Visit to the Cazalets; Quintin Hogg

3/11/43   I’m having an awfully pleasant and really Shipbourne time. On Friday I met Peter and Anthony (Mildmay) and Leonora in London and we dined at the Bagatelle. That’s that place at the back of Devonshire House where we used occasionally to go when we were getting engaged. We were all fearfully pleased to see each other and Peter and Anthony are very rich now and make a great point of spending money when on leave. We had cocktails at 8/- each and champagne at £5.10.0 a bottle. It is rather extraordinary isn’t it. It must work out at about 2/6 a sip.

Peter Cazalet
Peter and Jack had been friends since school, as had Frankie and Leonora who was married to Peter

I got very quickly into roaring form and I said to Peter “This is the first time I’ve been in good form for two years” and he said “I don’t believe it. I think you’ve been practising every day.” And we all thought all our jokes were wonderful and so on. And it was awfully lucky it went that way because apparently Peter and Anthony have to put up with a shade of sourness from wives whose husbands have been away a long time. For instance with Peter in the chair at a meeting at Shipbourne Mrs Joynson gets up and says “Wouldn’t it be better as nearly all the people it concerns are overseas to leave the matter until they come home” about some piffling thing that no one cares about any way. And Peter had said “The test of Frankie is whether she’s sour or not.” And of course by nature I am awfully sour but I don’t really keep it up and I do get nice and drunk. So it all worked out very well and was a very typical evening with only one thing missing and that of course was quite an important thing. I’ll go on on another.

Fairlawne 7/11/43

Last night we went up to Thelma’s (Peter’s sister, Thelma Cazalet-Keir) which was another frightfully typical evening only we missed you more than we always do because we needed you so badly. Quentin Hogg was there and you must know that he considers himself, and I think perhaps in fairness one ought to say is also considered by a lot of people, the young leading light of the Conservative Party. There is a group who call themselves the Tory Reform Committee and has forty members. When I tell you that Hinch is the chairman you will get how low is the tide and also how Hinch is proceeding according to plan. Thelma is a member and Quentin Hogg is the young hopeful and they have produced a manifesto and appear to be taken quite seriously. Quentin Hogg held the floor and had against him Leonora, Thelma and Dorothy Dickson. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Dickson) In the room were also David Keir, Peter and I but for a variety of reasons we three stayed out of the argument. Now before I go any further I must make it clear that I do know Q.H. is supposed to be brilliant and I believe supposed to be by people like you. Nevertheless I think he’s one of the stupidest people I’ve ever met in my life. I don’t deny his brain (though he didn’t show much of it) but one has to have more than a brilliant brain to avoid being stupid.

Quintin Hogg
Quintin Hogg as Lord Chancellor

He did everything wrong. One, he constituted himself the referee of the argument and gave himself all the points whether he had made them or not. Two, he was rude to Leonora and treated her like you used to tread Irene Ward which was not only an error in taste but a fundamental misjudgement. Three, he underrated everyone in the room so badly that he didn’t even try to make sense. Four, he used that political trick of scoring points by bringing in bits of knowledge which no one else had and therefore couldn’t say were true or untrue. I mean he used the fact that he is up in the arguments to score debating points and not in order to make himself clear. Five, he talked very much too fast and too much and switched the subject slightly every time anyone looked like making a point. Six, he used that despicable trick of making people define what they meant about things which he really understood. Like “What do you mean by Christian principles?” Seven, he announced at the end that everyone in the room had a confused brain and didn’t know how to argue. Three of us hadn’t opened our mouths. Everyone knew the only person who could really have dealt with him was you and in my opinion you would have done it very nicely.

In your absence Peter put him in his place once very beautifully with great dignity and made me realise an Etonian education is a great thing and David was frightfully cute about three times. Dorothy Dickson was there and has lately been entertaining the 8th Army and has gone off her nut as a result. No one ever told her about what men get like when they haven’t seen any woman for years and so she took it all quite seriously and then she sat next to Eisenhower and so of course she knows all about the war. She was too pretentious for words and really rather pathetic but what is wonderful is knowing that Leonora and Peter won’t miss a trick either. One the way home I just said “you baffle me Thelma” which was a quote and we all yelled and that began it and we haven’t really stopped yet. And it is fun after four years of land girls etc. Only darling it is stupid that you aren’t here. Do make sure that you are next time.

Fairlawne No 2   7/11/43    I’ve nearly finished all the exciting bits but Peter will tell you some more. O by the way I forgot Peter’s joke which was awfully good. Quentin Hogg was telling about his experiences in Libya and someone asked about prisoners or something and Q.H. said “Well I got one man with a hole in his bottom”, and Peter said sotto voce as it were “There’s nothing unusual about that.” Perhaps I haven’t made it sound as good as it was but it was good and we all thought it was wonderful.

Later.

All Thelma’s party came to lunch and Quentin Hogg was very chastened and polite and had a political conversation with me on very controlled lines at lunch and sucked up quite a lot to Leonora. So we think he had got onto himself a bit.

I’ve just been talking to Peter about the farm. He started off about how you wouldn’t want to farm and you’d be wasted and so I told him all the reasons why people thought it would be economically wise to sell now and Leonora thought that would be lovely and we’d be just in time to come and live here when Peter goes to do the second front. But then I explained my new theory of the farm giving independence to decide what you want to do after the war and the same amount of money not giving it and so on and Peter was rather won round to that and any way saw the point.

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A Woman's War