Intro Book IX

SEPTEMBER 1864 – MAY 1866

Introduction to Book IX

THE ninth volume is the record of the first two years of Lady Frederick’s marriage. I suppose most girls when they marry find themselves at first in a strange country. Certainly Lady Frederick did, at least in some respects : for no two families could be less alike than the eager, talkative Lytteltons and the cautious, silent Cavendishes. The diary shows her great shyness with her father-in-law whom she suspects of wishing her ” at the bottom of the Baltic ” when she spends a day alone with him. He was one of the kindest and most modest of men and by no means one of the least able, but the natural Cavendish temperament had combined with ducal dignity to make him also one of the shyest. A duke was a Duke in those days, however simple his nature might be, and could not escape being treated, even by his family and friends, as a kind of being apart from the rest of the world. There was a sadder reason, too, for this Duke’s shyness. His children had been motherless even in their childhood. Before his eldest son was seven years old he had lost his adored wife, and he was a widower in heart as well as in law for all the fifty years he had yet to live. He could never bear to have his birthday mentioned, because it was the day on which his wife had died. He spent that day in seclusion with his memories and affections for his only company. And, as year followed year, he never forgot other days which belonged to her, such as the day on which he first saw her. One would have supposed that a man with such rare intensity of affection as this would have easily under¬stood and loved a daughter-in-law who had the same passionate affection for her own dear ones, especially for his son, and kept days and memories with the same tenacious loyalty. But the silent shyness of the father-in-law and the eager, voluble, not always tactful, enthusiasm of the daughter-in-law divided them more than their common gift of love and loyalty could unite them. She sometimes hoped they were getting easier, writing, for instance, to Mrs. Talbot in April, 1866:

” My tete-a-tete meals with my father-in-law, which I looked forward to with frightful trepidation (tete-a-tete-ums beyond*), did me real good ; they went off so well. I feel sure now that he is at his ease with me ; and that makes all the difference in the world. I have got over a good deal of shyness, I trust, for good and all.” But the shyness was never got rid of : or at least came back. There was great kindness on the one side, and great, even loving, respect on the other : but intimacy there never was.

Something of the same sort separated her from her magnificent and alarming brother-in-law, Lord Harting-ton, who indeed had far fewer points of likeness with her than his father. But she never was so afraid of him, I think, as of the Duke ; and to the end of his life she never hesitated to bombard him with appeals for charities, besides frequently sending him remonstrances on matters of political difference ; receiving cheques in answer to the first, and, what is more, letters of explanation in reply to the second. With her husband’s other brother, Lord Edward, and his only sister, Lady Louisa, she was on the most affectionate and intimate terms from the first. Their marriages are among the greatest private events of this volume. Nothing brings out more both the affectionateness of her nature and its incapacity to bridge the gulf between her and her husband’s father than a letter she wrote to her sister Meriel at the time of her sister-in-law’s engagement. After speaking of the joy of it, she goes on : ” I cried for a long while, thinking of the poor Duke.
Take in he has never been separated from Lou except for a day or two at a time since his wife died. . . . If I could only kiss him and call him something it would be a help.”

About Lady Frederick’s happiness with her husband there never was a moment’s doubt. She writes on April 6th, 1865 :
” This day last year I went up to London, my heart full of excitement and uncertainty ; and met Fred at dinner in Carlton House Terrace. Don’t I remember how he took me in when he should have taken Lady Laura Palmer, and how my appetite walked off ! Oh, how happy now is the feeling of changeless trust and repose in each other’s love ! This happiness makes me awestruck and half frightened by its very greatness.”

The only blank page in her book of happiness, a page never destined to be filled, was that no child came to crown the marriage. This was a great and growing grief ; but it belonged to the generosity of her nature that, as all who saw her in those years and the years that followed recall, she welcomed the children of Lady Louisa and Lady Edward with eager affection and never showed the smallest touch of jealousy at the happiness she was not to share. If her husband had lived he was to have succeeded to Holker on the Duke’s death ; and of course if he had had children they would ultimately, as things turned out, have succeeded to the Dukedom. But she loved all her nephews and nieces, her husband’s as well as her own ; and certainly not least the children who took the place which her own would have taken : indeed, she early won and always kept all their hearts. Nor did she ever show, I am told, the slightest feeling at the loss of what, even without children, would naturally have been her husband’s and so hers. When her father stayed at Holker a few months after her marriage she and he ” sat long looking down over the sea on the further Cap Side : radiant summer sunshine bathing everything in beauty and the overarching firmament smiling upon us.” And he said to her as they sat, ” Well, this is a goodly heritage, isn’t it ? ” It was : but it never came to her ; and though she visited it at least once every year till near her death, no one ever saw a sign of her thinking that she ought to have been there not as guest but as mistress.

The home she had as her own was in London. When in the country the Frederick Cavendishes lived at the Duke’s houses, Chatsworth, Holker, Bolton, and Hard¬wicke ; in London they had their own house, No. 21 Carlton House Terrace, close to the Gladstones, who lived at No. 11. Much of this volume is occupied, as are innumerable letters to Lady Louisa, with the business of furnishing and getting into this house, which remained Lady Frederick’s home till within a few years of her death. There is much talk of economy, and one notes that they had matting instead of a carpet in their bedroom, which does not sound luxurious. Yet somehow the ” monster bills,” as she calls them, for furniture, linen, and other domestic apparatus come to over £3,000 which seems a good deal for those cheap days. Anyhow, there they settled and there they lived their London life ; especially the political part of it, which was ever more closely linked with that of the Gladstones. Frederick Cavendish came into Parliament in 1865, unopposed, for the West Riding of Yorkshire, and from thenceforth till his death politics took up most of his life. His wife, of course, found herself getting ” desperately political ” too ; but thinks that need not necessarily make her ” an odious woman.” She still calls her husband ” wicked Radical Fred,” but she naturally grows more and more Liberal herself, and is inclined to grumble at her eldest brother’s clinging to Conservatism. She goes continually to the House of Commons : especially, of course, when her husband speaks. He moved the Address in 1866, and she received a great many congratulations on his success, those which pleased her most coming from Hartington : ” Wasn’t it nice of him,” she writes to Lady Louisa, ” when he must have had his head full (of the secret of his new appointment to the War Office) to come straight up to the Ladies’ Gallery to say how good he thought it ? ” Lord Frederick was, in sober truth, never much of a speaker ; but there was character, sense, and knowledge in what he said : and he soon won respect, though he never aroused enthusiasm.

Life in London was divided between politics, society, and good works. Lady Frederick now began the regular visits to workhouses and hospitals and the attendance at the committees of various charities which she carried on for so many years with devoted energy, enthusiasm, and self-denial. In the country, too, she and her sisters-in-law gave much of their time to cottage visits. For the rest, there was continual riding both in London and the country ; and we hear also of hunting and skating as well as of a great deal of shooting. She constantly records the head of game killed, particularly if her ” Fred ” had killed most. Meanwhile she and he got through a great deal of reading. Carlyle, Mill, Fawcett, Bishop Butler, Hume, Lingard, Guizot, Merivale, Milton, Scott, Jane Austen, are among the authors mentioned, beside a great many devotional works.

Of public events there are the deaths of Lincoln and Palmerston ; the first signs of the shadow of Ireland which was to darken her whole life ; cholera abroad and cattle disease at home. Of social habits now obsolete and forgotten, perhaps the most curious are concerned with clothes. We hear that Lady Louisa and Lady Edward ” have each got fine black velvet gowns with trains a yard and more behind them.” And Lady Frederick is ” triumphant at starting the under servants minus crinoline during their work ! ” It is also rather strange to-day to read that Gladstone persuaded the House of Commons to adjourn its Cornmittees because of the public fast appointed to be observed in the Diocese of London on account of the cattle disease ; and that the surprise was, not that the House adjourned, but that it was not unanimous about doing so.

As to that silence of the Cavendishes, to which I have just been alluding, and the extreme lengths to which they could carry it, a story is told by Sir Algernon West in his Recollections (I. 272) which did not come to my notice till after this Introduction was in type. He relates that the 5th Duke of Devonshire and his brother (afterwards first Earl of Burlington and great-grandfather of Lord Frederick) were travelling to Yorkshire and ” were shown into a three-bedded room. The curtains of one of the four-posters were drawn. Each brother in turn looked in, and went to bed. Towards the close of the next day’s posting one brother said to the other : ‘ Did you see what was in that bed last night ? ‘ Yes, brother,’ was the only reply. They had both seen a corpse.”

But it must not be supposed that this hereditary brevity and dryness of speech in any way implied hardness of heart. It was quite the contrary, at any rate in the generation known to Lady Frederick. She will presently show us all the three brothers, including Hartington, the most ” Cavendish ” of them all, breaking down into tears at their sister’s wedding.