Charles Wentworth Dilke I and his wife: correspondence, 1787 - 1885
Scope and Contents
The Roskill-Dilke section includes all AWD's surviving letters from Russia, most of which are addressed to his paternal grandmother Caroline Duncombe Chatfield - always referred to by him as 'Dear Dragon' - and to CWD. AWD also had much correspondence 1875-81 with Russian émigrés and political refugees living in Paris, including Lopatin and Ludwik Hartmann. This evidently deals with the trial of Hartmann; but as many of the letters are written in Russian we must await elucidation of them by a scholar in that language. There are also letters from AWD to his wife Margaret Mary (Maye) Smith and to his brother CWD, and several from the latter to his sister-in-law Maye as well. AWD's phenomenal energy may have been a symptom of the tuberculosis from which he died at Algiers in 1883 at the age of 33 or the disease may have been aggravated by the great hardship of his Slavonic travels.
The Enthoven section includes letters of interest from many of the most famous artists, writers and politicians of the period (G F Watts, D G Rossetti, Sir George Otto Trevelyan, Robert Browning, Herbert Spencer, George Meredith, Joseph Chamberlain, etc). They are addressed to Mrs Eustace Smith when she and her family were living at 52 Prince's Gate, London, as well as at their Northumberland seat Gosforth Park. The remains of that house, most of which was destroyed by fire, have now been incorporated into the grandstand of Newcastle City race course, which covers the park in which it stood.
The Enthoven Section also includes typed copies of letters which passed between the Eustace Smith sisters Olive (Mrs Thomas Barron, Maye and Helen (Mrs Robert Harrison) in 1876 and letters from AWD to Olive 1877-8; also Helen's account of Maye's betrothal to AWD. It is not clear when or why these copies were made, but their preservation by VMC is a fortunate chance. Taken together the letters in the Enthoven Section throw much interesting light on the society in which VMC grew up as a young girl, and emphasise the force of the disaster which struck her family in 18864. There are also many bundles of VMC's own writings of later life on a wide variety of religious, social and political topics - which make plain that she was possessed of exceptional intelligence and character.
As to CWD's side of the story, it will be for a future biographer to take account of all the material available - including the transcript of the evidence at the second trial, in which the oddities of the law placed him in a most unfavourable situation. Account should also be taken of the fact that, whereas VMC was not thoroughly cross-examined, CWD had to face the very rigorous cross-examination by Henry Mathews, one of the leading advocates of the time. Apart from the extreme pro-Dilke faction (such as his private secretary J E C Bodley and Gertrude Tuckwell), the immediate and unwavering loyalty of his second wife, the widow of Mark Pattison, Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford, must be taken into account. Betty Askwith's biography Lady Dilke (London, 1969) is a valuable source on both her marriages. To preserve a balance, mention should also be made of Susan Lowndes (Ed.), Diaries and Letters of Marie Belloc Lowndes 1911-1946 (Chatto and Windus, 1963) and Robert Rhodes James, Rosebery. A Biography of Archibald Philip, Fifth Earl of Rosebery (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971), both of which touch on the divorce case. In contrast to those works, which are strongly anti-Dilke, it should be mentioned that there are a number of very intelligent and well-informed persons such as Sir Shane Leslie, Bart, and Miss Violet Markham, CH (Mrs James Carruthers) who remained convinced of CWD's innocence and always held that he was the victim of a monstrous conspiracy. Letters from them will be found in my own papers. What is known is that, on CWD's own admission, he and VMC's mother were lovers in 1868 and again for a short period in 1874-57. The effect that this knowledge (or perhaps its discovery) may have had on VMC, and the effect which it may have had on Mrs Eustace Smith with regard to VMC's affair (or alleged affair) with CWD have remained hotly debated issues which could merit study by a psychologist, rather than by a historian.
- 1787 - 1885
Language of Materials
Finding aid date
- From the Fonds: Roskill, Stephen Wentworth, 1903 - 1982 (naval historian) (Person)