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Date: January 17th 1917

 Chisledon Camp, Wilts, England

January 17/17

Dear Father,

I received your ‘exter’ this morning and was astounded to learn of the step you had taken. Oh Father how can I ever thank you for all your unselfish love – for all that you have done for me and all the trouble you have taken for me through my life! I regret having written that letter more than any single act I ever did. It was despicable, not to have enough self control to keep my feelings to myself. Believe me, I realize, indeed I have always realized it but was not strong enough to act as I should have, that you and another have a far harder time than we. You both have the continual anxiety and you, yourself have your daily work to do with its cares and responsibilities, and instead of helping you to ‘carry on’ with a brave heart, I have been worrying you and adding to your cares by trying to make you share the burden of mine.

I cannot and will not accept my discharge or any other grounds than physical unfitness. If I am not strong enough to stand the heavy work and the continual strain in France I shall feel perfectly justified in demanding it as soon as possible, and I shall be very grateful for any assistance which you may be able to give me. But till then I must stick. As I have said before I have no longer much enthusiasm for the cause. My views have changed. I am not a conscientious objector, but I have conflicting thoughts and feelings about the forcible resistance of evil. Sometimes it seems to me that wars will never cease until courageous men will face the scorn of public opinion and simply say “we will not fight under any conditions”. Also while I don’t think that Great Britain or any of the Allied nations wished the war or were directly responsible for its outbreak, nevertheless I am convinced that all the great European powers had a share in bringing about conditions which made war inevitable. So that, if I were in civilian life again, I should hesitate before enlisting. The real reason that I cannot withdraw – now is that it is manifestly up to me to see the thing through. I should never be able to look anybody in the face again or have an atom of self confidence or self respect, if I had to give up in the fell clutch of circumstance. I must face the music. It would be a confession of unpardonable failure and weakness to withdraw my head from the plough at this stage.

There is another matter I want to speak about. On several occasions both you and mother have spoken of giving me further financial assistance to go on with my education. Now father, you know that you cannot afford to do that and, even if you could, do you really think that it would be better for me to go on living upon the earnings of others? I am going on twenty three and I have never in my life earned a cent – at any sort of work which I expect to be engaged in permanently. If I come out of this thing, I have my life to live. I have to earn my living and be a useful member of society. You don’t know and I don’t know whether I can do this. At least it has never been put to the proog. It is only right that before three or four more valuable years – with all the expenditure they entail – be spent in intellectual self-indulgence, I should give some proof that my further education will be of some use to others as well as to myself.

Whether in Journalism or Teaching or whatever I can get into. I must get out in the world for a year at least and learn to use whatever talents I may have. Besides I have some very bad habits which can only be uprooted by steady work and a position of responsibility – that is what I long for and what I ought to have. I must develop self-confidence, the habit of steady application and rigid concentration on one thing at a time, and above all get rid of procrastination and sloth – I hate to admit it but lazyness is going make me a failure if I don’t look out.

That’s all for this time. I think Father you will agree with me that I ought to work for awhile, so I don’t think you had better put temptation my way again. Much love dear folks. I got a splendid letter from Marion in today’s mail too. Congratulations on her historic triumph! Things look pretty bad – we’ve got to face facts – but I think we’ll come through all right somehow.

Yours affectionately,


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