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Dec. 22nd, 2011

On 16 December 1893, when Parliament had been in continuous session for 11 months and it had been announced that members would have only four days’ recess for Christmas—Mr Gladstone received a letter in a neat but childish hand, written on ruled paper, from the infant son of the Earl of Pembroke.
Dear Mr Gladstone,

I am sorry we cannot go to Ireland for Christmas, as you have only given Father four days holiday. And I hope you will give him some more after this letter.

Yours sincerely
George Sidney Herbert
Gladstone replied the same day:
My dear Boy,

It is very sad. I feel for you. And I feel with you. As you cannot get to Ireland, so I cannot get home, at Christmas. And you, I hope, will have many, very many, very happy Christmasses. But I, having had eighty-three already, feel that I am taking one of my last chances.

Can anything be done? Not by me. But I think your Father could do something, if he thought it right to ask some ten or a dozen of his friends to abate a little the number and length of their speeches. For they are so fond of him that I believe they would do it. But I could not expect them to do it for my asking. If they did it for him, there is no saying whether it might enable you to go to Ireland.

With best wishes for Christmas, Easter, and all other times,

Ever yours,

W.E. Gladstone
John Julius Norwich, Christmas Crackers

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