The LIFE STORY of MRS. ASQUITH
The Wife of the Former Premier in a Brilliant Narrative
II—MY EARLY MARRIED LIFE
WE WERE married on the 10th of May, 1894. Our register was signed by four Prime Ministers, Mr. Gladstone, Lord Rosebery, Arthur Balfour and my husband. We spent the first part of our honeymoon at Mells Park, lent us by Sir John and Lady Horner, and the second at Clovelly Court.
I do not think if you had ransacked the world you could have found natures so opposite in temper, temperament, and outlook as myself and my step-children when I first knew them.
If there was a difference between the Tennants and Lytteltons of laughter, there was a difference between the Tennants and Asquiths of tears; Tennants believed in appealing to the hearts of men, firing their imagination, and penetrating and vivifying their inmost lives. They had a little loose love to give to the whole world. The Asquiths—without mental flurry and with perfect selfmastery, believed in the free application of intellect to every human emotion; no event could have given heightened expression to their feelings. Shy, self-engaged, critical and controversial, nothing surprised them and nothing upset them. We w'ere as zealous and vital as they were detached, and as cocky and passionate as they were modest and emotionless.
They rarely looked at you, and never got up when anyone came into the room. If you had appeared downstairs in a waterproof or a bathing-gown they would not have observed it, and would certainly never have commented upon it if they had. Whether they were glowing with joy to see you, or thrilled at receiving a friend, their welcome 3Aras equally composed. They were devoted to each other and never quarrelled; they were seldom wild and never naughty. Perfectly self-contained, truthful and deliberate, I never saw them lose themselves in my life, and I have hardly ever seen the saint or hero that excited their disinterested emotion.
When I thought of the storms of revolt—the rage, the despair, the wild enthusiasms and reckless adventures, the disputes that finished not merely with fights but with fists in our nursery and school-room, I was stunned by the steadiness of the Asquith temper. It was their attitude towards life that was different to my own. They overvalued brains—which was a strange fault as they were all brilliantly clever.
Hardly any Prime Minister has had famous children,
but the Asquiths were all remarkable in different ways. Raymond and Violet the most striking, Arthur the most capable, Herbert a poet, and Cyril the shyest and the rarest.
It is not because I took charge of Cyril at an early age that I say he is more my own than the others, but because although he did not always agree with me—he never misunderstood me. He said at Murren one day when he was seventeen and we had been having a talk on life and religion : “It must be curious for you, Margot, seeing all of us laughing at things that make you cry.” This showed remarkable insight for a school-, boy.
My step-daughter Violet, * though intensely feminine, would have been a remarkable man.
I do not believe there is any examination she cculd not have passed. Ever since she was a little girl she had perfect self-possession and patience. She loved dialectics and could put her case eloquently, logically and plausibly. Although quite as unemotional she had more keenness, enterprise, and indignation than the others and was without shyness or trepidation of any kind. She was more brilliant than the young people round her,
but being delicate never went through the mill of criticism and rivalry which was the daily bread of my girlhood.
She saw life through her own spectacles. She had the same penetrating sense of humor as her brother Raymond and quite as much presence of mind
in retort. Her gift of expression was amazing and she had a remarkably fine memory. She and my daughter Elizabeth were the only girls, except myself, that I ever met who were real politicians, nqt merely interested in the personal side—whether Mr. B. or C. spoke well, or were likely to get promotion, or had told this or that Cabinet secret — hut in the legislation and administration of Parliament they followed and knew what was going on at home and abroad. Violet Bonham Carter has I think a great political future in the country—if not in the Commons. She is a natural speaker, easy, eloquent, witty, short and of imperturbable “sangfroid.”
Life in the House is neither healthy, useful nor appropriate for a woman and the functions of a mother and a member are not compatible. This was one of the reasons my husband and I were against giving the franchise to women.
We were all wonderfully happy as a family together, but looking back I think I was far from clever with my stepfamily. They grew up good and successful independently
* I Bonham Cartel-.
I do not know which of us was considered the most courageous in our marriage, my husband or myself. In every one of my letters of congratulation there was a note of warning; no doubt step-relationships are not natural, and should not be taken in hand unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly, but reverently, discreetly and soberly.
Gladstone and Lord Morley wrote me these letters on mv engagement:
“May 5th, 1894.
You have a great and noble work to perform. It is a work far beyond human strength. May the strength which is more than human be abundantly granted you.
“W. E. G.”
I remember on receiving it saying to my beloved friend Con Manners:
Gladstone thinks my fitness to be Henry’s wife should be prayed for like the clergy; ‘Almighty and Everlasting God, who alone workest great marvels. . .
John Morley wrote this:
“95, Elm Park Gardens “South Kensington,
“My dear Miss Margot:
‘Now that the whirl of congratulations must be ceasing, here are mine, the latest but not the least warm of them all. You are going to marry one of the finest men in all the world, with a great store of sterling gifts both of head and heart, and with a life before him of the highest interest, importance and power. Such a man is a companion that any woman might envy you. I dare say you know this without my telling you. On the other part, I will not add myself to those impertinents who—as I understand you to report— wish you ‘to improve.’ I very respectfully wish nothing of the sort. Few qualities are better worth leaving as they are than vivacity, wit, freshness of mind, gayety and pluck. Pray keep them all. Don’t improve by an atom.
“Circumstance may have a lesson or two to teach you, but ’tis only the dull who don’t learn, and I have no fear but that such a pair have happy years in front of them.
“You ask for my blessing, and you have it. Be sure that I wish you as unclouded a life as can be the lot of woman, and I hope you will always let me count myself your friend. I possess some aphorisms on the married state—but they will keep. I only let them out as occasion comes.
“Always yours sincerely, “JOHN MORLEY.”
Looking back now on the first years of my marriage, I cannot exaggerate the gratitude which I feel for the tolerance, patience and loyalty that my step-children extended to a stranger; for, although I introduced an enormous amount of fun, beauty and movement into their lives, I could not replace what they had lost.
Henry's first wife, Helen Asquith, was an exceptionally pretty, refined woman; never dull, never artificial, and of single-minded goodness --but without illusions - - she was a wonderful wife and a devoted mother.
She was less adventurous even than her children. She told me in one of our talks how much she regretted that her husband had taken silk and was in the House of Commons; I said in a glow of surprise;
“Surely, Mrs. Asquith, you are ambitious for your husband! Why, he’s a wonderful man!”
She looked at me as if I had been speaking another language, and about something she hail never thought of.
The Pro-German Calumny
IF MY step-children were patient with me 1 dare not 1 say what their father was; there are some reservations that the boldest biographer cannot reveal, and 1 shall only write of my husband's character his loyalty, lack of vanity, freedom from self, warmth and width of sympathy —in connection with politics and not with myself; but since I have touched on t his subject I will give one illustration of his nature.
When Hie full meaning of the disreputable general elec-
tion of 1918, with its many foul and false cries, was burned into me at Paisley this year by our Coalition opponent re-repeating them, I said to Henry in the anguish of my
“Oh, if I had only quietly dropped all my friends of German name when the war broke out and never gone to say good-by to those poor Lichnowskys, these lies propagated for political reasons would never have been told, and the grotesque pro-German stunt could not have been started." To which he replied:
“God forbid! I would rather ten thousand times be out of public life forever.”
The Death of Raymond Asquith
RAYMOND ASQUITH was born
on the 6th of November, 1878, and was killed lighting against the Germans on the 15th of September,
1916. before his regiment had been in action ten minutes.
He was the most distinguished young man of his day: beautiful to look at and an intellectual companion of the highest order, light in hand, brilliant in answer and interested in affairs. Raymond was charming from his boyhood, and I only remember him once in his life getting angry with me. He had been urged to go into politics by both his wife and his . father, and had been invited by the Liberal association of a northern town to become their candidate. He was complaining about it one day, saying how dull, how stupid, how boring the average constituents of all electorates were. I told him I thought a closer contact with common people would turn out not only more interesting and delightful than he imagined, but that it would be the making of him.
He flared up at once, and made me appear infinitely ridiculous; but being on sure ground, I listened with amusement.
The discussion ended amicably, neither of us having deviated by a hair’s breadth from our original positions. He and I never got on each other’s nerves, though two more different beings never lived. His arctic analysis of what he looked upon as “cant” always stirred his listeners to a high pitch of enthusiasm.
One day when he was at home for his holidays we were having tea all together, and to amuse the children I began asking riddles. I told them I had only guessed one in my life, but it had taken me three days. They asked me what it was, and
“What is it that God has never seen—that kings see seldom—and we see every day?”
Raymond instantly answered:
I felt that the real answer, which was “an equal” was very tepid after this.
In 1907 he married from 10 Downing Street Katherine Horner, a beautiful creature of character and intellect, as lacking in fire and incense as himself. Their devotion to each other and happiness was a perpetual joy to me. I felt I had in some small way contributed to it, as Katherine was the daughter of Laura’s greatest friend.
Frances Horner, Lady Horner of Melis, was more like a sister to me than anyone outside my family. She was one of the few women who had a salon in London before she married. There may be women as well endowed with heart, head, temper and temperament as Frances, but I have only met three: Lady de Vesci—whose niece
Cynthia married our poet son Herbert—Lady Desborough —of whom I shall write later on—and my daughter Elizabeth. With most women the impulse to crab is much greater than to praise, and grandeur of character is surprisingly absent from them.
His death was the first great sorrow in my step-children’s lives, and an anguish to me and his father. It was a terrible shock to everyone. My husband’s natural pride in him had always been great. We had discussed him so often when we were alone, his personal charm and wit, his little faults, and, above all, the success which awaited him, that his loss haunted us. Henry’s grief darkened the waters in Downing Street at a time when had they been clear certain events could never have taken place. When Raymond was dying on the battlefield he gave the doctor his flask to give his father. Henry placed it by the side of his bed, and it was never moved till we left Whitehall.
Among many letters, this one from Sir Edward Grey, the present Lord Grey of Fallodon, gave my husband the most comfort:
“33, Eccleston Square,
“Sept. 18, 1916.
“My Dear Asquith:
“A generation has passed since Raymond’s mother died and the years that have gone make me feel for and with
you even more than I would then. Raymond has had a brilliant and unblemished life: he chose with open-eyed courage the heroic part in this war, and he has died as a
“If this life be all, it matters not whether its years be few or many, but if it be not all, then Raymond’s life is part of something that is not made less by his death, but is made greater and ennobled by the quality and merit of his life and death.
“I would fain believe that those who die do not suffer in the separation from those they love here; that time is not to them what it is to us, and that to them the years of separation, be they few or many, will be but as yesterday.
“If so, then only for us, who are left here, is the pain of suffering and the weariness of waiting and enduring; the one beloved is spared that. There is some comfort in thinking that it is we, not the loved one, that have the harder part.
“I grieve especially for Raymond’s wife, whose suffering I fear must be what is unbearable. I hope the knowledge of how the feeling of your friends and the whole nation, and not of this nation only, for you is quickened and goes out to you will help you to continue the public work, which is now more than ever necessary, and will give you strength. Your courage I know never fails.
“Yours affectionately, “EDWARD GREY.”
Close to Death’s Door
J QUOTE the following out of my May 18th.
“Sir John Williams* would have been a remarkable man in any country, but in Wales he was unique. He was a man of profound feeling and knowledge, neither brilliant nor treacherous, and was absolutely truthful. He was my doctor.
“My sisters Charlotte and Lucy and the Duchess of Rutland were in the room when I began to feel ill the night of my first confinement. My gamp—an angular-faced, admirable old woman—was called Jerusha Taylor, ‘out of the Book of Kings,’ as she told me proudly. Henry held my hands, and I was sobbing in an armchair, feeling the panic of pain and fear which no one can realize who has not had a baby.
“When Williams arrived I felt as if salvation must be near—my whole soul and every beat of my heart went out in dumb appeal to him—his tenderness bred in me a love and gratitude which I shall never allow to fade, and which was intensified by all I saw of him. He seemed to think a narcotic might calm my nerves and allay my pains. Henry was lying by my side in a tremor of sympathy. The sleeping-draught might have been water for all the effect it had on me, so he gave me chloroform.
“ ‘Oh! doctor, dear doctor, stay with me to-night, just this night, and I will stay with you any night you like,’ I said as the darkness was beginning to nod at me.
“Williams was too anxious, my nurse told me, to hear a word I said.
“At four o’clock in the morning Henry went to fetch the anaesthetist, and in his absence Williams took me out of chloroform. Then I seemed to have a glimpse of another worlS—if pain is evil then it was hell, if not—I expect I got nearer the other world than I have ever been before. . .
“I saw Dr. Bailey standing at the foot of the bed with a bag in his hand, and Charty’s outline against the lamp. Then my head was placed on the pillow and a black thing came between me and the light and closed over my mouth —a slight beating of carpets sounded in my brain and I knew no more. . . .
“When I came to consciousness about twelve the next morning, I saw Charty looking at me. I said to her:
“ T can’t have any more pain; it’s no use’ (faintly).
“Charty: ‘No—no—darling, you won’t have any more.’ (Silence.)
“Margot: ‘But you don’t mean it’s all over?’
“Charty (soothingly): ‘Go to sleep, dearest.’
“I was so full of chloroform I could hardly speak. Charty went out of the room. Later on the nurse told me that the doctor had had to sacrifice my baby; and that I
♦Sir John Williams at Aberystwyth, Wales.
Continued, on page 47
Continued, from paye 18
ought to be grateful for being spared, as I had had a very dangerous confinement.
“When Sir John Williams came he looked white and tired, so did Henry, and, finding my temperature was normal, he said fervently:
“ 'Thank you, Mrs. Asquith.’
“I was too weak and uncomfortable to realize all that had happened. What I suffered from the smallest noise I can hardly describe! I would watch nurse slowly approaching me and then burst into a sudden perspiration when. her cotton dress crinkled against the chintz; I shivered with fear whe.i the blinds were drawn up and shutters unfastened; anyone moving up or downstairs, placing a tumbler on the marble wash-hand-stand, or reading a newspaper—or even a letter—would bring
i tears into my eyes, and the door opening I suddenly made me tremble.
“One day Williams and Henry came into I my bedroom at about six o’clock in the morning, and from then till the end of •luly I never moved off the flat of my back. 1 had contracted a clot of blood and was suffering from phlebitis. My leg was swathed in cotton wool. To take away the pain morphia was injected in my arm for over six weeks every night. This had a wonderful effect on me—it restored my nervous system, started my appetite, and put me in good spirits. Williams became a nurse of the first order, his understanding and skill filled me with confidence.
“Queen Victoria took an interest in my confinement and wrote Henry a charming letter; she sent messengers constantly to ask after me, and I answered her myself once in pencil, as Henry was at the Home Office.
“I was lying, as usual (after being shut up in the dark for an hour and a half), looking at the bunches of hawthorn on the wall-paper, when Sir William Harcourt’s card was sent up to me and my door was darkened by his huge form.
“ It was not the first time I had seen him—
I had seen most of my political and other friends while I was convalescing. Mr. Gladstone, Birrell, Lord Spencer, Lord Rosebery, the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Morley, Arthur Balfour, Haldane, Sir A. Lyall, Admiral Maxse, etc. There is nothing so sympathetic as a man, and I found them all very healing.
“When Sir William came into my room he observed my hunting whips hanging from a rack, and said :
T am glad to see those whips! Asquith will be able to beat you if you play fast and loose with him. That little tight mouth of his convinces me he has the capacity to do it.’
“After my nurse left the room he expressed surprise that I should have an ugly woman, however good she might be, and told me that his son Bobby had been in love with his nurse and wrote to her for several years. He added in his most ribald Hanoverian vein:
“ T encourage my boys all I can in this line—it promises well for their future.’
“After some talk, Mr. Morley’s card was brought up, and, seeing Sir William look subdued, I told the servant to ask him to wait in my boudoir, and assured Sir William that I was in no hurry for him to go, but after a little time he insisted on John Morley coming up. We had a good talk, starting by abusing men who minded other people’s opinion of them, or what the newspapers said. Knowing as I did that both of them were highly sensitive. I encouraged the conversation :
“John Morley: T can only say I agree with what Joe once said to me, ‘I would rather the newspapers were for me than against me.’ ”
“Sir William: ‘My dear chap, you would surely not rather have the Daily Chronicle on your side: why, bless my soul! our party has had more harm done it through the Daily Chronicle than anything
“Margot: ‘Do you think so? I think its screams, though pitched a little high, are effective.’
“John Morley: ‘Oh, you like Massingham, of course, because your husband is one of his heroes.’
“Sir William: ‘Well, I’m glad to say he always abuses me.’
“John Morley: ‘And me also—though not perhaps quite so often!’
“Margot: T would like him to praise me. I think his description of the House of Commons debate quite brilliant, and there is great edge in his writing. The politics of the paper changed strangely over Lord Rosebery!’ Feeling this was ticklish ground, I turned it off and jumped on to Goschen.
"Sir William: ‘It is sad to see the way Goschen has lost his hold in the country-he has not been well treated by his
“This I also felt to be risky, so I said boldly that I thought Goschen had done wonders in the House and country considering ho had a poor voice and was cautious. 1 told them I loved him personally. Sir William, returning to his ribald tone, said that most ladies had complained to him that Goschen was not sufficiently ‘entreprenant’; after some laughter he took his departure, promising to bring me roses from Malwood.
“John Morley—the most fascinating of men—stayed on with me and suggested quite seriously that when we went out of
office (which might happen any day) he and I should write a novel together. He said that if I would write the plot and do the women, he would manage the men and polities. I asked if he wanted the old Wilkie Collins idea of a plot with a hundred threads being drawn into one woof, or did he prefer modern nothingness—a shred of a story attached to unending analysis and the infinitely little commented upon with elaborate humor. He scorned the latter. I asked him if he did not want to go back permanently to literature, and discussed all his wonderful writing. I chaffed him aboùt the way he had spoken of me before our marriage—how it had been repeated to me that he had said my light-hearted indiscretions would ruin Henry’s career, and I asked him what I had done since to merit his renewed confidence.
“He did not deny having criticized me, for although ‘Honest John’ — the name he went by among the Radicals—was singularly ill-chosen, I never heard of Morley telling a lie. He was quite impenitent and I admired his courage.
The Liberal Government Beaten “ A FTER an engrossing conversation, TA every moment of which I loved, he said goodbye, and I leant back ' quietly gazing at my prints of old London.
“Henry came into my room and told me the Government had been beaten by seven on a vote of censure passed on Campbell-Bannerman in Supply (small arms ammunition). I looked at him wonderingly and said:
“ ‘Are you sad, darling, that we are out?’ “Asquith: ‘Only for one reason, I
wish I had completed my prison reforms. I have, however, appointed the best committee ever seen who will go on with my work. Ruggles-Brise is a splendid little fellow.’
“At that moment he received a note to say he was wanted in the House of Commons at once. Lord Rosebery had been sent for by the Queen. This excited us much; he went straight down to Westminster. . . . John Morley had missed the division as he was with me and Harcourt had only just arrived at the House in time to vote in this fateful division.
“Henry came in at 1 a.m. to say goodnight. He generally said his prayers by my bed-side. He told me that St. John Brodrick’s motion to reduce CampbellBannerman’s salary by a hundred pounds had turned the Government out, that Campbell-Bannerman was indignant and hurt—that few of our men were in the House and that Akers Douglas, the Tory Whip, could not believe his eyes when he handed the figures to Tom Ellis—our chief Whip—who returned them to him silently.
“Rosebery resigned and went straight down to Windsor. The next morning St. John Brodrick came to see me, full of excitement and sympathy. He was rather anxious to know if we minded his being instrumental in our downfall. . . I am so fond of him that of course I told him that I did not mind—a week sooner or later makes no difference, and St. John’s division was only one out of many indications that our time was up. Henry came back from the Cabinet in the middle of St. John’s visit and shook his fist in fun at ‘our enemy’; he was tired, but good humored as ever.
A Character Sketch “T WILL finish this part of my autoA biography with a character sketch of myself out of my diary written nine weeks before the birth of my fifth and last baby in 1906.
“Ï am not pretty, and I do not know anything about my expression, although I observe it is this that is particularly dwelt upon if one is plain enough—but I hope when you feel as kindly towards your fellow creatures as I do that some of that warmth may modify an otherwise thin and rather knifey ‘contour.’
“My figure has remained the same: slight, well-balanced and active. Being socially courageous and not at all shy, I think I can come into a room as well as many people of more appearance and prestige. I do not propose to treat myself like Mr. Bernard Shaw. No,
I shall neither excuse myself from praise, nor shield myself from blame—I shall put down the figures as accurately as I can and leave others to add them up.
“I think I have imagination—reading this you may be tempted to add ‘and not much sense of humor’ (!), but I will explain what I mean. I have imagination born not of fancy but of feeling; a concep
,tm of the beautiful—not merely in poetry, wsic, nature and art, but in human lings. I have insight into human nature, crived not only from a courageous and themian experience, but also from imagiition; and I have a clear—though distnt—vision down dark, long, and often (yergent avenues of the ordered meaning c God. I take this opportunity to say tat my religion is a vibrating reality never pay from me, and this is all I shall write fcon the subject.
I “It is difficult to describe what one Bans by ‘imagination,’ but I think [' is greater than invention, or fancy, pemember discussing the question with ¡Addington Symonds and to give him a Esty illustration of what I meant I said ¡thought naming a Highland regiment he Black Watch’ showed a high degree of agination. He was pleased with this *nd I may add that both he and Jowett !d me I had imagination. In an early »e-letter to me, Henry wrote :
“ ‘Imaginative insight you have more in anyone I ever met!’
“I think I am deficient in one form of agination—and Henry will agree with is—I do not always know what hurts r friends’ feelings—friends’ and retails’—never strangers’ or acquaintances’; »se I impress favorably!
'T have a great longing to help those I re—this leads me to intrepid personal tieism. I don’t think I should mind ything that I have said to, others being d to me, but one never can tell. I have cen adverse criticism pretty well all my ». I have got a good, sound digestion d personally prefer knowing the truth, tm not vain or touchy; it takes a lot to end me, but when I am hurt the scar nains. I am not ungenerous, but I i not really forgiving. I feel differently out people who have hurt me: my conence has been shaken, my opinion inged. Worldly people say that exin ations are always a mistake; but ving it out is the only chance anyone i ever have of retaining my love. There no healer in Time for me: I am not aid of suffering too much in life, but ich more afraid of feeling too little, te of my complaints against the short3s of life is that there is not time enough feel pity and love for enough people, im infinitely compassionate and moved my foundations by other people’s sfortunes.
“As I said in my 1888 characterîtch, truthfulness is hardly a virtue th me: the temptation lies all the other .y. I cannot discriminate between iths that need, and those that need not told. Want of courage is what makes many people lie. It would be difficult • me to say exactly what I am afraid of. lysically and socially not much; morally 3, I am afraid of a good many things— irimanding servants, bargaining in shops , to turn to more serious things, the loss my health, the children’s or Henry’s— pray against these last possibilities in ery recess of my thoughts.
“With becoming modesty I have said at I am imaginative, loving and brave! hat, then, are my faults?
“I am fundamentally nervous, initient, irritable and restless. These ly sound slight shortcomings, but they to the foundation of my nature, cripng some of my activity, lessening my ïuence and preventing me achieving ything remarkable. I wear myself out a hundred unnecessary ways, regretting e trifles I have not done, arranging and -arranging what I have got to do, and lat everyone else is going to do, till I n hardly eat or sleep. To be in one ■sition for long or sit through meals is a «itive punishment to me. I am tresndously energetic, orderly and indus¡ous, but I am just a little too quick, am driven along by my temperament till :ire myself and other people.
“I did not marry till I was thirty and tew neither London nor society till I was 'enty. This luckily gave me time to ad; I collected nearly a thousand books my own before I married. If I had had al application—as all the Asquiths have •I should by now be a well-educated aman, but this I never had. I am not all dull, never bored or stale, but I )n t seem to be able to grind at unconmial things. I have a good memory for >oks and conversations, but bad for poetry id dates—wonderful for faces, and pitiful r names.
“Physically I have done pretty well, ride better than most women and have »ent or wasted more time on it than any
woman of intellect ought to. I have broken both collar-bones, all my ribs, and my knee-cap, dislocated my jaw, fractured my skull, gashed my nose, and had five concussions of the brain, but though my horses are to be sold next week*—I have not lost my nerve. I dance, drive and skate well; I don’t skate very well, but I dance really well. I have a talent for drawing and am intensely musical, playing the piano with a touch of the real thing, but have neglected both these accomplishments. I may say here in self-defence that marriage and five babies, five stepchildren and a husband in high politics have all contributed to this neglect, but the root of the matter lies deeper. I am restless.
“After riding, what I have enjoyed doing most in my life is writing. I have written a great deal but do not fancy publishing my exercises. I have always kept a diary and commonplace books; for many years I wrote careful criticisms of everything I read. It is rather difficult for me to say what I think of my own writing. Arthur Balfour says I am the best letter-writer he knows. Henry tells me I write well, and Symonds said I had Voreille juste. I am not elaborate or too clever and I think I have natural style—short and vivid. My thoughts pass easily into words. When I have anything to say I can generally express it; but writing of the kind that I like reading I cannot do; it is a long apprenticeship—possibly if I had had this apprenticeship forced upon me by circumstances I should have done it better than anything else. I am a conscious critic of books and know what I think while I am reading. I do not take my opinions from other people and have not got ‘a lending-library mind’ as Henry well described that of a friend of ours. From this point of view—not a very high one—
I might be called original.
“When I read Arthur Balfour’s books and essays I realized what a beautiful English style he wrote. Raymond, whose intellectual taste was as fine as his father’s, wrote in a paper for his All Souls Fellowship that Arthur had the finest style of any living writer. Raymond and Henry often justify my literary verdicts.
“From my earliest age I have been a collector—not of anything particularly valuable but of letters, old photographs of the family, famous people, and odds and ends. I don’t lose things. Our cigarette ash trays are plates from my dolls’ dinner-service. I have got chinà, books, whips, knives, match-boxes and clocks given me since I was a small child.
I have kept our early copy-books with all the family signatures in them and many trifling landmarks of nursery life, milestones in my intellectual development.
I am punctual, tidy and methodical: detesting indecision, change of plans and the egotism that this involves. I am a little stern and severe except with children, for these I have endless elasticity. Many of my faults are physical. If I could have chosen my own life—more in the hills and less in the traffic—I should have slept better and might have been less overwrought and disturbable. But after all I am on a man-of-war (as Evan Charteris once said to me when I was prospecting my future married life), which is better than being on a pirate ship, and is a profession in itself.
“Well, I have finished, I have tried to relate of my manners, morals, talents, defects, temptations and appearance as faithfully as I can and I think there is nothing more to be said. If I had to confess and expose one opinion of myself which might differentiate me a little from other people, I should say it was my power of love coupled with my power of criticism; what I lack most is what Henry possesses above all men, equanimity, sweetness, self-control, and the authority that comes from moderation and a perfect sense of proportion. I can only pray that I am not too old or too stationary to acquire these.
“Begun at Littlestone, June 1st, 1906; finished at Rothes, August 5th, of the \ same year.”
“P.S. This is my second attempt : to write about myself. I am not at all sure that my old character-sketch of 1888 is not the better of the two. ... It is j more external—but, after all, what can one
1'06*y ^0r8eS w«?re sold at Tattersall’s, June 11.
; say of one's inner self that corresponds with j what one really is, or what one’s friends I think one is? Just now I am within eight or nine weeks of my baby’s birth and I am j inclined to take a gloomy view—I am in¡ dined to sum up my life in this way: “ ‘An unfettered childhood and tri! umphant youth; a lot of love-making and 1 a little abuse; a little fame and more abuse;
a real man and great happiness; the love of children and seventh heaven; an early death and a crowded memorial service.’
In the next instalment Mrs. Asquith will tell haw she first met her husband and gives same vivid impressions of Cecil Rhodes and others.