Friday, September 12, 2008

prophetic tears

Princess Lieven to Earl Grey.

Berlin, April 22nd, 1835.

My dear friend,
hat can I write? I have no words left, and what can you say to comfort me? Was ever any bereavement more complete than mine? To lose both my children, children whom I passionately adored, as perhaps few other mothers have ever adored their children. And still to live on when they are both dead, dead--under my very eyes.
Arthur told me he was dying; poor angel! he felt the hand of death upon him; and I have had to survive him. Tell me, what is to become of me? I am now nothing but a waif in the world.

My husband could only travel with me as far as Berlin; and I feel that I shall never see him again. I am waiting now for Paul [Prince Paul Lieven then living in London] to come, but he can only stay with me a few weeks.

And then, where am I to go to? What am I to do with my miserable existence? Do not you, at least, abandon me; continue to love me, and write me letters every week at furthest. Address your letters to Berlin. Send them to the Foreign Office.

Are you Prime Minister now? What has happened in England, and what is going to happen there, in that England that I still love, and where I was so happy? Ah, if you only could have kept me there! I know well you would have done it if you could, and you did do your best to prevent our going away. I, too, wanted so much to stay--and were not my tears as I left your shores prophetic of evil? Sorrow even then seemed to weigh me down; but I did not imagine I was destined for such sorrows as have now befallen me. No, it was too horrible even to be dreamt of. And even at this present moment I hardly believe it can be true--Never to see my children more; all the joy, all the occupation of my daily life gone, and nothing left for my heart to love ! . . .

I can think of nothing now. I can do nothing but weep. Here in Berlin they are very kind, and do all they can for me. The Duchess of Cumberland and all the Prussian Princes come to call, and what I ask of them is that they should talk, and make a noise, and take me out of my own sad thoughts. For I am frightful to my own self, and am crushed down by my misfortune. I often think of you, and indeed I know you would pity me.

Write to me, tell me what you are doing and how matters go with you. This is the only subject to which I can turn in order to distract my mind. I am anxious to learn all that is passing in England. Your letters are to be forwarded on to me from Petersburg, and I await them every moment. But an answer to this might reach me more directly.

Write me at length about everything, and do not cease to love your poor friend.

-from the Correspondence of Princess Lieven and Earl Grey edited and translated by Guy le Strange (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1890) vol. 3, pp. 106-07.

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