Sunday, February 06, 2011

18Feb1878, A New Craze Called a Telephone

BATTLE ABBEY, February 18th-24th, 1878.
—Saturday we went to Battle Abbey. Found ourselves arriving with the Charles Woods, [FN: Mr. and Lady Agnes Wood: afterwards Viscount and Viscountess Halifax.] Mr. Harris Temple, Ld. Carnavon, Ld.Minto and a nice very Scotch-faced son Hugh, Mr. Eric Barrington. Various ladies had failed, so Ly. Agnes and I were made much of. Sunday very damp and grey, but pleasant. Fine church; our way to it curiously like Lismore. The Duchess [FN: Of Cleveland, mother of Lord Rosebery.] as unmercifully given to sports as ever; Sat. evening she descended upon F. and me in our snug partie carree with the Duke and Ld. Carnarvon, and was bearing off the hapless Freddy to a most inane round game, had I not thrown myself into the breach and so rescued him. Poor Ld. Minto making to wild shots in an addle-pated state, hardly knowing clubs from spades, was a sight to move pity.

—Sun. evening a wretched new craze called a Telephone was brought into play, and F. kept at work shouting down it for a long time; on the whole a failure. All the same we had a very pleasant visit; Ld. Carnarvon was most agreeable. He said not a word of his personal concerns, and I don't think even mentioned any of his late colleagues; but spoke very frankly upon the E.Q., speaking strongly against the war-cries of the moment, and considering that a wave of insanity is passing over the country. Did not blame the people at large much for their horror of Polish and Siberian doings, but blamed extremely the cultured and well-informed classes for not keeping cool heads and showing wisdom and sense. I let fly a good deal at a horrid clever little pamphlet just out, called "The Crown and the Cabinet," which tries to make out that the Queen and Prince (!!) struggled all their time for unconstitutional personal government!!! The thing is provoked by the sadly ill-advised publication of Theo. Martin's Life of the P. Consort, which brings to light what ought always to have been absolutely private and sacred matter—the Queen's discussions and communications with her Ministers, and of course, in consequence, the share the P. Consort took in these commns. But I stoutly maintain that the Queen is entirely within her constitutional rights when she discusses, suggests, objects, or anything else, with her Ministers: however much of a bore she may be at times! The pamphlet ought to lead straight to Republicanism, as it is an intolerable view that a Sovereign with the usual allowance of wits and arms and legs should be a mere machine for affixing a seal to the laws, which is practically the plan recommended. I can't say I got much sympathy from Ld. Carnarvon, who, it is supposed, has had a rough time with H.M.; when I said, "Surely she might be allowed to give her own opinion to her Ministers," all he would say was, in his little cat-voice, "I think the less she does the better" ! But I have nothing to say for the existing state of things, except, on behalf of the Queen, that her furore for the Turks and marked partisanship are the direct result of Dizzy's influence; and that she is only to be blamed for overdoing a constitutional duty, viz., confiding in her Prime Minister.

Battle Abbey disappointed me as Raby did, and for the same reason; the disfiguring of a grand old building. The Duchess of Cleveland was very kind, and the old Duke I quite took to: when one has time, it is very interesting to hear him go off upon old recollections, and he seems to have boundless information upon some things. He gave a sort of sketch of the ancient history of Constantinople, Saturday, which was worthy of Uncle Wm. on Eccles. History !

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