Part 5 out of 7
There's no knowledge but I know it.
I am Master of this College,
What I don't know--is not knowledge.'
"The 'First come I' referred to its being a masque of the College
in which fellows, scholars, etc., appeared in order. The short,
disconnected sentences were intentional, as being characteristic.
Such a line as 'All that can be known I know it' (which some
newspapers substituted for line 2) would express a rather vulgar,
Whewellian foible of omniscience, which was quite foreign to the
Master's nature; the line as originally written was intended to
express the rather sad, brooding manner the Master had of giving
his oracles, as though he were a spectator of all time and
existence, and had penetrated into the mystery of things. Of
course, the last line expressed, with necessary exaggeration,
what, as a fact, was his attitude to certain subjects in which he
refused to be interested, such as modern German metaphysics,
philology, and Greek inscriptions."
When I met the Master in 1887, I was young and he was old; but,
whether from insolence or insight, I never felt this difference. I
do not think I was a good judge of age, as I have always liked
older people than myself; and I imagine it was because of this
unconsciousness that we became such wonderful friends. Jowett was
younger than half the young people I know now and we understood
each other perfectly. If I am hasty in making friends and skip the
preface, I always read it afterwards.
A good deal of controversy has arisen over the Master's claim to
greatness by some of the younger generation. It is not denied that
Jowett was a man of influence. Men as different as Huxley,
Symonds, Lord Lansdowne, Lord Bowen, Lord Milner, Sir Robert
Morier and others have told me in reverent and affectionate terms
how much they owed to him and to his influence. It is not denied
that he was a kind man; infinitely generous, considerate and good
about money. It may be denied that he was a fine scholar of the
first rank, such as Munro or Jebb, although no one denies his
contributions to scholarship; but the real question remains: was
he a great man? There are big men, men of intellect, intellectual
men, men of talent and men of action; but the great man is
difficult to find, and it needs--apart from discernment--a
certain greatness to find him. The Almighty is a wonderful
handicapper: He will not give us everything. I have never met a
woman of supreme beauty with more than a mediocre intellect, by
which I do not mean intelligence. There may be some, but I am only
writing my own life, and I have not met them. A person of
magnetism, temperament and quick intelligence may have neither
intellect nor character. I have known one man whose genius lay in
his rapid and sensitive understanding, real wit, amazing charm and
apparent candour, But whose meanness, ingratitude and instability
injured everything he touched. You can only discover ingratitude
or instability after years of experience, and few of us, I am glad
to think, ever suspect meanness in our fellow-creatures; the
discovery is as painful when you find it as the discovery of a
worm in the heart of a rose. A man may have a fine character and
be taciturn, stubborn and stupid. Another may be brilliant, sunny
and generous, but self-indulgent, heartless and a liar. There is
no contradiction I have not met with in men and women: the rarest
combination is to find fundamental humbleness, freedom from self,
intrepid courage and the power to love; when you come upon these,
you may be quite sure that you are in the presence of greatness.
Human beings are made up of a good many pieces. Nature, character,
intellect and temperament: roughly speaking, these headings cover
every one. The men and women whom I have loved best have been
those whose natures were rich and sweet; but, alas, with a few
exceptions, all of them have had gimcrack characters; and the
qualities which I have loved in them have been ultimately
submerged by self-indulgence.
The present Archbishop of Canterbury is one of these exceptions:
he has a sweet and rich nature, a fine temper and is quite
unspoilable. I have only one criticism to make of Randall
Davidson: he has too much moderation for his intellect; but I
daresay he would not have steered the Church through so many
shallows if he had not had this attribute. I have known him since
I was ten (he christened, confirmed, married and buried us all);
and his faith in such qualities of head and heart as I possess has
never wavered. He reminds me of Jowett in the soundness of his
nature and his complete absence of vanity, although no two men
were ever less alike. The first element of greatness is
fundamental humbleness (this should not be confused with
servility); the second is freedom from self; the third is intrepid
courage, which, taken in its widest interpretation, generally goes
with truth; and the fourth, the power to love, although I have put
it last, is the rarest. If these go to the makings of a great man,
Jowett possessed them all. He might have mocked at the confined
comprehension of Oxford and exposed the arrogance, vanity and
conventionality of the Church; intellectual scorn and even
bitterness might have come to him; but, with infinite patience and
imperturbable serenity, he preserved his faith in his fellow-
"There was in him a simple trust in the word of other men that won
for him a devotion and service which discipline could never have
evoked." [Footnote:] I read these words in an obituary notice the
other day and thought how much I should like to have had them
written of me. Whether his criticisms of the Bible fluttered the
faith of the flappers in Oxford, or whether his long silences made
the undergraduates more stupid than they would otherwise have
been, I care little: I only know that he was what I call great and
that he had an ennobling influence over my life. He was
apprehensive of my social reputation; and in our correspondence,
which started directly we parted at Gosford, he constantly gave me
wise advice. He was extremely simple-minded and had a pathetic
belief in the fine manners, high tone, wide education and lofty
example of the British aristocracy. It shocked him that I did not
share it; I felt his warnings much as a duck swimming might feel
the cluckings of a hen on the bank; nevertheless, I loved his
exhortations. In one of his letters he begs me to give up the idea
of shooting bears with the Prince of Wales in Russia. It was the
first I had heard of it! In another of his letters to me he ended
But I must not bore you with good advice. Child, why don't you
make a better use of your noble gifts? And yet you do not do
anything wrong--only what other people do, but with more success.
And you are very faithful to your friends. And so, God bless you.
He was much shocked by hearing that I smoked. This is what he
What are you doing--breaking a young man's heart; not the first
time nor the second, nor the third--I believe? Poor fellows! they
have paid you the highest compliment that a gentleman can pay a
lady, and are deserving of all love. Shall I give you a small
piece of counsel? It is better for you and a duty to them that
their disappointed passions should never be known to a single
person, for as you are well aware, one confidante means every
body, and the good-natured world, who are of course very jealous
of you, will call you cruel and a breaker of hearts, etc. I do not
consider this advice, but merely a desire to make you see things
as others see them or nearly. The Symonds girls at Davos told me
that you smoked!!! at which I am shocked, because it is not the
manner of ladies in England. I always imagine you with a long
hookah puffing, puffing, since I heard this; give it up, my dear
Margaret--it will get you a bad name. Please do observe that I am
always serious when I try to make fun. I hope you are enjoying
life and friends and the weather: and believe me
Ever yours truly,
He asked me once if I ever told any one that he wrote to me, to
which I answered:
"I should rather think so! I tell every railway porter!"
This distressed him. I told him that he was evidently ashamed of
my love for him, but that I was proud of it.
JOWETT (after a long silence): "Would you like to have your life
MARGOT: "Not much, unless it told the whole truth about me and
every one and was indiscreet. If I could have a biographer like
Froude or Lord Hervey, it would be divine, as no one would be
bored by reading it. Who will you choose to write your life,
JOWETT: "No one will be in a position to write my life, Margaret."
(For some time he called me Margaret; he thought it sounded less
familiar than Margot.)
MARGOT: "What nonsense! How can you possibly prevent it? If you
are not very good to me, I may even write it myself!"
JOWETT (smiling): "If I could have been sure of that, I need not
have burnt all my correspondence! But you are an idle young lady
and would certainly never have concentrated on so dull a subject."
MARGOT (indignantly): "Do you mean to say you have burnt all
George Eliot's letters, Matthew Arnold's, Swinburne's, Temple's
JOWETT: "I have kept one or two of George Eliot's and Florence
Nightingale's; but great men do not write good letters."
MARGOT: "Do you know Florence Nightingale? I wish I did."
JOWETT (evidently surprised that I had never heard the gossip
connecting his name with Florence Nightingale): "Why do you want
to know her?"
MARGOT: "Because she was in love with my friend George Pembroke's
[Footnote: George, Earl of Pembroke, uncle of the present Earl.]
JOWETT (guardedly): "Oh, indeed! I will take you to see her and
then you can ask her about all this."
MARGOT: "I should love that! But perhaps she would not care for
JOWETT: "I do not think she will care for you, but would you mind
MARGOT: "Oh, not at all! I am quite unfemnine in those ways. When
people leave the room, I don't say to myself, "I wonder if they
like me," but, "I wonder if I like them."
This made an impression on the Master, or I should not have
remembered it. Some weeks after this he took me to see Florence
Nightingale in her house in South Street. Groups of hospital
nurses were waiting outside in the hall to see her. When we went
in I noted her fine, handsome, well-bred face. She was lying on a
sofa, with a white shawl round her shoulders and, after shaking
hands with her, the Master and I sat down. She pointed to the
beautiful Richmond print of Sidney Herbert, hanging above her
mantelpiece, and said to me:
"I am interested to meet you, as I hear George Pembroke, the son
of my old and dear friend, is devoted to you. Will you tell me
what he is like?"
I described Lord Pembroke, while Jowett sat in stony silence till
we left the house.
One day, a few months after this visit, I was driving in the
vicinity of Oxford with the Master and I said to him:
"You never speak of your relations to me and you never tell me
whether you were in love when you were young; I have told you so
much about myself!"
JOWETT: "Have you ever heard that I was in love with any one?"
I did not like to tell him that, since our visit to Florence
Nightingale, I had heard that he had wanted to marry her, so I
"Yes, I have been told you were in love once."
JOWETT: "Only once?"
Complete silence fell upon us after this: I broke it at last by
"What was your lady-love like, dear Master?"
JOWETT: "Violent . . . very violent."
After this disconcerting description, we drove back to Balliol.
Mrs. Humphry Ward's novel "Robert Elsmere" had just been published
and was dedicated to my sister Laura and Thomas Hill Green,
Jowett's rival in Oxford. This is what the Master wrote to me
Nov. 28, 1888.
DEAR MISS TENNANT,
I have just finished examining for the Balliol Scholarships: a
great institution of which you may possibly have heard. To what
shall I liken it? It is not unlike a man casting into the sea a
great dragnet, and when it is full of fish, pulling it up again
and taking out fishes, good, bad and indifferent, and throwing the
bad and indifferent back again into the sea. Among the good fish
there have been Archbishop Tait, Dean Stanley, A. H. Clough, Mr.
Arnold, Lord Coleridge, Lord Justice Bowen, Mr. Ilbert, &c., &c.,
&c. The institution was founded about sixty years ago.
I have been dining alone rather dismally, and now I shall imagine
that I receive a visit from a young lady about twenty-three years
of age, who enlivens me by her prattle. Is it her or her angel?
But I believe that she is an angel, pale, volatile and like
Laodamia in Wordsworth, ready to disappear at a moment's notice. I
could write a description of her, but am not sure that I could do
I wish that I could say anything to comfort you, my dear Margot,
or even to make you laugh. But no one can comfort another. The
memory of a beautiful character is "a joy for ever," especially of
one who was bound to you in ties of perfect amity. I saw what your
sister [Footnote: Mrs. Gordon Duff.] was from two short
conversations which I had with her, and from the manner in which
she was spoken of at Davos.
I send you the book [Footnote: Plato's Republic] which I spoke of,
though I hardly know whether it is an appropriate present; at any
rate I do not expect you to read it. It has taken me the last year
to revise and, in parts, rewrite it. The great interest of it is
that it belongs to a different age of the human mind, in which
there is so much like and also unlike ourselves. Many of our
commonplaces and common words are being thought out for the first
time by Plato. Add to this that in the original this book is the
most perfect work of art in the world. I wonder whether it will
have any meaning or interest for you.
You asked me once whether I desired to make a Sister of Charity of
you. Certainly not (although there are worse occupations); nor do
I desire to make anything. But your talking about plans of life
does lead me to think of what would be best and happiest for you.
I do not object to the hunting and going to Florence and Rome, but
should there not be some higher end to which these are the steps?
I think that you might happily fill up a great portion of your
life with literature (I am convinced that you have considerable
talent and might become eminent) and a small portion with works of
benevolence, just to keep us in love and charity with our poor
neighbours; and the rest I do not grudge to society and hunting.
Do you think that I am a hard taskmaster? Not very, I think. More
especially as you will not be led away by my good advice. You see
that I cannot bear to think of you hunting and ballet-dancing when
you are "fair, fat and forty-five." Do prepare yourself for that
I went to see Mrs. H. Ward the other day: she insists on doing
battle with the reviewer in the Quarterly, and is thinking of
another novel, of which the subject will be the free-thinking of
honest working-men in Paris and elsewhere. People say that in
"Robert Elsmere" Rose is intended for you, Catherine for your
sister Laura, the Squire for Mark Pattison, the Provost for me,
etc., and Mr. Grey for Professor Green. All the portraits are
about equally unlike the originals.
Good-bye, you have been sitting with me for nearly an hour, and
now, like Laodamia or Protesilaus, you disappear. I have been the
better for your company. One serious word: May God bless you and
help you in this and every other great hurt of life.
I will publish all his letters to me together, as, however
delightful letters may be, I find they bore me when they are
scattered all through an autobiography.
March 11th, 1889.
MY DEAR MARGARET,
As you say, friendships grow dull if two persons do not care to
write to one another. I was beginning to think that you resented
my censorious criticisms on your youthful life and happiness.
Can youth be serious without ceasing to be youth? I think it may.
The desire to promote the happiness of others rather than your own
may be always "breaking in." As my poor sister (of whom I will
talk to you some day) would say: "When others are happy, then I am
happy." She used to commend the religion of Sydney Smith--"Never
to let a day pass without doing a kindness to some body"--and I
think that you understand something about this; or you would not
be so popular and beloved.
You ask me what persons I have seen lately: I doubt whether they
would interest you. Mr. Welldon, the Headmaster of Harrow, a very
honest and able man with a long life before him, and if he is not
too honest and open, not unlikely to be an Archbishop of
Canterbury. Mr. J. M. Wilson, Headmaster of Clifton College--a
very kind, genial and able man--there is a great deal of him and
in him--not a man of good judgment, but very devoted--a first-rate
man in his way. Then I have seen a good deal of Lord Rosebery--
very able, shy, sensitive, ambitious, the last two qualities
rather at war with each other--very likely a future Prime
Minister. I like Lady Rosebery too--very sensible and high-
principled, not at all inclined to give up her Judaism to please
the rest of the world. They are rather overloaded with wealth and
fine houses: they are both very kind. I also like Lady Leconfield
[Footnote: Lady Leconfield was a sister of Lord Rosebery's and one
of my dearest friends.], whom I saw at Mentone. Then I paid a
visit to Tennyson, who has had a lingering illness of six months,
perhaps fatal, as he is eighty years of age. It was pleasing to
see how he takes it, very patient and without fear of death,
unlike his former state of mind. Though he is so sensitive, he
seemed to me to bear his illness like a great man. He has a volume
of poems waiting to come out--some of them as good as he ever
wrote. Was there ever an octogenarian poet before?
Doctor Johnson used to say that he never in his life had eaten as
much fruit as he desired. I think I never talked to you as much as
I desired. You once told me that you would show me your novel.
[Footnote: I began two, but they were not at all clever and have
long since disappeared.] Is it a reality or a myth? I should be
interested to see it if you like to send me that or any other
writing of yours.
"Robert Elsmere," as the authoress tells me, has sold 60,000 in
England and 400,000 in America! It has considerable merit, but its
success is really due to its saying what everybody is thinking. I
am astonished at her knowing so much about German theology--she is
a real scholar and takes up things of the right sort. I do not
believe that Mrs. Ward ever said "she had pulverised
Christianity." These things are invented about people by the
orthodox, i. e., the infidel world, in the hope that they will do
them harm. What do you think of being "laughed to death"? It would
be like being tickled to death.
Ever yours truly,
BALLIOL COLLEGE, May 22nd, 1891.
MY DEAR MARGARET,
It was very good of you to write me such a nice note. I hope you
are better. I rather believe in people being able to cure
themselves of many illnesses if they are tolerably prudent and
have a great spirit.
I liked your two friends who visited me last Sunday, and shall
hope to make them friends of mine. Asquith is a capital fellow,
and has abilities which may rise to the highest things in the law
and politics. He is also very pleasant socially. I like your lady
friend. She has both "Sense and Sensibility," and is free from
"Pride and Prejudice." She told me that she had been brought up by
an Evangelical grandmother, and is none the worse for it.
I begin to think bed is a very nice place, and I see a great deal
of it, not altogether from laziness, but because it is the only
way in which I am able to work.
I have just read the life of Newman, who was a strange character.
To me he seems to have been the most artificial man of our
generation, full of ecclesiastical loves and hatred. Considering
what he really was, it is wonderful what a space he has filled in
the eyes of mankind. In speculation he was habitually untruthful
and not much better in practice. His conscience had been taken
out, and the Church put in its place. Yet he was a man of genius,
and a good man in the sense of being disinterested. Truth is very
often troublesome, but neither the world nor the individual can
get on without it.
Here is the postman appearing at 12 o'clock, as disagreeable a
figure as the tax-gatherer.
May you have good sleep and pleasant dreams. I shall still look
forward to seeing you with Lady Wemyss.
Believe me always,
BALLIOL COLLEGE, Sep. 8,1892.
MY DEAR MARGARET,
Your kind letter was a very sweet consolation to me. It was like
you to think of a friend in trouble.
Poor Nettleship, whom we have lost, was a man who cannot be
replaced--certainly not in Oxford. He was a very good man, and had
a considerable touch of genius in him. He seems to have died
bravely, telling the guides not to be cowards, but to save their
lives. He also sang to them to keep them awake, saying (this was
so like him) that he had no voice, but that he would do his best.
He probably sang that song of Salvator Rosa's which we have so
often heard from him. He was wonderfully beloved by the
undergraduates, because they knew that he cared for them more than
for anything else in the world.
Of his writings there is not much, except what you have read, and
a long essay on Plato in a book called "Hellenism"--very good. He
was beginning to write, and I think would have written well. He
was also an excellent speaker and lecturer--Mr. Asquith would tell
you about him.
I have received many letters about him--but none of them has
touched me as much as yours. Thank you, dear.
I see that you are in earnest about writing--no slipshod or want
of connection. Writing requires boundless leisure, and is an
infinite labour, yet there is also a very great pleasure in it. I
shall be delighted to read your sketches.
BALLIOL COLLEGE, Dec. 27th, 1892.
MY DEAR MARGARET,
I have been reading Lady Jeune's two articles. I am glad that you
did not write them and have never written anything of that sort.
These criticisms on Society in which some of us "live and move and
have our being" are mistaken. In the first place, the whole fabric
of society is a great mystery, with which we ought not to take
liberties, and which should be spoken of only in a whisper when we
compare our experiences, whether in a walk or tete-a-tete, or
"over the back hair" with a faithful, reserved confidante. And
there is also a great deal that is painful in the absence of
freedom in the division of ranks, and the rising or falling from
one place in it to another. I am convinced that it is a thing not
to be spoken of; what we can do to improve it or do it good--
whether I, the head of a college at Oxford, or a young lady of
fashion (I know that you don't like to be called that)--must be
done quite silently.
Lady Jeune believes that all the world would go right, or at least
be a great deal better, if it were not for the Nouveaux Riches.
Some of the Eton masters talk to me in the same way. I agree with
our dear friend, Lady Wemyss, that the truth is "the old poor are
so jealous of them." We must study the arts of uniting Society as
a whole, not clinging to any one class of it--what is possible and
desirable to what is impossible and undesirable.
I hope you are none the worse for your great effort. You know it
interests me to hear what you are about if you have time and
inclination to write. I saw your friend, Mr. Asquith, last night:
very nice and not at all puffed up with his great office
[Footnote: The Home Office.]. The fortunes of the Ministry seem
very doubtful. There is a tendency to follow Lord Rosebery in the
Cabinet. Some think that the Home Rule Bill will be pushed to the
second reading, then dropped, and a new shuffle of the cards will
take place under Lord Rosebery: this seems to me very likely. The
Ministry has very little to spare and they are not gaining ground,
and the English are beginning to hate the Irish and the Priests.
I hope that all things go happily with you. Tell me some of your
thoughts. I have been reading Mr. Milner's book with great
satisfaction--most interesting and very important. I fear that I
have written you a dull and meandering epistle.
BALLIOL COLLEGE, Feb. 13,1893. MY DEAR MARGARET,
I began at ten minutes to twelve last night to write to you, but
as the postman appeared at five minutes to twelve, it was
naturally cut short. May I begin where I left off? I should like
to talk to you about many things. I hope you will not say, as
Johnson says to Boswell, "Sir, you have only two subjects,
yourself and me, and I am heartily sick of both."
I have been delighted with Mr. Asquith's success. He has the
certainty of a great man in him--such strength and simplicity and
independence and superiority to the world and the clubs. You seem
to me very fortunate in having three such friends as Mr. Asquith,
Mr. Milner and Mr. Balfour. I believe that you may do a great deal
for them, and they are probably the first men of their time, or
not very far short of it.
Mr. Balfour is not so good a leader of the House of Commons in
opposition as he was when he was in office. He is too aggressive
and not dignified enough. I fear that he will lose weight. He had
better not coquette with the foolish and unpractical thing
"Bimetallism," or write books on "Philosophic Doubt"; for there
are many things which we must certainly believe, are there not?
Quite enough either for the highest idealism or for ordinary life.
He will probably, like Sir R. Peel, have to change many of his
opinions in the course of the next thirty years and he should be
on his guard about this, or he will commit himself in such a
manner that he may have to withdraw from politics (about the
currency, about the Church, about Socialism).
Is this to be the last day of Gladstone's life in the House of
Commons? It is very pathetic to think of the aged man making his
last great display almost in opposition to the convictions of his
whole life. I hope that he will acquit himself well and nobly, and
then it does not much matter whether or no he dies like Lord
Chatham a few days afterwards. It seems to me that his Ministry
have not done badly during the last fortnight. They have, to a
great extent, removed the impression they had created in England
that they were the friends of disorder. Do you know, I cannot help
feeling I have more of the Liberal element in me than of the
Conservative? This rivalry between the parties, each surprising
the other by their liberality, has done a great deal of good to
the people of England.
HEADINGTON HILL, near OXFORD, July 30th, 1893.
MY DEAR MARGARET, Did you ever read these lines?--
'Tis said that marriages are made above--
It may be so, some few, perhaps, for love.
But from the smell of sulphur I should say
They must be making MATCHES here all day.
(Orpheus returning from the lower world in a farce called "The
Olympic Devils," which used to be played when I was young.)
Miss Nightingale talks to me of "the feelings usually called
love," but then she is a heroine, perhaps a goddess.
This love-making is a very serious business, though society makes
fun of it, perhaps to test the truth and earnestness of the
Dear, I am an old man, what the poet calls "on the threshold of
old age" (Homer), and I am not very romantic or sentimental about
such things, but I would do anything I could to save any one who
cares for me from making a mistake.
I think that you are quite right in not running the risk without a
modest abode in the country.
The real doubt about the affair is the family; will you consider
this and talk it over with your mother? The other day you were at
a masqued ball, as you told me--a few months hence you will have,
or rather may be having, the care of five children, with all the
ailments and miseries and disagreeables of children (unlike the
children of some of your friends) and not your own, although you
will have to be a mother to them, and this state of things will
last during the greatest part of your life. Is not the contrast
more than human nature can endure? I know that it is, as you said,
a nobler manner of living, but are you equal to such a struggle.
If you are, I can only say, "God bless you, you are a brave girl."
But I would not have you disguise from yourself the nature of the
trial. It is not possible to be a leader of fashion and to do your
duty to the five children.
On the other hand, you have at your feet a man of outstanding
ability and high character, and who has attained an extraordinary
position--far better than any aristocratic lath or hop-pole; and
you can render him the most material help by your abilities and
knowledge of the world. Society will be gracious to you because
you are a grata persona, and everybody will wish you well because
you have made the sacrifice. You may lead a much higher life if
you are yourself equal to it.
To-day I read Hume's life--by himself--very striking. You will
find it generally at the beginning of his History of England.
There have been saints among infidels too, e.g., Hume and Spinoza,
on behalf of whom I think it a duty to say something as the Church
has devoted them to eternal flames. To use a German phrase, "They
were 'Christians in unconsciousness.'" That describes a good many
people. I believe that as Christians we should get rid of a good
many doubtful phrases and speak only through our lives.
Believe me, my dear Margaret,
Yours truly and affectionately,
BALLIOL, Sunday. 1893.
MY DEAR MARGARET,
I quite agree with you that what we want most in life is rest and
peace. To act up to our best lights, that is quite enough; there
need be no trouble about dogmas, which are hardly intelligible to
us, nor ought there to be any trouble about historical facts,
including miracles, of which the view of the world has naturally
altered in the course of ages. I include in this such questions as
whether Our Lord rose from the dead in any natural sense of the
words. It is quite a different question, whether we shall imitate
Him in His life.
I am glad you think about these questions, and shall be pleased to
talk to you about them. What I have to say about religion is
contained in two words: Truth and Goodness, but I would not have
one without the other, and if I had to choose between them, might
be disposed to give Truth the first place. I think, also, that you
might put religion in another way, as absolute resignation to the
Will of God and the order of nature. There might be other
definitions, equally true, but none suited better than another to
the characters of men, such as the imitation of Christ, or the
truth in all religions, which would be an adequate description of
it. The Christian religion seems to me to extend to all the parts
and modes of life, and then to come back to our hearts and
conscience. I think that the best way of considering it, and the
most interesting, is to view it as it may be seen in the lives of
good men everywhere, whether Christians or so-called heathens--
Socrates, Plato, Marcus Aurelius, St. Augustine, as well as in the
lives of Christ, or Bunyan, or Spinoza. The study of religious
biography seems to me one of the best modes of keeping up
As to the question of Disestablishment, I am not like Mr. Balfour,
I wobble rather, yet, on the whole, I agree with Mr. Gladstone,
certainly about the Welsh Church. Churches are so worldly and so
much allied to the interests of the higher classes. I think that a
person who belongs to a Church should always endeavour to live
above his Church, above the sermon and a good part of the prayer,
above the Athanasian Creed, and the form of Ordination, above the
passions of party feelings and public meetings. The best
individuals have always been better than Churches, though I do not
go so far as a German professor, who thinks that people will never
be religious until they leave off going to church, yet I am of
opinion that in every congregation the hearers should attempt to
raise themselves above the tone of the preacher and of the
I am sorry to hear that Mr. Balfour, who has so much that is
liberal in him, is of an extreme opposite opinion. But I feel that
I have talked long enough on a subject which may not interest you,
but of which I should like to talk to you again when we meet. It
seems to me probable that the Church WILL be disestablished,
because it has been so already in most countries of Europe, and
because the school is everywhere taking its place.
I shall look forward to your coming to see me, if I am seriously
ill--"Be with me when my light is low." But I don't think that
this illness which I at present have is serious enough to make any
of my friends anxious, and it would be rather awkward for my
friends to come and take leave of me if I recovered, which I mean
to do, for what I think a good reason--because I STILL have a good
deal to do.
My beloved friend died in 1893.
The year before his death he had the dangerous illness to which he
alludes in the above letter. Every one thought he would die. He
dictated farewell letters to all his friends by his secretary and
housekeeper, Miss Knight. On receiveing mine from him at Glen, I
was so much annoyed at its tone that I wired:
Jowett Balliol College Oxford.
I refuse to accept this as your farewell letter to me you have
been listening to some silly woman and believing what she says.
This telegram had a magical effect: he got steadily better and
wrote me a wonderful letter. I remember the reason that I was
vexed was because he believed a report that I had knocked up
against a foreign potentate in Rotten Row for a bet, which was not
only untrue but ridiculous, and I was getting a little impatient
of the cattishness and credulity of the West-end of London.
My week-ends at Balliol were different to my other visits. The
Master took infinite trouble over them. Once on my arrival he
asked me which of one or two men I would like to sit next to at
dinner. I said I should prefer Mr. Huxley or Lord Bowen, to which
"I would like you to have on your other side, either to-night or
to-morrow, my friend Lord Selborne:" [Footnote: The late Earl of
MARGOT (with surprise): "Since when is he your friend? I was under
the impression you disliked him."
JOWETT: "Your impression was right, but even the youngest of us
are sometimes wrong, as Dr. Thompson said, and I look upon Lord
Selborne now as a friend. I hope I said nothing against him."
MARGOT: "Oh dear no! You only said he was fond of hymns and had no
sense of humour."
JOWETT (snappishly): "If that is so, Margaret, I made an extremely
foolish remark. I will put you between Lord Bowen and Sir Alfred
Lyall. Was it not strange that you should have said of Lyall to
Huxley that he reminded you of a faded Crusader and that you
suspected him of wearing a coat of mail under his broadcloth, to
which you will remember Huxley remarked, 'You mean a coating of
female, without which no man is saved!' Your sister, Lady
Ribblesdale, said the very same thing to me about him."
This interested me, as Charty and I had not spoken to each other
of Sir Alfred Lyall, who was a new acquaintance of ours.
MARGOT: "I am sure, Master, you did not give her the same answer
as Mr. Huxley gave me; you don't think well of my sex, do you?"
JOWETT: "You are not the person to reproach me, Margaret: only the
other week I reproved you for saying women were often dull,
sometimes dangerous and always dishonourable. I might have added
they were rarely reasonable and always courageous. Would you agree
I sat between Sir Alfred Lyall and Lord Bowen that night at
dinner. There was more bouquet than body about Sir Alfred and, to
parody Gibbon, Lord Bowen's mind was not clouded by enthusiasm;
but two more delightful men never existed. After dinner, Huxley
came across the room to me and said that the Master had confessed
he had done him out of sitting next to me, so would I talk to him?
We sat down together and our conversation opened on religion.
There was not much juste milieu about Huxley. He began by saying
God was only there because people believed in Him, and that the
fastidious incognito, "I am that I am," was His idea of humour,
etc., etc. He ended by saying he did not believe any man of action
had ever been inspired by religion. I thought I would call in Lord
Bowen, who was standing aimlessly in the middle of the room, to my
assistance. He instantly responded and drew a chair up to us. I
said to him:
"Mr. Huxley challenges me to produce any man of action who has
been directly inspired by religion."
BOWEN (WITH A SLEEK SMILE): "Between us we should be able to
answer him, Miss Tennant, I think. Who is your man?"
Every idea seemed to scatter out of my brain. I suggested at
I might have been reading his thoughts, for it so happened that
Huxley adored General Gordon.
HUXLEY: "Ah! There you rather have me!"
He had obviously had enough of me, for, changing the position of
his chair, as if to engage Bowen in a tete-a-tete, he said:
"My dear Bowen, Gordon was the most remarkable man I ever met. I
know him well; he was sincere and disinterested, quite incapable
of saying anything he did not think. You will hardly believe me,
but one day he said in tones of passionate conviction that, if he
were to walk round the corner of the street and have his brains
shot out, he would only be transferred to a wider sphere of
BOWEN: "Would the absence of brains have been of any help to him?"
After this, our mutual good humour was restored and I only had
time for a word with Mrs. Green before the evening was ruined by
Jowett taking us across the quad to hear moderate music in the
hideous Balliol hall. Of all the Master's women friends, I
infinitely preferred Mrs. T. H. Green, John Addington Symonds'
sister. She is among the rare women who have all the qualities
which in moments of disillusion I deny to them.
I spent my last week-end at Balliol when Jowett's health appeared
to have completely recovered. On the Monday morning, after his
guests had gone, I went as usual into his study to talk to him. My
wire on receiving his death-bed letter had amused but distressed
him; and on my arrival he pressed me to tell him what it was he
had written that had offended me. I told him I was not offended,
only hurt. He asked me what the difference was. I wish I could
have given him the answer that my daughter Elizabeth gave Lord
Grey [Footnote: Viscount Grey of Fallodon.] when he asked her the
same question, walking in the garden at Fallodon on the occasion
of her first countryhouse visit:
"The one touches your vanity and the other your heart."
I do not know what I said, but I told him I was quite unoffended
and without touchiness, but that his letter had all the faults of
a schoolmaster and a cleric in it and not the love of a friend. He
listened to me with his usual patience and sweetness and expressed
On the Monday morning of which I am writing, and on which we had
our last conversation, I had made up my mind that, as I had spoilt
many good conversations by talking too much myself, I would hold
my tongue and let the Master for once make the first move. I had
not had much experience of his classical and devastating silences
and had often defended him from the charge; but it was time to see
what happened if I talked less.
When we got into the room and he had shut the door, I absently
selected the only comfortable chair and we sat down next to each
other. A long and quelling silence followed the lighting of my
cigarette. Feeling rather at a loose end, I thought out a few
stage directions--"here business with handkerchief, etc."--and
adjusted the buckles on my shoes. I looked at some photographs and
fingered a paper-knife and odds and ends on the table near me. The
oppressive silence continued. I strolled to the book-shelves and,
under cover of a copy of "Country Conversations," peeped at the
Master. He appeared to be quite unaware of my existence.
"Nothing doing," said I to myself, putting back the book.
Something had switched him off as if he had been the electric
At last, breaking the silence with considerable impatience, I
"Really, Master, there is very little excuse for your silence!
Surely you have something to say to me, something to tell me; you
have had an experience since we talked to each other that I have
never had: you have been near Death."
JOWETT (not in any way put out): "I felt no rapture, no bliss."
(Suddenly looking at me and taking my hand.) "My dear child, you
must believe in God in spite of what the clergy say."
FAST AND FURIOUS HUNTING IN LEICESTERSHIRE--COUNTRY HOUSE PARTY
AND A NEW ADMIRER--FRIENDSHIP WITH LORD AND LADY MANNERS
My friendship with Lord and Lady Manners, [Footnote: Avon Tyrrell,
Christchurch, Hants. Lady Manners was a Miss Fane.] of Avon
Tyrrell, probably made more difference to the course of my life
than anything that had happened in it.
Riding was what I knew and cared most about; and I dreamt of High
Leicestershire. I had hunted in Cheshire, where you killed three
foxes a day and found yourself either clattering among cottages
and clothes-lines, or blocked by carriages and crowds; I knew the
stiff plough and fine horses of Yorkshire and the rotten grass in
the Bicester; I had struggled over the large fences and small
enclosures of the Grafton and been a heroine in the select fields
and large becks with the Burton; and the Beaufort had seen the
dawn of my fox-hunting; but Melton was a name which brought the
Hon. Crasher before me and opened a vista on my future of all that
was fast, furious and fashionable.
When I was told that I was going to sit next to the Master of the
Quorn at dinner, my excitement knew no bounds.
Gordon Cunard--whose brother Bache owned the famous hounds in
Market Harborough--had insisted on my joining him at a country-
house party given for a ball. On getting the invitation I had
refused, as I hardly knew our hostess--the pretty Mrs. Farnham--
but after receiving a spirited telegram from my new admirer--one
of the best men to hounds in Leicestershire--I changed my mind. In
consequence of this decision a double event took place. I fell in
love with Peter Flower--a brother of the late Lord Battersea--and
formed an attachment with a couple whose devotion and goodness to
me for more than twenty years encouraged and embellished my
Lord Manners, or "Hoppy," as we called him, was one of the few men
I ever met whom the word "single-minded" described. His sense of
honour was only equalled by his sense of humour; and a more
original, tender, truthful, uncynical, real being never existed.
He was a fine sportsman and had won the Grand Military when he was
in the Grenadiers, riding one of his own hunters; he was also the
second gentleman in England to win the Grand National in 1882, on
a thoroughbred called Seaman, who was by no means every one's
horse. For other people he cared nothing. "Decidement je n'aime
pas les autres," he would have said, to quote my son-in-law,
His wife often said that, but for her, he would not have asked a
creature inside the house; be this as it may, no host and hostess
could have been more socially susceptible or given their guests a
warmer welcome than Con and Hoppy Manners.
What I loved and admired in him was his keenness and his
impeccable unworldliness. He was perfectly independent of public
opinion and as free from rancour as he was from fear, malice or
acerbity. He never said a stupid thing. Some people would say that
this is not a compliment, but the amount of silly things that I
have heard clever people say makes me often wonder what is left
for the stupid.
His wife was very different, though quite as free from rhetoric.
Under a becalmed exterior Con Manners was a little brittle and
found it difficult to say she was in the wrong; this impenitence
caused some of her lovers a suffering of which she was
unconscious; it is a minor failing which strikes a dumb note in
me, but which I have since discovered is not only common, but
almost universal. I often warned people of Con's dangerous smile
when I observed them blundering along; but though she was uneven
in her powers of forgiveness, the serious quarrel of her life was
made up ultimately without reserve. Lady Manners was clever,
gracious, and understanding; she was more worldly, more
adventurous and less deprecating than her husband; people meant a
great deal to her; and the whole of London was at her feet, except
those lonely men and women who specialise in collecting the famous
as men collect centipedes.
To digress here. I asked my friend Mr. Birrell once how the juste
milieu was to be found--for an enterprising person--between
running after the great men of the day and missing them; and he
"I would advise you to live among your superiors, Margot, but to
be of them."
Con was one of the few women of whom it could be said that she was
in an equal degree a wonderful wife, mother, sister and friend.
Her charm of manner and the tenderness of her regard gave her face
beauty that was independent--almost a rival of fine features--and
she was a saint of goodness.
Her love of flowers made every part of her home, inside and out,
radiant; and her sense of humour and love of being entertained
stimulated the witty and the lazy.
For nineteen years I watched her go about her daily duties with a
quiet grace and serenity infinitely restful to live with, and when
I was separated from her it nearly broke my heart. In connection
with the love Con and I had for each other I will only add an old
"Par grace infinie Dieu les mist au mande ensemble."
My dear friend, Mrs. Hamlyn, was the chatelaine of the famous
Clovelly, in Devonshire, and was Con's sister. She had the spirit
of eternal youth and was full of breathless admiration. I hardly
ever met any one who derived so much pleasure and surprise out of
ordinary life. She was as uncritical and tolerant of those she
loved as she was narrow and vehement over those who had
unaccountably offended her. She had an ebullient and voracious
sense of humour and was baffled and eblouie by titled people,
however vulgar and ridiculous they might be. By this I do not mean
she was a snob--on the contrary she made and kept friends among
the frumps and the obscure, to whom she showed faithful
hospitality; but she was old-fashioned and thought that all
duchesses were ladies.
Christine Hamlyn was a character-part: but, if the machinery was
not invented by which you could remove her prejudices, no tank
could turn her from her friends. It was through the Souls and
these friends whom I have endeavoured to describe that I entered
into a new phase of my life.
MARGOT FALLS IN LOVE AGAIN--"HAVOC" IN THE HUNTING FIELD; A FALL
AND A DUCKING--THE FAMOUS MRS. BO; UNHEEDED ADVICE FROM A RIVAL--A
LOVERS' QUARREL--PETER JUMPS IN THE WINDOW--THE AMERICAN TROTTER--
ANOTHER LOVER INTERVENES--PETER RETURNS FROM INDIA; ILLUMINATION
FROM A DARK WOMAN
The first time I ever saw Peter Flower was at Ranelagh, where he
had taken my sister Charty Ribblesdale to watch a polo-match. They
were sitting together at an iron table, under a cedar tree, eating
ices. I was wearing a grey muslin dress with a black sash and a
black hat, with coral beads round my throat, and heard him say as
I came up to them:
"Nineteen? Not possible! I should have said fifteen! Is that the
one that rides so well?"
After shaking hands I sat down and looked about me.
I always notice what men wear; and Peter Flower was the best-
dressed man I had ever seen. I do not know who could have worn his
clothes when they were new; but certainly he never did. After his
clothes, what I was most struck by was his peculiar, almost animal
grace, powerful sloping shoulders, fascinating laugh and
Laurence Oliphant once said to me, "I divide the world into life-
givers and life-takers"; and I have often had reason to feel the
truth of this, being as I am acutely sensitive to high spirits. On
looking back along the gallery of my acquaintance, I can find not
more than three or four people as tenacious of life as Peter was:
Lady Desborough, Lady Cunard, my son Anthony and myself. There are
various kinds of high spirits: some so crude and rough-tongued
that they vitiate what they touch and estrange every one of
sensibility and some so insistent that they tire and suffocate
you; but Peter's vitality revived and restored every one he came
in contact with; and, when I said good-bye to him that day at
Ranelagh, although I cannot remember a single sentence of any
interest spoken by him or by me, my mind was absorbed in thinking
of when and how I could meet him again.
In the winter of that same year I went with the Ribblesdales to
stay with Peter's brother, Lord Battersea, to have a hunt. I took
with me the best of hats and habits and two leggy and faded
hirelings, hoping to pick up a mount. Charty having twisted her
knee the day after we arrived, this enabled me to ride the horse
on which Peter was to have mounted her; and full of spirits we all
went off to the meet of the Bicester hounds. I had hardly spoken
three words to my benefactor, but Ribblesdale had rather unwisely
told him that I was the best rider to hounds in England.
At the meet I examined my mount closely while the man was
lengthening my stirrup. Havoc, as he was called, was a dark
chestnut, 16.1, with a coat like the back of a violin and a
spiteful little head. He had an enormous bit on; and I was glad to
see a leather strap under the curb-chain.
When I was mounted, Peter kept close to my side and said:
"You're on a topper! Take him where you like, but ride your own
To which I replied:
"Why? Does he rush? I had thought of following you."
PETER: "Not at all, but he may pull you a bit, so keep away from
the field; the fence isn't made that he can't jump; and as for
water, he's a swallow! I wish I could say the same of mine! We've
got a brook round about here with rotten banks, it will catch the
best! But, if we are near each other, you must come alongside and
go first and mine will very likely follow you. I don't want to
spend the night in that beastly brook."
It was a good scenting day and we did not take long to find. I
stuck to Peter Flower while the Bicester hounds raced across the
heavy grass towards a hairy-looking ugly double. In spite of the
ironmonger's shop in Havoc's mouth, I had not the faintest control
over him, so I said to Peter:
"You know, Mr. Flower, I can't stop your horse!"
He looked at me with a charming smile and said:
"But why should you? Hounds are running!"
MARGOT: "But I can't turn him!"
PETER: "It doesn't matter! They are running straight. Hullo!
Lookout! Look out for Hydy!"
We were going great guns. I saw a man in front of me slowing up to
the double, so shouted at him:
"Get out of my way! Get out of my way!"
I was certain that at the pace he was going he would take a heavy
fall and I should be on the top of him. While in the act of
turning round to see who it was that was shouting, his willing
horse paused and I shot past him, taking away his spur in my habit
skirt. I heard a volley of oaths as I jumped into the jungle.
Havoc, however, did not like the brambles and, steadying himself
as he landed, arched with the activity of a cat over a high rail
on the other side of the double; I turned round and saw Peter's
horse close behind me hit the rail and peck heavily upon landing,
at which Peter gave him one down the shoulder and looked furious.
I had no illusions! I was on a horse that nothing could stop!
Seeing a line of willows in front of me, I shouted to Peter to
come along, as I thought if the brook was ahead of us I could not
possibly keep close to him, going at that pace. To my surprise and
delight, as we approached the willows Peter passed me and the
water widened out in front of us; I saw by his set face that it
was neck or nothing with him. Havoc was going well within himself,
but his stable-companion was precipitate and flurried; and before
I knew what had happened Peter was in the middle of the brook and
I was jumping over his head. On landing I made a large circle
round the field away from hounds, trying to pull up; and when I
could turn round I found myself facing the brook again, with Peter
dripping on the bank nearest to me. Havoc pricked his ears, passed
him like a flash and jumped the brook again; but the bank on
landing was boggy and while we were floundering I got a pull at
him by putting the curb-rein under my pommel and, exhausted and
distressed, I jumped off. Peter burst out laughing.
"We seem to be separated for life," he said. "Do look at my damned
I looked down the water and saw the animal standing knee-deep,
nibbling grass and mud off the bank with perfect composure.
MARGOT: "I really believe Havoc would jump this brook for a third
time and then I should be by your side. What luck that you aren't
soaked to the skin; hadn't I better look out for the second
horsemen? Hounds by now will be at the sea and I confess I can't
ride your horse: does he always pull like this?"
PETER: "Yes, he catches hold a bit, but what do you mean? You rode
him beautifully. Hullo! What is that spur doing in your skirt?"
MARGOT: "I took it off the man that you call 'Hydy,' who was going
so sticky at the double when we started."
PETER: "Poor old Clarendon! I advise you to keep his spur, he'll
never guess who took it; and, if I know anything about him, there
will be no love lost between you even if you do return it to him!"
I was longing for another horse, as I could not bear the idea of
going home. At that moment a single file of second horse-men came
in sight; and Peter's well-trained servant, on a thoroughbred
grey, rode up to us at the conventional trot. Peter lit a cigar
and, pointing to the brook, said to his man:
"Go off and get a rope and hang that brute! Or haul him out, will
you? And give me my lunch."
We were miles away from any human habitation and I felt depressed.
"Perhaps I had better ride home with your man," said I, looking
tentatively at Peter.
"Home! What for?" said he.
MARGOT: "Are you sure Havoc is not tired?"
PETER: "I wish to God he was! But I daresay this infernal Bicester
grass, which is heavier than anything I saw in Yorkshire, has
steadied him a bit; you'll see he'll go far better with you this
afternoon. I'm awfully sorry and would put you on my second
horse, but it isn't mine and I'm told it's got a bit of a temper;
if you go through that gate we'll have our lunch together. ...Have
I smiled and shook my head; my mouth was as dry as a Japanese toy
and I felt shattered with fatigue. The ground on which I was
standing was deep and I was afraid of walking in case I should
leave my boots in it, so I tapped the back of Havoc's fetlocks
till I got him stretched and with great skill mounted myself. This
filled Peter with admiration; and, lifting his hat, he said:
"Well! You are the very first woman I ever saw mount herself
without two men and a boy hanging on to the horse's head."
I rode towards the gate and Peter joined me a few minutes later on
his second horse. He praised my riding and promised he would mount
me any day in the week if I could only get some one to ask me down
to Brackley where he kept his horses; he said the Grafton was the
country to hunt in and that, though Tom Firr, the huntsman of the
Quorn, was the greatest man in England, Frank Beers was hard to
beat. I felt pleased at his admiration for my riding, but I knew
Havoc had not turned a hair and that, if I went on hunting, I
should kill either myself, Peter or some one else.
"Aren't you nervous when you see a helpless woman riding one of
your horses?" I said to him.
PETER: "No, I am only afraid she'll hurt my horse! I take her off
pretty quick, I can tell you, if I think she's going to spoil my
sale; but I never mount a woman. Your sister is a magnificent
rider, or I would never have put her on that horse. Now come along
and with any luck you will be alone with hounds this afternoon and
Havoc will be knocked down at Tattersalls for five hundred
MARGOT: "You are sure you want me to go on?"
PETER: "You think I want you to go home? Very well! If you
I longed to have the courage to say, "Let us both go home," but I
knew he would think that I was funking and it was still early in
the day. He looked at me steadily and said:
"I will do exactly what you like."
I looked at him, but at that moment the hounds came in sight and
my last chance was gone. We shogged along to the next cover, Havoc
as mild as milk. I was amazed at Peter's nerve: if any horse of
mine had taken such complete charge of its rider, I should have
been in a state of anguish till I had separated them; but he was
riding along talking and laughing in front of me in the highest of
spirits. This lack of sensitiveness irritated me and my heart
sank. Before reaching the cover, Peter came up to me and suggested
that we should change Havoc's bit. I then perceived he was not
quite so happy as I thought; and this determined me to stick it
out. I thanked him demurely and added, with a slight and smiling
"I fear no bit can save me to-day, thank you."
At which Peter said with visible irritability:
"Oh, for God's sake then don't let us go on! If you hate my horse
I vote we go no farther!"
"What a cross man!" I said to myself, seeing him flushed and
snappy; but a ringing "Halloa!" brought our deliberations to an
Havoc and I shot down the road, passing the blustering field; and,
hopping over a gap, we found ourselves close to the hounds, who
were running hell-for-leather towards a handsome country seat
perched upon a hill. A park is what I hate most out hunting:
hounds invariably lose the line, the field loses its way and I
lose my temper.
I looked round to see if my benefactor was near me, but he was
nowhere to be seen. Eight or ten hard riders were behind me; they
"Don't go into the wood! Turn to your left! Don't go into the
I saw a fancy gate of yellow polished oak in front of me, at the
end of one of the grass rides in the wood, and what looked like
lawns beyond. I was unable to turn to the left with my companions,
but plunged into the trees where the hounds paused: not so Havoc,
who, in spite of the deep ground, was still going great guns. A
lady behind me, guessing what had happened, left her companions
and managed somehow or other to pass me in the ride; and, as I
approached the yellow gate, she was holding it open for me. I
shouted my thanks to her and she shouted back:
"Get off when you stop!"
This was my fixed determination, as I had observed that Havoc's
tongue was over the bit and he was not aware that any one was on
his back, nor was he the least tired and no doubt would have
jumped the yellow gate with ease.
After leaving my saviour I was joined by my former companions. The
hounds had picked up again and we left the gate, the wood and the
country seat behind us. Still going very strong, we all turned
into a chalk field with a white road sunk between two high banks
leading down to a ford. I kept on the top of the bank, as I was
afraid of splashing people in the water, if not knocking them
down. Two men were standing by the fence ahead, which separated me
from what appeared to be a river; and I knew there must be a
considerable drop in front of me. They held their hands up in
warning as I came galloping up; I took my foot out of the stirrup
and dropping my reins gave myself up for lost, but in spite of
Havoc slowing up he was going too fast to stop or turn. He made a
magnificent effort, but I saw the water twinkling below me; and
after that I knew no more.
When I came to, I was lying on a box bed in a cottage, with Peter
and the lady who had held the yellow gate kneeling by my side.
"I think you are mad to put any one on that horse!" I heard her
say indignantly. "You know how often it has changed hands; and you
yourself can hardly ride it."
Havoc had tried to scramble down the bank, which luckily for me
had not been immediately under the fence, but it could not be
done, so we took a somersault into the brook, most alarming for
the people in the ford to see. However, as the water was deep
where I landed, I was not hurt, but had fainted from fear and
Peter's misery was profound; ice-white and in an agony of fear, he
was warming my feet with both his hands while I watched him
quietly. I was taken home in a brougham by my kind friend, who
turned out to be Mrs. Bunbury, a sister of John Watson, the Master
of the Meath hounds, and the daughter of old Mr. Watson, the
Master of the Carlow and the finest rider to hounds in England.
This was how Peter and I first came really to know each other; and
after that it was only a question of time when our friendship
developed into a serious love-affair. I stayed with Mrs. Bunbury
in the Grafton country that winter for several weeks and was
mounted by every one.
As Peter was a kind of hero in the hunting field and had never
been known to mount a woman, I was the object of much jealousy.
The first scene in my life occurred at Brackley, where he and a
friend of his, called Hatfield Harter, shared a hunting box
There was a lady of charm and beauty in the vicinity who went by
the name of Mrs. Bo. They said she had gone well to hounds in her
youth, but I had never observed her jump a twig. She often joined
us when Peter and I were changing horses and once or twice had
ridden home with us. Peter did not appear to like her much, but I
was too busy to notice this one way or the other. One day I said
to him I thought he was rather snubby to her and added:
"After all, she must have been a very pretty woman when she was
young and I don't think it's nice of you to show such irritation
when she joins us."
PETER: "Do you call her old?"
MARGOT: "Well, oldish I should say. She must be over thirty, isn't
PETER: "Do you call that old?"
MARGOT: "I don't know! How old are you, Peter?"
PETER: "I shan't tell you."
One day I rode back from hunting, having got wet to the skin. I
had left the Bunbury brougham in Peter's stables but I did not
like to go back in wet clothes; so, after seeing my horse
comfortably gruelled, I walked up to the charming lady's house to
borrow dry clothes. She was out, but her maid gave me a coat and
skirt, which--though much too big--served my purpose.
After having tea with Peter, who was ill in bed, I drove up to
thank the lady for her clothes. She was lying on a long, thickly
pillowed couch, smoking a cigarette in a boudoir that smelt of
violets. She greeted me coldly; and I was just going away when she
threw her cigarette into the fire and, suddenly sitting very
"Wait! I have something to say to you."
I saw by the expression on her face that I had no chance of
getting away, though I was tired and felt at a strange
disadvantage in my flowing skirts.
MRS. BO: "Does it not strike you that going to tea with a man who
is in bed is a thing no one can do?"
MARGOT: "Going to see a man who is ill? No, certainly not!"
MRS. BO: "Well, then let me tell you for your own information how
it will strike other people. I am a much older woman than you and
I warn you, you can't go on doing this sort of thing! Why should
you come down here among all of us who are friends and make
mischief and create talk?"
I felt chilled to the bone and, getting up, said:
"I think I had better leave you now, as I am tired and you are
MRS. BO (standing up and coming very close to me): "Do you not
know that I would nurse Peter Flower through yellow fever! But,
though I have lived next door to him these last three years, I
would never dream of doing what you have done to-day."
The expression on her face was so intense that I felt sorry for
her and said as gently as I could:
"I do not see why you shouldn't! Especially if you are all such
friends down here as you say you are. However, every one has a
different idea of what is right and wrong. ...I must go now!"
I was determined not to stay a moment longer and walked to the
door, but she had lost her head and said in a hard, bitter voice:
"You say every one has a different idea of right and wrong, but I
should say you have none!"
At this I left the room.
When I told Mrs. Bunbury what had happened, all she said was:
"Cat! She's jealous! Before you came down here, Peter Flower was
in love with her."
This was a great shock to me and I determined I would leave the
Grafton country, as I had already been away far too long from my
own people; so I wrote to Peter saying I was sorry not to say
good-bye to him, but that I had to go home. The next day was
Sunday. I got my usual love-letter from Peter--who, whether I saw
him or not, wrote daily--telling me that his temperature had gone
up again and that he would give me his two best horses on Monday,
as he was not allowed to leave his room. After we had finished
lunch, Peter turned up, looking ill and furious. Mrs. Bunbury
greeted him sweetly and said:
"You ought to be in bed, you know; but, since you ARE here, I'll
leave Margot to look after you while Jacky and I go round the
When we were left to ourselves, Peter, looking at me, said:
"Well! I've got your letter! What is all this about? Don't you
know there are two horses coming over from Ireland this week which
I want you particularly to ride for me?"
I saw that he was thoroughly upset and told him that I was going
home, as I had been already too long away.
"Have your people written to you?" he said.
MARGOT: "They always write. ..."
PETER: (seeing the evasion): "What's wrong?"
MARGOT: "What do you mean?"
PETER: "You know quite well that no one has asked you to go home.
Something has happened; some one has said something to you; you've
been put out. After all it was only yesterday that we were
discussing every meet; and you promised to give me a lurcher. What
has happened since to change you?"
MARGOT: "Oh, what does it matter? I can always come down here
again later on."
PETER: "How wanting in candour you are! You are not a bit like
what I thought you were!"
MARGOT (sweetly): "No ...?"
PETER: "Not a bit! You are a regular woman. I thought differently
of you somehow!"
MARGOT: "You thought I was a dog-fancier or a rough-rider, did
you, with a good thick skin?"
PETER: "I fail to understand you! Are you alluding to the manners
of my horses?"
MARGOT: "No, to your friends."
PETER: "Ah! Ah! Nous y sommes! ... How can you be so childish!
What did Mrs. Bo say to you?"
MARGOT: "Oh, spare me from going into your friends' affairs!"
PETER (flushed with temper, but trying to control himself): "What
does it matter what an old woman says whose nose has been put out
of joint in the hunting-field?"
MARGOT: "You told me she was young."
PETER: "What an awful lie! You said she was pretty and I disagreed
with you." Silence. "What did she say to you? I tell you she is
jealous of you in the hunting-field!"
MARGOT: "No, she's not; she's jealous of me in your bedroom and
says I don't know right from wrong."
PETER (startled at first and then bursting out laughing): "There's
nothing very original about that!"
MARGOT (indignantly): "Do you mean to say that it's a platitude?
And that I DON'T know right from wrong?"
PETER (taking my hands and kissing them with a sigh of intense
relief): "I wonder!"
MARGOT (getting up): "Well, after that, nothing will induce me to
stay down here or ride any of your horses ever again! No regiment
of soldiers will keep me!"
PETER: "Really, darling, how can you be so foolish! Who would ever
think it wrong to go and see a poor devil ill in bed! You had to
ride my horse back to its stable and it was your duty to come and
ask after me and thank me for all my kindness to you and the good
horses I've put you on!"
MARGOT: "Evidently in this country I am not wanted, Mrs. Bo said
so; and you ought to have warned me you were in love with her. You
said I was not the woman you thought I was: well, I can say the
same of you!"
At this Peter got up and all his laughter disappeared.
"Do you mean what you say? Is this the impression you got from
talking to Mrs. Bo?"
PETER: "In that case I will go and see her and ask her which of
the two of you is lying! If it's you, you needn't bother yourself
to leave this country, for I shall sell my horses. ...I wish to
God I had never met you!"
I felt very uncomfortable and unhappy, as in my heart I knew that
Mrs. Bo had never said Peter was in love with her; she had not
alluded to his feelings for her at all. I got up to stop him
leaving the room and put myself in front of the door.
MARGOT: "Really, why make scenes! There is nothing so tiring; and
you know quite well you are ill and ought to go to bed. Is there
any object in going round the country discussing me?"
PETER: "Just go away, will you? I'm ill and want to get off."
I did not move; I saw he was white with rage. The idea of going
round the country talking about me was more than he could bear; so
I said, trying to mollify him:
"If you want to discuss me, I am always willing to listen; there
is nothing I enjoy so much as talking about myself."
It was too late. All he said to me was:
"Do you mind leaving that door? You tire me and it's getting
MARGOT: "I will let you go, but promise me you won't go to Mrs. Bo
to-day; or, if you DO, tell me what you are going to say to her
PETER: "You've never told me yet what she said to you, except that
I was in love with her, so why should I tell you what I propose
saying to her! For once you cannot have it all your own way. You
are SO spoilt since you've been down here that..."
I flung the door wide open and, before he could finish his
sentence, ran up to my room.
Peter was curiously upsetting to the feminine sense; he wanted to
conceal it and to expose it at the same time, under the impression
it might arouse my jealousy. He was specially angry with me for
dancing with King Edward, then the Prince of Wales. I told him
that if he would learn to waltz instead of prance I would dance
with him, but till he did I should choose my own partners. Over
this we had a great row; and, after sitting out two dances with
the Prince, I put on my cloak and walked round to 40 Grosvenor
Square without saying good night to Peter. I was in my dressing-
gown, with my hair--my one claim to beauty--standing out all
round my head, when I heard a noise in the street and, looking
down, I saw Peter standing on the wall of our porch gazing across
an angle of the area into the open window of our library,
contemplating, I presumed, jumping into it; I raced downstairs to
stop this dangerous folly, but I was too late and, as I opened the
library-door, he had given a cat-like spring, knocking a flower-
pot down into the area, and was by my side. I lit two candles on
the writing-table and scolded him for his recklessness. He told me
had made a great deal of money by jumping from a stand on to
tables and things and once he had won L500 by jumping on to a
mantelpiece when the fire was burning. As we were talking I heard
voices in the area; Peter, with the instinct of a burglar,
instantly lay flat on the floor behind the sofa, his head under
the valance of the chintz, and I remained at the writing-table,
smoking my cigarette; this was all done in a second. The door
opened; I looked round and was blinded by the blaze of a bull's-
eye lantern. When it was removed from my face, I saw two
policemen, an inspector and my father's servant. I got up slowly
and, with my head in the air, sat upon the arm of the sofa,
blocking the only possibility of Peter's full length being seen.
MARGOT (with great dignity): "Is this a practical joke?"
INSPECTOR (coolly): "Not at all, madam, but it is only right to
tell you a hansom cabman informed us that, as he was passing this
house a few minutes ago, he saw a man jump into that window."
He walked away from me and, holding his lantern over the area,
peered down and saw the broken flower-pot. I knew lying was more
than useless and, as the truth had always served me well, I said,
giving my father's servant, who looked sleepy, a heavy kick on the
"That is quite true; a friend of mine DID jump in at that window,
about a quarter of an hour ago; but (looking down with a sweet an
modest smile) he was not a burglar ..."
HENRY HILL (my father's servant): "How often I've told you, miss,
that, as long as Master Edward loses his latch-keys, there is
nothing to be done and something is bound to happen! One day he
will not only lose the latch-key, but his life."
INSPECTOR: "I'm sorry to have frightened you, madam, I will now
take down your names ..."
MARGOT (anxiously): "Oh, I see, you have to report it in the
police news, have you? Has the cabman given you his name? He ought
to be rewarded, he might have saved us all!"
I felt that I could have strangled the cabman, but, collecting
myself, took one candle off the writing-table and, blowing the
other out, led the way to the library-door, saying slowly:
"Margaret... Emma... Alice Tennant. Do I have to add my
INSPECTOR (busily writing in a small note-book): "No, thank you."
(Turning to Hill) "Your name, please."
My father's servant was thoroughly roused and I regretted my kick
when in a voice of thunder he said:
"Henry Hastings Appleby Hill."
I felt quite sure that my father would appear over the top of the
stair and then all would be over; but, by the fortune that follows
the brave, perfect silence reigned throughout the house. I walked
slowly away, while Hill led the three policemen into the hall.
When the front door had been barred and bolted, I ran down the
back stairs and said, smiling brightly:
"I shall tell my father all about this! You did very well; good
When the coast was clear, I returned to the library with my heart
beating and shut the door. Peter had disentangled himself from the
sofa and was taking fluff off his coat with an air of happy
disengagement; I told him with emphasis that I was done for, that
my name would be ringing in the police news next day and that I
was quite sure by the inspector's face that he knew exactly what
had happened; that all this came from Peter's infernal temper,
idiotic jealousy and complete want of self-control. Agitated and
eloquent, I was good for another ten minutes' abuse; but he
interrupted me by saying, in his most caressing manner:
"The inspector is all right, my dear! He is a friend of mine! I
wouldn't have missed this for the whole world: you were
magnificent! Which shall we reward, the policeman, the cabman or
MARGOT: "Don't be ridiculous! What do you propose doing?"
PETER (trying to kiss my hands which I had purposely put behind my
back): "I propose having a chat with Inspector Wood and then with
MARGOT: "How do you know Inspector Wood, as you call him?"
PETER: "He did a friend of mine a very good turn once."
MARGOT: "What sort of turn?"
PETER: "Sugar Candy insulted me at the Turf and I was knocking him
into a jelly in Brick Street, when Wood intervened and saved his
life. I can assure you he would do anything in the world for me
and I'll make it all right! He shall have a handsome present."
MARGOT: "How vulgar! Having a brawl in Brick Street! How did you
come to be in the East-end?"
PETER: "East-end! Why, it's next to Down Street, out of
MARGOT: "It's very wrong to bribe the police, Peter!"
PETER: "I'm not going to bribe him, governess! I'm going to give
him my Airedale terrier."
MARGOT: "What! That brute that killed the lady's lap-dog?"
PETER: "The very same!"
MARGOT: "God help poor Wood!"
Peter was so elated with this shattering escapade that a week
after--on the occasion of another row, in which I pointed out that
he was the most selfish man in the world--I heard him whistling
under my bedroom window at midnight. Afraid lest he should wake my
parents, I ran down in my dressing-gown to open the front door,
but nothing would induce the chain to move. It was a newly
acquired habit of the servants, started by Henry Hill from the
night he had barred out the police. Being a hopeless mechanic and
particularly weak in my fingers, I gave it up and went to the open
window in the library. I begged him to go away, as nothing would
induce me to forgive him, and I told him that my papa had only
just retired to bed.
Peter, unmoved, ordered me to take the flower-pots off the
window-sill, or he would knock them down and make a horrible
noise, which would wake the whole house. After I had refused to do
this, he said he would very likely break his neck when he jumped,
as clearing the pots would mean hitting his head against the
window frame. Fearing an explosion of temper, I weakly removed the
flower-pots and watched his acrobatic feat with delight.
We had not been talking on the sofa for more than five minutes
when I heard a shuffle of feet outside the library-door. I got up
with lightning rapidity and put out the two candles on the
writing-table with the palms of my hands, returning noiselessly
to Peter's side on the sofa, where we sat in black darkness, The
door opened and my father came in holding a bedroom candle in his
hand; he proceeded to walk stealthily round the room, looking at
his pictures. The sofa on which we were sitting was in the window
and had nothing behind it but tile curtains. He held his candle
high and close to every picture in turn and, putting his head
forward, scanned them with tenderness and love. I saw Peter's
idiotic hat and stick under the Gainsborough and could not resist
nudging him as "The Ladies Erne and Dillon" were slowly
approached. A candle held near one's face is the most blinding of
all things and, after inspecting the sloping shoulders and anaemic
features of the Gainsborough ladies, my father, quietly humming to
himself, returned to his bed.
Things did not always go so smoothly with us. One night Peter
suggested that I should walk away with him from the ball and try
an American trotter which had been lent to him by a friend. As it
was a glorious night, I thought it might be rather fun, so we
walked down Grosvenor Street into Park Lane; and there stood the
buggy under a lamp. American trotters always appear to be
misshapen; they are like coloured prints that are not quite in
drawing and have never attracted me.
After we had placed ourselves firmly in the rickety buggy, Peter
said to the man as he took the reins:
"Let him go, please!"
And go he did, with a curious rapid, swaying waddle. There was no
traffic and we turned into the Edgware Road towards Hendon at a
great pace, but Peter was a bad driver and after a little time
said his arms ached and he thought it was time the "damned" horse
was made to stop.
"I'm told the only way to stop an American trotter," said he, "is
to hit him over the head." At this I took the whip out of the
socket and threw it into the road.
Peter, maddened by my action, shoved the reins into my hands,
saying he would jump out. I did not take the smallest notice of
this threat, but slackened the reins, after which we went quite
slowly. I need hardly say Peter did not jump out, but suggested
with severity that we should go back and look for the whip.
This was the last thing I intended to do, so when we turned I
leant back in my seat and tugged at the trotter with all my might,
and we flew home without uttering a single word.
I was an excellent driver, but that night had taxed all my powers
and, when we pulled up at the corner of Grosvenor Square, I ached
in every limb. We were not in the habit of arriving together at
the front door; and after he had handed me down to the pavement I
felt rather awkward: I had no desire to break the silence, but
neither did I want to take away Peter's coat, which I was wearing,
so I said tentatively:
"Shall I give you your covert-coat?"
PETER: "Don't be childish! How can you walk back to the front door
in your ball-dress? If any one happened to be looking out of the
window, what would they think?"
This was really more than I could bear. I wrenched off his coat
and placing it firmly on his arm, said:
"Most people, if they are sensible, are sound asleep at this time
of the night, but I thank you all the same for your
We turned testily away from each other and I walked home alone.
When I reached our front door my father opened it and, seeing me
in my white tulle dress, was beside himself with rage. He asked me
if I would kindly explain what I was doing, walking in the streets
in my ball-dress at two in the morning. I told him exactly what
had happened and warned him soothingly never to buy an American
trotter; he told me that my reputation was ruined, that his was
also and that my behaviour would kill my mother; I put my arms
round his neck, told him soothingly that I had not really enjoyed
myself AT ALL and promised him that I would never do it again. By
this time my mother had come out of her bedroom and was leaning
over the staircase in her dressing-gown. She said in a pleading
"Pray do not agitate yourself, Charlie. You've done a very wrong
action, Margot! You really ought to have more consideration for
your father: no one knows how impressionable he is. ... Please
tell Mr. Flower that we do not approve of him at all! ..."
MARGOT: "You are absolutely right, dear mamma, and that is exactly
what I have said to him more than once. But you need not worry,
for no one saw us. Let's go to bed, darling, I'm dog-tired!"
Peter was thoroughly inconsequent about money and a great gambler;
he told me one day in sorrow that his only chance of economising
was to sell his horses and go to India to shoot big game,
incidentally escaping his creditors.
When Peter went to India I was very unhappy, but to please my
people I told them I would say good-bye and not write to him for a
year, a promise which was faithfully kept.
While he was away, a young man of rank and fortune fell in love
with me out hunting. He never proposed, he only declared himself.
I liked him particularly, but his attention sat lightly on me;
this rather nettled him and he told me one day riding home in the
dark, that he was sure I must be in love with somebody else. I
said that it did not at all follow and that, if he were wise he
would stop talking about love and go and buy himself some good
horses for Leicestershire, where I was going in a week to hunt
with Lord Manners. We were staying together at Cholmondeley
Castle, in Cheshire, with my beloved friend, Winifred
Cholmondeley, [Footnote: The Marchioness of Cholmondeley.] then
Lady Rocksavage. My new young man took my advice and went up to
London, promising he would lend me "two of the best that money
could buy" to take to Melton, where he proposed shortly to follow
When he arrived at Tattersalls there were several studs of well-
known horses being sold: Jack Trotter's, Sir William Eden's and
Lord Lonsdale's. Among the latter was a famous hunter, called Jack
Madden, which had once belonged to Peter Flower; and my friend
determined he would buy it for me. Some one said to him:
"I don't advise you to buy that horse, as you won't be able to
(The fellow who related this to me added, "As you know, Miss
Tennant, this is the only certain way by which you can sell any
Another man said: "I don't agree with you, the horse is all
right; when it belonged to Flower I saw Miss Margot going like a
bird on it. ..."
MY FRIEND: "Did Miss Tennant ride Flower's horses?"
At this the other fellow said:
"Why, my dear man, where HAVE you lived! ..."
Some months after I had ridden Jack Madden and my own horses over
high Leicestershire, my friend came to see me and asked me to
swear on my Bible oath that I would not give him away over a
secret which he intended to tell me.
After I had taken my solemn oath he said: "Your friend Peter
Flower in India was going to be put in the bankruptcy court and
turned out of every club in London; so I went to Sam Lewis and
paid his debt, but I don't want him to know about it and he never
need, unless you tell him."
MARGOT: "What does he owe? And whom does he owe it to?"
MY FRIEND: "He owes ten thousand pounds, but I'm not at liberty to
tell you who it's to; he is a friend of mine and a very good
fellow. I can assure you that he has waited longer than most
people would for Flower to pay him and I think he's done the right
MARGOT: "Is Peter Flower a friend of yours?"
MY FRIEND: "I don't know him by sight and have never spoken to him
in my life, but he's the man you're in love with and that is
enough for me."
. . . . . . .
When the year was up and Peter--for all I knew--was still in
India, I had made up my mind that, come what might, I would never,
under any circumstances, renew my relations with him.
That winter I was staying with the Manners, as usual, and finding
myself late for a near meet cut across country. Larking is always
a stupid thing to do; horses that have never put a foot wrong
generally refuse the smallest fence and rather than upset them at
the beginning of the day you end by going through the gate, which
you had better have done at first.
I had a mare called Molly Bawn, given to me by my fiance, who was
the finest timber-jumper in Leicestershire, and, seeing the people
at the meet watching me as I approached, I could not resist, out
of pure swagger, jumping an enormous gate. I said to myself how
disgusted Peter would have been at my vulgarity! But at the same
time it put me in good spirits. Something, however, made me turn
round; I saw a man behind me, jumping the fence beside my gate;
and there was Peter Flower! He was in tearing spirits and told me
with eagerness how completely he had turned over a new leaf and
never intended doing this, that or the other again, as far the
most wonderful thing had happened to him that ever happened to any
"I'm under a lucky star, Margie! By heavens I am! And the joy of
seeing you is SO GREAT that I won't allude to the gate, or Molly
Bawn, or you, or any thing ugly! Let us enjoy ourselves for once;
and for God's sake don't scold me. Are you glad to see me? Let me
look at you! Which do you love best, Molly Bawn or me? Don't
answer but listen."
He then proceeded to tell me how his debts had been paid by Sam
Lewis--the money-lender--through an unknown benefactor and how he
had begged Lewis to tell who it was, but that he had refused,
having taken his oath never to reveal the name. My heart beat and
I said a remarkably stupid thing:
"How wonderful! But you'll have to pay him back, Peter, won't
PETER: "Oh, indeed! Then perhaps you can tell me who it is ..."
MARGOT: "How can I?"
PETER: "Do you know who it is?"
MARGOT: "I do not."
I felt the cock ought to have crowed, but I said nothing; and
Peter was so busy greeting his friends in the field that I prayed
he had not observed my guilty face.
Some days after this there was a race meeting at Leicester. Lord
Lonsdale took a special at Oakham for the occasion and the
Manners, Peter and I all went to the races. When I walked into the
paddock, I saw my new friend--the owner of Jack Madden--talking to
the Prince of Wales. When we joined them, the Prince suggested
that we should go and see Mrs. Langtry's horse start, as it was a
great rogue and difficult to mount.
As we approached the Langtry horse, the crowd made way for us and
I found my friend next to me; on his other side was Peter Flower
and then the Prince. The horse had his eyes bandaged and one of
his forelegs was being held by a stable-boy. When the jockey was
up and the bandage removed, it jumped into the air and gave an
extended and violent buck. I was standing so near that I felt the
draught of its kick on my hair. At this my friend gave a slight
scream and, putting his arm round me, pulled me back towards him.
A miss is as good as a mile, so after thanking him for his
protection I chatted cheerfully to the Prince of Wales.
There is nothing so tiring as racing and we all sat in perfect
silence going home in the special that evening.
Neither at dinner nor after had I any opportunity of speaking to
Peter, but I observed a singularly impassive expression on his
face. The next day--being Sunday--I asked him to go round the
stables with me after church; he refused, so I went alone. After
dinner I tried again to talk to him, but he would not answer; he
did not look angry, but he appeared to be profoundly sad, which
depressed me. He told Hoppy Manners he was not going to hunt that
week as he feared he would have to be in London. My heart sank. We
all went to our rooms early and Peter remained downstairs reading.
As he never read in winter I knew there was something seriously
wrong, so I went down in my tea-gown to see him. It was nearly
midnight. The room was empty and we were alone. He never looked
MARGOT: "Peter, you've not spoken to me once since the races. What
can have happened?"
PETER: "I would rather you left me, PLEASE. ... Pray go back to
MARGOT (sitting on the sofa beside him): "Won't you speak to me
and tell me all about it?"
Peter put down his book, and looking at me steadily, said very
"I'd rather not speak to a liar!"
I stood up as if I had been shot and said:
"How dare you say such a thing!"
PETER: "You lied to me."
PETER: "You know perfectly well! And you are in love! You know you
are. Will you deny it?"
"Oh! it's this that worries you, is it?" said I sweetly. "What
would you say if I told you I was NOT?"
PETER: "I would say you were lying again."