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Knowles, Esther Edith (1895–1974), secretary to Lord and Lady Pethick-Lawrence Pièce Avec objets numériques
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Letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Lady Pethick-Lawrence

Résidence Générale de la République Française, Tunis.—Describes the Cabinet mission’s flight to Tunis and their accommodation there.

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*Transcript**

Résidence Générale de la République Française à Tunis
Tunis, le
20 March.

My own dear Love.

A gorgeous Bougainvillée tree in full bloom greeted me when I arrived in the upper courtyard of this house last night. It recalled many happy memories of travels you & I have had together about this time of year.

I have read your very dear letter {1} & shall be able to think of your movements day by day & send my thoughts to you & to all the friends tht† are coming to see you. Please give my love to one & all.

EMP & the girls {2} will have told you about our motor ride & about Hurn {3}. I think they went into the aeroplane & saw our comfortable quarters. We were finally in the air a little before noon & in half an hour were over the Cherbourg peninsular. Signs of devastation were just visible at a height of 7000 feet. At one o’clock a white table cloth was laid & soup & sandwiches appeared. I thought this was lunch & partook only to be told that lunch was served at 2! However it did me no harm.

2.30 we were over the French mountains & a thick coat of snow was visible. At 3.30 we saw the mouth of the Rhone & about 4.15 the coast of Sardinia. At 5 o’c we landed (most gently) on the airfield at Tunis & drove out here. The sun was setting & local time registered an hour later. The British Consul met us & escorted us here—a very fine villa reminiscent of Mena House {4}. It is only moderately warm. The others are going to have a leisurely walk, & a drive into Tunis this afternoon. We dine tonight with the French resident & are off on Friday morning before dawn.

We had a steak last night such as I have not seen since 1939 & tangerine oranges.

The others are waiting for me

Yours ever
Boy

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{1} PETH 8/68, dated 18 March.

{2} i.e. Ethel Mary Pethick, Emmeline’s sister, and the Pethick-Lawrences’ secretaries, Esther E. Knowles and Gladys E. Groom.

{3} Hurn aerodrome, near Bournemouth.

{4} The Mena House Hotel, by the Pyramids at Giza.

Letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Lady Pethick-Lawrence

Viceroy’s House, New Delhi.—The Cabinet mission are about to remove to Willingdon Crescent, where life will be less formal. They had a large press conference last night.

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Transcript

The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi
Mch 25. 46

My dear.

I am now nearing the end of the second day here & tomorrow we are migrating to our private residence in Willingdon Crescent. Though everyone has been more than kind here I shall not be sorry to shake off the excessive formality & ceremony. At lunch & dinner there are as many servants in gorgeous red livery as there are diners. When the Viceroy & his wife walk into dinner his own sister & his daughter have to curtsey to them. There are some 250 gardeners in the garden, & the house is I think actually larger than Buckingham Palace. Of course my “bearer” will go on with me to the house. He is a very charming person & I submit gracefully to his ministrations which include putting on me nearly all my clothes but he does not insist on seeing me into bed at night!

I am exceedingly well & have recovered from the slight liver-sluggishness from having no exercise whatever during the last 2½ days of my flight.

One of the guests here is General Wauchope who was High Commissioner in Palestine & had us several times to dine with him when we were there. He asked specially after you whom he said he had so much enjoyed meeting, & wished me to remember him to you.

Enclosed is for Lydia.

If I am not able to write any more before the post goes I will just take this moment to send you my very dear love

Boy

I have already had two letters from EK {1}.

[Added later:]

I feel I have done much less than justice to the gorgeousness of the garden. Great shrubs of ? Petria {2} with blue flowers the colour of Ceanotus & nearly the shape of Wisteria, other shrubs of red Bougainvillée & trees with lovely coloured flowers, vast masses of stocks[,] roses etc.

Everything is on an immense scale. We had a press conference last night attended by some 200–250 press men & after reading a long agreed statemt, I had to answer some 50 questions. Everyone thinks it went very well & tht we did nt depart from a balanced presentation.

Alexander & Cripps are most delightful colleagues, and the V with his paucity of words is helpful & friendly.

I havent seen Agatha {3} yet but I think we shall have more opportunities for social intercourse when we move to our own abode. I suppose the temperature is between 80 & 90 but as it is very dry I have not experienced the slightest discomfort—only a pleasant pervading warmth.

I do so hope you are well & happy & have fairly decent weather.

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There are a few characteristically abbreviated words, including ‘tht’ for ‘that’.

{1} Esther Knowles.

{2} Probably Petrea volubilis, purple wreath.

{3} Agatha Harrison.

Letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Lady Pethick-Lawrence

2 Willingdon Crescent, New Delhi.—The Cabinet mission have met with the Executive Council, the Viceroy, and the Provincial Governors. Discussions proper begin next week, but Gandhi has been invited for a preliminary chat. Has engaged to dine with Agatha Harrison and Mrs Naidu.

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Transcript

2 Willingdon Crescent {1}
Office of Cabinet Delegation, The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi

Mch 28. 46

My dear.

Since I wrote to you last my days have been more & more crowded up with engagements & I have had very little time to myself. We have been getting down to the main task of the mission & there is very little to tell you except wht has probably appeared in the British Press. We saw the V’s Executive Council on Tuesday {2} and after several talks with the V himself we saw the Provincial Governors for 4 hours this afternoon & are to see them again for 2 or 3 hours tomorrow morning {3}. Next week we are to start on the “discussions” proper on Monday {4} & they will continue for a fortnight. Among our visitors will be Gandhi {5} & I have invited him to come to this house for a previous chat a day or two before the formal interview.

The cool spell which we struck in Delhi has passed & we are now experiencing the normal weather of the year rising from about 80º to 90º. This is by no means unbearable but we are threatened with a further rise of 20º to 30º later on. It is all dry heat which is a great mercy.

I have taken to having a walk before breakfast about 7.30 to 8. Then to walk to my office through the V’s garden (about 10 min). I dont walk again till evening & then only if I have time.

I am looking forward to having a letter from you soon. I think you will probably find tht sending to the India Office as EK {6} does is better for I have already had several letters from her.

We have Agatha Harrison coming to dinner to night & tomorrow Mrs Sarojini Naidu. Saturday is a day with no engagements fixed at present & Sunday I am hoping Gandhi will be able to come at 7. PM.

Dear old Sweetheart I hope you are enjoying your dear self. It will be a great delight to come back to you but tht is a long way off yet.

Your own precious love
Boy.

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There are a few characteristically abbreviated words, including ‘wht’ for ‘what’.

{1} This line of the address is handwritten.

{2} 26 March.

{3} Notes of these meetings are printed in The Transfer of Power, vol. vii (Nos. 6, 7, 14, 17, and 20).

{4} 1 April.

{5} Gandhi’s name is written in large letters.

{6} Esther Knowles.

Letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Lady Pethick-Lawrence

Office of Cabinet Delegation (as 6/153).—They are interviewing many interesting people. He and Alexander hope to visit the Taj on Sunday, and the mission have now received the required formal invitation to go Kashmir at Easter.

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Transcript

Office of Cabinet Delegation, The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi
April 9 (To be Posted 10th)

Dearest One

It is a refreshment to sit down before dinner & commune with you after the heat of midday & the burden of the interviews & talks. And I have just had a letter from you dated April 5 from Fways saying you have had my letters of Mch 28 & 30. I have an earlier letter (April 3) from you also to acknowledge & an enclosure from Lydia for which please give her my love & thanks. You ask whether you shall address me to 2 Willingdon Crescent or wht; it doesnt matter at all. So long as the letter comes out in the official bag it will be delivered to me by Turnbull to wherever I am. Equally I presume when I write a letter to you & send it to the India Office tht they will send it to 11 O S or to Fourways according to wht E K tells them.

We are seeing a great many interesting people both formally & informally but it is sometimes rather drowsy work listening to their soft & droning voices. Sir C P Ramaswami Aiyar (who was in the cartoon I sent you yesterday “Sir C P”) was an exception with his vigorous & determined voice, & Joshi whom we saw this afternoon was most interesting. I am sending you the latest programme. You will see we are to meet 2 women on Thursday.

We shall very soon have to be thinking in earnest about our method of tackling the main problem or problems. But of course this has in a sense been going on all the time.

I had a swim in the swimming pool yesterday evening & again tonight. It is quite a large bath & it takes the heat out of one’s body. Alexander & I hope to go to see The Taj Sunday morning. The Cashmir trip at Easter awaits an invitation from the Ruler about which there appears to be some hitch. (now resolved 10. iv. 46)

I have had nice letters from Mrs Subbarayan & also from Mrs Hamid Ali whom I think you know.

I send you an early picture of me taken at Karachi which you may nt yet have seen.

I am most interested in your Fways news & your a/c of your amazing hot weather. I do hope there are no more frosts. Here it continues to get hotter & there is a haze about all the time which makes it somewhat humid. (102º yesterday 9th)

My dear I think of you with such love.

Your own
Boy

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There are a few characteristically abbreviated words, including ‘wht’ for ‘what’.

{1} PETH 6/151–2. Lady Pethick-Lawrence’s letter of 5 April does not survive.

{2} ‘April 3’ interlined. The brackets have been supplied. This letter does not survive.

Letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Lady Pethick-Lawrence

Office of Cabinet Delegation, The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi.—Refers to his forthcoming visits to Kashmir and the Taj. The mission has gained much goodwill, but their visitors do not expect that it will be able to resolve the impasse between Congress and the Muslim League.

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Transcript

Office of Cabinet Delegation, The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi
Saty April 13. 46

My beloved.

I may as well confess tht what I would love most wd be to spend Easter with my darling at Fways. But since tht is out of the question a few days recess in Cashmir has its charms. So many people have chanted the praises of Cashmir tht I shall be most interested to see how far their eulogies are justified. Then there will be also the relaxation from the heat here. Latterly we have been rather mercifully treated in tht respect. After rising day by day to a maximum of 105º (in the shade of course) the dust & rain storms brought it down with a run to a maximum of 85º & of course a minimum much below tht at night—almost cold. Now I expect it will creep up again & the flowers will gradually wither away. But the Jacaranda trees are in full bloom with their gorgeous blue flowers.

Meanwhile the political scene continues to run its course. None of our visitors seem to expect tht we shall be able to resolve the Congress-Moslem League impasse; on the other hand the Mission itself seems to have been accepted as sincere & to have won a fair measure of goodwill. After we come back from Cashmir all this remains to be put to the test.

Alexander & I plan to go to Agra tomorrow, starting fairly early, to see the Taj. We propose to be back here for lunch. Our intention is to leave here for Cashmir on Friday next April 19 returning Wednesday morning April 24.

A great budget of letters has just arrived—two from you dated 7th & 9th, two from E K 8th & 9th, one fm Kathleen Wilkinson & one from Arthur Henderson. I have only had time to glance at them as I want this letter to go by the bag. But I shall have leisure to read them all with enjoyment this Saturday afternoon.

My fond love to my darling
Boy

We had a party for all the Congress Working Committee last night. They all came. Presently we are doing the same for the Moslem League.

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There are a few characteristically abbreviated words, including ‘tht’ for ‘that’.

{1} 21 April.

Letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Lady Pethick-Lawrence

Office of Cabinet Delegation, The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi.—Has sent an account of his visit to Agra for distribution (see 6/159). Reflects on his colleagues’ personalities. The Cabinet mission must confront the ‘Communal problems’ when they return from Kashmir.

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Transcript

Office of Cabinet Delegation, The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi
April 14 46
(Not posted till 15th).

My very own darling.

Of course you have been specially in my thoughts today as I have been to Agra to see the Taj. I dont propose to say anything about that in this letter as I have written a short a/c to E K for her to copy & to send to you & various people {1}. As it will arrive during Easter I am afraid there will be a little delay before you get it but that doesnt matter does it. But you are constantly in my thoughts & I yearn to see you & be with you again. But I have just to be patient. The Taj was just radiant as ever & unsurpassable. Nearly 20 years since you & I saw it together {2}.

I rejoice greatly in all the lovely spring you are having. I have had leisure to read your recent letters several times & to enjoy them. They keep me well posted up in your doings & friends & thoughts.

All my colleagues are delightful & interesting & so different. Cripps the brilliant rapier witted improviser with strong left tendencies, vegetarian, teetotaler. Alexander the Britisher who likes to breakfast in bed & get up at 8 or 8.30, wants cheddar cheese & English food, & is so proud of the British navy, is going to read the lessons tonight at the English nonconformist church here. The Viceroy the soldier sparing of speech, suspicious of new fangled ideas & I imagine of all foreign ways of thought & action, straight forward, blunt but with his own sense of humour. And P-L wht of him? Well, not so resourceful as Cripps, not so downright as the V[,] nt so British as Alexander. Perhaps more judicial than any of them. Weighs up all the pros & cons. Hears all tht is said on both sides. Sums up & expresses the general opinion. Perhaps more than any of the others I have convinced the Indians of our sincerity. But sincerity alone won’t solve the Communal problems, & when we come back from Cashmir we have got to face it in earnest unless a miracle happens & the Indians solve it themselves.

The weather is really quite nice here in Delhi (unusually mild for the time of year we are told). It was hotter in Agra. I am very well. No mosquitoes & very few flies. Lizards frogs & mice in the house—none of which I think the “First Lord” (Alexander) really likes. I have bought exactly the right clothes.

Four times in my life I have had someone to go before me to prepare my bath—when I was a baby, when I was in prison, when I broke my ribs, & now when I am in India. I suppose it will happen again when I am very old! An odd thing is life!

I kiss my beloved, & send my love to all our circle

Boy.

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There are a few characteristically abbreviated words, including ‘wht’ for ‘what’ and ‘nt’ for ‘not’.

{1} See PETH 6/159.

{2} The Pethick-Lawrences first visited the Taj Mahal together in December 1926 and they returned there at the beginning of the following month. See PETH 6/130 and 6/132.

Letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Lady Pethick-Lawrence

Guest House No. 2, Srinagar, Kashmir.—Gives an account of the Cabinet mission’s visit to Kashmir.

Delhi.—Has now (24th) returned to Delhi.

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Transcript

Guest House No 2, {1}
Srinagar, Kashmir

April 19. 46

My dear.

What a strange unreal world I am living in! I came over the mountains this morning. Great snowy peaks at a height of 12000 to 15000 ft with some running up to over 20000. Then down into this sunny plain—the vale of Kashmir—some 5000 above sea level. We were met by the Prime Minister & the Resident {2} & brought away here. All the streets were lined with people to see us pass. Neither welcome nor hostility from the crowds—just curiosity. This place has an English climate. The almond blossom just over, the hawthorn (not really hawthorn but a kind of spirea) & the fruit blossom in flower. It is very lovely. Maud Coote (Foulds) is coming to see me on Sunday {3}. I am warned tht she is very odd. I am not surprised. I will tell you about wht I make of her after she has come & gone.

I had another interview with Gandhi last evening. He is very friendly personally—so are they all which is a most important & valuable thing. But what help or hindrance we shall get from any of them when we really bend ourselves to trying to solve the riddle of the Sphinx remains to be seen.

Sunday morning. Yesterday we drove 60 miles up the valley & up a mountain stream to a little island on to which we crossed on foot. We walked up to a little shrine & from there only 200 or 300 further up was snow in a ravine. The sun was very hot & I did not go on. I thought at 7000 ft up it was probably wiser not to do too much. We picnicked out with food brought from here & later I walked round the island & after the others had had tea we drove home. Cripps did not come with us as he went fishing with Turnbull & Fraser. They caught a large number of very large trout which they have since distributed among various houses round here.

It started raining yesterday evening & is raining fast now. But it was fine for me to have a morning walk before breakfast. I climbed half way up to a monastery on the top of a hill just opposite this guest-house. Presently I am going to church & am to read the lesson—from “Revelation”. I have conned it though so as not to stumble. I belive† the Maharajah is coming to lunch with us. His own house is being repaired & he lives in a small villa. Later Maud Coote is coming to see me, & later if the rain leaves off, which seems unlikely, we are to go on the lake. There are hundreds of houseboats on the river & lake in which many people (retired Europeans & Indians) live all the year round.

On the day of our arrival (Friday) we had a short drive to two fascinating public gardens. The feature of each of them was a stream running down in cascades all the way. One of them had 12 terraces & a cascade above each.

Later. It rained all the morning, I drove to Church. The Canon preached a sermon all about the resurrection of the Spring & the coming of the flowers. The Church Yard instead of being a cemetery is a very beatiful† flower garden—pansies, tulips, cowslips, primroses, nermophilas, aubrecchia, & hundreds of others & a lovely little Japanese Maple & a Judas tree.

The Maharaja {4} came to lunch. He & Sir Stafford Cripps talked fishing for about 1½ hours. I am going to see him tomorrow morning to talk politics. He has planned out a trip on the river for tomorrow afternoon & a journey up a valley for Tuesday to see wild bears.

Maud Coote came at 2.15. She struck me as very sane & most interesting. She gave me a book of her poems some of which I have read since she has gone & I liked v. much. She herself is of course much older & plumper though she eats very little. She sent her love to you & said she would pray Ramakrishna for the Cabinet Mission.

After tht I went for a walk along the bank of the river & seen† the many houseboats & the back of the shops including Maud’s “Kig Products”.

Tuesday evening. Monday we had a lovely paddle on the lake. 5 men paddled in each boat of which there were three. (I had of course to be a passenger). Later I drove with the Maharajah about 20 miles up a valley & saw a wild boar but no bears. We visited his trout hatchery & saw some enormous trout 10 & 12 & 14 lbs. We had lunch & tea there. I have also played billiards & snooker with Alexander & gave him a considerable handicap & beat him in all but one game. We start for Delhi tomorrow at 7 AM weather permitting. I shall post this from there. I am very well. I love you very much.

Just your own
Boy

This is a very inadequate description of a very lovely place & a charming holiday.

[Added at the head of the letter:]

April 24 Back in Delhi

3 letters from E K & 2 from you dated April 14 & 16. I look forward to reading them but do not want to delay sending this off.

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There are a few characteristically abbreviated words, including ‘tht’ for ‘that’.

{1} This line of the address is handwritten.

{2} Ram Chandra Kak and W. F. Webb.

{3} 21 April, Easter Day.

{4} Sir Hari Singh.

† Sic.

Letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Lady Pethick-Lawrence

Viceregal Lodge, Simla.—Describes his journey to Simla and the situation of the Lodge. Jinnah will not arrive till Saturday, so talks will not begin till Sunday. Sends his love for their anniversary of 12 May. Four of his colleagues have just celebrated birthdays.

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Transcript

Viceregal Lodge, Simla
May 1, 46.

My dear.

This is certainly a most wonderful place and I am glad I have not missed seeing it. This particular house is perched upon a hill in Simla (which is, by the way, all hills) & there is a panoramic view all round. But while at Fways the view extends for 2 or 3 miles, here it is 50, 100, & in some directions I should think 150 miles. There are snow mountains dividing us from Kashmir & snow mountains dividing us from Tibet. We are about 7000 feet up.

I dined with Jinnah last night & met his sister who is very like him—they both look very tall but tht is because they are thin with aquiline faces. In reality they are only 5’9” & 5’ 4”. Jinnah says he cant get here till Saturday & we shant begin our talks till Sunday, so we shall nt have very much to do the next 3 days.

We got up @ 5.30 this morning, breakfasted 6.15, started 7, left aerodrome at 7.30[,] reached Amballa at 8.30 & then came up here 94 miles in motor cars, the last 55 miles being a steady climb. Most of the cars broke down on the way. I came with the Viceroy. I smelt something like a leather clutch burning some time before we pulled up. The sun is quite hot up here but the air is cool & refreshing. There is a billiard table in the house & a putting golf course in the garden.

The house itself is much less grandiose than the one at Delhi; all the same I have a very large sitting room & another large bedroom & 2 verandahs with glorious views.

I dont know how long this letter will take to reach you but I expect is wont go off till tomorrow & then it will take a day to Delhi, so tht you wont get it much before our May 12. In spite of all the beauty here I do wish I was with you for our festival. You will have to have the salmon & the gooseberry tart with friends & waft a greeting to me as I shall to you my beloved. 45 years ago since the original May 12, & I love my darling more deeply than ever. Kiss all the flowers for me at Fourways. Give my love to May & Lydia & to the girls in London & to the folk at Peaslake.

Last Wednesday was Stafford Cripps birthday, yesterday was Turnbulls, & today Alexanders[,] & Sunday is the Viceroys {1}. But I am sticking to soft drinks which suit me better. I am still exceptionally well though I dont xpect to sleep as well at this height as I have done in Delhi. You know neither of us ever did when we were in Switzerland.

The political situation here moves slowly forward to a climax which I cant predict. I am afraid the Palestine Report will greatly upset the Moslems.

All my love
Boy

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There are a few characteristically abbreviated words, including ‘nt’ for ‘not’ and ‘xpect’ for ‘expect’.

{1} ‘& Sunday is the Viceroys’ was inserted slightly later.

Letter from Lord Pethick-Lawrence to Lady Pethick-Lawrence

Office of Cabinet Delegation, The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi.—Is looking forward to going home. Cripps is recovering gradually, and Isobel is coming out to take him home by ship. Refers to the delay in negotiations. He took some colleagues for a drive on Sunday.

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Transcript

Office of Cabinet Delegation, The Viceroy’s House, New Delhi
May 28. 46.

My beloved.

I have had 2 letters from you today {1} & 3 from Esther & as I have had a fair amount of leisure I have been able thoroughly to enjoy them. I am so glad tht you feel just as I do about my coming home. The job comes first, second, third & all the time. But when it is done—so far as it can be done—all my mind & heart will be in coming home & seeing you again.

I am sorry to be missing an English spring, but I am delighted to know tht you are enjoying it to the full. After all I enjoy all the seasons in their turn & perhaps I shall be back before all the wild roses in the path are over & I did see some in Simla. All the flowers are gone here, but the trees are still in blossom, & the Bougainvillea seems to last on indefinitely.

Cripps is back with us—better but with a long way to go yet. Isobel is coming out to take him home on shipboard. We have booked passage for them on June 16 from Bombay and hope tht will see the job done.

These people here keep on keeping us waiting in turn & then are inclined to grumble at us for the delay. I suppose we must remember tht we have been keeping them waiting in a sense for the last 50 years! I think on the whole we make progress though sometimes there is a great slip backwards which seems to retrace the forward steps of many days. Through it all I do not forget tht we can only do our best with the parts tht are given to us, it is the Great Dramatist who decided whether the play is to have a happy ending.

I took Turnbull & 2 others out for a short drive on Sunday afternoon starting at 4.30. We got out 3 times to see sights & though it was terribly hot it made a pleasant break in the daily routine specially for Turnbull who works incessantly.

I have a sort of idea it is May’s birthday some time about now. If so give her my special love.

Darling I am,
Your very own
Boy.

Give my love to Madeleine & congratulate her from me on her success. Dont let her overdo you.

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The abbreviation ‘tht’ for ‘that’ occurs a few times.

{1} PETH 8/70 and 8/71?

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