Edward Frederick Leveson-Gower.

Bygone years; online

. (page 17 of 21)
Online LibraryEdward Frederick Leveson-GowerBygone years; → online text (page 17 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

he was so amiable and guileless.

Although they were humble performances, I
have had the satisfaction to find, on referring to
my speeches, that with one or two exceptions I still
agree with the views they contain. I however



think that I made a mistake in opposing the
purchase of the telegraph companies by the Govern-
ment, as I am now convinced that the pubHc in
that instance has been better served than had it
been left in the hands of private companies. This
is an exception to the sound rule that such under-
takings are best left to private individuals. But
I always was true to the principles of Free Trade.
In one debate Mr. Disraeli, following me, tauntingly
observed that my speech was the only Free Trade
speech that had been made from the benches
opposite to him.

Mr. Gladstone twice offered me important posts,
one of Chief Whip, the other of Postmaster-
General, both of which I refused, because I thought
there were others who, from greater attention to
their duties, deserved promotion sooner than
myself. I am certain that Mr. Gladstone would
not have made me these offers if he had not
thought me sufficiently competent to perform the
work required of me, but I doubted whether such
would be the general opinion, and I feared it would
be thought a job.

My chief work in Parliament was to act as
Chairman of Railway Committees, a post which I
occupied for some years. It rather interested and
amused me. The Parliamentary Bar were with
a few exceptions excellent fellows, clever and
entertaining, chaffing each other pleasantly and
assuming when needful airs of indignation ; all
were elated, I fancy, by the thought of the


large fees they were earning. I cannot say much
for the tribunal itself. The chairmen often differ
with each other about railway policy, some of them
being in favour of competition, others thinking most
of the interests of landowners and shareholders.
This causes an uncertainty as to the decisions which
may be arrived at, and thus encourages litigation.
And then the terrible expense. I sat six weeks
over a bill for a short railway, and was told that
it cost the company a hundred thousand pounds
to get it through Parliament, as they were opposed
by all the largest railway companies in the
kingdom. The result of this expense is that the
existing companies enjoy a practical monopoly,
and, in the absence of competition or of the fear
of it, become neglectful of the interests of the

The amount of useful legislation carried out
during the period in which I was a Member of
the House of Commons is very remarkable, and
it is to the credit of the Liberal party that although
the Tories carried out many reforms, it was
with the help of their opponents, who initiated
most of them ; and it is satisfactory to find that
with the exception of the last Education Act,
few attempts have been made to reverse these
reforms. I once met Sir Robert Inglis at dinner,
an amiable man but an uncompromising Tory.
Being asked whether it had not been grievous to
him to see so many measures carried out which
he had strongly denounced, he admitted that it


was so, but that his consolation was that he and
his friends had done their best to hang heavy on
the wings of time, that they had defeated some
ill-advised proposals, and that they had retarded



MY married life, which was one of uninter-
rupted happiness, only lasted five years,
coming suddenly to an end in 1858. This is a
subject which I am unwilling to dwell upon, and
will therefore content myself with this simple
reference to it. Of course, as a married man I
went much less into society than when I was a
bachelor. We made several trips abroad, but
chiefly resided in London. We also paid visits
to our near relations in their stately houses in the
country. We had the pleasure of meeting at
Chatsworth the Grand Duchess Marie of Russia,
who was the daughter of the Emperor Nicholas,
and the widow of the Due de Leuchtenberg. She
was very agreeable, and I had much conversation
with her, as most of the other guests were ill at
ease in French, which was the language she
preferred. Our chief topic was the conduct of
Louis Napoleon, about which we agreed. But
one day she said, " We have abused him sufficiently.
You must not forget that he was my husband's
first cousin." I fancy however that praise of him

would have been still more distasteful to her.



In the course of 1858 I took up my abode with
my mother at the Chiswick villa, which my uncle
with kindly thoughtfulness had left to her for life.
It is, as is well known, a beautiful place. The
house was built by the first Lord Burlington, who
also built Burlington House and was the friend
of Pope. His daughter married the fourth Duke
of Devonshire. Two Prime Ministers, Fox and
Canning, ended their lives there. My little boy
and I lived in it with my mother during the
remainder of her life. She loved him dearly, and
delighted in his babble as he learnt to talk, and
declared she had no more agreeable acquaintance.
May I add that, in my perhaps too partial opinion,
if she had lived until he had reached the age
of manhood she would have retained the same
favourable view of his conversational powers ?

During my retirement at Chiswick I occupied
myself in translating Bastiat's Harmonies £cono-
miqtics, a book which Monsieur Leroy Beaulieu
somewhere declares to be one of the best books
of the last century, and which is not so much read
as it deserves to be. It is the clearest exposition
of the doctrine of political economy I know, and
is both convincing and amusing. One day I took
my translation to a well-known publisher. It was
a rainy day, and when I entered his room splashed
with mud, I had all the appearance of a poor
author. My reception was not encouraging. I was
not asked to take a seat, and was curtly told that
translations were of no use, as nobody read them.


Rather nettled, I observed that I was encouraged
by my brother to publish mine. — " Pray, what is
the name of your brother?" — "Lord Granville.'
— " Are you a brother of Lord Granville ? I beg
your pardon ; pray take a seat ! " And there was
no longer any reluctance to discuss my proposal.
On the contrary, I believe we should have come
to some arrangement if it had not been that two
days later a translation of the work by a Mr.
Irving was announced in the newspapers. This
was a curious coincidence, as ten years had
elapsed since the original work had appeared in

Chiswick suited my mother perfecdy as a
residence. She occupied two small rooms in a
wing of the house, leaving the rest of it to be
enjoyed by her children. She dined apart, but we
alternately joined her after dinner. Besides her
children, she saw none but her nearest relations.
Several daughters of my eldest sister. Lady Rivers,
came out about that time, and for their sakes she
received a good deal of company. I, too, towards
the end of our residence, when I had begun again
to go out into the world, gave a successful evening
entertainment. It began by a large dinner at
which Lady Constance Grosvenor,^ then in the
height of her beauty, and other charming people
were present. This was followed by an evening
party, to which I had invited all my acquaint-

1 Daughter of the second Duke of Sutherland, and wife of the first
Duke of Westminster.


ance. My friend, Lord Shelburne/ sent me

from Bowood one hundred Chinese lamps which

were kept there for festivities, I bought and

hired about a hundred more. With these we

illuminated the beautiful Chiswick gardens. Strings

were attached from one tree to another, and lamps

suspended from them. There were also a band,

Bengal lights and other attractions. It was a gay

and pretty sight, so much so that Lady Cowper

exclaimed delightedly, " A moral Cremorne ! "

Cremorne was a public garden which followed

Vauxhall and Ranelagh, and at which the society

was far from select. My mother was at that time

somewhat ill in London, and the next morning I

found her in bed, when she threw her arms round

my neck and said, " It is rather silly of me, but

the success of your party gives me such infinite

delight ! "

Another large gathering of a different sort
took place at the villa. The Friendly Societies
in Hammersmith had requested my mother's
leave to celebrate their annual holiday in the
Chiswick grounds, which she, in spite of the
misgivings of the gardener and the disapproval of
the conservative part of the household, readily
granted. Some five thousand people, men, women
and children, arrived, and it enchanted my mother
to peep from behind her window curtains and see
so many happy faces. She was even not in the
least shocked by a distant view of the popular game

^ Father of the present Marquis of Lansdovvne.


of " kiss in the ring." Beyond trampling down the
grass this large crowd did no damage.

My mother was much beloved not only by her
own relations, but by every one who approached
her. To account for this, I may be allowed to
quote a description of her from a private journal
written by Lord Dover in 18 17. He there speaks
of her in the following terms : " She is really the
most pure, the most angelic person I ever met.
Lady G. is really perfection in a human shape.
Virtuous, amiable, good, clever, agreeable — in short,
everything charming and excellent." Lord Dover
was well known for his literary attainments and
love of the fine arts. He was not at that time
connected with my mother, but some years later
he married her niece, the lovely Lady Georgiana

During our stay at Chiswick a sad loss occurred
in our family. My sister-in-law, Lady Granville,
died, after a lingering illness, borne with great
resignation. Just before her death she begged me
to promote a second marriage for her husband,
which touched me much.

My beloved mother died at the end of 1862,
when I had to leave Chiswick and settle in London.
I took the house in South Audley Street, which I
have since inhabited.

It was a great pleasure to receive in it my
niece. Lady Carmarthen,^ and her husband, who
afterwards became Duke of Leeds, for a month or

^ Daughter of the fourth Lord Rivers.


two during several seasons. This was an agreeable
break in my solitary life. Being hospitably in-
clined, I took to giving a succession of dinners.
Hospitality always appears to me to be praised
more than it deserves. At least, there was no
merit in my case. Somewhat like Tony Lumpkin,
who did not mind disappointing his friends by not
meeting them at the tavern, but was unwilling to
disappoint himself, I did not give dinners to please
my guests but to please myself. Altruism was not
my motive. The art of giving pleasant dinners
is not easy. Disraeli, who sometimes held his
supporters cheap, once remarked of his colleagues
on the Treasury Bench that they were a poor lot,
not one of them knew how to give a dinner. The
chief aim of a host should be to ask people who
like to meet one another. On one occasion that
most agreeable of men. Sir David Dundas, dined
with me, when I told him I had not invited Charles
Villiers, as I knew he was not a favourite of his —
" Frederick Leveson, I will never dine with you
again." — "Why not?" — " Because I cannot consent
to keep away from your table some one you wish
to ask." — I pleaded that I only invited those
who liked to meet one another. He eventually
relented, and often dined with me again, and was,
moreover, good enough one very hot summer
to lend me his charming villa at Richmond.

Hospitality is so prevalent in London that if
you wish to secure agreeable guests you must
invite them three weeks beforehand. If they


accept, they are fastidious about the society they
meet. Once a friend who dined with me informed
me that he had refused six other invitations
since he had accepted mine. I could only beg
him to remember that I had not deprived him
of six pleasanter dinners, but only of one. The
difficulties of a host are great. It is no easy task
to collect together congenial guests, to secure the
proper proportion of men and women, to welcome
civilly those who come on the wrong day, and to
fill up the places of people who at the last moment
send excuses. This often caused me, like a
sportsman in search of game, to go the round of
my clubs in the hope of meeting some one to
fill up a vacant seat ; and when I succeeded I felt
like a fisherman when he lands a salmon. The
Duchess of Marlborough^ once sent me a printed
refusal, intending to send an acceptance. The
consequence was that twenty minutes after we
had all sat down the door opened, and the Duke
and Duchess were announced. They had been a
long time knocking at the door, which, as they
were not expected, there was no one to open.
At last, when they thought the case was hopeless,
a housemaid admitted them. Luckily one of my
guests had failed, which made it possible, with
some squeezing, to make room for the unexpected
couple, I was much distressed, but consoled
myself with the reflection that it would be all the
same fifty years hence — the best thing to be done

^ Wife of the seventh Duke.


in such circumstances. The Duchess maintained
she had sent the right card. Unluckily I had
destroyed the one I had received ; but she rather
gave herself away when she begged me not to
explain the circumstances to her husband, as he
constantly accused her of making such mistakes.
The Duchess was very good-natured and not easily
offended. Her fear of hurtintj the feelinofs of
any one is exemplified by the following story. At
a large dinner at Blenheim the Duke, as was his
wont, fell asleep during the repast. After dinner
the Duchess, in order to prevent the ladies who
sat next to him thinking that they had not been
treated by him with respect, told them that she
had seen him go to sleep with a Duchess on each
side of him.

My first French cook, although unpretentious,
did not cook badly, and took his duties very
seriously to heart. One morning, previous to a
small dinner, he came to me in great distress, as
the kitchenmaid was ill and he himself had cut
his hand. — "How will you manage?" — ''Ah,
monsieur, le bon Dieu viendra a 7no7t aide ! "
— I cannot remember whether his reliance was

Monsieur de Flahault^ procured for me my next

1 The Comte de Flahault took part in many of the campaigns of
Napoleon I., who made him his aide-de-camp and a General of
Division. He was twice an Ambassador — first at Vienna in the time
of Louis Philippe, secondly in London in the time of Louis Napoleon.
He ended his life as Chancellor of the Legion of Honour. He married
Miss Mercer, who was an heiress and the daughter of Lord Keith.


cook, the second cook in the kitchen of the Due
de Morny, who greatly praised him, saying he
was superior to his chef, whom from length of
service he could not part with. My new cook,
Monsieur B^guinot, was a great success, and the
excellence of my dinners became generally known.
The result was that I became very popular ; shoals
of invitations poured in upon me, and distinguished
persons conveyed indirect hints to me that they
would be willing to honour me with their company.
In course of time Monsieur Beguinot left my
service for my brother's, and since obtained a
series of first-rate situations. He has now retired
from service, and devotes himself to a small
restaurant which he has started in the unfashionable
quarter of Soho, at 16, Old Compton Street. You
obtain there good and ample food admirably
cooked, for which he charges one-and-sixpence
for either luncheon or dinner. What pleases
Madame Beguinot is that they have as customers
" une socUt4 choisie — rien d ' dquivoqtte!' It is difficult
to understand how they manage to eloigner la socUU

In 1874 Sir Henry Cole, whose fertile brain
was continually devising projects to benefit his
fellow creatures, proposed to start a National
Training School of Cookery, and formed a com-
mittee with that object, of which he persuaded
me to become the chairman, a position I held until
my resignation more than a year ago, although I
am still vice-president.


Considering that food is the principal want of
man, and that more than half the labour of the
world is employed in some form or other of its
production, it is remarkable how few efforts are
made, as far as its general consumption is concerned,
to learn to cook it properly. As a rule the
wealthy alone derive any benefit from good cookery,
and until our School was inaugurated, no systematic
attempt had been made to improve it.

Sir Henry's idea was therefore excellent, and it
has, in spite of some ridicule and prejudice, been
most extensively carried out. Schools on our
model have been started in most of the chief towns
in the country, and the work has steadily increased,
spreading all over the kingdom, as well as in
America and in our Colonies.

I am not writing a history of our School, but, to
give some idea of its importance, cite the following
facts. The King, with His Majesty's usual interest
in all institutions of national utility, has graciously
consented to be our patron. Since its opening
nearly 100,000 pupils have there received instruction ;
we have further awarded about 1,700 diplomas to
teachers, most of whom are now actively engaged
in giving instruction both in cookery and other
branches of domestic economy. As well as training
teachers in all domestic economy subjects to be
taught in elementary and secondary schools, we
are teaching sickroom cookery in the London &
Guy's Hospitals, to the Queen's Jubilee Nurses, in
the Royal Naval Hospitals at Haslar and Plymouth.


We have a class of nine sailors and three naval
officers being instructed in the principles of good
plain cookery. We teach cookery to prison warders,
and inspect the cooking in the prisons from time
to time. In 1901 we revised the workhouse diets,
and published a Manual of Workhouse Cookery,
which the Local Government Board has issued
to Boards and Guardians of the Poor. When to
this is added what the other schools of cookery
have done, the benefit to the community must
already be incalculable.

With one exception our work has been practically
self-supporting. We received five thousand pounds
from the trustees of the Berridge trust, which
enabled us to pay off a mortgage of that amount
which we had raised in order to meet a part of
the expense of erecting our present premises,
which cost us ten thousand pounds. The other
half of this sum we met by the profits we made by
selling cheap dinners at the four South Kensington
Exhibitions. This was a marvellous achievement,
due to the great ability of Mrs. Clarke, the Lady
Superintendent of the School.

The good service we have done to the public
seems to me to be insufficiently recognised. With
the exception of about two hundred pounds, which
we obtained in order to pay for some necessary
repairs, neither private individuals nor the Govern-
ment have given the School any pecuniary assistance.
The wealthy with the best intentions subscribe
large sums to charities, some of which do more


harm than good by lessening the inducements to
industry and thrift, whereas they take little interest
in our work, which greatly benefits the poor and
pauperises no one.

In many ways we are useful to the Government,
of which I may mention one instance. We have
greatly promoted the knowledge of cookery in our
two Services. With regard to our soldiers it can
readily be imagined what a blessing it must be to
them when campaigning to be able to make eatable
the very indifferent food which is often all that
they can then procure.

Some years later, when I bought my country
house, I gave up giving dinners in London from
motives of economy. I cannot say how far in
consequence my popularity waned, but doubtless
the maxim " cutlet for cutlet," which a well-known
lady, of good birth and a peeress, who died some
years ago, used to declare she was guided by
when making out her invitations, has a certain
influence. She amused people by saying things
which a few other people think but keep to
themselves. For instance, she said it was her
rule to be civil to girls, because no one knew
whom they might marry.

It is curious to observe what small changes in
social habits gradually take place. When first I
went out in London the men at a dinner party
wore black ties, having white ones only when
Royalty was expected, and they received no
instructions from their hostess, who merely begged


each lady to go in to dinner, it being the duty
of the gentleman next in rank to offer her his arm.
I have sometimes seen the lady go some way
alone. It afterwards became the custom for each
gentleman to be told whom he was to take in,
but he was not informed where he was to sit. The
next change was the present custom of writing
the name of each guest on a card, and placing it
opposite the seat which he or she is to occupy,
and which they have to find when they enter the
dining-room. This was at first objected to, but
is now approved of, because the English, who are
generally shy, like to be told what they are expected
to do in society. A further improvement would
be to adopt what I believe is not unusual in
America, where every guest on arriving is given
a card with a plan of the dining-table, and the
names and places to be occupied by each guest.
This saves the hostess trouble, and prevents people
having to hunt round the table for the places
destined for them. It also makes known the
names of the other guests. You thereby cannot
sit at the same table with a celebrated beauty, an
inspired poet, and a thrilling novelist and not be
aware of their presence.

An amusing scene once occurred in connection
with this subject. The famous historian, Mr.
Motley, when American Minister in London, hired
a house in Arlington Street, where I was present at
the first large dinner he gave. He took much pains
about the arrangement of his guests, and consulted



me about it. At that time couples were sent in to
dinner in pairs, but nobody's place was fixed. Mr.
Motley told each guest by whom he was to sit,
and was well satisfied with the arrangement.
Unfortunately the Turkish Ambassador was allotted
to Lady Waldegrave, who did not care to have
him as her neighbour. She consequently told
him th^it his place was on the other side of the
table. He, with Oriental politeness, did as she
bade him, and sat down opposite to her. This upset
the whole arrangement. The couples wandered
about the room, not knowinof where to oro, and
were like sheep that are being driven out of a
field. Mr. Motley, who had every merit except a
good temper, went into a passion, and I nearly
died of laughing.

I saw a good deal of him at different times. The
fact that during the whole Civil War in the
States I had been in favour of the North drew
him towards me at the time when the attitude of
London society on the subject greatly exasperated
him. He was engaged to pay me a visit at
Holmbury, my country place, when he was taken
seriously ill. Upon his getting a little better I
persuaded Mrs. Motley to keep their engagement,
a proposal she was glad to carry out, as the doctors
wished him to leave London. I can see him now
entering my drawing-room, looking more dead than
alive, leaning on the arm of his daughter, Mrs.
Ives, who afterwards married the late Sir William
Harcourt. The pure air of Holmbury did wonders


for him ; he at once recovered his appetite, and he
left me about a fortnight later so much better that
his life was prolonged for some two years. It has
always given me great pleasure to think that I
was of use to so eminent a man.

The chief entertainers in London society in
the third quarter of the last century were Lady
Molesworth and Lady Waldegrave. There was
a singular analogy between their two lives. Both
were born in a lower position than that to which
they subsequently attained. They both married
Cabinet Ministers, and both, during the lives of
their husbands and afterwards, in town and country,
exercised the most boundless hospitality. Neither
was what I should call intellectual, but they both

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20 21

Online LibraryEdward Frederick Leveson-GowerBygone years; → online text (page 17 of 21)