Item 176 - Letter from Venetia Montagu to Edwin Montagu

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MONT II/A/1/176


Letter from Venetia Montagu to Edwin Montagu


  • 11-20 Nov. 1917 (Creation)

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24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.—(11 Nov.) On Friday [9th], after dinner at Cassel’s, she and Margot shared a taxi driven by a Miss Ryder, who had been at the Slade School with Phyllis. At home she found Edward, Bluey, and Phyllis. Edward and Phyllis spent the night together. Phyllis has now left. Today she lunched with friends, including Bluey, who is leaving for Canada next week on ‘air board business’. Has begun painting the silk for Montagu’s bed. Is dining with Cardie and William, who needs another operation.—(12 Nov.) Nash came to lunch, and she dined at Wimborne House. Ivor is having great success with Diana. Has been put in charge of a ward at the hospital.—(13 Nov.) Norah and Nancy Lindsay made an irritating visit in the afternoon.—[14 Nov.] She dined at home last night. Her guests included Cowans, who seemed more than usually hostile to Lloyd George, whose speech [in Paris] is endlessly discussed. She lunched with Willie Tyrrell and Bluey, who also discussed the speech. Has been unable to see Hankey or Eric since Montagu left. Is going tonight to a farewell party for Edward.—[Later.] Rosemary has denied there is much chance of her becoming the future Queen. ‘Oc is home, slightly gassed, & may be going to get both a brigade and a V.C!’—(15 Nov.) She dined with Ava, where she sat next to Josh Wedgwood, who gave her some earnest advice about Bampfylde Fuller’s letter in The Times. Afterwards she played bridge and went to a wedding-party at the Fairbairns’, which she left with the Baroness d’Erlanger, whom she likes. ‘J’aime toujours les maitresses de mes amants.’ She denies, however, that Hugo is her lover, even though Diana and the Baroness suspect it.—(16 Nov.) She dined at Osbert’s new house, and thought him and Sachie ‘a truly strange pair’.—(17 Nov.) She set off to see the Jimmy Rothschilds at Witney, but Dolly met her at the station to tell her that Neil had been fatally wounded, so went to Munstead instead for lunch. On her return home she found Montagu’s Cairo letter [B1/145]. Lloyd George is in a mess over his Air Ministry, but Northcliffe’s letter will do Northcliffe more harm than Lloyd George. Denies that she is unhappy. Last night she dined with the Roy and various guests.—(18 Nov.) Asks about the carpets at Cairo.—(19 Nov.) She lunched with friends at the Savoy, and she and Diana reminisced about lunches there with Neil. She dined with the Baroness, who is having a row with Hugo about some infidelity of his. Has received a letter from Scatters, who has been in action. In the afternoon she went to a ‘ghastly’ party given by Sen in honour of his father [Keshub Chunder Sen], and this evening some friends called briefly on the way to a ball.—(20 Nov.) Wedgwood, who came to lunch, says that yesterday’s debate was a triumph for Lloyd George, and that Asquith’s position of ‘hands off the soldiers’ is unpopular with the Liberals. Has just visited William Rawle, who is convalescing after his operation.

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      24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.
      Sunday 11th 1917.

      My own darling. Friday I dined with Cassel, very dreary even for his parties, Margot, old Boy, Brinsley Fitzgerald, Mrs Drexel, Maguires. I got off rather with the old Cassel I thought, but then I always flatter myself that I do and am probably quite wrong. Afterward he & I & Margot & Maguire played bridge. Terribly slow and long till 12.30 but I won £10. I was longing to get home as I had Bluey, Edward Diana & K coming in from dining with Haldane. Margot was very much pleased by having found a female taxi driver, a Miss Ryder who was coming to take her home, so after she’d dropped them she took me home. I found Edward Bluey & Phillis and as E wanted to keep the taxi I told him in a hurried aside that the driver was a lady & he must ask her to sit inside if she were to wait for him and not to make any lewd proposals to her; however presently up they both came and she sat here and talked to us. She was rather nice had known Phillis at the Slade school. Rather jolly looking, short hair & neat blue breeches. Her story (such as she told it to Margot) is that at the beginning of the War she was so bored at home and her family refusing to let her work she ran away with 15/ in her pocket, came up to London and went to a bridge club to which she belonged and won £50, on the strength of this she went into munitions but found it very hard so gave it up & with a small legacy she had got learnt driving & bought a taxi. She says she makes about £2 a day and only starts at 12 & generally plays bridge from 5 to 7. Doesnt it sound a perfect life. As you can imagine I was very nervous with Edward & her (remembering the scene with the hospital nurse) however he was intent on Phillis & tho he made advances to her I believe he returned very soon and I think they spent the night together. Are you shocked at my allowing it? I’m not sure that I’m not, but yet it seems ridiculous for me to try and put an end to that kind of thing and if she sleeps with Ivor, Scatters & Patrick why not Edward. Still I’m afraid it will do the poor girl no good. She doesnt really like him either. Its merely that she misses her cracks. She’s left me now and once again I’m alone. She & I, Duff, Francis Horner, Edward & Bluey (he is off to Canada next week on air board business) lunched at the Ritz, they all went off to Mells and I’m deserted in London. Its been very pleasant, I spent all yesterday afternoon painting the first piece of silk for your bed. I’m intoxicated by the beauty. I think I shall do the same this afternoon, I cant be bothered to go out, having got back from the hospital I shall settle down till I dine tonight with Cardie & William. He is home again, as once they got him out there they found he cd do nothing so now he is to have a further operation and if that does no good I expect they will invalide† him out. He’s not at Arlington St alas! but at the American Hospital.

      Monday. Another thoroughly typical dinner at Cardies all the usual odd people they always collect, the only other woman was a Mrs Hanbury, rather dull I thought however I won £6 at Sandown. No news today. Nash lunched, rather dry, I didnt go out at all but sat at home absorbed as usual in my painting! I’ve finished one small piece and ordered the bed to be made, I’m sorry to say it will cost £45, but I’m sure you’ll think it lovely. I dined at Wimborne Ho, Diana, Ivor, Lady Drogheda, McKenna, the Baroness, Bardac, me, Claud Lowther, Pamela, Sir George Prescott. Not at all bad, I’ve come round to Ivor so much, he is having a great success with Diana, I fell rather in love with the Baroness, but she’s a very odd forbidding woman, I dont know if she dislikes me or not. The hospital has been rather fun as the sister is ill so I am in charge of a ward which gives one just a semblance of enough work.

      Tuesday. I had a cruel visitation today. Norah & Nancy Linsay† who had been having tea at the House & were dining with Bluey, not wanting to go home came and encamped themselves on me from 6 to 7.30. Just the time I feel least gregarious too. I thought they would never go. We had quite an amusing dinner here in the evening, Cowans, me, Rawle, Duff, Cardie, Victoria, Sir J. Grant {1}, Mrs Astor. Cowans asked tenderly after you, I thought I gathered from his tone even greater hostility than usual to Ll G. His speech as you can well imagine is endlessly discussed. Tho’ it seems tactless and unnecessary yet I cant see that it is a very great insult to his predecessors, and a lot is fairly good sense, but I’m told the old gang are seething over it and hope for a Haig-Robertson alliance against him. Willie Tyrrell & Bluey lunched today (Tuesday) Willie who is a strong Ll Gite thought it very foolish but both agreed that whatever happened it did not mean the return of the old Bird! I’ve not seen Hankey or Eric since you left I want to but they are both inaccessible.

      Edward has been recalled to France and leaves tomorrow so we have a farewell party tonight at Berkeley St. Me, Diana, K. Cicely, Francis, Rosemary L Gower, Duff, George Lambton, Edward, Hugo. I’ll write more tonight.

      A very sucessful† party, the dinner as I told you & a small drum after, Eddie Marsh, Lady Leslie, McEvoy Victoria Bluey. I’m sorry to say its now 2.30 & I’m only just home. George got gloriously huffy, the good old fashioned kind, not able to pronounce any words and yet eccessively† garrulous. We played a little bridge with no result. Rosemary was very sweet looking delicious, but I’m sorry to say she denies that there is much chance of her becoming our future Queen. I’d rather hoped for it.

      Oc is home, slightly gassed, & may be going to get both a brigade and a V.C! No more my darling. Good night.

      Thursday. No very special news, I dined with Ava tonight and sat next Evelyn Fitzgerald & Josh Wedgewood. {2} Wedgewood suddenly turned to me and said “I {3} hope whenever you see a letter in the Times like Bamfylde Fullers you write and say how much you appreciate what he says and ask him to come & see you to talk things over”. I was obliged to admit that I did nothing of the kind and didnt think that I should be helping you much if I did, He however was very strong on the point and asked to come to lunch to tell me what I should do so accordingly he is coming Tuesday. I dont think much of him do you? But he his boom in “society” is very strange and a great tribute to Mauds powers. After dinner I, Norah Lindsay, Cowans & Fox McDonnell played bridge. Rather dreary, Cowans was vile, very surly when losing and then both rough & familiar! Afterwards I went on to a party at the Fairbairns, to celebrate their wedding day, not much fun & I came away early with the Baroness d Erlanger. I like the woman. “J’aime toujours les maitresses de mes amants”. Not that Hugo is my “amant” tho’ Diana suspects him of being, & the Baroness suspects every woman of being his amant.

      Dined with Osbert, Diana, Duff & I in a new house of his in Swan Walk. He and Sachie are a truly strange pair, almost exclusively interested in bric à brac and anecdotes of their own family but we had rather fun, tho’, owing to a thick fog, had to walk and tube the whole way home.

      Saturday. I started out today to spend the day with the Jimmy Rothschilds at Witley, but when I got to the station I found Dolly with the news that Neil had been most seriously wounded, in fact they had no hope. I’m really dreadfull sorry arent you. I did like him very much. I didnt go on to see them as Jimmy was frightfully upset but fortunately was quite near Munstead where I lunched and am now just home to find your long Cairo letter {4}. I adore your descriptions of everything please go on being most explicit. Isnt Ll G in a fine mess over his Air Ministry, but I think Northcliffs letter is such a cads letter that it will do him even more harm than Ll G. He (Ll G.) never got a copy of Northcliffs letter, the first he saw of it was in the Times. I think it means a tustle between them which should be interesting. I cant tell you how I miss hearing all the news from you of what is going on.
      I wish you didnt think me unhappy! I cant imagine anyone who is more fortunate than I, or who realises and appreciates their good fortune more. A photographers is such an odious place that one needs must look gloomy when one goes, and I think when you see a photograph of Elizabeth in this weeks Tatler (which do try & get) you’ll agree that even the most melancholy expression is better than her grin. I also had a letter from Alan this week. Give him my love and thank him ever so much for it. I will write to him very soon.

      Tell him in the mean time that I dont think there are any new clichés in me but that I will keep him posted in case he should ever be in danger of becoming a Bouch. We see a lot of Duff who now brightens our lives very much. He is growing a moustache which seems a painful and laborious process.

      Dined with the Roy last night, Roy, Diana, Claude Lowther, Hugo, me, Duff, F.E. Goonie Birrell. Rather fun, tho’ Claude was awful. So boring and foul looking. Birrell always says when he sees you†. Heard anything from Ulysses lately. Goonie looked her very best. She tells me she has written to you by last mail. We only talked after dinner, not very amusing and Duff Goonie Hugo & I left early and came back here.

      Sunday. The carpets in Cairo sound lovely do you think they will go anywhere special, or just come in useful. I’m sure if you settle to get them I shall think them divine. I’m sorry you feel tired after Egypt but I’m sure you’ll manage India all right, it wont be half such hard work as the Ministry of Munitions.

      Monday 19th. Lunched at the Savoy yesterday. Diana, Duff, Goonie Michael. Duff & Michael both lost their tempers with the waiters and Diana & I were in a rather sentimental mood, remembering past lunches there with Jimmy, Scatters & Neil. I’m really sad about his death, we all had great fun together hadnt we last spring, and he will leave a gap one can ill afford. Do write Peggy a line, she will be so miserable.

      After lunch I came home and sat here painting till dinner when I dined with the Baroness. Not very amusing. She and Hugo are having a row over some infidelity of his which made her very cross and him silent & surly. I inadvertently made it worse by alluding to dinner at Ivor’s the night before and he hadnt confessed to going there! Its as bad as Scatters and Barbara, she is a most exacting mistress even after 6 years, but of course he trompés her right & left. He is terrified of her, but adores her.

      I had a letter from Scatters this morning in which he deplores having missed you. He’d just finished his 1st part in the battle in which apparently his Yeomanry did very well. I’m so glad about it, and that he didnt miss it or people wd have said he’d only waited till the battle was over to go out.

      I took Wedgewoods strictures to heart and accordingly this afternoon went off to Cromwell Rd to a ghastly party given by Sen in honour of the birth of his father. {5} Did you know he was such a great man? It was awful; {6} speeches by Ld Carmichael and several black men, Lady Duke & Cecilia Roberts were the only people I knew, but perhaps they thought it nice of me to go. What do you think.

      I’ve had a perfect evening at home dinner on a tray and painting and writing to you, just as I was going to bed about 11.15 Diana, Duff, Ivo, Cynthia Michael and Diana Wyndham came round on their way to a ball, but have now also left.

      Tuesday. Only time to finish hastily. Wedgewood came to lunch. He says yesterdays debate was a triumph for Ll G. that Asquith’s point of hands off the soldiers was most unpopular with all the Liberals and that he hadnt really a good case. This as you know is not from a pro Ll G ite. He spoke with much affection of you and I gave him such news of you as I could. It wasnt bad, but I dont feel he’ll be one of my greatest friends. I like a more worthless type.

      Just back from seeing William Rawle, he looks ill, & is still in great pain from his op but they think the result will be good.

      The messenger is waiting.

      All my love.
      Yrs V.


      Written in pencil.

      {1} Reading uncertain.

      {2} The pencil was changed here.

      {3} Inverted commas supplied.

      {4} B1/145, dated 29 October.

      {5} See The Times, 22 Nov., p. 9.

      {6} Semi-colon supplied.

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