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Asquith, Katharine (1865–1948), wife of Raymond Asquith
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Letter from Venetia Montagu to [Edwin Montagu]

The Manor House, Mells, Frome.—‘I see in the papers that your worst fears were realised, I wonder if you had them with you all today as well.’ Asquith’s speech [at Ladybank] was not very good. Discusses her companions at Mells and a chandelier she saw in Bath. Asks him to inquire about Frida at the H[ome] O[ffice]. Has heard that the new War Secretary will be Lord Derby. Sends domestic instructions and inquiries.

Letter from Venetia Montagu to [Edwin Montagu]

The Manor House, Mells, Frome.—Thanks him for his letter and telegram; it doesn’t matter about Frida. She gathers that Montagu did not stay with Bill, and that his expedition was rather unsuccessful. Has been shopping in Frome. Asks whether he minds others coming with them to Dorchester. Haldane has heard that Lloyd George is going to the War Office. Asks him to telegraph the time of his arrival at Salisbury.

Letter from Venetia Montagu to Edwin Montagu

In the train from Folkestone.—(20 Oct.) Has learnt of his safe arrival at Boulogne. Hopes that Alan and Kisch will prove more competent than expected.

[24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.]—Is depressed at having to spend the winter without him, despite the prospect of arranging Breccles. Reflects on their relationship and plans. After he left she and Viola went shopping, and she saw a sideboard she liked. Has dealt with some correspondence.—(Later.) Diana has visited. Is going to the opera.—(21 Oct.) Discusses her visit to the opera last night. This morning she went to Arlington Street [the Rutland Hospital], lunched with Diana and the Duchess, drove to Bushey in a vain attempt to meet Duff, and dined at Arlington Street for a ‘working reading aloud evening’. She intends to go to the hospital every morning, but will go away if the air-raids are bad.—[Later.] They read again in the evening.—(22 Oct.) Has received two notes from him. She went to Arlington Street and lunched at the Bath [Club]. Goonie is bored by having Jack home. Has ordered some things for the house.—(23 Oct.) She lunched with friends, including Masterton, who reported the rumour of a new coalition including ‘the old bird’ [Asquith], then went to South Kensington to show Diana David Garrick’s bed, which she is thinking of copying for Montagu. She dined and went to the opera with Bluey, and they discussed sapphism. Has had no news about letting the house.—(24 Oct.) After the hospital she went to the Bath, and to the House of Lords. Gives an account of the debate [on the situation in India]. In the evening she went to a play with Viola. Has let the house and bought the sideboard.—(25 Oct.) She dined with Cardie for Rawle’s farewell party, then went to a party at Lady Howard’s, which included Hugo Rumbold, who she is ‘crazy’ about, and Teddie Gerard, who enchanted Winston.—[26 Oct.] Has learnt of Montagu’s arrival at Port Said and has received his letter from Modane. She went to the Bath, where Clemmie was ‘very typical’ about Winston and Teddie. Some friends are dining with her, and they may go to the opera afterwards.—(27 Oct.) Only some of her guests went to the opera last night; she stayed in talking till late with the others. After Arlington Street she went shopping and to lunch with Katherine and Diana. Later she may go to Arlington Street for a ‘working reading evening’. Has received his letter from Rome and eagerly awaits his diary. The house has not, after all, been let.—(28 Oct.) She went to Bushey with Diana and Michael Herbert to see Duff, and dined with Diana and Edward, who has just come home on ‘Mells fire leave’ [Mells Park had been destroyed by fire on the 11th].—(29 Oct.) After the hospital and the Bath they lunched with Edward, after which Venetia took him to Lucile’s, where they found Viola choosing dresses for her new part. She got home to find Phyllis there, having turned out by her father for throwing a hair-brush at him. Rib writes to her daily, but they are trying to persuade her that he must marry her or stop seeing her. There was an abortive air-raid warning.—(30 Oct.) Edward has fallen in love with Phyllis. She lunched with friends, and Hugo Rumbold, who is probably another of Phyllis’s lovers, came to tea. Has received a telegram from Cairo and has heard that Montagu’s party has already broken up into groups. Some friends are dining with her tonight. Is appalled by the household expenses.—(31 Oct.) Her dinner went well, but she and Diana got into an argument with Edward. She had lunch with friends at home. Phyllis has told Ribblesdale that she will have to stop seeing him if he does not mean to marry her, but it is unlikely that her good intentions will last. Diana said to Phyllis that her mind had been corrupted by Scatters, and later Ribblesdale asked Phyllis whether she had ever slept with him, ‘which she had the sense to deny’. Lutyens brought her Blow’s plans [of Breccles], but as they are not of the house as it is now she will have to go down there to correct them. Is going to the opera.

Train to Breccles.—(1 Nov.) Was kept awake by an air-raid. Is on the way to meet Horner.

[24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.]—(2 Nov.) She did a lot of business with Horner at Breccles and planted some bulbs. Lutyens will probably come next time.—(3 Nov.) Has had no letter from him for a week, but has replied to his telegram. She played bridge this evening, and yesterday dined with friends and went to a play. Phyllis has gone to Arkers; her relationship with Lord Ribblesdale is still unsettled. Today she lunched with Maud and they went to the opera. Eric says Lloyd George is worried about the effect of the air-raids on public opinion.—(4 Nov.) She spent the day at Taplow. Ettie was on good form.—(5 Nov.) She went to Charing Cross [Hospital] again this morning and found it squalid, but she will only be going there two mornings a week. She had tea with friends and dined and went to a play with Duff, who starts his career at Chelsea Barracks on Monday. Phyllis is dining with Edward, Rib, and Arkers, and as the Viceroy is in London she will probably not come back tonight. Edward is still in love with her, but Venetia doesn’t know whether he has seduced her yet.—(6 Nov.) She lunched with Diana, Duffy, and Edward. Edward and Diana are reconciled. She is giving a dinner tonight. Hugo Wemyss has gone to Paris as Flavia Forbes has been bitten by a mad dog. He is corresponding acrimoniously with Lord Derby about Lady Angela [Forbes], who has been asked to leave France on account of alleged drunkenness.—(8 Nov.) Margot and the ‘old Boy’ [Asquith] were at Hazel’s party last night and asked after Montagu, but Vizee gave her (Venetia) a sour look; she and Bongie are the only ones who have said nothing about Montagu having gone [to India]. Has received his letter from Port Said [B1/144a]. She lunched with Winston and Clemmie, went to see Gladys, then played bridge at Lady Essex’s. Tonight she and Phyllis are dining with the McKennas and then going to a party at the Baroness’s.—(9 Nov.) Has seen his mother and shown her his typed notes [his ‘Diary’]. Phyllis leaves tomorrow.

Letter from Venetia Montagu to [Edwin Montagu]

24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.—(11 Nov.) On Friday [9th], after dinner at Cassel’s, she and Margot shared a taxi driven by a Miss Ryder, who had been at the Slade School with Phyllis. At home she found Edward, Bluey, and Phyllis. Edward and Phyllis spent the night together. Phyllis has now left. Today she lunched with friends, including Bluey, who is leaving for Canada next week on ‘air board business’. Has begun painting the silk for Montagu’s bed. Is dining with Cardie and William, who needs another operation.—(12 Nov.) Nash came to lunch, and she dined at Wimborne House. Ivor is having great success with Diana. Has been put in charge of a ward at the hospital.—(13 Nov.) Norah and Nancy Lindsay made an irritating visit in the afternoon.—[14 Nov.] She dined at home last night. Her guests included Cowans, who seemed more than usually hostile to Lloyd George, whose speech [in Paris] is endlessly discussed. She lunched with Willie Tyrrell and Bluey, who also discussed the speech. Has been unable to see Hankey or Eric since Montagu left. Is going tonight to a farewell party for Edward.—[Later.] Rosemary has denied there is much chance of her becoming the future Queen. ‘Oc is home, slightly gassed, & may be going to get both a brigade and a V.C!’—(15 Nov.) She dined with Ava, where she sat next to Josh Wedgwood, who gave her some earnest advice about Bampfylde Fuller’s letter in The Times. Afterwards she played bridge and went to a wedding-party at the Fairbairns’, which she left with the Baroness d’Erlanger, whom she likes. ‘J’aime toujours les maitresses de mes amants.’ She denies, however, that Hugo is her lover, even though Diana and the Baroness suspect it.—(16 Nov.) She dined at Osbert’s new house, and thought him and Sachie ‘a truly strange pair’.—(17 Nov.) She set off to see the Jimmy Rothschilds at Witney, but Dolly met her at the station to tell her that Neil had been fatally wounded, so went to Munstead instead for lunch. On her return home she found Montagu’s Cairo letter [B1/145]. Lloyd George is in a mess over his Air Ministry, but Northcliffe’s letter will do Northcliffe more harm than Lloyd George. Denies that she is unhappy. Last night she dined with the Roy and various guests.—(18 Nov.) Asks about the carpets at Cairo.—(19 Nov.) She lunched with friends at the Savoy, and she and Diana reminisced about lunches there with Neil. She dined with the Baroness, who is having a row with Hugo about some infidelity of his. Has received a letter from Scatters, who has been in action. In the afternoon she went to a ‘ghastly’ party given by Sen in honour of his father [Keshub Chunder Sen], and this evening some friends called briefly on the way to a ball.—(20 Nov.) Wedgwood, who came to lunch, says that yesterday’s debate was a triumph for Lloyd George, and that Asquith’s position of ‘hands off the soldiers’ is unpopular with the Liberals. Has just visited William Rawle, who is convalescing after his operation.

Letter from Venetia Montagu to Edwin Montagu

Pixton Park, Dulverton.—(8 Dec.) Her party [see A1/179] left London last night, after rushing from a matinee in which Diana was appearing. They slept at Taunton, and arrived at Dulverton to find Mary and Goonie there. The men have gone shooting.—(9 Dec.) They are all feeling ill, and have spent the time working and being read to. Duff and Michael have gone.

[24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.] —(10 Dec.) Diana has the measles, as has Letty. Has been shopping for Christmas presents. Conrad, who called, is ‘utterly gloomy about the war’. Even the fall of Jerusalem is, she admits, little consolation, but she hopes Scatters will send a ‘souvenir’ from there. She dined with Hazel and John Lavery and Ivor Wimborne and they went to the cinema. The Roy made ‘ “hand” advances’ to Hazel in the motor there and back. Hazel claims that when she repulsed him on a similar occasion in Ireland he said, ‘Why do you come and stay here if you mean to do nothing?’, but it is doubtful whether this is true.—(11 Dec.) She went to a ‘ghastly’ lunch at Mrs Lionel Guest’s: ‘all Americans and consequently a noise that entirely bitched one’s powers of hearing or speaking’. She was planning to have only twelve to dinner tonight, but Patrick has asked her to have the ‘coons’ in as it is his last night, so an extra party will be coming.—(12 Dec., 3 a.m.) The evening was a nightmare. There was no piano for the ‘coons’, and everyone crowded into a little room, which became even more congested when others arrived. Eventually two bridge fours were arranged and the rest went to Goonie’s for stunts and dancing.—(Later.) Diana is very poorly. Has just dined at Mrs Keppel’s.—(13 Dec.) Has received his telegram. She dined at the Islingtons’.—(14 Dec.) This afternoon’s party for Indian officers at the Islingtons was a failure, as they chose unsuitable films for them. She dined with K and Frances, who were both off to Hackney after a night shift, then went to a party at Cardie’s flat. After stunts and dancing, they played chemin-de-fer. Duff lost £1600 and, to add to his miseries, has a poisoned finger.—(15 Dec.) Diana is rather better, but her Grace [the Duchess of Rutland] is pretty bad. This afternoon she went to a concert at the Albert Hall to commemorate the First Seven Divisions. After dinner at Ivor W.’s, she came home to find Nancy, Sydney, and Olga with Hugo disguised as a woman, and they spent a couple of hours dressing him in her own clothes.—(16 Dec.) She didn’t go the hospital, as the Duchess was worried she might be carrying measles. They spent the afternoon dressing Hugo up again, and took him to see Diana and Duff. In the evening she saw her mother and others.—(17 Dec.) Has received his letter. Insists that his mission is a success. Diana is much better. Has received a letter from Alan.—(Later.) Constance Rich[ardson], Eric, and Hugo lunched with her. Progress on his curtains is slow. Has received a note from Scatters.—(18 Dec.) Has bought most of the Christmas presents he asked for. When he returns they will have a long party at Breccles.

Letter from Venetia Montagu to Edwin Montagu

24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.—Has just recovered from a cold. Duff came to dinner on Friday, and he and Katharine last night. After lunch at Lower Berkeley Street she went with Olga to a concert organised by Bruce Ottley at the A.S.C. camp at Blackheath. Describes the concert and the entertainment in the mess afterwards.—(24 Dec.) Is going to Alderley on Friday. Has bought some presents for her dinner guests tonight. They are going to a party at Nancy’s afterwards.—(25 Dec.) Her party was a success; Hugo’s stunts were marvellous and Birrell was divine. After a little chemin-de-fer some of them went on to Nancy’s for more cards. Is dining with Diana and Duff, then going to the Baroness’s.—(26 Dec.) She had Christmas dinner with Duff and Diana in Diana’s bedroom, and discussed whether a dirty intellectual like McEvoy would be preferable as a lover to a clean ‘turnip-top’ like Lord Derby. Then she and Duffy went to 139 [Piccadilly, the Baroness’s home]. Freyburg says that Winston is becoming unpopular again on account of his rather dogmatic Cabinet memorandum; Haig is said to be furious. [27 Dec?] She gave a dinner-party today, and some other guests joined them later. Constance danced ‘in a state of almost complete nudity’, Hugo almost died doing a Spanish dance, Miss Lillie sang, and the men gambled. Diana has given her a cushion for Breccles, and the Aga a pendant worth about £150.—[28 Dec.?] Is dining with Adèle.

[Alderley.]—Lady Essex’s party was fun. Duff, who was in uniform for the first time, is looking out for a rich mistress but is not inclined to spare much time for one. Has arrived at Alderley. This afternoon the children performed ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ very well. Oliver is expected home on leave soon, Anthony in about three weeks. Lutyens says work has begun on the plumbing at Breccles, and she hopes to have the house furnished in time for an Easter party.—(31 Dec.) Describes her usual daily activities at Alderley. Is working on the curtain for Montagu’s bed. Oliver is expected on Wednesday. The past year has been fun, and she hopes that the next will bring ‘a great Indian success’. Asks when he is due back.—(3 Jan.) Oliver, who has arrived, has been awarded the DSO. ‘He’s been at Passchendael since Oct. which I believe is hell for the Artillery, so I expect he deserves it.’ Has bought a looking-glass.

[24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.]—(4 Jan.) Has heard that Patrick has been killed. Wonders how many other young men will be killed, and reflects on the effect on Diana, who is away. Cardie, Rawle, Freyberg, and Goonie dined with her. Rawle is in love with Miss Bagnold. Goonie told her of the invention of ‘a form of explosive bullet’. Has received Montagu’s telegram from Bombay.—(5 Jan.) Has started working at the hospital again. She lunched with Dombie[?] and Heseltine. Sylvia’s baby, Juliet, is ill; fortunately, Anthony is expected home soon. Heseltine has offered to do jobs for her while Freeth is away, and she may get him to write to the ‘Coal Controller’, as she is short of coal. Food is also difficult to obtain. Is dining with Katharine.—(6 Jan.) Juliet is out of danger. She lunched today with Frances, then visited Phyllis, who is miserable about Patrick. Cardie, Goonie, and Lionel Cohen came to dinner. She has not had a letter from him for three weeks. Lloyd George seemed significant, and she wonders if there is hope of peace.—(8 Jan.) She lunched at Anne’s yesterday with Juliet, Adèle, and Goonie, and they went to the cinema. She dined with the Burns, and sat next to Reggie, who is more hopeful about peace after Lloyd George’s speech, though he thinks it was intended to cause problems for the Labour Party. Beatrice G. is over from Ireland, where she has put Alice [Lady Wimborne] into the shade by her entertainments. Afterwards she played bridge. Today she lunched with Anne, went to the South Kensington Museum, and dined with Duff, who left early for his duties as a picket officer.—(10 Jan.) Lutyens has sent the altered plans for Breccles. She encloses letters from Surtees on financing them. Diana, Claude Russell, Lord and Lady Islington, Gilbert Russell and his wife [Maud], and Goonie dined with her last night. Diana looked ill, and has taken to bed ill today. Hugo came afterwards, and they discussed his idea for decorating the gallery at Breccles. Today she lunched with Freyling, who leaves tomorrow. Has received Montagu’s letter, and is sad he that he does not expect to be back till April. Stuart has gone to France; ‘I never see Gladys thank God’.

Letter from Venetia Montagu to Edwin Montagu

In the train to Brighton.—(20th.) Her good habit of writing daily has broken down. Has received his telegram, and discusses the carpet offered to him. She dined on the day after she last wrote [11th] with Frances and Haldane, who is surprisingly ‘anti-Rufus [Lord Reading]’, cares little for Addison, and thinks Bongie ‘worse than useless’. On the Saturday [12th] she dined at Clemmie and Winston’s. Winston is eager for Montagu to return home, as he thinks he would be an ally in the Government. At the time he was worried about the threatened strike by the ASE [Amalgamated Society of Engineers]. On Sunday [13th] she played bridge at Adèle’s and dined with Duff, who had been staying with Diana Wyndham and Rosemary, with whom he is a little in love. Duff is angry with Bettine for making Eddie Grant [her husband] wait in vain for her in Paris for over two weeks. On Monday [14th] she dined at home with guests, then they went to a party at Adèle’s. Duff is no longer in love with Goonie. On Tuesday [15th] she dined with Arkers, then went to a party at Frankie de Tuyll’s. Diana has tonsillitis and has gone to Brighton. On Wednesday [16th] she dined at Cardie’s and lunched with Viola. On Thursday [17th] she dined at Lionel Earle’s, and Earle talked about his work at Windsor and in the Parks. On Friday [19th] she went to a party for Puffin at 20 Cavendish Square, and sat next to the ‘old boy’ [Asquith], who inquired kindly after Montagu. Yesterday [19th] she dined with K[atharine], and today [20th] she is going to Brighton to join Diana, Michael, Duff, Rosemary, and Diana Wyndham. She is worried the Duchess will spoil things. Olga is also on the train.

24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.—(23rd.) At Brighton they all lunched at Sweetings and then went, without the Duchess, to the Aquarium. On Monday [21st] she lunched with Montagu’s mother, and ‘that foul woman’ Miss Lewis (Lily’s friend) was there. She dined at Cardie's, where it was suggested that William should go to Ireland as Ivor’s military secretary. Afterwards they went to a party at Olga’s, where Miss Barnes and Miss James sang, Hugo did stunts, and Duff ‘got off with an American pol & left the house very obviously bound for a crack’. Last night [2nd] she had a dinner-party at home, followed by stunts. Winston, who was there, seemed to enjoy himself. ‘I’m sure he yearns for fun, and Clemmie gives him none.’ Today [23rd] she went again to the VAD. Has received his telegram and replied with the measurements. Has ordered some plain carpets for the bedrooms. Is planning to furnish the hall before anything else. Oc’s leg has been amputated, and the PM has gone over to see him. This is probably the last leter she will write to India.—(24th.) Last night she dined at the de Forests', and she spent today at Taplow. Ettie is very unhappy about Patrick. Bluey has come back from America but is very ill with blood-poisoning. K has gone to visit him at Liverpool. Has bought a chest of drawers and given the housemaid notice.—(27th.) Has received his letter; he seems to have got off well with Lady Ronaldshay. Bluey has recovered slightly. Yesterday she bought some furniture, and Duffy and Diana came to dinner.

Letter from Venetia Montagu to Edwin Montagu

[24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.]——Has lost the long letter she was writing to him. Last Saturday she went to Breccles. Discusses the progress of the work there, which is proving expensive. Last night she dined with Winston. Reggie says that Geddes is not coming back from Italy and that Dalziel is to take his place at the Admiralty. Reggie and Winston are on very good terms now. On Friday [8th] she went to a party at Cardie’s given by Bouch, who is home on leave, and on Thursday she gave a dinner-party and they had stunts. Afterwards Ralph [Peto] took some of them on to a party at Ruby’s. Discusses the air-raids, in response to his telegram about the bombs in Queen Anne’s Gate. Has just come back from a day with Dolly and Jimmy. K is dining with her tonight; Bluey is much better. Is eager for Montagu’s return. Is planning to go to Breccles for a holiday. She has been busier than usual this month at Charing Cross and Arlington Street as the sister has been ill. Discusses plans for furnishing the rooms [at Breccles]. Next week Bouch will probably give a farewell party, and the Jimmys may dine on Wednesday.

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

Penrhôs, Holyhead.—Is sorry he will miss his drive (to Penrhôs) with the Prime Minister and the ‘torch light fun’ (at Dublin), but urges him to come for the meeting and suggests they drive back to London together. They (Venetia and her family) have just arrived from Alderley. The wedding was a success. Will pass on his message to White.

(Dated Wednesday.)

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Transcript

Penrhôs, Holyhead
Wednesday

I am miserable that you cant come {1}, but you must come for the meeting and stay here over Sunday. But I sympathise with you with all my heart that you have to miss your drive here with the P.M. and the torch light fun {2}. The meeting with the speech tho’ will be the really wonderful thing. Must you be back very early Monday, if you neednt let us (you and I and Katharine) motor some of the way to London.

We’ve just this instant arrived from Alderley. Our wedding was a success.

I am sad you arent coming this evening. I will give Mr White {3} your message. How I hope his boy will be all right.

Yrs
Venetia

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Marked in biro in a later hand, ‘Blanche’s wedding’.

{1} See A1/58. Montagu was one of those accompanying Lord Crewe, the Secretary of State for India, when he received a deputation on the question of excise administration the following day. It was probably this engagement which prevented Montagu from travelling with Asquith.

{2} A torchlight procession was planned, to welcome Asquith to Dublin. See The Times, 18 July, p. 6.

{3} White was Montagu’s chauffeur. Asquith had evidently travelled from Wolverhampton in Montagu's car. Cf. The Times, ibid.

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

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.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Is uncertain whether she should have stayed, and is ‘moped’ at having to travel alone. ‘Norah was a bore but I got some dogs and a nicer hack.’ Refers apologetically to her behaviour towards him.

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.

Dont be rusty about your feast or fast!

Ought I to have stayed? I might I suppose, but you might also have chucked it, but you were quite right not to, tho’ I feel rather moped at this infernal journey alone.

Try & come early.

Norah was a bore but I got some dogs and a nicer hack so that’s to the good. Tell Sir E {1} I shall love to lunch on Monday.

I told Katharine I’d been rather bloody to you and she was much concerned and said I was a bitch. I daresay she’s right.

Venetia

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{1} Sir Edward Grey?

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Grand Hôtel Couttet et du Parc, Chamonix.—She and Oliver arrived at Chamonix yesterday. When Oliver goes home, she will join her mother in Italy. Has learnt that Montagu will be returning on Easter Sunday. She dined at Downing Street when she was in London and sat next to the Prime, who seemed pleased by his speech on the third reading [of the Home Rule Bill].

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Transcript

Grand Hôtel Couttet & du Parc, Chamonix
21st Jan 1913

I cant think how you can write from India (I am very glad you can as I love getting your letters) I simply cant write a line as soon as I’ve crossed the Channel, its rather a pity as its the one moment I long most passionately for letters. Oliver and I arrived here yesterday in a tearing blizzard which has gone on without stopping. In spite of this we have been out all day falling heavily in the snow and getting our eyes ears and mouth filled with it. Its great fun being away alone with Oliver, I wish it were for longer and that I was going home when he does on the 3rd, instead of that I am going to join Mother in Italy and stay away till the 1st of March. I dont suppose I shall miss anything much in the way of impersonal things (thrilling debates or such like because after the Franchise it will be dullish) but I like London in February and I like the people it contains always.

I was much amazed, and so was everyone at Alderley, by getting a telephone message late one Sunday evening {1} announcing your return on the 23rd of March. I dont know why it came like that, unless the post Officer at Manchester thought it affected my plans vitally and that to wait to hear till Monday would disorganize everything. The 23rd is Easter Sunday isnt it? Mother and I are thinking of going to Holland for Easter, I’ve always wanted to go.

I had a delicious dinner at Downing St when I was in London, Katharine the only other woman, and Bluey, Oc, Cys, Bongie Winston and 2 Headlams. I sat next to the P.M. who was most divine and in marvellously good spirits. I gather he had made even for him an exceptionally wonderful speech on the 3rd Reading {2} and I think was rather pleased by it. After he and I and Winston and Mr Masterton Smith played Auction, Winston is a gold man to play against, he always doubles and always loses.

This hôtel is full of French people its the fashion here for every one including the women to go about in knickerbockers which makes them look like principal boys in the Pantomimes.

I expect this is almost the last letter I shall write you, before you come home.

I am glad you liked the parodies, and Dostoïeffski

Yrs
Venetia

What did Mikky say to you when he wrote from Alderley?

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{1} 12 January?

{2} Asquith spoke during the debate on the third reading of the Home Rule Bill on 15 January. His notes for the speech were made on the back of a letter from Venetia, which he returned to her when he wrote to her on the 20th (Lantern Slides, Nos. 9 and 9a).