When I first began the research for my book on the 2nd Marquess of Salisbury, I was overwhelmed by the sheer mass of his correspondence, and this even before tackling the records of the House of Lords. As I had decided at the outset that I wanted to write a short and readable account which would be widely accessible, I had to focus on the aspects of the Marquess's life which I thought would be most interesting. Additionally, I wanted to produce a carefully researched work which would be new in subject matter and scope, but would not be weighed down with too much detail. This was not too difficult once I got the hang of working with several different computer files, each focused on one aspect of his life, at one sitting. Not nearly as simple was the fact that, apart from some letters between Salisbury and Wellington, none of the vast archive of correspondence had been transcribed and Salisbury's handwriting was quite atrocious. Also, as was the nature with most correspondence in the pre-email age, the original letters remained with whoever received them. Fortunately Salisbury tended to write rough replies to correspondence received, either on the reverse of the letter or, if that were not blank, in the spaces between the sender's writing. Some particularly important outgoing correspondence was written in rough first and these do remain. So it often took a whole afternoon to transcribe a single letter. Fortunately few of his correspondents were afflicted with handwriting as poor as his Lordship's.
The design on the cover of my book is taken from the portrait of the 2nd Marquess which hangs in the Armoury of Hatfield House alongside the portrait of his first wife, Frances Mary. Visitors to the House will be able to appreciate the improvements which he made, and which are still there. He thought it the 'most perfect place in all England', and it is easy to see why he fought so tirelessly to preserve it. Copies of the book, which describes all of this as well as his family and parliamentary life, can be found in the gift shop in the courtyard of the House, from the beginning of April.
Having graduated from the University of Sussex with a First in History and Education and with a Masters degree in International Relations, Nicky Webster followed a 20 year career teaching history and politics. Her passion for history remained with her throughout and, on retirement, she embarked upon the research which led eventually to “My Lord” Salisbury. As well as writing she enjoys gardening and daily walks with her husband and her dog, a 9 year old Staffordshire bull terrier, on the beautiful Cannock Chase.