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Lady John Russell

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you express yourself.... The happiness of possessing her has
blinded me, I dare say, to her real interest; but when I find that
you all approve and feel conscious that I shall do all in my power
to make her life happy, I gain some confidence. Among many
anxieties, Lady Minto naturally felt that the charge of so many
children would be a very serious burthen to her, but the children
themselves are so good, so much disposed to love her, and their
health is at present so good, that I trust they will be to her as
they are to me, a daily comfort, making the house cheerful with
their merry and affectionate voices. The greatest fear perhaps is,
that her generosity and devotion to others may make her undertake
what is beyond her strength.

_Lord John Russell to Lady Fanny Elliot_

DOWNING STREET, _July_ 3, 1841

If I am sorry that Saturday is come, I am much more glad that
Tuesday is so near. I am not at all anxious for a merry party at
Minto--the quieter the better for me. But I can understand that
Lady Minto would like some gaiety to divert her spirits, when "Our
dear Fanny" is gone. I cannot say how much I think on the prospect
of finding you at Minto--and of Bowhill likewise. I hope I am not
unworthy of the heart you gave me ... and I trust every day will
prove how grateful I am to you.

WILTON CRESCENT, _July_ 4, 1841

I got your little note yesterday, after I had sealed my letter....
My dearest Fanny, I am so happy at the thought of being soon at
Minto. If you believe that I feel the strongest devotion to you,
and am resolved to do all in my power to make you happy, you
believe what is true.... This will reach you soon after your
arrival. I can imagine how busy you will be ... and long to join

A few days later he reached Minto himself. Lady Fanny, writing to her
sister Mary, describes their days together, and adds: "They are all except
Gibby so much too respectful to Lord John. Not to me, for they take their
revenge upon me, and I am unsparingly laughed at, which is a great comfort.
I shall write once before it happens. I dare not think what I shall be when
you receive this."

MINTO, _July_ 19, 1841

My last day as a child of Minto. How fast it flew. How quickly
good-night came--that sad, that dreaded good-night. But sadness may
be of such a kind as to give rise to the happiest, the purest
feelings--and such was this.... He and I sat in the Moss house.
Never saw the glen more beautiful; the birch glittering in the sun
and waving its feathery boughs; the burn murmuring more gently than
usual; the wood-pigeons answering one another from tree to tree.
Had not courage to be much with Mama.

They were married on July 20th in the drawing-room at Minto, and set off
for Bowhill, which had been lent them for the honeymoon by the Duke of
Buccleuch. Never did statesman on his wedding-day take away a bride more
whole-heartedly resolved to be all a wife can be to him in his career. Her
mother was now perfectly happy about the marriage, though the disparity of
age, and fears about the great responsibility her daughter was undertaking
in the care of a young family--one boy and five girls--had undoubtedly made
her anxious. Lady Minto felt very deeply the parting with her dearly-loved
child, and after the wedding she sent her the following little ballad:


AIR: "_Saw ye my father_"

Oh saw ye the robber
That cam' o'er the border
To steal bonny Fanny away?
She's gane awa' frae me
And the bonny North Countrie
And has left me for ever and for aye.

He cam' na wi' horses,
He cam' na wi' men,
Like the bauld English knights langsyne;
But he thought that he could fleech
Wi' his bonny Southron speech
And wile awa' this lassie o' mine.

"Gae hame, gae hame
To your ain countrie,
Nor come o'er the March for me."
But sairly did she rue
When he thought that she spak' true
And the tear-drop it blinded her e'e.

His heart it was sair
And he lo'ed her mair and mair,
For her spirit was noble and free;
"Oh lassie dear, relent,
Nor let a heart be rent
That lives but for its country and thee."

And did she say him nay?
Oh no, he won the day,
Could an Elliot a Russell disdain?
And he's ta'en awa' his bride
Frae the bonnie Teviot-side,
And has left me sae eerie alane.

Oh where's now the smile
Used to cheer me ilk morn,
Like a blink o' the sun's ain light;
And where the voice sae sweet
That aye gar'd my bosom beat
When sae saftly she bade me gude-night.

Now lang, lang are the nights
And dowie are the days
That sae cheerie were ance for me.
And oh the thought is sair
That she'll mine be never mair,
I'm alane in the North Countrie.

MARY MINTO, _July_, 1841

But before following the future, it will be well to look back. Lord John
himself must play so large a part in a biography of his wife that a sketch
of his life up to this point, and some reminders of the kind of man he was,
may interest the reader; not a review of his political achievements, but an
outline of the events which had left him at his second marriage a leader
among his countrymen.

Lord John Russell, born in 1792, was the third son of John, sixth Duke of
Bedford. He was only nine years old when he lost his mother, whom he
remembered to the end of his life with tender affection. He always spoke
gratefully of the invariable kindness and affection of his father, who
married again in 1803, and of his stepmother, but he felt that the shyness
and reserve which often caused him to be misunderstood and thought cold
were largely due to the loss of his mother in his childhood. He was
educated at Westminster, but he was not robust enough to stand a rough
life, and it was decidedly rough. His education was continued at Woburn
under a tutor. He was a book-loving boy, and the earliest exercise of his
powers was in verses, prologues, and plays. Going to the play was one of
the chief enjoyments of his childhood, and he never lost his liking for the
drama. Travelling was also a great delight to him, either by coach in
England or in foreign countries, and this enjoyment, with a wonderfully
keen observation of all that he saw of different places and peoples, lasted
to old age.

In 1835 Lord John married Lady Ribblesdale, widow of the second Lord

She had by her first husband four children; one son and three daughters.
[21] After her marriage with Lord John Russell she had two daughters,
Georgiana Adelaide, born in 1836, and Victoria, born in 1838. The marriage
had been a most happy one, and her death on November 1, 1838, was a severe
blow to Lord John.

[21] Lord Ribblesdale, Adelaide Lister (Mrs. Drummond), Isabel Lister (Mrs.
Warburton), Elizabeth Lister (Lady Melvill).

A slight sketch of the more public side of his career will be enough here.
A visit to Fox in June, 1806, was perhaps the first experience which turned
his interests and ambitions towards politics. All his life he looked up to
the memory of Fox. There was in Fox an element which made him more akin to
the Liberals, who succeeded him, than to the old Whig party. Lord John, as
different from Fox in temperament as a man could be, was the inheritor of
the spirit which leavened the old Whig tradition. In Lord John the
sentiments of Fox took on a more deliberate air. He was a more intellectual
man than his lavish, emotional, imposing forbear; and if it is remembered
that he had, in addition, the diffidence of a sensitive man, these facts go
far to explain an apparent contradiction in his character which puzzled
contemporaries. To the observer at a distance there seemed to be two John
Russells: the man who appeared to stand off coldly from his colleagues and
backers (he was certainly as incapable as the younger Pitt of throwing
round him those heartening glances of good-fellowship which made the
followers of Fox feel like a band of brothers); and again, the man who, to
the rapture of adherents, could lift debate at moments to a level where
passionate principles swept all hesitation away. It was surprising to find,
in one who commonly wore the air of picking his steps with care, the dash
and anger of the fighter. Bulwer Lytton has described such moments in "The
New Timon"--

"When the steam is on,
And languid Johnny glows to glorious John."

His speeches, if they had not the animated, flowing reasonableness of
Cobden's, resembled them in this, that they belonged to that class of
oratory which aims at convincing the reason rather than at persuading the
emotions. Lord John had, however, one quality likely to make him widely
popular--his pluck; at bay he was formidable. If there was a trace of
injustice or unreasonableness in his adversaries, though their case might
be overwhelmingly plausible, it was ten to one he routed them in confusion.
He was ready in retort. One example of this readiness Gladstone was fond of
quoting: Sir Francis Burdett had made a speech against the Whigs, in which
he spoke of the "cant of patriotism." "There is one thing worse than the
cant of patriotism," retorted Lord John, "and that is the recant of
patriotism." Again, when the Queen once asked him, "Is it true, Lord John,
that you hold that a subject is justified, in certain circumstances, in
disobeying his sovereign?" his answer to this difficult question could not
have been better: "Well, speaking to a sovereign of the House of Hanover, I
can only say that I suppose he is."

One more characteristic must be mentioned. Like most men scrupulous and
slow in determining what to do, his confidences often were withheld from
others till the last moment, and sometimes beyond the moment, when it would
have been wisest to admit his colleagues to his own counsel. In consequence
he often appeared disconcertingly abrupt in decision.

In 1808 he accompanied Lord and Lady Holland to Spain and Portugal, and on
his return he was sent by his father to Edinburgh University, the Duke
having little confidence in the education then procurable at either Oxford
or Cambridge. At Edinburgh he took part in the proceedings of the
Speculative Society, read essays to them and debated; and he left the
University still tending more towards literature than politics. There is no
doubt that Edinburgh helped to form him. His mind was one naturally open to
influences which are summed up as "the academic spirit"; dislike of
exaggeration, impatience with brilliancy which does not illuminate, and
distrust of enthusiasm which is not prepared to show its credentials at
every step. His own style is marked by these qualities, and in addition by
a reminiscence of eighteenth-century formality, more likely to please
perhaps future than present readers; accurate, a little distant, it pleases
because it conveys a sense of modesty and dignity. When he speaks of
himself he does it to perfection.

After leaving the University he served in the Bedford militia. In 1814 he
went to Italy, and crossed to Elba, where he saw Napoleon. Lord John was
always a most authentic reporter. His description of the Emperor, written
the next day, besides its intrinsic interest, is so characteristic of the
writer himself that it may be quoted here. It is as matter-of-fact as one
of Wellington's dispatches and as shrewd as a passage from one of Horace
Walpole's letters.

PORTO FERRAJO, December 25, 1814 [22]

At eight o'clock in the evening yesterday I went to the Palace
according to appointment to see Napoleon. After waiting some
minutes in the ante-room I was introduced by Count Drouet and found
him standing alone in a small room. He was drest in a green coat
with a hat in his hand very much as he is painted, but excepting
this resemblance of dress, I had a very mistaken idea of him from
his portrait. He appears very short, which is partly owing to his
being very fat, his hands and legs being quite swollen and
unwieldy; this makes him appear awkward and not unlike the whole
length figures of Gibbon, the historian. Besides this, instead of
the bold marked countenance that I expected, he has fat cheeks and
rather a turn-up nose, which, to bring in another historian, made
the shape of his face resemble the portraits of Hume. He has a
dusky grey eye, which would be called a vicious eye in a horse, and
the shape of his mouth expresses contempt and derision--his manner
is very good-natured, and seems studied to put one at one's ease by
its familiarity; his smile and laugh are very agreeable--he asks a
number of questions without object, and often repeats them, a habit
he has no doubt acquired during fifteen years of supreme
command--to this I should also attribute the ignorance he seems to
show at times of the most common facts. When anything that he likes
is said, he puts his head forward and listens with great pleasure,
repeating what is said, but when he does not like what he hears, he
looks away as if unconcerned and changes the Subject. From this one
might conclude that he was open to flattery and violent in his

He began asking me about my family, the allowance my father gave
me, if I ran into debt, drank, played, etc.

He asked me if I had been in Spain, and if I was not imprisoned by
the Inquisition. I told him that I had seen the abolition of the
Inquisition voted, and of the injudicious manner in which it was

He mentioned Infantado, and said, "II n'a point de caractere."
Ferdinand he said was in the hands of the priests--afterwards he
said, "Italy is a fine country; Spain too is a fine
country--Andalusia and Seville particularly."

_F. R._ Yes, but uncultivated.

_N._ Agriculture is neglected because the land is in the hands
of the Church.

_F. R._ And of the Grandees.

_N._ Yes, who have privileges contrary to the public

_F. R._ Yet it would be difficult to remedy the evil.

_N._ It might be remedied by dividing property and abolishing
hurtful privileges, as was done in France.

_F. R._ Yes, but the people must be industrious--even if the
land was given to the people in Spain, they would not make use of

_N._ Ils succomberaient.

_F. R._ Yes, Sire.

He asked many questions about the Cortes, and when I told him that
many of them made good speeches on abstract questions, but that
they failed when any practical debate on finance or war took place,
he said, "Oui, faute de l'habitude de gouverner." He asked if I had
been at Cadiz at the time of the siege, and said the French failed

_F. R._ Cadiz must be very strong.

_N._ It is not Cadiz that is strong, it is the Isle of
Leon--if we could have taken the Isle of Leon, we should have
bombarded Cadiz, and we did partly, as it was.

_F. R._ Yet the Isle of Leon had been fortified with great
care by General Graham.

_N._ Ha--it was he who fought a very brilliant action at

He wondered our officers should go into the Spanish and Portuguese
service. I said our Government had sent them with a view of
instructing their armies; he said that did well with the
Portuguese, but the Spaniards would not submit to it. He was
anxious to know if we supported South America, "for," he said, "you
already are not well with the King of Spain."

Speaking of Lord Wellington, he said he had heard he was a large,
strong man, _grand chasseur_, and asked if he liked Paris. I
said I should think not, and mentioned Lord Wellington having said
that he should find himself much at a loss what to do in peace
time, and I thought scarcely liked anything but war.

_N._ La guerre est un grand jeu, une belle occupation.

He wondered the English should have sent him to Paris--"On n'aime
pas l'homme par qui on a ete battu. Je n'ai jamais envoye a Vienne
un homme qui a assiste a la prise de Vienne." He asked who was our
Minister (Lord Burghersh) at Florence, and whether he was
_honnete homme_, "for," he said, "you have two kinds of men in
England, one of _intrigans_, the other of _hommes tres

Some time afterwards he said, "Dites moi franchement, votre
Ministre a Florence est il un homme a se fier?"

He had seen something in the papers about sending him (Napoleon) to
St. Helena, and he probably expected Lord Burghersh to kidnap
him--he inquired also about his family and if it was one of

His great anxiety at present seems to be on the subject of France.
He inquired if I had seen at Florence many Englishmen who came from
there, and when I mentioned Lord Holland, he asked if he thought
things went well with the Bourbons, and when I answered in the
negative he seemed delighted, and asked if Lord Holland thought
they would be able to stay there. I said I really could not give an
answer. He said he had heard that the King of France had taken no
notice of those Englishmen who had treated him well in
England--particularly Lord Buckingham; he said that was very wrong,
for it showed a want of gratitude. I told him I supposed the
Bourbons were afraid to be thought to depend upon the English.
"No," he said, "the English in general are very well received." He
asked sneeringly if the Army was much attached to the Bourbons.

Talking of the Congress, he said, "There will be no war; the Powers
will disagree, but they will not go to war"--he said the Austrians,
he heard, were already much disliked in Italy and even at Florence.

_F. R._ It is very odd, the Austrian government is hated
wherever it has been established.

_N._ It is because they do everything with the baton--the
Italians all hate to be given over to them.

_F. R._ But the Italians will never do anything for
themselves--they are not united.

_N._ True.

Besides this he talked about the robbers between Rome and Florence,
and when I said they had increased, he said, "Oh! to be sure; I
always had them taken by the _gendarmerie_."

_F. R._ It is very odd that in England, where we execute so
many, we do not prevent crimes.

_N._ It is because you have not a _gendarmerie_.

He inquired very particularly about the forms of the Viceregal
Court in Ireland, the _Dames d'honneur_, pages, etc.; in some
things he was strangely ignorant, as, for instance, asking if my
father was a peer of Parliament.

He asked many questions three times over.

He spoke of the Regent's conduct to the Princess as very impolitic,
as it shocked the _bienseances_, by which his father had
become so popular.

He said our war with America was a _guerre de vengeance_, for
that the frontier could not possibly be of any importance.

He said, "You English ought to be very well satisfied with the end
of the war."

_F. R._ Yes, but we were nearly ruined in the course of it.

_N._ Ha! le systeme continental, ha--and then he laughed very

He asked who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland at present, but made no
remark on my answer.

I asked him if he understood English; he said that at Paris he had
had plenty of interpreters, but that he now began to read it a

Many English went to Elba about this time; the substance of their
conversations is still in my recollection--April 2, 1815. He said
that he considered the great superiority of England to France lay
in her aristocracy, that the people were not better, but that the
Parliament was composed of all the men of property and all the men
of family in the country; this enabled the Government to resist the
shock which the failure of the Duke of York's expedition was liable
to cause--in France it would have destroyed the Government. (This
is an opinion rather tinged by the Revolution, but it is true that
our House of Commons looks to final results.) They were strong, he
said, by "les souvenirs attachants a l'histoire"; that on the
contrary he could make eighty senates in France as good as the
present; that he had intended to create a nobility by marrying his
generals, whom he accounted as quite insignificant, notwithstanding
the titles he had given them, to the offspring of the old nobility
of France. He had reserved a fund from the contribution which he
levied when he made treaties with Austria, Prussia, etc., in order
to found these new families. "Did you get anything from Russia?"

_N._ No, I never asked anything from her but to shut her ports
against England.

He wished, he said, to favour the re-establishment of the old
families, but every time he touched that chord an alarm was raised,
and the people trembled as a horse does when he is checked.

He told the story of the poisoning, and said there was some truth
in it--he had wished to give opium to two soldiers who had got the
plague and could not be carried away, rather than leave them to be
murdered by the Turks, but the physician would not consent. He said
that after talking the subject over very often he had changed his
mind on the morality of the measure. He owned to shooting the
Turks, and said they had broken their capitulation. He found great
fault with the French Admiral who fought the battle of the Nile,
and pointed out what he ought to have done, but he found most fault
with the Admiral who fought--R. Calder--for not disabling his
fleet, and said that if he could have got the Channel clear then,
or at any other time, he would have invaded England.

He said the Emperor of Russia was clever and had "idees liberales,"
but was a veritable Grec. At Tilsit, the Emperor of Russia, King of
Prussia, and N. used to dine together. They separated early--the
King of Prussia went to bed, and the two Emperors met at each
other's quarters and talked, often on abstract subjects, till late
in the night. The King of Prussia a mere corporal, and the Emperor
of Austria very prejudiced--"d'ailleurs honnete homme."

Berthier quite a pen-and-ink man--but "bon diable qui servit le
premier, a me temoigner ses regrets, les larmes aux yeux."

Metternich a man of the world, "courtisan des femmes," but too
false to be a good statesman-"car en politique il ne faut pas etre
_trop_ menteur."

It was his maxim not to displace his Marshals, which he had carried
to a fault in the case of Marmont, who lost his cannon by
treachery, he believed--I forget where. The Army liked him, he had
rewarded them well.

Talleyrand had been guilty of such extortion in the peace with
Austria and with Bavaria that he was complained against by those
Powers and therefore removed--it was he who advised the war with
Spain, and prevented N. from seeing the Duke d'Enghien, whom he
thought a "brave jeune homme," and wished to see.

He said he had been fairly tried by a military tribunal, and the
sentence put up in every town in France, according to law.

Spain ought to have been conquered, and he should have gone there
himself had not the war with Russia occurred.

Lord Lauderdale was an English peer, but not of "la plus belle
race." England will repent of bringing the Russians so far: they
will deprive her of India.

If Mr. Fox had lived, he thought he should have made peace--praised
the noble way in which the negotiation was begun by him.

The Archduke Charles he did not think a man of great abilities.
"Tout ce que j'ai publie sur les finances est de l'Evangile," he
said--he allowed no _gaspillage_ and had an excellent
treasurer; owing to this he saved large sums out of his civil list.

The conscription produced 300,000 men yearly.

He thought us wrong in taking Belgium from France--he said it was
now considered as so intimately united that the loss was very
mortifying. Perhaps it would have been better, he said, to divide
France--he considered one great advantage to consist as I--(_End
of Journal_.)

[22] This account is copied from the old leather-bound journal, in
which it was written by Lord John the day after the interview;
there is no gap in the account, but the last part appears to have
been written later, and is unfinished.

During the session of 1813 Lord John was returned for the family borough of
Tavistock. He was obliged, however, principally owing to ill-health, to
retire from active life at the end of three years, during which time he
made a remarkable speech against the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act.
It must have been at about this time that he thought of giving up politics
and devoting himself to literature, which brought the following
"Remonstrance" from his friend Thomas Moore:


(_After a conversation with Lord John Russell in which he had intimated
some idea of giving up all political pursuits_.)

What! _thou_, with thy genius, thy youth, and thy name--
Thou, born of a Russell--whose instinct to run
The accustomed career of thy sires, is the same
As the eaglet's to soar with his eyes on the sun.

Whose nobility comes to thee, stamped with a seal,
Far, far more ennobling than monarch e'er set,
With the blood of thy race, offered up for the weal
Of a nation that swears by that martyrdom yet I

Shalt _thou_ be faint-hearted and turn from the strife,
From the mighty arena, where all that is grand,
And devoted and pure, and adorning in life,
'Tis for high-thoughted spirits like thine to command?

Oh no, never dream it--while good men despair
Between tyrants and traitors, and timid men bow,
Never think, for an instant, thy country can spare
Such a light from her darkening horizon as thou.

With a spirit as meek as the gentlest of those
Who in life's sunny valley lie sheltered and warm;
Yet bold and heroic as ever yet rose
To the top cliffs of Fortune and breasted her storm;

With an ardour for liberty, fresh as in youth
It first kindles the bard and gives life to his lyre,
Yet mellowed even now by that mildness of truth
Which tempers, but chills not, the patriot fire;

With an eloquence--not like those rills from a height,
Which sparkle and foam, and in vapour are o'er;
But a current that works out its way into light
Through the filtering recesses of thought and of lore.

Thus gifted, thou never canst sleep in the shade;
If the stirrings of Genius, the music of fame,
And the charms of thy cause have not power to persuade,
Yet think how to Freedom thou'rt pledged by thy Name.

Like the boughs of that laurel, by Delphi's decree,
Set apart for the Fane and its service divine,
So the branches that spring from the old Russell tree,
Are by Liberty _claimed_ for the use of her shrine.


In spite of strong literary proclivities it would certainly have been a
wrench to Lord John to leave the stirring scenes of Parliamentary life, and
his feeling about it may be gathered from a letter written to his brother
in 1841:

_Lord John Russell to the Duke of Bedford_

ENDSLEIGH, _October_ 13, 1841

Whatever may be said about other families, I do not think ours
ought to retire from active exertion. In all times of popular
movement the Russells have been on the "forward" side. At the
Reformation the first Earl of Bedford, in Charles the First's days
Francis the great Earl, in Charles the Second's William, Lord
Russell, in later times Francis Duke of Bedford--my
father--you--and lastly myself in the Reform Bill.

At the General Election in 1818 Lord John was again elected for Tavistock,
and began to make the furtherance of Parliamentary Reform his particular
aim. In 1820 he became member for Huntingdonshire. Henceforward, whenever
the question of Reform came before the House, Lord John was recognized as
its most prominent supporter. As early as 1822 he moved that "the present
state of representation of the people in Parliament requires the most
serious consideration of the House." In 1828 he succeeded in carrying the
repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts. He was also an ardent supporter of
the Catholic Relief Bill. Thus in religious, educational, and parliamentary
questions he stood up stoutly for liberty. When Lord Grey succeeded the
Duke of Wellington, Lord John took a large part in drafting the famous
measure of Reform, and the Bill of 1831 was introduced by him; after which
speech he became the most popular man in England. Beaten in Committee, the
Reform party appealed to the country and returned with a larger majority.
On June 24, 1831. he introduced the Bill for the second time.

This Bill, after being carried in the House of Commons, was rejected by the
House of Lords, and it was not till June, 1832. that the great Reform Bill
(the third introduced within twelve months) became the law of the land.
Lord John, who had been admitted to the Cabinet in 1831 during Lord Grey's
Government, became Home Secretary in Lord Melbourne's Government in 1835,
and in 1839 he was appointed Colonial Secretary, which office he held at
the time of his second marriage. Up to this point we have only followed his
career at a distance, but now through the letters and diaries of his wife
we shall be enabled to follow it more intimately to the end.



Lord and Lady John Russell stayed at Bowhill till the 31st of July. They
had a grand reception at Selkirk on their way back to Minto--a procession
headed by all the magistrates, a band of music, and banners flying. Lord
John was given the freedom of the burgh, and was received with enthusiasm
by the inhabitants. After a short visit to Minto they went to London, to
his house in Wilton Crescent.

BOWHILL, _July_ 29, 1841

I hardly know how to begin my journal again. I wrote the last page
as Fanny Elliot; I am now Fanny Russell.... Forgive me, Almighty
Father, for the manifold sins, errors, and omissions of my past
life, [a life] to which I look back with deep gratitude for its
countless blessings, especially for the affection of those with
whom I spent it, so far beyond what I deserved. Enable me to think
calmly of the Mother whom I have left.... I was, and still am, in a
dream; but one from which I hope never to wake, which I trust will
only grow sweeter as the bitter days of parting wear away, as I
become more and more the companion and friend of him whose heart is
mine as truly as mine is his, and in whom I see all the strength
and goodness that my weak and erring nature so much requires.

This is a perfect place and the days have flown--each walk lovelier
than the last. Much as poets have sung Ettrick and Yarrow, they
have not, and cannot, sing enough to satisfy me.... I am so sorry
that to-morrow is our last day, though it is to Minto that we go,
but I feel as if a spell would be broken--a spell of such

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

30, WILTON CRESCENT, _August_ 13, 1841 I say nothing of the
day we left Minto, which could not help being of that kind that one
hardly dares to look back to.... We were received with great
honours at Hawick--bells ringing, flags flying, and I should think
the whole population assembled to cheer us--it is very agreeable
that people should be wise enough to see his merits, particularly
as he does his best to avoid all such exhibitions of popular
feeling. I like to see his shy looks on such occasions, as it gives
him less right to abuse me for mine on many others.

WILTON CRESCENT, _August_ 14, 1841

We arrived here on Thursday evening. Lord John did all he could to
make it less strange to me; but how strange it was--and still is.
We had a visit from Papa and Henry; my first visitors in _my own
house_. The children arrived from Ramsgate all well. Oh, Father
in Heaven, strengthen me in the path of righteousness that I may be
a mother to these dear children.

WILTON CRESCENT, _August_ 15, 1841

Dear Baby a great deal with me. She and Georgy call me Mama. It was
too much--such a mixture of great happiness, anxiety, novelty,
painful recollections, longing to make him happy--impossibility of
saying all I so deeply feel from the fear of giving him pain. Oh! I
thought I should quite fail.

Oh, what a weight seemed to be taken off my heart when at night,
after speaking about the children, he mentioned their mother. Now I
feel that the greatest bar to perfect confidence between us is
removed. God bless him for the effort.

In August, soon after the meeting of Parliament, Lord Melbourne's
Government was defeated on the Address and resigned.

WILTON CRESCENT, _August_ 28, 1841

Lord John dined at Lansdowne House--a last Cabinet dinner....
Letter from the Queen to Lord John, which for a moment overcame
him--she does indeed lose a faithful adviser, and deeply does he
feel it for his country and her. Oh, I never loved him so well; his
mind rises with reverse. It is no small matter for a man whose
whole soul is intent on the good of his country to be stopt in his
high career--to be, apparently at least, rejected by that
country--but no, the people are still and will be more and more
with him, and his career will still be great and glorious.... And
to me he has never shone so brightly as now--so cheerful, so calm,
so hopeful for the great principles for which he falls--and yet, as
that moment showed, regretting the event so deeply.

They went down to stay a few days with the Duke of Bedford, and she notes
in her diary:

Continued to like Woburn better and better. Some people went and
others came, among the last, Lord Melbourne. Lord Melbourne did
not, I thought, appear to advantage; he showed little wish for
conversation with anybody, but seemed trying to banish the thoughts
of his reverse by talking nonsense with some of the ladies.

The elections which followed the defeat of the Melbourne Ministry gave the
Tories a majority of over eighty seats. Peel was joined by Lord Ripon, Lord
Stanley, and others, who had supported Lord Grey during the Reform Bill.
The Whig Party were in a discomfited condition. They did not look back on
their past term of office with much satisfaction; they had been constantly
in a minority; and although such useful measures as Rowland Hill's Penny
Postage had been carried, nothing had been done to meet the most urgent
needs of the time.

The Duke of Bedford had placed Endsleigh at Lord John's disposal, and next
month he travelled down with Lady John to Devonshire. Endsleigh is one of
the most beautiful places in Devonshire; it is near the little town of
Tavistock, where Drake was born. The house looks down from a height on the
lovely wooded slopes of the River Tamar. In letters to his brother Lord
John had said of Endsleigh, "It is the place I am most fond of in the
world." "I think no place so beautiful for walks and drives." He and Lady
John always retained the happiest memories of their life there.

ENDSLEIGH, _October_ 22, 1841

Long delightful shooting walk with Lord John--delightful although
so many songs, poems, and sentiments of my greatest favourites
against shooting were running in my head to strengthen the horror
that I and all women must have of it.

"Inhuman man--curse on thy barbarous art."

Inhuman woman to countenance his barbarity!

ENDSLEIGH, _October_ 26, 1841

Such a day! White frost in the morning, sparkling in the brightest
sun, which shone all day. The trees looking redder and yellower
from the deep blue sky beyond--the different distances of the hills
so marked--the river shining like silver. Oh, what a day! We were
prepared for it by the beauty of last night--such that I could
scarcely bring myself to shut my window and go to bed. A snow-white
mist over all except the garden below my eyes and the tops of the
hills beyond, and a bright moon "tipping with silver every mountain

ENDSLEIGH, _November_ 11, 1841

With Lord John to hear an examination of the School at Milton
Abbot. He gave prizes and made a little speech in praise of master
and boys, which made him and, I think, me more nervous than any of
the speeches I have heard from him in the House of Commons. I do
not know why it should have been affecting, but it was so.... Walk
with him in the dusk--his kindness, his tenderness are the joy of
my life.

Her marriage had brought her greater happiness than she had thought
possible. Writing to her mother from Endsleigh on November 15th, she says:

How little I thought on my last birthday how it would be before my
next. I looked in my journal to see about it and found it full of
_him_; but not exactly as I should write now--reproaching
myself for not returning the affection of one whose character I
admired and liked so much. I should have been rightly punished by
his thinking no more about me; but then, to be sure, I should not
have known what my loss was. He said a few days ago that he hoped
it would be a happy birthday--said it as humbly as he always speaks
of his powers of making me so--yet he must know that a brighter
could not have dawned upon me, and that he is the cause....

_Lord John Russell to Lady Minto_

ENDSLEIGH, _November_ 23, 1841

Fanny's own letters will have given you the best insight into her
feelings since we came here. It has been the most fortunate thing
for us all. Fanny herself, Addy, Georgy, Miss Lister, and indeed
all of us, have had means of fitting and _cementing_ here,
which no London or visiting life could have given us. I never can
be sufficiently grateful for such a blessing as Fanny is to me; and
I only feel the more grateful that she reconciles herself so well
to the loss of the home she loved so well. Nor is this by loving
you or any one she has left at all the less--far from it, every day
proves her devotion to you and her anxiety for your happiness.

They could not take a long holiday, although Lord John was now in
Opposition. Early in February the great Anti-Corn Law League bazaar was
held at Manchester, and a few days later Peel carried his sliding scale:
20s. duty when corn was 57s., 12s. when the price was 60s., and 1s. when it
reached 73s. Lord John proposed an amendment in favour of a fixed duty of

CHESHAM PLACE, [23] _February_ 14, 1842

Beginning of Corn Law debate. Went to hear Lord John. He
began--excellent speech--attacked the measure as founded on the
same bad principle as the present corn laws; showed the absurdity
of any corn laws to make us independent of foreign countries; the
cruelty of doing nothing to relieve the distress of the
manufacturing districts; the different results of a sliding scale
and a fixed duty; the advantages of free trade, even with all
countries, especially with the United States, etc., etc.; was much
cheered. Answered by Mr. Gladstone, beside whose wife I was

[23] Lord John had built a house, 37, Chesham Place, which was henceforward
their London home.

Lord John's amendment was lost by 123 votes; Villiers' and Brougham's
amendments in favour of total repeal by over three hundred. This measure of
the sliding scale did not embody Peel's real conviction at the time; its
object was to discover how much the agricultural party would stand.
Gladstone himself was in favour of a more liberal reduction in the sliding
scale; and it appears from his journal that he very nearly resigned the
Presidency of the Board of Trade in consequence of Peel's measure. Peel
asked Gladstone to reply to Lord John Russell. "This I did," he says, "and
with all my heart, for I did not yet fully understand the vicious operation
of the sliding scale on the corn trade, and it is hard to see how an
eight-shilling duty could even then have been maintained."

During the next ten months Lord and Lady John were less at the mercy of
politics than they were destined to be for many years to come. They were
constantly together, either at Chesham Place or at Endsleigh. Lord Minto
was living near them in London.

_Lord Minto to Lady Mary Abercromby_

LONDON, _March_ 1, 1843

MY DEAR MARY,--I think you will be glad to have my report of Fanny
since I have been established almost next door to her, and the more
so as it will be so favourable. For whatever misgivings I may have
had from difference of age, or the cares of a ready-made nursery of
children, have entirely gone off. I really never saw anybody more
thoroughly or naturally happy, or upon a footing of more perfect
ease and confidence and equality. I forget if you know Lord John
well behind the scenes, but there is a simplicity and gentleness
and purity in his character which is quite delightful, and it
chimes in very fortunately with Fanny's. She has drawn prizes, too,
in the children, who are really as nice a little tribe as can be
imagined, and I reckon myself a good judge of such small stock.
They are very comfortably housed, much better than I ever hope to
be in London, and Fanny seems to govern her establishment very
handily. I don't know that she has yet quite brought herself to
believe that there is anybody in the world so wicked as really to
intend to cheat, or to overcharge, or to neglect her work for their
own pleasure, but I suppose she will make this discovery in

Adieu, dearest Mary, I have such a craving to see you again that I
hardly know how I shall keep myself within bounds on this side of
the Channel.

Your affectionate,


_Lady Minto to Lord John Russell_

MINTO, _March_ 5, 1842

You can now be pretty well aware of what my delight will be to see
my dear Fanny again, and to know her tolerably well; but you have
not lived with her five-and-twenty years, and therefore memory has
no place in your affection for her, and you cannot even now
comprehend the blank she makes to me. But you can well comprehend
the extent of my pleasure in reading her letters, which breathe
happiness in every line, and in hearing from everybody of her good
looks and cheerfulness. My only fear for her is an anxiety, natural
considering the great change, that her cares and occupations may
weigh at times too heavily upon her, and that she will not wish you
to see she feels it. This is the only thing she would conceal from
you; but as I know the sort of feelings she formerly endeavoured to
conceal from me, it is but too probable she has the same fault
still, and nothing but trying to extract her feelings from her will
cure her, or at least mitigate the evil.

The next great event in their lives was the birth of their first-born son,
John, afterwards Lord Amberley.

On the 10th of December, 1842, our dear little baby boy was born.
He has been thriving ever since to our heart's content. It has been
a happy, happy time to me, and to us all. And now I am a mother.
Oh, Heavenly Father, enable me to be one indeed and to feel that an
immortal soul is entrusted to my care.

On the 10th of December, a year later, she expressed the same thought in
the following lines:

Rough winter blew thy welcome; cold on thee
Looked the cold earth, my snowdrop frail and fair.
Again that day; but wintry though it be,
Come to thy Mother's heart: no frost is there.
What sparkles in thy dark and guileless eye?
Life's joyous dawn alone undimmed by care!
Thou gift of God, canst thou then wholly die?
Oh no, a soul immortal flashes there;
And for that soul now spotless as thy cheek--
That infant form the Almighty's hand has sealed--
Oh, there are thoughts a mother ne'er can speak;
In midnight's silent prayer alone revealed.

After Lady John had recovered, they went down to Woburn, and later to stay
with Lord Clarendon at The Grove. At both houses large parties were
assembled, and Greville notes in his diary that Lord John was in excellent
spirits. "Buller goes on as if the only purpose in life was to laugh and
make others laugh," and he adds, "John Russell is always agreeable, both
from what he contributes himself and his hearty enjoyment of the
contributions of others."

One of the principal events which had interested Lady John in the past year
had been the secession from the Scottish Church and the establishment of
the. Free Church of Scotland. Her feelings about it are expressed in this
letter to her sister, Lady Mary Abercromby:

ENDSLEIGH, _September_ 11, 1842 The divisions in the Kirk
distress me so much that I never read anything about them now. It
is disagreeable to find people with whom one cannot agree making
use of the most sacred expressions on every occasion where their
own power or interests can be helped by them. You used not to be
much of a Kirk woman; but surely you would regret seeing many of
her children come over to the English. I have just been reading the
Thirty-nine Articles for the first time in my life, and am
therefore particularly disposed to prefer all that is simple in
matters of religion. They _may_ be true; but whether they are
so or not, is what neither I, nor those who wrote them, nor the
wisest man that lives, can judge; that they are presumptuous in the
extreme, all who read may see. In short, I hate theology as the
greatest enemy of true religion, and may therefore leave the
subject to my betters.... I need hardly tell you that we are
leading a happy life, since we are at Endsleigh and _alone_.
Did I ever tell you that we are becoming great botanists? I have
some hopes of equalling you before we meet, as I feel new light
breaks upon me every day, and every night too, for I try so hard to
repress my ardour during the day for fear of being tiresome to
everybody, that my dreams are of nothing else. John, of course, is
very little advanced as yet, but he finds it so interesting, to his
surprise, that I hope even Parliament will not quite drive it out
of his head.

Early in February she was back again in London, where social and political
distractions, together with the care of a young family of stepchildren,
were soon to prove too much for her strength.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

_February_ 7, 1843

... How you must envy me and how I am to be envied for having my
own people within reach. I am hourly thankful for it.... Yet for
one thing I envy you--great lady as you are, you lead a quiet life;
how far from quiet mine is and always must be, and how intensely I
long that it could be more so, how completely worn out both mind
and body often feel at the end of a common day, none can imagine
but those who have become in one moment mother of six children,
wife of the Leader of the House of Commons, and mistress of a house
in London. You will suppose that I wish husband and children at the
world's end, and you will call me a sinful, discontented creature;
you will do anything but pity me, since my only complaint is that I
have not as much leisure as so much happiness requires to be
enjoyed. Well, say and think what you please; I must let you into
my secret follies, in the hope of curing myself in so doing.
London, hateful London, alone is at fault. Anywhere else my duties
and occupations would be light, and my _pleasures_ would be so
not in name only.... How _could_ I beg Mama, as I used to do,
to have more parties and dinners and balls! I cannot now conceive
the state of mind which made me actually wish for such things. Now
I have them in my power without number, and I detest them all. The
world has passed its judgment on me. I am reckoned cold, dull, and
unworthy of such a husband; and it is quite right, for I never
appear anything else. In short, I doubt my capacity for everything
except making husband and children happy--_that_ I have not
yet begun to doubt. When I do, I will instantly bid them all adieu
and "find out some peaceful hermitage." ... Darling Baby was
brought in to be seen in his christening dress, the gift of Mama,
and such a little love you never saw.... Papa is the best of
Grandpapas, as you may imagine from his love of babies, and I
delight in seeing him nurse it and speak to it....

Do not think this quite a mad letter. I wrote as the spirit, good
or evil, prompted me. I must do so or not write at all....

Ever, my dearest Mary, your most affectionate sister.

Lady Minto was evidently afraid that her daughter was shutting herself up
too entirely with her family, and not amusing herself as much as was good
for her.

"My dearest Mama," she answers (on July 5, 1843)--... I hope to
make you laugh at yourself for your fears about me, and to convince
you that the seclusion of Belgravia, though great, is not quite
like that of Kamschatka; that John's pleasure is not my pleasure,
that the welfare of the children is not my happiness, and that far
from constantly devoting my time to them, one whole afternoon this
week was devoted to the world and the fine arts in Westminster
Hall. I will name to you a few of the friends I met there, by all
of whom I was recognized, in spite of my long banishment, my
wrinkles, and my grey hair.... [Thirty names follow.]

The evening before I had been _without_ John to a tea at Mr.
W. Russell's. To-night we are to dine with the Duke and Duchess of
Buccleuch; to-morrow to breakfast with the Duchess Dowager of
Bedford; on Thursday go to the Drawing-room and give our banquet;
and so on to the end of the session and season. Seriously, dear
Mama, if I had more of the pleasures of my age, I should dislike
them very much; those of a more tender age suit me better; and if
you do not think it unbecoming, I will have a swing and a
rocking-horse in our own garden. You ought rather to scold Papa for
shutting himself up; he has seen hardly anybody but ourselves,
which has been very agreeable for us--so agreeable that I do not at
all like his going away, tho' of course I do not try to keep him
longer when he so much wishes to go, and you so much wish to have

You think I did not know what I was undertaking when we married,
and you are right. The hope, humble as it was, of lightening the
duties and cheering the life of one--the wish, God knows how
sincere, of being a mother to those who had none, outweighed all
other considerations. But if I did not know and have sometimes been
overpowered by the greatness of my duties, if I have sighed for the
repose and leisure with which marriage generally begins, neither
did I know the greatness of my rewards--so far beyond what I
deserve. The constant sympathy, encouragement, and approbation of
John can make everything easy to me; and these I trust I shall
always have; these will keep me young and merry, so do not distress
yourself about me, my own dear Mama, and believe me ever your most
affectionate child,


The year 1843 was one of increasing difficulty for the Tories. Peel's
followers began to suspect more and more strongly that he was not sound on
the question of the corn taxes; outside Parliament, Cobden and Bright were
battering Protection at their great monthly meetings in Covent Garden
Theatre. The troubles in Ireland were growing acute, and the arrest of
O'Connell and the Repeal leaders made matters worse. The Government had
been forced to abandon their Bill for the education of factory children
through the bitter opposition of Dissenters and Radicals, who thought the
Bill increased the already too great influence of the Church. At the
beginning of the year the Government had been strong enough to throw out
Lord Howick's motion for a committee of inquiry into the causes of
distress, which would have entailed a division upon the Corn Laws; but the
strength of the Ministry was now seriously diminished. Parliament was
prorogued late in August; on the 5th Lord John left London, hoping that he
had done with politics till next year. The whole family moved down to
Endsleigh, where, soon afterwards, his eldest stepdaughter fell ill of a

Lady John caught the infection. She had been living up to the limit of her
energies, and her case proved a grave one. They moved to Minto in October,
and never again used Endsleigh as their country house. By the beginning of
1844 she was sufficiently recovered to attend the House of Commons and to
hear her husband speak upon the Irish question. In this speech he declared
himself in favour of putting Catholics, Anglicans, and Dissenters on an
equality; not by disestablishing the English Church in Ireland, but by
endowing the Catholics. He summed up the political situation by saying: "In
England the government, as it should be, is a government of opinion; the
government of Ireland is notoriously a government by force."

_February_ 15, 1844

O'Connell arrived from Dublin--much cheered by the crowd outside
and by the Irish and Radical members inside the House. John shook
hands with him. O'Connell said: "I thank you for your admirable
speech. It makes up to us for much that we have gone through."

Lady John's next Diary was lost, and the first entry in her new Diary was
written after serious illness.

LONDON, _February_ 2, 1845

I have found in illness even more than in health how much better I
am loved than I deserve to be. To say nothing of the unwearied care
and cheerful watching of my dearest John, the children have given
me such proofs of affection as gladdened many an hour of pain or
weariness. One day, while I was ill in bed, and Georgy by me, I
told her how kind it was of God to send illness upon us at times,
as warnings to repent of past faults and prepare for death. Upon
which she said: "But, Mama, _you_ can't have done anything to
be sorry for." No self-examination, no sermon, could have made me
feel more humble than these words of a little child.

During the early part of the year, while Lord John was supporting in the
House of Commons the endowment of the Maynooth College for priests and the
establishment of colleges in other important Irish towns, Lady John was
living at Unsted Wood, near Godalming, a house they had taken for the year.

Their constant separation was painful to both, and as soon as Parliament
rose they decided to go to Minto. There the state of her health became so
alarming that, to be within reach of medical advice, they moved to

The distress of the poorer classes throughout the country during this
autumn was terrible. It was to meet this distress, unparalleled since the
Middle Ages, that Lord John wrote from Edinburgh his famous Free Trade
letter to his London constituents, urging them to clamour for the only
remedy, "to unite to put an end to a system which has proved to be the
blight of commerce, the bane of agriculture, the source of bitter divisions
among classes, the cause of penury, fever, mortality, and crime among the

Shortly afterwards he was called to London by the sudden death of his old
friend Lady Holland, and he had hardly returned when the news of Peel's
resignation reached him. Peel, thoroughly alarmed, had called a Cabinet
Council to consider the repeal of the Corn Laws. Lord Stanley, afterwards
Lord Derby, had strongly dissented, and carried several Ministers with him,
thus compelling Peel to resign.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

EDINBURGH, _December_ 2, 1845

I wonder what Ralph and William will say to John's letter to his
electors. It is what I have long wished, and I am delighted that
the chief barrier between him and the Radical part of the Whig
party should be knocked down by it. In short, _patriotically_
I am quite pleased, but _privately_ far from it; I dread its
being a stepping-stone to office, which, not to mention myself,
would kill him very soon. He has already quite as much work as his
health can stand, so what would it be with office in
_addition?_ However, I do not torment myself with a future
which may never come, or which, if it does, I may never see. I
forget whether I have written since poor Lady Holland's death,
which John felt very much. It is sad that her death should have
startled one as only that of a young person generally does; but,
old as she was, she never appeared so, and she belonged as much to
society as she ever did. Poor woman, it is a comfort that she died
so calmly, whatever it was that enabled her to do so.

Lord John had hardly returned to Edinburgh when the event which she had
been trying to think remote and unlikely was upon them.

EDINBURGH, _December_ 8, 1845

Evening of utter consternation. A message from the Queen requiring
John's attendance at Osborne House immediately.... John set out at
ten this morning (December 9th) on his dreary and anxious journey,
leaving a dreary and anxious wife behind him. Baby not well towards
evening. Sent for Dr. Davidson. Oh, Heavenly Father, preserve to me
my earthly treasures, and whatever be my lot in life, they will
make it a happy one. Forgive me for such a prayer. The hope of
happiness is too strong within me.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

LONDON, _December_ 10, 1845

It is very sad, this moment, when many will think me at the height
of my ambition. But when I think of you and your many trials, and
the children with their ailments to disturb you, when I cannot
share your anxieties--it is all very sad. I doubt, too, of the will
of the country to go through with it--and then I shall have done
mischief by calling upon them. I saw Mr. Bright at one of the
stations. He spoke much of the enthusiasm. God save and preserve us

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

OSBORNE HOUSE, _December_ 11th, 1845

Well, I am here--and have seen Her Majesty. It is proposed to me to
form a Government, and nothing can be more gracious than the manner
in which this has been done. Likewise Sir Robert Peel has placed
his views on paper, and they are such as very much to facilitate my
task. Can I do so wild a thing? For this purpose, and to know
whether it is wild or not, I must consult my friends.... There end
politics--I hope you have not suffered from anxiety and the
desolation of our domestic prospects.... I stay here to-night, and
summon my friends in London to-morrow--Ever, ever affly., with love
to all,


_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _December_ 13, 1845

I have just read your note which I so anxiously expected from
Osborne House. No, my dearest, it is not a wild thing. It is a
great duty which you will nobly perform; and, with all my
regrets--with the conviction that private happiness to the degree
we have enjoyed is at an end if you are Prime Minister--still I
sincerely hope that no timid friend will dissuade you from at least
trying what you have yourself called upon the country to help you
in. If I liked it better, I should feel less certain it was a duty.
If you had not written that letter you might perhaps have made an
honourable escape; but now I see none.

She wrote again on the 14th:

I am as eager and anxious lying here on my sofa--a broken-down,
useless bit of rubbish--as if I were well and strong and in the
midst of the turmoil. And I am proud to find that even the prospect
of what you too truly call the "desolation of our domestic
prospects," though the words go to my very heart of hearts, cannot
shake my wish that you should make the attempt. My mind is made
up.... My ambition is that you should be the head of the most moral
and religious government the country has ever had.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

EDINBURGH, _December_ 14, 1845

DEAREST MARY,--All you say of your dreams for me in days gone by is
like yourself. You were always thinking more of my happiness than
your own. What a strange world it is, where the happiest and
saddest events are so often linked together--for instance, the
marriage and absence of those one would wish to have always by one.
I certainly never wish either of our marriages _undone;_ but
"Seas between us braid hae roared sin auld Lang-syne" more than
either of us could have borne to look forward to. If ever I did
wish myself freed from my husband, it has been for the last five
days, since the highest honour in the land has been within his
reach. Oh dear! how unworthy I am of what to many wives would be a
source of constant pride, not only for their husband's sake, but
their own; whereas, proud as I _am_ of so public a mark of his
country's good opinion, and convinced as I am that he ought not to
shrink from the post, still to myself it is all loss, all
sacrifice--every favourite plan upset--London, London, London, and
London in its worst shape--a constant struggle between husband and
children, constant anxiety about his health and theirs, added to
that about public affairs. But I will not begin to count up the
countless miseries of office to those who have, I will not say a
love, but a passion for quiet, leisure, and the country.

As I said before, I am so convinced that he ought to make the
trial, unless the difficulties are much greater than I have wisdom
to see, that I should be positively disappointed if I found he had
given it up.

Besides, I see many bright sides to it all. You will think I have
lost all my old patriotism, but it is not so; and the prospect of
seeing my husband repeal the Corn Laws, and pacify and settle
Ireland, is one that repays me for much private regret. You see, if
he does undertake to govern, I expect him to do it successfully,
and this in spite of many a wise friend. He went off looking so
miserable himself that I long to hear from somebody else how he
looks now. You cannot think what a thunderbolt it was to us both.
We were reading aloud, about an hour before bedtime, when the
messenger was announced--and he brought the Queen's fatal letter.
Oh! how difficult I found it not to call the man every sort of
name! The next morning John was off, and though he flattered
himself he would be able to come back to me in any case, _I_
flatter myself no such thing.

Poor baby made his resolution falter that morning--he would not
leave him for a moment, clinging round his neck and laying his
little cheek on his, coaxing him in every possible way. He does not
conceal either from himself or me how entire the sacrifice must be
of private happiness to public duty, of which this parting was the
first sample; and he writes of the desolation of domestic prospects
in so sad a way that I am obliged to write like a Spartan to him.

What her feelings were at this time the above letter shows. What was
happening in London may be gathered from Lord John's letters and the
following letter from Macaulay to his sister: [24]

"... Lord John has not consented to form a Ministry. He has only
told the Queen that he would consult his friends, and see what
could be done. We are all most unwilling to take office, and so is
he. I have never seen his natural audacity of spirit so much
tempered by discretion, and by a sense of responsibility, as on
this occasion. The question of the Corn Laws throws all other
questions into the shade. Yet, even if that question were out of
the way, there would be matters enough to perplex us. Ireland, we
fear, is on the brink of something like a civil war--the effect,
not of Repeal agitation, but of severe distress endured by the
peasantry. Foreign Politics look dark. An augmentation of the Army
will be necessary. Pretty legacies to leave to a Ministry which
will be in a minority in both Houses. I have no doubt that there is
not a single man among us who would not at once refuse to enlist,
if he could do so with a clear conscience. Nevertheless, our
opinion is that, if we have reasonable hope of being able to settle
the all-important question of the Corn Laws in a satisfactory way,
we ought, at whatever sacrifice of quiet and comfort, to take
office, though only for a few weeks. But can we entertain such a
hope? This is the point; and till we are satisfied about it we
cannot positively accept or refuse. A few days must pass before we
are able to decide.

"It is clear that we cannot win the battle with our own unassisted
strength. If we win it at all, it must be by the help of Peel,
Graham, and their friends. Peel has not seen Lord John; but he left
with the Queen a memorandum, containing a promise to support a Corn
Bill founded on the principles of Lord John's famous letter to the
electors of London."

[24] Trevelyan's "Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay."

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

CHESHAM PLACE, _December_ 14, 1845

Well, my friends agreed with me that, unless I could have a very
good prospect of carrying a grand measure about corn, I had better
decline the Queen's Commission. So we are to have all the old
Cabinet men here on Tuesday, and try to ascertain whether we are
agreed on a measure, and whether Sir Robert Peel would support such
a measure as we should propose. On Wednesday evening, or Thursday,
I hope the matter will be cleared up, and if you ask me what I
think, I should say it is most probable that we shall be made into
a Ministry. How very strange and incomprehensible it seems; and
much as I have had to do with public affairs, I feel now as if I
knew nothing about them, and was quite incompetent to so great an
office--to rule over such vast concerns, with such parties. With so
many great things and so many little things to decide it is quite

Many of our friends say I ought to decline; but I feel that to do
so would be mean and dastardly while I have a prospect of such
great good before me--possible if not probable, but I think even
probable. It would seem that most of the Cabinet thought I should
have a better chance of preventing bitter attacks than Peel would.
This may be so, or not.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

CHESHAM PLACE, _December_ 17, 1845

I want a security that I shall be able to carry a total repeal of
the Corn Laws without delay, and that security must consist in an
assurance of Sir Robert Peel's support. Unless I get this, I give
up the task.

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

MINTO, _Sunday, December_ 21, 1845

It is difficult to write while our suspense lasts.... It does not
seem unlikely that Lord Grey [25] will have yielded, and all be
smooth, or _smoother,_ again. Papa tells me not to wish it
even on public grounds. On private ones I certainly do not; but I
should be ashamed if at such a time my anxieties were not chiefly
for you as a _statesman,_ not as my husband, and for my
country more than for myself. If it turns out that the interests of
the statesman and the country and the wife agree, why then let us
be thankful; if not, why then let us be thankful still that we can
make some sacrifice to duty. You see that my "courage mounteth with
occasion"; and though I have low and gloomy fits when I think of my
ill-health and its probable consequences, I am sure that, on the
whole, I shall not disgrace you. Oh, what a week of toil and
trouble you have had, and how gladly I would have shared them with
you to more purpose than I can do at this _terrible_
distance.... It is so pleasant to write to you. When I have
finished my letter I always grow sad, as if I was really saying
good-bye to you. How have you been sleeping? and eating? and have
you walked every day? ... Good-bye, Heaven bless you, my dearest
love. I trust that this has been a day of rest to you, and that God
hears and accepts our prayers for one another.

[25] Third Earl Grey, son of the Prime Minister.

Lord John wrote daily to his wife, and the following three letters to her
show what he felt during this anxious time:

CHESHAM PLACE, _December_ 19, 1845

It is all at an end. Howick [Lord Grey] would not serve with Lord
Palmerston as Foreign Secretary, and it was impossible for me to go
on unless I had both. I am very happy ... at the result. I think
that for the present it will tend much to our happiness; and power
may come, some day or other, in a less odious shape.

CHESHAM PLACE, _December_ 20, 1845

I write to you with a great sense of relief on public affairs. Lord
Grey's objection to sitting in a Cabinet in which Palmerston was to
have the Foreign Office was invincible. I could not make a Cabinet
without Lord Grey, and I have therefore been to Windsor this
morning to resign my hard task. The Queen, as usual, was very
gracious.... I have left a paper with her in which I state that we
were prepared to advise free trade in corn without gradation and
without delay; but that I could support Sir Robert Peel in any
measure which he should think more practicable.

CHESHAM PLACE, _December_ 21, 1845

The desponding tone of your letter, yesterday, although I do not
believe it was otherwise than the effect of weakness, makes me
rejoice at my escape a thousand times more than I should otherwise
have done. I reflect on the misery I should have felt with every
moment of my time occupied here in details of appointments, while
my thoughts were with you.... The Queen and the Prince have behaved
beautifully throughout.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

MINTO, _December_ 24, 1845

You will not be surprised that a great deal of the time which I
meant to devote to you this morning has run away in talk to my
husband. You will see by the _Times_ what the _cause_ of
the failure is: Lord Grey's refusal to belong to the Ministry if
Lord Palmerston was at the Foreign Office--a most unfortunate
cause, we must all agree, but in the opinion of Papa and many other
wise people, a most fortunate occurrence on the whole, as they
considered it next to impossible that such a Ministry as John could
have formed would have been strong enough to be of use to the

My husband, who is no coward, sees it differently, and thinks that
with a united Cabinet he _might_ have gone on successfully and
carried not only Corn Law Repeal, but other great questions; though
the probability was that they would only have carried that and then
gone out. But even that would have been something worth doing, and
better and more naturally done by Whigs than Tories. One good thing
is that John has returned in excellent spirits. _All_ his
personal wishes and feelings were so against taking office at
present, and the foretaste he had of it in this lonely and most
harassing fortnight was so odious to him that his only feeling at
first when he gave it all up was pure delight; and he slept, which
he had not been able to do before. It certainly was a terrible
prospect to us both--one immovable in Edinburgh, the other equally
immovable in London--and it required all my patriotism to wish the
thing to go on.

If it had gone on, the name of Lord John Russell would be now more often on
men's lips. Peel's popular fame rests upon the abolition of the Corn Laws,
Lord John's upon the first Reform Bill. It was but an accident--Lord Grey's
objection to Palmerston at the Foreign Office--which prevented the name of
Lord John Russell from being linked with those of Cobden and Bright, and
imperishably associated with both the great measures of the nineteenth



After Lord John's failure to form a Ministry, Peel returned to power;
Gladstone replaced Stanley at the War and Colonial Office, and Stanley
became the acknowledged leader of the protectionist Opposition. Having Lord
John's assurance that the Whigs would support anti-Corn Law legislation,
Peel set about preparing his famous measure. But before it could be
discussed in Parliament, the usual explanations with regard to resignation
and resumption of office had to be gone through. In his speech on this
occasion, Lord John tried to shield Lord Grey as far as possible from the
unpopularity which he had incurred by refusing to work with Palmerston in
the same Cabinet. Feeling on both sides of the House was against Lord Grey;
for both Free Traders and Protectionists thought that Repeal ought to have
come from the Whigs, and that it was Lord Grey who had made this

Lady John remained in Edinburgh, too ill to move. While her husband was
helping Peel at Westminster, the following letters passed between them:

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

LONDON, _January 23,_ 1846

I did not write to you last night, as I thought I could give you a
clearer account to-day. Sir Robert Peel gave up Protection
altogether on the ground that he had changed his opinion.... I dine
with the Fox Club [to-day?] and at Lansdowne House to-morrow. I
have rather startled Lord Lansdowne this morning by some of my
views about Ireland.

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _January_ 25, 1846

I never doubted that you were as noble by nature as by name; and I
am now more happily convinced of it than ever. Your whole speech
was plain and excellent, but the part that I dwell upon with the
greatest pleasure is that about Lord Grey.... I generally think
your speeches a curious contrast to Sir Robert's, and it does not
fail on this occasion. His humble confession of former errors, his
appeal to our sympathies, and his heroic tone at the close, all got
rather the better of my reason while I read; but the more I think
over his conduct, the less becomes the effect of his words. Yours,
on the contrary, as usual, only gain in force the more they are
reflected on, simply because they are true. And now, having
congratulated you quite as much as is good for your vanity, I must
praise myself a little for the way in which I have hitherto borne
your absence. What with its present pain, the uncertainty as to
when it may end, and my varying and wearying state of health, I
have many a time been inclined to lie and cry; and if ever I
allowed myself to dwell in thought on the happy days which sad
memory brings to light, I _should_ lie and cry; those days
when neither night nor day could take me from your side, and when
it was as difficult to look forward to sickness or sorrow as it now
is to believe that health and happiness--such happiness as
that--are in store for us. But I do _not_ dwell upon past
enjoyments, but upon present blessings, and I _do_ lie and
talk and read and write and think cheerfully and gratefully.

Dearest, I know you cannot see much of the children, but when you
do, pray be both Papa and Mama to them. Do not let their little
minds grow reserved towards you, or your _great_ mind towards
them. Help them to apply what they hear you read from the Bible to
their own little daily pleasures and cares, and you will find how
delightfully they take it all in.

God bless you, my dearest. Pray go out every day, and take Isabel
and Bessy or one of the small ones with you sometimes to enliven

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _January_ 26, 1846

Your mention of the dreams which you had had of happiness for
Ireland made me sad, and you know how I shared in those dreams....
I like the way in which politics are talked here, it is far enough
from the scene of action for them to lose much of their
personality, and for all the little views to be lost in the
greater--and yet the interest is as great as in London.

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

EDINBURGH, _January 28_, 1846

Well, I wonder what you will say to the debate or rather the
explanations in Parliament. Are not John's and Sir Robert's
speeches a curious contrast? and is not John a generous man? and is
not Sir Robert a puzzling one? and was there ever such a strange
state of parties? What an unhappy being a real Tory must be, at
least in England, battling so vainly against time and tide, and
doomed to see the idols of his worship crumbled to dust one after
another. In _your_ benighted country [Italy] their end is
further off; but still it must come. I am reading a book on Russia
that makes my blood boil at every page. It is called "Eastern
Europe and the Emperor Nicholas," and I am positively ashamed of
the reception we gave that wholesale murderer in our free country.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

CHESHAM PLACE, _February_ 1, 1846

The Ministry will carry their Corn Measure, but will hardly last a
month after it. What next? I think the next Government will be
Whig, as the Protection party have no corps of officers in the
House of Commons. So that their only way of avenging themselves
upon Peel is to bring in a Liberal Ministry.

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

MINTO, _February_ 7, 1846

I am glad you have a satisfactory letter from the doctor. A
volunteered letter from him, as this was, must be a good sign.... I
shall all my life regret not having been with you at this most
interesting period in our political history; for the longest
letters can but barely make up for the loss of the hourly chats
upon each event with all its variations which are only known in
London. Then, I think how sad it is for you to have nobody to care,
as I should care, whether you had spoken well or ill. But all this
and much more we must bear as cheerfully as we can; and I am glad
to think that though _one wife_ is far from you, your other
wife, the House of Commons, leaves you little time to spend in
pining for her. I think you quite right in your intention of voting
for Sir Robert's measure as it is, in preference to any amendment
which would not be carried, and might delay the settlement of the
question. Not, as you well know, because I am not heart and soul a
Free Trader, but because I think it a more patriotic, as well as a
more consistent, course for you to take. Then if you come into
office, as seems probable, you may make what improvements you like,
and especially put an end to the miserable trifling about
slave-grown sugar; a question in which I take a sentimental
interest, as your first gift to me was your great sugar speech in

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

HOUSE OF COMMONS, _February_ 9, 1846

Here I am in the House of Commons, on the important night of Corn,
having just introduced Morpeth as a new Member. It all makes me
very nervous--I mean to speak to-night, and I must take care not to
join in the bitterness of the Tories, and at the same time to avoid
the praise of the Ministry, which I see is the fashion. ... I am
glad you all take such interest in the present struggle--it would
be difficult not to do so. Our majority will, I hope, be eighty. As
matters stand at present no one feels sure of the Lords.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

CHESHAM PLACE, _February_ 16, 1846

The events of the last few days have been remarkable. There has
been no move, no agitation in the counties; but wherever a contest
is announced the Protection party carry it hollow.... In London the
Protectionists have created in a fortnight a very strong and
compact party, from 220 to 240, in the Commons, and no one knows
how many in the Lords--thus we are threatened with a revival of the
real old Tory party. Of course they are very civil to us, and they
all say that we ought to have settled this question and not Sir
Robert. But how things may turn out no one can say.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

CHESHAM PLACE, _February_ 21, 1846

I trust the feelings you have, and the enjoyment you seem to take
in the flowers and buds of the garden, show that you have before
you the opening Paradise of good health.

Baby's letter is very merry indeed. I long to see his little face
and curly locks again.

I am going to have a meeting at twelve and of twelve on the affairs
of Ireland. It is a thorny point, and vexes me more than the Corn
Laws. Lord Bessborough and Lansdowne are too much inclined to
coercion, and I fear we shall not agree. But on the other hand, if
we show ourselves for strong measures without lenitives, I fear we
shall entirely lose the confidence of Ireland.

_February_ 22, 1846

We are much occupied with the affairs of Ireland--I am engaged in
persuading Lansdowne to speak out upon the affairs of that unhappy
country, where a Bill called an Insurrection Act seems the ordinary

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

Minto, _February_ 23, 1846

You were quite right to send the children out in spite of the
remains of their coughs, but how hard it is for you to have all
those domestic responsibilities added to your numerous public ones.
It is more than your share, while I linger away my hours on the
sofa, without so much as a dinner to order for anybody. Your
Coercive measures for Ireland frighten me. I do not trust any
Englishman on the subject except yourself, and you cannot keep to
your own opinion in favour of leniency and act upon it. I often
think how unfortunate it is that there should be that little
channel of sea between England and Ireland. It prevents each
country from considering itself a part of the other, and a bridge
across it would make it much more difficult for Orange or Repeal
bitterness to be kept up. I send you Lord William's [26] letter.
But first I must tell you that in a former letter from him he
compared you to Antony throwing away the world for Cleopatra.... I
read one of Lord Campbell's Lives aloud yesterday evening--Sir
Christopher Hatton--a short and entertaining one; but from which it
would appear that a man can make a respectable Lord Chancellor
without having seriously studied anything except dancing....

[26] Lord John Russell's brother.

_Lord William Russell to Lady John Russell_

Genoa, _February_ 12, 1846

My dear Sister--I thank you much for your letter of the 4th from
Minto, but regret to find my letters make you not only angry, but
very angry. If I was within reach I should have my ears well
cuffed, but at this distance I am bold.... You will not have to get
into a towering passion in defending your husband from my
accusation of loving you too much and dashing the world aside and
bid it pass, that he might enjoy a quiet life with his Fanny. I
begin by obeying you and asking pardon and saying you did quite
right not to think me in earnest, and to "know that I often write
what I do not mean," a fault unknown to myself, and one to be
corrected, for it is a great fault, if not worse. The letter just
received pleases me much, for I find in it a high tone of moral
rectitude, a noble feeling of devotion to your husband's calling,
an unselfish determination to fulfil your destiny, an abnegation of
domestic comfort, a latent feeling of ambition tempered with
resignation, such as becomes a woman, that do you the highest
honour.... I think the crisis we are going through in England very
alarming ... a frightful system of political immorality is
stalking through the land--the Democracy is triumphant, the
Aristocracy is making a noble and last effort to hold its own,
unfortunately in so bad, so unjust, so selfish, so stupid a cause,
that it must fall covered with shame.... The hero of the day,
Cobden, is a great man in his way, the type of an honest
manufacturer, but for the moment all-powerful. I am domiciled with
your brother and sister, [27] under the same roof, dine daily at
their hospitable table, sit over the fire and cose and prose with
them, sometimes alone with your sister, who thinks and talks very
like you, that is, not only well but very well.

I am very affectionately yours,


P.S.--You say it would be unworthy of John to _pine_ for
office. I think the difficulties of a Prime Minister so great and
the toil so irksome that the country ought to be full of gratitude
to any man that will undertake it. I am full of gratitude to Sir
Robert Peel for having sacrificed his ease and enjoyment for the
good of his country, and to enable us to sit in the shade under our
own fig-trees. Glory and gratitude to Peel.

[27] Lady Mary Abercromby.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

CHESHAM PLACE, _February_ 15, 1846

I have been to St. Paul's to-day. Mr. Bennett enforced still
further obedience to the Church, and what was strange, he said
Papists and Dissenters were prevented by the prejudices of
education from seeing the truth--as if the same thing were not just
as true of his own Church. I do not see how it is possible to be
out of the Roman Catholic pale and not use one's own faculties on
the interpretation of the Bible. That tells us that our Saviour
said, he who knew that to love God with all our soul and to love
our neighbour as ourself were the two great commandments, was not
far from the kingdom of God. This surely can be known and even
followed without a priest at all.

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

MINTO, _February_ 27, 1846

You seem to have had a very pleasant dinner at the Berrys, and I
wish I had been at it. I wonder sometimes whether the social
enjoyments of life are for ever at an end for me: and in my hopeful
moods I plan all sorts of pleasant little _teas_ at Chesham
Place--at home from nine to eleven on certain days, in an easy way,
without smart dressing and preparation of any sort beyond a few
candles and plenty of tea. I feel and always have felt ambitious to
establish some more popular and rational kind of society than is
usual in London. But the difficulty in our position would be to
limit the numbers: however, limiting the hours would help to do
this; and I do not think one need be very brilliant or agreeable
oneself to make such a thing succeed well. But what a foolish
presumptuous being I am, lying here on my sofa, not even able to
share in the quiet amusements of Minto, making schemes for the
entertainment of all the London world! However, these dreams and
others of a more serious nature as to my future life, if God should
restore me to health, help to while away my hours of separation
from you, and make me forget for awhile how long I have been
debarred from fulfilling my natural duties, either to you, the
children, or the world. This, believe me, is the hardest of the
many hard trials that belong to illness, or at least, such an
illness as mine, in which I have mercifully but little physical

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

MINTO, _March_ 1, 1846

What pleasant times we live in, when the triumph of right
principles brings about one great and peaceful change after another
in our country; each one (this from Free Trade in a great degree)
promising an increase of happiness and diminution of war and
bloodshed to the whole world. No doubt, however, its good effects
will be but slowly perceived, and I fear there is much
disappointment in store for the millions of poor labourers, who
expect to have abundance of food and clothing the moment the Bill
becomes a law. Poor creatures, their state is most deplorable and
haunts me day and night. The very best of Poor Laws must be quite
insufficient. Indeed, wherever there is a necessity for a Poor Law
at all there must be something wrong, I think; for if each
proprietor, farmer and clergyman did his duty there would be no
misery, and if they do _not_, no Poor Law can prevent it. You
cannot think how I long for a few acres of _our own_, in order
to know and do what little I could for the poor round us. It would
not lessen one's deep pity for the many in all other parts of the
country, but one's own conscience would be relieved from what,
rightly or wrongly, I now feel as a weight upon it; and without a
permanent residence one does not become really acquainted with poor
people in their prosperity as well as adversity; one only does a
desultory unsatisfactory sort of good. I have not seen Dickens's
letter about the ragged schools of which you speak. What you say of
the devotion of the Roman Catholic priests to the charities of
religion reflects shame on ours of a purer faith, but is what I
have always supposed. The Puseyites are most like them in that as
well as in their mischievous doctrines; but then a new sect is
always zealous for good as well as for evil.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

CHESHAM PLACE, _March_ 3, 1846

I am so happy to find you have had a good night and are stronger in
feeling. If you had not told me how weak and ill you have been I
should have been beyond measure anxious; but, as it is, and with
your letters, I have been very unhappy and exceedingly
disappointed. For my hopes are often extravagant, and I love to
look forward to days of health and happiness and gratitude to God
for His blessings.... Need I say after all I have suffered on your
account that while I am conducting my campaign in Italy [28] my
thoughts are always with you? ... I cannot bear your absence. The
interest of a great crisis, and the best company of London cannot
make me tolerably patient under the misfortune of your being away;
and it is you, and you alone who could inspire me with such deep

[28] An allusion to Napoleon's letters to Josephine from Italy, which she
had been reading.

Peel had taken the first step towards feeding the poor at home. He had also
done his best to relieve the immediate distress of Ireland. Shiploads of
Indian corn had been landed, and public works for the help of the destitute
established up and down the country. But the chief grievance of the Irish,
which was at the bottom of half the agrarian crime, had not been remedied.
The House of Lords, by having thrown out Peel's Bill for compensating
outgoing tenants for improvements their own money or exertions had created,
was largely responsible for the violence and sedition now threatening life
and property throughout Ireland. The true remedy having been rejected by
the Lords, the Government had to meet violence by violence. No sooner had
the Corn Bill been passed in the House of Commons than Peel brought in a
stringent Sedition Bill for Ireland. Lord John and the Whigs disliked the
Bill because it was extremely harsh.

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _March_ 12, 1846

Nothing that I read in the speeches in favour of the Coercion Bill
convinced me that it would do the slightest good.... It must
embitter the Irish against England, for which there is no need.
Nothing can be more shocking than the continual outrages and
murders in Ireland; but it is the penalty we pay for a long course
of misgovernment, and from which nothing but a long course of mild
and good government can set us free; certainly not severe
indiscriminate measures which mark out Ireland still more as an
unhappy conquered province, instead of a part of the nation. Such
are my sentiments, dearest, on this subject, which always makes my
blood boil.... I read the "Giaour" two nights ago to Addy--it has
as great and as numerous beauties as any poem Byron ever wrote--but
I find I am not old enough, or wise enough, or good enough to
_bear_ Byron, and left off feeling miserable, as he always
contrives to make one; despair is what he excels in, and he makes
it such beautiful despair that all sense of right or wrong is
overwhelmed by it. I said to Addy that one always requires an
antidote after reading Byron, and that she and I ought instantly to
go and hem pocket-handkerchiefs, or make a pudding--and that is
what she has illustrated in the newspaper I send.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

HOUSE OF COMMONS, _March_, 1846

Your views about the Irish Coercion Bill are very natural; but
Bessborough, who is the best authority we have about Irish matters,
thinks it will tend to stop crime--and especially the crime of
murder. I should be loath to throw out a Bill which may have this
good effect; but I shall move a resolution which will pledge the
House to measures of remedy and conciliation. This may lead to a
great debate.... The little girls look very nice, but Toza [29] is,
if possible, thinner than ever. However, she laughs and dances like
a little fairy. I dined with Mrs. Drummond yesterday. Macaulay [30]
was there--entertaining, and not too much of a monopolist--I mean
of talk--which, like other monopolies, is very disagreeable.

[29] Victoria.

[30] Lord John had written to his wife in April, 1845: "Macaulay
made one of his splendid speeches again last night.... He is a
wonderful man, and must with the years before him be a great

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _March_ 19, 1846

After dinner we drove to Portobello sands and there got out and
walked for an hour; the sea was of the brightest blue, covered with
sails; Inchkeith and the opposite coast so clear that every
inequality of hill or rock was seen; Arthur's Seat, grand and
snowy, was behind us, and the glittering sands under our feet--the
whole beautiful far beyond description and beyond what I have yet
seen it in any weather; for the east wind and bright sun are what
it requires. How I did wish for you! I need not say that I only
half enjoyed it, as I only half enjoy anything without you. My
comfort in your absence is to think that you are not taken from me
for nothing, but for your country's service; and that even if we
could have foreseen four years ago all the various anxieties and
trials that awaited us, we should have married all the same. As it
was, we knew that ours could not be a life of quiet ease; and it
was for me to decide whether I was able to face the reverse--and I
_did_ decide, and I _am_ able--

"Io lo cercai, fui preso
Dall' alta indole sua, dal suo gran nome;
Pensai dapprima, oh pensai che incarco
E l'amor d'un uomo che a gli' altri e sopra!
Perche allor correr, solo io nol lasciai
La sua splendida via, s' io non potea
Seguire i passi suoi?"

Now I am sure you do not know where those lines are from. They are
a wee bit altered from Manzoni's "Carmagnola"; and they struck me
so much, when I read them to-day, as applicable to you and me, and
made me think of your "splendida via" and all its results.

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _March_ 23, 1846

Thanks for your precious letter of Saturday. You need not grieve at
having brought cares and anxieties ... upon me. You have given me
a love that repays them all; and such words as you write in that
letter strengthen me for all that our "splendida via" may entail
upon us, however contrary to my natural tastes or trying to my
natural feelings. What a delightful hope you give of your getting
away on the 2nd--but I am too wise to build upon it.

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _March_ 25, 1846

.... There is a calmness and fairness and _depth_ in
conversation here which one seldom meets with in London, where
people are too much taken up by the present to dwell upon the past,
or look forward to the future--and where consequently passion and
prejudice are mixed up with most that one hears. Dante, and Milton,
and Shakespeare, etc., have little chance amid the hubbub of the
great city--but with all its faults, the great city is the place in
the world I most wish to see again.... At poor Lady Holland's one
_did_ hear the sort of conversation I find here, and surely
you must miss not only her but her house very much.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

_April_ 3, 1846

At all events pray do not distress yourself with the reflexion that
you will not be a companion to me during my political trials. You
have been feeling strong, ... that strength will, I trust, return.
I see no reason why it should not--and there is no one in existence
who can think so well with my thoughts and feel so truly with my
feelings as yourself. So in sickness and in sorrow, so in joy and
prosperity, we must rely on each other and let no discouraging
apprehensions shake our courage.

Meanwhile in Parliament the Irish Coercion Bill was dragging on. Lord
Bessborough and other Whig peers had changed their mind about its value,
and Lord John, instead of proposing an amendment, definitely opposed it.
The Protectionists, eager to revenge themselves upon Peel, who, they felt,
had betrayed them, caught at the opportunity and voted with the Whigs. The
Government was defeated by a large majority on the very day the Repeal of
the Corn Laws passed the House of Lords, and the Queen sent for Lord John,
who became Prime Minister in July, 1846.

This time, beyond the usual troubles in the distribution of offices, he had
no difficulty in forming a Ministry; but when formed it was in an unusually
difficult position. They were in power only because the Protectionists had
chosen to send Peel about his business, and the Irish problem was growing
more and more acute. The potato crop of 1846 was even worse than that of
1845, and Peel's system of public works had proved an expensive failure,
more pauperising than almsgiving. The Irish population fell from eight
millions to five, and those who survived handed down an intensified hatred
of England, which lives in some of their descendants to this day.

In the autumn of 1846 Lord John, little thinking that a home would soon be
offered to him by the Queen, bought a country place, Chorley Wood, near

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_


About the 10th January we all go back to town for good, as John
must be there some time before the meeting of Parliament. Oh that
meeting of Parliament! It is so different from any I have ever
looked forward to; and though it has always been awful, this is so
much _more_ so. I shall then first really feel that John is
Minister, and find out the _pains_ of the position, having as
yet little experience of anything but the pleasures of it. Then
will come the daily toil beyond his strength, the daily abuse to
reward him, and the daily trial to us both of hardly meeting for a
quarter of an hour between breakfast and bedtime. In short, I had
better not begin to enumerate the evils that await us, as they are

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