Item 182 - Letter from Venetia Montagu to Edwin Montagu

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MONT II/A/1/182


Letter from Venetia Montagu to Edwin Montagu


  • 20-27 Jan. 1918 (Creation)

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In the train to Brighton.—(20th.) Her good habit of writing daily has broken down. Has received his telegram, and discusses the carpet offered to him. She dined on the day after she last wrote [11th] with Frances and Haldane, who is surprisingly ‘anti-Rufus [Lord Reading]’, cares little for Addison, and thinks Bongie ‘worse than useless’. On the Saturday [12th] she dined at Clemmie and Winston’s. Winston is eager for Montagu to return home, as he thinks he would be an ally in the Government. At the time he was worried about the threatened strike by the ASE [Amalgamated Society of Engineers]. On Sunday [13th] she played bridge at Adèle’s and dined with Duff, who had been staying with Diana Wyndham and Rosemary, with whom he is a little in love. Duff is angry with Bettine for making Eddie Grant [her husband] wait in vain for her in Paris for over two weeks. On Monday [14th] she dined at home with guests, then they went to a party at Adèle’s. Duff is no longer in love with Goonie. On Tuesday [15th] she dined with Arkers, then went to a party at Frankie de Tuyll’s. Diana has tonsillitis and has gone to Brighton. On Wednesday [16th] she dined at Cardie’s and lunched with Viola. On Thursday [17th] she dined at Lionel Earle’s, and Earle talked about his work at Windsor and in the Parks. On Friday [19th] she went to a party for Puffin at 20 Cavendish Square, and sat next to the ‘old boy’ [Asquith], who inquired kindly after Montagu. Yesterday [19th] she dined with K[atharine], and today [20th] she is going to Brighton to join Diana, Michael, Duff, Rosemary, and Diana Wyndham. She is worried the Duchess will spoil things. Olga is also on the train.

24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.—(23rd.) At Brighton they all lunched at Sweetings and then went, without the Duchess, to the Aquarium. On Monday [21st] she lunched with Montagu’s mother, and ‘that foul woman’ Miss Lewis (Lily’s friend) was there. She dined at Cardie's, where it was suggested that William should go to Ireland as Ivor’s military secretary. Afterwards they went to a party at Olga’s, where Miss Barnes and Miss James sang, Hugo did stunts, and Duff ‘got off with an American pol & left the house very obviously bound for a crack’. Last night [2nd] she had a dinner-party at home, followed by stunts. Winston, who was there, seemed to enjoy himself. ‘I’m sure he yearns for fun, and Clemmie gives him none.’ Today [23rd] she went again to the VAD. Has received his telegram and replied with the measurements. Has ordered some plain carpets for the bedrooms. Is planning to furnish the hall before anything else. Oc’s leg has been amputated, and the PM has gone over to see him. This is probably the last leter she will write to India.—(24th.) Last night she dined at the de Forests', and she spent today at Taplow. Ettie is very unhappy about Patrick. Bluey has come back from America but is very ill with blood-poisoning. K has gone to visit him at Liverpool. Has bought a chest of drawers and given the housemaid notice.—(27th.) Has received his letter; he seems to have got off well with Lady Ronaldshay. Bluey has recovered slightly. Yesterday she bought some furniture, and Duffy and Diana came to dinner.

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      24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.
      Sunday Jan 20th 1918 Train to Brighton

      My darling Ted, all my good habits of writing to you every day little by little have somehow this time completely broken down. I dont know what the reason is, not that I’ve been particularly busy but just that I’ve gone on putting it off from day to day. However this journey to Brighton in an admirable Pullman seems the very moment to make up for lost time.

      Your telegram, re carpet (as Lee would say) {1} thrills me. When you say “offered” does that mean its a bribe and you get it for nothing. I fear that wd be too much to expect. But I do hope some of the dimensions will fit it. I shall be thrilled to hear what it is. The occupants of this train are as disappointing as inhabitants of Brighton always are. Not in the least like the illustrations of the Vie Parisienne, far more like the Scotch supplement to the Ladies field. Its raining too so the whole prospect is a little sad.

      I think I last wrote on Thursday over a week ago, I told Alan a little about Cardies party so I’ll go on from there. I dined with Frances the next evening (Friday) no one there but old Haldane. I was surprised to find him a strong anti-Rufus, both as a man, a Lord Chief and as a politician. He was very sweet tho’. I drove home with him, he doesnt much care for Addison either and says Bongie is almost useless.

      Saturday I dined with Clemmie & Winston, rather a grim party, Goonie, an airman & a toady of the Duke of Westminsters called Chilcot, Winston was very indignant with you for staying away so long, he says he wants you at home to discuss things, I think he feels rather isolated in the Govt and thinks you wd be an ally. He was very worried over his A.S.E th[r]eatened strike at that moment talking very bravely of fighting them to the finish etc, but I dont know how things are going now, or how much it will spread to other quarters. His unpopularity over the 12½% is more than it has ever been, as you know I never follow any questions of public interest and now that you are away and cant put me au fait, I know nothing, so I’ve no notion how bad a move it was. One hears people like Maggie Greville bewailing herself over it, but she gets it all from Pringle who has become the political God of all those silly women, Maud etc, they quote him on every topic and take all his opinions en bloc.

      Sunday I played bridge with Adèle, all the usual lot. Ava, Beatrice, Evie, Earle, Lady Rocksavage. I won £7. so I was quite happy, but Sybil R. who lost it, complained bitterly. In the evening Duff and I dined together. He’d been staying with Diana Wyndham & Rosemary, he thinks he’s a little in love with Rosemary. He was very indignant with Bettine (who we saw there); apparently (this is his version of the story) she was in Paris but left, the day after she gets back to England she gets a letter from Eddie Grant saying he’s got leave & is going to Paris (where he thinks she is) he stays in Paris a week, she stays in London, he gets an extra 10 days still she doesnt return, and finally he has to go back without seeing her. Duff who adores Eddie is furious, but I daresay she has some very good reason.

      Monday night I had a little dinner at home Rufus, me, Walter Burns, Ava, Evelyn Fitzgerald, Evie Lionel Earle (I hate having him but was a man short) Beatrice Garrard {2}. By some fluke we had a most delicious dinner, and quite fun, tho’ I left them fairly early to go to a party at Adèles. I played with Rufus Ava & Walter, and we left the gamblers happily at work. Adèles was a small dance, all the young debutantes. I didnt think much of their looks tho’, they seemed untidy and rather common looking. I didnt stay long, left rather tactlessly with Goonie & Duff (Duff, the cad, is now no longer at all in love with Goonie and if anything a tiny bit bored by having to see her often, dont repeat this as he only hinted it to Diana who told me).

      Tuesday I dined with Arkers for a party at Frankie de Tuylls. Both rather boring, it was the most vile night imaginable, heavy snow which lay enough to form a thick sheet, and as usual a complete disappearance of any taxi. When I tell you that at the party I talked first to Sydney Fairbairn (I’m one of the few people who is civil to him so he clings to me rather) then to Lionel P[...] {3} you wont be surprised that I left at 12.

      Poor Diana has been in bed all the week, really bad with tonsilitis but is now up and in fact at Brighton.

      Wednesday at Cardies, a very typical dinner, not thank God Mrs Hall or Hanbury but others very much like them. Still at bridge & chemin I won £7. Viola lunched that day, she showed me Alan’s exhibits. I like them better than anything I’ve ever seen.

      Thursday you’ll be very much surprised to hear where I dined. Lionel Earle! Only 4, he, I B. Garrard Hugo Wemyss. Quite fun really particularly as I won £10. I couldnt lose, Earle was as bad as ever talking the whole time of what he was doing at Windsor, & in the Parks and how this that & the other was being done entirely on his suggestion Now that I’ve dined with him I suppose I cant be quite as beastly as I was but I do think him awful.

      Friday was a party for Puffin at 20 Cav Sq 15 of us all old stagers who P cant have wanted, Maggie Greville, Rufus Burns Evan that type. I sat next the old boy who was very friendly about you and asked how you were getting on. Puffin didnt even dine, only came after. He’s very tiny still and is dressed now like a grown up man, short coat, black tie soft shirt etc and I must say looks dwarfishly obscene. I played with Margot, Walter Burns & Rufus & lost, £7! Ralph Peto was there, he attacked me about never asking him to dine here, and then said (cad) “I know why it is, because Ruby is so ghastly”. {4} Still I do prefer him to her, and his spirits are amazing.

      Saturday was very quiet. I dined alone with K in the evening, very pleasantly. Her house is lovely, and on her bed she has the most divine gold brocade which if I can get some of I shall copy for one of the rooms.

      At Brighton I shall find Diana, also Michael, Duff, Rosemary & Diana Wyndham. I’m afraid the Duchess may rather bitch the whole affair. Olga is also on this train.

      Wednesday. It was really quite fun on Sunday tho’ I find any whole day away rather a trial. Duffy & I came back together by a crawling train arriving about midnight. We lunched at Sweetings altogether, including the Duchess who, having pretended she wd be perfectly happy quite alone, insisted on clinging to us saying as we were preparing to go out “I suppose if I am alone they will give me some food” so we had to ask her. Afterwards we got rid of her and went to the Aquarium where many of our old friends had died, only the old terrapin was still there. Rosemary & D. Wyndham were very sweet, but somehow they dont really get on well with Diana, there is a certain hostility.

      Monday I lunched with your mother, she was very well, tho’ rather obsessed by domestic difficulties, that foul woman Miss Lewis (Lily’s friend was there) but not one of them spoke. They are strange about that. In the evening I dined with Cardie, Mrs Hanbury(!) William, Craigie (a friend of Cardies) Bruce Ottley, Hugo. Rather fun tho’ I regret to say that at a game of cards William lost a lot of money. We have a great scheme for him that he should go to Ireland as Ivor’s military sec. He wants one & I’m sure W. wd be made for the job. We went on after to a party at Olgas, pols and ordinary women (Lady Howard, Lady Freddie me) mixed. Its not really very successful as both cramp each others style. Still I rather enjoyed it. Miss Barnes & Miss James sang & Hugo did all his stunts. Duffy got off with an American pol & left the house very obviously bound for a crack as Scatters wd say. He observed the Mendelian convention (train from Rome to Paris after Sicily.) and behaved as tho’ his respectable friends were not present. They were mostly rather blind I stayed too late, only getting home at 4.30.

      Last night Winston, Phillis, Duff, Diana Wyndham Hugo, Viola, Eddie, Clemmie McEvoy dined. Rather fun, with wonderful stunts after, Duff, Hugo and Michael doing 3 Ambassadors talking over a note from one of their Govts. Quite brilliant all 3 of them. Poor little Winston enjoyed himself very much I think. I’m sure he yearns for fun and Clemmie gives him none. He’s crazy about Duff. Today I’ve been to the V.A.D and then dined alone and got on a little with your bed. I do so long for it to be finished when you come back. Just got yr second telegram and sent you off the measurements. This is all most exciting. I shall be thrilled to see what you bring back. Buckmaster has sent me the cheque for £100 from your man. I shall probably spend it! I’ve ordered one or two plain carpets for the bedrooms nothing very much and nothing at all for downstairs. My idea is only to furnish the hall to start with and by degrees get the other 3 sitting rooms ready. The drawing room we might have great fun with, but it will be even more fun to do it together. Poor Oc has finally had to have his leg amputated, below the knee so it wont be so bad. The P.M has gone over to see him. I’m afraid its been terribly painful.

      I should think this is the last letter I shall write you to India, perhaps one more to Aden. It gives one the false feeling that your return is really far more imminent than it truly is. Still half the time is gone.

      Friday. I dined last night with the de Forests, not much fun, except that I won about £15 at bridge. Lord Lurgan was there who asked tenderly after you. Also Lady Paget and a few other danks. Today I’ve spent at Taplow, only Ettie & Lady Wemyss there, very pleasant. Poor Ettie is very unhappy about Patrick, & I feel rather a hypocrite about him, as, tho’ I did like him, I cant with truth come up to her standard of praise and am always rather forcing the note. But she was very sweet and I do love being with her. Poor little Bluey has got back from America but is now lying at Liverpool very ill with blood poisoning. I thought I might have gone there with Frances just to see if he was all right but K has gone instead which is far better for Bluey. Poor darling I do hope he’ll be all right. It seems hitting one below the belt to take Bluey as well as everyone else. One thought at any rate that he was safe. I may get news of him when I get back tonight.

      I’ve bought rather a pretty walnut chest of drawers at Gill & Reigate, it will do beautifully for a bed room, & tomorrow I’m going on another furniture expedition. Carpets I’m also struggling with but curtains are still untouched. It is a vast job furnishing even so small a house, but it must be done it will be so perfect to have a real rest there when you get home. Whatever happens, even if there isnt a drop of water in the house we must go there, but what wd be ideal would be to have parties over Sunday and you & I alone during the week. I’ve had a slight domestic crisis & given notice to the housemaid. She irritated me by refusing to take messages from me thro’ Frida. I thought this so silly that I’ve told her she can go. I hope to God I get another! I’m sleeping in yr room as my chimney wants repairing and at the same time I’m having the room repainted. Its filthy. {5}

      Sunday. 27th. Your divine letter {6} came yesterday. Diana and I read it with great joy. Calcutta sounds too marvellous. We think you seem to have got off pretty well with Lady Ronaldshay. Poor thing. Bluey is a tiny bit better tho’ still very bad. I’ll send you a telegram if there is any further news of him as I couldnt leave you in suspense about him from one mail to another.

      Not much news here. I went yesterday to Crowthers (furniture shop) & bought 2 tables, 2 chairs and a looking glass, all quite nice. Last night Duffy & Diana dined & we had a lovely evening of reading aloud. Darling no more this mail, which I hope will be the last except for an Aden letter. This is a vile one. Much much love



      Mostly written in pencil (see below).

      {1} Closing bracket supplied.

      {2} This is the apparent reading, but the person has not been identified.

      {3} An indistinct name resembling ‘Porbackington’.

      {4} Closing inverted commas supplied.

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

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