The lucky letter case

1865 portrait of Ellen Terry, age 17, by Julia Margaret Cameron at Smallhythe Place, Kent

Ellen Terry’s life included a 64 year stage career, three marriages and one elopement. She was a famous actress, performing for war charities during the First World War, and was ahead of her time in many ways.

One day, in 1917, she gave her little leather wallet to a soldier on a train who had given up his seat for her. Inside the wallet was a postcard showing a portrait of her. On the back of the postcard she wrote:
‘This old letter case has brought me luck I have had it for 24 years – will you mind it and keep it for luck. My best thanks for giving me your seat I have not even a cigarette to give.’
Susannah Mayor, house steward at Smallhythe, says: ‘The soldier was killed and his effects were returned to his family. The letter case was donated to Smallhythe, Ellen’s home, in 1980 by the daughter of the young soldier’s fiancé. Sadly we do not know the name of the soldier. The postcard is heavily creased and stained by what could be blood or coffee.’