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Charles Wentworth Dilke

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Category: General Interest
Reference No: 8391
Status: Available
Price: £15.00
  Charles Wentworth Dilke

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Liberal politician.

Dilke was a hugely talented man, first spotted by Disraeli as a rising star of British politics. He was a strong advocate of colonial expansion and of stronger ties between the motherland and the colonies (he saw Britons as a benevolent master race).

Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in Gladstone’s administration, Dilke was seen by many as his natural successor as Prime Minister.

Sadly, his career was spectacularly ended in 1886 by a juicy scandal which titillated and shocked Victorian society. Dilke was named as correspondent in a divorce case (Crawford v. Crawford & Dilke).

Dilke’s sex life had been complicated. He had first had an affair with Ellen Smith, his brother’s mother-in-law, then began an affair in 1882 with his brother’s sister-in-law, the 19 year old Virginia, then married to the Tory MP, Donald Crawford.

In February 1886, Crawford was granted a decree nisi on the basis of his wife’s adultery.

Dilke then made the mistake of trying to clear his name, opposing the decree absolute in the April of that year. He tried to suggest that Virginia had lied about their affair. Sadly, he came across as shifty and unconvincing in the witness box and was cut to pieces by the opposing counsel. The jury accepted that Virginia had told the truth and granted a decree absolute.

It then got even worse for the politician. Other women came out of the woodwork, claiming he had approached them for a liaison. Various lurid rumours circulated about his love-life, including that he had invited a maidservant to join himself and his lover in bed, and that he had introduced one or more of these to "every kind of French vice”, For a time it even seemed that he would be tried for perjury.

Dilke was ruined, and he lost his Chelsea seat in the 1886 UK general election.

Although he managed to get back into the Commons as MP for Forest of Dean in 1892, serving until his death in 1911, he never again enjoyed office.

Dilke’s wife, Emily, whom he had married in 1884 (when he was in the middle of his affair with Virginia Crawford) stayed loyal and remained his wife until her death in 1904.

This is a complete envelope, addressed and signed in ink in Dilke's hand to the lower left corner. The envelope was specially printed for correspondence relating to the Royal Commission on Housing of the Working Classes, set up in 1884 under Dilke's leadership.
A little dusty but in very good overall condition.