Queer Places:
Park Place, Henley on Thames

Caroline Maitland (1820-1896) was the longlife friend of Catherine Marsh. The author of The Life and Friendships of Catherine Marsh (1917) wrote of Marsh’s 1836 meeting with her friend Caroline Maitland as love at first sight: “From the first meeting the two girls were mutually attracted”.

Caroline Maitland was the daughter of Ebenezer Fuller Maitland (born 1780), of Of, Stansted, Essex, Bershire, and Bethia Ellis (born 1781) of Park Place, Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire.

When they both were young, Caroline Maitland was staying with Catherine Marsh at Leamington, and as she watched with amused interest the number and variety of young men and women who surrounded her friend, and saw their unmistakable affection, admiration, and desire for her friendship, and noticed the unselfconscious and pleasant response she gave to them, "O Katie," she said one day, "if you should die before me, I would write a book and call it Katie and Her Friends, and every one would enjoy it."

Had Miss Maitland been the survivor, those who read her letters to Catherine Marsh will see what a delightful book it would have been. Maitland never married and she died more or less at the same time as Catherine's sister, Matilda Chalmers, with whom she was now staying. To Caroline Maitland she wrote : " The Lord is saying to you, and to my sweet sister, ' Fear not for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name,' Car, Matilda, ' thou art Mine,' ' when thou passest through the waters / will be with Thee.' What lovely friendship and fellowship are in this promise. I often long to see your beautiful hand-writing again, but soon we shall be at Home, and O my Car what pleasant talks we shall have then."

By a pleasant coincidence it is her nephew, Mr. J. A. Fuller Maitland, who has given invaluable help in the writing of The Life and Friendships of Catherine Marsh by allowing, as his aunt's executor, the publication of her letters, and by reading the manuscript, and giving helpful counsel, especially in the difficulty of selecting from the many incidents, interests, and friendships in Catherine Marsh's long and very full life those which it became necessary to omit, to enable it to be condensed into one volume. Much had unwillingly to be left out, including the mention of very many of her friends; and the whole book has had to be written briefly.

It was probably in the early spring of 1836 that a friend ship, which was ever a source of deep interest, help and pleasure, began for Catherine Marsh. Mr. and Mrs. Fuller Maitland, of Park Place, Henley on Thames, were among the friends Mr. Marsh made when he was living in Reading; and he now accepted an invitation to visit them, taking Matilda and Katie with him. Caroline, the youngest but one of the large family of sons and daughters, was a little younger than Katie, and from the first meeting the two girls were mutually attracted. A correspondence between them, beginning at that time, was continued as long as they lived. They soon confided to each other their thoughts and feelings with a candour as interesting as it is rare. Some twenty years later Caroline wrote to Katie : "Yesterday I turned out and sorted all the old letters out of my red trunk, chiefly yours. The old-fashioned square sheets crossed all over; all our old jokes and old troubles that we have forgotten now. They are great treasures to me."

There are glimpses in letters of the busy life in Mr. Marsh's home. To Miss Maitland's reproach for an unanswered letter, Katie replied : "Your sense of justice, not to say of pity, would induce you to write twice to my once, if not more liberally, could you only see the scramble after time every day of my life in this very stirring corner of the earth."

When Caroline Maitland had a long illness, there were many letters that, during her recovery, passed between these friends who responded so well to each other.

Catherine to Caroline: "Very full of anxiety have I felt about you, dearest Gary, you have had my prayers and have them, and when I was reading those beautiful words of the Lord Jesus, Peace be still, I thought that He could say them to our hearts as easily as to the troubled waters, and when He giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?'"

Caroline to Catherine: "Thank you from my heart, my own dear Katie, for your most comforting little note. I put it under my pillow last night, and read it over again first thing this morning. If I could realise more the comparative littleness of time, I could be happier in looking beyond it, but my associations and habits of worldliness make this so difficult. I do not love my Saviour as you do, and have never earnestly given myself to His service. Yet I do desire to have something more like a personal affection for the Saviour, such as Dr. Arnold had, and Lord Teynham has, and you have, but it does seem to my wretched apprehension to be all on one side, if you know what I mean - that I can pray to Him, and speak to Him, but only fancy the answer. It is so unlike having even the glance of a human eye that tells you in a moment whether you are loved or not. I feel it may excite my gratitude, and my deepest reverence, but never satisfy my deep desire for human sympathy; when I am with you I can have it."

Catherine Marsh responded to this opening of her friend's heart, by opening her own in return : " I nearly cried with pleasure when I read that you had kept my note under your pillow. You and I suit and understand each other, my own Gary. You think we are different in our ways of loving the Saviour ; perhaps by a greater variety of sorrows and troubles, I may have been rather longer thrown upon His love than you have been, and so learned to realise it more. But I have gone through just your feelings, and what is stranger have to go through them in "part over and over again. We have two natures I had almost said two souls, natural and spiritual. At all events we have two hearts. The natural heart cleaves to earth, yearns for human love, listens for an answering voice, longs for an answering look. In part, I believe, we shall keep this to our dying day, in part God may see fit to gratify it when He has shown us clearly enough the danger of idolatry and when He has made Himself first in our affec- tions. But nothing earthly will ever come up to the dreams of our glowing imaginations. ' Thou hast made us for Thyself,' said St. Augustine, ' and our heart is restless till it resteth in Thee.' Well, even when we have found that Rest, and feel we have a Rock for Strength, a Refuge from the storm, a Saviour from sin and its consequences, still the earthly heart goes on speaking and sometimes it almost drowns the peaceful voice of the new and spiritual heart, it rises up so strong. And then what can we do ? We can but do, as you are doing now, fling ourselves at Jesus' feet, and tell Him how our heart turns away from Him, and how little His love supplies the place of human love, but that still there is faint and wavering but still there, ' a desire of our souls after His Name, and the re- membrance of Him.' Let us ask Him to quicken it. Above all let us pray continually, ' Lord increase our faith.' It is our littleness of faith which makes us unable to realise His response of love to our prayer. I have said His response, but after all, our prayer is but the response to Him. Do you think you would have any faith in His saving power, any faint desire to love Him, if He had not first talked very much to your heart, and taken you into His own gentle, though strong Hand, to train you for Himself? Be very sure that any wish to be taught how to love Him, is your soul's reply to His words, ' Seek ye My face.' An almost daily prayer of mine is that beautiful Collect, ' O God, who has prepared for them that love Thee such good things as pass man's understanding, pour into our hearts such love towards Thee, that we, loving Thee above all things, may obtain Thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire.' It must be His gift that love, but we can ask for it.

"My Mary and I took a bundle of tracts on Thursday and drove near the new Railway line making to Basing- stoke. We got out and she sat on a mound whilst I clambered down into a sort of pit where a gang of navi- gators 1 was at work. The men accepted the tracts civilly, so I ventured to say a few words to them, and told them a true story about an answer to prayer. They listened kindly, and it was pleasant to feel that I had been allowed to speak to them of the Saviour. One of them gave me a sort of rough blessing as I went away."

Two more of the pleasant letters that passed between the friends must have been written about this time. Miss Maitland wrote : " Your letters and books are the comfort of my life, and I know that to tell you so is the best way of thanking you for them. The first time I read The Daughter at Home, I thought it a most gloomy drab-coloured picture of life, and so it is in the outward circumstances, events there are none, there is not so much as the entrance of a decent man from the time she first sits in her morning- room, (' her early youth passed for she is twenty ' / /) till her lonely old eightieth birthday comes at last. Could you bear sixty years of sour sisters, and Sunday schools ? Your marks have shown me comfort and beauty however, in the midst of this insufferable dulness; and coming when my own mind was in a very depressed state, and no picture of outward pleasantry would have seemed as if it could have anything to do with me, unless in the way of contrast ! I could bear to read of patient Anna, and it did me good besides the feeling that I was reading almost with you by having your nice scratches all about the book."


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