Item 179 - Letter from Venetia Montagu to Edwin Montagu

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MONT II/A/1/179

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Letter from Venetia Montagu to Edwin Montagu

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  • 8-18 Dec. 1917 (Creation)

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Pixton Park, Dulverton.—(8 Dec.) Her party [see A1/179] left London last night, after rushing from a matinee in which Diana was appearing. They slept at Taunton, and arrived at Dulverton to find Mary and Goonie there. The men have gone shooting.—(9 Dec.) They are all feeling ill, and have spent the time working and being read to. Duff and Michael have gone.

[24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.] —(10 Dec.) Diana has the measles, as has Letty. Has been shopping for Christmas presents. Conrad, who called, is ‘utterly gloomy about the war’. Even the fall of Jerusalem is, she admits, little consolation, but she hopes Scatters will send a ‘souvenir’ from there. She dined with Hazel and John Lavery and Ivor Wimborne and they went to the cinema. The Roy made ‘ “hand” advances’ to Hazel in the motor there and back. Hazel claims that when she repulsed him on a similar occasion in Ireland he said, ‘Why do you come and stay here if you mean to do nothing?’, but it is doubtful whether this is true.—(11 Dec.) She went to a ‘ghastly’ lunch at Mrs Lionel Guest’s: ‘all Americans and consequently a noise that entirely bitched one’s powers of hearing or speaking’. She was planning to have only twelve to dinner tonight, but Patrick has asked her to have the ‘coons’ in as it is his last night, so an extra party will be coming.—(12 Dec., 3 a.m.) The evening was a nightmare. There was no piano for the ‘coons’, and everyone crowded into a little room, which became even more congested when others arrived. Eventually two bridge fours were arranged and the rest went to Goonie’s for stunts and dancing.—(Later.) Diana is very poorly. Has just dined at Mrs Keppel’s.—(13 Dec.) Has received his telegram. She dined at the Islingtons’.—(14 Dec.) This afternoon’s party for Indian officers at the Islingtons was a failure, as they chose unsuitable films for them. She dined with K and Frances, who were both off to Hackney after a night shift, then went to a party at Cardie’s flat. After stunts and dancing, they played chemin-de-fer. Duff lost £1600 and, to add to his miseries, has a poisoned finger.—(15 Dec.) Diana is rather better, but her Grace [the Duchess of Rutland] is pretty bad. This afternoon she went to a concert at the Albert Hall to commemorate the First Seven Divisions. After dinner at Ivor W.’s, she came home to find Nancy, Sydney, and Olga with Hugo disguised as a woman, and they spent a couple of hours dressing him in her own clothes.—(16 Dec.) She didn’t go the hospital, as the Duchess was worried she might be carrying measles. They spent the afternoon dressing Hugo up again, and took him to see Diana and Duff. In the evening she saw her mother and others.—(17 Dec.) Has received his letter. Insists that his mission is a success. Diana is much better. Has received a letter from Alan.—(Later.) Constance Rich[ardson], Eric, and Hugo lunched with her. Progress on his curtains is slow. Has received a note from Scatters.—(18 Dec.) Has bought most of the Christmas presents he asked for. When he returns they will have a long party at Breccles.

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TRANSCRIPT:

Pixton Park, Dulverton
Saturday 8th 1917.

My own darling, Diana, Duff, Pat Micheal & I have just arrived here after a rather amusing journey. We left London last night at 6.30 and got to Taunton at 10. This part was beguiled by a delicious hamper oysters, chicken, pâté de fois gras, new potatoe† salad and champagne. It had been rather an agonising rush to catch the train at all as Diana was appearing in a matinée and only left the theatre at 5.30. She “featured” firstly a water lily in a ballet and secondly a cameo in a tableau. In both looked I thought quite lovely. She had rather a floater with Micheal justifiable I think, as when we were all settled into the train, she feeling rather a sense of achievement, he said “I didnt think much of your part this afternoon” whereupon we all said oh no she looked lovely: Micheal: Did you think so I cant say I did. Wasnt it churlish and rude. He is rather a lout tho’. But afterwards all passed off pleasantly enough. We slept at Taunton and next morning at cockcrow went on to Dulverton arriving for breakfast, to find Mary & Goonie. The men are shooting and I foresee a pleasant indoor day.

Sunday evening. Its been great fun tho’ disease has laid a heavy hand on us all. We all feel wretched. Possibly the result of very large meals at frequent intervals and no excercise†. We’ve spent the time working & being read aloud to, chiefly Lord Morley {1}. I must send it to you as you might like it for the return journey. Diana I think is in for measles (I told you Letty had got it) in which case I suppose we shall all have them, as this is the most infectious time. Duff & Micheal have left leaving us only Pat who try as I will I cant love much, I like him but he’s got not an atom of charm for me, and often bores me as he does you. I hope I may find an Indian letter when I get back tomorrow.

Monday 10th. I’m afraid its certainly measles with Diana, her temp is rising and tho’ as yet there is no rash it will be out in a day or so. Isnt it a bore for her. I’ve spent an odious afternoon in crammed shops trying to get Xmas presents for Mrs Lee etc. I should have done it weeks ago. Then Conrad came to see me, he’s unutterably gloomy about the war. It is a black prospect I must confess and even the fall of Jerusalem is but slight consolation. I hope Scatters will send me a “Souvenir” from there! I had a queer little party this evening: Hazel and John Lavery and Ivor Wimborne! After we went to the Cinema at which all were bored. The Roy is pursuing Hazel a little and was making “hand” advances to her in the motor on the way to & from the Cinema. She claims to have repulsed {2} him in Ireland whereupon he remarked “Why do you come and stay here if you mean to do nothing”. But as you know she is a grand liar so I dont expect it was in the least true. Goodnight my beloved.

Tuesday 11th. I had a most ghastly lunch at Mrs Lionel Guests, (Mrs Dodge that was) all Americans and consequently a noise that entirely bitched one’s powers of hearing or speaking. I col[l]apsed under it completely. The only redeeming feature was rather good and strange American food, scolloped oysters, corned beef hash, waffles, of which I eat far too much, so even that was to the bad. I’m appalled by the prospect of tonight, I had about 12 people dining. Lady Essex (her first entry into our house!) Mrs Keppel Birrell that type and now Patrick who I’ve just seen at a matinée has asked me to have the coons in as its his last night, and has grafted an extra party. I love having them really and am very glad to give them any fun, but a little anxious as to how things will blend.

Later (in fact 3.30 a.m Wed morning) It was a nightmare! This was how we sat down to dinner. Me, Ivor W, Lady Islington, Birrell, Adèle, Freiburg, Mrs Keppel, Cardie, Goonie, Hugo Rumbold, Phillis, Patrick, Bridget Colebrook, Micheal† Herbert, Diana Wyndham, Duff Mrs Bentinck! Dinner was all right, tho’ I was in an agony lest the food shouldnt go round, but after the full horror began. To begin with they hadnt realised that I hadnt a piano without which coons are impossible, so we spent some time in [a] nerve racking search for a piano couldnt get one so settled to go to Goonies. In the meantime as the room had been cleared for dancing there was no where to sit down so we all crowded into the little room. Then people (Edgar, Bethune {3}, Irene & a few others) who had been asked to the party came in making the congestion worse. Finally I got Adèle Duff, Cardie Mrs Keppel settled down to bridge & Pat, Edgar Mrs Bentinck & I, but at every instant I had to leave them to see about taxis to transport them to Goonies or supper for them to take. They at last all got off leaving the 2 bridges in comparative quiet and in the end Edgar & I went leaving Cardie & his 4 alone in peace. What do you think of that! Once at Goonies it was great fun and what with stunts and dancing I’m only just home. I must say Mrs Bentinck was grand not turning a hair and apparently enjoying it. She cant have really. Hugo and Duff did some marvellous “Brigade” stunts. I must stop and get a little sleep.

Wednesday. Dull day. Diana is very bad poor girl, not dangerous, but very high temp., 105, and a perpetual cough. Her rash is not yet out and she’ll be much better when it is. I’ve just dined with Mrs Keppel a beastly party. me, Sir Alan Johnston, Mrs Bingham Walter Burns, the Maguires Sir J. Cowans Duchess of Roxburgh, Hugo Wemyss, Mrs K. Tommy Maguire, Mrs Burns, Lionel Earle. I’d had to walk there owing to dearth of taxis, so imagine my horror after having taken that trouble, to find myself so seated. Some dreary bridge after at which I won £2 and so home.

Thursday. Your telegram came this morning, what a terribly long time the letters have taken, I’m still without any news from India, only hoping that this week may bring some. I dined tonight with the Islingtons. Not very gay, tho’ I love Anne, and Lord I is very mellow now to me. The party was Lord I. me Fox McDonell, an obscenity, Joan {4}, Norton, Anne, Lord R Cavendish (he spoke with affection of you having met you at Underlay {5} and much impressed by your knowledge of birds) Bridget Colebrooke, as dank as ever, Claud Russell, Diana Wyndham. Afterwards Goonie came in, she’d been dining with Duffy, and we played a little feeble poker.

Friday. I did a Pamela McKenna this afternoon went to a party for Indian Officers at the Islingtons. It was rather a failure, I’m afraid, as they had chosen very unsuitable films for them, dull long and full of seductions. And old boys like Holdernesse went on running round and murmuring “This will do a lot of harm, most unfortunate, very ill chosen”. Which threw poor Anne into a facer. I dont believe the Indians minded in the least as they must have seen 1000 of far worse films in France. In the evening I dined with K & Frances, rather a melancholy meal poor angels but they were very sweet and very forlorn. It was an arctic night and they were both going off to Hackney after dinner to a night shift. Cardie had a great party at his flat. Phillis, Claud, Lionel Tennyson, Olga Constance Richardson, Nellie, Teddie Gerrard, Duff, the man Teddie dances with, Hugo, John Craigie (Alan knows him) Sir H de Bathe, I think that† all, We started the evening by stunts, Teddie was wonderful, most obliging and willing Hugo and Duff also and Constance danced a bit. All this went on happily till about 2.30, then all left except Duff, Lionel, Hugo, Craigie, Sir H de Bathe and me and very foolishly we sat down to a round game of chemin de fer. We played for about half an hour, then it was discovered that the accounts were all wrong. Cardie & I urged for a wash out and to go to bed, but they all wanted to go on. So I said I wd keep the accounts, hoping too to limit the play a little. I stayed like an ass till 5 then left, by that time Hugo & Duff stood to lose about £200 apiece, and by the time they stopped at 7 Duff had lost £1600. Dont repeat this even to Alan, but can you imagine anything more senseless and futile than this gambling. They can none of them possibly afford to lose anything approaching those sums and yet they will go on. I feel wretched for Duff, who added to all his miseries has a poisoned finger.

Saturday. As you can imagine I’m rather short of sleep today having been in bed for exactly 2 hours, Diana is rather better, but her Grace is pretty bad. I dont think she will die tho’. I went this afternoon to the Albert Hall to the concert to commemorate the 1st 7 Divs {6}. I sat next Pertash {7} Singh who was more gaga than ever. I’ve never seen a more unimpressive, vilely organised affair, the culminating point being reached when old turnip top Derby read very haltingly and fautily† a complete list of every General and regiment which had formed part of the Divs. As most of the Generals mentioned had since been degornéd {8} the whole thing was most absurd. I was struggling most of the time to keep awake so the whole thing was a nightmare. In the evening I dined with Ivor W. where I found Maude, Ivor, me, Birrell, John Lavery, Arkers Jack Islington, Hazel, and Massingham. Mr B was divine, otherwise it wasnt much fun and again I could hardly keep my eyes open. I went home very early hoping to get to bed but found on my doorstep Nancy, Sidney, Olga and a strange woman. I thought it a little odd of those 3 to come with a complete stranger and of course at once I thought it must be Hugo. I looked at her feet, they were quite small, and her voice also was low and soft, still as we went upstairs I said to Olga “I suppose this isnt Hugo is it” And it was. The disguise is marvellous and I can now easily understand how he took them all in at Chirk. We then spent about 2 hours dressing him up in all my clothes. He looked too lovely in my purple velvet coat with fur and that brown sequin hat. His feet are a shade smaller than mine! It was in this guise that he and Olga finally left the house at 1[.]30. I’ve never seen a funnier scene than these two “women” going off down the street arm in arm. I’m dog sleepy so good night.

Sunday. I didnt go to the Hospital as the Duchess was fussing lest I should carry measles to them, so I had a nice long lie in bed. In the afternoon we again dressed up Hugo (he is so corrupt that he’d far rather be like that than in his own clothes) and took him to see Diana. Of course we couldnt take her in and only did it to make her laugh. Duff who was there was immensely taken by Hugo in his clothes his eyes positively flashed with desire. In the evening Mother, Sylvia, Nellie, Heinemann, Romilly (who to my great surprise showed tremendous interest in yr schemes, and was strongly in favour of the Gokahle† idea) Cardie and Rawle. Quite pleasant tho’ without incident. {9}

Monday. My most darling Ted. Your glorious letter came this morning. How can you say the Diary is dull, its my favorite† reading and your letters are perfect, just what I want to hear. Dont be gloomy my angel, because reading between the lines I can see that its being a huge success, and that they all think so, I’m glad you are getting a little tiny time away to shoot because I’m afraid you will be dreadfully tired. I read Diana the bit about the P & O Captain. She was delighted, she is much better, rash almost gone and temp normal, I will send you a telegram if I get it, so if you have heard nothing by the time this reaches you, you will realise that I’ve not had it, I dont expect to. Alan also wrote me a delicious letter, give him my love, and read him any of this you think he’ll like. The cold here is bitter you are well out of it. {10}

Constance Rich, Eric & Hugo lunched today, all in rather good form, Constance asked a lot after you and Alan and talked a bit about her “work”. Hugo was ragging her rather about it, but fortunately she has no sense of humour and would never spot it I shant go out anymore today, its too cold. I’m dining alone too so I shall get a nice evenings work done. Your curtains are getting on terribly slowly I’m afraid, I must put my back into them. I love doing them but it is cruel slow.

I had a little note from Scatters this morning dated 26th Nov he seems to have had a lot of fighting and I’m told has done very well.

Tuesday. One word before the mail goes. I’ve got most of the Xmas presents you ask for, but they are expensive and nasty this year I’m afraid. Diana is much better. No news.

My darling I do wish you were back, and it seems ages to look forward to the end of March, but you must take a good holiday when you do get back and we’ll have a lovely Breccles party lasting for weeks.

Bless you, much much love
V.

—————

Mainly written in pencil (see below).

{1} i.e. his Recollections, published this year in two volumes.

{2} Reading uncertain.

{3} Reading uncertain.

{4} Reading uncertain.

{5} Underley Hall, near Kirkby Lonsdale.

{6} See The Times, 15 Dec., p. 7.

{7} Reading uncertain.

{8} This is the apparent reading, but the meaning is unclear.

{9} The pencil was changed here.

{10} The writing changes from pencil to ink here.

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