Lady Herbert to Parry, assuring him that the wedding would never take place and ordering him to abandon the engagement and to cease the correspondence (she incidentally mentions that Maude cares nothing for music except for Parry's sake, a sad insight that proved to be all too wise).
'... But remember if we write at all it must be as mere friends otherwise it would not be right. I never heard there was any law against friends writing to each other, but if it does you any harm hearing from me tell me so I will stop. ... I was astonished at your letter to Mary, & am afraid mine was too hopeful, or that you are the most hopeful of individuals. ... Your song is lovely, & the sentiments I entirely agree to. ... I like to think we shall meet now we have loved on earth in Heaven, though sometimes I fear it is doubtful. ...'
'Your letters are like angels visits few and far between, but oh so precious to me. But now it is the turn of my angel to visit you & give a little advice. She does not bid you dispair [sic], but she does beg you not to hope too much. There is no earthly chance of your ever being permitted to return to Wilton, so we may not meet for years, & during that interval you may forget me. Better you should for your own happiness, though your little sister is far too selfish to bid you do so. Mary has been very kind, but she has little or no influence with Mama. Indeed I fear nothing could move her. ...'Mary was indeed very helpful, not only lending moral support, but helpful to arrange meetings.
'... I confess I don't like these clandestine meetings - but when I see Maude looking miserable & scarcely rating anything all day, & catch glimpses of you in an equally wretched state - for people don't give nervous laughs for nothing - I feel the only thing to give letters any rest is for you to meet. It is so curious that Mama should show such opposition when she is personally particularly fond of you. ...'
Included in this group is a poignant unfinished and unsigned letter to Lady Herbert, probably in Parry's hand, dated 9 July 1870, no doubt a draft, promising to comply with her wishes:
'... I shall of course keep to my promise to give Maude every opportunity to forget me, & shall not needlessly put myself in her way, or write to her again contrary to your wish; but if at the end of a sufficient period (that is, I suppose, when she comes of age) I find that our feelings towards each other are not changed I shall feel it as much my duty to her as my own right to come forward. ...'The letters were contained within a filing box, inscribed 'Ag' on the front and 'Roger's letters' on the side. The previous owner has not been identified.
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