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December 23 , 2009

Lord Bellinger

An Autobiography


In this age of literary self-analysis a volume of autobiographical

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Au-dessus des étangs, au-dessus des vallées, Des montagnes, des bois, des nuages, des mers, Par delà le soleil, par delà les éthers, Par delà les confins des sphères étoilées, Mon esprit, tu te meus avec agilité, Et, comme un bon nageur qui…

memoirs needs neither explanation nor apology. But a short time has

elapsed since Mr. George Bernard Shaw heralded the advent in the world of

letters of a Super-tramp whose gift of prosody has already brought him a

well-earned meed of fame. Soon afterwards, Mr. H. G. Wells, not to be

outdone, acted as sponsor to a literary bath-chairman whose biographical

revelations caused a temporary stir in the peaceful backwaters of the

Circulating Libraries. The popular appreciation accorded to the

discoveries of Mr. Shaw and Mr. Wells supplies adequate proof of the

interest which the British public will always take in personal

reminiscences that are written with simplicity, sincerity and a complete

lack of reserve. That this interest is not confined to the writings of

vagrants and casuals may be gathered from the continuous publication of

those absorbing volumes of memoirs which it is the habit of modern ladies

of title to compile in their leisure moments. It is not too much to hope

that this fashion of self-revelation, which exposes the most intimate

details of domestic life to the gaze of the public, may soon become



The House of Lords has but recently been the centre of a controversy

unique in its violence and bitterness. This may therefore be considered a

singularly appropriate moment for the publication of an autobiography

written by one who may be rightly regarded as a thoroughly typical member

of that august and much maligned assembly. It was originally intended

that this autobiography should be published anonymously. Indeed, Lord

Bellinger was at one time anxious that its publication should be deferred

until some time after his decease. He doubtless realised that his candid

criticism of many of his nearest and dearest might prove unpalatable to

thin-skinned or sensitive relations, and, being himself a man of an

exceptionally tender heart, was naturally loth to hurt the feelings of

his friends, at any rate during his own lifetime. Circumstances have,

however, arisen which render it possible to publish the memoirs without

further delay, and it is to be hoped that their appearance will cause but

little pain to those of Lord Bellinger's acquaintance who may recognise

their own portraits in these pages. (It may save trouble if I state that

Mr. Bridgitt, of the firm of Bridgitt, Bridgitt and Venable, Lord

Bellinger's family solicitors, has submitted the MS. to the consideration

of a legal expert who has pronounced the satisfactory opinion that

although certain passages might possibly be criticised as being in

execrable taste, there is nothing libellous or actionable in the book.)


The winter of 1910 will always be notable as a period of intense and

exceptional political stress. It culminated, as will no doubt be

remembered, in a Constitutional crisis of unparalleled importance in the

annals of English history. In November, we may recall, the House of Lords

nobly responded to the demands of a clamorous Democracy. That passion for

self-improvement which had been slumbering for so many centuries, almost

unnoticed, in the bosoms of the Peerage, burst forth into sudden flame.

Within the brief space of a single week the Lords, with a celerity which

evoked the admiration and wonder of the whole civilized world, resolved

upon the adoption of a number of the most drastic measures of internal

reform, involving the sacrifice of that hereditary principle upon which

their whole existence had so long depended. The sudden passionate desire

to amend its constitution, displayed by the Upper Chamber during those

momentous days of November, shamed even the bitterest opponents into

silence, and it was universally admitted that men who were thus prepared

to relinquish at a moment's notice all the rights and privileges for

which their forefathers had bled and paid, for such countless

generations, must be moved by no ordinary spirit of disinterested

patriotism and self-sacrifice.


It cannot, however, be denied that among the many Peers who were thus

called upon to immolate themselves upon the altar of their Empire and

their Party were a certain number of strenuous souls who viewed the idea

of renouncing their legislative birthright with extreme reluctance. Of

these perhaps the most prominent was Lord Bellinger. He was away hunting

in Leicestershire when the news was brought to him of the surrender of

that hereditary principle which he had always regarded as the salvation

of England. He was not therefore able to take any personal part in the

debate upon his leader's startling reformatory resolutions until a week

later, when there was a hard frost. He did not remain idle, however, but

spent nearly the whole of one Sunday morning composing a masterly letter

to the _Morning Post_ in which he explained at some length the danger

that would threaten England and the Empire if men like himself were no

longer qualified to take part in the deliberations of the Upper Chamber.

"It will be a deplorable day for this country," he wrote, "when the

possession of large estates, often held by the same family for two or

more generations, shall no longer entitle land-owners to play the

principal part in the government of these islands. It will be a sad day

for the Empire when the aristocracy of birth and wealth shall cease to

represent themselves in our Imperial Senate, and the composition of the

Second Chamber is restricted to individuals whose only qualifications

consist of some fortuitous intellectual eminence, or mere personal



Lord Bellinger's protests, alas! fell upon deaf ears, and when he

discovered that he himself could not hope to find a seat in any House of

Lords constituted upon lines so narrow and democratic as those

foreshadowed by the leaders of the so-called Reform Movement, he very

rightly determined that his country should be punished for her

ingratitude, and, after selling his English property and disposing of

Bellinger House, Mayfair, bade farewell to the land which (as he bitterly

declared) seemed to have no further use for his services.


Bellinger Hall became the property of Mr. Wilbur P. Balch, familiarly

known in Chicago as the Chew-gum King, while Lord Bellinger's London

residence was acquired by a Limited Entertainment Company which proposes

to convert it into an Electric Palace and Skating Rink.


During his brief colonial tour, which he describes in these memoirs, Lord

Bellinger had been greatly attracted by the climate and scenery of

Western Canada. When therefore he decided to cut himself adrift of all

his old associations he took steps to purchase a large tract of land in

British Columbia, and, after shaking the dust of England off his feet,

emigrated to Vancouver, at the commencement of this year, taking his wife

and infant daughter with him. Before leaving he handed me a packet

containing this autobiographical sketch, and informed me that I was at

liberty to publish it whenever I felt disposed to do so. It had been

completed some months before the occurrence of that Constitutional crisis

which was the immediate cause of his emigration, and terminates therefore

upon a suitably optimistic note.


My own share in the production of this work is of the slightest, but

should perhaps be made clear. As was becoming in a man of his social

position, Lord Bellinger enjoyed the privilege of a public-school

education, and was afterwards brought up in a fashion suited to one

destined from birth to undertake the responsibilities of hereditary

statesmanship. He would therefore have been the last man in the world to

claim the possession of any literary skill or pretend that he had

anything but the most rudimentary acquaintance with the intricacies of

grammar, style or punctuation. He was rightly content to leave such minor

matters to less fortunate persons who, like myself, have been compelled

by circumstances to study the laws of syntax and composition. As the

editor of his memoirs it has been my pleasant duty to rewrite most of the

original manuscript which the distinguished author had dictated somewhat

hurriedly to his typewriter. And so, although the matter is invariably

Lord Bellinger's, the manner is generally my own.


With these brief words of introduction my task comes to an end, and I

will leave Lord Bellinger to tell his own story and trace the development

of his own character by a simple portrayal of the numerous events of

interest that have combined to form the groundwork of his successful

career as a soldier and (until recently) a statesman.

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