Item 186 - Letter from Venetia Montagu to Edwin Montagu

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MONT II/A/1/186


Letter from Venetia Montagu to Edwin Montagu


  • 21-23 Mar. 1918 (Creation)

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In the train to Breccles.—Has received his letters up to 10 February. Is sorry he is depressed. She has heard that he is now not expected back till early May. Discusses the progress of work at Breccles. Has been to Bath with Bluey and her mother and bought some furniture. As Sidney Herbert is on leave they have had parties most eve-nings. Michael goes back to France in a week, but doesn’t seem fit to go. She dined last night at Lady Paget’s. She is thinking of spending a day at the Wharf for a day af-ter Easter, after going to Pixton. Sylvia is ill and has to have a large operation; Card-ie’s operation is on Saturday.

[24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.]—(Later.) Has spent the day inspecting the progress of work at Breccles. She gave a dinner-party tonight and they read Montagu’s ‘Indian’s poem’. Is dining with friends tomorrow. They are coping with the rationing and there have been few air-raids recently. She has recently lunched with Lord D[erby] and dined with Victoria Primrose, whom she hadn’t seen since Neil was killed. Has bought some books for Breccles, but no clothes at all since he left. Reminds him to get her some Toute la Forêt [perfume] in Paris.

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      24 Queen Anne’s Gate, S.W.
      March 21st 1918 Train to Breccles.

      My darling Ted your letters up to Feb 10th arrived yesterday, I’m so wretched that you should be so depressed after having thought things were going so well, but I daresay that by now again all may have taken on a brighter tone. Lord Islington told me that your departure had again been postponed and that they didnt now expect you back till early May. In a way its a good thing as I was and am hoping to be ready for you at Breccles & that gives me a little better chance. I saw Lutyens foreman the other day & he seemed to think that four rooms and 2 bathrooms might be ready by the middle of next month. I’m just going there today, with mother, to look round and see if I can arrange about curtains. I’ve got some rather pretty linens for some of the bedrooms. Cardie with great generosity has given us £100 to spend on the house, he says not on anything too useful like sheets, and if possible one single thing. I dont know what to get. I spent two days at Bath with Bluey & mother (getting back yesterday) and did a little shopping there. 2 dressing tables, a stool, and 2 dull ordinary tables. All of which are wanted and which werent very dear.

      Since I wrote to you last, owing to Sidney Herbert’s leave, we’ve lived a very gay life, balls & parties most evenings. I’m sure you wd like him, he’s got such marvellously high spirits, enjoys himself so much and tho’, of course, rather blind, has real fundamental sweetness which makes him very loveable. I liked him very much, more than any of the other young men, tho’ I’m bound to confess that during these months I’ve come round to Michael very much too. But I think Sidney has really far more independance† of character than he has, the way he has stuck to poor old Sybil is a very fair indication. She is really rather awful, not actively so much, but by being always rather fuddled and quite silent. But they seem very happy together so one neednt worry I suppose. Michael goes back to France too in a week or so which will leave us very denuded. He looks unusually ill and I dont believe is fit to go. He is threatened with consumption. I dined last night with Lady Paget and sat between Ld Dick Cavendish and Reggie. The rest of the party were Fritz Ponsonby, Lady Curzon, P.M, Lady P. Lord Curzon Margot, an American, Pamela, Sir John Cowans.

      Curzon asked after you and how you were getting on. He was at his best. He said to me in a most pompous way “Have you closed a portion of your house” so I said if I did that the whole thing wd cease to exist, it is so small. Oh I didnt realise it was on that scale, my wife has described it to me as being furnished with considerable taste! He really is annoying, but I rather like him, tho’ his condescension is beyond belief, the Old Boy also asked after you. I think I may go to the Wharf for a day after Easter, I’m going to Pixton first I think.

      Poor Sylvia is ill. She has got to have a rather large operation, they dont yet quite know how much, but appendix and one or two other things too. Cardie has his done on Saturday. Sylvia has hers at Alderley in about a fortnight.

      Later. A perfect day at Breccles. I’ve never known better weather, it was too glorious in the sun and tho’ the house still looks horribly chaotic, pipes in the hall, & gaping wounds in all the floors, still there does seem some promise of things getting on. Every time I like it more, but my bedroom is such a lovely room I think I shall take to a permanent invalids life & never stir from it. The bulbs I had planted were just coming up, otherwise the garden was full of leeks and onions. I seem to have terribly little furniture when I see it all together and yet I’ve spent a lot.

      Tonight Diana, Rosemary, Michael, Eddie Paul & Rothsay dined. I can’t tell you why but we had really great fun and laughed a lot. Your Indian’s poem was a huge success. Tomorrow night I have a very chaste little feast, Diana, Viola, Mr & Mrs Fisher & Duff. I expect tho’ it will be all right. So far we have managed very well on rations. You can get 8 quails for one coupon and for 4 a large turkey. I’ve only once had to get other peoples meat cards to help me out, but of course on that one doesnt see much butcher’s meat, if any.

      Raids. They have been very infrequent of late, & tho’ last night & tonight were perfect conditions not a sign of one. Some hold that for the moment we have got the best of them in the air and are giving them the devil of a time with our raids. I’m sorry you are disappointed about Mesopotamia but also very glad as it wd have delayed you a lot. I should like to come to Paris to meet you but I suppose that wouldnt be possible. I lunched the other day at Derby House &, I thought, went down rather with that old ass Ld D. I also dined one night with Victoria Primrose. I hadnt seen her since Neil was killed. She seemed quite cheerful, I cant make out how much she minded, but after all its nothing to do with me.

      So far I’ve got as nucleus for the Breccles Library Shakespeare, Pope, Milton (only P. Lost) Gibbon, Jane Austen and the Brontës. A comic selection. None of them very nice, but all respectable calf bound gentlemans books.

      I havent bought one new stitch of clothes since you left. What do you say to that? I shall have to soon.

      Dont forget my Toute la Foret in Paris. Martine, Rue du Faubourg St Honoré is the shop. {1}

      A thousand loves, also lots to Alan



      Written in purple pencil.

      {1} In 1911 the fashion designer Paul Poiret (1879–1944) formed two companies in the respective names of his daughters Rosine and Martine. ‘Toute la Forêt’ was the name of a perfume issued by one of these companies, Les Parfums de Rosine, and No 107 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré was the address of the other, the Atelier Martine. The latter was mainly a workshop for the design and manufacture of fabrics, providing training and income for artistic working-class girls, but these girls were also involved in the creation of bottles and packaging for the perfume company. Venetia may have attended the controversial display of Poiret’s designs held, at Margot Asquith’s invitation, at 10 Downing Street in 1909.

      † Sic.

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