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Airey and Kinglake - Introduction


The documents in this section throw light on the relationship between Kinglake and Airey during post-war years when the former was writing a history book in which the latter would appear in a good light. Airey himself had qualms over the propriety of his influence on the contents of the book. He wrote to Kinglake that "from being so mixed up in a period, and circumstances of which you are writing the History, I have always felt . . . there was an awkwardness in my cultivating your private & personal Society . . ."

The first item is a letter from Airey to Kinglake arranging an appointment with the Duke of Cambridge at the Horse Guards. At that time, December 1863, the Duke was Commander-in-Chief and Airey was his Quartermaster-General. In addition to showing Kinglake's access to the highest echelons, the letter shows that he had a personal relationship with Airey, for it would not have been a part of Airey's official duties to arrange such a meeting. As early as February 1856 Kinglake had visited Airey at the Horse Guards, when Airey invited him to undertake preparation of 'The Case' – probably submissions to the Chelsea Board of Generals.

The second item reveals the intensity of the friendship. Airey was appointed to be Governor of Gibraltar in 1865, and this is his farewell letter to Kinglake, accompanying the gift of a watch. Its flowery effusiveness belies the conventional view of Victorian masculinity.

Kinglake set about composing an equally florid reply the same day, the draft of which is the third item here. The many alterations are an insight into the making of Kinglake’s prose style. His acceptance of the gift contrasts with his behaviour a few weeks later, when he rejected a modest Christmas gift of game from Cardigan on the grounds that its acceptance would be incompatible with the relations which should subsist “between a General Officer and a writer, when the one is so kind as to impart to the other an account of what he has done . . . in a campaign.” [As quoted by Gerald de Gaury in his biography of Kinglake, Travelling Gent, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972.]

The next item is a note made by Kinglake in November 1869 of comments on the battle of Inkerman made by Airey over dinner. It raises questions about Kinglake's method of collecting first-hand evidence for his history. To Cardigan and Lucan he issued written questions, of his own choosing, to be answered in writing. For Airey, casual chat over dinner sufficed, Kinglake relying on his own memory for the details. Here and there throughout his history Kinglake quotes anonymous officers. This note suggests that on occasion Airey may have been his source, and that what Kinglake quoted as reliable evidence may have been no more than idle chat over port at the Atheneum.

The last three items are included in this section because they were probably given to Kinglake by Airey.

The first is a copy of Raglan's third order to the cavalry. The original was written by Airey on Raglan's behalf and despatched to Lucan, who presumably retained it. After the battle, when Raglan and Airey wanted a record of what the order had said, this copy was made by Lucan. There are two points of particular interest.

(1) There were disagreements about the precise wording of the order. In his letter dated 16 December 1854, criticising Lucan, Raglan quoted its last part as:-
"They will be supported by infantry, which has been ordered to advance on two fronts."
In his speech to the House of Lords on 19 March 1855. Lord Lucan averred that it had in fact said:-
"They will be supported by infantry, which has been ordered. Advance on two fronts."
He went on to say,

"The original order did not say 'to advance,' but it is possible that the word 'to' may have been inserted by mistake in the copy which I furnished to Lord Raglan, and I therefore wish to impute nothing to his lordship with respect to it. There was a full stop after the word 'ordered,' there was no 'to,' and there was a large A to 'advance.' It would have made a great difference if 'to' had been inserted and 'advance' had commenced with a small 'a,' so as to make the whole one sentence. But the sentence, 'Advance in two fronts,' stood by itself."

In this copy the final part reads,
"they will be supported by infantry which has been ordered advance on two fronts."
We see from this that Lucan had not mistakenly included the word 'to,' as he had feared, but that his copy does not include a full stop after 'ordered,' nor a large 'A' for 'advance,' as he claimed the original did. We thus have three versions of the order. The differences are inconsequential because, despite Lucan's statement that it "would have made a great difference," there was never any danger of the order being interpreted to mean that the cavalry was to advance on two fronts.

(2) Many accounts of the battle of Balaklava make much of the supposedly superior view of the field of conflict enjoyed by Raglan and Airey. On this document Airey notes that "perhaps the Cavalry were never up to the heights." The word 'perhaps' is revealing. If Airey could not see whether the cavalry was 'up to the heights,' it is questionable whether he could have seen what the Russians were or were not doing with our guns in redoubt no. 3 and beyond. There are references to Airey's eye troubles in the next but one item and in his correspondence with Hardinge.

The next item is a letter dated 2 September 1855 from Sir Colin Campbell to Airey warning of an expected Russian attack on the morrow. It is curious that a warning of this sort should be conveyed in a personal note to Airey, rather than in an official report to the C-in-C, Sir J Simpson, or his Chief of Staff, General Barnard. In the event the expected attack did not occur. The final allied assault on the Malakhoff and the Redan took place on the 8th September 1855, and the Russians abandoned the town that night.

The last item in this section is a letter dated 14 July 1856 from Sir George Brown to Airey, who was at that time QMG at the Horse Guards. The remark about being "sorry for your poor Chief" presumably refers to Lord Hardinge, who had suffered a stroke which obliged him to resign as C-in-C. Brown's comment that he had 'not thriven' under Hardinge may be related to his resignation from the Horse Guards after many years of holding staff appointments there soon after Hardinge became C-in-C. Brown's mention of 'preparing your book' is interesting. Was Airey contemplating writing his own account of the war? It is doubtful if his friendship with Kinglake would have survived such a move. Or was it indeed Kinglake's book that Brown felt able to allude to as Airey's?

The documents are now in the collection of the Cambridge University Library. References are shown thus:- CUL Add.9554/5/xx


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