[‘We are a sort of Brahmins’. Lord Napier, as British Ambassador to the Hague.] Long private Autograph Letter Signed (‘Napier’) to Sir George Elliot, discussing the ‘malignant atmosphere’ in Constantinople, Sir Hamilton Seymour, and diplomacy itself.

[Lord Napier.] Francis Napier (1819-1898), 10th Lord Napier of Merchistoun and 1st Baron Ettrick, acting Viceroy of India [Admiral Sir George Elliot (1784-1863); Sir Hamilton Seymour (1797-1880)]
Publication details: 
‘The Hague / November 28th. 1860’.
SKU: 23811

An excellent letter, in which a serving Victorian ambassador discusses the nature of diplomacy, and gives a vivid assessment of his former superior Sir Hamilton Seymour, whom he jokingly characterizes ‘the great Elchee’. See both men’s entries in the Oxford DNB. 7pp, 4to. On two bifoliums. In good condition, lightly aged and with creases from folding into a packet. Minuted on reverse of last leaf. Addressed to ‘The Honble. George Elliot’ (he received his KCB in 1862) and headed ‘Private’. Beginning on the subject of his brother-in-law Henry Lockwood (1825-1882), Napier writes: ‘My dear Elliott, Many thanks for your kind letter informing me that Lord John Russell had moved Lockwood from Constantinople to Stockholm. It must be in many respects a great advantage to Lockwood and he will be very grateful to Lord John for the change. I hope that my brother in Law did not incur any blame from being involved in the dissensions of the Constantinople Embassy. I do not know all the circumstances, indeed I have hea[r]d one side much more than the other. The malignant atmosphere of the place could not have been more strikingly shewn than in a musunderstanding between a most amiable Minister and a very devoted and agreeable subordinate. Such at least was Lumley to Sir Hamilton when I knew him.’ (Napier had served as first secretary to Sir Hamilton Seymour in St Petersburg, with John Lumley-Savile, the future Lord Savile, as second secretary.) Napier considers Lumley, as secretary to the Constantinople ambassador Sir Henry Bulwer, is, in Napier’s view, ‘most in the wrong. Bulwer has a natural fondness for the twilight in business matters and this fanciful partiality for secrecy and winding may have led him to keep some things close from his Secretary’. After a comment on Lords Cowley and Shatford, he continues: ‘The great Elchee never gave me a key or shewed me a Dispatch, but when I wanted to know anything I would go to his room and talk to him about George Canning, or the greek Revolution; or Sophocles, or the Emperor Nicholas. Shaking such provocations in the face of that furious genius he would rowse up and open the flood gates of his conversation, one thing led on another, and at length he had disburdened himself of the past the present and the future. I was young and liked the humour of the thing, besides I admired the old man angry, so intense, so handsome, so austere, so like Cato, outside. And we cannot deny them generous sympathies and great services. Cowley [Henry Wellesley, 1st Earl Cowley, who had been Minister Plenipotentiary] was older and more than even, on a foot of equality. He could not ever abide him. In fact your Secretary seems the natural enemy of his Chief. Please God I may not find it so if I ever become an Ambassador.’ Over two pages he discusses the ‘most just and wise regulations’ of the Foreign Office, and what may happen ‘if your Ambassador is as wild as Nebuchadnezar and your Secretary not as discreet as Daniel’, before continuing: ‘You must have observed that Diplomacy is becoming a caste, that we are a sort of Brahmins. Every man has a son in the possession. The diplomatic qualities will become progressive and hereditary. The Children will be wiser than their fathers. I have myself a son who is as smooth as Jacob and who never smiles unless he meets another young augur.’ He jokes: ‘You must be prepared to have an application soon for an unpaid attachéship. My second son is turbulent. I intend him for a naval reformer. I suppose your brother Henry has some of the same.’ This leads to a discussion of Elliot’s wider family the Mintos, and the jesting reproach: ‘You are allowing Elcho and The Duke of Argyle to run away with the sympathies of Scotland. This must not be. There will not be a piece of bannock left in the land for a true Whig.’