Lady Charlotte Guest - Extracts from her journal 1833-1852
Edited by the Earl of Bessborough; London, John Murray, 1950.
This book contains a fascinating insight into the life of a quiet remarkable woman - with particular reference to that period of her life as the wife of Sir John Guest of the Dowlais Iron Works.
Here are substantial extracts from her Diaries (Gareth Hicks Dec 2004)
"Lady Charlotte Guest is perhaps better known to the world as Lady Charlotte Schreiber who for fifteen years ransacked Europe to form her famous collection of china. The English portion, consisting of 2,000 pieces, she presented in 1884 to the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert), where it is known as the Schreiber Collection .... Her journals relating to this period of her life were published after her death in two large, profusely illustrated volumes by her third son, Montague Guest.
The present volume covers only the period of her first marriage - to John Guest, the great ironmaster - which lasted for twenty years, until his death in 1852. During this period she combined to a remarkable degree domestic, literary, business, social and political activities....................."
Apart from the opening paragraphs included for family background, the only parts of this section extracted relate to Dowlais etc
" Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Bertie was born in 1812. Her parents were Albemarle, 9th Earl of Lindsey, who had been a General and Member of Parliament for Stamford, and his second wife Charlotte, daughter of the Very Reverend C. P. Layard, Dean of Bristol. They were married in 1809. Although Lady Charlotte's birth took place in the heyday of the Prince Regent and of Byron, the stage upon which she was to play her first important part was that of the Prince Consort and of Tennyson. Her father was sixty-eight when Lady Charlotte was born and she had two brothers, both younger than herself. The elder, who succeeded his father as Earl of Lindsey and died unmarried, was of weak intellect. The younger, Montague Peregrine, curiously resembled both his brother and his sister. Like his sister he was a voracious reader, and having an excellent memory was full of information, but he was also in some respects as childish as his brother and was quite unable to make the slightest use of the information with which his head was filled. Nine years after his marriage to Miss Layard, Lord Lindsey died at the age of seventy-four. Three years later, in 1821, his widow married her first cousin, the Reverend Peter William Pegus, whose mother was a sister of the Dean of Bristol. At this time Lady Charlotte was nine years old. She soon developed a strong dislike for her stepfather, who was a man of violent temper.
The Lindsey family lived at Uffington near Stamford in the County of Lincoln. The facts already briefly given indicate that the family circle in which Lady Charlotte grew up was neither normal nor peaceful. At the age of ten she began to keep a diary, a practice which she continued faithfully till the age of seventy-nine, by which time she was almost completely blind. It is from extracts from this journal, during the twenty years of her first marriage, that the pages which follow are made up.
....................... But what of John Guest, whose marriage to Lady Charlotte took place within three months of their first meeting ? Lady Charlotte had complained of her mother's unfortunate second marriage to the Dean of Bristol's nephew. She was to find how much prejudice she herself had to overcome in marrying a " man in trade ". Who then was this John Guest, as whose wife she was in due course to become the partner of " the largest manufacturer in the world " ?
In the year 1722 there was born at Brosely, Shropshire, a John Guest of a family of yeoman farmers who had for centuries lived in that village. He was in fact seventh in direct descent from a John Guest of the sixteenth century. Though a yeoman farmer, like his ancestors before him, this John Guest was also interested in coal-mining and iron-smelting. Coal-mining had been carried on in Shropshire from time immemorial, and iron was known to have been worked in the district for many centuries. In 1763 John Guest joined a man named Isaac Wilkinson in taking a lease from the Earl of Plymouth of certain property on the river Taff in Glamorganshire. This venture was dropped and Guest became the Manager of the near-by Merthy Furnace, in which his friend was a partner. This Merthy Furnace was the nucleus of what later became the famous Dowlais Iron Works, which were held under a ninety-nine years' lease at a rent of £31 per annum free of royalties. The lease expired in 1848, and its renewal, at a figure in the neighbourhood of £25,000 a year, was eventually agreed upon in that same year ; but the actual lease was brought to Lady Charlotte's husband for signature only just before his death in 1852.
On John Guest's death in 1787 his share in Dowlais went to his son Thomas, who was in turn succeeded by Josiah John, who was born in 1785 and was therefore forty-eight at the time of his marriage to Lady Charlotte. Very little is known of his previous career. He was as a boy sent to live with an uncle at Brosely and went to Bridgnorth Grammar School. He soon, however, returned to Dowlais to join his father in the family business. At the close of the Napoleonic Wars he was the largest shareholder and manager of the works. In 1817 he married an Irish girl called Maria Ranken, who died ten months after her marriage. Nothing is known of her except that she was instrumental in persuading her husband to restrict Sunday working to a minimum.
The main business problem that John Guest now had to contend with was the safeguarding of the Dowlais property, which was held on such an extremely advantageous lease. On the death of Lady Windsor, the then owner, in 1776, the ownership of the Dowlais lease had passed to her daughter, wife of the first Marquess of Bute. In 1824 the second Marquess instituted proceedings for infraction of the lease. He undoubtedly hoped, seeing the prosperous condition of the ironworks which only paid him £31 a year, to find some loophole whereby he could evict his tenants and develop the valuable property himself. Eventually the case was settled out of court. Much is, however, to be heard of the matter of the lease in Lady Charlotte's journal from 1840 onwards.
In 1820 John Guest's partner, Wyndham Lewis, became Member of Parliament for Cardiff', and in 1826 John Guest followed his partner's political example, and was elected as a Whig for the pocket borough of Honiton in Devonshire. He held this seat until the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832, when he was returned unopposed for his native town of Merthyr, which, no doubt as a result of his efforts, had become enfranchised. He continued to represent it until his death twenty years later.
In 1833, as has been recorded, occurred the event which completely altered his life. When he married Lady Charlotte in July, three months after their first meeting, the strange but most successful partnership began between the ironmaster of forty-eight and the girl of twenty-one who belonged to so very different a world. Such a marriage, having regard to the social conventions of that time, was undoubtedly an extraordinary step to take for a girl who described herself as of the best blood in England. That he was a great deal older than herself was a small matter compared to the fact that he was a dissenter and "in trade" in Wales. It was several years before surprised and even horrified London Society opened its doors to them and accepted their hospitality. The extent to which Lady Charlotte eventually overcame prejudice is proved by the descriptions she gives in her journal of the many brilliant dinners, concerts and balls which she gave at their house in Spring Gardens, which had been purchased from the Duke of Bedford in 1840.
Within the short space of thirteen years she gave birth to ten children. It was partly no doubt on their account that she encouraged her husband in 1846 to buy Canford Manor in Dorset, to employ the famous architect Sir Charles Barry to adapt it, inside and out, to her desires, and to furnish it sumptuously as a suitable frame for the family in the position that it had attained.............
................... Her feat, in the midst of a very full and active life, in translating the Mabinogion - which involved not only a complete mastery of the Welsh language, but of the early mediaeval text in which these Welsh tales were written, as well as an immense amount of research - is an example of pertinacity and power of concentration, as well as intelligence, which alone could have made possible an achievement that must be regarded as very remarkable for an English woman to have performed. This great task took her eight years to accomplish. It was not her only literary effort, for she wrote a book on the history of the iron trade, as well as pamphlets on technical iron processes. The complete translation of the Mabinogion was finally published in three sumptuous volumes in 1846. ..........
The Mabinogion, soon after its publication, was translated into French and German. Years later Mr. Rhys Phillips, the Librarian at Swansea, wrote : " With a dominant will and exemplary fidelity Lady Charlotte pursued her self-imposed task for a period of eight years - working at it while touring the Continent in 1838 ; amid the distractions of her work as one of the heads of the Dowlais Works ; even during periods of child-bed in 1838 and 1839. Is there anything like it on record ? Translation apart, the voluminous notes appended to each story bespeak a range of knowledge and a breadth of scholarship, English, Welsh, and Continental, which mark her out as one of the most remarkable women of that Victorian age." The writer of this exordium regarded her work as epoch-making, and as inaugurating a new era of Romance study both here, on the Continent and in the United States of America.
The Guests, after spending their honeymoon on a tour in Sussex, settled at Dowlais. Lady Charlotte soon became enamoured of the place, and rapidly developed an intense and intelligent interest in the conduct of the ironworks and the life in South Wales. There were then three other important iron-works at Merthyr : Cyfarthfa, with which the Crawshay family were associated ; Plymouth, controlled by Anthony Hill ; while the Homfray family were owners of the Hirwain ironworks, and were also at Pen-y-daren until some date after 1820, when it was taken over by Alderman Thompson, M.P. for the City of London.
It is recorded by a friend that it was from the time of John Guest's arrival at Dowlais with his young wife that he dated the beginning of his best and happiest projects. The same admirer goes on : " We should rather say their projects, for in all that he was deficient she excelled, and while we credit him with founding the greatest ironworks in the world, and giving sustenance and substantial comfort to twenty thousand souls, it is chiefly to her influence we must look for all that was done in the way of moral and mental elevation ; and if, after the lapse of many years and the expenditure of vast sums of money, the results were not in harmony with her hopes and the means employed, we must deem the ruggedness of the material operated upon as the cause." Before her husband died in 1852 Lady Charlotte had founded six schools, of which three were at Merthyr, for which she raised the necessary funds by her own gifts and by private subscription.
Though the Guests spent many months of the year at Dowlais, these long periods of residence were frequently interrupted by visits to London during the Parliamentary session, and for business and other purposes both there and elsewhere. In spite of the long and exhausting days of travelling involved, Lady Charlotte frequently accompanied her husband on these business journeys to London, Birmingham or Liverpool, but she also often remained alone at Dowlais and was obliged to deal with any situation that arose at the works during her husband's absence.
................... The year 1851 provided Lady Charlotte with another absorbing interest - the Great Exhibition. This unique gathering in honour of British trade and commerce was bound to be of particular interest to one who had made a marriage unexampled in her day, a marriage which was also a partnership in business on a big scale.
The distance which Dowlais rails had travelled by this time was instanced by the opening that summer, by the Emperor of Russia, of the line between St. Petersburgh and Moscow. Important orders were also coming from Spain. Rails were also going in large quantities from Dowlais to France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Poland, and even to the far off United States of America. Visitors to Dowlais from the Continent were frequent. From Russia, for example, came the Grand Duke Constantine and from India the King of Oudh.
In 1851 Lady Charlotte's tenth and youngest child was already four years old. Doctors' visits became a more and more frequent feature in the day-to-day record of life contained in the journal. Childish maladies and birthday celebrations followed fast upon one another. But Sir John's state of health had become Lady Charlotte's main preoccupation. For several years already he had been suffering from stone in the bladder, and "operations" by Sir Benjamin Brodie, the well-known surgeon, were becoming more and more frequent. In 1852, when the General Election took place, the Guests were at Canford ; Sir John was assured that he would be elected without his having to appear on the hustings at Merthyr, and he was duly returned unopposed in his absence.
Negotiations for the renewal of the lease of Dowlais from Lord Bute, which had started eleven years previously, were for many years a cause of great anxiety. Although agreement for the renewal of the lease was arrived at in 1848, the new lease itself was not brought to Dowlais for Sir John to sign till November 1852, when he was on his deathbed and unable to hold a pen. The Rector of Dowlais, Canon Jenkins, said later that the renewal of the Dowlais lease was an act that greatly astounded most of Sir John's friends, having regard to his state of health and time of life. He might have retired, in the enjoyment of a large income, from his immense responsibilities. He was influenced, said Canon Jenkins, by his feelings for the thousands of workers who looked to him as the only man likely and able to carry on the largest ironworks in the world.
Sir John's death did not at once bring to an end his widow's connection with Dowlais, for she was an executrix and trustee and for a time in charge of the works. In the summer of 1853 a strike developed in South Wales, in which Dowlais was involved. In the many conferences amongst the masters, and negotiations with the men, Lady Charlotte, a lonely woman among so many men, played her part with calmness, courage and resolution. Two years later the chapter of her life as Lady Charlotte Guest came to a close, for in 1855 she married Charles Schreiber. She subsequently made the name famous by her wonderful collection of china, the English portion of which is enshrined in the Victoria and Albert Museum. She was the first private collector on a large scale. But that is another story which has already been told, and the extracts from her journal, which make up this volume, close, as they begin, with the Guest partnership. "
Contents and Illustrations
- I INTRODUCTORY
- II THE BEGINNING OF THE PARTNERSHIP, 1833 - 1836
- III THE NEW REIGN, 1837
- IV TWO CORONATIONS, 1838
- V CHARTIST RIOTS, 1839
- VI FAMILY DIFFERENCES, 1840, 1841
- VII A GERMAN TOUR, 1842
- VIII LORD BUTE AND THE DOWLAIS LEASE, 1843 - 1844
- IX PURCHASE OF CANFORD, 1845-1846
- X AN ELECTION, 1847
- XI THE CHARTISTS AGAIN, 1848
- XII THE CHOLERA, 1849
- XIII THE PUSEYITES, 1850
- XIV NO POPERY, JANUARY- MARCH 1851
- XV THE GREAT EXHIBITION, APRIL - DECEMBER 1851
- XVI THE END OP THE PARTNERSHIP, 1852
- APPENDIX : NOTE ON SIR HENRY LAYARD
- LADY CHARLOTTE GUEST (From an engraving by William Walker of the painting by Richard Buckner)
- SIR JOHN GUEST (From an engraving by William Walker of the painting by Richard Buckner)
- THE FIVE ELDEST CHILDREN OF SIR JOHN AND LADY CHARLOTTE GUEST (From a water-colour by A. E. Chalon, R.A., 1839)
- UFFINGTON HOUSE, STAMFORD
- LADY CHARLOTTE GUEST (From a drawing by Hensel)
- CANFORD MANOR, DORSET : A CRICKET MATCH IN THE 'FIFTIES (From an oil painting)
- SIR JOHN GUEST (From an engraving by R. J. Lane of the painting by Jacob Thompson)
These items below are not all the references to Dowlais or Wales in her journals, but I have endeavoured to extract a representative selection. Apart from the Dowlais Works themselves, the subjects covered include Merthyr elections, the Chartists, Cholera, and popery.
Note that Lady Charlotte called her husband 'Merthyr'
1833 - 1836
August 15 [Dowlais]. . . . [ their first visit to Dowlais after returning from honymoon]
Merthyr had intelligence that our arrival at Dowlais the following day was to occasion much discomposure and confusion ; that a triumphal procession and an illumination were planned. This overthrew entirely his fortitude, and it might well, considering that no less than from 15 to 20 thousand people would probably have collected on the occasion, and that on a similar event, after one of his elections, a little boy was killed in the press. He long pondered whether he should not avoid all this greeting, but a volley cannon, fired in grand style as we reached Cardiff again, put the finishing stroke. Dinner was immediately ordered, and at 5 the carriage was again at the door to take us to Dowlais that evening, in order that the complimentary machinations for the following day might be eluded without being rejected. The country did smile as we started on our route and I could not have entered my new abode under more favourable circumstances ...... From the very moment I entered it I felt quite settled and at home, which hitherto our roving life had prevented me from doing....
.............. we walked out as far as the limits of the garden, round the house, and stood without the gate - " the furnace gate " - upon the steps leading to the works. These it was our business to-day to explore. Merthyr took me through the furnaces and the forges after coffee, and after dinner I saw them cast the iron. In the broad glare of the fires, from a little distance, the workmen formed groups which might yield fine studies for the painter, especially in respect to the lights and shades cast upon their figures.
August 18. . . . The poorer classes are so civil in this country that one has nothing to do but to return bows all the time one is out. Yesterday, the people employed at the Works had beer given them (about 4000) and gave us some discharges of cannon in return.
[During the next two months Lady Charlotte continued to explore, not only the Works, but the countryside, with which and its people she quickly fell in love. She started taking lessons in Welsh from the rector, Mr. Jenkins. ]
J une 18...... Wales is very disturbed now : there are frequent attacks of " Scotch Cattle ", or, in other words, of masked miscreants, and Mr. Homfray [the owner of Hirwain Ironworks] has had a letter threatening his life. There is, I know, no danger, nor should I fear to be on the spot, but for all that I cannot answer for it that I should not be alarmed and entertain strange, wild phantasies, if dear Merthyr were obliged to go down there again without me..........
June 19. . . . There came a letter this morning, threatening to " Scotch Cattle " Dowlais House on or about July 2nd, unless all the Irish were discharged from the Works. ...............
October 6......... We went to the Confirmation at Merthyr. The Bishop's address I thought objectionable. He said but few words, yet they seemed to turn chiefly on reproof of the Dissenters, who, to our shame, have done more for religion in Wales, than our Church has ever attempted. There was a large congregation, and a very noisy one. None of the ceremony could be heard in our pew.
October 12. . . . Mr. Brunel, of the Thames Tunnel, accompanied by Mr. Frere, came here in the evening. They are to make a survey of a railroad from Merthyr to Cardiff........
October 19 [Dowlais]. . . . Mr. Anthony Hill [Plymouth] is a gentleman. Mr. Bailey [Cyfarthfa] has a low born purse proud cunning. Mr. Thompson [Pen-y-daren] is the Alderman in every sense, and has not the uprightness which I should have been inclined to give most City merchants credit for. The Harfords [Sirhowey and Ebbw Vale] are Quakers of rather an American stamp. Mr. Crawshay [Cyfarthfa] is beyond all rule and description and quite one of those meteoric beings whom it is quite impossible to account for.
January 10. . . . We proceeded to the bottom of the Forges where, under the Railshed, they have got a small steam engine for sawing off the hot ends of the Rails, which is now done tediously by hand .. .
J anuary 11. . . . To-day the saw acted beautifully and the effect is certainly surprising. It cuts through a heavy rail in from 3 to 9 seconds, and all the time the saw, which goes at about 1000 revolutions a minute, throws off sparks as brilliant as the most magnificent fireworks. The whizzing noise for the moment is rather frightful and I should fear it will be liable to accidents.
January 19. ... After luncheon I went to the top of the yard and to the furnaces with Merthyr. It was intensely cold but we stood there some time seeing a boiler proved at the new unfinished blast engine. Some Germans who came to see the Works were rather unceremoniously dismissed .. .
April 1 [Dowlais]. The month began with an evil omen for me. For Merthyr went down to a Meeting of Poor Law Guardians and allowed himself to be persuaded to become Chairman, which office Mr. Burn resigned. That this would be the end of it I decided so long ago as November 4th. It was averted for a short time only to become now a heavier blow to me. In the face of high prices and falling wages, and with the strong feeling of the lower orders against the measure I would on no account have liked his taking such a disagreeable situation. But in his case it will also be made a political question of, and will be turned greatly to his disadvantage. It quite overset me when I found that my worst fears were realized, but now I have only to make the best of what is however a very great weight upon my mind .. .
June 20 [London] Merthyr came into my room while I was dressing and announced that the King had expired at 2 that morning Everybody seemed in great excitement at the news. There was an idea that the young Queen would be proclaimed immediately and great crowds assembled to witness the ceremony, which however did not take place. Merthyr went down to the House to take the oath . . . The Queen received the Privy Council with great firmness this morning and read her speech extremely well...............
July 12. We had several letters from home to-day containing an account of a meeting held on Monday by the workmen upon Aberdare Hill ; from 500 to a 1,000 were present. They had failed to get up a meeting a few days before on the 5th, and [arrived at] their determination not to be represented by Merthyr, who is in favour of them. So has the tide of Popular Feeling turned ! I have hated the effect of these poor laws from the beginning, particularly in Merthyr. Their principle is a sound one, but some of the details are too bad for any but slaves. Amongst other things the Meeting, which was composed only of the lowest order of workmen, passed a resolution not to deal with anyone who should vote for Merthyr, but this will have but little effect as they were not persons whose custom was worth having. Had they been the respectable class of workmen it would have been otherwise. Some of the rabble went up to Mr. Meyrick's [a Merthyr solicitor] to ask him to stand for the Borough, and he made them a speech, than which they afterwards said a glass of beer would have been far better, and promised to come forward if they could detach Mr. Crawshay from supporting Merthyr. They then waited on Mr. W. Crawshay on the subject, but met with a very cool reception. The whole thing was a farce. But Merthyr will now explain to the lower classes that he is also opposed to some of the clauses which they consider most obnoxious in the poor laws .. .
July 17. . . . I found that a very large Meeting was being held in the Market, and, being exceedingly anxious to now what was going on, I got Mr. Rhys Davis to walk with me to the scene of action. There as a great crowd, but they were exceedingly civil in making way for me, and I got close to the temporary platform upon which at that moment Merthyr was speaking. He did not see me until after he had concluded, which was a few minutes after I arrived. Far from the incivility they talked of at Dowlais the crowd was quite obliging to me ; when first I came up there was a buzz of one asking another to make room for me, and when I put my finger to my lips and said "goshey goshey ", they smiled at my Welsh and were as quiet as possible. ...............
July 18. . . . After luncheon we went on to Bridgend which is Lord Bute's and Lord Dunraven's stronghold - quite a pressure of votes. I canvassed here with our party as the town was not large, yet I was fatigued before it was over. We had, considering all things, a great many promises, and there was a good deal of enthusiasm in our favour. The common people wanted to draw us through the town, but Merthyr would not permit it. They testified their kind wishes by firing guns all the time we remained .. .
July 22. . . . On the Wednesday Lord Adare, accompanied by Bruce and Meyrick, had attempted to canvass Dowlais. A large body, they say 700, of our workmen collected around them and came up with them the whole way crying out " Guest for ever ". They made use of no incivility, but the Little Lord was so frightened that he did not canvass a single vote, and got the Constables to escort him safely back again. All our people are most warmly for us. Mr. Bruce has a set to whom he gives beer every night, seasoned by a harangue from the Inn window against the Poor Laws. It is very wicked to influence these poor people's minds for political purposes but it is astonishing how little effect their arguments have had since Merthyr's address of the 16th has been published. The Tories are promising spirit licenses for votes, and circulating reports that Mr. Crawshay is treacherous, which is quite beneath notice.
July 25. . . . At 8 o'clock I walked up to Dowlais polling booth alone. It was erected in the field behind the new houses. All the voters I found had walked together to the poll in procession, with John Evans at their head. Only 5 or 6 had polled when I came up. Mr. Coke of Neith was the clerk against us, Mr. Morgan of Cardiff the Assessor, and certainly a very impartial one. I suppose they expected as usual to see me where anything was going on, for I found a chair prepared for me of which I took possession ; and there I remained speaking to the voters and thanking them as they left the booth, until one Mr. William Williams came up and told me there was bad news at Merthyr. I went with him into the field, and while he was recounting to me what he had heard my husband came up and told me what had really happened. The opposite party had brought some weather-cocks into the field in derision of Mr. Crawshay ; our people took umbrage at it and a fight ensued, in which the said weathercocks were destroyed and sundry flags damaged. The old proverb says, that the love of money increases with the acquisition of it, so I suppose the love of fighting acquires force from practice. In this case at any rate it proved so, for the mob soon transferred their wrath from the flags to each other, and began a regular battle with stones. Merthyr happened to be in the Bush at the moment, but as soon as he was aware of what was going on he called for his horse and, notwithstanding all the remonstrances that his friends made, he dashed into the middle of the crowd and called upon them to be peaceable. The stones were flying thick in every direction when he entered the field, but they ceased as soon as he appeared, and not another stone was thrown from that moment. He harangued them on both sides both in Welsh and English, made the most fierce of the combatants shake hands, and, I believe, obtained a cheer from all for peace and good-fellowship. But although Merthyr had so speedily, by his mere presence alone and unsupported, checked the fury of the assembled thousands, the returning officers declared the affair was a riot and adjourned the poll accordingly till the following day. This was entirely a Tory trick to keep Merthyr engaged longer in the Borough and divert his attention from the County .. .
July 26. . . . Before 12, Mr. Bruce had polled his last vote and reluctantly consented to own himself beat. We had a majority of 132 out of above 300 that came to the Poll. As soon as this was announced I walked across the field with young Crawshay and got up in time to hear the speeches ; Merthyr spoke remarkably well and very temperately. Mr. Bruce boiled, and would have boiled over but for the constant entreaties of Mr. A. Hill, who stood in an attitude of supplication to him all the time, particularly when he was beginning to touch upon the Poor Laws. Mr. Crawshay's speech was particularly effective ; it was to the intent that he hoped all our friends would partake of some beer . . . A great surprise awaited me. At the entrance of Cardiff we were met by a great crowd of people carrying colours as usual, and as usual shouting splendidly. Again we had the pleasure of being drawn into the town by men instead of horses, which is very complimentary but not perfectly agreeable. I thought so particularly on this occasion for we were both very tired. Merthyr was so much so that he could hardly make a speech and thank them when he got to the Angel ; what he did say however was not likely to please the Tories for he told the Electors he hoped the day would come when Cardiff should choose her own representative. I was surprised indeed at such a demonstration of feeling in Lord Bute's own Borough where he dictates everything, but this County Election creates such great excitement .. .
August 4. The tug of war has commenced. Merthyr and Mr. Layard went down to the scene of action as soon as our early breakfast was concluded. We shall know all about it to-morrow, but I can already very confidently predict that Merthyr will be beaten and Lord Adare and Talbot get in. I am now going down to the village ... Everything was going on sadly at this Polling place. The Tory landlords brought their Tenants up themselves like flocks of sheep, and made them break their pledge-words. They absolutely dragged them to the Poll, threatening to turn them out of their farms unless they voted plumpers for Lord Adare. One man shed tears on being forced to this. Although they had just been voting against us by compulsion the poor farmers received me enthusiastically, and wanted to drag my carriage up the Hill, but this I would not allow...
August 5. Merthyr, Mr. Layard and I drove down to Merthyr, where we found we were in a minority of 400 on the total numbers polled. Mr. Talbot had 200 more than ourselves, but Lord Adare was at the head of the Poll. This is a sad hearing for the Whigs, but it will teach them to exert themselves. Mr. Talbot has been very inactive. I cannot help now returning to my original idea that he was not anxious Merthyr should get in...
August 9. I walked to the Works with Merthyr. He took me to the top of the Yard and to look at the new Blast Engine which is still not finished. Having no door, I was obliged to enter it by a ladder put against a window, and as the flooring was still wanting, my only way of going over it was by climbing along the rafters and machinery, and in one instance walking along the arm of a fly-wheel. Blind as I am, I thought the experiment rather perilous, but Merthyr wished it, and I suppose my neck is at his disposal. Fortunately I got down the ladder again in safety .. .
[The County election now over, normal life at Dowlais was resumed. The laying of the first stone of the Taff Vale Railway was the next important local event.]
August 16. . . . Luckily the weather was beautiful though if anything rather too warm. We proceeded to the scene of action in the carriage, accompanied by Mr. Waring who had been waiting for us. We had to walk over the Pont y Pryd, and through the Newbridge Market, which was a very animated scene. There was a large party assembled to witness the ceremony, and some thousands of the common people were upon the Cliffs, which reechoed finely to the discharge of some cannons. We had rather an awkward descent to the spot where the stone was to be laid. Everything was however very well managed. Merthyr opened the proceedings congratulating the Company on the commencement of the work etc., and giving cheers for the Queen ; then I went through the form of laying mortar with a pretty little trowel, but when the stone was lowered to its place, and the Engineer brought an equally interesting Liliputian hammer from his pocket for me to strike with, the idea appeared to me so absurd that I rebelled outright and insisted upon using the wooden mallet, to the no small amusement of the workmen. I then said a few words of the pleasure I had in performing the ceremony, and of the prosperity I wished to the undertaking ..
[Meantime John Guest had been returned unopposed for Merthyr Tydvil]
August 30. Some Austrians came here with a letter from Spring Rice by command of the Duchess of Kent, to try to see the Works. I am happy to say that Merthyr had the firmness to refuse them. It is terrible how the Austrians come over here to carry away our processes when they can get at them .. .
September 6. Thomas Evans had been to London about a foreign Railway Contract and he returned to-day. It appears that people's minds are in such a state of excitement about the rise in price of iron that a random speech of his occasioned a further advance of 10/-. The price is now from £8.10.- to £9.
September 7. . . . Some Germans were here about the Leipzig Railroad, the contract which took Evans to town. They came to no terms at that time, but subsequently took 2,000 tons at £10. 7.6. in Cardiff, 3/5ths common Iron . . .
[Next day the Guests set out for Liverpool to attend a meeting of the British Association of Science.]
September 10 [Liverpool]. ....... It was nearly five when we reached Liverpool .. I feel interested peculiarly in this Grand Junction Road, as we made several thousand tons of Rails for it. They struck me not to have been laid down however quite so evenly as they might have been. The whole work is however splendidly executed, and had the recommendation of being completed very speedily, in about three years, and below the expense at which it was estimated. The last mile into Liverpool is through a Tunnel, and on such an inclination that the trains glide down it by their own weight without the assistance of an Engine .. .
September 12. I was very anxious to hear a lecture of Mr. Fairbairn's upon the difference of strength between Hot and Cold Blast Iron upon which he was appointed last year to make experiments, and accordingly I went up early with Merthyr to the Mechanical Section. The lecture was interesting ; Scottish and Yorkshire Iron seemed the chief that had been examined ; no notice was taken of South Wales. In Scotland the Hot Blast Iron seemed generally to be the strongest, and the result was just the reverse in England.....
[On New Year's day Lady Charlotte began her historic but laborious task of translating the Mabinogion, the famous Welsh story of King arthur]
March 3. Mr. and Mrs. Divett, Mr. Talbot and George Clark joined me in an expedition to Millwall to see a Manufactory which Mr. Fairbairn has there for making Iron Steam Boats. They were constructed much in the same way as boilers except that the plates do not overlap, but, having their edges placed evenly together, they are connected by a flat piece of iron placed on the inside and to which they are strongly rivetted. The holes for the rivets are all countersunk so that their heads do not project at all, and the exterior surface of the vessel is perfectly smooth . . . We saw two boats in progress, both requiring about 40 to 50 Tons of Iron. They are very long in proportion to their width, particularly the most forward of them, which was under cover and having the decks fitted, and which is destined for the Humber. The other is a private yacht for the Emperor of Russia . . . From the Manufactory we proceeded to see the Great Steamer destined for America, " The Great Western " ; a small boat conveyed us alongside an old hulk, which we climbed by a strange perpendicular ladder. By a single plank we passed from this hulk to the Great Western, which is indeed a magnificent vessel. It is 1400 Tons burden and has two splendid engines of 200 horse power each. Maudsley is the Manufacturer. They were not completed. Neither was the saloon, which is being magnificently covered, painted and gilded. I was altogether very much pleased with my expedition. The day was very fine and there was a beautiful view of Greenwich, from Mr. Fairbairn's Yard .. .
March 13. . . . One day last week Merthyr sent me to meet Mr. Lucy, of Harford Davis & Co's firm, on the subject of the Rails for the Midland Counties Railway. He was going out on other business and left word with me, if he did not return in time, to meet Mr. Lucy at Davis's on the subject. Mr. Lucy was going to Loughborough on the contract and was to tender £12.19.6. delivered. The delivery being above 25/-, one of the Staffordshire Houses, to whom the delivery and some of the stipulations as to hammering, etc., in the manufacture were less costly and objectionable, took it at £12. This is the weightiest piece of business with which I have hitherto been entrusted, and Merthyr was satisfied with the manner in which I conducted it. Mr. Lucy, a very agreeable Quaker, seemed at first rather surprised at seeing me, but we soon began discussing questions of freight, interest, etc., as comfortably as if I had not the mortification of being of weaker sex and intellect than himself .. .
July3. . . . In to-day's gazette my dear Merthyr was elevated, if so I must call it, to the rank of Baronet. I consider it a paltry distinction and was much averse to his taking it, but he liked to secure something which would descend to Ivor. When I got Lord Melbourne's letter to him containing a promise of it, on the 20th, I went down to the House to tell him the news and tantalized him sadly about it. I shall not rest till I see something of more value bestowed upon him. The present change is anything but agreeable to me ..
[This was the first time that any part of their journey from London to Dowlais was made by train.
On arrival at Bristol the Guests received a message from Thomas Evans, a Manager at Dowlais, that the whole population of Merthyr were coming out to meet them on the road to Dowlais, at Troadyrhew, in celebration of John Guest's baronetcy. On the road in a four-horse carriage Lady Charlotte was typically occupied reading the story of Geraint, the next tale of the Mabinogion that she proposed to translate. She had forgotten her dictionary but found she could understand the old Welsh quite well without it.]
July 21 [Dowlais]. . . . The reception we had was most gratifying. Two hundred of the most respectable inhabitants of both parties were on horse-back and there were thousands of less illustrious on foot. They dragged the carriage amidst incessant acclamations till we arrived at the Bush. Here Merthyr had the address presented and read to him, and read his reply. The people were spoken to from the window, and as it was getting dusk, we proceeded on towards Dowlais. Merthyr was quite thronged with people and every window was full. We had a very agreeable surprise on reaching Dowlais. It was entirely illuminated and presented the prettiest appearance imaginable. No one had expected this. Every window in every workman's cottage had several lights placed in it, and the effect was so very gay that for once Dowlais looked quite beautiful. They brought us to the front of our own house, and there Merthyr spoke to them and made me thank them too, and at eleven o'clock we were quiet and alone again. Altogether it had certainly been a most gratifying reception.
December 24. Merthyr went out to the Works in the morning,and when he came in to luncheon, he told me that he had to attend a Meeting of Magistrates in the afternoon upon a rather disagreeable subject. The opinions of a discontented set of idlers, who wish to stir up dissension, have for some time been gaining ground in the North, where the workmen have been encouraged to hold Meetings and sign petitions for the cession of certain privileges, which they dignify by the name of " The People's Charter ". In some places they have gone so far as to provide themselves with arms. There was an attempt during our absence to get up one of these Meetings at Merthyr ; it proved a complete failure, but the progenitors of mischief were not content with this single effort and advertised another Meeting to be held on Heol Cenig Hill on Christmas Day. This being a time at which it is probable that many would have an opportunity of attending, and the Welsh being well known to be very inflammable, witness the riots of 1825 and 1831, it was judged advisable to take such precautions as would ensure the speedy quelling of any disturbance which might originate from the proceedings of the Chartists. For this purpose, and at the suggestion of Lord Bute, the Magistrates came to the resolution of sending over to the Commander of the Troops at Brecon and desiring him to be prepared to set out with his force at a moment's notice in case of need. Merthyr considered this step hardly necessary, and was confident, as well as myself, that all would pass off quietly. However, it was rather a nervous thing, considering all the horrors which had taken place here once before ; and we occupied ourselves in inventing what diversions were in our power in order to keep as many of our population away from the Meeting as we could, without appearing to do so...........................
December 25. . . . I staid out all the afternoon, and at about four o'clock, while playing with the children in the front of the house, I had a very agreeable visit from a Society of about four hundred of the Oddfellows, all in their costumes and carrying their flags and insignia. They had agreed upon walking in procession to-day in order to make a diversion from the Meeting, and their appearance was so gay that I really do not wonder that many staid away to see them walk. When Merthyr came back to dinner he told me that all had gone off very quietly and was quite over. From the numbers that attended, the Meeting was considered a failure. No violent language was used. It is supposed that the strength of the Merthyr Chartists is about seven hundred.
May 19. . . . we were to have gone to town tomorrow but there is to be a very great meeting of Chartists, and the Merthyr people are alarmed at the idea of a riot. Merthyr has occordingly determined to await the result, which both he and I believe will not be at all important. In this population of thirty thousand people and upwards there are only two thousand Chartists and they appear perfectly orderly and say they intend nothing but to petition the Queen, in which, as far as this district is concerned, I really believe them. They seem quite different in tenets, etc., from the rabble of Birmingham. By this time tomorrow I suppose I shall know the result of the much dreaded meeting. It is to be held in Blackwood about ten miles from here .. .
May 20. . . . It was nine o'clock ere we went home and were taking a hasty repast when they came and told us that the Chartists were coming by. We went to look at them from the Lodge. There were only about two hundred in number, they walked in an orderly manner having flags and music before them. A good many of our people were on the look out to see them return, but they did not join them, though I believe the hearts of many went with them. And thus ended all the alarm he much dreaded meeting of Blackwood.
August 18 [Dowlais]. . . . The Chartists went to church at Merthyr in a body this morning. They were perfectly quiet and orderly, not attempting to go into anybody's pew without being invited. The Church was quite crammed with them. Many wore the blue woollen waistcoat by which they are distinguished here. There were thousands of people in the streets to see them go, and they went in procession. I was very sorry we were not at Church, as I had heard of it beforehand, but Merthyr thought the report incorrect and took no notice of it. Had he thought it would have taken place we should have gone down. I see by the papers that the Birmingham Rioters are respited. What effect will this have in encouraging their brother Chartists who always declare that Government would not dare to carry the sentence against them into effect ? The people here are very peaceable. The streets were full as we came up last night but they were all quite quiet and civil .. .
November 3. . . . I have not been long returned and was sitting reading by the Library fire when Thos. Evans sent in to say he wished to speak to Merthyr. He went to him in the Hall. They talked earnestly, and - without having the slightest intention of listening, for I really thought he had merely something to say respecting the Works - my extremely quick ears caught the words " They were making pikes all night ". This was quite enough to convince me there was some Chartist mischief going forward. I jumped up from where I sat and joined the council. It appeared that Mr. Wayne, his brother and Mr. Williams, of Garth Hall, had gone over in the morning to the Victoria Works ; while they stopped there, several persons came in and warned Mr. Wayne senr., the Manager, to go out of the way as there was going to be a general rising of the Chartists immediately. He treated it all very lightly and so did the gentleman and his sons above named. But as they were returning along this road they met many groupes going over the hill, amongst whom were a number of individuals armed with guns and pikes and bludgeons. They then of course became alarmed and hastened to come and communicate here what they had heard and observed. Merthyr, immediately on hearing these particulars, sent over to acquaint the other Iron Masters of this most singular and mysterious movement among the people, which had been kept so secret as not to have been even suspected until they were seen fairly upon the road. The report was that they were all hurrying to a rendezvous over the hills whence they were to proceed to Monmouth to release Vincent from gaol. The pikes above alluded to have been made in the Victoria Works. Merthyr sent both the Waynes out again to bring any fresh information they could obtain. It was arranged that one of them should go only as far as Rhymney, and thence turn back and make his report, and that the other should proceed until he came up to the Chartists. We had scarcely finished a hurried dinner when the first returned, having seen more groupes going over and being spoken to by some of them. Shortly after the brother arrived also. He was much heated and extremely frightened. He had come up to the men opposite Mr. Harford's house, and in the darkness of the night would have rode in amongst them but for his horse, which shyed on finding itself so close to them. They set up a shout on discovering him and tried to seize and detain him. But he put spurs to his horse and never checked its speed till he reached our house. His alarm was such as to preclude our relying very much upon his representations, but he appeared to estimate their numbers beyond two thousand. Scouts were sent out during the rest of the evening and the ensuing night. Their reports were vague and sometimes contradictory but it seemed pretty certain that the men turned off from Beaufort towards Newport. Merthyr and Mr. Divett went out in the evening. Our Works began as usual and have gone on steadily ever since . . . It was between two and three when we went to bed, but I was very tired and slept soundly, feeling perfectly confident in the watch which was appointed and which had orders to wake us on the slightest alarm.
November 4. We were all up early, and having breakfasted Merthyr and Mr. Divett went down to the Works and thence to the village to meet the Magistrates. There were different reports arriving here all day, brought by the different people who had been sent over the Hills to reconnoitre. The only certain thing was that some had proceeded to Newport and others to Abergavenny. There were absurd rumours that the bridge was to be broken down at the latter place and all the coaches stopped . . . It appears that at Tredegar something of this kind had been expected. The crowds yesterday at Ebbw Vale were so large that all Mr. Harford's family are said to have left the house. A public house was broken into by the mob and the landlord and his wife compelled to accompany the party some short way, after which they were released. At a tradesman's house they asked for admittance, which they obtained, and then expressed a wish for provisions and tobacco, having partaken of which they thanked him and went on. We dined at five and as soon as dinner was over the gentlemen again went down to meet the Magistrates and remained there till near twelve o'clock. In the meantime we had numerous messengers here with news. The substance of it was that the mob, to the number of two thousand, had attacked the military in the Westgate Inn at Newport in order to release some prisoners. The soldiers did not fire upon them until they had received one or two volleys from them, and until they had broken into the Inn ; it was that in which I had put up on the 8th Oct. When they came into the passage the soldiers fired, and nine men were killed on the spot and many were wounded, three of whom died almost immediately. The Mayor of Newport and two other gentlemen were slightly wounded with the pikes of the mob. After this firing had taken place the whole of these poor deluded creatures took to flight. It appears they had buoyed themselves up with the idea that the military were favourable to them and would give up their arms into their hands the moment they appeared. It is said to have been lamentable to see the droves of these poor tired and defeated men returning from their ill-fated expedition, and the scene at Tredegar was equally distressing owing to the wailing of the women, among whom were many Irish, all ignorant of who had suffered, and fearful lest some of their friends should have been among the number of victims .. . When Merthyr and Mr. Divett returned they confirmed what we had already heard and added that it was believed a Meeting of Merthyr Chartists would take place in the course of the night at the Dowlais Big Pond. Everything was arranged to watch these movements and at about two o'clock Merthyr counselled our all going to bed. I should much have preferred sitting up by the fire, but as he required rest I, of course, at once consented. The moment his head was on his pillow and my head upon his shoulder he fell asleep. I dared not move lest I should wake him, and my fear of disturbing him prevented my doing more than doze for a few minutes. We had not been long in bed however when Baker came to the door and announced himself as the bearer of a letter. This was from Mr. Perkins giving further particulars about the expected meeting at the Big Pond. He represented that parties were to meet early in Merthyr and be at Dowlais by five o'clock. Of course we all got up again on hearing this and the general opinion seemed to be that an attack upon this house was meditated. We had about thirty stand of arms here and many of the special constables, sworn in that evening, were constantly going backwards and forwards. The idea of a siege and a defence only inspired me with anything like dread on account of the children. It would have been difficult to know what to do with them in case of danger. After well considering all the points of the case Merthyr and I came to a resolution of sending the children away. Horses were put to the carriage and the children were taken up and dressed and breakfasted and all five of them, with three of the nurses, were on the road by four o'clock in the morning . . . We waited up until past seven and nothing having then occurred we once more went to bed. As before however our repose was destined to be of short duration. This time, a little after eight, the knock at the door preluded an account that Mr. John Evans had seen a number of Chartists collecting, as had been predicted, near the Big Pond. We were again all upon the alert immediately. As I came down Merthyr was sallying forth to reconnoitre.
When he came back to breakfast he told me he had faced those who were collected, amounting to about a couple of hundred. He talked to them, argued with them, and at last made them accompany or rather precede him, back again into Dowlais, telling them it was not the first time they had gone forward together. It appeared that a previous party were already gone over to Rhymney to swell the numbers. The men he addressed told him they wished he could have seen those who had gone forward and could have induced them to desist. They said they only wished some gentleman would explain all these things to them. With this little incident I was much pleased ; it proved to me that Merthyr's influence was still strong with the men, and that he knew as well how to use it as in the days when the Reform Bill had created a perfect enthusiasm in his favour. The Agents, generally speaking, are much alarmed. The Evanses both told me that Merthyr was a marked man, and seemed much surprised at my laughing at them for repeating what had only been said by an old woman in her dotage. All this is very absurd, but the want of boldness on the part of others makes Merthyr's line of conduct much more difficult than it would otherwise be. In Mr. Divett however he has a cool-headed and very efficient coadjutor. The news they brought to-day from Merthyr was that there was to be an immense meeting to-night on the Aberdare Hill at six o'clock. Against this they have issued proclamations and they hope to stop it. If they cannot do so they will attend there themselves. There are now some troops at Nant-y-glo, and on that side all is quiet. But in Merthyr there are numerous groups of people all about the streets, and the people seem to be in a state of great, though not dangerous, excitement. There is a report that the Ringleader and ex-magistrate Frost was concerned in the Newport Riot and has been, with many others, arrested ; it is also said that some of the poor men, who died of their wounds, showered execrations upon Frost with their latest breath as the instigator of their crime and the cause of their destruction . . . In the midst of the confusion and the anxiety of the present time there is much at which I cannot help being amused. Last night there were several times from fifty to a hundred special constables all in the house, and the succession of suppers and tea-drinkings that went on amongst all that entered was really a curious thing . . . Our own men are good and true and stick to their work gallantly. It is of the Hill people that apprehensions are alone entertained .. .
November 5. . . . Since I began writing this long gossip about Riots Merthyr has left his sofa and gone down to the village with Mr. Divett. It was reported to-day that there was to be a large Chartist Meeting to-night on Aberdare Hill, as I before mentioned. Merthyr, as one of the Magistrates, is gone to attend it. The Newport business appears to have been a complete rout. The poor fellows, as they fled, threw away their arms, and 200 stand of arms including pikes were picked up. There are troops at Abergavenny, Newport and Nant-y-glo. They could not spare the militia from Cardiff to come up here . . . The Meeting took place at Penryheol Cerrig as expected . . . Some thousands met and one of them, I believe, opened the Meeting by proposing that they " should strike while the iron is hot ". But this was speedily over-ruled and the general sense of the Meeting was to disclaim the insane conduct of their fellow Chartists at Newport, which they said would ever remain as a blot on their character. They then came unanimously to the resolution to separate peaceably and return to Work next day. I believe that part of the plan had been for the men from this place and Merthyr to march over to Brecon and seize the arms of the soldiers quartered there. From this however they were deterred by the news of the ill-success that had attended their friends at Newport. During the time that Merthyr was down in the village I believe that all the special Constables, the only defence that exists about here, were gone there too, and that the house and Works were left wholly without protection. If anything had occurred I should have walked with Mrs. Divett into the forges, which were in full work, and where I am sure I should have been quite unmolested. Everything being supposed to be quiet to-night we went to bed in good time and none of us were up very early the next morning.
November 9. . . . There was a fresh alarm of Chartists this evening and many persons expected a rising, but thank God the night passed over quietly. Mr. Jenkins was here giving us a curious account of the compulsion used by these desperate men for others to accompany them. They forced them out of their beds, and those of their party who were too tired to walk to Newport and broke down on the road, it is said, they beat and wounded with their pikes before leaving them. Some of the professors of Religion have joined them. They set off from their chapels last Sunday and I am told they pray there that God will give them the spirit of Chartism. It does seem indeed an extraordinary infatuation. I do not believe that any but Welshmen could be brought up to such a pitch of enthusiasm. Two of our workmen are among the rioters in prison and the secret system of ramification seems to be most extensive. One of their pikes was brought here, it is a blade concealed in a stick and having four sharp edges. When shut they look only like a walking stick, with a large knob at one end.
[The opening of the Taff Vale Railway was the next important event.]
October 8. . . . Off in the open carriage before eight to join the Railway train. Again the weather was perfectly fine and the whole day went off very well and proved very enjoyable. We waited some time at the new station house at the Navigation House for the engine to arrive. It had been detained by getting off the Rails in a part of the road only lately laid. In the mean-time I enjoyed all the preparations and all the bustle which was going on, and which presented certainly rather a curious scene, the arrangements being anything but complete . . . When the train arrived we took our places in it and proceeded to Cardiff. We had a slight detention on the road owing to the train again getting off the Rails, and we had various stoppages in various parts of the line to take up passengers. We arrived however before twelve, at which hour the great opening train set off and we proceeded again by it back to the place whence we had started. This time the train went forward without accident or delay, and on reaching the [station] we at once set forth to walk up to the Geitrecoed bridge and tunnel ; Merthyr and I headed the party at first up the Inchin plane, but when we came to the tunnel we made the band of music, which had accompanied us, go first. Mr. Bush had caused the tunnel to be lighted up by numerous candles stuck in the sides of the rock, and the effect was exceedingly striking and picturesque. The Viaduct looked as beautiful as ever as we issued forth from the tunnel upon it. We should have lingered longer to examine it but the time was running fast away. So they gave us God Save the Queen and gave cheers for the Railway &c. &c., amongst which was one for me, and then walked back to where the train was waiting. We had a delightful walk, which some, however, had considered rather a severe one. Anything equal to the brilliancy of the valley I never saw. We now once more returned to Cardiff, where an immense party were already waiting to make another trip up the line ...
April 7. . . . Merthyr next proceeded to tell me that Roy, Lord Bute's solicitor, talks of making Dowlais into a joint Stock Company in giving a new Lease. Merthyr thinks this would be advantageous. But I know Lord Bute too well, not to be quite assured that it is all nonsense. There will be no Joint Stock Company, and we have but slender chance for a new lease. Lord Bute dislikes our politicks too much. I am only sorry to say that this phantom has caused the execution of our railway branch [to the Dowlais Works from Merthyr presumably] once more to be delayed. I fear there is just substance enough in all this to keep Merthyr in a state of anxiety and uncertainty for some time to come. Then the bubble will burst, and he will find Lord Bute meant nothing, or something so extravagantly in his own favour that it would have been absurd to think of it . . .
[From now on, and as the years go by, discussions and negotiations about the renewal of the Dowlais Lease take up more and more space in the journal. The matter was not finally settled before Sir John was on his death-bed, ten years later.]
July 7. I was at home all the morning, attending to various discussions on the subject of the renewal of our lease of the Dowlais mines under Lord Bute . . . It is a grave and anxious subject. Heaven grant that, whatever the termination of the discussion, it may prove for the best .. .
July 9. . . . The negociation which I have before alluded to, between Lord Bute and ourselves, has rather flagged lately, and this morning it was considered at an end. We differed on a point which was not very important, being a question of about £400 per annum ... The point had at one time been considered settled, and Mr. Divett accordingly, who had assisted in all the negociations, recommended that we should not give way upon it, not so much because of the question itself, as because he felt it would be a precedent for opening any other point which had been considered settled . . . It seemed really vexatious that so important a matter should go off upon such a comparative trifle.
I did venture to say in the morning, " Could not you first re-capitulate all that has already been agreed upon, and making sure that no difference exists on any other point, then make some concessions upon this one, getting the preliminaries signed at once ? " . . . I do not know whether my remark suggested anything to Merthyr's mind, I do not even know whether he heard me when I made it, but he certainly acted entirely in the spirit of it. Matters growing desperate in the afternoon he, for the first time during the transaction, went himself to Stephenson [Lord Bute's agent], read the proposed agreement with him clause by clause, found that on all other points there was no disposition to differ and finally agreed with him, ceding that the price should be estimated at its value at Cardiff and not at the works, but obtaining that the cash and not the nominal price should be taken in computing the royalties. He asked Stephenson to put his name to it for Lord Bute, which he did, and Thos. Evans signed it for Merthyr. So far as this goes the affair would seem settled, but I confess to much distrust, and I think many points will arise in the drawing of the lease, which will probably lead to its never being executed. Still as nobody is of my opinion, I hope I may be wrong .. .
[Lady Charlotte had now kept a journal for twenty years.]
November 5 [Dowlais]. . . . I went to work again reading over the old journals, all of which I have kept for Merthyr to see, and he may himself decide whether they are to perish or be spared. I confess that their perusal has left me in astonishment as to how I could have lived through all the sorrow and all the refined increasing persecution of my young days, or if I lived, how it happened that I did not either go mad or run away, and it is also a wonder to me how my mind could ever have recovered in any degree its tone after so much suffering, but the influence of kindness is magical, and it is to Merthyr's gentleness and watchful care that the return of calmness to my troubled spirit can alone be attributed .. .
January 24 [Dowlais]. The post brought me a cloud to my happiness in the shape of a letter requiring Merthyr to return to town again immediately to sign a power of attorney for Kitson [one of Sir John Guest's sales managers], who is in St. Petersburgh, to conclude a contract for the supply of 24,000 tons of rails, which he has good prospect of obtaining for us and, as times go, at a respectable price. Of course there was nothing for it but to obey the summons, so my dear husband left me again this morning early . . .
[Her husband's absence was always an opportunity for Lady Charlotte to concentrate on the Mabinogion.]
[Ever since the German tour of the previous autumn there had been rumours about the Dowlais lease. The news now received by Sir John was definitely the most unfavourable that had yet been communicated to him.]
April 29. This very day Merthyr has received a letter from Lord James Stuart telling him that Lord Bute did not intend to ratify the agreement he had made through Stephenson in July ; his excuse is that he does not like the boundaries Stephenson marked out, and is angry about those shipments unluckily made in the Canal in December ; but is trying to back out of his engagements now, after our having been induced to lay out considerable sums on the property on the faith of his agreeing for the new contract, [which] is most dishonourable conduct, and quite unworthy of a man, not to say a nobleman. I suppose they will call upon him to explain his intention and probably follow up his recusance by an action for damage to recover what the Dowlais Company have, under the assurance of his good faith, been led to expend at the Works and Mines. Merthyr is naturally enough a little flurried. The idea of leaving Dowlais in five years, when all seemed so nearly settled, and the many great questions of property involved, are quite enough to disturb the placidity of any one .. .
May 13. Merthyr went into Wales to-day. He is now determined as to the best course respecting Lord Bute. Stephenson speaks so decidedly as to his having had authority to sign the agreement that it still appears a doubtful point whether we ought not to try to enforce its fulfilment . . . The present plan seems to be that Merthyr should write Lord Bute a letter to have the state of affairs explained. His agents are now moving to enforce our paying much higher rates of tonnage at the Cardiff Dock than were established under that agreement .. .
[The Guests were once more at Dowlais when Lord Bute's answer arrived.]
May 30 [Dowlais]. . . . His Lordship professes to consider himself in no way bound to grant a lease. Says he looks upon the negociation as lately conducted by Stephenson, to whom he says he gave no powers to conclude anything, entirely at an end, complains much of the little dock shipments, and concludes by requesting that if the Dowlais Company have any desire to commence a fresh treaty they should communicate with him direct ..
June 10. Merthyr finished a long letter to Lord Bute in answer to that received on the 30th. He explains and justifies what is necessary ; tells him they consider the matter by no means at an end, but are advised that the Court of Chancery could compel the agreement of July 9th to be carried out into a lease, but says he would much rather treat for the disposal of his " plant " here at the end of the original terms, viz : 1848, than enter into fresh engagements, considering the altered state of trade, his own advancing age, and the extreme youth of his children. This is the main point of the letter, which, however, goes into many particulars and is very full and explanatory. It is an able one, and some such reply was absolutely necessary, yet I believe with such a man as Lord Bute the only use that will be made of it will be to lengthen futile correspondence and delay proceedings. All he wants is to keep us in play and to drag on negociations till the end of our 1848 lease . . .
June 13. Evans had today a letter from Mr. Stephenson drily mentioning that throughout all the negociations last summer with the Dowlais Company he never had full power from Lord Bute. This is singular and so contradictory of what he has before so often asserted that it is difficult to know what construction to put upon it, considering his veracity and the very high character he bears. Perhaps he will say :- " true, I had not powers of myself, but the agreement of July 9th was concluded by Lord Bute, as I shewed him the paper and received his directions to sign it, which I returned and did forthwith ". It is however all a mystery. How it will end no one can know .. .
June 20. Merthyr had another letter from Lord Bute making it appear that his chief objection to ratifying the new lease was the division of the mineral ground which he disapproved as disadvantageous to Pen-y-daren. He still talks of " Friendliness " but his position is altogether a false one. After dinner I walked with Merthyr to the forges to see the Russian Rails rolled. There I sat for some time on a heap of iron, very happy .. .
June 26. A letter came on Monday from Lord Bute, saying that he had nothing to add to his former communications, but that if the Dowlais Company desire, without any reference to the past, to enter into a treaty for a new lease he would desire his mineral Agents to attend to it. This of course is what Merthyr would never dream of. It may yet be a question whether it is worth to litigate with him on the agreement of July 9th. But I should say not, and if law is abandoned then the whole matter is ended. Stephenson declines entering further on the subject, and I do not think we should succeed in any legal proceedings. Whether or not, however, we might do so, I am all for taking the high independent ground and leaving Lord Bute now to seek for a tenant ! His conduct has been undoubtedly most dishonourable. On him will rest the responsibility if these works stop in 1848, if much property is sacrificed, and great distress entailed on the innocent poor. Merthyr had acted all through most straightforwardly and with wonderful command of temper .. .
October 10 [Wentworth]...........................
[A week later the Guests were back at Spring Gardens, ............ Sir John now had to go to Cardiff as a member of the Grand Jury to try the Rebeccaites. These rioters were so called for having taken as their motto some words from Genesis : " And they blessed Rebekah and said unto her . . . let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate them." The rioting was directed against the charges at the toll gates. Many of the rioters were disguised as women and were on horseback ; each band was led by a captain called Rebecca. The Government sent soldiers and police to South Wales and the disorder was quelled. The movement was separate from Chartism, but was supported by the same class and arose from the same economic causes.]
December 6 [Sully]. In going up to town Merthyr had crossed over in the packet with the Rebecca Convicts. The personifyer of Rebecca himself was among them. Hearing that Merthyr was on board he asked leave to speak with him, and they had an interesting conversation in which he begged advice as to his best course. Merthyr recommends his being as quiet and giving as little trouble as possible, and above all this, being as careful to confine himself strictly to the truth in any communication he might make as to the transactions which had terminated so fatally for him. The poor man entered into a long statement of the agricultural grievances of his neighbourhood which appeared to be very great. He had not, however, very enlightened views on any subject, which is scarcely to be wondered at when it is considered that this, his convict journey, was the first occasion of his ever going beyond the limits of his own little parish of Llanon. His astonishment at first seeing a ship, or steamer, is said to have been very great, and his perplexities on the Railway at the train moving without horses quite unassuageable. " Steam ? " asked he. " What is steam ? " Under all this excitement his spirits kept up bravely until he arrived in town and was shown the place of his confinement. " What, in that little narrow hole ? Why, it was impossible to live in that ! " And his heart seemed at once to be crushed within him and every hope extinguished. Well might the free child of the mountain shudder and sicken at the sight of that cold and narrow cell ! But my poor Welsh rebel, with all his faults and all his grievances and all his romance, must not carry me beyond the beaten track of a dull and now uneventful journal.
December 11. On Monday Merthyr went into Cardiff to meet the Commissioners appointed to enquire into the grievances through which this poor Rebeccaite is transported for one and twenty years ! .. .
December 16. Thomas Evans, who is just returned from Russia, spent most of the morning talking to Merthyr. He and Kitson together got an order for 12,000 ton of rails at £6, on their way through Poland, which, in the present distressed state of trade, is very advantageous. They lost the Russian bridge contract, but it was taken at a very low price so we do not regret it. ..
July 22 [Dowlais]. . . . Ld. Bute's agent had signified to us some time ago that terms for renewing the Lease had been considered by Lord Bute, and that he had caused a statement of those terms to be placed in his office at Cardiff for us to see if we pleased. Evans went there last week and got the particulars. They were as we expected quite preposterous, 4/6 per Ton royalty on Pigs and 7/- on bars, Dead rent of £9,000 per annum. A very insufficient quantity of mining ground assigned for so large a concern, and a fine of £80,000 for renewing the Lease ! which was to be for 21 or 42 years certain ! ! ! Of course it was at once determined that such terms could not be entertained for a moment, and it was further settled that Evans should write to Mr. Richards to that effect and at the same time to offer to treat at once for selling out part of the plant etc. here to Lord Bute for 1848, and for opening fresh minerals on fair terms if he desired for any successors of ours who might agree with him .. .
February 27. . . . Mr. Geddes, Ld. Bute's agent was come to town. He had been in Wales for a week inspecting the Works and Mines, and it was supposed that when he arrived in London he would be ready to negotiate for a renewal of Leases. However as soon as he was told that the Dowlais and Pen-y-daren Co. had united to treat and determined to make their two Works into one joint stock Co., and so terminate all their disputes about boundary, he said he had no authority to propose any terms and must see Ld. Bute again about it . . . In fact it is all the old ground of delay once again. Just as I predicted .. .
March 10. . . . Merthyr went to the House after dinner and remained there till late. Some question about education in Wales had been discussed, and Sir James Graham [the Home Secretary] had complimented him personally in his speech on the schools at Dowlais and their management . . .
[This praise, from the Home Secretary, of the schools which she had done so much to establish, and in the management of which she took so much interest, must have been very pleasant hearing to Lady Charlotte.]
April 2 [Spring Gardens]. . . . Lord Bute's man, Geddes, has written to say that a junction of Dowlais and Pen-y-daren in one joint stock is inadmissable, and he proposes terms to Pen-ydaren. While to Davis he writes that if he does not receive the names of the parties proposing to take Dowlais with the share each will hold, and the terms they will give, he will advertise the minerals to be let at the end of a fortnight. It is all too absurd .. .
August 4 [Dowlais]. We had to go to Wales today (after how short a visit at Canford !) that Merthyr might be present at the opening of the Aberdare Railway on the morrow .
August 5. . . . The Welsh that I fell in with that day were delightful and all cordiality and enthusiasm. It would have been livelier if more had been admitted to the Railroad that day, but this was only an opening for the Directors and their friends, and the public were excluded till the morrow. Altogether I enjoyed it very much. The scenery and weather were perfect. How lovely was the evening glow as I stood waiting for the arrival of the train on the bridge over the Cynon .. . Merthyr told me that the dinner was very enthusiastic. They drank my health in very pretty terms, but he broke down in his speech to return thanks for me. When he alluded to my love of Wales he burst into tears, and could get no further. And oh, how I have loved it with its dear warmheartedness. All Saxon as I am, my own countrymen chill my shyness into pride. But the dear Welsh, with their ready smile and never failing welcome, make me feel amongst them as another being, exalted myself, yet not equal to them, in courtesy and love .. .
[Sir John having been approached to stand for Parliament for Poole, something had to be done about Merthyr. The matter was raised on a short visit to Dowlais. Mr. Perkins, representing his constituents, called to discuss the subject.]
November 27 [Dowlais]. . . . He said the Merthyr people felt that my husband was not behaving handsomely to them by retiring from them now that he had got another home. After a great deal of talking about it on all sides, Merthyr authorised Mr. Perkins to say " that as the lease was now so nearly out, and as before another election, certainly very soon after, he might cease to have more than a comparatively small interest here, he thought it fair to his present constituents to set them quite free from all feelings of embarrassment by declining to come forward again. This being now announced, would give them time to look out for some other person. On Mr. Perkins again and again assuring him that they would rather have him at any rate than anybody else, he said that of course if such proved the case, he could not but feel too much flattered and happy to remain their member, and a very proud position I do think it would be. He has represented them for fifteen years, ever since they became a Borough. So they have never had any other representative. Mr. Perkins was to talk this over with the Merthyr people .. .
May 2 [Canford]. So many questions have arisen between the Dowlais Co. and the Taff Vale Railway that Merthyr has thought it best to resign his position as Chairman of the Railway Board. I feel he is right. But I love that Railway for old associations' sake. It was his creation, and through almost over-powering difficulties he carried it through, and made it prosper. I feel as if thus another link were broken that binds us to dear Wales .. .
May 13. George Clark called and sat some time with us. He is not the least changed and seems as gay and buoyant as ever. David James, Chris. James and Anthony Hill were also here. The latter talked about local politics, and all Tory as he is, offered Merthyr his support if he would come forward again for Merthyr Borough and save them from a Contest. I only came in at the end of the conversation. But I was delighted to find the result, which was that Merthyr declared himself willing, a fact which he afterwards communicated to the Jameses. This was a great relief to me. My love of Wales increases only with absence, and it would have been a dreadful trial to have parted from the Borough. As for Dowlais that is quite gone. Lord Bute has told several people that it is quite out of the question coming to terms with us or Thompson [of Pen-y-daren].
August 8 [Canford]. The one bright spot of this year has been my husband's most kind, most flattering reception at Merthyr and his unopposed return there. I do love that place, and all its children. How tenderly does my poor heart turn often and often back to Wales . . .
October 31 [Orton]. Nothing can be more deplorable than the state of the mercantile world. Everything is, and has been now for some weeks, in confusion in London. Funds were down the other day to 79, and the Government measure of relaxation, in authorising the Bank to discount, has done no good. In the midst of all this one would have thought that Lord Bute would have been anxious about reletting Dowlais. Merthyr wrote to Geddes some time since, asking him at all events to communicate on the subject of the winding up, even if he were not disposed to treat for a renewal of the Lease on more reasonable terms than he talked of in the spring. But nothing can be more vague, unsatisfactory and discouraging than the letter he gets in reply. No good can come of treating with so narrow-minded and arrogant a man . . .
November 27. We had a visit from Mr. Divett whom Merthyr wished to consult upon the subject of the Dowlais lease. Edward Hutchins who had just come to town joined the conference. A great deal of conversation on the subject took place, but in the result Mr. Divett's opinion entirely coincided with Merthyr's, that is, if the Lease could be had on really advantageous terms, it would be well to take it ; but that, looking at the profits, which have been large, for the last few years, on the one hand, and on the other, the heavy responsibilities and enormous payments to Lord Bute which a new Lease would involve, that it would be very imprudent for Merthyr to accede to anything like exorbitant or even high terms. Say that the profits have been £50,000 ; of this the Royalties demanded by Lord Bute would absorb £25,000 leaving the other £25,000 for the Leases. But the capital &c., in the works if withdrawn would yield £15,000, so that the £25,000 to be expected on renewal would only give a gain of £10,000. So the question is, whether such a sum, considering our position and more than independence, Merthyr's own age, and his children's youth, with the great difficulty of finding people to manage a concern of such magnitude, is adequate to the risk and anxiety. All were inclined to consider it not so, but that under all the circumstances of the case it would be better and happier for us if our connection with Dowlais closed with the present lease. I cannot doubt their wisdom. My lingering love for the old happy home has nothing to do with the business view of the case. Merthyr was much pleased at the talk we had had. He was glad to find Mr. Divett's judgment confirm his own. Whether he will quite act up to this coolly formed wisdom remains to be proved. Perhaps the love of Dowlais may make a little weight the other way if a chance offers itself of a renewal . . .
December 18 [Dowlais]. At length, as we were approaching Rhymney, the brightly illuminated sky before us shewed where the dearly loved Dowlais fires yet lived. I gave a shout, and pointed to the spot. I could not speak, for my heart was as though it would burst, but Merthyr understood me. Alas how soon will those fires have paled ! I reached my dear home determined to bear up, and not betray my weakness . . . I can hardly see for tears at this moment, the last which I might have commanded, for putting down a few thoughts and a farewell to my own dear home. I am harassed, weary and excited. The last day which I shall spend at Dowlais, while it is undismantled and in full force, while it is really my own home, is passed. I have but strength and energy left to write here a blessing upon it, and to breathe a prayer, oh how fervent ! that its desolation may not be so great as I much dread. A prayer for Dowlais on this last night of witnessing its glories .. .
December 22. I asked Merthyr to go into the Works with me. I wanted once more, while they were in full operation, to go through the dear old works, leaning as of old on my dear husband's arm. I knew it to be my last day at Dowlais, and Dowlais in its glory. I knew that if I came there again ever, before the Lease expired, some parts of the Works would be stopping, as the Work of dismantling is to begin forthwith. I knew I should never see them in their old activity again. I nerved myself to bear it, for it was very painful to think of thus taking leave of the dear old home. It was a trial to Merthyr I could see. But he very kindly indulged me, and so I set forth with him as soon as breakfast was over, with a smile set upon my face, and a pain at my heart which nothing but strong excitement could have enabled me to conceal . . . When we got in we found David James of Merthyr in the little Library talking to Edward. He had much to say about the Lease, and seemed to have got an impression that the nonrenewal was our fault. Merthyr however dispelled this before he went away, shewing him also his letter to Geddes of the 8th. Meantime Mr. Jenkins called to see me, and Mr. White was also here. The accounts they give of the consternation of the people around, and the positive dread of future misery and distress, are quite appalling. There are now 15,000 people inhabiting this village of Dowlais, and all dependent upon the Works, and these will all be stopped on the 1st of May, except the four furnaces at Ivor and some little mining and mill work. What then is to become of the population ? ... I ran to my room, to the window, and sat there gazing for the last time on the bright fires in an agony of tears. Oh how I wept and prayed that night. Oh how my heart yearned towards my dearly loved home, the home of my young happiness. I wanted yet a date of Dowlais and I dashed the few impassioned words of farewell in this book. My eyes were then almost blinded with crying, but when Merthyr came up he found me calm, nor did I tell him how much I had suffered on this, the longest and tearfullest day I ever spent .. .
[It had been arranged that Ivor, the eldest boy, now thirteen, should go to a small boarding school at the end of the Christmas holiday. His parents took him to London. This move took place at the time of the death of the successor to Mr. Wyndham Lewis, Sir John's original partner.]
January 21 [Spring Gardens]. Ivor asked me several questions about the late Mr. Lewis ; whether he was the gentleman we called his father's partner, what a partner meant &c. I answered him as well as I could, to make it clear to him. Then he went on to talk about the works, when in allusion to some question respecting them, I said inadvertently, " But it matters little, now that they will so soon be at an end." " What, Mamma, the Works ? " " Yes, Ivor, you know your father is not to go on with them." " I did not know that, but why ? " What could I say ? Indeed, " But why ? " I told him that he would some day know all about it. But he continued, " What, stop the Works ! Will they pull them down ? " I said, " No, but make no more iron there." The child sorrowfully repeated the words, " Make no more iron " and then asked if we should not live there again. I tried to turn the point by observing that Mr. Hutchins lived there now, not we. But while I spoke he had turned his head away, he had burst into tears. And all the way home he wept, but struggled to conceal it. Two things thus came to my knowledge. I found that the boy knew not that Dowlais was all but gone, and I found also that the love of his dear old home, his birthplace, was much stronger in him than I had any idea of. I went home with my soul truly disquieted within me .. .
February 2 [Canford]..........................
[After a short visit to London, to vote on the admission of Jews to Parliament, Sir John returned to Canford a good deal tired and excited. He had had a letter from Geddes, one of Lord Bute's representatives, which he thought very offhand and impertinent, saying that they would take only so much of the Dowlais plant as they required on the terms of old iron. Sir John had seen Thompson of Pen-y-daren, the Member for the City, in the House of Commons, who said that the Dowlais works had been offered to him. No wonder that Sir John was harassed................
A few days later the post brought a letter from Dowlais from Edward Hutchins to Sir John at Canford, to say that three of the furnaces were blown out. Lady Charlotte expected this, had indeed heard the order given, but now that it was done, actually carried into effect, the news of it seemed to fall like lead upon her heart. " Poor Dowlais," she wrote, " this is indeed a commencement of destruction. What misery is commencing now ! They are going to begin puffing down the engines immediately."]
March 13 [Canford]. The expected communication from Mr. Clayton came to-day. He had seen Lord Bute who, he said, was not adverse to some of our terms, but thought the sum too low ; he adverted to the renewal fine which he said he had not had time to consider, and he ended the letter by saying that he should be in town the first week in April, and would then be glad to see Merthyr and to discuss the matter. This seemed putting it off for a long time, but it could not be helped, and Merthyr felt that it would not do to urge him to come up sooner as it would seem too anxious .. .
March 20 ................................. While I sat with her Lord and Lady Shrewsbury came in. After talking a good deal about the singular state of continental politicks, and the rumours of a revolt at Berlin, Lady Shrewsbury said " and there is a report in the paper that Lord Bute is dead, that he died suddenly at Cardiff Castle." I shrieked rather than exclaimed " Lord Bute ! " My agitation was so great that I could hardly breathe. The tears stood in my eyes and for many minutes I trembled violently .. .
.............................The second letter [from Mr Bruce Pryce] was written only a few hours later announcing, in a few words, that that night Lord Bute died. It appears he was just at the height of his glory. He had brought his long wished for little heir to Cardiff for the first time, he had received deputations of congratulations from the authorities on the event (of this I was reading an account in the local paper just before driving out this afternoon), he had entertained them at dinner on that very Saturday evening in acknowledgement of the compliment, he was in highest apparent health and spirits, visiting day by day his docks and the institutions of the second Liverpool. That night before the party had left his house he withdrew to his own room. Very shortly his unusual absence was remarked by his wife. She went to look for him and found him lying dead. To me it did seem most awful. More especially, as happening just at this juncture of affairs with ourselves, within six weeks of the expiration of the great Lease, which has remained unrenewed only owing to his grasping obstinacy. For years, ever since I married, Lord Bute had been the person to thwart and annoy us, perhaps I should say was the only enemy I felt conscious of possessing. It was the continuation of an old feud, and his conduct towards us was certainly more like a persecution than anything else. Now to feel that one's only enemy was removed so suddenly was awful indeed, and what made it more startling to myself was the fact that I had had a very strong impression on my mind, whence it took rise I cannot guess, that Lord Bute would not live to the end of the lease. It was very odd, but every day that I took up the papers I seemed to expect to see his death, and then I would smile at the absurdity, believing him to be perfectly well. In days of witchcraft I might have been disposed to feel superstitious about it, but very unaccountable this impression certainly was, but not the less shocked was I when it became verified, for although I wished him no ill, I certainly loved him not, and as I said before, it is an awful thing when one's only enemy dies suddenly. The man one had been pursued by all one's life to be no more than the dust under one's feet, to be powerless to harm or help ! It was indeed a solemn thought and one full of deep warning to oneself . . .
April 3 [Orton]. The state of England at the moment is very exciting, it causes me many an anxious hour. What is to become of our unemployed ? I was almost going to say our uncared for ! Chartist meetings are being held in all manufacturing places, and they intend to make a great demonstration in London within the next few days. Who can say, if the starving meet the troops, that there will not be bloodshed, and what implacable hate will not blood engender. I shudder to think of the future, the immediate future I mean, for all, I feel sure, will ultimately settle down into what is right. But we must all be brave and determined in the cause of Order. It is some comfort to me that a Chartist Meeting which was held at Merthyr on the 21st was a complete failure. But our works are nearly stopping and the distress at Dowlais is very great indeed. How can we expect these poor breadless creatures to be wise and not fall into the delusions of the tempters ? Alas for Wales .. .
April 6 [Spring Gardens]. I find everybody in great alarm about the proposed Chartist Meeting on Monday. The programme is that 200,000 or 300,000 men are to meet at Kennington Common and march with their petition in favour of the Charter in battle array to present it at the House of Commons. In the House this evening Sir George Grey declared that the meeting was illegal and that the government would not allow it to take place. He gave notice to bring in a Bill [the Crown and Government Security Bill] for strengthening the Government, making some offences Felony, which are now either sedition merely or High Treason. Merthyr brought me word of this when he came home to dinner . . . I find all the respectable people are being sworn in as special Constables and are preparing, with their establishments or work-people, to support the cause of order. It is fearful to think what might ensue should there be a collision between these poor misguided men and the military. God only knows how it will end. May he in his mercy protect us .. .
April 8 [Canford]. As usual Merthyr wished to leave town to spend Sunday at home, and so we proceeded to Canford by the express train. The Queen, who is sent to Osborne House to be out of the way of the expected turmoil, was to follow a few minutes later. Her carriage and train were preparing when we left the station.
Here we hear very bad accounts from the Railway secretary of the aspect of affairs. He says the people all around the station are very badly disposed, that there are a number of foreigners in England doing their best to promote anarchy. Notwithstanding the proclamation of Government that the Kennington Meeting and procession will be illegal, the Chartists have issued a counter proclamation to say they are determined to carry it into effect. I am not sure whether it has been wise to prohibit the meeting altogether, which it is now too late to stop entirely. But I am quite sure it was right to prohibit the procession. These are very anxious times . . .
April 9. Merthyr has had a letter from Tufnell, the Government whipper-in, to beg him to be in town tomorrow to vote on Sir George Grey's bill. I think he will go. He spoke of doing so this morning, and when I spoke of going too, he said that was not to be thought of, that my presence would only embarrass his movements and give him the additional charge of looking to my safety. I felt this was true enough and made no reply. I hope he will not ask me whether I think he ought to go up to-morrow, for I do not want him to go, it would make me uneasy in the extreme. At the same time I do think, as a Member of the House of Commons it is his duty to be there, and should he ask my opinion, no power on earth should induce me to say otherwise .. .
April 10. It was known by telegraph that all was quite quiet in London up to two o'clock . . . At 11 o'clock we had another telegraphic message that the meeting had been comparatively small, and had dispersed quietly ; thus ended the excitement of that most exciting day. Next morning's letters confirmed the good accounts. Thank God, by the instrumentality of wise precautions London and England had been saved from disturbance. The meeting had been held and the police had sanctioned it, but the procession to the House had been strictly forbidden, and Fergus O'Connor and the Chartist leaders found it necessary to give it up. The mob were not allowed to return across the Bridges en masse, but only in small parties, and the Petition was taken to the House in two Cabs. A very large majority in favour of the Government Bill finished the evening. Indeed, while other nations are in such an awful state of confusion and anarchy, we have great cause for gratitude to God for our present safety. But it must not blind us to the future. Something must be done for our unemployed. The events of yesterday must not lull us into security and make us overlook this duty, this necessity. The cause of order was nobly supported, from 100,000 to 200,000 special constables came forward from all ranks to assist the Police to keep the peace, and though London was thoroughly fortified with troops, not a soldier was seen during the whole day. It was all admirably managed, and the l0th April 1848 must long be remembered as a great triumph for order and peace. It is said before the Queen went to Osborne she sent for the Duke [of Wellington] and asked him if there were really danger. He answered, " None, Madam, if I am allowed to proceed with my precautionary measures." The Queen said that if he had to act against the people she hoped he would be merciful, and he replied that the greatest mercy in such a case was energy and decision ..
April 13. I had a long visit from Mr. Giffard the Curate of our Chapel. We talked about the poor and the feeling of the lower classes to the rich, and what he said quite confirmed my views of the unsound state of society and the necessity of educating, or humanising, the lower grade. But I know one cannot make people good and religious by act of Parliament. The first step is to make them comfortable and happy, and for this purpose all the sanitary and social reforms are most important.
April 21 [Canford]. The letters came. There were two from Merthyr. The first stated that he had heard nothing about the Lease. The second was written later in the day to tell me that on his return from church he found a note from Mr. Clayton begging Edward to go over to him to discuss some mining points with Merton, the Pen-y-daren agent. They were still discussing when he wrote. But at the end of the letter these words were added, " Everything is settled with Clayton ", and no more. But that was enough. Dowlais was restored ! and in a strange confusion of feeling I burst into tears. Ivor alone was in the room and remembering all his sympathy in the matter on the 21st January, I could not resist telling him what I had heard from his father .. .
April 22. Dowlais filled my mind, and I could think of nothing else. The responsibilities are so great in a moral as well as a pecuniary point of view that, anxious as I have been for such a result, I can hardly say, now that it is achieved, I am glad. I feel quite oppressed with the weight of the whole subject. But my prayer is now as it has ever been, may all be for the best, for good, spiritually, morally and temporally for all. We owe much to Dowlais. It is Merthyr's duty to renew the Lease and to incur toil and risk for the population he has encouraged there, as long as he can do it without actual detriment to his family. But these are awful times, and God only knows how long this may be the case. The liabilities are very heavy, the prospects of remuneration very small indeed. But for the sake of our poor dependants I do hope we may be able to struggle on without positive loss, for if it came to that I could not counsel further sacrifice. I do not think he could be justified in making it, but would have to discontinue the concern, which would indeed be disaster for thousands .. .
May 29. . . . After dinner I went to the Polish ball, of which I was one of the patronesses . . . We had not long been in the ball, indeed the first Quadrille was not over, when Lord Kildare was seen to come in and fetch away the Duchess of Argyle, who was one of the patronesses. It was immediately reported that there was an alarm of the Chartists having risen and taken possession of some stations in the City. It was added that they were surrounding Stafford House and filling the streets with processions. The news seemed to come upon all like a thunder-bolt. For my part my thoughts immediately turned to my dear children, who were all ten sleeping in unconsciousness in Spring Gardens. I left the room quickly and instantly got my carriage to return to them. Just as I was getting into it Mr. Sanford told me that this much was true, viz : that the mob had been parading the streets in thousands, though at present they had not been disorderly, and that it was reported they were marching down upon Westminster to attack the House of Commons. So my next thought was for Merthyr who had gone down there an hour before. The streets were quite quiet and even emptier than usual as I drove home. Our servants had seen the procession which had moved on down the Strand, and in a very few moments I was joined by dear Merthyr, who corroborated this information ... The cause of discontent was the conviction of Mitchel for sedition, and most of the mob were Irish, joined by some of the physical force Chartists.
A few days earlier John Mitchel, an Irish agitator, had been convicted in Dublin and sentenced to be transported for fourteen years. In London gatherings of Chartists in Clerkenwell and Bethnal Green had for several nights been of a menacing character, but had been so far suppressed without bloodshed.
June 4. Merthyr had been to Brooks's, and he came in with news of a great Chartist meeting having been held today near Clerkenwell, at which a collision took place between the mob and the police. He knew of course no particulars. All this part of the town was perfectly quiet and orderly. We walked out into the Parks, returning by Regent Street a little before 7 o'clock. There was not the slightest excitement anywhere in this neighbourhood. Everybody was walking out as usual, as gay and unconcerned as on other Sundays . . . Merthyr went to the Police Station in Scotland Yard about nine o'clock and learnt that the Chartist affair this morning had been somewhat serious. The mob resisted the Police very much, they were unarmed but fought with stones. The mounted police charged them, and there was loss of life before they could clear the ground. They say it is all quiet again now, but I suppose the volcano may explode at any moment .. .
July 11 [Dowlais]. ... The renewal of the Lease, which will rescue thousands from want and ruin, and his return to the home of his ancestors, is surely one of these occasions in which all may join together to rejoice .. .
The train came up from the Docks. Merthyr had staid behind with the luggage and was on this train. It was decked with ribbons and flags and flowers, and made as gay as train and engine could be made. As it stopped a shout was set up, and all those little tributes of respect, which had by me been quite unexpected, affected me so much that for a moment my eyes were filled with tears. In another instant it had passed. I was in the train and hastening up that lovely valley, on that most glorious summer's evening, restored to Wales, to Dowlais, to Home . . . We reached Merthyr exactly at half past 7. An enormous crowd were waiting around the station. In a few minutes the horses were put to the open carriage and we came out.
They wanted to draw us up, but this we could not allow. I wish I could give any idea of the scene that followed. For myself, I can never forget it. But my children may read this record some day and be gratified by it. However, they saw something of the proceedings themselves, and, I daresay, what they did see will remain upon their memory. The whole of the population of this most populous place seemed to have come out to welcome us. All the Benefit Clubs, eighteen in number, with all their members, their decorations, flags &c. All the Schools, all the more opulent part of the community on horseback, with music, colours, evergreens, flowers and ribbons, formed one vast procession extending above a mile in length. All the windows were filled with spectators and mostly gaily decorated. The crowd round and about us was so dense that we could hardly move even at a footspace, and the enthusiasm, the bowing and cheering and shouting were tremendous. As we proceeded this increased. Dowlais was one mass of heads. Even the roofs in some places were covered, and every little eminence by the roadside was a moving mass. Fortunate indeed was it such a beautiful evening. The west as the sun sank was one mass of gold . . . When we were at Gellivaelog, the foremost part of the cavalcade was entering the lawn at Dowlais. The latter part of our progress was certainly the most brilliant and the most enthusiastic . . . A large party stood in the front of the house. Amongst them were our dear children, all well and in the highest spirits. When the carriage stopped Mr. Jenkins read aloud the congratulatory address of the people to my husband, and he then rose and made them a short speech in reply. He was a good deal affected, too much so to speak well. But the more overcome he seemed to be, the more the people cheered and seemed delighted, and perhaps the evidence of how deeply he felt their reception was more gratifying to their feelings, than any words he could have uttered. They gave then a number of cheers, some for him, some for me, some for the children, for the Works, the trade, the prosperity of Dowlais. At parting I asked for three cheers for " yr hen Wlady ", and then, having played God Save the Queen, the party dispersed and left us. Truly they had brought us right loyally home. It is said such a night was never seen here before. It was the largest assemblage ever known here, and I should think no other district could show anything approaching it . . . But the enthusiasm of the people was the loudest and most gratifying part of all. May their bright hopes not be disappointed. May we indeed be enabled to do them good, and under a reviving trade have it in our power to minister to their necessities, not only bodily but mental. May we by our care and unceasing attention to their improvement in every respect, in some measure justify the warmth their reception has evinced towards us. It is a heavy responsibility. May God direct us through it .. .
[Six of the eighteen furnaces at Dowlais were now standing idle. The next day Sir John gave orders for three of them to be put on blast again directly. A few days later they went over the hills to the mining ground where he was to decide on the site for sinking another pit.
Thus the long anxiety about the future of Dowlais was for the time being, at any rate, relieved, and the Guests returned to London. We have already taken note through Lady Charlotte's eyes of the unsettled state of affairs both in England and France at this time. The state of Ireland now also engages attention. The activities of the Repeal political clubs gave rise to fears that there might soon be civil war.]
July 24 [Spring Gardens]. The Habeas Corpus act is suspended for Ireland, and people seem very anxious and excited about the state of things there. I believe Ireland is on the eve of rebellion, and I fear some of the manufacturing towns in England are in a disturbed state. All these things make me very anxious. They say that our Iron districts were never more quiet and well affected ; I am sure from the demonstration on the 11th I can fully corroborate that opinion, but I know what a flame may be lighted up in a moment among our energetic Welsh spirits, and I cannot feel confident. Alarmed, however, I am very far from being. When others are frightened I am never so. It is only when I find those around me perversely shut their eyes to impending danger that I become uneasy. Now however people seem only too sensitive as to the future .. .
October 12 [Dowlais]. . . . We attended the Cymreigyddion Meeting at Abergavenny. The principal adjudications were of prizes for singing and harping, and for the manufacturers of hats and woollens. In the contest of one of the harps the sympathies of most of the audience were enlisted on behalf of a young man who played most beautifully, and whom we all thought entitled to the prize. However the Judge thought otherwise, and gave it to another competitor. So strong was the feeling however in his favour that we soon got up a subscription to present him with a harp also. The young man's name was Llewellyn Williams, he was described to be " of Merthyr ". How great was my surprise when I heard afterwards that he was the son of that Zephaniah Williams who promoted the Chartist riots of 1839, and who is now working in chains for having three times attempted escapes from the transportation then decreed for him. I think the fact says much for the fearless liberty of England that the son of such a man should be quietly playing his harp to the gentry, whom his father had so ruthlessly assailed only nine years before, and should even be receiving courtesies and presents from their hands .. .
[Reference has been made in the previous chapter to Lady Charlotte's preoccupation, during the winter in progress, with her schools at Dowlais and those she was arranging to start in Merthyr. To those already mentioned she now added the opening at Dowlais of a men's day school for those who worked alternate weeks at night. She was shocked at the large number of young people unprovided with school accommodation in Merthyr, and was busily engaged in interesting other ironmasters in the district in her desire to establish evening schools there on the same lines as those that were proving so successful at Dowlais. So enthusiastic was she in her educational schemes that she took to visiting some of her schools every day. She even, from time to time, gave lectures or lessons herself. Sir John found the extent of her school activities excessive, and she undertook to limit her evening school visits to two a week...........
The state of Sir John's health was now becoming a source of almost constant preoccupation to his wife, which meant that she had to take increasing responsibility in business matters, even at the risk of his taking offence when he learnt of her action.]
April 13 [Dowlais]. . . . Merthyr some time ago desired that no females should be in the Mills to pile iron at night. After a short time his plan was given up and the work went on as formerly, much to his displeasure. He has now issued orders to discontinue the night piling, and I sincerely hope he will have it done as he desires, for the present mode is very demoralising.
Lady Charlotte on this visit to Dowlais heard that, following her example, Mr. Hill, the neighbouring ironmaster at the Plymouth works, was about to open day and evening schools.
May 23. ..................
An outbreak of Cholera in South Wales became now the cause of great anxiety. In Paris it had reached serious proportions, where as many as 672 people died on one day.
May 31 [Dowlais]. There is great alarm at Cardiff about the cholera, which has broken out there with great violence. It has also appeared at Merthyr, and there was a meeting of guardians the day previous to concert measures for cleansing the town accordingly. Dowlais is also to be whitewashed and cleansed as much as possible, and Mr. White [Doctor at Dowlais] has concerted measures with us to establish a system of house to house visiting to enquire into premonitory symptoms, the moment any indication of cholera shall be seen in Dowlais .
June 9 [Spring Gardens]. I had been in a state of much anxiety during all the week about the cholera. It has continued raging at Merthyr, and has crept up gradually, till it has reached Gellivaelog, just across the brook from Dowlais. By the accounts up to-day it had not reached Dowlais, but when Hillyard came up with little Blanche [her youngest daughter] this afternoon, who has only just been considered safe to travel, she brought word that the deaths were now close, quite close, upon our confines .. .
June 11. A letter to-day from Mr. White, announcing that a death from cholera has occurred in the very heart of Dowlais. The arrangements he has made for doing what is possible to check the progress of the disease are admirable. He has divided the town into thirty districts, to each of which one or more lay visitors are appointed, who call at every house twice in every day, enquire into premonitory symptoms, for which they prescribe according to instructions, and refer any cases on which they feel doubtful to the surgery. Mr. White says they have had so much to do, owing to people being alarmed and frightened into slight ailments, that the medical men are nearly worn out now before the cholera has set in. Merthyr . . . directed me to write to get more medical assistance sent down to them by this night's mail, which was effected. Merthyr had got the Board of Health to send Dr. Sutherland down to Merthyr to enquire into the state of things there, which seem very deplorable .. .
June 15. We had a long Report to-day by Dr. Sutherland to the Board of Health. He found cholera very bad in Merthyr, and took means to organise some relief. He was to visit Dowlais the following day. He thinks the prevention system seems to work admirably there .. .
July 22. At church in the morning ... They prayed against the cholera, which rages almost everywhere. It is much worse at Dowlais. Thirteen deaths a day. On Tuesday I got a letter asking for more medical help, which I got sent down forthwith, and Merthyr, when he was well enough to be told of it, approved of my having done so .. .
July 31 [Canford]. I am sorry to say the accounts of the cholera at Dowlais are fearfully bad. They are beyond anything I could have imagined, sometimes upwards of twenty people dying in one day, and eight men constantly employed in making coffins. Poor Miss Diddams, one of our Infant School-Mistresses, is dead. One of the medical assistants sent down from London is dying, and the whole place seems in a most lamentable state. I am greatly grieved at the condition of my poor home .. .
December 19 [Dowlais]. Edward Hutchins is constantly talking about the management of the Works, and pressing for an arrangement to be entered into for him to come here when he pleases and on his own terms. In fact I can fully understand that he wishes this place to be given up to him, and all the controul of the Works to be put into his hands. I do my best to counteract all this, for I do cling to Dowlais with an untiring love, but it is very hard just now, and besides, what can I do in the matter, but strive and hope ; while Merthyr takes it all so quietly, and even seems to contemplate with complacency our withdrawal from this much loved home . . . I suppose the truth is our day is passed, and the young will try to take our vocation from us, till the place that knew us shall know us no more ! ..
April 22. I had a long visit from Edward Hutchins this after-noon. He went fully into the question of the Dowlais management with me and I gave him my views, as unauthorized, of what Merthyr might probably agree to, viz : that each should take his own Department ; Merthyr, the London House with the general supervision of all the branches, Edward the Manufacture, residing 9 months in the year at Dowlais, on a fixed salary. Then I told him we should pay occasional visits to the Works, and I thought that, all circumstances considered, and being the senior partner and by far the largest proprietor, Merthyr should be at liberty to go and reside at Dowlais if ever he wishes it for two or three months, on giving the Hutchinses reasonable notice. All this I thought he seemed pretty well to concur in, though he still made some allusion to his desire " to manage the London House whenever Merthyr should be out of town " .. .
April 23. Edward Hutchins called again and . . . Merthyr sent for me to join the conference. When I came down I found Edward in a very different mood from that which he was in the previous day. He was insisting that, if we were to come to Dowlais at all, it should be at a stated period of the year, to be fixed now at this present time for all the years to come. Other points were being raised and no good was being done. All the favourable impression I thought I had made the previous day had vanished ! So they adjourned it again till Edward should return from Lymington, which he was to go down to canvass on the morrow .. .
Edward Hutchins won at Lymington by a majority of 18 votes. This success did not alter Sir John's determination not to give his nephew any powers of control in his business, or the right to reside at Dowlais.
June 9. Merthyr returned bringing with him Mr. Hutchins whom he had met at Brooks's. He told me afterwards that they had had a long talk together there and that he found Edward quite altered, quite agreeable to everything he proposed, and anxious to go to Dowlais at any time that might prove mutually convenient. So far so good .. .
June 17. We were to go down to the opening of the South Wales Railway and accordingly made our arrangements to leave London about one ... Merthyr had to attend a meeting before starting, so I joined him with the servants at the Paddington Terminus at one. We had a special train for ourselves and some of the Directors of the road, of whom Merthyr is one, and their friends. We had a saloon carriage, which is very pleasant for an excursion of this kind. The speed we went at was wonderful, including many stoppages we reached Bristol in about two hours and a half . . . At Bristol carriages and four were waiting to convey us forward without delay to Chepstow ... When all the party had assembled at the old Passage we crossed over in the Steamer, and reaching the other side posted on again with all speed to Chepstow. It was glorious summer weather and the journey was most enjoyable. We arrived before 7 and found everything prepared for us at the Inn ..
June 18 [Swansea]. Next morning we breakfasted at eight and were saluted by ringing of bells, and playing of musick and waving of flags &c., &c. We were at the station by nine o'clock, and an address having been presented on the auspicious occasion by the inhabitants of the town of Chepstow to the Directors of the Road, we took our places in the carriages, and after some little delay for necessary arrangements, at length set forward on the South Wales Railway, amidst all the sounds of rejoicing that could be imagined, the firing of cannon and the shouting of the multitude now added to the peals of bells and the bands of musick. It was fortunately a glorious day which added greatly to the enjoyment. How lovely Wales is in such weather. Our progress was one of the most triumphant description. At every station we were met and welcomed in the most enthusiastic manner, the Directors having to get out of their carriage at several towns to receive addresses. The shouting, the waving of banners, the excitement of the vast crowds, all full of animation and glee, were most animating, and I fully entered into the spirit of the day, delighted too to be again in my own dear country, which looks beautiful from this line on every side. At Cardiff the reception was peculiarly grand, the town having provided a luncheon for the newcomers. The ladies did not leave their carriage, but wine was brought to us to drink success to the new undertaking . . . Thus amid shouts and cheers, through thronging crowds, and under triumphal arches &c., we made our way to Swansea. By that time our numbers had swelled immensely. The crowd on the platform was very great. The Mayor and Corporation, the Directors and Officials formed in procession at this point and went through the town on foot ... The breakfast was given in a tent on the Burrows by the Town of Swansea to the Magnates of the South Wales Road. Six hundred and ninety people sat down to it. But what cared I for the breakfast itself, hungry though I was ? The speeches were my delight, and some of them were really very good . . .
November 8 [Dowlais]. Coming down this morning I found a note from Mr. Jenkins, telling me that Mr. Longueville Jones, the Government Inspector of Schools, was here and about to visit our boys' and girls' schools. They called on me before one. Mr. L. Jones seems an intelligent man and has his heart in the work. We had an interesting conversation on this subject. His visit to this place is not Official. We allow him to go through our schools, and to see everything, but as we are entirely self-supported, and have had nothing from the Government, he has no authority over us. We think his visits do us good as all investigation must do, and we are therefore very glad to see him here. He says our schools are the best in the whole district he visits .. .
November 20. Poor Merthyr in addition to his health has had much trouble and vexation about the Works lately. Things have not prospered. The expenses have been enormous, the returns but trifling. For the first time since I married, the accounts of the half year to September have shewn a loss and that a heavy one, and prospects as yet have not brightened. It is true I try to say things look better. But what can I know about it ? And in the midst of all this depression a large sum has to be laid out to bring the Works, so disorganized by the termination of our lease, into tolerable order. Not less than £100,000 I am sure it will amount to before it is all complete, and this, added to the £200,000 to be paid to Mr. Lewis [successor to Mr. Wyndham Lewis, Sir John's late partner] for his share of the concern, is indeed a serious consideration in such times as these. I do not wonder that in his weakened state of health he is sometimes troubled at these things .. .
November 27. Mr. Jenkins came again after breakfast and took the Bishop, Mrs. and Miss Ollivant into the Works to see the views of the town from the cinder tips. They left us soon afterwards. They are a very nice family, and I hope we have made a valuable acquaintance in them. The Bishop sets his face entirely against Puseyism, which is a great blessing, and he has already strongly exerted himself in favour of church extension in his diocese. This is the only way to meet the efforts of the Papists. On the subject of the late popish movement it has not been thought safe to have a publick meeting here, lest the Welsh populace, who hate them, should become excited and tear down the Roman Catholick Chapel and drive all the Popish Irish away. But Petitions are got up on all the sides. We have one in course of signature for the Church, and all the Dissenters in the place have petitions of their own, for each denomination .
December 1. We had a long sermon from Mr. Jenkins, shewing up the errors of Popery. Not a very good one, not strong enough on some points and too violent on others .. .
December 8 [Canford]. An excellent sermon on Papal aggression by Mr. Ponsonby. I was much gratified to hear him speak strongly on our Church being Protestant as well as Reformed .. .
An address to the Bishop of Salisbury about the Pope brought here, which we all signed .. .
December 14 [Spring Gardens]. .........................
This Roman Catholick aggression business still occupies all minds. The Duke of Norfolk has written to disclaim all sympathy with the Pope's movement, and says he has but to choose between the Pope and his allegiance to the Queen, so that the Papists themselves are in a nice confusion about it. Mr. Bennett the Puseyite has resigned his living and great efforts are making by the sound part of our church to eradicate the Tractarians ; may they, by God's blessing, succeed .. .
December 30. We drove as far as the Exhibition in the Park. I had not seen it before. It is certainly stupendously large, but at present it does not strike me as very beautiful. There is all the flatness of a greenhouse about it. Why could there not have been some relief in the ground plan ? .. .
[On their return to Dowlais the Guests left London at 9.30 in the morning, reached Cardiff at 3.30, spent two hours there, and arrived at Dowlais at seven in the evening. Though at Canford Sir John had been unexpectedly well, his last illness was now about to begin.]
November 19 [Dowlais]. . . . I thought Merthyr seemed rest-less and poorly, and as the weather was unfit for going out, it had been snowing in the morning, I got him to take his newspapers in the Drawing room, where the little girls were playing, which I thought would amuse him . . . By dinner time however he rambled so much at intervals that I became dreadfully frightened and sent for Mr. White again. It seemed odd to me that between his rambling he could quite collect his thoughts, and talked most rationally. After dinner we sat a little time together, and he was quite himself and full of affection. Mr. White then came in again and we advised him to go to bed .. .
November 20. . . . It is now (23 Nov. 4 p.m.) three days since I have written here, and alas I have a sad record to write. That day (Thursday) he seemed almost stupefied. I left him under Hillyard's care to doze some time in the morning, while I got the letters sent off and other necessary things attended to . . . In the afternoon while I sat by him he seemed to rally, and frequently he spoke of the sad state of the Works and asked me whether there were no letters from Purnell, no chance of an order. I thought if the subject were pressing on his mind and he was uneasy about it, it would be best to reassure him, so I told him 2000 tons had been ordered from America. Then he made me fetch the letter and read part of it to him, and said : " It is the only drop of comfort in the trade for months, and would you keep it from me ? " He became so excited as well as pleased that I became frightened at what I had done, but I presently persuaded him to be quiet and try and sleep . . . I sat all the evening in the dressing room watching, until at last I was tired out with anxiety and the want of rest the night before. I lay down on the carpet and fell sound asleep .. .
November 21. To-day we thought him so much better that he was allowed to get up and lie on the sofa in my dressing room. He gave me orders about writing a letter for him to sign, which was to recommend a plan for the appointment of Postmaster at Merthyr . . . He presently asked for wine and seemed chilly and depressed. I dared not give it without advice, but sent at once for Mr. White who came in, and allowed him some warm wine and water, after which he fell sound asleep in my arms and got into a great heat, which again we hoped would do him good. It was not so. When he woke he was very incoherent, and after I was up and went to him he asked me so many odd questions that I was quite alarmed. He asked them quite gravely, and presupposing a chain of imaginary facts they were reasonable and connected enough .. .
[Sir John's illness threw great responsibility on Lady Charlotte in matters of business.]
November 26. . . . There was a great deal to do with the letters today. Purnell enclosed a feverish anxious letter from Kitson, trembling in suspense about an order from the Warsaw Road which Count Kleinmichel has not yet given out. Purnell says there is a report in the City of our having taken a Russian Contract for 130,000 tons, of course quite unfounded. He sent me the Dec. Bills desiring to have them back on Friday, and I am quite at a loss what to do, for I know my dear husband must not attend to them, and I do not know how far I am authorised to endorse or accept for him .. .
November 28. . . . While at breakfast I got the letters. That from Purnell enclosed one from Kitson, quite inconclusive, but sufficient to cause great anxiety and suspense about his Russian movements, which are to be kept perfectly secret. As soon as I read it I sealed it up to send it back by the same post ; all the Bills had to be returned today. It was out of the question to think of Merthyr's endorsing them, or even alluding to it to him. Mr. Purnell said Glyns' would not object to my signature to them and to the clerks, so I did it all and sent them off by the Post. I am very careful to keep a record of every money transaction I have anything to do with now he is so ill. All this and other letters filled up the morning .. .
September 26 [Dowlais]. . . . Merthyr's arrival has gladdened thousands. The first thing he did was to sanction unasked an advance of 5% on wages. It was very touching to see the old Founders crowd round him in the Works the first time he was there, welcoming him among them again, and thanking him for the advance. It was so hearty, so Welsh, so touching that I hurried him away, feeling it would be too much for him.
[For six weeks or so Sir John's condition, sometimes better, sometimes worse, is the chief burden of the journal. Business was conducted with Sir John's approval if his condition permitted, and on Lady Charlotte's authority if he was not well enough to be consulted. The last important piece of business undertaken was the starting of a Savings Bank at Dowlais, for which, after some demur, Sir John agreed to accept the financial responsibility for one year.]
[On the 24th Sir John was barely conscious when, by a strange stroke of irony, the new lease of Dowlais was brought ready for signature.]
November 24. . . . After I had completed the very few letters I chose to write to-day they came and told me John Evans was come in and wanted me. I went down immediately ; he was in the Library, and on my entering, pointed to a parcel on the table and said with great emotion " There is the Lease ". I quite exclaimed, and the tears filled my eyes. The Lease He had been so troubled about, that had cost us all so much anxiety and vexation, that he had expected to arrive from day to day, there it was, only waiting for his signature, and he could never see it, never hold a pen again ! .. .
November 26. . . . It is all over ! I am bereaved, but I cannot help sitting down at once to record it all in order. Not that I can ever forget, but to refresh the memory of my poor children hereafter . . .
[Many pages of the journal are devoted to a description of Sir John's last hours, and to expressions of her passionate grief at his death.]
The funeral took place at Dowlais, where Lady Charlotte remained with her children, with the exception of two short business visits to London, till the New Year.
Gradually she mastered her sorrow in order to grapple with the immense amount of business to be done, for by Sir John's will Lady Charlotte was joint executor with Mr. Clark and Mr. Divett. One of the things she had to do was to sign the new Dowlais lease. It was nearly two months after his death when she returned to Canford. Her description of her arrival there may well bring to a close her account of a remarkable partnership.
January 18 [Canford]. . . . We reached Wimborne in due time. The open carriage met us there, and soon we were at Canford. It was a cold bright night. I could see but little in driving in, but the alterations seemed improvements. When we stopped at the door, I got out silently, and leaving them all went straight to the Library, where luckily there was a light. A slight veil had been thrown over his bust, which at once I removed and then I flung my arms around it, and remained clasping it for some minutes, kissing the cold lips - not colder than his own when I kissed them last - and shedding torrents of passionate tears.
And this cold marble is now all that is left me !
- Lady Charlotte - A Biography of the Nineteenth Century Revel Guest and Angela V. John, 1989
Published by George Weidenfeld and Nicolson Ltd. ISBN 0 297 79398 5