Henry Ponsonby, Queen Victoria's Private Secretary: His Life from His Letters

Henry Ponsonby, Queen Victoria's Private Secretary: His Life from His Letters

Henry Ponsonby, Queen Victoria's Private Secretary: His Life from His Letters

Henry Ponsonby, Queen Victoria's Private Secretary: His Life from His Letters

Excerpt

My father's letters and papers were preserved by my mother until her death in 1916. Subsequently additional and more official correspondence was added and eventually the accumulated mass of material came into the possession of my eldest brother (Major-General Sir John Ponsonby) five years ago. He consulted me as to what should be done with such a quantity of original documents: should they be deposited in safe keeping and left for future generations to deal with? Should some expert biographer be entrusted with them? Or should a son, who could draw on his memory and understand things which might be obscure to strangers, sift and arrange the papers and perhaps in time put together in book form the life and work of Queen Victoria's Private Secretary? After much deliberation we decided on the last alternative and the cases were removed to my house.

When they were unpacked I found that they consisted of 117 boxes, each containing 150 to 200 letters, 12 bound books of early letters, not to mention a memorandum book, diaries and a number of packets of unsorted papers. The arrangement of the material in a manageable form alone took some months of the time I could spare. The task I had undertaken appeared far more formidable than I expected. While I knew at once that less than one per cent of the papers would actually be used for quotation or reference, they would all have to be perused and most of them carefully read. I found that my second brother Fritz (Lord Sysonby) had sorted and roughly arranged according to date the more official letters received by my father, some of which are quoted in Chapter XIV, and I was inclined to think that, had he been spared, he himself would have undertaken the task now entrusted to me and would of course have been far better qualified to perform it. I was conscious that my equipment for designing anything in the nature of a biography out of all this material was meagre. On the other hand, as one of a family for years closely associated . . .

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