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These are a selection of letters written by James Comley to Mr. Pilley, a book collector in Hereford.

The originals are in 'The Pilley Collection' in Hereford Reference Library, together with two volumes of James' poems

James was clearly a sad, lonely old man towards the end of his life.

 

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6 Utopia Villas,
East St Arboretium,
Worcester
January 28th 1888

Dear Mr. Pilley,
My Pollie informed me that you would like to know at about what date my notice of "A Wonderful Parrot in Hereford" appeared in the Hereford Journal. I wish I could get(?) the date, but I cannot. It was certainly before the Autumn of 1882. There is a copy of it in one of my books of cuttings of any contributions to the papers. I will direct Pollie where to lay her hand on it, but, as it was not a letter, there is no date to it. Possibly something on the back - if it can be loosened - may help to fix the date. Your better place, if you can spare the time, would be to get Davies (or whoever is there) at the Permanent Library, to let you look through the file from August /82 back till you come upon it or ask the Journal office. The Library would afford best convenience.
I am taking the liberty of sending you two copies of the verses that have been printed at your old shop. If you can afford the 1/- for them, or know those who can, the amounts wd be useful to me, I must try, (though I have long been clean beaten out of working ability), to lighten the burden I have so long been to James. You will be glad to know that Father Mackey (Weobley) , from whom I get a most kind letter occasionally, has sent to me for 1 doz, which I have sent from Mr. Carver.
Mrs Surtees-Alcott wrote to me for ½ doz, and expressed the hope that others might do the same. The Rev. Holmes wrote "I most gladly send you the enclosed order (4/) for the two books you sent me".
The Rev Pruen, Rector of Twining, Tewkesbury, wrote "Little Ned is a perfect gem". A Gentleman (a stranger) had tendered me 1/- and was perusing "Little Ned" while I was getting out the change, which, when I tendered it , he declined to take saying "No, No, this first is worth a shilling". Eustace Hinton Jones, the Clever Editor of the Hfd Journal, who died in the asylum (no bad judge) predicted that "Little Ned" only required to be published in order to its being appreciated.
You are aware, I presume, that I am a lonely wanderer. I saw no soul at Xmas. I had to bear the heavy blow of losing, in such a sudden and terrible way, my eldest son, without knowing the sound of a single voice to give me a supporting word. This is very hard - very hard for one whose entire thought was for his family - who was never happier than when hand in hand with his children. You will find "Nellie" (at Mr. Heins's), next to "Little Ned".
You - and your dear wife have shed tears. The Rev. W. Boyd Carpenter (Revd Bishop of Ripon) in one of his sermons in the Hfd Cathl Pulpit remarked "He who has wept for himself will know how to weep for others"
With best wishes for you & Mrs. Pilley, as also for your brothers & sister.
Believe me, Yours Very Truly
James Comley

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15 Windsor Street,
Leamington
Jany 12-1894(?)
(this was a Friday - AJM)
Dear Mr. Pilley
I have many times proposed dropping you a line since you so kindly evidenced you sympathy with me, in my desolating trials, when I was in the Old City but my feebleness & broken heartedness make every little effort overwhelming. I am now sending for family perusal and for Mrs. Pilley especially a thought or two that came to me, and quite unexpectedly with the birth of the New Year. May I ask you, when you have the cons??? to kindly let my very dear and greatly esteemed Canon Dolman have a sight of them. I so hope his throat affection has been overcome. Do you ever see Mr With? He was away when I was in Hereford and I have had no reply to either of two letters I had twice written to him. If you would direct your man, when he is out, to tell him that you wish to see him, and would then say how anxious I am to hear from him, you would be doing me a great favour for I am sure he would be glad to communicate* with
Wishing you all prosperity and with kindest regards to Mrs Pilley, your bothers and your sister
Believe me
Yours ever truly
James Comley
*Have to be erasing or altering every line shall be 75 on Tuesday

The Deathless Activities of Earth
When inevitable decay,
Sweeps the encumbering trust away
Then that never idling rust
Plants vitalities in dust,
Fruitful fields we ne'er should see
But for Corruption's legacy
JC

Angelic Sympathy
Think that the angels drink your thoughts
And give you food in theirs,
And always add their own Amen,
When they repeat your prayers.
Think that they know the rugged road
That makes the foot so sore
And where their blissful Paradise
Is yours for evermore
JC

Observation is the offspring of Sympathy, The parent of reflection, and the founder of rich memories
JC

Sensitiveness, or the Angel of Benevolence
Sensitiveness responds promptly to the pleadings of pain and poverty; puts a weapon in the hands of the defenceless, knocks gently at the door of the desolate, leaves tears in the lap of the widow, and her image in the memories of the Orphans; Speaks tenderly to the fallen when extending the helping hand; smooths a path for the bleeding feet of returning wanderers, and finds a paradise for the weepings of Penitence in the bosom of a pardoning Spirit
JC

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15 Windsor Street
Leamington
Apr 22/95
Dear Mr Pilley
On Feb 4/88 you wrote to me respecting my article on your famous parrot but I do not know with what result. I dont know if it appeared in the Journal. Anyway I have turned it up (pasted in among many other things), and a par in it begins "As the Evening News appears to be a favourite paper amongst children, it may not be" etc. The Hereford Evening News (Journal Office) had only just started when Lord Frederick Cavendish was assassinated in Phoenix Park Dublin. I have the front page (May 6. 1882) of the number containing the account. If you have not been provided with a copy (of the previous article) I will do my best to recover my own and send it to you. I well remember being in your shop when Mr Woodhouse having seen my description drove in from Burghill(?) to try to buy it.
You must kindly excuse brevity. I am in a fearful condition, not a soul to come near me. Eight sons & daughters - Nellie the youngest, but not one set any foot between the devouring winter & my weight of torturing misery, endured in utter loneliness just a vestige of any old association. No ???, Organ, no easy chair, no sight of the old portraits. Nothing but silence, utter loneliness & almost helplessness.
With very kind regards to Mrs Pilley, your brother and sister
Believe me
Yours very truly
James Comley

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April 25th 1895
Leamington
Apr 25/95
Dear Mr Pilley
I am utterly unfit to write, sent a line on Tuesday to the oldest living friend I have, asking him to write at once if he had anything to say. A young friend promised in Jany wrote in Jany "now I know where you are I shall run over & see you when Spring comes". This was a ray of light indeed! By middle of March the long weariness of waiting and calculating was trying me sorely. In replying to me on the subject he said "I am so busy that I fear Saturday will be the only available day" te(?) (then?) a few days ago, I made him aware of my unendurable suffering & persistent sinking.
With(?) xxxxx today came a most kindly letter expressive of grief that my suffering should be so great adding "I am grieved also to hear of the indifference shown you by you family. Surely they cannot know of your condition or they could not act so unnaturally towards you". I dont think you or any one else will see me "this summer" but it would be life from the dead to me could I seeyou now or see anyone who would report faithfully of those conditions under which I have for so long on utter loneliness struggled to exist.
Im glad the "Parrot" matter will be acceptable
May I ask you to give Canon Dolman, with my very warm regards, "Verbal Images" to. Canon Mackay liked it much.
I am afraid to think how I shall suffer for this.
With all good wishes for self and friends
Believe me
Yours sincerely
James Comley

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15 Windsor Street
Leamington
May 4/95
Dear Mr Pilley
I hope you wont be offended if I ask you not to send me flowers. I have neither a place for them nor anything to put them in, but I shall think much of your kindness if there be any little flower or even a green leaf on my dear Susan's grave that you could send me. I was very heartless of Nellie and the others to let year after year go by and let me beg in vain for what I now ask you. I had the luck of a branch of Crab blossom this morning, and send you a few buds of it. Are you aware that, with all the changes & improvements in the apple, the apple bloom remains the same, as lovely in the hedge-row as in the garden or orchard. Lovely flower! I also send you a very forward hawthorn shoot gathered close by, & some coloured bits which are useful if no red flower can be found for mixing. The colour is due to cutting back a hedge, the thicker the wood from which new shoots come, the richer the colour, of which there is none in an un-cut hedge.
Do you know I have shelf, cupboard, drawer, no coffee pot, teapot, basin, only one old knife for all purposes. Can you say when you may be here? The woodruff(?) in a book will retain its perfume for a dozen years. It was a great favour it (sic) with poor Jones. With kindest regards to Mrs Pilley
Yours very truly
James Comley

 

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