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This blog makes liberal use of AB's journals, letters, travel notes, and other sources.
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Friday, 11 March 2016
Out of place
75 Cadogan Square, London.
I recently made the acquaintance of Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor. I had met Lady Astor's sister, Mrs. Phipps, at Ruth Draper's in December and was later introduced to the Viscount. I was a little surprised by the invitation to Temple Place, one of the grandest houses in London by all repute. It is just across from the Victoria Embankment, in the Temple area and deserves its reputation. It is as if a country mansion has been set down in the city, and I suppose that was the intention. They have a very interesting collection of Egyptian curiosities there at the moment which I was able to examine.
Built by William Waldorf Astor, then the richest man in the world, in 1895 it has a distinct Arts and Crafts feel - lots of wood panelling, carving, stained glass and hanging lights. The central staircase, with glazed roof is very grand indeed. To be honest I felt myself to be rather out of place - there is nothing like this in the Five Towns. But the Viscount and his wife were very welcoming and she especially seemed genuinely interested in my writing; I don't think the Viscount is a reading man. My impression is that the couple do not use the place very much now, preferring their country place at Cliveden. Nancy Astor is a rather lovely woman, and of course the first woman to take a seat in the Commons. Quite how she reconciles this with the sort of life she leads I have no idea and felt it inopportune to inquire.
I sometimes wonder if my marriage would have been better served had I had a London house instead of Comarques. Marguerite was never really happy there and was always nagging me for us to live in London. It is ironic that I have lived here since I left her. But on balance I don't think it would have made much difference. She would still have met and become infatuated with Legros, or if not him then some other young spark. I don't seem to have the gift of making women happy, though I like them and get on with them very well in a general way. Dorothy isn't happy though she puts a brave face on things. It may be that I am so set in my ways and tend to be perhaps too particular, not to say obsessive. My sister Tertia when she lived with me sometimes called me 'an old woman'. Maybe she had the right of it.