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Letters written from Ridgely Manor

(August to November)


To Miss Isabelle McKindley*

31st August '99

Many thanks for your kind note I will be so so glad to see you. Miss M'cLeod is going to write you to stop a day and night here on your way to the west.

My love to the holy family in Chicago and hope soon to be able to come west and have great fun.So you are in Greenacre at last. Is this the first year you have been in? How do you like the place? If you see Miss Farmer** of course kindly convey her my kindest regards and to all the rest of my friends there.

Ever yours affly    


* This is different from the complete works of Swami Vivekananda. But this is the actual unedited letter.
** Miss Sarah Farmer, the founder of Greenacre



2nd September '99*

My dear Christina:

I hope by this time you are much better. I am getting physically better every day, though mentally not much.

The London work seems to fall to pieces. The friends over there are all shaky even Sturdy. Anyway in Mrs. Bull & Miss McLeod I have very strong friends. They stand by me here, through thick and thin.

Life is a series of fights and disillusionments is it not?

Well I am seeking some quiet if I can, before I plunge into work again. One has to work to gain a livelihood even. Good that it is so, it keeps us straight.

How is Mrs. Funkey? Where are you both now? I am glad though that in this life I have got a number of staunch friends that will stand by me, whether I am in good or bad circumstances, whether I am ill or well, & you are two of them.

I am rather happy these few days. It is so quiet here and everybody is good. Days are passing anyway, and I am learning to be contented.

The secret of life is not enjoyment but education through experience. But we are killed off the moment we begin really to learn. That seems to many a potent argument for a future existence....

I hope soon to be able to come to Detroit. Everywhere it is better to have a whirlwind come over the work. That clears the atmosphere & gives us a true insight into the nature of things. We begin, anew but on adamantine foundations.

I am strong very strong now-I always am when left to stand alone. May you be strong very strong always. 

Ever yours with love and blessings,


* This letter is different from the complete works of Swami Vivekananda. This is the actual complete letter.


To Mrs. Ole Bull

Ridgely Manor,
4th September, 1899.
My Dear Mother,
It is an awful spell of the bad turn of fortune with me last six months. Misfortune follows me ever wherever I go. In England, Sturdy seems to have got disgusted with the work; he does not see any asceticism in us from India. Here no sooner I reach than Olea gets a bad attack.
Shall I run up to you? I know I cannot be of much help, but I will try my best in being useful.
I hope everything will soon come right with you, and Olea will be restored to perfect health even before this reaches you. Mother knows best; that is all about me.
Ever yours affectionately,


To Mr. E. T. Sturdy*

14th September, 1899.
I have been simply taking rest at the Leggetts' and doing nothing. Abhedananda is here-he has been working hard.
He goes in a day or two to resume his work in different places for a month. After that he comes to New York to work.
I am trying to do something in the line you suggested, but don't know how far an account of the Hindus will be appreciated by the Western public when it comes from a Hindu.

Well, I was given some correspondence between you and Miss Noble to read the other day-I am sorry we could not come up to your ideal. But my experience of life is we so rarely find a person who comes up to that. Then again it is almost impossible for anyone to keep steady on the plane we assign to him in the ideal. We are so human, and liable to change for good or worse. At the same time like the earth's rotating we are always leaving the changes in us out of calculation, and attribute it all to the external ideals.

Mrs. Johnson [Mrs. Ashton Jonson]-is of opinion, no spiritual person ought to be ill-it also seems to her now that my smoking is sinful &,c. &c.

That was Miss Muller's reason for leaving me, my illness. They may be perfectly right, for aught I know, and you too, but I am what I am. In India the same defects, plus eating with Europeans have been taken exception to by many. I was driven out of a private temple by the owner for eating with Europeans. I wish I was malleable enough to be moulded into whatever one desired but unfortunately I never saw a man who could satisfy everyone. Nor can anyone who has to go to different places possibly satisfy all

When I first came to America, they ill-treated me if I had not trousers on. Next I was forced to wear cuffs and collars, else they would not touch me etc., etc. They thought me awfully funny if I did not eat what they offered etc., etc. . . .
In India the moment I landed they made me shave my head and wear "Kaupin" (loin cloth), with the result that I got diabetes etc. Saradananda never gave up his underwear — this saved his life, with just a touch of rheumatism and much comment from our people.
I hear also that there has been some talk about the money you gave me., I got £500 = 7500 Rs.+ £500 = 7500 Rs. from Miss Soutter [Souter], Miss Muller gave through Goodwin 30,000 Rs. total 45,000 Rs. Miss Muller got us to buy a piece of land which cost 40,000 Rs: and about 4,000 to level it and fill up the huge gaps in it, as it was a dockyard. I have a building on it-not large-and a chapel and library &c. That has          been paid for by the Indian friends-and Mrs. Bull of America. The land alone with the improvements will cover more than the sum I got from my English friends. An inquiry in the Registrar's records of the Howrah Dist. Bengal will show the truth of what I state nor have I even spent a penny of the money given to me by anyone in any country for my work on myself. For my own private expenses I in America used to get money by lecturing or writing in the papers. In India Mrs. Sevier and the Rajah of Khetri used to give me little sums to cover it. Whenever you think it necessary the accounts of every penny the Eng. people gave me is ready. Miss Noble's school was started with funds I got in India from the Maharajah of Kashmir and my Madras publications and her own money largely. Mrs. Johnson thinks the attitude of Miss Noble towards me is very unsatisfactory-and I am responsible for that. I do not know how I can be responsible for ideas another person has of me of which I am not even cognisant of!!! How could I know your or Mrs. Johnson's present mental attitude towards me if you did not through the American friends let me know of it? I am told there has been some discussion about some funds between you and Miss Noble-am I to be responsible for that too? Did I write to you to give me any money? I don't remember myself asking for pecuniary help from anybody anywhere. If they helped me of their own accord I took it, when they gave it to me personally I spent it; mostly on others; when for the work-it has been spent on the work. I can understand well how differences of opinion tastes and ideals should naturally arise in the course of years-but how so much hatred and dislike may slowly and without any warning expression, gather round little trifling personal peculiarities I cannot understand.

I so long thought it was only the fault of enslaved races like mine; but that manlier races like yours should also have it, and suddenly bring it to light without any previous warning, makes me sad.

Of course, it is my Karma, and I am glad that it is so. For, though it smarts for the time, it is another great experience of life, which will be useful, either in this or in the next.

Of course it is my Karma-and I am glad that it is sofor, though it smarts for the time, it is another great experience of life, which will be useful either in this or in the next.

If you or Miss Muller or Miss Soutter repent of the help you gave to my work-only give me time, I will try my best to pay it back....

As for me, I am always in the midst of ebbs and flows. I knew it always and preached always that every bit of pleasure will bring its quota of pain, if not with compound interest. I have a good deal of love given to me by the world; I deserve a good deal of hatred therefore. I am glad it is so — as it proves my theory of "every wave having its corresponding dip" on my own person.
As for me I stick to my nature and principle-once a friend always a friend, also the true Indian principle of looking subjectively for the cause of the objective.

I am sure that the fault is mine and mine only for every wave of dislike or hatred that I get-it could not be otherwise and thanking you and Mrs. Johnson for this calling me once more to the internal,

I remain as ever with love and blessings


* This is a more complete version of the letter found in the Complete works.

To Sister Christine

Ridgely Manor,
20th September 1899.
Dear Christina,
I am much better, thank you. Hitherto, excepting three days, there has not been any wet weather to speak of here. Miss [Margaret] Noble came yesterday, and we are having a jolly good time. I am very, very sorry to say I am growing fat again. That is bad. I wi ll eat less and grow thin once more.
You are again at work--so do I find--only with a little variation of the old occupation. Better rest than mere idling. Do you like my new poem? 138 Miss Noble thinks it is nice. But that is her way with everything I do. So you also say. I will now send my writings to missionary papers to get a fierce criticism.
With all love to you and Mrs. Funkey [Funke],
Ever yours affectionately,


To Miss Mary Hale

September 1899.
Yes, I have arrived. I had a letter from Isabelle from Greenacre. I hope to see her soon and Harriet. Harriet Woolley has been uniformly silent. Never mind, I will bide my time, and as soon as Mr. Woolley becomes a millionaire, demand my money. You did not write any particulars about Mother Church and Father Pope, only the news of something about me in some newspapers. I have long ceased to take any interest in papers; only they keep me before the public and get a sale of my books "anyway" as you say. Do you know what I am trying to do now? Writing a book on India and her people — a short chatty simple something. Again I am going to learn French. If I fail to do it this year, I cannot "do" the Paris Exposition next year properly. Well, I expect to learn much French here where even the servants talk it.
You never saw Mrs. Leggett, did you? She is simply grand. I am going to Paris next year as their guest, as I did the first time.
I have now got a monastery on the Ganga for the teaching of philosophy and comparative religion and a centre of work.
What have you been doing all this time? Reading? Writing? You did not do anything. You could have written lots by this time. Even if you had taught me French, I would be quite a Froggy now, and you did not, only made me talk nonsense. You never went to Greenacre. I hope it is getting strength every year.
Say, you 24 feet and 600 lbs. of Christian Science, you could not pull me up with your treatments. I am losing much faith in your healing powers. Where is Sam? "Bewaring" all this time as he could; bless his heart, such a noble boy!
I was growing grey fast, but somehow it got checked. I am sorry, only a few grey hairs now; a research will unearth many though. I like it and am going to cultivate a long white goaty. Mother Church and Father Pope were having a fine time on the continent. I saw a bit on my way home. And you have been Cinderella-ing in Chicago — good for you. Persuade the old folks to go to Paris next year and take you along. There must be wonderful sights to see; the French are making a last great struggle, they say, before closing business.
Well, you did not write me long, long. You do not deserve this letter, but — I am so good you know, especially as death is drawing near — I do not want to quarrel with anyone. I am dying to see Isabelle and Harriet. I hope they have got a great supply of healing power at Greenacre Inn and will help me out of my present fall. In my days the Inn was well stored with spiritual food, and less of material stuff. Do you know anything of osteopathy? Here is one in New York working wonders really.
I am going to have my bones searched by him in a week. Where is Miss Howe? She is such a noble soul, such a friend. By the by, Mary, it is curious your family, Mother Church and her clergy, both monastic and secular, have made more impression on me than any family I know of. Lord bless you ever and ever.
I am taking rest now, and the Leggetts are so kind. I feel perfectly at home. I intend to go to New York to see the Dewy procession. I have not seen my friends there.
Write me all about yourselves. I so long to hear. You know Joe Joe of course. I marred their visit to India with my constant break-downs, and they were so good, so forgiving. For years Mrs. Bull and she have been my guardian angels. Mrs. Bull is expected here next week.
She would have been here before this, but her daughter (Olea) had a spell of illness. She suffered much, but is now out of danger. Mrs. Bull has taken one of Leggett's cottages here, and if the cold weather does not set in faster than usual, we are going to have a delightful month here even now. The place is so beautiful — well wooded and perfect lawns.
I tried to play golf the other day; I do not think it difficult at all — only it requires good practice. You never went to Philadelphia to visit your golfing friends? What are your plans? What do you intend to do the rest of your life? Have you thought out any work? Write me a long letter, will you? I saw a lady in the streets of Naples as I was passing, going along with three others, must be Americans, so like you that I was almost going to speak to her; when I came near I saw my mistake. Good-bye for the present. Write sharp. . . .

Ever your affectionate brother,



To Miss Mary Hale

3rd October, 1899.
Thanks for your very kind words. I am much better now and growing so every day. Mrs. Bull and her daughter are expected today or tomorrow. We hope thus to have another spell of good time — you are having yours all the time, of course. I am glad you are going to Philadelphia, but not so much now as then — when the millionaire was on the horizon. With all love,
Ever your affectionate brother,



To Mrs. G. W. Hale*

Ridgely Manor 5th Oct'99

My dear Mother Church

Many many thanks for your kind words. I am so glad you are working on as ever. I am glad because the wave of optimism has not caught you yet. It is all very well to say --everything is right but that is apt to degenerate into a sort of laissez-faire. I believe with you that the world is evil--made more hideous with a few dashes of good.

All our works have only this value--that they awaken some to the reality of this horror--and [make them] flee for refuge to some place--beyond--which is called God--or Christ or Brahma or Buddha &c.Names do not make much difference. Again we must always remember our is only to work--we never attain results--How can we? Good can never be done without doing evil. We cannot breathe a breath without killing thousands of poor little animals. National prosperity is another name of death & degradation to millions of other races. So is individual prosperity the beggaring of many. The world is evil--and will ever remain so. It is its nature, and cannot be changed--"which one of you by taking thought &c." Such is truth--the wisdom is therefore in renunciation, that is-- to make the Lord our all in all. Be a true Christian , Mother--Like Christ renounce everything and let the heart & soul & body belong to Him & Him alone. All this nonsense which people have built round christ's name is not His teaching. He taught to renounce, He never says the earth is an enjoyable place--And your time has come to get rid of all vanities even the love of children & husband and think of the Lord and Him alone. Ever your Son, Vivekananda

* This version is the correct version with punctuations by the Swami. This is different from the Complete Works.


To Mrs. G. W. Hale

[Ridgely Manor], New York, N.Y.
23 October 1899
My dear Mother,
I was taking a few days' complete rest and so am late in replying to your very kind note. Accept my congratulations on the anniversary of your marriage. I pray many, many such returns may come to you.
I am sure my previous letter was coloured by the state of my body , as indeed is the whole of existence to us. Yet, Mother, there i s more pain than pleasure in life. If not, why do I remember you and your children almost every day of my life, and not many other s? Happiness is liked so much because it is so rare, is it not? Fifty percent of our life is mere lethargy, ennui; of the rest, forty percent is pain, only ten happiness--and this for the exceptionally fortunate. We are oft-times mixing up this state of ennui with pleasure. It is rather a negative state, whilst both pleasure and pain are nearer positive, though not positive.
Pleasure and pain are both feeling, not willing. They are only processes which convey to the mind excitements or motives of action. The real positive action is the willing, or impulse to work, of the mind--begun when the sensation has been taken in (pleasure and pain); thus the real is neither pleasure nor pain. It has no connection with either. Quite different from either. The barking of the dog awakens his master to guard against a thief or receive his dearest friend. It does not follow, therefore, that the dog and his master are of the same nature or have any degree of kinship. The feelings of pleasure or pain similarly awaken the soul to activity, without any kinship at all.
The soul is beyond pain, beyond pleasure, sufficient in its own nature. And no hell can punish it, nor any heaven can bless it. S o far philosophy.
I am coming soon to Chicago, and hope to say "Lord bless you" to you and your children. All love as usual to my Christian relative s, scientific or quacks.


To Sister Christine

C/o F. H. Leggett, Esq.,
Ridgely Manor,
Stone Ridge, Ulster Co., N.Y.
25th October 1899.
Dear Christina,
What is the matter with you? Write me a line to tell me how you a re and what you are doing now.
I am tired of this place, and will come down to New York for a fe w days soon. I start thence for Chicago and, if you like, will st op at Detroit on my way to How-do-you-do. I am much better, indeed quite a different man, though not completely cured--for that, time is necessary.


To Miss Mary Hale

30th October, 1899.
I received your letter and am thankful that something has come to force optimistic laissez faire into action. Your questions have tapped the very source of pessimism, however. British rule in modern India has only one redeeming feature, though unconscious; it has brought India out once more on the stage of the world; it has forced upon it the contact of the outside world. If it had been done with an eye to the good of the people concerned, as circumstances favoured Japan with, the results could have been more wonderful for India. No good can be done when the main idea is blood-sucking. On the whole the old regime was better for the people, as it did not take away everything they had, and there was some justice, some liberty.
A few hundred, modernised, half-educated, and denationalised men are all the show of modern English India — nothing else. The Hindus were 600 million in number according to Ferishta, the Mohammedan historian, in the 12th century — now less than 200 million.
In spite of the centuries of anarchy that reigned during the struggles of the English to conquer, the terrible massacre the English perpetrated in 1857 and 1858, and the still more terrible famines that have become the inevitable consequence of British rule (there never is a famine in a native state) and that take off millions, there has been a good increase of population, but not yet what it was when the country was entirely independent — that is, before the Mohammedan rule. Indian labour and produce can support five times as many people as there are now in India with comfort, if the whole thing is not taken off from them.
This is the state of things — even education will no more be permitted to spread; freedom of the press stopped already, (of course we have been disarmed long ago), the bit of self-government granted to them for some years is being quickly taken off. We are watching what next! For writing a few words of innocent criticism, men are being hurried to transportation for life, others imprisoned without any trial; and nobody knows when his head will be off.
There has been a reign of terror in India for some years. English soldiers are killing our men and outraging our women — only to be sent home with passage and pension at our expense. We are in a terrible gloom — where is the Lord? Mary, you can afford to be optimistic, can I? Suppose you simply publish this letter — the law just passed in India will allow the English Government in India to drag me from here to India and kill me without trial. And I know all your Christian governments will only rejoice, because we are heathens. Shall I also go to sleep and become optimistic? Nero was the greatest optimistic person! They don't think it worth while to write these terrible things as news items even! If necessary, the news agent of Reuter gives the exactly opposite news fabricated to order! Heathen-murdering is only a legitimate pastime for the Christians! Your missionaries go to preach God and dare not speak a word of truth for fear of the English, who will kick them out the next day.
All property and lands granted by the previous governments for supporting education have been swallowed up, and the present Government spends even less than Russia in education. And what education?
The least show of originality is throttled. Mary, it is hopeless with us, unless there really is a God who is the father of all, who is not afraid of the strong to protect the weak, and who is not bribed by wealth. Is there such a God? Time will show.
Well, I think I am coming to Chicago in a few weeks and talk of things fully! Don't quote your authority.
With all love, ever your brother,
PS. As for religious sects — the Brahmo Samaj, the Arya Samaj, and other sects have been useless mixtures; they were only voices of apology to our English masters to allow us to live! We have started a new India — a growth — waiting to see what comes. We believe in new ideas only when the nation wants them, and what will be true for us. The test of truth for this Brahmo Samaj is "what our masters approve"; with us, what the Indian reasoning and experience approves. The struggle has begun — not between the Brahmo Samaj and us, for they are gone already, but a harder, deeper, and more terrible one.


To Sister Christine

Rdgely Manor,
30th October 1899.
My dear Christina,
Did you not get my last letter? I am very anxious to know how you are. Write a line to tell me you are in very good health.
I am afraid the previous one was misdirected, so I send this c/o Mrs. Funkey [Funke].
Do write soon. I am thinking of Battle Creek food. 140 Baby insists on that. Do you think it will do me any good? Write soon.
Ever yours in the Lord,

PS--Where is this Battle Creek? Is it near Detroit? I am seriousl y thinking of giving it a trial. I am not bad, but unfit for any exertion, even for a walk. This sort of life is no good to live. I [will] try Battle Creek, and if that fails, get out quick.
Write me about Battle Creek.



To Sister Nivedita

1st Nov., 1899.

. . . It seems there is a gloom over your mind. Never mind, nothing is to last for ever. Anyhow life is not eternal. I am so, so thankful for it. Suffering is the lot of the world's best and bravest — yet, for aeons yet — till things are righted; if possible, here — at least it is a discipline which breaks the dream. In my sane moments I rejoice for my sufferings. Some one must suffer here; — I am glad it is I, amongst others of nature's sacrifices.
Yours etc.,


To Sister Christine

Ridgely Manor,
4th November 1899.
My dear Christina,
The letter was all right in reaching. It was only my nervousness. I am sure you will understand and excuse this. I eagerly expect t o see you in Cambridge. I am going to New York next week. Thence I go for a few days to Washington and then to Cambridge. Do come. And mind you, I must learn German. I am determined to be a French and German scholar. French, I think, I can manage with the help of a dictionary. If I can do that much German in a month, I will be so glad.
It naturally takes time for a letter to reach from here. We have one delivery and one posting a day.
With all love,
Ever yours in the Lord,
My eternal love and blessings to Mrs. Funkey [Funke].


To Mr. E. T. Sturdy

Your last letter reached me after knocking about a little through insufficient address.
It is quite probable that very much of your criticism is just and correct. It is also possible that some day you may find that all this springs from your dislike of certain persons, and I was the scapegoat.
There need be no bitterness, however, on that account, as I don't think I ever posed for anything but what I am. Nor is it ever possible for me to do so, as an hour's contact is enough to make everybody see through my smoking, bad temper, etc. "Every meeting must have a separation" — this is the nature of things. I carry no feeling of disappointment even. I hope you will have no bitterness. It is Karma that brings us together, and Karma separates.
I know how shy you are, and how loath to wound others' feelings. I perfectly understand months of torture in your mind when you have been struggling to work with people who were so different from your ideal. I could not guess it before at all, else I could have saved you a good deal of unnecessary mental trouble. It is Karma again.
The accounts were not submitted before, as the work is not yet finished; and I thought of submitting to my donor a complete account when the whole thing was finished. The work was begun only last year, as we had to wait for funds a long time, and my method is never to ask but wait for voluntary help.
I follow the same idea in all my work, as I am so conscious of my nature being positively displeasing to many, and wait till somebody wants me. I hold myself ready also to depart at a moment's notice. In the matter of departure thus, I never feel bad about it or think much of it, as, in the constant roving life I lead, I am constantly doing it. Only so sorry, I trouble others without wishing it. Will you kindly send over if there is any mail for me at your address?
May all blessings attend you and yours for ever and ever will be the constant prayer of 














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