The Love Letters of William and Catherine Booth
The wedding was small and simple. The young couple, both 26, exchanged their vows before a minister in Stockwell New Chapel, South London, England, with the bride’s father, the groom’s sister and the caretaker as witnesses. On June 16, 1855, when William Booth slipped a small gold band on Catherine Mumford’s finger, no one could have imagined that this virtually unknown couple would eventually, under God’s guidance, become co-founders of The Salvation Army.
May 15, 1852
The evening is beautifully serene and tranquil, according sweetly with the feelings of my soul. The whirlwind is past and the succeeding calm is in proportion to its violence. Your letter – your visit have hushed its last murmurs, and stilled every vibration of my throbbing heart-strings. All is well. I feel it is right, and I praise God for the satisfying conviction.
Most gladly does my soul respond to your invitation to give myself afresh to Him, and to strive to link myself closer to you, by rising more into the image of the Lord. The nearer our assimilation to Jesus, the more perfect and heavenly our union. Our hearts are now indeed one, so one that division would be more bitter than death. But I am satisfied that our union may become, if not more complete, more divine, and consequently capable of yielding larger amounts of pure unmingled bliss.
The thought of walking through life perfectly united, together enjoying its sunshine and battling its storms, by softest sympathy sharing every smile and every tear, and with thorough unanimity performing all its momentous duties, is to me exquisite happiness; the highest earthly bliss I desire. And who can estimate the glory to God, and the benefit to man, accruing from a life spent in such harmonious effort to do His will? Such unions, alas! are so rare that we seldom see an exemplification of the divine idea of marriage…
The more you lead me up to Christ in all things, the more highly shall I esteem you; and if it be possible to love you more than I do now, the more shall I love you. You are always present in my thoughts. (CB)
July 18, 1853
…It makes me happy to hear you speak as you do about home. Yes, if you will seek home, love home, be happy at home, I will spend my energies in trying to make it a more than ordinary one; it shall, if my ability can do it, be a spot sunny and bright, pure and calm, refined and tender, a fit school in which to train immortal spirits for a holy and glorious heaven; a fit resting-place for a spirit pressed and anxious about public duties; but Oh, I know it is easy to talk, I feel how liable I am to fall short; but it is well to purpose right, to aim high, to hope much. Yes, we will make home to each other the brightest spot on earthÑwe will be tender, thoughtful, loving and forbearing, will we not. Yes, we will. (CB)
…Do I remember? Yes, I remember all that has bound us together. All the bright and happy as well as the clouded and sorrowful of our fellowship. Nothing relating to you can time or place erase from my memory. Your words, your looks, your actions, even the most trivial and incidental, come up before me as fresh as life. If I meet a child called William, I am more interested in him than any other. Bless you! Keep your spirits up and hope much for the future. God lives and loves us, and we shall be one in Him, loving each other as Christ has loved us. (CB)
January 30, 1855
My Own Sweet and Precious Treasure:
I have been talking to you, breathing your name, musing on your love to me and your kindness, and thinking how much I would love to see you and to press you to my fond and anxious heart. Oh, Catherine, I do love thee. Thou art indeed my treasure, the hope and stay of my soul. I mean so far as earthly things should be dear…I may love thee very much before I love thee more than is consistent with my love to Him, who is my Redeemer and my God. Him first, thou next. Bless thee, we are one, and He shall be our all in all. (WB)
May 22, 1855
Bless you. I shall soon, all well, change my address and call you my dearest Wife. It is astonishing how of late that name has gathered unto it, in my estimation, charms and sweetness which it lacked before…(WB)
June 8, 1855
Bless you, how soon once more we shall meet again. Meet as we have never met before, with different feelings and different prospects. That which has been regarded as looming in the far off distance now is very, very near. You are to be mine. We are to be one. Yes, one. My whole soul must lie open before your gaze, and it will be. Yes! It shall be.. And thou art to be my guardian watcher. And we are to commence our life together in one united and, I trust, continued sacrifice, for God’s glory and the welfare of our fellow men. And yet in it I trust we shall be happy. Mutual forbearance, affection, heart-love, will do all things, be a talisman which will turn all our domestic anxieties and trials into bonds of love and cause of mutual joy. (WB)
(From Canada, the winter of 1886, when they were both 56 years old)
Love me as in the days of old. Why not? I am sure my heart feels just the same as when I wrote you from Lincolnshire, or came rushing up Brixton Road to hold you in my arms and embrace you with my love.
Send me love-letters and particulars about yourself. Tell me how you are; how you get up and go about, and what you do and what time you retire, and whether you read in bed when you feel sad. Tell me about yourself. To know what you wear and eat and how you go out, indeed, anything about yourself, your dear self, will be interesting to me…I am just the same, your husband, lover, and friend, as in the earliest days. My heart can know no change. (WB)