HL Deb 29 October 1947 vol 152 cc251-4

2.40 p.m.


My Lords, the Leader of the House has suggested that I, as the spokesman of those noble Lords who support the Government, should pay my tribute to the memory of the late Lord Lytton, and I feel it is, in some very real sense, fitting that I should do so, since I knew him from my very earliest boyhood. Indeed, one of my earliest recollections is of watching him skate on the lake at Knebworth and being captivated by the charm and the poise and the grace with which he did it. I confess that throughout my life I have continued to be captivated by the charm and the poise and the grace with which he did everything to which he turned his hand. He served the State in a succession of offices. He was sworn in as Viceroy of India, and for a short time served in that exalted office. Whatever he did, he did with distinction. He had a distinguished mind and, as we all remember, a distinguished appearance. He did much for the world of art. Perhaps it was natural for one of his family that he contributed to the good literature of our age. He would, perhaps, have filled the role of arbiter elegantiæ better than many of his contemporaries, yet he was in no sense a mere dilettante. He certainly did not lack strength and force of character. No man ever became more enthusiastic for his ideals, and no man spent himself more readily in his effort to achieve them. It is, I think, in his work to promote international co-operation and peace that he will be best remembered. No member of your Lordships' House, save perhaps one, has ever rendered more devoted service to that cause, which is surely one of the greatest of all causes. We share with his relatives the sense of loss they must feel and tender to them our respectful sympathy.


My Lords, you will, I know, have heard with a sense of deep personal grief of the death of Lord Lytton, to whom the Lord Chancellor has paid so eloquent a tribute Lord Lytton had the respect and the affection of us all, and for the best of reasons—the hold he had over his fellow men, derived from the selfless integrity of his character. I suppose there never was a man less actuated by personal motives. They simply did not enter his calculations at all. His only thought was for the public good, and to that he devoted his life. Whether he was working for the League of Nations or the United Nations of which he was so eloquent and tireless a champion, or for the welfare of the peoples in India who were committed to his charge, or whether he was concerning himself with those many other good causes to which, quietly and unobtrusively, he was so staunch a friend and so wise a counsellor, his guiding motive always was, not "What can I get out of this?" but "How can I help?" Here in this House we shall miss that slim, kindly, gracious figure, that fine ascetic face and yet more beautiful expression, which the shadow of sorrow only strengthened and sweetened. We shall miss his courtesy and his wisdom.

I think it will be agreed by everybody that Lord Lytton was an aristocrat, in the highest and best sense of that much-abused word. He was never, in the strict sense, a Party man. He was, above all, a patriot. Not only we in this House, but the whole country lose by his death.

On behalf of those who sit on this side of the House I would like to send to Lady Lytton and to his children an expression of our deep and heartfelt sympathy.


My Lords, Lord Lytton led a crowded, various and valuable life. Indeed, his manifold activities might well have tilled the days of two or three men less gifted, industrious, public spirited, and idealistic than he. Inheriting, as he did, the literary and artistic bent of his family, he might easily and congenially have made for himself a distinguished career upon those lines. But his sense of duty led him to wider and more strenuous fields. Himself a son of Simla, he was destined to render notable service to the Indian Empire, first within the more sheltered confines of the India Office and later amidst the hot turbulence of Bengal. History repeated itself, punctual to the very day, when a second Lytton acceded to the office of Viceroy albeit only for an interregnum. When that chapter closed he dedicated his hopes and his energies to the lofty cause of international peace, and strove valiantly and steadfastly, in spite of disappointments and frustrations, in that field. His memory will remain as an example of great traditions nobly upheld and of high ideals faithfully pursued. We on these Benches, desire to offer to Lady Lytton and the members of his family our deep and sincere condolences in a loss which the country in general and this House in particular sadly and respectfully beg leave to share.


My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will permit me to add just a few words to the tributes which have been so worthily paid to Lord Lytton. He was one of my oldest friends, and throughout his life I had the great honour of collaborating with him in numerous causes on which he felt deeply. His work has already been spoken of, and I will not attempt to add anything to what has been said. But it is true to say that his work was of a varied character and in numerous forms of activity. He was a great administrator, a distinguished diplomat, and, as we all remember, a very polished speaker. He did much for literature and art, and, in addition, performed the duties of an ordinary English landowner. He carried on, I may say, the traditions of his family, of his father and of his grandfather, a very rare combination in each case of artistic excellence and political activity.

I saw most of his work when he was working for international peace. We were constantly together on those matters. He was a delegate fit Geneva on more than one occasion and he laboured greatly to popularize the League of Nations and the United Nations. But beyond the actual work which he did there was always the inspiriting example of perfectly disinterested and unselfish endeavour. He wrought for many causes in which he believed. Whether they were popular or unpopular it made no difference to him. He was a Unionist Free Trader and a great advocate of women's suffrage. As we have heard already, he did the work of an Indian governorship and he was a peacemaker in the Far East. He stood unflinchingly for his beliefs, whatever they might be and whatever he was doing. Character such as his is a valuable national asset at any time, and perhaps particularly so at the present moment. He had a charming personality—courteous, generous, and kindly. He was a good friend, a gallant supporter, a wise adviser, hard working and tolerant, a fine exponent of all those qualities which we like to believe are specially British.