MONTAGU, Edwin Samuel (1879-1924). Papers of Edwin Montagu, comprising correspondence, including his correspondence with his wife Venetia (née Stanley), and letters of Winston Churchill, H.H. Asquith, Margot Asquith, Lord Beaverbrook, and others, 1896-1924, and copy correspondence, comprising draft and received 'Private and Personal' telegrams as Secretary of State for India, 1919-1922, together with other papers, including correspondence regarding the disposal of the majority of Montagu's archive, 1955; the whole contained in 18 folders. The papers comprise:
Edwin Samuel MONTAGU. A series of approximately 161 autograph letters signed and 4 letters signed to his wife, Venetia, Whitehall, 24 Queen Anne's Gate, Paris, Cairo, various locations in India, and elsewhere, 21 December 1909 - 7 June 1924 and n.d.; 106 autograph letters signed, 16 typed letters signed and one unsigned letter, with a number of telegrams, to his mother, Lady Swaythling, 29 November 1904 - 8 October 1914, Co. Mayo, Cambridge, Whitehall, Seville and elsewhere; two autograph letters signed to his sister, Marion, 14 and 17 July 1896; typescript copies, most with signatures, of letters to Winston Churchill (2, October 1916), H.H. Asquith (31 July 1915, 'my views on the general situation', 16 pages, 4to), to Austen Chamberlain (5 March 1917, to the Editor of the Times (7 July 1914, 'Council of India Bill. Mr Montagu's Explanation'), to Lord Chelmsford (2) and others mainly on Indian questions; together with a carbon copy typescript of his Indian Diary, 20 October 1917 - 11 May 1918, 543 pages, folio (published in 1930, ed. Venetia Montagu).
A considerable proportion of Montagu's surviving letters to his wife date from the year of their engagement and marriage, 1915, when not only Montagu's own varying emotional state, but also the deep difficulties presented by Venetia's relationship with H.H. Asquith (Montagu's closest friend in politics) provided much food for discussion: Montagu, as with his future wife, was acutely aware of the Prime Minister's emotional reliance on her ('you are getting more an element than ever in his life') and deeply concerned with how to set about 'facing the P.M' with news of their engagement. Montagu's letters after their marriage have many revealing political insights, as well as depictions of an influential social circle. A fine series from the India Office in January and February 1922 includes a number of comments on his relations with Winston Churchill (then Secretary for the Colonies): 'Winston has a pleasant habit of getting bored with the details of his subject and then appointing a Sub-Committee of which he makes me Chairman, unless I am alert enough to escape it' (27 January 1922); 'relations between Winston and myself ... are very strained on the subject of Indians in East Africa ... He has behaved very badly, not only coming to the wrong decisions, but behaving most trickily' (31 January 1922); 'The press are working up a great state of agitation about India ... Meanwhile, what with Curzon and Turkey, Winston and Kenya, things cannot get better, they must get worse' (3 February 1922); 'I do not think that the Government is in good spirits on the eve of the meeting of Parliament' (7 February 1922). A typed copy of a letter to Churchill of 31 October 1916 reflects on an earlier period of collaboration, in the wartime Coalition Government: 'Ought not the winter to be occupied ... in devising new weapons, and more particularly new defences against old weapons? ... Cannot the idea of the Tank be so extended as to use a Tank-like machine to protect our infantry?'. The stresses of Montagu's tour of India in 1917-18 are revealed in a series of letters to his wife ('the work is just awful'; 'the bloody mail goes in a few minutes'; 'Chelmsford's library is full of bad detective stories collected by Hardinge - hooray!'), while five letters between February and May 1919 depict predominantly social aspects of life with the British Delegation at the peace negotiations in Paris. A letter of 16 October 1917 (some seven years before his death) exemplifies Montagu's morbid and mercurial, but deeply sensitive nature: 'This is to say goodbye ... You will get this letter only when I am dead ... In the name of everything we enjoyed together, look for the fun I wanted to give you everywhere. Do what you like, go where you like ...'.
(Beatrice) Venetia MONTAGU (née Stanley). A series of 182 autograph letters signed, and four telegrams, to Edwin Montagu, n.d.  - 30 January 1919 and n.d.; and two autograph letters signed to her mother-in-law Lady Swaythling.
Venetia's letters are of particular interest with reference to her relationship and correspondence with H.H. Asquith [see previous lot]. Her letters to Asquith are lost, and the character revealed in these letters, as well as the fondness and sense of oppression shown in her references to the Prime Minister, are a significant addition, and sometimes corrective, to that celebrated outpouring of letters.
Letters addressed to Edwin Montagu by: Sir Winston Spencer CHURCHILL. Letter signed (autograph superscription and insertion of date in text), Admiralty, 8 August 1913, autograph letter signed, 41 Cromwell Road, 1 November 1916, with a typed copy of a letter to H.H. Asquith, 5 January [n.y.], and a document in Churchill's hand and signed by him, and by Clementine Churchill, Duff Cooper, Lady Diana Manners, Venetia Montagu, Patrick Shaw Stewart and one other (illegible), 24 Queen Anne's Gate, n.d., declaring that 'We the undersigned undertake to dine underneath if we are not underground on March 9th 1918', altogether two pages, 8vo, autograph, and 5½ pages, 4to, typescript; Herbert Henry ASQUITH, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith. Six autograph letters signed, 20 February 1906 - 15 June 1915, 15 pages, 8vo; Margot ASQUITH. Two autograph letters, 14 March 1914 and 16 March 1915, 12 pages, 8vo; and autograph letters signed by W.M. Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook (to Venetia Montagu on her husband's death), St John Brodrick, 9th Viscount and 1st Earl of Midleton, and others, including members of the Stanley family.
Churchill's letter signed of August 1913 concerns the contentious question of naval estimates, and urges an 'increased contribution by India towards the cost of the vessels maintained in Indian waters ... Whatever doubts there may be about India contributing to Imperial Defence, surely there can be no moral justification in her throwing the burden of purely local Indian defence upon the British taxpayer and the British Admiralty?', directing also that 'You ought also to turn your attention to the Indian Marine, which is one of the greatest scandals now existing in British administration. Its present condition is one of the grossest abuses which I have ever come across in official life, and as soon as I am released from official ties, I intend to do my best to break it up ... This letter is for your private eyes alone'. Churchill's letter of November 1916 responds to suggestions by Montagu as to military innovations [see above]: 'I think you are on the right lines ... I have a new conception of the method of attack by mechanical agency; ... if there is anything in the idea I have it wd be a gt pity to tell one unnecessary person', and referring to an enclosure, presumably the typed copy of a letter to Asquith dated 5 January [n.y.], which contains a long proposal on the evolution of warfare suggesting, in particular, the use of tanks, shields for infantry, and smoke-screens.
The earliest letter from H.H. Asquith invites Montagu to be his assistant private secretary; in December 1914 he proposes submitting Montagu's name for the Privy Council, 'recognition ... of the splendid work which you have done both at the India Office & the Treasury ... It is, I need not add, the greatest of pleasures to offer a public mark of distinction to a friend whose loyalty and affection have never failed me'; on 7 March 1915 he writes on the 'Labour and Contracts question', and on Montagu's desire to be the next Viceroy of India - 'The Indian vacancy may be upon us sooner than we expected. I see signs in Hardinge's telegram that he has quite lost both nerve and head', referring to his refusal to send troops to Basra, and other possible successors; a letter of 12 May 1915 tersely acknowledges Montagu's engagement to Venetia Stanley - 'You are more than fortunate, and I pray that Heaven will bring you both all happiness'; six days later, the Prime Minister gloomily confronts the prospect of a Cabinet reshuffle after the formation of the Coalition Government - 'I have been engaged all morning in the most dismal of occupations - whetting the pole-axe, and marking down the victims'; on 15 June 1915 Asquith thanks Montagu for a letter of encouragement - 'Your letter has touched me deeply ... I am very fortunate to have such a friend'. Two letters from Margot Asquith both complain about Venetia's influence on her husband - 'poor Venetia, I ought not to be unkind about her ... but I'm so disappointed in the young ones', instructing Montagu to tell Venetia 'I wd much rather you never spoke of Margot to me for hers is a character you don't & never wd understand (14 March 1914); on 16 March 1915 she renews the theme - 'She is not candid with me' - perhaps unaware that Montagu was less than two months away from announcing his engagement to Venetia.
Lord Midleton writes on 4 February 1918 attempting to smooth over a political dispute ('I was surprised and troubled that a man of your calibre ... should have levied so heavy an indictment against the India Office'); Lord Beaverbrook's letter to Venetia responds to news of Montagu's death - 'I cannot write to you of my emotion. Everything that I loved in Edwin was so vividly recalled'.
INDIA OFFICE. A series of approximately 260 draft, deciphered and copy 'Private and Personal' telegrams, between Edwin Montagu as Secretary of State for India and successive Viceroys of India, Frederic Thesiger, 1st Viscount Chelmsford and Rufus Isaacs, 1st Earl of Reading, April 1919 - February 1922, the majority typescript, draft telegrams with annotations and initials of Montagu and others, including approximately ten drafted in the autograph of Edwin Montagu, also including consultative material and printed texts of telegrams, together with two autograph letters signed by George Nathaniel, Marquess Curzon and two by Austen Chamberlain; 3 folders.
The important series of 'Private and Personal' telegrams relate to urgent public order matters in two important periods: in April to October 1919, the 'Punjab unrest' culminating in the Amritsar massacre, and the urgent question of the suitable disciplinary treatment of General Dyer; the second the beginnings of the 'civil disobedience' movement under Mohandas K. Gandhi, including detailed discussions concluding in the necessity of arresting Gandhi in March 1922.
[Together with:] Correspondence, chiefly of Hon. Lily Montagu, 1955, relating to the disposal of Edwin Montagu's official political papers at the India Office Library, and relating to her efforts to commission a biography (one folder); and a collection of newspaper obituaries of Montagu, 1924 (one folder).
Edwin Montagu was the second son of the financier Samuel Montagu, 1st Baron Swaythling; he retained throughout his life ambiguous feelings towards his strict Jewish upbringing and his membership of the Jewish community. He was elected M.P. for Chesterton in the Liberal landslide of 1906, and swiftly became private secretary to H.H. Asquith, then Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was parliamentary under-secretary of state for India in 1910-1914, during which period, especially after his visit to the sub-continent in 1912-13, he developed a lasting and passionate interest in and sympathy with Indian questions. He became financial secretary to the Treasury in February 1914, and served in a number of different positions in the shifting responsibilities of wartime government; he entered the Cabinet in 1915, at the age of 36. After holding the post of minister for munitions for six months, Montagu was briefly out of office after the fall of his close friend and ally, Asquith in December 1916; but he returned in June 1917 as secretary of state for India, in which position, following another tour of the region in 1917-18, he was the architect, with Sir William Marris, of the Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms, which was responsible for the first time for introducing a measure of democracy to Indian institutions of government. He resigned from the Government in March 1922 in a dispute over the treatment of Turkey, and died two years later at the age of 45.