[PW] ? Victoria Quote (Quotation Query #753)

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Sun Oct 30 10:48:31 PDT 2016


I haven't been able to substantiate the claim of a pertinent
memorandum from Queen Victoria in 1873, but I located some citations
that may be of interest.

Quotation references such "Cassell's Humorous Quotations" (2001) by
Nigel Rees and "The Yale Book of Quotations" (2006) by Fred R. Shapiro
cite the 1898 book "Collections and Recollections" by George W. E.
Russell to establish the linkage between the quotation: "He speaks to
me as if I was a public meeting" and Queen Victoria.

I've found that a different phrasing was in circulation by February
1894. Reginald B. Brett who knew Queen Victoria well wrote an article
about Lord Melbourne who served as Prime Minister. Brett felt that
Lord Melbourne had an excellent relationship with Queen Victoria, but
he mentioned an unnamed Prime Minister who had a poor relationship
because he "treated her as though she were . . . not a Sovereign, but
a public meeting".

Date: February 1894
Periodical: The Nineteenth Century: A Monthly Review
Volume: 35
Article: The Queen and Her Second Prime Minister
Article Author: Reginald B. Brett
Start Page 248, Quote Page 251 and 252
Publisher: Sampson Low, Marston & Company, London
Database: HathiTrust Full View

http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015031300877?urlappend=%3Bseq=264

[Begin excerpt]
'The Queen,' said Lord Melbourne, 'is not conceited; she is aware
there are many things she cannot understand, and she likes to have
them explained to her elementarily, not at length and in detail, but
shortly and clearly; neither does she like long audiences, and I never
stayed with her a long time.' It would have been well if all her
Ministers had borne this advice in mind; for who can doubt but that
the Queen has suffered much at the hands of prolix political
enthusiasts, who have treated her as though she were not a woman, but
a man, and not a Sovereign, but a public meeting?
[End excerpt]

Brett did not ascribe the key phrase to Queen Victoria. Instead, the
phrase represented his opinion. But as shown in the citations below,
later readers re-assigned the words to Benjamin Disraeli and directly
to the Queen.

The following month Brett's article was reprinted in "Littell's Living Age".

Date: March 10, 1894
Periodical: Littell's Living Age
Article: The Queen and Her Second Prime Minister
Article Author: Reginald B. Brett
Acknowledgement To: Nineteenth Century
Start Page 579, Quote Page 581, Column 2
Publisher: Littell & Company, Boston, Massachusetts
Database: HathiTrust Full View

In 1895 a biography titled "Life of Her Majesty Queen Victoria"
discussed Lord Melbourne and referred to Brett's opinion.

Year: 1895
Book: Life of Her Majesty Queen Victoria
Author: Millicent Garrett Fawcett
Chapter 3: Accession to the Throne
Quote Page 52
Publisher: Roberts Brothers, Boston, Massachusetts
Database: HathiTrust Full View

[Begin excerpt]
He saw her every day, dined with her constantly, and sat next her at
table, and had the art of explaining all the business of State without
boring her with sermons and long speeches. He never treated her, as
Mr. Brett has said, as if she were a public meeting.
[End excerpt]

In 1896 Brett published "The Yoke of Empire: Sketches of the Queen's
Prime Ministers", and the contents of the 1894 article appeared in a
chapter of the book. Hence, the excerpt given previously was reprinted
in the book.

Year: 1896
Book: The Yoke of Empire: Sketches of the Queen's Prime Ministers
Author: Reginald B. Brett
Chapter: The Queen and Her Second Prime Minister
Quote Page 44 and 45
Publisher: Macmillan and Company, London
Database: HathiTrust Full View

In January 1897 Brett's book was examined in "The Athenaeum", and the
reviewer conjectured that the acerbic "public meeting" comment was
constructed by Benjamin Disraeli in reference to a rival, and Disraeli
ascribed the words to Queen Victoria.

Date: January 30, 1897
Periodical: The Athenaeum
Article: Our Library Table (Review of "The Yoke of Empire" by Reginald Brett)
Start Page 148, Quote Page 148
Publisher: The Office of The Athenaeum, London
Database: HathiTrust Full View

http://hdl.handle.net/2027/njp.32101077276515?urlappend=%3Bseq=96

[Begin excerpt]
Mr. Brett is master of a pretty style, as witness this about some
"Ministers": "The Queen has suffered much at the hands of prolix
political enthusiasts, who have treated her as though she were......a
public meeting"; but we fancy that Disraeli was, in private, the
author of the last part of the phrase, and that he even used to
suggest to his hearers that Her Majesty had used it to him of a
rival—thus:  "He talked to me as if I were a Public Meeting." It was,
perhaps, in reality said to one of Mr. Gladstone's colleagues.
[End excerpt]

In March 1897 Brett's book was examined in "Book Reviews: A Monthly
Journal Devoted to New and Current Publications", and the reviewer
suggested that the barb was aimed at William E. Gladstone although his
name was indirectly specified. The reviewer called him the "grand old
personage".

Date: March 1897
Periodical: Book Reviews: A Monthly Journal Devoted to New and Current
Publications
Volume 4, Number 11
Article: Reviews: Review of "The Yoke of Empire" by Reginald Brett
Start Page 329, Quote Page 330, Column 1
Publisher: The Macmillan Company, New York
Database: HathiTrust Full View

[Begin excerpt]
The Queen has no doubt had an immense experience of the various
degrees of good and bad bearing on the part of public men; " for,"
says Mr. Brett, " who can doubt that the Queen has suffered much at
the hands of prolix political enthusiasts who have treated her as
though she were not a woman, but a man, and not a sovereign, but a
public meeting." We fear this last remark has reference to a grand old
personage who has retired from the field, unless he means to fulfil
Lord Randolph Churchill's prophecy and be in his maturity in the
middle of the twentieth century!
[End excerpt]

On March 27, 1897 a writer in "The Saturday Review" attacked a
politician named Mr. E. H. Pickersgill, and while doing so he referred
to the "public meeting" remark which he ascribed directly to Queen
Victoria, He also sloppily cited Brett's book for support.

Date: March 27, 1897
Periodical: The Saturday Review
Volume: 83
Publisher: Office of The Saturday Review, London
Section: Notes
Start Page 305, Quote Page 306, Column 1
Database: HathiTrust Full View

http://hdl.handle.net/2027/iau.31858016628186?urlappend=%3Bseq=396

[Begin excerpt]
When he speaks he assumes an insufferable air of conscious
self-possession, which of itself would be sufficient to jar on the
nerves of the House, and the irritation is increased by the lecturing
tone he adopts. It reminds one of the Queen's saying about Gladstone
(as recorded in Mr. Brett's excellent book) that "he talks to me as if
I were a public meeting."
[End excerpt]

Finally, here are two excerpts from the 1898 book "Collections and
Recollections" by One Who Has Kept a Diary (George W. E. Russell).

Year: 1898
Book: Collections and Recollections
Author: One Who Has Kept a Diary (George W. E. Russell)
Quote Page 139 and 140
Publisher: Harper & Brothers Publishers, New York and London

[Begin excerpt]
An absurd story has long been current among credulous people with
rampant prejudices that Mr. Gladstone was habitually uncivil to the
Queen. Now, it happens that Mr. Gladstone is the most courteous of
mankind.
[End excerpt]

[Begin excerpt]
Mr. Gladstone has manners, but no small talk. He is so consumed by
zeal for great subjects that he leaves out of account the possibility
that they may not interest other people. He pays to every one, and not
least to ladies, the compliment of assuming that they are on his own
intellectual level, engrossed in the subjects which engross him, and
furnished with at least as much information as will enable them to
follow and to understand him. Hence the genesis of that absurd story
about his demeanor to the Queen.

"He speaks to me as if I was a public meeting," is a complaint which
is said to have proceeded from illustrious lips.
[End excerpt]

Garson O'Toole

On Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 2:03 PM, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu> wrote:
>
> Wikiquote attributes the well known quotation by Queen Victoria (about William E. Gladstone), "He speaks to me as if I was a public meeting." to the following:
>
>
> "Memorandum to her private secretary Gen. Sir Henry Ponsonby (1874-11-18)"
>
>
> Can anyone help me to locate a reliable source for this memorandum?
>
>
> Fred Shapiro
> _______________________________________________
> Project Wombat - Project-wombat
> list at project-wombat.org
> http://www.project-wombat.org/


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