London Letter


Berverley Baxter November 1 1952
London Letter


Berverley Baxter November 1 1952


London Letter

Berverley Baxter

IF MEMORY lasts that long you may recall that my last letter was written from Dornoch, the county town of Sutherlandshire in Scotland. Now I am back in London, which is a county in itself, but it is hard to throw off the impressions and the memories of that visit to the Highlands.

However. I do not propose to drench you in scenery or even describe Loch Ness, which is strangely like the Rhine except that there is so little traffic upon it. Instead I want to describe what might be called The Drama of Two Neighboring Castles because the tale has a bearing upon the changing world in which we live.

Let me wam mv left-wing readers that this drama involves the storv of two men—the first a multimillionaire and the second a duke. It mav, however, soothe the critical breast to learn that the multimillionaire who iKiught Skibo Castle has been dead for some years, and that the duke because he has no children) is the last direct duke of the line. The argument I intend to present is that Andrew Carnegie and the Duke of Sutherland represent a world of the past which is being steadily liquidated by changing standards and the tyranny of taxation.

When I was a young man the name of Andrew Carnegie was blazoned upon the age in which we lived.

This Scottish boy who arrived in Pittsburgh, U.S., with nothing but his hands to work with had done so well that in his declining years he gave away in benefactions about three hundred and fifty million dollars. Carnegie libraries were established in great numbers, especially in the U. S.. Britain and Canada.

He created pensions for American university professors, endowed research, built church organs, established scholarships and. having succeeded without any education, lie did everything possible to see that others did not have that same advantage as himself.

If this seems somewhat cynical on my part let me quote Carnegie himself. "Nothing atones a boy for not being poor,” he declared over and over again. He even wrote a remarkable book called The Gospel of Wealth in which he used these words:

It is because I know how sweet and happy and pure the home of hones: poverty is. how free from, perplexing care. from, social envies and emulations, tha: I sympathize with the rich man's son and congratulate the poor man’s son.

When he wrote these words he was fabulously rich and, as we have noted, was spending vast millions to ensure that boys would be educated so that they would earn better money and never be able to allow their children the sweetness of poverty.

An intelligent but uneducated mind is, of course, a tremendous asset to any young man. He reaches for education and sacrifices for it, because he feels the need. His rival has had education cramme-* down the throat from five years of age to nineteen or twenty, and very often puts little value on it. In a perfect society a human being would never take an arts course at a university until he or she is in the forties.

You can understand from all this that my wife and I were interested to meet .Carnegie’s daughter and her American husband after chu-ch in Dornoch. We also met Gordon Thomson, the Edinburgh advocate, who married Carnegie’s granddaughter who died tragicallv from polio in her early thirties leaving him with three small children. It was Thomson who invited us to Skibo Castle.

Skibo was originally an ancient monastery but became remodeled into a castle in the middle ages and was reasonably modernized in after years. But not even a Carnegie can create a real castle. It needs generations working consciously or unconsciously to a common plan or at least to a common psychology-.

One feels that the multimillionaire Carnegie called in the architects, issued his orders, gave them - time limit and went back to America to garner some more millions. The dining room is too large and so is the library'. Admittedly Skibo Castle would have been a perfect place to entertain King Lear who always traveled with a hundred knights, but the general effect Continued on page 62

Continued on page 62


is that of unmysierious affluent Yictorianism. Yet I have no doubt that Andrew Carnegie walked about his vast estate and said: "All this is mine for ever and for ever.” And when the great figures of the \ ictorian and Edwardian ?ras came to visit him he must have told himself that he had traveled a long way from the simple joys of poverty.

For the moment we shall leave him at Skibo and turn to the second character in our Scottish tale. Allow me to introduce you to His Grace the Duke of Sutherland, who was bora rich and of high degree, and no doubt feels that nothing compensates a boy for being born any other way.

The Duke, however, goes one better than Andrew Carnegie. He not only owns Dunrobin Castle and a few other residences and lodges in Scotland hut has the magnificent Sutton Place in southern England. There is no question about it. the dukes did themselves well in the good old days, even as Andrew Carnegie did himself well when he took the flood tide of fortune that followed the exhaustion of the American Civil War.

I have never wanted to live in a castle but if such had to be my fate I would choose Dunrobin even before the beautiful castles built by the mad King Ludwig of Bavaria. The parks are wonderfully kept and the gardens slope in gentle splendor to the sea. When you arrive for dinner it is a little disconcerting to walk up a stairway lined with fierce-looking tigers in their skins, but after that everything is eracious. comfortable and liveable. Ht-'-e again its origin was in the church. Part of the castle was an eleventh-century monastery, then it was broadened, and rebuilt in 1S4S. In 1921 some of it was burned down, with the result that it was reconstructed in such a manner as to keep its character but also to be liveable in the truly modem sense. There is even a music room with a grand piano in tune—most unusual in the British aristocracy.

But the glory of it all is the view from the terrace where Sutherland walks every morning. From its height you can gaze upon the North Sea. or look at the shore where the Spanish Armada was wrecked, or gaze at the Dornoch coast about thirty miles to the south. The whole scene would make a wonderful setting for a pageant of Tristan and Isolde with the tragic lovers coming in their ship for Isolde's marriage to King Mark.

One need not apologize for enthusing about a thing of beauty even if its origins may seem antisocial in these days of creeping common sense. The record of the Dukes and Earls of Sutherland is by no means an unsullied page of virtue and good works. They did not support the cause of Bonnie Prince Charlie which is still regarded in Scotland as a serious blot on their escutcheon and history has yet to decide whether the "Sutherland evictions” of small tenants to the coast and the valleys near the sea was wise or merely cruelly selfish. However as it happened more than a century ago we can hardly blame George Granville Sutherland, the present Duke.

It is a paradoxical quality of the Scot that, although he is a sturdy individualist, at heart he loves pomp and ceremony. The shepherd on the hills points with pride to a white lodge near the stream and says it belongs to the Duke. In fact the entire countryside is pleased when he and his pretty Duchess go into residence. Incidentally

the Queen Mother has now purchased a castle in the same district which will give the Sutherlandshire folk still more pleasure.

Yet. if I may repeat the argument with which I started, both Andrew Carnegie and the Dukedom of Sutherland are institutions from a past age.

I cannot see any man in the future ever acquiring such wealth as Carnegie's. Nor is it likely that, outside of royal circles, there will ever be another duke

When Carnegie made his money (here was no income tax. In fact, that impost on human happiness is very much a modern invention. Carnegie sow in his shrewdness that steel would replace timber and pioneered the development of the gigantic industry which made Pittsburgh the steel capital of the world.

Where did he get the money? He went to a bank and asked for it. "You can have it,” said the manager. "You're all right, Andy.” Those were the days when banks were not held down by centralized government restrictions, and far more initiative was left to the individual managers. The sum lent to Carnegie was not large but he had nothing to offer as collateral except his vision and his character.

Nevertheless, the rise of the industrial multimillionaires in the U. S created a practical as well as a sociological problem. Students of economy began to foresee the day when the issets of America would be owned by a dozen men. This little group, especially if interlocked, could direct the destinies of the nation and place the whole population in bondage to them. Even the government would be under their

No doubt this fear hastened the day of tax, super-tax and death duties. Today there are rich men. some of them very rich, but tomorrow there will be fewer and they will not be so rich. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow as Shakespeare prophetically remarked.

Few things are wholly bad or wholly good, and there is this to be said for the multimillionaires of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Their fortunes gave them the power to risk new developments and their be-

quests enriched the educational, scientific and cultural life of the community Government expenditure, which is tindream of Socialism, must always be turgid unimaginative and common-

Today Skibo Castle stands mote in its vast grounds and Carnegie’s di -stendants come during the summer to live in the shadow of his memory. Bui Pittsburgh is his monument, not the Scottish place where the monks performed their orisons in the misty far-off days w hen the world was just beginning to open its eyes.

Strangely enough the dukes are outlasting the multimillionaires but life is not easy for peers with great estates The Earl of Warwick opens his castle every week end to the public for i hient ranee price of half-a-crown So do many others. The Duke of Sutherland opened his gardens at the same charge hut only two Scots turned up.

Yet the hereditary aristocratic system in Great Britain has a long life before it. even if their lordships have to hand their places over as museums and live in a wing of the castle or country

Mankind demands pageantry and color. Mankind demands beauty and tradition. Mankind demands the right of hero and heroine worship If it cannot have a king or a duke it will worship a boxer, a film star or a moaningsinger. Even when all the trappings of tradition are torn away the people will pay reverence to a dictator thrown up from the scum of opportunism.

So when the shepherd in the Highlands pauses to look at Dunrobin Castle in t he distance he takes a pride in it. for is not Dunrobin part of Sutherlandshire just as are the fields the running streams and the hills w ith their glaciers of sunlight toward the end of the day?

Yet there w ill be no more Carnegies although men will still make money, and there will be no new dukedoms The present Duke of Sutherland will ring down the curtain on his own dynasty even though his beautiful castle continues to look out on the restless sea. and the newcomers will he able to gaze on the shore where lluArmada. commanded by i Spanish duke who had never been to sea before, came to its untimely end ★