[ Edward Morris Erskine, diplomat. ] 'Private' Autograph Letter Signed ('E. M. Erskine') to the Hon. George Elliot, regarding the death of his father the Earl of Minto, his 'grievance' against Lord John Russell, and the Risorgimento.

Edward Morris Erskine (1817-1883), diplomat [ George Elliot [ George Francis Stewart Elliot ] (1822-1901), son of Gilbert Elliot (1782-1859), 2nd Earl of Minto ]
Publication details: 
Stockholm; 3 September 1859.
SKU: 19618

7pp., 12mo. On two bifoliums. In good condition, on aged paper. First page headed 'Private'. Docketed by Elliot 'My Father's death'. An excellent letter casting interesting light on the machinations of the Liberal government. Erskine is attempting something requiring all of his diplomatic tact: sending appropriate condolences to Elliot on his father's death before turning to his 'own concerns': the putting of his case to Elliot as the brother-in-law of the Foreign Secretary Lord John Russell, on the question of his 'grievance' against Russell and the Foreign Office. (As Erskine's entry in the Oxford DNB explains, he had been appointed Secretary of the Legation at Washington in May 1858, but had been moved to Stockholm before the end of the year.) He begins by explaining that – on hearing the news that Lord Minto was ill – he quite understood why Elliot did not reply to his previous letter. 'On receiving the news of his death I had intended to write either to you or to one of your sisters - but felt some delicacy about it as it might look like a fresh attempt to remind you of my own concerns; but I can most sincerely assure you that I have regretted the death of Lord Minto more than that of any one beyond the circle of my immediate relations.' He has found himself 'unconsciously going back to old times & thinking what sincere pleasure it would have given poor Ld. Minto to see how well the much maligned Italians have deserved the sympathy he felt for them. Most generous-minded Englishmen share this feeling to some extent, but I never met with any one - except a native of the Country - who took so deep an interest in the welfare of Italy as your Father.' He contrasts 'the soundness & simplicity of his advice' with 'the distrust which is so universal abroad against the supposed selfishness of British Politicians.' He next turns to Lord John Russell and the Foreign Office: 'I am much obliged to you for telling me so frankly how I stand with Ld. John. A man is notoriously a bad judge in his own case and I had by degrees worked myself into the belief that Ld. Malmesbury [James Howard Harris (1807-1889), 3rd Earl of Malmesbury, Russell's predecessor as Foreign Secretary, having left that post in June 1858] had taken a harsher view of my mistake than it deserved - Indeed I had at one time succeeded so completely in convincing him of his error, that he desired me vivâ voce to call at the F[oreign]. O[ffice]. at 3 on the following day to offer to the Cabinet the same explanation which had so much surprised His Lordship and Mr. Fitzgerald - but alas! There is many a slip between the cup & the lip - and when I appeared in the waiting room according to appointment, either Ld. Malmesbury had wholly lost sight of me and my affairs - or his Colleagues had argued him out of the view he took when he dismissed me.' He descibes the problems which followed over a written statement which he 'showed to Mr. Fitzgerald (as is known to Mr. Murray & others in the F.O.)'. He assumes that Elliot will say that 'Ld. John has formed his opinion & nothing that I say will alter it', but asks him to make allowances for 'a man who thinks he has got a grievance': 'At first it was a heavy blow to me to hear that even under the present Govt. my chance of promotion is a remote one'. He discusses Elliot's brother's 'appointment to Naples', assuring him that he has 'heard no serious criticism' of it; and praises the appointment of '' to the National Defence Commission. He concludes in sendy regards to Elliot's family.?>?>