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McKenna, Reginald (1863-1943), politician and banker
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Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

(London Hospital, Whitechapel.)—(17th.) She enjoyed their meeting this afternoon and is sorry she gets so little time away from work.—(18th.) She may not be able to lunch with him on Saturday, so encourages him to go to Walmer if he wants to.

(Dated Wednesday and Thursday.)



Wednesday evening

Dearest {1} I was very glad to see you again this afternoon, but, (& I dont want to draw a pathetic picture of my lot, because it doesnt in the least take you in, tho’ I do also think if you really knew what its like you’d think one had every cause to be wretched, but I’m not) I dont think you can realise what a very little way 3 hours 3 times a week goes, particularly when nearly an hour of that time must be spent in dressing & in getting to & from this place. So much as I should like to see you every day it cant be done. But of course I think it divine of you to want it.

I got back just in time, and did two hours “work” & then went to a foolish lecture & now after some talk with other “nurses” over a box of biscuits must put out the light & pretend at any rate that I’m fast asleep. I’ll finish in the morning.

6.40 Thursday (does that wring your heart at all?)

I’ve looked at this piece of paper & the above line for about 5 minutes, but as might be expected my head is an entire void. Today doesnt present a very attractive appearance to me, not even the hope of seeing Reggie, & the only very faint one of seeing him tomorrow. I’ll send you a telegram Saturday if I can lunch, but if you dont hear you’ll know that I cant get away. I’m more than doubtful so dont not go to Walmer or anywhere else on the chance.

Perhaps I’ll write a line tomorrow.


Why dont you ever write to me, damn you? Even if only to curse me it gives me something to collect when I go for my letters. Just going out 9·15.


Written in pencil. Written at the London Hospital, Whitechapel.

{1} This is the earliest extant letter in which Venetia addressed Montagu in this way.

{2} She had probably been to Montagu’s house for tea. See A1/104.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

36 Smith Square, Westminster.—Discusses arrangements for meeting.




36 Smith Square, Westminster

I’m terribly afraid tomorrow is bound to be a failure, but if you liked, & werent busy wd you pick me up at Mansfield St anytime after a quarter to 11, & not later than 11.15 & we’d drive back together. This is rather a foul suggestion as it entails a long dreary solitary drive for you & I {1} shall more than understand if you say you cant. Perhaps you’d like to let me know as if you werent coming I dont think I should go to Mansfield St at all.

You’d have found Aggie Barbara, Pamela & me if you’d lunched & of course dear Reggie. He was very sweet. If you want to go to Walmer early you will wont you.

I shall see you Wednesday {2} anyway 4.30.



Written in two kinds of pencil (see below). Printed in H. H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley, p. 492.

{1} Up to this point the letter is in lead pencil; the rest is in blue pencil.

{2} 24th.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

(The British Hospital, Wimereux.)—Few cases stay in the hospital unless they are dying; operations continue all day and patients are passed on as quickly as possible. At the end of the day she was tired and demoralised. More patients have come in tonight, the gas cases being the most harrowing. Has received his letter. Discusses the composition of the new Cabinet and Montagu’s appointment (as Financial Secretary to the Treasury).



May 25th 1915

My darling I foresee that in a very short time I shall become a real war bore. Please, if I do, treat me as harshly as Raymond treated Katharine, its the only way to cure women with my complaint.

All yesterday was swelteringly hot, sun streaming in on all sides, tiny wards crammed with beds, and sterilizers and kettles bubbling ans steaming away. This is practically a clearing hospital, very few cases unless they are dying stay very long and through shortage of nurses and appliances one is able to do very little for them. Operations go on all day long, when we went to bed last night there were 16 men waiting to be done. They pour in at all moments are operated dressed and as soon as possible passed on to make room for fresh ones. Its really rather ghastly But you see it has a deteri[or]ating effect on one even in one day, God knows what I shall do after a month. I shall be too awful, Diana will never speak to me unless I’m very careful.

I was limp with heat and staggered into bed at about 9.30 last night. No sign of the Neumanns which was an improvement, tho’ I am bound to say they are both very kind and take trouble about one. The food is fouler than in the London Hospital. {1}

Today has been a fearful rush & I’ve only just finished at a quarter to 10, I started it well by getting up early and bathing before breakfast which was most delicious, and the only moment of the day when the heat hasnt been almost unbearable. In the afternoon even my love of blood was satisfied as I watch[ed] for about an hour a man have 4 different deep holes cut in him, till I turned green and to my intense shame was sent away. Tonight 60 new cases have come in, one or two gas ones. They are far the most harrowing to watch as they daily get worse, turn purple and blue and I suppose die quite soon. Its all very horrible.

I got your letter this evening, the first and only one I’ve had from anyone, but it was a very good beginning, I loved it. Please go on, I feel so isolated. I’ve just seen a paper with the new Cabinet in it, Pease I’m glad to see is out, but some of the others surprise and horrify me. McKenna & Simon! How will you like Reggie as your chief? I believe he’ll occasion you even more misery than George who at anyrate everyone knew was more than often wrong financially, but Reggie has a reputation which may be difficult to stand against. But I’m sure it will be all right. Dont be sad about it darling.

I’ve seen no one to day, tomorrow I hope to have some fun with Frances.

My hands are already quite dreadful, from acids & disinfectants, I shant dare see you for weeks after I come back, you will be so disgusted by me.

There is one real tragedy about this place & that is that it isnt possible to have a hot bath. Isnt that dreadfully squalid? I feel most ashamed of it, so you see the sea is ones only hope.

My darling I do mind my letters to you being so horrible. I want so to write you delicious ones so that you should go on thinking me a divine woman, and instead I produce these, which are calculated to make any sensitive man completely disillusioned. Dont tell me tho’ if you begin to think me ghastly, I’d rather find out by degrees, tho’ I shall mind dreadfully!

I may not write to you tomorrow, so dont curse me if I dont, I have very little time.

I wear my lovely pearls day and night and think a great deal of you.

I must go to bed.




Partly written in pencil (see below). Written at the British Hospital, Wimereux.

{1} The writing changes from pencil to ink here.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

[The British Hospital, Wimereux.]—His letter [B1/114] and gifts have brightened up her day. Discusses the reactions of Geoffrey and Oliver [to the news of their engagement], as well as that of Frances, whom she saw at Julian’s funeral. Urges him to go to Nice with Reggie, and to come and see the hospital. Cannot face reading ‘old Joseph’s book’.

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

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

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

[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 Montagu to Edwin Montagu

In the train to Breccles.—Has received his letters up to 10 February. Is sorry he is depressed. She has heard that he is now not expected back till early May. Discusses the progress of work at Breccles. Has been to Bath with Bluey and her mother and bought some furniture. As Sidney Herbert is on leave they have had parties most eve-nings. Michael goes back to France in a week, but doesn’t seem fit to go. She dined last night at Lady Paget’s. She is thinking of spending a day at the Wharf for a day af-ter Easter, after going to Pixton. Sylvia is ill and has to have a large operation; Card-ie’s operation is on Saturday.

[24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.]—(Later.) Has spent the day inspecting the progress of work at Breccles. She gave a dinner-party tonight and they read Montagu’s ‘Indian’s poem’. Is dining with friends tomorrow. They are coping with the rationing and there have been few air-raids recently. She has recently lunched with Lord D[erby] and dined with Victoria Primrose, whom she hadn’t seen since Neil was killed. Has bought some books for Breccles, but no clothes at all since he left. Reminds him to get her some Toute la Forêt [perfume] in Paris.

Letter from Arthur Stanley to Edwin Montagu

State Government House, Melbourne.—Has received his letter of 1 April. Asks who Geoffrey is marrying. Is surprised, in view of the ‘ministerial reconstruction’, that Montagu made light of the rumours of a coalition Government. It is speculated locally that the reorganisation resulted from disputes between Winston and Fisher or a desire to involve both parties in the unpopular move of introducing compulsory service. A joint Cabinet will perhaps have more authority and be less subject to partisan criticism. The reconstruction of the Admiralty is an advantage. Sympathises with Montagu’s loss of the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster, but thinks he will not regret returning to the Treasury and the Patronage secretaryship. An Act of Parliament may be needed to approve the creation of Lloyd George’s new Ministry. Is surprised that McKenna was appointed [as Chancellor of the Exchequer] rather than Austen or Bonar Law. Does not believe that he himself will be affected by the reconstruction of the Colonial Office. Is sorry for Blue Tooth. The action taken as a result of the temperance agitation was inadequate; he supposes the new Government may do something more drastic. Refers to the proposed reduction of licensing hours in Australia, and notes that the Union of Governors and Governor-Generals have decided to become teetotallers. He himself has found this easy, but M[unro]-F[erguson] has not. He finds M-F a bore, but gets on better with him than he probably would have done with Denman. The Liberal Party in the Federal Parliament are blaming Cook for having asked for the double dissolution, which is unfair, since, though it turned out badly, they had all supported it at the time. If he had been in M-F’s place he would have refused the request, though this would admittedly have laid him open to abuse from the Liberals, and he may be ignorant of some of the circumstances. Asks Montagu to write again.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Oliver cannot come on Monday. Hopes that Simon does not go to the War Office. Is planning to see Excie’s vote of censure tomorrow. The Prime Minister looks well; it is fun that they (the yachting party) are back. Asks after Violet.

(Dated Tuesday.)



18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.

My dear Tante

You very kindly said I might bring Oliver with me on Monday but I’ve heard from him that he is already engaged that evening It was very nice of you to ask him. I am vainly trying to arrange some fun for him when he is here, but its very difficult as he knows and likes so very few people.

I do hope Seely doesnt go to the War Office, dont you? It isnt a very glittering selection to choose from is it? Couldnt Simon go?

I am trying to go to the House tomorrow to hear Excie’s vote of censure Will the P.M. speak. I saw him for an instant I think he looks very well. It is fun that they are back. Did you have a good talk to Violet.

This letter is a series of questions.

Venetia Stanley

Carbon copy of a letter from F. W. Pethick-Lawrence to Ian M. Horobin

Has sent him Pell’s book (The Riddle of Unemployment and its Solution). Has not made up his mind about Horobin’s memorandum (on currency), but McKenna agrees with it. Encloses his draft of the financial policy for the Labour Party, together with a copy of an explanatory letter to Dalton.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Was unable to find his motor-car. Suggests lunching together on Friday. Is lunching with the McKennas tomorrow and dining with Sir John Simon. Is eager to hear about India.

(Dated Wednesday.)



18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Wednesday evening.

I tried after all to find your motor, but failed, as I suppose it was still on its way from here.

What about lunch on Friday or do you go early to Cambridge. {1} Tomorrow I am lunching with Pamela McKenna and Excie (you see how little six months changes our habits) and all the evening you’ll probably be at the House, anyway I am dining with Sir John Simon; {2}

Can you, if you know your plans already, let me know about Friday lunch. I shall be in till about 12. If you havent settled it doesnt really matter and you can tell me in the evening.

Eliza tells me you hate being asked about India, but I want to know about it too much to spare you.

As you see my lameness is rather nominal. I am supposed not to walk at all, but really do a great deal.

Arent you glad to be home?



{1} Followed by an asterisk. In the margin is written, after an asterisk, ‘We can lunch early if you like for father & I are alone.’

{2} A word has been struck through here.