They may not be as opulent as the gold room, as sparkly as the Faberge or as colourful as the maiolica but the visitor book and the dinner books for Polesden Lacey and Charles Street are among the most vital and valuable items in our collection. Why? Because they are a record of every single person that Maggie Greville entertained both here and in Mayfair.
The Polesden Lacey visitor book, which runs from 1907 with the visit of Edward VII up until Maggie’s Death in 1942, is full of the signatures of Kings, Queens, Maharajahs, writers, politicians, soldiers, you name it; if you set foot in Mrs. Greville’s house your signature went on those pages and you became part of the Greville collection.
The dinner books are particularly interesting as they give us an insight into Margret Greville as a hostess. The dishes, the numerous courses, the guests she entertained, who was here with whom; Margret’s parties were the ideal opportunity to introduce people, “oh you simply must meet…” The hostess with an eye on every last detail, she made sure never to serve a dish that a guest had had on a previous visit, unless of course that dish was a favorite in which case the would appear time and again.
The visitor book and the two dinner books are currently on display in the mansion on the balcony, alongside Margret Greville’s bridge book and a small leather bound book with the words My Pictures embossed on the cover; photos? No, it is a list of all of the painting collected by Maggie with details of artist, auction house and the amount she paid, another record of her collecting habits.
As these are so important to the collection we take a great deal of care of them. They are currently in a glass cabinet to protect them from environmental factors and on specially made supports to prevent stress on the spines. We turn the pages periodically to try ensure that the ink is not subjected to the light for too long which will cause fading, however we are aware that even if we can slow the deterioration we can’t stop it. There are some interesting plans afoot for these precious books over the next few years, plans that will help us to preserve them forever, for everyone. Watch this space to find out what the next chapter will bring…