Dear Bug,             

Letters of 
Charles Frederick Usborne 
to Leopold Stennett Amery 1892-1916.


At Oxford Leo Amery was one of the most brilliant students of his generation gaining a first class degree in Classics before being elected to All Souls. His life ran parallel to Winston Churchill. 
Both were at Harrow school. Both covered the Boer war as war correspondents (Leo for the Times). Both entered parliament as Conservatives in 1905/1
1 and worked together in the war cabinets of 1916-18 and 1940-45. Leo showed how the old British Empire could develop into a Commonwealth loyal to the crown and protected by tariffs. A committed Zionist he has been described as the father of the State of Israel. His political posts included First Lord of the Admiralty and Colonial Secretary. Then, as Secretary of State for India, he prepared the ground for Indian independence in 1947. He narrowly missed his life-long ambition to become Prime Minister when Churchill was preferred in 1940. He turned down a peerage to protect the parliamentary career of his son Julian. His wayward, psychotic older son Jack was hanged in 1945 under the Treason Act of 1351.

The ratio of men to suitable european ladies in the days of the Raj was four to one. He was forbidden by his service contract to marry before his 30th birthday.

Charlie and Leo's friendship started when they went up to Balliol College, Oxford together in 1892. Their bond may in part have been cemented by their diminutive stature.  At 5ft 6 ins Charlie was two inches taller than Leo. They exchanged hundreds of letters over two decades. He poured out to Leo intimate details of his love life and wrote of their shared passion for poetry and sport.
Almost all the letters start Dear Bug and are signed C.F.Usborne  (or ta ta C.F.U.). They start in an unformed school-boy hand-writing with entries such as:
"The landlady is a buxom person--I am sure she is buxom though I don't know what buxom means".
His juvenile philandering turned into serious affairs only when he joined the Indian Civil Service, having been rejected by the Army for being too short.  The piece below is an edited extract of his amorous adventure with a married lady called Laila McClean. The affair ended when he became engaged to Janet Lefroy in 1906.

Lahore 1905. "I have had the fortune, or misfortune (it is both) to meet a woman. The only one to whom I would have proposed at 5 minutes notice without the slightest fear of having made a mistake. Unfortunately her husband met her four years before I did or the odds are she would have been my wife. I fancy her point of view would be that she is content and pleased enough for me to admire her within the limits of loyalty to her husband. I fancy this is more loyalty than love. Like a fool he doesn’t seem to care to play Bridge, Tennis or Golf with his wife and I am only too glad to spend all day with her. He has taken her away from Lahore for Christmas week. Whether to see his sister in Chakrata or whether it is to separate us I do not know. I am not fool enough to run away with her, even if she’d come, which she wouldn’t, but I am badly hit enough to wish sometimes that plague would carry him off and I curse myself for such an uncharitable wish. It will probably end like all things Indian in my being transferred. This will settle the difficulty. This is what I trust may not occur. She is absolutely straight and good and has no thoughts of being unfaithful to her husband. She would never forgive herself if she did commit an indiscretion. (This is not like all the women out here). I know she is fond of me and I know I am hopelessly fond of her. She fights against it.

I am beginning to realise it was more than love to L; that I shall never care for anyone but Laila. She was in Lahore for Xmas week and she deliberately tried to make herself unattractive to me and so nearly succeeded in maddening me that I nearly bolted from Lahore, but the old infatuation was too strong and defied all her endeavour and I am chained as firmly as ever to her chariot wheels. She said to me and she was quite right: “Don’t marry any woman unless you care for her more than you care for me”. To do so would be too dangerous and hardly fair on the other woman. Perhaps it is better to be unmarried and in love with another man’s wife than to be married and in love with another woman. It is a foolish impasse but I must await fate or another twin soul to extricate me.
I told you in my last letter of my venture into platonic friendship. Thank heavens it has not ended in debacle. She was too sweet a woman to let it. I tell you there were shoals about and it was a perilous time and it wanted very deft steering on both parts not to bring the ship on the rocks. Had she not been straight as a die I don’t know what would have happened. As it is it just lasted long enough not to be too embarrassing and I don’t think we either of us regret our (or rather my) 2 months of winter madness. It is good to occasionally excursion into Romance and I don’t think I am likely to have a more enjoyable one for a very long time. Why the devil didn’t I meet her four year ago and marry her is one of those conundrums to which the powers that be have a suitable answer, but as she is married to McClean(?) she has to make the best of a bad job. Ah, the other women here pale into insignificance before her and do not amuse me as I think they should – but you cannot eat your cake and have it. Some years hence you and I may have a laugh over this little outburst of mine. I confess I was looking forward to a continuous correspondence. But she (rightly I think) thought that my “cure” as she put it would be more complete and rapid if we stopped writing to each other. So she has refused to write or be written to. What you call the charging elephant of passion is never going to upset my apple cart if I can help it. We shall probably keep each other’s couple of letters and she my rhymes. I sent her quite a good “lest we together” a la Browning but she expressly asked me not to show it to anyone else. To show you the sort of woman she is, I said I wanted to keep a certain promise, which I had for some time failed in attaining. I thought that if she promised me a kiss at the end of the year, I might not fail as I had done before. She fought a little at the kiss saying she didn’t think anybody but her husband had the right to kiss her. But I pleaded with her that this race was (for me) big and that the prize was not so enormous. So she gave way – A few days afterwards, out riding she returned to the subject and I could see she was very concerned at the promise she had given. – I wrote a note begging her not to revoke the promise, but thinking it over she was miserable over it. So I went to see her and released her from the kiss part of the bargain saying that I would try and keep my promise without the Prize. She was frightfully pleased and was her old self in a moment. Now I am on probation, the experiment has begun. Heaven only knows whether the flesh will resist temptation for six long months. I am trying to get a great friend of hers to give her husband a good dressing down and make him understand that, unless he treats her better and makes more of her, he’ll just lose the affection of the best woman on Earth. He is cold as ice, never pets her. She is warm-hearted and longs for affection and lots of it and gets none. So you see the elements are dangerously combustible".

Let us forget, then, what we have done,
bury our memories one by one,
all those happy and earlier days
lit by the
sunshine of friendship’s rays
glorious gallops and rambling walks,
dances and picnics and long, long talks
of all and everything under the sun----

    Bury them, bury them every one.
    Little we guessed and little we knew
    what love was plotting between us two
    and we thought of love as a distant thing
   nor heard the beat of his imminent wing.
    But little by little I came to see
    that you were the world and all to me.

When you were away I did nothing but fret
and life was a blank till again we met.
However crowded a room might be
nobody counted but you and me
and that fatal morning at last I knew,
heart of my heart, that I loved you.
I stammered it out as I had to do.
Love can't be mute between us two.
but I hardly dared look you in the face
for I felt between us love had no place.
(It is impossible, dear, for Fate
has brought us together, alas too late)
Oh! What in the world has love to do
spoiling the friendship between us two?


   All thought of love-lit eyes,
   all sweet nothings and soft replies,
   all the pet names that love can teach
   bursting the barriers of faltering speech
   all the heart-aches of storm and stress,
   lips that quiver and hands that press,
   the hopeless love in that last goodbye
   whispered under the turcan sky.
   What is the good of vain regret?


I have just been having an exciting time—the tempestuous petticoat of course. This time, I hope, is a final dash for slavery. Her name is Lefroy. She is out on a visit to some friends here. I met her at the ordinary dinner dance, subsequently stayed at the same house – proposed at the end of a ten day visit to Simla.   Got refused!    Joined them on their way to …………A month later, proposed again at Marree en route for Kashmir and got another but fainter NO. Continued on with them into Kashmir, proposed again on the Kashmir Lake among the finest scenery in the world and got accepted. She is an absolute ripper, stands 6 feet 3½ inches. She is probably the finest woman, certainly the tallest this side of Suez. This will, inter alia, add to the gaiety of nations as I hardly come up to her shoulder. But I will willingly face the music of national laughter to win her.  I can say with a clear conscience that she has surplanted the other woman (Mrs McClean, I mean) in my affections. Her father is a solicitor in Leamington Spa and proposes to settle £200 a year on her and a capital sum of £5,000. So cash is all right.

Leo became God-father to their first born son Tommy in 1907. 

Further reading: 
The history of the South African War. Leo Amery. (7 vols). 1902-10(?)
The Empire in the New Era. Leo Amery (1928) Arnold
Personal biographies: Days of fresh air (1939); In the rain and the sun (1946). Hutchinson.
My Political life (autobiography in three volumes) 1953
The diaries of Leopold Amery (2 vols) Hutchinson 1988.  
Leo Amery, the last Imperialist. Max Beloff. 
In the name of God, Go! by William Roger Louis; W.W.Norton & Co. 1992
Leo, Julian and John Amery -- The Tragedy of a Political Family, by David Faber (2005)
Patriot Traitors, Roger Casement, John Amery and the real meaning of treason by Adrian Weale 
(Whitbread book of the year) Viking 2001