1876-1890. ORIGINAL LEDGER WITH COPIED MANUSCRIPT LETTERS FROM THE DUKE'S BIRMINGHAM SOLICITOR. Quarto (29 x 24cm), with letters written in black ink to a single side of 214 numbered leaves, out of a total of 1000. Delicate leaves akin to tracing paper. In original tan half calf with dark brown cloth boards and marbled endpapers. Together with a word-processed TRANSCRIPT of the letters produced by Gerald Leach, stapled at left margin. Joints split, but hinges remain strong. Very heavy wear to fore-edges and spine. Fair overall. A remarkable collection of private correspondence, largely between Birmingham solicitor R. Harding Milward and John Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough. In January 1876, where this collection begins, a society scandal blew up when it emerged that the Duke's heir George, known as Lord Blandford, had started an affair with Edith, the wife of Heneage Finch, 7th Earl of Aylesford, who was then touring India with the Prince of Wales. With encouragement from the Prince, Aylesford promptly returned from India in order to file for divorce; an action he was already anxious to carry out on account of his own affair with a Mrs. Dilke, whose husband had recently died in suspicious circumstances, leaving her £30,000. At this time Blandford was himself involved in an acrimonious separation dispute with his wife, Lady Albertha, forcing him to regularly petition his father for loans to support his extensive debts and maintenance obligations. In order to prevent both of these potential divorces, which would have destroyed the reputations of all involved, the Duke of Marlborough's second son Randolph is known to have aggressively blackmailed the Prince of Wales and his wife Alix with allegations that the Prince himself had had an affair with Edith some years earlier (though none of this is alluded to in these letters). In the end George did divorce his wife shortly after he became the 8th Duke of Marlborough in 1883, but although he had fathered a child with Edith in Paris in 1881, he never married her, and instead wed the American heiress Lilian Warren Price, whose fortune helped restore the ailing family seat, Blenheim Palace. Amidst all this social chaos, the doughty family solicitor manages to keep the old Duke up to date with domestic affairs during his long absences in the south of France; managing repairs to the Palace, sale and rental of various properties, and even reports on the state of the gardens and trackways. When the younger Duke succeeds he also shows himself capable of clearing up his various personal issues, including packing off a troublesome Henry Allnutt to Brisbane. Milward, the lawyer, was the great-grandfather of Bruce Chatwin, who boasted that his forebear "cheated the then Duke of Marlborough out of many millions". Kenneth Rose, a journalist friend of Chatwin's, discovered that Milward had owed his creditors huge sums, and was sentenced to six years in prison, during which sentence he died. In response, Chatwin wrote: "A real operator - £108,595.15.11 is no mean sum. If only he hadn't been found out!" A fascinating and detailed collection of letters essential to any study of the Churchill family during the period of Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill's birth and childhood. Item #49567
Chatwin, Bruce, Elizabeth Chatwin, and Nicholas Shakespeare, "Under The Sun: The Letters of Bruce Chatwin" (London: Random House, 2010), pp.121-22.
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