“the day of the month on which they were laid” -- 10/2/20

Today's selection -- from The Sixth Great Power: A History of One of the Greatest of All Banking Families, The House of Barings, 1762-1929 by Philip Ziegler. One member of the famous Baring brothers banking family, the second Lord Ashburton, was born to colossal wealth but showed little interest in the family business. His first wife was known for her arrogance:

"That other Baring peer, the 2nd Lord Ashburton, was equally remote from the bank. Thomas Carlyle thought he found little pleas­ure in his new glory. 'He is immensely rich, but having no children, and for himself no silly vanity, I believe does not in the least rejoice at such a lot. Poor fellow! He looked miserably ill the day I called on him... One could not but ask oneself, thinking of £60,000 a year, "Alas, what is the use of it?" '

"His gloom was possibly induced by his wife Harriet, who knew only too well what was the use of £60,000 a year. [One observer] called her 'perhaps the most conspicuous woman in the society of the present day'; she was intelligent, quick-witted, with just enough education to pass for a bluestocking and enough vivacity to pass for a wit. She was anxious to shine in the high aesthetic line, and turned the Grange into a menagerie where literary lions like Carlyle and Thackeray grazed among politicians and assorted grandees. Her main defects were arrogance and a propen­sity for conversational bullying so marked as to verge on sadism. 'I don't mind being knocked down,' complained one victim, 'but I can't stand being danced upon afterwards.'

"Anything to do with the bank seemed to her tedious and common: when the wife of a new Baring partner, Mrs Russell Sturgis, asked to be introduced to her at a party, she replied 'in a dawdling tone that she must decline as she had already been introduced to two ladies of that firm'. But she made sure that her guests enjoyed the best: what impressed an American visitor, Mrs Laurence, when she visited the Grange was not so much the resident physician; the groom of the chambers, but­ler and under-butler; the spectacular silver and the turkey stuffed with truffles; but the fact that at breakfast the boiled eggs were marked with the day of the month on which they were laid."


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author:

Philip Ziegler

title:

The Sixth Great Power: A History of One of the Greatest of All Banking Families, The House of Barings, 1762-1929

publisher:

Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

date:

Copyright 1988 by Barings Brothers & Co. Ltd and P.S. & M. C. Ziegler & Co.

pages:

158-159
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