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

_Lord John Russell to Lady Fanny Elliot_

DOWNING STREET, _July_ 3, 1841

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

WILTON CRESCENT, _July_ 4, 1841

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

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

MINTO, _July_ 19, 1841

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

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


AIR: “_Saw ye my father_”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MARY MINTO, _July_, 1841

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PORTO FERRAJO, December 25, 1814 [22]

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

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

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

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

_F. R._ Yes, but uncultivated.

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

_F. R._ And of the Grandees.

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

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

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

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

_N._ Ils succomberaient.

_F. R._ Yes, Sire.

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

_F. R._ Cadiz must be very strong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_N._ True.

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

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

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

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

He asked many questions three times over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The conscription produced 300,000 men yearly.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

_Lord John Russell to the Duke of Bedford_

ENDSLEIGH, _October_ 13, 1841

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

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

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



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

BOWHILL, _July_ 29, 1841

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

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

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

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

WILTON CRESCENT, _August_ 14, 1841

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

WILTON CRESCENT, _August_ 15, 1841

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

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

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

WILTON CRESCENT, _August_ 28, 1841

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

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

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

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

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

ENDSLEIGH, _October_ 22, 1841

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

“Inhuman man–curse on thy barbarous art.”

Inhuman woman to countenance his barbarity!

ENDSLEIGH, _October_ 26, 1841

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

ENDSLEIGH, _November_ 11, 1841

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

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

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

_Lord John Russell to Lady Minto_

ENDSLEIGH, _November_ 23, 1841

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

They could not take a long holiday, although Lord John was now in Opposition. Early in February the great Anti-Corn Law League bazaar was held at Manchester, and a few days later Peel carried his sliding scale: 20s. duty when corn was 57s., 12s. when the price was 60s., and 1s. when it reached 73s. Lord John proposed an amendment in favour of a fixed duty of 8s.

CHESHAM PLACE, [23] _February_ 14, 1842

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

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

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

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

_Lord Minto to Lady Mary Abercromby_

LONDON, _March_ 1, 1843

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

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

Your affectionate,


_Lady Minto to Lord John Russell_

MINTO, _March_ 5, 1842

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

_February_ 7, 1843

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

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

Ever, my dearest Mary, your most affectionate sister.

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

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

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

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


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

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

_February_ 15, 1844

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

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

LONDON, _February_ 2, 1845

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

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

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

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

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

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

EDINBURGH, _December_ 2, 1845

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

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

EDINBURGH, _December_ 8, 1845

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

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

LONDON, _December_ 10, 1845

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

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

OSBORNE HOUSE, _December_ 11th, 1845

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


_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _December_ 13, 1845

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

She wrote again on the 14th:

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

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

EDINBURGH, _December_ 14, 1845

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[24] Trevelyan’s “Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay.”

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

CHESHAM PLACE, _December_ 14, 1845

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

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

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

CHESHAM PLACE, _December_ 17, 1845

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

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

MINTO, _Sunday, December_ 21, 1845

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

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

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

CHESHAM PLACE, _December_ 19, 1845

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

CHESHAM PLACE, _December_ 20, 1845

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

CHESHAM PLACE, _December_ 21, 1845

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

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

MINTO, _December_ 24, 1845

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

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

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



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

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

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

LONDON, _January 23,_ 1846

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

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _January_ 25, 1846

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

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

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

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _January_ 26, 1846

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

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

EDINBURGH, _January 28_, 1846

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

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

CHESHAM PLACE, _February_ 1, 1846

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

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

MINTO, _February_ 7, 1846

I am glad you have a satisfactory letter from the doctor. A volunteered letter from him, as this was, must be a good sign…. I shall all my life regret not having been with you at this most interesting period in our political history; for the longest letters can but barely make up for the loss of the hourly chats upon each event with all its variations which are only known in London. Then, I think how sad it is for you to have nobody to care, as I should care, whether you had spoken well or ill. But all this and much more we must bear as cheerfully as we can; and I am glad to think that though _one wife_ is far from you, your other wife, the House of Commons, leaves you little time to spend in pining for her. I think you quite right in your intention of voting for Sir Robert’s measure as it is, in preference to any amendment which would not be carried, and might delay the settlement of the question. Not, as you well know, because I am not heart and soul a Free Trader, but because I think it a more patriotic, as well as a more consistent, course for you to take. Then if you come into office, as seems probable, you may make what improvements you like, and especially put an end to the miserable trifling about slave-grown sugar; a question in which I take a sentimental interest, as your first gift to me was your great sugar speech in 1841.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

HOUSE OF COMMONS, _February_ 9, 1846

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

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

CHESHAM PLACE, _February_ 16, 1846

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

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

CHESHAM PLACE, _February_ 21, 1846

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

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

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

_February_ 22, 1846

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

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

Minto, _February_ 23, 1846

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

[26] Lord John Russell’s brother.

_Lord William Russell to Lady John Russell_

Genoa, _February_ 12, 1846

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

I am very affectionately yours,


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

[27] Lady Mary Abercromby.

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

CHESHAM PLACE, _February_ 15, 1846

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

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

MINTO, _February_ 27, 1846

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

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_

MINTO, _March_ 1, 1846

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

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

CHESHAM PLACE, _March_ 3, 1846

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

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

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

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _March_ 12, 1846

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

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

HOUSE OF COMMONS, _March_, 1846

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

[29] Victoria.

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

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _March_ 19, 1846

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

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

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

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _March_ 23, 1846

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

_Lady John to Lord John Russell_

EDINBURGH, _March_ 25, 1846

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

_Lord John to Lady John Russell_

_April_ 3, 1846

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

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

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

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

_Lady John Russell to Lady Mary Abercromby_


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