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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

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

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Invites him to come to Alderley with the Prime Minister in December. She quite enjoyed her stay at Hopeman. Is going to London on Monday. ‘Are you still cuckooed out of your nest?’

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Saturday 1st November 1913

I wonder whether it would amuse you to come here when the P.M. comes on December 5, Thursday, he speaks in Oldham Saturday. Violet and Cys and Bluey are going to be there but otherwise no one.

I’ve just got back from Hopeman, where it was quite fun, only Mikky and Bongie the Prime and I and afterwards Violet.

I go to London Monday for the week.

Are you still cuckooed out of your nest? Perhaps I shall see you if you are in London?

Yrs
Venetia

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

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. 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 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

Grand Hôtel Splendide, Portofino Mare.—Responds to his worry that he has offended Geoffrey. Is now at Portofino with her mother and three female relations, and may later make a tour of Italian cities with her mother and Bongie. Is keen to know Montagu’s views on the abandonment of the Franchise Bill, and hopes his new house will be a success.

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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

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

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—The pantomime was a success. After their guests left they had a dull week, but more came on Friday, including the Prime. The amendments to the Franchise Bill are causing anxiety. Next week she is going to Switzerland with Oliver for a fortnight, after which she will be at Alderley and London till Easter. She and her mother are thinking of then going to Holland, so the search for the black-necked grebe (at Penrhôs) will have to be postponed till Whitsuntide.

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Jan 7th 1913 Thursday

Thank you for your letter of the 18th {1}. I am glad you have at last had direct news of Violet, specially as I know she followed up her first short letter by a long one. I am also glad the books we suggested have been a success. I cant read what you say about Rhoda Broughton, but I gather it is depreciatory. I never suggested her as a first class writer, but she was I thought suited to a weak mental condition, the outcome of long arduous and hot days. I hope you will keep some to read, not R. Broughton, but some of the others for your return, as that is your moment of greatest need, specially as Peel has become such a bore.

Bluey tells me that whenever he goes into the India Office he sees letters from me to you lying about, but I suppose you get them eventually. I can imagine no worse fate than having on your return to read sheafs of month old letters intended for India.

I think I wrote to you last just at Xmas. I expect it was somewhat incoherent as I wrote very late at night after very busy days. I saw nothing of our delicious Xmas party as I was fearfully occupied with the Pantomime. It was a great success, I long to send you the fulsome and glowing account which appeared in the rather sycophantic local press. We were deserted on Monday {2} by everyone and left to the dullest flattest week I have spent for some months. My own resources failed me entirely and I could do nothing but wander amongst “the bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang”. However Friday {3} brought a fresh influx, Bluey, Geoffrey, Eddie, Sir John Simon, Bongie and the Prime. It was his maiden visit here and tho’ it rained as it only can rain here we had great fun. He and I went for a very dank chilly misty drive over the hills to Buxton {4} and put me through a sharp examination in Scripture. As you know it is not my subject and a few questions revealed the horrid fact that I couldnt name more than 2 of the 12 Apostles! This was a good deal used. I played a lot of chess with him and a certain amount of bridge, at both of which I was fairly successful. He seemed very well I thought, tho’ rather bored by the prospect of the coming Session. Geoffrey seems to think, I dont know how much he knows about it, that they wont even get the short holiday in February which was promised. Everyone seems rather anxious as to the result of the female amendments to the Franchise Bill. I wish I was going to be in London for I think it will be a most thrilling division, neither side seems to know at all what the numbers will be but at agree it will be very close. Bluey is most unhappy about it, but the P.M. takes the whole thing very calmly, even the possibility of having to promote a Bill which includes what he himself described as a disasterous† measure. I suppose he has some plan.

They all left us Monday and we settled down once again into our old life. Margaret Stanley and I were reduced to such a state that we have started re-reading the Inferno aloud. Its just the book for me, dwelling as it does entirely on the dead and on the horrible tortures that overtake them. We both of us translate the horrors with great gusto!

Next week I am going abroad to Switzerland with Oliver for a fortnight, then back here again till the middle of February and then London till Easter. Mother & I are thinking of going to Holland then, so we must postpone the search for the black necked | throated | crested {5} grebe till Whitsuntide, which is very early. Will it be too late for the bird?

I must stop now as we are going to read.

Yrs
Venetia

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{1} MONT II B1/59.

{2} 30 December.

{3} 3 January.

{4} Asquith wrote to Venetia on the 7th: ‘I shall always remember our mist- & rain-blurred survey of the three counties, thro’ wh. we drove on Saturday.’ (H. H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley, No. 6.)

{5} These three words are written one above the other and braced together.

Letter from H. H. Asquith

Accompanied by a copy of the Grant of the Dignity of a Member of the Order of Merit to Professor Henry Jackson, D. Litt. with a stamp in the bottom left corner Certified True Copy dated 26 Aug. 1948.

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.—The Government have been defeated (on the Banbury amendment), and Violet and Geoffrey have been reconciled. Describes her stay at the Wharf with the Asquiths. Has come to Alderley to rehearse the play and to hunt, before returning to the Wharf..

(Dated the 21st, a Thursday, but Thursday is referred to at one point as ‘yesterday’. The letter was probably begun on the 21st and continued the next day.)

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Nov 21st 1912

Thank you for a letter from Peshawar {1}. I am glad you are having such fun. Its hard for me not to fill several sheets of triumphant “I told you so” but I will resist. You didnt say how long you were going to stay there but long enough I expect to become as brave as a lion with all the corpses lying about. Since I wrote to you last everything has happened the Government defeated and Violet reconciled to Geoffrey. Reconciled is perhaps hardly the right word, but at any rate she is now slightly less hostile to him. She says that both he and Mr Illingworth are like men who have gone through some terrible mental experience, atheists having had a dramatic and sudden conversion, and Geoffrey is consequently gentle and muted. I havent seen him but I expect its true. The row in the House I missed. Wasnt it cruel. I had been there all the afternoon and heard the P.M. and Bonar (perky and smart and rude and vulgar as usual) and then Banbury the hero of the hour got up and it was 6.30 and I was going to the Club so I went home. I blame and blamed Bongie most bitterly for not letting me know when the row started and I should have been there in lots of time. But he is so unimaginative that just because he doesnt personally think rows exciting and deprecates my love of them, he would never dream of telling one if there was any thing on foot. I cant help being rather glad that it was Winston who was hit, as he wasnt hurt, as it has absolutely turned him from any Tory sympathy and he now swears that next to fighting the Germans the next thing he wants to do is to fight and beat the Tories. Besides I believe if it had been Excie he would have made some terrible remark in acknowledging the apology. The day after the row every one packed into the house, the Speakers Gallery was crammed for prayers, a ceremony I had never seen before, and then as you know nothing happened. It must have been agonising being away didnt you nearly embark at once for home. It would have been a bitter fulfillment of you† soothsayers prophecy.

Saturday {2} I motored down with the Prime to the Wharf. It was delicious seeing him again, I hadnt had any kind of talk with him since the end of the summer, he was in very good spirits I thought in spite of the crisis. He didnt as you can imagine talk much about it and our conversation ran in very well worn lines, the sort that he enjoys on those occasions and which irritate Margot so much by their great dreariness. I love every well know word of them and for me the familiarity is a large part of the charm. The Wharf I had never seen before and thought very nice tho’ as a solitary country place for a large gregarious family full of the most obvious drawbacks. Our party was only Margot, O.S. Raymond, Katharine, and Bluey, Violet was in Dublin {3}. We played lots of good steady family auction and I played a certain amount of chess with Raymond and the Prime with mixed but fairly satisfactory results. I dont get any better tho’ which is a bore. On Sunday we went to Fritwell (Simon’s house) I thought it very nice, it is a pity Margot didnt get that whilst she was about buying a house. We had a good Sicilian relevage at dinner and lots of the old questions. I do wish there was a chance of something of the kind again, I dont remember now if I enjoyed it so keenly at the moment, but it has certainly left the most delicious after impression. Its one of the things I have done which gives me the greatest fun to think about. Violet and I both agree as to this. I came here Thursday (yesterday) for rehearsals of the play and also to hunt which I did today and am doing tomorrow. After hunting I am going to the Wharf again, a party without Margot and the Prime. I’ve been quite alone here and have been reading the 2nd vol of Dizzy’s life which is quite amusing also a very good book of parodies by Max Beerbohm which I am going to send you. The only crab of them is that they are so like the originals that they almost cease to be funny. My pleasure in my own society is growing on me in an allarming† way, I dont know what to do about it.

I’ve taken to fencing, Katharine and I do it 3 times a week its such fun. I am trying to make Violet start too partly because I think she would like it and also because I think the Downing St garden would be such a good place to do it in in the summer.

We all miss you very much in London.

Tell me what kind of things you like hearing about I wander lost-ly and copiously amongst the mass of things I could write about, and probably eliminate just what you want to know.

My letters get longer and longer I swore this should be a short one.

Yrs
V

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{1} This has not survived.

{2} 16 November.

{3} She was staying with the Aberdeens at the Vice-Regal Lodge. See Lantern Slides, pp. 343¬–4.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

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

Penrhôs, Holyhead.—Is sorry he will miss his drive (to Penrhôs) with the Prime Minister and the torch-light celebrations (in Dublin), but urges him to come for the meeting and suggests they drive back to London together. Has just arrived (with her family) from Alderley; the wedding was a success.

(Dated Wednesday. This is a reply to B1/44.)

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Transcript

Penrhôs, Holyhead
Wednesday

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

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

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

Yrs
Venetia

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

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

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

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

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Is sorry he will have to motor to Penrhôs again. Has been told that he made a good speech on Thursday. Alderley is full of wedding guests.

(Dated Sunday.)

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Transcript

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Sunday.

I hear you are going to motor all the way to Penrhos again, which is a great pity, but I know how obstinate the P.M. is. {1}. Would you send a telegram from some place you stop at, Lichfield or the like, so that we shall know a little when to expect you.

I am told by those who know and matter that you made a very good speech on Thursday {2}.

Have you been having fun, you’ve neglected me terribly, and I’ve heard no news.

We are full of wedding guests {3}.

Yrs
Venetia Stanley

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{1} Asquith was about to make his first official visit to Ireland and was to stop at Penrhôs on the 17th on his way to Holyhead. It was originally intended that Montagu should accompany him, though this did not in fact happen. See The Times, 10 July, p. 10; 18 July, p. 6.

{2} Asquith had written to Venetia the previous day: ‘Tante … made quite a good speech on Thursday’ (H. H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley, No. 3). The speech was on the second reading of the Finance and Registration Bill.

{3} Venetia’s sister Blanche was married to Eric Pearce-Serocold at St Mary’s, Alderley, the following day. Venetia was one of the bridesmaids. See The Times, 16 July, p. 9.

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

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.—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.

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 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

Penrhôs, Holyhead.—Repays a gambling debt. Is sorry he can’t come to Penrhôs. Hopes his Budget dinner was not ruined by the absence of the Prime Minister, who seems tired. Thanks him for the use of his motor-car.

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Transcript

Penrhôs, Holyhead
April 3rd 1912

My dear Tante I never seem to be able to remember to discharge my debts to you. Here is now the 7/ lost at Littlestone {1}, and sent in the most disgusting and unnegotiable form possible: a postal order. I came here yesterday, it took me 8½ hours of tightly wedged travelling in the most awful atmosphere of cheap tobacco, but anything would have been worth while to get here. Its at its very best, blue sea and masses of flowers, and birds and all the indispensable properties of the country. The only blot is no verbena yet. I wish you could have come over one of the Sundays we are here, it is a bore that its so far from London. I hope you’ll have a peaceful delicious time with your family, its fun for you all having an extra day. Your friend Mrs Tyrrell is not coming here so you arent missing so much.

I hope your Budget dinner {2} was fun and not ruined by the absence of the P.M. I am afraid he is now beginning to feel really tired.

I owe you a Collins for your motor all last week and Thank you so much for 3 delicious drives. I am sure White must think you are terribly put upon by all your friends and must faint when he sees us all packing in.

Yours
Venetia Stanley

I’ve seen 10 oyster catchers, 2 sheldrake a heron, a cormorant, & several jackdaws. Does it make your mouth water?

—————

Written in pencil.

{1} Littlestone-on-Sea, a coastal village in Kent, on the edge of Romney Marsh. Bartholomew’s Survey Gazetteer of the British Isles (1914) describes it as ‘a rising and fashionable watering-place, with marine parade and good hotels. There are excellent golf links.’

{2} The Budget was introduced the previous day, and Montagu’s dinner took place in the evening. See H. H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley, No. 2.

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

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

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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Transcript

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 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 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.

—————

† Sic.

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