Edward Frederick Leveson-Gower.

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possessed considerable cleverness in the perform-
ance of their social duties. They ended by
attaining a considerable position in society. Most
of the women engaged in politics at that time
were different from the present leaders of political
society. They were formerly chiefly anxious to
promote the advancement of their husbands and
friends, and to further the interests of their
party, and cared less than they do now about
the political questions which at present excite in
so many of them the liveliest interest.

Lady Waldegrave, for instance, did not much care
for politics in the abstract, but was anxious to be of
use to the party to which her husband belonged, and
thus obtained a certain amount of political influence.
Her first husband was a Mr. Waldegrave, and she



2/6 SOCIETY

afterwards married Lord Waldegrave, his legitimate
brother. She next married my cousin, Mr. George
Harcourt, to whom I have already referred as the
husband of Lady Elizabeth. Her last husband was
Mr. Chichester Fortescue, better known as Lord
Carlinorford. The first time I met her was soon
after her fourth marriage. I sat by her at dinner,
when she suddenly said, "You do not like me
now, but the time will come when you will like
me." I of course said something civil ; nevertheless,
what she said was true. I was not inclined to
like her then, but ended by doing so. Her power
of attaching people was very remarkable. None
of her visitors, however eminent, ever deserted
her. The relations of her various husbands
always remained tame cats in her house, both
men and women. A bevy of Waldegraves,
Harcourts and Fortescues was generally to be met
there. Her talk was lively and pleasant, though
not brilliant. But her bonhomie — I know no
English word to express it — was irresistible, and
she showed much tact in her invitations. Lord
Carlingford was devoted to her, and inconsolable
at her loss. They did not appear well suited.
Besides being agreeable, he was singularly refined,
a merit her dearest friends could not claim for her,
and she did not share his intellectual tastes. But
he loved her dearly, and she made him very
happy.

I will not attempt to give anything more than
a very slight sketch of my son, as it would ill



MR. G. LEVESON GOWER 277

become a parent to do so. I will merely say that
from the time of his birth, in other respects so
sad a one, he has been the chief object of my
life, and I have had the satisfaction of witnessing
how much beloved and esteemed he has been in
the various phases of his existence, at college, in
society, and in the House of Commons. Owing
to the great kindness of Mr. Gladstone, to whom
he was Assistant Private Secretary from 1880 to
1885, he occupied in the Administrations of
1886 and 1892 subordinate positions in the
Government, which had their advantages, and for
which he was orrateful ; but which had this draw-
back, that it precluded him as a Whip from taking
any active part in the debates. I was however
assured that he performed well whatever duties were
entrusted to him. I received the following letter
from Sir William Harcourt about him in 1886 :

" I must write you a line of congratulation upon
George's Ministerial debut. He had by no means
an easy task to perform last night, but achieved
it extremely well. As you know, there are few
bills which are more disputed in the House of
Commons than these London Improvement Bills.
His speech was very clear and business-like in its
matter, and everything that could be wished in
manner. The House was pleased and satisfied,
and your friends and his will be much gratified
by this happy commencement of his Ministerial
career."

He lost his seat in 1895, ^^^ ^^^ since been
engaged in interesting work connected with the



278 SOCIETY

North American Review. At my request he
published in 1901 a volume of poems which,
perhaps from paternal partiality, I much admired.
I was agreeably surprised at the favourable re-
ception they met with, because I feared, as I told
him, that no poetry which I could understand would
at the present time be acceptable. It seems to me
that obscurity is now considered essential in good
poetry. But for my own part, so long as I can
read and enjoy Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, and
Pope, I can bear the reproach of not understanding
much that is written by the favourite poets of
to-day. I will only add that he is most happy
in his married life,^ and has two charming little
children, the greatest blessings any man need
aspire to.

After Eton, he went up to Balliol in 1876. By
the Master's advice he read for a month with Mr.
Bell, an Oxford tutor, previous to the examination
which every candidate has to undergo before being
admitted into the College. I went down to Oxford
for it, and was with Mr. Bell when George rushed
in with the papers containing the questions that
had been put to him and his replies. Mr. Bell,
as he perused them, made such remarks as the
following: "Surely you did not make this answer ?"
" How often did I warn you not to make this
mistake?" Whereupon Mrs. Bell, having a kind
heart, could not help exclaiming, " My dear, what

1 He married, in 1898, Cicely, the youngest daughter of the eighth
Lord Monson.



DR. JOWETT 279

is the use of crying over spilt milk ? " My relief
was therefore great when I learnt that George had
passed through his examination with flying colours,
being placed first in the list of the candidates.

Dr. Jowett took a lively interest in him, which
he proved by asking him to stay with him at
Malvern during some part of two vacations in
order that he might coach him. On one of these
occasions I paid him an enjoyable visit, when I
first became really acquainted with the Master. I
remember that we had some disputes about politics,
but they were so friendly that they rather confirmed
than impeded our friendship. He was extremely
open-minded and liked to hear both sides of a
question. I never could agree with him in his
admiration of Mr. Disraeli, or in his unfavourable
opinion of Mr. Gladstone. Although talking very
little, he was agreeable. His remarks were always
pointed, and he could compress an argument into
a few words. Mrs. Grote sometimes became
impatient with his silence. Inviting him one day
to meet at dinner a few of the cleverest men of
the day, she said to him, " Master, I insist on your
taking a share in the conversation. Nobody is
more capable of doing so, and there you remain
silent whilst other people talk." Upon which he
pleaded in his squeaky little voice that he was " a
very good listener." He enjoyed the company of
the pretty women whom he invited to Balliol, but
I never heard of his being in love. One day a
young lady told him it would make her so happy



28o SOCIETY

if he would marry her. Upon which he assured
her that he was much touched by her proposal, but
that he could not entertain it as he had long given
up all thoughts of matrimony. She hastened to
explain that she was engaged to some one else, and
that she had only ventured to ask him to perform
the ceremony.

The Master was in the habit of giving week-end
parties, to which he invited a number of distinguished
persons, both men and women, and many of the
leading dons met at his table, irrespective of
differences of opinion, the High Churchman Dr.
Liddon and the Broad Churchman Dean Stanley
being frequently his guests. I often had the
honour of being asked to these parties, but of
course more rarely after my son left Oxford.

Among the many remarkable men I met there
was Browning. At one party he and I were the
only men, which brought us into close contact.
He was in high spirits, and at luncheon became
rather boisterous. He afterwards said to me, " I
know I am too noisy, but I cannot help it." I
perhaps somewhat unadvisedly urged him not to
control nature, for the absence of all pose in so
celebrated a poet seemed to me most refreshing.
I certainly on one occasion wished he had been
more controlled. 1 had become acquainted at Paris
with Monsieur Lanfrey, the author of the History
of Napoleon, a work I greatly admired. He soon
afterwards came to England, when he did me the
honour of dining with me. I had consulted my



ROBERT BROWNING 281

sister-in-law, Lady Marian Alford, who promised
to meet him, as to whom else I should invite. She
suggested Browning, who, she said, besides being
an author of great repute, spoke French admirably.
He came, was very noisy, and spoke the most
abominable French. He was very unlike my
foreign guest, who was silent and retiring, and in
this respect unlike the majority of his countrymen.
They too often resemble a young Frenchman who,
coming to reside in England, received the following
advice from his father : " Tu es bete et tu nes pas
beau ; sois insolent, c est ta settle chance,'' — a recom-
mendation he dutifully followed.

I also met at Balliol the poet and philo-
sopher Mr. Matthew Arnold. The occasion was
some function for which Archbishop Tait had
come there on a visit. He then preached a most
touching sermon, in which he referred in a very
feeling manner to the events of his life since he
had left college. The chapel was crammed, and
being fatigued, I sat down on the altar steps
during the service, when the congregation were
standing up. On leaving the chapel Mr. Arnold
whispered to me how much he admired my
courage in disregarding conventionality, and that
he had wished to imitate me, but as he was the
son of a clergyman it was impossible. Till then
I was not aware that he allowed that circumstance
to constrain him. On the contrary, I admired
the freedom he allowed himself in all such
matters.



282 SOCIETY

The following amusing incident occurred to him
once at Paris. My brother, who was President
of the Council, had commissioned Mr. Arnold when
a school inspector to go to France to report upon
its educational system. Mr. Arnold was dissatisfied
with the allowance for his travelling expenses, but
as the Treasury would sanction no more, he was
obliged to be content with it, I happened to be
in Paris at that time, when, going to dine with
a friend at the most expensive restaurant, I per-
ceived Mr. Arnold dining alone. I went up to
shake hands with him, when I was surprised to
perceive the fare that was before him. It seems
that he referred to this incident in a letter to
his wife. He said that, having lived most ab-
stemiously and economically during his journey,
he was determined before leaving France to give
himself a good blow-out. He consequently went
to the most famous restaurant, where he ordered
a capital repast. He added that he was rather
put out by seeing me, whom he took for my
brother, enter the room and look as he thought
astonished at seeing what a sumptuous dinner he
was eating. He added that Lord Granville must
have become then convinced that the sum allowed
him was insufficient for his expenses.



HOLMBURY

FROM 1870 ONWARDS

IT had long been my wish to possess a home
in the country, and in 1870 I was advised
to buy Holmbury, in the Surrey hills, where I
at present reside. My ambition had always been
to live in some spot which commanded an extensive
view, and at Holmbury I found one of surpassing
beauty. The house stands on the slope of a high
hill, which protects it from the north and east,
and nearly the whole of Sussex lies before it. The
beautiful outlines of the South Downs form the
horizon, and the extensive plain beneath is mostly
covered with woods. There was a beautiful Lady
Foley who used to say that she had no doubt
there were better-looking women than herself, but
she had not seen one. So I say that there may
be finer views in the South of England than that
which I and my near neighbours enjoy in Surrey,
but I have not seen one. We are of course rather
jealous of each other's views, but I settle the
matter by saying that every one of us thinks his
own view the best. Some time ago the present
Lord Tennyson paid me a visit, and on departing

283



284 HOLMBURY

told Miss Mary Boyle that he was greatly relieved
by finding my view so inferior to theirs at
Aldworth. On the other hand, his father, when
staying here with Sir James Knowles,^ who had
become my tenant, was found by his host pacing
up and down my terrace, exclaiming, " This view
beats mine hollow." The truth is that the beauty
of such an extensive view depends so much on the
lights and shadows of the moment.

It was my good fortune during the first twenty
years of my life at Holmbury to receive there an
infinite number of most distinguished guests. I
can claim little credit for it, as it was due to a
variety of circumstances. My brother delighted
in the place, and often came with his dear wife,
the second Lady Granville, to stay with me. His
genial manners and agreeable conversation, and, I
may add, his political position, made people only
too glad to meet him. To please him, who was
fond of going to races, I gave Derby parties during
some successive years. Epsom was as distant
from Holmbury as from London, but the road to
it was through charming country, and was not
inconveniently crowded. Some of my friends
drove and others rode. I rarely attended the races,
but often accompanied my guests most of the way
on horseback. The Spencers were generally at
these parties, and once the Westminsters. I
remember riding with the Duke nearly as far as

1 The founder and present editor and proprietor of 77^1? Nineteenth
Century.



A MISUNDERSTANDING 285

Epsom, and that on parting with him I called at
the Rookery, that pretty house near Dorking, which
was formerly occupied by the Economist Malthus,
but had become the property of Mr. Fuller, with
whom I had recently made acquaintance. The men
were all gone to the races, but I found a number
of ladies at luncheon, who civilly made room for
me at their table. A land surveyor called Mr.
Simpson was expected that day, and they took me
for him. They consequently addressed me by that
name. — " Mr. Simpson, may I help you to some
potatoes ? " or " Here is the mustard, Mr. Simpson."
— Being rather deaf, I did not hear this at the time,
and so did not undeceive them ; but my hostess,
whom I had never seen before, but who had read
my card, did so, and told them my name. Upon
this one of the party said that a kinsman and
namesake of mine was a great friend of hers, and
she would be glad if I would give her some news
of him. I had to confess that, although I had
heard of him, I had never seen him. I fancied
that upon this all around became less cordial,
until I wondered whether they took me for some
swindler who had introduced himself into the
house under a false name. Luckily, an old lady
asked me after the lapse of some minutes whether
we had not met twenty years before at Coolhurst,
the residence of my relatives, Mr. and Lady
Elizabeth Dickins. My reply satisfied her, and
I left the house with my character rehabilitated.
The thought of this little adventure made me



286 HOLMBURY

smile as I rode home through the lovely woods
which cover Leith Hill.

Lady Marian Alford was one of my relations
whom every one was anxious to meet. She fre-
quently paid me long visits, and was often accom-
panied by her great friend, Miss Mary Boyle. No
party could be dull of which they formed a part.
Miss Boyle used to say, " After all, there is no
place like home — bury." I do not know whether
I am justified in stating what I felt about my
sister-in-law. Her unbounded kindness to me
from the moment we became connected might
well make me take a too favourable view of her,
but I do not think this is the case, as she was
much esteemed and beloved, not only by her
relatives but by every one who knew her. She
was most generous. To see suffering in others
seemed to give her almost physical pain, and this
sometimes led her to befriend people who scarcely
deserved it, particularly as she did not discriminate
character very well. This and her splendid
hospitality entailed upon her embarrassments from
which she ought to have been free. She was
extravagant as well as generous, which is a rare
combination. The spendthrifts are generally
selfish. A friend one day warned her against
burning the candle at both ends, when she parried
him by observing that surely that was the way
to make both ends meet.

I will give the following instance of her generosity.
When staying with her one winter at Rome I



LADY MARIAN ALFORD 287

wished to take Italian lessons, and I asked
Dr. Pantaleone, a Liberal politician and a favourite
physician among the English, to recommend an
instructor. He told me of a young Italian who he
said would answer my purpose. He was clever,
very well informed, and could speak English. He
was in needy circumstances, owing to his advanced
political opinions, and had been shipwrecked on
his way from Leghorn, when he lost his portmanteau
and, among other things, a number of manuscripts,
He subsequently attempted to drown himself in
the Tiber. His lessons gave me satisfaction, but
he appeared sadly depressed, which I attributed to
his poverty and other misfortunes. Lady Marian
took an interest in him, and desired to help him.
She would not offer him money for fear of offending
him, but proposed to find him some employment
at her expense. It happened at that time that
Gibson, the sculptor, was engaged for Lady Marian
on a statue of Pandora. The question arose
whether she should hold in her hands a casket or
a vase. In England we talk of Pandora's box, but in
Italy she is represented with a vase. The Italian
undertook to write a memorandum on the subject,
but said it was an arduous task, which would
take some time. Two months after my departure
he brought his memorandum, which was worthless
except in his own eyes. He charged about two
hundred pounds, and pleaded as his excuse for its
being so large a sum the time he had employed,
the books he had purchased, the journeys he had



288 HOLMBURY

undertaken, and his interviews with learned men.
Of course, Lady Marian refused to pay him such a
considerable amount. He then actually threatened
a lawsuit, but the matter ended by her making him
a small present, which she did as she thought he
was mad.

Punctuality was not one of her merits. As she
was one day taking her departure from Holmbury,
she proposed to the late Mr. Edward Cheney to
accompany her to the station. When they arrived
they found they had missed the train, upon which
Mr. Cheney, being rather put out, asked her foot-
man whether she was ever in time for the train.
He drew himself up and said, " Her ladyship is
always in time for the next train."

She was very fond of society, and both in London
and — during her eldest son's life and until her
second son's (the present Earl Brownlow's) marriage
— at Ashridge and Belton, received a good deal,
bringing together the best company. She herself
was well informed, particularly on subjects of Art,
and if she had devoted herself to any one branch
of it might have become an excellent artist. Her
conversation was brilliant and she was quick at
repartee. I have known cleverer women, but
hardly any one who united in herself so much to
make her society prized. As a hostess she had
one failing, which arose from her extreme good-
nature. She invited people to her parties in order
to give them pleasure without reflecting whether
they were well suited to her other guests. She



ASHRIDGE 289

had another disadvantage, one I have often observed
in persons who talk well, which was that no one
ever bored her. A silent person has not the same
weapons to keep a bore in check.

She took a great interest in her son's estates,
and was most kind to the poor people upon them.
One of her favourites was the head gamekeeper
at Ashridge, who had begun life as a soldier and
who often entertained us with his quaint and blunt
sayings. When the volunteers were first started,
Lady Marian asked him to join the corps. The
next morning he came up to her and said, " I
understand that if the enemy landed we should
have to go and meet them. That, my lady, would
be rather awkward, in the egg season." He
used to call out to the beaters, " Circulate your-
selves, my boys." What he meant by it was not
quite clear, but it was probably an order to spread
themselves out. An amusing incident happened
one day when we were shooting partridges at
Ashridge. Count Szechenyi, a pleasing Hungarian,
slightly shot one of the beaters. This made him
say to Lady Marian at dinner that he was grieved
to have shot a peasant. She understood him to say
a pheasant, and that he was apologising for having
shot one in September. So she said, " Never
mind, we'll eat him."

An extract from one of Mrs. Grote's letters will
show in what estimation Lady Marian was held :

*' I have for some years almost renounced
society, except such as I can enjoy within our own

19



290 HOLMBURY

modest circle in this cottage. But, out of this
circle, there was one person whose acquaintance
it was my earnest wish to make, and I had even
made some endeavours to that end, though without
fruit. You will judge of my satisfaction when I
add that the lady in question is Lady Marian
Alford. F'ew among the unknown of my country-
women have been so often the subject of my
thoughts as she, and it is a most singular as well
as fortunate chance that her real self should emerge
from ' the wilds ' I behold from my windows ! "

Few visits gave me more pleasure than that
paid me in 1874 by the Prince and Princess of
Roumania, who are now King and Queen of that
country. I fancy he came to England in order
to obtain support in the crisis in Eastern politics
which was then approaching. He was disappointed
at not seeing our Foreign Minister, Lord Derby,
who had left London.

The Princess, when staying as a young girl at
Mentone with her aunt, the Princess of Waldeck,
had made the acquaintance of Lady Marian, who
was much charmed with her. They had congenial
tastes, and became fast friends. Soon after her
arrival in England the Princess came to Holmbury
in order to see her. She was already well
known as one of the most accomplished women
in Europe, and as a graceful writer under the
nom de pltwie of Carmen Sylva in prose and
verse. She at once captivated the small party she
found in my house. Her enthusiasm, tempered
by gaiety, was contagious, and so were her shouts



THE KING OF ROUMANIA 291

of laughter when at lawn-tennis she failed to return
the ball. She had never before been in England,
but spoke English perfectly, and was well ac-
quainted with our literature. I remember the
joy she expressed when Lady Marian told her
she would invite Carlyle to meet her on her return
to London. — " Is it possible that I shall have lived
to have the pleasure of seeing that great man ? "

We were also much pleased with her sensible
and intelligent husband, and formed an opinion of
him which has been more than confirmed by his
subsequent noble career. He talked much about
his adopted country. I ventured to put in a word
for the Jews, who were there so much ill-used.
He said he lamented it, but that it was hard to cope
with it, as the hatred they inspired was much to
be accounted for by their own conduct, and that
they were very inferior to the Jews in the West
of Europe. I thereupon suggested that persecution
does not improve character.

During the 'sixties the Gladstones occasionally
dined with me, and I often met them in other houses,
but my first real intimacy with Mr. Gladstone
arose from the following circumstance. Harriet,
Duchess of Sutherland, was his great friend and
admirer, and he and Mrs. Gladstone were her
constant visitors both at Cliveden and Chiswick.
I was frequently asked to meet them, and thus
arose my friendship with him, which lasted as long
as he lived. He stayed with me after I settled
at my Surrey home at least once a year. My



292 HOLMBURY

brother was generally of the party, and some of
his other intimate friends. But Mr. Gladstone did
not mind whom he met. He was courteous to every
one, and listened as attentively to a young curate
as to a Cabinet Minister or a distinguished author.
He greatly admired the surrounding scenery and
the fine specimens of trees which were to be
found in the neighbourhood, which I took him
long distances to see. He also delighted, as is
well known, in cutting down trees, which he did
several times at Holmbury. After the first
occasion my gardener came to inform me that
my neighbours were much displeased with me.
They thought it most unkind of me not to have


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Online LibraryEdward Frederick Leveson-GowerBygone years; → online text (page 18 of 21)