The problem I sometimes have with writing blog posts is that no matter the content of the post, I find it nearly impossible to resist inserting a joke or two. Sometimes it’ll be blatantly obvious, but other times it’ll be a hyperlink nestled within the text of a post of a serious nature that takes the reader to a site of a not-so-serious nature. Whatever the guise of my puckish ways, sometimes enough is enough. I came to this conclusion while trying to figure out the subject of this week’s blog post…take a look at some of my original titles:
Why the word “miscellaneous” makes me want to cry Big Money Trouble in Cadbury’s China Row, row, row your boat, gently off to war
What can I say? Groan-worthy blog post titles are my forte. But, I promise, today there will be no jokes. Special Collections is serious business. I have, instead, prepared a brief analysis of a trio of manuscripts from Box #44 of the collection: the vaguely titled, wondrous “Letters Not To or From William Warder Cadbury or Catharine Jones Cadbury.” Organized alphabetically by sender’s name, the letters in this box are the bits and pieces left over from the Cadburys’ correspondence, but not insignificant enough to warrant being unincluded in the collection.
Rarely is it an easy task to tactfully ask for money, as many college students and their parents know, but once honed, it is a skill to marvel at. One example of this became very clear to me as I was reading through the “F” folder of this box. One particular series of letters stood out to me; sent by William Wistar Comfort, president of Haverford College acting as treasurer of Friends of Lingnan University, they are an appeal to the board to send money to Dr. Cadbury. The nine different letters, spanning 15 years from 1930-1945, at first looked like the same message being sent year after year, but after a careful re-reading, I realized that they tell an amazing story that reflects the political and economic situation of the time period. The first letter reveals the ease with which Comfort deals with the problem of asking for donations. There is no mention of money save for the final sentence: “Perhaps at some future time you might consider it [Lingnan University] as an object of your benevolence.” In 1934, Comfort attempts to extract some more money from the board for a new roof for Cadbury’s residence, which was destroyed by white ants. He also casually mentions at the end of the letter that Dr. Cadbury and his family have given up “their usual year’s furlough” which is now a year past-due, and might not be able to come to America for another two years.
The letters continue, becoming more direct in their message. 1935: “We still have an extra amount to collect, about $700.” 1936: “Please send check now.” Another 1936 letter: “If you have not given in the past, begin now. If you gave last year add 50% to your gift.” By 1939, Dr. Cadbury had to move his work to Hong Kong because the Japanese occupation made it too dangerous to continue working and teaching in Canton. Comfort doesn’t let the board forget this–he continues appealing to the board on behalf of Cadbury and his family, and again calls out non-participants, sending a specialized letter specifically to those who, according to his records, have not yet pledged money. Reading each of these letters one after another is almost exhausting, though Comfort remains steadfast, and his contribution proves vital to the success of Cadbury’s mission.
This August 1918 letter from “Edward” to “Family” poignantly describes a young man’s maritime journey across the Atlantic on his way to the south of France for military duty. Among his poetic descriptions of the water, Edward muses hopefully about returning home and reflects on the books he reads while on the ship (one being John Marvel, Assistant by Thomas Nelson Page, available on Google Books!). I got the sense that this was not your typical soldier. Edward seems very introspective, a quality I’ve often found common among Haverford students. He seems to carefully choose his words so as not to worry his family; he calls his time spent in the military “traveling around the world” and says that he thinks it is a good way to learn languages, “if you follow the life long enough.” I wondered how long Edward followed this life. What he didn’t know in August was that the war was to end in November. I wondered if he lived to see the end of the war and was able to return home. It is difficult to find an answer to these questions because my only clues are his first name and the date–other details, such as the ship’s name and his last name, are either self-censored to protect a military mission or left out because of the assumed familiarity between sender and recipient.
This letter from young Jane Cadbury, daughter of William and Catharine, is a love note addressed to another mysterious Edward. It’s unlikely that this Edward and the one from Letter no. 2 are the same, since at the time Jane’s note was sent, the previous Edward would be about 30 years old. (I know, I know, I really wanted it to be the same Edward, too.) Nevertheless, her note conceals a hidden message: “To my love” scrawled in the unmistakable handwriting of a child just learning to write. On a piece of paper accompanying the red cut-out heart is the more mature script of Catharine Cadbury, telling Edward that Jane’s note was made several days earlier. Catharine seeks to ensure that the letter’s lateness must not be misattributed to any reluctance on Jane’s behalf.
All in all, these letters, though sometimes mysterious, give us a richer view of William and Catharine Cadbury’s life. This collection continues to reveal treasures that luckily have been well-preserved, and creating a finding aid for the collection continues to be a wonderful summer adventure.