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Asquith, Raymond (1878–1916), scholar and army officer
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Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Has received his letter from near Bombay [B1/55]. Sends news of the Asquiths, with whom she spent most of last week, at Downing Street. Some friends are coming tomorrow, and Bongie and Mikky have just been. Is going to learn fencing, and has been skating and hunting. Urges him to check the untruths spread by the Eye Witness and Belloc. Bluey’s manner of answering questions in the Commons has been laughed at. She will go back to London after the Pride of Cheshire’s wedding.

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Nov 6th 1912 Wednesday

Thank you for a letter (if you can call such a sparse communication one!) written just before reaching Bombay {1}. I got the impression that your journey had gone on being fairly dull all the time.

I spent most of last week in London, staying at Downing St. I saw not very much of the P.M. Do you remember saying how much he varied in his liking for me, and that sometimes he quite liked me and at others not at all, well this was one of the not at all times. He was horribly bored by my constant presence at breakfast, lunch and dinner (Oliver interrupts me to play chess, I hope I shall beat him). He seemed much better tho’ and said his shoulder didnt hurt him at all and he was playing golf regularly. I was very glad to see the old boy again, he is quite one of my favorite people. Margot was very funny, Violet said she had been rather complaining and crusty lately and still very much against Violet’s and my habit of seeing and liking to see our friends rather than our acquaintances. The first day I was there I was slightly crushed, or should have been if it had been anyone but Margot, by her saying to me when we were out together. “I cant tell you how sick I get of seeing your face, I can cry sometimes at the sight of you and Bluey and Bongie and Violet together.” Poor Margot I am very sorry for her as she certainly does have to see it pretty often. You will be a Godsend to her when you come back after 5 months absence, we shall almost be able to pretend that you are an acquaintance and be able to see you without bringing down on our heads this storm of abuse. Beyond this she was very nice to me. I have only once resented anything that Margot said to me and that only because I was in as nervy a condition as she was, which was when she told me I had on purpose poisoned Violet with veronal at Archerfield just after Archie died! It makes me laugh now, but I never felt more miserable than I did at the moment.

Violet was very anxious to have a months training at the London Hospital and go out and nurse the Bulgars, they are all the most violent Bulgophils. Her father as you can imagine was highly unsympathetic about this. They used to discuss it every morning at breakfast. She says all her friends except Edgar have shown the greatest lack of understanding and immagination† about her desire to do this and she is thinking of writing a play exposing them all. Conversation with her has become rather difficult as she is learning Italian from a certain Signor Rossi who comes twice a week. She knows far more, after 2 lessons than I did after 6 months Berlitz so dont ever again say that her brains arent in every way superlatively good. What ruins her conversation is that as soon as one is alone with her she starts conjugating “Essere” or “Avere” or repeating the days of the week. Perhaps this partly explains the immense progress. I saw hardly anyone in London except Geoffrey for one instant at the House, he is coming here tomorrow, also Violet, Raymond Katharine, Bluey, Hugh and Dudley Ward. Dadley† Ward I have not yet seen, I hear he is in wonderful spirits and looks 20 years younger and that he told you that women were the most unaccountable creatures. Bongie and Mikky were here over Sunday, Mikky was in his most sympathetic and inarticulate mood, he was able to exercise his sympathy on Huck who was very ill, and on me for minding about him. Bongie is learning french, whith which he makes slow progress, partly because his teacher gives him nothing but the most ob-scure and useless verbs, ones which I have spoken french for 20 years without using, to learn. I cant keep pace with this desire for education which is spreading from Downing St, but I am going to learn to fence as soon as I go to London next week, and on Monday I skated in Manchester and had a lesson. I hunted yesterday for the first time, I had forgotten how glorious it was, my only horse is lame tho’. I tell you this because you have always been very sympathetic and interested (or feigned it successfully) in my stable troubles.

As for the “Eye Witness” and Belloc I wish you would go for them and hound them out of existence. Not that it much matters what lies they tell, for not a soul believes them, but no one thinks it worth while to notice what they say, the result is a riot of untruth which goes on unchecked week after week.

Did you see that dear little Bluey got terribly laughed at when answering some of your questions for his clerical manner?

Whilst your letters get shorter & shorter mine seem to lengthen every time I write, we must try a more even distribution. Write a long account of what you are doing and I will cease to give you such minute accounts of what I have said and done.

I go to London Tuesday, after the Pride of Cheshires wedding {2} (I have managed to get the title Prize of Cheshire bestowed on me by the Prime, as you can well believe this gave rise to a lot of the kind of conversation which he enjoys and which Margot abhors) for 3 weeks.

I must stop.

Goodbye
Venetia

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{1} MONT II B1/55.

{2} Barbara Tomkinson married Captain Walter Thornton Hodgson at St Helen’s, Tarporley, on Tuesday, 12 November. See The Times, 13 Nov., p. 13.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to [Edwin Montagu]

In the train [between London and Alderley].—Is travelling with the Prime Minister, who is more cheerful now, but she does not expect the party to be a success. Urges Montagu to be less transparent [in showing his feelings for her in public]. She enjoyed their drive together yesterday. He should not think that, because she can contemplate going to Boulogne [to the hospital at Wimereux], she does not like him any more. Reflects on the prospects of their future together. Winston was touched by Montagu’s letter. Suggests having a party on Friday. Will dine with him on Tuesday, and perhaps go to a play.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Sympathises with his concern that he has misled the House, and encourages him to discuss important issues with her.

(Dated Tuesday.)

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Tuesday

Thank you for your letter. I was afraid before you spoke to me about it that something was worrying you. I dont quite realise from what you said whether, apart from the fact that circumstances have forced you to misrepresent things to the House of Commons, you regard the step the Office intends to take as bad in itself, and worthy of attack and opposition from more reasonable people than Byles. But of course apart from any intrinsic merits or demerits, I quite see that you must be worried at having, even so unintentionally, misled the House, which you more or less represent, and played the game of the Office which, I gather from you, it is your desire to curb and restrain. But what you say about having lied in spirit is sim[p]ly not the case. In spirit you have been loyal throughout to the H of C, and if in the end you are beaten, you must know that it is only force of circumstances that has obliged you to go back on given pledges and assurances.

About the more personal part of your letter on which I can write with considerably more assurance and certainty, you must know that I always like you to talk to me about those more important and vital issues of your life, rather than permanently to stick to such questions as whether Cynthia is nicer than Katharine, and Cys cleverer than Raymond! And if, as you say, it made a difference to you to talk about it to anyone, I am glad that I should have been of some use.

I hope that today everything is going much better.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

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Black-edged paper.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Penrhôs, Holyhead.—Hopes he is having ‘more fun and less lumbago’ at Geneva. Refers to the guests at Penrhôs, and describes an expedition to the Skerries. Suggests organising ‘something delightful’ when they return to London. Violet has written from Naples; they [the yachting party] seem to be having fun. Asks whether he has been reflecting on the fate of the Liberal Party. Has seen Peel at a ball.

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Transcript

Penrhôs, Holyhead
May 29th 1912

My dear Mr Montagu

Thank you for your letter, I hope that since you wrote {1} you’ve been having more fun and less lumbago and that the Alpine Chough has proved worth travelling all the way to Geneva to see. We’ve had a very delicious time here, its been quite lovely, and Raymond has been at his very best. Unfortunately he and Katharine leave tomorrow to go to Sawley, and their places are inad-equately filled only by Hugh. Poor little Bongie owing to the strike has only had 2 days here and is now again in London, grinding out long telegrams to the P.M. He hopes to get back tomorrow. We made an expedition to the Skerries yesterday, so as to gratify Katharines curiosity as to the Nest of the Roseate Tern, but tho we saw quantities of ordinary terns, there was only one egg which we gound and not the vestige of a Roseate. They are too lovely, I think, and exactly what I imagine the Holy Ghost would look like. Raymond hustled us rather so we werent able to stay as long as we wanted. Next year if you arent again offended by the terms in which your invitation here is couched we will all go again, and you shall replace Raymond, as you would be a more appreciative tern watcher.

Conrad, alas, never came as he is ill again. This afternoon we’ve got an utterly bloody garden party which is blackening my whole outlook. We stay here till Tuesday {2} then London again. Dont arrange to go to your constituency over Sunday and {3} we’ll all do something delightful on Sunday. I daresay Violet will be back by then too. I’ve heard nothing from that party, except a post card yesterday from Naples from Violet but she doesnt mention whether she saw Le nôtre or not. They seem to be having great fun. Do you still envy them. I’ve been so happy here that I dont any longer.

Have you been considering the fate of the Liberal Party and have you arrived at any very black and morbid conclusions.

I saw your friend Mr Peel at a ball the other night and was nearly introduced to him, do you think I should have got on well with him. Bongie thinks I shouldnt.

This is quite the dullest letter I have ever written, but will you take into account that my brain is thoroughly befogged by sun and air.

Yrs
Venetia

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Written in pencil.

{1} This letter does not survive.

{2} 4 June.

{3} 9 June.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Thanks him for his letter from Peshawar. Since she last wrote the Government have been defeated (on the Banbury amendment) and Violet and Geoffrey have been reconciled. Gives an account of her recent stay at the Wharf with the Asquiths and their guests. Has come to Alderley to rehearse the play and to hunt, before going to the Wharf again. Has been reading and fencing.

(Dated the 21st, a Thursday, but Thursday is referred to at one point as ‘yesterday’. The letter was probably begun on the 21st and continued the next day.)

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Nov 21st 1912

Thank you for a letter from Peshawar {1}. I am glad you are having such fun. Its hard for me not to fill several sheets of triumphant “I told you so” but I will resist. You didnt say how long you were going to stay there but long enough I expect to become as brave as a lion with all the corpses lying about. Since I wrote to you last everything has happened the Government defeated and Violet reconciled to Geoffrey. Reconciled is perhaps hardly the right word, but at any rate she is now slightly less hostile to him. She says that both he and Mr Illingworth are like men who have gone through some terrible mental experience, atheists having had a dramatic and sudden conversion, and Geoffrey is consequently gentle and muted. I havent seen him but I expect its true. The row in the House I missed. Wasnt it cruel. I had been there all the afternoon and heard the P.M. and Bonar (perky and smart and rude and vulgar as usual) and then Banbury the hero of the hour got up and it was 6.30 and I was going to the Club so I went home. I blame and blamed Bongie most bitterly for not letting me know when the row started and I should have been there in lots of time. But he is so unimaginative that just because he doesnt personally think rows exciting and deprecates my love of them, he would never dream of telling one if there was any thing on foot. I cant help being rather glad that it was Winston who was hit, as he wasnt hurt, as it has absolutely turned him from any Tory sympathy and he now swears that next to fighting the Germans the next thing he wants to do is to fight and beat the Tories. Besides I believe if it had been Excie he would have made some terrible remark in acknowledging the apology. The day after the row every one packed into the house, the Speakers Gallery was crammed for prayers, a ceremony I had never seen before, and then as you know nothing happened. It must have been agonising being away didnt you nearly embark at once for home. It would have been a bitter fulfillment of you† soothsayers prophecy.

Saturday {2} I motored down with the Prime to the Wharf. It was delicious seeing him again, I hadnt had any kind of talk with him since the end of the summer, he was in very good spirits I thought in spite of the crisis. He didnt as you can imagine talk much about it and our conversation ran in very well worn lines, the sort that he enjoys on those occasions and which irritate Margot so much by their great dreariness. I love every well know word of them and for me the familiarity is a large part of the charm. The Wharf I had never seen before and thought very nice tho’ as a solitary country place for a large gregarious family full of the most obvious drawbacks. Our party was only Margot, O.S. Raymond, Katharine, and Bluey, Violet was in Dublin {3}. We played lots of good steady family auction and I played a certain amount of chess with Raymond and the Prime with mixed but fairly satisfactory results. I dont get any better tho’ which is a bore. On Sunday we went to Fritwell (Simon’s house) I thought it very nice, it is a pity Margot didnt get that whilst she was about buying a house. We had a good Sicilian relevage at dinner and lots of the old questions. I do wish there was a chance of something of the kind again, I dont remember now if I enjoyed it so keenly at the moment, but it has certainly left the most delicious after impression. Its one of the things I have done which gives me the greatest fun to think about. Violet and I both agree as to this. I came here Thursday (yesterday) for rehearsals of the play and also to hunt which I did today and am doing tomorrow. After hunting I am going to the Wharf again, a party without Margot and the Prime. I’ve been quite alone here and have been reading the 2nd vol of Dizzy’s life which is quite amusing also a very good book of parodies by Max Beerbohm which I am going to send you. The only crab of them is that they are so like the originals that they almost cease to be funny. My pleasure in my own society is growing on me in an allarming† way, I dont know what to do about it.

I’ve taken to fencing, Katharine and I do it 3 times a week its such fun. I am trying to make Violet start too partly because I think she would like it and also because I think the Downing St garden would be such a good place to do it in in the summer.

We all miss you very much in London.

Tell me what kind of things you like hearing about I wander lost-ly and copiously amongst the mass of things I could write about, and probably eliminate just what you want to know.

My letters get longer and longer I swore this should be a short one.

Yrs
V

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{1} This has not survived.

{2} 16 November.

{3} She was staying with the Aberdeens at the Vice-Regal Lodge. See Lantern Slides, pp. 343¬–4.