Visit of 'Mrs K' (Mrs Clifford) to Millicent Garrett Fawcett to discuss the Cust affair

Scope and Content

Manuscript account, three folded sheets and one loose smaller sheet with an additional passage to be inserted, written from 2 Gower Street. Dated 20 May 1894. Marked 'Private. Please return'. The manuscript, which is heavily corrected by MGF, recounts the visit of 'Mrs K' to talk to her about the Cust affair. [The surname of the woman in question has been erased or crossed out where it occurs, and 'K' written on pieces of paper stuck over the name. However, in one place the paper has come off and the surname is discernible as Clifford.] Transcript:

'Mrs K has just come to see me, at her own request, about the Cust business. She asked me, first of all to promise faithfully not to repeat anything she told me and not to tell anyone she had been to see me, and I gave her this promise. Mrs Cust, she said, did not know she was coming, but Mrs Cust was staying with her last week at Eastbourne, and Mrs Clifford. was moved to come and see me in consequence of poor Mrs Cust's misery and wretchedness. Mrs K has known Mrs Cust many years and has a strong love and pity for her. Mrs K's feeling towards Mrs Cust confirms everything that I have heard about her from others. Although Mrs K had known Miss Welby as she was then, for years, intimately, she did not for a moment suspect the real nature of her intimacy with H Cust, till late Aug 1893 when Miss Welby came to her and confessed that she thought she was going to have a child. Mrs K says that at that time, late Aug 1893, H Cust was pressing Miss Welby to marry him privately at a register office, but that she refused and they then agreed that she was to go to her own home and tell her parents not the whole truth but that she was engaged to Mr Cust and that he was coming immediately to ask their consent to the marriage. He was to go at the same time to the Brownlows and make a similar announcement to them. She went accordingly, to her parents, but instead of following her as he had promised to do, he sent a telegram after telegram [sic] making excuses. Mrs K dwelt on the agony the poor girl went through pacing up and down her room night and day, waiting for the man who never came. At last she was driven, by HC's continued absence and silence, to tell the real truth to her brother ie, that there was a child coming and the brother immediately put himself … [?] of HC with the view of making him marry his sister. Cust in the mean time had been, according to Mrs K, to Lady Brownlow and had told her the whole truth, that he and Miss Welby had been living together, that a child was coming and that he proposed to marry her at once. Mrs K's statement (made of course as far as she is concerned in perfectly good faith, but probably derived directly or indirectly from HC) is that Lady Brownlow urged Cust strongly against marrying Miss Welby, said (1) that she could go and have her baby abroad in India ['in the South of France' crossed out]; (2) that she was an undesirable wife because she never could give birth to a child (these inconsistencies were unexplained)' [the last passage, from 'that she was an undesirable wife' to 'unexplained', has been crossed through in pencil]. 'The upshot of HC's conference with Lady Brownlow according to Mrs K was that because she wanted him to throw over Miss Welby, he ... [?] what Miss Welby's position was, acquiesced. Lady Brownlow is possessed of very strong persuasive influences, it appears. Then came his visit to the Wyndhams and the rest much as I had heard it from the first ie, HC's resistance to the pressure brought to bear on him to marry Miss Welby; his declared hatred and loathing of her (which Mrs K says Miss Welby never heard of) and his final consent to his marriage.' [Paragraph inserted at this point from the loose sheet]: 'Mrs K said that whatever HC may have said of Miss Welby, he never spoke to her with hatred and contempt. She said that Mrs Cust had told her that tho' HC did not pretend to affection for her, he treated her with 'kindness and gentleness' since their marriage.'

'On the strength of this narrative Mrs K urged me with tears and entreaties based on compassion for Mrs Cust and her parents, on my own feeling supposing it had been my own daughter, to act in some way to make the Manchester people believe that I had been misinformed and had overstated the case against Cust in some material point. I did not feel I could do this. Even if it is correct that HC did honestly wish and intend to marry Miss Welby in Aug it does not seem to me to make his conduct really better taking it as a whole. To send her down to her parents to announce her engagement, to promise to follow to obtain their formal sanction - and then forsake her and make love to another girl seems so bad that it is almost incomprehensible except on the hypothesis of insanity or downright scoundrelism. I read Mrs K HC's letters to me and they drew from her the expression, which had also been used by Mr Haldane, that in this matter HC must be regarded as 'practically insane'. I said that as far as Manchester was concerned I was now doing nothing. I had told the truth as far as I knew it to 4 people in important political positions in Manchester and I now considered that the responsibility was theirs and not mine. I urged that for his own sake and his wife's sake the best thing he could do was to withdraw from the candidature, that persistence in it would only lead to further publicity. She said if Mr C withdrew from Manchester now it would be equivalent to confessing the truth of all he was accused of. I asked if that applied also to his withdrawal from the Lincolnshire seat. She said he had withdrawn from that because he wanted a seat nearer London. I pointed out that Manchester was as far from London as Lincolnshire and suggested that his real reason was that Lord Brownlow would not have him stand again for Lincolnshire. She replied that the objection did not come so much from Lord Brownlow as from Lady Brownlow. She also said that he had not really owed the seat in any way to the Brownlows, who were not popular in Lincolnshire, but to his own merits as a candidate.' [This last sentence crossed out in pencil.] 'I told Mrs K that I know the Manchester people had asked Mr Cust to either bring a libel action against me or to withdraw and she said that Lord Brownlow had promised to 'see him through' a libel action and she also said she was prepared to swear that Miss Welby had told her that Cust was willing to marry her in Aug. Mrs K did not say this a bit in a threatening way or in a manner which could give me offence: she was as nice as possible in that way and all through, her predominant feeling being compassion for Mrs Cust. I am truly and deeply sorry for her too; chiefly because she is married to Mr Cust. At the chief crises of her life it appears to me she had been badly advised 1st in consenting to marry a man who said he hated her and who had proved himself so thoroughly contemptible. 2ndly Mr and Mrs Cust had been wrongly advised by those who had encouraged him to offer himself for a seat. A candidate invites criticism and to come red handed out of all this horrible business, to offer himself for a seat could only lead to what it has led to. The more he brings himself before his public, the more this story is sure to become known and talked about.On Thursday May 24 1894 I called by appointment on Mrs K and showed her the foregoing and she agreed that it was correct. The corrections made in pencil were made at her suggestion. MG Fawcett.

NB When I saw Mrs K on May 24th she released me from my promise of secrecy but begged me not to mention her by name.

End of transcript.

Note that the section of this account from 'I am truly and deeply sorry for her too' to 'the corrections made in pencil were made at her suggestion' duplicates the opening of the account in item 7MGF/A/2/143, which also describes the visit of Mrs Clifford to MGF.

Custodial History

Originally found between items 100 and 101, 21 Apr 1997