Intro Book VII


Introduction to Book VII

THE seventh volume covers little more than a year, beginning in June 1862 and ending in August 1863. It includes no great private event except the diarist’s appointment as a Maid-of-Honour to the Queen. She did not actually begin duty till later, but there is a good deal of ” Maid-of-Honourums ” (as the Glynnese language calls talk on that subject) in the latter part of this volume. She receives many letters of con-gratulation, which make her feel as if she ” were going to be married.” And, whether she yet knew of it or not, there are the first signs of that. The Diary opens with a visit to Cambridge with her father, who received an honorary degree. I have heard Sir George Trevelyan, who travelled to Cambridge, as she records, in the same carriage with them, speak of the impression made on him by her charm and beauty, contrasting with the almost uncouth appearance of her father. She gives a lively account of the granting of the degrees, over which the new Chancellor, the Duke of Devonshire, presided. One of the recipients was his son Lord Hartington, whom he of course addressed, to the amusement of the audience, as ” Vir illustrissime.” This seems to have been her first sight of her future relations. Lord Hartington asked her to dance at one of the Cambridge balls, but, characteristically, ” fell through ” ; and a few months later she and her father went to stay at Chatsworth, where she felt very shy. There she first met her future husband, but nothing particular is said of him. The next summer he reappears and dances with her at two ” breakfasts ” at Chiswick; and comes to what she calls a ” clever breakfast ” at Downing Street. But there is no sign of any exceptional interest in him as yet.

The principal public event here recorded is the marriage of the Prince of Wales, at which Lucy Lyttelton was present. And, through her grandmother, she has opportunities of knowing at first hand the delightful impression of beauty, of charm, and of affection made on her future relations, even before her marriage, by the Princess of Wales who was afterwards loved by the whole nation both as Princess and as Queen.

Meanwhile the diarist continues her busy life, whether in London or at Hagley. She is always glad to get out of London ; yet she gives pleasant and pleased accounts of many of the ” seventeen balls, eight parties, nine dinner-parties, eight private concerts, besides breakfasts of different sorts,” which were the chief features of her season in 1863. But Hagley, not London, was home : there were her beloved little sisters and brothers ; there the servants were so delighted to see her that ” it goes to my heart.” Besides, Hagley was the country ; and in the country she found other things, too, not easily to be had in London, which she dearly loved. She writes on February 7th, 1863, when staying with her cousins the Watsons at Rockingham Castle : ” Lovely weather. I dressed with window wide open ; birds all singing in the soft air ; have heard of pear-blossoms 1″ So at Hagley in May of the same year : ” Sarina and I, with the little boys, had a charming walk thro’ Wickberry wood and over the obelisk hill. O dear, dear ! the soft smiling loveliness of everything ! and the springtide of the trees, grass, and garden, gives a positive exhilaration to one’s feelings.” ” How old to write of, how new to see ! ” as Edward Fitzgerald said ! But a diarist who never mentions the spring, though the ever-new feelings can only find such old words, can only be half alive.

The old routine of lessons with the children, visits in the parish, private reading, croquet, archery, billiards, and cards goes on at Hagley as before. The visit to Cambridge introduces her to bowls, which she plays with ” great enjoyment.” Another side of her is seen in her note, on Trinity Sunday, 1862, that she received the Holy Communion for the hundredth time. Church matters, of course, occupy a good deal of space. It is curious to notice that as, in previous volumes, she recorded the immense crowds at the Brighton churches, so here we find an entry on a Sunday in London in June 1862: ” Every Church overflows : Charles tried to get a place in three or four vainly this morning.” This eldest brother is a source of great pride to her : she quotes Lady Wenlock as calling him ” the hand¬somest man she had seen for a long time ” ; and she records the ” immense compliment ” of his being elected to the famous ” Apostles ” Club at Cambridge.
There are a few items of fact which now seem a long way off. She goes in an omnibus for the first time. That, however, is not so remarkable ; for I have known a lady who never went in one till after the War. She mentions a curious pyramidal system of wearing the hair. She notes her father having a tooth out under chloroform and the surprising fact that he felt no pain. She sees a brother, for the first time, go shooting ” in horrid knickerbockers.” She notes that the Row is crowded between 1 and 2, so that it is a pity the Prince and Princess should ride at that hour. And she records —what I suspect would not be easily paralleled at Eton or any other school to-day—that her brother Neville ” has got on famously at Eton with Italian ” ; so that when he comes home she reads Tasso with him. Her own studies, beside many religious books, include a certain amount of Italian and French, and the whole of Alison’s ” Europe ” ; while the poets she quotes or mentions include Wordsworth, Coleridge, Cowper, and Worsley’s translation of the ” Odyssey.”