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April 23rd 1941 - Letter from Mela Sladden to her son, John Cyril Sladden

23rd April 1941
Correspondence From
Mela Sladden, White Gates, Southlea Road, Datchet
Correspondence To
John Cyril Sladden
Relationship to Letter Addressee
Text of Letter

Whites Gates, Southlea Road, Datchet

Wed Apr 23/41

My dearest John

Your letter and parcel arrived this morning – one pair pants only!  As the parcel had a dilapidated appearance I’m afraid the contents may have been tampered with.  I will try and find some suitable box in which to return the clothes – Duncan may have an extra pair of pants which I will send you if I am correct in my supposition.

Your decision about your career has not come as a surprise – the point needs to be considered.  Can you return to Merton as a theological student and still be allowed the money you obtain from your Science scholarship?  I do not think your Father has sufficient funds to meet a further course at Oxford after the war – so that you would have to do something whereby you could keep yourself apart from a little help towards clothes.  The reason we received the idea of your becoming a priest with apparent coldness was because it was very noticeable that religious subjects raise such fervour in you that you almost make yourself ill!  Even as a little boy we had been advised not to douse your imagination where religious stories and events were concerned!

But I think now that you have left the emotional side behind and that the practical application of Christ’s teaching is what now appeals to you.  I think too the organisation of church affairs interests you – and I think you have an intense love of and interest in your fellow men.

There are a few facts you should know before your decision becomes final.

My father was about the best parish priest I have met – but he had great temptations – which he was not strong enough to resist – and which you too will have to meet.  He was not able to control his family on money matters and rather than see them go without he borrowed money, which was repaid by Uncle Harry out of the family estate of which Father was the next heir (after Uncle).  When Uncle Harry died he felt Father had had his share and he broke the entail and made Uncle Fred his heir, but with the injunction that the money was to be used to benefit all the members of the family who might at times need help.  Uncle F has not touched a penny of this money for himself and I think now there is very little of it left.

Now, if you go into the Church, you will be faced with lack of money.  You will perhaps have to ask the girl you love to share poverty with you, and you will be faced with the pain of seeing her suffer perhaps and you unable to supply her wants or be able to educate your children well.

This need not deter you but you must begin to brace yourself now – to do without.  Father loved music, good notepaper, all the refinements of life and he had not the strength of will to go without them.  He might have risen to any height in the Church, except for these weaknesses.  He married Granny when she was in her teens and she was not experienced enough to be of much help to him – and so they bickered and quarrelled although remaining very much in love with each other – and then finally the separated.  It was a great sorrow to me.

I do not think you are weak in character but I do think you live in the clouds!  A priest nowadays had to come down from the clouds and meet his fellow men on common ground, and he is expected by them to lead a life of every day example so that they can respect him personally, as well as believe in His Master.

I believe you are already coming down from the clouds and are ready to sacrifice everything in order to carry out the message of the Ascension – to preach the gospel to every creature – and also to live the gospel – but I wanted to warn you there are inherent traits on my side of the family which it is best for you to know about and remember in case temptations swim up to meet you.

You are wise to go into war industry – I do think you should do as well as you can at Science for the combination of Science and Theology is uncommon, and you might later be able to write interesting books or articles using your Science as a means of solving problems – or vice versa.

I have often said to Daddy, “I cannot see John shut up in a lab for the rest of his days”.  I always felt you were more interested in human beings and live things than in atoms, molecules, etc!

So, as far as I am concerned, I wish you God-speed in your endeavour – but I do want you to brace yourself to meet a life (a priest’s) which is fraught with temptations which do not seem so noticeable in a layman’s life – because he has not to live in the limelight.

As your Mother I feel proud you wish to lead the good life and I think, if you choose to exercise it, you have the willpower to live a life of self-denial.  (I think it terrible when a man enters the Church in Holy Orders, and then lets her down – don’t you?)

Auntie Bar had a weekend’s leave and left £1 for your birthday.  Shall I leave it like that or purchase some records on your list or 2 books?  She is facing an ATS life splendidly and looks well in her uniform and has been given a certain amount of responsibility.  She thinks she will be posted on Saturday to Bournemouth to “Signals” to continue training as a teleprinter.

June spent yesterday with us and spent the night and will return to Great Fosters tonight and to Crediton tomorrow.

Heaps of love – and wishing you your heart’s desire.

Ever your loving


Letter Images
Type of Correspondence
Letter on 3 sheets of headed notepaper (the notepaper had their old address - Westbury, Eton College, Windsor - but this was crossed out)
Location of Document
Private family archive