Item 2 - Letter from Margot Asquith to Edwin Montagu

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MONT II/A/4/2/2


Letter from Margot Asquith to Edwin Montagu


  • 16 [Apr.] 1914 (Creation)

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10 Downing Street, Whitehall, S.W.—Encloses a letter from Henry [Asquith] in immediate reply to her own. Asks to have it back, as she values it deeply. Discusses Henry’s relationships with Venetia, herself, and other members of his family. On arriving at the Castle on Tuesday he told her how much her letter had touched him. He said had lunched with Venetia and spoke of her ‘with great sweetness’.

(Misdated March.)

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      Publication note

      This letter and its enclosure are printed in H. H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley, pp. 546–9.

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      16th March {1} 1915
      10 Downing Street, Whitehall, S.W.

      Dearest Mr Montagu

      I value this letter deeply so return it at once. I wrote a letter to Henry at 5 A.M Windsor on {2} Mar. 13th & gave it to George to put in his motor (going up to London for cabinet) He sat down directly he arrived here in cabinet room & wrote enclosed & sent it down by special messenger. I got it at 1.30. Was’nt it sweet of him.

      I had thought him first a little rough in answer when I asked him if he was tired or cold Monday evening—this was all—but I was terribly out of spirits & tho to you {3} I may be cocky, snobby, anything you like—I am fundamentally humble & without any form of vanity (I know as well as Blanche that tho I’m well made & have got an alert xpression I’m plain & se-vere, crisp & candid) & I have as you know often wondered if Venetia had’nt ousted me faint-ly—not very much—but enough to wound bewilder & humiliate me—(I have been chaffed about her more than once) Venetia as I said to Henry has many fine points: she is unselfish & kind but she leads (not in Hospital) the kind of life I hate (after being out 10 years!) & she is not candid with me. {4} She has not much atmosphere or moral or intellectual sensibility & in old days she always made mischief between Violet & me just when Violet was most devoted to me but in spite of all this I really have no sort of personal dislike & always {5} suggest Venetia for everything—Meetings (Newcastle) Walmer Wharf debates dinners etc etc My jealousy is not small or {6} from wounded vanity it is from Love {7} for Henry (& the knowledge alas! that I am no longer young & I daresay—in fact I always observe—as men get older they like different kinds of women) & the passionate longing that nothing & no one sd even hang a chiffon or tis-sue paper veil between him & me even once a month. Our relationship is absolutely unique. Every night however late I go & sit on his knee in my nightgown & we tell each other everything—he shows me all his letters xcept Venetias & tells me every secret things he tells no one in the world but then he does’nt know poor little Violets curious nature & thinks what he says before her to Cys or Eric or Bongy she will of course discuss with me (like Ocs wire on Drinks & other trifling family things) he cannot imagine that it is an xtra pleasure to Violet to know something that I dont: that she wd xclude me if she could from everything—not from dislike but from vanity. The desire to be of more importance. This is so deep down in her rather thin nature that she is unconscious of it. The idea of sharing her joys or pleasures takes away from them.

      Even little Davies said to me “Wont you join Cys & me sometimes he loves you very much” I cd not answer him for tears—I see Puff & Elizabeth unconsciously closing up when they think I’m being neglected in tiny family (purely family) ways. They dont like it.

      When H. arrived Tues night at the Castle & came into my room where I was lying in the dark he took me in his arms & tears were on his cheek he said my letter had touched him so terribly he had thought of nothing else (he told me Venetia had lunched & he spoke of her with great sweetness)

      Tear all this up & dont think me wanting in Reverence or diffidence in writing it to you. Your part to play is to persuade both Violet & Venetia that if they dont marry they will be miserable formidable egoists & amateurs

      Yrs truly {8}


      Printed in H. H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley, pp. 546–7. The few verbal variations in the printed text have been noted below, but no notice has been taken of such editorial alterations as the correction of the writer’s habit of omitting the first letter from words beginning ex-.

      {1} This is what is written, but the month should be April. Letters simply has ‘16 April 1915’, without any reference to the mistake.

      {2} ‘Windsor on’: ‘Monday or’ in Letters.

      {3} ‘him’ in Letters.

      {4} ‘candid with me’: ‘candid with me’ in Letters.

      {5} Underlined twice.

      {6} ‘as’ in Letters.

      {7} Underlined three times.

      {8} ‘Yrs truly’: ‘Your loving’ in Letters.

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