Plashet, Eleventh Month, 1815

It has pleased Almighty and Infinite Wisdom, to take from us our most dear and tenderly-beloved child, little Betsy; between four and five years old. In  receiving her, as well as giving her back again, we have, I believe, been enabled to bless the Sacred Name. On Third day, the 21st after some suffering of body from great sickness, she appeared wonderfully relieved, and I may say raised in spirit; she began by telling me how many hymns and stories she knew, with her countenance greatly animated, A flush on her cheeks, and her eyes very bright, a smile of inexpressible content, almost joy-I think she first said with a powerful voice, ‘How glorious is our Heavenly King, who reigns above the sky”. […] This was expressed on the Third day morning, and she was a corpse on the Fifth day evening; but in her death, there was abundant calls for Thanksgiving; prayer appeared in deed to be answered, as very little, if any suffering seemed to attend her, and no struggle at last; but her breath grow more and more seldom and gentle, till she ceased to breathe.

—Elizabeth Fry

It sounds like one of those deathbed scenes beloved of Victorian novels which strike a little cord in our contemporary experience, but the fact remains: it was real.

Sarah Gristwood, Recording Angels: The Secret World of Women’s Diaries (1988)


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