['You poor man!'] Long anguished Draft Letter, in Autograph, signed ‘Your wife’, from Henrietta Hitchcock (the future Henrietta Lewis-Hind) to her husband the American artist George Hitchcock, on his leaving her for his student Cecil Jay.

Author: 
Henriette Lewis-Hind (d.1937), wife of American painter George Hitchcock (1850-1913) and then of English art critic Charles Lewis-Hind (1862-1927) [Gari Melchers (1860-1932), American artist]
Hitchcock
Publication details: 
Undated (but dating from 1905). On six leaves each with letterhead of the Hitchcocks’ home ‘Schuil en Burg, Egmond A/D Hoef, Holland.’
£500.00
SKU: 23786

The anguished response of a rejected wife to the husband who has abandoned her; such an extraordinarily raw document rarely survives, much less in a mostly explicable context (apart from an unexplained reference to an ‘accident’). For the background to this item see Janice Oresman, ‘Gari Melchers’ Portraits of Mrs. George Hitchcock’, Archives of American Art Journal, vol.20 no. 3 (1980). American painter George Hitchcock (1850-1913) had settled in Holland (where he lived until his death) around the time of his 1881 marriage to Henriette W. Richardson (d.1937), known as ‘Miggles’. The Hitchcocks made a handsome couple and Henriette posed for several portraits by another American ex-patriate painter, Gari Melchers (1860-1932), about whom she would publish a monograph in 1928. In 1905 George Hitchcock divorced Henriette for one of his students, the English artist Cecil Jay (1883-1954), thirty-three years his junior, marrying her that same year. Henriette left Holland in 1907 and went on to become the wife of the English journalist, editor and art critic Charles Lewis-Hind (1862-1927). The present item is 6pp, 4to. Reverse of last leaf endorsed in Henriette Lewis-Hind’s hand; ‘My last to George Hitchcock No 3.’ Lightly-written in blue pencil, and with some passages picked out in black ink. Worn and aged (especially the last leaf), but entirely legible. Folded twice. The letter begins ‘You poor man! All my anger & loathing of your act has gone. Only a very great pity for you remains. So sorry am I for you that I can find no words to fit my meaning. All seems too dull & I am dumb with pain. And yet the last words must be spoken between us. What to say - How to say it. Twenty four years is a long time habits & tho’ts are not easily changed - we shall both be haunted - I am expiating now any fault of mine - in the garden the gentle gentle is falling and the shimmer is in the trees. The birds that “pay with a sou” are singing & the daffodils are blossoming and it will never look the same again. In the house a broken hearted woman is bidding farewell to the husband - broken hearted because she has failed when she meant to succeed - shamed, alone, alone forever - I accept it as a punishment - I will expiate my failure -. You promised once to trust me - the last time this happened - trust me now’. This brings the letter to the end of the first of the six pages. As the letter continues she tells him she will try to help him and forgive him and hopes he will do likewise, and asks why he ever married her, and why he came back when he ‘did this thing before’. Later she says: ‘I ask you to trust me. but I do not trust you - If there had been one little spark of intention to do right you would not have had this woman come here when you knew there was danger. If she had been good - or meant to be - would she have come back, knowing your reputation and her danger[?] I loathe her’. Yet further she writes: ‘This place is dear to me - each tree & flower are part of my sad life. I can not live away from it - tho’ the pain of being here is past belief’ As the letter ends she manages to summon up a sort of gruesome optimism: ‘But I believe with all the overwhelming loneliness of my life - with all I shall have to face - with the hard work I shall have to do I shall in the end be happy for I shall not be afraid to die -. I take my share of the blame. More than my share - The accident happened after all - the terror that has been in my heart all these years is justified - May you be justified’. She ends: ‘I will hope never to see you again - And so a long - long goodbye - Your wife’. Image of final (distraughtly written) page supplied.