16 NOVEMBER 1907, Page 37


IT-was too much to expect that a second draft upon Lady Dorothy Nevill's wall,filled, if disordered, note-books should be as productive as the first; and it cannot be said that

judicious expectation has been agreeably disappointed. No doubt Mr. Ralph Nevill has done his work as editor very well, and we must refuse to lay on him any of the blame which he courts with such filial piety and generosity. It is simply that, in the language of gold miners, the second crushing has not panned out so well as the first. And that is not surprising, for the lode was pretty well ransacked Los the purposes of Lady Dorothy Nevill's first book. If any one hoped for too much after the exploitation of the first bonanza, that was in itself a tribute to Lady Dorothy Nevill's almost unique position. She has lived through vast changes ; she has seen democracy substituted for what was virtually a narrow, if high-minded, oligarchy ; and society has mean-

while broadened its basis by embracing the merely rich, if, indeed, society has not itself become a plutocracy. The scrap- album of the modern young lady who records her rounds of visits by means of photographs and autographs is a very different thing from Lady Dorothy Nevill's note-books, the contents of which have always been guided by a most lively, receptive, and

curious mind. Political and other anecdotes, broadsheets, pamphlets, and sets of verses were the kind of grist that was most welcome in her mill. Of the anecdotes we may say in general that they are such as would have remained in the memory only of a woman with a sense for the finer shades of both wit and humour. In a word, Lady Dorothy Nevill's memory yields a valuable picture of her times. But have

we not all been spoiled lately by other valuable pictures of the times,—or of our grandfathers' and fathers' times ? At all

events, we feel as though we had heard a good part of Lady Dorothy's comments and intimate history before. She tells us of the Fourth Party, but what she says is a scrap compared with other detailed accounts of the rise and fall of that audacious group. Of course there is no reason in the world why a large subject should not be just touched in passing ; in " reminiscences " it can hardly be treated in any other way ; and yet the few words the editor can allow himself in this volume for even the most important matters are often made up of inadequate criticisms. A single fact without the

repetition of familiar conclusions and reflections would have been of far greater worth. The experience of a Lady Dorothy Nevill is so peculiar that we grudge, again, the pages given

to incidents which are matters of common information when all might have been genuinely informing. Take, for example,

the brief history of duelling in modern times. One can find all this, and more, in an encyclopaedia. There is, in fine, a good deal of ore, but we can say that the gold, once extracted from it, is real gold for the collector of reminiscences. The anecdotes are mostly new to us, and it is not often one can say that of the published stories of grandee dames.

The juxtaposition in one note-book of a broadside of 1832 and a recent picture-postcard referring to the women's suffrage agitation reminds Lady Dorothy Nevill of the following anecdote of the great Reform Bill :— "Long before the days of advanced female politicians, in the year 1832, an elderly couple, peacefully sleeping in their four- poster, were one morning roughly aroused at an early hour by their excited maid-servant who, bursting into the bedroom, bawle d out, ' It's passed ! It's passed !' Extremely annoyed, the old lady • Leaves from the !tote-Books of Lady Dorothy Nevill. Edited by Ralph NUM. Loudon: Macmillan and Co. [15e. netA called out from inside the bed-curtains, 'What's passed, you fool?' The Reform Bill,' shouted the girl, 'and we're all equal now '; after which she marched out of the room, purposely leaving the door wide open to show her equality."

Although it is not new, we must quote from the leaflet on taxation based on a well-known passage in the works of r ydney Smith. The arrangement of the words and the use of capital letters are masterly in producing their effect :— "The School Boy whips his TAXED Top ; The Beardless Youth manages his TAXED Horse with a TAXED Bridle on a TAXED Road ; and the dying Englishman, pouring his Medicine which has paid 7 Pan CENT, into a Spoon which has paid 30 PER CENT,

throws himself back upon his

Cnni-rz BED which has paid 22 Pza Cartx,


and expires in the arms of an Apothecary who has paid

£100 for the privilege of putting him to death."

Lady Dorothy says on the old subject of reproach that Mr. Gladstone went to the theatre on the night that he heard of Gordon's death :—" As a matter of fact, by no possibility could Mr. Gladstone have known that the very evening on which he was going to the Criterion, Gordon was being done to death in the far-off Soudan ; and whatever may have been his faults, callousness or inhumanity was most certainly not numbered amongst them." We are quite as sure as Lady Dorothy Nevill is that inhumanity or callousness was utterly foreign to Mr. Gladstone's nature, but there is very good authority for saying that he did go to the theatre that night,—per- suaded to do so, we believe, for the very reason that he was deeply upset and worried by the report of Gordon's death, and it was thought that at the theatre his mind would be distracted. If this be so, he did not reflect what the world might say (there was no certainty, after all, that it would say anything), and that is perhaps a sign in itself of his preoccupation. Other Ministers of the Crown, at all events, were at theatres on the same night, and escaped the malignant censure to which Lady Dorothy Nevill refers. Lady Dorothy says of Lord Randolph Churchill's resignation of the Chancellorship of the Exchequer. :— "Mr. Long was that day in the smoking-room of the Carlton Club, sitting with Lord Randolph, when the latter, who had just heard the news that Lord Goschen (then, of course, Mr. Goschen, and not an M.P.) had accepted the Chancellorship of the Exchequer, exclaimed: 'All great men make mistakes. Napoleon forgot Blucher, I forgot Goschen.' I may add that it is with Mr. Longs consent that I publish the true version of a somewhat dramatic historical epode."

That seems to prove once for all that Lord Randolph would not have resigned if he had not felt absolutely sure that he was indispensable. In speaking of Marie Antoinette and Madame du Barry, it appears to us that Lady Dorothy allows the inhuman persecution and death of both to give a kind of illogical sanction to their behaviour. In the case of Madame du Barry, at least, we are not prepared to be blind because she bestowed handsome largess on peasants, and suffered later from gross and repulsive cruelty. Lady Dorothy's opinions on architecture, in particular, do less than justice to the conspicuous revival of the art of architecture in the last few years :—

" Since the days when as a child I first know London the outward aspect of most of the streets may be said to have completely changed. Up to within the last twenty years the alteration was not very marked, being for the most part gradual, but now a veritable architectural revolution seems to be taking place. Everywhere the boxlike Georgian house is passing away, and on all sides towering mansions with elaborate frontages in every possible style (some indeed being little but collections of decorative samples jumbled up together) are making their appearance. Amongst other eccentricities modern architects seem to have an especial love for small windows, which, con- sidering the not over-abundant supply of sunshine and light available in London, seem somewhat out of place. On one estate (I believe that belonging to the Duke of Westminster), a clause in every lease forbids the building of a house with any but windows of very moderate dimensions. In modern street archi- tecture uniformity seems to have little place ; it is, I fancy, con- sidered inartistic by English architects, who, careless of the example of Mansard (the designer of the Place de la Concorde) and other men of the past, who were capable of really great architectural conceptions, imagine that decoration, no matter how exotic or inappropriate, produces a more striking effect than that well-proportioned, dignified, and graceful uniformity of con- struction to which, I fear, they are quite unable to attain. The best modern street in the West End, I think, is Mount Street, which, notwithstanding the diversity of style exhibited in the facades of the houses, is a really fine street, and one, moreover, not entirely unpicturesque. Most of the old streets in the West

End are too narrow for the lofty houses now so frequently being erected. How the occupants of these mansions—overshadowed as they must be by other giant constructions facing them, and for the most part only furnished with ridiculous little windows— ever obtain any light, is a mystery which I think their builders would be considerably puzzled to explain. The old Georgian houses were quite devoid of any pretension to especial decorative merit, but some of them were not lacking in a certain dignity of proportion, whilst ample provision for the admission of light was always to be found."

We venture to say that if there is no Wren to-day, there is nevertheless a higher standard of taste and originality among our serious young architects than there has ever been. The small windows are built so partly because they are pro- portioned to the necessarily small rooms, and partly because they are a revolt against the architectural impropriety of making large buildings seem to be supported by a large area of glass. One of the successful characteristics of new architecture is the arrangement of innumerable small rooms in enormous piles, which do achieve a fine massiveness in spite of their infinitesimal compartments. In mentioning the Place de la Concorde Lady Dorothy Nevill must mean the Place Vendome. There is no uniformity in the Place de la Concorde, which has houses only on one side ; but the Place Vendome was designed by Mansard, and has a beautiful and renowned uniformity. Let us not leave this book, however, in disagreement with Lady Dorothy Nevin. Our aim has

been, in the interest of the readers of reminiscences—nearly the whole world—to remind those who write them that persons outside the upper magic circle have means of hearing things which did not exist when Lady Dorothy Nevill was a girl, and that it is all too easy to tell these readers what they already know. We ourselves have spent some very pleasantly beguiled hours over Lady Dorothy's book, and we are sure that other readers will have to thank her too,—in proportion as they have not been spoilt by a heavy diet of reminiscences in the past.