Mary Russell’s War (twenty: parting’s eve)

14 December 1914

My commitment to writing a journal entry on the weekly anniversary of the start of War (which began on a Tuesday) is being put aside this week, for it looks as if my usual writing time tomorrow will be taken up with other things. That is because today—a Monday—my issue of the December Strand arrived. I can now leave on the next train east.

I do not, in fact, know why I so badly wanted to wait for this magazine. It is something to read on the train, yes, but more than that, it feels like a last, and rapidly dwindling, series of gifts from my mother. Silly, but true. In any event, I have written to their subscriptions department to inform them of my change of address—giving them the address of the London house for future issues, until matters have been arranged. And if the letter goes down on its Atlantic passage, or is lost in the chaos of wartime London, so be it: I can always buy a replacement copy, once in England.

My grandmother is not yet aware that my time in Boston will be so brief. I find that I am looking forward to this cross-country voyage as a respite from turmoil: on the train, no one will know who I am, what I represent, where I am going. My fellow passengers will no nothing but what I choose to tell them. If I put my hair up, I will even look like a woman rather than a girl. I could make up any sort of identity, and none of the other travellers would be any the wiser.

I shall spend this afternoon with Dr Ginsberg—but not for one of her hypnosis sessions (which, by the way, have not been terribly successful. Rather than restore my memories of the accident, as I had hoped, hypnosis seems to have made them even more distant. Nonetheless, the attempt alone seems to have restored a degree of contentment to my mind. So much so, I wondered briefly whether I should ask the good Doctor if she has manipulated my emotions, implanting a suggestion of happiness…? But I decided that even if that is so, perhaps I do not need to know it, quite yet. I can always write and ask her, later on.) Rather, today is time for our social farewell. She has become my family here (gently, unobtrusively—in comparison with the rather pushy attempts by my friend Flo’s mother!) and I shall, frankly, miss her. I have a gift for her, wrapped in green paper although she does not celebrate Christmas: a small bird sculpture, to go in her collection and perhaps keep company with Mother’s canary.

In the meantime, my big trunk has been locked and taken over to the station. Tickets are purchased, my new clothing is ready to go, my rooms in this temporary home cleared of possessions. I anticipate another argument over the need of a nurse to accompany me—one of many coming arguments over which I shall prevail, through logic and an icy, calm stubbornness.

Another thing I shall miss is the San Francisco Chronicle, with its blend of news and nonsense, petty local concerns beside earth-shaking events. I doubt I will find the London papers so blithely willing to forget War.


Giant Armed Air Craft to Make Attack on England Soon, Is Report



Many Soldiers Go Mad During Terrific Battles and Suffer Torture.




18 and 15 year old daughters coolly faced the revolvers and practically “shooed” them from the house.

In the Faulklands, the cruiser that visited my War Journal back in the summer has finally met her match:


German Cruiser Nuernberg Caught and Destroyed by British Warships, and Dresden is Cornered in Magellan.

And in a move of pseudo-sympathy I cannot but feel is typical of those with no stake in the matter:


Declares it Would Be Immoral to Stop Fighting and Then Begin it Again


  1. Merrily Taylor on December 14, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    Poor Mary, I keep wanting to tell her, “Hang on, things will get better,” but I know that would be hard for her to believe. And of course I think she should have a companion on her long journey east – but if she won’t listen to Dr. Ginsberg, she certainly wouldn’t listen to me, either…

  2. Carolyn fetsko on December 15, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    Thanks for being my “Pickwick Papers”. I eagerly await the next installment.

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