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920.02 L63s 
Salutation to five 









Biography Index Reprint Series 


First Published 1951 by Hollis and Carter, Ltd. 
All rights reserved 

Reprinted 1970 by arrangement with The Bodley Head Limited 







RETROSPECT .. .. .. .. i 

I. MRS. FITZHERBERT . . . . . . z6 

n. EDMOND WARRE . . . . . . 42 

m. SIR WILLIAM BUTLER . . . . . . 66 

IV. LEO TOLSTOY . . . . . . . . 99 

V. SIR MARK SYKES . . . . 133 

^ 7104961 



THE five essays in biography which compose this volume 
Edmond Warre, Headmaster of Eton; Sir William 
Butler, British General and Irish patriot; Sir Mark 
Sykes, Orientalist and traveller; Mrs. Fitzherbert, wife of 
George IV; and Leo Tolstoy have little in common except 
their personal interest in my mind for this preface is 

They need framing in the manner that old photographs are 
glued into a family scrap-book. They need not be relatives 
but may be objects of hero-worship. All five have been so 
much a part of my life that I feel I shall carry their remem 
brance away with me. Warre, the god of Eton days; 
Butler, my first steersman on Irish troubled water; Tolstoy, 
inspiration of my Paris days; Mark Sykes, an Occidental 
star who dipped under the horizons of Versailles not to 
reappear, Mrs. Fitzherbert, naturally, was the one of the 
five I could not know while she lived. But her mysterious 
and gracious memory had remained like a family ghost in 
my home and I was destined to be her final champion with 
the pen. 

llie others passed one by one into my impressionable ken 
until I felt the debt could only be paid by writing. While 
weaving each into essay form, I found my own mind s 
biography collecting in the margins: like dust upon the 

Life is too short to decide whether chance or heredity, 
choice or environments play the strongest influences. All 
shared in mine but particularly certain characters, some 
strong and some quaint or queer. Thanks to books, one 
can double and redouble life s brevity. In a great library 
one can taste or drain the life-blood of the great writers* 
But the great who have not written, one must follow awhile 
and write into literature for oneself. 

Autobiography is the result of following back one s own 


tracks and recording impressions which may one day be 
examined like any dead film of the past. 

The mind of man is like some indestructible toy. It brings 
back visions out of invisible memory and it can construct 
possible futures. There is no doubt which is the more 
restful. Everyone who can think a little can flutter backwards 
in his own life or borrow the mightier wings of great writers. 
Not for nothing did the Latin for feather give us the word 
for pen\ 

I have found the power of fluttering back one of the 
pleasantest variants to life. I have envied the power of the 
Lady of Shalott to sit in a trance and watch a mirrored world 
pass by. The mirror of the mind is literature. The supreme 
gift of an education is the power of reading, the fascination 
of dipping into other worlds and being able to conjure greater 
spirits than oneself. 

It reconciled me to being a sap at Eton under the athletic 
reign of Warre when any appreciation of literature left one 
despised and avoided. This was otherwise in the more 
civilised parts of the School, but I was dropped into a 
dark corner. 

I was glad to exchange the Playing Fields for the Champs 
filys^es of Paris before I had been confirmed in Church 
principles or even in the right style of rowing. 

The exploration of Letters kept me busily delighted in the 
Latin Quarter and I could have subscribed to what a great 
poet picked as the greatest line in Kipling: concerning fools 
that were flannelled and oafs that were muddy. The France 
of 1 900 was largely innocent of the games of sport. Generally 
speaking, the Arts took their place. I once asked what 
incident most symbolised the gulf between English and 
French mentality. I was told that the sight of the Bishop 
of London playing a set of tennis with the President of the 
United States had been the most incomprehensible to the 
French. In France a Bishop and a President would as likely 
meet in a cafS over a game of dominoes 1 

The fact was that England emerged from the nineteenth 
"century soaked in athletics. Every class clamoured for sport 
which was often healthier than today, for everyone attempted 


to pky. Even the cheerful British form of politics was 
treated as a game. It was from the Speaker that the umpires 
of England learnt their integrity. 

Warre certainly made Eton and all lesser schools in her 
wake athletic. That he was great in other ways our essay 
will show. The intellectual side was permitted by the masters 
but utterly scorned by the boys. The masters were 
ludicrously uneven, some incapable, others quaint unto 
caricature but amongst them were Arthur Benson and Hugh 
Macnaghten. I was lucky enough to serve two halves under 
Benson and four under Macnaghten. This alone was real 
education according to Plato. Boys fortunate enough to 
enjoy their teaching received an inspiration which has 
probably never been attained since. I cannot think of any 
modem Classes receiving such stimulation unless Bernard 
Shaw were given a Dramatic Class at Eton or Winston were 
made Head of Harrow. 

Had I been at Macnaghten s House, I would have made 
him the hero of my Eton essay, but I only keep a score of 
letters and his memory lies in the graves of his boys who fell 
in the First World War. Thank God, he did not see the 
Second. The tragedy of his last years and his death in the 
river were sufficient. Macnaghten proved that Fifth Form 
boys will follow however high a form-master soars, provided 
they think him genuine. Benson behind his veil of melancholy 
made boys appreciate the niceties of language, comment, 
humour and a little irony. Also he told the English anecdote 
to perfection. His end was as miserable as Macnaghten s as 
though overstrain had played upon the over-gifted. 

It was the rugged, yet almost radiant, Warre who furnished 
the background of the Eton I knew. He must have changed 
our lives, if only indirectly, but I would not have changed 
him, though there were cruel spots in the School he loved, 
I spent a year in Paris recovering from three years at the 
worst House that ever made gossip or legend at Eton. Sk 
Alexander Carr-Saunders and Colonel Harry Streatfeild witness 
me that some kind of recovery was needed by survivors. 

It was an ironic provision by the gods that Eton at her 
greatest and most envied should have developed a quartet of 


" bad houses " which all needed dissolution in the first decade 
of the new century. The horrors of " Long Chamber " were 
mentioned in Eton history, so perhaps strict history calls for 
an allusion to the blots upon Warre s last years. No one can 
say whether they contributed to his physical collapse, His 
Eton was so resplendent that he never noticed the shadows. 
Much can be forgotten, but incidentally not one of the four 
delinquent houses was presided by a Ckssic. The four 
house-masters could not have translated a Greek play between 
them. .Good teachers of their subjects they were, but they 
could no more conduct an Eton House than a bevy of curates 
could take a Bank at Monte Carlo. These were houses, from 
which escape was advisable into other houses conducted as 
well as White s or the Turf Club, while the College Foundation 
corresponded to the Athenaeum. Escape was not easy. I 
remember Grenfells and Horners escaping from a "bad 
house " thanks to powerful and alarmed parents. My younger 
brother and I had to dree our weird (and very weird it was) 
until he escaped to Sandhurst on the way to a soldier s grave, 
while I found a mixture of freedom, faith and frivolity in Paris. 
The Sorbonne was not the only world I found open. There 
was also the fantastic world which I afterwards recognised in 
Marcel Proust s dreamy gossip. Surely I had known some of 
those painted witlings and fops of the Faubourg St. Germain, 
so his books did not prove entirely phantasy to me. One of 
the exquisite type he analysed made a decided grab for me but 
I was warned, for he had previously tried to entangle my 
great friend, Jo Stickney, an American and the most promising 
Greek student at the Sorbonne. Jo Stickney had sailed into 
my life as soon as I reached Paris. A tall poetical Bostonian, 
the best-looking man in the Quartier, he ambitioned to return 
to Harvard and from the Chair of Greek renew the literary 
soul of New England. We were neighbours in the Rue 
d Assas and mentally he took me by the scruff. Thanks to 
his laughing knowledge of the world, I disengaged myself 
from the poisonous garden which Proust has immortalised 
with all its thwarted pleasures and finessed affectations, and 
which Scott Moncrieff has wonderfully translated in that part 
of his work called " The Gties of the Plain ". The same 


corruptor of youth had crossed Stickney who warned me 
amusingly. I was already learning a good deal more than 
French by accompanying him to the theatre. It was of course 
my first meeting with real artists, musicians and painters. 
Hitherto I only knew music as taught by old Lloyd the Eton 
organist and the fine arts as practised by the older Sammy 
Evans, the Drawing Master. I learnt now that sin and sex 
were the fibres of Art. But this Stickney contradicted and 
instead of the Decadence he offered me old " Uncle Henry " 
Adams, another wonderful Bostonian, who was living 
obscurely in Paris but has achieved posthumous fame by the 
publication of his Education of Henry Adams. 

These remain very vivid days, like a little perfumed ash in 
the memory. Stickney and I mocked our would-be tempter 
in spite of his exquisite piano-playing. His form of temptation 
was garish, for he kept a fair lady whom he offered to the 
callow youths he wished to draw into tutelage. This was 
always symbolised for me in later years when I saw Wagner s 
Parsival and the scene when the magician summons the en 
chanting Kundry to overwhelm the hero in her snaky arms. 
Henry Adams was no doubt a healthier instructor and thanks 
to him I went mediaeval at the sight of Chartres Cathedral. 
By a chance I was with him fifteen years later in Washington 
shortly before he died humming the Latin Hymns of Adam 
St. Victor in gratitude to Heaven, which had spared him the 
fate of his grandfather and great-grandfather, both born to be 
Presidents of the United States. 

All this mental and moral commotion came to me in 1902-3 : 
now to be reckoned half a century back. I can re-imagine 
this higher phase of my life from parts of Henry Adams* 
book: surely one of the shelf that every Aryan intellectual 
should know. He wrote of himself then as " tottering about 
with Jo Stickney talking Greek Philosophy or studying Louise 
at the Opera Comique ", This delicious phantasy of Paris had 
just triumphed in musical form. Like Offenbach before, it 
made a date. 

Adams had just been to Russia and shuddered at its inertia, 
which threatened China and John Hay, his friend who in the 
name of America withstood the Slavic path. Hay had been 



Lincoln s secretary or batman, I heard much of him and of 
Senator Cameron (did not Mrs. Cameron cause the war with 
Spain?) and of Theodore Roosevelt, whom Adams described 
as " the quality that mediaeval theology assigned to God he 
was pure act! " Based on mediaevalism, Adams was trying 
to " triangulate the future ". His prophetic book shows how 
near he came, " Either Germany must destroy England and 
France to create the next unification or pool interests " (not 
bad for 1901). 

From " Uncle Henry " I learnt that it was better to be a 
hermit in the White Sea than live in the White House. Also 
that the Virgin Mary was the dynamic centre of the Universe. 
Had she not propulsed Chartres from the mind of man? 
Incidentally I learnt that Democracy had failed. He had lived 
in London when Swinburne had red-gold hair and British 
ministers had been prevented with difficulty from accepting 
war on behalf of the South. It was always his relief to return 
to Ming china and Japanese prints. 

He and Stickney cultivated the Oriental in art and I had the 
pleasure of bringing round a Japanese fellow-lodger to 
decipher some of Stickney s possessions. At one time he 
talked of learning Japanese, having exhausted Greek and 
Sanscrit. In the same spirit I took a course on Japanese 
poetry from Monsieur Revon. The Sorbonne supplied much 
that was lacking in Dr. Warre s curriculum. 

Greek was Stickney s hobby and music his passion. When 
he was not correcting his Thesis on ks sentences dans la potsit 
grecqm he pkyed delicately upon the violin. There came a 
terrible but triumphant afternoon when he defended his 
thesis against Croiset the Dean and the pick of the Sorbonne 
professors in his quiet Bostonian French. No Anglo-Saxon 
had essayed this challenge before and though he was found 
not to be entirely Gallic in his scholarship, they awarded Mm 
their highest degree. Harvard made Mm professor. 

He helped me to tidy up my Fifth Form; Greek and gave me 
the Greek Anthology bound with his delicate cipher on the 
morocco: the same cipher which marked the rice paper on 
which he set his lovely calligraph. He offered me a walking 
tour through Greece in the autumn of 1903 carrying satchels 



and alpenstocks. Alas! I preferred to return to Donegal 
and shoot grouse behind white, mauve-spotted pointers; 
alas I for I never saw him again. Two years later in Harvard 
he died of a brain tumour and some echo of the ancient song 
was buried beyond the seas. 

I kept my copy of his Thesis, intending always to translate 
it for an unworthy world. Twenty years later I crawled 
round Harvard beseeching someone to exchange memories 
of my wonderful friend. But Harvard had entirely forgotten 
the son of her culture, who had taught the Sorbonne that 
America nourished something better than Hollywood cowboys 
and the profligate spawn of millionaires. 

When I found that Harvard had forgotten him, I felt as 
though I had only imagined him. He might never have 
been . . . and the years continued to pass until I picked up 
George Santayana s Middle Span and found that he had once 
lived for him, though he had dropped the " Jo " and styled 
himself Trumbull Stickney. Whatever his mortal name, I 
felt that the gods reserved something more melodious for 
him in the Isles of the Blest. So Santayana had also found 
him a " learned friend and poet " and known the apartment 
" overlooking the quiet side of the Luxembourg Gardens ". 
He also had been given the Thesis and knew the handful of 
classical poems which were to be the prelude of an American 
Shakespeare. Sunt lacrimae rerum* 

Santayana told the end of the story, the return to the rough 
ideals of Harvard and imagined: " So Newman must have 
suffered when he became a Catholic. When would the ivy 
mantle those new brick walls or the voice modulate the Latin 
liturgy as it had done English?" I imagined him like a 
goatherd of Theocritus trying to pipe in the Rockies, but Pan 
had happier died in the Aegean seas than beyond Cape Cod. 

As the result of listening to such as Henry Adams and 
Jo Stickney in Paris I formed a slightly erroneous view of 
Americans. I had enjoyed a privilege all the wealth of Boston 
culd not acquire. I gathered that American men were kindly 
ironical and faintly godlike, but always devoted to the higher 
thought. Upon the fleshpots they cast their shoe, in Stickney s 
case a Grecian sandal out of a Flaxman Drawing. I 


heard much of the Education of Henry Adams distilled as 
conversation. I could not erase what I thought Americans 
talked from the juvenile jelly of my brain. For the time, my 
own education had been as wonderful and worthy of record 
as "Uncle "Henry s. 

Paris opened a literary atmosphere and satisfied my 
imagination. Here one could browse upon books under the 
Odeon or on the Quais, pick, sample and read without shame 
or purchase. It was different from the dull quests to Mudie s 
or the Eton bookseller. Funds were limited and I remember 
my first choice lay between Hugo s Notre Dame de Paris and 
Les mattresses de Napoleon III. Daudet was the only acquisition 
I had brought from Eton. In imitation of the radiant Lettres 
de mon moulin I wrote my first short story called Le maitre 
Brocket (inedif). It described an Irish boy s adventures with a 
monster pike. Daudet s short stories ! There is nothing like 
them in English except Bewick s tailpieces. 

I realised that literary life counted in France. It was not 
freakish or only fiddling with life. The Dreyfus case had 
set Zola high in English estimation, but be was asphyxiated 
by a stove soon after my arrival, or, as the religious papers 
announced, " strangled by an Angel passing at night! " He 
had written his Three Gospels but had been prevented from 
concluding the fourth. This did not prevent me from 
attending his funeral and, as I imagined, representing the 
literary side of Eton. 

Of all the funerals I have attended, Zola s proved the most 
exciting. I arrived early at the Rue de Bruxelles where I 
viewed a huge hearse draped in black and silver with the 
monogram of Z. An officer in uniform advanced to place a 
wreath before the police bustled round him and removed the 
card. It was Dreyfus himself and commotion was in the air. 
As the procession started on the long trek to the cemetery 
of Montmartre, I joined the students who were demonstrating 
from the Quartier. It proved a lively march and we exchanged 
bitter sallies with the Royalists and anti-Dreyfusards in the 
crowds. There was a concerted plot to push the coffin and 
pompes funlbres into the Seine but the police and the glittering 
Cuirassiers prevented fisticuffs. It was a dull October twilight 



by the time we straggled into the famous cemetery, where 
Heine s grave used to be heaped with nostalgic visiting cards* 
The scene was crowned by a funeral oration from no less than 
Anatole France which left us delirious. We marched past 
the grave after ransacking other graves for wreaths and dead 
chrysanthemums which were tossed in salute to the shouting 
of " Germinal! Germinal! " Though I have been present 
at the funerals of Sovereigns and Popes, I have never enjoyed 
one more. 

In England there could be no parallel imaginable. There 
was no mighty oration over the corpse of Henry James and 
no angry clashes, that I can remember, when Swinburne or 
Alfred Austin were carried discreetly to their burial. 

England is not a literary or artistic country and there can 
be no gloomier scene in the undertaker s calendar than a new 
deposit in Poets Corner of Westminster Abbey. A new wax 
effigy at Madame Tussaud s causes more popular interest. 
But in France the great traction survived. Writers are still 
estimated above politicians and only members of the Academy 
are reckoned " immortals ". In England the immortals are a 
few elder statesmen and a bunch of even older favourite 

Returning to the Quartier I started reading Zola s grim 
series devoted to the Rougon-MacQuart family, a huge Saga 
in supposed Naturalism, lit at times by flame or flash, but they 
called for endless grubbing. Life is too short to read authors 
wholesale. The best rule is to know each author by one or 
three masterpieces only, but well enough to pass examination. 
Out of Zola I chose Rome, Le Rive and La Dib&Ie. Le Rive 
could be read in a convent. 

La D&bdcle brought the word into every language. It 
means the total thaw which melts the security of ice and was 
applied to the French collapse in 1870 under the Bismarcktan 
sun. It was a wonderful introduction to the wars which 
have savaged Europe since. The military science was correct 
and it should have been made a text-book for the British Army. 

The English must have wondered since whether they have 
not suffered a d6bicle of their own. Victorian England 
seemed enthroned like a glacier above the servile seas. Her 


ice palaces were mistaken for rock-crystal, until they slid into 
the surrounding ocean carrying her puzzled denizens, like 
bears marooned on an iceberg, to debate angrily on questions 
of food or space. 

Only a novel, but La Dtbdcle set English readers ahead 
of public men in realising the continental future. Punic and 
Peloponesian Wars wearied the minds of British schoolboys. 
They should have been set to study the American Civil War 
and the Franco-Prussian campaign. Both were utterly un 
known to the curriculum of Eton or any other school. On 
these two wars the whole present has been poised. 

Zola s ecclesiastical novel Rome I devoured after a trip to 
the City, which is undestroyable but not uncapturable to pen 
or apparently to armies. It was the City of Leo Xm and 
Cardinal Rampolk and Camille Barr&re, 1 the French Am 
bassador for ever plotting to set Italy against England, and of 
Archbishops Stanley and Stonor posturing like Gog and 
Magog at the gates of the Vatican : with the stumpy little King 
rushing about like a schoolboy playing at being the Kaiser. 

I read every sentence of Rome to myself aloud which is the 
quickest way of learning to talk a language. It was an 
enthralling parody of the Catholic life, immense and made to 
look a little monstrous, but henceforth I could always see 
ecclesiastics and their institutions as Zola painted them. In 
those pages the pre-Mussolini City of Black and White Society 
lives again. However anti-clerical, and in spite of the famous 
chapter in which the Cardinal refuses to allow the embrace 
of the dead lovers to be broken, the novel opened my eyes to 
a Universal Church and system impossible to visualise from 
Victorian England. The only other book which seems to 
indicate such a necessity for Europe is oddly enough the 
Decline and Fall by Gibbon, for, once the Roman Empire fell, 
History needed something to take its place if only as a 
general prop. 

European countries and thek capitals were more distinct 

1 Barrere was the doyen of the diplomats surrounding the Quinnal. The 
British were flabbergasted and attributed his hatred of England to the treatment 
his father received as an instructor at Woolwich. IThe elder Barrere had been 
a Communist refugee and was credited with a share in the murder of the 
Archbishop of Paris. His son used to take tea in the salon of an aunt of mine 
living in Rome and played bridge watching his sous like any bourgeois. 



before Americanising. The Latin Quarter in Paris was 
noticeably French. The Cinema had not taken the place of 
the Bal Bulier, and the theatre of the Odeon was a cheap 
distraction for students. 

French drama was startling, I found, after the English, 
which in the nineties had meant Gilbert and Sullivan, 
Beerbohm Tree, Dan Leno with Herbert Campbell at Drury 
Lane. Paris offered the Comedie Franfaise with the classics 
recited flawlessly. Louise had created a furore in my time 
while Sarah Bernhardt was struggling in the Aiglon s top-boots 
at the theatre of her name. Survivors who saw her must 
have registered an odd emotion when Hitler sent the Aiglon s 
ashes to rest beside his father in the Invalides. If only the 
dream could have been completed and Sarah released from 
Phe Lachaise to recite her lines for the occasion I No such 
scene is imaginable unless Sir Walter were brought back to 
receive the ashes of Bonnie Prince Charlie in Holyrood : or 
the body of Patrick Sarsfield could be shipped to Limerick 
and laid upon the Stone of the Broken Treaty. 

At the Odeon one evening I heard Tolstoy s Resurrection 
acted as only emotional Latins know how. The sobbing 
audience was also French. I left the theatre a sadder if not 
a wiser man. So this was the terrible Social Problem, on 
which such rubbish had gushed, but was this the solution? 
It was a highly romantic turn to the treatment of the same 
in the Gospel. For many in those days Resurrection was a 
turning point. I remember stopping in the middle of 
Dostoievsky s Crime et Ch&timent to read Tolstoy; It was 
turning from despair to hope. When I tramped the Paris 
streets I imagined myself as Prince Nekludoff and I found a 
Maslova in every prostitute. I felt inwardly that I could never 
rest until I had communed with Tolstoy himself, but three 
years at Cambridge were fated to come first. 

In those days Russian novels were not read in England and 
in any case the best translations were in French. This had the 
advantage of preserving a foreign flavour when the characters 
were so removed from the English. When I conversed later 
with Tolstoy in French, the illusion that I had read him in the 
original remained. 



From the Rue d Assas I moved into the Rue Servandoni to 
be nearer the Latin heart and under the booming shadow of 
St. Sulpice, reminiscent of Manon Lescaut and of Renan. 
The dark caterpillar of students still crawled on Sunday from 
the seminary into the gaunt sprawling church, a signal that 
Vespers were beginning. 

Lectures multiplied, sacred and profane. For me a new 
world of mediaevalism was opening. Gaston Paris, alas, 
suddenly died and I attended the orations in his honour. 
His books at least remained to enlighten me unto the poetry 
and legends of the Middle Ages, of which the English then 
preferred to know nothing. For them there was the Cloister 
and the Hearth to wade and Scott s rococco grottoes, but 
Gaston Paris made gargoyles live. There was something 
beside the Wars of the Roses, if it was only the Romaunt 4e 
la Rose, which he had edited, and from him came knowledge 
of Tristan and Iseult and above all Villon, the Prince of 
Ballad-writers with his refrains and envois. Why in the name 
of literary beauty had we not learnt the "Ballad of Dead Ladies " 
at Eton with the sob of true poetry, Mais oti sent les neiges 
tfantant No wonder that French was despised at English 
schools, a Cinderella cut off from fairy enchantment. It was 
the same with Verlaine and Baudelaire: but English instruc 
tion omitted every mention of the sensual however sensitively 
adduced. Gaston Paris led me to Huysmans with the 
suspicion that all that was lovely and all that was evil in the 
Middle Ages was waiting behind some dark corner in Chartres 
or Albi! It was possible that all the strange people who 
knelt or prayed or peeped behind capitals in illuminated 
manuscripts really existed! 

Moral: one should find ways of living in more than one 
century. One s own times may prove disappointing. Who 
could dream that the twentieth would prove so bloody in all 
terms of bloodiness 1 

I attended lectures at the " Institut Catholique " under the 
benign friendship of old Mgr. Pechcnard, who became Bishop 
of Soissons and had his Cathedral broken over his head by 
the Germans. Future Cardinals filled the Chairs and I picked 
up a little Canon Law which improved my French if not my 



Latin. This I countered by hearing the great Lavisse lecture 
at the Sorbonne on French History. One could tell by the 
tremors in his audience where Catholics or anti-Clericals were 
sitting. Lectures could be intense in the wake of the unending 
affaire Dreyfus, intense compared to the boredom of lectures 
at Cambridge. Every range of French thought in every class 
had been sharpened by that astonishing mishap to the soul of 
France. Students were liable to stage their excitements on 
the boulevards. Did the Oxford Movement ever send a mob 
down the High? No gowns were torn on the Cambridge 
streets in metaphysical affray or even over the Tichborne Case. 

At the " Institut Catholique " I met Francois Coppe urging 
open defence of the Churches before they were looted by 
Civil Servants. The expulsion of the Grande Chartreuse 
roused real fury in Catholic France. Had occasion arisen, I 
would have gladly figured in a riot organised by the faithful, 
I had to wait for Cambridge before engaging in a more 
secular rag. 

The criss-cross of French Life, betwixt politics, religion, 
pretenders and revanches of different kinds is incomprehensible 
to the English, especially as French History is scarcely taught 
at all. Even English History is taught in schools in the 
manner of Bradshaw s Railway Guide. If the three B s were 
sincerely taught, the Bard, Bible and Bradshaw, as the elements 
of national education, the ghastly results of the School Board 
as well as the intellectual failure of Public Schools would not 
be upon us but taught with German thoroughness and 
French imagination. 

In default of French History I was lucky to receive a copy 
of Bodley*s France as an Eton prize. From that moment the 
colours in the French criss-cross were revealed. In manner 
it lies between Sorrow s Wild Wales and Bryce s account of 
the United States, without the bigotry of one or the dryness 
of the other. It is the exploration of a new country directed 
from within. From Bodley I learnt that every Frenchman 
has an enemy another Frenchman. Also that Tradition is 
more powerful in Republican France than in England which 
has always compromised with Whig, Liberal, Socialist and 
preserved unity by stabling the muzzled wolf with the lamb. 



But France is always carrying on two or three Qvil Wars, of 
which Dreyfus was nominee of not the last. However, what 
matter? France is a living Greece not a fossilised adjunct 
to the Balkans. And Paris remains the real Athens. 

John Edward Courtenay Bodley became a personal friend 
later and I learnt that conversation was an art and not 
necessarily conducted by using the three enclytics What Ho ! 
Cheerio! and O.K. He was one of the last of the cultured 
Europeans. He had known intimately Cardinal Manning, 
Sir Charles Dilke, Oscar Wilde and a host of French leaders, 
writers, boulevardiers. What an Ambassador he would have 
made for England in the crucial days, but the Foreign Office 
preferred to send Lord Derby, who could not talk French, 
and one or two who were dumb in English. 

Bodley was the only person who could appreciate every 
fibre in the Dreyfus case. He was cynically impartial and 
could gossip equally with a French Cardinal or Clemenceau. 
He opened a very large armoire in my literary life. 

The Paris into which I was thrown was the embittered 
penitent of 1870. Since the disasters of the dfbdcle Paris had 
tried to reform morals as extensively as Haussmann had 
remade her arteries. The old Paris had gone, leaving only a 
few queer street corners for Impressionists to paint. The 
immense new Basilica on Montmartre labelled Gallia poenitens 
dominated the city. The licence and levity of the Empire 
was symbolised in the splendid nudities gracing the Imperial 
Opera House. 

Paris was always Catholic enough to mark a catastrophe by 
a catafalque starring the vault of Notre Dame with candle- 
power. I recall the horrors whispered jabout the terrible fire 
which licked the noblest blood in France at the Charity 
Bazaar. The religious ceremony was insufficient, for a 
Dominican orator improved the occasion s agony by claiming 
that the dead were the sacrifice demanded by the Divine 
wrath for the sins of France. It was very Latin to lift a 
terrestrial accident to such sublimity but it made the Govern 
ment very angry. Later came the Messe de la Martinique 
following the eruption of Mont Pele. The relations of the 
dead were sufficient to fill the Cathedral. France certainly 



understands the art of national mourning. In the old days 
we used to take crape and flowers to the statue of Strasbourg 
in the Pkce de la Concorde. The English have invented the 
phrase " no mourning " and the most magnificent occasions 
are missed. The only really widespread mourning since 
Queen Victoria s funeral has been for the " ashes " of English 
cricket, said to be interred in Australia under a ground, of 
which Bradman keeps the key. 

Only a country that has been occupied or conquered under 
stands national mourning and it was the sad notes of 1870 
which underlay the whole life of the Republic, like an under 
current in Chopin. The same note was discernible in the 
political life of Ireland or Poland. 

As a student on the rive gauche I recalled very different 
intervals of childhood lived in fashionable Paris. 

But life in Paris for children was different from fog 
bound London which still resembled Dora s horrible pictures. 
Paris was still full of old beaux and characters like the Breteuils 
and the Marquis de Gallifet, whose fascination to children 
lay in the silver stomach which he carried as a trophy from 
the war of 1 870. He was an aristocrat serving in a Republican 
Government till 1900. He was one who might have voted 
his King s death like Philippe Egaliti but he might himself 
have been guillotined. 

And there was Widor, who had survived the siege of Paris, 
still playing to the adoring ladies in the organ loft of 
St. Sulpice. 

And there was Monsieur Eiffel himself, who had taken an 
enormous fancy to my aunt Clara. He gave her the chance 
of being the first lady to ascend the tip-top of the Eiffel Tower: 
and a photograph used to record the date and the event. 
Who now remembers Paris without the Eiffel Tower? 

So much had passed since we lived on and off in Paris, late 
eighties and mid- nineties. Those were the days of perfide 
Albim and no orchids for the Queen of England, whom the 
gtmins of the Champs filysdes used to insult when we joined 
their pky. I can recall the excitement of General Boulanger, 
who had fascinated the Paris crowd and incidentally Randolph 
Churchill, who thought him a kind of Tory Democrat saving 



France. Our family lived in the Avenue Kleber and the old 
Prince of Wales was sometimes brought home after the 
theatre by my mother and Winston s, and very sleepy children 
were dragged out of bed to shake hands and promise to be 
soldiers. Later, my father used to describe how the carefree 
Prince used to escape his Equerry and accompany him to 
places permitted to ordinary folk but not to Royalty. He 
was never so happy as playing Haroun-al-Aschid and he 
considered the Parisians were his people far more than the 
English Nonconformists. 

By the time I was a student, he returned as King and by 
his personal gesture brought France and England into union. 
Of course statesmen and soldiers and diplomatists prepared 
the brief and worked out the blue prints but le bon roi 
Edouard achieved it by sheer courage and courtesy. This is 
known to anyone who could feel the pulse of Paris at the 
time. It was touch and go until he sailed into the Foyer of 
the Opera and complimented a famous actress on being 
symbolic of France. 

It is forgotten how wildly anti-English France had become. 
The Boer War, Fashoda and even English feeling about 
Dreyfus had envenomed venom. French caricatures, even of 
the poor old Queen, were fantastic in their malice. Caron 
d Ache made Punch a very sober sheet in comparison. 
The Prince figured in guises unknown to his subjects. One 
I recall in which he was drawn standing in evening clothes 
fingering a cigar while two heavily habited prostitutes prowled 
behind. It was to me far more of a picture than Matisse and 
Cezanne. I still have some of the caricatures of the Boer 
War. They were devilish in their art but they revealed 
something true about war. 

The politics of the Quartier were violently pro-Boer, and 
at one time I found myself helping tq welcome Dr. Leyds 
and the Boer Generals in the streets. But the King had 
accomplished the impossible and in President Loubet he 
found a most amusing counterpart, who looked rather like 
Kruger if he could have been dewhiskered, and dressed up by 
undertakers at the Bon March6. 

Loubet had succeeded President Felix Faure who privately 



called England the enemy. No doubt his sudden death like 
that of the Prince Imperial could be traced to British agents, 
but that was another story! The cause of his death in a 
lady s arms could be guessed from the incredible epigrams 
which a Latin language allows. No doubt he was plus felix 
que fort. 

I tore myself from my studies to honour the King. I was 
in the middle of a thesis and of an Eton novel in the style of 
Zola. I temporarily returned to Anglican worship to get a 
ticket to the little church in the Rue d Aguesseau, where he 
was to appear on Sunday. This walk on foot to church 
reconciled the Nonconformist Conscience and was considered 
to have given the sacrilegious Parisians a good lesson. I had 
to assure Dr. Noyes, the parson, that I was not a Fenian or 
a member of any secret society burrowing on the other side 
of the Seine. I sat in a back chair inwardly hoping to have 
a chance of saving the King s life if he were attacked. Never 
was I closer to a Sovereign as he passed, smiling at the virgin 
pew-opener who collapsed in a heap. Our eyes poured tears 
as we prayed for " Our Sovereign Lord and King, Queen 
Alexandra (she had stayed at home), George Prince of Wales 
and all the Royal Family ". Out I went on the Boulevards 
on the chance of knocking over Henri Rochefort s hat. That 
veteran with his foul Lanterns was holding out fiercely against 
the royal charmer. All in vain: for the two nations were 
locked together for peace and wartime. 

Hedged with glittering Cuirassiers, King and President 
attended a gala Opera which I could only see from the surging 
streets. But the crowd had been won and won for ever. 
Henceforth the English Royal Family had a spiritual home on 
the Seine when they cared to use it. Shreds of the ancient 
Society were collected at that Opera to give elegance if not 
tradition to the dismal ladies of bureaucracy. It seemed 
unsporting when a courtesan, whom the King had known in 
Bohemian days, was asked to leave. It is a rule in French 
life that ladies and actresses, wives and courtesans never meet 
and it has preserved a pattern which has been entirely lost 
in England. 

As for women, they were around us in the Latin Quarter, 


but entirely as models or fellow-students. From friends I 
learnt that chastity was an ecclesiastical virtue not merely a 
recipe for training. In any case there was very little time for 
women and all my memories are gentle. I adopted the tolerant 
view that they should be reserved to console middle age 
instead of being the desolators of youth. 

Adventures were not sordid and once the language had 
been mastered there were new friends and studies every 
week. Monsieur Revon, who lectured on Japanese lyrics, 
entertained in his country villa of a Sunday. Widor was 
always at home in his organ loft at St. Sulpice, making a 
mixture of High Mass and High Society. Such a lively 
contrast to Church Parade after Church in Hyde Park I And 
there was the Austrian Ambassadress, Countess Wolkenstein, 
a friend of my mother, a really great woman who spoke of 
the ancim rtgime> but she had known and protected and helped 
Wagner. That was her great memory. My mother had 
known such extraordinary people. Her doctor, who had 
brought her into the world, Dr. Pan, had attended Thiers 
on his deathbed. She had been born where he died, at 
St. Germain-en-Laye. She and her sisters as girls had fled 
from Paris before the siege of 1870. They had known the 
Mornys and Persignys. Sweetest memory was Aunt Clara s, 
for she had been chosen as the Prince Imperial s dancing 
partner, had played, hunted with him. An American girl 
would not cause the envy that a French one would rouse: 
hence her good fortune to be asked to Compi^gne. My 
own mother had been too young but the Empress Eugenie 
remembered across the years and wrote to her when my 
brother was killed in 1914. One very odd friend my mother 
kept in Paris. When she came to see me, she always stayed 
in the Ritz which conflicted with my views, but she explained 
it was the cheapest hotel for her, as she knew old man Rite 
himself and he insisted on giving her a tiny room whenever 
she passed. One day this legendary figure showed her a 
very old man slowly arranging things with much fuss. This 
was the man who gave Ritz work when he was penniless on 
the streets far far ago. Now he was an honoured pensioner: 
qui a trouvi R*fc(. 



The Paris of the great Exhibitions of 1889 and 1900 has 
gone like the Paris of Balsac: the Paris which built the 
Trocadero and le petit Palais i the Paris which entertained a 
Czar of all Russias and an Emperor of India, like a Queen 
of Sheba laying herself out for visits of King Solomon. How 
the great ones have perished while the landmarks remain. 

For me the aboding shrine was of St. Genevieve in her 
Latin Quarter, for she was the protectress of Paris as well as 
of students under examination. She was successfully invoked 
to ward off the invaders of 1914. It must have been a narrow 
shave, for German soldiers were buried in that year by the 
municipal firemen. In the Second War the hateful ones 
broke through, and it was the body of the Little Flower whom 
the fickle Parisians carried through the city like a spiritual 
disinfectant after the last Germans were expelled, 

It is always St. Genevieve whom I visit and will visit if I 
ever pass through Paris again. A saint enshrined is a luxury 
of devotion not allowed in England. In callow youth I once 
asked a French tutor to show me the shrine of Joan of Arc. 
" Mais vous I aves^ bruU\ " he exclaimed and I was silenced. 
It showed how much French history one learnt at school. 

Her canonisation must be the only one which has stirred 
the modern world. A weird accompaniment, seemingly too 
terrible to be true, took place in England. It appeared that 
one of the great French nobles at her execution refused to 
allow her green faggots instead of dry. Green faggots 
smoked and smothered the victim before she was burnt. At 
any rate a curse descended upon his family and the last heir 
was dramatically burnt to death in an English country house 
near where I was staying. There was a question of foul play 
and a love affair so his relatives came over to make inquiry. 
They consulted Lord Derby, who told me he advised them 
to dop the matter. The world is often stranger than believ 
able: but the fire appeared to have been a husband s 

France gave me a second language and a new background. 
My real education was over and I was ready to take up the 
conventional and artificial one proffered at the English 
University. Stickney used to say life resembled a succession 


of tunnels, during which one recollected what one had passed 
through and prepared for the next station, which in my case 
was Cambridge. 

Books, letters and the like are flotsam lying on the beaches 
which stretch back into the tide, out of which each spirit 
has come and into which each shall return. I learnt that 
printed paper and old letters were no longer like dead seaweed. 
They were full of meaning and possible enchantment, I learnt 
to attach new meanings to the old autograph books at 
Glaslough which my grandmother had collected during the 
century. As children we had looted them for their foreign 
stamps. There were notes and envelopes addressed to ** Mrs. 
Leslie " by Dickens and Thackeray including the last letter 
Thackeray ever wrote, which was a charming regret that the 
Doctor forbade him to come to dinner. 

A stage had come in my life when I sold my stamp collection 
and began buying books. The philatelic fibre in my heart 
had died when my dear father gave away his collection of 
imperforates collected in the sixties! We were allowed to 
look at them as a treat, but when a great collector asked to 
see them, my father, surprised that a grown-up man cared 
for such trifles, gave him the lotl Later they figured in sales 
and we children had to dry our tears. In the autograph line 
everything in my grandmother s folios was safe, but there 
was looting of treasure at times. A great-uncle had stuck a 
letter of Shelley into the Poems. That went. Worst of all 
there had been a poem written by Swift to Robin and Henry 
Leslie. His visit to Glaslough was more than a legend. He 
had preached in the tubular pulpit: and the poem turned up 
in the South Kensington Museum. A terrible looter had 
left traces, for even the family pedigree written by Bishop 
John Leslie, the founder of the family, had been torn out of 
his Bible. Family libraries are full of such tragedies. There 
was a lady in London who remembered the lost letter at Wilton, 
which mentioned " The man Shakespeare ". No doubt some 
Baconian devoured it when coming for a visit from Salisbury. 

The best fate of autographs is to pass to Museums through 
the hands of benefactors. I collected autographs Orientalwise 
for their beauty not for the writer s fame. This is still a 



possible hobby. But life is too short to collect at all. It is 
best to coalesce with other collections which are in safe places. 

The most remarkable part of my grandmother s collection 
was the Papers of Mrs. Fitzherbert. They had reached her 
in a mysterious way. Her mother had been adopted daughter 
of the benevolent lady, who had clandestinely married George 
IV of joyous memory. This was the gilded skeleton in 
the cupboard. My grandmother and sisters had divided the 
Fitzherbert loot entire: pictures, jewels and papers. The 
valuables went for the most part to their brother Lord 
Portarlington but my grandmother had the autographs, 
including the famous box, which a faithful servant had saved 
from the Duke of Wellington, when he descended upon Mrs. 
Fitzherbert and burnt all her papers to save scandal. - But 
there was no moral scandal only a continual embarrassment 
to the Royal Family at the time. Vaguely I believed I should 
be chosen to champion Mrs. Fitzherbert with my pen at 
the last. 

Incidentally the possession of Fitzherbert relics entails the 
weirdest correspondence with claimants to the Throne in 
America. The stage has been reached when letters referring 
to their present Gracious Majesties in " inverted commas " 
are not answered. But photographs showing likeness between 
well-meaning Colonials and Queen Victoria continue to 
arrive even in this year of grace. The climax came when an 
American party arrived at the church in Brighton where my 
great-grandmother erected Mrs. Fitzherbert s effigy wearing 
the Royal wedding ring. This monument they claimed as 
theirs. The old priest, Mgr. Johnson, sent a message of 
alarm. As a result, it was arranged to add a sentence to the 
anonymous inscription on the marble in our family name. 
This constitutes myself the hereditary guardian of one of the 
most interesting memorials of the Regency extant. His 
present Majesty conserves the wedding licence, Lord Port 
arlington the wedding ring, and my family the engagement 
ting. America can have the pictures for which they have 
paid handsomely. 

The first novel I had attempted in Paris was about Eton. 
The Public School novel is almost the only literary form which 



is peculiar to England. I have always considered that Talbot 
Reed s Fifth Form at St. Dominic s the model of the type. I 
made the mistake of writing in the style of Zola instead of 
Daudet, whose Petit Chose is a sign that he could have written 
such. Losing heart rather than shying at indecency, I dropped 
my experiment. Twenty years later, after the First War had 
tested all British institutions, I wove a tapestry in mock-heroics 
of Warre s Eton. It was less fiction than a historical document 
stuffed with snapshots of characters, recognisable and I hope 
not unkindly. I was under the influence of Lon Bloy at 
the time which accounts for all I wrote under the guise of 
novels. The Oppidan was scarcely a novel but a kind of 
carnival in which the masks tumbled off too easily. But 
Warre was impossible to mask and I brought him in striding 
and sounding to the life. It was no more than a sketch or 
caricature (like that by Spy in Vanity Fair) but my subsequent 
essay will do better justice to him and his times. He really 
was an eminent Victorian and deficiencies only shaded his 
splendour. History washes out the silly criticism of his day. 
He stood in the same solid rektions to his century as Mr. 
Gkdstone or Queen Victoria. The more human these can 
be found, the more simply they are arranged amongst the 
facsimile divinities of the era. 

Family considerations have enabled me to add a final essay 
on Mark Sykes, whose biography of a quarter of a century 
is out of date. An even more remarkable character was his 
brilliant mother, who for various reasons was treated as a 
family skeleton in her lifetime. Penelope Leslie, my great 
aunt, was her mother, but we were not allowed to come under 
Jessica s friendship because of her defection to Rome. After 
a flirtation with Ruskin as a girl, she had taken to the pen. 
Her novels showed up the families with whom she was 
connected, a-little unkindly. The Macdonells was an apparent 
pseudonym for the Leslies. Only the very Victorian family 
governess Miss Robinson appeared en clair. The Cavendish- 
Bentincks and Lowthers also found themselves in distorting 
mirrors. Mark was her most genuine creation. 

Soldier, explorer, diplomat, politician, he was at one time 
the white hope of the Tories and of the English Catholics. 



Humourist, caricaturist and Orientalist he was also a beau 
sabreur sans reprocbe. Judge of him by the friends who loved 
and admired him: Aubrey Herbert, Dr. Monty Rhodes James, 
George Wyndham, Howard de Walden, Ronald Storrs and 
a host of Yorkshire Tykes and Arabs in the East. When he 
died, his was a loss as serious to Tory Democracy as Rupert 
Brooke s to English Letters or Tom Kettle s to Irish politics. 

The Stately Homes have often bred strange types but 
Yorkshire has seldom claimed so exotic a Squire, unless for 
the famous Waterton, who like Mark was a traveller and a 
pupil of the Jesuits. Mark had no time for sport or even 
for the famous Sledmere stud. He went his own sweet way, 
an actor and mimic at home, an explorer in the East. Life 
was too great a rush for him to suffer education. It was a 
rush from the age of three when his mother hurried him into 
the Catholic Church under the auspices of the Duke of 
Norfolk as his godfather. Jessica planned to commemorate 
the return of the Sykes family into Mother Church by a plan 
grandiose enough to include the building of a Cathedral in 
Westminster in a style interesting to Sir Tatton. The finest 
Gothic church in Vienna was to be reproduced at the cost of 
the Sledmere estate. Cardinals Manning and Vaughan were 
allowed to toy with the thought. 

Jessica s courage was equal to her generosity. When her 
brother-in-law Christopher lost his fortune in trying to 
entertain the Prince s set, it was Jessica who descended 
upon Marlborough House and insisted on avoiding the 
bankruptcy, and so it was ! Cavendish-Bentincks and Leslies 
were left gaping with astonishment. Had Jessie dared to 
blackmail the Prince? That was the question which Society 
asked. At any rate she saved poor Christopher by her threats 
to explain the bankruptcy in Court! 

Further, she was good enough conversationalist to engage 
Randolph Churchill, the hardest nut at the dinner table in 
those days. During Doncaster Week she always entertained 
a brilliant party at Sledmere, while Sir Tatton designed 
churches in an upper room. Baccarat was still the game of 
high Society before it faded in the Tranby Croft scandal. 
Lord Russell of Killowen was one of the Sledmere parties 


and thereby arose one of the oddest incidents possible in an 
English Court of Law. 

Jessica nominally ran Tatton s finances and as he had an 
aversion to signing cheques, she often added the signature 
which was accepted. Eventually an Insurance Company 
presented a bill for .40,000 which he refused to pay. The 
case came into Court and poor old Sir Tatton, with his shawl 
arranged by his loving wife, entered the box. Rather than 
allow his parents to disagree, Mark nobly undertook to pay 
the sum out of his own prospects. One moment was of 
Gilbertian tempo* Jessica s cheque books were called for, 
but luckily had been mislaid and by the time they had been 
fetched, the case had moved elsewhere. A family friend 
noticed the amazed solicitor consulting them and finding that 
the first stub recorded a baccarat debt to Lord Russell, who 
was nervously presiding the trial ! 

Such were Mark s strange surroundings at home, but he 
spent most of his life travelling, even as an undergraduate. 
The unique certainly led to the unique. No one proved 
quite so chivalrous, so comic, so valiant, so gifted as Mark. 
He was just too good to be nothing but an M.P. for Hull, 
and the good God snatched him back. Not in vain had he 
been offered by his mother at the Oratory altar. 

It was a young death, which felled the friends who loved 
him most to the ground. Many hoped to see a Tory 
Democrat, a Yorkshire Catholic in the Cabinet. There were 
many threads in his hands apart from the sympathies he had 
acquired in the Middle East. His knowledge of Ireland made 
him the possible mediator. His powers of humour and 
improvisation might have been successful even among the 
playboys of the Western Shore. 

To his family it was a bitter stroke, as when the tomb opens 
not upon due winter nor upon gathered autumn but upon 
"youth s scented manuscript". And the writing was not 

It seemed difficult to reconcile his sudden death at the 
Versailles Conference with the Providential scheme. The 
forces for good seemed to be calling him from both East 
and West. But there is another side. After thirty years it 


can be realised how much he was spared. With his hatred 
of injustice he might easily have met the fate which befell 
George Wyndham in Ireland or Lord Moyne in the Orient. 

An essay on Sk William Butler recalls my early adherence 
to the Irish Cause. A General in the British Army, a friend 
of Parnell, Gordon, Wolseley and Buller, he had passed 
through a storm of recrimination owing to his pro-Boer 
policy while holding the command at the Cape. With a long 
knowledge of African Wars and of the Boers he refused to 
press the threats of his employers. He was recalled and the 
disastrous Boer War was waged against his advice and will 
and, as it turned out, against his careful plans. Fifty years 
have passed since the Century of Wars began. It began with 
the Boer War which proved what Greek Tragedy called the 
opening of troubles. Trouble-trouble the witches* cauldron 
has never ceased to si2zle or overflow. Butler believed War 
need not have come and that Kruger with all his faults 
deserved to keep his small place in the burning African sun. 
Fifty years have passed and History is beginning to decide 
that perhaps he was right. His memory has received bitter 
scorn and derision. Let this essay prove the beginning of 
a vindication. 

I had no fear in joining the Irish Cause when Sk William 
Butler called it just: and generously answered for me when 
I stood for John Redmond at the Home Rule Elections of 
1909 and 1910. I salute his memory. He also could have 
been the mediator between England and Ireland. 


IN the unceasing contest of Fiction against Truth in history 
there have been a number of personal narratives which 
leave imaginative romance remotely behind. All the 
novels written in the days of the Regency could not produce 
a story so strange or thrilling as the marriage of Mrs* Fitz- 
herbert to the Prince of Wales who subsequently became 

There have been many obstacles to writing a full and final 
version. A century after Mrs. Fitzherbert s death such a 
biography appeared but by force of enemy action the number 
of copies was much reduced. This essay summarises what 
must remain out of print for a considerable time. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert supposed that her Life would one day be 
written but full of lies, as an Irish Bishop declared of Gulliver s 
Travels. So many of her papers were destroyed that a 
biography has seemed a miracle. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert sized her own position neatly by saying 
that though she was not considerable enough to become the 
wife of the enamoured Prince, her name forbade her to be 
mistress. No doubt it would have saved herself and the 
Royal Family and Parliament endless trouble if she could have 
followed suit to Mrs. Jordan, who settled down as the mother 
of the Duke of Clarence s children without any worry beyond 
the financial. When Clarence became King William IV, his 
bastards were ennobled and one even was dispensed to receive 
Anglican Orders without anybody feeling or thinking the 

Mrs. Fitzherbert s difficulty lay in the form of service which 
had passed between her and the Prince, which, however 
illegal, irregular and clandestine, was a marriage. Even if it 
were null in the eyes of the Law, it was not valueless on the 



Continent or in Catholic circles. It might count for something 
in the eye of God, but this the legalists might overlook. 
Those whom it most concerned in the State took some trouble 
to deny it and, that proving fruitless, attempted to destroy 
every trace upon earth. 

Whole correspondences have been burnt in the presence of 
witnesses. Letters, notebooks and even the margins of 
printed books have been scissored. The great secret could 
not be kept secret, but it could be largely deprived of proofs. 
As executor to George IV the Duke of Wellington descended 
upon his true widow and burnt all the letters which had 
passed between them. From the wreck Mrs. Fitzherbert 
preserved the three documents preserving her name with 

The letter which contained the Prince s proposal to 

The marriage licence signed by both; 

The Will which the Prince wrote cutting off the Princess 
of Wales with a shilling and bequeathing his entire 
possessions to Mrs. Fitzherbert. 

These were thg celebrated papers concealed in Coutt s Bank, 
against which relatives and legatees and pretended descendants 
knocked in vain for the rest of the century. The Gordian 
knot was cut by King Edward VII who simply ordered their 
removal to the secret archives in Windsor. And all this 
trouble arose from a lady s efforts to keep respectable, but 
her innocent efforts intrigued Society, outraged the British 
Public, kept the Whigs out of power and seemed to imperil 
the throne. In his History of England Sk Archibald Alison 
pointed out that under other circumstances this kdy, who had 
died a few weeks before the opening of the Victorian era, 
might herself have sat upon the Throne. 

Mrs. Fitsherbert s letters to the Duke of York were returned 
to her and for two years she was perusing and burning what 
was " the best private and public history of the country from 
the dose of the American war to the death of the Duke ". 
Her letters to George TV began in 1785 and lasted till 1806. 


"Oh dear, oh dear", sighed Creevey, "that I should not 
have seen them! " And so sigh we all. 

Maria Anne Stnythe came of old Catholic and Royalist stock. 
Their Baronetcy dated from the Restoration. Their motto 
Rsff semper fidelis (to King ever faithful) assumed poignant 
values in the life of the most beautiful daughter of the House. 
Her fidelity proved not merely worthy of a subject but of a 
heroic spouse. What she must have suffered in keeping the 
marriage secret under most malicious provocation only a 
woman can understand. Her position was unique in history. 
How often in life it has been necessary for a mistress to 
pretend to the part of a wife. Mrs. Fitzherbert was the only 
wife who for reasons of State had to pretend to be the mistress. 
Her unselfish conduct throughout the life of her husband won 
her the respect and affection of the whole Royal Family. 

She was born almost exactly between the Protestant Revo 
lution of 1688 and Catholic Emancipation in 1829. The 
Faith was fading. Pressure of Laws and fines, lawyers and 
fanatics had reduced the old Catholic ranks. It took a little 
of the old British obstinacy to persevere. The Smythes held 
on grimly and when "the White Rose of England" was 
brought up in their midst, her beauty was not set to snare 
neophytes but to hold together some of the old Catholic 
fortunes. She was married to Mr. Weld of Lulworth, a 
widower a quarter of a century older, but he died in the same 
year, before he had signed a Will in her favour. She was 
then secured to the old house of Fitzherbert living at Swynner- 
ton Hall. She married the twenty-fifth Lord of the Manor 
of Norbury but he died owing to the athletic practices he 
took to ensure his life. Mrs. Fitzherbert was left a widow 
for a second time before reaching the age of twenty-five* 

Her life, now properly provided, should have become pious 
or pleasant, according to the fashion of those times. Mrs. 
Fitzherbert seemed willing to make it both, for she settled in 
Mayfair when London Society vied with Versailles. She 
bought a house at the Marble Arch end of Park Street where 
the large modern building stands called Hereford House. 
Mrs. Fitzherbert s home possessed a garden with walls 
susceptible of romantic approach, 



There are various versions of her first meeting the Prince, 
then the most desirable bachelor in Christendom: whether he 
noticed her driving in the Park (then unsullied by the Hackney 
vehicle) or whether he observed her in Lady Sefton s box at 
the Opera and immediately demanded an introduction. 

The result was not unflattering though embarrassing. 
Instantly declaring himself enamoured he insisted on her 
constant presence and refused to grace any party, drum or 
rout to which she was not invited. He dropped every 
paramour and scattered any incipient admiters of Mrs. Fitz 
herbert. Life could not have been more dazzling but she 
decided not to exchange the gold of good conscience for the 
ill-glittering tinsel of a Royal concubine. 

Flattery failing, the Prince adopted a romantic ruse in 1784. 
He fell upon his sword and, when his wound was bandaged 
by Surgeon Keate, threatened to tear away the bandages unless 
Mrs. Fitzherbert entered Carlton House. Keate and the 
Prince s friends arrived in panic at Mrs. Fitzherbert s but she 
smelt the stratagem and refused to move until the famous 
Duchess of Devonshire consented to accompany her. The 
trembling company drove to Carlton House where Mrs. 
Fitzherbert promised to marry the Prince who placed a ring 
upon her finger, borrowed from the Duchess, who returned 
with Mrs. Fitzherbert to Devonshire House where both 
signed a paper agreeing that promises thus obtained were 
entirely void. 

The next move was with Mrs. Fitzherbert, who instantly 
left the country. She had connexions in Holland and France, 
where she had been educated by the Ursuline nuns. A letter 
of 1 8 pages from the Prince followed her, threatening to end 
his life and forwarding bracelets not as a lover but as ** the 
tenderest of husbands ". One sentence did credit to both: 
" You know I never presumed to make you any offer with a 
view of purchasing your virtue. I know you too well." 

The Duchess wrote in great consternation to the Prince 
imploring him to consult the leader of the Whigs, Charles Fox. 
The Prince had no more devoted friend but the possibility of 
a Catholic wife meant the forfeiture of the Throne and the 
end of the Whigs. The Prince would never be in a position 



to make Fox Prime Minister. The Prince eased his personal 
agony by visits to Brighton, sometimes riding there and back 
in five hours; or visiting Fox with hysterical threats to sell 
his jewels and escape to America with his beloved. He 
informed James Harris that he would pass the Crown to the 
Duke of York. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert s visit to Holland led to friendship with 
the Royal Family who were negotiating with the English 
Court in the hope that the Princess of Orange might become 
Princess of Wales. The Princess consulted the tactful Mrs. 
Fitzherbert, utterly unconscious that she was her most 
dangerous rival. 

In fact the Prince, having felt the temper of Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert s conscience, decided to offer the minimum terms for 
a clandestine wedding. Before she agreed to return, she had 
received a letter of 37 pages which she considered an honour 
able though tumultuous proposal. He was willing to be 
united with her in the presence of two Catholic witnesses 
chosen by herself, while he reserved the choice of a religious 
Minister. He only asked that she would never reveal the 
ceremony during his lifetime. He was twenty-five, she was 
twenty-eight, and both felt that Fate, if not a higher Power, 
had thrown them together. 

The King had not allowed him to proceed abroad in spite 
of his touching pleas on the score of economy. His Majesty 
felt certain that the object was to marry an English kdy and 
even suspected that the marriage might have taken place. 
The Prince wrote and talked as though the King would 
accept the situation. None the less the secrecy of the grave 
was maintained over the actual ceremony which took place 
on December ij, 1785. As a sop to the King, he was ready 
to make over the succession to the House of Hanover to the 
fevourite son, the Duke of York. Mrs. Fitdierbert s mother 
was informed, the Cumberlands and Devonshkes were invited, 
but none were present. There was no best man unless for 
Orlando Bridgman who remained with a drawn sword on the 
steps of Mrs. Fitzherbert s house. There was a considerable 
difficulty in engaging a parson as several clergymen of standing 
were affrighted by the prospect of committing treason. 



Eventually the Rev. Robert Butt was bailed out of jail and 
consented to perform the ceremony for the sum of 500 and 
the promise of a Bishopric, should the bridegroom ever 
become King. He died before attaining his spiritual am 
bitions and his name would have been forgotten if he had 
not confessed his part on his deathbed. 

Henry Errington and John Smythe signed as witnesses to 
the certificate which was written in the Prince s best script. 
The legal impediments could not have been more over 
whelming: but in the Canon Law of the Church they were 
free. The marriage decrees of the Council of Trent had not 
been proclaimed in England and as the Sacrament of Matri 
mony is conferred by the married themselves Mrs. Fitzherbert 
felt that she had done all that was possible to obey the sentiment 
of the Catholic Church. As for the Act of Settlement and the 
Royal Marriage Act, they were not made in Heaven. 

Amid a crescendo of gossip and bewildered rumour the 
happy pair set up their married life. They fell under the pen 
of Horace Walpole and the pencil of Gillray. Mrs. Fitzherbert 
moved to a house in Pall Mall to be nearer Carlton House, 
for she refused to live under the same roof as the Prince. 
It was the same at the Pavilion in Brighton which she only 
occupied when he needed nursing. The general opinion was 
expressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury that it was 
" decidedly odd ". So Brighton, the Queen of Watering 
Places, rose from the waves. The choicest spirits in Society 
gathered round the Steyne. Villas suitable to the Beaux and 
Dandies were built under the bulbous shadows of the Pavilion. 
Mrs. Fitzherbert s contribution was a small house which 
survived to bear the symbolic lettering Y.M.C.A. Later she 
built the Catholic mission including a little church in the 
classical style. The Prince himself wandered amongst his 
guests and camp-followers like the Caliph in the Arabian 

There was no shadow upon the splendid scenes enacted in 
Pall Mall or the Steyne except the visibly swelling debts. The 
Whigs were reluctant to extract the necessary funds from the 
austere Pitt. The Prince fell back upon his closest friends in 
the House, Fox and Sheridan, to obtain relief. The Debate 


was fought between Whig and Tory under a cloud of rumours. 
When Fox rose to scatter the calumny of which everyone was 
thinking, he never mentioned a name or a marriage except 
as something " which never had and common sense must see, 
never could have happened ". Pitt and his followers were 
discomfited for they had bluffed and met the fate of bluffers. 
Fox appeared to give a direct contradiction from the Prince s 
mouth. It was accepted and the debts were paid by the nation. 

If Pitt felt fooled, poor Mrs. Fitzherbert felt disgraced. 
She insisted that Fox had rubbed her name in the mud. The 
actual blow was broken to her by the Prince, who remarked 
with the casual optimism which enabled him to surmount 
impossible difficulties : " Only conceive, Maria, what Fox did 
yesterday. He went down to the House and denied that you 
and I were man and wife! " As Fox had done so on the 
strength of a Royal letter, his feelings can be imagined when 
Uncle Errington curtly informed him outside Brooks* Club 
that he had been misinformed as Mr. Errington had 
been present at the marriage! Fox crept away to lick 
his paws. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert herself was so grieved that the Prince sent 
Sheridan into the House to soften or simplify matters. Mr. 
Grey, to whom he bashfully owned that a ceremony had taken 
place, had simply refused the task, so it came to ** Well, then, 
Sheridan must say something". Sheridan s glucubrations 
were received by the House of gentlemen with good-humoured 
amusement and for the time the matter was over, especially 
as the Royal Dukes of York and Gloucester rallied to the 
injured lady. On the other hand Dukes like Rutland were 
unwilling that their Duchesses should touch skirts with 
Mrs. Fitzherbert. 

All proceeded merrily again until the Prince s debts once 
more assumed mountainy proportions. Seven years had 
passed since the kst appeal to Parliament : but this time it 
was clear that Pitt declined to bluff or be bluffed. The Prince 
was required to give the country a Princess of Wales and the 
prospect of an heir to the Throne. He realised his dilemma: 
either he must declare his marriage to Mrs. Fitzherbert and 
pass the Crown to the Duke of York or he must commit 



bigamy. Relying on her secrecy, he decided to marry any 
suitable German Princess. In compliment to Mrs. Fitzherbert, 
at least he chose the uglier of Brunswick in preference to the 
heroine who became Queen Louise of Prussia. 

The year 1794 was spent in letting Mrs. Fitzherbert down 
lightly. In June he wrote her a charming letter which she 
received while dining with Clarence. There was a subsequent 
communication for she inscribed the first: "This letter I 
received the morning of the day the Prince sent me word he 
would never enter my house. Lady Jersey." 

Lady Jersey he used as a kind of bridge between his two 
wives. Still the Prince was eager to make Mrs. Fitzherbert 
a good allowance, which Uncle Errington regarded as honour 
able alimony. The King and the Lord Chancellor hastened 
to oblige him in the matter of " a Lady who has been dis 
tinguished by your regard ". 

Mrs. Fitzherbert, hardly believing he could enter into a 
second marriage, retired with the utmost dignity and grief to 
Margate, where Admiral Payne made the utmost efforts to 
tranquillise her. By the time she had returned to Brighton, 
it could be reported to the Prince that she only wished to 
study his happiness. The Prince informed Payne that he 
sought to make her position as comfortable as possible but 
the marriage-knot he guillotined with the cutting words 
" mats tout est fini ". 

In April 1795 the Prince married the hapless Caroline who 
had been fetched by Harris and received with the damping 
words, "Harris, fetch the brandy"! All parties concerned 
endured some agony of mind. The Prince in a fit of remorse 
was seen galloping wildly round Mrs. Fitzherbert s country 
retreat the afternoon previous to the ceremony. He assured 
Clarence on the way to his marriage that he could never love 
anyone else. The King was decidedly nervous and insisted 
on Clarence not leaving his brother for some days previously. 
The Archbishop made an agonising pause during the service 
in case the tortured bridegroom wished to relieve his 
conscience but no, looking like a deathmask, George, Prince 
of Wales, was united to the Princess who duly played her 
part and by January of 1796 gave Crown and Country an 



heiress: the Crown she was not allowed to wear and the 
Country, of which she became the injured Queen. 

Much tears, ink and laughter have been expended on that 
unhappy lady who added one perfect jest to the history of the 
times. She had the unique misfortune of being tried by the 
House of Lords for adultery, when she confessed she had 
committed that sin but once and that was with " Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert s husband"! It is pleasant to know that the two 
wives bore each other no rancour, as each had been placed 
in an agonising position by the same unscrupulous husband. 
Caroline expressed her admiration for the real wife knowing 
she herself was only a State substitute. Mrs. Fitzherbert 
ordered her house on Pall Mall to be illuminated in honour 
of the official wedding. She was always doing things which 
cannot have occurred to any other woman in history. 

Certainly she was the only Catholic lady who ever applied 
to the Pope for permission to live with the Prince of Wales 
in the lifetime of the Princess. This came through the Prince s 
frantic desire for Mrs. Fitzherbert s return after he had dis 
missed the Princess Caroline. As soon as the Princess 
Charlotte was born, he wrote a passionate Will in Mrs. Fitz 
herbert s favour leaving " the wife of my heart and soul " all 
his earthly property as well as the fond request that they 
should be buried together with panels opened in their coffins 
to permit their ashes to mingle after death. 

The Royal Family added their supplications and the Duke 
of Cumberland brought her a letter of passionate misery 
declaring that his doom was fixed and that if her answer 
remained unfavourable he would instantly communicate with 
the King. This would involve a declaration of the marriage 
and pkce her brother and uncle under a treasonable guise. 
Mrs. Fitzherbert was really alarmed and asked only for time 
during which she could appeal to Rome. She had done her 
loyal utmost to uphold the intention of the Church in her 
married state. She now called for support from the Pope. 

While the appeal was pending the Pope died and a Conckve 
took pkce in Venice which was attended by the Cardinal 
Duke of York. Had he been raised to the Papacy, it would 
have been the duty of " Henry IX " to settle the marriage 



state of the future George IV. As it was, Pius VII was 
elected and received the appeal from the Rev. Mr. Nassau the 
following year, 1800. The marriage was described to the 
Pope in writing and handed to two consultors. "These 
decided in favour of the marriage " and this decision was 
delivered as the Pope s in the imperishable Latinity of a Brief. 

All now was for the best and indeed the happiest years of 
the romance followed. The " so-called Princess of Wales/* 
to use his phrase, was banished and only Lady Jersey played 
the part of a snubbed hornet, when the Prince appeared at 
parties with his obvious wife. These years Mrs. Fitzherbert 
described as years of poverty in that they had to borrow from 
faithful servants, but they were " as merry as crickets ". 
Royalty beamed and only the new Duchess of York, who 
was royal from the beginning, could not bring herself to 
treat her as a sister-in-law. 

A new trouble rose on the horizon and that was the 
possession of Mrs. Fitzherbert s adopted daughter, Minny 
Seymour. She had taken to herself two adopted daughters : 
Minny, who became Mrs. Dawson Darner, and Maria Anne, 
who became Mrs. Jerningham. It is as well to say that after 
prodigious research it is impossible to find any evidence that 
Mrs. Fitzherbert s union with the Prince was fruitful except 
that in one letter she addressed the husband of Maria Anne 
as her " son in law ". The Catholic register in Brighton 
has been mutilated but this is purely negative. 

Minny Seymour was believed by the Prince to be his child. 
She was his " Minny " and he was her "Prinney". He 
settled money upon her and took a vast interest in her fate. 
She was legally the daughter of Lord Hugh and Lady Horatia 
Seymour and had been bequeathed after their deaths to Mrs. 
Fitzherbert. The secret of the marriage, it is known, had 
been revealed to the Seymours. The situation demanded a 
series of subterfuges which could be accepted by Society. 

Unfortunately the Seymour Guardians were convinced that 
Minny was of their stock and that it was their duty to remove 
the child not so much from a Roman Catholic influence as 
from the atmosphere of a Royal liaison. Like Charles Fox 
they had been misinformed. But there is no possibility 



that Minny was the daughter of the Prince by Lady Horatia. 
Often the accepted version is the truth and in any case legal 
action was invoked, though Lord Hugh had mentioned all 
his other children in his Will. 

When the Guardians took action, the Prince made flattering 
proposals if Minny could be safely berthed with Mrs. Fitz- 
herbert, but in vain, and the matter had to be fought in the 
Court of Chancery. The Prince was a good fighter and threw 
his whole energies into the Seymour Case. Physicians called 
attention to the dangers which removal was likely to cause 
the child. The Bishop of Winchester testified to her mastery 
of the Protestant Catechism. The legal Guardians insisted 
on the religious grounds leaving the field open to Romilly to 
point out the "peculiar advantage from the patronage and 
protection of the Prince ", This was getting curiouser and 

The appeal passed to the Lords where the Prince canvassed 
on behak of Mrs, Fitzherbert. The Royal Dukes supported 
the Prince except Gloucester, who was related to the Seymours. 
Before a division was taken, Lord Hertford, as head of the 
Seymours, undertook the guardianship which was immediately 
agreed. He then entrusted Mrs. Fitzherbert with the child. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert had secured the private assistance of Lady 
Hertford but in regaining a child she lost a husband. Lady 
Hertford henceforth demanded her acquiescence in the Prince s 
devotion to herself. From this grew the liaison between the 
Prince and Lady Hertford which accompanies the history 
of the Regency. Even at Brighton the Prince, after spending 
the mornings in private with Mrs. Fitzherbert, was afraid to 
notice her the same evening in the Pavilion lest the report 
should reach the arrogant Lady Hertford. 

The value of Lady Hertford to the Regent was due to her 
Protestant faith rather than to her features. The caricaturists 
mercilessly crowned her husband with the cuckold s horns 
but as in the reign of Charles IE the populace felt confidence 
in " the Protestant whore ". With the madness of the King 
and the Regency of the Prince a certain amount of anti-Catholic 
feeling had developed. Both the Regent and Mrs. Fitzherbert 
were susceptible to a hangover from the days of the Gordon 



Riots. They acted in different manners. The Prince con 
sidered his own safety : Mrs. Fitzherbert that of others. She 
destroyed the Papal Brief authorising her to live as wife with 
the Prince and scissored the names of her two Catholic wit 
nesses from her Marriage Certificate. It would save them 
from possible pains and penalties. 

There was a movement to call the Prince to state whether 
he was married to a Papist or not before he took the oath as 
Regent. He decided to break for the kst time with Mrs. 
Fitzherbert. The banquet he offered the Royal Family of 
France made a good opportunity. This was the famous feast 
which the son of the demented gave to the children of the 
decapitated. It was the glittering prelude to the Regency. 
Princess Caroline was not asked, but Mrs. Fitzherbert received 
an invitation. She called on the Regent to ask if she sat at 
a lower table or as hitherto with the Royalties. When she 
learnt that she had been relegated to a lower seat she gracefully 
withdrew but this time from the Prince s life for ever. She 
was convinced that Lady Hertford s influence had excluded 
her from the Royal table. The Protestant influence was in 
the ascendant and the new Prime Minister, Mr. Perceval, had 
led against Mrs. Fitzherbert in the Seymour case. The ground 
was clear for the agitations which ended finally in Catholic 

But Mrs. Fitzherbert took no part in those controversies. 
In vain she had advised the Regent to call his old friends the 
Whigs to office. Lady Hertford brought in the Tories. It 
took the most downright of Tory diehards, the Iron Duke 
himself, to induce the Prince as King to sign die Bill admitting 
Catholics to full citizenship. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert was happy to find herself outside the coils 
of the Regency as well as of the unpopularities of the Reign, 
which were borne on the pearly shoulders of Lady Conyngham. 
The Regent and his wife did not meet again. She passed into 
retirement and good works at Brighton. The only occasions 
which brought her to London were connected with Minny, 
whose future was an equal care to her and the Regent. They 
both proposed to find her a highly-placed husband. The 
hek of Bridgewater House was much fancied and it was on 



those stairs that she met the Regent for the last time. He 
was descending and stopped to speak a few words to " our 
dear little angel", while Mrs. Fitzherbert, preserving her 
mask, continued to ascend the stairs. They knew the art of 
cutting each other in the grand manner and the eyes of Society 
flashed upon them for the last time. They merely ignored 
each other and left that world, to which they had never com 
municated the circumstances of their union, to draw what 
conclusions they wished concerning their final and lasting 

Minny became the soul and solace of Mrs. Fitzherbert s life 
but she chose her husband for herself a penniless younger 
son, George Dawson Darner. " George " seemed to be the 
fatal name in Mrs. Fitzherbert s life. To her infinite distress 
and the distant raging of the King the marriage was achieved. 
The romantic do not always approve romance in others. 
Not even a Peer! But the Earls Fortescue and Portarlington 
are descended from the marriage which Mrs. Fitzherbert 
failed to grace at St. George s, Hanover Square. A tiny note 
enclosing francs ("I wish I was able to make it thousands 
instead of hundreds ") reached Minny in Paris to buy hats 
and bonnets. But all her jewellery was destined for the 
Dawson Darners. The King s chief interest was securing the 
nest-egg he had laid up for Minny from passing to the husband, 
who was rumoured spendthrift. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert consoled herself by a tour in the Midlands, 
where she visited Grosvenors and Cavendishes as well as the 
home of the Fitzherberts whose name she had carried 
triumphantly through all obloquy. Thenceforward she settled 
down in Brighton as the Queen of Respectability. The kst 
illness of the King brought her anxiously to Town. Minny 
had remained the only link and her girlish letters still passed 
conveying discreet sympathies "from the person in whose 
house I am now living ". But in 1830 the King was dying 
in the arms of Lady Conyngham but under the attention of 
Sir Henry Halford, " the good physician," who also attended 
Mrs. Fitzherbert. Through Halford Mrs. Fitzherbert s last 
letter reached the dying King in spite of Lady Conyngham s 
vulture-like presence. Halford had sent Mrs. Fitzherbert the 



true bulletin and prepared her for the worst. Lady Conyng- 
ham s influence had kept the King from Brighton during 
these years, dreading a reunion between the King and his wife. 
She had consulted Divines on the propriety of her remaining 
that winter at the King s couch and they had ruled that she 
had better stay in case her place was taken by a fresh scandal! 
By summer die end had come and Mrs. Fitzherbert s last 
letter of anxious love was given to the King to read and 
place under his pillow. But he was too weak to make reply 
or summons. The Great Summoner stood at the gates of 

In deep distress Mrs. Fitzherbert waited in her Tilney Street 
house hoping that she might be able to afford forgiveness in 
person, but in vain. At three of a June morning a friend, 
who had heard the great bell of St. Paul s toll, called at her 
house to inform her of her third widowship. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert returned to Brighton which soon attracted 
the new King William of sailorlike memory. Very courteously 
he returned nine portraits of Mrs. Fitzherbert. There was a 
tenth which she highly prized, a diamonded miniature by 
Cosway, but this was buried with the King, round his neck. 
Bishop Carr had seen the miniature attached to a silver chain 
and the grim Duke of Wellington had ventured to open the 
spring. So Mrs. Fitzherbert felt consoled and unforgotten. 
In a manner the romance had ksted till death. 

The new King immediately authorised Mrs. Fitzherbert s 
servants to wear mourning while the Conyngham and Hertford 
domestics were not permitted an inch of Royal crape. More 
was to come, when the King sent her an official invitation to 
the Pavilion. She replied inviting him to make the first call 
himself. She was then released from her marriage-promise 
and could show the King the document which made her his 
sister-in-law. With appropriate sentiment he burst into tears 
and offered her the title of Duchess which Fox had originally 
offered on the part of the Whigs. She refused what savoured 
of a " Duchess of Kendal " but accepted the weeds of a 
widow and the Royal livery for her servants. 

The King also gave the livery to his illegitimate son by 
Mrs. Jordan, adding the Royal arms with the baton sinister. 



Poor Munster was desperately in love with Minny and *he 
match was encouraged by the King: but as Mrs. Fitzherbert 
quietly remarked: " One is enough from that family! " The 
unfortunate Munster allowed Minny to make up his quarrels 
with the good-natured King and never ceased to haunt 
Mrs. Fitzherbert s house in Brighton and London until the 
day when he shot himself. It was Minny s birthday and a 
posthumous gift arrived: a dock with the date and her 
name-letters inscribed instead of the hours. 

Henceforth life was very quiet for Mrs. Fitzherbert. Her 
Oratory had brought Mass to Brighton and charity amongst 
the destitute. It was a red letter day when word was received 
from her nephew Thomas Weld that he had been raised to the 
Cardinalate by Gregory XVI. She was putting her house in 
order and handed a sheaf of the Duke of Kent s letters to 
Minny. "And when I am gone, I wish you to offer them 
to Princess Victoria." 

Two months after Mrs. Fitzherbert s death the great Queen 
came to the throne. The Pavilion was abandoned as a Royal 
residence and Brighton gradually became the Queen of the 
Cockneys, commoner and commoner. Few tourists have the 
taste to salute Chantrey s masterpiece of George IV in bronze. 
Fewer still visit the marble tomb in the Catholic Church 
where Mrs. Fitzherbert clasps hands for ever in prayer with 
her three wedding rings extended towards the sanctuary. 


At the last moment only has a document been found in the 
script of Minny s husband which clears up a number of details 
hitherto uncertain in biography. 

Nov. 14, 1836. 

Mrs. Fitzherbert told us this evening, that the first time 
she ever saw the Prince, was when she was driving with her 
husband Mr. Fitzherbert. They were in Park Lane, when 
he turned round and said: Look, there is the Prince 1 
The second time was a few days subsequently when she 
was going with her husband to a Breakfast given by Mrs, 
Townley at Corney House, Chiswick (Lord Macartney s). 



As they were turning down the Lane she perceived that 
the Prince had followed her and had stopped to look at her. 

After Mr. Fitzherbert s death she lived a great deal with 
the late Lord Sefton who was her half-uncle, both the 
fathers being issue of the same mother. She was scarcely 
out of her weeds and unwilling to go out and be seen. 
He urged her to go to the Opera with him and she agreed 
on his consenting to her going in a cap and bonnet and a 
veil. She left the opera leaning on Henry Artan s arms and 
when at the door with her veil down waiting for her 
carriage the Prince came up to him and said: Who the devil 
is that pretty girl you have on your arm, Henry? The 
latter told the Prince who she was and then introduced the 
Prince to Mrs. Fitzherbert. 

The Prince then appeared to have sought Mrs. 
Fiteherbert s society in all ways, and for this purpose 
gave a Supper. She went to it and seeing that she had 
attracted the attention of the Prince avoided going down 
to supper with him and took the arm of the Lord 
Chesterfield. All this occurred about the year 1780. The 
Prince then determined on giving a Ball at which she was 
to be the Queen, but she declined going to it and the Prince 
was so annpyed at this determination that when he found 
out that she did not intend to be present, he called his 
carriage and drove to Park Street in search of her. She 
did not let him in, being gone to bed. Her house was that 
one in Park Street at the corner of Hereford Street, now 
made into two or three, and it was there in the Dining 
Parlor that the marriage with the Prince subsequently was 




Edmond Warn, by C. R. L. Fletcher. 

Fifty Years of Eton, by Hugh Macnaghten. 

Changing Efon, by L. S. R. Byrne and E. L. Churchill. 

Article in The Dictionary of National Biography 9 by H, E. 


MS. notes by Arthur Benson. 
Personal Memories and Letters. 

THE Victorian age produced a type of public servant, 
subject to immense public esteem and private hero- 
worship but quite unknown abroad. They were the 
great Head Masters from Thomas Arnold to Edmond Ware. 
Then the mould broke. Harrow, Uppingham and Loretto 
knew them. 

Mr. Fletcher s Life of Edmond Warre is a mosaic of 
anecdotes, athletic triumphs and schoolboy distinctions 
amongst his pupils. It covers the hurly-burly of Eton 
history. It lacks the precision of Spy s famous caricature 
in Vanity Fair or the majesty of Sargent s canvas in School 
Hall. To see Warre steadily and see him whole, the reader 
must step down the corridors of Time. But however far 
he may step, the figure of Eton s greatest Head will not 

Outside Eton, Warre had no personal history, though his 
voice and rumour reached the ends of the Empire. His 
whole life was wrapped in the School until he became Eton 
as much as Arnold was ever Rugby or Thring Uppingham. 
English Head Masters took their stature by him. To invite 
him to a Head Masters Conference was like asking Jove to 
attend a Board meeting. As a boy he passed Newcastle 



Scholar of 1854 to Balliol. After a trivial Fellowship of All 
Souls he returned to Eton for life. 

Even as an Eton boy he created legends. He had exchanged 
one House for another because in his growing strength he 
had kicked down a wall. In later years it would have sufficed 
him to sit on one. A puny infant in childhood, he was on 
his way to become the colossus of Eton. As a fagmaster he 
fagged General Sir Redvers Buller. He sat in ckss with 
Swinburne, whose kte arrivals at Early School with his red 
and tousled hair he compared to the rising sun. Swinburne 
did not write the particular kind of verses for which Eton 
was famous, and in any case Warre heartily disapproved of 
anything so sensitised as a poet. Poetry unto Prose in his 
eyes was as Cricket unto Rowing, not capable of heroics. 

Hard work, hard living and hard rowing made Warre s 
ideal, to which he did not add a hard heart. His power was 
one of steady concentration which enabled him to win the 
first rank in scholarship without being a real scholar at alL 
The same power was turned upon rowing, the Volunteer 
Movement, the Classical Trireme, gardening, and above all 
upon the School curriculum, and always with the same 
surpassing results. Whatever subject he mastered, he put 
into visible practice and invariably experienced the divine 
happiness to find that it was good. 

The inner life, the strange atmosphere of Public School, is 
never written, or if it leaks into the disguises of fiction, is 
overlooked with pretended horror. Schools pass through 
varying phases. These may be caused by different generations 
of boys but they can be severely fashioned by a strong Head. 
The Eton into which Warre had been thrown was morally 
rough and irreligious save for the routines of Chapel. At 
Oxford Warre was remembered as "aggressively moral ". 
The time had come when the Selwyns and Lytteltons were 
reacting nobly against the low strain of schoolboy life. 
England was believed to be best ruled with a minimum of 
religious fuss or profession. Eton was content with the 
lowest common multiple, set out with good tone and 
uninquiring acceptance. The education offered at Eton 
sufficed for Squires who might develop into statesmen 

D 43 


and only needed the ready withal of Greek and Latin 
quotation in the House. Sixth Form cultivated a type 
of Bishop who was a gentleman first and could afford to 
smile or sigh on re-reading St. Paul s Greek. Discipline 
was supplied by the boys themselves, who fought with bare 
knuckles under the famous Wall. The influence of masters, 
moral or otherwise, was nil. 

There had been a Commission and improvements were 
called for in education, not in religion, which kept on the 
low side of the Church. The Catholic revival at Oxford had 
upset the dim denizens of the Eton Cloisters like rumours of 
an approaching plague. 

Houses were still conducted by extraordinary Dames out 
of the eighteenth century who kept a certain order tempered 
by ridicule. House Masters, if they behaved like gentlemen, 
could be successful, but some tolerated a form of Liberty 
Hall and more astonishingly still were tolerated themselves. 
The fates and characters of Etonians depended on the pre 
vailing tone of each House. There were young bloods, who 
saw fair play and decency, but there were survivals from the 
Regency, the grandsons of the Bucks and Beaux of pre- 
Victorian days. Eton could be a cruel place and there were 
dark corners over which a veil was gracefully dropped. The 
headmastership of the flogging Keate was taken as a joke. 
His passions were unslackened by an elegant and beautiful 
wife and he flogged for any reason or no reason. False 
quantities could lead to the block, for Latin Verse was the 
white flower cherished and tended unto blood. The most 
famous story, retailed round the Empire, related to a Con 
firmation Class who were jestingly put on the flogging Bill. 
The astounded candidates for Grace received the Sacrament 
on the tip of the birch. But then Eton can survive any Head. 
After Keate came "lofty lavenderesque " GoodalL Then 
Hawtrey. Then Balston. Then Hornby. 

From Oxford Warre descended like a fledgling Olympian 
upon Eton. He was well drawn at that time by George 
Richmond, a kind of pre-Raphaelite Sargent. The broad- 
shouldered Christian hero faced his rowdy world with the 
same personal beauty Richmond extracted from Newman. 



But what a gulf lay between the sensitive mystic, whose 
fingers drew the bow across the violin at Oriel and Mr. Duty- 
before-Beauty, whose mighty hands had brought him to the 
Presidency of the Oxford Boat. 

At Oxford Warre showed himself oarsman and soldier. 
It was his destiny to make Eton a great rowing school and 
as near a Military Academy as the Volunteer Movement 
allowed. At Oxford he was number One in the muster-roll 
of the Volunteers, a corps whose number 3 5 was the John 
Morley who left the Cabinet in 1914 rather than declare war 
on Germany. Apparently Warre s influence had not con 
tinued in his case. Another Volunteer who certainly slipped 
through his aggressive morality was J. A. Symonds, the 
aesthetic tempter of the coming generation. Symonds and 
Swinburne, Warre put outside the Pale, " Black is black and 
white is white ** was the sentence he imposed upon himself 
and others. This may be correct in a school copy-book, but 
life is one bewildering tangle of shadows amid the silvers and 
of darkness upon the white of day. Of course what Warre 
meant was that he could not tolerate a third sex in thought 
or friendship any more than he could admit a fourth dimension 
into the teaching of Maths. 

With these admirable ambitions he returned as a " temporary 
master** and was called upon to restore order in a House 
which had reached chaos. This House was under a benign 
Mr. Thackeray whose delicacy in Greek verse was an hoiiour 
to Eton. Warre produced order in a week and was rewarded 
by being made permanent. This was in 1860 and exactly 
sixty years later he was buried in Eton. Such was his span. 
His first modest appearance as a Master appears in the Lists 
as " Edward Warre, B.A." [sic] 

It was curious that Warre s career at Eton began and ended 
with the problem of wrestling with indecorous Houses. 
There was always a House worthy to be called Liberty Hall. 
But there were many excellent Houses and even their standard 
was raised when Warre became a House-Master. Warre used 
to grade the Houses as Battleships, Cruisers and Destroyers. 
He could not imagine a convict-ship amongst them, but he 
was suddenly confronted with ugly facts such as Thackeray s 



under Head Master Balston and " Pecker " Rouse s under his 
successor Hornby. They were part of the school legend. 
Mr. Rouse s young gentlemen poached game from neighbour 
ing coverts and lived like outlaws. Whenever one of their 
number was expelled, the others copied the dramatic custom 
of Execution days and hoisted a black flag, which generally 
flew for a week. 

Warre s Head had been Hawtrey, an amiable eccentric, who 
dressed like a perfumed dancing master and carried his Classics 
as gracefully as his liquor. His successor Balston enters Eton 
annals as the predecessor of Hornby. Warre was given 
Balston s pupils, who also needed a little taming, and he 
should have taken over Balston s office as well. However, 
the languid, gentlemanly Hornby kept Warre from Sixth 
Form room until 1884. For two generations the combined 
efforts of Fellows and Head and Provost had been directed to 
postponing Reform, But with the dissolution of the impossible 
Fellows into what was called a Governing Body, the principal 
obstacles were cleared. Whatever that Body did, they did 
not govern, at least while Warre was Head. Their pompous 
styles and names were reminiscent of the stuffed titles by 
which Companies fortify the minds of their shareholders. 
No parent reading the names could fail to believe that his son 
would receive example worthy of a scholar and a gentleman. 

But Victorian Eton neither professed nor attempted educa 
tion. It was not wanted and even Warre was far from being 
an educator. He was an organiser, a militarist, an oarsman. 
His House, of course, was a splendid nursery of Governors, 
soldiers and County magnates. Parents judged House- 
Masters by the gossip in Clubs or Regiments and Warre s 
House was famous. His boys were swept forward by his 
mighty voice and towering presence. His moral character 
subdued the impertinent and ridiculed the scornful. His huge 
strength frightened the bully and chivied the loafer. He 
accepted a certain intellectual measure, but he believed first 
and foremost in the athletic safeguard. Hitherto games had 
been voluntary and unorganised. The whole House played 
for the House in a merry rout. Colours and Elevens now 
became distinguishable. Games became compulsory like 



morals, depending on each other in the programme of muscular 
Christianity. Warre would not listen to a sneak nor act as 
a spy. He advertised his approach by tramping in heavy 
boots down creaky passages. Boys knew where he was and 
his trust was seldom abused. Of course his House was 
Number One. 

Of Warre s physical strength, stories were told with whole 
some effect. Once he had picked up two youths (one was 
Andrew Lang) and carried them under his arms over a Scottish 
Burn. While staying with Irish cousins at Tynan in Armagh, 
he performed a feat henceforth called " Warre s Leap ". 
Shut out one evening, he cleared a five-bar gate that opened 
into a stony descent. For generations the oaken posts 
remained in testimony until one was thrown by an American 
lorry. But the greatest memory comes from the time of a 
Windsor election, which Hornby had forbidden the school to 
enjoy. In case the order was insufficient, a band of ushers, 
twelve or more, were placed on Windsor Bridge while Warre 
sauntered to Barnes Pool Bridge immediately under the 
College. For some hours Warre kept a boisterous mob at 
bay. The scions of " Young England " were jeering and 
jibing but not proceeding. Every rush was checked by Warre 
calling out the boys by name. Those were days when he 
knew every boy in the School. The day came when a visitor 
asked him if he still knew every boy. " No/ was his famous 
reply as Head Master, " but every boy knows me." 

When he had decided his duty on Barnes Pool Bridge was 
over, he walked away. Five minutes kter twelve masters on 
Windsor Bridge were unable to emulate Horatius and a swarm 
of boys broke their ranks without difficulty. 

In athletics Warre s House began to crush all opposition. 
Their only rival was the venerable family of Evans. Both 
Houses were sworn to blackball each other for entry into the 
sacred company of " Pop ", the athletic Society which really 
ruled the school. When the two Houses met in the fierce 
match of 1873, Warre stepped out and angrily stopped the 
swearing and fouling with which both sides had disgraced 
the Field. Has any Eton Master ever dared hold up a match 
since? This was aggressive morality indeed. 



By all accounts Watre was magnificent in his House but 
there were deficiencies. He encouraged scholars but the 
literati were unknown. He boasted all three Indian Governors 
at one time but there was never a Laureate or artist. He had 
no sympathy with queer or quaint boys. The unconventional 
was scorned and injustices could occur. One of his show 
pupils, Bill Beresford, V.C., remembered, and when passing 
Eton halted the Twelfth Lancers in order to tell Warre that 
he had him swished unjustly. Warre stood astonished and 
silent, for his repartee was limited. 

Curiously enough, he disapproved of humour directed 
against himself. He asked his House to appoint delegates to 
the School Mission and they chose the least distinguished boy 
in the House. The Eton Mission, like the Volunteers and 
the Ten Commandments, was not a laughing matter, and like 
Queen Victoria, whom he revered on this side of idolatry, he 
was not amused. Nor was he amused when his Dame was 
** broziered " over a quarrel about jam puffs and the boys 
called insatiably for more. He could take a defeat but not a 
joke. If things went really wrong, he was puzzled in a 
humble sort of way. 

As Major in the School Volunteers Warre figured in a series 
of famous Reviews. In the eighties Queen Victoria reviewed 
some 40,000 Volunteers in the Home Park. Before the Eton 
contingent reached the saluting base, Warre gave an indistinct 
command, which threw the boys into the kilted ranks of a 
Scottish regiment. The A.D.C.S, headed by Lord Wolseley, 
rushed to the rescue and separated them before they could 
proceed. On another occasion Warre gave so loud a command 
that his charger took fright and threw him heavily. Even so, 
his dignity was not impaired in the eyes of the boys. On a 
Field day, when there were guests, he served the boys with 
watered champagne, a truly British compromise. 

On important matters Warre took sides and his side tended 
to win in the way that an avalanche is more powerful than a 
snowstorm. He stood for Rowing against Cricket because 
the oar called for nobler endurance. He stood for moderate 
reforms against the Diehards of the Foundation. He was 
Matthew Arnold s " Philistine " set over the governance of 



Jerusalem. Against Culture, Belles Letfres or any of the 
Movements that moved ever so gently under the Victorian 
crust he was adamant. 

It was against his wish or conscience that Shelley s bust was 
placed in Upper School, that William Morris lectured to the 
Upper Boys in a red tie and that Swinburne wrote the Eton 
Ode commemorating her 450th year. If he gave way on all 
these points it was with the reservation that " Black is black 
arid white is white ". 

In 1887 the Fortnightly Review published English passages 
selected by living Men of Letters. Dr. Warre s selections 
may illustrate his taste. He chose from Shakespeare Qaudio s 
speech on the horrors of death, Milton s " Hail Holy Light >% 
from Paradise Lost, Tennyson s ** Of old sat Freedom on the 
heights *, a passage from the " judicious " Hooker, and 
Napier s account of the Fusiliers at Albuera. 

The Philistines and the Aesthetes met in conflict under the 
rule of Hornby, whose attitude was expressed in one grim 
sentence: "I rather wish Shelley had been at Harrow I" 
Warre and Oscar Browning were the Protagonists. Browning 
despised games and read Dante to his boys. Warre made 
work creditable but Browning made it interesting. His 
House had some pretension to being an Academy compared 
with Warre s gladiatorial establishment. The clash came 
when Eton had to decide between two very different ways of 
running a House. Browning introduced Music and Modern 
History. He might as well have taught the boys to dance 
and knit, for the scorn he roused. When he took good- 
looking boys for drives, Hornby insulted him. Eton Masters 
timidly divided between Warre and Browning. But Hornby 
could not be impartial, such was his personal hatred* It was 
pointed out that Warre could row, Hornby could skate, both 
in the first class, but Browning could only tricycle! Hornby 
dismissed Browning, unfairly catching him through a joint in 
his harness. The cultural stream of Eton was turned or at 
least absorbed in the Thames for a generation. 

It was as River Master that Warre took a lead unknown in 
English school-mastering. He consented to coach the Eight, 
but on the curious condition that the Captain invited him 



on each occasion, so careful was he of usurping a power 
traditionally belonging to the boys. For a quarter century 
he coached the Eight and thereby influenced the Varsity boat 
race for the same period. He kept his own powers long 
enough. In 1865 he competed at Henley for the Goblets 
with another assistant Master under assumed names. It 
could not have been wholly approved in the sedate Cloisters, 
for a sermon was preached the following Sunday in Chapel 
on the wickedness of sailing under false colours I 

His ideal was very very high. On one occasion he stopped 
the boat he was coaching and after an unusual silence he said: 
" This is the first time I have seen perfect rowing." And 
the vision apparently passed. 

There is no doubt that he taught Rowing better than any 
other subject or than any other Coach. For hours he stood, 
rode or ran, teaching young oarsmen. He would spend an 
hour tubbing a pair in a gig. In mature age he wrote The 
Grammar of Rowing, profanely alluded to as God s Instructions 
to Noah. A famous caricature depicted Queen Victoria 
peeping out of Windsor Castle while Warre passed on the 
river and asking : " What is that terrible noise ? " It might be 
added that the Queen approved of Dr. Warre as one of the safe 
supports of Empire. He was believed to be the only person who 
sang her a comic song in private. No amusement was recorded. 

He created the traditions of " wel bobbery ", leaving the 
cricket to " Mike ", the corresponding instructor of dry-bobs. 
He finally obtained leave for the Eight to row at Henley from 
Hornby, who was also a man of the oar. This concession 
was made in exchange for an orgy called <c Oppidan Dinner " 
and " Check-nights ". The custom of drinking champagne 
on Rafts after School races continued well into Warre s 
Headmastership. Even so a Captain of the Boats had to act, 
for Warre hated abolisliing tradition, even when boys became 

Too late perhaps he became Head, but it was the signal for 
Eton to enter her zenith. In 1884 he received the symbolic 
birchrod from the Captain of the School elegantly tied with blue 
ribbons. Miss Evans* House was now without rival and Warre 
made the Cloisters Headquarters for his Draconian reforms. 



The time had come to fulfil the words he had written at 
the outset of his Mastership: "I shall show God s work to 
this generation." Ten generations of boy life did not 
distinguish much between Warre s works and God s. There 
was no opposing it. 

A School Office was created and occupied by old soldiers. 
A Book Pound was instituted. Annual Examinations were 
exchanged for Trials at the end of every Half. That Peers 
could be superannuated showed how deeply the great Reform 
Act of 1834 was still working. 

Most alarmingly it was announced that the Head would 
inspect Divisions without notice. These visitations became 
a vivid feature of School life much to the humour of the 
retired Hornby. No boy could forget the scene when a 
creaking door swung open and a black-robed giant advanced 
to the desk. Boys staggered to attention. Masters became 
incoherent and wiped away their sweat with blotting paper. 
The booming voice, with which the Head sought to reassure 
the startled boys, only increased the panic. Boys set to 
construe, stuttered or broke down. In the end the Head 
took the lesson, made one of his famous quotations, and 
passed on his tremendous way. Masters with presence of 
mind switched him to one of his classical fads : the raft of 
Odysseus or the propulsion of Triremes, for there were 
" wet-bobs " in the Classics if not in the Scriptures. 

Arthur Benson once described such a visitation during a 
class for Lysias : " I had been girding at the attenuated stuff 
and he began praising it for its beauty and interest. He made 
a little speech about good taste in writing, avoidance of 
humour, often offensive, * there, put your pen through it *. 
He spoke of his own sermons and how after writing a few 
pages a horror came over him (I don t wonder) and he struck 
it all out. His greatness gleamed through the loose and 
inconsequent talk, rambling metaphors, rapid quotations, 
quite unintelligible to the boys, like tongues of fire 
through smoke. He roared so loud once or twice that the 
room rang." 

He made a point of visiting French classes where the 
tactful Frenchmen in charge were adepts in disguising that 


his scholarship was better than his accent. Monsieur Hua 
was a favourite with boys, who understood he told French 
stories to King Edward, which were not retailed in class. 
As French hours were generally used for preparing work for 
Classical Masters, Warre retaliated by making Classical Masters 
teach an hour of French every week. He dropped the 
teacher of Hebrew after 1885 though a Hebrew class was 
becoming possible to recruit. It was a false supposition that 
the Semitic specialist became a chaplain at Harrow. Signor 
de Asarta taught Italian throughout the Warre regime but 
unfortunately was not known by sight. Whereas the plump 
and pompous Herr Ploetz was famous for spats and scholar 
ship, and could certainly teach. Warre brought in Mr. Byrne 
and under cheerful Englishmen modern languages received 
respect instead of resistance. 

Once it was allowed that the sons of gentlemen should 
learn Science, every effort was made to introduce the modern 
Laboratory. Dr. Porter taught a rather exciting Department 
on his own. He used certain experiments for instilling fear 
in his pupils. Lower boys were once told that he had raised 
a dead cat to life with a battery. Upper boys were shown a 
glass of colourless liquid and told that if it fell to the ground 
the whole of Eton would disappear in atoms. One fine day, 
according to Arthur Benson, it tipped over and Dr. Porter, 
who was also a clergyman, fell on his knees and recited a 
Collect. This was a Class the Head never ventured to visit. 
"* Ah yes, but that is Science and I know no Science/* 

One change was marked by boys for the good. The 
floggings were reduced in number and quality. Disdaining 
to use his god-like strength on naked urchins, he merely 
combed them with the birch, while the gowned praepostors held 
them down and elevated their vesture in the traditional manner. 

Masters themselves were given rules and discouraged from 
smoking. They were to consider themselves always on duty 
but espionage was forbidden. 

Warre found more opposition in Sixth Form than amongst 
Masters. Without any subtlety of wit or love of classical 
shades, he suffered in comparison with Hornby, who delighted 
his pupils with the quips and phrases worthy of a more 



civilised century. Warre s heavy instructions were received 
with yawning contempt. His teaching was " weighty rather 
than inspiring". Guileless and conscientious, he gave 
information in School with the same straightforwardness 
which was so successful on the River. Even in his last years 
the Sixth Form kept a book labelled " The Wisdom of Warre " 
and a boy, turned out of Sixth Form for apparent irreverence, 
did not care to explain that it was Warre and not the Deity 
he was mocking. Realising that all was not smooth going, 
he called in Hugh Macnaghten and the Sixth glimpsed 
Euripides and Sophocles from an inspired scholar. The 
Head carried on with Livy. A great commander knows how 
to use his deputies in the field. 

His favourite Captain of the School recorded: 

" He had far too much on his hands and could not see the 
wrong in some of his Houses. He always used to say to me: 
* Blessed are the Pure in Heart , and called me his facile 
princeps Captain of the School (excuse blowing of trumpets) 
and in his house, alone with him, I have seen him cry, for he 
loved Eton and knew in his ageing tread and failing abilities 
that the job was too big for him! 

" * I will not allow this filthy habit of smoking! It s bad 
for yeh morally and physically too, so to speak. Dea nt yeh 
want to be healthy, fine-blooded Englishmen? Not like 
those pale-faced French boys with their sneaky ways and 
sniggering manners ! All this was followed by a loud gallumph 
and a rolling of his tongue and a moment of wise pondering/* 
Like all great men he was easier to mimic than to imitate. 

It was said that four words summarised his teaching on 
any subject: chimaera bombinans in vacuo\ He was a singular 
combination of the magnificent and the ridiculous, and the 
nearer boys got to him, the less magnificent and the more 
ridiculous did he appear: yet the Masters for all his absurdity 
respected the man, if not his judgment, and were devoted to 
him. It was said that if he was not a great man, he was a 
great gentleman. 

His greatest test was when he had to decide whether the 
son of a great Minister of State should be expelled or not. 
This actually had occurred under a predecessor. But Warre 



gave the benefit of the doubt and no one could say if he was 
right or wrong. 

Jubilee year brought up the really great question whether 
the Eton and Harrow Match should occupy three days instead 
of two. With the years it had become as important as the 
Boatrace and as glittering as Ascot. A Petition in favour of 
three days was signed by eight Old Etonian Presidents of the 
M.C.C. The Harrow Head was not unfavourable, but Warre 
refused to be cornered and during some blundersome corre 
spondence in The Times he complained that " the turn thus 
given to the question is to throw without notice publicly in 
time of excitement the onus of deciding it on the shoulders 
of the Head Master of Eton ". They were broad enough in 
all conscience, but they were the shoulders of a rowing man. 
The ponderous decision was rolled forth: 

" It should be remembered Eton is very differently situated 
from Harrow. We have our annual match with Winchester. 
We have Henley Regatta. Whatever may be best for cricket 
may not necessarily be best for the School." 

" Mike " and the M.CC. Presidents were scattered like chaff. 

The Book of ** The Wisdom of Warre " was kept by Sir 
Stephen Gaselee, John Capron, Chris Stone, Robin Quirk 
and others. They delighted in his West Country accent 
" Kum, Kum, boys! when you begin to think of the negative 
side of Zero, you are, so to speak, lost in the abyss of Infinity ". 
Perhaps he was right. 

He was an odd mixture of granite and humility, for he was 
reproachful of himself, when he found a Sixth Former had 
scribbled to his neighbours: "Can you stand this stuff?" 
Apparently not. 

It was no use defending the Bible with the old Oxford 
thought. Mrs. Humphrey Ward s son was high in the Sixth 
when he referred approvingly of the Tubingen School and 
dared to quote Weiszacker. He was summoned to the Head, 
who spoke sternly and rather angrily, asking why Eton 
should go to German Theology. As for Weiszacker 
"they re all wise acres" was his concluding and perhaps 
unanswerable shot. 

It was no wonder that recruits for the Church began to 



diminish. In a certain sense Warre s whole regime was 
underical. The test was that Monday military exercises 
were taken out of Chapel not School time. The music in 
Chapel was of {ne best village-concert style with Anthems sung 
by a hired choir. The Sermons were safe, Sundayish and some 
times insufferable. Arthur Benson described Confirmation as 
a huge garden-party faintly overshadowed by a sense of religion. 

The eighties and the nineties proved Warre s golden era. 
He reigned, ruled and enriched Eton life. The Volunteers, 
literally " Dr. Warre s own ", flourished. The Eight almost 
appropriated the Ladies Plate at Henley. Eton rapidly 
approached the thousand mark. Royalty beamed. The 
Queen deigned to open the Schools called after herself. It 
was a return visit for the glamorous torchlight procession, 
which Warre organised for her first Jubilee, a year which 
also covered his natal fiftieth. The thoughts of both 
personages seemed to dwell upon each other at times and the 
Head even dreamed the words and tune, which the boys sang 
at the Castle. The Queen was overjoyed and Warre became 
a Royal Chaplain. In 1901 the Queen died and for the kst 
time Warre marshalled the boys in her honour. 

By the new century Eton had become Dr. Warre s Academy 
rather than King Henry s Foundation. He had thought and 
wrought and as far as possible taught the School into his 
own image. Eton was now wholly athletic and semi-military. 
All aestheticism was chivied out of the ranks. Any un- 
English movement from Ritualism to Vegetarianism had been 
suppressed. The Eton Society was no longer intellectual 
and would no doubt have blackballed Mr. Gladstone had he 
returned. " Pop " wore gala clothes and ruled the rest of 
the School by sheer force. They exhibited the last flicker of 
the Regency Corinthians. 

The great difference in taste between Warre s and the 
present day can be judged from the programme of" Speeches " 
delivered by the boys. The modern has intruded on the 
Classical. Even Browning (no relation of Oscar) was not 
sanctioned except the ridiculous rant about bringing the 
Good News From Ghent. As for the Eing and theBook, it was 
clearly putting ideas into the boys heads. 



In a famous metaphor delivered in a speech to the Masters 
Warre advised keeping a tight hand as long as the rein was 
fairly loose. This was variously interpreted, including the 
suggestion that Warre did not mind them being tight as long 
as they avoided looseness ! Some of the Masters punished 
themselves for their own subserviency by jesting against 
Warre. There broke forth a Lilliputian warfare amongst the 
Staff, between the Classical and more Modern. The Battk 
oftheBooks was refought chiefly over Greek. Warre s dilemma 
was that though by Grace he was a die-hard Classic, he had 
created Army Class which had dropped Greek. He had 
militarised Eton and he could not die in both trenches. 
Times were slightly tumultuous and he had better have 
retired. He had a good chance in 1896 when doctors insisted 
on his taking a rest, but he only gave up Early School. Again 
in 1900 he might have departed in an aureole of glory. He 
declined a hint from the Eton Premier Lord Salisbury who 
offered him the Deanery of that name. In fact there was no 
moving him though his mighty rowing heart was weakening. 
He had worn himself out in sleepless supervision of the 
School. Unending concentration had loosened the mighty 
fibres* He could be upset and he showed timidity in face of 
letters in the Press, even in face of the Paterfamilias bogey. 
He could no longer close controversies with an apt quotation. 
Ushers did not stop quarrelling when a huge but beautiful 
hand was laid on their shoulders and the words " Blessed 
are the Peacemakers " softly boomed in their ears. 

Who was to tell Warre that Eton could continue without 
him, and perhaps better? The School seemed to enjoy 
singing the hymn: " When War shall be no more ", though 
seriously they would have kept him for ever. Something of the 
kind overcame the Conducts (who curiously enough conduct 
service) and the Head s favourite hymn was substituted : 

" Come, O Thou Traveller unknown, 
Whom still I hold but cannot see, 
My company before is gone 
And I am left alone with Thee." 

This was quite true of the old man, whose splendid company 



of assistants were going or gone: Arthur Ainger, Edward 
Austen-Leigh ("the Flea"), "Badger 5 * Hale, Walter Durn- 
ford, "Mike", Henry Luxmoore. With two or three 
exceptions there were never such wonderful Houses. 

Latterly he was rumoured to be seeking a successor. His 
mantle was waved first towards Arthur Benson and later 
towards Francis Rawlins. He suggested Holy Orders to 
Benson as a first step to the swishing block, but that exquisite 
writer was thrown by the fluttering of the Holy Dove into a 
melancholia from which he never entirely recovered. Neither 
was eventually chosen and the Governing Body produced 
the real candidate, a Lyttelton who had once captained 
Miss Evans hated House. Such can be the whirligigs of 
Time ! 

The old man stayed into the new Reign, which was 
auspicious enough. The new King visited the Royal Founda 
tion in a Royal Barge as though in recognition of a rowing 
Head. But Fate had reserved him severe thrusts which only 
a younger man could have borne. For his peace and happiness 
he had better have retired when the going was good and the 
future like his mystical fellow-traveller unknown. 

Warre continued like some permanent monument on the 
Eton scene. Visitors and old boys looked for his stalwart 
figure in the way that they pointed out the Wall, Founder s 
Statue or the Crimean Cannon in front of the New Schools. 
The boys even accepted his over-audible sermons. They were 
stiff, uninspiring and rather tedious, but that booming voice! 
It alarmed and yet it lulled. Who that ever heard him thunder 
the Commination Service in Chapel could forget " Cursed 
is he that removeth his neighbour s landmark" surely a 
thrust at Mr. Gladstone s politics. As for the Ten Command 
ments listeners could recall echoes down the years, especially 
of the divine injunction upon the most human of frailties. 
It was like the voice from Sinai. 

He had his favourite texts: "Pray for the peace of 
Jerusalem (assistant masters, stop quarrelling 1 for 
Jerusalem and Eton were one). They shall prosper that 
love thee " (this was a thought for the Eton Mission and the 
old Etonian Association which marked his reign). He hardly 



knew his immense power over the boys, who could be in 
fluenced deeply for life without ever contacting him. They 
listened attentively to his Sermons like recruits on parade but 
could dislocate few aphorisms from the steady resonance. 
Once he called out to the astounded boys: " Clear the water 
and keep your feather low " ! This was a hint to avoid 
swagger. There was a memorable sermon in Lower Chapel, 
which neither boy, Master nor Dame could interpret. Some 
feared he was breaking down. " I was afraid he would never 
leave off," grunted the Lower Master. But listening to 
Warre was like listening to the mounting murmur of Mass in 
a Cathedral distance. Reverence he always obtained, for the 
boys believed he could do no wrong. 

Warre was more effective speaking outside the pulpit. 
In Chapel, with his gold-rimmed spectacles and lifted head, 
he resembled a blinded eagle feeling rather helplessly around. 
But when he faced a moral question face to face with the 
School, his voice cleared and his eyes flashed. Who could 
ever forget when Fifth and Sixth were summoned to Upper 
School? On one occasion there was a rather ridiculous row. 
A boy was expelled and there was a minor demonstration 
when the departing cab drove to the station. Some two 
hundred boys filled Keate s Lane. A bouquet was lowered 
from a top window and the departure was softened by confetti 
and cheers. A mild riot was cleared up by " Pop " with 
their canes. It need have gone no further, but Warre believed 
the School had condoned what came under his "Black is 
bkck " formula. He spoke words as terrible as ever Moses 
addressed to the Children of Israel. The School was frightened 
and even Masters became nervous. They were to understand 
that those who had cheered had done Eton more harm than 
they could ever retrieve! That speech of Warre was re 
membered by very different boys when the rest of their Eton 
lives grew dim. Grizzled veterans would meet behind the 
Pavilion at Lord s and murmur: 

" Do you remember the row? " 

" I still quake in my boots when I think of the Head in 
Upper School." 

It was amusing to boys to watch Generals and Ministers 



standing beside him on the Fourth of June with their hats off. 
He liked to be kindly, but that voice was so terrifying that it 
could be believed that he might have been a successful 

On a later occasion the School was summoned to a happier 
scene. In Lent 1902 the keyholes of classrooms had been 
filled with plaster of Paris before Trials. Warre angrily 
stopped all Leave until the guilty surrendered. Weeks and 
weeks passed until " Pop " gave him their word as gentlemen 
that the guilty were no longer members of the School. The 
School was summoned and Leave publicly restored. There 
was a scene of stupendous enthusiasm. It was one of those 
moments when everyone wished to die for him. 

Incidentally the Head congratulated the School that no one 
had " sneaked " on this occasion. He never allowed Masters 
to practise espionage. He believed that his own tremendous 
moral influence was sufficient. He made men House Masters 
and gave them as complete liberty as Colonial Governors in 
their spheres. They must manage to rule without informers. 
Some Masters held that a danger to morals was the exception, 
but on this point boys were most sensitive, for such cases 
involved expulsion. 

House Masters did not always carry out the Head s regula 
tions and suggestions. He had been urgent about fire drills, 
but nothing had been done by anybody. Boys slept in rickety 
old warrens behind iron bars. The inevitable might have 
been delayed a century, but it came when a mental incendiary 
among the boys fired Mr. Kindersley s House in 1903. Two 
boys perished in the trap. The blow fell heavily upon the 
Head s shoulders. It is doubtful if he ever spent another 
happy day at Eton. He was too crushed to attend the Inquest 
held upon the dead boys laid out pitifully in their Pupil-room. 
The wife of the Vice-Provost, Mrs. Cornish, provided the 
flowers. Fire-reform naturally followed at Eton and at every 
Public School which caught alarm in the land. 

Consolation, if any, came in these darkening days with the 
buildings which sprang up to mark his career. Already the 
quaint landscape of Eton had been considerably changed. 
Queen s Schools, the Lower Chapel, Mechanics School, which 

E 59 


was ahead of the times, the Drill Hall, the big new Houses on 
the road to Eton Wick. These last were certainly of the type 
that Mrs. Cornish called the " Sanitary linoleum School ". 
As a visible climax to Warre s career came the great Memorial 
Hall to the South African dead. The Boer War had justified 
Warre in many ways. It had been an Old Etonian war, 
comparing lists with all other Schools. The stone was 
solemnly laid and three years later a dome of mushroom 
Renaissance was raised in company with a Library in cheerful 
bad taste. It was unfortunately spared by the German 
bombers who later wrecked the exquisite Upper School. It 
remained Warre s monument and at least had been capable of 
containing his mighty voice. Like all the buildings he erected 
it might have been so much better and so much worse. 

In 1904 Warre proposed a new set of changes in the School 
life, but Provost and Fellows pulled themselves together and 
advised him to leave them to his successor. " Dr. Warre was 
deeply moved. He wrote a letter resigning his position and an 
nounced in Chambers that he haddoneso. If I am standing in the 
way of the good of the School, he said, it is time for me to go." 
But still he held motionless to the helm. He seemed more 
withdrawn than ever. He was still the only possible Head 
and the Staff were more or less tail. He seemed buoyed by 
his great past. He looked into a boy s face and recalled his 
father. Sometimes he stared stonily in an old pupil s face 
and failed of the name. 

Much is omitted from the history of Schools and therefore 
from the lives of Head Masters. The liberty which Warre 
gave to his House Masters was sometimes abused and several 
unsatisfactory Houses were taken as a matter of course. If a 
boy was lucky, he found himself at a brilliant House like 
Miss Evans or Macnaghten s. If he was unlucky, he could 
be very unlucky indeed. 

The blows came rather unexpectedly. The House, which 
nearly ten years previously had been the cause of the Head s 
memorable expostulation in Upper School, came under his 
notice owing to a parent s letter. The parent was a Peer. 
The Head relieved the Master of his House. The Master 
was popular (too popular perhaps) with his pupils and a 



number of them at Cambridge signed an indignant protest. 
They pointed out that the Head was retaining in his service 
the Master of a House far less worthy. The Head was moved 
to answer the rather impudent letter and to refer his young 
correspondents to the account he would give on the Day of 
Judgment. But they were right, for a stern parent (a Baronet 
this time) shortly took action and another House was dissolved 
in disgrace. Even its House Colours were never revived by 
another, which was a unique happening in history. 

Warre s biographer discerned an "intermittent series of 
shocks " affecting his health in those last unnecessary years. 
These troubles more than the disastrous Fire lowered his 
spirit. He felt he had been wounded in the House of trusted 
friends. No doubt he hated iniquity but he also hated 
removing an established House-Master. Perhaps, if there 
had been a little honest " sneaking ", his grey head would 
have descended more happily towards the grave. Better still, 
if he could have visitated Houses in the same way that he 
appeared in Classes. But alas he had never made the attempt. 

A survivor of this less worthy House, afterwards a First 
at Oxford, has written: " The general impression of misery 
and injustice is indelible and I cannot forgive those who 
allowed these conditions to go on. Also probably Warre 
thought it was a good House. What was there behind that 
notable presence? More modesty and humbleness and less 
intellect and perception than one would suppose. He was 
Head during a bad time in our social history and his liberty 
of action was curtailed. I think he had a wooden mind. 
But he was just, kindly and honest." 

Esm6 Wingfield-Stratford, a Fellow of King s albeit an old 
Etonian (so much have times changed), sketched him at his 
best: e *His magnificent presence enhanced by his billowing 
gown, reading Absence in School Yard, must in itself have 
been no inconsiderable asset to the School ... He was just 
what you imagine John Bull might have been minus his fat. 
And I can never think of Warre without being reminded of 
what Mazzini once said after a visit to the Zoo Have you 
noticed the face of a lion? Do you not think it is a very 
foolish fece? Well, that is Garibaldi s." 



Wingfield-Stratford, like most of the School of 1900, 
realised the sinister side: "It was characteristic of Warre 
that be should also have continued to avert his eyes from the 
sadistic orgies that were part of the regular routine in not a 
few of the Houses under his suzerainty." 

It seems ungenerous to saddle Warre s memory with the 
legend of Houses which only unbelievable carelessness could 
have overlooked. He had made Eton richer in every way 
in work and play as a builder, an organiser. By sheer 
prestige he had imposed the ideals of Christian gentlemen. 
Scholars in College, oarsmen in the Boats, the Eton Volunteers, 
the Eton Mission, athletics and foreign languages flourished 
under his touch. History could only record the rosy and 
golden but does true History prefer to omit the darker side ? 
Nor was there more than a black patch, which could scarcely 
be believed in later and happier days when Houses reach the 
same good level. In that case let the blame rest on a nameless 
House-Master, a survivor of whose House writing to the 
author remembers " the unhappiest years of my life which 

we spent together. I believe Mr. was probably a 

harmless individual but I think that quite a few of our con 
temporaries, who have gone under, might have survived, had he 
never been an Eton Housemaster. I know it took me quite a 

few years to live down the stigma of having been at 

the worst House there has ever been at Eton. By the law 
of averages there must have been a fair proportion of normal 
c good fellows * in that House. I can t remember one I ever 
wish to see again. What was wrong that he and that incredible 
woman managed to produce such an appalling crowd of 
young hooligans as we all were? We weren t even healthy 
savages. You were always older than your years. You kept 
your head, bloody at times but unbowed. I shall never 
forget the quite incredible change which came in my life 
when I was taken away. I suppose we knew ourselves to be 
pariahs and hanged ourselves on the bad name that had been 
given us. The present generation just won t believe you. 

For indeed a true story of Mr. s in our time would rival 

any * Borstal Nights which could ever be written. * 

So writes a Colonel of the Guards who kter met his principal 



torturer attached as a probationer. There were no happy 
meetings in after life between boys. Another grim meeting 

occurred when L minor found himself inspecting a 

particularly hated character attached to the Rifle Brigade. 
The British Army brought such to justice and standards of 
decency. And the rest is silence. 

It was the brutality rather than the morality which shocked, 
as when two Houses competed as to which could claim the 
record for " smacking ** the unlucky fags. Two future 
Varsity oarsmen could attribute their firm seats in the boat 

to their weekly thrashings at s House. One found a 

soldier s grave after being Captain of the Cambridge Boat. 
To the writer he assigned his " bottom of tin * to his treatment 
by a sadist fagmaster but he added, "It set me rowing! " 
It was no House for weaklings where such inclinations as 
attending Holy Communion, reading the Spectator or collecting 
wild flowers were treated with unmannerly contempt. Canings 
in those days were divided into those which made blood ooze 
through the trousers or not! 

Even an attempted suicide did not warn the authorities; 
but when the crash came, Warre took no excuse and made 
no exceptions. There was an end of that House and Eton 
sighed her relief. It is pleasant to think that, when the sons 
of Labour enter the Eton ranks, they will find such unpleasant 
conditions entirely removed. Only Squires* sons could have 
stood what we stood between 1900 and 1904. 

No book of Eton Memoirs will lack a portrait of Warre, 
whether written by Masters or boys. They all accumulate 
to his praise and honour and it is well that the memory of old 
unhappy things should drift away. Parents must not dream 
that such things are possible in these days. In fact they may 
send their children to Eton or Roedean with equal confidence 
in the propriety and kindness .they will meet. 

And again, let not Warre be wholly blamed for everything 
that occurred at Warre s Eton. An Admiral depends on his 
Captains for the discipline and morality of the ships: and 
may depend in vain. 

In one respect it was a pity Warre did not influence the 
Victorian youth and that was in his love of gardening and 



Botany. He delighted in talking to a Botany class which he 
could illuminate with Classical allusions. He loved to play 
with the leaves of the Sensitive Plant though sensitive boys 
hardly seemed to him to exist. Perhaps Mimosa pudica would 
have made the botanical equivalent of a certain type of boy, 
but the majority of Etonians in his reign could be likened to 
hardwoods and hardy shrubs. 

We are told officially that "he remained at his post too 
long ". But at last the end came and with the end came his 
last School. There is always something moving in such a 
moment. Gladstone s kst minutes in the House of Commons 
have been dramatically recorded by John Morley. Lord 
Clifden remembered Warre s last School. It was a Saying 
Lesson. " I was the last boy to come up and say my piece 
and therefore found myself alone with him. When I had 
done it, he shut the book and said these words: Finis laborum 
meorum. It was a terribly impressive moment and I would 
have given anything in the world to have made a suitable 
reply, preferably in Latin, as I stood there representing all 
the thousands that the dear old man had benefited." His 
own words were upon him for the time had come to shoulder 
his pack and go. 

Whatever his private griefs and shocks, Warre retired in 
1905 mantled with public esteem. He soon returned as 
Provost, Hornby having once more kept him waiting too long. 
It would have been more convenient for Eton if he could 
have become Provost in 1900. As things were, he was soon 
crippled and the boys visioned him in a bath chair. The 
mighty physique defied the advance of age or even Death. 
It was not till 1920 that he met the Unknown Traveller of 
his dreams. 

When he died, it seemed difficult to conceive that his 
greatness had been achieved in so small a world. But all 
who ever came under his influence felt assured that he could 
have repeated that same greatness with unswerving simplicity 
whether he had gone to Canterbury or the Woolsack or the 
Throne of the Moguls. And in each place his Classical 
quotations would have been appropriate. 
Four Head Masters have succeeded Warre, chosen by the 


Governing Body as carefully as Popes are chosen by a more 
sacred College. Their names have not passed like Warre s 
into the history of England. It would be interesting, if at 
the ceremony of induction a famous warning, which is uttered 
to new Popes, were paralleled at Eton. " Non videbis annos 
Petri" Popes are told; and each new Head Master should be 
solemnly informed in Chapel (perhaps as an anthem), " Thou 
wilt not see the times of Warre ! " 

He was buried in that forgotten corner of Eton which holds 
so many dead Dominies, Dames and worthies of Eton. 
Miss Evans lies near by where her boys left her in peace. 
But the great grave is Warre s. 

There is a tradition that the Irish will enjoy the privilege 
to be judged by St. Patrick in person on the Last Day. It 
would be a happy thought on the part of the Eternal to allow 
the last Eton Absence to be read by Edmond Warre, for on 
that tremendous Day his voice for once would not be 



Sir William Butler s Autobiography 

The Milner Papers Headlam 

The Life of Joseph Chamberlain, by J. L. Garvin 

THE names of most of the British Generals engaged in 
the Boer War have met merciful oblivion. The name 
which the Boers respect and remember longest will be 
Lieut-General Sir William Butler. Not only did he take no 
part in the disastrous fighting, but had he had his will, there 
would have been no fighting at all. 

William Butler was born in Ballyslateen, in the County of 
Tipperary, in 1838, part of what was called in the old maps 
" Butler s County ", for his family was descended from James 
ninth Earl of Ormond, who died in 1546. A great deal 
can be garnered from his Autobiography. It would be difficult 
to say which weapon showed him die more Irish: pen or 
sword. He had a devastating sense of irony, a love of old- 
fashioned punning and word-play and a sense of the historical 
past, which he investigated entirely without the use of 

He remembered visiting Richmond Penitentiary as a child, 
where a very impenitent and burly figure swayed him in his 
arms, while the most famous and melodious voice in Europe 
hurrahed for Tipperary! " The big man was Daniel O Connell 
and the time must have been in the June of 1844." Butler 
cherished such memories from the past, but his next 
experiences were not so hilarious: the Irish Famine and 
the slow noiseless slaughter of " the finest peasantry in the 
world". As an old soldier he added afterthoughts to a 
schoolboy s, whatever they were in the forties. " A second 



or third-rate despot could have at least parried the blow; 
but a constitutional government face to face with a sudden 
crisis is as helpless as a stranded whale in an ebb-tide/* 

He watched the evictions at their worst and his mentality 
was marked for life. Henceforth a peasant or a farmer was 
God s best, and whoever struck the man with the hoe had 
struck God s plan for the world. In days to come he married 
Elizabeth Thompson, the famous painter of the Roll Call, 
and at his inspiration she painted an eviction scene which is 
now cherished by the Irish Nation. 

The young Ensign of the Sixty Ninth was posted to the 
East. The old Army had perished in the Crimea and Butler 
could only find a few survivors of those " whose charging 
shouts had been heard on fifty European and Asiatic battle 
fields. More than half of them were Irish, no matter what 
might be the title borne by the regiment to which they 

The old Colonel died soon after Butler s arrival in India, 
while endeavouring to shout one of those complicated 
commands devised at Whitehall without thought of hot 
climates. The words were still those for wielding the flint 
locks, the Brown Bess of the Peninsular War. Butler himself 
lived into the more civilised era of the Gatling and the Maxim. 

As for the voyage in an old Trooper, "there was no 
Plimsoll in those days " and the leaking ship only survived 
by keeping the angry soldiers at the pumps. 

A life of experience sharpened his pen. Could Conrad or 
Stevenson have described die horrors of a Hurricane better 
than this paragraph? 

" There is no sea and no sky and no air. They have all 
become one vast, blank, solid, gigantic animal, compared to 
which the lion is a lamb, the whale a minnow, the biggest 
cannon a child s popgun. There is no sea running as in an 
ordinary storm; beneath this awful wind the sea crouches 
for a time like a lashed hound; and that is exactly what it is. 
It cannot get up and run before that vast wall of wind. It 
lies down at first and the wind mows it like grass, shaves it 
off in swathes of white foam, which are caught up into the 
rushing wind itself, so that no eye can open against it, and no 



face can face its saltness. But the roar is the thing that lives 
longest in memory; it seems to swallow even the thunder, as 
though that too, like the sea, had been brayed into it." 

Here was a power of description and outlet to his turbulent 
Celtic soul, which helped him through many a reverse and 
difficulty. Life, even when it struck with hurricane force, 
was always interesting. When the Present became dis 
appointing or odious, his curiosity delighted in the Past. 
Links, living links were his hobby. In the old Fort at 
Vellore he found a survivor of the Battle of the Nile. " What 
was it like? Well, it was like the sound of the waterwheel 
of a big mill." 

That was all, but he had better luck at St. Helena, where he 
found an old Irish soldier, who had guarded the Emperor 
himself. He could point where the sentries were placed 
below the ridge by day and drawn close to Longwood by 
night. This old Irishman had seen the Emperor working in 
the garden or feeding fish in the pond. He had even entered 
the house in charge of the Chinamen who fetched the water 
from the spring. He remembered the big wind tearing up 
the trees the night before the Emperor died: " the awfullest 
wind that was ever on the island ". Was it sent by the same 
power that carried away the soul of Cromwell in a mighty 
raging gale? 

Was it an irony of fate that Irish soldiers stood sentinel 
over the dying Emperor and over his tomb ? Had he brought 
his Armies to Ireland instead of Russia, perhaps he would 
not have languished in the dead gullies of St. Helena. It 
was a Sergeant Sullivan who stood over the dismembered 
body and with his bayonet prevented a rat removing the 
Imperial heart 1 But what a superb compliment the British 
paid to their old enemy when soldiers took turn to watch, 
day and night, lest the dreaded one should rise from the 
grave. Pilate ordered the same precautions. "Had there 
been no St. Helena there might have been no Second Empire," 
ruminated Butler. 

Whenever he had a chance to slip off a Trooper, he paid 
pilgrimage to the empty tomb at Longwood where he knew 
so well " the dark cypress trees, the broken willow, the iron 



railings, the big white flagstone in the centre of the railed 
space all the lonely encompassing lava hills merging into 
the gathering gloom of night; and only a yellow streak of 
afterglow to make the profound depths of this valley seem 
more measureless ". 

On his return to England he devoured old books of battles 
and far forgotten things. There were no wars on hand and 
he set out to tramp the old Flemish battlefields from Fontenoy 
to Waterloo. He was fifty years away from Waterloo. It 
was not till 1909 that he wrote : " We are not yet one hundred 
years from Waterloo. It is quite possible that there are 
thoughtful people in England today, who are not quite so 
keen as their fathers were upon the leg-up on the high horse 
of Europe which we gave Germany in that memorable 

Butler served in the good old days of promotion by Purchase 
and had himself " been five or six times purchased over " by 
junior officers. The Barracks and military life at home 
presented no interest. He dashed to find excitement in any 
corner of the world, such as Canada for service during the 
Fenian raid. It was a chance of exploring the unknown 
latitudes he afterwards described in The Great Lone Land. He 
dashed to Paris in time to see the surrender of followers of 
the Commune. In the Autobiography he gave a glimpse of a 
wounded, defiant woman going with hands bound in a cart 
to execution: a kind of reparation for Marie Antoinette in 
her tumbril. 

In his Irish home or the dingy red-brick barrack at Chatham 
he wrote about the immense lonely spaces he had crossed on 
foot in Canada and which few eyes had ever seen before. 
Thanks to memory he relived his endurances in the Canadian 
wastes and wrote out those distant scenes in a manner that 
called the attention of the authorities: an attention which 
could not be purchased. The gift of remembering is a very 
soldierly quality. Well might he write: 

" What an infinite blessing is the mystery of memory! No 
possession or instinct belonging to man can touch that single 
gift to look back, to remember, to be young when you are 
old, to see the dead; to have ways of escape, to be free, all 


this out of Memory. Surely this was the breath of Life 
breathed into the brain of man when God gave him a living 
soul." And so through life he cherished historical dreaming 
and travelling recollections: book-writing and every chance 
he could take to make a new expedition or dash into the 
unexplored. He could not afford, perhaps did not relish, 
the home-sports of the Victorian officer. When he was 
refused for service on an expedition setting out to find 
Livingstone, he returned to the Canadian unknown. From 
the Arctic snows he passed to the torrid sands of Africa, when 
the young soldier crossed swords with the formidable historian 

Naturally, on Irish and Catholic matters the great historian 
thought Butler fair game and chaffed him in company over a 
" Winking Virgin " in Madeira. The answer came slap and 
unexpected: the young Irishman had seen so many winking 
ladies in England that the sight was no novelty. One on the 
Saxon I The Butlers had suffered the Penal Laws, and when 
touched, the young soldier could defend the Old Faith. 

When his travels had reached print, his light could be hid 
no longer and a man of deciding character entered his life. 
General Sir Garnet Wolseley summoned him to accompany 
him on a series of African adventures. Butler found him the 
ideal soldier " on whom command sat so easily and fitly that 
neither he nor the men he commanded had ever to think about 
it ". He sketched the " broad and lofty forehead over which 
brown chestnut hair closely curled: sharp, penetratingly blue 
eyes ". This was the unfailingly successful General in whom 
Queen and Army and public delighted. Butler s description 
is not far different from his sketch of another of his military 
heroes, General Gordon: " I never saw thought expressed so 
clearly in any other man s eyes. Above these windows of 
his soul rose a fine broad brow, over which a mass of curly 
brown hair . . ." 

Later Butler wrote the Lives of Colley and Gordon who 
both died tragically under Africa s uncompassionate skies. 
His Life of General Napier was so successful that he was asked 
to write Marlborough s in a series. At first he was all afire 
but when he found that the magnificent soldier was not an 



honest man, he surrendered the task to Wolseley who had the 
good luck to be given access to the archives at Blenheim. 

Half the happiness of his life came from his heroes: 
Napoleon in the past and in the present Wolseley, Gordon, 
Colley and, thanks to his Irish Nationalism, ParnelL They 
were men indeed. Upon them he made his meditations and 
his writing. If he ever had the leisure, he intended to give 
his masterpiece to Napoleon. For his strategy in the 
Waterloo campaign he had an immense admiration. If 
Butler had been in the place of Ney, perhaps the Great 
Captain would not have been defeated. Sarcastically he 
recorded "that vast force of about a million men which 
those brave fellows, the Kings and Emperors of Europe, had 
gathered round the French frontiers to fight the single soldier 
whose army two months earlier had numbered a bare five 
hundred all told ". 

The death of the Prince Imperial moved him more deeply 
than he could ever say. The representative of his hero 
Napoleon the Great the combination of the warrior dynasty 
with the white flower of youth and the hopeless blot left on 
the escutcheon of England by his abandonment to the assegais 
of the Zulus. 

As fate ordained, Butler was posted at Durban and he 
collected the funds to make the funeral passage honourable: 

"... the saddest but the most impressive sight I had ever 
witnessed. It was the sunset hour; the Eastern slope of the 
Berea was in shadow but the town beneath, the ships in the 
roadstead and the deep blue Indian Ocean beyond the white 
line of shore were all in dazzling light. The Regiments that 
had gone up country had left their bands on the coast, and 
one after the other, these took up the great March of the 
Dead, until the twilight, moving Eastward towards the sea, 
seemed to be marching with us as we went. Night had all 
but closed when we carried the coffin into the little Catholic 
Church ... a few French nuns prayed by the dead, relieving 
each other at intervals through the night. * 

The Empress Eugenie, touched by Butler s act, sent him a 
jewelled pin of the Prince with her deep gratitude for the 
Order of the Day which he issued at Durban. 


He could never keep in check a sarcasm which showed 
signs of descent from Swift s " savage indignation ". His 
wording was inclined to make stupidity writhe, and this was 
never helpful to a military career. Like Swift his feeling for 
Liberty often rejected the policy of the Empire, whose gallant 
mercenary he was. He could write praise or pity for the 
foes with whom he engaged. Egypt should remember his 
words after Tel-el-Kebir addressed to her fallen patriots: 
" Peace be to them, lying under those big mounds on the 
lone desert ten thousand, it is said. No word should 
soldier utter against them; let that be left to the money 
changers. They died the good death. Dust to dust. They 
did not desert the desert and Egypt will not forget them." 

It was the same pen which recorded the Comet otherwise 
unmentioned in accounts of the Battle: "before day came, 
the great Comet stood above where the sun would rise. It 
resembled a vast wheatsheaf of light or a flaming broom sent 
to sweep the stars from the threshold of the sun." 

When British officers write in such style their conduct is 
not always accountable. When Arabi Pasha, the defeated 
General, -was brought in "and saluted us with dignity. I 
noticed that only one officer besides myself returned the 
prisoner s salute. That one was General Drury Lowe. I 
was in good company." 

Arabi might have taken heart from those two salutes. 
Unknown but unaccountable Englishmen were working for 
him against " the Levantine jackal, the Khedivial eunuch ", 
who had practically settled his judicial murder, Wilfrid Blunt 
despatched the legal aid to defend the prisoner and more 
effectively still, Butler wrote secretly to a personal friend of 
Gladstone to the effect that if Arabi was executed, Gladstone s 
enemies would snatch the chance to pursue him with the cry 
of blood-guiltiness to the grave. So the Eunuchs were 
disappointed, but if Arabi had been executed instead of exiled 
to Ceylon, his statue would crown Cairo today. Three years 
later Gladstone s enemies were able to affix on him the blame 
for Gordon s death which the grave has not quenched. 

Gordon at this time was living in another world like a 
Knight of the Round Table, but he was liable to descend to 


do battle with Evil. It was sometimes the Slave Trade and 
at another the Egyptian bondholders who discerned that 
" the presence in Palestine of their great antagonist could only 
appear as a menace to their designs upon Egypt ". Gordon 
was one whom officials as well as slave-traders and bondholders 
must loathe. He was not only incorruptible but he was non- 
dirigible. He would only obey his conscience and in the 
midst of sudden Messiah-like impulses he was always ready 
to retire into obscurity. Few admirers studied and described 
him as well as Butler. 

When the final tragedy had arrived and Gordon was 
enduring his lonely passion in Khartoum, Butler struggled 
to relieve him. At one moment he hoped he had brought 
about salvation through boats. There were weeks and 
months of delay and Gordon seemed able to hold out for 
ever, but there was worse than stupidity involved. With 
damning discernment Butler put his finger on the omission: 
" to secure the route Korosko to Khartoum after Gordon 
had passed along it to his destination ". The authorities in 
Cairo may have been stupid, but they were not particularly 
interested in securing Gordon s safe return. The Korosko 
road alone would have protected him, but by the time that 
Gladstone was alarmed and the public subversive it was too 
late. In vain Butler fought The Campaign of the Cataracts. 
At the time he described the Despatch of the Secretary of 
State for War covering these matters as " absolutely without 
a parallel in history; the force of fiction, make-believe and 
pretence could go no further ". Twenty-five years kter he 
wrote that he could not say "where the ugly suspicious 
circumstances ended and the dense stupidities began ". He 
did not believe that it was all an accident that Gordon was 
conveniently left to the Mahdi. Queen Victoria might shed 
her imperial grief upon his memory. His stainless memory 
might wring the bewildered British soul. The bondholders 
would not grudge Royal tears or the empty tomb in St. Paul s. 
" Their antagonist " had been obliterated for ever. 

Butler was one of those soldiers who sometimes understood 
the moves in which the military were expected to acquiesce. 
Naturally he incurred dull enmity amongst the files and 



fuglemen of Whitehall. Nevertheless he had an Angel 
Guardian in the highest spheres of the War Office. Wolseley 
always admired and protected him. It was possible he even 
enjoyed, thoughhe could not approve, some of Butler s stinging 
epigrams. He soon had abundant opportunity to do so. 

Butler was always ready to retire into his " mental citadel " 
and write. His energy sent him shooting with Parnell in 
the Wicklow Mountains or following Gordon s footsteps in 
the Holy Land. From a period of meditative obscurity he 
was summoned to write a report about Army Ordnance. He 
sat down with gusto to the task. Blue Books and Red Tape 
he tossed aside. The Nile and Natal had given him visual 
knowledge of Army ways. Sheathing the sword, he wrote 
an essay which made the readers in the War Office wince. 
It passed into print, but the Secretary of State, belonging to 
a ruling family of decorous efficiency, issued a stiff order to 
Butler to withdraw every word. All copies were recalled 
and incinerated. The recommendations were all adopted in 
time but without credit to Butler. It was the phrasing which 
hurt the officials. For years some of the phrases were quoted 
by soldiers under breath. 

It was clear that any hope of a career was over. Men with 
ability to express ideas are thought dangerous. Their dis 
missal can also be dangerous. In wartime a dangerous man 
can always be posted to a dangerous post. Unostentatious 
employment is die better course in times of peace. In Butler s 
case it was remembered that the defences of London had been 
neglected since the threat of Napoleon s invasion. He was 
ordered to select sites for forts. This occupied him pleasantly 
for a year. Early in 1890 Wolseley, who knew a soldier 
when he met one, offered him command at Alexandria or 
Singapore. Butler believed that Africa always held the 
destiny of British Generals and chose to go to Egypt. The 
Khedive Tewfik died in the following year but Butler s views 
were sliced out of the Autobiography by the publisher, leaving 
blocks of asterisks (pp. 361-2) and History the less for a 
little truth. 

Alexandria made a base for Napoleonic study, and Butler 
visited the battlefields of Austerlitz and Wagram. He 



collected evidence to disperse the chief scandals on his hero s 
fame: the supposed poisoning of the wounded at Jaffa, or 
the letter by which he was said to have absolved himself 
from the disaster of the Nile. 

From Alexandria he passed to Aldershot and from Aldershot 
to Dover, whence he shared in the Manoeuvres of 1895. 
General Redvers Buller on one occasion ordered Butler to 
move his guns. Seeing it was a false move Butler quietly 
disobeyed the order. When Buller later sent a counter 
manding order Butler could report that the guns were back 

Buller won that battle thanks to Butler. His next battle 
was in South Africa but that he did not win. From Dover 
Butler held the South-Eastern Command and looked across 
the Channel from the majestic Castle. The far-travelled 
Odysseus seemed set for a sunset of peace and honour. The 
War Office seemed proud, if a little nervous, of him. There 
was nothing against him except the sting of his epigrams and 
it was obvious that he would never show the signs of genteel 
timidity which the bravest warriors are expected to adopt in 
the presence of civil servants. 

He was now a happy man, honoured and promoted: 
surrounded by a growing family, painted by his talented wife 
and admired by Queen Victoria, who had a woman s eye 
for a General on horseback who could add to the splendour 
of a Royal Review. 

Africa always fascinated him: Africa which was dreaded 
in the Ckssics as a " strange mother of monsters ". To 
Butler the secret of Africa was her power of wiping out the 
" Uitlanders " of History, whether Greek or Roman, Arab 
ot Turk. " How quickly the 300 Bishoprics of Augustine s 
age disappear 1 " The whole Continent, not Sierra Leone 
alone, was " the White Man s Grave ". 

Butler believed in the old-time British as against the 
" mercenary clamour of the speculator ", the new immigrant. 
He shed showers of epigrams. It was " The difference 
between the gamekeeper and the gamester": or between 
Thackeray s Collector at Bogglywallah and " The old gentle 
man who died in the Charterhouse ". He discerned the 

F 75 


Bounder (word untranslatable out of English) and he foretold 
that Fate would " slay or Africanise the Bounder ". 

For Butler there was Mary Kingsley, Froude who advocated 
the justice, which Sir George Grey gave, Said Solomon (whom 
Froude called " one of the best men I ever knew ") and a 
certain Bishop Colenso, whose love for the natives was " one 
of those superb devotions to the ideal ". Then there were 
the tragedies Lord Chelmsford at Isandula, Colley at Majuba 
and the Prince Imperial dying under the assegais. Africa 
kept a sheaf of arrows waiting for unsuspecting British 

Only Butler suspected the future. It was forgotten how 
queer he was, always siding in principle with the cc lesser 
breeds", such as the Irish or the Egyptians. Wolseley 
guaranteed him and no one in the War Office dared 

But Tragedy in the Greek manner was moving behind the 
scenes and the happy domesticity in the Keep of Dover 
Castle was not to be the happy ending. Africa had not done 
with Butler and the principles he had been allowed to hold 
and express in theory were to be tested. He was due to be 
subjected to the dramatic irony of a Greek play. 

All was cloudless until Christmas 1895. General Butler 
ordered a route march for his Brigade. The Routine was 
being carried out, when an officer, who had been in London 
the previous day, whispered to him that an immediate military 
raid was threatening die Transvaal. The General forgot the 
route march and while riding home his detective memory 
recalled that a year previously he had inspected some equip 
ment for the Chartered Company. He had asked what they 
were wanted for. He was told they were wanted against a 
native chief. He had not asked if the chief s name was Paul 
Krugerl "Hardly anyone else wondered why the new 
Rhodesian Horse required so much equipment" (Sarah 
Millin s Rhodes}. 

Butler was thinking furiously, and before the route march 
was over, his informant had been ordered to return to London 
to tell his friends that invaders of the Transvaal would get 
the most infernal dusting of their lives I 



Four days later the news of the Jameson Raid thunderbolted 
London and excited the pens of the Poet Laureate and the 
German Emperor. Jameson fought and retreated from 
KrugersdoTp. It was his Sta/togtad so to speak. 

The preliminary vibrations were typically received by the 
Stock Exchange, not by the War Office. A War Office is 
never a warmonger, certainly not in English history. Butler 
summarised the results of the Raid: " The civilian conspirator 
in high and low place had, conformably to custom, escaped. 
It was poor Captain Bobby or equally simple Major Freddy 
who was doing time in gaol ". 

Butler saw Rhodes and Chamberlain web-spinning while 
Jameson and his crazy Raiders played the part of flies. They 
had no use for unsuccessful flies tangling the web or, as 
Rhodes put it, " upsetting the applecart ". Chamberlain tried 
to stop Jameson when it was too late. 

If Butler knew something about " the seamy side of South 
Africa wars ", the plotting powers knew something about 
Butler. He was a marked man and could not be left out 
of schemes. 

Rhodes has his historical splendour and a whole country 
as a namesake but in any memoir of Butler he must occupy a 
shady background. It should be mentioned that good judges 
like Sir Harry Johnston and Lord Sydenham noticed the 
extraordinary change which overcame him after his fall from 
a horse in 1892. The crystal vision had clouded. The 
delightful personality had become hurried, worried and 
carelessly sinister. This was the Rhodes against whom Butler 
pkyed blindfold chess. 

It is difficult to describe Rhodes influence and power in the 
nineties. He seemed to gather up all the abilities and vices 
of the old Empire-builders in his person. If Gladstone had 
been " an old man in a hurry ", Rhodes was a young one 
in haste. He was a greater man -than Butler but not a better 
man. He had set Principalities and Powers above Principles. 
In his mighty Arsenal, Bribery took its proper pkce, but 
Rhodesian Bribery was magnificent. It was best expressed 
in his advice to General Gordon to " square the Mahdi ". 
Agents and henchmen were swept into hero-worship and 



undevlating support. He used both Jewish and Gentile 
adventurers, whom he despised. He himself sat high above 
his flagrant Press, which existed no doubt to unify South Africa 
but also to crush the Boer Republics by revilernent and 
eventually by a prudent approach to force. Dr. Jameson s 
approach had been the reverse of prudent* 

The Rhodes Press promised probity and progress which 
Butler translated as "Assyrian shrewdness and Teutonic 
training ". To him the great sin against England was " the 
purchase of the Press to vilify the Dutch ". 

Rhodes bribed magnificently. Even Parnell had accepted 
10,000 for Irish Home Rule. It was certainly one way of 
keeping Ireland within the Empire. The same Rhodes 
bribed the ancient University of Oxford from his grave and 
Cambridge men can be excused for smiling at the statue 
which keeps the fame of Rhodes amongst the pious benefactors 
of that cosmopolitan seat of Education. Only the irreverent 
would suggest placing Dr. Jameson and Barney Barnato in 
adjoining niches beside him. 

Butler had come under Rhodes eye, and shortly before he 
went to Alexandria he was offered unlimited power and 
20,000 a year for five years to take over Rhodes new colony 
south of the Zambesi. His refusal marked him at least as 
singular. He was content to wash his hands of South Africa 
for ever, but the War Office had a habit of consulting him. 
He had South African campaigns at his fingers* ends and he 
was asked whether Laing s Nek should be occupied with 
troops. He replied that would mean immediate war with 
the Dutch. He told himself he was arguing with " the most 
stupendous factor of folly " he had ever known. He was at 
the time steadily writing the Life of poor General Colley who 
had fallen at Majuba. He thought while he wrote, and asked 
himself: "the total trend of things; that is the difficult 
matter to grasp in life: where is this thing going? " 

As a matter of fate " the total trend of things " (a good 
translation of the Zeitgeist} was about to pick him up on its 
way. Something was puzzling the War Office intensely in 
South Africa, but General Butler, who alone could unravel 
their questioning, puzzled them equally. Suddenly, out of 



the African blue, Butler was offered the military command at 
the Cape. This time it was Butler who was puzzled. 

What had happened behind the scenes ? At the Cape was 
an ambitious, highly principled product of Balliol, Alfred 
Milner: a pet pupil of Jowett, now High Commissioner. 
Later years revealed his private correspondence with Chamber 
lain as Secretary for the Colonies. In October 1898 when 
the General at the Cape died, Milner was afraid the War 
Office would make it a billet " for some worn-out General ". 
Milner proposed the brave Lord Methuen who ended as a 
prisoner of the Boers. Chamberlain was asked ** to get the 
appointment filled by special selection and not the ordinary 
official routine ". 

The War Office certainly made a " special selection ", but 
one which shattered the liopes of the " Raiders ". It is good 
policy to hurl your severest critic into the breach. But only 
Wolseley could have filled the post without consulting 
Chamberlain. What Wolseley had in mind will never be 
known. Was he giving the Colonial Office a soldierly cuff or 
had he decided to give Butler a supreme chance? No one 
knew Butler s character better: and no one knew the diffi 
culties better than Butler. When the unbelievable cipher 
arrived, he accepted but reluctantly. 

Chamberlain sulkily acquiesced. Presumably each hoped for 
the best while vaguely fearing the worst. But neither dreamed 
how bad the other would turn out to be. They differed on 
everything it was worth differing about. 

There was one momentous interview with Chamberlain, 
Butler sat watching " the eager, white, sharp, anxious, tight- 
drawn face " which was watching him no less. A series of 
minor topics were reviewed but a casual reference to the 
South African Republics ended ominously: " If they should 
force us to attack them then the blow would have to be a 
crushing one ". If Chamberlain spoke these words, he was 
suggesting a military policy which has become familiar to an 
unhappy world. Small countries should not conscientiously 
force great Powers to attack them. 

A few days later Butler at sea passed Milner, who had 
promptly returned to take counsel over the new situation. 



This meant that Butler would arrive as High Commissioner 
as well as General in command. Little did he conceive there 
was a brewing storm. His obvious view was that Wolseley 
had appointed him as the only General with experience to 
deal with the Boers in peace or war. Cynics might hope that, 
if he could not ride the storm, he would be swallowed thereby. 
There were plans maturing behind the scenes but he had been 
" sent upon that momentous errand at the shortest notice 
without any warning, without any orders ". He had not 
received the slightest hint of contingent war except in 
Chamberlain s words. Twenty years later he had decided 
that ** prominent people were at work to bring that War about 
at an early date ". He found no sign in the field, no prepara 
tion of transport, no reinforcements but if people thought 
Jameson could rush the Transvaal with a company of amateur 
troopers, they could not believe an increase of Regulars was 
necessary. Butler went out blindfold while officials wondered 
what line he would take when the bandages fell off. Milner s 
biographer wrote of " this clever but erratic Irishman ". At 
best they hoped for an obedient cog. That he would prove 
their damning critic unto the Day of Judgment hardly seemed 
possible. His to obey and not to reason why. Anxious 
curiosity passed to furious but suppressed annoyance. Butler 
was a pro-Boer! 

Rhodes never had the courtesy or perhaps the time to call 
on the new arrival, with the result that they never met, though 
they passed each other like ships in the night at the end of 
the year: " Our eyes met for an instant. The expression of 
his face struck me as one of peculiar mental pain. I seemed 
to have seen it once before ". 

There was an Eclipse of the Moon that night, and in later 
years Memory served a vivid scene: " The face of the Moon 
seemed to have been washed over with a blood-stained cloth 
and the old garden with its lofty cypress trees looked in the 
sombre light like a nocturnal graveyard." 

Butler surveyed his task. The military he could deal with, 
but civilian life was made sordid by a lying Press denigrating 
everything Dutch. Racial animosity was cultivated for its 
own sake. With a single staff-officer he visited Johannesburg, 



described to him as " Monte Carlo superimposed upon 
Sodom and Gomorrah". It was not a beautiful fruitage 
of Empire. 

The disgusted General asked himself what freak had dumped 
a gold mine into a land of " primitive Christian farmers "* 
He never minced words, and wrote home that " Houndsditch 
and the Stock Exchange are not the sources from which the 
redemption of South Africa is to be looked for ". English 
investors were fed alternate " booms and bogeys ". 

One of the bogeys was Kruger: a Bible-sniffing Pecksniff 
to the English Press: to Butler "a poor lion-hunter who 
could cut off half his own hand when a gunshot had 
shattered it ". 

Butler knew a South African history which was unknown 
to Birmingham Sunday Schools. He set himself in the line 
of the great Englishmen like Sir George Napier, Sir George 
Grey and Sir Harry Smith. " The victor of Albuera [Napier] 
made roads across the mountains. He of Aliwal [Smith] 
made friends with the Dutch Boers. They built dorps and 
named them after him and his wife." But Ladysmith so 
pleasantly named became a tragic corner in the relations of 
Briton and Boer. 

He regarded himself as a pointsman on the line between 
South Africa and Whitehall. Whitehall "knew nothing of 
the truth, has never known it, and apparently will never 
know it ". Every transmission from the other end existed 
only to mislead and inflame the Empire. Butler gave the 
Home authorities warnings as clear as the brief despatch which 
a certain Hand wrote over the banquet-hall of Belshazzar. 
After Rhodes and some pet myrmidons left for London at 
the end of 1898, Butler cabled home what he considered a 
plot to explode South Africa: "It is needless to indicate the 
original train-layers: they are nearer to you than to me! " 

He decided that he would make his plans without provoking 
the Boers, who became convinced that the Empire had sent 
a just man into a land seething with greed and aggression. 
He surveyed the frontiers and thought thus : " As commander 
of the troops I held the balance. There would be no war 
while I was there. If the Raiders raided, I would inexorably 



run them in; if the Boers raided, I would as inevitably run 
them out; but I knew that the chances were a thousand to 
one that the Boers would not do anything of the sort while I 
held the helm." 

While there are Commanders like Butler, there are no wars. 
The Boers respected and feared him. Long afterwards, one 
of their leaders said to him : " It was lucky for us, General, 
you did not take the field against us ". They did not respect 
the British Statesmen, and after three years of war they ceased 
to fear British Generals. As for the worthy Methuen, whom 
the officials had tried to steer into the Cape Command, the 
day came when the Boers threatened to shoot anyone who 
wounded or killed him I 

Butler felt strong enough to have his way if supported from 
the War Office. But Wolseley, having thrown him into the 
great testing position, could do no more. The War Office 
was far too confused to have a policy. Butler was left to deal 
with Boer and Briton on his own. To the Irish humanitarian 
both were brothers. "The British officer and the Boer 
farmer have always been by nature and inclination good 
friends. Both were open-air sportsmen . . ." This was 
not the opinion of the Rhodes Press. Financial and filibuster 
agencies pervaded the situation. Jew or Gentile, Butler 
utterly loathed the instruments which were being used in the 
name of British Empire and Freedom. 

It was his ambition to federate South Africa on the same 
lines as " the creation of Canada by Lord Durham ". This 
was " legitimate and lasting Empire-building ". The rape of 
a gold-bearing neighbour meant the postponement of a 
peaceful South Africa for a century. Butler found few 
supporters in Africa but Olive Shreiner was one and her 
letter the only survivor of his correspondence. England was 
being misinformed, but Butler remembered that Canonists 
allow an appeal from an ill-informed Pope to one better 
informed. He was convinced that the Pendulum of Fair Play 
would swing in his direction. Milner " must see the awful 
volume of lies which the syndicate gangs have so long passed 
off as truth upon the British public ". Milner found himself 
championing the Uitlanders, many of whom were far from 



British, though they appealed wildly to the British Flag. 
Jowett s disciple must have found himself in an atmosphere 
remote from the Oxford Common-room. " If there was a 
being unfitted to that atmosphere it was Milner" is the 
comment of Sarah Millin, biographer of Kruger. 

Butler had no idea why Rhodes was in such a desperate 
hurry. He maintained the correctest relations with Milner, 
who was no less an idealist than himself. The difference 
between the two men was that Milner was academical, Balliol 
of Balliol, whereas Butler was practical. If Butler had a 
complex, it was for the peasant the farmer the man of the 
soil, whether Irish, Egyptian or Dutch. 

Butler and Milner were scrupulously fair to each other, but 
the slow degeneration of Jowett s pupil cannot be concealed 
in the Milner Papers. Milner had lived on the heights with the 
translator of Plato s Republic. Slowly he was pulled down to 
the level of the Rand. He hated being pushed into hostility 
against a man like Butler. To a fellow-official he wrote: 
" Don t think that Butler is a bad fellow. He is hasty and 
rhetorical, fearfully deficient in judgment. But he is well- 
meaning enough and a most agreeable companion/ 

The condescending Milner made all the excuses he could 
to officials, whose chief thought was to get rid of a General 
whose first speech at Grahamstown "to the inner circle of 
the party working for war had come like a shell ". 

He reported to Selborne in May of 1 899 : " very secret. . . . 
He has behaved perfectly well towards me since my return. 
He does not meddle in political affairs in any way. On the 
other hand he keeps me absolutely at arm s length over 
military matters . . . convinced there is more danger in 
interfering than in letting things take their course . . . the 
last thing I should think of would be to suggest his removal 
at this juncture for he has got hold of the threads." 

But how could Butler be stirred to stir up the Boers so 
that they should force him to take action? Milner asked the 
War Office to give him a hint, which "should carry no 
suggestion of its source "1 

Milner was rapidly sliding down hill: facilis descensus Averni. 
A month kter he wrote to Chamberlain: " The General. He 


is too awful. He has, I believe, made his military preparations 
alright, but beyond that I cannot get him to make the least 
move ... at the same time there is nothing to lay hold of. 
He never interferes with my business and is perfectly polite. 
But he is absolutely no use!! " For what was he no use? 
queries the historian. 

The only use which Plato would allow to soldiers was 
soldierly or strategical. Politically no use was Butler for he 
was "a violent Krugerite"! In that sense, no doubt, Fox 
and Burke were " violent Washingtonites ". The key 
question in Butler s career touched his military preparations 
before the disasters which broke upon Army and Empire 
after his return home. Milner s biographer says he was 
" queering the pitch " On the contrary he was preparing 
the military pitch for some very rough bowling. The War 
Office recommended advances, threats, offence against the 
Boers. He realised that his only defence was to draw in his 
inadequate horns. He had estimated 40,000 troops were 
necessary. He was urged to take the offensive with a tenth: 
"advanced positions upon and even over the frontiers, the 
adoption of which must have led to the earliest and most 
complete disasters ". How right he was in declining to let 
limited troops be "shot into hostile space having behind 
them military voids many hundred of miles in length". 
The great lonely spaces of Canada or the Veldt had given 
Butler vistas unvisioned in the best Aldershot tactics. In 
vain was he urged to snap up the passes of the Drakensburg. 
He went his way planning " easy retirement in face of superior 
numbers ", but the plans which he kept secret from Pretoria 
and Pall Mall were not communicated to Milner. 

Lord Sydenham, who was then close to The Times, wrote 
over thirty years later: "Grave injustice was done to Sir 
William Butler, who was a very able man. The war 
was made by the gold and diamond Jews, who captured 
Milner. ... I knew Sir William and we compared notes. 
I am certain that he foresaw what was coining and why, and 
that he warned the Government in vain. Both he and I 
estimated the forces required at about three times that which the 
War Office accepted, and we were both far under the mark/ 



In his memoirs My Working Life Lord Sydenham wrote: 
" After careful study I arrived at 80,000 men as the minimum 
force which would be needed. ... I discussed this question 
with Sir William Butler, who with far greater knowledge than 
mine, had reached almost exactly the same figure. We were 
both mistaken." Forty or eighty thousand, the Empire 
eventually needed 200,000. 

The months of 1899 were hastening away and everyone 
was in a hurry. Butler considered Milner was playing a 
secondary, rather pitiable part. At least, pity was Butler s 
feeling after interviews with Milner in May. Milner wished 
pressure brought on the Transvaal Government while the 
Franchise was being mooted for Uitlanders. Butler laughed 
at the idea of moving troops. Then he spoke flat. There 
were " occult influences at work, backed by enormous means 
and quite without conscience, to produce war in South Africa 
for selfish ends ". He wrote to his War Office chief of the 
" certainty of misery and misfortune to this country greater 
than it has heretofore known in its history ". 

Butler was playing as lone and despairing a game as his 
hero Gordon in Khartoum. " Yet not one word of warning, 
official or private, was coming from the War Office." Oddly 
enough officially " the outlook was one of profound peace," 
but under the mill-pool raged the corrupt eddies of filibuster 
and financier, thwarted from possessing the land of gold and 
diamonds which belonged to another. 

The threads were in Butler s hands but Chamberlain was 
trying to worry and worm them away. He proposed to 
doctor Butler s Despatches, which Butler utterly refused, 
cabling (May 26, 1899): "General could only regard his 
concurrence in proposed omission of passages as a stultification 
by himself of his own opinions to which he still adheres ". 

Then Chamberlain gave Butler up. A new tack was hastily 
tried and within a week Milner was conferring at Bloemfontein 
with Kruger. Perhaps Kruger might prove less obstinate 
than the Irishman! There are passages of pathetic bitterness 
in Butler s Autobiography. When Kruger realised at the 
Conference that by the Franchise (votes for aliens) or force, 
his Republic was doomed, his feelings overcame him and he 


bent his head and wept: " It is our country you want. It is 
our country you want! " What else ? 

The failure of the Bloemfontein Conference was a turning 
point in African history. Incidentally it marked the Third 
Act of the Tragedy for Butler. He was still determined to 
check wickedness in high places. He was trying desperately 
to save a ship whose rudder was set upon the rocks. He had 
received a vital letter from Mr. Schreiner, the Prime Minister 
of the Cape. It might be presumed that having defeated 
Rhodes at the Polls he was a fitter person to negotiate with 
Kruger than Miner, who like every envoy from England 
had become a Rhodes-man, whether he wished or not. The 
stakes were now running high and the players were reckless. 
Butler forwarded Schreiner s letter through a higher personage 
to one higher still: to the Queen! 

As a feudal and Catholic Irishman, Butler accounted the 
Queen more highly than many so-called Loyalists. It was part 
of the tragedy that events were being pressed forward in her 
name. Not since the Flavian Emperors had the world tasted 
so long of Imperial Peace. The Roman world within and 
without knew that Justice stood blindfold but sworded 
behind the Legions. 

Butler sent the War Office a letter he had received from 
Pretoria pregnant with heavy truths : " The white races of 
the Transvaal are loyal to Queen Victoria. You find some 
picture of her in nearly every home, especially among the 
Boer homes. They say, these Boers and their wives, that 
they do not believe in the words of English Ministers but they 
do in the words of Queen Victoria . . ." 

Butler loathed the cloud of shysters and adventurers who 
had settled like flies scenting carrion upon the confines of 
the Transvaal. It was hateful to him that the campaign of 
corruption and coarse abuse was carried out under the British 
Flag, and ultimately under the name of the Queen. Her 
Tragedy was advancing no less : for she had passed her fourth 
triumphant Act and the last was at hand. 

Butler had one confidant whom he trusted in the high 
ranks, General Buller, and to him he wrote from the Castle, 
Capetown (June 21, 1899): 



" The Jews and a few others seem to be doing the work 
of the devil here to their hearts content and to the despair 
of tens of thousands of honest sober-minded and loyal people. 
So far as I can read the real undercurrent of all the blinds 
and manoeuvres going on it is this. The Chartered 
Company is on the verge of Bankruptcy. The revenue is 
250,000 the expenditure 750,000. Be it, Rhodes (and 
John Bull as a sleeping partner) are paying so far the deficit. 
The gold in Rhodesia, though rich in many places, is 
c scrappy * and pocketty *. The natives are ill-treated 
they object to be forced into the mines and run away. The 
output has decreased of late. What then is to be done? 
Why ! get hold of the Johannesburg fields. There gold in 
vast and regular paying quantities is to be found. The gang 
has got hold of three fourths of the London Press. Their 
agents here say so. They have also got some papers in 
Berlin and Paris. All the flag-wagging, expansion-railroad to 
Cairo, etc., are means to hide the end. To John Bull in his 
stall it looks all right. Behind the secret it is a poor game. 
You are lucky in having the clean square work of Aldershot 
to do. I should never have accepted this billet, had I known 
the true state of matters, and it cost me a mint of money and 
the best quarters in England to come out, but perhaps the 
quarters had something to say to the offer." 

The sands were running faster than ever: "the supposed 
peaceful, diplomatic, cautious Colonial Office running mad 
for war; the warlike War Office seemingly bent upon profound 
Peace ". Here was a touch of the irony so loved by the 
Greek dramatists. 

The War Office became hopelessly confused as various 
branches took varying action without reference to the 
Cbmmander-in-Chief. In July Redvers Buller (secretly desig 
nated to succeed Butler) told the Under Secretary for War 
that every Department was cabling in a different sense " to 
that poor unfortunate General at ,the Cape, and you will 
drive him mad **. 

Butler was far from being driven mad. He went ahead 
with his preparations to save the Army which he loved from 
disaster. He was a link with an Army which had fought 


for Freedom. He came to ask: " What has become of those 
old Greek Gods, for not only are the figures gone but the 
faces have also vanished? What subtle change has come 
upon the race ? Is it the work of railroads, Free Trade, the 
Penny Press, Democracy, Education ? ** 

Butler had no idea that Chamberlain, Milner and the 
Governor of Natal, Hely-Hutchinson, were arranging a plan 
of campaign without the least reference to him! All he 
knew was that Milner favoured a " ring " round the Republics 
and that a raid had been suggested from Rhodesia on Pretoria. 
This was simple folly like some of the advice from London: 
"I was being urged from London to go forward with my 
puny detachments into the Republics ". The real planning 
was being done there where Rhodes, in far too great a hurry 
for half-measures, was steadily interviewing Chamberlain. 
Butler felt that " more powerful forces were joined with the 
old agencies in the effort to force a racial war upon South 
Africa ". Every effort was made to push Butler into the 
eddies. Milner asked Butler to organise this precious raid 
from Rhodesia. Butler saw the trap and asked for orders in 
writing signed by the High Commissioner. As no instruc 
tions had arrived from home, he decided to use his own 
judgment lest "it would be said that I had precipitated a 
conflict before we were prepared for it; perhaps brought on 
a war when the Home Government desired peace ". Milner 
flinched, but he had the necessary sarcasm to say: " It can 
never be said, Sir William Butler, that jou precipitated a 
conflict with the Dutch ". 

It would have to be precipitated by other channels than 
the military. Butler felt insulted, drew himself up and said: 
" I understand your meaning. There can be no further use 
in my continuing the interview." Milner was left cowed 
and angry. 

The end was in sight but not without further swordplay 
between Milner and Butler* The War Office was now 
ordering transport and asking for " any observations ". 
Butler answered angrily: 

" You ask my observations. I believe that a war between 
the white races, coming as a sequel to Jameson Raid and the 



subsequent events of last three years, would be the greatest 
calamity that ever occurred in South Africa.** 

Milner was shown the words and demurred. It was a wrong 
impression and so forth. There was no further protest when 
Butler declared he made them in the highest interests of the 
Empire and for the honour of Her Majesty s Army! But 
these were not the predominant considerations at the time. 
The interests of the Rand came first. Chamberlain replied: 
" You cannot understand too clearly that, whatever your 
private opinions, it is your duty to be guided in all questions 
of policy by those who are fully aware of our views and whom 
you will, of course, loyally support * . The plans he had 
kept to himself were not called for till June. 

Butler had higher views of a soldier s duty, but they were 
not wanted. By the end of June Milner was cabling to say 
the General s political opinions impaired his efficiency. 
"Things have become critical now. Butler or I will have 
to go **.... At this juncture we are told that " the effect 
of Butler s attitude was to check the despatch of 10,000 men 
advocated by Wolseley **. Nothing could be more utterly 
removed from the truth. From beginning to end he had 
said 40,000 soldiers would be too few. They scorned his 
estimate (which events terribly proved insufficient), and 
expected him to raise a rabble of volunteer raiders. He left 
it to the War Office to reinforce, mobilise or act. He never 
forced the War Office as he was expected. He advised them 
and waited for orders which never came. He had no 
intention of taking orders from Milner, who had reached the 
stage of abusing him to the authorities : " it is indeed terrible 
to feel that the man on whom one ought to be able to rely 
and who above all others ought to be on the alert, keeps one 
at arm s length and resolutely buries his head in the sand ". 

Butler happened to be very much on the alert. Somehow 
he had accurately gauged the strength of the Boers, the only 
soldier who had done so, and he made the only possible 
dispositions. Had he remained in his command, many a 
disaster would have been avoided and many a brave man 
would have escaped burial in the sand aforesaid. But had 
he remained, the Boers would never have had the folly to take 



alarm and invade Natal. Kruger s Generals respected Butler 
in every way. The War Office had to do something so they 
sent a reproof. 

Early in July Butler resigned his command. A month 
later it was accepted and he was told to hand over to 
Major-General Symons, an immediate victim of the war. 
Butler was told to return home as soon as possible and " to 
avoid demonstration by those hostile to English views ", as 
though he had wished for bands and banners from the Dutch. 
" English views " being of course the views of the Rand, the 
Raiders and Rhodes. The instruction bore Chamberlain s 
touch and nettled Butler to write; "Oh the pity and the 
poverty of it all! " 

The Dutch in Capetown would gladly have seen him off 
but they knew it would be misunderstood. Alone he stood 
on the deck and looked for the Lion s Head on Table Mountain 
which the Dutch have always connected with their fortunes 
under the Southern Cross. It was shrouded with a cloud, or 
perchance may we say clouded with a shroud. 
^ It was August 23, 1899, and Milner cabled to Chamberlain: 
" After long dragging the end has come quickly. ... It has 
been an awful experience ". Words which might have suited 
the Diaries of a certain well-meaning High Commissioner 
in Roman Judaea. 

Before Butler left the Cape, the brush that had painted " The 
Roll-call" painted a stirring picture of the General riding against 
the background of the mountains he had always admired. 

His magnificent physique never showed better than on 
horseback. He resembled one of King Arthur s Knights 
riding out on a lonely quest in the uniform of a British 
Lieutenant-General. A saddened face perhaps but haunting 
certainly to any Boer or Briton who had ever gazed into 
those fearless eyes. In his holster he carried the conscience 
of England: the England which from time to time preserves 
the world by her own example. 

Twenty years previously he had given military honours to 
a dead Prince and the Empress remembering wrote in 
sympathy. Butler s letter to the Empress is almost the only 
one erf" his to survive: 



" Today I put beside it another message from the same 
valiant and unforgetting heart. It is the more prized because 
I think that between its lines the note of South Africa, always 
sad, can be read. But, Madam, it is only a passing cloud/* 

The War broke out in October 1899. 


The moment Sir William Butler was withdrawn, the Boers 
despaired. Knowing they would be challenged for their 
country they foolishly issued the Ultimatum. This they 
would not have dared or wished to do, had Butler been in 
command. He himself returned to bear the fiercest accusa 
tions in silence. The Jackal and the Jackass were released 
upon his name and honour. It was not his fault that two 
Christian folk were flung into murderous grips. It was not 
only the Gates of Janus which were closed but the New 

Before the actual outbreak Butler tackled a high official 
in London (he would never say who it was: Chamberlain 
or Salisbury or Wolseley?). The great man could only say 
poohpooh! The war would not cost ten millions and by 
Christmas the Flag would fly over Bloemfontein ! 

Butler, so voluble in warning and despatch, became tongue- 
tied. The War Office respected his silence and he was given 
the Western Command as well as Leave. They knew or 
began to know that he knew too much. Or was it Wolseley s 
hand moving unseen ? 

Parliament and Public relied on Buller who was hurried to 
the scene. Like Butler he knew the facts for he had been 
Adjutant General and he did not conceal his contempt for 
people who put financial interests first. He was under no 
illusions and knew the Government s preparations were 
inadequate totally. His representations to Lord Lansdowne, 
Secretary of War, though not unsupported by Wolseley, made 
not the slightest impression. He failed even to see the Prime 
Minister, the somewhat Olympian Salisbury who had left it 
to " Joe " to loose the dogs of War. 

The brave and unfortunate General was thrown into the 

G 91 


gap. Butler rushed to Southampton to wish him Godspeed. 
This conversation occurred: 

Butler: " Have you cut the wires with Whitehall? " 
Buller: * William, worse luck I have not." 
Butler : " Then I am sorry for you. Unless you have 
power to put Milner on board ship and send him to England, 
you will find your work at the Cape cut out for you." 

Buller found Milner in a state of complete panic and saying 
much to the Staff which in calmer moments he would not 
have allowed himself to admit. What Milner said strikingly 
confirmed what Butler had written to Buller. 

Butler was travelling with his sons in Spain when the 
" Black Week " of disasters occurred. " They ll have to send 
me out now" was his first thought. But the pride of 
Chamberlain could not have endured calling on his critic to 
clean up the ghastly mess. Butler would gladly have served 
under Buller whom he greatly loved, great contrast as they 
were, the Dog of Devon and type of Tipperary. 

Meanwhile the Boer War continued disastrous. Milner s 
" ring " strategy proved as effective as the mice who proposed 
belling the cat. Generals committed blunders for which Boy 
Scouts today would be reprimanded. Picked regiments 
marched into massacre or surrender. Heroism of the men 
was constantly unavailing. The pity was that trenches of 
dead Scotch and Irish boys, to say nothing of English from 
farm and holt, were smoking to the pitiless skies: for what? 
It was a question of time months or years before a 
nation of farmers could be dispossessed of their fatal in 
heritance underground 

Butler was blamed and vilified. With grim humour he 
gave the Daily Mail credit for one thing. He said they charged 
a halfpenny whereas the others charged a penny for their lies. 
He was accused of not warning the authorities 1 He had not 
made the proper dispositions or preparations!! The War 
Office, knowing the facts, relied on his soldierly silence. The 
climax came when a Secretary for War stated that orders, 
clear and helpful, had been sent to him at the Cape! 

At the first disasters, which he had made every disposition 
to avoid, he offered to go out again in any capacity, but the 



authorities were determined to drink down their own dregs. 
Instead of the Corunna-like retreats which Butler believed 
the only possible way of meeting the impact of the Boers, 
the Generals were making frontal attacks and forward marches. 
Perm Symons fell. Wauchope fell. Buller attacked across 
the Tugela and lost his guns. White was shut up in Ladysmith 
and Butler kept wondering why he did not fight his way out. 
The War turned on Ladysmith which Butler had considered 
a " tragic selection ". Troops had been planted there in 1897 
to ** have a steadying effect upon the Boers ". They had 
included a battery of guns which Boer visitors had been 
invited to see in practice. 

The Autobiography follows with a fine specimen from the 
General, when roused as a raconteur. To impress the Boers 
a herd of goats were tethered as targets on Waggon Hill. No 
representative of the S.P.CA. was present or he would have 
prevented the shrapnel being pkyed on the unlucky animals 
for twenty minutes. The result was incredible. There were 
twenty goats living on Waggon Hill at the beginning of the 
action. With cease-fire there were twenty-two all alive, for 
one nanny had been frightened into twins. " This was all very 
funny ", wrote Butler, " but for me it had another aspect ... a 
blind belief amongst our own people that these guns could be 
shot forward at any given moment to end at one blow the 
Boer resistance." Even so it was felt that British guns 
should have found other targets than pregnant goats ! 

What then was Butler s plan which he would not divulge 
to Milner? "Here at Glencoe was the true military 
position. . . . Going to Dundee instead of stopping at 
Glencoe probably cost England 200 millions sterling." The 
initial error was of the first magnitude. In the situation both 
he and the War Office preferred to be silent. In any case 
the volume of abuse soon shifted to the War Office. He 
realised that he was sitting on the sunny side of the thorn- 
hedge of criticism. It was a pity that he never lived to read 
what Lord Esher wrote to Harcourt before Christmas : " And 
what a justification of the unfortunate Butler ! However, it 
is all too wretched to write about." The British Army had 
endured their Bkck Week: defeat upon defeat. 



The War lasted for years. Butler s reading of History was 
that the Devil always gets in first, but the wheels of God 
start grinding slowly, and in Africa more slowly than else 
where. Before the War was over, Rhodes died, after enduring 
siege in Kimberley. Kimberley was relieved, but there waited 
him an enemy at the gates who is not accustomed to lift siege. 
It was clear now why Rhodes had been in such a desperate 
hurry. Milner was in at the death but he did not find 
Kitchener sufficiently severe at Vereeningen. Brave men are 
lenient to each other, but Milner wrote of an " awful ten 
days but I saved more than I expected ". Butler also had 
been found " awful ". 

When the War was over in 1902 Butler cruelly remarked: 
<c We looted the Boers and the Jews looted us ". The Cynic 
will add that everybody was served right. 

No Generals survived in reputation save Roberts and 
Kitchener. Roberts returned before the close and was 
received by the Queen. It was the last audience she gave. 
The War was part of her tragedy and she failed to survive. 
Before the last Boer commando had been scattered and the 
last farm-house burnt to ashes, the great Queen died, mag 
nificent in her mourning grief. 

The new King made Esher his unofficial Vizier and sent him 
to listen to Butler under examination (February n, 1903). 
" Sir William Butler ", reported Esher, " met with the usual 
fate of those who give unpalatable advice. That much of the 
advice he gave has since proved correct, is not possibly of 
advantage to him in certain quarters. There is no doubt 
that he is among the ablest of Your Majesty s servants and 
possesses an intellect capable of grasping large problems and 
of dealing with men in a practical manner. His Irish blood 
may possibly influence his temper and political judgment but 
leaves his military capacity untouched. Intellectually he 
stands (as he does physically) a head and shoulders above the 
majority of his comrades. His evidence upon the preparations 
for War only proved once more that uncertain counsels 
prevailed throughout the summer of 1899." 

A few days later Esher reported an interview with 
the Secretary of War. Mr. Broderick was thinking of 



recommending Butler to the King as Quartermaster-General 
but the Cabinet were not favourable. This was not unexpected, 
for Butler s words under examination had made their wounds 
smart. Esher told Broderick " that in purely military matters 
no more capable soldier could be found in Your Majesty s 
forces ", but he asked the King to keep this interview secret: 
"Lord Esher, as Your Majesty is aware, conceals nothing 
from his Sovereign ". The public were not to be told. 

Much is not intended ever to reach the Historian, but 
sometimes Truth takes a jump out of her well! Naturally 
everyone concerned was dead before the Esher Papers yielded 
what Historians have been slow to notice: tne military 
vindication of Sir William Butler. 

Time brings strange surprises and Butler, without reading 
much that was written behind the scenes, realised that his 
enemies feared to have him disgraced. In 1905 he was made 
President of the Committee inquiring into War Stores 
Scandals. His Report was full of sarcastic humour which 
brought the usual official indignation, especially such phrases 
as cc Pantaloons in Puttees " or " Harlequins in Helmets ". 
His pen betrayed him, but there was no contradicting the 
underlying truth of his words. In the following year the 
King added G.C.B. to his name. 

He was sent by the Tribune to write letters from the new 
scenes in South Africa following the return of the pro-Boer 
Liberals to power. His letters were printed under die saucy 
title From NabotVs Vineyard \ It was a bitter reminder for a 
Catholic General to give to a Bible-reading public. After 
all, Kruger had once told Rhodes that ill-gotten goods were 

Butler might well have enjoyed his revenge, but he was 
seeking ways of reconciliation. He only asked that there 
should be "no old Raiders in command or in Council". 
This did not prevent Dr. Jameson eventually becoming Prime 
Minister, but the Arch-filibuster was dead: gathered to the 
glorious Motoppo Hills in a tomb commensurate with his 

Butler had no word against the dead. The only dead man 
the Irish ever abuse is Cromwell, and Butler added his share 



when he retired to Ireland and studied the byways of Irish 

To Cromwell he devoted an Essay which ended: "You 
remember the choice which Cromwell gave the unfortunate 
Irish Hell or Connaught. I turn to the last page of Crom 
well s latest biographer and read: c where Connaught Square 
now stands, trodden under foot and beaten by horse-hoofs 
lies the dust of the Great Protector/ " 

And with an ironic chuckle he passed on. Out of Crom 
well s ** displaced persons " was hammered the Irish Nation. 
As Alba made the Dutch nation in Europe, was it possible 
that Rhodes and the War he engineered made the permanent 
hard core of the Dutch nation in Africa? Butler spoke 
memorably of the Boers for not committing one outrage in 
the four years following a war ** which saw every Boer home 
stead destroyed, all stock killed, even Boer Bibles carried off". 

His books never made comfortable reading, sometimes even 
unpleasant, and they passed accordingly out of print. Their 
very titles were like flames and they sparkled with epigrams 
illustrating his Philosophy such as : 

" In the Services the servants have ever been better than 
the masters." 

c< The Pagoda Tree has its roots in the military graveyards 
of India." 

" Did not a son of Cain build the first city ? " 

" Between the coster and the cottier there comes that gulf 
which measures the distance between victory and defeat." 

<c The cradle of an Army is the cottage of the peasant." 

" The Roman nose could not have stood an Arctic winter, 
hence the limits of the Roman Empire. " 

" Valley of Ajalonl The wonder is that the Sun and Moon 
do not often stand still to have a longer look at it." 

Others have dealt with him since in books. Butler proved 
somewhat of a stumbling block to the biographers of Chamber 
lain and Milner. They have dismissed him as an eccentric 
and ebullient Irishman, rather a joke and not to be taken 
over-seriously. It will be best to add to their weak and 
makeshift commentary the opinion that Wolseley left of 
Butler in his book, The Story of a Soldier s Ufe, as " possessing 


the warmest and most chivalrous of hearts. Had he lived 
in mediaeval times, he would have been the knight-errant 
of everyone in distress. Sympathy for all human, indeed for 
all animal suffering, was in him an active living force, always 
striving to help the poor in body, and to comfort the weak- 
hearted. A loyal subject of the Crown, he yet always enter 
tained a heart-felt sympathy for those whom he believed to 
be a down-trodden race, and a lost cause appealed to all his 
deepest feeling. He was the first to recommend the raising 
of a Regiment of Irish Foot Guards and he has lived to see 
carried out what he was scouted at and ridiculed for by some 
unwise men at the time." 

An early adventure of Butler s boyhood survived in memory 
to make stirring pages in Red Cloud, a book he wrote for 
boys about the Great Prairie, afterwards republished with a 
foreword by the Chief Scout, Baden-Powell, who mentioned 
that he had learnt from Butler s Story of a Failure how to deal 
with native levies. 

The boyish adventure was an attempt to raid the eagle s 
nest on the over-hanging descent down Cooma-sa-harn in the 
Galtee mountains. He lost hold of the rope by which he 
descended but recovered it, thanks to an attack by the mother 
eagle herself. Baden-Powell commended his scout-craft on 
this occasion but forays on eyries are not to be commended 
to the ordinary Boy Scout! 

The story reads incredibly but not less incredibly than the 
famous story he told of shooting eleven snipe at one shot in 
a hollow near Bansha. No doubt some were hit by the 
ricochets but it became part of his legend in Ireland. 

All his books remain out of print and his memory has been 
forgotten. Only the Dictionary of National Biography has 
erected a fair and pleasing memorial to him in the National 
Cemetery of that name. But the only Englishman for whose 
opinion Butler cared a farthing dip had written to him from his 
deathbed : " I always regarded you as a host in yourself ready to 
undertake any difficult job and the more dangerous it was, the 
more you enjoyed it ". When Roberts gave up the Com- 
mandership in Chief he said that Butler was the man to succeed 
him except that he was always on the side of the underdog. 



Of his powers with the pen no less than Ruskin had 
noted in his Bible of Amens that Butler " could have written 
all my books about landscape and pictures ", 

Nothing was really lacking to Butler in life except 
the opportunity of a great campaign. He did not survive the 
few years, when he would certainly have been offered the 
command of the Irish National Volunteers. On the other 
side he would have found Milner again, who had volunteered 
for Carson s Covenanters. But Fate smilingly pulled the 
blinds. In 1910 he died in his Irish home. It had been a 
long and troublesome way back to Tipperary. 


ON a bright snowy morning in the December of 1907 I 
awoke for the first time at Ysnaya Polyana in the 
remote regions of Central Russia. I looked around to 
find I was sleeping in a school room, for it was thronged with 
empty desks. I was lying in a corner and wondering the 
where and why of the unfamiliar present, I remembered 
vividly that I was a guest of Tolstoy. 

It is difficult to recall the immense prestige which this 
extraordinary man enjoyed throughout Europe towards the 
turn of the last century. He was the great figure in many 
spheres. He was the greatest living Russian, at least the best 
biown, the most constantly discussed and the most admired 
of all Moscovy. In the world of Letters he stood on the top 
of world literature as well as of Russian writing. In every 
country he was translated and read as a superb novelist. But 
he was more. He was a philosopher, a leader of mankind, 
an interpreter of God. On every point he threw the world 
as well as his own country into controversy. Although he 
was a Christian and a Pacifist he thrived in the Czardom, 
and although he was a vegetarian he had survived endless 
Russian winters. He was the only Continental worthy of 
pilgrimage in the manner that Englishmen used to visit 
Rousseau or Goethe. There was more than a superb example 
of the writing power to visit at Ysnaya Polyana. There was 
a code, a new indication to life. 

Life with the close of the nineteenth century was self- 
satisfied, well-assured but maddening to the idealist. Every 
thing that was second-rate was glorified. Mediocrity was 
worshipped in the form of a golden image* Stagnation was 



satisfactory because it was an era of the lotus-eater. Tennyson s 
poem about that happy condition reflected Victorian life. 

The rumour of Tolstoy s life, which would not attract so 
much attention today, spread like the moving light of a 
comet across the face of a dead planet. That a wealthy and 
titled nobleman should abandon his class and privilege and 
descend to the life of a peasant was astonishing enough. 
That he did so in the name of Christianity was startling and 
threw landowners and church-going people in every country 
into contradictions or at least into questioning perturbation. 
A few wild noblemen followed his example on the Steppes. 
It would have been interesting if an English peer with vast 
estates had done the same in the Shires during the reign of 
Queen Victoria. Perhaps it might have changed English 
country life. It might have led to a Christian Labour Party. 
Squires might today be holding their own as yeomen farmers. 
Labourers might be filling the empty churches of the country 
side. The town would not have defeated and depressed the 
countryside so utterly. 

Tolstoy seemed to have achieved little except the tremendous 
advertisement for his books and the world fame which dogged 
his attempts to reach social annihilation. At first it was 
rumoured that he had successfully combined Christianity with 
Socialism and then with Communism. The truer version was 
that he professed literal Christianity and Nihilism in one 

It was an astounding experience for a Cambridge man in 
his fourth year to wake up one morning knowing that he 
would breakfast with Tolstoy. It was difficult to say which 
had most inspired the social idealists of that time: novels like 
Rfsurrection or the pictures of the emaciated, bearded Count 
slowly pushing an obsolete plough through the fields. Break 
fast was simple indeed, but it was followed by a mental feast 
when Tolstoy invited me to visit his workroom and discuss 
the scattered pages of what would prove his last and most 
important message to mankind. For a young man to walk 
with Tolstoy on the scenes of his labours was like a throbbing 
dream. No hero-worshipper can have enjoyed such time as 
was given to me to enjoy. There is an enjoyment Paradisally 



promised to biographers when they meet their subjects for 
the first time. Upon this earth Boswell must have felt it, 
when first introduced to Dr. Johnson but who else? 

Whether I was ever destined to write a single word about 
Tolstoy, I drank the Boswellian fervour to the sparkling dregs. 

He was very old and I knew I should not see him again. 
No moment was to be lost and no word unrecorded. I 
believe I was the last of the long line of disciples who had 
visited him from every country to learn if Christianity was 
practicable in ordinary life according to the actual injunctions 
of the Gospel : or at least according to the stark interpretations 
which he gave to the most disputed documents of history. 
If I was the last, he took singular care to impress me with 
his doctrines. It seems difficult to believe that I am one of 
the few human beings alive who can answer the question: 
" And did you see Tolstoy plain? " 

Ysnaya Polyana was an old-fashioned forty-roomed house, 
wooden built, with gleaming white columns and balconies, 
needless to say destroyed since by the Germans. I always feel 
that, had Napoleon been the recent invader of Russia, 
he would have protected such an interesting domicile. 

" The great Emathian conqueror bid spare 
The House of Pindarus when temple and tower 
Went to the ground." 

So dealt Alexander of Macedon with the eagle s nest. But 
the family home of Tolstoy was savagely wrecked. The huge 
white park with the frozen lakes must still remain like the 
glittering shroud about the grave of the great man with whom 
I walked awhile. 

He was more than condescending. He was communicative. 
He told me much of his own life which I have since filled up 
from the libraries of books which the name of Tolstoy has 
evoked in all lands. They have become wearisome and 
overwritten, for not only was the old man discursive but so 
were all his relatives and friends. Not only did he record 
every incident in his own life and every thought he ever 
thought about himself or others, but others have heaped up 
all they thought or remembered. 



Some brief record of that prolonged and prodigious 
existence is due, but not to the extent which has been imposed 
on the world. Men of Letters have a tremendous advantage 
over posterity. Propaganda in the past was ecclesiastical. 
In the present it has been wholly political, but in the far future 
it will belong to those who have known how to write them 
selves into literature. 

In many ways Tolstoy lived the life of thousands of his 
Russian contemporaries. He was human, ambitious and 
erring like thousands of his class in every European country. 
He was not the first child to imagine a scheme for ruling the 
world. Every Messiah or Universal Provider must have had 
similar thoughts at some time. He was not the only under 
graduate to fail at the University or to develop lazy and 
irregular hours. His third year found him immersed in 
Montesquieu but he withdrew to his heritage of serfs deep in 
the country and made his home the base for future studies. 

Trailing the milestones of his life, the reader like an explorer 
is always watching for the first sign that marked him so 
completely unique and different from all other Russians and 
indeed from all others of the human race. Accordingly, the 
reader trails and trails through unceasing books and bio 
graphies and is left asking the question: What was the essential 
difference ? It must lie in his genius. 

He and his brothers sought the secret of happiness not in a 
blue bird, but on a green stick which they buried in the woods. 

He gave himself the appearance of a prig endeavouring to 
turn himself into a prodigy. He tried to learn medicine, 
languages, the arts and agriculture. He would have been 
blissfully happy with an Encyclopedia Britannica* 

Education in Russia always had a fascination lacking in 
Erfgland, as so many subjects were forbidden or frowned 
upon by the Czardom and the Holy Synod. 

His ambition was to learn everything and to help everybody. 
The note of intense, bubbling, aggressive humanitarianism 
was struck early, but there have been many who have tried 
to cast away rank and fortune in order to assist those born 
to darkness and misery. 

He possessed incalculable strengths, mental, sexual and 



physical* He crushed the hours of youth into a crowded 
programme. He prepared himself to live a life for his peasants, 
which was the kst thing they expected or wanted from their 
master. His early idealism can be traced in his writing. 
He described himself in The Morning of a Country Squire and it 
will be the same self he will describe to the end. One wonders 
whether he lived his life to make his own copy or wrote his 
books as a chart to steer his life. 

He declared himself his brother s keeper. The sights he 
had seen amongst the serfs had stricken him as they struck 
the good Lord Shaftesbury in Victorian days. Both set out 
to wrestle against vice, poverty, cruelty, superstition. 
Shaftesbury was an Evangelical. Tolstoy became one, but 
something very much more Oriental. There was a romance 
about him. He descended among the stricken serfs like a 
Fairy Prince and, though in the end he indulged in the same 
platitudinous preaching, he carried out his Gospel to the 
literal end. Shaftesbury succeeded in causing legislation on 
behalf of miners and toilers, but he never flung aside the dress 
of respectability or ceased to be an ornament of the House 
of Lords. 

The world was fascinated by Tolstoy in his rough peasant 
dress, living a life utterly shorn of luxury and even of many 
necessities. But there have been many ascetics who have 
starved and worked themselves to penury. There have been 
hermits and naturalists who have struggled to live with 
Nature. Thousands of reformers have stripped themselves 
in order to proclaim the Will of God. All these things 
Tolstoy accomplished, but what was the magic that lifted him 
above them all in human history and left only St. Francis and 
the Buddha above him in the esteem of mankind? 

He set himself to accomplish two dreams of his childhood. 
He had imagined the secret for making wars to cease, and 
he felt it was possible to love all people at once. He certainly 
proposed a dull manner of world: History without conflicts, 
and love without passion or romance. 

He began with his own peasants, whom he ordered to be 
educated and made free at least to his thinking. But no 
gratitude was his. They only admired strength of body and 



only obeyed the whip. The failure of the experiment filled 
him with despair and he passed to the fine life of Moscow and 
Petersburg. He became a dandy and even sent his washing 
to Holland. It was part of the vanity which made him a 
showman all his life. It was consoling to gamble and even 
to lose heavily, for gambling did not lower him in the eyes of 
noble or peasant. He wrote rules for card-playing. He 
studied gambling, like thousands of gamblers in the past, and 
invented a slow cast-iron system. But inspiration was always 
breaking through, and again and again he lost money. So 
little was money-making his genius that he one day cheerfully 
cast it out of his life. 

The military career seemed to offer success and power. 
Bodily strength, vanity, horsemanship all pointed to the 
Army. Fate herself was making suggestions. He nearly 
joined the Imperial Guard when it was marching on Hungary. 
He nearly accompanied a relative departing on a Staff to 
Siberia. He kept himself always in magnificent trim. 
Gymnasium by day balanced an indulgence in gypsies by 
night: "The gay descendants of the illustrious Pharaohs ". 
Then he pulled himself together in one of his fierce recalls 
to conscience. Women and smoking were deposed from his 
life. Already he was passing to periods of prayer from 
bouts of pleasure. On his estate he had seigneur s right to 
order a pretty serf to be brought to him as simply as putting 
a mare under his saddle. One thing saved him from 
debauchery in Society. He possessed a remarkable ugliness. 
His atrocious nose had as lasting a result on his fate as Cleo 
patra s on history. The fair ladies, he noted, kept " garments of 
bronze " in his direction: a kind of moral " iron curtain ". 
He even hoped that syphilis would come to cave in his nose. 

By 1 8 5 1 he must find an outlet. He joined in the Caucasian 
Campaign. A small people stood between Russia and the sea, 
not for the first or last time. Tolstoy floated down the 
Volga building up his increasing purpose. Seeking the 
splendid outdoor life, he spent two years amongst officers to 
whom fighting, loot, drink and women were part of the day s 
work. The experiences were all saved for the pen, for his 
sword and pen worked simultaneously. 



Amid the Cossacks he comes into his own and can show 
such a feat as lifting a fellow on his hands. Out of the 
roughness he collects his literary sustenance. All is grist to 
his literary mill: but beside the pleasures of style and self- 
expression his conscience begins to scream in a Diary. 
Bravery of body is accompanied by introspection of spirit. 
He stares and stares into that paper mirror which so many 
of the company of Narcissus have inked from St. Augustine 
to Rousseau. It was Benjamin Franklin actually who taught 
Tolstoy to keep a moral Diary: that vermin-board on which 
the great Sensitives have exhibited their sins of stomach or sex. 
The Diary took the place of a Confessor with Tolstoy. 

In the mid fifties came the Crimean War. This untoward 
breakage of peace was a turning point for three famous persons 
at least: the Emperor Nicolas, who died of chagrin, Miss 
Nightingale and Tolstoy, who became a hero of the War. 
Once more he lived the double life of sword and pen. He 
fought in a perilous bastion and he wrote, showing that his 
emotions could combine with his intellect. Thousands had 
the same emotions and hundreds his intellect, but he 
could bring them into the one flame. This is the real receipt 
for genius and the new Emperor Alexander II recognised it. 
He gave orders that Tolstoy s life was not to be lost. Russia 
owed that at least to Czardom. 

The war was over and the glamour of Western culture 
radiated upon the strictly disciplined Orient. In politics and 
religion Russia turned her back towards what was variously 
called progress or Liberalism. Literature was the crude 
outlook for her mind and that was restricted to a very small 
company at the head of which reigned Turgenev. Travel 
was a noble s privilege. "Tolstoy went farther afield than 
the salons of Moscow and Petersburg. He reached Paris 
and London. In Paris he was horribly moved by a visit to 
Napoleon s tomb in the Invalides "the deification of 
a criminal " but less so by the execution of a real criminal 
on the guillotine. London was not so exciting but 
he heard Palmerston speak and Dickens lecture and 
attended a lecture in South Kensington, one wonders about 



Writing had come to him as easily as riding or mental 

He had read Rousseau, Stendhal and Dickens. His reading 
told him he could achieve books in his own manner. The 
first ray of genius gleamed in his account of Childhood, which 
the Emperor read to his wife with tears. 

The Caucasus filled his mind with the characters that 
are so necessary to writers. The Crimea inspired him 
to write Sebastopol in December which stirred Czar and 

Tolstoy sold his country house, leaving only the wings, to 
finance a magazine for the troops. He was dismayed by the 
corruption and asked whether officers were being shot in the 
back by their own men. The war was fantastically mis 
managed on both sides. Owing to the badness of their maps 
they could seldom get to grips! 

War was only an episode in his life but it seethed in his 
brain the literary description of war the protest against any 
war at all. He was politically combative, challenging Church 
and Society, other landowners and writers even poor old 
Turgenev. For times they were friends and there was a 
delicious scene when Tolstoy and Turgenev made a see-saw 
to amuse the children. Turgenev opened his arms to Tolstoy 
as a fatherly friend, but Tolstoy was already simmering with 
ideas far beyond staid Liberalism. He instantly attacked 
Turgenev and the Liberal Aristocrats, who were little less 
than the Whigs in English politics. If he intended to throw 
up his place in the aristocratic class, he had no intention of 
becoming a complacent bourgeois. He would become a 
peasant or nothing. There was a futile quarrel with his 
literary nurse followed by challenges to a duel. One wonders 
would a duel between Dickens and Thackeray have brought 
them back to friendship? In the end Turgenev could only 
watch Tolstoy from afar like an outraged hen watching her 
brilliant but ugly duckling. 

He could not abide Turgenev s well-meant supervision, 
though he was a keen admirer. When Tolstoy wrote the 
Story of a Horse, Turgenev went so far as to believe his spirit 
had been once incarcerated in one. He was breaking into 



bud with more than short stories. Huge masterpieces were 
moving through the dark recesses of his brain. 

After many trials of the female sex, whom he treated 
alternately with horror and impulse, he married. He married 
but one woman and they remained together until the last days 
of his life. Marriage influenced him, checked and changed 
him far more than he cared to recognise. In Sonya he found 
his match emotionally. She was equally fierce and passionate, 
with a gift of hysteria which he could only parallel by his 
excitable mysticism. He put her immediately to the sternest 
test. He gave her, as an innocent girl, his introspective 
Diaries of orgy to read. She staggered but survived into 
matrimony. It was not surprising that she took to writing 
overwrought Diaries herself. It was her only self-defence. 

Sonya brought fecundity and jealousy into the home. 
Strong and staunch, she could not bear even her own silly 
suspicions and disguised herself as a peasant woman to see 
if her husband would accost her in the woods. His Diaries 
haunted her. But she meant well and did better, for she 
suffered his sexual assaults and his morose reactions from the 
marriage bed with equal submission. She was strong and 
lively, turning somersaults or copying his growingly untidy 
manuscripts. She wrote silently and unceasingly for him like 
the perfect literary wife. 

Amid the enforced silence of servants and children the 
great books were being built. The writing of Peace and War 
dominated those years. The Artist had asserted himself in 
his mind and he desired perfection, hence the unending 
deletions and alterations. A great Master s manuscript is 
like a battlefield, with the ink spkshed like blood and sentences 
broken like the soldiers limbs. Sonya never tired of writing 
and rewriting the mass of script. 

He proposed to write Russia s Epic, the whole history of 
the country since 1805, covering the invasion by Napoleon 
and the reigns of Alexander I and Nicoks I into the Crimean 
War. By now he knew he was a writer supremely. A horse 
had once jolted him into the unconscious, out of which he 
had returned inspired to write Russia s book. Spain, Italy 
and England seem to outsiders countries of one book: 


Quixote, Dante or Shakespeare. National or historical 
characters live in stereotypes of style, upon which the national 
languages rest* It was so with Tolstoy. Hurling himself 
into archive and memoir, Tolstoy recreated Russia s greatest 
hours. Heroes and characters were lifted out of mausoleum 
or mud and made to move like living marionettes, but that 
did not suffice. " Real flesh and blood were needed. He 
threw his family into the inkpot. The character of " Natasha " 
is composed of the protesting Sonya and her sister Tanya. 
Tolstoy himself moves through his novel as Prince Vezukhov, 
not the first or the last of the many aliases of his pen. 

To compare dead and living History, compare Tolstoy s 
War and Peace with Gardiner s slow, minutely factual volumes 
describing the years of the Civil War. Tolstoy took six 
volumes to describe eight years. He was no more able to 
reach the Crimea than Macaulay was able to reach the wars 
of Marlborough. He was weighed down by his mass of 
material, out of which he cut living scenes. Compare 
Stendhal s slight and personal sketch of Waterloo with 
Tolstoy s panorama of Borodino: one of those fatal battles 
which cksh from epoch to epoch between the East and the 
West. Between East and West? Marathon, Lepanto, 
Sebastopol, Stalingrad. 

The result of the book was prodigious. Russia recognised 
herself and the world slowly realised the greatest of novels 
had been written. There was a torrent of criticism, foamed 
with glittering praise. The reading population of Russia was 
divided into conflict. The Liberals found it reactionary: the 
reactionaries the reverse. Bourbon aristocrats refuse to learn 
to go forward, but Liberals never know how to take a sweeping 
glance back. Both are consumed in their present futilities. 
History moves above and beyond their tumid conflicts. All 
the great writers tread upon contemporary politics. Hence 
forth Tolstoy knew that he was great amongst the greatest. 
He had shown that History is not enskved to the Dictators 
but the reverse: Dictators are tossed by event. 

The old house at Ysnaya Polyana had been sold but it was 
rebuilt to house Tolstoy s married life. Brain and brawn 
were equally vigorous and he lived the life of lover and 



husband, peasant and proprietor, reader and writer all together 
and all to crescendo. His strength was hurled into production: 
child was begotten upon child while new books gripped his 

He had attempted to thrust a hundred years of Russian 
history into a single novel, but even Tolstoy had stumbled 
over the years. He turned round to tell the tragedy of a 
woman s life: a hundred months, a hundred days of Anna 
Karenina. There was no lady like her since EmmaBovary had 
disturbed the sacred curtain that concealed European woman. 
Since Balzac no writer had measured the feminine shallows 
with so fine a pen. 

A slight incident made the literary source. A neighbour s 
mistress was found mutilated on the railway. The Society 
machine had taken her soul and the passing train conveniently 
killed her body. Tolstoy surveyed the pathetic remains. 
Out of them he took blood and flesh to live again and a heart 
to beat, break and passionise. All Russia that could read, 
read the book which an iron will, combined with delicate 
psychology, filled to the last page. The Russia of the seventies 
made the background: Russia, the whole Russia and nothing 
but Russia. The writing world recognised that their master 
had come and they collapsed. A corner of Vanity Fair had 
been picked up and intensified by a giant. Anna Karenina 
gives herself to Vronsky, the lover, who really prefers steeple- 
chasing and really made one with his horse not with her. 
Anna passes into remorse and jealousy: two acids which eat 
quickly into the unguarded heart. Her suicide is a last 
attempt to haunt, if she cannot hold her lover. Pitiful but 
not guilty is Tolstoy s conception of her frail heart, but he 
sets the terrible motto over the book " Vengeance is mine : 
I will repay ". 

Tolstoy cannot resist joining in the social fray under the 
alias of Levin, whose romance with the Princess reflects his 
own love-making and married life. The Princess like Sonya 
flits like a satin-winged butterfly in Moscow till she becomes 
the property of her lover. Scenes of childbirth follow such 
as even the Classics had not portrayed. The birth of her first 
child is as great an event in the book as it was at Ysnaya Polyana, 



War and Peace was as static as History. His war characters 
were taken from the statuary of the age-great names in Russia s 

Peace flowed back like a softly penetrating tide over the 
weeds and wrecks. The dead buried the dead and the past 
was sealed unalterably with them. The vast book was more 
than a Classic. It was like the immense cloud overhanging 
Russia s soul. 

Anna Karenina might have been a living piece, which Balzac 
might have left behind on his Polish trip, as though some of 
the Comedie Humaine had survived and picked up Russian 
speech and clothes. The novel of human society was made 
from a different mould from the colossal Peace and War\ as 
different as a conversation-piece is from a military cemetery. 
It was full of the anxieties and excitements which are undying 
to the human race: the conflicts which are not settled by the 
plans of a General or placated by Treaties, In the Crimea 
Tolstoy had realised that Generals were all swept by the 
storm of events which they tried to ride as unridiculously as 
possible. But people like Anna Karenina made their own 
storm, and perished therein even though it were a storm of 
the teacups. 

During these years he rested his happiness on country life 
in his family. Though he demanded the impossible from 
marriage he was no doubt the Levin of Anna Karenina. This 
was his greatest power, the magic of transporting phases of 
real life into the finest literature squeezing the wild grapes 
into bottles of Tokay. The delightful scene of Natasha s 
first Ball in Peace and War reflects the night when Tolstoy 
took his sister to a Ball at Tula given for Alexander III. 

It was something to know he was ever happy. Though 
humour died out his life, he had dearly loved a frolic and 
there are rare records of practical joking. To amuse the 
children he crawled in attired as a bear. He was delighted 
when his daughters visited him dressed as wailing supplicants. 
And now begins the search and research for self and God. 
The historic theme had been exhausted. The heart of woman 
has been surveyed from the gay to the gruesome. There is 
something finite and recurrent about them all. But the great 



adventure lies in the unknown. What is the unpredictable 
destiny of Leo Tolstoy ? Above all what is he to make of the 
God that made him? To his wife s dismay he gave up art 
to solve existence. She had chosen a literary hero but he 
insisted on becoming a peasant and making shoes. Like a 
soul uncertain of its terminus, good or evil, he has started on 
the long journey which will be closed forty years later. 

During lifehe lost faith in everything : not only in traditional 
creeds but in the Liberalism and Socialism for which the 
choice spirits of Russia accepted martyrdom. Materialism he 
disdained. There must be a morality outside of Churches. 
There must be a God outside the Universe, stern, pitiful, 
impulsive perhaps and not unlike Tolstoy himself. It was 
something to be able to recreate God in his own image: 
temporary of course but leading him to the eternal model. 

He seemed destined to endure perpetual unhappiness and 
never to be comforted by the prodigious literary success. 
He was writing for all the Russias, for the Continents, for the 
Planet. One pinch of religious Faith would have been so 
helpful. He fell back upon the prophet of empty pessimism, 
upon Schopenhauer. It was like using a hair of the mad dog 
to cure madness. It only left him angry that he could not 
find a single reason for existence. It was like climbing a 
rope and trying to hang oneself as soon as one reached 
the top. He never rose further or higher than Nihilism. The 
word had been already stolen by the Anarchists from the 
philosophers. It made a splendid panache for them to flout 
the good God. But if nought was nought, then there was 
no God to be rude to. Honest blasphemy like the Black 
Mass was a furious recognition of the existence of God. 
Ex nihilo nibil fit. So Nihilism was no good. 

Eventually Tolstoy came nearer to the great Nihilists like 
the Ecdesiastes of the Bible and the Buddha of Nirvana. 
He had not yet searched the Scriptures nor dreamed that the 
Ecclesiast had attained the end of that philosophy or that 
Solomon in the Song of Songs had found peace in sensuality. 

Yet he should have been happy. Everything he wrote 
increased his fame. Every orgy with his wife produced a 
child, or the inspiration of a chapter. But he was not content 



with the happy family life. Neighbours, serfs, farm-stock, 
crops and hunting made up a world of interests and good 
living. His very ideas were progressing abroad, for the Czar 
Alexander II freed the serfs. A gentle shudder crossed the 
surface of Russian life as Tolstoy began to develop his Gospel 
to the bitter end. 

But too often he quailed before his own thoughts. Was 
his life a sham? Was God deceiving him? Others in all 
ages have had these devastating ideas and turned into a 
woman s arms for oblivion or cast their mental lava into the 
moulds of Art. Gambling or sport offered lower levels of 
outlet. When Tolstoy sank, he sank as deeply as he could 
into the slough of melancholia. Of course there was the 
immediate solution by suicide and for that reason he gave up 
hunting. There were times when he had to keep himself at a dis 
tance from instruments of sudden death. It was easier to recollect 
how many fools and silly women had chosen that escape. 

He worked as though the only certain possibility was that 
Life was the prolonged last day of a criminal who had been 
sentenced by an unknown Judge for an unknown crime. 
There was not time to read a quarter of the best books or to 
study enough to attain solutions. No wonder that so many 
abandoned work and worry and accepted the little luxuries 
their living allowed. 

But whether Life is a fragment, a second of Eternity or a 
measure of Time, Tolstoy rushed from Philosophy to 
Literature, from Literature to Science and back again from 
Science to Literature and Philosophy. But answer there was 
none. He questioned the Eternal of Eternity and was 
baulked eternally. For long the God he questioned seemed 
to be himself, but with careful research he persuaded himself 
there was an exterior God. In a despairing moment he 
adopted the Faith of the peasants as well as their clothes. 
Their Faith in God he accepted without their Church. It 
was not enough to write his Confession like St. Augustine. 
He produced his new Faith. It was simply non-Resistance to 
Evil. Accordingly he implored Alexander III to spare his 
father s murderers but the Czar let him know he would only 
pardon an attempt on his own life. 



He never passed any further, neither forward or backwards, 
even at the end when he clearly doubted God s faith in himself, 
Leo Tolstoy. 

His religious attitude was simple but he could not remain 
silent and he became insufferable to his family. However 
much the angels rejoice in heaven over the public return of 
one misbeliever, his neighbours on earth can be needlessly 
bored or distracted. 

He once clothed himself in the white garment of a neophyte 
in the Orthodox Church only to tear it to shreds. To his 
destructive mind dogmas were skittles, and once overthrown, 
they could lie in the Devil s Alley. 

When he turned himself to grapple with the Scriptures like 
a humble Hercules, there was the chance that he might create 
for the Russian folk what Luther had done for the German. 
The great writer, the burning reformer and the passionate 
searcher for truth combined in Tolstoy, but the Russian 
Bible was not achieved. It is true the message interested him 
more than the literary form of the message. Having dissected 
Theology, he analysed the Greek of the New Testament: 
but he was unfitted to be a theologian or a scholar. He made 
his own gospel and supplied his own rectifications. St. Paul s 
amazing appendix to the Gospels had added force and fervour 
but Tolstoy s fervour only diluted them and finally dehydrated 
Christianity as religion. He made it into a hysterical gesture. 
He railed and ranted like all the preachers. He reduced the 
whole to skin and bones and then filled the frame from his 
own bloodless soul. He fell for Gospel upon the single 
injunction to resist no Evil. It is the quintessence of the 
Nihilist, and is best met by the suggestion that if assassination 
should not be punished by death, the assassins should com 
mence themselves by meting out less final punishment to 
their victims. 

Like all reformers he turned upon his own family. They 
had to suffer his beliefs whether they could bring themselves 
to believe or not. Sonya was never out of domestic harness. 
She struggled with children and tutors, potatoes and receipts: 
the housewife graduating to matriarch. But she was married 
to a patriarch, not unlike the Old Testament variety, and 



she was never allowed to hold her head high or to insist on 
an opinion. While her lord wrestled with God at the mystic 
ford, her place was at the sink. She was sick of his religion, 
but like the true Oriental wife she was still sick with love, 
but self-perfection meant rejecting family. 

From time to time he descended from his Godlike perch, 
wrote, thought and preached no more. The flesh, which he 
had temporarily discounted, recalled him to his aching sense 
of lust. The Godhead had to wait till he satisfied his man 
hood. Sonya was extraordinarily patient and only prayed he 
should not suffer anxiety during her pregnancies. 

The spirit of the Great Renunciation was always upon him. 
Every time the dregs of sensualism were cleared up and the 
proud body mortified at the tail end of the plough, the world 
was informed. Property was disowned. Meat and liquor 
and tobacco were rejected. The Gospel teaching was followed 
in all its strictness. Human cheeks, he preached, were made 
to be skpped not kissed. It was the veritable teaching of 
Christ. As for drink " the first Distiller is the Devil ". 

If at one time he found himself surrendering to the fear of 
death, he defeated that fear by making life a more unpleasant 
alternative. The sweets of family life were sinful and could 
only be reconciled with Christian life by dragging wife and 
children to beggary. Walking barefoot and wearing peasant s 
dress revolted them, but gradually they learned to submit. 
Mowing took the place of croquet. He was full of the 
Evangelical idea that aristocrats should shovel in the streets 
and gladly performed chores in the house. His family were 
always a trouble, for he discovered what Hermits and Stylites 
(who affected a wretched life on the tops of columns) had 
already discovered: that basic Christianity was incompatible 
with family life, especially with a strong-minded wife. 

Sonya held out all the time. This was not Christianity: 
this was not decent human life in her opinion. As she wrote, 
<c for him washing is an event ". There were intervals when 
the relentless ascetic consented to live in Moscow and hold a 
court of literary vanity amid the fleshpots and inkpots of the 
great City, Disciples and disputants, admirers and cranks 
thronged his levee. The poor Countess breathed the 



atmosphere of adulation. She felt that she had married a great 
man. He himself excused this return to Society as the only 
possible means of proselytising his friends, He might be Lot 
paying a seasonal visit to Sodom. And there was Lot s wife 
looking back at the town life she was giving up 1 To keep the 
family circle intact, it was necessary to make some surrender to 
their worldliness. The dreamers, the crazy, the simple of 
soul flocked around him. He brought a fellow-prophet to 
preach in the elegant drawing rooms. It is extraordinary how 
much the readers of his books were prepared to endure* 
Were Ruskin, William Morris or Bernard Shaw allowed to 
take such liberties in the salons of London? 

Ever seeking new miseries, Tolstoy visits the slums of 
Moscow and suffers a humanitarian crisis. He decides frankly 
that wealth is simply theft from the poor. He returns to the 
fields and forests and forces himself to go poor more violently 
than ever. His enormous strength enables him to cut wood 
in the mountain, to work in the fields and struggle with 
house-work. Clothes become coarser and his daughters have 
to wear the shoes he makes for them. He insists on peasants 
food and drinks tea in their fashion. Sonya submits but 
scolds him for wanting to play Robinson Crusoe. 

Unfortunately, like all die Prophets, he lost all sense of 
humour, but the advertising value was enormous. The land 
gossiped about his eccentricity. Many reviled him, some 
believed and all who could, made themselves acquainted with 
his books. As a novelist, preacher and social comedian he 
seemed in the first rank. But to his family he was a wearisome 
bore tending to create tragedy. Sonya fought for her children, 
their rights and comforts. However much they quarrelled, 
they never split the roof-tree. She only asked to hold the 
purse-strings before every kopek was scattered. In the end 
she allowed herself to be subdued and he began to make 
converts in his own family. His daughter Tanya was the 
first, but Sonya remained suspicious that the new life under 
mined her position. She became jealous no longer of women 
but of men, the disciples, " the dark people ", who began to 
arrive on aU sides. They only asked to become peasants but 
their doctrines were Communism, vague and overwhelming 


in simplicity as Communism was, before it had been regulated 
by Marx. She asked angrily whether they wanted to break 
her wedding ties? and with a flash of the bitterest irony: 
" Perhaps this too is Christianity? " 

Tolstoy himself seemed to have loosened any sacred bond, 
for after walking away as a tramp he returned to upbraid her 
guilty of holding him in sin, to which he returned in his 
physical anguish. He alluded to his children as his sins ever 
before him. 

"When his daughters entered into happy marriages, he 
treated them as though they had taken to some kind of drugs. 
Marriage marred the perfect life. 

By this time not his books and teachings only were public 
fare. All the emotions, feuds and follies of Ysnaya Polyana 
were widely reported over Russia. Thousands of Russians 
watched him working out his soul. Was it not the Russian 
soul he was leading through the torture of contradictions to 
redemption? Like a great Polar explorer, who takes the 
ambitions, adventures and endurances imagined by the public 
on his own shoulders; Tolstoy became the great Pilgrim 
struggling towards the Pole that Russian reformers dreamed. 
He knew by now he was in search of God; Communism, 
Christian asceticism, poverty were only stages on the road. 
He was their " Little Father 5> , but he was engaged on the 
mighty process of reaching the Great Father himself. 

Everything was shed on the road: his class, his property, 
his married life and his rights as a human being. He could 
not find or see God, but he accepted the peasant as a substitute 
and laid everything at his feet. To reach God necessitated 
becoming a peasant. This was at least the first and easiest 
step. Disciples had no difficulty in throwing up the com 
plications and unhappinesses of civilised life, commerce, army 
or trade in order to be at peace with themselves. 

Colonies of Christian Communism begin to form in different 
corners of Russia. These Slavic Quakers refused the aid of 
laws or police or banks. Officers and landlords laid down 
their wealth. But without organisation most of them 
came to nothing. The peasants could not resist stealing the 
attractive farm gear, which the new tillers of the soil brought 



with them. There was the additional temptation that the 
owners declined to prosecute. Tolstoy himself suffered 
agonies when peasants were imprisoned for stealing his timber. 
He wished them only to be frightened and then forgiven. 

Tolstoy never minced words or sheathed a phrase in velvet. 
The thirst for wealth was " the thirst of fleas hurrying to a 
pile of vomit ", he insisted. If property was theft, then 
writing for money was prostitution. Violent discussions 
arose with his family when he proposed giving away his 
writings to the publishers. They could only endure the 
privations of the life he ordained for them by the thought of 
the vast profits which his writings produced. In the end he 
made over his property to the insistent Sonya. It was a 
compromise but then Marriage itself was a compromise with 
sensuality and " sin ". Yet the Tolstoy household continued. 
Sonya kept it together with her threats including the possibility 
that she would follow the end of Anna Karenina. 

Tolstoy defied the hugest giants as his enemies. No 
Quixote had ever yet threatened to destroy not only War 
but the State. War was simply the clash of ** professional 
assassins ". The State waged War and therefore must be 
destroyed. God said so. Christianity said so. Tolstoy said 
so. Liberalism with all its padded bourgeois life he had long 
dismissed, but Socialism was no better, because it scorned the 
mighty Christian weapon of passive resistance. It was no use 
offering material promises which could not be fulfilled. 
Hatred would not destroy oppression. Envy could not sap 
the rich. 

Prophecy streaked his condemnations and in this he lived 
up to the type of all Messiahs, even the greatest. He foretold 
the coming of the most abominable of tyrannies : that of the 
depraved and ignorant worker. Even a Socialist State was 
wrong, as it conveyed a moral contradiction in that it coun 
tenanced prisons. As a Utopian Christian he called for 
non-resistance instead of Revolution. 

Theory never ceased to entangle him in practice. When 
famine had broken out and Christian practice required practical 
measures, he felt at a loss. Money was poured upon him 
but he believed it was wrong to touch money, which was the 



vomit disgorged by the rich. The hungry should be loved 
not fed. Having conquered this repulsion he organised 
funds and feeding transport. Thousands of starving peasants 
were kept alive by this contradiction, for to Tolstoy the rich 
were feeding the poor with food the poor grew for the rich. 
The whole world had answered his appeal, for his trumpet 
was international. The Government did not enjoy their own 
sores and failures being trumpeted abroad. The Imperial 
orders were that " failure of crops " should be mentioned but 
not a word of famine. They also were striving to correct 
facts with phrases. 

Nobody understood the Russian peasant better than Tolstoy. 
If he deified him as part of his theory, he could vilify him as 
an animal in Literature. His Stories of the People are matured 
work, for after he had cleansed the temple of Art he was 
bound to provide some substitute. Here again his Genius 
offered splendid assistance. He had hurled Drama, even the 
name of Shakespeare, down the drain. In return he produced 
The Powers of Darkness, a pky in which peasants pass through 
animality into crime. Darkness is the word indeed, but the 
shadow is poised as artistically as the "clear-obscure" of 
Rembrandt. The light streams from heaven when the 
peasant-criminal confesses sin. The masterpiece was read 
aloud to the peasants themselves whose comment was, 
** More fool he! " They could not understand the yearning 
for inner peace at the cost of domestic disturbance. 

The pky fell under the Censorship until it was read aloud 
to the Emperor. None dared applaud or revile in the audience 
until the Emperor spoke: ** A wonderful play ! " and it 
immediately became a part of Russia s literary heritage. 

The Powers of Darkness was a grim name for a Pastoral play, 
but a Russian Pastoral can only be ghastly. The preacher, 
who made the peasant the model of his life and kbour, was 
also the flaming artist who drew this terrible revektion. 
When it had uncovered all its bestial squalor, the ray of 
divine light seemed too kte. 

From the peasant speech and the peasant religion he stood 
aside and as an artist only he gibbeted the living peasant to 



whose levels he had descended. As a consolation he added 
the convulsions of conscience. Perhaps he was only depicting 
himself again, at least as he would have been, had he been 
peasant born. 

No portrayer of the peasant ever delved so deep or ruminated 
such horrors. 

The Playboy of the Western Shore was a light comedy in 
comparison. Synge glorified the dialect of the Irish peasant, 
and left him pirouetting in comic misunderstanding. If he 
had attempted to apply The Powers of Darkness to Connaught, 
the Irish audience would have left the Abbey Theatre 
smouldering. Hardy in his portrayal of an Unmerry England 
never dared take his characters into the depths sometimes 
revealed at Assizes. But Tolstoy descended into the Well of 
Truth and dragged her out of the muddy sediment, naked and 
horribly unashamed. Truth, that can be all lovely, can also 
be all hideous. Only, as the Emperor remarked at the dose 
of the reading " A wonderful play! " 

Peace and War remains Tolstoy s superb and greatest achieve 
ment, for from beginning to end it is a work of art. He is 
one with History, one with life, one with Russia when he 
writes the mighty screed. Literary masterpieces may follow, 
but they are also stained by the extrovert and even more by 
the controvert. The voice crying in the wilderness, the 
embittered preacher, the frustrated teacher made havoc of the 
Kreut^er Sonata and Resurrection. They remain splendid 
enough, but the writer was on the war path. The curse of 
sex made even the happiness of marriage into a mirage. He 
hurled himself as rancorously (and with less reason) as Swift 
against the whole sexualism of man and woman. He con 
tinued to hate the woman he loved as a wife. Only in hours 
of temperamental need would he even speak to her. All this 
disorder passed into the glowing Kreut^er Sonata. Poor 
Sonya felt she was attacked and degraded by the book. In 
return she pluckily wrote a novel to hurl back blame on her 
husband but publication was prevented. By a real exercise 
of Christian forgiveness she sped to Petersburg to persuade 
the Emperor to lift the censorship which had naturally befallen 
the Sonata. 



Herein Tolstoy painted sexual jealousy to the life. The 
Sonata itself was the exquisite music played by a violinist, 
whose violin gave the last touch needed to fire the sensuality 
of a woman. She becomes the lover of the musician and 
when surprised by her husband suffers death for her sin. 
Music had powers upon Tolstoy which he resented, and he 
attacks it as furiously as he attacks all forms of sensuality. 
It seems as though in his madness he demanded total chastity 
in marriage. Even the consummation of marriage was the 
sin leading to the direct results. But the Apostle of this 
stern self-sacrifice appears to be over-sexed himself. With 
agonised heart he held the front-line of icy self-restraint only 
to fall back into occasional self-reproaching retreat. Retreat 
was merely a return into the arms of his wife who continued 
to avenge herself by satisfying his passion. It was no doubt 
very Russian, especially as both gave the fullest vent to their 
emotions on paper. No doubt many a married couple could 
write such contradictions and hostilities if they wished to 
expose themselves to Posterity. As a result many readers 
know more about the Tolstoy matrimony than about their 
own private lives. 

Resurrection was the delivery of his soul, a superb novel only 
spoilt by querulous preaching before the close. It was taken 
partly from an incident in his own life and partly from 
another s. In his bitterly-repented youth he had seduced a 
servant girl who was cast out of the home to perish. Another 
seducer recognised a victim of his own while serving as a 
juryman, visited her in prison and offered marriage to repair 
his fault. She died of typhus in the real story, but Tolstoy 
made the ideal version into a lantern for the world. He por 
trayed himself in the role of both seducers and condemned 
himself to follow the girl on the road to Siberia. It was as 
though a great artist wrote a Tract and enlarged it into an 
adventure of pity and beauty. His perpetual theme returned: 
darkness breaking into light. Out of the horrors of prostitu 
tion, crime and Siberian exile he drew the splendid scene of 
the girPs resurrection, rewon by a man s love after destruction 
by his lust. Jelix culpa\ 

Resurrection came nearest to an autobiography or at least to 

1 20 


the life of heroic self-sacrifice which Tolstoy hid wished, 
perhaps wilfully, for himself. " I am all in Resurrection " were 
his own words. 

In Resurrection Tolstoy faced the great Social Problem, or 
as it is more romantically described The White Slave Traffic. 
Greater than he had grappled with it in vain. No doubt 
Christ had given the terrible problem its quietus but in 
sentences of perfection which left the normal man to despair. 
Tolstoy was struggling to fulfil those stark words out of 
which all Christian asceticism has been built. Those who 
made themselves eunuchs for the Kingdom of God were 
commended. It was certainly the Tolstoyan ideal. Likewise 
He commended the gentle and generous treatment of women 
whom men had made to transgress the woman of Samaria 
the woman that was a sinner in the city the Lady of the 
Town called Magdala. 

But the divine teaching did not prevent the continuance of 
Prostitution as part of life in Christendom. Women were 
enslaved and destroyed down the ages. No State was able 
to regulate and no Church to outlaw the shadow which 
overhung womanhood. The whole of modern Prostitution 
plagued the spirit of Tolstoy and, once he had won the ear 
of the world, he plucked the great evil and thrust it into the 
face of civilisation. 

Christianity was his solution and Resurrection was his way 
and means. The pathetic pilgrimage of the hero into the 
snowy wilds following the lost one struck a note of senti 
mentality, but it was a Christianised version of the Abb6 
Prevost s famous scene when the Chevalier de Grieux followed 
Manon to the convict lines of New Orleans. 

Tolstoy s book was less a work of art than the story of 
Manon, for the Abbe conveyed no moral, only exposed the 
crucifixion which could be brought about by Love. But 
Tolstoy wanted every prostitute redeemed, if possible by her 
first seducer. The means should be sheer love and nobility 
on the part of men but what men will ever scour the streets 
or sack the brothels ? Modern Christianity has compromised. 
The utility and necessity of the vast system is accepted by the 
State under a cloak of hypocrisy or a series of shuffling by-laws 



and medical regulations. Religious Institutions are provided 
to help and harbour the infinitesimal small proportion of 
wrecks that can be drawn into their gates. The public 
conscience is thus salved, but not Tolstoy s and he cast aside 
the attitude of the Churches with scorn. Unfortunately he 
could not restrain his pen in Resurrection from inscribing a 
bitter parody of the Holy Liturgy. It brought him the 
excommunication of the Orthodox Church. From hence 
forward the Holy Synod was his watching enemy. Already 
the Emperor had been pressed to imprison him in a monastery. 
But civil governors are often wiser than the children of 
ecclesiastical light The Emperor refused to make a martyr 
of the prophet, and for all practical purposes Tolstoy was 
protected indirectly by the Imperial power till the hour of 
his death. 

From time to time the spirit of the Buddha was upon him. 
He never had the peace of mind to become " the Light of 
Russia ", but he went threatening to leave (and incidentally 
relieve) his protesting family for ever. He was influenced by 
the Hindu custom of retiring to the woods at the age of sixty 
in order to search for God. At least he could not bear to 
devote his last years " to gossip and tennis "1 He sought the 
inner change which no outside revolution or political reversion 
could bring. 

In the West he would have become a silent Trappist or a 
self-immured Carthusian monk, but in the East he felt called 
to take the part of a Messiah, if he could only be rid of his 
family, of his estates, of his income. He was involved in the 
tentacles of the Society he was trying to destroy. 

The extraordinary thing is that he was never able to cut 
himself away until the very end when there was no life to 
return to. He wrote letters of farewell and made agonised 
scenes like those annual farewells which Prima Donnas force 
upon their sobbing audiences. Nevertheless he remained at 
Ysnaya Polyana. It was easier to express himself by the pen 
and another remarkable play, The Light Shines in Darkness* 
described himself and his sufferings. It is not difficult to 
recognise the wails of Sonya to her impossible mate: " You 
love the whole world including the drunken but you hate 



your family and me. How Christian! " So it is, for it is 
written that except a man hate his father and mother, he 
cannot . . . Art he dethroned. Chekhov could only laugh 
when he wrote: " I cannot abide Shakespeare but your plays 
are even worse! " 

He began to look on his own masterpieces as rubbish. 
All his artistry had been used to draw readers into his preaching 
circle. There he had nothing to offer except the path that 
was stern and the field that was sterile. He re&sed to write any 
more fascinating novels, comparing himself to the old courtesan 
who declines to return to old and pleasing ways. Philosophy, 
preaching and pestering were the final occupations of his pen. 

He never ceased acquiring subjects which he regurgitated 
in ink. He read and reread the literature of Europe. He 
vomited Shakespeare and Wagner. He suddenly learnt Dutch 
as he had once guzzled Greek. He mastered medicine and 
studied diseases, not without making mistakes in his writing. 
In only two spheres he treads surely in that of mystic 
annihilation and in his knowledge of the hearts of women. 
These he understands almost as God understands them. 
He is still the unsurpassable author of Anna Rarenina and the 
Kreufcgr Sonata. They will survive him when all his teaching 
has failed and he himself has found personal nothingness. 
And this thought he hated as though he suspected that he 
would be remembered only as a writer and disdained as a 
prophet. When Gorki spoke of him as an old sorcerer, he 
had the artist in view. On the lowest level human beings 
prefer conjuring tricks to all the storming and shouting of 
the Saints. A conjuror of word and phrase, a magician of 
letters, the fashioner of tales which the human race will carry 
away down the ages he shall be immortal. But not the voice 
crying in the wilderness, for in the wilderness there is no echo. 

His list of writers was not entirely crankery. There were 
famed figures who corresponded with him like Shaw and 
Edison or actually reached him like William Bryan, Masyrak 
or Romain Holland. 

He decided that Shaw had more brains than were good for 
him. He allowed Edison to place his voice on the phonograph 
record but he approved Edison as a vegetarian. 


He corresponded with Gandhi, an unknown agitator in 
South Africa, encouraging him as a disciple. In this manner 
his influence spread through the world. 

Above all whom he most approved was Henry George, 
whose theory of land-tax seemed to solve the troubles of the 
peasant on one side and of the aching property-owner on the 
other* They believed in each other, Tolstoy and Henry 
George, but neither Mahomet nor the Mountain could ever 
reach each other. 

It is difficult, of course, for Englishmen to appraise Tolstoy. 
It may prove simplest to draw parallels. What Napoleon 
was in France, what Byron was in England Tolstoy was in 
Russia, although their professions and careers were utterly 
dissimilar. They were the three architypes, by which the 
Continent understood their different countries. It is only a 
coincidence that Tolstoy should have made his masterpiece 
out of Napoleon s Russian campaign and that Byron should 
have admired the Emperor with an immense hero-worship. 
All three were desperate outlaws of the old Society and yet 
Ae pageants of their lives were followed with some of the 
admking horror and dread with which a Greek play was 
heard in Athens. Napoleon was the romantic and sinister 
aftermath of the French Revolution. Byron was the Romantic 
Movement itself, which filled the gap between Waterloo and 
the Revolution of Forty-Eight. Tolstoy symbolised, 
prophesied and serenaded all the coming Russian Revolution 
of the present day. Lenin thought his pacificism obstructed 
the Revolution in 1905 but nevertheless he prepared the 
Russian mind for Communism, Amazed, admiring and 
horrified, other European thinkers thought and watched 
those terrible ones. The men of property and orthodoxy 
quailed but believed in the pendulum of reaction. Certainly 
Napoleon was followed by the Bourbon and the continued 
triumph of the middle class. The Revolution was castrated 
by Waterloo. Byron s Romantic Raid against convention 
was submerged by Victorianism. The avalanche, unleashed 
by Tolstoy without knowing or suspecting what was ahead, 
has submerged half of Europe and all Russia. Not until it 
has reached bottom will it be possible to estimate the real 



deluge or possibly the slow thaw. But Tolstoy s share in 
world upheaval cannot be unassumed. Who would deny 
that time has shown him to be Peter the Great in sheep s 
clothing I 

Byron could not resist appearing and reappearing in the 
same Byronic character that he had created for himself in 
Childe Harold, the Corsair or Don Juan, It was the same with 
Tolstoy, who was the hero of all his own novels. Both 
dragged their bleeding hearts across the gaze of Europe, one 
seeking the sinister in man and the other extracting all that 
was possible to extract from God. If one applauded the Devil 
and the other approached the Divine, both were left stranded 
in the end and were compelled to make departures from the 
earthly scene which would disturb and agonise their readers. 
Neither could afford to die at home in bed and both escaped 
an embarrassing wife. Hate or love never seemed to make 
much difference to them as long as they were assured of the 
rapt attention of multitudes in every country. Byron s 
view was: 

" He who surpasses or subdues mankind 
Must look on the hate of those below ". 

Tolstoy, no less a frenzied egotist, was content to surpass 
mankind in sheer sensational Christian behaviour. He looked 
down upon their love from the isolation of his pillar. Without 
the magic wand of literary genius, would either of them have 
ever passed beyond the ken of a small disgusted and flabber 
gasted neighbourhood? Would Byron have been more than 
a decayed dandy or Tolstoy more than a religious crank 
cranking in the snows? But Genius . . , Genius . . . 

The day came when the last disciple arrived at Ysnaya 
Polyana, and perhaps modesty should add the least. 

More than two score years have passed since I woke up 
and rubbed my dreaming eyes under Tolstoy s roof-tree. A 
good deal of water has flowed down the Volga since and many 
snows have joined the snows of 1907. So much has passed 
away including the great Russian Autocracy and when that 
Empire fell, all others followed. The world is now without 


any Emperor for the first time since Caesar. The Russian 
State has been disembowelled. Ysnaya Polyana has been 
sacked and scattered, but Tolstoy has survived. The great 
historical question is to what extent his life and teachings 
loosened that Empire and contributed to a new Autocracy 
which would have granted him far less tolerance in his day. 
Somewhere in those woods he lies, where once a little snub- 
nosed boy played and dreamed that he would magically 
over-rule the world. 

I had travelled southward from Moscow to Tula. I left 
the scene of the Kremlin wreathed in snows. In the early 
morning the great gilded domes of hundreds of churches rose 
above the white-shadowed streets and caught the rays of the 
rising sun. For awhile they resembled inverted bowls shot 
with fire. A pilgrim is bound to notice these things, for he 
does not pass the same way again. Amid the city of the 
Arabian Nights rose one Western building, the majestic 
four-square white-marbled Basilica which had been dedicated 
to the Saviour who had delivered Russia from Napoleon. 
In splendid grandeur it commemorated the campaign that 
occupied the pages ofPeate and War. Who could believe then 
that every stone of that Temple would be swept away while 
the book endured? It looked a hundred times more lasting 
than the soaring towers and domes of iridescent gilt. At my 
feet lay the entire artillery park of the Grande Armte\ not one 
gun of which had returned across the Beresina. 

All roads in Russia lead to Moscow. Napoleon had passed 
this way and left his carte de visit* , for every gun was wreathed 
with his cipher. The snow was falling and gently obliterating 
them once more as in 1812. 

My pilgrimage was to Ysnaya Polyana and I started on a 
cold, miserable, lonely last lap through the endless woods 
and plains. The perpetual view reminded me of a Grimm s 
Fairy Story. It must end in a Castle or a Giant or a Fairy 
Princess. It seemed utterly impossible that I should ever 
reach my destination. I sank into a loneliness of despair. 
I was travelling rapidly into the unknown. I had not been 
able to book to Ysnaya Polyana but I purchased a ticket to 
Tula after tipping an official dressed like a Field Marshal 



I found I had lost my ticket from Moscow before nightfall 
and prepared to explain that I was a pilgrim, a travelling 
student. Candles were lit in the slow old wooden coaches 
and smoothly we passed onward into the ever-falling snow. 
No one ever asked for my ticket. On the contrary a kind of 
mixed committee of officials and students (judging by their 
caps) investigated me kindly at every stop. I ceased to be 
lonely. I had become the object of general benevolence 
though there was neither speech nor language between us. 
Then I suddenly reflected the kind official whom I had 
asked my way to Ysnaya Polyana must have realised for whom 
I was seeking. Word had passed down the train that yet 
another seeker was making his way there and perhaps the 
railwaymen were accustomed to absurd and helpless foreigners 
struggling to reach Tolstoy. 

I left the train at Tula under direction. Porters and station 
officials were only too pleased to show me my way. Everybody 
was cheerful and voluble except myself. I was taken to 
another train and taken out. I was given information I 
could not understand and asked questions I could not answer. 
I think I broke the monotony of that day for numbers of 
Russians. An Irishman with a passport from Sir Edward 
Grey was a novelty. I used the passport in place of the lost 
ticket. I pointed to Sir Edward s signature and murmured, 
" le grand Liberal Anglais " 9 for there was a froth of French 
amid the voices of my guides. I realised that I had fallen 
amongst friends who looked upon England as the lantern of 
the West: the source of Liberal institutions and the future 
enlightener of Russia. It was only while travelling amongst 
strangers that Russians would talk politics. English politics 
were an immense interest. I did my best to explain the 
Liberal Programme of 1906 which had swept the General 
Election the previous year but Chinese Slavery in South 
Africa or Irish Home Rule seemed to ring no bell, though all 
I said was translated quickly to the crowd. Then I was asked 
about the greatest of all Englishmen. Who could it be but 
Darwin? I could cWtn to be at Darwin s University and I 
allowed the awestruck listeners to believe I had been if not 
the great man s colleague, at least a most promising pupil. 


They did not seem to know that Darwin was dead but no 
matter. It was very helpful for me on my journey which 
after endless conversation came to an end I never knew 
where but I was snatched up by unknown drivers and placed 
in a sledge, my baggage thrown on my knees and away we 
drove into the icy night. Russia had taught me indifference 
to time and space. I closed my eyes under my frozen eye 
lashes and hoped that my general insensibility was not the 
first symptom of frost-bite. . . . 

I found myself outside a white-porched country house with 
lights shining upon the snow. The door opened and a doctor 
emerged ckd in a blouse. It must have been Dushan. He 
addressed me in French and I was brought shivering into the 
warm air. Various quiet people came out and inspected me 
and passed within. The doctor took me to a schoolroom 
and left my baggage on a rough bed: but I felt more ekted 
than if I had entered the Imperial Palace. He informed me 
that Tolstoy invited me to join him and his family at supper. 
I removed my collar and tie in deference to the dress of the 
household. I regretted I had not brought a peasant s smock 
from England. 

Into a wide white-washed room I stepped and Tolstoy 
himself motioned me to a place. He sat there incredibly 
crumpled, like a bearded gnome. Only his flashing black 
eyes signalled greatness. Before I could take my seat, he had 
addressed me a question or two. Naive and simple, it was 
embarrassing. Did I believe in God? Was I vegetarian? 
I could only bow to each question as in a dream. To the 
second query the Countess answered for me. Casting her 
eyes on my figure, stalwart from three years* rowing at Cam 
bridge, she muttered that I could not possibly be a vegetarian. 
All this in French, which was certainly the proper language 
for the next query. With a piercing glance he asked my 
relations to women! Under the Tolstoyan Catechism no one 
seemed disconcerted except myself. But there is no modesty 
in the East and a traveller into Russia realises that he has 
crossed the great Divide. False modesty I found none in 
Tolstoy s conversation any more than in the Bible, which is 
as Eastern as the Arabian Nights. At any rate it was more 



satisfactory to sup like Nebuchadnezzar than feast "with 
Balshazzar. Family pictures hung on the walls, including 
Prince Volknyski, a hero of War and Peace. 

I did not realise that I was the last of a long line of pilgrims, 
madmen, disciples and cranks who had found their way to 
Ysnaya Polyana. I seemed to have passed the scrutiny. I 
received nothing but kindness and hospitality. The Countess 
set herself to be pleasant and took me aside to chat. She had 
recently appealed to the Governor of Tula for armed assistance 
to protect their cabbages from the starving peasants. This 
step had caused the old man great anguish as she explained 
to me. So this was the formidable Sonya Androvnova who 
had borne his children and with those hands had copied the 
MSS. of War and Peace seven times ! A book which requires 
an effort of the will to read even once. She was sunken and 
humbled, I thought, as though she recognised that he was 
the Master in every way. Her energies seemed softened and 
the peasant s clothing, which she told me she detested, obliter 
ated personality in a woman. It was the reverse with Tolstoy, 
who was made, like John the Baptist, distinguished thereby. 
She spoke of her own noble behaviour and a little sadly of 
the lack of carpets on the dean wooden floor and of her 
luxurious home in Moscow* But I had come into the wilder 
ness to admire the clothing of the prophets and to share their 
food. I felt uncomfortable in my travelling (Hope Bros.) suit. 
It seemed out of pkce and I had a feeling that for the only 
time in my life ladies were admiring my clothes. All the 
women wore the same coarse, ill-cut garments and once more 
the Countess explained how they had given in after a long 
struggle and were now satisfied to dress as he wished them. 
" Tu vicisti, O Galilaeer 

All was immensely peaceful during my stay and I was never 
left alone but carried off into conversation by the doctor, who 
begged me write down Tolstoy s every word, or the Countess, 
or most wonderfully by the great man himself. The atmos 
phere was one of all pride and passion spent, but I continued 
to be a matter of mild interest The Countess had obviously 
accepted what Destiny had provided for her. The immense 
interest of the whole world was worth living for: but to have 



lived with a demoniac must have been an unnerving experience. 
The impartial visitor passed from pity to admiration. 

The old man was in fine fettle during my visit. He lived 
up to everything I had read or imagined about him. I could 
only admire the mighty health which sent him out to work 
on the farm of a dark winter morning. When I descended 
in the morning to breakfast, he was coming in from the 
snowy scenes, his tangled beard wet with the elements, his 
high boots covered with snow and his long sinewy arms the 
arms of a ploughman rather than of a scrivener. 

After he had written awhile in his study, I was admitted to 
be shown manuscripts and pictures, all explained in the rasping 
voice of a preacher. He exhibited a picture of a vested priest 
blessing a new Vodka and spirit store. " That is what is wrong 
with Russia." And I resolved to join the anti-Saloon League. 

He spoke generally of the persecuted: of the Poles, the 
Jews and of his Doukhobors whom he had enabled to 
emigrate carrying their Pacifism to Canada for other Govern 
ments to deal with. Occasionally he uttered a quiet denuncia 
tion of Patriotism " the sin condemned in the Gospels ". 
Of wars and soldiery he was even angrier in condemnation. 
And his final sentence was the most memorable. One day, 
perhaps soon, Europe would have to choose between him 
and the Bayonets! 

I often pondered these words of the Prophet, for the choice 
of the Bayonets has been imposed twice since that date upon 
a broken Continent. 

A prophet he was, though he detested many of the evils 
which followed in his train. To many his excommunication 
by the Holy Synod was the first tocsin of the Revolution. 
He replied with an appeal to the Czar offering minimum and 
not unpractical terms. The Revolution might have been 
averted by a simple and popular Bill of Rights, The country 
had begun to seethe and as Tolstoy put it: "A man standing 
on tiptoes cannot stand there long". He desperately 
endeavoured a compromise, which reached the Czar through 
the hands of a Grand Duke, but only brought the feeble 
reassurance that Tolstoy need not worry as the Czar would 
not show it to anyone! 



On the other hand he pleaded with the Revolutionaries to 
withhold their bombs. He hated their excesses and as for 
the planners he said: " Economic ideals are not ideals at all ". 
He called for self-perfection not class-hatred and passive 
resistance instead of active bombs. His influence was so 
great in Russia that the early Revolution was slowed down 
largely by his teaching. He incurred the hatred of the real 
Anarchists and lost an immense following. Lenin and his 
followers had come to the conclusion that Tolstoy s trumpet- 
ings were insufficient to topple the walls of the Kremlin. 

But when he laid down that man s life belongs not to the 
State but to Him who gave it, he had laid the seeds of eventual 
destruction for both the Czardom and the Soviet. 

My last glimpse of Tolstoy came when he sped me from 
his own portals. The Countess, touched by my hero-worship, 
thrust a photograph into my hand which she had taken of the 
old man standing in the snow. And over the film he had 
written my name and his. The date was halfway between 
the Wars of Napoleon HI and the greater War which was 
fondly believed to have closed the reign of the bayonets for 
ever. Perhaps so, but the place of the bayonets was taken by 
something far more terrible. It was time for the old Peace 
maker, the anti-Martian, to die. 

He found his life poisoned by contradictions. He had 
denounced property as the source of all evils and in old age 
he found himself struggling over copyrights and testaments. 
No wonder he was subjected to caricature and ridicule. 
Yet meekly he answered the critics. He met accusations of 
hypocrisy with the greatest humility. But his heart gnawed 
his fetters and he was always planning some last defiant 
gesture, some act better than suicide which was only a 
defiance of God. He was determined to make all his writings 
public property in spite of Sonya and Sonya herself was to be 
abandoned at the last. ... He planned to escape from his 
home like a schoolboy flighting from school. But it was not 
his wife it was from himself he determined to fly. He had 
found the Truth and freed his soul, but his body lay in the 
fell clutch of circumstance and he awaited his last days in 
which to cast that aside for ever. 


Two years after my visit he rose from his prophetic fears 
and in agony that he had failed in his mission, that he had 
neither delivered man from Patriotism, Prostitution and 
Poverty, nor found the God with whom he believed he shared 
so many traits, he struggled out into the snow took flight 
from his family for ever and died in one of those little 
Russian railway stations which mark no particular place and 
from which a few dim tracks lead nowhere. The human 
family stays struggling in the darkness without much more 
hope than expressed in his last prayer: "From Thee have I 
come and to Thee I shall return. Thy Will be done/* 



Mark Sykes: His Life and Letters, by Shane Leslie, with an 

Introduction by Winston Churchill. 

Trial and Error, by Chaim Weizmann, First President of Israel. 
Palestine the Reality, by J. M. N. Jeffries. 
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by Lawrence of Arabia, 

MARK SYKES is only remembered by those who 
knew him and once cherished his bright promise, 
Otherwise he is quite forgotten in speech and print 
save for occasional reference in books about the Middle East 
and in sighs occasioned by Zionism. 

Yet Mark Sykes was a favourite in the race for fame in 
good King Edward s days days when Queen Victoria and 
Mr. Gladstone had been lately laid to rest to the murmur of 
an Empire s lamentation: days when three young men 
successively snatched the banner of " Young England ", that 
Disraeli devised in Coningsby. Whoever remembers Curzon, 
Churchill and Sykes young will attest these words. But the 
dead cannot remember and few contemporaries remain. 

All three were determined to ride their ambitions far and 
all three made the House of Commons their first lap. All 
three prepared themselves with adventurous travel and 
sharpened their pens in the manner of Borrow or Kinglake. 
Borrovian in familiarity with the scenes they condescended 
to view, they wrote in the vintage otEotben, There was not 
one of the three who did not carry the key to 10 Downing 
Street in his travelling suitcase. 

Far different their fates. Cur2on reached all but the top 
rung. Mark fell from the second or third. It was for Winston 
to write of him to the present compiler: * The Great War 



was made tragic by the loss of many young men -whose feet 
had hardly touched the first rung of their careers . . . some 
had as young men reached the distinction of the House of 
Commons. Prominent amongst them was one who refused 
ministerial office during the War, and who if he had lived 
would in all probability have reached the Cabinet. Of the 
young men who made their way to the fore after service in 
the Boer War, none set out with a more determined and 
original programme than Mark Sykes." 

It was on St. Patrick s Eve 1879 that Jessica Sykes (half a 
Leslie and half a Cavendish-Bentinck) bore a son to 
Sir Tatton Sykes. The combinations in her blood should 
have really doubled dullness but the ways of heredity are 
strange. An unexpectedly talented mother, Jessica gave Mark 
all her gifts and none of her follies. A rather embarrassing 
gift was that of the Apostolic Faith which is not helpful in 
English politics. Sir Tatton gave him one of the great names 
of Yorkshire. Tatton s father had been the "Great 
Commoner" of the Ridings. The name of Sykes, two 
hobbies and big wealth were Sir Tatton s contributions at the 
cradle. Mark had no interest in the hobbies, which pertained 
to breeding racehorses and designing Gothic churches. The 
old man could be described as Pugin at Tattersall s. 

Mark gloried in the democratic descent of the Sykes from 
a mayor of Hull who invested what he made from hemp and 
tallow in planting the wolds. He confessed : " I cannot feel 
superbly feudal." 

Mark had looked into Yorkshire forebears and come to 
some prehistoric conclusions: "I am not an Anglo-Saxon, 
but a Woldsman, consequently a pirate: we came from the 
North sea. We massacred and destroyed all the wretched 
flint-making people and drove them off the Wolds and now 
they live between York and Selby. . . . We are not money 
makers but seizers and snatchers." 

It did not sound like Mark s character. The only previous 
Sir Mark Sykes was remarkable as the first clergyman to be 
created a Baronet. The second Sir Mark proved to be the 
first Baronet to take a hand in the fulfilment of Scripture 
prophecy: the return of the Jews to Palestine. 



For so delicate a task in the future it was only right that 
his education should be out of the ordinary. He spent little 
time at Sledmere which he described as " an English Gentle 
man s house in the Eighteenth Century ". That was never 
Mark s ideal. 

Nevertheless Sledmere must have been a delicious home 
for an only son, who had the run of the Estate, the command 
of retainers and the prospect of incessant adventure. Before 
Mark was fifteen he had visited Assouan on the Dervish 
frontier, for Sir Tatton had some of the characteristics of the 
Wandering Jew, certainly in travelling and perhaps in the 
accumulation of garments on his person. These he was liable 
to discard at the least change in temperature. A footman 
followed to retrieve overcoats shed in the grounds. Mark 
used to describe his embarrassment in York Station when 
his father stopped to remove a superfluous pair of trousers 
on receiving a warning from the barometer. 

Their travel was widespread. Mark reached India, under 
the rule of the last of the Whig noblemen, Lord Lansdowne, 
found himself barefooted amongst the Arabs of the Desert 
and as though by Magic Carpet was transported to Mexico 
to observe the zenith of Porfirio Diaz: a not inhuman fore 
runner of European dictatorship. Sir Tatton in his time had 
touched corners of the globe unknown even to Cook. Of 
the Druses of Lebanon Mark recorded: "When I was a 
little boy of ten I was taken by my father to their mountain, 
again when I was eleven, again when I was thirteen, and 
lastly, five years later, I visited them alone." 

In mid-nineties there was a pause at Sledmere. A com 
panion was found for the lonely and diminutive traveller in 
young Howard de Walden, an Etonian, who found Mark " a 
large round, amiable boy " but liable to mention the Fourth 
Dimension which is bad form amongst schoolboys. Their 
play did not include cricket but they attempted to fight " a 
genuine bull ", and Mark arranged for the new Gothic church 
to be used as a storming exercise with ladders. He had 
discovered the works of Vauban in the library and the smooth 
lawn was laid out in bastions, lunettes and redans, all that 
would have been approved by Uncle Toby. By a curious 


coincidence Lawrence Sterne had once applied for a chaplaincy 
at Sledmerc. His ghost at least would have delighted in 
the scene. 

" One might do anything at Sledmere but frighten the 
mares. Now and again Mark s antics would evoke a wild 
old spectre flapping from the house and a sort of high nasal 
litany would come down the wind: * You mustn t frighten the 
mares ! You mustn t frighten the mares I * " So remembered 
Howard de Walden. 

Mark s education needed attention, especially in classical 
languages. In 1888 he had been dropped on Lord Grenfell 
the Sirdar, who had found him the most intelligent boy he 
had ever met and taught him the rudiments of ancient 
Egyptian: but this was deemed insufficient for a future 
Squire. He had no knowledge of the Bible but he knew Sir 
Richard Burton s Arabian Nights, notes and all, very well. 
He might have been born an old rake for all their effect upon 
him. At the Institut St. Louis in Brussels or at Beaumont he 
regarded his school-fellows as children. Between the Druses 
of Lebanon and the English Jesuits, between the Bookies of 
Newmarket and the Croupiers at Monte Carlo, Mark absorbed 
the values of the modern world with bright and unbored eyes. 
His mother raced and gambled, but she imposed a close 
appreciation of Swift and Dickens upon her son. 

By 1890 he was entrusted to the Jesuits at Beaumont who 
had the great common sense to let him follow his bent. 
Provided he accepted their religious teaching and was loyal 
to Loyola, he was allowed to invent games, tell Oriental 
stories and act plays. At one time he was interested enough 
in piracy to join a Navy Class. He accustomed a stock of 
stagbeetles to become drunk on school beer. He collected 
the loafers into gangs for Red Indian purposes. He showed 
himself inimitable in school acting and was given a prifce for 
elocution. Even Jesuit missionaries could learn something 
from his set-piece on a Turkish General talking French. To 
prevent him acquiring an excess of useless knowledge ht 
naotfaer constantly swept him away on far journeys from which 
he returned wkh a collection of travellers tales and lethal 


The winter of 1894 he spent at Sledmere studying Marshal 
Saxe on fortification. Later he wrote a short life of his hero 
and became an authority on the Battle of Fontenoy. On his 
sixteenth birthday he left England for Monte Carlo, taking 
with him three fox-terriers and one tutor. He decided that 
the foreign school-system overworked the pupils and preferred 
the, company of the Croupiers. His mother dragged him to race 
courses and Casinos until he was utterly bored by both. He was 
found behind the Jockey Club at Newmarket deep in Swift. 

From Monaco he passed to Brussels for a year s schooling, 
but chiefly as a means of visiting the chief towns of Belgium. 
From foreign Schools he learnt to put a cosmopolitan edge 
on his future demeanour with men. Tradition he declared 
was the true object of education and without that spirit he 
saw English public schools beating the waves as vainly as 
the Persian King. 

Sir Tatton would have preferred to make a Harrovian of 
him, but in this and everything was overruled by Jessica. 
He managed to whisk Mark to famous criminal trials instead 
of the pantomime. Likewise he would have chosen Gothic 
Oxford but Cambridge was preferred for being nearer to 
Newmarket. Mark was sent to Jesus College perhaps because 
Arthur Gray, a strenuous Yorkshireman, was tolerant of aa 
itinerant Catholic boy who had no intention of passing even 
the " Little Go ". Easter 1897 found him matriculating and 
taking rooms in Jesus Lane for himself and suite which 
included a tutor, a companion and a maitre de cbambre. For a 
person of his experience he found the University rather 
narrowing, but for the first time he met men more briUJant 
though not so variable as himself. 

At King s he met Dr. Montagu James, later Provost, whose 
knowledge of mediaeval detail was as uncanny as his stories 
about ghosts. But he was also as quick a mimic as Mack 
and though his programme was limited to the Dons of his 
College he entertained Mark immensely. Mark frequented 
the rooms of learning and never failed to impersonate a 
Yorkshireman, a Dragoman or a Turkish official. It was stifl 
a very pleasant world, although a War about something 
stkring somewhere in South Africa. 


Mark devoted himself when in Cambridge to raising the 
dramatic standards of the A.D.C. and editing a freelance 
paper called the Snarl. But Cambridge terms were only 
interludes between his constant explorations in the East. 
That the Orient was the more important side of his life could 
be realised by visitors who found him in Arab dress smoking 
a Hookah, reciting scenes from his journeys or correcting 
proofs of books he was about to launch on the world. On 
one occasion this astonishing undergraduate was found enter 
taining the Sultan s brother-in-law. 

Cambridge fortunately did not prove utterly deficient in 
knowledge of the East. Professor E. G. Browne combined 
a Fellowship at Pembroke with Persian patriotism. Mark, 
being Imperial, was drawn with difficulty towards the lesser 
races but in the end his views had softened if not changed. 
Comparing Mark with another gentleman adventurer, Wilfrid 
Blunt, Browne remarked that Blunt saw the romance and 
chivalry of the East, while Sykes had an eye for the comic 
and burlesque. At the same time his intuition gave him that 
flash of understanding which fails the more exact student. 
Browne gave him credit for the greatest capacity for not 
learning that he had ever met! 

The fruits of his travels were appreciated. In the Hauran 
he discovered an unrecorded inscription. Dr. James found 
the Greek transcriptions in his notebook ** astonishingly 
faithful and intelligent **. The Royal Geographical found his 
discovery of the " Hill of Bones " of great importance. He 
had reported his find freely but in vain : " Presently a German 
will mention them in a text book as his own discovery and 
British science will translate the text book and the world will 
be informed of the discovery ". It was like the story of the 
discovery of Neptune by Adams of St. John, for which the 
credit went to France after a similar exhibition of sloth. 

The Diaries of his trips became a book called Through Five 
Turkish Provinces. It was a young man s book, underlining 
the comic, but astonishing his Cambridge tutors. The Press 
were surprised that an undergraduate could obtain leave to 
visit Baghdad and Mosul, and his references to Armenians 
appeared cold-blooded. He illustrated Oriental perversity by 



supposing the gift of a coat: " he will cut ojfF the sleeves for 
gaiters and then use the body as an umbrella". His 
Dragoman seemed prophetic of later days when he spoke of 
* roast whale and potted hyena ", meaning veal and ham! He 
described the splendid Bridge at Mosul whose position re 
minded him exactly " of the Turkish wag, who said: I built 
the bridge and if the river doesn t choose to run under it, 
that is not my fault ". Mount Ararat he saw at sunrise when 
the enormous bulk practically eclipses the sun before its 
emergence over the peak. A sight never before or since 

At this point his education had come to an end, for on his 
return he was called to active service in South Africa where 
a War as menacing as Ararat had been darkening the Sun 
of Empire. 

Mark subjected his views on the rights and wrongs of 
Briton and Boer to his soldierly duty. Cambridge Thought 
had been the nurse of Imperialism. A contemporary, Forbes 
Robinson, had been taken by a fellow Christ s man (called 
Smuts) to visit President Kruger, who had told him that 
21,000 of the rebellious Outlanders had died three years 
before they signed the Petition for Franchise I To which 
Smuts made the comment that the Transvaal might become 
" a second Ireland 5,000 miles from home ". Incidents like 
these fortified pro-Boer feeling in England. Mark delved 
into history: " Never has there been a war when the peace 
party was composed of such wretched specimens. Every war 
in which we have been engaged has been vigorously opposed 
by a few. Compare the opposition to the Napoleonic Wars 
and the supporters. Pitt for it, Fox against. The Crimea, 
Lord Palmerston for it, Cobden and Bright against. Compare, 
I ask you, Chamberlain with Pitt . . . and if you can without 
smiling, compare Fox with Stead and Labby! " 

The War proved a puzzle for the Aldershot-pattcrned 
Army, although the Boers were disappointed of the redcoats 
which made such good marks in previous wars. Mark s 
Eastern travels had fittened him and though he had come of 
age to one of the richest successions in Yorkshire, he wrote 
cheerfully home with a touch of savage humour and a spate 


of caricatures which kept the Army laughing. Incidentally, 
though not under the name, he created " Colonel Blimp " 
and illustrated a comic Drill Book for him. With his memory 
of Vauban and Saxe he set out to build the type of field 
fortifications in which the British Army later spent a European 
War. For the time they proved excellent against Boers who 
had lost their artillery. His work procured his name in 
Despatches, though there was no mention of the famous 
stimulant he invented for native workers the three W s 
Water, Whisky and Worcestershire sauce! " They are really 
rather nice people (I like them better than Englishmen) but 
hush! What dreadful blasphemy have I whispered I " An 
Alice in Wonderland war it was. " The local Boer leader is 
a charming Frenchman, who gives cigarettes to all the 
prisoners he takes, as well as a very good luncheon, after 
which he sends them in stark naked 1 * 

Wonderland passed to Blunderland, and Mark s letters, 
serious enough, never omitted a timely scream. He found 
himself in action at last with artillery support: " Now comes 
the comic portion of the story. You see the gunners were 
shooting at the wrong place and hit it, while we shot at the 
wrong place and hit the right one and the joke is I only 
fired to amuse the men and thought nothing was there." 

As for the Blockhouses by which Kitchener finished the 
War: " Some were built by common civilians, others by the 
Royal Engineers. The common civilians built ordinary 
Blockhouses as they were ordered. True, they turn bullets, 
are good to shoot through and afford a pleasant shelter, but 
who could not do that? " 

The three Blockhouses built by the Engineers he treated to 
Swiftean shafts. The first took double time to build (attri 
butable to double brains) but collapsed in a thunderstorm just 
as it was completed. The second was built on a river bank 
twice as solidly but unfortunately "sailed gaily into die 
river " bank and all. The third fell before finished 

He passed his time with endless reading but amid his service 
he could claim: "I have lampooned the General, exposed 
the Royal Engineers, and arrested civilians. I also fed 
twenty-four Boer babies and their twelve Mamas for two days*** 



The job he most enjoyed was training Basutos : " I make them 
sing their war-songs and the final charge in the attack is very 

As for the Engineers, they built a watch-tower without a 
roof which Mark crowned with an old Kaffir cooking-pot 
upside down, " quite bullet proof and shields the observer 
from the foe **. Incidentally he had applied the system which 
was to underlie the future tin-hat of the Army. But what was 
this to the boyish mind which later camouflaged a piece of 
cannon in Sledmere Park. 

He was fond of recording incidents which never appeared 
in the official history. From Rhenoster Bridge (December 30, 
1900) he reported an action allowing him to " wear the medal 
without shame ". 

"... I joined the column just as the moon went down. 
Our movements were shrouded in the deepest mystery. 
Slowly through the dust and gloom the conquering column 
wended its way, onward, ever onward. After about one hour s 
march we came to a sudden halt. We had lost our way! 
Did this daunt us? Never. We threw out outposts and 
prepared to await until dawn. Suddenly a voice in the 
darkness hailed: Halt, who comes there?* And who do 
you think it was? Why, the sentry on the camp we had 
started from!** 

Mark s love and laudation was poured upon the hard-used 
and ill-paid Militia. With grinning sarcasm he suggested 
they should be used " in building farms for the returned Boer 
prisoners or, if there is a dearth of Kaffir labour, to dig the 
mines for the Jews at Johannesburg! ** 

He had no illusion as to whom the War would profit. " I 
am glad to say the Outlanders must now serve as soldiers if 
they wish to get back to their beloved mines. * 

After two years living under canvas he returned home in 
an open carriage with postilions surrounded by mounted 
tenantry. A feudal fete followed worthy of a novel of 
Disraeli. But Time s chariot wheels seemed ever pressing 
behind him. He decided to marry and speedily return to the 
East. Proposals to bring him into Parliament he scattered 
with insult. " I have told them that I am neither a buffoot*, 

j* t4* 


an office seeker nor a hypocrite, that I cannot talk sonorous 
twaddle for endless hours/ So it was for the minarets of 
the East, not Westminster, that he thrust again. 

One problem required adjudication. His parents had been 
involved in scandals and kwsuits. He had made peace 
between them and decided that the solution was to send his 
father to visit New Zealand with a chef. It was almost the 
only place in the world unknown to Sir Tatton. His mother 
was more difficult. Brilliant and wanton and in prudence 
very wanting, she figured in several scenes on racecourses. 
They are not written in the annals of Mayfair. Once King 
Edward VII had to be rescued from her at the Jockey Club 
enclosure in Newmarket. Not that she proffered him em 
braces but that her mood led her to poke the royal ribs. On 
another occasion her Puritan sister, Mrs. Arthur James, 
actually drove over her at Ascot rather than allow her to 
join her smart party. Mark was always magnanimous to the 
woman who taught him the Faith, Swift and Dickens. The 
manner of her end was grim or, as he said, " it was like the 
last phase of Napoleon/* 

Into this divided household Mark introduced his beloved 
Edith Gorst and married her. Her visit to Sledmere was 
cut short by the family solicitor who called to remind her she 
had promised Sir Tatton that her visit would be a short one! 
The poor old gentleman had no particular reason to approve 
of brides on the premises. 

The Yorkshire papers announced that Mark s honeymoon 
would be spent in Jerusalem. However, he had time to 
take his bride to Ireland and associate himself with George 
Wyndham, a figure of chivalry as Chief Secretary quartered 
in the Phoenix Park. Although he found traces of the feuds, 
fatalism and fun of the Orient in Ireland, Mark decided his 
real bent was the Middle East, Besides, his masterpiece was 
to cover the whole Ottoman Empire. Within twenty-four 
hours he wrote: " Give me a native regiment to organise, a 
rebellion to raise, a map to make, a blockhouse line to construct 
and I will do it: anything but this life of a cat. . . ." 

Before long he was surveying earthquakes in the Balkans, 
delighting in Sir Nicolas O Connor in Constantinople, while 



his wife produced a genuine heir at Therapia. Constantinople 
he described as though in parody of Second Corinthians as 
** indestructible, all-corrupting, yet seemingly incorruptible ". 
The following year appeared Dar-ul-Islam, the fruits of his 
swift prenuptial dash of 1,600 miles into some unknown 
country which he succeeded in mapping. Rudyard Kipling 
wrote after reading it at a sitting for his sole knowledge of 
Turkey: "I can smell the smell (much like ours in India I 
take it) of the towns. What you said about the cold in warm 
climates went to my bones. Nothing is colder than the East 
when she chooses. I am very glad you like the Turk. . . . You 
ought to have been born in the East." H. G. Wells decided 
the book would " be a great lark to read ". The pithiest 
review came from the Spectator to the effect that: ** Travel 
books are of three kinds. There are the learned books and the 
ignorant books and the books written by Captain Mark Sykes 1 " 

For a time he became attached to Sir Nicolas O Connor 
in the leisurely way he had served George Wyndham. 
Apparently Irishmen could understand the Turk and during 
O Connor s embassy "there was never a day when British 
policy was in doubt nor yet ever one when its representative 
was disliked ". For lack of such a working tandem as 
O Connor and Sykes, Turkey was allowed later to slip into 
war against England. 

Meantime with escort and mules and wife Mark scoured 
Turkey-in-Asia which, to the English mind, was only the 
field of St. Paul s egotistical journeys. Mark s recipe was 
practical: "Wipe Omar Khayyam, Bernard Shaw out of 
your mind, learn the Book of Job by heart for philosophy, 
the Book of Judges, the Arabian Nights (Burton s translation) 
for ethics. Ride by balance, not by grip, keep your girths 
loose, look out for rat-holes, be polite and dignified in your 
conversation." His final summary was : " When I see this 
country and see our long lost opportunities it makes me mad. 
I dare say we are meant to be masters of Turkey and that is 
why we are carrying on like this. The ways of God are 
inscrutable. I cannot help seeing the finger of destiny in all 
this and yet we are a declining nation." 

To him the signs of the times were dimly but prophetically 



apparent. He felt it was his duty to scout and scour the Middle 
East, make himself amusing to all men, tolerant to all Creeds 
and prepare for any work England might one day throw to 
him. It was nearer than he dreamed. 

Mark had found himself in the odd position of a Yorkshire 
squire attached to the Roman Communion. He realised it 
tended more to prevent a political career than even the public 
scufHings of his ill-assorted parents. It made him very devout 
and strangely for a pupil of the Jesuits he had a sense of 
mysticism. Stranger still to the outsider, he was immensely 
tolerant. His travels threw him outside the swaddling clothes 
of English Catholicism or of the political dislike of the Irish 
inculcated by Conservatives. He found Irelands elsewhere 
than in the East Atlantic. As for difference in rite he recalled 
some funny sideshows. Once he attended Coptic Mass in 
the desert when prayers were included for the Royal Family 
and Sir Mark Sykes and brood. On an odder occasion he 
found the Nestorian Church had consecrated a Boy Bishop 
and why? Because the kte Primate s family had become 
Chaldaean Catholics 1 He must have been the only English 
man to discover that Jacobite Christians were really Kurds. 
He learnt, as the late Lord Lovat learnt in Abyssinia, that the 
sacrifices of Abraham may continue under the New Law. 
But these are matters which are probably hidden from 
Canterbury as well as from Roman Congregations. 

When old Sir Tatton died as Mark believed in the spirit of 
the Church Invisible, he entered at night with one companion 
into the beautiful Anglican Church his father had built and 
recited the Office of the Dead, the Requiem Mass (without the 
Consecrations) and finally the Absolutions. Stranger things 
have occurred in the Church of Engknd: and who would 
say him Nay? 

In humorous mood Mark sketched an Anglican Church 
Pageant in the course of which a final Tableau showed the 
Bishop of London taking the Cardinal of Westminster and 
General Booth to a benefit performance at the Empire Theatre. 
It should be added that by that time the Empire Parade of 
courtesans was no longer tolerated, and the imagination of 
the pious was not embarrassed by Mark s sketch. 



He was like every true traveller, impressed by the Moslem 
achievements. The Prophet was " in earnest, mad if you 
will, but a scheming, crafty, vainglorious impostor never! " 
He considered the acceptance of polygamy " an unparalleled 
disaster for the world " even as an antiseptic to the Oriental 
vice. He realised the position held by Sodomy in the East 
and naively suggested introducing the British Public School 
into India at least as the best manner of cure. Though he 
disbelieved in European grafts on the East, he wished the 
same " good wholesome school " upon the Turks, for whom 
he always extended qualified admiration and hopes. 

Turks and Moslems 1 They caused him worry and 
watchfulness for the rest of his life. What curious prescience 
sent him on his uncomfortable journeys far from country- 
house luxury and political ambitions at home? At one time 
he reported he had ** been living on the ground without a 
tent for the last fifteen days and eating the veriest garbage ". 
Was it to provide the War Office with sketches and plans of 
unmapped territory? No man rode or worked or wrote in 
such a desperate hurry. 

He collected lists of Tribes unknown to the Royal Geo 
graphical Society. He learnt there were not 700 real Turks 
in male descent at Constantinople. " Damn those Turks : they 
are perfectly appalling and yet so important. I am coming to 
the belief that the Turk as such is a myth." But the myth 
was soon realised in war and appallingly for England. It 
was Russia whom he termed a disease, and when Edward 
Grey agreed to partition Persia by Treaty with the Czar, Mark 
wrote furiously: " Another slice of the human race is to be 
sludged under the worst government in the world, no matter 
what happens in the future. . . . We English are to have 
free play in the inaccessible mountains of the Hindu Kush, 
the grilling and pestiferous shores of the Persian Gulf/* 

Mark stormed through what he called " the Caliph s Last 
Heritage " He studied intensively the old Turkey and the 
new Turk. The corruption and futility roused his wildest 
humour. He found ** an expensive modern road whose first 
section was in ruins before the last was finished ". Surely 
it was better to live amongst the Arabian Nights and learn 


about great kings and travellers. He railed and roared with 
delight at the inefficacy of Turkish ships, on which "all 
natural laws are permanently suspended ". A Turkish 
steamer can proceed with engines which no ship chandler 
could accept as scrap iron. On Turkish steamers there is no 
reason why the chart should not be used as a table cloth for 
the captain s dinner. 

In fact he thoroughly enjoyed himself dancing the Puck 
betwixt East and West. Lord Curzon in his youthful travels 
had allowed bowing Orientals to believe he might possibly 
become a consort of Queen Victoria. Mark found himself 
mistaken for " the King of England s daughter in disguise! " 
as good a travelling dress as any. 

If they thought he was a spy he did not care. He made no 
secret of his maps and sketches, using Turkish soldiers to 
mark base-lines and tipping the police handsomely so that 
they could report they were keeping him under careful 
observation. He could deal with any Easterner except the 
misfits who had been educated by American missionaries. 

To complete his view of the Moslem he returned by Egypt, 
Tunisia, Algeria and Spain which he crossed by mules provided 
by his friend and schoolmate of Beaumont days, the Duke of 
Alba. Railways he was able to avoid entirely. His comment 
on Egypt had already been made : " By God s will this wonder 
ful Egypt, half vision and half nightmare, is the work of 
Cromer who knew not Gordon nor yet native opinion **. 

Comparing French and British methods: " The English 
Empire has been formed to amuse and employ an aristocracy, 
the French Empire to profit a democratic bureaucracy **. He 
had little use for France or Italy in their African projects. 
" We only rule by favour of Moslems because we play the 
game nine times out of ten/* 

By this time Mark was a first-hand and comparatively 
first-class authority on the East. The time had come for him 
to deliver words of wisdom and warning in the House of 

He had long declared for Tory Democracy and accordingly 
stood for the home Division of Buckrose at the Elections of 
1909 and 1910, Each time he was defeated by two hundred 



votes in a constituency which his uncle Christopher had once 
lost by one. The difference probably represented the un 
forgiving Protestants. He was variously assailed as " Nabob, 
Papist and Enfant Terrible ". 

Mark saw further ahead than the Liberal-Tory scuffles of 
that day. The question he set himself could be repeated 
today: "Will the great fluctuating majority be captured by 
the Socialists, anti-nationalists, humanitarians, atheists or can 
England be saved from herself? " At any rate he set out to 
place her on the ways of salvation. Life was hastening but 
Luck suddenly hastened to keep step. The sitting member 
for Hull was unseated on petition and Mark was given 
his place. 

Before the end of 1911 he made his maiden. It counted 
with F. E. Smith s as one of the memorable successes in that 
manner of speech. After John Dillon had wearied the House, 
Mark rose to comment on Anglo-German relations as adduced 
by Edward Grey. Mark spun the rosary of peril from Tunis 
to Travancore. Roars of laughter rippled round his anecdotes, 
but otherwise Aubrey Herbert recorded it was heard " in the 
rare complete silence that the House sometimes gives to a 
distinguished contribution to its debates *. The result had 
certainly never happened before. The Liberal Prime Minister 
rose to congratulate the Tory recruit, a pleasant gesture of 
which Asquith of Balliol was capable. Mark airily disposed 
of his success as a fluke. But flukes are unprepared. By 
arid desert and betwixt Sinai and Scinde he had worked for 
this hour. The Tories were flattered by his arrival but Mark 
himself was flabbergasted by a Party he found " somnolent 
and stupid". He met one Tory who was neither, who 
assured him he was the eventual leader, adding " you must 
never look ahead ". This was F. E. Smith, but Mark 
commented: " This is desperate for this fellow has no belief, 
no principle ". 

The maiden speech delighted Yorkshire as though a colt 
had scored a century in his first match against the Australians* 
It was said that there was only one Tory in the Buckrose 
Division who had not lost his head with delight over Mark s 
maiden; and that was Mark himself . 


The dominant characters, Lloyd George and Winston, were 
Liberal and Buchan (Lord Tweedsmuir) noted that "the 
Opposition confined itself to opposing though a few younger 
men, like Mark Sykes and Aubrey Herbert, stood for some 
thing more than a negation ". But Mark was not born to be 
a negative or reside in camera obscura. 

His few short years ahead were swayed upon the eddies of 
the Irish trouble. It was realised that a Tory Democrat 
might be the right man to snatch the wheel from the Unionists, 
who were without a chart, and the Liberals, who were without 
pilot. " It is a question ", he said, " of two ships in a fog 
trying to avoid a collision." Mark began by crossing swords 
with Redmond and ended by debating against Carson. 

As a Unionist he declared that Pitt s Union had failed. 
"The essential to a settlement is that there shall be no 
victory/* The year of Fate, 1914, was under way before 
Mark made his great appeal outside Party. Turning to the 
excited opponents he blamed both: "We have drifted on 
passions until we, have divided class from ckss, creed from 
creed, in order to further our policies until the military forces 
and the very Throne have been involved in our quarrels ". 
Then he advanced his solution. He appealed entreatingly 
for a Federalism with the temporary exclusion of Ulster. It 
meant peace for England and unity in Ireland. After 35 
years of " solutioning ", Ireland today would be in a happier, 
at least more elastic., state than the present dual deadlock, 
unless of course such deadlock is desirable to all time. 

Mark naturally fell under Tory suspicions, while Carson s 
Ulstennen decided that a Papist in the Unionist camp could be 
as dangerous as " a nigger in the pile ". Labour in Hull were 
hailing a future leader. The Irish began to dream that if 
liberals failed them, Tory Democracy evolved from George 
Wyndham to Mark Sykes, might one day fill the Bill. 

No sooner had arms been landed by both combatants in 
Ireland and the field set for Civil War between the Volunteers 
of the North and the South than a Kaiser, afraid of his own 
bellicosity, let slip the Hounds of War which the statesmen of 
the world have been struggling to confine to Hell s Kennels 
ever since. 



The Irish trouble was postponed, but when it came up for 
settlement, neither Redmond nor Sykes was there. Both 
were destined to die overwhelmed by their own endeavours. 
It is interesting that the Irish in Yorkshire, although his 
political opponents in Hull, had come to watch him with 
such hope and belief that they attributed his early death to 
foul means. It was a mighty relief to Belfast Orangemen 
and to Ulster Unionists that he died when he died. He might 
so easily have turned their flank. 

War now has a familiar ring but in 1914 it rang like a 
Firebell at a children s tea party. Mark was one of the few 
Englishmen who was absolutely ready and he left the House 
to take up immediate tasks until the hour of his death. 

At home he had struggled to make Territorials a success. 
As far back as 1910 he had called for Kitchener to organise 
Haldane s " Paper Dragon ". Meantime he raised Yeomanry 
amongst his farmers, turned the wagoners of the Wold into 
military drivers, conducted forced marches from Sledmere to 
Richmond, from Doncaster to Scarborough, defended Burdale 
Tunnel from a midnight attack whereat people only smiled. 
" Our Mark playing Boy Scout " or " Now the War Office 
will feel what an enfant terribk is! " 

Even his dramatic Play of warning had been censored for 
fear of giving offence to a European Power. 

But Mark was terribly serious. He told the House that 
the danger of invasion " is like the doctrine of eternal punish 
ment. Some believe in it and some do not, but prudent 
people take precautions/* The British are not prudent, only 
somnolent, but in any case a year after this speech they woke 
up and declared War for themselves. 

On the Eastern field he was sorely needed. During ten 
years he had supplied maps and reconnaissance of Asia Minor 
to the War Office. By curious foresight he had mapped 
N.W. Mesopotamia and South of Jerusalem, parts which the 
authorities had left to the unborn combatants of Armageddon 
to put into map cases. He spoke prophetically of a German 
frontier, and then a Russian frontier descending upon the 
East. He had not envisaged the day when England would 
have skedaddled. 



Kitchener quickly placed Mark on the general staff for 
service in the East where he had mapped 5,000 miles of 
military roads in his day. Thither and hither he was plunged 
for the next four years. He suggested the Arab Revolt even 
before Turkey had made the mistake Italy made in a later war 
by joining the eventual losers when dressed up as cock-crowing 
conquerors. Mark saw clearly that the end of the Ottoman 
Empire at the hands of the Young Turks meant that War 
could not be averted. He wished Bulgaria to be bribed 
either with their lost provinces or with payment of their 
debts. It would have saved British lives and prestige if his 
advice had been taken, but the Bulgars were cheerfully added 
to the Kaiser s forces. 

Mark s war achievements in the East came under two heads : 

First the Sykes-Picot Treaty dividing the aims of France 
and the aims of England. 

Secondly, his briefing of Balfour for the Zionist Declaration. 

After interviewing Bulgarians, the Khedive, Armenians, 
he catalogued and caricatured Moslems of every degree with 
soft intemperate art in the effort to make home officials under 
stand. The real difficulty in the Middle East was the obstinate 
claim of the French upon Syria, dating from the Crusades- 
It was not unlike the hold of England upon Ireland in the past. 
When Mark returned to England at the end of 1915 he was 
instructed to make an arrangement with the French. He was 
expected to prove equally pro-Arab and pro-French and to 
promise Arabs their freedom while satisfying French pride of 
possession. It was like promising Irish Freedom while 
bidding Orange Ulster draw the lines of partition. In the 
East the line of partition was called the Sykes-Picot Treaty: 
and was the result of the -cabined and confined conditions 
imposed on Mark by his own Government. To be loyal to 
them and the Arab and the French ally passed the wit of man, 
but he tried. One Lawrence (later surnamed " of Arabia ") 
also tried his hand at drawing the Arab from the Turk and 
crossed Mark s path. In years to come the author of the 
Seven Pilbtrs of Wisdom described Mark as "a bundle of 
prejudices, intuitions, half-sciences. His ideas were of the 
outside; and he lacked patience to test his material before 



choosing his style of building. . . . Laughs were his 
triumphs. His instincts lay in parody; by choice he was a 
caricaturist rather than an artist; even in statesmanship. He 
saw the odd in everything and missed the even. He would 
sketch out in a few dashes a new world, all out of scale, but 
vivid as a vision of some sides of the thing we hoped. His 
help did us good and harm." 

So Lawrence was also a caricaturist. The pity is that we 
have not Mark s counter-sketch. 

Mark s War wanderings were greater even than in days of 
peaceful exploration. Five times he crossed the Mediterranean, 
twice the North Sea. Late in 1915 he went to India as 
Kitchener s envoy to discuss Mesopotamia with the Viceroy. 
He would have accompanied Kitchener on his kst and fatal 
trip to Russia, had it not been cancelled in the previous week. 
Already he had found his way to the Czar at Petersburg and the 
Grand Duke, Commander in Chief in the Caucasus, to bring 
them the results of his secret conference with Georges Picot. 

Mr. Jefferies described the Sykes-Picot Treaty as dividing 
the lionskin while the Turkish lion was still alive. The 
consequential map was like one that children draw when 
parcelling the moon into coloured strips* French and British 
were to divide Syria, and, so secret was the proceeding, that 
McMahon, the British Commissioner in Egypt, knew nothing. 
In fact he was kept in the same darkness as the Sultan himself 
and the poor man was engaged in making extensive promises 
to the Arabs, all of which they swallowed " in the Name of 
God the Merciful, the Compassionate ". Palestine guaranteed 
to the Sheriff of Mecca by McMahon was secretly withdrawn 
from him by Sykes. It was not Mark s fault, for the military 
situation was desperate and the Arabs had to be enticed into 
revolt. McMahon at least sent the Sheriff a gift of 20,000 in 
gold : but that " eminent, energetic and magnanimous 
Minister ", as the Sheriff hailed him, received the shock of his 
life when Mark called with a coloured map and asked " what 
do you think of my Treaty ? " It was the first hint McMahon 
had of its existence. The aforesaid " God the Merciful, the 
Compassionate " allowed the bewildered High Commissioner 
to be quietly recalled* 


Matk now had to nurse the Zionist bantling and finds 
record in Dr. Weizmann s Trial and Error. In February 1917 
" Sir Mark spoke with the utmost freedom of the difficulties 
which confronted us. I may say that he placed all his diplo 
matic skill at our disposal and that without it we should have 
had much heavier going than we did. . . . His chief concern 
at the moment was the attitude of the Powers. Sir Mark had 
been in Russia, had talked with the Foreign Minister Sasonov 
and anticipated little difficulty from that quarter." France 
was the difficulty, wanting all Syria and much of Palestine. 
The Zionists must talk to the French, which meant, it was 
pointed out, that the French Rabbis would press for a French 
Palestine! " Sir Mark went on to speak of the Arab problem. 
Within a generation the movement would come into its own, 
for the Arabs had intelligence, vitality and linguistic unity. 
But he believed the Arabs would come to terms with us 
particularly if they received Jewish support in other matters. 
Sir Mark anticipated the attitude of the greatest of the Arabs, 
the Emir FeiseL" The inevitable Picot was introduced 
personally into the conversations but neither of the begetters 
mentioned their Treaty ! Dr. Weizmann learnt it in the nature 
of a shock the following month: "startling information, 
unjust to England, fatal to us and not helpful to the Arabs ", 
It was not until Allenby captured Jerusalem that the 
egregious Picot received his shock. The conqueror kindly 
permitted him to join the entering procession, after which 
Picot proposed he should set up Gvil Government the next 
day! Lawrence has described the soldierly snub which he 
received. At any rate that was the end of Monsieur Picot. 

The fall of Jerusalem, trumpeted as the climax of all the 
Crusades, was accompanied by the unsuspected appearance 
of the horizons of Zionism. This was destined to pky an 
absorbing and final influence in Mark s life. It appears that 
he received a hint one of those brain-waves which the 
insignificant often impose on the world-players that if a 
national home were promised to the Zionists the effect in 
America would be immense. 

In the United States the Allies had been strongly opposed 
by Irish-Americans and by Germans including German Jews. 


The fact remained that the United States had dekyed their 
entry into the War alarmingly. This could be laid on President 
Wilson, for ever with his ear to the ground and his vision in 
the clouds. Wilson s advisers included Justice Brandeis the 
Zionist leader. Mark Sykes took the hint like flame and 
submitted the idea to Balfour. Now that wise observer of 
the ways of nationalities and sub-nations had profited by his 
trip to Washington. He had come to a conclusion that 
England s critics in America must be diminished. This 
could be achieved only by granting Irish Home Rule or a 
Zionist Home. The Irish-Americans by now were tucked 
away in the American armies. They might trouble Wilson 
one day but not England at war. Zionism was the winning 
card and it was played with Mark s enthusiasm but behind 
Balfour s poker-face ! 

Still, Mark found influences were working against him at 
the Foreign Office but the trust which Jew, Arab and 
Armenian felt in him made him indispensable. Strange 
scenes were discerned upon the Foreign Office steps where 
the Zionist envoys were gathered in foggy expectation. 
Within, the Cabinet were deciding the text of Balfour s 
Declaration. Suddenly Mark appeared with the actual 
document, calling out: " Dr. Weismann, it s a boyl " 

The boy grew to become an enfant terribly but for the time 
Balfour roused immense satisfaction from the Jewry of the 
world. As it was stated that " nothing should be done which 
may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing 
non- Jewish communities ", the Arabs should have been 
equally assured. 

The Balfour Declaration was issued in a letter to the nearest 
title known to a King of the Jews, that of Lord Rothschild 
(November 2, 1917). In March following Mark was arranging 
for the departure of a Zionist Commission with French and 
Italian envoys thrown in. An audience with the King had 
been his suggestion, but this was postponed owing to dis- 
quietening telegrams from Cairo. The Arabs were , asking 
astonished questions. Dr. Weizmann pleaded for the audience 
and was engaged with Mark in wrathful discussion.- Tho,". 
argument continued until Mr. Balfour was seen slowly 


mounting the stairs of the Foreign Office. After half an 
hour s privacy Mark emerged to say that Mr. Balfour thought 
the audience should take place and was at that moment 
"telephoning to the Palace to explain that the whole mis 
understanding had arisen through his own late arrival at the 
office "1 Sometimes indeed British diplomacy bears a touch 
of the Oriental. 

With the Armistice of November n, 1918, the " remaining 
sands " of Mark s life were due to fall. The East had made 
him a fatalist and even had he known, he would not have 
acted otherwise. He was as sure as any Moslem of the 
Kadehr which is graven on every man s forehead. 

On the day following the Armistice he reached Jerusalem 
and visited the Holy Sepulchre before proceeding to the 
German Hostel on the Mount of Olives. Henceforth he 
moved as in a dream for he was worn almost to a shadow. The 
General Election was but a murmur on the horizon. He had 
other works in hand but he must have smiled to find himself 
returned by ten thousand of a majority: " Anyway, I cannot 
bother my head about it now as I have more important 
things to do. Is Europe in the throes of death or pangs 
of birth?" a question to which thirty years have given no 

His immediate concern was to gather up the tangled threads 
in Syria. That wretched Picot Treaty haunted him and 
Zionism dogged his steps. He set forth for Paris to support 
the League of Nations: " No revenge but justice, reparation 
and security. I have accepted neither honour nor office/ 
Like Lawrence he refused the Michael and George, the 
consolation prize of Empire. Both felt dismay at heart for 
the future of the Arabs. Mark had designed them a flag 
which he saluted himself amid immense enthusiasm. People 
rose to acclaim him. He had become a disposer of boundaries, 
an abettor of nationalities, a guardian of England s promises. 
He was trusted by them as the heaven-sent arbiter of their 

To Paris then he went, looking like a deathmask, with a 
Pandora s box for luggage, wherein opposing hopes stifled 
each other* By February 1919 he had reached a hotbed of 


intrigue, unblessed by God or Pope. Mark had to save 
Arabs from Jews and both from the claims of the French. 
The fate of the Armenians was written on his weakening 
heart: " If the Arabs desert the Armenians, may God desert 
them". The bitterness which he had found rising in 
Palestine had entered him. On February 7 he counselled 
with Lawrence and on February 16 he died. Lawrence 
wrote: " ... his kst week in Paris tried to atone. He had 
returned from a period of political duty in Syria, after his 
awful realisation of the true shape of his dreams, to say 
gallantly, I was wrong: here is the truth. His former friends 
would not see his new earnestness and thought him fickle 
and in error; and very soon he died. It was a tragedy of 
tragedies, for the Arab sake." 

Such was Lawrence s finality of pronouncement. He had 
happier died himself in Paris for he lived to achieve 
immense fame. But he saw the Arab betrayed and his own 
promises trodden into the dust. He also came to " awful 
realisation of the truth " and in his strange manner sought 
atonement, refusing honours, relinquishing rank and name, 
re-serving in the lowest rank until the Merciful and Com 
passionate gave him the chance to cast his life away upon the 
roadside. For him also the Kadebr was engraven. 

There was great mourning and crying of woe when Mark 
died. He had faced danger and disease in every corner of 
Asia and Africa. It was ironical that the Sunderer of Societies 
and Destroyer of Delights should find him in a luxurious 
Paris hotel. At any rate he attained the peace surpassing the 
understanding of any Peace Conference. In Jerusalem and in 
Westminster his Requiem was sung. Jews, Arabs and 
Armenians were united in grief. " The Armenian Nation " 
managed to send a wreath of red roses to his funeral before 
their own extinction. His Yorkshire monument was worthy 
of his life. His father had built a soaring Eleanor Cross on 
the Wolds and against one panel his figure lifesize was 
blazoned, armoured and sworded in bronze. In the back 
ground stood the Holy City and for scroll over his head 
the Laetare Jerusalem. No Crusader was ever more featly 



It was generally believed that, had he lived, he would have 
altered many things in the final decisions of the victors. As 
it was, Statesmen, Kings and Prelates all bespoke the certain 
advance awaiting his career. They believed he would have 
reached the heights. Alas, when he found himself in the 
depths, he had no longer the will to live. Some sought to 
draw a consoling moral. Lord Curzon, whose hour of agony 
was yet to come, wrote: * Such lives seem intended as a 
model and an inspiration and possess a proportion and beauty 
like some work of art half-finished but yet perfect. . . ." 

The Latin Poet had said all this before: 

" Ah scelus^ ah facinus\ properas quid flere, viator^ 
Non licet hie vitae de brevitate queri" 

His Cambridge College quietly added his name to the 
bottom of their War Memorial, where a contemporary 
passing was heard to murmur some such words as: " Oh, 
some College Servant ? I don t remember the name a fine 
old English one all the same! " 


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