Wilfrid Scawen Blunt.

My diaries : being a personal narrative of events, 1888-1914 (Volume 2) online

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manship of the party after the great scandal when he (Dillon) and
O'Brien had met Parnell to talk matters over with him at Boulogne.
Every day they thought they had persuaded him to agree to a temporary
retirement of six months, and every evening Parnell crossed the Chan-
nel back to spend the night at Eltham and return in the morning more
obstinate than ever. ' I repeatedly promised Parnell,' Dillon said,
' that I would resign the Chairmanship back to him at the end of six
months, indeed, I would only act as Vice-Chairman for him during his
retirement, and it was he that each time he came back from Mrs.
O'Shea refused all compromise.' [Note. — I am informed by Mrs.
O'Shea's niece, Mrs. Steele, that I was misinformed as to Parnell's
ownership of the house they lived in. Eltham Lodge was an old
family residence of the Woods.]

" i$th March. — George Wyndham came to lunch with me. He com-

3&2 Elisabeth Asquith [1912

plained of being tired of politics, but says that he cannot break loose
from them. His ambition now is to be some day Father of the House
of Commons, one he is not unlikely to achieve, for he has been twenty-
three years member for Dover, and there are only four or five men
with a better record, and he is still young. About his private plans
he says he does not mean to have a London House, and would live
entirely at Clouds. In these days all will have to live well within their
incomes. Rich men are shutting up their large houses, amongst others,
Plymouth, who is shutting up Hewell, and means to live all the year
through at St. Fagans.

; ' 16th March. — This morning Margot brought her daughter Eliza-
beth to see me. The child is sixteen, attractive and clever, with a soft,
sympathetic hand, which will help her to be loved. I had not seen
Elizabeth since the day when she recited ' Maitre Corbeau ' to Coquelin
aine. She is just the nicest age now, and I am glad to have seen her
before she begins going out in society.

' Later came Nellie Hozier and her mother for our midday meal, and
Nellie took me to see the Futurist pictures. These, as art, are mere
nonsense, the sort of things a child might make by pasting strips of col-
oured paper together as patchwork. They have neither design nor
drawing, nor other colouring than a haphazard one, chiefly reds and
yellows. One cannot assign a meaning to any of them, or even the
suggestion of a meaning. Degeneracy cannot go further than this, and
it is mere stupidity to talk of it as art. But we found the little rooms
in Sackville Street crowded with visitors, who each had paid his shil-
ling, while critics have been found sufficiently uncritical to treat the
exhibition seriously.

' 18th March. — Abd el Ghaffar came to see me, back from Egypt
ten days ago. He gives a bad report of things ; the National party
without a capable leader and split into factions, each with its separate
newspaper. Farid has lost his political credit. The Hesb el Ahali,
or Party of the People, is now beginning to take the National Party's
place. Its principle is to trust to England to give some sort of a Con-
stitution and make Egypt entirely independent of the Porte. If Eng-
land could be trusted to do this, and Egypt could become strong enough
to defend herself against other European aggression, the policy might
be a good one, but such trust and such hope are mere delusions. The
connection between Egypt and the Ottoman Empire is the only pos-
sible chance Egypt has of escaping permanent subjection to Europe, and,
slender though that chance is, I will not abandon it for the other, which
is no chance at all. Abd el Ghaffar tells me that he has learned on the
authority of Rushdi Pasha, Minister for Foreign Affairs at Cairo, that
there have been negotiations between the English Government and the
Porte for a cession of the Cyrenaica to the Khedivial possessions.

19 1 2] The Agha Khan 383

"21st March. — There is talk of further troubles in Europe, possible
war between France and Spain about Morocco, and a reported secret
treaty between Italy and Russia against Turkey. [Compare Dr. Dillon's
' Eclipse of Russia.']

" The coal strike is in a worse state than ever, as Asquith's proposed
legislation has been repudiated by the Labour Party, and Arthur Bal-
four is to lead the Tory Party against it. There is a probability of a
prolonged crisis.

" Two young Indian Mohammedans lunched with me, Syud Mahmud
(as before) and Syud Hussein, the latter the grandson of my old friend
Nawab Abdul Latif, of Calcutta. There has come about a split among
the Mohammedans of India owing to recent events. The Agha Khan
has resigned the presidency of the All India Moslem League, a body of
timid folk loyal to the British connection, and has declared himself for
common action with the Hindoo Progressives. The principal cause of
this is the connivance of onr Government with the Italians and Rus-
sians in Tripoli and Persia, and Syud Mahmud tells me our little paper
' Egypt ' has helped in effecting this. They are beginning to see that
it is only the pressure that can be put on the Government by India that
can change Grey's treacherous policy. The Indian Mohammedans in
London, numbering 250, intend to make a demonstration in this sense,
and they will do well. Ameer Ali has lost what little influence among
them remained to him.

" 2yd March. — Browne and his wife lunched with me, and Desmond
MacCarthy. Browne very despondent about the East, as he is right in

" 24th March (Sunday). — Dillon came to lunch. He says that dur-
ing the last few days the Asquith Cabinet has been on the verge of a
break up over the coal strike, and that the country is menaced with
revolution. There is to be a new conference between miners and mine
owners to-morrow. If it fails there will be a general industrial col-
lapse. The miners demand a minimum wage, but if the Government
embody this in their Bill it will open the door to a system of minimum
wages for every class of labour, and to this Dillon is strongly opposed
as an extreme form of Socialism, while a continuance of the strike will
so delay things in Parliament that it will be impossible to get the Home
Rule Bill through this session. He thinks all the same that a settlement
will be reached to-morrow. Should it be otherwise and should Ireland
by this accident lose her opportunity, I must say that it will in some
measure serve Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary Party right.
Ever since they made their compact with Asquith two years ago the
Irish in Parliament have identified their fortunes with the English
Whigs, abetting them in all their Imperial misdeeds, and treating Grey's
alliances with the French in Morocco, the Russians in Persia, and the

384 Garvin of the "Observer" [1912

Italians in Tripoli, as pleasing to Irish ideas. It has been a disgraceful
betrayal of the cause of liberty, and it will be no more than justice if
in aiding our diplomatic jugglery abroad they lose their own chance
of freedom at home. Dillon alone of all the Irish members has so far
preserved his integrity, but even he has come to regard the retention
of Egypt as a necessary part of British interests, and I have been un-
able to get him to ask questions involving an attack on Kitchener, who
he thinks will be recalled some day, when the revolution at home has
been followed by a reaction, to play the part here of military dictator.

" 26th March. — The Conference with the miners has failed, and
anything now may happen, from a general breakdown of trade to a
revolution. The trains are ceasing many of them to run and I am
going back to Newbuildings, where we can better stand a siege than

" 2jth March. — Lunched at the Duchess of St. Albans', where I
found a large party, her son-in-law Lord Richard Cavendish, Lord
Grey, young Baird, M.P., who is Bonar Law's private secretary, Garvin,
and others — an extreme Tory assemblage, discussing^ their plans, of
which Garvin is just now the inventor and chief prophet. Garvin be-
gan as an Irish Fenian writer on the ' United Ireland,' but has gravitated
to the position he now occupies of ultra anti-Home Rule Editor of the
' Pall Mall Gazette ' and the ' Observer.' He asked me what my view
was of the situation. I said, ' I take my views every afternoon from
the " Pall Mall Gazette," and every Sunday morning from the " Ob-


" They have rushed a Miners' Wages Bill in twenty-four hours
through both Houses.

" 29th March. — Kaiser Wilhelm seems to have stopped the nonsense
of Russia's joint action with Italy against Turkey. He met the King
of Italy at Venice two days ago and probably told him not to be such
an ass.

"31^ March. — Belloc and Chesterton dined with me, Belloc com-
plaining terribly of the fast from liquor he has been maintaining during
Lent and to-day is Palm Sunday. ' Ah,' he said, ' if you want to see a
really happy man you should come to me on Easter Monday afternoon.'
He consoled himself at dinner with a sad lemonade, but talked all the
more brilliantly for it. He admits now that he made a mistake about
the coal strike in predicting the miners would win. Asquith, he says,
has been too astute for them. He amused them by his Miners' Mini-
mum Wage Act, over which they lost their time and spent their money,
and now he has them in his hands.

" 6th April. — Newbuildings. Belloc tells me the miners are very
angry with their leaders, especially in the north of England, and thinks

1912] French Policy in Algeria 385

there will be riots. Fortunately these things do not affect us here in
Sussex (where we have not a single mine or factory).

" I have been reading Eversley's ' Gladstone in Ireland ' — a good
and useful book which gives the public facts fairly. But history writ-
ten as this is under the House of Commons restrictions of suppressing
private conversations and refraining from assigning private motives
for public action cannot be satisfactory. How futile to go on repre-
senting Parnell's neglect of his public duties to ill-health instead of to
its true cause, Mrs. O'Shea, or Hartington's implacable opposition to
Home Rule to anything but his brother's assassination. Yet there is
no hint of either of these veracities in Eversley's book. All the same
the book is a good one, and its writer was a good friend to me at the
time of my trial at Portumna, the only man in Parliament with a front
bench position who had the courage to support me there.

" 13th April. — Farid writes from Constantinople, whither he has
fled from Cairo to avoid arrest and perhaps four years imprisonment
for a speech made at a general meeting of the National Party. I think
he is quite right to have made this hcgira, as he can be of more use
at Constantinople, and the present regime at Cairo against which it is
useless to struggle until the Ottoman Empire is in a position to insist.
It appears that Saad Zaghloul has resigned at Cairo, having refused
to prosecute Farid.

" 14th April (Sunday). — Young Borthwick came again to talk about
his scheme of joining the Turks in Tripoli. It has developed now into
the idea of fitting up an old man-of-war with which to land artillery
somewhere on the coast. Of this the Turkish Embassy in London ap-
proves. He has an old connection with Turkey through his father, who
was in the Ottoman service, and went through the campaign of Plevna,
and he himself was born at Constantinople. He is also nephew to the
Borthwick of the ' Morning Post,' a good looking, active young fellow,
who knows Arabic, having lived, he tells me, for a year in a village in
Oran, and having accompanied the French expedition to Fez. He gave
me a detailed account of the rogueries that go on officially in Algeria
from the Governor-General downwards. Borthwick's business in Al-
geria was to buy land for an English company, and thus he became ac-
quainted with the way in which things are done there. The French
officials in charge of large districts get only 200 francs a month pay,
and are allowed to make what money they can out of the Arabs; the
taxes are farmed out, and the officials make a profit by lending money
on usury to the Arab landowners to enable them to pay the rates im-
posed (£4 a year is the rate for each plough), and then to foreclose,
and get possession of the land. It is a settled policy of the French
Government to get rid of the native population, and replace it with

386 The Wreck of the Titanic [1912

Europeans. The officials all go away more or less rich, and the Gov-
ernors-General amass fortunes. Borthwick is of opinion that if the
Turks can get artillery enough to do it, they may drive the Italians into
the sea at Tripoli, and that then the whole of native North Africa will
rise in Tunis and Algeria as well as in Morocco. The plan is an ad-
venturous one, and he is aware that he is running a great risk. He has
been three years in India serving in a cavalry regiment and left it four
years ago. I advised him as a first step to go to Constantinople, and
see what help he could get there. He came to me from Stead, who
had suggested to him that I might help him to get the money necessary.

" 16th April. — There has been an astonishing disaster at sea, the
Titanic, the largest vessel ever built, wrecked in mid Atlantic by col-
lision with an iceberg. It was her first voyage, and she was carrying
over 1,000 passengers to New York, many of them millionaires. Most
of the women and children seem to have been put in boats and picked
up by a passing steamer, but the rest have perished, over 1,000 souls,
including the ship's company. Among them is Stead, about whom I
was talking to Borthwick last Sunday, the very day of the wreck. He
was on his way on some newspaper business, and was to have written
a sensational account of the voyage. I cannot say I ever liked or re-
spected Stead, he was too much of a charlatan. It is impossible that a
man who has made himself the agent of the Russian autocracy, who
has intrigued for the restoration of the ex-Khedive Ismail, and who
has been named by Cecil Rhodes executor of his will, all the while
calling himself a friend of liberty, can have been quite honest. The
Irish always refused to trust him, and they were right. Still one can-
not help feeling a pang at so appalling an end. One thing is consoling
in these great disasters, the proof given that Nature is not quite yet the
slave of Man, but is able to rise even now in her wrath and destroy
him. Also if any large number of human beings could be better
spared than another it would be just these American millionaires with
their wealth and insolence.

" 20th April.— Newbuildings. There has been a demonstration of
bombarding the Dardanelles by the Italians, a childish and cowardly
proceeding, the ships opening fire at 8,000 yards, and firing 342 shots
without any result whatever.

" 21st April (Sunday). — I have been reading Davitt's book, the ' Fall
of Feudalism,' an interesting bit of Irish history, though a stupid title,
also Barry O'Brien's ' Life of Parnell.' The Turco-Italian war drags
on, but is beginning to get on the English commercial nerves, the pas-
sage of mercantile ships having been blocked through the Dardanelles
by the Italian attack. Nearly all our newspapers now lay the blame
of the war on Italy, even those which have hitherto been most in Italy's

19 1 2] Miss Frances Jennings 3^7

" 30th April. — Miss Frances Jennings appeared here this morning
with her donkey and van in which she has been travelling since the
beginning of the month, and I have established her and them in the goat
field. Hers is a forlorn and uncomfortable existence, though being
entirely out of doors she is happy, and though she is still partly para-
lyzed, and unable to walk or stand up except on crutches, she manages
to harness her donkey, and lift herself into the cart, and she travels
absolutely alone. She is naturally of a very fair complexion, and she
is much sunburnt, going bare-headed and wearing her hair in long
plaits. Her dress is of coarse green woollen stuff, her legs cased in
huge pilot boots. She has no mattress to lie on, or other bed than some
sheep skins, and a bit of eider-down quilt, but she says she can sleep
all night and more, twelve hours at a stretch. It is difficult to say
whether she is in her right mind or not. One would say not, except
that her talk, though strange, is quite reasonable ; it ripples perpetually
on in a very sweet voice, broken with little waves of laughter, describing
things she has seen and the small adventures of her life. We had our
tea with her in the meadow, and have lent her books, for she has none
with her. She lies all day on the ground, or sits in her van, which is
very small and low, with an oil cloth hood. For her meals she crawls
about gathering sticks to make a fire and hang a little pot for cocoa,
but she cooks nothing in the way of meat, eating bread and herbs,
docks, and nettles, which she finds close by. Hers is an entirely de-
fenceless life, except for her power of talk and her appearance of utter
guilelessness, but she is only twenty-six, and sufficiently attractive I
should say to run some risk at the hands of drunken roughs. Her
chief fear, however, she tells us is of slugs, and possible snakes crawl-
ing over her at night. I have advised her, since she intends to travel
all through the summer, to go north to Holywell, and bathe at St.
Winifred's shrine, but she says she has too little faith, though she be-
came a Catholic some few years ago, but I have told her that faith is
not necessary there for a cure, witness my own. 1

" 2nd May. — Drove with Miss Lawrence to Reigate Priory, where
we lunched with the Somersets. Lady Katherine is pleasant and very
like her brother Osborne Beauclerk, with just his way of talking and
asking questions. (I had not seen them since they came to see us at
Sheykh Obeyd on their honeymoon tour.) I like both of them, and
found the house most interesting, with gardens, and grounds, the pret-
tiest in Surrey.

" yd May. — The ' Times ' announces that our paper ' Egypt,' has
been forbidden entrance circulation and sale at Cairo, its articles ' dis-
turbing public order.' This is doubtless Kitchener's doing. I have
protested in a letter to the ' Times,' and am also writing to Grey.

1 See Appendix VII, p. 458.

388 Rhodes Surrenders [19 12

Dillon is unfortunately away in Dublin, and the other Irish members
are too closely pinned to the Government to help us much in Parlia-
ment. The Italians have seized Rhodes.

" Miss Jennings, who is still here, tells me she spent two years in a
room entirely occupied in watching the fire, and that she kept a diary of
what she saw there. Then another year watching the sea, now her
diary is about the people she meets on her country wanderings. Those
she likes best on the roads are the blacksmiths. She tells me they are
always kind. We had her in to a dinner of roast beef, which she en-
joyed, having been carried indoors by one of the stable helps, and is now
sitting by the fire. She is to go on to-morrow in the direction of St.
Winifred's well.

" yth May. — Syud Mahmud came down to wish me good-bye before
going back to India, a most excellent young man, the very best Moslem
in London — what will become of him?

" gth May. — Chapel Street. Dillon is back for the second reading
of the Home Rule Bill to-night. He expects no difficulty about its be-
coming law in two years, barring accidents. There are three rocks
ahead of the Government — Welsh Disestablishment, the Insurance Act,
and I forget the third (War?). Else all is plain sailing. He thinks
Grey contemplates a great coup in Egypt, certainly the abolition of the

" 1 2th May (Sunday).— Newbuildings. Baron Marschall von
Bieberstein has arrived as German Ambassador in London.

" 14th May. — Old May Day. Caffin calls it St. May, a name for it
I never heard before.

" igth May (Sunday). — Dillon has put a whole sheaf of questions
about the prohibition of ' Egypt,' and has got from Grey that he ac-
cepts the responsibility of it. He has ' personally satisfied himself as
to the contents of the paper, and that though it may not contain any
direct incitement to disturbance, he is of opinion that it might cause
disturbance, that Kitchener has written to him on the subject, in fine,
that he will not give us his protection, and declines to lay papers.'

" The Turkish garrison in Rhodes has had to surrender. Two thou-
sand three hundred regulars, through lack apparently of food, for there
has been no fighting. There is prospect now of a European Congress
which is certain to be hostile to the Ottoman Empire and Mohammedan

" 20th May. — I have been reading Crispi's Memoirs, dull stuff, most
of it, but there is a chapter at the end giving important documents which
show that as long ago as 1890 Lord Salisbury made a secret engagement
with the Italian Government, allowing its seizure of Tripoli as a counter-
poise to French naval power in the Mediterranean, also that at that
date the Italians had begun to intrigue with Hassuna Karamanli, and

1912] Asquith, Churchill and Kitchener at Malta 389

that he had assured them he could command the hill tribes of Jebel
Gharian, who were tired of their connection with Turkey, and would
welcome an Italian Occupation. This explains much that has been
doubtful, though of course I long ago suspected it.

"26th May {Whit-Sunday). — Newbuildings. Abdul Ghaffar is
here, a very excellent young fellow, serious, and without any nonsense
or exaggeration, accurate, and well-informed. He has been three years
at St. John's College, Oxford, and talked about Oxford affairs well with
Belloc. His father is a large fellah proprietor at Tola, in the Delta, and
he is an excellent specimen of his race, quite unspoiled by his English

" Kitchener is clamouring for reinforcements at Cairo, and for the
stationing of the British man-of-war at Alexandria. He is to meet
Asquith and Winston at Malta to discuss Mediterranean matters. It
looks very much as if he were meditating a coup of some kind in
Egypt, and I remember Winston's words to me last year, ' You must
not quarrel with me if I annex Egypt.'

" 31^ May. — The newspapers are full of the meeting at Malta to
which Winston and Clementine have gone with Nellie Hozier in the
Admiralty yacht to meet Kitchener, Asquith too."

[It was on this occasion that our people came to the decision of
getting the French Navy to police the Mediterranean, while the English
Navy should keep to North Sea and English Channel for the French
in the event of a war with Germany, thus enabling them to make a
definite promise to the French Government of help by land in a war
with Germany. It was on this occasion, too, that Winston, abandon-
ing his long feud with Kitchener, made friends with him to Egypt's

" The war in the Mediterranean drags on, the Italian Fleet making
a round of the iEgean and seizing the islands. The Arabs of Southern
Morocco have at last risen against the French. They are stalwart
men, but quite unorganized as soldiers. They have proclaimed a new
Sultan in place of Mulai Hafiz, abdicated, and may give the French

"2nd June (Sunday). — I hear from Paris that there are several
Orientals recently arrived there from India with a plot to assassinate
Grey, as also Kitchener, but it is not likely to come to anything. Things
in the Mediterranean are more mixed than ever. The Italian Fleet
has occupied most of the Turkish islands, the idea being to get Europe
to force the Turks to make peace.

" Kitchener's meeting with Asquith and Churchill at Malta is really
an important one, as they will have to settle between them what is to
be our Mediterranean policy. Some want an alliance offensive and
defensive with France, others peace with Germany. It will end in

39° Patriotism of Abbas ? [1Q12

the Mediterranean being left to the Mediterranean Powers. Then we
shall leave Egypt, holding on only to the Soudan, but this will not take
place yet for some years.

" McCullagh has written a quite admirable book, ' Italy's War for a
Desert.' I am reviewing it in ' Egypt.'

"23rd June (Sunday). — Dillon is here for the week-end, and we
have been talking over past Irish history.' [All very interesting, but
I have given most of it in my ' Land War in Ireland.' ] I drove him
this afternoon to the top of Chanclebury with my Arab team. We
came back from the Ring by Dial Post in an hour and thirty-five
minutes, having driven there by Broomer's Corner in a little over

Online LibraryWilfrid Scawen BluntMy diaries : being a personal narrative of events, 1888-1914 (Volume 2) → online text (page 45 of 56)