Members of the Maxse family have always been good letter-writers and preservers of letters: such documents as these are, in many cases, vivid accounts of events which now find a place in our national histories. In addition to the extensive correspondence, there are many secondary papers and souvenirs of places or actions which members of the family visited or with which they were concerned. Although most people would regard mementoes as ephemera, their preservation, in limited quantities, is important because they often illustrate social conditions which are past and will never return.
Documents, mainly printed, about the Berkeley family are in this collection because of the connexion between the two families. Sir (F.) Ivor Maxse's grandmother, Caroline Fitzhardinge Berkeley, was a daughter of Frederick Augustus, 5th Earl of Berkeley (1745-1810) and Mary Cole. Mrs. Hope Costley-White's biography of the fascinating Mary Cole is an admirable study: it was published in 1961.
The correspondence of Leo Maxse, editor of the National Review, and his wife Katharine (Kitty), contains much of interest to anyone concerned with the history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Leo Maxse was an influential figure in political life, through his successful periodical, and many important political and military leaders corresponded with him, and wrote for him in the "Nat". Kitty Maxse's interests lay in musical and artistic direction. She was a gifted amateur pianist, being taught by Sir Hubert Parry, a number of whose letters appear in the collection, and she gave help and support to aspiring musicians and struggling artists. She seems to have possessed a charismatic personality, and to have inspired great devotion from both men and women.
The majority of the letters are to Leo or Kitty Maxse, but the collection does contain a number of letters written to other people, which were passed on to them.
|Administrative / biographical background:
The earlier members of the Maxse family were West India merchants. John Maxse, described as an accountant, was made a freeman of Bristol in 1766 by payment of 12 guineas. During the American War, 1775-1783, John Maxse had five ships (the Hector, 250 tons; Rodney, 300 tons; Savannah La Mar, 200 tons; Friendship, 150 tons; John, 120 tons) engaged in it; from details of them kindly supplied by Miss E. Ralph, M.A., F.S.A., of the Bristol Archives Office, we learn that these vessels were owned by Maxse and his partner, one Meyler. The Rodney, on a voyage from Jamaica to Bristol, foundered at sea in October, 1782; the Savannah La Mar, built at Bristol in 1773, was a subject of news in Felix Farley's Bristol Journal of 18th January, 1777; on the morning of the 16th:-
'a providential discovery was made of a most diabolical plot, which might have terminated in the general conflagration of this city, the loss of many lives and perhaps the ruin of thousands. Early that morning a fire was perceived on the deck of the Savannah la Mar, a vessel belonging to Messrs. Meyler and Maxse, lying at the Quay and bound for Jamaica, which before it could be extinguished, communicated itself to the mizen mast, and did other damage ...'
The Friendship was lost near Antigua in May, 1786. In 1800, John Maxse also owned the Diana, a three-decked ship of 353 tons which was later owned by Maxse, Vaughan & Longmore, and the Jane, a ship of 376 tons; the partnership also owned the Apollo (214 tons). After John Maxse's death in 1808, the firm continued as Vaughan & Longmore. Andrew Maxse, merchant, was made a freeman of Bristol in 1783 and was also engaged in importing sugar and rum to that city. John Maxse had a house at Brislington, then outside, but now part of Bristol, and the family continued to have interests there until recent times.
Frederick Augustus Maxse (1833-1900), John's grandson, had a distinguished naval career. He retired as Admiral in 1867 and became much interested in social, political and literary matters as will be seen by his letters and other papers. George Meredith's novel Beauchamp's Career, is said to be largely a character study of his friend Maxse. The Admiral was the builder of Dunley Hill, near Dorking, on part of his mother's Effingham Hill estate; this was his last venture in property owning and, with travelling and many other pursuits, occupied him until his death at the early age of 57.
Frederick Ivor Maxse (1862-1958) had a military career which began with his joining the 7th Fusiliers in 1882 and culminated in his being G.O.C.-in-Chief, Northern Command, England, from 1919 to 1923, but after his retirement he continued his interests and, to some extent, his activities, right through the Second World War. General Maxse served in India, throughout the Soudan (This earlier form of spelling has usually been adopted in this catalogue.) campaigns, in the Boer War, and in France throughout the 1914-1918 War. He transferred from the Royal Fusiliers to the Coldstream Guards and was created K.C.B. in 1917; episodes in his earlier life are shown in the archives listed in this book, but for a summary of his distinguished services the reader is referred to Who was Who, 1951-1960.