“I have tried every opiate but the House of Lords”*

*Rosebery, writing to W.T. Stead on 17.4.1895.

“Is it time to end the farce of hereditary peers in the House of Lords?” (Gabriel Pogrund and Tom Calver, writing in The Sunday Times yesterday.)

From: Rosebery – Statesman in Turmoil (2005), by Leo McKinstry:

“…(Rosebery’s) daughter Sybil denied that he ‘was addicted to drugs, whether for insomnia or anything else’…even more doubtful was the allegation circulated by Bob Reid, later Lord Loreburn…who claimed Rosebery suffered from a drink problem. When Rosebery heard this gossip, he refused ever to speak to Reid again. He unquestionably enjoyed wine and champagne…but to suggest he was teetering on the verge of alcoholism was a wild accusation…Lord Balcarres…thought such talk nonsense. ‘Rosebery, like many in the habit of making long and important speeches, imbibed copiously; but this kind of person holds his liquor well and I never heard anybody say they had ever seen Rosebery the worse for drink,’ he wrote in 1924. Sir Edmund Gosse…found Rosebery’s consumption rather disconcerting and wrote of him in April 1905 that ‘He eats extravagantly, and though he is never the “worse for liquor”, he drinks heavily and continuously.’ “.

From: Brideshead Revisited (1945), by Evelyn Waugh:

“…The policemen looked us over, deliberately, forming their own judgment. Even then everything might have been well had not Mulcaster joined in. “Look here, my good man,” he said. “There’s no need for you to notice anything. We’ve just come from Ma Mayfield’s. I reckon she pays you a nice retainer to keep your eyes shut. Well, you can keep ’em shut on us too and you won’t be the losers by it.”

That resolved any doubts which the policemen may have felt. In a short time we were in the cells.

I remember little of the journey there or the process of admission. Mulcaster, I think, protested vigorously and, when we were made to empty our pockets, accused his gaolers of theft. Then we were locked in, and my first clear memory is of tiled walls with a lamp set high up under thick glass, a bunk, and a door which had no handle on my side. Somewhere to the left of me Sebastian and Mulcaster were raising Cain. Sebastian had been steady on his legs and fairly composed on the way to the station; now, shut in, he seemed in a frenzy and was pounding the door, and shouting: “Damn you, I’m not drunk. Open this door. I insist on seeing the doctor. I tell you I’m not drunk,” while Mulcaster, beyond, cried: “My God, you’ll pay for this! You’re making a great mistake, I can tell you. Telephone the Home Secretary. Send for my solicitors. I will have habeas corpus.”…

…We lunched with Lady Marchmain. She accepted the whole thing with humorous resignation. Her only reproach was: “I can’t think why you went off and stayed with Mr. Mottram. You might have come and told me about it first….

“How am I going to explain it to all the family?” she asked. “They will be so shocked to find that they’re more upset about it than I am. Do you know my sister-in-law, Fanny Rosscommon? She has always thought I brought the children up badly. Now I am beginning to think she must be right.”

When we left I said: “She couldn’t have been more charming. What were you so worried about?”

“I can’t explain,” said Sebastian miserably.

A week later when Sebastian came up for trial he was fined ten pounds. The newspapers reported it with painful prominence, one of them under the ironic headline: “Marquis’s Son Unused to Wine.” The magistrate said that it was only through the prompt action of the police that he was not up on a grave charge… “It is purely by good fortune that you do not bear the responsibility of a serious accident….” Mr. Samgrass gave evidence that Sebastian bore an irreproachable character and that a brilliant future at the University was in jeopardy. The papers took hold of this too- “Model Student’s Career at Stake.” But for Mr. Samgrass’s evidence, said the magistrate, he would have been disposed to give an exemplary sentence; the law was the same for an Oxford undergraduate as for any young hooligan, indeed the better the home the more shameful the offence….”

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