Intro Book XII


Introduction to Book XII
LADY FREDERICK’S life in this volume gets more and more occupied and crowded. Social pleasures and duties still occupy a great deal of time, especially as she frequently undertakes the duty of chaperoning not only her younger sisters but also her cousin, Gertrude Glynne. This, with political and other parties, in itself makes a fairly full life. Here is the record of a single week, chosen at random, in May, 1872. Monday, Ball at Mrs. Ralli’s. Tuesday, party at the Gladstones’ in the afternoon to hear a Mr. Pennington read Shakespeare ; another party later at Buckingham Palace to meet the German Empress. Wednesday, dinner at Lord Brown-low’s ; evening party (” drum “) at Lady Louisa Mills’s ; ball at Lady Bristol’s. Thursday, breakfast at the Gladstones’ to meet the King of the Belgians ; ” drum ” at Devonshire House. Friday, ball at Bridgewater House. Saturday, dinner party at her father’s house. And these things were only one side of her activities. She rides in the park with her husband most days. On the Monday of this week she went to St. George’s in the East Workhouse and to the London Hospital. The Thursday was Ascension Day, and she and her husband went to church in the morning, and she again by herself in the evening. On the Saturday she went to the Academy. The only thing uncharacteristic in this week is the small amount of charitable work it includes. The Monday East-End engagement is invariable, but there are generally others beside. In many or most of these good works she was a disciple and colleague of her beloved and wonderful aunt, Mrs. Gladstone, with whom of course she also shared family and political interests and activities. They were in some respects remarkably alike, though Lady Frederick was not quite so unmethodical and haphazard as Mrs. Gladstone, whose doings of all sorts were a series of erratic surprises incalculable beforehand even to her nearest friends. Her daughter, Mrs. Drew, has expressed the wonder that they did not drive wild a man so busy and so methodical as Mr. Gladstone. But somehow or other, as is well known, the harmony between the husband, whose life was built on order and exact information, and the wife, whose life may almost be said to have been built on disorder and inaccuracy, was always beautifully perfect. And between the less contrasted aunt and niece there was an almost equally wonderful union. Mrs. Drew once wrote in a letter to Lady Frederick : ” But what strikes me afresh and anew is how marvellously, miraculously, you jumped with her, crept with her, flew with her. Whatever her pace, you kept up ; whatever she needed, there you were, living, so to speak, in her pocket, always ready to fall in with her, and dovetail, and swap butlers, and supply meals, beds, cooks, or carriages at a moment’s notice. Was ever a miraculous aunt so blessed with a miraculous niece ? And Freddy, who might have been driven crazy, loved it, revelled in it, enjoyed it to the hilt. Can’t you see his wink and hers ? ”

This miraculously dovetailing intimacy in private affairs and public is written all over the later volumes of the Diary. In some ways, of course, the aunt and niece were very different. Lady Frederick possessed a hundred times as much of the knowledge that is to be got from books as Mrs. Gladstone. Mrs. Gladstone could not for her life have written such pages of this volume as those, for instance, which state the case against public recitation of the Athanasian Creed, or, where Lady Frederick was still more at home, the case, partly political and partly ecclesiastical, against the Nonconformist position on the Burials Bill, or that against the Radical and Secularist as well as Nonconformist attitude towards the Voluntary Schools. If political issues were decided by reason and logic, it seems to me, at any rate, that no one can read what she says so clearly and forcibly on these questions without feeling that her case is unanswerable. But of course political issues can never be decided by reason : only by so much reason as the prejudices of unreasoning people will submit to. And Lady Frederick could not even convert her own husband to the policy of resisting the Burials Bill : nor has the unreason of passing it led to any particular trouble, whereas the reasonable course of not passing it would almost certainly have produced mischievous results.

Lord Frederick is seen in this volume beginning his official career. He became private secretary to Mr. Gladstone in July, 1872, and a Lord of the Treasury in August, 1873. It is characteristic of the patriarchal manners of those times that Lady Frederick writes : ” Of course F. can’t accept without asking the Duke, so went off to Holker this evening.” He was then nearly 37 Gladstone at first thought of making him Whip ; but Lady Frederick was no doubt wiser than her uncle when she judges him to be not quick enough for the work of a Whip, beside being too scrupulous and perhaps too inclined to enthusiasm ; neither of them qualities convenient in the Whips’ Office.

The three years of this volume show the Gladstone Ministry in ever-increasing difficulties, deserved and undeserved, till they culminate in the defeat of 1874. At that election Frederick Cavendish was for the first time opposed ; and Lady Frederick seems greatly to have enjoyed the excitements of the election, though the wives of modern candidates will greatly envy her the little or no part she was herself, in those unfeminine days, called upon to play. Her only grievance was that in the hospitable and well-feeding manufacturers’ houses in which they stayed there was never an easy-chair in her bedroom and seldom a book anywhere !

The private events recorded in this volume include the deaths of her two Glynne uncles, and of her husband’s uncle, Lord Richard Cavendish, to whom—partly because, unlike most Caven dishes, he was a strong High Churchman—she was greatly attached ; and the marriage of her cousin, Agnes Gladstone, to Dr. Wickham, Head Master of Wellington and afterwards Dean of Lincoln. Sir Stephen Glynne was the last Glynne owner of the Hawarden estate. When the estate, years before, had become involved and was in danger of being compulsorily sold, Mr. Gladstone had made an arrangement with his two brothers-in-law to purchase the reversion, ” not for himself but for one of his sons,” as Lady Frederick says ; ” it being a hobby of his not to deprive a father of a hold over his sons ” ; and accordingly the property [FN: The whole transaction is fully related in Morley’s ” Life of Glad¬stone,” vol. i, p. 340.] now passed to W. H. Gladstone, on condition of his giving the use of house and grounds to his mother for life : and, as is well known, both Mr. and Mrs. Gladstone lived there to the end of their lives, long outliving their eldest son.

Other social and personal details to be found here are a Royal visit to Chatsworth and several Royal functions in London ; a long visit to the West Indies paid by the diarist and her husband, in which her delight in the scenery is not more conspicuous than her constant interest in all she could learn of the progress of the negroes and of the educational, religious, and philanthropic institutions of the islands ; the appearance of the game of lawn tennis, which begins to be frequently mentioned ; and a visit to Scotland, where she had never been before, during which they stayed at various great houses, including Inveraray and Dunrobin, at the latter of which they found an uncongenially smart party, so that she wrote to her sister Meriel: ” Do you know, or don’t you, a gaunt feeling of being an odd sheep in a party and of being blunt-nosed and ill-dressed, and not as high-bred as one could wish ? ” Here again, as in the last volume, we get some details about the grouse at Bolton which may interest shooters. The grand total of grouse killed in 1871 is given as 14,273 ; in 1873, on the other hand, she mentions on August 12th that ” all the grouse are dead.” She records to the glory of her brother Charles that in 1871 he killed 1,000 birds all but four ; and to the shame of others that on August 22nd of that year her husband shot his father, and on August 23rd Colonel Sturt shot Mr. Cowper ; in view of which one is not surprised to read that she and Lady Edward were extremely alarmed a few days later when they were caught in a fog close by the shooting party and heard guns popping near them. A final tiny detail is that in this volume a ” breakfast ” is at last called, what it had long been, a ” garden-party.”