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
Both were at Harrow
school. Both covered the Boer war as war correspondents (Leo
for the Times). Both entered parliament as Conservatives in 1905/11 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
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.
Lahore1905. "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
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 racewas
(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
*********** 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
life was a blank till again we met.
However crowded a room might be
nobody counted but you and me
that fatal morning at last I knew,
heart of my heart, that I loved you.
stammered it out as I had to do.
Love can't be mute between us two.
I hardly dared look you in the face
I felt between us love had no place.
is impossible, dear, for Fate
brought us together, alas too late)
What in the world has love to do
spoiling the friendship between us two?
All thought of love-lit eyes,
sweet nothings and soft replies,
the pet names that love can teach
bursting the barriers of faltering speech
the heart-aches of storm and stress,
lips that quiver and hands that press,
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.
became God-father to their first born son Tommy in 1907.
The history of the South
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).
My Political life (autobiography in three volumes) 1953
The diaries of Leopold Amery
(2 vols) Hutchinson
1988. Leo Amery, the last Imperialist. Max
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