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Asquith, Herbert Henry (1852-1928), 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith, Prime Minister
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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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Transcript

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

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Asks him to lend his Baedeker for Sicily to her father. Is sorry he was unhappy about his speech; everyone else thought it good. Invites him to lunch or tea.

(Dated Tuesday.)

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Tuesday

I wonder whether you still have in your possession your Sicilian Baedeker! If you have will you lend it to my father who is going there soonish. He is of an economical turn of mind and doesnt like the idea of getting a new one. Strange old fellow.

I am so sorry you were unhappy about your speech. Because everyone else really did think it good. The P.M. Margot etc, but of course if you were not satisfied about it, the fact that other people thought it good is not much comfort.

Do come here one day, tea lateish Friday, I mean about 6 or if you’d rather, lunch, not Thursday. I hate lunch, but possibly its your easiest moment. How wonderful the Prime was

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

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Black-edged paper.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Repays a gambling debt. Would like to see him when he gets back from his ‘tour in the West’ .

(Dated Tuesday.)

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Tuesday

My dear Tante

I’ve never paid you the vast sum I lost to you when we were abroad. I cant remember exactly how much it was and the P.M. tells me he has destroyed the paper, but it was either £12 or £13. so will you fill up this cheque and pay yourself.

Come and see me when you get back from your little tour in the West. I hope its being a success. If you dont go to the Cuckoo’s Nest this Sunday {1} and are in London perhaps we might do something on Sunday afternoon.

The Nest is quite nice, but the weather was vile.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

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Black-edged paper.

{1} 3 March.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Vinters, Maidstone.—Invites him to see her after the first performance of Maurice’s play. Is having to spend the weekend with ‘a newly married couple and a blind paralytic’. Hopes Montagu’s meeting was a success.

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Transcript

Vinters, Maidstone
Sunday May 5th 1912

My dear Mr Montagu

Yes do come Tuesday at about 5.30. I am going to the 1st Performance of Maurice’s play {1} in the afternoon, and might not be back by 5 o’clock. Mr Asquith & Eliza motored me here in pouring rain yesterday and left me to one of the hardest imaginable fates. I dont suppose ever before anyone has had to had to spend a dripping Saturday to Monday in the company of a newly married couple and a blind paralytic. Not even Waxworks.

An ornithological clergyman came to dinner and afterwards we played a gambling game for counters! I am having a delicious morning tho’, and am wondering how much longer I can stay in my room without incivility. Chess with Lady Agnes is the alternative to “Cotton Wool” and lots of letters which I want and ought to write.

I hope your meeting was a success. I dont know what will happen this afternoon. The best I can hope for is to motor to Canterbury. The worst a long walk with Waxworks; who I believe is arriving this morning.

I make a fuss but I am not really miserably unhappy.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

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Written in pencil.

{1} Maurice Baring’s play The Double Game, at the Kingsway Theatre.

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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Transcript

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.—Responds to his letter from Port Said (B1/54). Is helping with a children’s play. Refers to their current guests, and to her visit to the United Kingdom Alliance bazaar at Manchester. Sends news of the Prime Minister and other friends.

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire

October 23rd 1912 (Oliver’s birthday)

Thank you for a letter from Port Said {1}. I am sorry you were being so much bored by your journey, and not even able to muster up sufficient energy to embark on the glorious, tho’ stodgy list we gave you. Isnt Marriage {2} good, I think it is much the best he has written, I am glad you read Lycidas again. I was afraid that by insisting on reading it to you I should have for ever have put you against it. Mikky thinks it is the best poem in the whole of the English language, and knows it by heart. Have you come across some rather nice, coloured, fruity ones in the Oxford Bk by Andrew Marvell {3}.

My life has continued in the same peaceful, uneventful way, since I last wrote to you, I have hunted once, but otherwise I havent seen a soul except father and mother, and not much of them as most of the time I was quite alone. I do love it, and really resented their return and the necessity of spending more than 5 minutes on lunch or 5 on dinner. I have got so used to myself, and when I am alone like myself so very much and have such fun and am so amusing to myself!

I have been very busy and for almost the first time in my life have had too much to do and not enough time to do it in. This is, I suppose, too often the case with you, for you to realize what a glorious sensation it is, it is my idea of one kind of happiness. My character has completely changed and you will hardly know me when you come back, I have developped† a sense of parochial responsibility and am becoming a thorough busy-body. The only thing that saves me from drifting into a life of Girls Clubs and sewing classes is firstly that I do it extremely badly and secondly that I am not here long enough on end. But I am doing my best and have 8 school children once a week to rehearse a children’s play and the rest of the time I am engaged on stitching vast Persian trowsers for them to wear. It absorbs all my interest and thought and I forget that no one else can possibly care a damn about it, and inflict it on people as I have done on you. Our solitude has been broken into by the arrival of an Admiral and his wife, 2 neighbours, your friend Mr Milne and an energetic woman called Mrs Grosvenor who is going to deliver a lecture on the advantages that an educated woman would have if she were to emigrate to Canada. That really means I suppose the chance of marrying some dreary fruit farmer, who is just rather less beastly than the other people out there. I should hate to be an educated woman in Canada.

Violet did chuck the United K. A. {4} she wrote and explained to Dorothy what her temperance principles were and after hearing them Dorothy said she would rather not have her. We went and bought things from her and found her in the most dismal surroundings with Aurea as her only human comfort. I had never seen A. before, she is hideous, and Dorothy treats her as tho’ she were a half-wit. I did feel sorry for her, she can have not a particle of fun in her life.

Dorothy was brisk and business-like and quite unselfpitying (if I had been in her shoes I should have groused to everyone about the horror of it) realising how damnable a Manchester bazaar was, but just doing it because it had to be done.

The P.M. has been quite ill with a boil on his shoulder, but is better again now, I havent seen him but I am thinking of going up to London next week, if I can get out of my groove, and I shall then perhaps see him. Mikky and Bongie come here the Sunday after {5}. Doesnt it seem odd to you to think of us all doing the same old things and seeing the same people over and over again, when you are in much a different atmosphere. You must now rather sympathise with Margot’s boredom at the regularity and unchangingness of our lives.

I meant at the beginning of this letter to tell you that I had a very bad cold, not so as to try and get a little sympathy 3 weeks hence, but so as to warn you that it would be dull, foggy reading, and to advise you not to embark on it unless you were feeling very charitable, but by the time you read this warning you will be near the end.

I must stop now, as considering the material at my disposal I have written far too much already.

Perhaps if I write again I shall have something more interesting to tell you about than what I have been doing here.

Yrs
Venetia

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{1} MONT II B1/54.

{2} A novel by H. G. Wells, first published in 1912.

{3} The Oxford Book of English Verse (1900) contains seven poems by Marvell, as well as Milton’s ‘Lycidas’.

{4} Dorothy Howard had asked Violet Asquith to open a bazaar at Manchester in aid of the United Kingdom Alliance, a temperance organization. See Lantern Slides, pp. 337-8.

{5} 3 November.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Admiralty, Whitehall.—This weekend has made it difficult for her to continue writing to the Prime Minister as though nothing had happened, but she is anxious to keep them (Montagu and Asquith) both happy. Refers to her plan to go to Serbia. Suggests arrangements for meeting.

(Dated Sunday.)

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Sunday.

My darling (you’ll think this I suppose merely a sign that I’m an accommodating woman & ready to comply in small things if it makes you happier) What can I say to you after this short time that you’ve been gone. That I want you back fearfully. Yes I do. And I havent in my time written this to Bongie, the P.M. Raymond and half a dozen others. I suppose it ought not to be necessary for me even to have to affirm this, but I cant help feeling that this idea is often cross-ing your mind, you’ve said it so often, & I’ve always laughed at it as a joke and not minded you thinking it, but I do now.

I know quite well that I want you back again, and I’m only afraid that this feeling will pass. Do you understand me at all. I also know that this Sunday has made it very difficult for me to go on writing to the P.M as tho’ nothing had happened. Darling what am I to do, obviously what I ought to do would be to try & carry on as I’ve been doing, you’ve both been fairly happy under that régime, and as there can be no hard and fast rule of right & wrong and as I feel none of that that people call duty towards themselves, that would be the simplest plan. But are you both happy and can I make you so if I’m not and should I be now?

Then again when to tell him. Just before Newcastle {1}, oh no not then, then just after something else will turn up & if I’m ready to tell him then you (who are far the fonder of him of us two) will have scruples, & so we shall go on till in a short time you’ll loathe me. Why cant I marry you & yet go on making him happy, but you’d neither of you think that fun & I suppose my suggesting it or thinking it possible shows to you how peculiar I am emotionally. I wish to God I’d got a really well defined idea of right & wrong, but nothing that one does to oneself seems wrong and thats how one gets into so infernal a tangle.

You cant help me no one can and if I go to Servia its only really shifting the whole responsibility & giving up.

My very dearest I want so much to see you, I’m rather frightened about what I feel, first lest it shouldnt last, & secondly lest yours shouldnt.

Write to me and say you are coming next Sunday. I want you fearfully.
I am so perplexed & wretched, I want so much to be happy and yet not to make anyone else unhappy. You made everything seem so simple, but now you are gone its as tangled as ever.

Go on loving me & above all make me love you. Perhaps Wednesday may see me in London, but I count on you Friday & we’ll have no nonsense about dinner with Sir E Grey.

Yes you shall you shall dine with him just the same.

Darling I think I love you.

Venetia

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{1} Asquith was to address a meeting of munitions workers at Newcastle on the 20th.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

[The British Hospital, Wimereux.]—Has received his letter. Praises the [Prime Minister’s] speech in The Times and refers to his letter to Montagu. The hospital is full as a result of the Ypres attack. Has been walking with Hunter. Diana has the measles, and will not come to France. Reflects on what she will do when they are married.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

[The British Hospital, Wimereux.]—(4th.) She picnicked this afternoon with the three other amateurs [volunteer nurses] and Hunter. Is annoyed that she will have to tell Lady Norman her reason for leaving.—(5th.) Has received his letter [B1/137], and approves in general his letter to Asquith. Has received a telegram from Vizee announcing her engagement. Discusses arrangements for her return to England. Is sorry he is feeling ill.

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

Penrhôs, Holyhead.—Has received his telegram but no letters. Viola and Margot would like some ducks [from Hickling] if he and and the ‘old Boy’ [Asquith] don’t get through them all. Has done nothing yet but walk to the beach. Suggests he go to Chester and Queensferry before coming to Penrhôs. Besides a large number of children, there are only ‘examples of Hugh Smith family’ there at present. She enjoyed the summer in London, and is looking forward to going to the Hebrides together.

Copy of a letter from Winston Churchill to H. H. Asquith, 5 Jan. 1915

(Place of writing not indicated.)—Urges the need to develop ‘special mechanical devices for taking trenches’, drawing attention to recent changes in the nature of warfare. Suggests the use of steam-tractors with armoured shelters, mounted on caterpillar tracks [i.e. tanks], shields on wheels, and artificially-produced smoke.

(Typed transcript, sent by Churchill to Edwin Montagu about 18 Oct. 1916.)

Two copies of a letter from Lord Bryce to H. H. Asquith

The Athenaeum, Pall Mall, S.W.—Asquith’s speech last night confirmed Bryce in his opinion that he is the true heir of Gladstone: he handled questions of compromises with tact and skill, and inspires the same confidence in his sincerity, courage, and composure that Gladstone did.

(Carbon copies.)

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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Transcript

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 R. C. Trevelyan to Sir George Trevelyan

The Shiffolds, Holmbury St. Mary, Dorking. - The hot weather has returned, here the thermometer reads over 80 [degrees Fahrenheit] in the shade; hopes it is less hot for his parents. Was in London on Wednesday, which he thinks was the worst day, and saw at a distance 'the column of smoke from the Carlton Hotel' as he was on the way to see Fanny's First Play [by George Bernard Shaw]. Afterwards he went to see what was happening, but only saw a 'moderate crowd', and at least ten fire-engines preparing to leave. The fire did not seem to have done any external damage, but more may be visible by day. The 'Revolution [the passing of the Parliament Act] seems to have accomplished itself very quietly', and everyone now seems 'very grateful to Asquith for his management of affairs'.

Julian and Bessie are well. Tovey is at the Shiffolds, working on the score of the opera [The Bride of Dionysus]. Saw Charles on Monday, and had lunch with him 'just before the Censure Debate'; he 'gave a good account of Molly, and seemed quite cheerful'. Robert and Bessie are looking forward to their visit to Wallington in September.

Encloses, as a present for his mother, a poem from a 'young friend [Lascelles Abercrombie]... a descendant of Sir Ralph Abercromby, though he spells himself differently'. Thinks he has 'some real genius' and 'will do finer things before long'.

Copy letter from J. S. Nicholson to J. G. Frazer

3 Belford Park, Edinburgh. Dated 18 February, 1923 - [James] Gow has died, lived on the same stair in the Bishop's Hostel, wanted to make way at the bar, but was instead forced to become a schoolmaster, about which he 'spoke ... most bitterly'; Adam Sedgwick asked Asquith why he didn't make Cunningham bishop and he said 'I can't make a tariff reformer a bishop'; is an odd world in which Lloyd George is an appointer of bishops and keeper of England's conscience and maker of peace; sends an article on the mark [not transcribed]; is very busy with large classes.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Is sorry she missed him at Archerfield. Refers to his forthcoming visit to Alderley. The Prime is on good form.

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Sunday Dec 24th 1911

My dear Mr Montagu

I should have answered your letter sooner {1}, but I thought I should certainly see you at Archerfield as I was told you were coming there on Friday. It was very sad just missing you. I left with deep regret last night and am still rather somnolent after a night journey which landed me here at 6 this morning.

It is very nice of you to have wanted to give me any present at all, I am sorry that it caused you such an unpleasant and unprofitable morning. You must have a very high standard I think of niceness and suitability, because I always find my great difficulty is to stop buying things.

I cant bear to think of you all having such fun and not being there, but its nice being at home too. We had a lot of chess at Archerfield, my great triumph was mating the P.M. twice and that old walnut Elwes {2} once.

Do you come here straight from Archerfield on Monday {3} or have you got to go to London first, Bongie is coming too from there.

Dont you think the Prime is in very good form, he was wonderful all the time I was there.

You’ll just miss Jonah here, but catch Bluey.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

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{1} This is a reply to MONT II B1/26.

{2} Probably Gervase Henry Elwes, a singer.

{3} 1 January.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Penrhôs, Holyhead.—Invites him to Alderley next Sunday, and praises Asquith’s speech on Home Rule.

(Dated Saturday.)

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Transcript

Penrhôs, Holyhead
Saturday

My dear Mr Montagu

If you are doing nothing next Sunday will you come to Alderley. I have suddenly, after 4 days loneliness here, been seized with a burning desire for society and the thought of another empty Sunday at the end of next week doesnt commend itself to me. You will, if you come, I warn you, find no one but Mother, Blanche[,] me and possibly Arthur. But do come if you are free. We go there Wednesday. I should rather stay here where it is really still too heavenly. Are you happy about Home Rule? I thought his speech {1} quite wonderful and would have given the world to have heard it.

I hope Ewelme is fun.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

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Written in pencil. Marked in a later hand, or hands, ‘Jan ’13’ (struck through), ‘Home Rule’, ‘HHA’s speech’, the first two inscriptions in blue biro, the third in pencil.

{1} Asquith’s speech in the Commons the previous day, introducing the Home Rule Bill.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Is celebrating Blanche’s engagement with her family. Tomorrow she is going to Littlestone with Violet and the Prime Minister for one night, before going to stay with Conrad. Will invite Montagu to lunch if she does not go to Littlestone.

(Dated Thursday. This is a reply to B1/38.)

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Transcript

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

Grand Hôtel Couttet et du Parc, Chamonix.—She arrived at Chamonix with Oliver 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 while in London, and the Prime 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

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Invites him to Penrhôs for Whitsun, if his plan with the Prime Minister fails. She is going there tomorrow. Is feeling ill.

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
May 7th 1913

The P.M. tells me that you are going to escape from Cambridge for Whitsuntide {1}. As I am afraid your plan with him wont come to anything, are you at a loose end and would you like to come to Penrhos. You’d find all the people you like congregated there, Bluey, Conrad and so on. I suppose you would have to go back on Tuesday so you might think it rather far. Anyway we expect you on the 16th or 17th. I advise you, if you can face rather a dull life to stay there all the following week, I am feeling so ill myself that for the first time you’ll find my† a sympathetic and interested and understanding listener to symptoms and a perfect companion for an invalid. This change has been brought about by Scotland.

I go to Penrhos tomorrow at 1 o’clock. Let me know what you decide to do.

Yours
Venetia

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{1} Whit Sunday was the 11th.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Thanks him for his gift of a ‘little God’ and invites him to Alderley to see it in her room. She will probably not see him before leaving tomorrow. The Prime is coming to see her this evening. Sealed Orders (a play) was rather boring for the second time running.

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Wednesday

I cant thank you enough for your most lovely present. I expected something funny and you send me something quite beautiful. I simply love it, it is most sweet of you to send it me. Thank you again and again. When will you come to Alderley to see it enshrined in its niche in my room. I do want you to come there again soon. Its ages since you’ve been there, not since the Grand National {1} I believe.

I go away tomorrow evening, I wonder if I shall see you again before that, the Prime is com-ing to see me at 6 this evening, and I suppose later than that, for he will only stay a very short time, would clash with dinner for you.
Its sad the zest I have to see my friends and the little opportunity I have of doing it!

Sealed Orders {2} was rather boring for the 2nd time running.
Thank you again for my divine little God. I do really love him.

Yrs always
Venetia

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{1} 24 March.

{2} A play by Cecil Raleigh and Henry Hamilton, first performed on 11 September 1913 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where it ran until 12 December. It was revived at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, between 16 and 21 November the following year.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Thanks him for his present and refers to others she received. Sylvia’s baby has been ill, but is recovering. Asks about Montagu's stay at Easton Grey. The Prime Minister is coming on Tuesday, and she hopes Montagu will come some time too. The festivities are over, except the acting.

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Boxing day 1913

You have sent me the most lovely present. Its the nicest one I’ve got, it was too sweet of you to think of me, thank you ever and ever so much. I do really like it quite prodigiously, I’m most grateful to you. I’ve done very well all round, but the Asquith family I’ve pinched the most heavily as I’ve got presents from Margot, the P.M. Raymond, Violet, Cynthia and Katharine which is very good out of one family.

We’ve had rather a dismal Xmas so far as Sylvia’s new baby has been most fearfully ill and yesterday and the day before they thought she must die, however to day she is really better and tho’ very anxious still, they think she may live. Poor Sylvia has been most terribly unhappy about it.

I hope Easton Grey was fun, I had a very sweet letter from Margot just before she went, she seemed much better, so I hope you’ve had a happy time there.

The P.M. comes here Tuesday {1}, I hope you are coming too sometime.

We [have] been very busy with our Xmas festivities, Trees etc, but have now finished them off and have only the acting before us. Its quite enough tho’ and makes me despair.

In case I dont see you, tho’ I hope I shall, I shall now send you every possible wish for your success and happiness in 1914 and always.

Yrs
Venetia

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{1} 30th.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

(London Hospital, Whitechapel?).—Discusses Montagu’s appointment (as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster). Hopes he will enjoy himself in Paris. Wants to see him when he returns.

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Transcript

Sunday Jan 31st 1915

You were right as far as dates go. I looked through my letters & I see that the first time it was mentioned was on Sunday 24th from Walmer {1}. Still I dont think that proves that it was entirely a plot of Lloyd Georges. I know the P.M has wanted to have you in for sometime. He’s very fond of you. He says in one letter “It is one of the few real pleasures one has to feel one can open the door, without any misgiving as to capacity or merit, to a really great friend”. I find I also did the old boy an injustice; {2} he never said he’d seen Mcnamara {3}. I do hope you’ll find there are some compensations for leaving the Treasury, tho’ of course neither I, nor anyone else wd think it strange for you to mind going. I am glad all the same because I am certain that you wont stick in the Duchy for long, & as I’m very ambitious for you(!) I welcome this step very greatly. But you mustnt let the P.M. put Addison in. It wd be too great an anti-climax.

I hope you’ll have a delicious time in Paris. I must see you when you come back & hear all about it. Perhaps Monday. Next time I have my day off I’m determined, if you can, to dine with you, get a “late pass” & try & win or lose a little money. Will you arrange that?

Yrs ever
Venetia

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Written in pencil, except for ‘real pleasures … door, with’, which is in ink. Probably written at the London Hospital, Whitechapel.

{1} The reference is to a letter from Asquith, dated 24 January. See H. H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley, No. 274.

{2} Semi-colon supplied.

{3} T. J. Macnamara, Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Has written him an odious letter, which she will not send. Her feelings towards him are confused, but she looks forward to seeing him on Friday. She has just received a wonderful letter from the Prime Minister.

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
April 21st 1915

My darling I’ve been in a terrible frame of mind all to-day & have written you an odious letter which I shant send as if you got it you’d probably refuse to come here & I want you very much. I’m so glad that I do, because most of the day I’ve felt I didnt much care if you did or didnt.

I am so glad for you that you should have found everything going on so well at home.

Were you rather disgusted by my letter yesterday, I was rather ashamed of it, & more so when this morning I got a wonderful letter from the P.M {1} which shows me how wrong I was to think that he only thought of his own happiness & never of mine. I think I’ll show it you if you like.

We wont think of those things for a little but just be very happy. If you dont come, however good your reasons, I shall wash you forever.

If you were here I should probably be odious to you, but by Friday I shall be all right.

Goodbye darling think of me

Your
Venetia

I shall only write to you once again before I see you.

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{1} See H. H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley, pp. 553–4. The letter is dated the 19th.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

In the train (from London to Alderley).—Is travelling with the Prime Minister, who is more cheerful now, but she does not think the party will be a success. Discusses Montagu’s behaviour and feelings towards her, and reflects on the prospects of their future together. Discusses arrangements for meeting.

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Transcript

April 30th 1915. In train {1}.

Darling I wish I felt the faintest inspiration, but this infernal train shakes so that I find it impossible to concentrate either my mind or my pen. Opposite me sits the P.M in a more cheerful frame of mind I think, but I’ve a feeling in my bones that this party isnt going to be a success, I feel I shall quarrel with Bongie, be odious to the P.M, & have to avoid Violets questions, if she bothers to ask them. Why were you so transparent? Diana & I settled last night that “if & when” we were ever engaged we would never, once it was announced, go out together, because one can so easily see how supremely ridiculous it makes people. I dont know what is the right attitude to adopt. What do you think? I saw Katharine this morning & she asked me if we’d had a good drive as she thought you were preparing to be rather crusty to me. So you were werent you, but we had great fun in spite of it. I think she was quite right to tell you that I was “queer”. I’m sure I am! & if we keep our minds fixed on that we shall be quite all right. But please darling dont be too ready at once to think that because I dont see you every day, & can contemplate going to Boulogne, that I dont any longer like you. I’ve told you over & over again that I’m no fun to be in love with, that my supply of emotion is a thin & meagre one, but such as it is, had in quantity & quality its yours.

And you mustnt always be examining it under a microscope or subjecting it to severe tests because it wont stand it!

We can have such fun together and are & I’m sure could be so really happy, & if that cant be made a good basis for marriage I dont know that I shall ever find a better. We’ve both I’m bound to say always put ourselves before the other in the most unprepossessing terms. You take every opportunity of telling me that nothing that I want will ever make you alter your mode of life, & I am always impressing on you the fact that I’m completely & cold bloodedly detached from all interest in my own life. It doesnt sound good on paper. And yet I’m simply longing for you to be here, & miss you horribly. Its again such a lovely day & we should have been so happy. I was an idiot not to make you come, & to risk you being cross with me because I talked too much to the P.M, & his thinking I was spending more time than I need with you.

Winston was much touched at yr letter, I’m glad you wrote. God how bored I feel, how glorious one’s life ought to be & how bloody it is. But I was happy yesterday thank you so much.

Lets have a Diana Raymond party on Friday {2}, arrange this with Diana, & I’ll dine with you Tuesday either alone or go to the Tree play {3}. But Friday we’ll have a buffy. I hope this isnt a horrible letter. I’m never sure.

Love
Venetia

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Letter-head of 8 Little College Street, Westminster, the home of Francis and Barbara McLaren, where Venetia had been staying.

{1} Venetia and the Prime Minister were travelling from London to Alderley for the weekend. Cf. H. H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley, p. 562.

{2} 7 May.

{3} The Right to Kill, a melodrama adapted from the French by Gilbert Cannan and Frances Keyzer, produced by Sir Herbert Tree at His Majesty’s Theatre on 4 May. Tree also took one of the leading parts. There appears to have only been one performance.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.—Nothing matters to her but him, though she is deeply affected by the Prime Minister’s unhappiness and encourages Montagu to help him. Is sorry to be leaving at this time, and depressed at the prospect of ‘Lady N’s sickly folly’ (the hospital at Wimereux). Urges him to write to her frequently.

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
May 24th 1915

My most darling

I’m afraid I added to your sadness by what I said about the P.M, but I want you to remember that nothing really matters to me but you.

It would be absurd to pretend that his unhappiness doesnt affect me very deeply, how could it not, for 3 years he has been to me the most the most wonderful friend and companion, and to see him just now made wretched by me, is, and should be if I pretend to any heart at all, a real sorrow.

I want you to see him if he wants to, to help him and protect him, not only for his sake but for mine. I know you will.

Its horrible leaving you now & my heart rather sinks at Lady N’s sickly folly, but once there I shant see much of her.

Write me as much as you can be bothered to of all your doings.

Dont omit any “I said to him” “He replied” {1} etc etc. I love it all.

You have been too wonderful to me, your generosity and unselfishness almost frighten me. How bad you’ll be for my character!

Goodbye my darling

Always your loving
Venetia

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{1} Closing inverted commas supplied.

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