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Peer Reviewed

“What a certainty of instinctive faith I have in heaven, and in the Mama’s living on”: Unpublished letters of Mrs. Gaskell and unpublished Gaskell family letters.

William Baker, Northern Illinois University

Letter 8


Oct 30, | 1866@

Linc. Coll. | Tuesday

Dear Harry — I must thank you for your most interesting letter. It was really very good of you to answer my question so fully. I shall keep what you say, as it seems to me conclusive. That is on every point but one; and “infinitely complex” as the whole subject is, that one point is most so — Whether men may take away from a man the life which means in such a case time to repent and retrieve the past. One believes in the perfect justice of God, and that He wd not punish any one for not having retrieved his sin, when all opportunities were cut off from him; but yet the one limit to God’s infinite knowledge must be with regard to what human free-will may or may not do — and to Him even can it be possible to know what a man would had done had he lived? I hope and trust that this is not wrongly said. What I mean is not wrong; and you have the power of “taking the right side of one’s meaning”.

How sad the Blue Book is, as you say. It seems even darker reading it in such a lovely happy house as this — like looking down on a battle from some safe, sunny height. Everything is so beautiful here. Each time I look up I see the old crumbling grey college walls all hung with golden vine-leaves — and the rooms are as lovely as the views through the windows.

We shall now think of “inviting” you to Plymouth Grove. When you are on one of your progresses, send a “command” to us to receive you, as a sovereign does, and you need never doubt a welcome, as you perfectly well know.

I keep remembering what today is to you, Harry. It seems to me oh so sad that you — who deserve it so much, much more than I — should not have the comfort that I have; but in Mama’s words “it is sometimes the very best that God purifies in the furnace of doubt” — With her your goodness to us last year is, & ever will be, most vividly associated.

Ever your afftc

M.E. Gaskell.