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Friday, 23 November 2012

Storm in a political teacup

Tuesday, November 23rd., Cadogan Square, London.

Showery. Bleak. No rain later. Misty. Chilly evening.
Chores in early morning.
I wrote a letter to the Daily Mail in reply to Birkenhead's criticism of "Raingo" in that paper, and I signed it before I left home.
Birkenhead suggested that Raingo was modelled on an actual statesman, took 'profound objection' and accused me of 'overweening conceit'.
I wrote as follows:
"... The character of my Lord Raingo was modelled on no statesman, and is the result of no attempt at portraiture. I have said so in private ten thousand times, but it is not my custom to deny misstatements about my books in public. If it was, I should have to give my life to the business. As regards the deceased statesman whom doubtless Lord Birkenhead has in mind, I may say that I have never had the slightest acquaintance with him. It is apparent from his concluding remarks that the author of Famous Trials was for some undisclosed reason getting a bit cross. His emotion led him to the use of certain vituperative cliches. The vituperation one can excuse and enjoy; but the cliches will afflict the lettered."
After I left the Mail telephoned that they would like an article at 2 shillings a word, as well as the letter. They said the letter was too good to lose. So, by telephone form the theatre, I agreed to both. I much enjoyed writing both the letter and the short article. I love a friendly scrap in the press.

The Rt Hon. Frederick Edwin Smith, 1st Earl of Birkenhead, GCSI, PC, KC (1872 – 1930), best known to history as F. E. Smith, was a British Conservative statesman and lawyer of the early 20th century. He was a skilled orator, noted for his staunch opposition to Irish nationalism, his wit, pugnacious views, and hard living and drinking. He is perhaps best remembered today as Winston Churchill's greatest personal and political friend until Birkenhead's death at age fifty-eight from pneumonia caused by cirrhosis of the liver. In the opinion of Winston Churchill, "He had all the canine virtues in a remarkable degree — courage, fidelity, vigilance, love of chase." For Margot Asquith, who was not a friend, "F. E. Smith is very clever, but sometimes his brains go to his head." Of Birkenhead's loyalty, Churchill added, "If he was with you on Monday, he would be the same on Tuesday. And on Thursday, when things looked blue, he would still be marching forward with strong reinforcements."

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