POLITICS. Letters addressed to the Liberal politician, colonial governor and educationalist Donald James Mackay, Lord Reay
Lot 246
Sold for £ 2,250 (US$ 2,989) inc. premium

Lot Details
Letters addressed to the Liberal politician, colonial governor and educationalist Donald James Mackay, Lord Reay, and his wife Fanny Georgiana Jane, comprising:

(i) Thirty-six autograph letters by Lord Rosebery, to Lord Reay, variously marked "confidential", "private", "secret" and "most secret", and providing a revealing narrative of his rise to power in the 1880s, the first letter written in 1880 after he had successfully managed Gladstone's Midlothian campaign and describing, with considerable frankness, frustrations felt at not immediately being offered high office ("...The Cabinet which contains pullers, jobbers, kickers and slugs has never had time to get into harness, and has suddenly been placed on a rocky hilly & swampy road. Whether when they do get into harness they will find they can pull together is another point... There may be a good spirit below the gangway, as Dilke says, but I fear not loyalty above it..."), especially as his disquiet over Government policy towards Scotland ("...I shall write no more to Harcourt, as he has simply acknowledged the receipt of my last two letters through his secretary; which I take as a hint. If he would only consider my suggestions or seek some new Scotch adviser..."); the series also deals with major topics of the day, such as Irish Home Rule ("...I had two long conversations with Gladstone when the cabinets were going on. He asked my views, which agreed so little with his, as far as I could judge, that I was not of much use..."), his frustration at remaining as under-secretary at the Home Office ("...I cannot eat my heart out, for I have devoured it long ago. The worst of it is I can't digest it.../ ...I gave the signal that I should not be the new Scottish minister. On Monday last Mr Gladstone wrote to offer me the place, which I declined, as it did not involve a seat in the cabinet..."), his visit to Bismark ("...He certainly is a king of men, both physically and mentally. But I do not wish to be quoted with reference to my visit..."), and his attainment of the post of Foreign Secretary ("...Who would have thought exactly three years ago when I was carrying on as Under Home Secretary a contest against what I believed to be injustice, and when I was daily informed that I was not qualified for high office, that within three years I should be Foreign Secretary... Ponsonby had been to Mentmore the Sunday previous and had informed me that H.M would not stand Granville at the F.O. and that she had made up her mind that I should succeed him..."); with a memorandum headed "Minister for Scotland/ Oct 1883", over 130 pages, 8vo, Mentmore, Dalmeny, the Durdans, Hamburg and elsewhere, 1880-1889

(ii) Twenty autograph letters by the travel writer and historian, A.W. Kinglake, to Lady Reay, commenting on Disraeli's triumph at the Congress of Berlin ("...Dizzy's pretence of having had a diplomatic victory at Berlin is the most impudent imposture of his long & impudent life... If it were not that our country is in such a silly, fallen state, & also in the month of July, we should be hearing of the 'Impeachment of Ministers'..."), his Invasion of the Crimea: The Winter Troubles ("...Making war again with the Times, & compelled to be very un-courtier-like to the Crown or rather the Palace I must expect an outcry..."), Wolseley's Egyptian campaign, Lord Salisbury ("...Intellectually, his rise has been great, & to me, I own, surprizing. When I first knew him in the House of Commons, he used to be a man with a strange, head foremost stoop, persistently addressing his waistcoat upon some questions or other which were understood to be connected with recondite High Church matters without apparently gaining the Ear of any human being. After two or three years, he suddenly became an assailant indulging not in Satire, or inventive of the approved sort, but in actual personal abuse...") and Stanley's Emin Pasha Relief Expedition ("...a man so gifted that I said at the time: -- 'He could lead the House of Commons'..."), over 60 pages, 8vo, London, 1878-1890

(iii) Eleven autograph letters by Sir George Otto Trevelyan, to Lord Reay, one to Lady Reagh and marked "SECRET", written when Chief Secretary of Ireland ("...I have seen Mr G, and talked to him about O'Brien, enough to see that he appreciates the man. If you show Miss G the papers as a specimen of bad Irish writing, and an indication of Parnell's last ally &c, without making too much of it, it would do good, and no harm. But I am now anxious not to have it emphasized, or put in the light of a communication to Gladstone..."); in his letters to Reay, he discusses politics in general, touching on subjects such as the Tory-Parnellite alliance, elections, and Gladstone's divisive Irish policy, over 40 pages, 8vo, Dublin Castle, Phoenix Park, House of Commons, Wallington and elsewhere, 1883-1890

(iv) Three autograph letters by Frederick Sleigh Roberts, to Lord Reay, written when Roberts was Commander-in-Chief of India and Reay Governor of Bombay, discussing a paper on the defence of India and announcing that a medical mission has been sent to Upper Burma ("...More regiments are asked for, and I am afraid we may have to make a further call on Bombay..."), 7 pages, 8vo, Camp Delhi, Simla and HQ, January to October 1886

(v) Six long autograph letters by the diarist and civil servant E.W. ('Eddy') Hamilton, to Lord Reay when Governor of Bombay, all marked "Private", the first when serving as Gladstone's Principal Private Secretary, soon after Gordon's death in the Sudan ("...The most absorbing subject for the moment is the one which most immediately affects you in India – the central Asian question... I am told on very good authority that the language held at the Russian Embassy here is this: 'We have no intention to attack Afghanistan and still less intention to invade India... The Gordon fever is subsiding; and the hot Soudan fit is being rapidly converted into a cold shudder... From the first I always thought it was a gross blunder for the Government to commit themselves to such an undertaking as that of 'overthrowing the power of the Mahdi' at Khartoum or anywhere else...Barber has not been taken; nor anywhere near taken – The contemplated autumn campaign has assumed, consequently, enormous dimensions and would entail far greater difficulties and efforts than were ever dreamed of... The Mahdi has shewn no sign of advancing. On the contrary he is said to be making his way southwards and to be in difficulties with his followers. Under the circumstances our force could be retired down the Nile from Korti without the risk of an avalanche of Soudanese at its heels..."); the remaining letters written after his transfer to the Treasury, but commenting with equal frankness on issues of the day such as Gladstone's future ("...terribly embarrassed, and is still embarrassed, as to what to do..."), Ireland ("...I doubt if public opinion in this country will as yet admit of a whole measure which must mean little short of a local legislature such as our Colonies have..."), "the unfortunate Dilke business", Parnell ("...gone in for 'legislative independence', whatever that may mean..."), Joe Chamberlain ("...I told him when he joined the Cabinet he was joining under false pretences..."), Rosebery ("...delightful to see him fairly buried among his red boxes; and he is so taken by the work that I think he would like to remain permanent Foreign Secretary..."), Harcourt ("...in order to make up for the delinquent past is bent on trying to 'out-Treasury' the Treasury. He has slashed into the Army & Navy Estimates with a vengeance..."), Randolph Churchill ("...I should never be surprised if the latter, seeing his opportunity on the other side, were not to come over..."), etc., over 40 pages, 4to, 10 Downing Street, Treasury and elsewhere, 1885-1888


  • A VIVID RECORD OF POLITICAL LIFE DURING THE TURBULENT YEARS OF THE EIGHTEEN-EIGHTIES, during which the recipient of these letters served as Governor of Bombay. Lord Reay (1831-1929) was appointed by Gladstone to the post in 1885, remaining until 1890: 'Reay was a vigorous, self-reliant, and enlightened governor who took a warm interest in the various sectors of the Indian community and exerted himself in promoting education, especially technical training. He also paid much attention to the development of internal communications, especially of the railway system' (P.W.H. Brown, ODNB). The high quality and interest of these letters no doubt reflect not just a sympathetic nature on the part of Reay and his wife, but considerable intellectual attainment: for Reay was the first President of the British Academy, a post his friend Rosebery had declined, as well President of the Council of University College, London, President of the Royal Asiatic Society, and a key figure in the foundation of the School of African and Oriental Studies. He also served as President of the Institut de Droit International, and a British delegate at the second peace conference at the Hague.
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