25 SEPTEMBER 1942, Page 10



Here, for instance, was a cabinet photograph of the Prince of Wales in a brown bowler, with the great signature " Albert Edward" scrawled underneath. It was an ordinary, yellowing photograph, taken by Downey, of Ebury Street, and it represented the future King Edward standing with one hand in his pocket, dressed in a morning coat with a large white tie. Yet the person to whom this photograph had been given in the year 1889 had seen fit to frame it in a little wooden frame upon which two swallows had been painted in blue and white. She must, I suppose, have felt that some connexion existed between the expensive figure of Albert Edward and the little seaside frame which she had bought. She could well have afforded a heavy silver frame from Bond Street, surmounted by the three ostrich feathers and the motto "Ich Dien." Yet why the swallows? I should have assumed some sentimental connexion between the heir to the thrones of Britain and India and the flight of two birds, were it not that the remainder of the collection displays a similar gift for the inappropriate. The men and women of 1880-1914 had no habit of comparison, no sense of proportion. Their friends, to them, were unreal.

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I turned the thick cardboard pages of the albums. It was the custom at that time for each guest to transport these vast volumes from house to house. I can myself remember that the night before the party broke up there was always a gathering of albums in the library, when everybody signed the other albums in turn. There was a firm in London which catered for this fashion, and which provided its clients with sheets of small photographs like a book of stamps. The perforated edges of these photographs can still be seen. Having obtained the photographs and the signatures, the next- thing to do was to cut out with scissors the notepaper- heading of the house in which one was staying, and to gum it on to the top of the page. In the album before me I find "Newlands Manor " in gothic characters, " Merivale " in italic print, and " Ben Damph Forest, Auchnasheer " printed firmly in block capitals. If among the members of the party there was one who could paint or draw, the albums were decorated with really horrible sketches of stag or fish. Occasionally photographs of interiors were inserted, and in the album I am describing there is a really startling picture of the Long Gallery at Rufford, in the foreground of which is a stuffed bear holding a lamp-bracket in its paws, and some miniatures

affixed to the back of the sofa.

* * * * Most of the groups and photographs depict shooting-parties in the Highlands or the home counties. Great care and ingenuity is displayed in recording the total bag. The sportsmen themselves were, we may presume, indifferent to the albums which their wives lugged about with them. It is the delicate ingenuity of the ladies which accounts for the varied manner in which the results of slaughter are recorded. Sometimes these catalogues of dead animals are framed in a rustic surround ; sometimes the animals themselves are drawn gazing with apprehension at the casualty-lists ;

sometimes the total of partridges and pheasants is written u a half-rolled scroll ; but the gem of my own collection is a carefu drawn Louis XV screen, upon the first leaf of which is writt with a neat hand, "Elvenden, October 25th," " pheasants' 1,158," and so on. In one sheet of the album is inserted a large printed card headed "Game killed by the Marquis of Ripon from 1867 to 1913," and signed by Lord Ripon himself. Erom this record it can be observed that in those forty-seven years Lord Ripon killed no fewer than 500,256 animals, including 222,976 pheasants,. 112,598 partridges, 79,32o grouse, two rhinoceros, eleven tigers, twelv buffalo, 97 wild boar, and 19 sambur. Yet the circle to which the owner of this album belonged was a cultivated circle ; and she herself had no interest whatsoever in partridges and pheasants, being far more concerned with interior decoration, or with the delicate enamels of Messrs. Faberge. It seems never to have occurred to her that there was any incongruity in recording th death of partridges upon a Louis XV screen.

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It will be said, of course, that we are more affected by th incongruities of taste and fashion of fifty years ago than by the even wider divergencies which we can find in cultivated society o a hundred years before. I do not think that this is 'a valid objet tion. I have been reading recently the two volumes of " Thrahana, so admirably edited by Katharine Balderston. Hester Thrale, withi her own limits, had a far clearer sense of proportion than tha possessed by our fathers and mothers of the nineteenth century She did not seek to appear interested in things in which she wa not, in fact, interested. She knew exactly what she wanted (eve when she wanted to marry her daughter's singing-master), and sh obtained these desires with calm and calculated persistence. As on reads her notebooks one is conscious that with the minimum fuss or falsity she passed from Streatham Park to Grosvenor Squar from Bath to Bologna. She gathered around her a circle of emine and very difficult people, and managed them with dexterity tact. She . enjoyed good conversation, innocent flirtations, an ex cellent table, and the comforts which her husband's fortune cold provide. She lived on the fringe of high life, even as she liv on the fringe of the blues, yet she never strove to move outsi the orbit of her own capacity. Her sense of values, even of wor values, was clear and sharp. It is nor surprising that Dr. Johnso who loathed shams, felt at ease in her house.

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Yet while concentrating upon the scheme of life which she h worked out for herself, Mrs. Thrale remained perfectly aware th her security was in no way permanent. She realised that the Gor riots were something more than an alarming episode. She realised th the loss of the American colonies was an event which had not o lowered the prestige of England, but was likely seriously to affect It prosperity. " So if bankruptcy should come on," she writes 1770, " and the mode of life be changed to a more primitive me I may probably find employment, either in making, mending, & for my family, instead of spreading my table with peaches in May. " We likewise clothed," she writes again, 17 poor boys and I poor girls who went to church always of a Sunday in our unifo and oh! how happily and comfortably I did live! " Yet wh misfortune came upon her, she grumbled only about the cruel of her daughters ; she did not grumble because there were more peaches in May. The explanation of Mrs. Thrale's admirab sense of the appropriate is that she was far more interested human character than she was in her own comfort. She was no therefore, at the mercy of external events. Nor did she o pretend to be interested in things which really bored her; 5 was not interested in art or architecture, and makes no show being so ; nor did she for conventional reasons assume any inter in sport ; she never once mentioned the pack of hounds that Thrale maintained at Croydon. Nor would she ever have thou it congruous to record upon a Louis XV screen the pheasants that killed.

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