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Margot Asquith, An Autobiography: Volumes I & II by Margot Asquith

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From kindred essay
LADY MARY to-day [10]
Should have beamed on a world that adores her.
Of her spouse debonair [10]
No woman has e'er
Been able to say that he bores her.

Next BINGY escorts [11]
His dear wife, to our thoughts [11]
Never lost, though withdrawn from our vision,
While of late she has shown
That of spirit alone
Was not fashioned that fair composition.

No, if humour we count,
The original fount
Must to HUGO be ceded in freehold,
Tho' of equal supplies
In more subtle disguise
Old GODFREY has far from a wee hold! [12]

MRS. EDDY has come [13]
And we all shall be dumb
When we hear what a lovely voice Emmy's is;
SPENCER, too, would show what [14]
He can do, were it not
For that cursed laryngeal Nemesis.

At no distance away
Behold ALAN display [15]
That smile that is found so upsetting;
And EDGAR in bower, [16]
In statecraft, in power,
The favourite first in the betting.

Here a trio we meet,
Whom you never will beat,
Tho' wide you may wander and far go;
From what wonderful art
Of that Gallant Old Bart,
Sprang CHARTY and LUCY and MARGOT?

To LUCY he gave [17]
The wiles that enslave,
Heart and tongue of an angel to CHARTY; [18]
To MARGOT the wit [19]
And the wielding of it,
That make her the joy of a party.

LORD TOMMY is proud [20]
That to CHARTY he vowed
The graces and gifts of a true man.
And proud are the friends
Of ALFRED, who blends [21]
The athlete, the hero, the woman!

From the Gosford preserves
Old ST. JOHN deserves [22]
Great praise for a bag such as HILDA; [22]
True worth she esteemed,
Overpowering he deemed
The subtle enchantment that filled her.

Very dear are the pair,
He so strong, she so fair,
Renowned as the TAPLOVITE WINNIES;
Ah! he roamed far and wide,
Till in ETTY he spied [23]
A treasure more golden than guineas.

Here is DOLL who has taught [24]
Us that "words conceal thought"
In his case is a fallacy silly;
HARRY CUST could display [25]
Scalps as many, I lay,
From Paris as in Piccadilly.

But some there were too--
Thank the Lord they were few!
Who were bidden to come and who could not:
Was there one of the lot,
Ah! I hope there was not,
Looked askance at the bidding and would not.

The brave LITTLE EARL [26]
Is away, and his pearl-
Laden spouse, the imperial GLADYS; [26]
By that odious gout
Is LORD COWPER knocked out. [27]
And the wife who his comfort and aid is. [27]

Miss BETTY'S engaged,
And we all are enraged
That the illness of SIBELL'S not over; [28]
GEORGE WYNDHAM can't sit [29]
At our banquet of wit,
Because he is standing at Dover.

But we ill can afford
To dispense with the Lord
Of WADDESDON and ill HARRY CHAPLIN; [30, 31]
Were he here, we might shout
As again he rushed out
From the back of that "d--d big sapling."

We have lost LADY GAY [32]
'Tis a price hard to pay
For that Shah and his appetite greedy;
And alas! we have lost--
At what ruinous cost!--
The charms of the brilliant Miss D.D. [33]

But we've got in their place,
For a gift of true grace,
VIRGINIA'S marvellous daughter. [34]
Having conquered the States,
She's been blown by the Fates
To conquer us over the water.

Now this is the sum
Of all those who have come
Or ought to have come to that banquet.
Then call for the bowl,
Flow spirit and soul,
Till midnight not one of you can quit!

And blest by the Gang
Be the Rhymester who sang
Their praises in doggrel appalling;
More now were a sin--
Ho, waiters, begin!
Each soul for consomme is calling!

1 The Right Eton A. J. Balfour.
2 Mr. and Mrs White.
3 The Duke and Duchess of Sutherland.
4 Col. and Mrs L. Drummond.
5 Now the Duke and Duchess of Rutland.
6 Earl and Countess of Pembroke.
7 Hon. Evan Charteris.
8 Earl and Countess Brownlow.
9 Sir J. and Lady Horner.
10 Lord and Lady Elcho (now Earl and Countess of Wemyss).
11 Lord and Lady Wenlock.
12 Mr. Godfrey Webb.
13 The Hon. Mrs. E. Bourke.
14 The Hon. Spencer Lyttelton.
15 The Hon. Alan Charteris.
16 Sir E. Vincent (now Lord D'Abernon).
17 Mrs. Graham Smith.
18 Lady Ribblesdale.
19 Mrs. Asquith.
20 Lord Ribblesdale.
21 The Hon. Alfred Lyttelton.
22 The Hon. St. John Brodrick (now Earl of Midleton) and Lady
Hilda Brodrick.
23 Mr. and Mrs. Willy Grenfell (now Lord and Lady Desborough).
24 Mr. A. G. Liddell.
25 Mr. Harry Cust.
26 Earl and Countess de Grey.
27 Earl and Countess Cowper.
28 Countess Grosvenor.
29 The late Right Hon. George Wyndham.
30 Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild.
31 Now Viscount Chaplin.
32 Lady Windsor (now Marchioness of Plymouth).
33 Miss E. Balfour (Widow of the Hon. Alfred Lyttelton).
34 Mrs. Chanler, the American novelist (now Princess Troubetzkoy).]

For my own and the children's interest I shall try, however
imperfectly, to make a descriptive inventory of some of the Souls
mentioned in this poem and of some of my friends who were not.

Gladstone's secretary, Sir Algernon West, [Footnote: The Right
Hon. Sir Algernon West.] and Godfrey Webb had both loved Laura and
corresponded with her till she died and they spent all their
holidays at Glen. I never remember the time when Algy West was not
getting old and did not say he wanted to die; but, although he is
ninety, he is still young, good-looking and--what is even more
remarkable--a strong Liberal. He was never one of the Souls, but
he was a faithful and loving early friend of ours.

Mr. Godfrey Webb was the doyen of the Souls. He was as intimate
with my brothers and parents as he was with my sisters and self.
Godfrey--or Webber as some called him--was not only a man of
parts, but had a peculiar flavour of his own: he had the sense of
humour and observation of a memoirist and his wit healed more than
it cut. For hours together he would poke about the country with a
dog, a gun and a cigar, perfectly independent and self-sufficing,
whether engaged in sport, repartee, or literature. He wrote and
published for private circulation a small book of poems and made
the Souls famous by his proficiency at all our pencil-games. It
would be unwise to quote verses or epigrams that depend so much
upon the occasion and the environment. Only a George Meredith can
sustain a preface boasting of his heroine's wit throughout the
book, but I will risk one example of Godfrey Webb's quickness. He
took up a newspaper one morning in the dining-room at Glen and,
reading that a Mr. Pickering Phipps had broken his leg on rising
from his knees at prayer, he immediately wrote this couplet:

On bended knees, with fervent lips, Wrestled with Satan Pickering
Phipps, But when for aid he ceased to beg, The wily devil broke
his leg!

He spent every holiday with us and I do not think he ever missed
being with us on the anniversary of Laura's death, whether I was
at home or abroad. He was a man in a million, the last of the
wits, and I miss him every day of my life.

Lord Midleton [Footnote: The Right Hon. the Earl of Midleton, of
Peper, Harow, Godalming.]--better known as St. John Brodrick--was
my first friend of interest; I knew him two years before I met
Arthur Balfour or any of the Souls. He came over to Glen while he
was staying with neighbours of ours.

I wired to him not long ago to congratulate him on being made an
Earl and asked him in what year it was that he first came to Glen;
this is his answer:

Jan. 12th, 1920. DEAREST MARGOT,

I valued your telegram of congratulation the more that I know you
and Henry (who has given so many and refused all) attach little
value to titular distinctions. Indeed, it is the only truly
democratic trait about YOU, except a general love of Humanity,
which has always put you on the side of the feeble. I am relieved
to hear you have chosen such a reliable man as Crewe--with his
literary gifts--to be the only person to read your autobiography.

My visit to Glen in R--y's company was October, 1880, when you
were sixteen. You and Laura flashed like meteors on to a dreary
scene of empty seats at the luncheon table (the shooting party
didn't come in) and filled the room with light, electrified the
conversation and made old R--y falter over his marriage vows
within ten minutes. From then onwards, you have always been the
most loyal and indulgent of friends, forgetting no one as you
rapidly climbed to fame, and were raffled for by all parties--from
Sandringham to the crossing-sweeper.

Your early years will sell the book.

Bless you.


St. John Midleton was one of the rare people who tell the truth.
Some people do not lie, but have no truth to tell; others are too
agreeable--or too frightened--and lie; but the majority are
indifferent: they are the spectators of life and feel no
responsibility either towards themselves or their neighbour.

He was fundamentally humble, truthful and one of the few people I
know who are truly loyal and who would risk telling me, or any one
he loved, before confiding to an inner circle faults which both he
and I think might be corrected. I have had a long experience of
inner circles and am constantly reminded of the Spanish proverb,
"Remember your friend has a friend." I think you should either
leave the room when those you love are abused or be prepared to
warn them of what people are thinking. This is, as I know to my
cost, an unpopular view of friendship, but neither St. John nor I
would think it loyal to join in the laughter or censure of a
friend's folly.

Arthur Balfour himself--the most persistent of friends--remarked

"St. John pursues us with his malignant fidelity." [Footnote: The
word malignity was obviously used in the sense of the French

This was only a coloured way of saying that Midleton had none of
the detachment commonly found among friends; but, as long as we
are not merely responsible for our actions to the police, so long
must I believe in trying to help those we love.

St. John has the same high spirits and keenness now that he had
then and the same sweetness and simplicity. There are only a few
women whose friendships have remained as loving and true to me
since my girlhood as his--Lady Horner, Miss Tomlinson [Footnote:
Miss May Tomlinson, of Rye.], Lady Desborough, Mrs. Montgomery,
Lady Wemyss and Lady Bridges [Footnote: J Lady Bridges, wife of
General Sir Tom Bridges.]--but ever since we met in 1880 he has
taken an interest in me and all that concerns me. He was much
maligned when he was Secretary of State for War and bore it
without blame or bitterness. He had infinite patience, intrepid
courage and a high sense of duty; these combined to give him a
better place in the hearts of men than in the fame of newspapers.

His first marriage was into a family who were incapable of
appreciating his particular quality and flavour; even his mother-
in-law--a dear friend of mine--never understood him and was amazed
when I told her that her son-in-law was worth all of her children
put together, because he had more nature and more enterprise. I
have tested St. John now for many years and never found him

Lord Pembroke [Footnote: George, 13th Earl of Pembroke.] and
George Wyndham were the handsomest of the Souls. Pembroke was the
son of Sidney Herbert, famous as Secretary of State for War during
the Crimea. I met him first the year before I came out. Lord
Kitchener's friend, Lady Waterford--sister to the present Duke of
Beaufort--wrote to my mother asking if Laura could dine with her,
as she had been thrown over at the last minute and wanted a young
woman. As my sister was in the country, my mother sent me. I sat
next to Arthur Balfour; Lord Pembroke was on the other side, round
the corner of the table; and I remember being intoxicated with my
own conversation and the manner in which I succeeded in making
Balfour and Pembroke join in. I had no idea who the splendid
stranger was. He told me several years later that he had sent
round a note in the middle of that dinner to Blanchie Waterford,
asking her what the name of the girl with the red heels was, and
that, when he read her answer, "Margot Tennant," it conveyed
nothing to him. This occurred in 1881 and was for me an eventful
evening. Lord Pembroke was one of the four best-looking men I ever
saw: the others, as I have already said, were the late Earl of
Wemyss, Mr. Wilfrid Blunt--whose memoirs have been recently
published--and Lord D'Abernon [Footnote: Our Ambassador in
Berlin.]. He was six foot four, but his face was even more
conspicuous than his height. There was Russian blood in the
Herbert family and he was the eldest brother of the beautiful Lady
Ripon [Footnote: The late wife of the present Marquis of Ripon.].
He married Lady Gertrude Talbot, daughter of the twentieth Earl of
Shrewsbury and Talbot, who was nearly as fine to look at as he
himself. He told me among other things at that dinner that he had
known Disraeli and had been promised some minor post in his
government, but had been too ill at the time to accept it. This
developed into a discussion on politics and Peeblesshire, leading
up to our county neighbours; he asked me if I knew Lord Elcho,
[Footnote: The father of the present Earl of Wemyss and March.] of
whose beauty Ruskin had written, and who owned property in my

"Elcho," said he, "always expected to be invited to join the
government, but I said to Dizzy, 'Elcho is an impossible
politician; he has never understood the meaning of party
government and looks upon it as dishonest for even three people to
attempt to modify their opinions sufficiently to come to an
agreement, leave alone a Cabinet! He is an egotist!' To which
Disraeli replied, 'Worse than that! He is an Elchoist!'"

Although Lord Pembroke's views on all subjects were remarkably
wide--as shown by the book he published called Roots--he was a
Conservative. We formed a deep friendship and wrote to one another
till he died a few years after my marriage. In one of his letters
to me he added this postscript:

Keep the outer borders of your heart's sweet garden free from
garish flowers and wild and careless weeds, so that when your
fairy godmother turns the Prince's footsteps your way he may not,
distrusting your nature or his own powers, and only half-guessing
at the treasure within, tear himself reluctantly away, and pass
sadly on, without perhaps your ever knowing that he had been near.

This, I imagine, gave a correct impression of me as I appeared to
some people. "Garish flowers" and "wild and careless weeds"
describe my lack of pruning; but I am glad George Pembroke put
them on the "outer," not the inner, borders of my heart.

In the tenth verse of Curzon's poem, allusion is made to Lady
Pembroke's conversation, which though not consciously pretentious,
provoked considerable merriment. She "stumbled upwards into
vacuity," to quote my dear friend Sir Walter Raleigh.

There is no one left to-day at all like George Pembroke. His
combination of intellectual temperament, gregariousness, variety
of tastes--yachting, art, sport and literature--his beauty of
person and hospitality to foreigners made him the distinguished
centre of any company. His first present to me was Butcher and
Lang's translation of the Odyssey, in which he wrote on the fly-
leaf, "To Margot, who most reminds me of Homeric days, 1884," and
his last was his wedding present, a diamond dagger, which I always
wear close to my heart.

Among the Souls, Milly Sutherland [Footnote: The Dowager Duchess
of Sutherland.], Lady Windsor [Footnote: The present Countess of
Plymouth.] and Lady Granby [Footnote: The present Duchess of
Rutland.] were the women whose looks I admired most. Lady Brownlow
[Footnote: Countess Brownlow, who died a few years ago.],
mentioned in verse eleven, was Lady Pembroke's handsome sister and
a famous Victorian beauty. Lady Granby--the Violet of verse nine,
Gladys Ripon [Footnote: My friend Lady de Grey.] and Lady Windsor
(alluded to as Lady Gay in verse twenty-eight), were all women of
arresting appearance: Lady Brownlow, a Roman coin; Violet Rutland,
a Burne-Jones Medusa; Gladys Ripon, a court lady; Gay Windsor, an
Italian Primitive and Milly Sutherland, a Scotch ballad. Betty
Montgomery was a brilliant girl and the only unmarried woman,
except Mrs. Lyttelton, among us. She was the daughter of Sir Henry
Ponsonby, Queen Victoria's famous private secretary, and one of
the strongest Liberals I ever met. Her sister Maggie, though
socially uncouth, had a touch of her father's genius; she said of
a court prelate to me one day at Windsor Castle:

"There goes God's butler!"

It was through Betty and Maggie Ponsonby that I first met my
beloved friend, Lady Desborough. Though not as good-looking as the
beauties I have catalogued, nor more intellectual than Lady Horner
or Lady Wemyss, Lady Desborough was the cleverest of us. Her
flavour was more delicate, her social sensibility finer; and she
added to chronic presence of mind undisguised effrontery. I do not
suppose she was ever unconscious in her life, but she had no self-
pity and no egotism. She was not an artist in any way: music,
singing, flowers, painting and colour left her cold. She was not a
game-player nor was she sporting and she never invested in parlour
tricks; yet she created more fun for other people than anybody.
She was a woman of genius, who, if subtly and accurately
described, either in her mode of life, her charm, wits or
character, would have made the fortune of any novelist. To an
outsider she might--like all over-agreeable femmes du monde--give
an impression of light metal, but this would be misleading. Etty
Desborough was fundamentally sound, and the truest friend that
ever lived. Possessed of social and moral sang-froid of a high
order, she was too elegant to fall into the trap of the candid
friend, but nevertheless she could, when asked, give both counsel
and judgment with the sympathy of a man and the wisdom of a god.
She was the first person that I sought and that I would still seek
if I were unhappy, because her genius lay in a penetrating
understanding of the human heart and a determination to redress
the balance of life's unhappiness. Etty and I attracted the same
people. She married Willy Grenfell,[Footnote: Lord Desborough of
Taplow Court.] a man to whom I was much attached and a British
gladiator capable of challenging the world in boating and boxing.

Of their soldier sons, Julian and Billy, I cannot write. They and
their friends, Edward Horner, Charles Lister and Raymond Asquith
all fell in the war. They haunt my heart; I can see them in front
of me now, eternal sentinels of youth and manliness.

In spite of a voracious appetite for enjoyment and an expert
capacity in entertaining, Etty Desborough was perfectly happy
either alone with her family or alone with her books and could
endure, with enviable patience, cold ugly country-seats and
fashionable people. I said of her when I first knew her that she
ought to have lived in the days of the great King's mistresses. I
would have gone to her if I were sad, but never if I were guilty.
Most of us have asked ourselves at one time or another whom we
would go to if we had done a wicked thing; and the interesting
part of this question is that in the answer you will get the best
possible indication of human nature. Many have said to me, "I
would go to So-and-so, because they would understand my temptation
and make allowances for me"; but the majority would choose the
confidante most competent to point to the way of escape. Etty
Desborough would be that confidante.

She had neither father nor mother, but was brought up by two
prominent and distinguished members of the Souls, my life-long and
beloved friends, Lord and Lady Cowper of Panshanger, now, alas,
both dead. Etty had eternal youth and was alive to everything in
life except its irony.

If for health or for any other reason I had been separated from my
children when they were young, I would as soon have confided them
to the love of Etty and Willy Desborough as to any of my friends.

To illustrate the jealousy and friction which the Souls caused, I
must relate a conversational scrap I had at this time with Lady
Londonderry,[Footnote: The late Marchioness of Londonderry.] which
caused some talk among our critics.

She was a beautiful woman, a little before my day, happy,
courageous and violent, with a mind which clung firmly to the
obvious. Though her nature was impulsive and kind, she was not
forgiving. One day she said to me with pride:

"I am a good friend and a bad enemy. No kiss-and-make-friends
about me, my dear!"

I have often wondered since, as I did then, what the difference
between a good and a bad enemy is.

She was not so well endowed intellectually as her rival Lady de
Grey, but she had a stronger will and was of sounder temperament.

There was nothing wistful, reflective or retiring about Lady
Londonderry. She was keen and vivid, but crude and impenitent.

We were accused entre autres of being conceited and of talking
about books which we had not read, a habit which I have never had
the temerity to acquire. John Addington Symonds--an intimate
friend of mine--had brought out a book of essays, which were not
very good and caused no sensation.

One night, after dinner, I was sitting in a circle of fashionable
men and women--none of them particularly intimate with me--when
Lady Londonderry opened the talk about books. Hardly knowing her,
I entered with an innocent zest into the conversation. I was taken
in by her mention of Symonds' Studies in Italy, and thought she
must be literary. Launching out upon style, I said there was a
good deal of rubbish written about it, but it was essential that
people should write simply. At this some one twitted me with our
pencil-game of "Styles" and asked me if I thought I should know
the author from hearing a casual passage read out aloud from one
of their books. I said that some writers would be easy to
recognise--such as Meredith, Carlyle, De Quincey or Browning--but
that when it came to others--men like Scott or Froude, for
instance--I should not be so sure of myself. At this there was an
outcry: Froude, having the finest style in the world, ought surely
to be easily recognised! I was quite ready to believe that some of
the company had made a complete study of Froude's style, but I had
not. I said that I could not be sure, because his writing was too
smooth and perfect, and that, when I read him, I felt as if I was
swallowing arrow-root. This shocked them profoundly and I added
that, unless I were to stumble across a horseman coming over a
hill, or something equally fascinating, I should not even be sure
of recognising Scott's style. This scandalised the company. Lady
Londonderry then asked me if I admired Symonds' writing. I told
her I did not, although I liked some of his books. She seemed to
think that this was a piece of swagger on my part and, after
disagreeing with a lofty shake of her head, said in a challenging

"I should be curious to know, Miss Tennant, what you have read by

Feeling I was being taken on, I replied rather chillily:

"Oh, the usual sort of thing!"

Lady Londonderry, visibly irritated and with the confident air of
one who has a little surprise in store for the company, said:

"Have you by any chance looked at Essays, Suggestive and

MARGOT: "Yes, I've read them all."

LADY LONDONDERRY: "Really! Do you not approve of them?"

MARGOT: "Approve? I don't know what you mean." LADY LONDONDERRY:
"Do you not think the writing beautiful ... the style, I mean?"

MARGOT: "I think they are all very bad, but then I don't admire
Symonds' style."

LADY LONDONDERRY: "I am afraid you have not read the book."

This annoyed me; I saw the company were enchanted with their
spokeswoman, but I thought it unnecessarily rude and more than

I looked at her calmly and said:

"I am afraid, Lady Londonderry, you have not read the preface. The
book is dedicated to me. Symonds was a friend of mine and I was
staying at Davos at the time he was writing those essays. He was
rash enough to ask me to read one of them in manuscript and write
whatever I thought upon the margin. This I did, but he was
offended by something I scribbled. I was so surprised at his
minding that I told him he was never to show me any of his
unpublished work again, at which he forgave me and dedicated the
book to me."

After this flutter I was not taken on by fashionable ladies about

Lady Londonderry never belonged to the Souls, but her antagonist,
Lady de Grey, was one of its chief ornaments and my friend. She
was a luxurious woman of great beauty, with perfect manners and a
moderate sense of duty. She was the last word in refinement,
perception and charm. There was something septic in her nature and
I heard her say one day that the sound of the cuckoo made her feel
ill; but, although she was not lazy and seldom idle, she never
developed her intellectual powers or sustained herself by reading
or study of any kind. She had not the smallest sense of proportion
and, if anything went wrong in her entertainments--cold plates, a
flat souffle, or some one throwing her over for dinner--she became
almost impotent from agitation, only excusable if it had been some
great public disaster. She and Mr. Harry Higgins--an exceptionally
clever and devoted friend of mine--having revived the opera,
Bohemian society became her hobby; but a tenor in the country or a
dancer on the lawn are not really wanted; and, although she spent
endless time at Covent Garden and achieved considerable success,
restlessness devoured her. While receiving the adoration of a
small but influential circle, she appeared to me to have tried
everything to no purpose and, in spite of an experience which
queens and actresses, professionals and amateurs might well have
envied, she remained embarrassed by herself, fluid, brilliant and
uneasy. The personal nobility with which she worked her hospital
in the Great War years brought her peace.

Frances Horner [Footnote: Lady Horner, of Mells, Frome.] was more
like a sister to me than any one outside my own family. I met her
when she was Miss Graham and I was fourteen. She was a leader in
what was called the high art William Morris School and one of the
few girls who ever had a salon in London.

I was deeply impressed by her appearance, it was the fashion of
the day to wear the autumn desert in your hair and "soft shades"
of Liberty velveteen; but it was neither the unusualness of her
clothes nor the sight of Burne-Jones at her feet and Ruskin at her
elbow that struck me most, but what Charty's little boy, Tommy
Lister, called her "ghost eyes" and the nobility of her

There may be women as well endowed with heart, head, temper and
temperament as Frances Horner, but I have only met a few: Lady de
Vesci (whose niece, Cynthia, married our poet-son, Herbert), Lady
Betty Balfour[Footnote: Sister of the Earl of Lytton and wife of
Mr. Gerald Balfour.] and my daughter Elizabeth. With most women
the impulse to crab is greater than to praise and grandeur of
character is surprisingly lacking in them; but Lady Horner
comprises all that is best in my sex.

Mary Wemyss was one of the most distinguished of the Souls and was
as wise as she was just, truthful, tactful, and generous. She
might have been a great influence, as indeed she was always a
great pleasure, but she was both physically and mentally badly
equipped for coping with life and spent and wasted more time than
was justifiable on plans which could have been done by any good
servant. It would not have mattered the endless discussion whether
the brougham fetching one part of the family from one station and
a bus fetching another part of it from another interfered with a
guest catching a five or a five-to-five train--which could or
could not be stopped--if one could have been quite sure that Mary
Wemyss needed her friend so much that another opportunity would be
given for an intimate interchange of confidences; but plan-weaving
blinds people to a true sense of proportion and my beloved Mary
never had enough time for any of us. She is the only woman I know
or have ever known without smallness or touchiness of any kind.
Her juste milieu, if a trifle becalmed, amounts to genius; and I
was--and still am--more interested in her moral, social and
intellectual opinions than in most of my friends'. Some years ago
I wrote this in my diary about her:

"Mary is generally a day behind the fair and will only hear of my
death from the man behind the counter who is struggling to clinch
her over a collar for her chow."

One of the less prominent of the Souls was my friend, Lionel
Tennyson.[Footnote: Brother of the present Lord Tennyson.] He was
the second son of the poet and was an official in the India
Office. He had an untidy appearance, a black beard and no manners.
He sang German beer-songs in a lusty voice and wrote good verses.

He sent me many poems, but I think these two are the best. The
first was written to me on my twenty-first birthday, before the
Souls came into existence:

What is a single flower when the world is white
with may?
What is a gift to one so rich, a smile to one so gay?
What is a thought to one so rich in the loving
thoughts of men?
How should I hope because I sigh that you will
sigh again?
Yet when you see my gift, you may
(Ma bayadere aux yeux de jais)
Think of me once to-day.

Think of me as you will, dear girl, if you will let
me be
Somewhere enshrined within the fane of your pure
Think of your poet as of one who only thinks of
That you ARE all his thought, that he were happy
if he knew--
You DID receive his gift, and say
(Ma bayadere aux yeux de jais)
"He thinks of me to-day."

And this is the second:

She drew me from my cosy seat,
She drew me to her cruel feet,
She whispered, "Call me Sally!"
I lived upon her smile, her sigh,
Alas, you fool, I knew not I
Was only her pis-aller.

The jade! she knew her business well,
She made each hour a heaven or hell,
For she could coax and rally;
She was SO loving, frank and kind,
That no suspicion crost my mind
That I was her pis-aller.

My brother says "I told you so!
Her conduct was not comme il faut,
But strictly comme il fallait;
She swore that she was fond and true;
No doubt she was, poor girl, but you
Were only her pis-aller."

He asked me what I would like him to give me for a birthday
present, and I said:

"If you want to give me pleasure, take me down to your father's
country house for a Saturday to Monday."

This Lionel arranged; and he and I went down to Aldworth,
Haslemere, together from London.

While we were talking in the train, a distinguished old lady got
in. She wore an ample black satin skirt, small black satin
slippers in goloshes, a sable tippet and a large, picturesque lace
bonnet. She did not appear to be listening to our conversation,
because she was reading with an air of concentration; but, on
looking at her, I observed her eyes fixed upon me. I wore a
scarlet cloak trimmed with cock's feathers and a black, three-
cornered hat. When we arrived at our station, the old lady tipped
a porter to find out from my luggage who I was; and when she died
--several years later--she left me in her will one of my most
valuable jewels. This was Lady Margaret Beaumont; and I made both
her acquaintance and friendship before her death.

Lady Tennyson was an invalid; and we were received on our arrival
by the poet. Tennyson was a magnificent creature to look at. He
had everything: height, figure, carriage, features and expression.
Added to this he had what George Meredith said of him to me, "the
feminine hint to perfection." He greeted me by saying:

"Well, are you as clever and spurty as your sister Laura?"

I had never heard the word "spurty" before, nor indeed have I
since. To answer this kind of frontal attack one has to be either
saucy or servile; so I said nothing memorable. We sat down to tea
and he asked me if I wanted him to dress for dinner, adding:

"Your sister said of me, you know, that I was both untidy and

To which I replied:

"Did you mind this?"

TENNYSON: "I wondered if it was true. Do you think I'm dirty?"

MARGOT: "You are very handsome."

TENNYSON: "I can see by that remark that you think I am. Very well
then, I will dress for dinner. Have you read Jane Welsh Carlyle's

MARGOT: "Yes, I have, and I think them excellent. It seems a
pity," I added, with the commonplace that is apt to overcome one
in a first conversation with a man of eminence, "that they were
ever married; with any one but each other, they might have been
perfectly happy."

TENNYSON: "I totally disagree with you. By any other arrangement
four people would have been unhappy instead of two."

After this I went up to my room. The hours kept at Aldworth were
peculiar; we dined early and after dinner the poet went to bed. At
ten o'clock he came downstairs and, if asked, would read his
poetry to the company till past midnight.

I dressed for dinner with great care that first night and, placing
myself next to him when he came down, I asked him to read out loud
to me.

TENNYSON: "What do you want me to read?"

MARGOT: "Maud."

TENNYSON: "That was the poem I was cursed for writing! When it
came out no word was bad enough for me! I was a blackguard, a
ruffian and an atheist! You will live to have as great a contempt
for literary critics and the public as I have, my child!"

While he was speaking, I found on the floor, among piles of books,
a small copy of Maud, a shilling volume, bound in blue paper. I
put it into his hands and, pulling the lamp nearer him, he began
to read.

There is only one man--a poet also--who reads as my host did; and
that is my beloved friend, Professor Gilbert Murray. When I first
heard him at Oxford, I closed my eyes and felt as if the old poet
were with me again.

Tennyson's reading had the lilt, the tenderness and the rhythm
that makes music in the soul. It was neither singing, nor
chanting, nor speaking, but a subtle mixture of the three; and the
effect upon me was one of haunting harmonies that left me
profoundly moved.

He began, "Birds in the high Hall-garden," and, skipping the next
four sections, went on to, "I have led her home, my love, my only
friend," and ended with:

There has fallen a splendid tear
From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear,
She is coming, my life, my fate;
The red rose cries, "She is near, she is near;"
And the white rose weeps, "She is late;"
The larkspur listens, "I hear, I hear;"
And the lily whispers, "I wait."

She is coming, my own, my sweet;
Were it ever so airy a tread,
My heart would hear her and beat,
Were it earth in an earthly bed;
My dust would hear her and beat,
Had I lain for a century dead;
Would start and tremble under her feet,
And blossom in purple and red.

When he had finished, he pulled me on to his knee and said:

"Many may have written as well as that, but nothing that ever
sounded so well!"

I could not speak.

He then told us that he had had an unfortunate experience with a
young lady to whom he was reading Maud.

"She was sitting on my knee," he said, "as you are doing now, and
after reading,

Birds in the high Hall-garden
When twilight was falling,
Maud, Maud, Maud, Maud,
They were crying and calling,

I asked her what bird she thought I meant. She said, 'A
nightingale.' This made me so angry that I nearly flung her to the
ground: 'No, fool! ... Rook!' said I."

I got up, feeling rather sorry for the young lady, but was so
afraid he was going to stop reading that I quickly opened The
Princess and put it into his hands, and he went on.

I still possess the little Maud, bound in its blue paper cover,
out of which he read to us, with my name written in it by

The morning after my arrival I was invited by our host to go for a
walk with him, which flattered me very much; but after walking at
a great pace over rough ground for two hours I regretted my
vanity. Except my brother Glenconner I never met such an easy
mover. The most characteristic feature left on my mind of that
walk was Tennyson's appreciation of other poets.

Writing of poets, I come to George Wyndham. [Footnote: The late
Right Hon. George Wyndham.] It would be superfluous to add
anything to what has already been published of him, but he was
among the best-looking and most lovable of my circle.

He was a young man of nature endowed with even greater beauty than
his sister, Lady Glenconner, but with less of her literary talent.
Although his name will always be associated with the Irish Land
Act, he was more interested in literature than politics, and, with
a little self-discipline, might have been eminent in both.

Mr. Harry Cust is the last of the Souls that I intend writing
about and was in some ways the rarest end the most brilliant of
them all. Some one who knew him well wrote truly of him after he

"He tossed off the cup of life without fear of it containing any
poison, but like many wilful men he was deficient in will-power."

The first time I ever saw Harry Cust was in Grosvenor Square,
where he had come to see my sister Laura. A few weeks later I
found her making a sachet, which was an unusual occupation for
her, and she told me it was for "Mr. Cust," who was going to
Australia for his health.

He remained abroad for over a year and, on the night of the
Jubilee, 1887, he walked into our house where we were having
supper. He had just returned from Australia, and was terribly
upset to hear that Laura was dead.

Harry Cust had an untiring enthusiasm for life. At Eton he had
been captain of the school and he was a scholar of Trinity. He had
as fine a memory as Professor Churton Collins or my husband and an
unplumbed sea of knowledge, quoting with equal ease both poetry
and prose. He edited the Pall Mall Gazette brilliantly for several
years. With his youth, brains and looks, he might have done
anything in life; but he was fatally self-indulgent and success
with my sex damaged his public career. He was a fastidious critic
and a faithful friend, fearless, reckless and unforgettable.

He wrote one poem, which appeared anonymously in the Oxford Book
of English Verse:

Not unto us, O Lord,
Not unto us the rapture of the day,
The peace of night, or love's divine surprise,
High heart, high speech, high deeds 'mid
honouring eyes;
For at Thy word
All these are taken away.

Not unto us, O Lord:
To us Thou givest the scorn, the scourge, the scar,
The ache of life, the loneliness of death,
The insufferable sufficiency of breath;
And with Thy sword
Thou piercest very far.

Not unto us, O Lord:
Nay, Lord, but unto her be all things given--
My light and life and earth and sky be blasted--
But let not all that wealth of love be wasted:
Let Hell afford
The pavement of her Heaven!

I print also a letter in verse sent to me on October 20th, 1887:

I came in to-night, made as woful as worry can,
Heart like a turnip and head like a hurricane,
When lo! on my dull eyes there suddenly leaped a
Bright flash of your writing, du Herzensgeliebte;
And I found that the life I was thinking so leavable
Had still something in it made living conceivable;
And that, spite of the sores and the bores and the
flaws in it,
My own life's the better for small bits of yours in it;
And it's only to tell you just that that I write to
And just for the pleasure of saying good night to
For I've nothing to tell you and nothing to talk
Save that I eat and I sleep and I walk about.
Since three days past does the indolent I bury
Myself in the British Museum Lib'ary,
Trying in writing to get in my hand a bit,
And reading Dutch books that I don't understand
a bit:
But to-day Lady Charty and sweet Mrs. Lucy em-
Broidered the dusk of the British Museum,
And made me so happy by talking and laughing on
That I loved them more than the frieze of the
But I'm sleepy I know and don't know if I silly
Dined to-night with your sisters, where Tommy
was brilliant;
And, while I the rest of the company deafened, I
Dallied awhile with your auntlet of seventy,
While one, Mr. Winsloe, a volume before him,
Regarded us all with a moody decorum.
No, I can't keep awake, and so, bowing and blessing
And seeing and loving (while slowly undressing)
Take your small hand and kiss, with a drowsed
benediction, it
Knowing, as you, I'm your ever affectionate


I had another friend, James Kenneth Stephen, too pagan, wayward
and lonely to be available for the Souls, but a man of genius. One
afternoon he came to see me in Grosvenor Square and, being told by
the footman that I was riding in the Row, he asked for tea and,
while waiting for me wrote the following parody of Kipling and
left it on my writing-table with his card:


We all called him The Man who Wrote It. And we called It what the
man wrote, or IT for short--all of us that is, except The Girl
who Read It. She never called anything "It." She wasn't that sort
of girl, but she read It, which was a pity from the point of view
of The Man who Wrote It.

The man is dead now.

Dropped down a cud out beyond Karachi, and was brought home more
like broken meat in a basket. But that's another story.

The girl read It, and told It, and forgot all about It, and in a
week It was all over the station. I heard it from Old Bill Buffles
at the club while we were smoking between a peg and a hot weather

J. K. S.

I was delighted with this. Another time he wrote a parody of
Myers' "St. Paul" for me. I will only quote one verse out of the

Lo! what the deuce I'm always saying "Lo!" for
God is aware and leaves me uninformed.
Lo! there is nothing left for me to go for,
Lo! there is naught inadequately formed.

He ended by signing his name and writing:

Souvenez-vous si les vers que je trace
Fussent parfois (je l'avoue!) l'argot,
Si vous trouvez un peu trop d'audace
On ose tout quand on se dit

My dear friend J.K.S. was responsible for the aspiration
frequently quoted:

When the Rudyards cease from Kipling
And the Haggards ride no more.

Although I can hardly claim Symonds as a Soul, he was so much
interested in me and my friends that I must write a short account
of him.

I was nursing my sister, Pauline Gordon Duff, when I first met
John Addington Symonds, in 1885, at Davos.

I climbed up to Am Hof[Footnote: J. A. Symonds's country house.]
one afternoon with a letter of introduction, which was taken to
the family while I was shown into a wooden room full of charming
things. As no one came near me, I presumed every one was out, so I
settled down peacefully among the books, prepared to wait. In a
little time I heard a shuffle of slippered feet and some one
pausing at the open door.

"Has he gone?" was the querulous question that came from behind
the screen.

And in a moment the thin, curious face of John Addington Symonds
was peering at me round the corner.

There was nothing for it but to answer:

"No I am afraid she is still here!"

Being the most courteous of men, he smiled and took my hand; and
we went up to his library together.

Symonds and I became very great friends.

After putting my sister to bed at 9.30, I climbed every night by
starlight up to Am Hof, where we talked and read out loud till one
and often two in the morning. I learnt more in those winter nights
at Davos than I had ever learnt in my life. We read The Republic
and all the Plato dialogues together; Swift, Voltaire, Browning,
Walt Whitman, Edgar Poe and Symonds' own Renaissance, besides
passages from every author and poet, which he would turn up
feverishly to illustrate what he wanted me to understand.

I shall always think Lord Morley [Footnote: Viscount Morley of
Blackburn.] the best talker I ever heard and after him I would say
Symonds, Birrell and Bergson. George Meredith was too much of a
prima donna and was very deaf and uninterruptable when I knew him,
but he was amazingly good even then. Alfred Austin was a friend of
his and had just been made Poet Laureate by Lord Salisbury, when
my beloved friend Admiral Maxse took me down to the country to see
Meredith for the first time. Feeling more than usually stupid, I
said to him:

"Well Mr. Meredith, I wonder what your friend Alfred Austin thinks
of his appointment?"

Shaking his beautiful head he replied:

"It is very hard to say what a bantam is thinking when it is

Symonds' conversation is described in Stevenson's essay on Talks
and Talkers, but no one could ever really give the fancy, the
epigram, the swiftness and earnestness with which he not only
expressed himself but engaged you in conversation. This and his
affection combined to make him an enchanting companion.

The Swiss postmen and woodmen constantly joined us at midnight and
drank Italian wines out of beautiful glass which our host had
brought from Venice; and they were our only interruptions when
Mrs. Symonds and the handsome girls went to bed. I have many
memories of seeing our peasant friends off from Symonds' front
door, and standing by his side in the dark, listening to the crack
of their whips and their yodels yelled far down the snow roads
into the starry skies.

When I first left him and returned to England, Mrs. Symonds told
me he sat up all night, filling a blank book with his own poems
and translations, which he posted to me in the early morning. We
corresponded till he died; and I have kept every letter that he
ever wrote to me.

He was the first person who besought me to write. If only he were
alive now, I would show him this manuscript and, if any one could
make any thing of it by counsel, sympathy and encouragement; my
autobiography might become famous.

"You have l'oreille juste" he would say, "and I value your
literary judgment."

I will here insert some of his letters, beginning with the one he
sent down to our villa at Davos a propos of the essays over which
Lady Londonderry and I had our little breeze:

I am at work upon a volume of essays in art and criticism,
puzzling to my brain and not easy to write. I think I shall ask
you to read them.

I want an intelligent audience before I publish them. I want to
"try them on" somebody's mind--like a dress--to see how they fit.
Only you must promise to write observations and, most killing
remark of all, to say when the tedium of reading them begins to
overweigh the profit of my philosophy.

I think you could help me.

After the publication he wrote:

I am sorry that the Essays I dedicated to you have been a failure
--as I think they have been--to judge by the opinions of the
Press. I wanted, when I wrote them, only to say the simple truth
of what I thought and felt in the very simplest language I could

What the critics say is that I have uttered truisms in the
baldest, least attractive diction.

Here I find myself to be judged, and not unjustly. In the pursuit
of truth, I said what I had to say bluntly--and it seems I had
nothing but commonplaces to give forth. In the search for
sincerity of style, I reduced every proposition to its barest form
of language. And that abnegation of rhetoric has revealed the
nudity of my commonplaces.

I know that I have no wand, that I cannot conjure, that I cannot
draw the ears of men to listen to my words.

So, when I finally withdraw from further appeals to the public, as
I mean to do, I cannot pose as a Prospero who breaks his staff. I
am only a somewhat sturdy, highly nervous varlet in the sphere of
art, who has sought to wear the robe of the magician--and being
now disrobed, takes his place quietly where God appointed him, and
means to hold his tongue in future, since his proper function has
been shown him.

Thus it is with me. And I should not, my dear friend, have
inflicted so much of myself upon you, if I had not, unluckily, and
in gross miscalculation of my powers, connected your name with the
book which proves my incompetence.

Yes, the Master [Footnote: Dr. Jowett, Master of Balliol.] is
right: make as much of your life as you can: use it to the best
and noblest purpose: do not, when you are old and broken like me,
sit in the middle of the ruins of Carthage you have vainly
conquered, as I am doing now.

Now good bye. Keep any of my letters which seem to you worth
keeping. This will make me write better. I keep a great many of
yours. You will never lose a warm corner in the centre of the
heart of your friend


P.S. Live well. Live happy. Do not forget me. I like to think of
you in plenitude of life and activity. I should not be sorry for
you if you broke your neck in the hunting field. But, like the
Master, I want you to make sure of the young, powerful life you
have--before the inevitable, dolorous, long, dark night draws

Later on, a propos of his translation of the Autobiography of
Benvenuto Cellini, he wrote:

I am so glad that you like my Cellini. The book has been a
success; and I am pleased, though I am not interested in its sale.
The publisher paid me L210 for my work, which I thought very good


I wrote to you in a great hurry yesterday, and with some bothering
thoughts in the background of my head.

So I did not tell you how much I appreciated your critical insight
into the points of my Introduction to Cellini. I do not rate that
piece of writing quite as highly as you do. But you "spotted" the
best thing in it--the syllogism describing Cellini's state of mind
as to Bourbon's death.

It is true, I think, what you say: that I have been getting more
nervous and less elaborate in style of late years. This is very
natural. One starts in life with sensuous susceptibilities to
beauty, with a strong feeling for colour and for melodious
cadence, and also with an impulsive enthusiastic way of expressing
oneself. This causes young work to seem decorated and laboured,
whereas it very often is really spontaneous and hasty, more
instructive and straightforward than the work of middle life. I
write now with much more trouble and more slowly, and with much
less interest in my subject than I used to do. This gives me more
command over the vehicle, language, than I used to have. I write
what pleases myself less, but what probably strikes other people

This is a long discourse; but not so much about myself as appears.
I was struck with your insight, and I wanted to tell you how I
analyse the change of style which you point out, and which
results, I think, from colder, more laborious, duller effort as
one grows in years.

The artist ought never to be commanded by his subject, or his
vehicle of expression. But until he ceases to love both with a
blind passion, he will probably be so commanded. And then his
style will appear decorative, florid, mixed, unequal, laboured. It
is the sobriety of a satiated or blunted enthusiasm which makes
the literary artist. He ought to remember his dithyrambic moods,
but not to be subject to them any longer, nor to yearn after them.

Do you know that I have only just now found the time, during my
long days and nights in bed with influenza and bronchitis, to read
Marie Bashkirtseff? (Did ever name so puzzling grow upon the
Ygdrasil of even Russian life?)

By this time you must be quite tired of hearing from your friends
how much Marie Bashkirtseff reminds them of you.

I cannot help it. I must say it once again. I am such a fossil
that I permit myself the most antediluvian remarks--if I think
they have a grain of truth in them. Of course, the dissimilarities
are quite as striking as the likenesses. No two leaves on one
linden are really the same. But you and she, detached from the
forest of life, seem to me like leaves plucked from the same sort
of tree.

It is a very wonderful book. If only messieurs les romanciers
could photograph experience in their fiction as she has done in
some of her pages! The episode of Pachay, short as that is, is
masterly--above the reach of Balzac; how far above the laborious,
beetle--flight of Henry James! Above even George Meredith. It is
what James would give his right hand to do once. The episode of
Antonelli is very good, too, but not so exquisite as the other.

There is something pathetic about both "Asolando" and "Demeter,"
those shrivelled blossoms from the stout old laurels touched with
frost of winter and old age. But I find little to dwell upon in
either of them. Browning has more sap of life--Tennyson more ripe
and mellow mastery. Each is here in the main reproducing his

I am writing to you, you see, just as if I had not been silent for
so long. I take you at your word, and expect Margot to be always
the same to a comrade.

If you were only here! Keats said that "heard melodies are sweet,
but those unheard are sweeter." How false!

Yes, thus it is: somewhere by me
Unheard, by me unfelt, unknown,
The laughing, rippling notes of thee
Are sounding still; while I alone
Am left to sit and sigh and say--
Music unheard is sweet as they.

This is no momentary mood, and no light bubble-breath of
improvisatory verse. It expresses what I often feel when, after a
long night's work, I light my candle and take a look before I go
to bed at your portrait in the corner of my stove.

I have been labouring intensely at my autobiography. It is blocked
out, and certain parts of it are written for good. But a thing of
this sort ought to be a master's final piece of work--and it is
very exhausting to produce.



I am sending you back your two typewritten records. They are both
very interesting, the one as autobiographical and a study of your
family, the other as a vivid and, I think, justly critical picture
of Gladstone. It will have a great literary value sometime. I do
not quite feel with Jowett, who told you, did he not? that you had
made him UNDERSTAND Gladstone. But I feel that you have offered an
extremely powerful and brilliant conception, which is impressive
and convincing because of your obvious sincerity and breadth of
view. The purely biographical and literary value of this bit of
work seems to me very great, and makes me keenly wish that you
would record all your interesting experiences, and your first-hand
studies of exceptional personalities in the same way.

Gradually, by doing this, you would accumulate material of real
importance; much better than novels or stories, and more valuable
than the passionate utterances of personal emotion.

Did I ever show you the record I privately printed of an evening
passed by me at Woolner, the sculptor's, when Gladstone met
Tennyson for the first time? If I had been able to enjoy more of
such incidents, I should also have made documents. But my
opportunities have been limited. For future historians, the
illuminative value of such writing will be incomparable.

I suppose I must send the two pieces back to Glen. Which I will
do, together with this letter. Let me see what you write. I think
you have a very penetrative glimpse into character, which comes
from perfect disengagement and sympathy controlled by a critical
sense. The absence of egotism is a great point.

When Symonds died I lost my best intellectual tutor as well as one
of my dearest friends. I wish I had taken his advice and seriously
tried to write years ago, but, except for a few magazine sketches,
I have never written a line for publication in my life. I have
only kept a careful and accurate diary, [Footnote: Out of all my
diaries I have hardly been able to quote fifty pages, for on re-
reading them I find they are not only full of Cabinet secrets but
jerky, disjointed and dangerously frank.] and here, in the
interests of my publishers and at the risk of being thought
egotistical, it is not inappropriate that I should publish the
following letters in connection with these diaries and my writing:


April 9th, 1915.


By what felicity of divination were you inspired to send me a few
days ago that wonderful diary under its lock and key?--feeling so
rightly certain, I mean, of the peculiar degree and particular
PANG of interest that I should find in it? I don't wonder, indeed,
at your general presumption to that effect, but the mood, the
moment, and the resolution itself conspired together for me, and I
have absorbed every word of every page with the liveliest
appreciation, and I think I may say intelligence. I have read the
thing intimately, and I take off my hat to you as to the very
Balzac of diarists. It is full of life and force and colour, of a
remarkable instinct for getting close to your people and things
and for squeezing, in the case of the resolute portraits of
certain of your eminent characters, especially the last drop of
truth and sense out of them--at least as the originals affected
YOUR singularly searching vision. Happy, then, those who had, of
this essence, the fewest secrets or crooked lives to yield up to
you--for the more complicated and unimaginable some of them
appear, the more you seem to me to have caught and mastered them.
Then I have found myself hanging on your impression in each case
with the liveliest suspense and wonder, so thrillingly does the
expression keep abreast of it and really translate it. This and
your extraordinary fullness of opportunity, make of the record a
most valuable English document, a rare revelation of the human
inwardness of political life in this country, and a picture of
manners and personal characters as "creditable" on the whole (to
the country) as it is frank and acute. The beauty is that you
write with such authority, that you've seen so much and lived and
moved so much, and that having so the chance to observe and feel
and discriminate in the light of so much high pressure, you
haven't been in the least afraid, but have faced and assimilated
and represented for all you're worth.

I have lived, you see, wholly out of the inner circle of political
life, and yet more or less in wondering sight, for years, of many
of its outer appearances, and in superficial contact--though this,
indeed, pretty anciently now--with various actors and figures,
standing off from them on my quite different ground and neither
able nor wanting to be of the craft of mystery (preferring, so to
speak, my own poor, private ones, such as they have been) and yet
with all sorts of unsatisfied curiosities and yearnings and
imaginings in your general, your fearful direction. Well, you take
me by the hand and lead me back and in, and still in, and make
things beautifully up to me--ALL my losses and misses and
exclusions and privation--and do it by having taken all the right
notes, apprehended all the right values and enjoyed all the right
reactions--meaning by the right ones, those that must have
ministered most to interest and emotion; those that I dimly made
you out as getting while I flattened my nose against the shop
window and you were there within, eating the tarts, shall I say,
or handing them over the counter? It's to-day as if you had taken
all the trouble for me and left me at last all the unearned
increment or fine psychological gain! I have hovered about two or
three of your distinguished persons a bit longingly (in the past);
but you open up the abysses, or such like, that I really missed,
and the torch you play over them is often luridly illuminating. I
find my experience, therefore, the experience of simply reading
you (you having had all t'other) veritably romantic. But I want so
to go on that I deplore your apparent arrest--Saint Simon is in
forty volumes--why should Margot be put in one? Your own portrait
is an extraordinarily patient and detached and touch-upon-touch
thing; but the book itself really constitutes an image of you by
its strength of feeling and living individual tone. An admirable
portrait of a lady, with no end of finish and style, is thereby
projected, and if I don't stop now, I shall be calling it a
regular masterpiece. Please believe how truly touched I am by your
confidence in your faithful, though old, friend,


My dear and distinguished friend Lord Morley sent me the following
letter of the 15th of September, 1919, and it was in consequence
of this letter that, two months afterwards, on November the 11th,
1919, I began to write this book:



Your kindest of letters gave me uncommon pleasure, both personal
and literary. Personal, because I like to know that we are still
affectionate friends, as we have been for such long, important and
trying years. Literary--because it is a brilliant example of that
character-writing in which the French so indisputably beat us. If
you like, you can be as keen and brilliant and penetrating as
Madame de Sevigne or the best of them, and if I were a publisher,
I would tempt you by high emoluments and certainty of fame. You
ask me to leave you a book when I depart this life. If I were your
generous well-wisher, I should not leave, but give you, my rather
full collection of French Memoirs now while I am alive. Well, I am
in very truth your best well-wisher, but incline to bequeath my
modern library to a public body of female ladies, if you pardon
that odd and inelegant expression. I have nothing good or
interesting to tell you of myself. My strength will stand no tax
upon it.

The bequest from my old friend [Footnote: Andrew Carnegie.] in
America was a pleasant refresher, and it touched me, considering
how different we were in training, character, tastes, temperament.
I was first introduced to him with commendation by Mr. Arnold--a
curious trio, wasn't it? He thought, and was proud of it, that he,
A. C., introduced M. A. and me to the United States.

I watch events and men here pretty vigilantly, with what good and
hopeful spirits you can imagine. When you return do pay me a
visit. There's nobody who would be such a tonic to an

Always, always, your affectionate friend,

J. M.

When I had been wrestling with this autobiography for two months I
wrote and told John Morley of my venture, and this is his reply:



A bird in the air had already whispered the matter of your
literary venture, and I neither had nor have any doubt at all that
the publisher knew very well what he was about. The book will be
bright in real knowledge of the world; rich in points of life;
sympathetic with human nature, which in strength and weakness is
never petty or small.

Be sure to TRUST YOURSELF; and don't worry about critics. You need
no words to tell you how warmly I am interested in your great
design. PERSEVERE.

How kind to bid me to your royal [Footnote: I invited him to meet
the Prince of Wales.] meal. But I am too old for company that
would be so new, so don't take it amiss, my best of friends, if I
ask to be bidden when I should see more of YOU. You don't know how
dull a man, once lively, can degenerate into being.

Your always affectionate and grateful


To return to my triumphant youth: I will end this chapter with a
note which my friend, Lady Frances Balfour--one of the few women
of outstanding intellect that I have known--sent me from her
father, the late Duke of Argyll, the wonderful orator of whom it
was said that he was like a cannon being fired off by a canary.

Frances asked me to meet him at a small dinner and placed me next
to him. In the course of our conversation, he quoted these words
that he had heard in a sermon preached by Dr. Caird:

"Oh! for the time when Church and State shall no longer be the
watchword of opposing hosts, when every man shall be a priest and
every priest shall be a king, as priest clothed with
righteousness, as king with power!"

I made him write them down for me, and we discussed religion,
preachers and politics at some length before I went home.

The next morning he wrote to his daughter:



How dare you ask me to meet a syren.

Your affectionate,




I shall open this chapter of my autobiography with a character-
sketch of myself, written at Glen in one of our pencil-games in
January, 1888. Nearly every one in the room guessed that I was the
subject, but opinions differed as to the authorship. Some thought
that our dear and clever friend, Godfrey Webb, had written it as a
sort of joke.

"In appearance she was small, with rapid, nervous movements;
energetic, never wholly ungraceful, but inclined to be restless.
Her face did not betray the intelligence she possessed, as her
eyes, though clear and well-shaped, were too close together. Her
hawky nose was bent over a short upper lip and meaningless mouth.
The chin showed more definite character than her other features,
being large, bony and prominent, and she had curly, pretty hair,
growing well on a finely-cut forehead; the ensemble healthy and
mobile; in manner easy, unself-conscious, emphatic, inclined to be
noisy from over-keenness and perfectly self-possessed.
Conversation graphic and exaggerated, eager and concentrated, with
a natural gift of expression. Her honesty more a peculiarity than
a virtue. Decision more of instinct than of reason; a disengaged
mind wholly unfettered by prejudice. Very observant and a fine
judge of her fellow-creatures, finding all interesting and worthy
of her speculation. She was not easily depressed by antagonistic
circumstances or social situations hostile to herself--on the
contrary, her spirit rose in all losing games. She was assisted in
this by having no personal vanity, the highest vitality and great
self-confidence. She was self-indulgent, though not selfish, and
had not enough self-control for her passion and impetuosity; it
was owing more to dash and grit than to any foresight that she
kept out of difficulties. She distrusted the dried-up advice of
many people, who prefer coining evil to publishing good. She was
lacking in awe, and no respecter of persons; loving old people
because she never felt they were old. Warm-hearted, and with much
power of devotion, thinking no trouble too great to take for those
you love, and agreeing with Dr. Johnson that friendships should be
kept in constant repair. Too many interests and too many-sided.
Fond of people, animals, books, sport, music, art and exercise.
More Bohemian than exclusive and with a certain power of investing
acquaintances and even bores with interest. Passionate love of
Nature. Lacking in devotional, practising religion; otherwise
sensitively religious. Sensible; not easily influenced for good or
evil. Jealous, keen and faithful in affection. Great want of
plodding perseverance, doing many things with promise and nothing
well. A fine ear for music: no execution; a good eye for drawing:
no knowledge or practice in perspective; more critical than
constructive. Very cool and decided with horses. Good nerve, good
whip and a fine rider. Intellectually self-made, ambitious,
independent and self-willed. Fond of admiration and love from both
men and women, and able to give it."

I sent this to Dr. Jowett with another character-sketch of
Gladstone. After reading them, he wrote me this letter:

BALL. COLL. Oct. 23rd, 1890.


I return the book [Footnote: A commonplace book with a few written
sketches of people in it.] which you entrusted to me: I was very
much interested by it. The sketch of Gladstone is excellent. Pray
write some more of it some time: I understand him better after
reading it.

The young lady's portrait of herself is quite truthful and not at
all flattered: shall I add a trait or two? "She is very sincere
and extremely clever; indeed, her cleverness almost amounts to
genius. She might be a distinguished authoress if she would--but
she wastes her time and her gifts scampering about the world and
going from one country house to another in a manner not pleasant
to look back upon and still less pleasant to think of twenty years
hence, when youth will have made itself wings and fled away."

If you know her, will you tell her with my love, that I do not
like to offer her any more advice, but I wish that she would take
counsel with herself. She has made a great position, though
slippery and dangerous: will she not add to this a noble and
simple life which can alone give a true value to it? The higher we
rise, the more self-discipline, self-control and economy is
required of us. It is a hard thing to be in the world but not of
it; to be outwardly much like other people and yet to be
cherishing an ideal which extends over the whole of life and
beyond; to have a natural love for every one, especially for the
poor; to get rid, not of wit or good humour, but of frivolity and
excitement; to live "selfless" according to the Will of God and
not after the fashions and opinions of men and women.

Stimulated by this and the encouragement of Lionel Tennyson--a new
friend--I was anxious to start a newspaper. When I was a little
girl at Glen, there had been a schoolroom paper, called "The Glen
Gossip: The Tennant Tatler, or The Peeblesshire Prattler." I
believe my brother Eddy wrote the wittiest verses in it; but I was
too young to remember much about it or to contribute anything. I
had many distinguished friends by that time, all of whom had
promised to write for me. The idea was four or five numbers to be
illustrated by my sister Lucy Graham Smith, and a brilliant
letter-press, but, in spite of much discussion among ourselves, it
came to nothing. I have always regretted this, as, looking at the
names of the contributors and the programme for the first number,
I think it might have been a success. The title of the paper gave
us infinite trouble. We ended by adopting a suggestion of my own,
and our new venture was to have been called "To-morrow." This is
the list of people who promised to write for me, and the names
they suggested for the paper:

Lord and Lady Pembroke Sympathetic Ink.
The Idle Pen.
The Mail.
The Kite.
Blue Ink.

Mr. A. Lyttelton The Hen.
The Chick.

Mr. Knowles The Butterfly.
Mr. A. J. Balfour The New Eve.
Mrs. Grundy.

Mr. Oscar Wilde The Life Improver.
Mrs. Grundy's Daughter.

Lady Ribblesdale Jane.
The Mask.

Margot Tennant The Mangle.
Dolly Varden.

Mr. Webb The Petticoat.

Mrs. Horner She.

Miss Mary Leslie The Sphinx.
Blue Veil.

Sir A. West The Spinnet.
The Spinning-Wheel.

Mr. J. A. Symonds Muses and Graces.
Causeries en peignoir.
Woman's Wit and Humour.

The contributors on our staff were to have been Laurence Oliphant,
J. K. Stephen, Mr. Wilfrid Blunt, Hon. George Curzon, George
Wyndham, Godfrey Webb, Doll Liddell, Harry Cust, Mr. Knowles (the
editor of the Nineteenth Century), the Hon. A. Lyttelton, Mr. A.
J. Balfour, Oscar Wilde, Lord and Lady Ribblesdale, Mrs. (now
Lady) Horner, Sir Algernon West, Lady Frances Balfour, Lord and
Lady Pembroke, Miss Betty Ponsonby (the present Mrs. Montgomery),
John Addington Symonds, Dr. Jowett (the Master of Balliol), M.
Coquelin, Sir Henry Irving, Miss Ellen Terry, Sir Edward Burne-
Jones, Mr. George Russell, Mrs. Singleton (alias Violet Fane,
afterwards Lady Currie), Lady de Grey, Lady Constance Leslie and
the Hon. Lionel Tennyson.

Our programme for the first number was to have been the following:


Leader Persons and Politics Margot Tennant.

The Social Zodiac Rise and fall of
Professional Beauties Lady de Grey.

Occasional Articles The Green-eyed Violet Fane (nom-
Monster de-plume of
Mrs. Singleton).

Occasional Notes Foreign and Colonial
Gossip Harry Cust.

Men and Women Character Sketch Margot Tennant.

Story Oscar Wilde.

Poem Godfrey Webb.

Letters to Men George Wyndham.

Books Reviewed John Addington

Conversations Miss Ponsonby.

This is what I wrote for the first number:


"In Politics the common opinion is that measures are the important
thing, and that men are merely the instruments which each
generation produces, equal or unequal to the accomplishment of

"This is a mistake. The majority of mankind desire nothing so much
as to be led. They have no opinions of their own, and, half from
caution, half from laziness, are willing to leave the
responsibility to any stronger person. It is the personality of
the man which makes the masses turn to him, gives influence to his
ideas while he lives, and causes him to be remembered after both
he and his work are dead. From the time of Moses downwards,
history abounds in such examples. In the present century Napoleon
and Gladstone have perhaps impressed themselves most dramatically
on the public mind, and, in a lesser degree, Disraeli and Parnell.
The greatest men in the past have been superior to their age and
associated themselves with its glory only in so far as they have
contributed to it. But in these days the movement of time is too
rapid for us to recognise such a man: under modern conditions he
must be superior, not so much to his age, as to the men of his
age, and absorb what glory he can in his own personality.

"The Code Napoleon remains, but, beyond this, hardly one of
Napoleon's great achievements survives as a living embodiment of
his genius. Never was so vast a fabric so quickly created and so
quickly dissolved. The moment the individual was caught and
removed, the bewitched French world returned to itself; and the
fame of the army and the prestige of France were as mere echoes of
retreating thunder. Dead as are the results of Bonaparte's
measures and actions, no one would question the permanent vitality
of his name. It conjures up an image in the dullest brain; and
among all historical celebrities he is the one whom most of us
would like to have met.

"The Home Rule question, which has long distorted the public
judgment and looms large at the present political moment,
admirably illustrates the power of personality. Its importance has
been exaggerated; the grant of Home Rule will not save Ireland;
its refusal will not shame England. Its swollen proportions are
wholly due to the passionate personal feelings which Mr. Gladstone
alone among living statemen inspires. 'He is so powerful that his
thoughts are nearly acts,' as some one has written of him; and at
an age when most men would be wheeled into the chimney-corner, he
is at the head of a precarious majority and still retains enough
force to compel its undivided support.

"Mr. Chamberlain's power springs from the concentration of a
nature which is singularly free from complexity. The range of his
mind is narrow, but up to its horizon the whole is illuminated by
the same strong and rather garish light. The absoluteness of his
convictions is never shaded or softened by any play of imagination
or sympathetic insight. It is not in virtue of any exceptionally
fine or attractive quality, either of intellect or of character,
that Mr. Chamberlain has become a dominant figure. Strength of
will, directness of purpose, an aggressive and contagious belief
in himself: these--which are the notes of a compelling
individuality--made him what he is. On the other hand, culture,
intellectual versatility, sound and practised judgment, which was
tried and rarely found wanting in delicate and even dangerous
situations, did not suffice in the case of Mr. Matthews to redeem
the shortcomings of a diffuse and ineffective personality.

"In a different way, Mr. Goschen's remarkable endowments are
neutralised by the same limitations. He has infinite ingenuity,
but he can neither initiate nor propel; an intrepid debater in
council and in action, he is prey to an invincible indecision.

"If the fortunes of a Government depend not so much on its
measures as upon the character of the men who compose it, the new
Ministry starts with every chance of success.

"Lord Rosebery is one of our few statesmen whose individuality is
distinctly recognised by the public, both at home and abroad.

"Lord Spencer, without a trace of genius, is a person. Sir W.
Harcourt, the most brilliant and witty of them all, is, perhaps,
not more than a life-like imitation of a strong man. Mr. John
Morley has conviction, courage and tenacity; but an over-delicacy
of nervous organisation and a certain lack of animal spirits
disqualify him from being a leader of men.

"It is premature to criticise the new members of the Cabinet, of
whom the most conspicuous is Mr. Asquith. Beyond and above his
abilities and eloquence, there is in him much quiet force and a
certain vein of scornful austerity. His supreme contempt for the
superficial and his independence of mind might take him far.

"The future will not disclose its secrets, but personality still
governs the world, and the avenue is open to the man, wherever he
may be found, who can control and will not be controlled by
fashions of opinion and the shifting movement of causes and

My article is not at all good, but I put it in this autobiography
merely as a political prophecy.

To be imitative and uninfluenceable--although a common
combination--is a bad one. I am not tempted to be imitative
except, I hope, in the better sense of the word, but I regret to
own that I am not very influenceable either.

Jowett (the Master of Balliol in 1888-1889), my doctor, Sir John
Williams (of Aberystwyth), my son Anthony and old Lady Wemyss (the
mother of the present Earl) had more influence over me than any
other individuals in the world.

The late Countess of Wemyss, who died in 1896, was a great
character without being a character-part. She told me that she
frightened people, which distressed her. As I am not easily
frightened, I was puzzled by this. After thinking it over, I was
convinced that it was because she had a hard nut to crack within
herself: she possessed a jealous, passionate, youthful
temperament, a formidable standard of right and wrong, a
distinguished and rather stern accueil, a low, slow utterance and
terrifying sincerity. She was the kind of person I had dreamt of
meeting and never knew that God had made. She once told me that I
was the best friend man, woman or child could ever have. After
this wonderful compliment, we formed a deep attachment, which
lasted until her death. She had a unique power of devotion and
fundamental humbleness. I kept every letter she ever wrote to me.

When we left Downing Street in ten days--after being there for
over nine years--and had not a roof to cover our heads, our new
friends came to the rescue. I must add that many of the old ones
had no room for us and some were living in the country. Lady
Crewe[Footnote: The Marchioness of Crewe.]--young enough to be my
daughter, and a woman of rare honesty of purpose and clearness of
head--took our son Cyril in at Crewe House. Lady Granard[Footnote:
The Countess of Granard.] put up my husband; Mrs. Cavendish-
Bentinck--Lady Granard's aunt and one of God's own--befriended my
daughter Elizabeth; Mrs. George Keppel[Footnote: The Hon. Mrs.
Keppel.] always large-hearted and kind--gave me a whole floor of
her house in Grosvenor Street to live in, for as many months as I
liked, and Mrs. McKenna [Footnote: Mrs. McKenna, the daughter of
Lady Jekyll, and niece of Lady Horner.] took in my son Anthony. No
one has had such wonderful friends as I have had, but no one has
suffered more at discovering the instability of human beings and
how little power to love many people possess.

Few men and women surrender their wills; and it is considered
lowering to their dignity to own that they are in the wrong. I
never get over my amazement at this kind of self-value, it passes
all my comprehension. It is vanity and this fundamental lack of
humbleness that is the bed-rock of nearly every quarrel.

It was through my beloved Lady Wemyss that I first met the Master
of Balliol. One evening in 1888, after the men had come in from
shooting, we were having tea in the large marble hall at Gosford.
[Footnote: Gosford is the Earl of Wemyss' country place and is
situated between Edinburgh and North Berwick.] I generally wore an
accordion skirt at tea, as Lord Wemyss liked me to dance to him.
Some one was playing the piano and I was improvising in and out of
the chairs, when, in the act of making a final curtsey, I caught
my foot in my skirt and fell at the feet of an old clergyman
seated in the window. As I got up, a loud "Damn!" resounded
through the room. Recovering my presence of mind, I said, looking

"You are a clergyman and I am afraid I have shocked you!"

"Not at all," he replied. "I hope you will go on; I like your
dancing extremely."

I provoked much amusement by asking the family afterwards if the
parson whose presence I had failed to notice was their minister at
Aberlady. I then learnt that he was the famous Dr. Benjamin
Jowett, Master of Balliol.

Before telling how my friendship with the Master developed, I
shall go back to the events in Oxford which gave him his insight
into human beings and caused him much quiet suffering.

In 1852 the death of Dr. Jenkyns caused the Mastership at Balliol
to become vacant. Jowett's fame as a tutor was great, but with it
there had spread a suspicion of "rationalism." Persons whispered
that the great tutor was tainted with German views. This reacted
unduly upon his colleagues; and, when the election came, he was
rejected by a single vote. His disappointment was deep, but he
threw himself more than ever into his work. He told me that a
favourite passage of his in Marcus Aurelius--"Be always doing
something serviceable to mankind and let this constant generosity
be your only pleasure, not forgetting a due regard to God"--had
been of great help to him at that time.

The lectures which his pupils cared most about were those on Plato
and St. Paul; both as tutor and examiner he may be said to have
stimulated the study of Plato in Oxford: he made it a rival to
that of Aristotle.

"Aristotle is dead," he would say, "but Plato is alive."

Hitherto he had published little--an anonymous essay on Pascal and
a few literary articles--but under the stimulus of disappointment
he finished his share of the edition of St. Paul's Epistles, which
had been undertaken in conjunction with Arthur Stanley. Both
produced their books in 1855; but while Stanley's Corinthians
evoked languid interest, Jowett's Galatians, Thessalonians and
Romans provoked a clamour among his friends and enemies. About
that time he was appointed to the Oxford Greek Chair, which
pleased him much; but his delight was rather dashed by a hostile
article in the Quarterly Review, abusing him and his religious
writings. The Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Cotton, required from him a
fresh signature of the Articles of the Church of England. At the
interview, when addressed by two men--one pompously explaining
that it was a necessary act if he was to retain his cloth and the
other apologising for inflicting a humiliation upon him--he merely

"Give me the pen."

His essay on The Interpretation of Scripture, which came out in
1860 in the famous volume, Essays and Reviews, increased the cry
of heterodoxy against him; and the Canons of Christ Church,
including Dr. Pusey, persisted in withholding from him an extra
salary, without which the endowment of the Greek Chair was worth
L40. This scandal was not removed till 1864, after he had been
excluded from the university pulpit. He continued working hard at
his translation of the whole of Plato; he had already published
notes on the Republic and analyses of the dialogue. This took up
all his time till 1878, when he became Master of Balliol.

The worst of the Essays and Reviews controversy was that it did an
injustice to Jowett's reputation. For years people thought that he
was a great heresiarch presiding over a college of infidels and
heretics. His impeached article on The Interpretation of Scripture
might to-day be published by any clergyman. His crime lay in
saying that the Bible should be criticised like other books.

In his introduction to the Republic of Plato he expresses the same

A Greek in the age of Plato attached no importance to the question
whether his religion was an historical fact. ...Men only began to
suspect that the narratives of Homer and Hesiod were fictions when
they recognised them to be immoral. And so in all religions: the
consideration of their morality comes first, afterwards the truth
of the documents in which they are recorded, or of the events,
natural or supernatural, which are told of them. But in modern
times, and in Protestant countries perhaps more than Catholic, we
have been too much inclined to identify the historical with the
moral; and some have refused to believe in religion at all, unless
a superhuman accuracy was discerned in every part of the record.
The facts of an ancient or religious history are amongst the most
important of all facts, but they are frequently uncertain, and we
only learn the true lesson which is to be gathered from them when
we place ourselves above them.

Some one writes in the Literary Supplement of the Times to-day,
11th December, 1919:

"An almost animal indifference to mental refinement characterises
our great public."

This is quite true, and presumably was true in Jowett's day, not
only of the great public but of the Established Church.

Catherine Marsh, the author of The Life of Hedley Vicars, wrote to
Jowett assuring him of her complete belief in the sincerity of his
religious views and expressing indignation that he should have had
to sign the thirty-nine Articles again. I give his reply. The
postscript is characteristic of his kindliness, gentle temper and
practical wisdom.


Accept my best thanks for your kind letter, and for the books you
have been so good as to send me.

I certainly hope (though conscious of how little I am able to do)
that I shall devote my life to the service of God, and of the
youths of Oxford, whom I desire to regard as a trust which He has
given me. But I am afraid, if I may judge from the tenour of your
letter, that I should not express myself altogether as you do on
religious subjects. Perhaps the difference may be more than one of
words. I will not, therefore, enter further into the grave
question suggested by you, except to say that I am sure I shall be
the better for your kind wishes and reading your books.

The recent matter of Oxford is of no real consequence, and is not
worth speaking about, though I am very grately to you and others
for feeling "indignant" at the refusal.

With sincere respect for your labours, Believe me, dear Madam,

Most truly yours,


P.S.--I have read your letter again! I think that I ought to tell
you that, unless you had been a complete stranger, you would not
have had so good an opinion of me. I feel the kindness of your
letter, but at the same time, if I believed what you say of me, I
should soon become a "very complete rascal." Any letter like
yours, which is written with such earnestness, and in a time of
illness, is a serious call to think about religion. I do not
intend to neglect this because I am not inclined to use the same

When Jowett became Master, his pupils and friends gathered round
him and overcame the Church chatter. He was the hardest-working
tutor, Vice-Chancellor and Master that Oxford ever had. Balliol,
under his regime, grew in numbers and produced more scholars, more
thinkers and more political men of note than any other college in
the university. He had authority and a unique prestige. It was
said of Dr. Whewell of Trinity that "knowledge was his forte and
omniscience his foible"; the same might have been said of the
Master and was expressed in a college epigram, written by an
undergraduate. After Jowett's death I cut the following from an
Oxford magazine:

The author of a famous and often misquoted verse upon Professor
Jowett has written me a note upon his lines which may be
appropriately inserted here. "Several versions," he writes, "have
appeared lately, and my vanity does not consider them
improvements. The lines were written:

'First come I, my name is Jowett,

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