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

Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire.—Thanks him for his letter from Peshawar. Since she last wrote the Government have been defeated (on the Banbury amendment) and Violet and Geoffrey have been reconciled. Gives an account of her recent stay at the Wharf with the Asquiths and their guests. Has come to Alderley to rehearse the play and to hunt, before going to the Wharf again. Has been reading and fencing.

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

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

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Alderley Park, Chelford, Cheshire
Dec 11th 1912

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

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

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

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

I am sorry for the dullness of this letter.

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

Yrs
Venetia

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{1} MONT II B1/56.

{2} Gertrude Bell.

{3} Comma supplied.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

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

(Dated Tuesday.)

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Transcript

18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Tuesday

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

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

Venetia

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{1} The Archie Gordon Club camp at Lulworth.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

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

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18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.

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

V

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

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

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

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

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Grand Hôtel Splendide, Portofino Mare
Feb 5th 1913

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

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

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

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

Yrs
Venetia

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Written in pencil.

{1} MONT II B/61.

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

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

† Sic.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

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

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Pixton Park, Dulverton
August 4th 1913

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

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

Yrs
V

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{1} 8th.

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

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

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

(Dated Tuesday.)

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18 Mansfield Street, Portland Place, W.
Tuesday.

My dear Mr Montagu

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

Yrs very sincerely
Venetia Stanley

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

† Sic.

Letter from Venetia Stanley to Edwin Montagu

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

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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.

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