Mary Victoria Leiter

Mary Victoria Leiter, Baroness Curzon of Kedleston

Mary Victoria Leiter
Mary Victoria Leiter
(Baroness Curzon of Kedleston)
From photograph by Miss Alice Hughes

For the second time within the century an American woman has risen to viceregal honors. Mary Caton, the granddaughter of Charles Carroll of Carrollton and the widow of Robert Patterson, of Baltimore, through her marriage, in 1825, to the Marquis of Wellesley, who was at the time Viceroy of Ireland, went to reign a queen in the country whence her ancestors, more than a century before, had emigrated to America. In Mary Victoria Leiter, whose life, to the people of a future generation, will read much like romance, we again behold an American woman, who, like the Marchioness of Wellesley at the time she became Vicereine of Ireland, is still young and beautiful, filling a similar position in India, with its four hundred millions of subjects.

The parallel between her life and that of Mary Caton, however, goes no farther. Wellesley was already in possession of the Governor-Generalship of Ireland when he married Mrs. Patterson. He was, moreover, beyond the threescore mark in years, and he bore “his blushing honors thick upon him,” having already been Viceroy of India. Curzon was but thirty-nine years old when the governor-generalship of the latter mighty country, the shining mark of many a man’s whole career, was offered to him. His public life bore little more than “the tender leaves of hope,” though his writings on Eastern topics were already accepted as highly authoritative. Lady Wellesley had but to follow the leadership of a man of recognized ability and established fame, while Lady Curzon walks side by side with the man who is making that steep ascent which the British editorial mind has classified as “Salisbury’s most interesting experiment.” It is, moreover, an open secret that, far from shrinking from the new office, with the weight of responsibility which it imposed; she encouraged her husband to accept it.

While we are familiar with that phase of international marriage which confers rank and title upon the daughters of our republic, no American woman has ever played such a part in the British Empire as has fallen to the lot of Lady Curzon. From that day in the spring of 1895, when she became the wife of the young Commoner, George Nathaniel Curzon, she stepped into English history; the days of her American belleship became a fragrant reminiscence. The qualities which had given them brilliancy, however, continued to illuminate the broader horizon of her life in England, and have become in her present exalted position the admiration of her own country, whose interest in her is purely personal, and the gratification of England, whose interest is political and much farther reaching.

To the vast majority of people, who have but a superficial knowledge of Lady Curzon, her charm lies in the phases of that exterior life which are visible to all and easily discerned from afar, her youth, her beauty, her wealth, the artistic perfection of her raiment, and the glory and pageant of her present existence. These, however, are but foot lights to the real power of the woman rising beyond them.

As a girl in America she stood forth against the rich background of her home as distinctly as she is silhouetted today against the magnificence of the throne of India. It was not so much what she did or said, though that was sometimes of an unusual order, that made her the social power she was in America; it was rather what people instinctively felt that she was. “What thou art,” says Emerson, defining that force we call character, “so roars and thunders above thy head, I cannot hear thee speak.” She was serious and earnest rather than scintillating, with a reserve and dignity of manner tempered by a sweetness that admitted no suggestion of austerity.

The grace with which she now meets every situation, the intelligent interest she manifests in every theme with which she is approached, are not matters of happy chance or accident. She has been carefully equipped for her place in life. Studious and ambitious, she has known little of frivolity or idleness. Every faculty and every gift with which she was endowed have been conscientiously cultivated, so that, like the wise virgins of the parable, she was found ready when the hour came with a light that guides not only her own footsteps, but is seen from afar.

Though Lady Curzon’s life has been largely cosmopolitan, the city of Chicago, in which she was born and passed her first thirteen years, has a more substantial claim upon her than any in which she has since lived. She evidently reciprocates the feeling of the former city, for it was to it that she recently addressed a plea in behalf of the famine stricken districts of India. It was there that her father, Mr. Levi Z. Leiter, amassed his immense fortune, laying its foundation as a partner in the dry goods firm of Marshall Field & Co. There, also, her brother, Joseph Leiter, still continues his remarkable position in the stock market.

In the year 1881 Lady Curzon’s family joined that ever increasing colony at Washington that is made up of wealth and leisure. It has in recent years become a distinctive feature of the capital, its members having built there some of the handsome homes that adorn the city, and which they occupy usually for a few months each year. Their social functions are attended with much magnificence, and they have the entree to official society, and frequently to that exclusive circle of aristocratic old families, many of whom have lived there in unostentatious elegance ever since the nation transferred its capital to the banks of the Potomac.

For a time Mary Leiter attended the school in Washington founded some years ago by Madam Burr and subsequently conducted by her daughters. She was a good student. Quiet in her manner, she emitted only occasionally that sparkle of wit or fun that so often flashes from the happy school girl of fourteen. She exercised, however, a fascination to which both her teachers and companions were susceptible. Her beauty of face, her pose and carriage, together with a sweet, girlish modesty and a graciousness that was simple and unaffected, rendered her at all times most attractive.

The greater part of Miss Leiter’s education, however, was conducted at home, under governesses, and her individual tastes and talents thus developed. Travel, and a more or less prolonged residence abroad at various times under most happy circumstances, cultivated her powers of observation and developed in her that breadth of mental vision that at an unusually early period not only removed the crudities of youth, but gave her that poise and finish that made her so charming to men and women of mature and brilliant intellect.

Comparatively little was heard of her family socially till after her debut, which occurred in the winter of 1888, and their present social prominence in the United States is due to the remarkable impression she everywhere created. As a newcomer she was viewed critically, for she aimed always at the highest and best in the social castes of her country. She was weighed in the balance with the daughters of better known and longer established families of the East, and was found their equal in beauty and breeding and frequently their peer in charm of manner and intellect.

In Washington her father leased the home, on Dupont Circle, of the late James G. Blaine, and there Miss Leiter spent the first years of her young womanhood, during which such homage was paid her that she never entered a drawing room nor crossed a ball room without attracting the attention and gaze of every one. She planned and directed the numerous social functions given there by her parents on a scale of magnificence that was not easily approached, and she brought to the house a fame such as it never derived from the occupancy of its distinguished owner nor any of his family.

When her father built his own home, which is considered by many people the most beautiful in Washington, her taste found a new field for its display, both in the plan of its construction and in its final decorations. It was minutely described in the press of the country, particular emphasis being given to the apartments appropriated to Miss Leiter’s use, so undoubtedly was she the social genius of her family and the figure who held the interest of the public.

A few years ago the favorable verdict of a man whom a recent historian of New York society has designated its self-appointed dictator went far towards establishing a woman’s reputation for beauty or distinction on a national footing. Mr. Ward McAllister undoubtedly wielded a singular power and influence, and his unqualified admiration of Miss Leiter, while it reflects today much credit upon his judgment, played at the time a considerable part in the wide spread of her fame.

Her development was rapid and continuous, and she rose in the course of a few years to a national prominence. It has been said of her that she was not true to early friendships. “The law of nature is alteration forevermore,” and every mind that expands must out grow the objects that satisfied it at one period of its existence unless they are capable in a degree of keeping pace with its progress. As a matter of fact, while there was a graciousness in her manner towards all with whom she came in contact, she formed but few close friendships, the natural reserve of her temperament rendering it impossible for her to respond easily to those intimacies which enter into the lives of so many girls.

During the second administration of President Cleveland there existed between his young wife and Miss Leiter a degree of friendship that was as flattering to one as it was to the other, for the Clevelands enjoyed the reputation of choosing their friends for their personal charm.

During both of his terms of office Mr. Cleveland had a home in the suburbs of Washington, where he and his family passed much time between seasons, and where they frequently entertained the friends whom they admitted more or less to their intimacy. There, during the spring of the year in which she was married, Miss Leiter passed every Sunday prior to that event, carrying away with her to another land a vivid impression of one of the most admirable women who ever adorned public life in America.

England was by no means an unknown country to Miss Leiter. She had been accustomed from her early childhood to spending much time in Europe, and a London season, which is the climax of many an American girl’s social ambition, was not a new experience to her. The season of 1894, however, marked a turning point in her life. Hon. Thomas F. Bayard, who was our Ambassador at the Court of St. James at the time, had been married not long before to Miss May Clymer, of Washington, a daughter of Dr. Clymer, of the navy, and a granddaughter of Admiral Shubrick. The Bayards had known Miss Leiter at home, and they undoubtedly contributed much to the reception she everywhere met during that season in England, for they themselves were much sought after, and the distinction of their position gave prominence to her. They brought her into contact with a class of men and women among whom her own highly endowed mind found an inspiration on whose wings she rose in a short time to a new fame.

Among those who paid her the tribute of a profound admiration was a rising young secretary of the kingdom, a man of scholarly tastes and an author of established reputation.

“I found,’ recently wrote Julian Ralph from India, “a sure key to the viceroy’s character in between the lines of a dozen speeches that he made in January and February, 1899. Some of his qualities, more especially his quick sympathy, humor, and the sentimental and romantic inclination, are rather more American than English. It is consoling to us Americans to find that the man who has attracted so much beauty and talent away from our country is himself the next thing to an American.”

When he met Miss Leiter, though he was but thirty-five years of age, Mr. Curzon had been a member of Parliament, representing the district of Southport, for eight years. He had already wealth and distinction, and was the heir to the title of his father, who is the fourth Baron Scarsdale. His ambition, moreover, was of that high order which found in Miss Leiter a responsive attitude and a quickening sympathy. His literary and political career in a word, the position he had made for himself through his own talents was to her a matter of far deeper interest than the eventual inheritance of his father’s estate and title. The reputation which his writings on the political questions in the East had given him particularly attracted her admiration.

Replying four years later to the address of welcome delivered to him by the city of Bombay, Lord Curzon expressed gratification at its kindly tone both for himself and his wife, who, he said, came to India with sympathies as warm as his own, and who looked forward with earnest delight to a life of happy labor in the midst of its people.

The interest which Miss Leiter’s remarkable career had inspired intensified with the announcement of her approaching marriage. Her home was besieged by newspaper correspondents representing all sections of the country, showing how widely she was known.

The 22d of April the date selected for her wedding was an ideal spring day. At an early hour in the morning people began to gather around St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, where the ceremony was to be performed at half past eleven o’clock, with a hope of catching a glimpse of the fair and famous bride. By eleven o’clock the streets and sidewalks and Lafayette Square were solidly banked with spectators and it was with difficulty that a passage way was kept open for the carriages of those who had been invited to witness the ceremony. Women cried out that they were being crushed, and others fainted, yet the crowd continued to increase till the moment of the bride’s arrival.

St. John’s Church, one of the oldest in Washington, is constructed without a central aisle, so that bridal parties enter by one side aisle and return by the other. Thither have wended their way many couples that have passed into fame and history. At its altar, a little more than six years before Miss Leiter pronounced her marriage vows, another American girl. Miss Mary Endicott, of Massachusetts, whose father was at the time Secretary of War, gave her hand to a distinguished son of Great Britain, Hon. Joseph Chamberlain.

The ceremonies at both of these marriages were exquisitely simple. Bishop Talbott, of Wyoming, officiated at that of Miss Leiter and Mr. Curzon, assisted by Rev. Dr. Mackay Smith, the pastor of the church. Lord Lamington acted as best man for Mr. Curzon, and Miss Leiter was attended by her two sisters. She was singularly pale, and, enveloped in the whiteness of her bridal veil and gown, the Easter lilies that adorned the altar and chancel seemed not more fair than she. Her slender figure looked its full height, which is the same as her father’s, five feet seven inches. Her face, whose every feature is indicative of character and perhaps too serious when in repose, but wholly charming when lighted by a smile which expresses so much intelligence and sympathy, bore evidence of the recollection of her thoughts. It was, as it is today, a face of unusual beauty, oval in shape, with dark gray eyes, straight black brows, a sweet, sensitive mouth, a prettily shaped nose, and a low forehead with fine black hair brushed simply away from it and emphasizing its whiteness.

On her wedding day she solved with her usual good sense a problem that has confronted many brides since gloves first came to be considered a requisite of their costume, as to how under such circumstances a ring may be gracefully assumed. She entered and left the church with hands uncovered and unadorned save by her engagement ring with its superb setting, a ruby and two diamonds, and the gold band which supplemented it.

The ceremony was witnessed by Mrs. Cleveland, the Cabinet Ministers and their families, the diplomatic corps, and a number of people of purely social prominence from several cities in the United States and England.

For the reception which followed, the bride’s beautiful home was decorated entirely with peach, cherry, and apple blossoms. She stood beneath her own portrait, whose frame was suggestively outlined with forget-me-nots, to receive the many who gathered about her with good wishes and goodbyes.

The first days of her honeymoon were spent at “Beauvoir,” the suburban Washington home of Mr. and Mrs. John R. McLean, who placed it at her disposal for that period. There she entertained several times at dinner, that Mr. Curzon might meet some of the people who give charm to the society of the American capital.

The year of his marriage proved also an eventful one in the public life of Mr. Curzon. He was made Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Privy Councillor, and re-elected to his seat in Parliament, all within that brief period.

Shortly after Mr. Curzon’s return to England the fall of the Rosebery cabinet necessitated a new Parliamentary election. His American bride entered into the English political campaign of the summer of 1 895 with an enthusiasm that was the delight of his constituents and the admiration of his opponents. It was a first test of her power in a field that called forth her best efforts, and as she became conscious of her strength and of the possibility of being a force in the political life of a great country, the highest attributes of her nature unfolded themselves. Among a people who “make a romance of marriage,” ah electioneering tour before the honeymoon had waned roused an interest upon whose results no politician, however astute, could reckon. Not only did Mrs. Curzon accompany her husband on the occasions when he addressed the people of his borough, but, quite independent of him, she drove through the Southport district of Lancashire, seeing the wives of his constituents and even the electors themselves, and manifesting an intelligent interest in the political affairs of their country that, from a foreigner and a beautiful young woman, conveyed a most delicate flattery and subtle gratification.

A Liberal paper, commenting on the election after the vote had been cast, gallantly insisted that Curzon owed his success far more to the winning smiles and irresistible charm of his American wife than he did to his own speeches.

The following four years of Lady Curzon’s life were spent in England between a town house in London and her husband’s country seat, Kedleston Hall, in Derbyshire. Two daughters were born to her within that period, the first in 1896 and the younger in August, 1898, shortly after Mr. Curzon’s appointment to the Governor-Generalship of India.

Mrs. Curzon’s parents visited her every summer, and her father bought for her the London residence, Number One Carlton House Terrace, the first in a row of twenty-two handsome houses with a colonnade of marble pillars, overlooking St. James Park, one of the most exclusive localities in London.

In close companionship and absolute sympathy with a statesman whose life promised greatness, in the full enjoyment of a social existence in which the grace and strength of her personality had already made themselves felt, happily placed in all her relations to life, it would have seemed, in consideration of the youth of both herself and her husband, that for the time being at least their measure of good fortune was well filled. In the summer of 1898, however, Mr. Curzon was offered the greatest gift of the British government, the Governor-Generalship of India. Until Mr. Balfour’s authoritative announcement of the fact in the House of Commons many people had discredited the rumor on the ground that such an office had never been offered to a Commoner.

In India, which Mr. Curzon had visited frequently and where he had already become thoroughly known through his writings, the news of his nomination was received with entire satisfaction. In London it excited unusual interest.

In addition to more or less lengthy editorial comment, every journal reviewed his strikingly brilliant career, and in enumerating his unusual advantages through which he might hope for success in the discharge of the duties of the high office he had accepted, his American wife was ranked among the first. It was regarded as a happy circumstance that such a woman should partake of the glories and responsibilities of his position.

According to an old English statute, a man who is duly elected to the House of Commons may not resign his seat. It may be vacated only by death, expulsion, legal disqualifications, or by accepting an office from the crown. As soon as Mr. Curzon was nominated to succeed Lord Elgin, whose term as Governor-General of India still had several months to run, in order to enable him to sever his connection with the Parliament, he received from the queen the appointment of High Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead.

The office, however, is merely honorary, and was retained only until he was officially proclaimed governor-general. His seat in Parliament at the election following his withdrawal was carried by the Liberal candidate, the late Sir Herbert Naylor Leyland, whose wife, another beautiful American, Miss Jennie Chamberlain, of Cleveland, had played much the same part in his campaign as Mrs. Curzon, under similar circumstances, had taken in that of her husband.

During the month following Mr. Curzon’s appointment to the governor-generalship he was elevated to the peerage as Baron Curzon of Kedleston. As the name in which he had made his reputation, he desired to retain Curzon in his title.

The eldest son of Earl Howe being Viscount Curzon, however, he was obliged to agree to two conditions imposed by Lord Howe, first, to be known now as Curzon of Kedleston, and, second, on succeeding to his father’s title, to drop Curzon Kedleston, which was never to be resumed either by himself or his heirs.

A new life, quite unlike anything she had known, now opened before Lady Curzon, a life of real power over millions of subjects, a life of significant ceremonial and regal pomp, in which this daughter of a republic assumed with her husband the leading role.

She entered completely into its spirit, planning all the details of a sumptuous existence which is so highly gratifying to an Eastern people and in such perfect accord with its conceptions of power. India likes to see the outward form of empire, and measures thereby its internal strength.

Lady Curzon was already familiar with the political and historical side of the country whither fortune was leading her. For her acquaintance with its social side, which more especially concerned her, she equipped herself with that same faultless taste that had marked her career in the society of her own country and England.

With the lavish hospitality she had in contemplation, she ordered, several weeks before her departure from England, thousands of cards of invitation for dinners, evening receptions, and garden parties, including menu cards and ball programs. For all of these occasions she provided herself with the appropriate habiliments whose exquisite details, the art with which they were chosen, and the genius with which they were worn, becoming identified with her personal beauty, acquired shortly after her appearance in Calcutta a fame as wide as the empire.

Her last days in England for shadowed the glories of her life in India. At a ball given at Welbeck Abbey by the Duke and Duchess of Portland in honor of the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, shortly before her departure, Lady Curzon of Kedleston, whose grace had once given charm to many an American ball room, was among the few honored with a place in the royal quadrille. While the Portlands do not entertain often, they enjoy the reputation of having the most sumptuous social functions that are witnessed anywhere in England. Their supper tables glitter with a gold service of great artistic and intrinsic value, and their spacious picture gallery makes a ball room whose attractiveness is seldom rivalled.

For several days Lord and Lady Curzon were guests at Welbeck, going from there to Southport to make a farewell visit to Lord Curzon’s old Parliamentary district, in which Lady Curzon had won votes and admiration in the first days of her residence in England. The locomotive of the train in which they made the journey was decorated with the royal standard and the stars-and-stripes, Lady Curzon’s nationality being, as it always is, thus gracefully remembered. The streets of the town were similarly decorated, including, besides the insignia of the two great Anglo-Saxon countries, the star of India.

It was a memorable day in Southport, whose population turned out en masse to welcome them, the city and county functionaries in their official robes greeting them at the railroad station. As they drove through the streets of the town, their coach drawn by four horses, the bells of Christ Church peeled forth a joyous welcome, and pride and admiration shone in every face that lined the route to the art gallery. There they held a public reception. Sir William Forwood presiding and making a speech, in which he dwelt with gratification upon the unqualified approval expressed by the nation at Lord Curzon’s appointment as Governor-General of India, and referred gallantly to the charm which the young American vicereine would impart to the court.

On the 30th of December Lord and Lady Curzon landed at Bombay amid the firing of a royal salute from the warships in port. The city welcomed them with a display of much magnificence in its decorations and a manifestation of genuine cordiality, presenting its address to that effect in an elaborately wrought silver casket.

At the governor’s house they were received by Lord and Lady Sandhurst, Lord Sandhurst being Governor of Bombay, and ranking second in authority to the governor-general.

It was here that Lord and Lady Curzon made their first social appearance in India at a ball and reception given in their honor. Beyond the fact that Lord Curzon’s wife was an American, prior to that night India knew but little of her. Happy and beautiful, with the added brilliancy which appreciation and success impart to every woman, she made instantly an impression of loveliness which in a few days had spread over India and still prevails, resting now, however, on a more enduring basis.

The impression, in fact, created by both Lord and Lady Curzon at Bombay paved the way to the enthusiasm with which they were received at Calcutta a few days later.

The city was richly decorated, the American flag being everywhere conspicuously displayed amid evidences of Oriental splendor. It has been estimated that not less than one hundred thousand people witnessed the magnificent spectacle of their reception at the palace.

The imposing width of the double terrace of steps that lead to the main entrance was covered with a rich red carpet terminating in the green sward of the lawn, where, in the magnificent uniform of the army forming part of the military service of India, one hundred men of the Calcutta Rifles and one hundred men of the First Gloucester Regiment, in scarlet, with their band, stood attention.

At the foot of the steps the Life Guard, in gorgeous red array, consisting of one hundred and twenty Indians selected for their fine size and physique, grouped itself At the top, two colossal palms lifted their noble branches, while the vine clad balustrades added another touch of color to the picturesque setting of the scene, which was further enhanced by the presence of many native chiefs and dignitaries in the splendor of their rich attire.

In the distance the cannon of Fort Williams boomed a mighty welcome to the new powers as they drove under the great arch of the outer gate surmounted by its massive lions. Beneath the limitless blue of a tropical sky, with everywhere the luxuriant verdure of a tropical landscape, this was the scene, reflecting both the power of England and the magnificence and antiquity of the Orient, that greeted Lady Curzon, who had opened her eyes on life thirty years before in a new city of a new world thousands of miles away.

To the vast concourse of Europeans and Orientals who beheld Lord and Lady Curzon as they mounted the steps and entered the palace they conveyed a sense of entire satisfaction, so absolutely do they realize in stature, bearing, and poise the conception of a noble sovereignty. Lord Curzon is more than six feet in height and of proportionate breadth, while his whole manner denotes the vigor of youth, mentally as well as physically.

It is a strange coincidence, first, that the Government House at Calcutta should have been built by the Marquis of Wellesley, who at a later period, during his Governor-Generalship of Ireland, married, as already stated, the beautiful Baltimorean, Mary Caton Patterson, and, in the second place, that it should have been copied, with slight modification, from Lord Curzon’s ancestral home, Kedleston Hall. After a visit to the latter place, Wellesley declared that if he ever had a house to build he should take it for his model.

In 1799, during his term as Governor-General of India, it fell to his lot to erect at Calcutta the viceregal palace known as Government House, and he built it on a plan well in keeping with the dignity of the great European power which rules over two-thirds of India.

The first two social events held at Government House after the installment of Lord Curzon as governor-general were the levee on the 7th of January, 1899, which was attended by sixteen hundred gentlemen, and the drawing room on the 12th of the same month, at which Lady Curzon wore her viceregal honors with irresistible graciousness. After the presentations, which were made in the throne room, Lord and Lady Curzon standing in front of the magnificent gold throne upon a velvet covered dais, she went up into the ball room, which occupies the entire third floor of the central portion of the palace, and which is said to be one of the handsomest in the world, and there mingled among her guests with a grace as charming and unaffected as if she were again hostess in either her American or her English home instead of the representative of the Queen of England and Empress of India.

When we consider her exalted position and her unusual personality, the rapidity with which she has established herself in the affections of the people all over the empire ceases to be a matter of wonderment. The good judgment and tact of both the viceroy and his wife have prevented them from falling into the grave error of some of their predecessors in showing a preference for the European over the educated native element. As a result. Lady Curzon’s praises have been proclaimed by the latter in the glowing language that is peculiar to them as frequently as they have been by the former. Ram Sharma, an Indian poet, referred to her, in the course of some lines of welcome addressed to Lord Curzon, as

A rose of roses bright,
A vision of embodied light.

Another native scribe, when she received the decoration of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India, declared her to be “like a diamond set in gold, or the full moon in a clear autumnal sky.”

Not only by her youth and beauty and her social graces, however, has she endeared herself to the people of India. With a high appreciation of the viceregal position and of the duty owing to their subjects under all circumstances, Lord and Lady Curzon last winter made a tour of the plague stricken districts of the empire. Besides advising and making intelligent suggestions to those who were working among the sufferers, they in many cases personally provided for their care, and by unselfish heroism bound the whole nation to them by ties of profound gratitude and a tender personal affection, augmenting thereby India’s loyalty to the queen-empress.

The wives and families of India’s viceroys have found a broad field for the exercise of their benevolent tendencies, and not a few have left here noble monuments to the memory of their days in the great black empire. Eden Gardens is one, the beautiful public park adjoining the grounds of the viceregal residence and the gift of Lord Auckland’s sisters to the city of Calcutta. The Dufferin Medical Mission is another, inaugurated by Lady Dufferin during the governor-generalship of her husband as a means of providing medical help for the women of India.

A few weeks after her arrival in the empire Lady Curzon presided at a meeting of the central committee of the Dufferin fund, and manifested a keen interest in the noble charity.

It has within the last thirty years become customary for the entire English government in India to spend the six hot months of the year in Simla, the town in the Himalayan hills whose singular natural and social topography have become familiar in late years to many English readers through Kipling’s Indian tales. The Foreign Office at London recently expended a large sum of money in the erection of suitable buildings there, including a new viceregal residence that is a vast improvement over its predecessor, which was little more than a cottage. It was perched on a precipitous crag, and Lady Dufferin used to compare it to the ark balanced on Mount Ararat, adding that in the rainy season she herself felt like Mrs. Noah.

The villa at Simla and the palaces at Calcutta and at Barrackpore on the river near the capital constitute the trio of viceregal residences in which the Curzons are passing the five years of their life in India. None of them is a home in the meaning we give that word, a place of privacy and relaxation, for each has its own degree of state and formality. They live today in the glare of the world, with no more seclusion than ever falls either to “the head that wears a crown” or to those to whom it delegates its power. The state that encompasses them does not conceal the personality of either, and both are full of interest.

Marrying a man whose life promised so much, Mary Leiter has undoubtedly been a factor in the early culmination of that promise. She is spoken of throughout India with love and pride, and when Lord Curzon’s day comes to pass the government into other hands, it may be that the empire will be placarded with signs, as it was, says a recent historian, when Lord Ripon retired, bearing a legend similar to that they bore then: “We want more Curzons!”

Curzon, Leiter,


Peacock, Virginia Tatnal. Famous American Belles of the Nineteenth Century. K. B. Lippincott Company. 1901.

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