Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"I never knew what real happiness was until I got married. And by then it was too late" -- Max Kauffman

With so many entries of late revolving around subjects of war and the military, let's divert ourselves and attend a wedding!

The London Times of 9 June 1916 proclaimed, in a column called 'Forthcoming Marriages' that "A marriage has been arranged, and will take place on Thursday, the 22nd inst., at St. Paul's, Knightsbridge, at 12:45, between Capt. Arthur Hobart Mills, D.C.L.I, elder son of Rev. Barton R. V. Mills, 38, Onslow-gardens, and the late Lady Catherine Mills, and nephew of the Earl of Buckinghamshire, and Lady Dorothy Walpole, only daughter of the Earl of Orford. No invitations will be issued, but friends are very welcome at the church. Lady Dorothy is staying at 13, Grosvenor-place."

The Earl of Orford, Robert Walpole, was a widower at this time and had no heir to the Earldom. He and his daughter, Dorothy Rachel Melissa Walpole, have traveled the world fishing and adventuring in exotic locales.

In her autobiography, A Different Drummer: Chapters in Autobiography [Duckworth: 1930], Lady Dorothy Mills writes of the years before her engagement:

Halfway through my teens, the inevitability of me had become apparent, life changed. "Tom-boyish-ness" was discouraged, and it was subtly instilled in me that I had a part to play in the world. Slowly the beauty of my heritage began to dawn on me, the pride of prospective possession, and with grew also the realization that I was but a cog in a great machine, the juggernaut of Family Tradition. My looks and my accomplishments were dealt with, I was in general tidied up, and at eighteen I "came out." For awhile the world seemed to be mine to play with. I adored it all, the frocks, the parties, the dancing, the flirtations, the young men who sweated under the collar when they proposed and whom I had no intention of marrying, though I knew that some day I would have to make a "good match," a prospect that I classed alongside a visit to the dentist.

Lady Dorothy's father thought he had made a "good match" in 1888, marrying Louise Melissa Corbin, daughter of multi-millionaire American magnate D. C. Corbin [right] of Spokane, Washington, in Paris. Louise, 21, was 12 years younger than Walpole and would soon become mistress of the Mannington and Wollerton estates, both of which were desperately in need of repair. Her father was 56, and the Earl would have expected Louise to easily outlive the elder Corbin, anticipating a tidy inheritance.

Louise, however, died in 1900, leaving Walpole with only a daughter, Lady Dorothy, after a son, Horatio Corbin Walpole, born in 1891, died on 20 May 1893. According to historylink.org, during Louise's life, D. C. Corbin "visited Lord and Lady Orford at their country estates and townhouse in London, where he gave his daughter a box at the opera, among other things." However, they also reveal that "Lord Orford’s diary makes it clear that, during his marriage, little money had been forthcoming from his rich American father-in-law."

Supporting multiple estates [Mannington Hall is pictured, left], a townhouse in London, a hunting lodge in Devon, and frequently traveling around the world in search of fishing thrills, the Earl of Orford was naturally cash-starved. As it turned out, the only beneficiary of D. C. Corbin's 1918 death in his family was Lady Dorothy, and Corbin had an iron-clad stipulation that she could not claim her inheritance until after the death of her father, the Earl. It seems that Corbin was making certain that the spendthrift Earl was not going to get any of his money, ever!

So, when one reads of a "good match" in Lady Dorothy's autobiography, one can be sure that it means a match that came with money that could be channeled the Earl's way.

Her bitterness over that very real situation becomes far more clear in the next section, almost ten years after her "coming out" into society. Lady Dorothy continues:

Then in due course I fell in love, with a young man possessing most of the world's assets except money. But that "Except" had a capital "E." It was the one unforgivable sin, and was visited with everything old-fashioned and unpleasant that nothing but the Inquisition or an old-fashioned family could have devised. Marriage or disinheritance, that was the choice that lay before me, complicated by the advent of the Great War.

Wouldn't the choice have been 'marriage or inheritance'? Anyway, it's easy to see that the Walpoles were apparently less than thrilled with her choice: The nephew of the Earl of Buckinghamshire, true, but in reality a mere captain in the infantry.

Did captains in the infantry—a segment of the military where men have frequently been disposable pawns in a war—make far less than captains in other areas of the Army? If Mills had been a Royal Engineer, cavalry, or artillery, I feel certain he could have made enough to support himself and wife. As we already know, however, Mills was seemingly unable, even as a captain, to make enough money to support a wife at home during the First World War.

More from Lady Dorothy as her plans progressed:

In 1916 I got married after a three years' family warfare; warfare that one might say ended in a draw, in that on the one hand I had done what I intended, on the other that I was cast into utter darkness, to become the Outlier I have ever since remained. I had no trousseau, we had no prospects and no money, scarcely enough even to pay for the wedding celebrations. For though everyone advised a registry office, I decided on a church wedding, and a fashionable one too, that should be, if needs must, my last defiance to a sceptical world. I was the first London bride to wear a gold wedding dress, and incidentally, that bit of gold brocade was to be the last evening frock, except of my own making, that I was to know for several years, until finally it was turned economically into a sofa cushion!

I had never arranged a wedding before and had no one to help me, and I learnt then that arranging a fashionable wedding is harder work than running an African safari. I was so tired when the moment came to walk up the aisle of the church that the flowers and the people and the strains of sweet music seemed to whirl about me in a mist. But the wedding was well worth the trouble it gave me, and the money it cost that we hadn't got, for it proved that even an Outlier has friends and wellwishers angelic in their kindness and goodwill.

One thing we can probably assume is that there was no help forthcoming from the Mills family. Arthur's mother, Lady Catherine, had passed away during the previous century when Arthur was just two years old. Rev. Barton R. V. Mills, Arthur's father, had been married to Edith Ramsay since 1894, over 20 years, and had three children with her. They lived close to Edith's mother and father in Kensington, and the family must have been, after 22 years, very Ramsay-centric.

Include the fact that Barton and Edith, realizing they had their own daughters, Agnes and Violet, aged 21 and 14 in 1916, were likely anticipating the expense of two weddings of their own in the very near future. Given that, the idea of springing for an additional wedding, and that for a Lady of the Earldom of Orford, whose own landed family was against an alignment with their son, Arthur, made the prospects of much help from the Mills quite small.

Still, although it subtracted any of Arthur's savings and put the fledgling couple in debt, Lady Dorothy had her grand wedding. Lady Dorothy, according to the Times, "wore a short dress of white and gold chiffon brocade, the bridal veil falling from a wreath of gold leaves, and carried a bouquet of white orchids."

The bride was given away by Sir Mortimer Margesson, Arthur's uncle, who had married his Arthur's mother's sister, Isabella Augusta. The Times also carried an abridged roster of what were termed "invited guests": "The Earl and Countess of Buckinghamshire, the Earl and Countess of Dundonald, the Earl and Countess of Kimberly, the Countess of Roden, Viscountess Campden, Lady Albinia Donaldson, Lady Vere Hughes, Mr. and Lady Isabel Margesson, Lord and Lady Hollenden, Lord and Lady Mostyn, Lady Lawrence and Miss Lawrence, Lady Maxwell, Catherine Lady Decles, Sir Thomas Acland, Sir Edward and Lady Stracey, Sir George and Lady Cooper, Lady Dixon Hurtland, and Colonel and Mrs. Horace Walpole."

Invitations, it seems, had been delivered to some quests after all. It is odd among London wedding pieces of the era not to have named the bride's attendants. After all, Lady Dorothy herself had been listed in the Times as a bridesmaid at a good many weddings earlier in the decade. Was the rift with her family something that caused the Times to reduce coverage of the affair? Or was the dearth of coverage of these nuptials orchestrated by Lady Dorothy herself—a woman who knew exactly what she wanted out of this wedding, far beyond merely acquiring a husband.

In closing, the article on the wedding adds: "Captain Arthur Acland, of the bridegroom's regiment, was the best man." Not only was Arthur Frederick Hobart Mills nine year older than his half-brother, George Mills, and hence they were probably not close, but it's likely that George, having enlisted in the Army Reserves on 15 January 1916, was already at the Rifle Depot by 22 June, not at St. Paul's [pictured, right]. An Acland family relative and fellow soldier stood up for Arthur instead.

Having now read quite a few early 20th century wedding pieces in the London Times, I can't say there have been many—if any—in which the living parents and siblings of a bride or groom, being in attendance, were not mentioned. Is it possible that Rev. Mills, his wife, Edith, and Arthur's step-sisters Agnes and Violet, were either uninvited or chose not to attend? Or was this short article manipulated to be a shot across the proverbial bow of the Walpole family, showing them clearly that Arthur and Dorothy's angelic "friends and wellwishers" were still extremely gentrified, despite her "disinheritance."

Let's take a few more moments to peek into the life of our newlyweds, now setting sail on the seas of marital bliss, already in debt:

That first year of marriage was my first taste of the economic problem. I had no knowledge of house-keeping in any shape or form, I knew nothing of petty household and personal economies and makeshifts, I had never before learnt to do my own hair without a maid, or how to mend holes in my stockings, and my first attempt to lace up my own boots gave me a headache and intense desire to cry. In fact, never had there been such a useless young creature, till necessity turned me into a very fair Jack-of-all-trades.

Forgive me my inclination to just smack this 27-year-old who'd never done her own hair or laced her own boots right upside the head!

She continues:

The war was to take its toll of us, and my husband of a year who had already been severely wounded in France, went out to serve in the Palestine campaign. Those were grim months of privation, of financial worry, of work and grinding anxiety in a world where nothing seemed stable, where the future did not bear dwelling on. Again my general uselessness in all vital things became apparent to me. Other young women were doing heroic things at home and in France; my purely decorative upbringing and my various accomplishments had taught me little that could be useful under the existing conditions. I worked at the East End of London [pictured, left and right] until my health gave out, I hammered ineffectually at a typewriter, I served in a war shop. I was of little use, I am afraid, but I learnt a good deal. And in the evenings, when the bulletins were more reassuring, I mingled with the unhappy, hectic crowd, that in dancing and noise tried to kill an ever-present gnawing anxiety. Much has been said about those war parties, but I learnt then that often they were the ultimate buffer against despair, a safety valve from recklessness and suicide.

One wonders how much of that last sentence actually is autobiographical, despite the fact that I believe it must have been intended to be written as a description of the parties and their effects on others, not as anything personal. If one reads the rest of the book, it's obvious that the former is Lady Dorothy's 'style.' Still, I think in the gravity of that last sentence, something personal, indeed, leaked from her. Is it possible that she was already regretting, if not her indebtedness regarding the cost of her wedding, then even having married Arthur at all, the marriage costing her a lifestyle that she simply couldn't afford to replace.

Lady Dorothy is soon out at night after working all day, attending parties that she later wrote about, and that she admitted gained her "temporarily the reputation of a dope-addict." She's doing her own hair, lacing her own boots, and house-keeping, all while Arthur is away in Palestine, leaving the poor thing to fend for herself. "Privation," though, seems too strong word in this case.

A charitable sort, Lady Dorothy, while she was still a Walpole, had donated a few quid now and then to The Times Fund, organized on behalf of the British Red Cross and the Order of St. John. Less than a year after her wedding, according to the 21 April 1917 edition of the Times, Dorothy was still able to come up with £4 for the Fund. Oddly, though, it is recorded in The Times as having been given, quite exactly, by "Lady Dorothy Walpole, Naples (Further contribution)." All of her previous giving also had included the tag line "further contribution." What's interesting here isn't that she was still charitable while in the midst of her "economic problem," or that she actually had £4 to send—"The City Land Syndicate, Ltd." only came up with the sum of £3 3s., for example.

No, what's interesting to me is the word "Naples." A quick check of Google Maps reveals that there is no "Naples" in England, and one would assume if it was Naples, Florida, the name of the American state would have been added. It seems to me that, in a newspaper from a European country like England, Naples means NaplesNapoli… in Italy, on shores of the beautiful Tyrrhenian Sea [left].

This couldn't have been Lady Dorothy Nevill (née Walpole), who had passed away back in 1913. This has to be our "Lady Dorothy," mailing in her latest contribution from her "economic problem" that she was obviously suffering there on the Italian coast. [Naples was attacked later during WWI, by zeppelin in August 1917. I find it odd that this wasn't mentioned by Lady Dorothy anywhere in her memoirs—either having experienced it, or having departed in time and just missing it!]

We read above that Lady D. "worked at the East End of London until [her] health gave out." Later, she "hammered ineffectually at a typewriter, [and] served in a war shop." What we don't know is what she did in the intervening time between her ill-health and the war shop. Where, exactly, had she been banging those typewriter keys, and when?

I do understand that physicians at the time often prescribed rest and a foreign clime for their patients, but I was under the impression that it was prescribed mainly to those who could afford it, not those suffering from "financial worry" and "privation." One wonders, could it have been Barton and Edith Mills who came up with the money for a rejuvenating trip to the Mediterranean for their new daughter-in-law? Arthur's uncle, Sidney Carr Hobart-Hampden-Mercer-Henderson, 7th Earl of Buckinghamshire? Sir Mortimer? Colonel and Mrs. Horace Walpole, the only Walpole wedding invitees?

One suspects that it may have been none of the above. The cynic in me whispers that the "economic problems" and "privations" have been exaggerated, if not actually fabricated, to make Lady Dorothy's life—circa October 1930, the publication date of A Different Drummer—more remarkable, and perhaps more saleable: "Poor little rich girl overcomes the odds and makes good on her own…" After all, there was this book, and hopefully many others, still to sell! A dose of the Gothic novel—a disinherited girl, East End dangers, ill-health, a handsome soldier, riches to rags to riches—couldn't hurt sales, eh?

One could suspect that Dororthy [pictured, right], feeling unhealthy, and following 'doctor's orders,' recuperated in the sun and sea breezes of Naples, not at her flat in London as she implies. And one could suspect that she paid for it out of her own [and/or Arthur's] pocket.

Again, much of this makes me feel as if A Different Drummer is far less an autobiography and more of the publishing version of a legendary singer coming out with yet another new "greatest hits" album, with some songs now recorded live on tour, along with a couple of previously unreleased tracks. James Taylor has made a decade of doing just that. Regarding Lady Dorothy's self-told story, there's not much new there. It really does seem a case of repackaging the old and calling it new, except for adding the thread of a 'backstory' that makes the saga of Lady Dorothy far more melodramatic.

The events of the wedding… The partial guest list… What the bride wore… The identity of the best man…

These things we know pretty much as facts [according to the Times]. Much of the rest is open to speculation—even the events recorded in Lady Dorothy's anything-but-revealing autobiography.

Have you any speculation, information, or ideas? Have you noticed an important detail I've overlooked?

Please let me know—and thanks!

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