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Meiklejohn, Sir Roderick Sinclair (1876–1962), knight, civil servant
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Letter from Venetia Stanley to [Edwin Montagu]

[The British Hospital, Wimereux.]—Has received his note, and commiserates with him on his attack of pleurisy. She dined last night with Conrad and Hunter, and is going for a walk with Conrad today. Violet has written to explain her objections to their marriage. Expects to be home on 10 or 12 July. Mikky is depressed.

Letter from Venetia Montagu to [Edwin Montagu]

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—It was very wet when they went hunting yesterday. Is eager to hear about the crisis. Asks about the progress of her bedroom fireplace and gives some domestic instructions. Everyone has neglected Mikky. Clementine comes tomorrow.

Letter from Venetia Montagu to Edwin Montagu

24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.—(21 Nov.) Breccles needs a new hot-water supply, so she has planned to go down with Lutyens to the Nobles’ [Wretham Hall] to investigate. Will consult Surtees about further mortgages. This afternoon she went with Phyllis to see Viola's first night, and dined at home with guests.—(22 Nov.) She lunched with Nancy and Sydney, whom she dislikes. She dined [at home] with guests, including Coates, who is still in love with Diana.—(22 Nov.) Is dining with Cardie, K, and Asquith, which she thinks is a good sign. After the hospital she played tennis with Edgar and lunched with Hankey and Masterton, who is increasingly ‘soppy’ about Winston. Both seemed disappointed by the failure of the latest attack. Has just heard that Edward has been killed. Reflects on the number of friends who have been, and may be, killed.—(24 Nov.) Has not seen Diana yet, as she was at K’s and did not come to the hospital. Last night she dined with only Cardie and the Old Boy, and she and Asquith reminisced about Sicily. Today she lunched at the Curzons, where Hardinge and Curzon made friendly remarks about Montagu. She had tea with Viola and Hugo, who plans to start a small theatre with Nigel Playfair. She dined with Duff, and Patrick and Phyllis arrived later. Patrick is worried that he may have to marry Phyllis, but she has a new lover, Edgar Vincent.—(25 Nov.) After the hospital she saw Diana, who is wretched but determined to give Duff as much fun as possible. She lunched and dined with Pat, Duff, and Diana, and were joined by Phyllis and Hugo came in later.—(26 Nov.) She lunched with de Noailles, and went to see K and Frances. Discusses the effects of Edward’s death. She dined at Mansfield Street. Refers to the progress of Montagu’s bed.—(27 Nov.) She lunched at home with guests, including Birrell and Freyberg, whom she could not get to talk to each other; then, after visiting Frances, she went to the cinema with her ‘futurist friend’ Wyndham Lewis, and then to Cardie’s for a farewell party for Oc, though he has now got a fortnight’s extension. It is rumoured that he is engaged to Betty Manners.—(28 Nov.) She had lunch with Waxworks and Mikky, then sewed and read with Diana and Duff. She dined at Claude Lowther’s with Goonie, the Duke of Marlborough (who Duff thinks may be Goonie’s lover), and others. Lowther’s house is lovely, but his bedroom is ridiculous. ‘If you had wanted to caricature a bugger’s bedroom you couldnt have done it differently.’ She returned home to find Diana, Duff, and Pat reading.—(29 Nov.) Lord Lansdowne’s letter [to the Daily Telegraph, calling for a negotiated peace with Germany], more because she doesn’t want to lose anyone else than because she thinks it right. K[atharine] and Viola, who, with Diana, dined with her, disagreed violently on the subject.—(1 Dec.) The King and Queen visited the hospital yesterday and asked after Montagu. The King referred to Mrs Besant as an ‘odious woman’. Afterwards she visited Montagu’s mother and went to a party at the India Office to meet some Indian officers. Birrell, Phyllis, and Blanche dined with her. She and Lutyens are lunching together today, then going off with the Nobles.

Wretham Hall, Thetford.—Describes Wretham Hall and its estate.

24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.—(2 Dec.) She drove with Lutyens to Breccles and they examined the house and discussed what needs to be done. They returned to Wretham for lunch, and are now off to London. (3 Dec.) Has received his letter from Aden [B1/146].

(The first sheet was rewritten on 1 December, the original having been lost.)

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Asks him to come slightly later tomorrow. Mikky was upset that Montagu ‘chucked’ him.

(Dated Wednesday.)

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Wednesday

Could you come tomorrow at 6.30 instead of 6 o’clock. Does this put your plans out. I hope not. Why did you chuck poor little Mikky. he told me about it with tears.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

Letter from Edwin Montagu to Venetia Stanley

Archerfield House, Dirleton.—Is disappointed that he just missed her and wishes she were there, though it is a good party. Is concerned by the dangers that women’s suffrage presents for the Prime Minister. Discusses his planned movements.

Note from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Penrhôs, Holyhead.—Suggests books for him to read (on the voyage to India).

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Transcript

Penrhôs, Holyhead

( Crime & Punishment
( The Idiot
( The Brothers Karamazoff—Dostoïeffski
all good but rather long depressing and dreary.

( Smoke
( Fathers & Children
( House of Gentlefolk—Tourgenieff
There are lots of others by Tourgenieff, all quite good, not any of them exciting, but made for a sea journey. The Tolstoy’s you have probably read, besides there are a good many Russian ones already.

Jean-Christophe—Romain Rolland
Its been translated, but I dont know how well, and is in 10 vols! The 1st four are excellent.

( Marius the Epicurean
( Miscellaneous Studies—Walter Pater

Lots of Trollopes are great fun (Barchester Towers, Framley Parsonage The Warden) unless you mind books entirely about parsons. They are very peaceful and unexciting but excellent.

Mrs Gaskells Life of Charlotte Brontë
Auto-Biography of Benvenuto Cellini | translated by J. A. Symonds.

( Erewhon
( Erewhon revisited
( Alps & Sanctuaries—Samuel Butler
I think you’ve read The Way of all Flesh havent you?

( Coningsby
( Lothair—Disraeli

Saïd the Fisherman: Pickthall
The Real Charlotte: Somerville & Ross.

( The Room with a View
( Where Angels fear to tread—Forster

The Ghost Ship: Richard Middleton
Vivian—Maxwell
The Invader—Margaret Woods
Portrait of a Lady—Henry James
Multitude & Solitude—Masefield

I havent read this last but am told it’s good. Most of my suggestions are good rather than thrilling, but I’ve got fun out of all of them, and I expect you will provide yourself with the bad and easy!

Mikky is the man to aply† to, he knows everything, but I should think would be even more stodgy in his reccomendations† than me.

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The dashes have been supplied. In the MS. most of the authors’ names are arranged in a column.

† Sic.

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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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.—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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Transcript

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

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—(25th.) Has received a letter from him [B1/57]. No-one thinks him responsible for anything that has occurred lately [i.e. the silver scandal]. The reason he has not received any letters is probably that he has not written to anyone. If he were to return to England by early March the Indian finance debate might be postponed, and then he could handle it instead of Bluey. She has just returned from a stay with Gertrude Bell, during which she went to a ball at Mrs Dugdale’s. Maurice thinks that Montagu is about to leave the Liberal Party. They have just come to the end of a strenuous Christmas Day, and she must be up early tomorrow for a final rehearsal.—(26th.) Has received another letter from him [B1/58].

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Christmas Day 1912

I’ve just had a letter from you {1}. I cant bear the idea that you should think, even for an instant, that anyone who knows you at all has ever imagined that you were remotely responsible for anything that has occured† lately. Everyone knows that you have nothing and could have nothing to say or do in the matter. Its horrible not having any letters (tho’ by the time you get this you will have had 2 from Violet I know and probably several from Margot) but the explanation is very simple: you havent yourself written to anyone. Bluey hasnt had a word from you about anything he has been doing, and I dont suppose you have written to Bongie or Mikky either. Have you?

I hear you are thinking of staying away till the beginning of April. Do you think that is a good plan? Why dont you hurry up your journeys a bit and get home by about March 10th. If they knew you were going to be back by then perhaps they would postpone the Indian Finance Debate (it will be a great crush wont it to get it in before the February {2} adjournment and your return would be an excellent reason for delaying it a little.) Wouldnt it be much more satisfactory for you to be there, for Bluey, good as he is, cant know much about it. More than I do, however, who am probably talking nonsense about the whole situation. Have you a great deal more to do and see? You dont say whether you killed your tiger. I hope so. I’ve just come home from staying with Gertrude Bell, I went to a ball at the house of your friend Mrs Dugdale. Maurice told me he had met you in Scotland, he amused me by telling me as a great secret that he thought you would not long remain in the Liberal Party. That you were disgusted by their excesses! Are you?

We’ve just come to the end of a most strenuous Xmas Day, not one item left out. Snapdragon, Church, Waits, and very long traditional card game which we only play on Xmas day, which begins immediately after dinner and is only just now over. (12.30). I’ve done very well in the way of loot. I had masses of things to tell you about, but my pencil has no point, and I dont write in bed with comfort, and I am very sleepy, and I must be up lark early tomorrow for a final Rehearsal.

I hope you’ll be back before the end of March, I am sure, tho’ I know nothing about it, that it would be worth while.

Mikky sends you his love, he is writing to you, he tells me

Yrs
V

Boxing Day

I’ve just had a second letter from you {3}. Thank you so much.

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Written in pencil.

{1} MONT II B1/57.

{2} Spelling uncertain.

{3} MONT II B1/58.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Denies calling him priggish, and refers to a joke played on Meiklejohn.

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Tuesday April 4th 1911

My dear Mr Montagu

What is all this about. It sounds (I mean the P.S. of your letter {1}) as tho’ you were indirectly taxing me with having said you were heygate and priggish, or is it an April Fool’s day joke, for I notice its written on the 1st. If it is the former of these two I have, for once, got such a clear conscience that I havent had a tremor of uneasiness. Probably its neither but another of your tortuous deductions from 2 stray words and as usual hopelessly wrong.

Did you hear of the excellent joke we played on Mr Meiklejohn, I havent yet heard how he took it.

I am practising chess with vigour, I hope to beat you again when I next meet you.

Yrs very sincerely
Venetia Stanley

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{1} This letter does not survive.

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).

Letter from Venetia Stanley to [Edwin Montagu]

Admiralty Yacht, off Colonsay.—She enjoyed Ardgowan, but the guests at Penrhôs have been dull. While the yacht was at Holyhead she went for walks with Winston, whose opinion of Montagu has improved. She has sailed with them as far as Colonsay, and goes home on Tuesday. Asks about his stay at Hopeman, and discusses Dorothy’s engagement. Some friends will be at Penrhôs when she returns, but afterwards her family will be alone till they leave for Alderley in early October.