Appendix C – Early Life

APPENDIX C
LADY FREDERICK CAVENDISH : A NOTE ON HER EARLY LIFE
BY HER SISTER LAVINIA

MY sister Meriel’s marriage in July 1860 made a great change at Hagley, and for four years Lucy reigned in Meriel’s place. She was close on nineteen then, and so pretty and lively, very slight, with an expressive, ” mobile ” face, which never changed in outline though she became rather stout soon after thirty. It was a face few forgot, even if seldom seen, and I always loved it. She was gifted in several ways, knew any amount of poetry by heart, and wrote little poems herself. And she could draw rather clever little nonsense things of ridiculous ” situations,” but she never learnt drawing properly. Hers, too, was a fine power of expression in writing ; in all her many letters from fifteen years old you seldom or never find an awkward phrasing or an ill-spent word or a wordy dull style. She had, perhaps, a portion of my father’s scholarship, though not, I need not say, as a classical student, but in love of language and style. She was very fond of the French language and freely used it, as my grandmother did, and she was a mistress of ” Glynnese,” delighting in it keenly.

Religion was everything to her, and from my father she assimilated, with depth of conviction, the quiet but most enthusiastic Tractarian love of the Church of England and its worship. She loved all Matins and Evensong, and rarely failed in attending one or the other daily if possible. Her beautiful reverence for, and devotion to, the Holy Communion were striking and impressive to us children, and always.

Lucy had a great influence over me, and when I was confirmed it was from her that I gained the most on the spiritual and deepest aspects of Confirmation. She took infinite pains in the holidays with six out of the eight brothers from Cambridge and school, arranging readings aloud, French lessons, and even dancing.

For May (my sister next to me) and myself, I think we both delighted in much that she did for us. She brightenedup our rather monotonous schoolroom life by often coming to tea and telling us with much vivacity and many jokes of any visit she had been on with my father or alone, and any interesting or amusing grown-up incidents. And then her readings aloud were charming, and our rides with her. These last were a little clouded by Lucy’s love of capping verses with us, or exacting from us little horrid rhymes. She was a fearless rider, and sat well without the third pummel, but her hand was not good. The house felt dull and quiet without her, but at times we were rather restive under a rather impatient rule, and she was often put out with us. Girls in early teens are mostly rather unattractive and often a little morbid. She excelled more with the boys, and perhaps specially with Edward and Alfred whose first nine years of life she had so much to do with, and with whom she was excellent to the last degree, controlling any impatience and irritation. Her great love of teaching and delightful playful ways in the lesson-time made her so loved by the ” little boys.” I know how gratefully Alfred, in grown-up days, spoke of Lucy’s teaching of the Bible and of what the Church meant and should be to them. When he became aware of his dangerous condition in his last illness, it was Lucy he asked might be sent for to come to him, sure of the deeply spiritual comfort and inspiration she would bring him.

It is curious to remember how much and how often, before she married, she referred to having children of her own, and the many plans she had for them ; and sad to think that, after all, the great joy and privilege of having children should not have been hers. In spite of the profound lifelong sorrow over her husband’s tragic murder, I should say with certainty that the most poignant, deepest sorrow of all was her childlessness. If it had been that she had had boys and girls of her own, I think a defect in her would have become less marked ; for there was a defect in a certain absence of getting really to know those about her. She was so animated, so full of ideas cherished and thought out, and she was so good a talker, that she was not equally perceptive and discerning in ” taking in ” or understanding the real nature and individual tendencies and ways of others. One felt that she would be surprised and shocked if she knew of difficulties and thoughts with which she was not much conversant ; and perhaps her vivid wish to pass on to you what she had thrashed out for herself or gathered from books and life prevented her from giving the time and deep attention to find out similar things in others. And she had, besides, a curious inability to remember or take in people she did not know or see, however much they were spoken of. So, friends of brothers and sisters, for instance, would remain almost unknown to her, as she rarely made them out as some would have. But take her all round, I think Lucy’s character was the noblest and most beautiful I have known. Her bearing on her husband’s death, the wonderful spirit in which she faced the furnace of suffering and weakness for ten years, her deep love for us all, her interest in great things, her self-discipline and deep inner life of devotion, her never-failing loyalty to relations and friends, and to the very end with the sparkle of wit and fun,—all this and more stands out before me as I write and as I look back over all she was to me from the early days of my girlhood, so blessed by her presence and example.