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PAGES FROM A PRIVATE DIARY.
June 1st.We are now not only in the year, but in the month of Jubilee, and the word is on every one's lips. One squire reports unto another how he is going to celebrate the great event; by a dinner or a tea, by mugs round or medals, by fireworks, or by some new edifice. Though a little hesitating as to our own plans, we can each give a shrewd guess at our neighbours' duty. My own idea (for all whom it may concern) is that private possessors of property once public should take this opportunity of allowing it to revert to the original owners. This was assuredly the way they had of celebrating jubilees' down in Judee.' Country gentlemen who have enclosed commons, lords who have impropriated tithe, antiquaries whose private museums are decorated with church fonts or registers or monumental brasses, should at once follow the excellent example of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has just restored the log of the Mayflower to America, and purge themselves of ill-gotten gains. One case of spoliation I have greatly at heart. In Walpole’s ‘ Anecdotes of Painting' is figured by way of frontispiece a fine window which was presented to him by the then Earl of Ashburnham for the Gothic chapel at Strawberry, having been begged or bought or purloined from the church of Bexhill, in Sussex. It was bought at the Strawberry sale by a Mr. Whitaker for 301. Where is it now?
| Horace Walpole writes to George Montagu (November 24, 1760): I have found in a MS. that in the church of Deckley, or Becksley, in Sussex, there are portraits on glass in a window of Henry the Third and his Queen. I have looked in the map, and find the first name between Bodiham and Rye, but I am not sure it is the place. [It was not. Bexeley was the old name of what is now Bexhill.] I will be much obliged if you will write directly to your Sir Whistler, and beg him to inform himself very exactly if there is any such thing in such a church near Bodibam. Pray state it minutely; because if there is I will have them drawn for the frontispiece to my work' (iii. 365). At first, then, it is clear, Walpole did not contemplate sacrilege. On October 3, 1771, he writes to the Rev. William Cole: 'I am buil a small chapel in my garden to receive two valuable pieces of antiquity, and which have been presents singularly lucky for me. They are the window from Bexhill with the portraits of Henry III. and his Qucen, procured for me by Lord Ashburnham; the other is,' &c. (v. 346).
I love Horace Walpole and should be glad if at last his ghost might obtain repose by the return of the glass. Happening to speak of the subject in a room where was a bust of this virtuoso, **o drops of blood fell from its nostrils on to the pedestal ; which confirms me in my belief that its restoration would be satisfactory to him. The excellent Sussex Antiquarian Society would have no difficulty in ascertaining the whereabouts of the window, and might start a subscription list for its repurchase.
2nd.—One of the most interesting social phenomena to watch is the retreat from a position taken up by some mistake or inadvertence. Ladies are often great adepts in such strategy ; the art, I suppose, for ordinary mortals lies in a gradual retirement through a sufficient number of insensible degrees. This afternoon I was privileged to view a superb performance in my own drawing-room. We had a small party, and a writer of some celebrity was expected. At one point I overheard a leader of our local society pour out an effusion of civilities over the excellent and flattered but somewhat surprised doctor's lady of a neighbouring parish, who from a certain similarity of name was plainly being mistaken for the lioness. By the simple method of accosting her as I passed and inquiring somewhat particularly after her husband, I exposed the error, and then retreated to watch the process of 'drying up,' which was magnificent, but quite indescribable. Men do these things with much less grace.
. The Vicar and I were fellow guests, he being a complete stranger, at a house whose front door opened into an old-fashioned hall, where company was assembled ; and when the hostess said to a young and rather well-set-up servant out of livery, Sidney, will you take Mr. —'s coat,' the Vicar understood this as an introduction to Sidney, presumed the son of the house, and wrung his hand with the heartiest how d'ye do? but not finding his greeting returned, subsided into a cough. A more awkward contretemps of the same sort happened once to myself. I was in
dear friend Mrs. B.'s pony-carriage outside a shop, with a very pretty girl holding the reins, whose face I knew perfectly, though I could not recollect her name. So I made my bow and some comments on the weather and the ponies, and while I stood chatting, out came Mrs. B. and seemed much surprised ; and then I remembered the young damsel was her parlourmaid, whom, as I afterwards learned, she was driving in to the dentist. All which misadventures show that we live in a highly artificial society.
and saw my
I will conclude these reminiscences with one of a somewhat different nature. The scene was a drawing-room meeting convened by Mrs. Tom; our local dignitary, who is the modern Avatar of Menenius Agrippa, was bringing a very witty speech to an end with an anecdote which threw the meeting into a paroxysm of laughter, when it flashed across his mind and his face) that he had been asked to dismiss the assembly with the benediction. Luckily he could on occasion produce a first-rate stammer, and this he at once summoned to his assistance. “I have ... been asked .. to conclude with the b-b-b-enediction ... which
1... will ... now ... endeavour ... to give.' The time this sentence was made to occupy in delivery cannot be adequately represented by dots and dashes; it gave us ample leisure to compose our features. We all felt the ' endeavour' to be a master-stroke.
3rd.—The rain came in the very nick of time to save the hay; and farmers are jubilant. 'If I had had the sun in one
; hand and a watering-pot in the other,' said old — to me, I ' could not have mixed 'em better. What a flight of imagination ! The photographer from came over to take a picture of some fine old barns that have to be improved away.
As there was no train back for several hours, I was compelled to put at his service a good deal of time and tobacco. Amongst other compliments he said, 'I wonder, sir, you do not take to amateur photography.' I replied modestly that I feared I had no skill that way. 'Oh!' said he, 'amateur photography is easy enough; it's a very different thing from professional photography. But what I was thinking was you have so much leisure for it.' Such is the gratitude of men. They waste our time and then charge us with idleness !
I am glad to see that scholars like the Bishop of Salisbury an Professor Skeat are protesting against the insipidity of the term. Diamond Jubilee.' The right expression is Great Jubilee.'
Strawberries are very good this year. I agree with the Dr. Boteler whom Walton quotes that 'doubtless God might have made a better berry, but doubtless He never did.'
For tarts, however, there is nothing to equal bilberries till damsons are ready.
5th.—My jottings on April 19th have drawn down on me many letters from indignant Primrose Leaguers. I will give one. which puts the quarrel with more conciseness than the rest:
'I am one of the many persons who read your monthly diaryleaves in “Cornhill” with great interest and enjoyment, and therefore beg you to believe that I venture to take exception to one phrase occurring in a recent number in the friendliest spirit.
How could you speak of the late Earl of Beaconsfield as ineffectual ? Surely the greatest political fact in contemporary civilisation is the powerful growth of an imperial spirit of federation in England and its colonies—a consciousness of the union of independent States under a great historic Head, a single crown, which represents, as no terminable presidency can, the continuity of national and even international fellowship. Surely the "Jubilee,” Lord Beaconsfield's" Jubilee,” is demonstration sufficient !
* The compelling force to this great end was the romantic, even the grandiose, view which Lord Beaconsfield took of politics. With him, from the very first, it was ideas, and not class prejudices or class traditions, that served as inspiration. Unlike Mr. Gladstone and the rest, he came into public life without any class guarantee or backing; and without it he in truth remained to the end. The immediate service he performed in relation to English feeling was the fine reaction he set up against the narrow commercial spirit that moved the "Manchester school,” which threatened to reduce this great country to the level of a fourthrate Power like Holland. The Dutch have not lost a battle, and yet have sunk to insignificance in the scale of nations because of their dominating commercialism. Except for Beaconsfield, England would have gone the same way.
'It would not be right to confuse Lord Beaconsfield's sense of imperial dignity and responsibility with the honneur et patrie of shallower others—which is, indeed, a devotion to hills, cities, streets, kiosques, cafés, rivers, racecourses, and so on, a congeries of physical and local things; it was a profound and inspiring sense of the human fellowship and combined power of millions of people who cherish a common historical tradition and see it personified in one Head.
'Lord Beaconsfield was a Jew, and therefore above the huckstering local view; to a Jew national tradition and loyalty are the breath of life, superior to local considerations ; cælum non
My difference with my correspondent would not be as to the
fact of the recent spread of an imperial spirit in England, or as to its value, but simply as to its derivation from Lord Beaconsfield, though it may now be connected with his name. Ms. epithet 'ineffectual’ referred especially to his period of power, the second premiership (1874–80), and might be illustrated by his neglect of that very question of federation which he had found so useful in Opposition (e.g. see speech at the Crystal Palace in. 1872).
It would be just as legitimate to say that the imperial spirit was due to Tennyson, because in his dedication of the Idylls to the Queen he gave it so emphatic expression :
*Keep you to yourselves ;
A lady testifies to Beaconsfield's affection for the primrose :
· I see in the delightful "Private Diary” paper for June that doubt is again thrown on the late Lord Beaconsfield's love for primroses. However incongruous such an affection may appear, he certainly felt it. There is an old man in my little country town, a very, very commonplace old labourer, who once, long ago, did rough digging work at Hughenden, and he declares that from the earliest garden primrose to the latest to be found in the woods, Lord Beaconsfield was never to be seen without a primrose in his buttonhole--one blossom and no more—which struck the man, who would have preferred a posy.'
8th (Whit-Tuesday).—We should have begun cutting the big meadow to-day but for the return of rain. And yet I hardly