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Carter, Helen Violet Bonham (1887–1969), Baroness Asquith of Yarnbury, politician
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Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Praises Violet’s courage on Archie Gordon’s last day. Violet has now gone to Scotland, and Venetia will join her there shortly.

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Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.
Dec 23rd 1909

My dear Mr Montagu

I am glad you thought of writing to me. I need not tell you, as you will know already how wonderful Violets courage was on that last day {1}, and how she was able through it to give him the most gloriously happy last day. The strain was tremendous, even the mere physical one alone was very great, and she felt the reaction cruelly and for the first two days after his death lived in a daze.

I think tho’ that on the whole she has been very well, but of course all the time she has had a great deal to do and things that she had to make an effort for, what it will be like when she returns to Archerfield and her usual life begins, and she feels that everything is indeed over, I dont know.

I saw her off to Scotland on Tuesday {2}, and I have heard from Bongie that the journey went quite well, I am going up there on Tuesday to be with her for a little and if you like I will write you a line from there.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

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Black-edged paper.

{1} The reference is to the death of Archie Gordon, younger son of the Earl of Aberdeen, who was fatally injured in a motor accident on 28 November and died in the County Hospital at Winchester on 16 December. Violet Asquith became engaged to him at his bedside the day before he died. See Lantern Slides, pp. 190–5.

{2} 21 December. Violet had gone to the Aberdeens’ home, Haddo House in Aberdeenshire, where the funeral took place on the 23rd. Venetia set off to join her a week later.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Is delighted by his election success. Violet has been ill, but is now better, and is about to go with Venetia and Lady Sheffield to the South of France.

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18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Tuesday 1 Feb 1910

My dear Mr Montagu

It was nice of you to write and say you liked getting my telegram, I was extremely delighted that you got in {1}. I had been thinking of writing to you before as you had asked me to, but there seemed to be so little to say about everything. You will know that Violet has been really very ill, the natural outcome of all that time of stress, she is better now and she and I and my mother go away tomorrow to the S. of France for a bit {2}, which I think should do her good.

But everything will be very hard for her, and in a way get worse when an even fuller realization of it all comes to her. The terrible waste and seeming pointlessness of the whole thing will make her life very difficult, and one doesnt quite see what is to come of it. But I suppose its very soon yet to begin to expect to see any change in her.

I dont know how long we shall be away.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

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{1} Montagu had retained his seat at the general election.

{2} The party went, by a circuitous route, to Valescure, near Saint-Raphaël. Violet returned to England about the beginning of March. See Lantern Slides, pp. 198–201.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Asks him to lunch, to discuss what he thought of Violet.

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18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.

Dear Mr Montagu

I should like to see you sometime, and to know what you thought of Violet. Could you lunch on Monday at 1.30.

Yrs very sincerely
Venetia Stanley

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Refers to Montagu's apparent annoyance at something said by Violet. Invites him to come again.

(Dated Tuesday.)

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18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Tuesday.

My dear Mr Montagu

I dont know whether your annoyance with Violets repetition was entirely simulated so as to see what I should say. Was it? This is what I do say that what she said to me couldnt possibly have mattered in the least and was only passed on to you by me so as to give you a momentary sensation of discomfort if you had a guilty conscience, which I suspect you must have had, also that in practise† she really never repeats unpleasant things that have been said about one. It wont matter much if you do tax her only it wont make a very amusing conversation. I wish I could have got Winston as well as his wife to lunch. Come again one day, {1} any one except Saturday or Monday.

Yrs very sincerely
Venetia Stanley

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{1} ‘day’ interlined above a caret. The caret is placed after the comma, but the word belongs before it.

† Sic.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Invites him to Penrhôs, to attend the Investiture of the Prince of Wales.

(Dated Saturday.)

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18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Saturday

My dear Mr Montagu

Could you come and stay at Penrhos on Friday July 14th, or could you get away on Wednesday and come for the Prince of Wales’ Investiture at Carnarvon.

The Prime {1} and Violet are coming and Violet is going to stay over Sunday {2}. Its very easy to get to, and if you feel scruples about leaving the India Office for so long you can come by a night train Friday and if you are really conscientious you can go back Sunday night.

I know its fearfully far for such a short time, but it would be very nice if you would come.

I hope the outer Hebrides are proving a success.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

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Black-edged paper. Marked ‘1911’ in pencil.

{1} This word has been struck through and ‘PRIME’ has been written above it, beside an asterisk. On the back of the letter is written, beside an asterisk: ‘It looked like Prince before.’

{2} ‘Lord and Lady Sheffield’s guests at Penrhôs, Holyhead [during Investiture week], will include the Prime Minister, Mrs. and Miss Asquith, Lord and Lady Boston, the Hon. Geoffrey Howard, the Hon. Edwin Montagu, Mr. William Phillips, the Hon. Mrs. Anthony Henley, the Hon. Blanche Stanley, and Captain the Hon. Oliver Stanley’ (The Times, 12 July 1911, p. 8).

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Is unable to see him for tea tomorrow, but suggests other arrangements. She and Violet had a useful morning, thanks to the loan of Montagu’s motor-car.

(Dated Monday.)

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18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Monday

I stupidly forgot when I said I would be in to tea tomorrow after seeing Olive off, that I had already arranged to play tennis with Cynthia from 4 till 5, and at 5.30 I’ve got the Gnome. Could you come either Wednesday 6.30 or Thursday at 6? Let me know which, if either, of these fit in with your other many and complicated plans.

Violet and I had a very useful morning, owing to the invaluable assistance that was given us by the motor. Thank you so much.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Hôtel Monopole & Metropole, Lucerne.—Is waiting for Violet, whose departure (from England) has been delayed by illness. They will join them (Montagu and Asquith) in Sicily on Thursday.

(Dated Sunday.)

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Hôtel Monopole & Metropole, Luzern
Sunday

I suppose Violet has wired to her father that she cant start till tomorrow so we shall be with you Thursday morning. I felt rather crushed and damped on arriving here after a dreary journey to find a letter saying she was ill. I nearly turned and fled home. However I’ve resisted that impulse and am awaiting her here in a very dismal hotel. The thought of Sicily and oranges is very delicious but horribly distant.

I hope your journey was successfully accomplished with the aid of chess, piquet and Lady Miriam Chrichton† Stuart. I dont know why I write as we shall see you almost before it reaches, but I’m very bored and desoeuvrée† {1}.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

All my luggage has gone on to Rome!

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{1} Idle.

† Sic.

Letter from Edwin Montagu to Venetia Stanley

Ewelme Down, Wallingford.—Is sorry he couldn't go to Penrhôs. Refers to his companions at Ewelme. Discusses Asquith’s speech on Home Rule, as well as the general political climate, and asks for Venetia’s views. Sends her a present.

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Ewelme Down, Wallingford
April 14th 1912

My dear Venetia

I was so sorry that I could not come to Penrhos this week. It was most kind of your mother to ask me and even though I was engaged here, I believe I should have rushed to Wales if I had not had to be in London yesterday.

I like this place tremendously but I am not calling this a very good weekend. The Prime is not in the best of form yet, I’m afraid and it makes poor Margot just a little —. Violet has Cys and Bongie and I want to talk to you. So beware of next time we meet.

Home Rule (I wish you’d been there) was a great day. The Prime expounded with great vigour and often with a first class phrase a really good bill. It was delightful to find his voice was very strong and that he lasted without visible effort for two hours.

I dont think he was quite appealing enough, if I may make criticism.

It was not merely a licensing bill or a budget it was a transcendent constitutional reform, great than the Parliament Bill because irrevocable and final. It had been attacked in the abstract by a large number of people whose alternative was nothing, so it wanted commending not only in its provisions but in its principles. I suspect because he did not want to speak too long, and also because he was determined not to try to bend the bow of Ulysses he was determined in his conciseness. And of course of its kind it was wonderful, never faltering in its strength, never lacking in its courage and above all never flickering in its dignity.

And there was the usual display of Conservative littleness, of meanness, of caddishness and rather a poor performance of Carsons. Both Redmund and Macdonald were good and so in his sincere stupid way was Capt. Craig.

For myself I feel that Home Rule is the most unarguable proposition in politics. For Imperial and for Irish reasons its not only inevitable but its opposition cannot be based on logic. Nevertheless in application like so many other unarguable axioms its very very difficult and all sorts of criticisms will be levelled at the workmanship.

So that what with an overloaded programme and no signs of House of Lords reform, the political horizon is by no means rosy. Edward Grey is very gloomily prophesying opposition before the end of the year because he predicts more strikes.

Dear Venetia, if you will do me the great favour of answering them, I should like you to tell me what you think about these things. You have a wonderful faculty of producing from me frank expression of views without qualification. You have a power even at this most damnable distance of convincing me of clear vision and and† thought. But you are most frighteningly reserved about yourself. All self contained people are and the greater they are the more frightening it is. And asking isnt much good but I sometimes feel rather mournful when I reflect that the inner you is as hidden from me (except at moments oh so rare) as it was a year ago.

And now do you remember that I could not find a Xmas present for you and you were generous enough to say that I might give you one when I found one.

Well I couldnt so I had one made and its rather a failure in colour and weight. Nevertheless in principle it fulfilled all the conditions I postulated and if its not turned out as I had imagined it, its there and will reach you—together with the drawing from which it was designed tomorrow.

Yrs ever
Edwin S. Montagu

Please forgive this letter being hypercritical, boring and I fear a little impertinent.

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† Sic.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Is busy celebrating Blanche’s engagement with her family; then she is going to Littlestone with Violet and the Prime Minister, and then staying with Conrad. Will invite Montagu to lunch if she does not go to Littlestone.

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18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Thursday

There is no vestige of floater {1}, but I’ve got my days terribly filled up. I’m just back from the Opera and am going to miss the 2nd Act and dine at home for a family beanfeast to celebrate Blanches engagement (Isnt it a joke!) {2} Tomorrow morning I am going to Littlestone with Violet and the P.M. in the motor, for one night, Saturday I go and stay with Conrad till Monday. Monday and Tuesday I have dreary things to do all day which brings us to Wednesday. If I dont go to Littlestone, which is quite possible, I will telephone to you and you might come to lunch if you liked.

This tiresome time table of my life shows you how stuffed up its getting.

I’m sorry I didnt get your letter in time to telephone to you.

Yrs
Venetia {3}

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{1} i.e. a faux pas on Montagu’s part.

{2} Blanche’s engagement to Eric Pearce-Serocold was announced in The Times on the 27th (p. 13).

{3} This appears to be the first time Venetia signed a letter to Montagu using only her Christian name.

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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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

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Invites him to join her ‘anti-yacht’ party at Penrhôs at Whitsuntide. Asks whether he has managed to convert Violet to Dorothy’s cause (i.e. temperance). Is seeing Sir Herbert and Lady Jekyll this afternoon, and dining with Geoffrey and Captain Guest.

(Dated Sunday.)

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18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Sunday

I am starting an anti-yacht party at Whitsuntide, just to show them that in spite of Winston its still possible to have fun in England. Will you come? Either for actual Whitsunday itself {1} or for the following week, which ever suits you best, {2} or both. Dont say you are going to Geneva for the Alpine Crow or to Italy with Geoffrey because you really are pledged (ever since last summer) to come to Penrhos. Its the nicest time of year there and ought to be delicious. There is only one legitimate excuse for you and that is if they after all dont go on the yacht and you want to go somewhere with the Prime.

Have you managed, on this glorious day, to convert Violet to Dorothys cause {3}? I’m afraid it will be difficult.

It is a waste being in London. I am reduced to Kew with Sir Herbert and Lady Jekyll this after-noon, and Geoffrey and Captain Guest to dinner.

Yrs
Venetia

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{1} 26 May.

{2} Comma supplied. The next two words are interlined.

{3} i.e. temperance. Dorothy Howard’s mother, the Countess of Carlisle, was a prominent temperance reformer.

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.)

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18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Tuesday

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.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Has received his letter from Port Said [B1/54]. Discusses his reading. Has been mostly alone since she last wrote, but is helping with a children’s play. Their current guests include Milne and a Mrs Grosvenor, who is lecturing on the advantages for educated women in emigrating to Canada. Violet did ‘chuck’ [i.e. declined to open] the United Kingdom Alliance bazaar at Manchester, but Venetia went and saw Dorothy there with Aurea. The Prime Minister has a boil on his shoulder. Is thinking of going to London next week, after which Mikky and Bongie are coming to Alderley.

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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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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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

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Montagu’s calm response to the Government’s defeat seems justified. Sends news of the Asquiths and other friends. Is going to Stanway tomorrow, then to Rounton. There will be a large party at Alderley at Christmas.

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Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Dec 11th 1912

Since I wrote to you last I’ve had another letter {1}, you’d just heard of the defeat, I am surprised at your calmness, I should have expected you to have been in a fever about it. You were perfectly right not to be excited as things have gone, for I dont believe it has done much harm, (beyond the tedious loss of a fortnights valuable time) everyone has almost forgotten that there ever was a Banbury amendment or that all the Tories howled everyone, including the Speaker, down.

You mention a “cryptic” remark of mine, I havent a notion what it was, but I am sure that far from having an obscure meaning it had probably none at all. You cannot get it sufficiently firmly fixed in your mind that the simplest and most foolish meaning is as a rule the right one to attach to my remarks! I am sorry Peel is a bore, but in spite of it you seem to be having great fun and doing and seeing most delicious things. Everything in England has been very dull, so dont believe the papers if they say it hasnt. I’ve just come back from London where it was quite fun, not varying in the smallest degree from the usual course of things. I saw a lot of Violet, a little of the P.M. and the usual amount of Bongie, Mikky, Bluey Geoffrey etc. Violet’s friendship with Geoffrey still continues to make good progress, dont when you write to her say you hear that she is quite converted, it would be quite enough to make her fall back into her old way. The Prime seemed in very good spirits whenever I did see him, one night dining at the House with Bluey he was at his very best, most lovable and most foolish, His “Muse” as he chooses to call it, has burst into song again, which is always I think a sign that he has superabundant spirits and vitality. Has Violet written to you, I know she is on the verge of it, anyway you will have heard that she is going to America with Lady Aberdeen for 3 weeks, starting on the 19th. Isnt it a good plan, but I’m glad its she and not I. Margot is over the moon about it, but I am afraid she may be disappointed as to the result of the journey. Margot is not very well I think, she seems rather crusty and edgy, and doesnt feel at all well. I wish something could be done about her and for her.

I am fixed here for two days for a beastly ball tomorrow and then I go to Stanway (Cynthia) which ought to be fun, a party of Professors and H. G. Wells. My horse is still lame to so I have to get along as best I can by borrowing and hiring which is sad work. After Stanway I have to go to Rounton to stay with my cousin Gertrude {2} which hangs very heavily on me, I shant like it at all. We have a vast Xmas party coming here, Bongie, Mikky, {3} Francis Henley as well as all my brothers brothers in law sisters sisters in law and all their family, I shall enjoy that once my acting is over, which blackens even the rosiest outlook.

This letter will reach you just between Christmas and New Year so I shall send you compound good wishes for both occasions. I hope 1913 will bring you masses of good luck.

I am sorry for the dullness of this letter.

I saw Conrad the other day who sent you his love.

Yrs
Venetia

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{1} MONT II B1/56.

{2} Gertrude Bell.

{3} Comma supplied.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Is unable to lunch with him tomorrow. Suggests other arrangements. Her remark at Easton Grey was not meant personally: she was thinking of the disadvantages from Hugh’s point of view rather than Violet’s.

(Dated Tuesday.)

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Tuesday

I dont know whether you did expect me to lunch tomorrow, I rather think you didnt, but just in case you did I write to say that I find I cant, as Mother has to go away for these two days and may be coming back at luncheon time so I think I must be in as she will possibly have arrangements to make with me. But will you lunch here, or do come and see me in the evening, any time after 6.30 would suit me as I am going to the Club {1} and shall be doing nothing till I start about 7.30.

I want to assure you again that my remark at Easton Grey was not meant to have the slightest personal application, and indeed when I made it I was thinking rather of the disadvantages from Hugh’s point of view than from Violet’s.

Venetia

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{1} The Archie Gordon Club camp at Lulworth.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Is sorry to have thrown him over. Suggests some other people he might invite. Will come and see him if her mother does not return.

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.

Why not ask Violet, or Mikky, or Bongie or Barbara McLaren or Conrad or Viola. I am so sorry if you were counting on me to have thrown you so completely and tardily over.

V

If you can get none of these brilliant suggestions and if Mother does not come back I shall of course love to come, but I feel I am an uncertain prop on which to lean. You can telephone about one o’clock if you want me and if you want me and if I can come of course I will.

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Written in pencil. This letter must have been written after Barbara McLaren’s marriage, which took place on 20 July 1911. The reference to Lady Sheffield’s absence suggests that it may have been written on the same day as MONT II A1/75.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Grand Hôtel Splendide, Portofino Mare.—His concern that Geoffrey is offended with him [see B1/16] is unfounded. After a strenuous time at Chamonix she is now at Portofino with her mother and three female relations; Bongie may join her and her mother later in a tour of Italian cities. Is eager to know what Montagu thought of the abandonment of the Franchise Bill. The Prime Minister thought the Speaker wrong in his ruling but didn’t seem very upset. Asks whether Montagu will get Lady Horner to furnish his house.

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Transcript

Grand Hôtel Splendide, Portofino Mare
Feb 5th 1913

The pens in this hôtel are of such beastliness that I am reduced to this. I got a letter from you yesterday {1} which you seem to have written in a state of some depression. I think tho’ with all due deference to your mind, you must be mad if you think that anything besides invincible distaste for writing and also that you’ve never written to him should induce Geoffrey not to write. If anyone has a grievance I should say it were he, you’ve given him all your correspondence to deal with, all your constituency etc and he may very naturally think that if you’d wanted to hear from him you would have written. I know from conversation with him that he’s not in the least offended by anything. You must have a very bad conscience if you think that he is. When you get this tho’ you’ll almost be leaving for home so that you wont in the least mind what anyone thinks. I am sorry Peel should have become such a bore. Poor Miss Everett.

Oliver and I had a most energetic fortnight at Chamonix. You know how uninclined to bodily exercise I am, but there I was obliged to get up at 7 in the morning and go for long and arduous climbs on skis, returning at about 4. But it was wonderfully good for me and I am now in very good physical condition and able to spring up any mountain here in no time. Its rather wasted. This is a lovely place with all the regular Riviera décors. Mimosa, orange trees, cactus, blue sea etc, with absolutely nothing to do except to go for languid strolls through lovely olive groves. The only thing, if one wants to be at all happy, is to abandon oneself to a complete lotus eaters life and to bask in the sun. A little unhealthy-ness helps for that and I am intollerably† healthy. I am here with my mother, an aunt and two elderly female cousins so you see the personel† isnt thrilling. I think we shall stay here 3 weeks, and then possibly Bongie may join us and he & Mother and I will go on to Florence, Pisa and other kindred places. But that is very uncertain, {2} it depends on the holidays of the House. I long to know what you thought of the abandonment of the Franchise. Didnt you think the P.M. at Leven in very good form {3}. Tho it seems rather a waste to go on contraverting† with Protectionists, no arguments ever seem to penetrate them and they go on quite happily propounding the same worn out and disproved fallacies. The Prime thought the Speaker quite wrong in his ruling but he didnt seem much upset, or to mind. But then he never seems to mind anything. Violet I have heard nothing of since she went to America so you see you arent the only person who is left out!

I hope your house in Queen Anne’s Gate will be a success. Is Lady Horner going to furnish it?

This is my absolute swan-letter to you. I shall be very glad to see you again.

Yrs
Venetia

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Written in pencil.

{1} MONT II B/61.

{2} Comma supplied. The preceding word runs to the edge of the page.

{3} Asquith addressed his constituents at Leven on 29 January.

† Sic.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—She hopes his silence means only that his Budget is coming on this week and that he still intends to go to Penrhôs next weekend. She is joining Violet at the [Archie Gordon Club] camp at West Lulworth till then. Suggests they travel to Holyhead together. Since she last saw him she has been with the Horners at Mells and then at Pixton Park. Aubrey was delighted by the snap division [on the Army vote]. Asks if he is unhappy about his impending speech.

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Transcript

Pixton Park, Dulverton
August 4th 1913

You have preserved a grave like silence as to your plans, which I hope means that your Budget comes on this week, or that anyhow you are coming to Penrhos on Friday {1} for Sunday. How hot it must be in London and how nice it will be there! I leave here tomorrow and join Violet at her camp at a place called West Lulworth, where I shall stay till Friday and if possible try and get to London in time to catch the 1.20 train to Holyhead. I suppose you cant get away in the middle of the day, because if you can we might travel together. I get so terribly bored by that journey alone!

I’ve led a very happy uneventful and utterly neglected life, as far as my absent friends go, since I left you at Paddington. First at Mells where I spent most of my time alone with Sir John and Lady Horner, then on here where I’ve been for nearly a week, lots of riding and an unexcit-ing fluctuating party. Aubrey returning† from London flushed with joy at the snap division {2}. They take in no kind of papers so you may all be dead and I know nothing of it. I shall be very glad to see you all again. I’m counting the moments till I get to Penrhos, I’ve got real longing to be there, tho’ I expect Lulworth will be fun too.
Have you been feeling very unhappy with your impending speech. Tho’ outwardly unsympathetic I am really brimming over with sympathy. I am sure it will be highly successful, as usual.

Yrs
V

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{1} 8th.

{2} The Conservatives had tried unsuccessfully to defeat the Government in the Commons on 30 July in a snap division on the annual grant to the Army, having surreptitiously arranged for a large number of their members to be present in the building. The Government won the vote by a majority of 33, but the Conservative members seem to have been pleased by the relative success of the attempt. See The Times, 31 July, p. 10, Hansard, and Cecil Harmsworth, Parliament and Politics in the Age of Asquith and Lloyd George.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Penrhôs, Holyhead.—Praises his Budget speech. Is sorry he can’t come to Penrhôs and that she won’t see him or the Prime till they return from Scotland. Invites him to stay at Alderley on his way south. There is a large family party at Penrhôs. Discusses the camp at Lulworth. Has received a letter from the Prime, who also thought Montagu’s speech very good. Is going to Ireland next week, then to Ardgowan.

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Transcript

Penrhôs, Holyhead
Monday 11th August 1913

I was much amused by your characteristic and gloomy telegram, and delighted that your fore-bodings were so ill founded. I thought, with apparently every one who heard your speech, that it was most excellent, far the best Budget speech you’ve ever made, how can you expect to be moved from your present place if you are so singularly good at it! I am very very sorry you couldnt come here, I felt a great inclination to see you. Its one of the rather sad aspects of my summer (which is otherwise rather a nice one) that I shant see the two people I have most fun with and enjoy talking to most, you and the Prime, until you all come back from Scotland. You must come to Alderley on your way South. Its very delicious here, and as I am now passionately fond of tennis my days are very much filled in.

We are a large family party and over next Sunday we shall all be here, Francis Henley is the only nominal stranger. I had the most delicious life at Lulworth with the Club boys. Violet & I lived in a farm house, while Cys and the two Bongies {1} lived in tents with the boys. You would have hated it. We bathed a good deal and Violet & I played football for the first time, its, I think, far the most thrilling game I’ve ever played, it intoxicated me, otherwise we didnt do very much. I cant help thinking the elder Bongie a most dreary and juiceless man, with a very bad sense of humour, he has all the sterling worth of the family tho’. Perhaps its merely because he’s lived all his life in Egypt. He loathes the boys, thinks them odious and undisciplined.

I’m glad I didnt send this off this morning as I’ve just got the most wonderful dewdrop for you, which you must like getting. Its from the Prime, who quite unsolicited, writes to me and says “your speech was very good, in fact of remarkable excellence”. Arent you pleased?

Write and tell me your news, as I think I’ve already mentioned I’m much neglected by my friends, and you have no excuse (always a rotten one) of not knowing my address.

I go to Ireland next week for a few days and as usual to Ardgowan on the 25th.

My news, as you can see is non-existant†, but I’ve ridden, bathed and played 6 sets of tennis, so physically I am very active, but mentally quite fallow. I’ve nothing to read, have you anything to suggest.

Goodbye, I wish you were coming here.

Yrs always
Venetia

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{1} Sir Edgar and Maurice Bonham Carter, the former being the ‘elder Bongie’ mentioned later.

† Sic.

Letter from Margot Asquith to Edwin Montagu

10 Downing Street, Whitehall, S.W.—Encloses a letter from Henry [Asquith] in immediate reply to her own. Asks to have it back, as she values it deeply. Discusses Henry’s relationships with Venetia, herself, and other members of his family. On arriving at the Castle on Tuesday he told her how much her letter had touched him. He said had lunched with Venetia and spoke of her ‘with great sweetness’.

(Misdated March.)

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