CHAPTER VI: ROME, 1910-1911
All the Ambassadors within reach of home were summoned to England for the funeral. The ceremony at Windsor to which we were invited was profoundly impressive. Vast crowds had assembled in London to see the procession, and there were 30,000 troops on duty. But, as a Canadian Minister observed to me, "this people has discipline by instinct, and does not need to be drilled." A few days later the ceremony of kissing hands on reappointment by King George took place. His speeches and letters at this grave moment had been admirable, and the strong sentiment of loyalty which exceptional occasions bring into striking evidence possessed the country. For a moment it almost seemed justifiable to hope that the bitter party animosities which had troubled the last weeks of King Edward's life might yield to a spirit of conciliation. But such a miracle could only be effected by the lever of national danger in 1914.
Kitchener was staying with my old friend Pan Ralli, and I dined with them alone. K., who had just returned home after the expiry of his Indian command and his visits to Australia and Japan, had grown far more genial, and looked ten years younger than when I last saw him. He was interesting on the subject of Japan and the education of patriotism instituted by that eminently practical nation. I was careful to avoid the question of his duel with the Viceroy, the more so as I believed Curzon's view to have been sound. When the possibility of K.'s appointment to the chief command in India was being discussed, a rumour had reached us in Egypt that the Viceroy did not favour his candidature. Though I attached little importance to it, I wrote to Curzon, with whom I kept up a fairly regular correspondence, telling him of the rumour and dwelling on the many virtues of the big soldier with whom I had been for so many years in constant touch. Curzon replied that of all the strange stories which found circulation in a land with such an inexhaustible capacity for the invention of fable, none had surprised him more than this entirely baseless report. And yet the advent of a second strong man was responsible for the one incident which clouded the success of a brilliant vice-royalty. It was, I believe, a bitter disappointment to Kitchener that he did not himself return to India as Governor-General.
During this visit to England I acquired the Onyx, a yawl of some eighty tons, which started for Naples as soon as she could be commissioned in charge of Captain Cooke, a very experienced navigator who was familiar with every corner of the Red Sea, where he had for seven years commanded a big steamship belonging to the Turkish Tobacco Regie in waters where smuggling is an honourable occupation.
Many months before Lord Rosebery had munificently offered; his beautiful villa at Posillipo with all its contents as a gift to His Majesty's Government, to be used as a summer Embassy, and the offer had been accepted. The legal business connected with the transfer of the property had fortunately been completed in time for us to go to Naples in July. When I wrote to express to my former chief, who had in early days given me my first opportunity, my sense of the great debt which we owed him, he was good enough to say that he had long cherished the idea of carrying out this scheme at the end of his life, but that he had been moved to anticipate the bequest by the fact that there was then an Ambassador at Rome who would really care for it. We never ceased to think of him with gratitude, and I believe the life among the ilex groves and orange orchards on the most beautiful of gulfs was not less appreciated by the staff who accompanied us than it was by my family, who owe the happiest years of their childhood to the summers they spent there.
The property had once belonged to the Conte d'Aquila, an uncle of the last King of Naples. A shallow bay from which the ground rises not too steeply is sheltered by a long stone breakwater open at either end. A sea wall protects the garden front, beneath which there is a very small area of sand, and a little pier runs out into the ideal bathing enclosure to a depth just sufficient for a head dive. The yacht, however, which had made a good passage out, could not enter the little harbour where the water is rarely more than five or six feet deep. It is evident that there has been a subsidence of the land here or a rising of the sea, for beyond the breakwater on a calm day you can trace walls and steps cut in the rocks. The site of the ancient Baia is some fifteen feet below water level. There are on the estate three houses, two of which contain interesting historical pictures.
In one of these, the highest above the sea, my wife and I established ourselves, keeping one or two rooms free for visitors. The largest house lower down contained the chancery, the offices and the dining-room, with bedrooms for some of the secretaries and the children, who generally preferred to sleep under the stars on one of the wide terraces. A third smaller house on the sea-front was available for a married secretary, if there should be one. Two of the staff by turns remained in Rome, and I went up myself once a week. Thus a succession of summers passed very happily until the outbreak of the Great War, when all pleasant things ceased perforce.
Our departure had been a little delayed, as an operation for extracting the appendix had been performed on my youngest daughter. As it was done under favourable conditions, she was well enough to be transferred to Naples within three weeks, having made a rapid recovery in all respects but one. The surface of the wound refused to heal. Week after week the daily dressings by a skilled nurse were continued, and the prolonged inaction in the hot weather became extremely trying. My wife and I then determined to try a bold experiment. We took her to the seashore, where the air was perfectly pure, and exposed the wound for a few minutes to the southern sun. It appeared almost visibly to cicatrize, and in two days Apollo Soter had completed the cure.
Save for the perennial Cretan trouble and difficulties which arose in negotiating an agreement for our participation in the Turin International Exhibition of 1911, the summer was relatively uneventful. I took several short cruises in the Onyx and studied the problems of navigation in the gulf under the able tuition of Captain Cooke. The latter was firmly convinced of the presence of sharks in these waters, and strongly protested against our anxiety to go overboard in the open sea, a habit I had always followed without misgiving when sailing in Greek waters. Sharks are indeed common enough off Alexandria, and one day in the gulf he pointed out to me an ominous fin on the surface of the water near the yawl. Small whales may be seen not unfrequently spouting in the bay.
Among our visitors that first summer was the German Ambassador who sailed with us to Baia and Procida. I was impressed on that occasion, when we were discussing the rather startling Austrian project to lay down four Dreadnoughts, with the emphatic view he took of the necessity of making some further effort to cheek the disastrous spirit of competition in naval construction. He admitted that it was obvious that whatever Germany might do Great Britain would inevitably have to outbid her, and he felt the time had arrived to renounce an emulation which was becoming ruinous. I suggested that we had made certain advances in that direction, but had not received much encouragement. He replied that he believed Germany would at that time have been disposed to reconsider the question. Had public affairs in Germany really been controlled by men like the actual Chancellor and Jagow, who was before long to become Minister for Foreign Affairs, events might have taken a different turn. But their counsels of moderation were impotent to counteract the influence of the militant group.
In the first volume of these memoirs I referred to the steps which were taken in 1886 to save the graves of Keats and Severn, and to maintain unaltered the aspect of the tower where Trelawney laid the ashes of Shelley.[Vol. I, pp. 154, 261.] In the course of this summer I endeavoured once more to ensure the preservation of the old non-Catholic burial-ground by the gate of St. Paul.
A gap had been opened at that time in the Aurelian wall, which bounds both the old and the new cemetery, for the passage of a road and tram-line which, after five and twenty years, had never been constructed. It had been blocked to secure the octroi zone with a hoarding which was very unsightly. Meanwhile the expropriation of the old cemetery under a municipal development project had only remained in abeyance, and was still liable to be enforced. By this time the octroi zone had been extended a mile beyond the walls, and no one was interested in maintaining the wooden barrier which was falling into decay. I begged my friend the Syndic, Ernesto Nathan, who was always most helpful and considerate, to look over the ground with me, and consider if some plan could not be devised to improve upon these provisional conditions. Nathan, after examining the question, proposed a most welcome solution. The direction of the tramway would be diverted to a line which now appeared more practical, and the strip of land belonging to the city which separates the two cemeteries could then be annexed to them. The gap in the wall would be closed by an adequate iron grill. As the German Embassy had always been in charge of the cemeteries on behalf of the non-Catholic states, in virtue of an original cession of land by the Papal Government to the von Humboldt family, I referred the matter to Jagow, who cordially approved of the scheme. The only condition imposed was that a suitable railing should be erected to divide the old cemetery from the area immediately contiguous to the pyramid of Caius Cestius, which would remain under municipal control. No title-deeds to the property existed, but the city of Rome claimed that its rights had never been alienated. On the other hand the municipality would give an assurance that there should be no disturbance so long as the site remained a cemetery. I then hoped and believed that one of the most beautiful spots in Rome would thus be definitely guaranteed against desecration and change. The war, however, intervened before effect had been given to the project and, after the withdrawal of the German Embassy, a committee representing the non-Catholic states was appointed to manage the cemeteries. But the arrangement which Nathan had proposed at my suggestion remained a basis for subsequent agreements.
The cholera appeared at Naples in August. It was competently managed, and though there were many cases in the city and a certain number at Posillipo, it never assumed alarming proportions. We observed the usual precautions, and the interdiction of raw fruit during the peach and fig season was a source of considerable grievance to the junior members of the family. In September they went back to Rome, whence my eldest son returned to Eton while the younger ones departed in a group for Hamburg, where they were to attend German classes or schools under the supervision of a kindly but in their eyes rather formidable lady who assumed the brevet rank of an aunt. My wife and I sailed north to Gaeta and Porto d'Anzio. We had contemplated a visit to Elba. But a telegram recalled us in haste to Rome, as new difficulties had arisen over the contract for the Turin Exhibition. George Curzon spent a little time with us at the Embassy, after which he and I went together to Florence and Bologna. The ex-Viceroy was in his best out-of-school humour, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. He went on to London, but I had still an official duty to perform before I could avail myself of a few weeks' leave from Italy.
Verona, which nearly half a century earlier had dedicated a monument to Dante, a guest after his exile at the well-furnished Court of Can Grande della Scala, proposed also to do similar honour to the English poet whose genius had made the venerable city the scene of an immortal tragedy and comedy. I was invited to be present at the unveiling of the Memorial executed by the sculptor, Renato Cattini, a pedestal or Herm surmounted by a bust of Shakespeare, and ornamented round the base with reliefs representing the principal characters of his dramas. It was placed beside the portico which shelters the legendary tomb of Juliet.
Both Luzzatti, the President of the Council, and San Giuliano came to Verona, where we were the guests of the Municipality. In the morning the Prime Minister laid the foundation-stone of the first edifice in an extensive group of workmen's dwellings to be constructed by the city. In the afternoon we proceeded to Juliet's tomb, an old sarcophagus of ample dimensions. Whether or not it ever contained the ashes of the gentle Capulet long tradition and an ambience of peculiar charm make those who visit the spot conscious of a pervading anima loci. I noticed that the stone coffin was full of visiting cards, mostly of pilgrims from the other side of the Atlantic. After the monument had been formally consigned by the responsible committee to the Syndic we passed on into a large hall, where the notables of the city were assembled, and I was invited to pronounce the first oration. Having anticipated such an invitation, and realizing that I must respond to it in Italian, I had prepared an address in which I dwelt upon the debt of English literature to Italy and the constant association of our poets with the land of romance from Chaucer down to the great Victorians. Happily I was able to speak for twenty minutes or more without referring to my notes. San Giuliano, who afterwards confessed to me that he was rather a heretic about Shakespeare, was no less felicitous on that account in matter or in manner. The official panegyric of the poet was then pronounced by a popular orator, Innocenzo Cappa. A banquet with more speeches was followed by a concert of music from the various operas composed on Shakespearean themes. Verona had offered us a memorable day. Late as was the hour at which we were released, I still found time to wander through the shadowy palace courts still eloquent of the age of the despots, past the moonlit tombs of the Scaligeri and across the incomparable market-place, returning to the Londres for a very few hours' sleep before catching the early train for Rome.
It was appropriate that one of my first experiences after reaching England was an expedition to the Roman wall which we made with the Ridleys from Blagdon, whence we passed on to the Middle Ages at Lumley. Feeling in England was running very high over the question of tariff reform. A general election left the position much as it was before. It was a novel experience to find Cromer actively engaged in promoting an eleventh-hour referendum, the purport of which more than half the voters did not clearly understand. But these matters and the anti-ducal philippics of Mr. Lloyd George which added a new word to the language, were matters outside my province, and I was quite ready to leave the overcharged atmosphere at home and reassemble our family at Rome for the end of December.
Soon after the New Year I spent a delightful morning on the seashore near Ostia, shooting with the King of Italy. Both during the drive down and while we were waiting at our station for the driven boars conversation regarding the international situation ranged over practically the whole area of Europe and beyond it into Asia. Nothing escaped the vigilant observation of the King, whose views, expressed with complete detachment, were as interesting as his conclusions were sound. While scrupulously respecting his confidence, it seems legitimate to recall the high testimony which a reference to the Balkans led him to pay to King Peter of Serbia, whom His Majesty knew intimately. There were, he said, few men for whom he had a higher regard. He had been much misjudged and had had a troubled life. But he had always remained upright and honourable. He had set up higher standards than had prevailed before in a country which, though still lacking in most resources, had never been so prosperous as under his guidance. The Crown Prince was also highly gifted and full of promise. One of the duties which I set before myself in preparing these recollections was to miss no occasion which presented itself of doing justice to men whose character or services have met with less recognition than they seemed to me to merit. In view of the qualities which the little Serbian nation displayed in its hour of trial, it seems only just that due credit should be given to a King who strove to instil a sense of dignity and obligation into a rugged and still primitive people.
Among the many pleasant things which Rome could offer at this time were the opportunity for discussing political, historical and social questions with so able and willing a talker as Prince Bülow, who, now that he had ceased to be a functionary of State and had become a man of leisure, had no longer reason to be reticent, and who seemed to me to be mentally grouping the results of his long experience of public life. We foregathered constantly through the pre-war years during the winter and. spring months at the Villa Malta on the Pincian hill, which he had acquired some time before his retirement. I had first met him many years earlier at the Neues Palais at Potsdam, when, he was a comparatively junior diplomatist. That he was the son-in-law of our old friend, Donna Laura Minghetti, constituted a more recent link. Princess Bülow had inherited not a little of her mother's compelling charm. Our relations quickly became very friendly. It is rare among Prussians to appear so successfully cosmopolitan as Bülow had become. His manner was cordial and intimate. His erudition was exceptional, and his exposition of whatever matter engaged his conversation lucid and entertaining.
In former years I had repeatedly felt that Bülow's public policy towards my country had been mistaken, and on one occasion he almost allowed me to see that he thought so himself. I was therefore interested to find that the ex-Chancellor, when free to express his own personal views, was more disposed to do us justice than he had been when the moods of an unconciliatory Reichstag had to be humoured. For instance, he :observed one day that nothing had been more remarkable or admirable in history than the pacification of South Africa, and the confidence which the British people had displayed in the ultimate results of liberty and magnanimity. This led him on to make a generalization, which is no doubt sound, that the best qualities of the British people are displayed under a régime of liberty, whereas his own people were only at their best when contained and directed by discipline.
Only twice, so far as I remember, did we discuss matters having any possible relation to the eventuality of war. On the first occasion I was certainly responsible, as I was anxious to elicit from him the real view which he held regarding the relations between our countries and the apparent increase of antagonism manifested during his administration. As we were walking round the Embassy garden one day early in 1911 after luncheon, I exposed to him a favourite theory of mine that most of the great struggles in history, whatever their ostensible cause may have been, were really due to the ambition of successive nations, when they grew powerful and developed their economic resources, to control the trade routes of the east.
An historical retrospect might even be carried back to the brief period when Solomon was in all his glory or to the Achaian struggle with Troy for the overland portage to the Black Sea. But it would suffice to begin with the long rivalry between Greek and Persian. Then the Carthaginians established a monopoly which Rome expanding imperially was bound to contest. The Roman dominance passed to Constantinople, which held the northern gateway to the East. The southern roads through Egypt or Syria and the Red Sea were eventually closed to traffic by the rise of Islam. The northern route by the Black Sea and the Caspian alone remained available for traffic, and the great emporium on the Bosphorus became ever richer, passing on the products of Asia to the Hanseatic cities in the north and west. Venice, the chief distributor of merchandise in the Mediterranean, grew wealthy, and developing sea power sought to exclude all her rivals. In the thirteenth century she attacked Constantinople with the assistance of Franks and Flemings adroitly diverted from their goal as crusaders. The Frankish and then the restored Greek Empires were short-lived, and finally Islam closed all the doors. But with the expansion of Portugal and of Spain the new trade route to the East round the Cape was exploited, and in the following centuries the rivalry of the nations manifested itself on the high seas. France in due course made a bid for the Eastern trade. Napoleon aimed at re-opening the southern gate through Egypt and holding the key himself. Great Britain contested the mastery of both the overland and the ocean route, and by her sea-power prevailed. Did not the recent great commercial and economic expansion of Germany give reason to fear that, even though it might be against the desire of moderate elements on both sides, such an antagonism would inevitably divide our two countries ?
Bülow said that his earlier conclusions, based upon historical studies, had led him to believe that certain forces, involuntary inasmuch as their action was unperceived, compelled nations into certain courses, and that their destinies were governed rather by circumstance than by the informing influence of individual personalities however highly placed. On the other hand, when he contemplated the achievement of Bismarck and gave full consideration to the unpromising elements with which he had had to deal, he could not help admitting that a man of genius could force the hand of circumstance. At the same time such exceptions were rare, and generally he held to his former conclusion, namely, that nations were, at most half-consciously, impelled to move on certain destined courses. In the main there was much justification for the theory I had advanced. But there were forces working on the other side in the case of our two nations. In commerce they were mutually interdependent to a considerable extent. Great Britain had never shut the door to others, and Germans succeeded nowhere so well as in British colonies.
I then put a further question. Might not another factor of conciliation be found in the opening of the Panama Canal which would draw a fairly large proportion of sea-borne trade into another channel? He admitted the possibility, but would not commit himself to any more definite opinion regarding the elimination of rivalry. The conversation closed with a counsel of perfection easier to formulate than to apply. The aim of statesmen should be to make both countries realize that the rivalry which had become apparent was not due to ill-will or deliberate machination, but rather to forces beyond human control. We should each cease to attribute to the other malignity of motive, and fix our attention on common interests.
The second reference occurred more than a twelvemonth later. Bülow observed to me that he was gradually coming round to the belief that there would be no more great European wars. The nations had become economically so dependent on one another and the interruption of their economic relations would be so disastrous that such wars were becoming inconceivable. The same thing has been said and honestly believed by many others. But what impressed me on this occasion was that Bülow went on to add with a conscious smile that the dread of war would nevertheless be turned to account and would serve for purposes of intimidation.
It was precisely this lever which Germany with her immense military resources abused. The clank of "shining armour," the clenching of "mailed fists" and the vauntings of the war-lord stimulated, by a process of suggestion, an impulse which she could hardly if she wished have resisted and ended at a critical moment by carrying her over the verge.
The fiftieth anniversary of Italian Unity which had come round in this year 1911 was to be commemorated not only by the Industrial Exhibition at Turin but also by historical, archaeological and artistic exhibitions in Rome, as well as by the opening of the National Monument under the northern slope of the Capitoline hill, which had been for so many years under construction. Our pavilion at Turin, arranged under the direction of Mr. Wintour, whose differences with the Committee continued to give me ample scope for a judicious exercise of the art of conciliation, was well worthy of the occasion. The display of fine British porcelain, especially the contributions of Pilkington and Bernard Moore, was greatly appreciated in Italy. Unfortunately, there was a slight recrudescence of the cholera epidemic of the previous year, sufficient to frighten visitors away, and that and the late opening, when the weather was already hot, seriously affected the attendance, especially in Rome, whence the average visitor withdraws in May.
This was greatly to be regretted, as the Roman Exhibition had a unique character, and was exceptionally interesting. Financially I fear it was a disaster. Artistically it was a triumph, which reflected great credit on the organizers, at the head of whom was my old friend, Count San Martino, who added to his merits by bringing a beautiful young bride to Rome for the occasion. In the great vaulted chambers of the baths of Diocletian reproductions of the most conspicuous monuments of the Roman Empire surviving in other parts of Europe or in North Africa had been assembled. The historical and ethnographical section beyond the Tiber had a number of pavilions contributed by the various regions of Italy, which were not slavish copies of existing buildings, but were carried out in the architectural spirit predominating in the various states out of which a united Italy had been formed at the characteristic moment of their apogee. Piedmont, Lombardy, Venetia, Romagna, Tuscany and Naples were accordingly represented by a series of edifices ranging from the feudal fortress to the baroque palace.
The slopes of the Valle Giulia, which lies between the park of the old Borghese Villa and the hills which skirt the Flaminian road, were devoted to the art galleries of the various nations. The British pavilion, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was an adaptation of the upper story of St. Paul's. Sir Isidore Spielman with an energetic committee had succeeded in bringing together a really remarkable and representative collection of British pictures by dead and living painters. Relatively few Italians had till then had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the achievements of British art in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and our contribution to the Exhibition of 1911 was something of a revelation to them. Burne-Jones's Mirror of Venus and the work of the pre-Raphaelite School generally excited much interest. The great portrait of the McNab, which is perhaps Raeburn's masterpiece, then shown for the first time, certainly aroused their enthusiasm.
No invitations to the commemoration were addressed to foreign Courts. They would have placed Catholic sovereigns in a difficult position. But the sympathy which our country had consistently displayed for Italy during her struggle for liberty made it appropriate that we should take a prominent part in the celebration, and the Duke of Connaught was to have represented the King at the inauguration on the 21st of April, the legendary birthday of Rome. But the health of His Royal Highness compelled him to renounce the journey, and his place was taken by Prince Arthur, who was the guest of the King of Italy. We had an official dinner in his honour at the Embassy, and an afternoon reception in the garden, for which my wife had organized a series of dances in costume on the lawn, of which the prettiest was a Greek movement led by our eldest daughter, who had been trained by the Danish expert Fröken Bilsted.
Of more permanent interest to record is the important sequel to our participation in the Exhibition. My good friend Nathan the Syndic who, as the pupil of Mazzini, was often accused of an anti-clerical and republican bias, but was really one of the most public-spirited and kindliest of men, expressed to me the hope that our pavilion might be allowed to remain as a permanent head-quarters for Exhibitions of art, in which case the area on which it stood would be conceded to us by the Municipality, if not in fee---simple at any rate on a perpetual lease at a peppercorn rent. The same offer would be made to the other nations which had been represented. I accordingly suggested to him a scheme which appeared to me more practical and comprehensive, and which did not exclude his idea of occasional exhibitions.
The Commissioners of the London Exhibition of 1851, inspired by their Chairman, Lord Esher, had not long before resolved to found travelling scholarships for an architect, a painter and a sculptor, and the British School at Rome, the province of which had hitherto been restricted to historical and archaeological research, had been approached with a view to expanding its activities so as to include also the fine arts under the existing organization. I therefore suggested to the Syndic that the area in question should be offered to the British School, which was rather cramped in its actual domicile, and should become its permanent seat. Nathan readily assented, and obtained the cordial agreement of the Municipality. The land was then handed over to three trustees---Prince Arthur of Connaught, Lord Esher, and myself.
The pavilion had been erected by Messrs. Humphreys under conditions which made the actual material their property at the end of the Exhibition, when its demolition had been contemplated. But the head of the firm, Colonel CharIton Humphreys, munificently offered to present the building to the Commissioners. In the end it had to be rebuilt, inasmuch as the original modest scheme now received a wider extension, and studios as well as accommodation had to be provided for a much larger number of students holding additional scholarships founded by the Royal Academy and other bodies. A scholarship for a young architect from South Africa was generously endowed by Mr. Herbert Baker. It was, and still is, my hope that some day all the Dominions will be represented at the British School at Rome, which should then become a postgraduate college where selected students of art and archaeology from all parts of the Empire could exchange ideas and mutually stimulate enthusiasm during a couple of years under ideal conditions and surroundings. The cost of the construction of the new building was borne by the Commissioners of the Exhibition of 1851, but the studio wing was added by Mrs. Abbey as a memorial to her distinguished husband. A constitution was drawn up and a Royal Charter was conferred on the British School which had the benefit of the zeal and experience of Dr. Thomas Ashby and Mrs. Arthur Strong as its first Director and Assistant Director. Almost simultaneously the new American School at Rome was opened under the inspiring management of the late Mr. Benedict Carter, with similar facilities for architects and artists, and cordial relations were established between the two institutions.
I had long promised a visit to the Brasseys, who spent a month every spring on their mining estates in Sardinia. But just as we were about to start my wife was summoned home on account of her mother's failing health, so that I went alone. Not long after my arrival at their comfortable house among the hills a telegram followed me announcing the death of my mother-in-law. Her youngest son, Murray Guthrie, had died after a long illness barely a fortnight before. Sardinia , where I could only remain three or four days, was in early May a paradise of wild flowers. The dark macchia jungle looked as though snow-sprinkled with the white stars of the cystus. There were wild peonies, stocks, and lavender. The curious Pancration lily with its fretted white blooms grew in the folds of the hill near Ingertosu. There were slopes steel blue with rosemary and rocks carpeted with the mesymbrianthemum in full. flower. That good fellow with the unfinished manner and the warmest of hearts whom we loved as Tab Brassey had been, here as everywhere, active in endeavouring to improve the lot of his fellowman. The cottages built for the workmen at the Brassey Mines were solid and comfortable, and every year he and Lady Idina offered a number of prizes for the cleanest and smartest houses and for the best-kept gardens. There was eager competition to win them. Sardinia, with customs and traditions and almost a language of its own, is remote from contact with the march of progress. I felt proud of my countryman who was thus endeavouring to humanize its primitive sons.
Soon after my return Prince Bülow called to condole. Our conversation had drifted into a philosophic vein. We were discussing the law of compensation and whether, as I argued, in spite of all appearances, one man is really much happier than another, the jaded rich man than the poor man with an intenser capacity for enjoying his simpler pleasures, the successful man than the unambitious. This train of thought led him to relate an interesting anecdote about Bismarck, which I gathered he had learned directly from Holstein, who alone could have told it. The latter, who was returning in the train with Bismarck from Vienna to Berlin after the signature of the Treaty of Alliance, when the old Chancellor appeared to be at the zenith of his success and fame, found him extremely depressed, and only disposed to dwell upon the vanity of human ambitions. He suggested to his chief that, having accomplished all that lay behind him, he if anyone was entitled to feel himself a happy man. Bismarck replied that he could not honestly remember having been happy for more than three days in all his life, which had been one unceasing struggle. He had been constantly assailed by envy, hatred, and malice, and worse still thwarted by the folly and imbecility of man. He had achieved. Yes. But at what a cost! He had made three great wars, and he was conscious of having directly occasioned an infinite amount of human suffering. Looking back over life Bülow himself was convinced that real happiness was only to be found in its unselfish pleasures, in great thoughts, great art, in beautiful nature, and in affection, when not overshadowed by the dread of severance. Remembering such genial and intimate intercourse in the years before the war I feel the more strongly the grimness of circumstance which in 1915 brought me into direct conflict with a friend who became a formidable antagonist. Even if in the past Prince Bülow as Chancellor had in relations with my country rejected a great opportunity for improving them, I believe that in 1914 all his influence would have been exerted to avert the catastrophe. Afterwards in a position of great difficulty he did his best to uphold his country's interests, and had he succeeded in ensuring the neutrality of Italy the consequences for us at that stage of the conflict would have been graver than I should care to contemplate. But I could not feel any personal sense of resentment on account of efforts which added seriously to my anxieties, and I had no reason to reproach him with any action which was disloyal in time of war.
The unveiling in May of the statue of the Liberator King on the National Monument was very impressive. Conspicuous on the platform were the survivors of the Garibaldians in their red shirts, and among them nine British members of the legion which had landed at Milazzo. Six thousand Mayors from all parts of the country were present, and it was reported that a hundred and fifty thousand people had come into the city by train. There were obvious reasons for some misgiving lest such a ceremony in Rome might provoke an incident. Deputations had in fact arrived from every region comprehended in a very wide interpretation of "unredeemed Italy." But the police had impounded their banners and all inopportune manifestations were prevented. The official arrangements were worthy of the occasion.
I confess to a certain feeling of irritation when I hear my countrymen as well as other visitors to Rome speaking of the Monument in terms of depreciation. The principal exception taken to it seems to be that it masks the venerable Capitol and emphasizes an unwelcome contrast between the old and the new in an area of unique historical association. Architecturally, it is finely conceived, and it only needs the patina bestowed by the great artist Time to bring it into harmony with its surroundings. It recalls the stately buildings of Imperial Rome, of which we have little left to-day but the concrete foundations, and such fragments of marble structure or facing as have escaped the ravages of the church builders or the disintegration of the limekiln. There may be details which an expert would be justified in criticizing, but I have seen few national or public monuments in other countries to compare with it in nobility of proportion. It faces the newer Rome in the Campus Martius, and separates it from the Rome of antiquity. Almost opposite, but a little to the left, stands the Palazzo Venezia, where the Austro-Hungarian Embassies had their offices, and still farther to the left is the vast church of the Gésu.
There was a moment of hushed silence in the crowd when the King drew the cord and released the draperies concealing the statue. Then Giolitti, the Prime Minister, stepped into the centre of the platform and began his speech in a clear and resonant voice. He had only pronounced the first few sentences when the loud bells of the neighbouring Gésu church began to ring, as it seemed almost defiantly, and drowned his voice in their clangour. It was Whit-Sunday morning, and probably in the natural order of things that the bells should ring at 9.15 unless instructions had been given to defer for half an hour this interruption to a national ceremony. Giolitti displayed perfect nerve, and continued his address. Had he even turned his head towards the bells or made the slightest gesture of protest, the mercurial masses in the piazza below might have responded by some untoward demonstration. The bells only ceased to peal in time for the final peroration.
We were summoned to London in June for the coronation. With the opening of summer I was able to report all well at my post, though I could not help expressing some preoccupation at the rising tide of irritation with Turkey, provoked by a number of incidents which there seemed to be little disposition in Italy to minimize.
I have not seen a coronation in any other country. But it would be impossible to conceive a more beautiful and more deeply impressive ceremony than that which we were privileged to attend in the perfect setting of the Abbey. We were in our places soon after eight in the morning, and did not get away till three. But there was so much to interest and so many friends round us in the north transept that the time never seemed to drag. Memorable also was the royal progress round the city with its escorts of troopers from the Dominions and the Colonies. It was of happy omen that Botha should have been enthusiastically cheered. The great naval review at Spithead, to which my son from Eton was allowed to accompany me in place of my wife, we saw from the Plassy, which was chartered by the Admiralty for the diplomatists and distinguished guests. Among the foreign ships present on that occasion was the new German battle-cruiser, the Goeben, which three years later was to play a decisive part immediately after the outbreak of the Great War. Coming directly from a country where discipline is rather contrary to the individualist spirit of the people, I was greatly struck with the perfect order and good nature of the vast crowds which had assembled for the coronation. An old German acquaintance on board the Plassy observed to me that the British had in these days shown themselves to be ein edles Volk.
On the 1st of July 1911, the German Ambassador in Rome went to the Italian Foreign Office to announce to San Giuliano that the cruiser Panther had been sent to Agadir. The alleged reason for this step, the protection of German firms in the south of Morocco, was naturally received with considerable scepticism. It was not till nearly two years afterwards on the recurrence of the same date that San Giuliano admitted to me that on Jagow's leaving his room he called in Prince Scalea , the Under-Secretary of State, and, taking out his watch, which marked five minutes to midday, observed to him that from that moment the question of Tripoli had entered on an active phase. Thereafter the process of preparing public opinion for what was to take place at the end of September began.
The dispatch of the Panther, that new disturbing move on the European chessboard, following a practical collapse of the Franco-German understanding of 1909, occurred just four days after the assumption of the premiership in France by M. Caillaux, with whom the German Government had hopes of concluding a financial and perhaps eventually also a political understanding. Without any special information which was not available to every observer, I formed the opinion that this measure was not intended to be an act of deliberate provocation to France so much as a reminder to the French Chamber of the advantage of concluding an arrangement which would compensate Germany for an eventual French Protectorate over Morocco. If so the miscalculation was grave, and it had the practical result of bringing Great Britain immediately into line with France, and of reviving an antagonism which had temporarily subsided. On the 21st of July Mr. Lloyd George made a strong pronouncement at the Guildhall, which elicited three days later a not very gracious assurance that Germany had no intention of establishing a naval harbour on the Morocco coast. The speech, however, aroused a bitter feeling of resentment in Germany. How strong it was I only learned some months later from Jagow, who told me that he had not himself realized the intensity of that feeling, especially in Bavaria and Southern Germany, until after he had been on leave. The Guildhall speech had produced an effect quite out of proportion to the weight of the words employed. He had till then believed that reports of the anti-British sentiment prevailing in Germany were exaggerated, but his recent experience at home had convinced him that it had become formidable. He hoped it would pass, as there seemed to be an earnest desire on the part of responsible people on both sides for a rapprochement. But the matter was really serious, and a remedy must be sought before it was too late.
The Onyx had been laid up at Leghorn during the winter and spring. As soon as she was re-commissioned I made an expedition in her to Elba, interesting from its associations but a very modest cage for an eagle. On our way to Naples we were trying to make the mountainous Giglio when the wind headed us off, and so we entered instead a wide bay with a rocky bottom, on the southern side of a low-lying island called Giannutri, the ancient Dianium. There is a solitary lighthouse on one point of the bay, and the keepers who rowed out to the yacht told us that the island was only tenanted by wild rabbits and a pazza, or mad woman, of whom they seemed to stand in some awe. They did not mention any male inhabitant, so when we landed later on, we were surprised to encounter a venerable gentleman who, raising a battered straw hat, informed us that he was Captain Adami, an old Garibaldian, at our service, and inquired what had brought us to Giannutri. He had, he told us, lived twenty-nine years there, and nine had passed since he last visited the mainland. He had rented the cultivable land from the commune of Giglio, and had spent £5000 in developing it, in building a house and constructing cisterns, as there was only rainfall water. Some two years earlier fishermen landing there in the dry season had lit a fire which caught the macchia, and was carried by a strong wind right across the island, destroying his house, his vines, and all the work of five and twenty years. One cistern was, however, still available for use. He was too old at seventy-three to begin life again elsewhere, and he now camped in two or three vaulted chambers of an old Roman villa with his adopted daughter, the child of a man who, being consumptive, had come to the island for his health and had died there. This was evidently the pazza. We only caught a distant glimpse of a wild-looking creature with hair that streamed on the wind. Having spent most of her years in this solitude she was probably shy of other human beings. Once every four weeks when the lighthouse men were changed Captain Adami received a mail and a month's newspapers, of which he read one every day. Fishermen brought him flour and pasta from the mainland. He grew a few tomatoes, bred some chickens, and had no other wants. He told me that he kept a daily diary. But there can have been little to record in this solitary hermitage. The island, which has an area of some 600 acres, served in Roman times as a place of detention for exiled senators, the ruins of whose villas might reward the excavator. There were traces of coloured marble pavements and some good Corinthian capitals. We provided the courteous old Garibaldian with a few little luxuries, and then took our leave. I had it in my mind to return there another year, but the opportunity never came. Captain Adami can hardly be alive to-day. I wonder what has become of the pazza.
In spite of the reappearance of cholera which compromised the prospects of the Exhibitions, we established ourselves at the Villa Rosebery, where the children joined us for the summer holidays. Excitement over Agadir was cooling down, and although negotiations dragged on it already seemed evident that France would have no difficulty in establishing her Protectorate. My diary contains an entry dated the 3rd of August to the effect that if France succeeded there was every reason to believe that Italy would avail herself of the constant incidents in Tripoli to redress the balance in the Mediterranean. An important financial institution which had heavy commitments there was reported to me to be engaged in propaganda to that end. It was not a little remarkable that about this time in spite of the growing friction a Turkish division was withdrawn from Tripoli for service elsewhere. But for that transfer the task with which the Italians were soon afterwards confronted would have been more formidable.
The 12th of August---incidentally the date on which we learned that the Lords had passed the Parliament Bill---had been chosen for the annual festa at the Villa at Posillipo which we used to organize for the gardeners, boatmen and humbler neighbours. There were swimming races and other competitions and dancing, and a supper as twilight fell. All were assembled by the sea at 4.30 in the afternoon, when to our consternation we saw a big Italian cruiser, steaming towards Naples from the gulf of Pozzuoli, strike the Gaiola shoal barely a mile from our garden. A cloud of black smoke rose from the funnels, where she lay immovable with an ominous list, just beyond the mark buoy. It was the San Giorgio, a new ship which had not completed her steam trials. The inquiry into the grounding, which was instituted in due course, revealed that the buoy was some 300 metres out of position. It was surmised that it had been shifted in a storm which took place in January of the previous year. If that were so navigation in those waters must have been dangerous for some eighteen months. But prudent seamen will always give such a buoy a wide berth. The San Giorgio was soon surrounded with lighters and floating cranes engaged in removing her guns, and before long four battleships took station off the Villa to render assistance. For upwards of a month we could watch the work of salvage in process. Funnels and barbettes were removed, and pumping continued without intermission. The holes torn in the structure were eventually closed with cement. Several unsuccessful attempts were then made to tow her off the reef. It was not till after the middle of September when the weather usually breaks that a long swell, the precursor of a scirocco gale, moved her on her bed, and at last she was successfully floated. Just in time as it proved, for two days later very heavy seas were breaking on the shoal.
Sailing in those waters in the hot summer season always requires caution. The wind may seem almost to have dropped when a sudden squall will break out of the heavy heat clouds. I have seen as many as four waterspouts travelling simultaneously across the gulf in the early autumn. Captain Cooke's vigilance was untiring, and his language describing the phenomena of nature was picturesque and unusual. We were lying one night very quietly off Procida. But at six in the morning, becoming aware of a lively movement, I went on deck to find the skipper shaking his head. "Don't know what to make of the weather," he said, "I was up at four and every star was shining clear. And look at the sky now, blue all over as if a horse had kicked him."
By September the trend of opinion as revealed in the Press had become very bellicose, except in the Socialist organs, which consistently opposed all expansionist adventures. Official rebukes were occasionally addressed to the more aggressive newspapers, but they were drafted in terms which were not altogether convincing. If the Franco-German negotiations regarding Morocco led to agreement, and my German colleague seemed to have no doubt that they would be successful, I was convinced that we must be prepared for early Italian action. It was difficult to keep in touch with responsible people at this season. Ministers seemed carefully to avoid the capital. In the middle of the month I managed to see San Giuliano, whom I suspected of being as a Sicilian more interested in the future of Tripoli than Giolitti, but I could extract little from him. Meanwhile I received information of certain military concentrations, and learned that ships were unostentatiously assembling at Augusta in Sicily. Towards the end of the month the whole fleet was secretly mobilized. Of all of which my Government was of course duly informed. I decided in any case to return to Rome.
A crisis was precipitated at the last with a suddenness for which not only Europe but even Italy was hardly prepared. The explanation given to me was that the Government, convinced that they must act sooner or later, accepted the risk of considerable criticism in bringing matters rapidly to a head. Pressure exercised in a milder form than an ultimatum would have given the Young Turks a pretext for taking retaliatory measures. There was danger in prolonging tension through the winter, as in the spring the Balkan mountain populations are apt to grow restless, and the anticipation of some movement there might have led to Austrian interposition. To defer to it would be humiliating, to disregard it would be to court catastrophe. It was optimistically hoped that Turkey would accept the inevitable, and that the issue might be promptly decided before Parliament met in November.
An ultimatum was presented to Turkey on the 26th of September, in which it was insisted that the chronic state of disorder prevailing in Tripoli and Cyrenaica, and the disregard of repeated representations had left Italy no option but to occupy those countries militarily. After such occupation the situation might be regularized by subsequent agreement. A reply was requested in twenty-four hours as to whether the occupation would be opposed. The ultimatum read plausibly, but it was obvious that political necessity was the real motive for action. The Turkish reply was characterized as evasive and war was declared on the 29th. Tripoli was blockaded on the 1st of October, and after a bombardment 1,500 bluejackets under Admiral Cagni landed and held the town until the first section of the expeditionary force arrived. Tobruk, Derna and Homs were successfully occupied, and on the 20th a successful landing was effected at Bengasi, which was taken after some hard fighting. Some naval operations in the Adriatic carried out by the Duke of Abruzzi elicited a protest from Vienna, and thereafter his activities were restricted to patrolling without bombardments or landings. Italy was most anxious not to furnish Austria with any pretext for stealing a march on her in Albania.
The declaration of war had taken most of the Powers by surprise. The German Press was frankly hostile to Italy, but its attitude seemed to be far less resented than the much milder comments of certain British newspapers. I pointed out this inconsistency to San Giuliano, whose comment was that Italians paid little attention to the German Press, while they were intensely sensitive to opinion in England. Wilfrid Blunt reappeared as the champion of the Moslem, and inquired why the Government had not intervened if they had known of Italy's intentions, and if they had not, why the Ambassador had not been immediately recalled. I had of course warned my Government of what was likely to happen. But as to the day and hour San Giuliano admitted that they were only known to the Prime Minister and himself. It was in fact not until the 24th of September that the proposed measures had been submitted to the Cabinet. France had, on the other hand, in the first instance shown a benevolence which increased her consideration and influence at Rome. The anti-Italian campaign in the central European Press was largely to be attributed to the fact that the ultimatum to Turkey had upset the international financial community centred in Berlin, which controlled a majority of the most powerful newspapers in Germany and Austria, where neither of the Governments were much disposed to exercise a restraining influence. The Salonika Committee, which was all-powerful at Constantinople, was moreover largely recruited from and supported by Jewish elements. The British are apt to be hypnotized by the blessed word Constitution, and were therefore rather inclined to sympathize with the new Turkey. But the Press at home was by no means unanimous, and the critical attitude of a certain section was only a passing phase. On the other hand, the attitude of our Government, which was scrupulously correct, was cordially appreciated in Italy.
Germany's position was indeed momentarily far from comfortable. After having posed as the protector of the Moslems generally and the friend of the Turks in particular, for a consideration, she had engaged in negotiations for handing over Morocco to France, and was manifestly unable to prevent her ally from attacking Turkey in Tripoli. Her other ally had quite recently annexed the two provinces of the Ottoman Empire which she had been allowed to occupy provisionally, and it was due to German intervention that Russia found herself compelled to recognize the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and agree to the abrogation of Article 25 of the Treaty of Berlin. Here may be found a valuable object-lesson illustrating how lightly in the Near East moral and patriotic considerations weigh in the scale against immediate and personal interests. For in spite of such adverse factors the prestige of Germany at Constantinople was only very temporarily if at all diminished, while our influence continued progressively to decline. The fact was that Germany with her acute appreciation of real values was always ready to make friends with the mammon of unrighteousness, provided it was in the ascendant. Just as the ex-Emperor had flattered and cajoled Abdul Hamid, the exterminator of the Armenians, so after the advent of the Young Turks to power the German Ambassador took care that they were provided with ships and money and military advisers, while we were only concerned to criticize and denounce their certainly very questionable methods.
The outbreak of war even on a relatively small scale gave me a great deal of work. Though hostile operations were localized there were inevitable seizures and detentions of British ships, especially in the Red Sea, and complicated problems of naval law had to be investigated. I found myself moreover continually called upon to allay the susceptibilities which our inveterate habit of criticizing the methods and practice of other countries excites. In the initial stage of the campaign all went well for the Italians in Tripoli. But they seem to have been misled by agents on the spot into believing that the Arabs would welcome them, and they had too confidently extended their lines far beyond the city. The Arabs of the inland oases saw their opportunity, and three companies of Bersaglieri, simultaneously attacked in the front and the rear, were almost annihilated. Massacres of the wounded and mutilations of the dead, as well as assassinations in the town, were responsible for severe reprisals. A section of the British as well as the German and Austrian Press then adopted a censorious attitude which was much resented, and currency was given to stories which investigation on the spot showed to have been greatly exaggerated.
The Turkish Government had appealed to the Powers to intervene, and Aehrenthal put forward suggestions for an exchange of views. Signor Giolitti in his memoirs [Memoirs of my Life, G. Giolitti. Chapman & Dodd, p. 285.] has revealed the duplicity of German diplomacy in connection with this initiative. Aehrenthal received favourable replies from London and St. Petersburg. But the Italian Chargé d'Affaires at Berlin reported to his Government that Zimmermann, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, had insinuated his doubts regarding the attitude of Great Britain, and expressed the opinion that in order to retrieve our position in Constantinople we should insist on the maintenance of the Sultan's overlordship in Tripoli and Cyrenaica as an indispensable condition of peace. In that case Italy would have to give way. Inquiries addressed to London elicited from Sir Edward Grey a clear statement that he had invariably replied to representations from the Turkish Embassy that attempts at mediation on any other basis but that of undisputed Italian sovereignty would be unavailing. Herr Zimmermann would no doubt have welcomed our taking the line which he attributed to us since, to quote Signor Giolitti once more, the German Ambassador at Constantinople had at the same time deprecated any German initiative there involving the recognition of Italian sovereignty.
Such revelations of conflicting political interests and an apprehension that the Powers might intervene were probably largely responsible for the step taken by Giolitti on the 4th of November 1911, when the sovereignty of Italy over Libya was proclaimed. Personally I doubted the wisdom of this policy in Italy's own interest at such a moment, and did not hesitate quite unofficially to express my doubts to San Giuliano. It was obvious that the Italians would never leave Tripoli. But an intermediate stage of occupation or even protectorate, a status not clearly defined in international law, would have enabled them to turn many difficulties which might be entailed by the irrevocable annexation of a country into which their penetration hardly extended beyond the seaports, and where Enver was now organizing a more formidable resistance. It was bound, moreover, to present a serious stumbling block to any peace negotiations. For the Turks the primary object was to save their prestige by a semblance of compromise which annexation seemed to exclude.
Under the prevailing conditions leave seemed out of the question, so my wife paid the usual autumn visit to England without me. On several succeeding Thursdays of the weeks during which I remained alone, I dined with my hospitable friends at the Villa Malta, where the company was always excellent. Bülow being unofficially in Rome was free to choose his own guests. Among these were those excellent raconteurs, Monseigneur Duchesne and Senator Pasolini. One evening I found Harnack there, brilliant but rather dogmatic. Sometimes also I encountered old friends from Berlin whom I had not seen for more than twenty years.
On such occasions Bismarck reminiscences were not infrequently the subject of conversation, and an extremely interesting story was told to illustrate the great Chancellor's sense of humour which did not abandon him even at the dramatic moment of his dismissal. After the final rupture with the Emperor he had assembled the Council of Ministers over which he was to preside for the last time, and in a brief and dignified address he laid before them the reasons which had compelled his resignation. The Minister of the Interior, von Boeticher, then made a rather tiresome little speech de circonstance full of commonplaces which only irritated the old man. The Council was about to break up when another Minister, apologizing for intervening at such a moment with other business, said that before they dispersed there was one matter on which it was urgent to have the Prince's guidance. The King of Saxony had arrived in Berlin. But he was there incognito. Under those circumstances should they or should they not write their names in his book? A more amazingly incongruous interpellation would be difficult to conceive. The Chancellor announces his resignation, and the momentous announcement is met by a preposterous question of Court etiquette! Rising from his seat, Bismarck observed that the question was indeed a delicate one. But he would give his last ruling. "Let us," he said, " by all means write names on the King of Saxony. But, as he is here incognito, let us go in cabs instead of in our official carriages, and let us write down some other names. I, for instance, will inscribe myself as Schultz, and you will put yourself down as Müller." [The two comic types who exchange pertinent observations every week on some topic of actuality in the Berlin Kladderadatch.] With this last "official" utterance the man whose will had dominated Europe for twenty years strode out of the Council Chamber to become a private citizen.
Bülow remarked to me that in his time he had met but few men of genius. Such a one in his opinion Bismarck undoubtedly was. But the noblest human being he was conscious of having encountered was the Emperor Frederick. An instance of his magnanimity of character and appreciation of men was his attitude towards General von Blumenthal, who was his Chief of the Stall in 1866. After the battle of Sadowa Blumenthal had written a letter to his wife, who was an Englishwoman, in which he severely criticized Moltke. He also referred to the difficulties which the Chief of the Stall to Prince Frederick Charles had with his royal master. His own position, he added, was very different. His Prince counted for nothing, and allowed him to do exactly what he wished. The courier carrying this unfortunate letter was captured by the Austrians, who immediately published it. The Crown Prince at once wrote to his father, begging him to take no notice of it and to appease the anger of Moltke. Blumenthal was a splendid fellow, and so far as he himself was concerned, he would have a little talk with his Chief of the Staff and there the matter would end. When war with France broke out in 1870 he once more selected Blumenthal to fill the same position, and so secured the most devoted of servants. One of the few public acts of his brief reign had been to bestow a Field-Marshal's baton on his old friend. Bülow also regarded the Emperor Frederick as a very considerable soldier. Blumenthal no doubt helped him to win the battles of Weissenberg and Wörth. But at a very critical moment during the first of these, when the Geissenberg was stormed, the Crown Prince himself took the initiative, and, though by nature the most humane of men, had the nerve to sacrifice his best regiment to secure victory.
His premature death had been a misfortune for Germany. He would have conciliated many different currents, and the influence he could have exercised would have made it easier for his son to reign after him. The Emperor Frederick would never have dismissed Bismarck. Nor would such a dismissal have been contemplated by the Empress, to whom Bülow admitted the old Chancellor had behaved ungenerously when he allowed the impression to gain ground that she was originally responsible for calling in an English doctor after her husband's illness assumed a menacing form. Bismarck knew the real circumstances, and could not ignore his own personal share in the matter.
The opinion thus expressed coincides so completely with that which I formed at the time in Berlin and have recorded in my first volume that I have ventured to refer to it here, feeling sure that Prince Bülow would not resent my doing so. The testimony which he bore to the high character of one, for whom I share his admiration, I feel no scruple in repeating.
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