Tory Historian has started reading two books (among others), written by people who are completely overwhelming. Readers of this blog will be pleased to know that TH has finally launched into Frederick Burnaby's A Ride to Khiva, which is not just a tremendously exciting and frightening account of an unbelievable journey but is also highly entertaining. Burnaby wrote only two books in his life, which was a remarkable one by any standard (blogged here), but he clearly had a wonderful eye for details and a talent to make them sound amusing and interesting. Incidentally, he seems to have travelled several times in European Russia before he decided to ride off to the newly conquered lands in Central Asia and, unlike many, learned the language and found out a great deal about the country.

The other book is the Northamptonshire Record Society's edition of the later diaries of Lady Knightley of Fawsley. Lady Knightley was a remarkable woman and a separate posting about her when TH has finished reading her diaries will follow. She was married to Sir Rainald Knightley, later Lord Knightley of Fawley, a Tory MP of outstandingly old-fashioned views on politics and Parliament.

She, therefore, spent much time in political social circles and recorded her impressions of the people she met and of the various events as they unfolded. She campaigned for her husband, which he was rather uneasy about as he did not think that women should speak in public but, apparently, accepted. She was one of the earliest Dames of the Primrose League about which she wrote with characteristic vigour and humour on May 12, 1885:
This morning I spent on a Girls' Friendly Society Committee [one of many organizations Lady Knightley was active in]; then came back here to receive a visit from Lady Wimborne [sister of Lord Randolph Churchill] and be enrolled as a 'dame' in the Primrose League... It sounds all rubbish but the objects, 'the maintenance of Religion, of he Estates of the Realm and of the ascendancy of the British Empire', are excellent and I can quite believe that the paraphernalia helps to keep the Conservatives together; means, in short and army of unpaid canvassers.

The rest of the day's entry presents a picture of a day that is exhausting to read about, never mind experience.

Lady Knightley was also an active member of various Conservative suffragist societies and a numerous charitable and social organizations, usually finding herself on committees or in charge of the literature. As mentioned above, a fuller posting will follow in due course.

Despite all the activity, she found time to keep a diary throughout most of her life. The early parts of the journal were edited by Julia Cartwright, later Mrs Ady and published in 1915 and are now available on line. The journals of the years 1885 to 1913 (when she died) were edited and exhaustively annotated by Peter Gordon and published 1999. These are the ones TH has been reading. They are not for the faint-hearted but are, nevertheless engrossing. In both these attributes Politics and Society: The Journals of Lady Knightley of Fawsley 1885 to 1913 resemble A Ride to Khiva.


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