Thursday, August 10, 2017

Letters Between Old Friends

I recently spent an afternoon at the archives at the Maryland Historical Society a week ago, specifically searching for more information about our Marcia Noyes. A number of years ago, many of our files were transferred to the Historical Society, so that much of the history of medicine in Maryland would be centrally located.

There was a file with letters to and from Sir William Osler, and his wife, Lady Grace Osler, as well as Osler's nephew, William W. Francis, who became the guardian and organizer of Osler's massive collection of books. 

Francis and Marcia were about the same age and knew each other through Osler, with whom Francis lived for several years. When Osler's books were transferred to McGill University, Francis came along with them and became the first Osler Librarian.

"Dr. Billy" and "Sister Marcia" kept in touch, bound by their love of Osler, and their professional love of books. Both were involved with the Medical Library Association (MLA). Letters between the two are funny and candid, in the way that long-time friends have. 

The two grew old together through their letters, and commiserated about their ailments. Both were sad that Francis's hospitalization prevented him from travelling to Baltimore for Marcia's 50th Anniversary party, and in their letters, it was clear that they knew they'd never see each other again after one last MLA meeting. 

On Marcia's death, Francis sent a telegram to the Faculty, with the following words: Well done good and faithful Sister Marcia. Farewell to Osler's earliest from his latest librarian.

William Willoughby Francis died in 1959.

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