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Title: Memories of the Future - Being Memoirs of the Years 1915â
Author: Knox, Ronald Arbuthnott
Language: English
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                         MEMORIES OF THE FUTURE

                 γένοιτο δ’ ἂν πᾶν ἐν τῷ μακρῷ χρόνῷ.

                                       Herodotus, V. 9.

                         MEMORIES OF THE FUTURE
                  BEING MEMOIRS OF THE YEARS 1915‒1972
                   WRITTEN IN THE YEAR OF GRACE 1988
                          OPAL, LADY PORSTOCK

                               EDITED BY
                             RONALD A. KNOX

                          McCLELLAND & STEWART
                        PUBLISHERS      TORONTO

                        PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN

                              DEDICATED TO

                    LAURA, TOMMY, E.V., AND MAURICE

                     THE FIRST READERS OF THIS BOOK
                              AND, I FEAR,
                          ITS KINDEST CRITICS



         CHAP.                                             PAGE

               EDITOR’S PREFACE                              ix

               AUTHOR’S PREFACE                            xiii

             I CHILDHOOD (1915‒1930)                          1

            II SCHOOL DAYS (1930‒1934)                       16

           III OXFORD (1934‒1938)                            33

            IV TRAVELS ON THE CONTINENT (1938‒1940)          50

             V ON THE SICK LIST (1940‒1941)                  66

            VI BUSINESS AND PLEASURE (1941‒1944)             81

           VII WHAT I FOUND IN AMERICA (1944)                98

          VIII MY MARRIAGE (1944)                           112

            IX LONDON SOCIETY AND ITS FOLLIES (1945‒1953)   128

             X MY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION (1953)             144

            XI IN PARLIAMENT (1953‒1959)                    159

           XII HOME LIFE (1953‒1963)                        175

          XIII GREAT MEN OF THE DAY (1960)                  191


            XV ENGLAND ON THE EVE OF THE GREAT WAR (1972)   226

               INDEX OF PERSONS REFERRED TO                 241

                            EDITOR’S PREFACE

    _Being a fugal variation on the Author’s Preface, which follows_

We do ill, if we fail in veneration for the future—rather, we do
impiously, for we beget it, and it is of our blood. The man, the nation
that can sneer at unborn loves and unborn enthusiasms is as if a father
should kick his son downstairs, unnatural. To sneer at what is
new-fangled is an easy triumph, for the unborn cannot plead in answer;
cannot try to explain, far less succeed in explaining to us, what it
will feel like to wear those clothes, use that unimagined slang,
cultivate those types and thrill to those ideals. True, their
unchartered and undesired advocates, the praisers of the future, have
done their cause disservice: old age will have its hit back at the
coxcombs for all the H. G. Wells-tedium that manhood endured, in forced
silence. But our grandsons will be unwitting accomplices in the
conspiracy of unconventionality that now educates us: there will be no
attitudinizing about their scepticism, no _arrière pensée_ in their
immorality. To them, as to us, the fashion of the age will seem a
Providential culmination: they will play hide-and-seek in its shadowy
confines without stopping to ask whether or no they are lost in them.
And if they could come down to defend their cause against us, they would
surely remonstrate with us by appealing to us to do as we would be done
by: “Your own times, too,” they would say, “used one day to seem
uncouth, and hectic, and over-emotional: and brilliant pessimists
disproved the possibility of doing what you did, before you had time to
do it. Learn to forget that we were ever held up to you as models of
what men should be: remember only that we are pictures of what men will
be: to see human nature, fashioned of the same clay and cast in the same
ultimate mould as yourselves, living in other conditions and reacting
upon a situation that is not yours, may be tedious indeed, but not
altogether unprofitable. Do not despise the future; you go into it, and
from you it comes.”

That is our apology—ours who are young—for this business of writing
forecasts. You may, if you will, be content to read of us only what you
will read in scrappy almanacks, but you will lose the sense of your own
value in doing so: you will be like one who stops reading a _feuilleton_
at the twentieth chapter, with no more anticipation than such as is
offered by the author’s hints of what will follow: or like one who
strolls out when the third act of a drama is being played, and whispers
to his friends a brief summary of what will be the rest of the plot. We
are Act 5 of the drama, you are Act 3; without us, you cannot understand
yourselves. You must follow in detail, as it unfolds itself, the
development of the times that will spring from you, if you would taste
the full savour of the times out of which they sprang. You will accuse
our prognostications of partiality and of false perspective: “All will
not be so rosy,” you will be tempted to say, “as sanguine forecast has
pictured it, you have represented the exceptional as the typical, the
typical as the exceptional; hard outlines have become blurred for you,
and shadows, in their turn, taken substance.” Well, we do our best; we
are puppies, perhaps, and idealists, but you will do well to take our
depositions and to sift them for yourselves.

One day you were young, and you too wanted to write forecasts; and you
too found that to envisage the future was arduous, that old ways of
thinking and _status quo ante_ judgments of value imposed themselves
upon your mind, and made you despair of the true estimate and the
adequate phrase. And you found that, however unclouded your own faculty
of prognostication, you searched in vain for the magic touch which would
interpret the future for your older contemporaries, take them forward
with you and make them see it with your eyes, your presuppositions. If
you could be now what you were then, though it be farther than ever
removed from the new days of which this book is an awful warning, you
would be more disposed to bear a young man’s nightmares with patience,
and allow for him where he has exaggerated, and pardon him where he has

                                                                R. A. K.

                            AUTHOR’S PREFACE

We do ill, if we fail in veneration for the past—rather, we do
impiously, for it begot us, and we are of its blood. The man, the nation
that can sneer at dead loves and dead enthusiasms is as if a son should
kick his father downstairs, unnatural. To sneer at what is old-fashioned
is an easy triumph, for the dead cannot plead in answer; cannot try to
explain, far less succeed in explaining to us, what it felt like to wear
those clothes, use that forgotten slang, cultivate those types and
thrill to those ideals. True, their unchartered and undesired advocates,
the praisers of the past, have done their cause disservice: youth will
have its hit back at the greybeards for all the Polonius-tedium that
boyhood endured, in forced silence. But our grandfathers were unwitting
accomplices in the conspiracy of convention that then educated us; there
was no attitudinizing about their faith, no _arrière pensée_ in their
respectability. To them, as to us, the fashion of an age seemed a
Providential culmination; they played ball against its brick enclosure
without stopping to ask whether or no it cramped them. And if they could
rise up to defend their case against us, they would surely remonstrate
with us by appealing to us to do as we would be done by: “Your own
times, too,” they would say, “will one day seem uncouth, and frigid, and
unimaginative: and brilliant essayists will ransack your gold for the
dross in it, their flashlight will make the colour fade from your
enthusiasms. Learn to forget that we were ever held up to you as models
of what men should be: remember only that we are pictures of what men
were: to see human nature, fashioned of the same clay and cast in the
same primal mould as yourselves, living in other conditions and reacting
upon a situation that is not yours, may be tedious indeed, but not
altogether unprofitable. Do not despise the past; you came from it, and
into it you go.”

That is our apology—ours who are old—for this business of writing
memoirs. You may, if you will, be content to read of us only what you
will read in scrappy histories, but you will lose the sense of your own
value in doing so: you will be like one who picks up a _feuilleton_ at
its twentieth chapter, with no more preparation than such as is offered
by the editor’s synopsis of previous events: or like one who strolls in
when the third act of a drama is being played, and will have his friends
whisper a brief summary to put him _au fait_ with the plot. We are Act 1
of the drama, you are Act 3; without us, you cannot understand
yourselves. You must follow in detail, as it unfolds itself, the
development of the times you sprang from, if you would taste the full
savour of the times into which you sprang. You will accuse our
retrospect of partiality and of false perspective: “All was not so
rosy,” you will be tempted to say, “as grateful memory has pictured it,
you have represented the exceptional as the typical, the typical as the
exceptional; hard outlines have become blurred for you, and shadows, in
their turn, taken substance.” Well, we do our best; we are fogeys,
perhaps, and sentimentalists, but you will do well to take our
depositions and sift them for yourselves.

One day you will be old, and you too will want to write memoirs; and you
too will find that to recall the past is arduous, that modern ways of
thinking and _ex post facto_ judgments of value impose themselves upon
your mind, and make you despair of the true estimate and the adequate
phrase. And you will find that, however unclouded your own faculty of
retrospect, you will search in vain for that magic touch which would
interpret the past for your younger contemporaries, take them back with
you and make them see it with your eyes, your presuppositions. If you
could be now what you will be then, though it be farther than ever
removed from the old days of which this book is a remembrancer, you
would be more disposed to bear an old woman’s day-dreams with patience,
and allow for her where she has exaggerated, and pardon her where she
has erred.

                         MEMORIES OF THE FUTURE

                               CHAPTER I

             Why was I born, ye Fates, and why,
             Being born, did I not die?
                 JAMES PHILPOT: _The Unanswered Question_.

I was born in 1915, a great anniversary, but one little kept. Little
kept, because at the time of its occurrence England and France, the two
protagonists of Waterloo, were leagued in what then seemed a holy
alliance, and Germany, whose tardy aid settled the fortunes of that
earlier conflict, could find no place, a hundred years later, in the
sympathies of either combatant. My sex, it will be seen, belied the
omens of my nativity. My father, at that time a commoner, was a
Winterhead, of a good old Somerset family, whose ramifications it were
poor modesty in an autobiographer to trace out for her own ennoblement.
My mother, whose maiden name was Linthorpe, was the daughter of a
Westmorland squire of comfortable means but little prominence. At the
time of their marriage my father’s business position was so sound (he
was a partner in several rubber companies) that no great pains were
taken about the drawing up of the settlement; and, by a series of family
accidents which I do not propose to set out here, the whole of my
mother’s very considerable prospects passed into other hands. Such a
deprivation caused, at the time, little foreboding to a man who had an
ample income from stocks, quite apart from the position which he enjoyed
as squire of Barstoke, a dream-like village that rests, half-hidden
among mist-wreathed poplars, in one of the fairest valleys of Somerset.

It would have been my good fortune to find solace in the companionship
of two brothers younger than myself, had not a mysterious destiny—which
of us can read his life’s record without confusion, when he considers
the long tale of infants who never reach maturity?—carried off both in
the age of their innocence to a world where innocence has its value. An
only child—for such I was, in effect—keeps fewer memories, I suppose, of
its very earliest years than one which from the first takes its place
among a series. The shadowy forms that people those years for me are the
forms of domestic servants, comfort-bringing cooks and awe-inspiring
butlers, whose short and simple annals there is no need to record in
this book. My nurse, a woman of strong character and decided views, left
me little permanent legacy of her care except that which most nurses
leave to most English children—a horror of spiders and of the Pope. My
mother was known to me as a lady who lived in a comfortable smell of
tweeds on a hard, scratchy chair, in front of a table full of shiny
things which I was forbidden to touch (not without reason, I found, for
they were hot when touched), and appeared to surround herself with a
group of similarly dressed ladies whom it was my favourite parlour trick
to distinguish, in spite of superficial resemblances, from her. My
father was two round legs, with provocative little tags hanging out of
either stocking, who must be approached cautiously if it were soon after
a meal, because the approach was likely to result in a sudden,
breathless elevation to the level of the mantelpiece—the level, but not
the proximity, as two Dresden shepherdesses, still unbroken before me as
I write, can testify.

My earliest at all datable reminiscence, and that is early enough in all
conscience, is of the air-raid over London that took place on
Whit-Sunday in 1917. We were, I have been told since, staying in London
at the time, and I was hastily roused from sleep and carried into the
cellars; for, although the danger from such raids in the Five Years’ War
was, judged by the standards of modern warfare, almost negligible, it
was a novelty and as such a cause of panic. My only reason for
remembering the incident is that, in her hurry to get me downstairs, my
nurse ran a pin into me; which immediate sensation meant far more to me
at the time than any nocturnal perils overhead. But that refers, of
course, to my conscious memory: according to what the doctors used to
tell me in the days when mind-curing was fashionable, the air-raid must
have left a deep and permanent mark on my subconsciousness. I have been
assured that I have to attribute to this cause my dislike of being in
the dark (except when I am in bed), my occasional nervousness about
loud, sudden noises, my nervousness about other people, especially
children, carrying firearms, my preference for having the door shut when
I am asleep, my preference for having the window open on the same
occasions, my want of ear for music, my inability to face learning the
German language, my distaste for sausages, my fondness for lying in bed
after I am called, my fear of cellars (which I thought was due to rats),
my refusal to wear a maroon dress, my irritability when people whistle
much in my hearing, my antipathy to the Tube when it is crowded, and
Heaven knows what other sinister characteristics. Really, if this
unremembered event made such a portentous difference in my life, so that
my character was practically fixed from the moment of its occurrence (as
these gentlemen seemed to imply), I am not sure that I ought not to end
off my reminiscences here! Whatever follows will surely seem trivial by

It was while I was still too young to be taking any intelligent interest
in our family affairs that my father received his peerage. At a moment
when the George Government was in a difficult position owing to the
unfriendly attitude of certain of its Liberal critics, my father, who
was before all else a patriot, rendered services to the chief powers of
the nation which they were not slow to reward with a title. It is
pleasant to think that we thus belong to the old nobility, before
peerages were actually sold to the highest bidder—it was not until 1928,
it will be remembered, that this necessary but regrettable innovation
was introduced. My father would not take the title of Lord Barstoke,
because our villagers at home pronounced the name in a way that would
have made him hardly distinguishable from Lord Bostock; it was
characteristic of his easy way of doing things that he simply took down
a Bradshaw, ran his finger at random down the index of names, and became
Lord Blisworth for the rest of his life.

My girlhood was mostly spent in the country. My father, after his long
days and often nights of work at the Board of Rubber Control, felt
himself entitled to settle down when the war was over, and direct his
financial schemes from a distance. A fatal resolution, could he but have
foreseen its consequences! His preference was for the life of the
country; he hated, he said, to be jostled by a crowd of strangers, and
if the worst came to the worst, in a country place you could always go
round with the professional. Hills were dear to him, and woods, and
streams (especially the one you crossed in approaching the fifth green),
and the little world of Barstoke was all he asked for and all he cared
to know.

Barstoke, Barstoke in the ’teens of the century, how shall I ever
describe you? How communicate your atmosphere to the generation that
will soon have the pride of dating its letters with three noughts? The
stone-walled court by which you approached the front door, the mellow
façade of plaster, dating from the Fourth William, the terraces, the
beds with their quaint, tiled borders, the open lawn on which in those
days one used to play tennis, the box-hedges, cut as you never see them
cut now, the kitchen garden, with its warm brick walls, wasp-haunted,
yet dangling prizes to the adventurous. The wide hall, panelled all
through in pitch-pine, surrounded with the trophies of the chase and the
spoils of our ancestors; “heads” of stags shot (if you please) on
British soil; salmon found in Scottish lochs; arquebuses, flintlock
muskets, Mills bombs, and every form of obsolete artillery. The
dining-room, with its great maple-wood sideboard, that had facings of
beaten copper; all the walls hung with priceless old photogravures from
pictures by Landseer and Dicksee (I have seen £150 offered for a pair of
these lately at Frosting’s). The “drawing-room,” as it was still called,
with its gold-backed velvet chairs, its satin-textured wall-paper, its
marble mantelpiece and encaustic-tiled fireplace; where, on a winter
evening, my father would sit down with his friends to “bridge” or
“auction,” or, as a treat for myself, the then popular gramophone would
elicit its curious, drawling imitation of the airs of the day. And over
all this, when the curtains were drawn at evening, not the vulgar glare
of our modern electrics, but the old acetylene gas that was even then
going out of fashion, but used to shed, unless I deceive myself, a more
equable and a more desirable radiance.

But it must not be supposed, because I describe the downstairs rooms so
fully, that these were my familiar haunts. We were strictly brought up
in those days, and did not wander here and there, consorting freely with
our elders, as the young people do nowadays. No, at eleven every morning
I would be ruthlessly sent upstairs to change for my walk, nor was my
presence tolerated for more than half an hour or three-quarters after
luncheon: the real “children’s hour” was from half-past five in the
evening until, at half-past seven, I went up to dress for dinner. At
times other than these, I only had the liberty of one downstairs room,
where it was felt that I could not get in the way—the great library
where my father used to write his business letters. How I loved those
hours in the library; how I have regretted that, as fortune would have
it, none of my old childhood’s favourites were left to cheer me with
their memories in later life! “Alice in Wonderland,” with the original
Tenniel pictures, first editions of Beerbohm and Benson, books of travel
that thrilled you with discoveries at the South Pole or on Mount
Everest, histories of the Five Years’ War by men who had fought and
lived through it, quaint old sheets like the _Tatler_ and the _Sketch_,
_Punch_ with the old black-and-white drawings, atlases that still marked
the old boundaries of “Austria-Hungary,” and still put America on the
left-hand side of the world, not in the middle; books on foreign travel,
illustrated with the three-colour process; sermons of stout old
traditional Protestant theology by Inge and Temple and other preachers
of the day;—I might sprawl over these and such as these at my leisure,
understanding little except the pictures, yet vaguely drinking in the
atmosphere of that dead world to which I belong. I should explain that
children began their education much earlier in those days, and I had
learned to read by the time I was barely seven: at nine, I had a French
governess who taught me admirably in her own subject, though she was
not, of course, allowed to puzzle my little head with history or
science. I think that if I found myself superior in intellectual grasp
to many of my contemporaries when I came to face the world later, it was
this childish precocity which had laid the foundations of my knowledge.

But I have not yet taken you to the very hearth and centre of the whole
establishment, the nursery, I mean, and the nursery passage. Take my
hand, and let me pilot you carefully, for our way lies up the back
stairs, which are full of perils. That door we pass is the one room in
the house which children are not allowed to enter: that click-clicking
noise you hear is Daddy playing billiards, all in a great room that is
used for no other purpose. In front of us lies the linen cupboard, where
there is a bogy who jumps out if you do not run past it quickly. And
here (be careful!) the stairs are at their narrowest just where you can
reach the friendly aid of the banisters. Now, open the swing-door, and
there is the nursery passage in front of you! I would explain to you the
use of that “pogo-stick” in the corner if you were not already tired of
my _fin de siècle_ reminiscences.... Yes, that is a model of a Handley
Page, only it does not work now, and the split-nosed, pasty-faced pilot
sits there and will ever sit, looking a fool, in enforced inaction. The
badger in the glass case was caught on these grounds—a badger! You would
be no less incredulous if I had called it a hyena. That chart on the
wall was a picture of the “Western Front” in 1916—come away, you cannot
recapture the thrill of those old battles.... And here we are at the
nursery door itself.

Yes, that is my dolls’ house. No, there is no bath-room, no garage, no
electric light laid on. The front wall, I am sorry to say, opens all in
one piece, so that you cannot pay a call without discovering Esmeralda,
if luck will so have it, at her toilet upstairs. There is no lift, and
the staircase does not really pierce through the ground floor ceiling.
And yet, I do not fancy that I was very much less happy, or very much
less proud, when I showed off this thin-walled, vermilion-bricked affair
to my aunts than my friends can be when I inspect their more elaborate
and more realistic dolls’ flats. It is the spirit, after all, not the
apparatus that matters. And that is my toy train, running round the
ottoman. I do not know that its cardboard passengers wave their
cardboard hats any the less enthusiastically because it is only common
electricity, of an inferior voltage, that drives it round those
terrifying loops. That is a “Teddy” bear, named after a once great
predecessor of President O’Shaugnessy. But enough! I would not have
brought you to see my toys, so sacred are they, if I had known you would
curl your lip so disdainfully. Let me fish for a moment under the seat,
and bring out something that will make your mouth water and leave you
envious—yes, here it is ... the stamp album!

Here are stamps—be seated, take it on your knees—issued by the last Tsar
of Russia. Here is the lost dominion of that Emperor William whom the
other nations of Europe brought to book. Here are the double eagles of
the old Austrian Empire. Here is a common English stamp with the
post-mark “Dublin.” Here are the pretty, fantastic devices turned out by
the short-lived commonwealth of Czecho-Slovakia. Here is France
represented in a cap of liberty, “that woman bowling a no-ball,” my
father used to call it, with no emblem of religion on the whole extent
of the paper. Here is the Crescent lording it over Macedonia, here is
republican Portugal, here is Iceland tributary to Denmark. What a
history lesson for you on these strangely-milled slips of gummed paper!
Yes, you may crow over me as you will, but you must envy me my stamp

Am I wrong, or do the _events_ of childhood impress themselves less on
the mind than often repeated scenes and habitual occupations? For
myself, it is scenes that I can reconstruct rather than moments, habits
rather than incidents. I can recall, for example, as if it were
yesterday, the picture, annually viewed, of my mother making pot-pourri.
She moved like a priestess over a mystical circle of rose leaves, her
decoctions around her: I was allowed to hold the bottles, never to pour.
Cinnamon, and orris root, and oil of cloves, and vervein, and vanilla
were jealously dropped, to give the poor petals immortality. I will not
make pot-pourri any more, since a chemist, unworthy of the name, has
begun to deny knowledge of the very ingredients. Nor can I recapture
that lost fragrance which would bring back my mother to the mysterious
receiving-station of the senses; nor will anything make me buy the
pot-pourri they sell you nowadays, “an imposture, my dear,” a friend has
warned me, “which seems to be made of nothing but peppermint and

My father, as is right, I recollect in sterner moods. Especially during
one difficult fortnight, when he had strained his arm through a fall
downstairs, and was confined, chafing, to the entourage of the house. It
was, I think, characteristic of the man’s energy that he should have set
about teaching me to play golf. I was five years old at the time, and a
pardonably unapt pupil. You must picture me on the “tennis-lawn,” with
an old putter swung over my shoulder, almost too heavy for my feeble
strength, while he encourages me to drive. “Feet square, confound you!
No, like this! Now, keep your eye on the ball; the end of the club will
get on all right without you ogling it, you minx! Good Lord! you’re
under it again ... there, there, don’t cry; replace the divot before
Mummy sees it.” He was an indulgent father, but he had no sympathy with
weakness of the moral fibre, and I sometimes think that it is to him I
owe, under Providence, the doggedness of character with which I have
heard my friends credit me.

Of daily pictures, the one I recall with most vividness is my
afternoon’s outing. I do not mean in my earliest years, when my nurse
would wheel me out (by hand, for this was before the days of
perambulators) down to the end of the drive, and pass the time of day
with the lodgekeeper; but in that prouder period, when I had already
passed my walking test, and was allowed to go out, as my Nurse said,
“like a little lady.”

Round came the motor, churning up the gravel, avoiding the beds as if by
a miracle; and there was our good old chauffeur, Masters, in his peaked
cap and double-breasted great-coat, holding open the door for us. There
followed, in early days, the starting of the car by a sort of winding
apparatus in front (unless my memory deceives me): I always felt a
certain sense of ceremonial deficiency about the “self-starter.” Then
down the broad sweep of the drive, with the giant araucarias on either
side, under the lichenous stone archway of the lodge, and all Somerset
was before us. The apples tugged at their overloaded branches, the cows
stood patiently regardant in the water-meadows, the forester’s axe
clicked on the hill-side, the old church-towers beckoned and were
swallowed up behind us, sun-bonneted old dames slipped, curtseying, into
the hedgerows—what better fate could a fairy enchanter bring us, than to
be always at the springtime of life, and always at the autumn of the

I cannot remember much of the friends who called or came to visit us. My
mother’s family was represented by an old, angular Miss Linthorpe, and a
married sister, Lady Trecastle. Miss Linthorpe, an aunt of my mother’s,
already belonged to an older generation. You could tell it from the big,
tortoiseshell-rimmed lorgnettes she wore (these were a kind of
spectacles held in the hand by a stem, more for the purpose of staring
your _vis-à-vis_ down than for any assistance they gave to the
eyesight). You could tell it from the way she dropped her final g’s, and
said “What?” suddenly, without meaning to ask a question, at the end of
the sentence. You could tell it, above all, from a curious dignity she
had, a dignity which seemed to sit upon her as of right _because she was
a woman_, that I have never known except in my earliest memories. She
was very brusque with my mother, especially about my own education. On
one occasion, I remember, I had torn a rather pretty fan of my mother’s,
because she had refused to grant me some trifling request. My mother,
instead of passing over the incident as a modern mother would, was
endeavouring to make me say I was sorry. When Miss Linthorpe came into
the room, and the situation was explained to her, she asked, as if it
was the most natural thing in the world, “Why don’t you send the little
hussy to bed?” My mother explained that, according to the latest
educational theories, sending children to bed early when they were young
was likely to lay up the seeds of insomnia for them in early life.
“Insomnia?” said Miss Linthorpe, “so much the better; she won’t inherit
Blisworth’s gross habit of snoring.” “But, Aunt Adela, I daren’t; I
don’t know what her father would say.” “Blisworth,” said the
imperturbable old lady, “is a fool.” “Hush, aunt dear!” expostulated my
mother; “you mustn’t say such things before the child.” “Why not?” was
the answer. “I shan’t be the last person she hears calling (she
pronounced it “callin’”) Blisworth a fool, unless she grows up deaf.” I
liked Miss Linthorpe, in spite of her brutal manners, and never dreaded
the prospect of her visits.

Lady Trecastle lived in Ireland: at least, she used to spend about three
weeks of the year at her Irish house before the Free State was declared
in 1922, and after that never went near it at all, but filled in her
time complaining of the “rebels,” as she called them, for making it
impossible. Her visits to us were rather lengthy, and I have heard my
father speculate whether he could not bribe the “rebels” to lure her
back to Ireland and kidnap her. The fact was, I suppose, that English
families had become so accustomed to playing the rôle of a governing
race in Ireland that they found it hard to be tolerated as foreigners.
It is difficult now to imagine the feeling that was excited then over
the “Irish question.”

Of our neighbours, our most frequent callers were a certain General
Lestrange and his wife, whom I used to think very old-fashioned because
my nurse told me they believed in ghosts. I imagine they were really
bitten by that curious wave of occultism that made itself felt in
English society at the beginning of the century. But I am afraid this
undistinguished record will become wearisome if I prolong it. My father
had long since given up political life, finding, no doubt, that it
unduly cramped his energies: “It’s all very well,” he would say, “but
you can’t really do two things at once”: consequently, the political
life of the period passed us by, and we rusticated amidst a small
coterie of country squires, who still (Heaven knows how) kept their
estates and their large houses going. But my father’s inattention to the
drift of the world around him was to have more fatal consequences. When
I was only just fifteen, there came a black day on which he appeared
gloomy and preoccupied, and I must not disturb him because he was
“worried about business.” He spent all day at the telephone, and we all
knew that something must be seriously wrong: indeed, they rang up from
the club-house to know whether he was ill. It proved in the end that,
through mismanagement on the part of others, he had lost far the greater
part of his money, and it would be necessary in future to live in a much
smaller house and sell Barstoke to anyone who would offer. By great good
fortune, we managed to find purchasers: some Benedictine sisters, who
had outgrown their previous accommodation, were willing to pay a good
price for it. We were equally lucky on the other side, and secured a
comfortable, though far from luxurious house, at Beaconsfield, just
opposite the fourth tee.

I have visited Barstoke again not very long since, and the good sisters
were very kind to me. They had turned the billiard-room into a chapel,
and broken up many of the larger rooms, so that I could hardly recognize
them; but it is something to feel that the shell of the building
remains, and is likely to remain, intact. And yet I could not be
altogether at my ease there, for we like our earliest memories to remain
undisturbed: and for me, though I have lived long since then and seen
many cities and travelled far from my startingpoint, nothing will ever
appeal again as the park did, and the lodge-gates, and the unwieldy
tower of the village church beyond them, and the trees of Barstoke, and
its fruit garden.

                               CHAPTER II
                              SCHOOL DAYS

 If the child is father of the man, so also is he, or rather is she, the
                 mother of the woman.—ARCHDEACON BUNTING.

The same change in our family fortunes which made it necessary for us to
give up the old home at Barstoke made it necessary also for my parents
to send me to school. It was only long afterwards that I realized what
bitter heart-burnings this decision caused them, or what anxious
discussions preceded it. To understand their reluctance, you have to
remember that at the time of which I write no privilege of the governing
classes was more tenaciously preserved than their exemption from
education. The same instinct of struggle which bade the poor keep away
from the workhouse bade the rich keep their children from school. My
father in particular had often declared that no child of his should
undergo the degradation of being taught so long as he could break stones
to avoid it. But our case was really desperate; to keep me at home was
almost beyond his means, quite apart from the grant of £200 which, on
condition that I kept all my terms, would be paid to me annually for my
attendance. My mother protested, indeed, that at fifteen I was far too
young to be away from home; but in those days the objection did not
carry the weight it would carry nowadays: you would still see poor
little mites of ten or eleven being packed off to some place of
education, with the knowledge that for eight long weeks they would never
see their dolls and their toy horses again. Those were stern days, but I
sometimes think the discipline was good for our character.

How vividly, especially in childhood, the tragedies we undergo inwardly
print on our minds the recollection of the scenes in which we
experienced them! I must often have travelled by train before, yet this
was the first railway journey of my life which has left me any
recollection of it. It took me but two hours to reach the heart of
Berkshire (for this was in the days when the railway was still used for
quick travel, and the private companies, often in competition with one
another, used to run trains at what we should consider breakneck speed),
but those two hours seemed to me like a Purgatory. And yet, in a calmer
mood, the scenery at which I peered out through the carriage windows
would have seemed beautiful enough. As soon as you passed Maidenhead you
were in the country; the leaves were just beginning to turn with the
autumn along the comfortable, purposeless banks of the full-fed Thames;
to give place, once Twyford was reached, to the burning regiments of
dahlias and early chrysanthemums that fringed Sutton’s seed-grounds.
Only as we slowed down through the smoky suburbs of Didcot did we
slacken speed; and then on again into the Downs, with the spell-stricken
glamour of their mysterious repose. At Challow I crept out, a woe-begone
little figure, on to the platform, and faced the huge effort of daring
which I needed to intercept a porter and ask him to take my luggage
out—a necessary expense, for of course we used to take our own linen
about with us, and our heavy trunks had to be committed to the care of
the guard. The porter was a less formidable character than my fears had
painted him, and when I had paid up my two shillings wished me “Good
afternoon” with the old-world courtesy of the time.

Miss Montrose’s school, for which I was bound, proved to he a pleasant
old Georgian building, standing in a park of its own at the foot of the
Downs. It was difficult to imagine, even then, that this huge barrack of
a place, which had contained some forty rooms even before its
enlargement, had ever been utilized for the needs, and staffed by the
servants, of a single family! It was now some three times its original
size: and yet a school of a hundred girls found it cramped and
uncomfortable enough. I was horrified to find, on my arrival, that I
should have to share a maid with five other girls, and that my bedroom
would be the only sanctum in which I could find privacy. Miss Montrose
herself, a prehistoric old lady who still affected the knitted jumper
and the bobbed hair of fifteen years earlier, greeted me with a slightly
_de haut en bas_ manner—the legacy, I suppose, of the old days of
school-mistressing. She was a fine character, and a few years earlier,
though then nearly sixty years of age, had gone up to Oxford and taken
her degree in book-keeping and dairy-work. It is no small testimony to
her strength of character that she was able to manage a school of a
hundred girls with only fifteen assistant mistresses to help her. Most
of these I found to be pleasant, civil-spoken sort of women, many of
whom had embraced school-mistressing as a vocation, although they might
have gone far in one of the learned professions.

I always distrust people who say they look back to their school days as
the happiest time of their lives: either they must have been
unimaginative women from the first, or retrospect has mellowed for them
the sour realities of memory. For myself, during the earlier part of my
time at any rate, I was profoundly unhappy. Looking back, I think it was
chiefly the irritating restraints which were put upon our liberty that
annoyed me. No girl, for instance, might go up to London more than twice
a term (unless, of course, she was visiting her parents). No girl might
enter the public house in the village. No girl might keep a
motor-bicycle—and so on. The science of education was then in its
infancy, and school authorities did not realize that, in thus fettering
the liberties of their young patronesses, they were unfitting them for
positions of responsibility later on, and causing the gravest
inhibitions in their subconsciousnesses. These regulations were enforced
by a system of punishments which would, nowadays, be condemned as
brutalizing. In proportion to the magnitude of the offence, the offender
used to receive a quarter of an hour’s, or half an hour’s, or an hour’s
“talking to” by Miss Montrose herself. She would make you sit down in a
comfortable chair while she sat opposite you on a stiff one, and so
would lecture you, by the clock, unmercifully. She would point out that
the mistresses, who gave their services in the cause of education for
nothing or next to nothing, ought to be treated with admiration and
respect; that you yourself, since you were taking pay from the country
to learn as much as you could, ought to obey the rules of the
institution which made this possible for you. If it was a case of
insolence towards one of the teachers, she would dwell especially on the
“caddishness” (she was of the old school, and did not mince her words)
of bullying one’s social inferiors. If the worst came to the worst, she
would threaten to report on you as having reached Standard Eight, which
would mean that you would have to leave the school as having finished
your education. I never knew one of my school-fellows get through one of
these interviews without scalding tears. It was not, I believe, till the
fifties that anything was done to curb the severity of such punishments.

The lessons themselves, managed on the old high-and-dry lines, were not
calculated to arouse any enthusiasm in young minds. Oh, the drudgery of
those hours of geography, when we spent our time constructing hills,
valleys, and table-lands out of clay in the garden, or made models of
the railway systems across the lawn: when, perched on separate islands
in the bathing-pool, we had to launch mechanical boats to one another,
freighted with the principal exports of the various countries—it is no
wonder that, with these methods, the science took little hold on our
imaginations! It might win the assent of the brain, but it could find no
lodgment in our hearts. Oh, the dreary mornings we spent in weaving
baskets, or making artificial flowers, or calculating our winnings at
_petits chevaux_ with the mathematical mistress! The truth is, perhaps,
that I was too young for these things, and was all the time having to
conform to the standard of a class intellectually in advance of my own
attainments. My most grateful memories are of the mistress who, four
times a week, drew French out of us: and that, I am afraid, not because
she attracted us, but because it was an understood thing that in those
periods it was safe to “rag” as much as you liked. The lowest French
class was taken by a master, the only man employed on the staff, and him
we spared in deference to his sex; but Mademoiselle Amboise was fair
game for us, and I am afraid the poor woman must have suffered acutely
“Ah, Mademoiselle, que je m’ennuie!” we would say to her from time to
time, and the poor soul would rush to your side to comfort you. She
would carefully teach us the chorus of a song, and then, when she had
sung through a verse of eight lines in her beautiful voice, we would
either have forgotten the words of the refrain, or intentionally murder
the tune of it, and the whole process had to be begun again. Or she
would deliver the whole of the opening soliloquy in some old-world play
of Rostand’s, and then look round for the new characters to come in,
only to find that we had all played truant and run off into the country,
leaving one girl in the seats of the little theatre (Mademoiselle was
very short-sighted) to do the applause all by herself! I remember one
girl affecting to have lost her memory, so as to be unable to speak a
word of French, and our delight when Mademoiselle Amboise, breaking the
strict rule against talking English in French class, burst out, “Ah,
Miss ——, you are little pig!”

But there are more grateful memories, too, of those all-too-rare
half-holiday afternoons (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, as far as I
remember) when we would make off to the old haystack and smoke there, as
I suppose schoolgirls always have and always will, and talk of what we
would do when we were women: or take car into Didcot for a good
“blow-out” and an evening at the pictures: or the rainy days, when one
“class-room” would invade another, and leave behind it a confused
wreckage of Greek statues, glass cases, and electric light globes. There
were the football matches too: it is hard for me, now, to believe that I
was once a promising half-back! We played the old “Association” game, of
course: as yet very few girls’ schools had taken up Rugby. I suppose I
have never experienced, in a long life, such a protracted thrill of
excitement as when I played, in my third year, in the great match
against Radley, and the fortunes of the game hung in the balance for a
full half-hour. Summer has less poignant athletic memories for me, I
suppose because we still played cricket for the most part, and could do
little to improve our game at tennis with only five covered courts.

When I was going through my dear mother’s things after her death in ’59
I came across a whole bundle of my old school letters in one of her
desks. It was pathetic to see how carefully she had treasured them,
arranged them, tied them up in ribbon of different colours according to
the year they were written in. The old, blue-black ink we used then has
stood the test of time far better than most modern documents will. There
is little about the letters that is of general interest; they are just
an expression of the aims and interests, the hopes and the solicitudes,
of girlhood just turning to womanhood; hopes how buoyantly eager!
Solicitudes how lightly borne! I print one of them here, written towards
the end of my first year at school, in the hope that, if nothing else
about it arrests attention, the prim, stately language of
fifteen-years-old in those days will call for a smile or for a blush,
which you will, from the precocious, slangy young misses of to-day.

                                                      BISTON HALL,

  _June 18, 1931._

  _Hope you didn’t think I was dead, not hearing from me all these
  three weeks: fact is, I’ve been abso-jolly-lutely full programme
  just lately with these theatricals coming on. They are going to be
  some effort, I can tell you. All the chaps say the scene where I
  come in drunk is like nothing on earth. But I shan’t spoil it for
  you beforehand; you are coming down, aren’t you? Don’t bring Dad if
  you think the old thing will be shocked; he is so mid-Edwardian
  about some things. We beat the London Hospital nurses by nearly an
  innings last Saturday: they were feeling frightfully bucked with
  themselves, too, when they came down, because they hadn’t lost a
  match this season. You should see Woollcombe, our leg-break bowler!
  She simply made rings round them. I was top last week in gardening,
  which was one in the eye for old Monty, because she’d got her rag
  out with me rather, as she said I was wasting my time and the
  country’s money—such bilge! Only three more blinking weeks now to
  the hol.’s;—oh, I say, could you write to Monty and say it’s very
  important I should come home two days early? Because I simply must
  go to the Rothwells’. They don’t mind your going home early much,
  really, even if it does mean missing one or two of these filthy
  exams, which are the limit anyhow. A new music master has just
  turned up, with top-hole eyes: remind me to show him you when you
  come down. I was wondering if perhaps you could let me have a little
  more money? Because there’s two of the chaps I must, simply_ must
  _buy birthday presents for, and heaps of incidental expenses, and
  it’s a fact I haven’t a five-bob note to bless myself with. But not
  if it’s going to mean a row with the old bread-winner. Lots of

                                                            _Your own_

My holidays were chiefly spent at home, and indeed I could have asked
nothing better. Few families, with our moderate income, can have enjoyed
the proximity of London combined with the neighbourhood of such romantic
scenery. Our house, I have said, faced on the fourth tee; and from the
front windows the view stretched away, uninterrupted except by
occasional bunkers, till on a clear day you could distinguish the flag
on the seventh green. I saw little in those days of my father, who
believed with Hector that home was the proper sphere of woman; for
himself, he was out early and late in all weathers: a business interview
would sometimes take him up to London, otherwise nothing disturbed the
noiseless tenor of his daily habits. If there was a championship match
on, we would hear all about it in the evening; for the rest, we knew
that he did not care to be cross-questioned about the little incidents
of the day. Yet, for all his silence, there was no mistaking the fire of
the enthusiast burning in his eye. Nothing could daunt his tireless
energy, though he was already a man of over fifty. I can still picture
him as he was then, a fine, upstanding figure in his wide, loose
knickerbockers and a coat that seemed full of extra seams and double
linings; a trifle portly, yet carrying himself with a sort of natural
swing. We have all too few of his type nowadays!

If my father was a type of manliness, my mother seemed and seems to me a
perfect type of womanliness. The hundred little domestic duties of the
day—in those days, the mistress of the house would order the dinner, go
through the books, supervise the work of the servants, and altogether
behave as a sort of unpaid agent—would occupy her till eleven or
half-past eleven in the morning: only then would she put her season
ticket in her reticule and set out for the mystery of the shops and the
repose of her club. If an exhibition, a call, or a matinée was likely to
detain her, she would leave word that she was not to be expected back
till after tea, and the routine of the household would proceed as usual
in her absence. She never came back from these expeditions without a
catalogue for me, an evening paper for my father—some little token to
assure us that her thoughts had been with us during the hours of
enforced separation. Alas, how old age makes us realize the little
return we made in youth for the loving solicitude of our parents! I
often used to see little or nothing of her for a week, since my doctor
wisely insisted that I should always have breakfast in bed after a
dance. And dance I did, I am afraid, almost every night, if only to
compensate myself for the early hours and rigorous discipline of the
school, where half-past ten saw us at work every morning, and, on whole
school days, preparation would not be over till half-past six. I was, I
think I may say, a good dancer; not that I ever had much ear for music
or sense of rhythm, but my athletic, I had almost said, my acrobatic,
gifts stood me in good stead. I will not attempt to recall, so
old-fashioned do they seem nowadays, the movements that were popular
when I was a girl. What has become of you all now, my partners in those
distant Georgian drawing-rooms? If you still live, do you still remember
as I remember the measures we trod, then so riotous-seeming? The
Monkey-grip, the Kansas scramble, the “Mind your foot, honey,” the
Snake-glide, the Anyhow-slither, the Buzz, the Rattle-snake Fight, the
Darkies’ Stagger, and all the rest of them?

     When I remember all the friends so linked together
     I’ve seen around me fall like leaves in wintry weather,
     I feel like one that treads alone some banquet hall deserted.

—or does nothing really desert us, except our dreams?

But what is this? I am becoming sentimental. Let me return to the grim
shades of my prison, the dull days of school routine. I had an open,
sunny temperament, and made friendship easily; some, as I suppose is
usual at that age, seemed at the time as if they could end only with
life. And yet, how little effect really our school friendships have on
us! Ten years after we have left, we meet the bosom friends of girlhood
as strangers. Some of them, of course, have married: and with them, try
as they may to conceal it, it is hard not to feel that their husbands
have just a suspicion of jealousy against their wives’ woman friends.
But even with the others,

     Through what climes they’ve ranged, how much they’ve changed!
         Time, place, and pursuits assist
     In transforming them—

perhaps, after all, it is best so: for neither our critical faculties
nor our sense of humour are at their best in those early years. My chief
crony was a wild, devil-may-care Irish girl whom we called “Squint”
Hennessy, who led me into plenty of scrapes and more than once brought
me under the threat of “Standard Eight.” One of these escapades cost me,
I think, the most anxious night of my life.

Our religious needs, when we had any, were served by a little old
village church a mile or two away, at Goosey. How well I remember the
atmosphere of the Sunday evening service there, the smell of Sunday
clothes and old books and old, dusty hassocks; the painstaking
harmonium, waking up like an old gentleman from a nap when we sang
_Glory be_ at the end of the Psalms, the clatter of the bell-ringers as
they filed up into church at the beginning of service! It was an old
church, and is still visited by tourists, I believe, for the sake of
some really fine 1850 stained glass. But it will have changed with time:
in those days it had more the appearance we should associate with a
Catholic Church now—the seats, for example, were all on the same level,
and the pulpit was fixed, close to one of the side walls; the sermons
were delivered by word of mouth; the old, sonorous English of Cranmer
was still droned out almost in its entirety, with something of a
ceremonial effect; the congregation knelt for the prayers, or at least
sat apologetically, head buried in hands. We did not, I need hardly say,
appreciate this atmosphere at the time, and seldom went near the
place—compulsory attendance was only inflicted as a punishment on those
who had an unusually dark record of rule-breaking during the week. But
quite recently the Diocesan Board of Finance (the Reading diocese was
always a go-ahead one) had introduced the system by which, while town
congregations contributed to an offertory at the end of the service,
country congregations, as being attracted to Church with more
difficulty, received a slight honorarium instead, in return for their
attendance. “Those that were strong,” as the Archbishop of York said,
“ought to bear the infirmities of those that were weak.” Late on in the
term, when our pocket-money was mostly exhausted, a fair sprinkling of
Biston Hall girls would be in their places to secure the coveted
sixpence after the sermon.

It was on such an occasion that Squint Hennessy and I were making our
way back from Church on a summer evening, feeling particularly good
after a stirring address from the curate, a favourite of ours. At peace
with the world, we each lit a “Woodbine” to light us and cheer us on our
way home. By ill-luck Miss Mersham, the numismatics mistress, met us
half-way, and threatened to report us if we did not put out our
cigarettes immediately. Squint was at the top of her form that evening:
“report if you like, Golly,” she said, “but we’ll make you repent of it
if you do.” Miss Mersham was ill-advised enough to lay information
against us, and each of us had a quarter of an hour’s “talking to”:
special emphasis was laid, I remember, on the crime of setting a bad
example to our mistresses. We wept floods of tears, and for the next
three days did everything to make the informant’s life intolerable to
her. We brought frogs into class, put lamp-black on to her duster,
squirted her with water-pistols—in a word, we behaved as high-spirited
girls will behave when they are smarting under a sense of injustice.
Finally, I remember, we put a large bust of Artemis in her bed. The next
day she seemed curiously silent, and when we came out of preparation at
half-past six the terrible rumour went round—Miss Mersham had run away!

It was a memorable night when the whole school wandered over the Downs,
till nearly two in the morning, searching for the truant mistress.
Squint and I in particular were inconsolable; our action had been merely
thoughtless, and neither of us had really felt vindictive: it terrified
us to think that our victim was now running the risk of expulsion as the
result of our heedless behaviour. She was, in the end, caught by a
porter at Swindon, and sent back to Biston Hall; and we all cheered
lustily when Miss Montrose announced her intention, after considering
the circumstances carefully, of retaining her on the staff. She became
one of our most popular mistresses, and did so well that, three years
later, she was enabled to leave the profession altogether.

I do not know what became of Squint: some of my other friends I have
managed to keep up with, at least by correspondence. “Fatty” Macdonald
became manager of a bank in Sheffield; Tulip Hawkesley went on to the
stage as Yvette Dombrowski; Wynefryde Banks married well and went into
her father-in-law’s business; Jane Palliser, our star goal-keeper, was
later captain of a P. & O. “liner.” But no one fulfilled her early
promise like Juliet Savage, once well-known as the editress of the
_Spectator_ in the fifties. It was with me that she undertook her first
journalistic venture, the _Bilston Hall Rocket_, which ran into four
numbers and attracted a good deal of attention among our fellow-pupils.
I have still the old copies by me; the List of Contents from a single
issue will give some idea of its character:

                        THE BISTON HALL ROCKET




        Lines written in Prep.                                1
        My old Kentucky Girl (Poem), by E.W.                  2
        The Adventure of Bloodgush Grange (_continued_)       2
        How to get Marks, by One who knows                    4
        Golly and the Gondola (Anonymous)                     5
        Spanking Sarah, the Cow-girl of Arizona, by P. F.     5
        Football Notes, by Half-back                          7
        The Pool of Solitude (Poem), by F. F. W.             10
        Things we don’t half want to know, by the Editress   10
        Blue-face, my Squaw (Song), by R. E. H.              11
        Paris at Night, by Wanderer                          11
        Go, lovely Montrose (Parody), Anonymous              13
        The Great Bilston Hall Film                          13
        How I mean to spend the Hol’s, by Naughty Nan        15
        Correspondence                                       15
        Puzzles                                              16

We wrote the paper merely for fun, and as a way of getting our own back
against some of the mistresses who had been unlucky enough to offend us.
Judge of our surprise, both Juliet Savage’s and my own, when we were
told that the literary promise we displayed had been judged so
considerable as to induce the School Governors to send up copies of the
_Rocket_ as a “thesis” for the St. Lucy’s Hall scholarships!
Scholarships were awarded to both of us; and I was now in the happy
position of being able to spend four years at Oxford, while contributing
a clear £200 a year to the support of my parents. I left Bilston Hall in
the summer of 1934, not with much regret: I had had happy times there,
but I ached for more liberty and a wider sphere of activity, and I felt
that I had been greatly misunderstood there. I have never seen it since.

                              CHAPTER III

        O, the sweaty clothes, and O, the smashed window-panes,
           Ecstasy!—WRIGGLESWORTH: _Thoughts in a Parsonage_.

I find it customary among the writers of reminiscences, if they have had
the privilege of an Oxford or Cambridge education, to make great play
with the dons who were already greybeards in their time, survivals from
a yet earlier past. Thus, we shall be told of old Tommy So-and-So, who
was so well seasoned that he could carry his five glasses of port after
dinner and get to bed without assistance: or how What’s-his-name was
reputed never to have had a bath in fifty years of residence: or how the
Master of This was so absent-minded that he delivered a lecture on Homer
by mistake for one on political economy, and his audience were so little
attentive that none of them noticed the difference, while the President
of That used to be a great sportsman in his time, and rode a
motor-bicycle at full speed round Addison’s walk on Sunday afternoon for
a bet. This is all very well, but it is not first-hand-reminiscence. How
many of my young friends who are up at Oxford now know anything about
the patriarchal figures of the place, know so much as the very names of
them? You have passed them toiling up Headington Hill, that Professor of
European reputation who still wears the soft flannel collars and the
“plus-four” knickerbockers of the early thirties, that venerable Tutress
of St. Veronica’s, whose archaic skirt barely reaches below her knees;
and—confess it—you have never had the curiosity to ask who that old
blighter is. Why should you expect us, then, who write reminiscences, to
tell you stories of the old dons that were already skin and bone when we
matriculated? We, like you, were young, and lived in a self-contained
world of youth. Let nobody expect from me a description of Oxford which
shall represent it as a fossil-museum of the still remoter past. There
were elderly dons in my time, but I do not remember coming across them
at all, except one whom I met at a tea-party, and mistook for a fresher,
because at seventy or so he still looked so incorrigibly youthful!

My academic career at Oxford was destined to be successful beyond my
expectations. When I first looked at the list of subjects which I should
need in order to go through Pass Moderations, my heart sank within me.
Latin! Greek! Logic! Did they think I had stepped straight out of the
Middle Ages, that I should be prepared to face examination in such
subjects as these? But a reference to Appendix XVIIIc of the Regulations
reassured me. I had to take Latin “or some other foreign language”—the
old days at Barstoke with my French governess were to come in useful
after all. Instead of Greek I could take Mineralogy, Practical Farming,
Middle Icelandic, Military Tactics, Geography, Mental Therapeutics,
Book-keeping and Short-hand, Levantine Literature, or Old Testament
Anthropology. I need hardly say that I selected Geography at once. There
was a still longer list of substitutes for Logic, which seemed more
formidable, but I was assured that it was almost impossible to fail in
the Theory of Statistics—and so indeed I found it. My first two terms,
in fact, made little demand on my intellectual capacities, and I was
free to look about me, make friends, taste life, and enter into the
multifarious activities of the place.

I found little or no jealousy of the freshers, little or no anxiety to
keep them in their place, on the part of the second-year women. On the
contrary, the breakfast parties at which they used to entertain us were
some of the merriest functions of my life. Heavens, what huge breakfasts
we ate in those days! Tea, coffee, milk, sugar, porridge, boiled eggs or
even eggs and bacon, toast, butter, marmalade, sometimes jam—and yet we
felt fresh and energetic after them, ready to discuss any problem of the
universe! We would sit round smoking afterwards—pipe-smoking was just
coming in—indulging in our interminable conversations, till at last the
claim of half-past nine lecture broke up the little company. To be late
for lecture was a serious thing in those days; if the lecturer were
short-tempered, it meant that you missed your guinea attendance fee.
“No, it’s no use!” our geography lecturer, Hoskyns of B.N.C., would
shout at us, exasperated but still courteous. “I can’t have you ladies
come clattering up the Hall in those great boots, making a noise like a
troop of cavalry: go back, and save up your pocket-money!” He was
something of a misogynist, but unrivalled at his subject, and I do not
think I ever saw a man better tailored. I early decided to read
geography for my final schools, so as to continue under his tuition.

It was an idle undergraduate even in those days who did not keep her
four lectures every morning. If schools were not hanging over you,
Quarter Day was, and there was no temptation to “cut.” Dr. Feilding, of
Christ Church, had for a time a particularly successful lecture on
Ukrainian antiquities, until it was discovered that he was giving his
pupils a bonus of ten shillings! This practice was rightly discouraged
by the University authorities, who pointed out that it practically
amounted to paying people to be educated. By half-past one we were
whizzing along the moving pavement in the middle of St. Giles’ (one of
the first to be started, I believe, in the United Kingdom. The then
Principal of Pusey House would never travel on it: “these young ladies
are too _fast_ for me,” he said waggishly, more than once) and _en
route_ for our luncheon. This, according to the old Oxford tradition,
was a very simple meal—just a chop or a cutlet with vegetables, a cold
sweet, and a plate of cheese and butter; I doubt if modern Oxford would
stand it! Afternoon lectures had not then been instituted, and between
luncheon and tea we ordinarily devoted ourselves to sport. I continued
my football career with some success, but an unlucky strain prevented me
ever getting my Association half-blue. Tea was our chief social meal,
and I doubt if I had tea alone more than a dozen times during the whole
period of my residence. The habit of “lacing” one’s tea has grown up
since my time, and I do not think my young friends are any the better
for it. By six o’clock we would be at our books, till at seven, the old
College clock boomed out the hour for dressing.

I do not know that I have ever seen a prettier picture than was formed
every night by the College dinner. The harmonious lines of the building
itself—enlarged, of course, but enlarged in keeping with its original
architectural design—the soft glow of the wire electrics, falling on the
frilled shirt-fronts of the dons as they sat at the high table; the long
rows of sable-jacketed and sable-skirted undergraduates, the kindly,
weatherbeaten faces of the old “guides” who waited on us—it vied, I
think, in beauty, with the brightest of our modern ball-rooms. But
attendance in Hall was not compulsory, and as often as not one would be
dining out at the O.U.D.S., the Asquith, or the New Bolsheviks with a
party of friends from other Colleges. (Vincent’s and the Grid had not
yet admitted women.) That would mean a scramble to be back before the
College gates shut at ten, with the fear of meeting on your way there,
all capless and gownless, the terrible figure of the Proctress, with her
attendant “cowers.” A friend of mine, Ena Toogood, coming back from a
fancy dress ball in the costume of King Henry VIII, had the good fortune
to pass herself off on the Proctress as a man, and baffle the Proctor by
giving her College as St. Lucy’s!

Nor was all always peaceful even within the confines of the College.
There were nights (mostly after some athletic triumph) when the Quad
rang to merry choruses and catches (sometimes) uncomplimentary to the
dons. But these occasions were rare; the rowing women objected to it
because, for the greater part of the year, they were in training; and
the working set, who had great influence in the College at this time,
were loath to be disturbed at their studies. I myself belonged to the
dancing set my first two terms, but joined the working set afterwards as
the result of a personal quarrel with Lady Anne Forres, the leader of
the dancing set, who suspected me, I think, of rivalry. We were not much
divided up into cliques at this time, though I believe that later on the
admission of Astor scholars from America and the colonies tended to
break up the solidarity of the College.

In summer, there were fresh conflicts and fresh delights. I did not,
indeed, play tennis, because my dear mother thought it was unladylike—it
would have been absurd, of course, to play College matches in skirts!
But I played cricket fairly regularly; and I am not ashamed to be
thought old-fashioned when I say that there was a good deal of fun to be
got out of the game. It was slow, I admit (not so slow, perhaps, as when
my great-grandfather used to play it in a top-hat!), but there were
exciting moments when the scores were nearly equal, and sometimes plenty
of exercise. But I confess that I preferred the river, although I was
never a rowing woman. They were great evenings, when you would take down
your dinner in a picnic basket to Timms’ boat-house, and launch your
frail motor-punt just as the soft chimes of Keble struck eight o’clock;
when, some half-an-hour later, you would find that you had got beyond
the houses and the press of craft, and would tether “the old bus” to a
willow, and bathe, and spread out your dinner on the mown grass; when,
the dinner cleared and the cigars lighted, you would float home again
downstream to the gentle music of a hundred distant gramophones, and
think, who knows what thoughts? under the velvet skies of the June

But, more important than all these busy idlenesses of Oxford life, I
began to find myself at this time as a public speaker. Juliet Savage had
early joined all the clubs she could hear of: I never knew a woman who
had such a passion for the exchange of opinions. It was through her
instigation that I joined, besides several College Clubs, the Curzon,
the Dynamiters, and the _x_+1’s. (Of course I belonged to the Union: at
the time of which I am writing, anybody of British parentage could get
in without even paying an entrance fee.) The Curzon was a very select
Tory club, founded a short while earlier owing to a schism in the
Canning: a bare majority, who contrived, however, to keep the club funds
and the Lygon Cup, refusing admission to my indignant sex. It was full
of time-honoured institutions, such as taking a pinch of snuff before
you began your speech (which always made me cough rather), and singing
“Down among the Dead Men” in chorus before we broke up—never did we do
this so lustily as one evening when the “senseless, woman-hating crew”
of the original Canning were meeting on the same staircase (in Univ., I
think it was), and had to be given the full benefit of our opinions.

The Dynamiters had one custom which was, I suppose, unique. At each
meeting, one of the members was chosen by lot to murder the
Vice-Chancellor, and had to report at the next meeting on the attempt
made and the reasons for its failure. Apart from this, it was simply a
home of rather _démodé_ revolutionary talk, with a foreign element in it
so strong that I once introduced a motion to have French talked at the
debates. It proved, however, that our German comrades had not enough of
the international spirit to tolerate the proposal. The _x_+1’s were, I
must admit, a more interesting Society. There was no reason whatever for
their being so called. They debated literary questions mostly, not
without acumen, but with a rather painful striving after originality.
Thus, one member would try to resuscitate the dead laurels of Tennyson;
another would condemn Masefield as a mawkish sentimentalist, another
would write in disproof of the existence of Dr. Johnson. The most
characteristic note of the Society was its repudiation of all the
courtesies of debate. The President always opened the proceedings by
saying that it was his unpleasant duty to allow Mr. So-and-so to read
his paper, on the hackneyed subject of So-and-so; he could only hope
that it would be as brief as possible. When the paper was ended, the
Secretary would rise, and remonstrate with the honourable member for
having read so uninterestingly, and would proceed to move a vote of
censure on him, which was solemnly carried. In speaking, if you referred
to anyone who had addressed the House before you, you were bound to
mention him by reference to some physical defect, or unpleasant personal
characteristic, as “the honourable member who forgot to shave this
morning,” or “the honourable member whose ears are so much too large for
her,” and so on. At the conclusion of the proceedings, a vote of censure
was passed on all the officers. The President then rose, and proposed
the dissolution of the Society; the Treasurer seconded, and the motion
was carried _nem. con._ I do not know why we enjoyed it, but we did.
Alas, one begins to discover even as an undergraduate that man’s most
violent innovations turn almost at once into a sort of archaic ritual.

The Union, of course, was a more serious affair: of this Society I had
the honour to be the first woman President. We had some fine speakers in
those days, notably Eustace Travers, who afterwards became a very
successful book-maker, and Arthur Cardman, who as Lord Bythorpe did so
much to improve the breed of Hertfordshire cattle. But this was long
after the days of real Union eloquence, the days of Raymond Asquith and
Humphrey Paul. The most notable debate at which I was ever present was
that at which the proposal for Indian Home Rule was discussed, only six
months before it was carried into effect. Indians in those days used to
come to Oxford in large numbers, and the front benches were parted by an
absolute division of colour, “looking,” Savage said to me, “just like
those advertisements of stuff to dye your white hair with, only the chap
in the picture has only tried it on one side for a start.” Lord Cheadle
was the guest of the evening, and I imagined, as I looked at his bowed
shoulders and untidy white hair, and listened to his voice, still
silvery in quality though lacking its old fire, how those tones must
have thrilled the Commons at the time of the Five Years’ War. The
excitement was intense throughout the evening: every sentence of Lord
Cheadle was cheered to the echo, and the very dons in the gallery shook
their fists when his Nationalist opponent appealed for her
fellow-countrymen. The voting, as usual, went against the visitor, and
we had the satisfaction of feeling that the Oxford Union had once more
dictated its policy to the Government.

It must not be supposed that, because I was so multifariously occupied,
I was neglecting my chances in the Schools. I had decided to take as my
subject for Finals the group known as Group 65B, which consisted of
Geography and Byzantine Architecture, with French as a subsidiary
subject. I sat once more at the feet of the great Hoskyns, and was
privileged to attend the very first lecture to which he released his
considerations on “Whereness examined as such, without reference to
spatial conceptions, with special allusion to the recently discovered
work of Aristotle on Πουότης.” He followed this up with a course (I have
the notes of it still) called “Towards a reconciliation of Teleology
with Geography, with some remarks on the Where as a function of the
Why.” Alas, it was after my time that he startled the world with his
“The Whence as an aspect of the Whither, a point Einstein overlooked.”
In fact, he had not yet made his name, but he had one fervent devotee.
So enthralled was I by his speculations that I made a suggestion that I
should come and take private classes with him at his house: when
difficulties arose, I actually consented to come without receiving the
usual fee. Never shall I forget the thrill of those evenings! It was
something of a pilgrimage that I had taken on myself, for he lived in
one of the most fashionable streets of Boar’s Hill, and this was before
the funicular railway had been electrified. At the end of our fourth
class, however, he proposed marriage, a suggestion which so took me
aback that I put him off with the plea (an unusual one, even then) that
I must write for my parents’ consent. My mother was very busy at the
time, since she was entering her dog for a show, and my father found it
impossible to get away. The result was unexpected, but perhaps
fortunate, a visit from old Miss Linthorpe! She interviewed Charles
Hoskyns for three-quarters of an hour, and came away saying that the man
ought to be in Bedlam (a melancholy prophecy of what happened later on).
The engagement was broken off, but I promised that I would always be a
sister to him, and when he married his typist a few months later,
suggested further that I would be a sister-in-law to his wife.

My researches in Byzantine architecture were less absorbing; it was a
subject more difficult to treat in a theoretical aspect. I went to
Church at St. Barnabas’ one Sunday, to collect local colour, but the
expedition was not a success. That Church had been one of the earliest
to acclaim and to encourage rapprochement with the Greek Orthodox
Communion, and I found that, during the week, an enormous screen had
been erected in the middle of the Church, completely hiding the Eastern
portion of it. The screen, indeed, had doors in it, which were meant (I
afterwards learnt) to be thrown open at various points in the service;
but unfortunately these doors jammed on this first occasion, and the
congregation had to be content without seeing the officiating clergy at

I hope it will not be thought to argue defective piety in me that I
have, so far, said nothing about the religious state of the University.
I am sorry to say that I think the women who were up in my time were, on
the whole, far better Churchgoers than their successors of to-day. The
old idea of compulsory chapels had disappeared almost before the Five
Years’ War; and there was now no worldly inducement to keep even Sunday
chapels except that those who went on Sunday evening were not charged
for their dinner afterwards in Hall. In spite of the purely voluntary
character of these services, I think we had nearly always about a third
of the College in attendance; and very heartily, I remember, did they
join in the singing. Miss Garvice, our principal, used to conduct the
service, and would occasionally preach us a lay sermon: she always
refused, however, to pronounce the Absolution; the assumption of
anything like priestly powers by women in the present state of feeling,
she said, could do no good and might possibly do harm. We used the
ordinary Prayer Book service, but, in virtue of a special privilege
accorded to us by our visitor, the Bishop of Sodor and Man, we altered
the masculine gender to the feminine wherever it occurred in any general
connexion: “When the wicked woman turneth away from her wickedness,” and
so on.

Our devotion to the services of the Church at St. Lucy’s was but part of
a great religious movement throughout the University. In those days, the
Sunday evening sermons for undergraduates which are now preached at St.
Peter’s-in-the-East were still preached at St. Mary’s, and when a really
popular orator such as the then Bishop of Plymouth was to occupy the
pulpit, you did well to be in time for the opening prayers if you wanted
to make sure of a seat. I remember an atheist meeting, which was being
held opposite the moving platform in St. Giles’, where the old Martyrs’
Memorial used to stand, being almost broken up by a set of Magdalen
undergraduates who were returning from the Bullingdon dinner. When the
Archbishop of British Guiana was given his honorary degree (I was in the
theatre myself), there was no larking among the undergraduates in the
gallery, except that one young man threw down a black and only partially
clothed “Golliwog” in his direction—an action which the _Oxford
Magazine_ criticized afterward as being in doubtful taste. Altogether,
our young friends at Oxford might do worse than go back to the religious
standard of the early thirties.

No one man can be more reasonably credited with having brought about
this state of things than Canon Dives of Christ Church. It is not easy,
of course, from the Catholic point of view to sympathize with his
difficulties or to rest satisfied with his affirmations. But in those
days he was a tower of strength to many weak hearts. I remember
attending a meeting of the Oxford University Churches Reunion in the
J.C.R. at Worcester, to which he read his famous “Explanation of the
Existence of Good.” I felt it to be so remarkable a feat that I kept the
notes of it, of which I give an abstract. Evil, he said, was an
undeniable fact in our experience. The phenomenon of pain, which some
short-sighted philosophers had attempted to deny, was sufficiently
attested for us by the “fugitive reaction” which it set up in Man and
even, apparently, in the lower animals. “If I am kicked on the shin,” he
explained with his dry humour, “my instinct is to put my shin
elsewhere.” A very little reflection would show us that the parallel
phenomenon known as “Moral” evil had an equally real existence. “If I
see a man kicking a baby on the shin, my instinct is to remonstrate with
him.” He then drew a lurid picture of all the moral evil that went on in
the world: even in those days, it was a damning indictment! “Now,
gentlemen,” he continued, in that curious little shriek that was so
characteristic of his pulpit delivery, “no Evil without Good! Evil
cannot exist without implying the existence of its correlative! If you,
gentlemen,” (beaming at us through his spectacles) “are to be at liberty
to do wrong, you must _ipso facto_ leave me my liberty to do right. You
will tell me that, on this showing, Good has only a parasitic, and
almost a negative existence. Be it so; it exists. And now, how are we to
account for its existence?” He went on to show, in a really eloquent
passage, that Evil can only realize itself fully if and in so far as it
finds itself in a continual struggle against Good; that Good is,
consequently, necessary to the constitution of the world, which demands
Evil as a condition of its fulfilment. “Some day, perhaps,” he added,
“wiser heads and clearer vision than yours or mine will be able to
include Evil and Good under a Higher Synthesis which shall co-ordinate
and subsume them both. Meanwhile, we struggle on in the half-light of
our uncertainty, only confident that the Power (for so, I think we may
call it) which has instilled into our natures such an irresistible
craving for what is evil, will somehow, somewhere, bring that evil to
fulfilment.” The roof of the J.C.R. echoed again as we testified by our
grateful plaudits our gratitude to Canon Dives for his courageous

But it must not be imagined that our whole time at Oxford was spent in
these serious occupations! We had our relaxations, too, and wherever
innocent fun was going, you may be sure that the undergraduates of St.
Lucy’s had their part. No less than five of us, I remember, were
included in the caste of “Oh, blast it all” when it was performed by the
O.U.D.S. in the Lent term of 1936. I came on myself in the Mixed Bathing
scene, and again at the end of the Fourth Act, where the male and female
choruses come out of the Noah’s Ark in pairs, in fancy dress. We had the
opportunity of seeing most of the successful revues at the Theatre, some
of them when they had only been running three years or so on the London
stage. Occasionally (for the Proctors were very strict about the
management of the theatre) we had to vary the entertainment with the old
classical stage of Pinero and Brandon Thomas.

It was in the Eights Week of my last year (1938) that the St. Lucy’s
boat went up into the First Division, beating Merton II. It was true
that Merton I had now been head of the river five years in succession,
and some thought that they sacrificed the prospects of their second boat
to those of their first, but it was, nevertheless, a memorable triumph.
There was bad blood between the rowing and the football sets at the
time, because the football semi-final had been reported in the _St.
Lucy’s Chronicle_ in a way that we all thought odious. But it was not a
time for narrow, sectarian grudges; and we all turned out in our
football skirts and our blue-and-gold-edged “perspirers” to watch the
race from the towing path. The habit of putting on “change” to watch the
races was merely a survival, ever since the towing path had been turned
into a moving platform, but it was a ritual rigorously observed. How we
shouted, as the nose of the St. Lucy’s boat gradually gained upon our
Herculean antagonists, and bumped them just opposite the Lady Margaret
barge! There were great doings in the College that night, and we broke
three of the library windows.

But meanwhile the shadow of Schools was drawing nearer, and there was
little time left for such frivolities. I knew that I was sound on my
texts, and my tutress warned me to take it easy toward the end. I went
away for three days before the examination—to Ascot, where I made some
good selections. The examination itself filled me with despair: the
weather was thunderous and the heat of the room excessive. I even went
so far as to write on one of my papers: “TO THE EXAMINER.—I could have
done this question much better if the woman in front of me were not
using such a noisy typewriter.” My “viva” was a short and purely
informal one; they asked me the whereabouts of Tonkin, which I located,
in the embarrassment of the moment, in Lancashire. But when the lists
came out in September I found my own name among the first class, and
made history once more as the first woman who had ever made good in
Byzantine architecture.

                               CHAPTER IV
                        TRAVELS ON THE CONTINENT

  Only in travel do we find rest. For our world is a moving platform,
  and he who would mark time must run—certainly he must run.—DR.
  DIVES: _Abraham the Pedestrian_.

The choice of a profession, which naturally began to exercise me when I
had gone down, was not at that time at all an easy one. The effect of
Indian Home Rule had been, not only to disappoint many who had aspired
to the Indian Civic Service, but to send home from India a whole host of
Europeans who had lost their positions there and were now in search of
employment. The field was consequently narrowed. Canon Dives was very
urgent with me to take Holy Orders. “It is just your sort we want,” he
was kind enough to say: “people who have stripped Life of its mysteries
and looked Truth in the face.” I objected that I felt disqualified on
theological grounds: my geographical training had taught me that what is
nowhere is nothing, and the idea of a Supreme Being who was ubiquitous
affronted my intelligence. Could I, then, honestly take the pay of a
Church which taught the existence of a God, when I myself believed in
nothing of the sort? He was quite unshaken in his opinion. “After all,”
he said, “relativity is in the air, and we are coming to realize, I
think, that all truth is relative to the person who believes it. To
preach to a congregation of orthodox people and bid them live up to
their lights is not necessarily the work of one who is herself an
orthodox believer. Besides, you would not get much pay at first. And, as
time went on, you might well find that your own ideas would come to
frame themselves in a more traditional setting.” I thus very nearly
became a deaconess (it was not, of course, till nearly twenty years
later that women could attain any higher rank in the ministry). But
family opposition (“My dear,” said Miss Linthorpe, “you’d run off with
the examining chaplain”) combined with my absence of any definite
religious convictions to prevent it. There was some talk of my going
into my father’s business, but its prospects were still far from
reassuring, and my mother urged, with some common sense, that it would
be a mistake to have all our eggs in one basket. And then the
authorities at St. Lucy’s solved the difficulty by obtaining for me, as
the result of my geographical successes, a travelling scholarship which,
on condition of my residing abroad, would make it unnecessary for me to
think further about my career for the next two years.

I travelled by train. The aeroplane had not then come to its own, even
for long journeys. A series of accidents in the five previous years, not
traceable to any one cause, but simply one of those runs of bad luck
which mere observation cannot but detect in the nature of things, had
made the public nervous and the insurance premiums prohibitive. On the
other side, the American Trust which had just taken over the main
arteries of Continental Travel—one hardly hears it spoken of now, or
only in the same breath with the Darien Canal and the South Sea Company,
but to us the Belgium to Bosphorus Trunk Railway was the latest
achievement of the human genius—had undoubtedly revolutionized the train
journey. The continuous cinema performances, even if you did not
patronize them yourself, at least drew off from you the importunate
infants that are the bane of the railway carriages (Juliet Savage
profanely said that when she went by train she always prayed “Deliver
me, O Lord, from the hands of strange children”). Wireless installations
and a tape machine made it possible to keep in touch with the news of
the world at large. The libraries paid their way, although they were
said to reckon on a loss of about £5 by thefts every journey! I believe
billiard-players complained of the motion, even the very slight motion
which the patent springs had not managed to eliminate, but for myself I
always found Badminton made a better game when you had the swing of the
train under you to complicate the problem of keeping your feet. With all
these amenities, we did not trouble about speed (these _trains de luxe_
only averaged about thirty miles an hour), and the pleasant days passed
all too quickly on them. Well, it was another item added to the great
list of human follies! And yet it is good discipline for the soul to
have seen many such and to have outlived them.

With such leisurely progress I visited, during the latter part of ’38
and almost the whole of ’39, the principal centres of that mid-European
republic which we now call Magiria, but which still went, at the time of
my visit, by the name of Mittel-Europa. I went from Geneva to Munich,
from Munich to Innsbruck, from Innsbruck to Vienna, from Vienna to
Bayreuth and Prague, from Prague to Buda-Pest, from Buda-Pest back to
Dresden and Leipzig, from Leipzig to Mainz, and so back again to Basle,
without crossing a frontier, having my luggage examined, or being asked
to produce a passport—I got tired of counting how often I must have
submitted to such nuisances if I had done the same journey ten years
earlier. I was not a mere sight-seer; I had a purpose in view. Although
a travelling scholarship did not entail any conditions as to how you
should occupy your time, there was still a feeling that you ought to
produce, when it lapsed, a thesis of some sort to justify your
intellectual existence. For myself, I determined to write a monograph,
which I subsequently published and which gained me honorary admission to
the Royal Geographical Society, on the constitution and the general
conditions of life which I had observed in the then quite new country of
Mittel-Europa. I hope my readers will not accuse me of unnecessary
vanity if I print here some few paragraphs from it, which are not, after
all, without their interest: it is instructive to read, at this distant
date, the estimate which an impartial observer could then form of the
prospects of that unique state, which had not then passed, as it has
since passed triumphantly, the test of more than fifty years’ untroubled

“Twenty years ago, when the break up of the ramshackle Empire of
Austria-Hungary had brought into being a whole welter of incompetent
states, at variance with one another and in themselves, at the very
heart of Europe, it would have seemed well-nigh impossible that a single
stroke of statesmanship should, in so brief a compass of time, solve all
their problems and unite them afresh, this time upon acceptable terms
and upon a real, living basis of common interest. Austria itself, shorn
of its seaboard and apparently destitute of all hope of
self-development; Hungary with its unquiet political agitations;
Czecho-Slovakia with its national, its constitutional, its religious
dissensions; Bavaria and Saxony, still loosely attached to the German
confederation, yet ready upon the slightest pretext to part company with
their uncongenial neighbours—it would have seemed impossible, a mere
Utopian dream, that all these units should be merged in a single
Republic, by the far-seeing genius, not of a politician, not of a
religious leader, not of a national hero, but of a Tourists’ Agency—and
that agency one which had its centre neither in Vienna nor in Prague nor
in Munich, but—_tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento_—in the busy
thoroughfare of Ludgate Circus.

“The old Republic of Switzerland was of course the model, as it
consented to become the nucleus, of this vast political experiment. Here
were people of three different races—French, German, and Italian—people
who not only differed, but had in time past differed even to blood, in
their religious outlook, living together in perfect harmony and
unparalleled prosperity. The Swiss character is not naturally pacific;
on the contrary, in the late Middle Ages the Swiss were the most venal
and the most savage mercenaries to be obtained in Europe: yet the little
Republic not only kept itself clear, poorly armed as it was, from the
turmoil of the Great War,[1] but laboured, not unsuccessfully, to draw
the combatants together and to invite exchanges of opinion. Further, its
prosperity seemed in no way diminished by the fact that it had no
seaboard and depended upon the good-will of its more powerful neighbours
for the whole maintenance of its import and export trade. What could be
the secret of this phenomenon on the political horizon, this living
disproof of all our most cherished theories as to the conditions which
guarantee the unity and the well-being of a nation?

“The answer to this enigma was already known in Ludgate Circus. The
Swiss prospered as they did because they were a nation of hotel-keepers.
Hotel-keepers, by the very nature of their profession, are bound to keep
the peace as far as possible not only with but among their neighbours.
They are bound to avoid even the threat or the appearance of strikes and
disturbances in their own country, for fear of awaking panic in the
hearts of those maiden ladies who are their chief patronesses.
Hotel-keepers are not troubled by any petty differences of religion or
nationality, so long as they are united in a common endeavour to make
money out of the foreigner. Hotel-keepers, finally, do not trouble about
a seaboard—any sort of board is good enough for them. It followed that
there was only one remedy to apply to the distracted politics of Middle
Europe. A larger Switzerland must be formed, which should contain as
many as possible of the important tourists’ resorts, and must be
organized on the Swiss model, to constitute a solid block of pacific
influence, bound together by an indissoluble bond of common commercial
interest, which should extend from the South of the Rhineland to the
very gates of Galicia.

“It is amazing to see, as one travels about the country, how the lesser
difficulties which at first sight seemed likely to attend the scheme
solved themselves on the general principles which guided its promoters.
Thus, the religious question, which had been acute in several of the old
states, gave no further trouble when it was understood that the state
would pay for the upkeep of all Church buildings by a _pro rata_ grant,
proportional to the number of foreign travellers who had visited each in
the course of the last census period. The old political divisions of the
whole area were obliterated, and replaced by a new division based on
railway facilities; when exception was taken to the use of the word
‘cantons,’ as implying that the Swiss system had overrun its natural
boundaries, it was decided that these new geographical units should go
by the name of ‘coupons.’ Once it was realized that the whole nation had
only a single aim, viz. the exploitation of the foreigner, all
democratic institutions speedily disappeared, and the present Senate was
set up, consisting of the proprietors of those hotels which are marked
with a star in Baedeker’s Guide. Taxes were abolished, and replaced by a
five per cent. duty on all commissions and tips. The army was disbanded;
for it was rightly argued that there was no danger of friction with
foreign nations: if they have grievances to ventilate, they are
requested to communicate direct with Ludgate Circus. The language
problem was solved by the introduction of American as the official
language of the State; the exchange difficulty, which had threatened to
strangle the commercial life of Central Europe, was easily met by the
self-sacrificing policy of the Agency. The Agency retains very real
rights as a power behind the throne, but in no way obtrudes itself on
the notice of the people at large; and if the policemen, customs
officers, etc., have the distinguishing initials T.C. on their caps,
this is only because they create confidence in the mind of the

“Mittel-Europa has, of course, no diplomatic service; nor does she,
except for the Papal Nuncio, admit any foreign representatives. Yet she
looms large in the Councils of Europe, and the League of Nations is even
now holding—we trust, not unfruitfully—its 218th session at
Ober-Ammergau. Her exports are enormous, consisting chiefly of
paper-knives, crucifixes, picture-postcards, and unclaimed baggage. Her
Parliament meets only once a year, during the months of July, August,
and September, not in a single, fixed capital, but in a series of cities
taken in rotation—this was, of course, at one time the custom in our own
country, when men could speak of the Parliament of Oxford, the
Parliament of Gloucester, and so on. The city in which the Parliament is
to meet for that year is, of course, for that year the Mecca of all the
principal ‘personally conducted tours’ from this country and from the
United States, and the proceeds of these tours ordinarily serve to
defray the whole expenses of the members. There are no effective
political parties, though there is naturally a certain amount of rivalry
between the various local interests, debate occasionally becoming
acrimonious on the respective salubrity of the various health resorts:
in general, however, every one is permitted to say what he will of his
own department or ‘coupon,’ provided that he does not explicitly
disparage the amenities of any other. Crime is practically unknown
there; the majority of the criminal classes have abandoned theft as
being less lucrative than the normal occupations of their

“It is greatly to be hoped that in the event of another European War the
central position of Mittel-Europa would have a powerful influence in
putting a speedy end to the conflict. It would clearly be impossible for
the Republic to take sides with either belligerent, since it would
immediately strangle all its industries by doing so. Being neutral, it
would necessarily interpose a barrier between any two great powers who
were trying to fly at one another’s throats. It is true that this ideal
has only been imperfectly realized, since the suggestion of including
the whole Rhine country, with parts of Alsace-Lorraine, within the
boundaries of the new state, was negatived by France, always suspicious
of unfriendly motives: an equally intransigent attitude was, most
unfortunately, observed by Poland. But even within its lesser confines
Mittel-Europa cannot fail to be an influence for good.”

Such was my impression of the situation at the time: and those who
remember the incidents of the Great War—how it was Magiria which very
nearly prevented the declaration of war in 1972, how Magirian
ambassadors were everywhere the natural protectors of the neutral
interest, how, finally, it was on Magirian soil, at Zürich, that the
Peace Conference met in 1975—will not be disposed to quarrel with the
accuracy of my estimate. The rest of my paper would not be of much
interest to modern readers; but I will add some private reminiscences in
the form of extracts from my diary, which will not, I hope, seem out of
place: Mittel-Europa was, then as since, a great meeting-ground for the
fashionable world of all countries, and it will easily be imagined that,
fresh from the almost conventual seclusion of my life at Challow and at
Oxford, I missed no opportunity of extending my acquaintance and
improving my knowledge of men and manners during my time abroad.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Nuremberg, December 26, 1939. Yesterday, Christmas Day, was solemnly
kept by all classes in the town; even the Socialists flying their flag
half-mast and in many cases going about in mourning. To church in the
morning at St. Sebald’s (I find St. Laurence’s has been given back to
the Catholics); we heard a most eloquent lay sermon from one of the
Senators, who is a rich hotel-proprietor in the town. He preached on
Home-love, of which instinct he said, rather arbitrarily I thought, that
the Christus-myth was an objective-becoming. He grew quite eloquent over
the lack of accommodation at Bethlehem recorded in the Gospel, and
plainly implied that it was the sort of thing which would not be allowed
to happen nowadays. He said he was glad to be able to preach about
home-love, since he saw so many people in church who were clearly exiled
for the moment from their native country; it was, however, he said, the
object of the Government to make us all feel as much at home as
possible. Immediately after Church went to an enormous Christmas dinner
given by the manager of our hotel, to which most of the notabilities of
the town and several distinguished foreigners had been invited. The
dinner lasted from twelve noon on Christmas Day till two o’clock this

I sat next to one of the new nobility, the Landgrab von Fleissing. He
said he was a great reader of English poetry, especially Byron and Mrs.
Wilcox: I said neither of them were ever read in England nowadays, and
he seemed disappointed; so I asked him whether he read Kipling, which
was a fortunate shot: he said “The Beast-mark” was his favourite story.
I found he came from Prague, so asked him whether he was a Catholic. He
said no, he belonged to the State Church, which broke away from the
Catholics in 1920, because they demanded a vernacular liturgy and a
married clergy. I asked whether he approved of the married clergy, and
he said no, because they did not believe in religion: for himself, he
was pious, and thought it was stupid not to believe in God. I explained
something of my own doubts, to which he only replied, “Ah, you English,
you are so big you get along without him.”

On the other side of me was a Russian, whose name I could not catch: he
was very proud of his country, which was, he said, the first
revolutionary country, and was still a sort of model of revolution to
all others. He was very rich, and kept four motor-cars. When I expressed
surprise about this, he explained that communism did not mean an equal
sharing of all possessions by all the people, but a free opportunity for
men’s natural powers of leadership to come out. (I was told afterwards
that his came out in the form of holding up a supply of wheat, for
which, my informant added, he would certainly have been lynched in
America.) He was very enthusiastic about education, which naturally
interested me, and I asked him what sort of curriculum the children went
through in the elementary schools. He said they learned not to respect
the nobility, not to believe in God, not to love their wives, not to
obey their parents, not to join the army, and many, many other things. I
said it all sounded rather negative, but he could not understand this
word; so I said I did not understand why people needed to be _taught_
such things, but he could not see this.

The room got very hot towards the end of the proceedings. We sang Auld
Lang Syne before we separated. We go back to Munich to-morrow.

Vienna, June 24, 1939. I met one of the greatest doctors here at a
dance, and he danced so badly that I sat out with him and talked hard to
prevent him wanting to go back to the ball-room. He said I ought to go
and see the patients at the great Hospital of Rest, where there was a
new treatment being tried; you had to sit in a series of draughts, which
were carefully graduated so as to get stronger and stronger. It was a
wonderful thing, especially for rheumatism. There was another cure which
meant that you had to be coated with tar all over. I asked whether they
made any charge for admission to see these patients, and he said yes,
unless I had got one of the new “Go-everywhere” coupons. I asked whether
the psycho-analysts were still strong among the medical faculty, and he
said he thought their influence was declining. They had declared that
all music was demoralizing, and that had made trouble with the Senators
at Bayreuth. They had also wanted to kill all pet dogs.

Bayreuth, August 3, 1939. Almost the first thing we did when we got here
was to go to the much-advertised “continuous performance” of the “Ring.”
So far as the music was concerned, I simply proved once more the
mendacity of the friends who always tell you you don’t have to be
musical to appreciate Wagner—not a note of it meant anything to me. And,
though the scenery was certainly gorgeous, the whole thing seemed to me
over-acted, especially in the amount of facial expression the actors
found it necessary to put in. But what enthralled me was the merely
_mechanical_ triumph of the whole thing; never for one moment did the
cinema-operator get out of time with the gramophone; of course if he had
the effect would have lowered the dignity of the whole performance. It
was wonderful to watch how the devotees sat there silent, hour after
hour; I had one old gentleman pointed out to me who attends every day
from nine to one, and again from half-past two to half-past six. It was
impossible not to be impressed. With my “Go-everywhere” coupon I was
allowed to look behind the scenes, and the gramophone was certainly
marvellous. It is said to be the largest in the world, and I could
easily have stood up in the mouth of the funnel. There is a story of a
cinema-operator who was so worried at having got the pictures _one bar
out_ that he went home and shot himself—they are a marvellous people. We
also went to the Wagner Mausoleum, where they have continuous lectures
on the operas. An old professor, whose name I did not catch, brought
forward various reasons, which I did not understand, for believing that
Parsifal was written with some special political object, whose nature I
cannot remember.

Buda-Pest, September 18, 1939. I was introduced to the great Hungarian
novelist, Myslok. He asked me how many of his works I had read; I said
none. As he seemed disappointed, I added that I had recently had to
spend most of my time reading geography. “Geography!” he said. “What is
that? It is only the science of the earth, and what is earth? Only one
big piece of dirt”—he pronounced the word with great emphasis and
contempt. I was rather nettled, and said I supposed at that rate
geography was very much the same as reading modern novels. He asked me
which of his characters I liked best: I said I had not read any of his
works. He said that was very strange, because they had all been
translated into English. I said I always found translations of foreign
books dull reading; somehow the thing altered so much in the process. He
agreed with me enthusiastically, and said that when his last novel was
translated the English publisher had insisted on cutting out the part
where the hero (I forget his name now) trampled on the heroine because
he did not like her dress. I was feeling rather vague and inattentive,
and asked, “Did it kill her?” He said no, but she limped like a crab all
the rest of the book. He then asked if I did not think this the finest
book he had ever written. I said I had not had the pleasure of reading
any of his works. He then asked me to call on him, but he looks so
dreadfully like poor Mr. Hoskyns that I really don’t think I can.

Mainz, November 2, 1939. There is a great Congress of Food Reformers
going on here, and the hotel-keepers are in despair. Our waiter told us
that we were the only people in the hotel who would take the table
d’hôte, and even of the diners _à la carte_ three complained that they
were starving owing to a shortage of their favourite diet. Dates, he
said, were what they wanted mostly, and all the dates in the town had
been sold out long since. “Why they not go hold blinking Congress in the
Sahara?” he said, polishing the plates furiously. We went to a lecture
on the nutritive qualities of the locust, which I had always hitherto
regarded as a sort of _pis aller_, and I am afraid I came away
unconverted. Any number of journalists were present, and we asked the
waiter afterwards whether they did not help out the cuisine rather; but
he said they took nothing except beer.

                  *       *       *       *       *

These, I am afraid, are only selections from the faded old leaves of my
foreign diary, and they are not even representative selections—I seem to
have thought a great deal about clothes in those days, and a good deal
about young men. I had two proposals, one in Munich and one in Prague,
but I managed to get rid of my suitors without invoking the aid of old
Miss Linthorpe. It was the news of her dangerous illness that called me
back to England before my time was really up. I arrived at home quite
unexpected; my father, I remember, greeted me on the door-step with
“Hullo, Opal! I’ve been round in 81.”

                               CHAPTER V
                            ON THE SICK LIST

             More soda-water, and more dry toast?
             Let me up, you damned saw-bones!
                         W. S. SIMCOX: _The Death-rattle_.

Miss Linthorpe died about three weeks later. I suppose even the most
selfish of us can look back at one or two really “good deeds” they have
put in during the course of their lives; and I must say I think the old
lady died the happier for my attendance at her bedside. I found, when I
reached her house in Sloane Gardens, that they had called in a young
doctor, passionately interested in mind-curing, whose method chiefly
consisted of sitting in her room for an hour or so at a time, not
talking to her much, but just, as he said, “keeping up her vitality.”
The first words she whispered to me as I bent down to kiss her were, “My
dear, do get rid of that death’s-head; he depresses me _beyond_ words.”
I managed somehow to dispose of him, and as he shut the door behind
him—not gently but with a loud bang, no doubt by way of keeping up her
vitality—my aunt actually fumbled at the side of her bed and brought out
her familiar lorgnettes; then, fixing his imaginary figure with that
devastating stare of hers, “Why do I have to pay to be attended by a man
who hasn’t even got the sense to see that I’m dying, when I can see it
for myself? I suppose he thinks death is some kind of sexual
abnormality. Now, my dear, I want you to be very kind, and call in Dr.
Matheson—Hodges will give you the address. He’s a rotten doctor, I
believe, but I’d sooner be killed off by one of my own generation. One
gets these fads, you know.”

So Miss Linthorpe had the services of her old, comfortable doctor: nor
was she less exacting in the case of her solicitor; nor, I need hardly
say, in the case of her clergyman. He had to come from a church several
parishes off: “It’s a dingy sort of hole, and the services there always
send me to sleep; but they’ve no stunts there, if you understand what I
mean; they don’t turn out in fresh clothes every week, or make up the
service as they go along.” I doubt if he did much for her, and indeed
she confided to me that she would look a pretty sort of fool in heaven
if all _he_ said was true. But she got her way, and she could bear
anything as long as she got her way. It was the same clergyman who
attended her coffin to the grave-side, and read the funeral service.
“When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal
shall have put on immortality” ... it was part of a dead world we laid
to rest at the West Drayton cemetery, but you felt that there, if indeed
she was anywhere, her old prejudices would be more respected, and her
odd ways less out of place.

It touched me profoundly, and at the same time took me seriously aback,
when I found that the old lady had left me her sole heir. She had also,
quite at the end of her life, entrusted to her solicitor a sealed packet
which was to be delivered to me personally, or failing that to be
destroyed unread. I do not know what strange freak induced my aunt to
plunge suddenly into authorship; but the envelope proved to contain
nothing more than her reflections on life, with a few general bits of
advice which she offered to me on the strength of it. I have it before
me as I type (Miss Linthorpe to her dying day would never use a
typewriter): a few extracts, which I do not hesitate to print, will show
the general character of it.


  _When you grow old (as you probably will, for my family are
  long-lived, and the Winterheads are a healthy stock, because they
  think so little), you will have passed through an experience which
  now lies a good long way back in my life, but which will perhaps
  come to you later. I mean the moment when one drops out of the
  movement that goes on in one’s generation: it is just like dropping
  out of a competition, the same mixture of disappointment and relief.
  You will find that you have suddenly stood still, when you had no
  idea that you had been moving, like getting off one of these
  murderous moving platforms when you’re not thinking. You will have
  turned from a competitor in life into a spectator, and your first
  thought will be that everything round you changes, and changes very
  rapidly. But this, since it is not a very original thought, you will
  probably keep to yourself._

  _The next thing you will notice is that the change is of two kinds:
  there is a change which is involuntary on mankind’s part, and a
  change which is deliberate. All the progress of science, whether
  practical or speculative, is involuntary. We shall not go back to
  horses, nor to candles, nor to sewing-machines. And although all the
  theories of all these silly scientists are not (thank God!) eternal,
  but appear to go round in cycles, so that I am old enough to
  remember the days when they thought consumption was not infectious
  (or do I mean contagious?) and that there was no such person as
  Homer, yet it’s only fair to say that they do learn from their
  mistakes; they go up blind alleys, but they have the decency to
  blaze the trail behind them, so that their posterity shan’t make
  just the same kind of fools of themselves. And I suppose it’s true
  that as our scientific apparatus gets better, we come to depend on
  it more and grow physically inferior in consequence—I can say this
  with some pride, since I am sixty-nine and haven’t a tooth in my
  head that God didn’t put there.[2] But nobody is going to avoid all
  that, and I never heard that anybody except Ruskin thought you

  _The lie you will find people telling all around you—and telling it
  without realizing that it is a lie, which makes it so much worse, as
  Plato says—is that the great movements of the human mind, whether in
  the arts or in politics or in morals or in religion, are similarly
  part of an irresistible progress; so that you could never go back on
  our present attitude of mind about (say) marriage any more than you
  could go back to sewing-machines. The truth is, of course, that the
  great movements of the human mind are just fashions. The reason why
  you don’t admire Whistler is just the same as the reason why you
  don’t wear elastic-sided boots. And it’s so with bigger things than
  that; generally it’s a catchword that starts the whole thing—look at
  Evolution! Look at what a bogy it was to our fathers’—I mean, to my
  father’s—generation: how all the clergymen went about thinking the
  world was coming to an end and wondering where their next collection
  was coming from: and all the dons tried to work evolution into their
  subjects, and pretend that they had detected it there long before
  they ever heard of Darwin, and the politicians—oh, Lord! And now
  where is it? It outlived crinolines, which it never deserved to, but
  it hasn’t outlived jumpers. You’ll see, it’ll be just the same with
  this relativity nonsense every one is talking about. They’re
  fashions, these things; it isn’t that any one person sits down and
  says, “Now, let’s all think like this”: it’s a collective impetus,
  as that bore Canon Dives would say. You’ll live through it._

  _I wish I knew what it all meant. But I think this: I think it is
  the result of man being born immortal, and thinking (like an ass)
  that he has only this world to satisfy his immortal instinct with.
  Despairing of immortality in this world, and forgetting it in the
  next, he makes the human race the immortal unit, and so endows it
  with life. And, because he has been told that life means growth, he
  cannot be happy until he believes that the world in which he lives
  is growing, from something to something else. That is human vanity’s
  favourite dogma, and there is no atom of proof for it. Everything we
  know about history and natural history shows that there is a kind of
  progress in the world which is a progress from the less to the more
  complicated, from the less to the more organized: nothing suggests,
  except to our vanity, that there is a progress from the worse to the
  better—and what other kind of progress would any sensible person
  give a tinker’s curse for? That’s it, I believe. Sweating away on
  the treadmill, humanity fancies that it is mountaineering, and that
  the dawn is just going to show above the next slope. There’s an
  epigram for you. Let me finish now, before I spoil it...._

The rest of Miss Linthorpe’s statement, though equally curious, was
entirely private. I am afraid I have got well past her age without ever
acquiring her truculent directness of thought and of expression. But I
sometimes hope she was right.

Meanwhile, it looked for a short time, for a few months after her death,
as if I was to defeat all her prophecies of my longevity. I got into the
doctor’s hands; and it must be remembered that in those days, when
doctors were not paid by results, but were allowed to charge what they
liked for various kinds of treatment which might prove wholly
unsuccessful, it was more easy to get into the doctors’ hands than to
get out of them. More particularly, since this was just the crisis of
the conflict between the physicist and the psychicist schools of
medicine, and a person of decent means (as I now found myself) was not
easily satisfied until she had tried all that either branch could do
towards a cure of the malady. It is clear to me now—I shall not enter
into the symptoms, for reasons which will readily be understood—that I
was suffering from a comparatively mild attack of Hilton’s disease, the
very nature of which was then only dimly suspected, while no steps had
been taken at all towards the discovery of a remedy for it. Nowadays the
doctors would have known what to do with me, and if my system had
responded properly to treatment I should have been well again in six
weeks. At the time, the very difficulty of diagnosis left me a prey to
every conceivable theory which the physician of the moment might be
trying to verify or to popularize.

It began in a sufficiently curious way. It was not common then for girls
of twenty-five or so to get engaged: we held that a girl ought to make a
living for herself and have something to settle down upon before she
looked about for a partner in life. But my mother, who was old-fashioned
in some ways, had set her heart on my marrying young. Although I was
aware of this, I did not connect it at all with the person of S—— (I
will not give his real name), a gentleman of about forty whom my father
picked up on the links one day and brought home to luncheon. He was
evidently in very comfortable circumstances, and he had good manners and
a good presence; in a word, I found it quite easy to get on with him.
Only gradually, as his visits became more frequent and more extended,
did I (as we used to say in those days) “tumble to the situation.” Some
indefinable instinct, a legacy, as my doctors told me afterwards, from
the days of marriage by capture, told me that he was beginning to take a
more than casual interest in me. From that moment, I am sorry to say, I
began to conceive the greatest possible distaste for him, and lost no
opportunity of being away when he called, or of treating him with
coldness when I was forced to be in the room with him. At last my mother
tackled me directly. I told her the exact truth, that I had nothing
whatever against him, and that he seemed to me well suited to make any
woman happy and to help her forward in her career; but that I did not
and could not feel any affection for him. My mother (I remember it all
as if it were yesterday) knocked the ash off her cigar and said
anxiously, “My dear, I don’t think you can be well. What’s wrong with
seeing a doctor?”

In those days, many families were still old-fashioned enough to have a
doctor who not only diagnosed the presence of disease but went on to
prescribe for it himself—very much as if you were to put a law case in
the hands of a solicitor and he were to take your case into court and
plead as counsel. We had already adopted the more modern method, and Dr.
Shanks, our dear old family physician, never dreamt of doing more than
telling you whether you “had a case” and recommending a suitable
specialist to take it to. I went round to his house, where he looked at
my tongue, X-rayed me, felt my pulse, took my reaction-times, and shook
his head importantly. “I am afraid you are in for some trouble, Miss
Winterhead,” he explained, “but I am not quite sure who is the best man
to take it to. My feeling is that the nervous disorder is primary, and
the organic only secondary, but on the whole it would be safest to start
by seeing if we cannot attack the organic trouble first. I will make an
appointment for you with Sir Alexander Rymer; and if there is any man
who can keep you out of the hands of the nerve-doctors, he will.” With a
few reassuring words he showed me out, and I awaited Sir Alexander’s

Sir Alexander was, I think, the most broad-minded man I have ever met.
Well-known as a staunch antagonist of the mind-curing school, he
nevertheless gave you the impression that he was fully prepared to take
their theories into account, and to bow, if need were, to their
diagnosis; but on the other hand, his immediate duty was to prescribe
for this case here and now, and while in any other case he might have
hesitated, this was just the one case in a thousand which the
mind-doctors could not hope to tackle successfully. “Now, my dear young
thing” (he affected these old-world courtesies of speech), “if I were to
send you on to a woman like Dr. Bowles she would quite certainly give
you a lot of good advice, which would give you relief for the present,
and then in a year or two’s time you’d be back again here with the old
trouble as bad as ever, and possibly worse owing to neglect. Our
business just now is not to indulge in professional courtesies, we’ve
got to get you well. Now, what I want you to do is this. Go very
quietly: don’t dance late more than twice or three times a week; don’t
drive at more than thirty miles an hour; don’t inhale cigars; don’t play
‘bridge’ till after tea; and, if you can possibly manage it, try to give
up shopping altogether for the present. Give nature every chance to
right herself. Avoid milk in all forms, and fish, and dry toast. If you
aren’t on the mend in a month or so, you will have to go somewhere where
you can get good marsh air, the Thames Valley, of course, for
preference.” I went away greatly impressed with his manner, and honestly
did my best to carry out his prescriptions: I spent all the October of
1940 at Goring, which was then only a small country town, and had ideal
weather for my own requirements, since it hardly stopped raining the
whole time I was there. But my physical symptoms were still disturbing,
and, what alarmed my parents more, I could not meet S—— without a strong
desire to run out of the room.

In these circumstances it was thought best that I should change my
doctor. Dr. Bowles was abroad at the time, so I arranged for interviews
with Dr. Tryer, who was by common consent the second-best mind-healer in
London. She was a tall, rather sinister-looking woman, and I always felt
like a frightened rabbit in her presence. This had the unfortunate
effect of making me mix up my words, as I always do when I am nervous,
and she regarded this confusion on my part, as clear evidence of an
inhibition somewhere in my subconsciousness. For example, one of the
first things she did was to ask me about my interview with my own
doctor: I said, “He told me to put out my pulse, felt his head, and then
shook my tongue”—in a moment Dr. Tryer had rushed to her
typewriting-desk and was recording my idiotic remark for future
reference. You know how it is when you once start losing your head? I
could never say anything right after that. She held interminable
conversations with me, and it was quite a long time before she struck
platinum on that long-forgotten air-raid. Then it was all plain sailing:
I was simply docketed “cellar shell-shock”—the sort of phrase only Dr.
Tryer could have pronounced without tripping over it—and herded together
with a lot of other patients who had all to undergo the same treatment.
Once a week we used to collect in a cellar, the doors of which were
tightly locked, and Dr. Tryer, by some ingenious mechanical arrangement,
contrived to make the most fiendish noises overhead. I do not suppose
that even a modern air-raid could be quite so daunting; she called it
“reconstructing the conditions.” When it was time to let us out she
sounded the “All clear!” (this was the signal for the end of an air-raid
in the Five Years’ War, apparently), and encouraged us to whistle it to
ourselves as often as possible during the day. I still do it
inadvertently when I am not thinking. This treatment obsessed my mind
for nearly three months, and did everything except enable me to overcome
my distaste for the presence of S——. By that time, at any rate, it was
quite clear that what was chiefly wrong with me was nerves. Accordingly
I put myself under the direction of the Berthellot school, determined to
rid myself of nerves by the then popular expedient of auto-suggestion.

The Berthellot Institute then occupied the site of the old Hendon
Aerodrome, which has since been utilized as a library for the official
documents relating to the Great War. One did not lodge there, but spent
most of the day there in “classes” of self-suggestion: a class would
consist of fifty or sixty people all herded together in the same
lecture-room. The simplest exercise, which you ordinarily started on,
consisted of shouting “Health, health, health! Glorious health!” in
chorus. Juliet Savage, who came with me to watch one of these classes,
said it was all she could do to refrain from shouting “Beer, beer,
glorious beer” (an old chorus which she had picked up from an uncle when
young) to see if she were detected or not amidst the general din. But
there were more advanced exercises: I remember, for example, a sort of
skittle-alley where you threw a large ball at a set of nine-pins,
ejaculating “Better that time!” with every throw; it was said to be
highly restorative. And then there was the ball-room, where you danced
the Health-dance, and the gymnasium, where you did a sort of patent
Indian clubs, and much more that I have forgotten. Mr. Druce, the
Superintendent, was a brisk, rather oppressive sort of man who
positively oozed health: when I was shown into his room he greeted me
with the words, “Ha! Another of our malingerers! Isn’t it almost time
you gave up swinging the lead? Come now, you know there’s nothing to be
gained by it!” I replied that I was subject to headaches; that I had
come there that morning with a headache, which was, indeed, somewhat
worse after listening to the Health-chorus. He came up to me, put his
hands on both sides of my head, and said, “What, that thing! Aching!”
Then he rang a bell, and said to the attendant who appeared, “Oh, Miss
Sonnenschein, do come here! This young lady thinks her head is aching!”
To which Miss Sonnenschein, a rather gloomy lady to whom the whole thing
clearly came in the way of business, said in an unconvincing voice,
“That’s a good ’un!” I asked, somewhat timidly, what happened to you if
the treatment did not have a curative effect. Did the failures go out
feeling exactly as ill as they did when they came in, or was it
sometimes found that the treatment had been actually prejudicial?
“Failures?” said Mr. Druce, “my dear madam, there _are_ no failures.”
“Do you mean,” I said, “that you are quite certain I shall go out of
this place cured?” “Certain? Miss Sonnenschein, kindly explain to this
young lady the sort of certainty which I feel about her recovery.” To
which Miss Sonnenschein, who was chewing, replied “Sure thing!” I then
asked whether in the event of my proving a failure the Institute would
be prepared to refund my fees, but Mr. Druce simply repeated that there
were no failures.

I cannot feel that I was ever meant for the Berthellot Institute; it was
too breezy for me altogether. I discontinued my attendance at the
lectures before my proper time was up, and consequently was never
recorded as a failure. Meanwhile a friend, Mrs. Sholto,[3] had
recommended me to yet another variety of mind-doctors, the Mental
Homœopathists, who were the sworn rivals of the Berthellot system.
Theirs was a home treatment, and all you had to do was to murmur to
yourself at frequent intervals, “Every day in every way I grow worse and
worse and worse!” You were also recommended to study a little pamphlet
on the human body, entitled, “Our Disastrous Inheritance,” which showed
you pictures of various parts of the human body suffering under the
influence of virulent diseases, and gave you a long index of all
possible morbid conditions of the human frame—Juliet said it was exactly
like a manual she had called “Helicopter Troubles, and how to Trace
them.” I think I ought to have been an apt pupil for this system—the
idea of which was that the conscious mind is in continual revolt from
the impressions of the subconscious mind, and the more depressed your
subconsciousness was the better your chance of recovery—for Mr. Druce
had been an admirable preparation for it. But, though I stuck to it for
some time, and seemed to have been gaining strength, an unexpected
afternoon call from S—— immediately threw me back into a serious

Finally, I was induced to go down to Winchcombe, in the Cotswolds, to
try the “colour-cure” which had recently been attracting a good deal of
attention. After a long examination, I was relegated to the “orange
suite,” where I was expected to pass a complete fortnight. There were
numerous other “orange” patients, but I was not allowed to speak to any
of them: a saturnine old woman sat in one corner of the room, with the
detached air of a bath attendant, to see that the rules were kept. I was
given an orange dress, which matched the wall-paper, the furniture, even
the flowerbeds outside the window. Reading was allowed, but not
encouraged; the great point, I was told, was to become saturated with
orange as early as possible. I certainly became fed up with orange long
before the fortnight was over, and by breaking a window (for which I
afterwards paid) contrived to get away into the grounds, and so, with
the help of an errand-boy, into the outside world. To this day I cannot
bear so much as an orange ribbon in my boudoir. I suppose Dr. Tryer
would have called that an inhibition.

I cannot describe what a comfort it was to get home, and to find that my
maid Antoinette had lit a fire in my bedroom, and got a mustard bath
ready (she always stuck to it that I had only a cold), and had put a
hot-water bottle in my bed and a Lourdes medal under the pillow. And so
I found peace after all my rest-cures.

It proved that S—— had meanwhile got engaged—for which I cannot blame
him—to somebody whose affections responded to his with less elaborate
treatment. My nerves soon recovered, I am glad to say; and although
symptoms of Hilton’s disease showed themselves about fifteen years
later, by that time both the disease itself and its cure had been
scientifically studied, and it only needed a few weeks to put me on my
feet again.

                               CHAPTER VI
                         BUSINESS AND PLEASURE

  The country gentleman will always be the backbone of England; the
  backbone, and also the speedometer; the backbone, because the
  speedometer.—LORD HOPEDALE.

It was only my illness that interrupted what had for some time been a
cherished ambition with me,—to find a house for myself and my parents
which, without being too far from London, would be more comfortable and
more convenient to our needs. There was still one side of the great city
which had never been affected by the growth of suburban railway
facilities in the twenties and thirties—the little stretch of
Hertfordshire that used to lie between the “Great Northern” and the
“Great Eastern” systems. It was a fortunate choice that directed me to
Greylands, a country property small for those days (though it seems
large enough now!) in the neighbourhood of West Mill. The proximity of
the Buntingford ’drome would make it easy to land near by even in bad
weather, there was water on the estate, and I counted—alas!
unnecessarily, as it proved—on the new golf links at Ardeley to satisfy
my father’s active tastes.

It was actually while we were engaged in moving into the new house that
my poor father had a stroke, the precursor of no very distant end. He
lingered during the remainder of that year (1941), and was sometimes
well enough to be wheeled down to the links in a bath-scooter; but early
in the new year he had a fresh stroke, and died that February. In him I
seemed to lose another link with the old, vigorous generation that had
seen the turn of the century. He rests in the churchyard at West Mill:
his epitaph, written in the style of a past day, runs as follows:

                        Sacred to the memory of

        Who died at Greylands in this parish, deeply regretted,
                     On the 6th of February, 1941,
                      In the 62nd year of his age.
                An English gentleman of the old school,
                      He was an unaffected friend,
                          An indulgent parent,
                        And a tolerant husband.
                    “In the Heaven a perfect round.”

The acquisition of a moderate income could not induce me to give myself
up to idleness and self-indulgence. I determined that I would take up
the reins of management where my father had dropped them and make his
business into the success it deserved to be. For this purpose I decided
to go right through, starting at the very bottom as an inferior clerk,
and working my way up. This was by no means an uncommon thing in those
days for the junior partner of a business firm to do, and I have always
felt that it gave us a great advantage, which many modern young men are
unfortunate enough to miss. It meant that we got to know our employés,
and to earn their confidence by working side by side with them. It meant
that we had a practical, first-hand knowledge of every department of the
work, instead of depending on information supplied to us by others. It
meant that we had the opportunity of winning our spurs, by showing in a
humble sphere the capacity which alone would qualify us for a superior
position. I have known a Gosport, a Macpherson, and a Schenkenberg serve
their apprenticeship in this way, and express gratitude afterwards for
the salutary discipline it entailed. For myself, I could not well leave
my mother, who depended very much on me since our bereavement, but I had
been careful to have the teledictaphone installed at Greylands as soon
as we took it over, and it was thus possible for me, without ever
actually going to the office, to take my orders every morning like a
simple clerk, and to execute them to the satisfaction of my employers.
In rather less than a year I had gained such a thorough grasp of the
business and given such evidence of financial ability that I allowed
myself to be advanced to the position of a partner in the firm. Not
that, in doing so, I had any intention of giving myself an easy time or
doing less than my share in the actual direction of the firm: from ten
to one every morning and from three to five in the afternoon, unless any
serious rival claims distracted my attention, the teledictaphone was
always at my side and the affairs of the office engrossed me.

Meanwhile, it must be understood that it was rather a small world we
lived in. It has been my good fortune to move in various kinds of
society, and I will freely confess that it was not till a much later
period than this that the important people, the people who will have
left their names inscribed on the scroll of history, were the guests of
my roof or the habitués of my boudoir. Yet the simple life of the
country-side had its charm in those days, a charm not easily recaptured
now, when ease of intercommunication has made neighbours strangers, and
thrown us into the society of cronies three counties off. I had, of
course, my private helico, and had recently learned to drive it myself;
and already one thought nothing of driving over to Cambridge for an
afternoon call, or up to London for a dinner. But it needed a
comfortable income to do this, and they were not days of comfortable
incomes. The county squires still kept up the tradition of big
nurseries; a family of four or five was by no means unusual even among
Protestants. The professional classes were still heavily burdened by the
income tax, which was nearly a shilling in the pound, and it was only in
very rare cases that they could keep anything more than motors. Our old
doctor, though a bachelor, only drove a Rolls-Royce till the day of his
death. So we were all herded together within the narrow confines of “the
county,” and found, as people no doubt find when they are shipwrecked
together on a desert island, that the little handful of acquaintances
necessity makes for you are well worth studying; have their own foibles,
their own angles, their own little traits of lovableness; that to keep
up your own position, and at the same time to keep the peace, among your
immediate neighbours demands as much in the way of social tact as
holding a _salon_ in Hampstead or entertaining Royalty in Mayfair.

To begin with, there was our vicar, Mr. Rowlands. A mild man, hampered
by shyness and unconscious of the power of local gossip, he had made a
grave mistake in marrying his curate. Mrs. Rowlands, who had been
ordained a deaconess at the early age of 24, was a woman of strong,
masterful character who had come into the parish with the almost
expressed intention of “making things hum.” She was of the most violent
Relativist school, and rumour said that she always omitted the Creed
when she was conducting the service herself, and sat down, sometimes
even whistling to herself, when Mr. Rowlands said it. Mr. Rowlands was
of the old-fashioned evangelical school, and the village had grown
accustomed to his ways: churchgoing was not common, but his slim figure
in its plain cassock and penwipery sort of cap, bound for morning or
evening service in church, was a familiar sight to all, and he was
universally respected. The deaconess, Miss Anderson as she then was,
became the subject of a local taboo; and a memorial, signed by
twenty-eight communicants, was sent to the Bishop to uphold Mr. Rowlands
against the misbehaviour of his impetuous colleague. It was while this
document still lay—it is to be feared, unread—on the Bishop’s study
table, that the unlooked-for Concordat between vicar and curate suddenly
altered the whole situation; Mr. Rowlands, instead of laying a complaint
against Miss Anderson, had determined to lead her to the altar.

I do not know how they got on after that with the church services, for I
was not _pratiquant_ as far as the village was concerned. It will have
become obvious by now that my religious convictions at the time were not
of the deepest, and my church attendance was confined to an occasional
visit to Evensong in King’s Chapel, where the services were at that time
adorably rendered. But in the life of our little community Mr. and Mrs.
Rowlands counted for a good deal. He was of the eternal type produced by
an established Christianity: you could picture him, with a few
alterations of outward manner and expression, as a benign Caroline
clergyman, happily married, writing love-poems to wholly imaginary young
ladies with classical names, or as an old-fashioned High Churchman of
the early Tractarian period receiving his “Tracts for the Times”
regularly, and not knowing whether he stood on his head or his heels as
he read them. He was obsessed with the consciousness that we lived in
changeful times, and desperately convinced that “the Church” must have
“an attitude” to take up about it all. Often he would deplore the fact
that the Bishops did not “give him a lead”: for himself he never got
nearer to an attitude than a profound conviction that “while on the one
hand ... yet on the other hand...,” a turn of phrase which was so
frequent in his sermons that Juliet Savage, who sat under him
exasperated whenever she came to stay with me, said he was the only
Christian she had ever met whose left-hand never knew what his right
hand did. Another fixed principle of his was that all these movements of
our time would work themselves out right in the long run: whatever was
best, he used to say, would remain, while everything else would
disappear. The only occasion on which this conviction is known to have
deserted him was one night when his house was broken into by burglars.

His was a marriage of opposites. Mrs. Rowlands seemed to worship
innovation for its own sake, and she seemed to read the papers for no
other purpose than to learn what new discoveries or inventions were
announced, principally from America, and retail them afterwards, with a
purr of admiration, to anyone who had not had the good fortune to see
them first. I was easy game for her, since I used to keep abreast of the
day’s news by means of the tape machine in the front hall, and was never
properly prepared for her onslaughts. “Do you hear this, Miss
Winterhead,” she would say, “about the utilization of atomic force? They
tell me” (“they” always meant the _Daily Mail_) “that we shall soon be
able to travel to Spitzbergen without spending a penny!” Then I would
maintain that they would have to pay me pretty heavily before _I_ would
go there (Mrs. Rowlands always made me frivolous), and she would
retaliate by informing me that it was now proved, from a skull
discovered near Letchworth, that man had existed three hundred million
years before Adam; it was no good my suggesting that Eve’s appearance
must in that case have been welcomed with relief; she would be off on a
fresh tangent before I had finished my sentence. I never know which
class inspires more horror in me, the people who tell you things you did
know or the people who tell you things you didn’t. The former insult
one’s intelligence, the latter one’s lack of it.

The difficulty of fitting in Mrs. Rowlands was not so much her husband,
for she had him well in hand, nor the villagers, who to tell the truth
were rather apathetic about her innovations. (I remember there was some
trouble when she proposed a scheme for the bringing up of all the
children of the parish in complete ignorance of who their parents were,
but this was averted somehow.) The real difficulty was with Lady Combe,
the Squiress of the place, from whom my house was rented before I
managed to buy it. Lady Combe, the wife of Sir Richard Combe, an amiable
old nonentity, combined a most acidulated manner and a total incapacity
for all politeness in conversation with an inexhaustible desire to
mother the parish, the county, and the world in general. She was also
incurably old-fashioned. Her great speciality was bazaars (which she
still pronounced in the old-fashioned way, with the accent on the last
syllable), and of these she seldom organized less than three in a
twelvemonth. Her preference, she confided to me, would have been for the
old style of bazaar when you actually had “stalls” with goods laid out
on them after the manner of an ordinary shop, and the neighbours came
and bought such goods, at fancy prices, quite regardless of whether they
needed them or not. She said she got rid of all the _really_ ugly things
in her house that way—I cannot think what they must have been like,
considering what was left. As it was, she demanded your presence at the
bazaar itself if you were to be awarded your winning numbers. And,
unless she were violently discouraged, she would have her lawn (or mine,
for that matter) set out with a whole array of skittle-alleys, coco-nut
shies, and lucky tubs such as, I suppose, our great-aunts must have
revelled in.

Over these bazaars there was a permanent difficulty, because it had been
laid down by law (owing to Nonconformist action at the time of the
ballot scandals in the early thirties) that no bazaar might be held
unless either the local clergyman or his wife were on the committee of
management. I shall never forget a luncheon-party at my house at which
Lady Combe and I and the Rowlands were present to discuss the latest
bazaar-fête—I think it was in aid of the Society for Teaching Useful
Trades to Out-of-work Chauffeurs—but fell inevitably into general
conversation. “Miss Winterhead,” said Mrs. Rowlands, “did you see about
that very interesting schism in the Boy Scout Movement since the
Congress at Nottingham, in to-day’s _Times_?” “Yesterday’s, my dear,
yesterday’s,” put in the vicar, as if to suggest that the crisis might
have had time to blow over by now. It appeared that the Socialist patrol
leaders had protested _en masse_ against the rule of saluting the
Confederation Jack, and since they could not win their point, had
started a schism. In this new “Boy Steward” movement, the practice of
saluting was to be entirely abandoned; the names of carnivorous animals
such as the lion and the tiger were to disappear from the totem-list,
and to be replaced by those of the ant, the bee, the beaver, and other
commodity-producing animals, umbrellas might be carried instead of
staves, and most important of all, the sleeves might be buttoned at the
wrist instead of rolled up to the elbow. Further, instead of doing a
good deed every day, the Stewards were under contract to do a bad deed
every day; and many old gentlemen were writing to the papers to complain
that they had been snowballed, or tripped up with wires, or brought down
by margarine-slides, under the influence of the new movement. Of all
this, I need hardly say, Mrs. Rowlands was in hearty support.
“Independence,” she said, “and self-reliance—that’s what the old
movement lacked.”

“Then, I suppose,” suggested Lady Combe icily, “that you would endorse
the action of a ‘circle’ of Boy Stewards in Darlington who surrounded
a heavily moustached clergyman of the Established Church with cries of
‘Walrus!’ as I read in the paper myself?” Mrs. Rowlands was rather
taken aback, and the vicar hastened to interpose “A totem-cry, dear
Lady Combe, doubtless a Totem-cry. I myself was surprised for a time
after coming into the parish at being greeted with shouts of
‘Rah-rah-rah-rah-kangaroo!’ but I understood afterwards that it was
well-meant, thoroughly well-meant.” I said I had never thought of the
walrus as a commodity-producing animal. Mrs. Rowlands, recovering
herself, said that the reason why these boys were surprised at
clergymen wearing moustaches was because the Westernizing party (as
the High Churchmen were already beginning to be called) had always
made such a point of going about clean-shaven, which gave a handle to
the anti-clericals. (I suppressed a wild desire to suggest that they
would have given a better handle by wearing moustaches.) My mother
said she could remember when it was quite common for laymen to wear
moustaches. She could also remember the habit of shouting out
“Beaver!” when you met a man with a beard, but she did not think this
was connected with the Boy Scout movement. Mr. Rowlands said “Beavers!
Ah, exactly,” as if that proved it. Lady Combe said in her days boys
used to have a respect for the clergy, whatever their views, and after
all the children who called Elisha “bald-pate” were eaten by
she-bears. Mrs. Rowlands said it was now proved that this story was
merely a false explanation of some old Babylonian sculpture, probably
of a ritual origin. Mr. Rowlands said it was quite true the Hebrew
word might mean “she-bears,” but it could also just as well mean

Lady Combe said she thought, anyhow, it was a shame to teach innocent
children to have no respect for their elders, their country, or their
God. Mrs. Rowlands said that, since Larsen’s investigation of juvenile
crime, she would have thought it impossible for anyone to talk like that
about innocent children. Mr. Rowlands said he hoped great good would
come out of the new movement, great good. But he thought it would need a
great deal of direction. Lady Combe said she would like to have the
directing of it. Mrs. Rowlands said she thought Mr. Gomez (the leader of
the new movement) was one of those men who are sent to make the world
think. Lady Combe said that if she had Mr. Gumpish at the end of her
garden-hose she’d make him think. Mr. Rowlands said he felt, anyhow,
there was great promise of good in the Salvation Scouts. Lady Combe said
she never had approved of the Salvation Army since they gave up
preaching in the streets: “but that came, of course, of their getting
endowments; it’s the old story, once you endow a religion you ruin it.”
This was a hit at Mrs. Rowlands, who was well-known, in spite of her
progressive views, to be hostile to the Disestablishment agitation which
was then running through the country. “My own feeling,” she said, “is
that our first duty is _charity_ towards others”—this with a venomous
look at Lady Combe—and thereupon she took her leave. For a long time
after this encounter Lady Combe would never go to the parish church, but
ordered out her picturesque old Napier car (she planed, not on a helico
but on an old push-plane; only she would not have even this out on
Sunday) and drove off importantly to Buntingford.

But I must not give the impression that these bickerings were typical of
our little country society. There were brave days, when we would drive
out to the meet (this was before the Universal Muzzling Act, which to my
mind altered the whole character of foxhunting) at Braughing or Furneaux
Pelham, and cheered as the huntsmen rode off: there were still a few old
gentlemen in our part who followed the hounds themselves on horseback.
Or when Christmas came round, and we would entertain the village
children in mediæval fashion with a huge Christmas tree in the great
Hall, and their merry laughter would ring through the house as they
daringly plucked the snapdragon from the burning petrol. Or those autumn
afternoons when the shooting-season was on, and you would hover with the
guns at two or three hundred yards, fascinated to watch the beaters
shooing their way through the thick undergrowth far below you. And so
you would come back, refreshingly tired, to the ingle-nook by the
comfortable stove-side, and tell stories of the day’s sport, while the
dusk gathered after the mid-ocean glories of a Hertfordshire sunset.
Well, well, the pseudo-Catullus was right—_fulsere vere candidi tibi

My dear mother’s health gave me some anxiety at this time, and I did not
spend much of my leisure in visiting: but London was, of course, easily
accessible, and I went up a good deal to theatres, dinner-parties, and
dances. Dancing had become a simpler matter since my school days, and
you could go through an evening quite creditably without knowing
anything besides the dear old two-step. Balls still did not ordinarily
last beyond four in the morning: we were early birds then, and not only
the business offices but many even of the larger shops were open by
eleven: we had to get some sleep! There was never any difficulty for me
in securing partners: the hostesses of the time were all bemoaning the
fact that none of the young women seemed to dance nowadays: “My dear,”
Mrs. Drake[4] used to say, “I wish you’d known my dancing-room twenty
years ago! Young women used to be really active then, and thought
nothing of spending an evening dancing after they’d been motoring or
golfing all day. But now they’ve all become bears, my dear, positive
bears.” But in truth it was not, as I well knew, merely the pressure of
other enjoyments that made us women reluctant to appear in the
ball-room. There was already a strong feeling that the old system of
“partners” was degrading to our sex, and it was only when the new
“catch-as-catch-can” movements were introduced from America that we felt
woman had attained her true dignity.

Drawing-rooms in those days (for we still had “drawing-rooms”) looked
very different from our boudoirs, chiefly because it had gone quite out
of fashion to have pictures on the walls. Nobody, except a few
die-hards, dared to be _fin de siècle_ enough to hang the old
representation-pictures, which we were taught to regard as only fit for
chocolate-boxes: whereas the Futurist pictures—well, one did not want to
be Puritan about it, but there were the servants to think of. The
stove-place, owing to the necessity of having a chimney, still stood
against one wall of the room, a very inconvenient arrangement, since
only a few people could warm their hands at the same time. The
electrics, though often concealed with shades, were still visible:
lighting by radiance did not come in till much later. Meal-times were
very early, judged by our standards: luncheon seldom happened after two,
or dinner after nine. The craze for bridge and poker had almost died
down by the time of which I write: after our strenuous days we felt that
intellectual games were out of place, and the reign of “plonk,” “oogle”
and other games of chance was already beginning. Out of doors, tennis
had nearly come to its own, although only the larger houses at that time
had been roofed over for courts, and ordinary folk had often to travel
some distance for a game.

The theatre was then, I suppose, at a height of classical perfection it
has never quite attained since. Perhaps this is partly due to the nature
of the case: it is difficult for us old-fashioned folk not to regret our
modern “improvements.” After all, there was something to be said for
seeing the actor before you in the flesh, hearing his own words as he
uttered them. “Mummy,” a small infant of my acquaintance said when he
was taken to the first Cinemaphone performance in London, “I want to see
ve words come out of his mouf.” And there are effects of depth and
substantialness which, with all the best appliances we have invented,
you cannot quite reproduce on a blank wall. Anyhow, in the London of the
forties we used to expect to see the actors and actresses appear in
person: and if one of them was indisposed we had to put up with an
“understudy.” It is, of course, difficult for the modern generation to
imagine how repeating the same part in the same theatre for four or five
years on end can have failed to induce staleness and listlessness in the
cast; yet I can assure my readers it was not so. Douglas Fitzgerald and
Leonard Archdale never consented to perform for the screen, so that when
I say I have seen them (the former in “What about it?” the latter in
“Strike me!”) I can make a boast which few living people share with me.
Those other giants and giantesses of the stage, Bruce Holbrook, Denys
O’Leary, Vivian Stalbrooke, Olga Labadie and so on, are figures which my
readers will say they have all seen: I can only reply, as Aeschines is
said to have said of Demosthenes, “Quid, si ipsum audiisses?”

Of the external appearance of London I do not mean to say much, since
after all it has not changed in its essentials, except perhaps in the
suburbs. Probably the modern reader, if he could be transported back
there, would find the most unsightly aspect of it the advertisements
which, before sky-writing was properly understood and developed, used to
be written up on board and blank walls, as they are now on shop windows.
I should like to see him cross the street on the level of the traffic,
as we used to have to do in those days! But of course we did not need to
cross the street so often, when we were allowed to move in either
direction on either pavement: and only a few of the more crowded
pavements had been mobilized, so that you could ordinarily look into a
shop window while standing still. The shops themselves, before the
London Improvement Act, had grown to an enormous size: they used to tell
an irreverent story of a very ungodly young gentleman who died while
shopping at Selfridge’s, and for quite a long time afterwards could not
be persuaded that he had got further than the basement! But I should
weary my readers if I prosed on about all the changes I have seen since
then: after all, you can see London as it was in the forties in plenty
of old prints and history-books.

Those were happy days in my life, though I had not yet found my two
great sources of happiness, of which you shall hear later. I suppose I
must have had my good looks, for I was filmed among the Society beauties
of the day, but only, I think, when they were getting rather hard up for
material! My business was prospering, and I had no cause to regret, as I
have never since had cause to regret, my purchase of Greylands. And if
at times the ambition to write or to come before the world as a public
figure visited me in my dreams, it was only to be put on one side. Some
women, they say, lose their ambitions with matrimony; for myself, I
think it has always been quite otherwise, and it was chiefly the desire
to show my husband that I was worthy of his love, and to give him a name
and an importance in Society, that later made me look to a political
career as the proper sphere for the exercise of my poor capacities.

                              CHAPTER VII
                        WHAT I FOUND IN AMERICA

     Oh, the wide plains, and the bustling films, that are America,
     This, this is life, and Europe a _forma cadaverica_.

It was early in 1944 that business claims made it necessary for me to
undertake a journey to the United States. I could not have chosen a
better moment for my visit, for the Anglo-American entente was just then
at its zenith. After the Five Years’ War, it is well-known, there was a
period at which relations were somewhat strained, chiefly owing to our
indebtedness. It is a common experience in ordinary life that, however
friendly be your feelings towards A., you tend to avoid A. in the club
or crowd to the other end of the Tube-lift at her approach when she has
become your creditor. Such was the constraint in our relations with the
United States, and for a time it seemed (I am speaking of my own
memories of my geographical training at Oxford) as if the two countries
were bound to remain on distant terms and finally drift into hostility.
It was only in 1935 that the ill-starred political genius, James
Tremayne, brought forward his scheme for a _rapprochement_, which was
still laughed at as chimerical at the time of his early death in 1936.
It is true that his proposals had erred on the side of generosity,
offering as they did four dukedoms, eight marquisates, thirtytwo
peerages, and a hundred and eight baronetcies to American citizens on
condition of a full discharge of our War Debt. There was also a good
deal of doctrinaire objection on the part of the labour Government which
was then in power: “the sons of George Washington,” as Mr. Ropes
oratorically put it, “are not to be bribed with sugar-plums.” The sons
of George Washington could not very well make any advances while the
market was still so doubtful, and it was only on the accession to power
of the Tories (under Lord Hopedale) in 1941 that negotiations were begun
in earnest. The buyers were coy at first, and for a time it seemed as if
no business was being done, but in 1942 patriotism on both sides of the
Atlantic triumphed over all obstacles and our Transocean creditors
consented to call it a deal at three dukedoms, six marquisates,
thirty-six peerages, seventy-two baronetcies, and a hundred and twenty
knighthoods, on condition that the honours in question were put up to an
open ballot, the British Government waiving on its side all right of

My American hosts used to describe to me the excitement of those early
days of 1943, when the ballot was held. An attempt was made at first to
keep a fixed price for the tickets, £1000 for a dukedom entry and so on;
but this attempt soon proved impracticable. When the first allotment had
been completed the tickets immediately began to be put up to auction,
and prices soared dangerously, £10,000 being freely quoted for a dukedom
entry before the end of April. But a slight trade depression produced a
slump, and prices were sagging heavily by the end of June, when the
ballot was held. The Duke of Illinois, for example, got in on the ground
floor and picked up his ticket in discharge of a bad debt at £4000.
Among all the buyers, none brought a cooler head or a more iron nerve to
the business than a young citizen of Connecticut, Wilson J. Harkness. He
had speculated early; a millionaire himself, he had formed a ring in
which all the other partners were men of straw whose premiums were paid
by himself, and by the time the first allotment was made he found
himself almost safe for a marquisate, while he held a block of
baronetcies that almost amounted to a controlling interest. At the
moment when the market was strongest he sold out his marquisate options,
and as prices fell began steadily buying peerages. His forethought was
justified, for though at the time of the ballot he held eighty-six
peerage tickets, only one of these proved to be a winning number. (His
three baronetcies, by a gracious act of international courtesy, he
allowed to lapse to the Crown.) There was some feeling at first among
the successful competitors against the adoption of territorial titles,
and there is still a Duke McGinnis in Boston to-day, but Wilson Harkness
knew by instinct what was expected of him, and early appeared in the
Honours List as Wilson Lord Porstock.

It was in the first flush of good feeling, when Great Britain felt the
relief of being discharged from so fearful an indebtedness, and the
United States public felt bound to us closer than ever by the
ennoblement of so many of its most prominent citizens, that I made my
business trip. I went by air, of course, on the _Atmospheric_, one of
the old Handley Page line. I missed, by doing so, the sight of the
Statue of Liberty, which had then only just been fitted with the
apparatus which makes its right eye wink on the approach of the
traveller: but as we came to earth at the customsdrome we were greeted
by the gigantic “Eagle” scar on the hill-side, which has since been
filled in with lapis-lazuli, but was then more striking for the
simplicity of the natural chalk. We were still in the old prohibition
days, and I remember that before landing we came to water beside a
sea-going liner, into which we transferred all our petrol tins,
receiving in return a heavy cargo of similar tins, concerning the
contents of which no questions were asked of us when we landed.

The hospitality of the Americans has always been, and still is, justly
famous, but I suppose the arrangements for its exercise have never been
so elaborate or so complete as they were at the time of my visit. You
took with you no introductions, had no questions asked about your
antecedents, so long as you were a first class passenger. You went
straight from the customsdrome to a hospitality bureau, where you stated
the probable length of your stay and gave a list of the cities you
intended to visit, in return for which an official handed you a complete
list of the hosts who were to entertain you at each centre, together
with a little sheaf of “emergency introductions” for each—the need for
these last came home to me at San Francisco, where I found that my
destined host had gone bankrupt and shot himself the day before my
arrival. It was without any fuss or elaborateness of introductions etc.
that I spent seven months on this hospitable continent, visiting New
York, Boston, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago,
Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Wichita, and Rooseveltville in the
course of my stay. I should explain that when I arrived at New York I
received a wireless informing me that the business projects which my
visit had in view were not, after all, feasible; but my partners agreed
with me that since I had had all the fatigue of the journey I might as
well travel about and improve my mind a bit before returning to harness.

I have not been to America since, so that I cannot speak as an
eye-witness when I contrast the America of forty years ago with the
America of to-day. My readers will not, therefore, expect any very full
descriptions under this head. I need only remind them that this was
before the shifting of the earthquake zone, which made it necessary for
our cousins overseas to build all their houses in one storey: that the
war between the Wet and the Dry had not yet been fought, and General
Murchison was only known as an obscure political agitator; that the
repatriation of the negro population, which only set in properly with
the granting of Nigerian Home Rule, was at this time hardly thought of;
that the immigration of Chinese and Japanese exiles, which was due to
the over-population of the Eastern countries before the benefits of our
civilization began to tell upon the birth-rate, was still regarded as a
menace; that Catholicism, finally, though it had the numerical
superiority, was still far from being the dominant religion of the
Continent—its progress in Canada was more rapid than its progress
further South. It was a very different America, then, that I visited;
and I think the best way to avoid continual comparisons between then and
now, of which my readers must be sufficiently weary, will be to quote
extracts from the letters I wrote home to my mother at the time. She
kept all these, and for myself I think the value of old letters in
recapturing a lost atmosphere amply atones for the occasional irritation
one feels at their out-of-dateness. Let them stand, then, as I find them
in my mother’s desk, in the clear, bold typewriting of my girlish days.
I should say, however, by way of preface, that at the time of my visit
the country was much exercised by the violent, but, as it proved,
unsuccessful campaign which was being organized against the importation
and use of chewing-gum. Society was everywhere divided into the Sticky
Party and the Clean Party, and you have to understand what is meant when
I speak of a state “going sticky” or “going clean.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

                                                    NEW YORK, _March 3_.


I am quartered here on Lord Poughkeepsie and his wife, such a charming
couple. The weather is, we hear, intensely cold, but one doesn’t come
into personal contact with it in these parts: a closed motor stands
ready on the lift when you want to go “out,” and you take care to fasten
all the windows before it is lowered into the porch. The same sort of
thing happens, of course, at the other end. We had a most interesting
dinner-party here last night with a very old American family, the van
Murphy’s—he is said to have refused a knighthood, which is regarded as a
frightfully desperate thing to do, out here. He says the Cleans are
gaining in the East, though New York is sticky to a man; but it is the
Western vote which will count. In Los Angeles it is not safe to go out
of doors unless you pretend to be chewing, and some of the more
peaceable citizens keep marbles in their cheeks permanently, to avoid
being held up and questioned. Several of the States have already gone
clean, including Maine, where the result, they tell me, has been an
appalling outbreak of sweet-eating. Even here it is quite difficult to
get butterscotch or barley-sugar, because there is such a lot of
hoarding going on. I asked whether either party was likely to include
the No-gum plank in its platform, and he said the Revolutionaries (they
correspond to our Conservatives, you know) have practically pledged
themselves to it. I haven’t caught the habit myself yet; it is horrible
when they are chewing the stuff, but still worse when they “release” it.

Mr. van Murphy startled me by asking me whether I was fond of
Theocritus! For a moment I imagined it was a kind of cigarette, but just
remembered in time that it was the name of a classical author, and said
I had never been encouraged to read him, because in England it wasn’t
thought proper for young girls. This was a desperate shot, but turned
out to be a fortunate one; he quite understood. It seems that they read
the classics out here with great avidity, and Greek forms part of their
ordinary education! Mr. van Murphy continued to talk about Theocritus,
seeing that the field was clear for him, and said he did not think he
was as good as Longfellow, not so uplifting. I said I always felt
uplifted by Longfellow. He said Lucretius was great stuff, but kind of
old-fashioned: the man hadn’t got our advantages, scince being little
studied in those times. He thought if Lucretius could come to life now a
man like Jefferson could hand him the soap. I had no idea what he meant,
so agreed feverishly. He said he had learnt scince pretty average when
he was at the seminary, and thought it was a great thing for a boy; gave
him a kind of scatter for things. I was feeling badly out of my depth
(you know, Lady Poughkeepsie afterwards told me that the real high-class
Americans don’t talk slang; “a man like Alge van Murphy, now, you
couldn’t tell him from a Britisher by his talk”). I felt it was my turn
to “come in” somehow, so (remembering my _Stories from the Aeneid_) I
asked if Virgil was read much in American schools; I thought boys
enjoyed it so much more if the books they read had a plot and a human
interest. He said it was pretty generally considered in American circles
that Virgilius P. Maro was the greatest man God ever. I turned in
despair to the man on the other side. He turned out to be a Professor of
philosophy, but was fortunately disinclined to talk shop. Indeed, for
about twenty minutes on end he told me all about the points of all the
Derby winners for the last ten years or so: they are a strange

New York, March 24. To-morrow I am to cross the Continent. I am going by
helico after all, because I want to crowd in as much sight-seeing as I
can. I am sorry, though, to miss the train journey; apparently it is
like nothing on earth. The trains only go at twenty miles an hour, on a
fabulously broad gauge, and living in them is like living in a hotel.
The engines consume their own smoke, and if the weather is fine you
spend your time on the top of the carriage, which is all laid out as a
flower garden! Each coach is named after the flower that is principally
cultivated on the top of it. Life on the train is so quiet that the
journey is regularly recommended by doctors to patients who have had a
nervous break down. There is always a hospital coach, and it is a
favourite joke against the company to declare that when the train
reaches its terminus the guard—I mean the “conductor”—has to hand in a
list of Births, Deaths, and Marriages. Another humorist assured me that
it is only a matter of time before they start granting divorces on these
trains; “twenty-five days between stations is a long stretch, you know,
Miss Winterhead.” It is really true that they have swimming-baths in
summer, and that you can send your clothes to the wash!

I am very sorry to hear about the strike at the College of Heralds. It’s
true, of course, that they’ve had to work overtime, and that the
salaries are calculated on a hopelessly outworn scale, but I can’t feel
they’re likely to get their way. And what will Frank Hopgood do if they
don’t take him back after the strike? He had such a promising career in
front of him, and I can’t imagine him settling down to a new job....

Washington, April 7. People talk about nothing except the Gum Question
here. Mrs. Rivers, my hostess here, who is passionately Clean (you
understand what I mean, don’t you? It’s the oddest thing to hear people
talking about it, because one’s always hearing things like “We’ll have
no Clean Senator in these parts,” or “Mrs. So-and-so isn’t as Clean as
she used to be”)—what was I saying? Yes, Mrs. Rivers tells me that the
reason why they are so keen on it is that the gum-makers have
notoriously been introducing opium into the gum for years past. She says
a girl who has the chewing habit is “sucking her Particular Judgement
every time,” which I thought a nice phrase. By the way, I have been
making a little list of Americanisms to send you: I give them here with
the equivalents opposite:

      He didn’t come up by the 4.33.    He wasn’t born yesterday.
      He’s got his flying check.      }
      He’s lost weight.               }
      He’s joined the ’cellos.        } He has died.
      He’s got in amongst it.         }
      He’s gone in off the flush.     }
      Have my card.                     That doesn’t deceive me.
      To get one’s diaphragm buzzing.   To have a meal.
      He’s under the hoist.             He doesn’t count.
      He’s mislaid his gum somewhere.   He is off his head.
      There’s no hair on that egg.      That’s no use.
      I should half.                    No, thank you.
      To come down butter-side up.      To fall on one’s feet.

And so on and so on. I’m only gradually getting into the way of
understanding what it all means; probably when I come home I shall just
have begun to talk it!

Please tell Mrs. Rowlands that I have been under the Niagara Falls on a
hydroplane. I haven’t been anywhere near them really, but I thought
she’d like to hear that kind of thing....

Los Angeles, June 2, 1944. I told my host here that I wanted to go out
and see the country a bit, and what was my surprise to be told that it
is forbidden by the police! It appears that the whole of this
country-side is entirely given up to the film industry, and there used
to be so many accidents through people getting caught in prairie-fires,
being trodden to death by wild buffaloes, falling into man-traps,
getting cut off by artificial floods, and (worse than all) standing in
the way when the pictures were actually being taken, that they had to
issue a sort of special permit for film actors, and non-combatants (so
to speak) have to keep within the area of the town itself. I was,
however, allowed to fly over the country a bit, and saw, within the
space of two hours, a volcano in explosion, two bull-fights, an
_auto-da-fé_, and what looked like a lynching, but was really, I
believe, a comic scene representing a man trying to get away from
autograph hunters....

Boston, July 29, 1944. I went out to dinner with some very exclusive and
old-fashioned people here, who, I was told afterwards, are Christian
Scientists. They believe there is no such thing as pain, and no such
thing as sin, which must be very comforting for them. They were started,
I am told, by a Mrs. Eddy, whom they are expecting to reappear on earth
very shortly.

I am beginning to be homesick already. I have not met many people here,
except one young man, whom I thought rather interesting; but I had that
odd feeling one gets sometimes that he didn’t like me. I’ll tell you
about him later, perhaps. I feel rather lonely, and wanting to be back
with you at dear Greylands.

Please tell Mrs. Rowlands that the Feminist movement is making great
strides in Salt Lake City. A woman may regard herself as _ipso facto_
divorced if her husband forgets to shut the door, and they are working
steadily towards polyandry....

                  *       *       *       *       *

I must here interrupt these selections from my correspondence; for it
was at Boston, as my reader will perhaps have guessed, that I had the
happiness of meeting Porstock; and my letters from that time onwards
have a way of always coming back to one subject, and treating that
subject in the sentimental vein young ladies are apt to fall into on
such occasions—I will not “give myself away” by risking any more
quotations. It was with my kind hosts at Boston, Lord and Lady
Massachussets, that Porstock was first introduced to me; he used to tell
me afterwards that he had the feeling his tie wasn’t straight all the
evening, and that he was never so uncomfortable in his life! He was of
the American type of handsomeness which has given so many bridegrooms to
the daughters of English families; tall, straight, square-jawed, a man
of purpose. After our second meeting we seemed to have a natural
attraction for one another, and he used to call every morning and take
me out in his helico till late at night, missing, I am afraid, a
luncheon engagement now and again. People began to suspect that an
attachment was growing up between us even before we realized it
ourselves; and witty Lady Massachussets used to chaff me when I seemed
absent-minded in conversation by telling me I was always up in the air!

“Was it touch of hand, turn of head?” I only know that one evening when
we were flying back from Montreal (the only time I crossed into Dominion
territory during my stay) he had just had occasion to help me with the
steering-gear, which was a little stiff, when suddenly we looked into
one another’s eyes and knew our fate. “It’s a pity,” he said suddenly,
“there’s no landing-stage at that damned registry.” “Wilson, you fool,”
I said, “has it taken you a fortnight to discover that?” “Guess I’m not
going to be that kind of fool any longer,” he said—and he wasn’t. But
there! What right has an old woman, after all her good resolutions, to
repeat all these tender passages? Enough to say, as Porstock himself
said in announcing the affair to our host, that we came down hitched. I
asked his leave to speak to his mother the same evening, and found her
kindness itself. “Take him, my dear,” she said, “and God bless you; you
have discovered our treasure.”

It was arranged, of course, that I should take him back to England, and
that our marriage should be celebrated there. Since my mother did not
approve of short engagements, we decided to put off the ceremony till
October. The Press—what a curious habit the Press has of suddenly waking
up and finding that it knew all about you!—gave us an almost royal
welcome. I must overcome my blushes, and give you an extract from the
_Daily Mail_, if only to let you enjoy the quaint, archaic language of


  “The U.S. citizen is a brainy lad, and it isn’t only for titles he
  comes over this side: I hardly suppose! Wilse Harkness, anyhow, Lord
  Porstock as he is since those birthday honours set things buzzing,
  knew a good thing when he saw one; and pretty Miss Winterhead,
  daughter of the lamented Lord Blisworth, was too good a thing to
  miss when he met her flying over Boston. When he found he hadn’t
  foul-hooked an angel (his first impression) he lost no time in
  exhorting her to nominate the anniversary. So the red carpets will
  have to be got out against her return to her charming country seat
  at Greylands, near West Mill in Herts, and the congregation will
  have another set of banns to sit out on Sunday. Lord Porstock’s fame
  as a good sportsman and a charming host has preceded him here, and
  those who envy him his fortune will not be slow to hold out to him
  the hand of good-fellowship. The best of luck to him and his winsome

They are yellow now with age, those lines that once looked fresh and
clean in my scrap-book, and their old-world diction falls oddly on the
ear, that once sounded so modern and so vivid. Yet they are still fresh
to the heart of a sentimental old woman, whose wrinkled features could
once justify those sprightly gallantries, and who felt then, with a
certainty she has never had reason to regret, that the summer-time of
her life was coming and that all was well with her world.

                              CHAPTER VIII
                              MY MARRIAGE

      _Mrs. Bilston_: Marriage is a necessary evil; without it, we

should have no divorce.—SHEEPSHANKS: _Love, the Registrar_.

I suppose all of us, except those methodical people who keep all their
letters, and those who, yet more cold-blooded, destroy all their
letters, find that they have little bundles left about in old drawers
containing the correspondence that was addressed to them on such and
such an occasion—when they won a prize, when they suffered a
bereavement, and so on. I find I have just such a batch of documents
relating to my engagement. Some of them are too conventional, some of
them too personal to quote, but it can do no harm to give a few of them
here, to show how we congratulated one another in those days upon a
situation which, however the centuries slip past us, never loses its
freshness. Here, then, is Lady Combe: the frigidity of her manner, I
must here insist, was due to a natural incapacity to expand even in
honour of an occasion, and does not betray any lack of good-will towards
her fortunate young tenant:


  I cannot wait till your return to Greylands to send you my heartiest
  good wishes, and Sir Richard’s along with them. You would think me
  ungracious if I did not record the pleasure it gives me _personally_
  to hear that you intend remaining at Greylands and bringing your
  husband over to live in England. In my young days it was thought
  more natural for a wife to take up her residence with her husband
  and allow him to follow his own career, but doubtless this feeling
  has changed, as so much else has. Anyhow, I trust that you will be
  very happy. I am sure that you will have been too sensible to allow
  yourself to be carried away by your impetuous temperament into a
  step you would afterwards regret. Americans, I believe, have great
  charm sometimes: indeed, Sir Richard’s grandmother was a Canadian.
  So many marriages seem to turn out unhappy nowadays, and yet I don’t
  believe it’s because men are different from what they were; it seems
  to me that modern women don’t know how to treat them: they haven’t
  the home tact and the _yieldingness_, if I may use such a word,
  which makes for domestic harmony. You, I am sure, my dear Opal, will
  not fall into the mistake of looking upon your husband as a
  _chattel_ to be played with. I do hope you will see your way to
  having the marriage performed down at West Mill. That Rowlands
  woman, of course, does make it difficult, but I know you agree with
  me that down in the country we must keep things together: and
  Rowlands himself is an excellent, well-meaning little man; I
  sometimes think it is a pity the Bishop does not recognize his
  services by transferring him to another living. Please let us know
  what you mean to do as soon as it is convenient, and accept my very
  earnest hopes that all will turn out for the best with regard to the
  step you are taking.

                                          Yours very sincerely,
                                                          CYBELE COMBE

Mrs. Rowlands’ letter came by the same mail; you felt as if she had
written it as a counterblast:


  I cannot tell you what pleasure it gives me to hear that you are
  bringing a citizen of that very remarkable country you have been
  travelling in, to wake us all up, and, yes, uplift us all, in our
  little world at West Mill. I am sure you will not mind my taking
  such an abstract view of a step which to you, of course, is
  primarily a personal matter. But we women, when we marry, have to
  pass out of the self-centred, personal atmosphere in which our
  effete system of education nurtures us, and take upon ourselves
  public duties and public responsibilities as the mothers of the
  women and men that are to be. Your family should start life with
  good chances: there is nothing, I have always held, like the
  infusion of some overseas blood to virilize our English stock. (I
  was deeply interested in what you said in your letter a few weeks
  ago about the Mormons.) I only hope that your husband does not bring
  with him from America that curious survival of the attitude
  miscalled “chivalry” towards women which is still found among his
  fellow-countrymen. You, with your up-to-date viewpoint, will in any
  case teach him to realize that the old clinging, sex-conscious
  attitude of a woman towards her husband can lead to nothing but the
  divorce court. Husband and wife (I know you agree with me) must be
  comrades before they are anything else: they must not be afraid to
  speak their minds to one another and stand up to one another if need
  be—I remember putting this to Harry when we became engaged, and he
  thoroughly agreed with me.

  And now, I do hope that, whether you are married here or in London,
  you will be married according to the ceremonial of the Book of
  Modern Prayer. You will excuse my entering into technicalities, but
  I know you are one of those to whom the shell and the outward forms
  of religion (quite rightly) do not appeal, so I thought you would
  not mind my advising you as to the state of the case. The Revision
  of the Prayer Book, which arose out of the Royal Commission on
  Ecclesiastical Discipline appointed in 1904, is, since last year, an
  accomplished fact. Most unfortunately, the Revisers could not, even
  at the last, come to a complete agreement on all points of detail,
  and consequently there are now five service-books which have equal
  authority in the Church, (1) the Book of Common Prayer, just as it
  used to be, (2) the Abridged Book of Common Prayer, which is the
  same with the tautologies cut out, (3) the Book of Ancient and
  Modern Prayer, which is only used by the Westernizers, (4) the
  Revised Book of Common Prayer, a temporizing document which was
  highly recommended by all the Bishops and is, as far as I know, used
  nowhere, (5) the Book of Modern Prayer, which is in use at West
  Mill. This last, although its compilers were men who believe that
  God exists (in so far as it is possible for us to be sure that
  anything exists, and in what ever sense we can do so) is far better
  suited than the others for those who, like yourself, have no such
  definite convictions. It has completely abolished the old
  marriage-by-capture terminology of the earlier Prayer Book, about
  “obeying,” “honouring” and what not. It is sensible enough to allow
  for the possibility that, while it is to be hoped the contract is a
  permanent one, it may quite conceivably have to be rescinded at the
  close of a period of ten years. It is very important just now that
  people in a prominent position, like yourself, should use this
  formula, because so many people attend weddings who do not
  ordinarily come to Church at all: and we want them to realize what
  it is that Christians do and what it is that Christians do not
  claim. I _do_ hope you will pardon my troubling you about all this;
  but it is as well to look ahead, isn’t it?

                                Yours most sincerely in the truth,
                                                        AGAPE ROWLANDS

Lady Lushcombe,[5] too, was among the first to congratulate me. I was
the more touched by this, as she was having great trouble at the time
with her fourth husband; and I could appreciate the kindly thought which
induced her to type at all, though the contents of her letter were not
precisely cheering:

                                                    MY PRECIOUS OPAL,—

  (You must still let me call you mine, even though this Yankee ogre
  is going to run away with you)—How to congratulate you on the
  splendid news which has just been broadcasted here? I assure you,
  nobody talks of anything else. Bertha was in here yesterday, and she
  positively raved about you. We are all so glad that you are bringing
  your tame bear back to England with you, and look forward with
  tremendous excitement to the day when you will exhibit him. I do
  most earnestly hope that you will be happy: I’m sure you deserve to
  be; one gives up so much, does one not, in tying oneself up to a
  stranger for years and years like that. I believe marriage will be
  good for you, because from having no brothers or sisters you’ve had
  a very easy life up to now, and it must be difficult for you to
  sympathize with all the unhappiness there is in the world. Now
  you’ve taken your coat off and come into the ring with the rest of
  us: more strength to your arm! You’ll find men are more intolerable
  the more you get to know them; hopelessly selfish, and quite without
  manners. The only thing to do with them, my dear, is to disregard
  them. “Think only of thyself,” I was reading the other day in a
  perfectly fascinating Arabian philosopher: “think only of thyself,
  and nothing that happens to others will be able to violate thy peace
  of mind”—I thought that so wonderful, especially as the philosopher
  (I’ve forgotten his name) was unmarried, you know. The great thing
  is, I’m sure, to get all the enjoyment you can out of your romance
  while it lasts. Simply forget that the future must bring
  disillusionment, and plunge yourself in your happiness. And whenever
  trouble does come, be sure you come straight to me and let me hear
  all about it: I’ve not lived forty years for nothing! Once again, my
  sweet Opal, all my best wishes to you. I will tell you my own news
  when you get home.

                                             Your unhappy friend,

The very first thing I had done after getting over the first shock of
happiness about my engagement was to wireless the news to Juliet Savage
and ask her to be my best woman. Her answer was full of her usual good
spirits and infectious optimism:


  This is the best for years. I knew you’d go and do it if I let you
  go careering round America without me. I always thought Wynefryde
  would go first, but you’ve got ahead of her. As to assisting at the
  obsequies, you may count on me. Will it be at Grey? I should like to
  have old Rowlands saying, “Wilt thou on the one hand have this woman
  to thy wedded wife”—or have they given up all that sort of thing
  nowadays? Anyhow, I’ll mug up the service, and be word-perfect on
  the night. Now, what’s he like? You might have been more generous in
  your wireless: “Am engaged to short American with slight squint”
  would have told me the worst at once. But of course he’s tall? You
  always hated small men. I believe you’d be Mrs. Hoskyns by now,
  living on Boar’s Hill and calling on the other dons’ wives, if it
  weren’t for that. And pots of money, of course, or he couldn’t be
  “Lord”—what a comfort to have an aristocracy who can be sure where
  their next meal’s coming from! I shall lose no time in telling him
  about all your lurid past, because I suppose after the second time
  I’ve been to stay he’s sure to turn nasty about me and say, “My
  dear, I can’t have that woman in the house again; her cigars are too
  strong! it hangs in the curtains.” And then my lot would be an
  Opal-less one—oh very bad! So it’s just as well he should know I
  have a guilty hold over you.... The paper’s just come in, with a
  wirelessed portrait of him in it—it’s even more hopeless than most
  wirelessed portraits. They ought really to put “The features,
  reading from left to right, are ...” underneath them. You will have
  sent me a proper one by now. Only I do want you to come back, and
  tell me all about him. Darling, I _am_ so excited.

                                                    Your neglected

Canon Dives was not slow to resume a somewhat interrupted acquaintance:
his letter was, as usual, a masterpiece of diction:


  So East and West have met; I hope, nay, I am sure, that you have
  made choice of a suitable partner; I dare hardly hope that you have
  found one worthy of you! Pray accept, from Mrs. Dives and myself,
  the warmest possible felicitations. And now, you will pardon a word
  or two of sermonizing from one who has watched, with a very real
  interest, your brilliant career at Oxford.

  There is much talk about marriage nowadays which would incline one
  to imagine, did one judge only by the outward appearance of it, that
  the old idea of marriage as a Sacrament has disappeared from the
  modern world. We say no. We say a thousand times no. We say marriage
  has, if anything, become for our generation more of a Sacrament, a
  Sacrament in a deeper and fuller sense of the word, than it was for
  our fathers before us. We hear a great deal nowadays of relativity.
  Truth, we are told, is relative to the mind of the truth-perceiver.
  How fortifying, if rightly viewed, is this doctrine! It applies,
  does it not, to the case of husband and wife as much as elsewhere.
  To the husband, the wife, to the wife, the husband, seems a paragon
  of beauty, a treasure-house of wit, energy, and charm: old age
  comes, perhaps, and the bright eyes are dimmed and the raven hair
  silvers, and yet, between this loving pair, the ravages wrought by
  time are unmarked: he is still beautiful and charming to her, she to
  him. “For old sake’s sake she is still, dears, the prettiest doll in
  the world.” What, then, is the truth of the matter? May we not
  boldly say that the truth relative to their two minds—and all truth,
  remember, is relative to a mind—is that the man and the woman ARE
  REALLY the most beautiful pair of creatures in the world? That the
  honeyed whispers of love, which to the profane ear would seem to
  contain baseless flatteries, are nevertheless in a very real sense
  the Truth? Dear Miss Winterhead, if you brought home to us from
  America, _per impossible_, the most ungainly of hunchbacks, I for
  one would still hold it Truth that he was the handsomest of men,
  because to your Truth-perceiving mind he is so.

  When we have gone so far, we may surely go further. Marriage,
  besides being a Sacrament, is a contract. A contract holds good so
  long, and only so long, as the essential facts of the situation, in
  consideration of which the contracting parties bound themselves,
  remain unaltered. Thus, if I am under contract to water a particular
  plant, my obligation ceases if the plant dies; or (to put the case
  more strongly) if a friend of mine hands me an egg, and I promise to
  put it under a hen and give it, when hatched, the freedom of my
  fowl-run, my contract automatically ceases if the egg proves to be
  that of a crocodile. Now, the marriage contract is made between two
  persons each of whom is to the other, and therefore philosophically
  speaking _is_, the most beautiful creature in the world. They are
  married, a shadow grows up between them, there are scenes,
  difficulties—suddenly they wake up to find that they are no longer
  in love with one another. He sees her as a vulgar harridan; she sees
  him as a churlish egotist. What has happened? Why, _the facts have
  changed_, the essential facts which formed the basis of the
  contract. He is no longer the same man, she is no longer the same
  woman. By all means, for practical purposes, keep up the formality
  of divorce. But a divorce is only a recognition of something that
  has already taken place. The contract has automatically expired.
  Therefore, dear Miss Winterhead, if it should happen (as I hope it
  will not happen for many, many years to come) that you should find
  yourself looking at Lord Porstock with other eyes than those you
  have for him at present, no one will be more ready than myself to
  admit that you are no longer married to him. I hope that my meaning
  is clear.

  Let us take courage, then, and learn to find in the disturbing
  movements of our time a deeper and ever deeper significance. I send
  this with the most earnest prayer that your union will be abundantly

                                      Yours in a very real sense,
                                                      AMPHIBOLUS DIVES

Juliet Savage did not like this letter. She said Canon Dives would argue
the hind leg off a donkey. She also said she supposed, according to him,
the question of whether a wife was true to her husband would have to be
relative to her velocity. I confess I felt even at the time that there
was a hitch about it somewhere. I will only quote one other letter,
which came to me from Miss Linthorpe’s old butler: she had made
comfortable provision for him, and he now lived not far from us in


  I hope you will excuse the liberty of me and Mrs. Hodges sending our
  warmest congrats on the news we have seen reported in the paper. It
  seems very hard that poor Miss Linthorpe never lived to see you
  settled down comfortably. But it’s not for us to quarrel with
  Providence. I hope the young gentleman will settle down with you in
  England and make you very happy, which you deserve. And don’t you be
  led away, Miss Opal, if you will excuse me mentioning it, by all the
  talk there is about unhappy marriages and married folks not getting
  on by reason of incomparability of temper. I may be old-fashioned,
  but what I say is (and Mrs. Hodges the same) that if you’ve met Mr.
  Right you’ll _be_ right, and you won’t ever let anything come
  between you, as some do. “The world has changed a great deal,
  Hodges,” as Miss Linthorpe said to me more than once, “since you and
  I went to school, but a man and a woman’s a man and a woman now as
  much as ever, even if the woman does get herself up in trousers and
  spats” (you’ll excuse my mentioning it, but those were Miss
  Linthorpe’s words, you know the way she had). And to my way of
  thinking a man and a woman _are_ a man and a woman, so long as they
  don’t let anything come between them, as some do. I hear over in
  America they’re very free and easy with their marriages, and no
  sooner married than divorced, they tell me; but I’m sure your young
  gentleman isn’t like that, and won’t let anything come between you,
  which would not be natural considering what you are and how you will
  always, I am sure and Mrs. Hodges the same, make a good wife to him.
  So you will excuse an old man that has watched you grow up, Miss
  Opal, since the old days when you used to come over from Barstoke,
  sending my warmest congrats, and praying the Lord to bless you, as
  he did Rebecca and Rachel and Hannah in the Holy Bible, and Mrs.
  Hodges the same.

                                                      Yours obdtly,
                                                          JAMES HODGES

The preparations for the actual wedding were full of difficulty. In the
first place, Porstock knew nobody in England, and had forgotten to ask
anyone to be his best man. When the omission was discovered, he quite
cheerfully suggested his mechanic, and actually asked him: he was,
however, a Catholic, and “wasn’t sure but the priests would read him out
from the altar” if he consented, a possibility of which he seemed to
live in permanent dread. However, a great friend of our family, Frank
Hopgood (the College of Heralds _did_ take him back) consented to act on
a rather slight acquaintance, which had sufficed to convince him that
Porstock was “one of the very.” Then there was the question of where
Porstock should stay on the night before the ceremony, since he could
not stay with us—this tradition was one which my mother would not hear
of departing from, although Mrs. Rowlands proved to her conclusively
that it was a survival of marriage by capture. In the end, he stayed
with the Combes, and I am afraid disappointed Lady Combe a good deal:
she had expected him to be full of nervousness, and even tried, as far
as her nature would permit, to rally him archly on his approaching
happiness, but found him iron-nerved as usual. She said, for instance,
that she supposed he would want to look his best for to-morrow (I fancy
it must have been a bedtime hint), to which he replied that looking your
best was nervous work while you were in the kissing and cuddling stage,
but he wasn’t going to get rattled any about the aisle-walk. Altogether
I am afraid he did not win golden opinions at The Pines. But after all,
as he said, the point was to “get the parson busy,” and he had no
patience with details. My mother insisted on “giving me away,” a pretty
old custom which was even then falling into disuse.

Then there was the question of the form of service. Mrs. Rowlands’ Book
of Modern Prayer was turned down at once, curiously by Juliet: she
declared that she would inevitably get the staggers if I were asked
“Wilt thou respect him and show all reasonable deference to him, love,
humour, and tolerate him, in sickness (other than permanent insanity)
and in health?”: nor was it with much less apprehension that she looked
forward to my replying that I would “take him to my wedded husband, in
accordance with the terms of the marriage settlement, till death,
permanent insanity, cruelty, infidelity, or incompatibility of
temperament us did part.” Finally we fell back on “The Revised Book of
Common Prayer” (highly recommended by all the Bishops), which contented
itself with altering “obey and serve” to “respect and co-operate with
him,” and adding to the final words “so long as ye both shall live” the
proviso “until the King shall take other order.” When it was explained
to Porstock (after the ceremony) that this curious phrase allowed for
the possibility of a divorce, he replied that the King would have to set
his alarum clock at three any morning he wanted to take that kind of
order—which was understood to indicate his unwillingness that His
Majesty should move in the matter at all.

One or two of my friends, all of the older generation, kept up the old
practice of giving wedding presents in kind—Lady Combe, for example,
gave me a new form of “sluggard’s delight” (Porstock did not go to bed
till two the night he stayed with them), which automatically boiled an
egg every half-hour, and Lady Lushcombe some beautiful table silver with
my maiden initials engraved upon it, explaining that it was “just as
well to be prepared for _all_ emergencies, my dear.” But cheques were
already the usual form, and I was able to publish the fact that I had
received cheques amounting to £2,600 13_s._ 4_d._ in honour of the
occasion. The stupid and invidious habit of itemizing the list of
cheques had not then grown up.

Of the ceremony itself I am but an indifferent witness; for, curiously
enough, I felt very nervous and fidgety all the morning, and as I went
up the church found myself actually turning faint; Juliet restored me to
myself by whispering that it was a relic of marriage by capture. I am
not going to describe my wedding-dress, for young ladies of forty years
on to ridicule and call dowdy. Porstock’s wedding-suit, which had been
specially made for him in Paris, was (as a silly compliment to myself)
of a curious opalescent material which I have never seen before or
since. The service was on the whole a simple one, out of respect for the
village choir and for Mrs. Rowlands’ organ-playing: besides “O perfect
Love,” which was of course by that time an official part of the
service,[6] we only had “The Voice that breathed o’er Eden” and
Kipling’s _Recessional_. But, since we were rather long in the vestry
doing the signatures, Mrs. Rowlands got tired of playing the Wedding
March, and we finally left the church to an extemporization of her own,
distantly based on alternate recollections of “The Star-spangled Banner”
and “The Marseillaise.”

The breakfast afterwards was a very simple affair, as was usual in those
days; the menu did not go over the page, and I doubt if the whole meal
lasted more than three hours. There were, of course, the usual
interminable speeches, in the course of which Sir Richard produced a
very long metaphor about deep-sea fishing, under the mistaken impression
that opals came out of oysters, and Porstock distinguished himself by
declaring, before an astonished audience, that if they heard of anyone
prospecting for the big noise in brides, they had better send them round
to him right away. It was all very thrilling and very touching, and Mr.
Hodges saying “God bless you!” moved me, I am afraid, to tears. But
there was only one real moment in the day, and that was when Porstock
got his hand on the lever, and the autumn glories of Hertfordshire leapt
away from underneath.

                               CHAPTER IX

  Society is the “head” on the tankard of civilization; if you did not
  want it, you should not have poured so fast.—HENRICOURT:
  _Kleptomania_, Bk. IV, Part II, ch. 37.

We spent our honeymoon in Algiers. The time passed all too quickly,
since the office was unable to spare me for more than a month. Print
shall not profane these sacred memories. It is enough for my readers to
know that early in the next year, 1945, I gave up the active part which
I had hitherto taken in the management of the business, and became
something of a sleeping partner. We took a house in Chiswick, which had
the advantage of being a central as well as a fashionable quarter. We
bought Greylands, and added to it a little, taking great care, however,
not to spoil the character of the house—our needs, indeed, were
comparatively simple. Two covered courts, a ferro-concrete drome, and a
new smoking-room for my women guests proved, in the end, to be all that
was necessary. It was at Greylands that my two sons were born, Francis
James, the second and last Lord Porstock, in 1946, and Gervase
Linthorpe, who never lived to succeed him, in 1947. But I have, perhaps,
spent too much space already in purely domestic chronicles; my readers
will be expecting by now some account of the world of London as it was
forty years ago. Did I say “the world” of London? Only a very tiny bit
of it, I am afraid; for we all live in small worlds, and perhaps in some
ways there is none smaller than that which is called “Society.” Yet, for
a later generation, it is easy to understand why Society, in this sense,
should be of particular interest. For, after all, it is the leisured and
the more elaborately differentiated class who reflect most faithfully
the fads and the follies of their time.

The fads and the follies! I remember bluff old Lord Billericay, when we
were having one of those terrifying smart conversations at Edith St.
Briavel’s, being called upon to contribute his definition of what one
meant by Society; to which the only answer he would give was, “I have no
respect for a Society which doesn’t see that Tommy Lieberts is a fool.”
And yet, when I look back at the salons of those days, and think how the
beauty that thronged them has faded, and the wit and inspiration that
then seemed so novel has become flat and insipid, and the serious
questions which we discussed have either been platitudinously answered
by now or have ceased to be questions at all, I sometimes think the only
thing that lives about us is our follies. For these are only the pastime
of a moment, and, passing with the moment, they escape by their very
briefness of duration the desecrating hand of time. I suppose we were
foolish. Manners, language, and even thought had become artificial, as
the result of a long spell of European peace and prosperity: I suppose
it is always so until a war comes to waken us up to a sense of
realities. Let me try and remember, then, some of the charming fools I

The people with parlour tricks! Perhaps the most extraordinary of these
was Algy Fearon, whose sole accomplishment was to giggle. When he was
young, it was treated as a disease; by inoculation when the inoculation
craze was in vogue, till his poor little system (he was only eight at
the time) was running all over with cachinnococci, as I think they
called them—but nothing would stop Algy laughing. Then he went to a
mind-cure man, who I believe tickled him unmercifully in the hope that
he would have enough of it that way—but nothing would stop Algy
laughing. Finally he made a virtue of necessity, and took his degree at
Oxford without being sent down more than twice, and came up to London to
go into business. To his intense surprise, he became the lion of the
hour. Hostesses scrambled for him, and almost got to the point of
writing on their cards “to hear Mr. Fearon laugh.” About half-way
through dinner, he would break down with no warning whatever, and roll
from side to side in agonies of merriment—and every one else had to join
in. You couldn’t help yourself. He went out to South Africa afterwards,
but I never heard that he was cured.

And there was Irene Hopgood (Frank Hopgood’s sister), who was a princess
of make up, and would never go out anywhere except in a disguise. It was
very exciting work asking her to a dinner-party, because you never knew
how she would arrive: I have known her dress up as a waitress, and I
have known her come through the window in short skirts pretending to be
a burglar! And there was old Lady Frances Holly, who still did
“knitting” and “embroidery,” and carried about a large bag with her
containing the materials of her craft. And Dick Crawshall, who still
rode one of the old bicycles that you propelled with your feet; one day,
for a bet, he rode it all round Selfridge’s, the assistants looking on
quite calmly and imagining that it was some new child’s toy of which he
was giving an exhibition for the benefit of customers. And Blanche
Engelstein, who carried about with her a little bag of what she called
“compliment cards,” which she presented to the best-dressed woman in the
room, and the maker of what she thought the best remark of the evening,
and so on.

The people with affectations and fads! I think it was Georgina Grosheim
who introduced the idea of having your teeth carved, like ivory. It
would have been painful to have this done in my father’s day, when
people wore their own teeth! The vogue had quite a long run, though I
never went in for it myself. The old Duke of Michigan, who was a great
dandy, used to have a different set for every day in the week, all very
elaborately carved. Children were so fond of looking at them and asking
him “What’s that story about?” that he said he always went home from a
children’s party with a jaw-ache. Somebody tried to introduce coloured
teeth, but these were never a success. Lady Jacynth Drysdale was one of
the few who were bold enough to appear in them, and even she stopped
when she heard of Archie Lock’s remark about her: “I can’t bear it when
that woman laughs, because it always reminds me of what I dropped last
night at snooker.” The tattooing fashion did not come in till after the
forties, and at first it was only done in small spirals round the arms.
I never cared for tattooed backs; but they were so common at one time
that when it went out, late in the sixties, we all had to take to
high-necked dresses again; till then, we wore those low necks you see in
the old _Punch_ pictures—I mean in the evening. Another unsuccessful
experiment was made in the fifties, when women took to cutting their
hair quite short, like men; I have still a chromograph of myself with my
hair like that: but it was never becoming, and I fancy it was only an
excuse when the doctors condemned it as unhealthy—there was a malicious
story that Adèle Hopps, the American beauty who afterwards became
Duchess of Lutterworth, bribed Dame Mary Sitwell, the most famous scalp
specialist of the day, to issue this pronouncement.

There were affectations of language, too, such as the custom (which
originated, I believe, in the Smethwick family) of putting in a G
wherever two vowels met at the end and the beginning of words, so that
you talked, for example, about “a stuffy gatmosphere,” or “The India
Goffice.” And there were affectations of dress which we have, perhaps
fortunately, forgotten. In the early fifties it was quite common to see
a Parisian lady going about with live birds in her hat, or an English
dandy wearing bracelets, or an English lady of fashion with a “beauty
patch” of black on her cheek—a revival from the seventeenth century. The
mercy of these things is that they go out almost as quickly as they come
in; I daresay our grandchildren will laugh at our powdered wigs and our
trailing dresses!

There were still interesting old survivals from an earlier period in
costume. I remember old Lord Sandham still going about in a starched
collar, and, I rather believe, starched cuffs. He was very proud of
himself for still having his own teeth, which he used to attribute to
the fact that he had never chewed gum in his life, or rather, not since
they broke him of the habit in his nursery. He was proud, too, of never
having been up in any kind of aircraft: and the story is told of him
that when he first came up to London after the first moving platforms
had been put in in Piccadilly and elsewhere, he and an equally
countrified friend walked for about a quarter of an hour up the slow
platform, thinking that they were getting to their club, when they were
really standing quite still! I can still see Sir Mark Adgate, too, with
his watch in his waistcoat pocket, tied on to the end of a gold chain,
with which he used gravely to take it out whenever he wanted to know the
time. Mrs. Grant (better known as “Phyllis Meadowes”) was the last woman
I ever saw wearing ear-rings. I believe my own uncle, Lord Trecastle,
was the last man who appeared in fashionable society with a beard and
moustaches. In his generation, of course, to be clean-shaven meant a
considerable personal effort: the depilatories then known were either
harmful to the health or painful in their application, and it was only
by scraping with a sharp razor every morning that the unwelcome growth
could be removed. But indeed, I have lived through extraordinary changes
in the matter of toilet elaborateness. Towards the end of the thirties,
owing, I believe, to the great number of Anglo-Indians who came back
after Home Rule was granted, the bath became a perfect obsession, and
hardly any men thought they could get on without washing all over with
water and soap twice a day. It may be imagined how slow and cumbrous
this process was! And yet all this time we never used anything but a
vacuum cleaner for our carpets and curtains—as if carpets and curtains
were more entitled to the benefits of civilization than Man!

We had also (as what fashionable Society has not?) our dare-devils; the
people who were always taking on eccentric bets and issuing fantastic
challenges. I suppose physical courage among men tends always to
decline; or is it that the objects over which we are called upon to
exercise physical courage differ from one generation to another? I
suppose, if you come to think of it, helico-driving needs nerve; and yet
we would shrink from some of the tests to which our fathers put
themselves. I have seen, as late as the forties, a man jump a
five-barred gate on horseback.[7] One of the most reckless men in London
was John Ducie, who accompanied a friend’s helico from London to Paris
hanging on by his hands, and on another occasion drove his old
motor-bicycle through a hundred yards belt of some new gas that was
being tried at Aldershot, holding his breath all the way. He also
challenged a friend to see how many volts of electricity each could
stand, and I forget what fantastic record he achieved. The curious thing
about him was that he did not in the least care how high or how low the
stakes were: one heard that his London-to-Paris flight was only for a
bet of five pounds. Dame Louise Merewether was another of these reckless
challengers: it was she who shot the tide-trap water-race at Greenwich
in a canoe, and, as Archie Lock said, all but got turned into electric

And then there were the sheer follies that were devised from time to
time by adventurous hostesses; a sad witness to the jaded palate that
demanded them. There was Angela Nuneaton’s midnight picnic in Hyde Park:
all the guests had to climb over the railings, and there were a good
many accidents: Archie Lock looked round him and said that dresses were
being torn very low this season. It was only the bursting of a champagne
cork that attracted the attention of the police; and even so very few of
us were caught. Then there was a rather macabre breakfast party,
organized by Trevor Hodgkins, who was something or other at the Zoo; we
had it in the hyena run on the Mappin terraces, to the intense interest
of the regular inhabitants. I didn’t care for it much; laughter at
breakfast always seems to me out of place. I think the jolliest parties
we had were the more ordinary picnics on Hampstead Heath: my mother
always imagined that these must be desperately vulgar, because in her
younger days Hampstead Heath used to be the playground of the democracy!
It was Sybil Linklater, I think, who started the idea of revolving
ball-rooms, which caught on so about this time; I never could see much
fun in it myself. There used to be a story of Sir A. F. (I will not give
his full name), who was all too much addicted to the liquid pleasures of
the table: it was said that he set out one night after dinner for
Sybil’s, and by mistake got into the next house, where there was also a
dance on; he proceeded to dance there the whole evening without
discovering that the floor was not revolving!

But I suppose if there is one thing more foolish than the deliberate
follies of Society, it is the way people take up strange hobbies of the
intellectual kind—movements, crazes, philosophies. Not that so much
intellect is wasted on these as used to be wasted on cards when they
used to play games of skill: I remember, for example, the Petheringtons,
who were very old-fashioned, used still to play “bridge”: and by that
time they could calculate so exactly what was bound to happen in each
game that they always threw down their hands after the second round. But
it is the clever people, and the clever women especially, in Society who
seem to become the prey of all the most outrageous impostors. There were
still Spiritualists in those days, and if all they said was true they
had got far beyond the stage of merely evoking the spirits of the dead:
they held commerce, in a quite matter-of-fact way, with the souls of
people yet unborn, who appeared to have an exact knowledge of what was
going to happen to them when they came to earth. I attended a séance
once at which we had a most fascinating interview with a future Emperor
of Transylvania, who proved at the end of the evening to be under the
impression that it was somewhere in China. The Spiritualists also
discovered a special kind of control in the fifth degree (at that time
you always had a series of seven “controls” between you and the person
you were speaking to), which they called _pani’s_; these were said to
read the future like a book. But when they got the Derby winner wrong
three years running, the last time with a horse which was not even
entered, their public credit was somewhat blown upon. People used to be
very superstitious, too, in those days: I remember, for example, that
Louise Merewether would never take her helico out if she had seen a lame
man that morning; and a friend of hers, whose name I forget, told me
that she never went to church, but she always kissed her hand if she met
a clergyman, because it brought her good luck at oogle.

But, without reckoning actual superstitions, what impostors we used to
encourage! You would get a card to tell you that Sapphire Countess of
Leek would give an At Home to meet Dr. Breder—Dr. Breder was a little
German-American who believed that you could live for ever if you ate a
raw tomato before each meal. Or you would be invited to hear a lecture
in some fashionable boudoir from Mrs. Spink, the Eugenist, who wanted to
introduce a system of scientific totemism into England to regulate
marriages: I never could understand myself how the principle worked. Or
you would call at a friend’s, and find that you had come in in the
middle of a long dissertation by a coal-black man in a frock-coat who
was explaining the essential superiority of Kaffir to Christian ethics.
I was not fond of such movements myself. But, having told so many
stories against other people, I must give some account of a very amusing
_faux pas_ I myself made, which caused many of my friends to cut me dead
for a long time and almost made it necessary for me to retire from
London Society altogether.

I was having tea with Angela Nuneaton one afternoon when there was a
whistle at the tube, and when she had listened to it she asked if I
minded a very curious little man coming in, called Holbeach Griggs, who
had invented a system by which you could read people’s thoughts as soon
as you looked at them. I said, foolishly, that it sounded rather a rag,
so we unslipped the door-catch, and a moment or two later the dictaphone
announced Mr. Holbeach Griggs. He was a weedy-looking little man, with
nothing mysterious or “Have-you-seen-this-man?” about him. I was
introduced, and said I supposed it was a sort of lip-reading he did, by
watching the expressions on people’s faces, like Sherlock Holmes in the
Watson story. He said not a bit; his system depended on immediate
thought-transference: and the fun of it was that the more the other
persons tried to conceal their thoughts, the more clearly you could
detect them, “because of the inhibition,” he said. It was foolish of me,
but in those days, when we were still quite new to the idea of carrying
a wireless installation in your umbrella, anything seemed possible in
the way of communication with other people: and besides, if what the man
said was true, it was obviously a good thing to be first in the field
and get ahead of your friends with it. So I not only asked the wretched
little creature to give me lessons, but invited him to come round to
Chiswick for one of my Fridays and show off (I was always at home at
Friday luncheon in those days). He said he would come, and I went away
and forgot all about it.

The worst of it was that Angela Nuneaton had heard me say that I was
going to take lessons, and the little man said two lessons did the
trick. So she went about telling everybody (she always told everybody
everything) that I had taken lessons and everybody must be very careful
what they thought about while I was present. A day or two later I got a
nasty shock when I met Georgina Grosheim at the theatre, having quite
accidentally booked seats next to hers. She just looked round to see who
it was, and then bolted from the theatre, although it was only half-way
through the first reel. Of course I couldn’t understand it at all at
first; and when I dropped in to supper afterwards at Lady Humbledon’s,
neither of the men next to me spoke a word to me, and the girl on the
other side of the table looked away and blushed whenever she met my
eyes. She came up to me afterwards, and said, “Oh, Lady Porstock, you
must really excuse me for thinking such dreadful things at dinner, but I
couldn’t help it, I really couldn’t!” Then of course I saw what was
happening, and heard that she had heard from Angela; so I assured her
that I’d no notion what she was thinking about during supper. To which
she replied, “Oh, Lady Porstock, it’s so sweet of you to say that,” and
went out of the room—I could see at once that she didn’t believe me.

I don’t think it would have been so bad, only Archie Lock, who always
had a terribly misplaced sense of humour (he paid for it, poor fellow,
when his father disinherited him), saw his chance of scoring off us all,
and proceeded to make it known that he had been to Griggs (whom he’d
never met in his life), and had taken lessons; he added that Griggs had
told him he had a strong natural gift for mind-reading. Then he used to
go about, like a silly ass, starting with surprise when he passed some
casual stranger in the street, and saying “How awful!” He met Georgina
Grosheim before she had heard about this, and he greeted her with “Oh,
Georgina, don’t think that!” upon which (he used to declare) she made a
dash for the very fastest part of the moving platform and was whirled
away down Bond Street. I met him at a dinner-party, or rather I sat
about four places off him, and I noticed the fool caught my eye several
times and smiled at me, but never realized what he was up to until he
came to me afterwards and said, “Thanks so much, Opal, that was a
ripping conversation we had at dinner, wasn’t it?” At which almost
everybody present looked daggers at us, and the man who had been sitting
next to me turned scarlet.

It was terribly awkward for me. I never saw the horrible little man
again, and Angela didn’t know his address; nor did anyone. The more I
swore I had never taken lessons, the more people thought I was trying to
spare their feelings, and (probably) that I was saying the most dreadful
things about them behind their backs. I remonstrated with Archie, but he
was in one of his most idiotic moods, and wouldn’t talk to me at
all—just made faces at me, as if I was understanding exactly what he
meant. Then there began to be trouble, because somebody, Heaven knows
who, repeated a piece of scandal about a woman I knew, which we all
thought quite baseless, and she came to hear of it: upon which she
marched straight off to me and said it was a monstrous breach of trust
for me to have repeated what I saw her thinking about the other day,
because she was thinking it strictly in confidence. Several things
happened like that, which reduced me to despair, and besides, I began to
get such a very bad opinion of my neighbours. Archie Lock swore that he
had looked hard at a man in his club one day, and the man immediately
left for South America.

If only people would have taken it the other way, and tested me, they
could have seen at once that I had no unusual powers; but they were all
too frightened, especially because Angela had repeated the idea that it
was the thoughts you tried hardest to hide which became most obvious to
the mind-reader. Then people began coming to me very quietly and asking
me either to tell them Mr. Griggs’s address or to give them lessons
myself. And when I explained that I couldn’t do either, they took it
very badly: and one friend of mine, who was always very jealous about
her husband, cut me dead ever after she failed to get the “secret” out
of me. Of course my real friends believed in me, but it is surprising
how few one’s real friends prove to be on such occasions! Porstock was
away in America, and I was too proud to ask him to come back. What
amazed me was the credulity of the most intelligent people about it. I
was actually asked to a very important Foreign Office dinner, where I
was put next to the American ambassador; and I was asked afterwards,
very confidentially, what he had been thinking about!

Archie Lock got tired of the situation, and suddenly advertised that
_he_ would give lessons. He got as many as two hundred names straight
away. He meant, I gather, to tell them all that they were fools and that
the whole thing was a hoax. And then suddenly he had a bad helico-crash,
and was in hospital for six weeks, during which I had to bear the brunt
of it alone. Both my servants left me, and I found it impossible to get
new ones, until, very good-naturedly, some nuns offered to come in and
“do” for me. I cannot explain what a relief it was when at last news
came from America that Holbeach Griggs had been arrested for obtaining
money under false pretences. He denied the charge, but they turned the
“inquisition-machine” on to him, and it registered him guilty. I think
he may well have been the only person that machine did examine
accurately, for it was always a fraud to my mind: anyhow, if anybody
ever deserved such a condemnation, he did! Then he confessed, and I am
glad to say that Society pardoned me. But even so, there were a dozen or
so of my acquaintance who had given themselves away to me so badly that
they would never meet me again.

Well, I hope we learn from our follies. Certainly, if we do, London in
those days was an admirable school. It must not be supposed that,
because I have filled up a space of eight years in my life with such a
recital as the foregoing, I was spending all my time in vanities. For
the most part of my time I was at Greylands, learning to love and
respect my husband more every day, and busying myself about the training
of my two boys. But it was, so far as real work or real achievement
goes, a sort of doldrums in my busy life; and I will leave it to a fresh
chapter to explain how in 1953 my life became once more a life of
activity, and of more important activity than hitherto, because my
unassuming personality had to come before the public eye.

                               CHAPTER X
                       MY PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION

  The Party System has its critics; it will always have its critics.
  But you will not abolish it; you can do so only by being false to
  your own principles, and forming an anti-Party Party.—LORD HOPEDALE.

I had not, up to this time, taken much part in public affairs even on a
small scale. I was indeed a member of the Licensing, Aviation,
Game-preserving, and Afforestation Committees of the Hertfordshire
County Council, and had lent the support of my name, rather than (I am
afraid) of my personal endeavours to such unconnected objects as the
Life-plane Society, the Nervous Hospitals, the Humane Cattle-killing
Association, the I.F.L., and the Criminals’ Protection Society. It was
in 1952 that circumstances, rather than any choice of my own, forced me
to the front in connexion with the crisis that then occurred in the
policy of the I.F.L. The whole thing is a matter of history, and there
is no need to go into it in any detail here: it is enough to say that I
felt at the time (and subsequent history has, I think, justified my
view) that the whole existence of the League was at stake, and that it
could only justify its existence by extending its activities on the
lines which are now familiar to every one. There was considerable
opposition, and many local secretaries resigned, but the party organized
by Juliet Savage and myself was upheld by the central body, and the
subsequent newspaper agitation only succeeded in making its promoters

In all this I had no intention of thrusting myself into prominence; I
acted from a plain sense of public duty. But the proceeding had aroused
a considerable amount of interest; and at this precise moment the
Democratic Committee were looking about for promising young candidates,
known to be in general sympathy with their programme, who would be
likely to carry weight at the polls in the general election that was
then recognized to be impending. It was a surprise, both to Porstock and
to myself, when I got a confidential letter from the Chief Mechanic of
the Democratic Party urging me to contest Manchester N.W. (3) in the
Democratic interest in the event of an election. He pointed out to me
that if I accepted the offer at once I should only have to pay the
ordinary premium of £3,000, whereas if I waited till the dissolution
actually took place the premium would have risen to £5,000, even if the
outgoing Government had not by that time hurried a measure through to
increase the rate.[8] The financial consideration, it will easily be
understood, was not very important to us, but the urgency of Sir Hubert
Gunter’s tone (he was a personal friend of ours) left me little choice
but to accept. I was accordingly nominated Democratic candidate for the
constituency in March, 1953, seven months before Lord Hopedale went to
the country.

It is necessary for me, I am afraid, at the risk of going over some
ground which will be familiar to my more well informed readers, to go
back a page or two in political history, in order to explain the
complicated and critical position that had arisen at the moment of which
I type. Up to 1931 political history is very fully documented, owing to
the decision of the then Labour Government to publish all the secret
documents which it inherited both from its Tory and from its Cabal[9]
predecessors. This publication has thrown a flood of light on the
internal politics of the country, especially during the latter part of
the Five Years’ War and the few years immediately following the outbreak
of peace. Opinions will no doubt differ as to the propriety of the
Labour Government’s action: there is a certain feeling of eaves-dropping
when you read, as you may read nowadays, set out in the cold print of a
history book, the confidential S.O.S. calls of a sorely harassed
minister, with a vast number of conflicting claims to meet. The result,
in any case, is that half-an-hour spent with Murdock’s _Twenty Years of
Diplomacy_ or Hammond’s _George and his Critics_ will put the modern
reader _au fait_ with all that preceded the accession to power of
Rosenstein’s Labour Government in ’31. Over its own private difficulties
the Labour Administration did not show a similar frankness, nor did its
successors, whether Tory, Independent, or Democratic, see fit to avenge
themselves in kind. The full history, then, of all this period remains
to be written: I can only resume the facts as they are generally known
for the benefit of readers to whom (as so often happens) the events to
the Boer War are far more familiar than the movements of their own

Lord Billericay, who took an active interest in politics in his young
days, used to tell me that the Labour Government, in his opinion, might
have lasted sixteen years instead of six if they had only let racing
alone. The truth was that Charles Ropes, although he seemed the only
possible leader of the party when Rosenstein went into his cure, was a
doctrinaire of the old Nonconformist type. The result was that when the
Horses Utilization Bill was thrown out and the Government resigned on
it, there were bills for the disestablishment of the Church, universal
secular education, the taxation of town sites, the abolition of the
House of Lords, and the demobilization of two-thirds of the army, all
waiting to pass their third reading and all regarded as non-contentious
measures. In the very hour of its achievement the Government had gone
out, leaving no permanent memorial of its tenure of office except Indian
Home Rule and the Entente with Russia. Its publication of our treaties
with foreign powers, from which such a commotion was expected, proved
after all to be a false alarm; for the terms of them were so
inconsistent with one another that they were immediately treated as

It was a far more difficult question who was to take up the reins of
power which had been thus abruptly dropped. Lord Hopedale’s efforts to
form a Conservative ministry were at once greeted with the threat of a
strike from 138 separate industries. The Liberals vainly appealed for a
lead to six different statesmen, all of whom refused to leave their
retirement. The attempt to form a new Labour Government, which would
disown Mr. Ropes and his Horses Utilization Bill, the “Sporting Workers”
as they were called, proved a fiasco. People were seriously questioning
whether the affairs of the nation would not have to be openly
administered by the Crown. And then began that unique political
expedient which has gone down to history with the short-lived
dictatorship of Sulla and the Jesuit Government of Paraguay.

I see that Mrs. McKechnie, in her _Reminiscences_, attributes the
suggestion to a letter in the _Daily News_. I am sorry to have to supply
a correction to a work otherwise so distinguished by accuracy; but I
happen to remember the circumstances with peculiar exactness, because I
was at Oxford at the time, living in a whirl of political activities
such as one only makes for oneself at Oxford, and consequently in a
better position to give first-hand evidence than a writer who is
speaking of a period when she had not yet left the nursery for the
schoolroom. For about a fortnight on end the _Daily Mail_ had a series
of letters saying, “Dear Sir, Why do you not save the country by taking
its destinies into your own hands? Yours etc. INDIGNANT ENGLISHMAN,” and
so on. At the end of this time an article in the _Daily News_ (not a
letter) made the suggestion that newspaper proprietors should become a
ruling caste according to the size of their circulation: but any one who
read the article in the spirit in which it was written could see quite
clearly that _it was all meant for a joke_, a satire on the wearisome
correspondence which was being printed by its contemporary. That the
_Mail_ took the initiative in treating the suggestion seriously is
evident from the fact that its circulation at the time was nearly half a
million ahead. It was the _Mail_, too, which first proposed that the
less popular dailies should combine with the more widely sold ones, so
as to avoid group Government: and it is noteworthy, that the _Evening
News_ fell in with this suggestion two days before the _Star_.

Mrs. McKechnie’s whole account of the matter seems to me to be something
of an _ex parte_ statement. It is quite true in an ordinary way that
“one does not take in a paper unless one agrees with its politics,” but
a list of the “insurance claims” paid at that time to readers of the
more prominent organs is a valuable commentary on the doctrine. That the
Independent Government left behind it a quite innocuous record may also
be admitted, but it must be admitted on the other side that it has left
behind it no single important legislative bequest. It disappeared
without leaving a ripple upon the surface of National politics.

It remained for Lord Hopedale’s Administration to reinstate the Party
system. Some have held that they showed vindictiveness in their
management of the situation, but it was a situation which needed strong
measures. Party Government is surely not possible without party funds,
and these had to be recruited somehow. The old system of “bought
peerages” had, as Lord Millthorpe said, “done its work”; in fact, there
was a glut. The Americans, too, were insisting very strongly that the
purity of the aristocracy should be safeguarded. There seemed nothing
for it but to place a slight premium on all elections to Parliament,
which was almost negligible when compared with the honourable status
given by a seat in the House of Commons, quite apart from the business
advantages. At the same time the new arrangement discouraged, once for
all, the appearance on the hustings of candidates who were only anxious
to promote some doctrinaire fad of their own, and had not enough sense
of discipline to “toe the line” with either of the great political
parties. There was another novelty in the Parliamentary Elections Act,
which it is difficult to imagine as having been dispensed with by
earlier Governments—the provision, namely, by which any member who votes
against his own party has thereupon to seek re-election.

But the raising of the premium from £5,000 to £7,500 was a piece of
frank electioneering, and it is difficult to see how a statesman of Lord
Hopedale’s honourable record can have made himself a party to it. The
Party in power had always the advantage in finding candidates, since it
was possible to guess with some sort of accuracy what programme they
meant to take to the country; whereas the Opposition, since their
programme was seldom worked out in detail until a week before the
elections, had to ask their candidates to take their policy on trust.
Since the Democrats were, on the whole, men of a more moderate income
than the Conservatives, it seemed at one moment that it would be
well-nigh impossible to fill the coupons. As it was, old Sir Arthur
Bates had to appeal to his constituency from a bath-scooter, and Mrs.
Farnham, though the doctors said she might wave her arms, was not
allowed to speak.

In those days it was customary, at election time, for candidates to
travel down to their constituency and address the electors by word of
mouth. This was indeed necessary, for the cinemaphone was not yet
properly perfected. The speech of the evening was, of course, delivered
by the leader of the Party by this means, but it had the disadvantage
that any loud interruption from the audience could prevent a part,
sometimes a large part, of the cinemaphone record from being heard: and
at that time (it seems hard to believe!) it was impossible to reverse
the cinemaphone without starting the record all over again! I confess
that, to my mind, the personal presence of the candidate has always
seemed an advantage; it stimulated a local interest in politics such as
you rarely see nowadays; nor was it possible for the electresses to
complain that they had chosen their representative without ever really
knowing what he looked like, having only seen what a cinema director
could make him look like at a pinch. And there is something, after all,
in the personal touch, in the direct intercourse between the member and
her constituents: the wax dummies of to-day can indeed chuck babies
under the chin with as much precision as we used to, but they cannot win
the heart.

Anyhow, I travelled down in person to Manchester N.W. (3). I had never
been in Manchester before, and admired the city from the first moment I
set foot in it. The municipal buildings, noble examples of that
Waterhouse Gothic which we vainly try to imitate nowadays; the moving
platforms in Market Street, said to be the fastest in the world: the
wireless installation on the Cathedral, which records all the movements
of German theology several hours ahead of any other English centre: the
marble cupolas of the Synagogue in the Bury New Road: the
“super-landing-stages” on Kersal Moor—all spoke of a city full of
vitality and unceasingly awake. I had been fortunate enough (owing to my
early candidature) to secure the Midland Hotel as my Head-quarters. This
enabled my supporters to refresh themselves, between business hours,
with unlimited games of tennis, water-polo in the large swimming bath, a
continuous day-and-night cinema in the theatre, continuous concerts in
the Winter Garden, and continuous cocktails at the American Bar. An
enormous sky-sign over the roof invited the public to elect “a
Lancashire lass for a Lancashire Borough”—this was a bright thought
which occurred to my head agent as soon as he realized that the
Linthorpes had property in Westmorland.

The Parliamentary Elections Act had already abolished the vicious system
by which candidates used to take pledges, i.e. to promise their support
beforehand to this or that measure in deference to the wishes of the
electorate. As Lord Hopedale finely said, it was a system which “stifled
conscience, muzzled freedom of speech, hampered the operation of
salutary afterthoughts, and left the Government free indeed to
interpret, but not free to direct, the will of a civilized nation.” (His
great speech on Parliamentary Elections is still shown nowadays, though
the film is somewhat marred through the head and shoulders of the
statesman being slightly fogged throughout.) I have been told by old
Parliamentary hands that the relief afforded by the abolition of
“pledges” was inconceivable. In elections previous to that of 1953 they
used to be subjected to an elaborate catechism as to their intentions
over this or that question of public policy. It meant almost
uninterrupted wireless communication with head-quarters for more than a
week; and even so it caused great difficulty when head-quarters, as was
naturally liable to happen, changed its policy as the election
proceeded. With the best intentions in the world, it was often almost
impossible to satisfy all the demands made upon you from different
quarters by a hundred conflicting “leagues,” “associations,” and
organizations of all sorts. Further, if you were successful in your
candidature, it meant that for at least six months after your election
you were liable to be cross-examined by your constituents as to why your
vote in the House of Commons had not been in strict accordance with the
intentions you had expressed at an earlier date in quite different
circumstances. It made the individual member individually responsible
for the policy of his party leader, in a way that is to our minds
fortunately unthinkable. “They expected a feller,” Tommy Lieberts
complained to me, “to remember which jolly old way he had voted and
explain why the jolly old deuce he had done it.”

As I say, I escaped this vicious legacy of an earlier Parliamentary
theory. But it was still customary, in my time, for deputations to call
upon the candidate and urge upon her consideration the claims of their
various interests. My constituency was full of Jews and Catholics, and
their denominational schools were, then as now, a constant source of
difficulty: there was the inevitable rumour that the Democrats intended
to reduce the wages of denominational pupils. There was a local
murderer, who had bombed his wife and children in an attic: several
charitable deputations were loud for his reprieve, while several others
seemed equally bent on his electrolysis. The employees of a large
cellulose firm had gone on strike without being able to show possession
of the statutory minimum of funds—there was the question of these being
reinstated: and so on. Naturally, the complaints were only received by
the dictaphone, but the mere effort of shaking hands with all these
people was considerable.

I shall never forget a giant meeting that we held in the large hall of
the Catholic Schools at Higher Broughton. My readers will realize how
intense was the political excitement of the moment when I say that,
although the building was designed to hold 3,000, it was more than
half-full. The clapping, in those days, was still mostly done by hand,
so that the volume of it hardly represented the full enthusiasm of the
audience. The Chairwoman, Dame Horatia Philpotts, rose first and
expressed in the usual way our gratitude that Mr. Holroyd, the leader of
the Opposition party, had been prevailed upon to speak to us to-night.
There was no need to remind her audience how well Mr. Holroyd had
deserved of his country, or how his services had been recognized by
friends and foes alike. It was unfortunate that Mr. Holroyd could not be
present with us in person, but it would easily be understood that at
such a moment as this the time of a public man in such a position was
very valuable, and, after all, one could not be everywhere! (Actually,
Mr. Holroyd was on the Riviera.) However, we should have the advantage
of hearing his own words and seeing his own gestures—a benefit for which
we were indebted to the unconquerable march of Science. Dame Horatia
then sat down; the lights were put at low pressure, and the well-known
figure of Mr. Holroyd appeared on the screen, amidst a deafening
applause of the rather wooden quality our old thorybophones used to

He proceeded to tell us, with his well-known clutching gesture, that
while he had had many proud moments in his political career, none had
been prouder than that at which he rose to address an audience so
enlightened and so broad-minded as ours, in a political centre of such
unique importance as this. We had met at a crisis in the history of our
nation. Great issues hung in the balance, to be decided once for all,
and to carry with them, in accordance with that decision, the
dissolution of our Empire or its reconstruction on a nobler, a fairer,
and a more permanent basis. (Here the gramophone was stopped for a few
moments, and the statesman’s face was enlarged on the screen, to give us
the full benefit of his expression.) There were some, there would always
be some, who were ready to cry “Halt!” at the moment of victory, and to
arrest the march of progress, if they could, in mid career. He hoped
that those were not the feelings with which we had come into the hall
to-night. For himself, he was convinced that we stood on the threshold
of a newer and a fairer world. (Here a voice interrupted him with “What
about McClosky?”—the bomb-thrower who was then under sentence of
execution.) He naturally took no notice of the interruption.

Unfortunately, a certain section of the audience were impatient to hear
his views on this particular issue, and began to sing “And shall
McClosky die?” in a very loud and threatening voice. It being impossible
to disconnect the cinemaphone all at once, a large part of Mr. Holroyd’s
sentiments were inaudible. The tumult subsided when the lights went up,
but, as it proved, only temporarily. The film was no sooner released
than a dastardly crowd began to hurl a varied assortment of missiles at
the figure of the venerable statesman; which, however, fortunately did
no damage, as the pictures were being thrown direct on to a concrete
wall: an ink-pot left a slight but disfiguring blotch somewhere in the
region of Mr. Holroyd’s waistcoat. The rowdy element, however, were not
satisfied with this; several of them made an attempt to rush the
cinema-operator. They were thwarted in their purpose and sand-bagged by
the police; but the operator seemed to have lost his nerve, and from
that time onwards the film was anything but a success. Again and again
it was clear that the gestures on the screen were not accurately timed
to correspond to the words; again and again the attempt was made to
readjust the timing, but always unsuccessfully. At last, at the end of
an impassioned period, my leader was seen to refresh himself with a
drink of water. But, to our surprise, the glass which he took up in the
picture was an empty one, and a moment later, to the vociferous delight
of the whole audience, it became painfully clear that the film had been
put in wrong end on! I cannot profess that the meeting after that was a
wholly serious one, or that my speech was anything but a frost by
comparison. Such contretemps are the penalties which attend the pioneers
of Science!

On the whole, my electioneering experiences were not very thrilling. My
opponent, Sir Philip Hazelbright, made a good stand, but he was not able
to stem the flood of popular feeling. The country was tired after nine
years of Tory rule, and everywhere showed the intensity of its feeling
in the most unmistakable way: in more than one constituency more than
half the voters on the register went to the polls. It must be admitted,
too, that business losses had hit Sir Philip hard, and his side were not
in a position to pay the expenses of their voters as handsomely as ours.
The result was a foregone conclusion; yet it was estimated that upwards
of 1,000 people assembled in front of the Town Hall to hear the two
large gramophones there telling each other that they had fought the
contest in a fair and sportsmanlike manner.

I was recalled by serious news from home at the very instant of my
triumph. Our younger son, Gervase, had contracted whooping cough
severely, and was lying dangerously ill at Greylands. I should explain
that in those days, before Hoscher discovered the autococcus—a discovery
for which humanity will owe him a permanent debt of gratitude—it was
necessary to have one’s children inoculated separately for all the
leading diseases, from chicken-pox and measles to sleeping-sickness.
This was usually done at the age of three, as soon as they had recovered
from the tonsil and adenoid operation. Gervase’s inoculation, we now
remembered, had never seemed to “take” very satisfactorily, and we
bitterly regretted that we had not had it repeated. I found that
Porstock had called in a chest-doctor to attend the cough, and a
mind-doctor to cure the whoop; the latter, mindful of my own experiences
twenty years earlier, I got rid of on the spot. He had been making the
poor child sit up in bed repeating to himself, “It is very rude to
hiccough in company.” We had a very anxious fortnight, and the
chest-doctor, Mr. Dolman, said he thought he had never come nearer to
losing a fee. But in the end our boy’s strong constitution triumphed,
and a month in the Fens put him on his legs again.

I must record, in connexion with this illness, a clever saying of our
elder boy, Francis. Meeting Mrs. Rowlands in the hall one day while his
brother was very bad, he asked “if it would be right to pray that his
brother might get well.” Mrs. Rowlands, who had her views on this as on
most other points, said perhaps it would be safer to pray to God that
His will might be done. The first time he met her again after Gervase’s
recovery he said to her very seriously, “Now, Mrs. Rowlands, ought I to
thank God for doing His will?” For once, Mrs. Rowlands had to own

                               CHAPTER XI
                             IN PARLIAMENT

            See, where her court an agelong Silence keeps!
            Tread softly, Strange—here a Nation sleeps.
                MAINWARING: _Elegy on the House of Commons_.

To be a member of Parliament was in those days, of course, a more
exacting claim upon one’s time and convenience than it is now. The
meaningless tyranny of tradition still made it impossible to be
represented in any circumstances by a proxy, and no effort had been made
to relieve the burden of legislation except the institution, once a
week, of “voting night”: the second and third readings of all bills,
which had previously been liable to surprise the House at any odd
moment, were now restricted to Wednesday evening, between the hours of
nine and eleven. Sunday was, I believe, the day originally chosen, but
it was found that this would interfere with too many private
engagements. But the duty of presence in person still hung about our
necks; and it is with some pride that I can boast never to have missed a
voting night during the six years of my experience as a representative
of the nation. On the other side, it must be admitted that the writing
of a letter to the newspapers every month was then not a duty, but only
an honourable understanding. Still, it will easily be conceived how the
burdens of my new dignity interfered with the leisure of my quiet life
at Greylands.

Every morning a large crate would arrive, containing the records of all
the speeches made in the House the previous day. I always made a point
of having them all turned on; and if I were called away from the room to
interview the cook or for some similar purpose I would always leave
Porstock behind me to hear what was said and to report on anything which
had struck him: if this seemed sufficiently important, the dictaphone
would have to be reversed till the important passage was reached again.
Then, if I were down to speak myself the next day, I would have to shut
myself up for an hour or so in the dictaphone room, till a perfect
record could be secured. Even a question that had to be asked would be a
matter of anxious care. I cannot imagine how the Ministers of those days
can have found time for all their engagements, when questions had to be
answered into the dictaphone, before the invention of the present
mechanical process. Really, we are spoilt nowadays!

Nor were the incidental duties of a Member of Parliament inconsiderable.
Now I would be writing my autograph in the prizes to be distributed at
my old school; now I would be at the telephone opening a bazaar; now I
would be trudging out, in all weathers, to the wireless installation at
the back of the house to unveil a statue, to lay a foundation-stone, or
(for I was still known as a sportswoman) to kick off at some Manchester
football match. Now and again my secretaries would come in to consult me
as to how they were to answer some troublesome constituent, whose letter
they did not feel capable of answering on their own responsibility.
There were Committees, too, of the House, one of them (the Kitchen
Committee) actually demanding my personal presence. I also became, as
was natural, directress of a good many companies, and it became
necessary to build on a board-room at Greylands in which to entertain
their Committees.

But, although the life of an M.P. was already a busy one, it was not
even then an eventful one. Day followed day, and the press of business
which had at first seemed so strange and so insupportable fell, as
things will, under the enchantment of routine. But there was one period,
in the spring of 1956, when the calm waters of Party politics were
suddenly disturbed, and that through my agency. The “duodecimal crisis”
which was a matter of so much talk and notoriety at the time, is almost
forgotten nowadays, and I hope I shall be pardoned for dealing with it
somewhat fully, since I was myself the centre of the storm.

The facts were, briefly, as follows. In 1929 the Conservative Government
appointed a Commission to enquire into the possibility of introducing
into England the decimal system of coinage, weights, measures, etc. Its
sittings were interrupted by the accession of the Labour Government in
the early thirties, which, among its first and most unpopular actions,
drastically cut down the expenses allowed to the members of Royal
Commissions. “It comes to this,” said Professor Drywater of Aberdeen,
“that if I want to serve my country I shall have to serve it at my own
expense.” Under the Independent Government the Commissions were revived,
but little interest was shown in this particular enquiry. It was when
the Conservatives returned to power in ’44 that the stimulus of public
interest made the Commissioners redouble their efforts, and in less than
ten years they had produced a series of recommendations which are still
on record[10]. The shilling was only to count ten pennies, the
half-sovereign and the “fiver” being retained at their present value in
shillings as the units of gold coinage. There were to be ten inches to
the foot, three and a third feet to the yard, and a thousand yards to
the mile. The hundredweight would contain its exact 100 pounds, and the
ton would weigh twenty-five hundredweight, or a hundred quarters—and so
on. The scruple, the noggin, the chaldron, the hogshead, the gill, the
pipe, and the rod, pole or perch disappeared altogether.

Mr. Holroyd was not of that narrow, factious spirit which would refuse
to adopt a measure because that measure had been first suggested by an
opponent. It was characteristic of the man that, when he was elevated to
the peerage, he selected FAS EST ET AB HOSTE DOCERI for his family
motto. The programme was adopted, not in the form of a private member’s
Bill, but with the full backing of the Front Bench. The whole weight of
the Tory opposition was immediately thrown into the scale against it.
Readers of _Punch_ will remember the cartoon of Lord Hopedale defending,
in classical costume, the walls of Troy Weight against a serried rank of
circular shields. The issue was a critical one; the battle was to be
fought, not on the merits of the case, but as a test of Party strength.
The by-elections had, for some time, been looking ominous; urgent
“whips” were broadcasted by the Mechanics of either party; the Tories
appealed to popular prejudice by asserting that they were fighting for
the tankards of old England; and in many constituencies, it is believed,
the whole proposal was obscurely identified with some measure of
Temperance reform.

In an evil hour for my party, I had studied (it will be remembered) the
Theory of Statistics at Oxford, and had sat at the feet of that erratic
genius, Arthur Tonks. It was his favourite thesis that the whole
civilized world was groaning under what he called “the decimal
illusion.” Through a disastrous legacy of barbarism, he would tell us,
we had all agreed to fix our “round number,” after which we started out
on “double figures,” at the number of fingers with which Providence had
endowed us. “Ladies,” he would tell us, “we are not barbarians, and we
do not count on our fingers.” By his way of it, the multiple of three
and four, which we have thrust on, as “twelve,” into the teens, ought to
have been the round number of our calculations. He had therefore
composed a system of counting of his own, which ran “one, two, three,
four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, tonk, tink, ten,” and was printed
for short as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, *, &, 10. By this system, which
at Oxford he always hoped to see universally adopted, and later, in his
retirement, came to believe had actually been universally adopted, the
whole business of calculation was to be infinitely simplified. His was
the passion of a fanatic: he would date a letter, not “Sept. 22,” but as
“Sept. 1*” (pronounced “tonkteen”), or tell you that the Battle of
Waterloo had been fought in A.D. 1513, or announce his nine-thirty
lecture as due to begin at “tink twenty-six.”

How saddening a feature it is of that strange process we call
“education,” that while we are still in the pupil’s status we laugh at
our tutors and make fun of their pet fads, and yet in later life, when
those tutors are dead and can no longer accept our tardy homage, come
back to the fads we once derided and make them our own! In this matter
of coinage reform, I was determined that we would have no half-measures:
we would not blunderingly imitate the clumsy practice of Continental
nations. If we were to have reform at all, we would have reform on the
right lines; “tonk” and “tink” should find their way into every
schoolboy’s arithmetic book. If there were to be ten pennies to the
shilling, then a penny should be change for tinkpence, and twopence
should be change for tonkpence: if we were to have ten inches to the
foot, then an inch short should be tink inches and two inches short
should be tonk inches. I wrote a letter expounding and defending this
principle to all the daily papers, all of which refused to print it,
except the _Manchester Guardian_, which had little circulation in the
metropolis. However, I was in a position to snap my finger at the
dailies: Juliet Savage was now editing the _Spectator_, and she was at
one with me in my present determination. Together we organized a violent
campaign, reviving as we did so delightful memories of the _Bilston Hall
Rocket_ in early days. Poor Miss Montrose, long since gone to her rest,
how she must have felt for Mr. Holroyd, attacked by the same two
venomous pens that had once marred the peace of her quiet seminary!

My protest, which I had not communicated before to any of my
Parliamentary colleagues, took the political world by surprise. The
first I heard of it was a letter from Sir Hubert Gunter, the Chief
Mechanic of the Democratic Party:


  _I hope none of our people have been worrying you about your very
  interesting letter to the “Spectator,” which I have not yet had time
  to read. The truth is, a silly report has grown up to the effect
  that you intended, not merely to abstain from voting on the Weights
  and Measures Bill, but to associate yourself with the Opposition. I
  hate troubling you, but you know what an awkward moment it is for
  many of us—a short letter to the papers denying the imputation
  would, we all feel, have a good effect. I enclose a draft of such a
  letter for your signature, and beg to remain_,

                                                 _Sincerely yours_,
                                                         HUBERT GUNTER

My reply to this letter was one which was intended to leave my meaning
open to no possible doubt:


  _I can quite understand that my letter, appealing, as it does,
  primarily to the mathematician, should have failed to arouse your
  curiosity. But I am sorry to say that you have not been in any way
  misinformed as to the scope of my opposition. The subject is one on
  which I feel very strongly, and I am prepared, if necessary, to
  jeopardize my political career by seeking re-election in the
  interests of whatever party seems to me to represent most faithfully
  the highest aspirations of our great country._

                                                 _Yours sincerely_,
                                                         OPAL PORSTOCK

This letter drew a reply, not from Sir Hubert, but from a far more
responsible quarter. Mr. Holroyd was absent at this time, conducting
some very important negotiations in the South of France, and Lord Brede,
who led the Party in the Lords, was in charge of certain matters of
vital urgency in California. But it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer
herself who continued the attack:


  _We know one another well enough for me to confess_ at once _that I
  don’t like your scheme of playing billy with the multiplication
  table: my job is hard enough, without having to go to school again
  and do my sums afresh. But you also know me well enough to know that
  I should not let such merely_ personal _considerations weigh with me
  if I felt that your proposal could be dealt with on its own merits,
  as a contribution to that advancement of the human genius which we
  all have at heart._

  _But you will excuse my saying that this proposal of yours does not
  stop short at that. It is not content to revolutionize the whole of
  our arithmetical method. It is a challenge to the Government, thrown
  down at a most_ anxious _moment. It amounts to a calling in question
  of that whole delicate system of Party Government by which the
  affairs of the nation have for_ centuries _been conducted. If a
  private member is to adopt a line of her own, in complete disregard
  of the programme for which his Majesty’s Government stands, you must
  see for yourself what a_ dangerous _precedent will be set up. Such a
  principle will undermine that whole spirit of loyal co-operation
  and_ esprit de corps _to which Ministers have to look for their
  support in matters of urgent national moment. I am sure that you are
  sufficiently in sympathy with us on more_ important _subjects, such
  as the Protection of the Hottentot Industries and the Improvement of
  London, to feel that no disagreement over points of_ detail _ought
  to prevent us pulling together shoulder to shoulder. As a matter of
  personal friendship, I need not remind you how_ prejudicial _an
  effect your present attitude might have upon your chances of
  obtaining a coupon should you seek election in the Democrat interest
  in future Parliaments_.

  _What lovely weather we are having!_

                                           _Yours most sincerely_,

I have mislaid somehow the copy of the letter which I wrote in answer to
this, but it cannot have been a very satisfactory one, for almost
immediately afterwards my operator was rung up in the middle of the
night to take a message from Lord Brede. He had, I fancy, not been put
in full possession of the facts, but merely asked to send me a strong
remonstrance which would make me repent of the lone hand I was playing:

  _Deeply appreciate sincerity of motives which have contributed
  difficult situation. Impossible expect agreement great fundamental
  principles ensure seeing eye to eye matters of detailed application.
  But higher considerations than those mere party surely bid sink
  private differences co-operate generously in great cause. Implore
  you take no steps likely to jeopardize harmony Ministerial camp
  during crisis fraught grave national peril. No one more ready than
  Prime Minister or self to give full weight any criticisms
  administration when business Empire permits return. Know can depend
  strong personal loyalty already evinced hundred unforgettable
  instances during past years. Spirit of Gladstone not dead yet.
  ac.ac.ac. Brede._

But I had not yet reached the zenith of my notoriety; my revolt was
actually to evoke a personal appeal from Mr. Holroyd himself! I confess
that I felt a twinge of something like remorse when I realized that the
great man, in the midst of his multitudinous affairs, had found time to
write with his own hand (so far as the signature was concerned) to one
whom he must have regarded as an erring disciple:

                                          _In the train, near Cannes._
                                                _June 18, 1956._


  _I am sure you will not think me intrusive if I write to
  congratulate you most warmly on the lucid exposition you have given
  in the “Spectator” of a most intricate problem, which has always had
  great interest for me. The daily papers out here all had
  translations of it—I am afraid it will be a long time before our
  Press rivals that of the French in its appreciation of scientific
  technicalities. If only I had known earlier that you felt so
  strongly on the matter, it might have had a profound influence upon
  the drafting of the legislative proposal which now lies on the table
  of the House of Commons. Certainly, if it had happened a few years
  earlier, your claim to be appointed a member of the Royal Commission
  could not well have been overlooked._

  _But facts are facts, and I am afraid that the measure in question
  must seem to you a very half-hearted solution, which has not grasped
  the nettle, or plucked the heart out of the controversy. You must
  think us slow-coaches! Well, you will pardon an old friend of your
  father’s for saying that you are still young, and the young are
  always for whole measures—they will not have the wings of aspiration
  clipped. I know it is asking a great deal of you when we ask you to
  follow the lagging footsteps of us older men: and yet it is a lesson
  we all have to learn. I daresay you will remember old Lord Perse? He
  once said to me a thing I have never forgotten: “If you can’t get
  all you want, want all you can get.” I quite see that our present
  proposals can only appear to you in the light of a preliminary
  instalment of those great changes you would like to see effected.
  But may we hope they will have your support, if only as an
  instalment? The country at large, I fear, needs educating before it
  will greet your own more far-reaching scheme with the consideration,
  and, I may say, the sympathy it deserves. But, as you well know, “we
  will not cease from mental strife”: we are pledged to make England a
  fairer and a happier land than we found it._

  _Meanwhile, although your woman’s talent for logic makes you see
  ahead of others, I hope you will allow yourself to be guided in this
  matter by a man’s intuition. Masculine intuition is so valuable
  sometimes! Please remember me most kindly to Lord Porstock; he will
  be back in England by now?_

                                                 _Yours sincerely_,
                                                         JAMES HOLROYD

It was, I confess, not without a tear in my eye and a quivering
typewriter that I answered this kindly letter as follows:


  _Thank you very much for your most kind letter, whose complimentary
  expressions are, I am afraid, far in excess of anything my poor
  intelligence deserves. I quite understand that the line of action I
  am adopting is a very unusual one. You, on your side, will
  understand that I would not be acting in this way if I did not feel
  deeply about the point at issue. That point is not, as I conceive,
  merely one of mathematical convenience. It is simply the question
  whether the constituents in any electoral division are to send a
  representative to Westminster, or a dummy. If the country wished its
  political life to be suspended by the sleep of an eternal
  compromise, it should not have allowed women into Parliament. I have
  been told from several quarters that the subject of my opposition is
  unimportant compared with the fact of my opposition; in short, that
  I am a test case. I believe it, and I am glad of it; it seems to me
  that the nation is drifting perilously near to the position in which
  it would be governed by a Cabinet instead of a Parliament._

                                                 _Yours sincerely_,
                                                         OPAL PORSTOCK

I need hardly say that the Press was very amusing at my expense, but its
comment was not always particularly intelligent. Indeed, the only
sensible criticism I remember was a cartoon in which I was represented
as an exhibit at a freak-show, with six fingers on each hand. But the
greater part of my critics seemed to have entirely missed the point at
issue. They all seemed obsessed with the idea, either that I multiplied
three by four into ten, or that I multiplied five by two into twelve, or
both. The words “tink” and “tonk” naturally caught on with the humorists
of the day; indeed, I believe a revue entitled “Tink tonk” was still
running at the outbreak of the Great War. Some of my serious critics
were even more entertaining, and I was severely reproved by more than
one religiously minded correspondent for upsetting the eternal laws of
number, ordained for us by a wise Providence when it gave us fingers and
toes. But I was not to be moved by any kind of opposition, and the
support of Juliet Savage prevented the public from laughing me out of
court. In the end, as my readers will probably remember, the situation
became so acute that the Prime Minister actually came back from France
and held a Round Table Conference at Chequers. For a time it looked as
if no _modus vivendi_ could be arrived at, but at last statesmanship
triumphed, and a Royal Commission was appointed to investigate the
relative merits of decimal and duodecimal numeration, which is still
sitting to-day.

I need only mention one other of my public activities, which remains a
legitimate boast; it was a Private Member’s Bill, brought forward by
myself, that procured the erection of the great statue of Sherlock
Holmes in Baker Street. I pointed out that London was now the only
European capital which had no statue of the kind, and the plaque on No.
221B Baker Street was a quite inadequate recognition of the famous
detective’s services. The question whether he had ever existed did not
affect, or ought not to affect, the feelings of veneration with which we
regarded him. When the bill passed, I was elected a member of the
Committee which was to decide between the various designs sent in. The
prevailing taste at the moment was Futuribilism, but none of the artists
then in vogue seemed to have treated his subject adequately. Several of
them represented the head merely as a square block of stone, on the
ground that all attempts to imitate the features in sculpture were a
violation of the canons of Art. Another, on the same ground, represented
the figure as strictly globular. I am glad to say that it was at my
instigation the Committee chose the design sent in by Wrightman, then
quite unknown, but destined to become famous as one of the leaders of
the neo-classical school in the sixties. The conception is a noble one,
and if some have found fault with the pipe as out of keeping with the
classical draperies in which the figure is represented, it is not for us
to complain. “We must approach Art,” Burstall used to say, “as a goddess
demanding a sacrifice; and the victim she asks of us is the Actual.”

Well, the old days of Parliament are dead; and we no longer see St.
Stephen’s presenting the appearance it used to present on “voting
nights,” when helico after helico landed in the great square outside and
legislatress after legislatress passed into the building to record her
decision upon the affairs of the nation: when, by a quaint old survival,
they used to bow to one another as they passed, while the opposing
platforms bore them into the opposing lobbies; or when, on the occasion
of some important speech, as many as five hundred auditors would
assemble in the dictaphone room, to catch, in awestruck silence, the
very tones of a Hopedale or a Holroyd before they passed into the
receiver. Those of us who belonged to those older Parliaments will look
back with some regret at the pomp and circumstance which used to attend
legislation in those days; and perhaps even suspect that some of our
modern indifference to political issues is due to the disappearance of
that pageantry which is so dear to English hearts. There is still an
old-world enchantment that lingers about the House itself: and you might
almost fancy that those voiceless figures which sit there now, admirably
as the Tussaud family has caught the likenesses of our present-day
legislators, were the ghosts of a distant past, when the voice of a
Burke would stir his contemporaries to indignation and to endurance, or
the receiving funnels vibrated to the delicate soprano of a Pulbrooke.

                              CHAPTER XII
                               HOME LIFE

  The word “home,” albeit of Teutonic origin, has in great measure
  outlived the conception it was designed to express.—DR. DIVES: _Life
  of Malthus_.

And now it is high time that I returned from my political reminiscences
to the chronicle of our simple life at Greylands. After all, what
historians will value (if they value anything!) in such a book as this
is not the record of great public events, even when these can be
narrated by one who took part in them; but the story of how we lived,
what we thought about, what were our daily cares and interests. One of
the happiest recollections I have of those days is that of our iron
wedding in ’54. It was not at that time customary to hold the religious
ceremony over again, with a formal renewal of consent; but we made merry
on the occasion, entertained our friends, and, of course, received
presents. Our friends were extremely generous on this occasion, and I
was especially touched by the letter with which Archie Lock enclosed his
cheque: “Really, you are one of the most economical friends I have in
the way of wedding presents! Look at Cynthia Stockdale[11] now—she gets
married so often that I’m thinking of making out a banker’s order for
her.” Still more did I appreciate a flitch of bacon, bought and
addressed at Dunmow, over the Essex border, “with respectful compts from
J. Hodges.”

The accommodation at Greylands could be regal when it liked, and we
managed to put up no less than fifteen guests for the ceremony. Mrs.
Rowlands, rather sobered now by her experiences in a violent campaign
against the daily nearing menace of Disestablishment, had still enough
of her old spirit left to compose a special form of service for the
occasion. It began, I need hardly say, with “O God, our help in ages
past,” as a tribute to the long lease we had had of married life: then
there was a Psalm or two appropriate to extreme old age; then it strayed
off (as far as I could make out) into the Baptism of Adults and the Form
of Prayer to be used at Sea; then we had the prayer for the High Court
of Parliament. Then there was “Peace, perfect peace,” then an extremely
embarrassing sermon from Mr. Rowlands, who talked of our marriage as if
it was the one fixed landmark in a world of continual change and
progress; then a translation of “Ein feste Burg” in which the words “And
though they take our life, Goods, honour, children, wife, Yet is their
profit small” struck one as hardly felicitous. And finally the _Te
Deum_, with what Mrs. Rowlands called “the characteristically mediæval
parts” left out. Juliet Savage asked Mrs. Rowlands whether she couldn’t
have put in “My old Dutch,” but this was lost on her—Mrs. Rowlands did
not read nineteenth century literature.

I remember Porstock, who had fortunately been able to get back from
America just in time for the ceremony, surprising us all by appearing in
the old opalescent suit, now ten years out of fashion, but, I am glad to
say, still fitting round the waist. I remember Lord Billericay telling
us in a speech that in his young days they didn’t have any iron
weddings; one wedding was iron enough for them. I remember Archie Lock
telling us about a man whom he congratulated on his future bride
answering “The same to you and many of them.” I remember my two sons,
one on each side of me, doing good work with the champagne, and Juliet
telling me that I looked like the mother of the Bacchi. I know I cried a
great deal, but I seem to remember only the things which made me laugh.

The education of our two children was now a constant care to us.
Francis, though never a strong child, was already at his multiplication
table (not mine!), and even little Gervase was learning his alphabet.
Their names were down for Eton, since the Education Act made it
impossible for them to be brought up at home. We were, I think, strict
parents; Francis, for example, to the day he went to Eton was never
allowed to take the helico out except in fine weather; neither was given
permission to smoke till the age of twelve, and they were made to go out
for a walk on Sunday afternoon if they had not been to church. A still
more unusual embargo—neither of them was allowed to come into the
boudoir except to ask a question or make a request of myself or some one
else who was there. The difficulty of this was that they were not easy
to find when visitors came to tea, until I arranged that they should not
go out in the afternoon without the portable wireless: on receipt of the
call “CD” (“company downstairs”) they had to come back at once to the
house, and if there was a further call “CC” they went up to put on clean
collars. Then they had to burst into the boudoir saying, “Mummy, may we
go and shoot the gold-fish?” or some such formula, to which I would
answer, “Not just now, dears, come and look at some pretty pictures.” It
was thus always possible to show our family treasure to visitors without
the appearance of any unnecessary restraint.

Their governor was a charming young Rhinelander called Schultz. He was
very highly recommended to me by friends; he had, they told me, taken a
particularly good degree at his University. When I interviewed him in
London I asked what he took his degree in, and he said very seriously
“Pædagogy.” I asked whether he could play the piano; he said no, he had
given all his time to pædagogy. I asked whether he knew French; he said
no, only pædagogy. I began to become interested in this curious subject,
and asked him what pædagogy was about. He brightened up at once, and
said, “It is very simple; you trust the child, he love you.” I wanted to
know how long his course had been; he said six years. I said that seemed
rather a long time; he said most unfortunately his course had been cut
short. I asked him what he would have studied if he had been able to
take a full course, he said pædagogy. I was beginning to get quite
hypnotized by this time, and hastily engaged him.

The boys, who were very high-spirited (taking after their mother, I am
afraid my readers will suggest), were not prepared to take him
seriously. Francis, who took the helico over to meet him at Broxbourne,
tried to frighten him by looping the loop as they came back; which was
very naughty of him, because he knew it was not allowed to loop the loop
even when by himself. Herr Schultz hung on grimly, trusting Francis,
which nobody who knew him would have done, for the boy was a very poor
driver. Next day I suggested an hour for lessons: “When they like,” said
Herr Schultz. I thought it might be well to neglect their likes and
dislikes in the matter, but this was apparently unpædagogic: “You not do
what he not wills; you trust him, he love you.” The boys decided to go
off to the pictures at Buntingford: Herr Schultz accompanied them, sat
behind them, and in a slow, level voice instructed them on everything
they saw. “It was worse than Mrs. Rowlands lecturing on Venice,” Gervase
said afterwards. Finally they broke away and went to the meet; Herr
Schultz followed, contributing a stream of information on the habits of
dogs. They went bird’s-nesting, and Herr Schultz proved intolerable on
the subject of ornithology. Next day the boys volunteered to have a
fixed hour for lessons on condition that Herr Schultz would leave them
alone the rest of the day, and he came to me beaming: “You trust them,”
he said, “they love you.” I am bound to say he was a most successful
teacher, using no threat to enforce discipline except that of his
company. They rather liked “old Stilts” too, after a time; and with his
quite unimaginative, wholly serious manner he became a general
favourite—only Lady Combe could not approve of him, because he was “a
Roman.” “And a German Roman, too, my dear”—as if that form of the
infection were more likely to be catching. They had no other governor
till I sent them, at the ages of ten and eleven, to a preparatory school
at Bournemouth.

I was induced to do this by hearing that Dr. Tulse, the head-master of
this establishment, was particularly successful in giving home-bred
pupils those instincts of discipline which would be expected of them at
a public school. His method was at the time an unusual one, though I
believe it has been imitated since. It was based on the well-known work
of Professor Krausenberg of Jena, “The Education Myth.” The thesis of
the book, it will be remembered, is that the motive-force of the
boy-mind is an opposition-loving reaction from the teacher-stimulus. Try
to get a boy interested in something and he will immediately become
interested in something quite different, to which his attention will
inevitably wander all through the hours of class. Our mistake, says
Krausenberg, has been that we always set out to teach the child what we
want him to learn, with the result that he always learns something else.
Fired with this discovery, Dr. Tulse started a school at which all
educating should be conducted by what he called “the indirect method.”
He would go into class and read out a funny story by Billman or Harcourt
Clynes, and his class would sit round him surreptitiously studying Dante
or Sophocles under the desk. At least he said they did. The walls of the
class-rooms were plastered with all sorts of useful information about
history and science; and Dr. Tulse’s assistants had orders to say at
frequent intervals, “Don’t sit there staring at the wall, look at your
books,” with the result that the pupils always stared at the walls,
“drinking in information,” the head-master would enthusiastically say,
“not through the œsophagus but through the pores.” Some particularly
instructive maps and plans were turned with their faces to the wall, and
there was a strict school rule against looking at them: on the subject
of these, one was told, any of the boys could have passed an examination
any day. In the library there was one shelf very high up on the wall, so
that you could only reach it by climbing on the chairs, which were
covered with a very delicate and easily-spoiled kind of silk. This shelf
contained Latin and French grammars, classical dictionaries, and the
like; and there was a label on it to say “No boy may touch these books.”
They were never out of circulation. Sometimes a master would come up to
a boy and whisper into his ear Boyle’s Law, or the rules for doing
conditional clauses in Greek, and tell him to be very careful not to
pass the information on, as it was strictly private and not quite
delicate. The whole institution would talk of nothing else for a week.

The discipline of the establishment was managed on the same lines as the
teaching. During play-time, no boy was allowed within a radius of half a
mile from the school, with the result that no boy ever strayed outside
it. All games were forbidden, and were played enthusiastically. You were
liable to be flogged if you were found in bed before ten: the masters,
creeping in on tip-toe, used to find all their pupils fast asleep by
half-past nine. Cigarettes were served out after all meals, and were
secretly thrown away by the boys, who complained of them in their
letters home as “filthy muck.” Very plain food was served to the
masters; but as the masters never came into the dining-room till a
quarter of an hour after the boys, this plain food had all disappeared
by the time they arrived, and they regaled themselves later on with the
masterpieces of a French _chef_, which the boys had contemptuously
thrown under their seats. The passages were wrapped in a cloistral
stillness; if any master heard so much as a whisper there, he would come
out and say, “Make more noise there, please,” and all would be quiet
once more. There was a large bath-room labelled “For the use of Masters
only,” from which sounds of splashing came all day long. If two boys
quarrelled, they were ordered to fight, and they immediately settled
their differences by arbitration.

I am glad to say that my own boys got very bad reports all the time they
were there. Again and again they were “swished” for going into the
Chapel, tidying their desks, opening their windows at night, wearing
black clothes on Sunday, touching their caps to masters, doing Swedish
drill before breakfast, taking books out of the classical library,
keeping silence in the dormitory, and otherwise breaking the rules of
the establishment. Once they very nearly got expelled for deliberately
mowing the lawn. It was a wonderful school. I am bound to say, on the
other hand, that they paid their pupils very little,[12] but high fees
were an advantage which Porstock and I could easily afford to forego.

It was just before Francis went to Eton that I lost my dear mother. Her
health had been failing for some time, and she had been obliged to go to
the Campagna, Sierra Leone and other health resorts under doctor’s
orders, but it was plain that she could not last long, and she came back
to Greylands to end her life quietly there. Towards the end her memory
failed rather, and she would think she was back in her childhood’s days:
she would walk upstairs without taking any notice of the lift, or take a
pen out of some old drawer and absent-mindedly begin writing her letters
by hand. Her end was a very peaceful one, and Mrs. Rowlands, who
attended her in her last illness, said she had never met such touching
faith. Our friends were very kind to me in my great sorrow, and two
Cabinet Ministers flew back behind her ashes from Golder’s Green to West

Francis’ name had been entered for Mr. Townshend’s house at Eton. This
was in ’41, only three years before my marriage, so he was lucky to be
able to get in so early. Mr. Townshend was dead, and his successor, Mr.
Cubitt, had retired, but I was told that the spirit of Mr. Frodsham’s
house (as it then was) remained excellent. Although it could not compete
with the classical tradition of Downside, and had yielded to Tonbridge
the palm of merely numerical superiority, Eton was still the premier
school of England. The reputation which it had enjoyed under “flogging
Headmasters” like Lyttelton had not deserted it in our more humanitarian
days. I was a proud mother when I went down for Francis’ first Fourth of
June! Old Lord Billericay, I remember, was with me, and it was
interesting to note all the changes that had happened since his time,
and the indignation which they provoked in the breast of that unbending
old Conservative. I remember, for example, that “Pop” were now allowed
to wear calf shoes; that notices were put up in the right hand as well
as in the left-hand window of the School Bookshop; that the counter in
“Little Brown’s” had been moved back six inches in order to make more
room for customers; that the boys were allowed to wear “change” at
“absence”; that the railings round the statue of the Founder in School
Yard had been renewed; that the procession of boats started a quarter of
an hour earlier than it used to; that the façade of the School Hall (a
fascinating building, in the florid style of the early days of this
century) had been cleaned; that the choir boys no longer dressed in Eton
suits; that the old “danger signal” for motors on the Slough Road had
been removed—and so on: none of these symptoms failed to confirm in Lord
Billericay the gloomy presentiment that “the place was going to the
dogs.” I confess that for myself, in spite of the great changes which
had swept over it, Eton remained a link with the distant past, and the
mellow brickwork of the Warre Schools seemed to breathe out the
enchantments of the Middle Age. We went to “Speeches,” of course, and
these had a wonderfully old-world atmosphere about them—the
knee-breeches and silk stockings of the performers, the immemorial dust
of the School Hall, the selections for recitation (including a scene
from “You never can tell” and a Maeterlinck piece whose name I have
forgotten) all conspired to make you feel as if you were back in the
nineteenth century. I think the most modern poem that was recited was
Edgar Pirbright’s Hymn to the North Sea, written when the first
tide-trap was opened, the one that begins “Now, you damned scrimshanker,
get a move on,” and I suppose Edgar Pirbright was dead before Wallace
K.S. was born!

Both my boys were very happy at Eton. Many old Etonians were anxious
about the future of the place at the time; for Dr. Sandridge had only
just assumed the Headmastership, and his was said to be a reforming
temperament; there was a rumour that he intended to abolish “Sunday
Questions” and to shorten early School by five minutes—proposals which
put everybody in arms against him. But the school seemed to prosper none
the less. Both my sons (who were said by my friends to take after their
mother in an extraordinary way) became good footballers, and Gervase
only just missed his Eight.

Meanwhile, Greylands, though I suppose I ought not to boast of it,
became famous for its hospitality. More than one Conference with foreign
diplomats has been held there, and from Saturday to Monday we nearly
always had a full house. I have, curiously enough, a complete record of
our visitors, for my Mother, among her old-world habits, retained a
great devotion to the principle of “The Visitors’ Book,” in which our
guests were expected to write, not only their names, but some quotation
from a favourite author, or, if they preferred it, some original
composition. Artists would occasionally draw pictures in it. I have the
unwieldy volume before me now: let us take a peep through the pages of
it. Here is an original drawing by Lennox the Futuribilist, “Lady
Porstock’s new helico.” The machine is, of course, represented just
after a bad crash—no, this is the right way up to hold it—and the
mechanic is seen as a confused mass of drapery a few yards away. Those
who only know Lennox as a painter of the _macabre_ would be surprised at
this revelation of what he could do in his lighter vein. And a few pages
on, strange contrast! there is one by Charmant in the neo-classical
manner, “Lady Porstock as Artemis”—not drawn, I am glad to say, from the
life. Visitors’ Books make strange bedfellows.

Then here is poor Cynthia de Brignard’s[13] quotation, such a sad one!
“All, all are gone, the old familiar faces.” I see that she came back
again later after she had married that American man, Tarporley: she
seems to have been in a more cheerful mood then, for she writes, “If at
first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” Then there is Archie
Lock, not in his best form, but the helico was waiting, I remember, as
he wrote it:

               This is (please do not get a shock)
               The signature of Archie Lock.
               If you forge it on a cheque,
               You will get it in the neck;
               Nothing causes so much rancour
               In the bosom of my banker:
               “Cheques,” he says, “we cannot pass; it’s
               No dam use; there ain’t no assets.”

Georgina Grosheim, of course, tried to be funny and pretended that we
were a village inn: “Have no complaints. The cooking is all that can be
desired, the attendance excellent, and the management kind and
thoughtful. Shall come here instead of Margate next year.” That is just
on the opposite page to a very heavy quotation put in by Lady Pulbrooke:
“Philosophers are for ever asking what is the true basis on which the
welfare of a commonwealth depends. They fail in their search because
they do not look near enough. The welfare of a commonwealth depends upon
the qualities of its citizens, on kind hearts and honest faces.” I
suppose it must have been Juliet Savage who wrote “My dear Holmes! How
on earth....” at the tail of this quotation; she was always “ragging” my
Visitors’ Book. Then there is Lord Billericay in his sportive vein—it
must have cost the poor old gentleman a sleepless night, for humorous
verse was not his natural medium:

             There was once a good fellow called Porstock,
             Who had of misfortune a poor stock,
               He’d an excellent life,
               And a rattling good wife,
             And a safe so full up that the door stuck.

It was a pity that Canon Dives should have been our next guest, but of
course he had to take his turn, in spite of a slight change of note: he
put in an extract from one of his own sermons: “Hospitality is enjoined
on us, as we know, in the Scriptures. We even read that through its
exercise some have entertained angels unawares; and though it is
probable that the word here translated ‘angels’ should be more correctly
rendered ‘messengers,’ the point of the aphorism is the same. Duty is,
however, a word which has tended to fall out of our modern vocabulary,
perhaps unfortunately, for after all the life which has no guiding
principle is a tedious and frequently an ineffective one. But, my dear
sisters and brothers, if we cannot cultivate hospitality as a duty, at
least let us cultivate it as an act of politeness, or shall we not
rather say, of friendship. After all, there is one hostelry which awaits
us all alike at the end of our long journey.” Juliet Savage, I see, has
appended the words “Dives, when you and I go down to Hell,” a quotation,
I think, from Belloc. And next to that is Blanche Engelheim’s charade:

           My third is a wife makes her husband my first
               And keeps him away from my second:
           My whole is a town, though with Temperance cursed,
               Where wives by the dozen are reckoned.

Then there is a characteristic scrawl: “Thank God, they taught me how to
write at school. Otherwise I should be in a hole. Tommy Lieberts.” But I
must not go on wearying my readers with all these trivialities. Let me
finish with Lord Hopedale’s quotation, some clever lines from
Mainwaring, a poet who was hardly known at the time when they were
copied in my Visitors’ Book.

            The world goes on; whither, we do not know;
            Whence, we’ve forgotten, it’s so long ago:
            Scientists ask “Since when?”; the Blessed cry
            “Till when?”—God knows, and only God knows why.

Or, stay, there is one other extract I must record, if only to show that
my roof has housed an Archbishop of Westminster. Cardinal Smith came
just after Lord Hopedale, and he wrote what I think he said was the
motto of some Elizabethan Catholic: “Praeterit figura huius saeculi;
fides Catholica manet.”

It was on the 18th of June, 1963, that my great loss fell upon me—so
great, that I do not even yet know how to write about it. My dear
husband set out on his helicopter for France, expecting to be absent for
about a fortnight. The day was somewhat threatening, and in the
afternoon a thunderstorm, which in some unaccountable way had not been
predicted by the Weather Office, swept across the Channel. It must have
interfered both with his engines and with his wireless; and no doubt the
descending apparatus, which in those days was very imperfect, was
unreachable or unworkable. No word was ever heard of him, no trace ever
found of his descent. I felt inconsolable in my loss. In all the
nineteen years of our married life my husband had never been away from
home for more than six months at a time; I had depended, perhaps more
than I knew, upon his strong presence and his unfailing interest in my
affairs. He left behind him two sons, neither of them destined by
Providence to survive the Great War. When these were taken from me I
was, I thank God, in a better position to bear the blow: I knew more, by
that time, both of what is meant by suffering, and of what God meant a
man and a woman to be to each other. _Beatus vir qui implevit desiderium
suum ex ipsis_—if I had known that, I might have children now to comfort
my grey hairs.

                              CHAPTER XIII
                          GREAT MEN OF THE DAY

             Every artist is his own masterpiece.—BURSTALL.

In beginning this chapter, I very nearly fell into the old mistake of
saying “I suppose young people don’t read Dickens nowadays.” It is
curious how generation after generation of us seniors fall into that
trap. Miss Linthorpe said it to me once, when I was in the schoolroom,
upon which I offered to submit to a Dickens examination, and passed it
with flying colours. I said it myself to Francis one day, when he was
lying on the floor with a book, and he held up the book, which was
_Martin Chuzzlewit_. So I will make no apology this time for talking of
Mrs. Leo Hunter as if she were a character familiar to my readers. She
was a real old lady, who lived at Ipswich (I think) and had some
phenomenal number of children, and wrote verses quite as bad as the
“Dying Frog.” But indeed she was not one woman, she was every
woman—every woman who has sufficient station in the world to be able to
choose her own company. We all want to collect lions—none the less since
we ourselves began to be Managing Directresses, and Q.C.’s, and Members
of Parliament. So I am not ashamed of having hunted the lions in my day;
and I have kept them for a separate chapter—just a few of them, who will
be worth exhibiting, because everybody still remembers their names, and
yet my younger readers never saw or only saw them at a distance.

I suppose it would be generally agreed that the greatest man of the
period (I am speaking of the period round about 1960) was Lord Chief
Justice Poltwhistle. He dated from the old days of the English Bar,
before women could plead (“barbarous days, Lady Porstock”) or sit on
juries. In his young days, he said, it was still customary for lawyers
to demand their fees, even when they lost the case; and he could quote
instances in which men had risen to great fame at the Bar without ever
winning a single important case. “We took it all in a more sporting
spirit then,” he would say, in his quaint old way. “You might win a
moral victory as a pleader, although you failed to get a verdict owing
to the intrinsic badness of your cause. But of course at that time
counsel weren’t required to take any oath as to what they thought of the
rights and wrongs of the case, and it was not contrary to etiquette to
defend a man although you were morally certain he was guilty. Even the
moral theologians allowed that; and you must understand, Lady Porstock,
that a moral theologian has a conscience just one point less elastic
than a lawyer’s. I recollect when the Act was passed in ’42 an old
company-promoter called Blofeld sitting next to O’Leary, who was a
prominent K.C. in those days, and saying, ‘Well, the next time I get
into the Courts it seems as if I’d have to find either a knave or a fool
to defend me.’ ‘And you’ll have your pick of the Bar,’ says O’Leary.
Wonderful smart chap he was, O’Leary. ‘It isn’t fair on us Catholics,’
he’d say to me (there weren’t very many of us practising in those days),
‘for the Protestants all think we’re such liars, when I’ve defended a
man it’s all I can do to prevent him getting up and pleading Guilty.’ In
those days, too, you could accept any brief you liked, and accepted the
party that offered the biggest retaining fee, instead of having to wait
your turn. It nearly broke O’Leary’s heart when the Retaining Fees Bill
went through. I remember Lord Hopedale saying to him, ‘Surely you don’t
defend the old system? You wouldn’t have a man get the best counsel
because he can pay the biggest fee?’ and he just looked up with a
twinkle in his eye and said, ‘I do defend it. Aren’t those that want the
best counsel the biggest rogues? And aren’t the biggest rogues the rich
people who can afford to pay for the best counsel?’ Oh, he was a
wonderful smart chap, O’Leary.” And so the old gentleman would wander
on, charming us with anecdotes of the bad old times that, just because
they are so distant, still win our rebellious sympathies.

Another of our guests was Mrs. Justice Partridge, who was one of the
first of my sex to take the silk, and actually the first, I believe, to
attain the Bench. She used to tell the story of one of the first cases
she had to try. The offence was criminal wife-beating, and everybody was
expecting her, as a woman, to be particularly severe over it. The
accused, an Irishman, was equal to the occasion, and explained that he
was “just taychin’ her her place in the house, the same as you would
_your_ old man, yer Honour.”

Talking of Irishmen reminds me of another distinguished visitor of ours,
Daniel Geraghty, the Prime Minister of Ireland at that time. I remember
asking him why it was that Ireland, since her liberation in the
twenties, had never done much that was memorable in the way of
literature, having produced so much till then. “It’s a simple thing,” he
said, “it’s just that we Irishmen have no imagination. We’re hard,
business folk by nature. When you English had it all your own way, you
always liked to believe, and always wanted us to believe, that we were
just dreamy sort of fellows, only fit to dream in a pig-sty or a garret,
the way we’d starve contented. It’s always the way with you conquering
races, you admire your subjects for the qualities that won’t be
dangerous to you. _Excudent alii_—it’s the same all the world over.” I
have never made up my mind whether he was right, but it certainly looks
as if he was justified.

At another time, we entertained Fothergill—the younger Fothergill, of
course, not the one who wrote _Fifteen Years in a Fijian Larder_. He
came to us when he had just had the distinction of discovering the last
race that was left to be discovered—the Ibquo’s in South America. He
said they were a fascinating people, very simple in their character and
very primitive in their habits. They knew nothing of flying, of
electricity, or even of steam, and they used petrol only as an
intoxicant. When they had to travel a long distance, or to pull heavy
weights, they would take one of their tame mustangs and fasten it to a
wheeled cart, and then drive it along with a whip, pulling the cart
behind it. Their cooking was done over a fire, usually of coal; and
their sacrificial meals were always cooked in vessels of iron, not
aluminium, because it would be “bad magic.” They believed in a good
Spirit which ruled the world, and in a bad Spirit which only had power
to hurt them if they did wrong. They had great respect for old age, and
generally chose some of the older men of the tribe to be their
counsellors; if a child disobeyed its parents, it was punished. They
also regarded their women with great veneration, and you would often see
a man getting up from his place by the fire to make room for a woman who
had none. When there was a marriage, the bride was solemnly escorted by
her friends to the house of her future husband, where she was
henceforward to live. The men worked in the fields; the women stayed at
home and cooked for them, and also looked after the children, of whom
there were often as many as eight or nine in one family. I seldom
remember spending such an interesting evening.

It was not at my own house but at Lady Leek’s that I used to meet the
literary men of the period. I did not care for having them at Greylands,
or even at Chiswick, because they were liable to wear such odd clothes,
and to talk so very loud, and to bring the strangest people in with
them, quite uninvited. But they were very interesting people to meet,
there is no doubt. The trouble about their writings was that they spent
almost all their time writing about one another; sometimes in
appreciation, sometimes in criticism. Occasionally one of them would
break away from the tradition by writing about the men of a previous
generation—there was Bernard Sykes, for example, who wrote a book that
was very much talked about at the time, in which he tried to show that
Lord Kitchener was a bad general, and that Herbert Wells was not really
religious. But mostly they stuck to their own generation and criticized
each other’s works about each other. The novelists could not do this
exactly, but even in the novels the heroes were always novelists and the
heroines female novelists, and they all settled down in Chelsea and
lived unhappily ever after. Novels were very long in those days, running
to three, or four, or even five volumes. Archie Lock used to say that he
always took Debrett with him when he went on a journey, because it was
the only book you could still get in one volume. “And very creditable to
them,” he added, “considering the pressure on their space.” Of course
the old “adventure stories” had not quite died out, but they were dying
out rapidly—the Tarzan Syndicate, for example, decided to confine itself
to films about this time. Publishing was already so expensive that all
books except technical ones had to be produced by subscription. So the
only novels one had were very long and very literary. It was only
Jenkins’ invention in the seventies that made them cheap again.

I once met Henricourt and heard from him the story of his early
struggles. He was a Civil Servant on £600 a year when he wrote his first
masterpiece, _The Kleptomaniac_. It was one of the most realistic books
of the century, and critics said that Chapter LXVII of the first volume,
which begins with the hero falling into a deep, dreamless sleep, and
ends just before he wakes up, was one of the most powerful things ever
written. He took it to a publisher, who said there was a printers’
strike on, and they were not producing anything but school books at the
moment; why didn’t he film it? He said he had thought of that, but the
manager had said it would want a reel about as long as the Equator, and
asked him to cut it: he said that would be false to his Art. The
publisher said he’d better store the manuscript somewhere and write
another book that would catch on with the public—his reminiscences, for
example—and then have the Klep. in reserve. He said it was the one thing
they weren’t allowed to do in the Civil Service, write Reminiscences, it
was so apt to create a false impression. Couldn’t the publisher see his
way to producing the first volume, anyhow, dividing the risks? The
publisher said it couldn’t be done unless he could guarantee a sale of
4,000. In despair, he went to a Touting Agency, and asked them if they
could find him 4,000 subscribers for what was really rather a remarkable
novel. They asked if any important public characters came into the book
under pseudonyms. He said no, that was against the principles of his
Art. Finally the agent said he thought he could get the signatures if
Henricourt wouldn’t mind his pretending that the book was a translation
from the Lithuanian, written by a blind Lithuanian patriot. Henricourt
agreed to this, and so the subscribers were procured and the great work
was produced after all.

Poetry in those days had hardly felt the influence of the neo-classical
school, and our poets still went in for using the language of common
life, the commoner the better. To show the sort of thing that was
popular, I don’t think I can do better than give you a page from the
Index of First Lines in a volume of collected Edwardian Poetry, which
Lady Travers-Grant[14] gave me on my fiftieth birthday:

                   EDWARDIAN POETRY 1960‒1965—INDEX

         Damn all these lousy pamphleteers                  87
         Damn and blast, blast and damn                     36
         Damnation! has that flat-faced woman gone?        103
         Damn Billy Smith, he’s pinched my girl             45
         Damned if I care what these nincompoops say of me 156
         Damned if that stud hasn’t come loose once more    43
         Damned if we’ll sweat, you greasy sycophant        52
         Damned in these mucky estuaries of hell           113
         Damn her! Where did she get those saffron eyes     11
         Damn him!                                          73
         Damn him! What the                                128
         Damn it all, I’ve swabbed these beetle-squashers   59
         Damn kindness! damn faith! damn humanity!          97
         Damn my eyes, if yonder paling moonlight           77
         Damn Nero for a mawkish hypocrite                  80
         Damnonian maidens, in your sluttish smocks         34
         Damn silly? Yet if this damned silliness           62
         Damn the Church and damn the State                 39
         Damn those little ears of yours, my darling       101
         Damn you, Charles, you’ve spoilt it all             1
         Damp as the Morgue on autumn afternoons           100

I suppose the mechanical school of poets are hardly to be found at all
in modern bookshelves, and yet there was a time when Edgar Pirbright was
enthusiastically reviewed, and you would see his book, “By Helico to
Helicon,” lying on the tables of all his personal friends. He was
obsessed with the idea that mechanical triumphs, being part of Man’s
self-assertion on the planet, are infinitely better subjects to be
celebrated by the poet’s typewriter than Nature, “that irrelevant mass
of geological strata and atmospheric effects,” as he called it. He even
went so far as to bring out an anthology from the older poets, in which
he included a great deal of Wordsworth and Matthew Arnold and other
writers who had shown themselves hostile to the march of civilization;
but he had, as he said, adapted them—which meant that he had altered
them freely so as to suit his own doctrines. Some of it was ingenious,
and even contained a good deal of original work: for instance, when you
read the stanza:

                  Our fathers watered with their tears
                    The sea of time whereon we sail;
                  They watered it for years and years,
                    But found its tides of no avail;
                  Still the same ocean round us raves,
                  But we have utilized its waves!—

when you read a stanza like that, you did not realize all at once that
it was the Stanzas from the Grande Chartreuse which Pirbright was
“utilizing” to celebrate the glories of the tide-trap. And there was a
certain forcefulness about lines like:

                 But still my heart with rapture fills,
                 And dances with the cotton-mills:

but you felt the thing was going too far when you came across a poem
called “Sky-writing,” which opened:

                    My heart leaps up when I behold
                          An advert in the sky.

I used to have the book, but I have lost it; it was full of things like

And then, of course, there was the Futurist school, which ran into all
sorts of extremes; but none more curious, I think, than the
“Page-decorating” group of writers, who said that neither sense nor
grammar nor even sound counted for anything in poetry; an immediate,
telling effect ought to be produced by the mere look of the letters on
the page. I can give an example of it from an old album of mine: it is
no use trying to make head or tail of it, but if you look at it with
your eyes half-shut, so to speak, you can just see that the first verse
contains pretty and the second contains ugly letters, or groups of

      St. Just-in-Roseland! St. Just-in-Roseland!
  All vervein, desirable vervein, and melilot.
  Here veined agrimony swoons, with fumes calamitous, daintily;
  Arable fallows assoil sly fingers;
  Purple woofs incarnate of swishy meadows,
  Dilapidated obloquies amorously urgent, all anyhow, wayward fingers,
  Transience unimaginably rapid,
  Languorous ditties, that opiates inhibit,
  Rosy anodynes, albeit rigorously voluble,

  Gutted offsets, bombastic in groping hot-houses, endways:
  Fungoid sprockets, puddle-bedripped, ungainly,
  Rectitudes, angularly awkward, perspectives,
  Elucubrate dross, grinning potsherds, warps,
  Stinking of frogs, knock-kneed scorpion gargoyles,
  Wreathed mouthings of something quarrelsome, brutish,
  Newts hag-ridden, huddled responsibilities,
  Spawn umbellated, coughing, slobbering,

Perhaps it was time the neo-classical school came along to give us a new
lead! But of course it was far more of a revolution in Art than it was
in letters. I am afraid I am a very poor first-hand witness about the
artistic movements of my time, for the old painters used to expect such
a lot of you! They exhibited, of course, at the Academy and other
accessible places every now and then, but even so it was rather trying
to have the artists standing on guard, as they always did, and
explaining to the sight-seer, not what their pictures were about, but
what sort of emotions they ought to evoke! Some of them went further,
and said you must not look at their pictures unless you were fasting, or
unless you had recently taken opium. (Opium-smoking was not as common
then as it is now, but already you were sometimes offered it in
Chelsea.) I was too busy in one way and another to devote my life to
picture-inspecting; and indeed, it was only a small group of people who
took any interest in painting at all.

But I did once come in close touch with it, when I sat for my own
portrait to Sanderson, the great Præteritist. In those days, when
chromography gave very little help to the artist, you would often have
to “sit” twice or three times before the painter caught what he
considered a likeness. It was during the enforced idleness of one of
these “sittings” that I had a long conversation with him which
interested me so much that I wrote down notes of it afterwards.

We talked of Futurism; he said it was all very well, but the trouble
about it was it had no future. He told me (what I did not know) that the
term “futurism,” when it was first invented, in the early part of the
century (“before you were born, my dear”—waving his brush at me), meant
simply a dissatisfaction with present standards in art and a
determination to find new methods: it was only with Lennox and Burstall
that it took on its new meaning. The old Futurists refused, indeed, to
draw the thing as they saw it, but they had not reached the idea of
portraying things _as one day they would be_. It was Lennox’s _Ruins of
Westminster Cathedral_ that first heralded this much-criticized
departure; and it was Burstall who developed the notion in
portrait-painting. He was something of a missionary: unhappily married
himself, he maintained that it was one of the functions of Art to show
the evanescence of beauty, and when _débutantes_ came to sit to him he
represented them as those wrinkled old women whom we still see and
admire (he was speaking, of course, in 1960) in his portraits. He was a
missionary, and something of a martyr; in consequence of his decision,
he had to struggle for a long time with neglect and poverty; and it was
only his portrait of Prince Albert, then three years old, as six foot
high and a Colonel of Hussars, that drew attention to him once more. He
got all the babies after that.

I said I supposed the Futuribilists were a necessary, or at least a
logical, sequel to the Futurists. He said no, except in so far as they
continued the tradition of drawing anything rather than what you saw in
front of you; “and that, after all,” he added, “we Præteritists maintain
as strongly as anybody.” The idea of painting what might have been was a
quite different inspiration from the idea of painting what probably
would be. (The names, he said, were all wrong; the Futurists ought to
have been called Futuribilists, and the Futuribilists Potentialists, or
something of that sort.) Besides, Futuribilism started in Belgium, and
came out of the Electricist school, which we in England had barely heard
of; had I ever seen an Electric picture, such as Bavet’s _Windmill_? I
said no. “Well,” he said, “it represents simply a mass of electrons
butting in and out. It was a craze that caught on for a bit, but there
was a sameness about it. Then there were the Vitalists, but they never
mattered much; and then Mosheim and his crowd began the Potentialist
movement. It was still life, chiefly, game and so on; and the idea was
to represent it not as what it was, but as what it might have become ...
well, they weren’t very pleasant pictures, and our modern taste has
decided, perhaps rightly, against them. It hardly started in England
till Murchison’s _Decay of a Leaf_ was exhibited: and even then it
didn’t catch on until they began to treat human subjects, like Moffatt
with his _Influenza Patient_, and Rosenstein with his _Triumph of the
Red Corpuscles_.”

Here he had to get up and readjust the convex lenses, so our
conversation was interrupted. When he was back at the easel I asked him
why he said Futurism had no future. He said because it lived by
innovation; it did not develop gradually, like the mind or the tastes of
a man as he grows up, but found its successive inspirations in continual
revolt from the latest fashion: “it’s a series of kicks,” he said, “like
the old petrol tanks.” That meant that the public simply didn’t care
about pictures, because they—the laymen—hadn’t leisure to follow all the
latest movements in art criticism. In the old days you took years to
learn how to paint a picture, and only a fortnight to learn how to
criticize one; now it was the other way about. Only artists looked at
pictures, and they chiefly to see how they could invent a new method,
and turn the old ones on to the scrap-heap. “They didn’t always
succeed,” he explained. “You’d be too young to remember the commotion
there was in the early thirties, when nobody would talk about anything
but relativity, and Manning Barker suddenly laid it down that there
could be no such thing as Truth, even in Art, without velocity. His
school would only paint for the screen, and you had to sit for a quarter
of an hour to see the portrait of a Cabinet minister. I remember Lady
Marrett, who was a beauty in those days, being released in nearly a
quarter of a mile of film, and you never saw more than a square inch of
her at any given moment. It was hard for the sculptors, you see: they
wanted Billing to do an avenue of statues up the old Hammersmith
Broadway, but the police wouldn’t allow it on account of the cars having
to go forty miles an hour to get the values properly. Some of the
movements fail, and some stick, but it can’t go on like this.”

“But what about you?” I asked. “Aren’t you one of the revolts?” I am
afraid my question was a tactless one, because he painted for a time in
complete silence, and then said, yes, he was only one of the reactions;
he was only a fashion: one day people would see no more in him than they
saw in Whistler or Pennell. (“Not that I should be surprised if some of
those fellows came into vogue again,” he put in. “I was at a smart house
the other day where my hostess, who is rather a crank, was thinking of
having her house decorated with pictures, as they used to in our young
days.”) But he painted in his way because he believed in it. “Every line
on your face,” he said, “and every play of movement on your face, was
predetermined for it by your smiles and frowns and pouts and fidgetings
when you were a baby in arms. I must track Truth to its source, so I see
you as a baby still—you must excuse me saying that, but it’s my creed.
It will last my time; but you’re young, and you may live to see a
reaction. These neo-classical people are attracting a lot of attention:
I’m an old fogey, and I can’t see anything in these new ideas, but I
daresay your daughters will.” It was a bold prophecy for a man to make
in the early sixties; but he was quite right. What would he have said to
our neo-romantics!

Talking of Futurism, I noticed in the paper the other day that Dame
Beatrice Goodge was criticizing the old Futurists on the ground that
they never produced any architecture: she would not be old enough to
remember it, but I have actually seen a row of Cubist houses! It was
when I was house-hunting, with Juliet Savage, in ’41, and we were trying
our luck at the “Garden City” at Welwyn. The architect’s idea was a very
simple one, which was to build a series of octagonal passages, just like
a honeycomb: after all, bees built like that, and bees ought to know.
Juliet said if I were shaped like a bee and spent all my time in the
City making honey, one of these would just suit me. Only a very few
tenants were ever secured, and these did not last long: profane
neighbours, I believe, used to call them the Hivites. What a mad world
it is, and how few men and women you will find who have not a blind spot

“Men and women”—we still write the words in that order, though the
Feminists, at the period of which I am typing, did their best to get it
inverted. I cannot say that I sympathized at all with this agitation; I
have always been old-fashioned, and felt that the proper sphere of woman
is the flat. But I used to see a good deal in those days of Esther
Margate, who was one of our most fanatical Feminists; and I think she
ought to have her mention in this chapter, because there was a sort of
mad consistency about her, which I believe to be a necessary element in
all greatness of the reforming kind. She would always say, for example,
“I do not suppose there is a woman, man or child in this country ...
etc.,” because she maintained that woman was intellectually and morally
man’s superior, and ought therefore to have the place of honour. I can
still remember her asking Lord Billericay at dinner whether he didn’t
think the women and men of London were better dressed now than they used
to be: he said he was a bad judge, because he only came up to London
once a year, for the Harrow and Eton match (he meant the cricket match,
of course), and as a rule only stayed there till the Cambridge and
Oxford match. Nobody ever quite knew whether Esther Margate realized
what he was getting at. She used to dilate, too, on the unfairness of
talking about “Man,” when you meant the human race in general: Archie
Lock asked her if we ought to say “The proper study of mankind is
Woman”; she answered quite sharply, no, “womankind,” of course. I
believe some of her disciples went so far as to change their names; and
you certainly do meet people called Goodwoman and Newwoman now, which
you never used to. But her attempt to confine the suffrage to women was
foredoomed to failure, even if Juliet Savage had not organized her
campaign against it. It was conclusively shown that at least 27 per
cent. of the men who had votes regularly exercised their right.

This seems to be a very rambling sort of chapter, but who has a right to
ramble if it be not an old lady who has seen more than seventy summers?
I must not finish this chapter without giving a place in it to George
Hammond the historian. I never knew, I think, a more delightful
conversationalist. He was often at Greylands, and I was always trying to
draw him out, having that worst habit of hostesses, the habit of making
a man talk on his own subject. Once, for example, I asked him what he
thought was the really salient characteristic of the early twentieth
century (his special period) which distinguished the people of that time
from ourselves. “I have often wondered,” he said, “but I think you get
nearest to the truth by saying that they had no sense of humour—that is,
they had not got what we mean by the sense of humour. I’ve been at the
British Museum a good deal lately (that it, at the Cippenham annexe),
looking through the old newspapers of that period, the cheap newspapers
especially, and I think it’s quite impossible to suppose that the people
who liked to have that kind of thing served up with their breakfasts had
any sense of humour at all. If you took one of our grandfathers and put
him down opposite a series of drawings like, say, McGillivray’s, I don’t
think he’d see anything in them. Or take that joke in _Punch_ last
week—did you see last week’s _Punch_? Well, there are two men travelling
by railway, and one looks out of the window and says, ‘Cholsey and
Moulsford, change for Wallingford.’ And the other man says, ‘I should
jolly well think you did.’ Clever, isn’t it? But, you know, I don’t
believe they’d have seen anything funny in it in the twenties.”

There, I had forgotten the humorists! Lancelot Briggs-Wilde, what a
creator of merriment! And then there was the old Bishop of Birkenhead,
who had the reputation of being quite unrivalled as a _raconteur_. It
was he, I remember, who described to us how once at a missionary
festival he had a very shy curate staying with him; and at breakfast, it
seems, the eggs were not all that they should have been. The curate had
one that was really very far gone, and the Bishop, by way of apology,
said, “I’m afraid, Mr. So-and-so, your egg’s not very good.” “Oh, not at
all,” was the mild reply, “_it’s excellent in parts_.” We all told the
Bishop that he ought to send that up to _Punch_, but I don’t know if he
ever did.

We did not, I am afraid, see a great deal of the Anglican episcopate,
but of course Cardinal Smith was our near neighbour at Hare Street. He
was a great walker: and when he came over to luncheon he would nearly
always come on foot, although the distance was nearly three miles, and
he had an excellent helico. “I don’t like going the pace in this part of
Hertfordshire, Lady Porstock,” he once told me. “You see, I was brought
up in these parts—twelve years of my life—and somehow I’ve got the
leisurely spirit of them into my bones. When I die, I want them to bury
me under the station platform at St. Margaret’s, so that I can wait for
the Day of Judgment there; it’s easier waiting when you’re accustomed to

                              CHAPTER XIV

          Nor blame the Rock, whose slippery edge was splashed
          Only by waves your frantic struggling washed.
                                                  E. P. MASON.

My political career did not survive my husband’s death. The Holroyd
ministry, it will be remembered, went out in ’63, and the sense of
loneliness and depression I then felt did not allow me to stand again.
Since, however, a certain misunderstanding has arisen about this, and it
is necessary for me to clear, not only my own character, but the august
memory of James Holroyd, I may be pardoned for printing here the letter
which I received from him on its being made known that I did not intend
to seek re-election:

                                             AIX-LES-BAINS, _Oct. 12_.


  _I cannot tell you how sorry I am to hear that we are to lose your
  help at the forthcoming election. It is just the moment when
  splendid talents such as yours would be most useful to us. But I
  must not, of course, ask you to reconsider your decision. My own
  regret is shared, I need hardly tell you, in the fullest sense by my
  colleagues. I had a wireless only yesterday from Lord Brede to say,
  “Please express deep regret Lady Porstock very natural decision she
  has taken none more sorry than self to see ranks of old comrades in
  arms depleted tout lasse tout casse tout passe ac.ac.ac. Brede.” You
  will be glad to hear that Sir Hugh ffynes has consented to fill the
  Manchester N.W. (3) coupon, so that Liberalism in that constituency
  will not be without its worthy representative._

                                                 _Yours sincerely_,
                                                         JAMES HOLROYD

About this time Francis and Gervase, who had both done very well at
Eton, got leaving scholarships into the Guards. It was not so much the
financial side of this that appealed to me (the scholarships had the
effect of reducing the premium to £500) as the consciousness that my
boys were well thought of by their masters and were worthy grandsons of
Herbert Blisworth. And now what was left for me but to retire into the
background? And what is left for me, you will ask, but to retire into
the background, and bring these inconsequent memoirs to a conclusion?
Well, I confess that I have finished with public affairs; and if any of
my readers goes beyond this point, he must do it on the clear
understanding that he has let himself be betrayed into taking an
interest in the private affairs of a talkative old woman who was not,
after all, much of a personage even in her day. Her private affairs,
nay, her very private affairs, for what is so personal to each of us as
his or her attitude towards religion? And that is all I have left to
speak of. It is what we older folk begin to worry about when the
interests of youth desert us and the friends of youth are taken from our
side, and we find ourselves no longer battling with the winds of
circumstance, but volplaning steadily towards the drome that waits for
all of us at the last.

I know I have figured in these pages as a careless sort of butterfly,
untroubled by any thought of my last end. Perhaps my readers will be
disappointed in me at finding such a reversal of my old ways of thought.
But, be that as it may, old age and bereavement and the lack of
absorbing occupations combined to drive me in upon myself, and make me
think about my last landing. It was natural that in this position I
should turn for guidance to one who from quite an early age had
manifested an interest in my spiritual affairs, who, indeed, had
laughingly described himself as my “father professor,” Canon Dives.
Canon Dives I have written, for so I shall always remember him, but
indeed by this time he had attained that preferment for which his
exceptional qualities had long marked him out, as Episcopal Bishop of
Norwich.[15] So long as the Established Church remained a single body
(only weakened by the secession of the Feminists in ’46, and the
Enthusiasts in ’53), the Westernizing party had still sufficient weight
to hinder the advancement of one who had always been so outspoken a
champion of “relativist” views. But, as those of my readers who are
interested in such subjects will remember, in 1964, only five years
after Disestablishment became an accomplished fact, the ecclesiastical
map was yet further complicated by a schism within the old Church of
England. The Westernizers succeeded in securing for themselves that
recognition by the Orthodox Churches of the East which remained theirs
till, on the outbreak of the Great War, they were solemnly anathematized
and cut off from Communion. But they secured this advantage at the price
of separating themselves from the whole relativist party, which
contained within itself so much that was most striking in the intellect
of contemporary Christianity. At West Mill, our parish church had
remained Anglican (it was only in the towns that the old churches were
divided up among the various denominations), and at the schism Mr.
Rowlands, after much hesitation, pronounced in favour of the
relativists—it would have cost him a divorce to do otherwise—so that, at
least for his lifetime, the position of the parish was defined. I was
not very much influenced by this fact; but old friendship and the
outstanding personality of the new Bishop of Norwich made me, as I say,
turn to him.

I wrote, then, to Bishop Dives asking him for an exposition of the
Christian religion suited to the beginner—to one who had been accustomed
to regard the supernatural as not real, or, if real, not vital. He was
kind enough to send me by return a record taken from one of his own
recent sermons, preached at Holy Trinity Church, Brompton. It was part
of a course, but he said it was exactly the thing for one in my state of
mind. I mean to print the relevant part of it here.

“Everything is relative to a thinker. That is clear from the mere force
of words; for what is a thing but a thought? When I think a thing I at
the same time thing it: I give it thingness by thinking it. Now, that
all thought is relative to a thinker has long been clear so far as the
process of thought, what we call nowadays the thinkage, is concerned. It
is the boast of modern philosophy, trained, and proud to have been
trained, in the school of relativist Science, that it has gone further
than this. It assures us (I trust I make my meaning clear) that it is
not only our thinkage but our thoughtage that is relative to a thinker.
If I think that two and two are four—allowing, for the sake of argument,
that this is so, though I know well that there are serious difficulties
about believing it to be so—if I think that two and two are four, then
the fourness, if I may so express myself, of the two and the two
combined is part of my thoughtage, and relative to me as a thinker.

“But not, let us hasten to add, of my thoughtage only. It is part of the
race-thoughtage, the thoughtage which rises like an upgushing stream
from the harmonious and simultaneous thinkage of the human species. I
think we may go further, and say that it upgushes equally from the
thinkage of all other spiritual beings, if there are any other spiritual
beings in existence, and in so far as they exist. Now, when a thing is
merely the thoughtage of my thinkage, what does that prove? Why, nothing
or next to nothing; merely that it is thinkable. But when it is the
thoughtage not only of my thinkage but of the world-thinkage, then we go
further; then we are not content to say, This is thinkable; we must
needs add, This is thinkworthy. More than that we do not know, and we
shall never know. The old confidence that objects exist, outside of and
apart from our thinkage, is gone. The old confidence that things are
true, outside of and apart from our thinkage, is gone. That confidence,
valuable as it has been in the training of our race, and powerfully as
it has contributed to the development of our history, is no longer ours.
It made the fatal mistake of distinguishing and abstracting our
thoughtage from our thinkage. To repeat that mistake to-day would be to
argue as if Mosenheim and Poschling had never existed—I mean, in so far
as they ever did exist.

“Well, when first we realize that there is no such thing, properly
speaking, as existence, and no such thing, as truth, we feel, for a
time, unmanned. We are like aviators plane-wrecked on some little island
far from all help, with nothing around us but sea and air. And we
naturally ask ourselves, do we not, what have we saved from the wreck?
If we are no longer allowed to say, ‘This exists,’ or ‘This is true’—or,
at any rate, not allowed to say it without a great deal of
qualification, a very great deal of qualification—what can we say? Oh,
it is all right, my dear sisters and brothers, we have just one little
plank saved to us from the wreck. And what is that plank? Why, we can
still say, ‘This is thinkworthy.’ Oh, beautiful word, thinkworthiness!
And beautiful thing, thoughtworthiness, I mean think—thoughtthinkiness,
no, I don’t mean that (here the record is somewhat blurred, and it would
appear as if Bishop Dives must have blown his nose). Oh, beautiful
thing, thinkworthiness! If indeed thinkworthiness can be called a thing,
and in so far as it is right to do so.

“It is thinkworthy, my dear sisters and brothers, that two and two make,
or rather, in a phrase of less apparent grammar but more spiritual
meaning, makes, four. It is thinkworthy that any two sides of a triangle
are greater than the third. It is thinkworthy that thinks which are
equal to the same think—I mean, things which are equal to the same
thing, are equal to one another.

“Now, it is plain that all this is going to have a great influence, a
very great influence indeed, upon the religious conceptions of our day.
We used to say, for example, ‘The soul exists after death.’ We can no
longer say that; we have to reduce our thought, that is our thinkage, to
simpler elements. We have to say, ‘It is thinkworthy that if that thing
which we call the soul is thinkworthy at all, then that thinkworthiness
is still thinkworthy after death.’ Try it over a few times, and you will
find it quite easy. And do not suppose that because such a formula as
that has a less absolute and a less defiant ring about it than our old
formula, ‘The soul exists after death,’ therefore we have lost
something, and are poorer than our forefathers. No, oh no, quite the
contrary. For we know now, what they did not know, that thingness and
thinkworthiness are one. It cannot be too often repeated; in thinking a
thing we thing it: our thinkage—wonderful thought! I mean, wonderful
thoughtage!—thinks thingness into the thing! It cannot be too often
repeated, the man who thinks things things things!

“And another great advantage arises, once we have mastered this salutary
doctrine. The old religious formulas were always trying to make our
thoughts correspond with realities conceived as real, truths conceived
as true, outside of and apart from ourselves. They were always saying, I
believe in this, I believe in that—oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! A
generation or so back, there was a slang phrase which was used to
express incredulity; when you meant, ‘That is not true,’ you said, ‘I
don’t think!’ My dear sisters and brothers, there was a vast deal of
profound philosophy in that simple piece of slang! Mosenheim himself
would not have had them express themselves otherwise. If there is no
such thing as truth, and you may take it from me that there is not,
except in a very special sense which it would take too long to explain
to you now—if there is no such thing as truth, then we are not going to
burn one another for denying that this or that is true. We are going to
abandon Truth, and go forward boldly, none knows whither.

“What, then, is religion? The best definition that has been given of it
is, I suppose, Poschling’s: ‘Religion is that realization of the Ego
under the stimulus, real or apparent, of the Non-ego, which finds its
hyper-egoization in de-egoization and its de-egoization in
hyper-egoization.’ Let it stand at that. We will now return to the
short-sighted policy of Baasha”—the rest of Bishop Dives’ sermon did not
bear upon my immediate difficulties.

I confess I was somewhat troubled by the tone of Bishop Dives’
utterance. It seemed to me to show all his old grasp of philosophical
subtleties, but less than his old confidence in the claims of the
supernatural. Could it be, I asked myself, that my oracle had himself
changed with the change of the years, and gave forth now a different
note? I was so troubled by this thought that I wrote again, asking him
quite frankly to tell me if he thought his views were the same as when I
knew him at Oxford, or different; and, if different, whether they had
now reached a standstill, or whether they were still developing, and if
so in what direction? His answer was a candid avowal:


  _You have, with your usual directness and acumen, touched upon a
  point over which I have often questioned myself. Looking back over
  the years, it seems clear to me that my religious opinions have
  modified with time, and that, like the Greek poet long ago, “I grow
  old learning many things.” But, let it be observed, in these
  successive modifications of my point of view I am only following the
  example of what you and I recognize as being the Holy Catholic
  Church, which has learnt much, and, I think we may say, learned to
  forget much, since those early days when it seemed to dominate the
  world in the positiveness and self-assuredness of its youth._

  _Now, picture to yourself some acrobat who finds it necessary, in
  the exercise of his profession, to walk every day, before an
  audience of neck-craning yokels, from one point to another over a
  tight-rope. He finds it easier to accomplish this (owing to a simple
  but interesting law of physics) if he carries with him a heavy pole
  that assures his balance. By degrees he finds that his skill is
  becoming greater; habit has made his task light to him. What does he
  do? He has six inches chopped off either end of his pole, so that
  his performance becomes at once more hazardous and more remarkable.
  Six months later, he finds that he can afford to shorten it once
  more. And so on, my dear Lady Porstock, and so on, until the pole in
  his hand is but a short stump, hardly more significant than the
  staff with which Babylonian fancy pictured Jacob as having crossed
  over Jordan._

  _Is not that, if we will look into the facts closely, the position
  of the Church? It sets before itself one paramount object, the
  achievement of the Christian ideal; you and I will not quarrel, I
  think, as to what we mean by that. It is a difficult and a delicate
  task that it has set before itself; and it may well face the
  prospect with not much less misgiving than the acrobat who sees
  stretching before him the gossamer causeway of the tight-rope. And
  it starts out with a burden of dogmas and beliefs which encumbers
  it, and yet in encumbering it steadies its progress. And then, just
  as the acrobat, growing more steady on his narrow bridge of rope,
  finds himself capable of walking with less and less of pole to
  balance him, so the Church finds that with less and less of dogma,
  less and less of belief, it can walk along the narrow path
  prescribed for it to tread. Until the Reformation, it was able to
  steady itself by means of three things, tradition, the Bible, and
  human reason; the Reformation was the moment at which it decided
  that it could steady itself without tradition. In the nineteenth
  century, faced with the important claims of the evolutionary
  doctrine, it found that it could make a further advance still, and
  it cast aside the Bible as it had cast aside tradition, content to
  steady itself by human reason alone. It has been left to us in this
  century to learn that the human reason itself is an untrustworthy
  thing, on which it is fatal to repose any reliance; we are now
  learning, consequently, to dispense with the human reason equally._

  _What, then, is the end of this process, or has it an end at all?
  For myself, I am content to believe that it has not. From century to
  century, it seems to me, we learn to get on with less and less of
  belief in supernatural things to encourage or to justify us, and I
  see no limit to that development. I go further, and say that I do
  not wish to see any limit to that development. The less we believe,
  clearly, the more creditable it is in us to call ourselves
  Christians still. Our object, therefore, at all times must be to
  reduce belief to its irreducible minimum; we must believe as little
  as we can, and be constantly on the lookout for some method by which
  we may be enabled to believe even less. It is not easy, this search
  of ours; like hill-climbers, we are bounded by our own horizon, and
  cannot yet see the full possibilities of disbelief that lie ahead of
  us. And just as, surely, we do not blame Luther because, with his
  limited perspective, he failed to disbelieve in the Bible; just as
  we do not blame Kant because he could not see how to disbelieve in
  the human reason; so, let us hope, our descendants will not be too
  hard on us because here and there we were guilty, through mere
  shortsightedness, of setting limits to our incredulity._

  _And thus we come down to the very interesting question, Is there a
  vanishing-point? Will there come a time when we are able to call
  ourselves Christians without believing anything at all? For myself,
  I confess that I do not think so. It seems to me that it is an
  integral part of our Christian probation, this perpetual struggle to
  disbelieve; that, consequently, the residuum of belief must be
  conceived, not as a difference which will sooner or later disappear
  as the result of successive subtractions, but as a quotient with an
  infinite divisibility. To the last end of time, it seems to me, we
  shall be able to continue offering up the old prayer, that we may be
  helped in our unbelief._

  _There, dear Lady Porstock, you have my view of the case. I only
  hope that these stumbling words of mine may help you to know your
  own mind._

                                             _Yours quite sincerely_,
                                                     AMPHIBOLUS NORVIC

I had just finished reading this remarkable letter, and was engaged in
considering whether it was exactly what I wanted or exactly what I did
not want, when the teletypewriter that connected with the front door
rang at my elbow, and told me that Cardinal Smith had called. It was not
much past five, but I knew his old-fashioned habits, so I whistled for
tea and went down to show him up. When I saw him I had a curious
experience. There is a certain smile one only sees (I think) on the
faces of Catholic ecclesiastics, a smile which their friends call
sanctified and their enemies cunning. To me it had always seemed to say,
“I can afford to wait,” and it had always irritated me rather, as if its
cocksureness indicated that sooner or later he was bound to make a
proselyte of me. To-day it still seemed to say, “I can afford to wait,”
only I found myself attaching a different significance to it. Well, he
came up, and we had a long talk. I do not propose to describe it; after
all, this is not a religious autobiography. But soon afterwards, when I
was at my Chiswick house, I began to go to the Oratory for instruction.

This is all twenty years ago now, but I do not feel that I need give any
description of the Oratory and its ways, for whoever goes there now will
find it almost exactly the same as it was then—and has been, I suppose,
from a very much earlier time. I could not, of course, penetrate beyond
the enclosure: no one of my sex, I was told, had ever done so except
once when “Buffalo Bill’s” Indians came to tea—there were still Red
Indians in existence down to my own day, and some of these used to be
shown off as a circus turn in England, most of them Catholics. At the
last moment it was discovered that the good Fathers could not
distinguish braves from squaws, and some of the latter had already been
admitted into the garden by mistake! “But that was before my time,” said
the old priest who had instructed me. The long brown house, with its
old-fashioned carriage-sweep, watching unwinking the ceaseless grinding
flow of the Brompton Road platform; the stone façade of the church,
thrust out like a rock for the daily tide to eddy round, half trapped,
half free; the Fathers themselves, still, for all their
man-of-the-modern-worldliness, dressed in the very manner of St. Philip,
and taking their supper at a quarter to seven after the manner of Father
Faber; the interior of the church, housing indeed Saints whom Father
Faber had never heard of, yet still the same in its outlines—the same
red hangings, the same cope on the Lady statue, spoils of some old South
American emperor, the same Corpo Santo, grimed now with London dust till
it might have passed for St. Philip himself—all spoke to me of a
changelessness which was not dullness, a peacefulness which was not
stagnation. Oh yes, I know there are plenty of Congregations which have
their roots deeper in the history of the Church, their place in the
story of England yet longer and yet more honourable: but it is the
Oratory, with the life of the sixteenth century thrown on to the screen
of the nineteenth century, and there fixed as if for all time, that
stood and stands to me for type of the eternal tradition.

Am I confusing the merely interminable with the eternal? No, it was at
High Mass at the Oratory that I realized what eternity meant. The
frivolous might find them simply interminable, those long Mozart masses
that the Protestants go to hear. But if you are in the right spirit to
catch the message of the place, then you find eternity. The three
ministers, dwarfed by the height of the building, seem like ants
crawling about in the presence of Something immeasurably greater than
themselves: the Kyrie and the _Miserere nobis_ of the Gloria sound like
what they are, tributes of abject servility to a King whose audience no
unclean thing may approach; the spaciousness of the whole setting,
music, and building, and ceremonies, stands for a poor sacrament of that
Infinitude towards which all this self-annihilating homage is directed:
you see the work of man’s hands as the little doll’s house it is. In one
breathless moment of the Credo the heart seems to stop still, and all
becomes an eternal moment, that silence which is kept before the throne
of God.

I do not know why I should have said all this, or centred it all about
the Oratory, if it be not that Miss Linthorpe’s warning was right, and
there comes a time when you grow old, and drop out of your generation,
and the mind, satiated with the ceaseless pageant of the interminable,
craves for some outward expression of the eternal. Anyhow, my conversion
was neither a hysterical nor a sensational one. I kept very quiet about
it beforehand—why, I do not know, unless it be from some vague,
inherited instinct. It is true that at the time of which I type it is
doubtful whether one-fifth of the population of England was Catholic,
and that the act of being received into the Church was not quite the
everyday thing it is to us. But already things were very different from
my young days, when the Catholic Church was still regarded as something
desperate and melodramatic, a conspiracy against the public peace. I
remember, for example, when I was about ten years old how the news
reached us that a family friend had made his submission, and Lady
Trecastle, who was staying with us, talked about it in a hushed, shocked
voice as if it were a thing one could hardly mention in front of
children, although Lady Trecastle herself had no religious beliefs and
never went near a church if she could help it. The day of all that was
long over, yet somehow I felt shy and awkward about my religious
intentions, and mentioned them to nobody—concealed them, I am afraid,
rather deliberately, from Juliet Savage, whose keen criticism I confess
that I dreaded.

Actually it was in coming away from the ceremony of my reception that I
met her in the street. “Come and have luncheon somewhere,” she said,
“I’ve got something to tell you.” When we were comfortably ensconced at
_Les Rossignols_, she turned to me and said, “Opal, my dear, I’ve just
become a Catholic.” I said in a stupefied way, “So have I.” Then we
giggled idiotically for a little; and cross-questioning proved that she
also had written to Bishop Dives, and had been sent identically the same
sermon-record! She then ordered a rather good Volnay, and when it
appeared, leaning over coquettishly in its basket, she said, “Let us
hope that this is drinkable, if not actually drinkworthy. Personally,
I’ve got a droughtage on me which will demand a good deal of drinkage.”

                               CHAPTER XV

               Our fathers, a degenerate race,
               Begot us scoundrels, to give place
               To something meaner yet unborn.
                                   HORACE, tr. STAPLETON.

I suppose it is inevitable that those of us who have lived through a
great world-crisis, such as the late war, should ask themselves or
should be asked by others what it was like just before the crisis
happened? How postured did the time of reckoning find us? Were we
playing on, all unconscious, at the brink of a volcano? Or were we
prepared—materially, morally, spiritually prepared—for what was to come
upon us? The question is obviously not an easy one to answer. It is not
easy to wipe out, even in imagination, the impressions left by nearly
three years of war atmosphere and war strain. But, if only because there
are not many of us left whose birth dates right back to the Five Years’
War, the last occasion when Europe became an armed camp, I feel that I
ought to try and give my answer to that question, before I close these
memoirs and bow myself out, to make way for younger authors with other

I do not intend, however, to say anything much about our merely material
preparation for the war. It is, after all, a question for experts: and
the event proved that all the combatant countries were far better
prepared for hostilities than the general public had ever supposed they
would be. It is a commonplace that in any war either the offensive or
the defensive arm is the better equipped, in advance of its rival. In
this case, there can be no doubt at all that our defensive had outrun
our offensive preparations. This was not generally known; indeed in our
own country and in many others the comparatively small results achieved
by our striking force became the subject of severe and quite undeserved
criticism. The truth is, that Science does not lightly forget her
humanitarian purpose; and (it is important to remember) the amazing
efficiency of the Secret Service work done in the interests of the
various belligerents in the long period between 1919 and 1972 had made
it easy for the authorities in each country to know what was in store
for them and to prepare against it. For the heroic and self-sacrificing
work done by that noble body of men, the Secret Service Agents (mostly
of Japanese origin, I believe), Europe and humanity itself can never be
too grateful.

What was the effect of it? Why, that Mars, as in the old Greek legend,
found himself in fetters. We, like the enemy, had put our faith in the
invincible quality of our heavy artillery, not realizing that they, like
us, had prepared a system of mine defences for their troops which made
heavy artillery a back number. We told ourselves that our aerial fleet,
superior both in numbers and in efficiency to any Continental fleet, was
bound to make life insupportable in the larger enemy towns: the
calculations of our enemy were exactly similar. Neither of us could
foresee that long deadlock which resulted from the “stranglehold” we
exercised over the enemy’s dispositions; neither of us could foresee
that both sides would come out of the war with their air fleet
practically untouched. Again, the typhus-germs from which we expected so
much proved utterly ineffective against nations which had inoculated
their children against typhus from infancy: and similarly, their
dastardly plan (contrary to all the rules of civilized warfare) of
infecting London with bubonic plague came too late when Milling’s
discovery had made the bubonic plague a matter of three days in bed. In
fact, if it had not been for the hitherto unrealized strength of British
propaganda, it is difficult to see how the war could have resulted in
anything but a complete stalemate.

But the question, Were we prepared for the war? involves deeper and more
spiritual issues than this. What manner of men were we when that sudden
strain was put upon our moral fibre? That is what posterity will want to
know. And first of all, let me say that it is of England, not of the
other belligerents, that I intend to speak. After all, on the admission
of her enemies and even of her allies, it was she who bore the brunt of
the conflict. Going into it with less, I suppose, of religious
inspiration than France, with a Government less efficient, because less
autocratic, than that of the United States, and with material resources
not capable of competing with those of Brazil, she has achieved such a
measure of victory as is indicated by the fact that her war indemnity,
if it is ever paid, will amount to little less than a tenth of her war
debt. It is not, then, simply because England is my own country, and
because, a stay-at-home by nature, I have little inside information
about other peoples, but because it was upon Great Britain that, in
those fateful three years, the eyes of the world were centred, that I
confine myself in this chapter to a survey of English conditions and
English ideals.

“Show me,” that great philanthropist Peterson used to say, “how the poor
of a nation live, and I will tell you whether that nation is alive.” In
this respect, it must be confessed, the record of England at that time
was indeed a black one. Huddled together in slums and rookeries, whose
“model” flats often had to contain two families where only one could
live with comfort, the poor were stifled from the first by overcrowding.
It must be remembered that the poorer classes had, as usual, larger
families than the rich, and it was no uncommon thing to find four or
five children living in the same tenement with their parents. Many of
these poor little mites got no more than a fortnight’s holiday at the
seaside every year, and had nowhere to play in except the public parks.
In return for their school attendance they were paid a mere pittance,
and only the simplest possible fare was provided for them by the school
authorities. It was piteous, as one moved about the poorer parts of
London, to see their untidy hair, their crumpled collars and dirty
handkerchiefs. Small wonder that disease spread quickly in such
surroundings, and it was estimated that child-mortality in the poorer
quarters of the large towns was fully one in a thousand. For a time, of
course, the influence of the school kept them out of harm’s way, but at
seventeen or eighteen, just at the most impressionable period of life,
their schooling must perforce come to an end, and, hardly more than
boys, they were thrust out into the world to shift for themselves.
Often, of course, drink or gambling would be responsible for the worst
cases of poverty; but often, too, it would be mere ill-luck or imprudent
under-insurance that left them stranded when they were out of work. Too
proud to accept relief from any of the thirty-eight organizations that
offered it, these unfortunates would drag out a wretched existence on
such doles as their Union and the National Beneficent Fund could afford
them. It is true, and fortunately true, that we have now done much to
remedy this terrible state of things; but in 1972 it was no exaggeration
to say that the conditions of life in our great cities stood up in
witness against us.

As usual, overcrowding in the towns went hand in hand with, and was
partly caused by, rural depopulation. In all the country districts it
was the same story—you could not get the young people to remain on the
land. It was difficult to blame them; wages were so low that an
unskilled agricultural labourer was hardly paid on the same scale as a
governess; the cottages for the most part were mere eight-roomed hovels,
and the deafening noise and incessant whirr of the machinery made the
farmyard a good imitation of the Inferno. Machinery was continually
replacing human labour, almost faster than the diminution in the
birth-rate could keep pace with the process. Besides, there were few
amusements which could make the country towns and villages compare in
amenity with the large manufacturing centres: the cinemas often had no
afternoon performances, and such dances as there were seldom lasted
later than midnight. It was no wonder that the lure of the great cities
continued to exercise its spell over the young and the ambitious.

The effect of these bad conditions on the health of the nation was
plainly shown during the war itself, when the various “classes” came up
for medical examination. Of the total manhood of Great Britain,
one-tenth were liable to vertigo, such as prevented them either from
going up in aircraft or else from going down into the pits. Something
like 13 per cent. suffered from Pollock’s inhibition, either in the form
of actonism (reluctance to kill) or of athanism (reluctance to die).
Eight per cent. were declared unfit through psophophobia, which made
them unable to stand loud noises. Another six per cent. had taxiphobia,
and could not serve in the ranks. Ochlophobia, capnophobia, pyrophobia,
zophophobia, atenxipodia, and other more ordinary nervous diseases, such
as Blast’s inhibition, swelled the total of non-combatants. In all it is
doubtful whether 40 per cent. of the men who were of military age could
have been called upon to fight. Happily, most of the unfit were
available for the much needed work of propaganda, since only a small
percentage were troubled with pseudophobia, which alone was treated as
ground for exemption from this class of work.

But, it hardly needs to be said, these same causes produced moral
results as well as physical. Just before the outbreak of hostilities, we
were all very much concerned about the attitude of organized Labour,
which had never indeed been in power since Ropes’s ill-fated Government,
but had always been a strong political, and a still stronger economic
influence, in the counsels of the country. There had not for some time
been any actual strike on a large scale, the “secret service” both of
employers and of labourers being sufficiently well informed to prevent
any miscalculation: threats of strikes and of lock-outs were common, but
it seldom proved necessary to call your adversary’s bluff. Still, the
Unions were an important power. Ever since the thirties it had been
illegal for any manual worker not to belong to the union of his trade;
and this fact had strengthened the numerical force of the unions without
in any way moderating their counsels since the time when (I think in the
fifties) shop stewards began to be appointed by examination instead of
election. The hot-heads were always in the controlling positions: what
would the effect of this be in the event of the country going to war?
The International Labour Convention held at Innsbruck in ’67 had passed
a series of unanimous resolutions designed to render all future war
impossible by means of concerted sabotage. Fortunately, the alleged
violation of Article 259 by the British workers, and the suspected
violation of Article 283 by the U.S. workers, had the effect of
rendering the whole compact nugatory. But the temper of Labour in all
countries was, throughout the war, distrustful and frequently menacing.

At the other end of the scale, there can be no doubt that the paying
classes, by the luxury and frivolity of their lives, showed equally
little preparedness for a great emergency. Mere wealth seemed to be the
only passport to Society, and blood counted for nothing: the old
hereditary aristocracy who could trace their honours back to the
beginning of the century were swamped by a crowd of new creations. No
doubt in many ways we were more civilized than our fathers; the coarse
old type that would fill a quarter of a glass with whisky, or motor at
breakneck speed along country lanes, had disappeared; it was hard to
imagine the rude days (which I can just remember) when the ladies left
the dinner-table half an hour or so before the men, “leaving the
gentlemen,” as it was called, “to their wine.” But if we had lost some
of the coarseness, we had also lost much of the salutary sternness and
moral earnestness of my young days. In the twenties and thirties the
Divorce Court, although it was already fairly busy, did still carry with
it, even for non-Catholics, a certain savour of impropriety. The novels
and the plays of the period, although many of them offend our modern
taste by the coarseness of their expression, must, by comparison with
our own, be freed from the charge of suggestiveness. We gambled in those
days, but you still had to go abroad to do it on a large scale; there
was no wireless installation to report the winning numbers on the tape
machines of our West-End Clubs.

Family life, too, meant far more to us in the early part of the century
than it did in the sixties and seventies. Even in London, husband and
wife would share the same flat and entertain each other’s friends. When
they paid visits of pleasure, to hunt, or to fish or to shoot deer (they
were not content to photograph them as we do!), they often travelled
together; and there would have been something ludicrous in the idea of a
husband and wife meeting one another unexpectedly at a country-house
party or at a dinner. Fathers would take an active interest in the
education of their children, and sometimes even be called in to reprove
them for a fault. Girls, until the age of seventeen or eighteen, usually
lived with their parents, and did not go about without somebody to take
care of them. Boys did not expect to be provided with latch-keys until
they were twenty-one! For myself, I never had one until I set up my own
establishment; nor did I feel aggrieved at the deprivation. I do not
mean that all these things are particularly important; and indeed, the
old tradition seems fussy and unnecessary to us nowadays; but this
strictness of guardianship did stand for symbol of a certain orderliness
and discipline of behaviour, which I miss sometimes, I am afraid, among
the young ladies and the young gentlemen of a later generation! There
was something to be said, after all, for the rugged old Puritan school
which wore dark suits on Sundays, thought chewing unladylike, and held
that night-clubs were “not the thing” for young girls.

How much this difference of outlook is the result of a decline in the
matter of religious conviction, I cannot feel any certainty. As I see
things, religion does not so often dictate to the world its standards of
behaviour—a morality, or even a hypocrisy, can sometimes do that with
equal effect—as help men and women to live up to the standards of the
time and to rise above them. But I am afraid there is no doubt that in
the sixties and seventies we had lost, in great measure, the unclouded
faith and simple piety of the twenties and thirties. The religious
revival in the Nonconformist Federation, which took place early in the
sixties, was marked by no less extraordinary indications of spiritual
exaltation than the revivals of earlier centuries; but alas! the total
numbers of those who were affected by any movement within this body was
no longer very considerable. The secession of the “Enthusiasts” in ’53
had drained the Anglican Church of all the elements in its own body
which might have responded to a call of this kind. The Westernizers
seemed to have no energy but for Church politics; they achieved, indeed,
for a few years the long-cherished dream of reunion with the crumbling
relics of Byzantine Christianity, but it was only in the character of
Little Bo-peep that they were able to do so. The bulk of what had been
the “good-will” of the Anglican connexion remained with the Relativist
Party, the historical descendant of the old Liberal school of thought.
The relativists were men of considerable intellectual force and deeply
religious temperament, but hampered, as any religious body must be, by a
total absence of belief in the supernatural. In the generation that had
intervened between my girlhood and my old age Catholicism indeed had
spread, but England had ceased to be a Christian country.

Whether or no decline in religion was the cause of it, it is certain
that during that same generation the rigid virtues of the mid-Georgian
era had been dissipated or obscured. A statesman of that earlier period
would have resented the imputation of openly using his official
knowledge to secure a business deal: we think of such an attitude as
quixotic, but there was a certain nobility about it. The Press of that
earlier period would have scorned to hush up a public scandal just
because influential people were implicated in it: we call that a
sentimental prejudice, but at least it was an error in the right
direction. A divine of that earlier period would have felt a delicacy
about subscribing to a formula of belief with which he found himself in
total disagreement; it was a scruple, perhaps, but surely a scruple
which did him honour. Men thought strenuously in those days, and lived
earnestly, and worked without thought of reward. “Bliss was it in that
dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven”—I can never read
those lines of Wordsworth without being reminded of my girlhood’s days;
and of more than one figure in the public life of that time I am tempted
to say, with the regretful tone of one who has outlived her generation:
“He was a man, take him for all in all, We shall not look upon his like

I cannot resist quoting, while I am on this subject, some words from the
very last letter I ever received from my friend Lady Polebridge.[16]
“You and I, my dear Opal,” she typed, “belong to a generation that is
disappearing, and will not regret us (for who ever does really regret
us?) when we are gone. Nothing so strongly affects me, when I look back,
as the strong sense of the mutability of human things. We poor creatures
choose our own friends, make our own groups round us, only for the rude
hand of circumstance to redistribute and rearrange us when it wills. No
illusion lasts, no experience is other than transitory. And yet when we
look back upon our young days, we can surely say that there was more of
stability and permanence about those peaceful, slow-going times than we
can find in the bustle and hurry of to-day. Our youth belongs to the
last generation of English life that really saw life steadily and saw it
whole; that really had its innermost core rooted in the hard rock of
purposeful, strenuous living. I shall not be sorry to go, when my turn
comes, to a world full of the shadows of my old companions, where I
shall perhaps find peace at last.”

Those words were written in 1971, only a year before the war actually
broke out, and when, of course, we all saw that it was coming. Such then
were the impressions of us older folk; and now let me leave it to my
younger readers to say whether since then, with all the good resolutions
we made when the crisis was upon us, we have really gone forward or gone
back? Have we really fulfilled the promise of those desperate moments
when, under the shadow of a world-catastrophe, we thought we had for
once seen ourselves as we would like to be? Let me quote, though they
have been often quoted, the words of Mrs. Bisset, in the early part of
1975, that rang like a trumpet-call throughout the theatrophones of the
civilized world:

“We shall not lightly forget the lessons of the recent conflict. If we
have learned that human nature, even in its degradation, can rise in its
might and throw off its old evil habits under the stimulus of a great
emergency, we will tell ourselves, in the years to come, that this human
nature is worth labouring for and worth fighting for. If we have seen,
at the same time, that the ideals which once satisfied and the
conditions which once contented us were ideals which ambition should
have despised, and conditions which dignity should have resented, we
will remember in the days to come that we must never again let ourselves
be duped by the ignoble lure of a false peace. We have fought for
honour, for civilization, for high aims and pure enthusiasms: we have
met the powers of evil, and forced upon them the conditions of a not
dishonourable peace. And the power which has been generated by these
years of relentless friction will, if we but canalize it aright,
galvanize through centuries to come the failing dynamos of humanity.”

So it looked to us in ’75; I leave it to the consciences of my readers
to determine whether we have lived up to those heroic sentiments.

And now I must unslip the catch, and put the lid upon my well-worn
typewriter. I cannot tell what verdict will be passed on my poor
efforts. In the old days, when reviewers held themselves bound to read
through a book before they recorded their impressions of it, I should no
doubt have had my weak points discovered by the eye of unfriendly
criticism; to-day, one can still hope that one’s deficiencies will pass
unobserved! I am afraid, now I come to look back over the record, that
after all it is a chronicle of small doings; if I had known that I was
to write reminiscences in my old age, perhaps I would have travelled
further in search of impressions, and striven higher so as to satisfy my
readers with the story of greater things. As it is, it must pass for an
old woman’s gossip; and as such, let us hope that it will be lightly

I have sometimes thought that it would be a pleasant occupation for the
fancy to throw oneself forward into the future, and to write the
imaginary reminiscences of an old lady, one’s granddaughter, who was
putting print to paper in 2050! What a strange picture she would give of
ourselves! How often she would hit the mark, how often miss it by a
hair’s-breadth! She would let us see ourselves, I suppose, as a race of
almost legendary heroes, to be spoken of with bated breath: ours would
be the rugged virtues and the quaint, old-world ways! But the author who
should attempt such a flight of the imagination would, no doubt, be
accused not only of fantasy in his forecasts of the future, but of
misrepresentation in the picture he gave of his own times. It would be a
perilous task; let me present the idea to anyone who will make use of

And so let me close my story, with a kindly thought for all my readers,
and a tranquil regard for my own approaching end. That regard I cannot
express better than in some old lines which I found in a book of
travels[17]—the identity of the original author is uncertain:

             Look upward, for the sky is not all cloud.
             Look forward, think not of the dismal shroud.
             No lane but has a turning, and no road
             That leads not somewhere to a warm abode.
             Take courage. If the day seems rather long,
             The cooling dew will fall at evensong.
             Believe, and Doubt is sure to slink away;
             Doubt is a cur, and Fear is but a fool;
             Rely upon yourself and let your stay
             Be the observance of the heavenly rule.
             Never say die; and do not be afraid;
             At eventide the wages will be paid.

                      INDEX OF PERSONS REFERRED TO

 Adgate, Sir Mark, his curious watch, 133

 Albert, H.R.H. Prince (afterwards King Albert I), 202

 Amboise, Mademoiselle, 21

 “Antoinette,” her prescription, 80

 Archdale, Leonard, the actor, 95

 Banks, Wynefryde, 30, 118

 Bates, Sir Arthur, his intrepid candidature, 151

 Billericay, Lord, 129, 147, 177, 184, 187, 207

 Birkenhead, Bishop of, amusing anecdote told by, 208

 Bisset, Mrs., on War-aims, 238

 Blisworth, Lady, 1, 10, 22, 25, 43, 73, 183

 Blisworth, Lord, 1, 4, 11, 14, 16, 25, 81, 82

 Bowles, Dr., 74

 Brede, Marquis of, 166‒168, 211

 Breder, Dr., on raw tomatoes, 137

 St. Briavel’s, Countess of, 129

 de Brignard, Comtesse, _see_ Tarporley.

 Burstall, the “Futurist” artist, 173, 202

 Bythorpe, Lord, his versatility, 41

 Cheadle, Lord, his speech at Oxford, 41

 Combe, Lady, 88‒92, 112‒114, 126, 180

 Combe, Sir Richard, 88, 127

 Crawshall, “Dick,” rides a bicycle, 131

 Cubitt’s house at Eton, 183

 Dives, Canon, 45‒47, 50, 51, 119‒122, 188, 212, 213‒221, 225

 Dolman, Dr., chest specialist, 158

 Drake, Mrs., _see_ Lushcombe.

 Druce, Mr., Superintendent of the Berthellot Institute, 77‒79

 Drysdale, Lady Jacynth, her coloured teeth, 131

 Drywater, Professor, of Aberdeen, on travelling expenses, 162

 Ducie, John, his reckless feats, 134

 Engelberg, Baroness, _see_ Sholto.

 Engelstein, Lady, 131, 188

 Farnham, the Hon. Mrs., 151

 Fearon, Hon. Algernon, his unusual accomplishment, 130

 Feilding, Dr., of Christ Church, a popular lecturer, 36

 ffynes, Sir Hugh, 211

 Fitzgerald, the actor, 95

 von Fleissing, Landgrab, on religion, 60

 Forres, Lady Anne, 38

 Fothergill, Professor, the younger, 194

 Frodsham’s house at Eton, 183

 Garvice, Miss, on the Absolution, 44

 Geraghty, Daniel, Prime Minister of Ireland, 194

 Goodge, Dame Beatrice, 205

 Grant, the late Mrs., 133

 Griggs, Holbeach, 138‒142

 Grosheim, Lady Georgina, 131, 139, 140, 187

 Gunter, Sir Hubert, 145, 165, 166

 Hammond, George, the historian, 146, 207

 Harkness, Francis, 128, 158, 177, 179, 190, 191, 211

 Harkness, Gervase, 128, 157, 158, 177, 185, 190, 211

 Harkness, Wilson, _see_ Porstock, Lord.

 Hawkesley, Tulip, 30

 Hazelbright, Sir Philip, 157

 Henricourt, the novelist, 196‒197

 Hodges, James, 122‒124, 127, 176

 Hodgkins, Trevor, his breakfast at the Zoo, 135

 Holbrook, the actor, 95

 Holly, Lady Frances, does “knitting”, 131

 Holroyd, The Right Hon. James, 155‒157, 162, 166, 168‒170, 210, 211

 Hopedale, Viscount, 145, 147, 150, 152, 163, 188

 Hopgood, Frank (afterwards White-Elephant-at-Arms), 106, 130

 Hopgood, Irene, an exacting guest, 130

 Hopkins, _see_ Engelberg.

 Hopps, Adèle, and her hair, 132

 Hoskyns, of B.N.C., the geographer, 35, 42, 43, 119

 Humbledon, Lady, 139

 Krausenberg, Dr., his theory of education, 180

 Labadie, 95

 Leek, Sapphire: Countess of, 137, 195

 Lennox, the artist, 186, 202

 Lestrange, General, 14

 Lieberts, “Tommy”, 129, 153, 188

 Linklater, Sybil, Lady, her revolving ball-room, 136

 Linthorpe, Miss, 12, 13, 43, 51, 65, 66‒71, 122, 123, 191, 224

 Linthorpe, _see also_ Blisworth, Lady.

 Lock, “Archie”, 132, 135, 140, 142, 175, 177, 187, 207

 Lushcombe, Lady, _see_ Stockdale.

 Macdonald, “Fatty”, 30

 McGillivray, the comic artist, 208

 McGinnis, His Grace Duke, 100

 McKechnie, Mrs., her “Reminiscences Edwardian and Albertian”, 148, 149

 Mainwaring, the poet, 189

 Margate, Esther, her acute feminism, 206‒207

 Marrett, Lady, 204

 Massachussets, Lady, 109, 110

 Merewether, Dame Louise, her recklessness and caution, 135, 137

 Mersham, Miss, numismatics mistress, runs away, 29

 Michigan, Duke of, 131

 Millthorpe, Viscount, 150

 Montrose, Miss, Head Mistress, 18‒20, 165

 Murchison, General, 102

 van Murphy, Mr. and Mrs., 104‒105

 Myslok, the novelist, 63

 Nuneaton, Angela Lady, 135, 138, 139

 O’Leary, the actor, 95

 O’Leary, the K.C., 192‒193

 O’Shaugnessy, President (U.S.A.), 9

 Palliser, Capt. Jane, 30

 Partridge, Mrs. Justice, 193

 Perse, Lord, 169

 Peterson, the philanthropist, 229

 Philpotts, Dame Horatia, 154‒155

 Pirbright, Edgar, the poet, 185, 199

 Polebridge, Lady, 78, 93, 116‒118, 126, 175, 186, 198, 237

 Poltwhistle, Lord Chief Justice, 192

 Porstock, Wilson Lord, 100, 109‒111, 124‒127, 142, 170, 189

 Poughkeepsie, Lord and Lady, 103‒105

 Pulbrooke, Countess of (in her own right), 167, 174, 187

 Rivers, Mrs., on chewing, 107

 Ropes, Charles, 99, 147, 148

 Rowlands, Rev. Agape, 86, 87, 89‒92, 108, 109, 114‒116, 124, 127, 158,

 Rowlands, Rev. Didymus, 85, 87, 90, 91, 213

 Rymer, Sir Alexander, 74

 Sanderson, the Præteritist portrait-painter, 201‒205

 Sandham, Lord, wears “starched” collars, 133

 Sandridge, Dr., Head-Master of Eton, 185

 Savage, Juliet, 30, 31, 39, 41, 52, 77, 79, 86, 118, 119, 122, 125,
    144, 172, 177, 187, 188, 206, 225

 Schultz, Herr, the pædagogist, 178‒180

 Shanks, Dr., 73

 Sholto, Mrs., _see_ Drake.

 Sitwell, Dame Mary, the scalp specialist, 132

 Smith, H.E., Cardinal, Archbishop of Westminster, 189, 209, 221, 222

 Sonnenschein, Miss, 77

 Spink, Mrs., authoress of _Eugenics for Lower Forms_, 137

 Stockdale, Lady, _see_ de Brignard.

 Tarporley, Mrs., _see_ Travers-Grant, Lady.

 Tonks, Arthur, Regius Professor of Statistics, 163

 Toogood, Ena, 37

 Townshend’s house at Eton, 183

 Travers, Eustace, his versatility, 41

 Travers-Grant, Lady, _see_ Polebridge.

 Trecastle, Lady, 13, 14, 224

 Trecastle, Lord, the last of the beavers, 133

 Tremayne, James, his solution of the exchange problem, 98

 Tryer, Dr., her methods, 75, 76

 Winterhead, _see_ Blisworth, Lord.

 Woollcombe, Miss, the bowler, 24

 Wrightman, the sculptor, 173

   _Printed in Great Britain by_ Butler & Tanner, _Frome and London_


Footnote 1:

  Meaning, of course, the Five Years’ War.

Footnote 2:

    Miss Linthorpe’s record did not seem so extraordinary then as it
    would now; even as late as the fifties I remember a few young men
    of thirty or thirty-five who had still some of their own teeth

Footnote 3:

  Previously Baroness Engelberg, née Hopkins.

Footnote 4:

  Previously Mrs. Sholto, previously Baroness Engelberg, née Hopkins.

Footnote 5:

  Previously Mrs. Drake, previously Mrs. Sholto, previously Baroness
  Engelberg, née Hopkins.

Footnote 6:

  Curiously enough, this hymn was written by a lady who afterwards
  became a Catholic, early in the century.

Footnote 7:

  This was Augustus Hemmerde, afterwards famous as a dramatist.

Footnote 8:

  This, it will be remembered, actually happened, and the raising of the
  premium to £7,500 was one of the chief counts against the Tory Party.

Footnote 9:

  My father always used to speak of this as “the Coalition Government.”
  The name Cabal was invented by later historians to distinguish it from
  the 1974 Coalition; the names that suggested it were those of
  Churchill, Arthur (Balfour), Birkenhead, Austen (Chamberlain) and
  Lloyd (George).

Footnote 10:

  The records are, however, somewhat scratched as the result of the fire
  at Cippenham in ’73.

Footnote 11:

  Previously Lady Lushcombe, previously Mrs. Drake, previously Mrs.
  Sholto, previously Baroness Engelberg, née Hopkins.

Footnote 12:

  The boys did not get any fees at all for staying at the school during
  the holidays, which, as it was against the rules, they nearly always

Footnote 13:

  Previously Lady Stockdale, previously Lady Lushcombe, previously Mrs.
  Drake, previously Mrs. Sholto, previously Baroness Engelberg, née

Footnote 14:

  Previously Mrs. Tarporley, previously Mme de Brignard, previously Lady
  Stockdale, previously Lady Lushcombe, previously Mrs. Drake,
  previously Mrs. Sholto, previously Baroness Engelberg, née Hopkins.

Footnote 15:

  The title distinguishes him from the Ecumenical Bishop of Norwich, Dr.

Footnote 16:

  Previously Lady Travers-Grant, previously Mrs. Tarporley, previously
  Mme. de Brignard, previously Lady Stockdale, previously Lady
  Lushcombe, previously Mrs. Drake, previously Mrs. Sholto, previously
  Baroness Engelberg, née Hopkins.

Footnote 17:

  _ap._ Baring, Collected Works, Vol. IV, p. 231. The attribution of the
  lines to Wordsworth is now generally discredited.


                          TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES

 1. Silently corrected typographical errors and variations in spelling.
 2. Retained anachronistic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings as
 3. Footnotes have been re-indexed using numbers and collected together
      at the end of the last chapter.
 4. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.

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