Mrs. Mac-lagan, how-ever, will always be remembered for her valuable work in connection with the Girls' Friendly Society. It was due to her that Queen Victoria became a patroness of the society, resulting in an increase i n membership of 10,000 within twelve months.
"The name of her Royal Highness, the Princess Beatrice, as an honorary associate would be a beacon to English girls," wrote Mrs. Maclagan, in her interesting account of the work of the Girls' Friendly Society, some years ago; "but the name of our beloved Queen as head and patroness of our society will stamp it with her approval, vastly increase its popularity, and bring joy into thousands of loyal young hearts. We believe that our Father in Heaven looks favourably on our undertaking. We earnestly desire that our earthly sovereign should extend to us her gracious protection." The appeal was successful, and Mrs.
Maclagan was able to inform her late Majesty in 1896, when the society celebrated its coming of age, that the membership had reached two hundred and seventy thousand. Known as the ' servants' friend," Mrs. Maclagan has always worked untiringly on behalf of domestics, and has never hesitated to express her views in regard to the duties mistresses owe to their servants. "As a Christian woman," she once said, "it is imperative that a mistress should see that the lives of her servants are cheered and brightened by kindness and sympathy." And with regard to the restriction, "No followers allowed," often enforced by mistresses, Mrs. Maclagan has said:
"We are too apt to forget that, even in our own homes and during our guarded youth, we had opportunities of seeing members of the other sex, and, with certain judicious restrictions, of making acquaintances in a comfortable way which often led to friendship, or, again, to something deeper "; and she has pointed out that mistresses often allow their own daughters to make the acquaintance of young men in a promiscuous manner, while holding up their hands in horror at the thought that the cook is being courted by the milkman.
Missions, congresses, charitable organisations, and many other religious movements are continually claiming the attention of an archbishop's wife, leaving her but little leisure. And mention of congresses reminds one that Mrs. Maclagan was the first lady who ever presided over a meeting at a Church Congress. This was in 1882 at Derby, when she delivered a speech dealing with the feminine side of Church work.
Mrs. Davidson has not taken quite such an active part in religious movements as Mrs. Maclagan was wont to do when her husband was Archbishop of York. Her work has mainly taken the form of acting as private secretary and confidential adviser to her husband, a task for which, being the daughter of a former archbishop, she is eminently fitted. There is one phase of
Mrs. Davidson's work, however, which must not be overlooked. She has proved such a good fairy to the wives of clergy that her advice and counsel is constantly being sought in regard to their private troubles and worries. Many a harassed clergyman's wife, whose husband's living is but a small one, and who, with a growing family, scarcely knew how to make both ends meet and maintain the dignity and respectability of her husband's position, has found the burden lightened by the kindly words and practical help of the wife of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
"I don't know what we should have done without her help " is a remark one often hears in connection with Mrs. Davidson, whose kindliness of heart is well illustrated by the following story. A few years ago one of the clergy in her husband's diocese fell ill, at a time when his wife was also seriously ill. With six small children in the house and one little maid-of-all-work to attend to the requirements of the household, in which money was somewhat scarce, it can readily be understood that it was a time of much worry and anxiety. So much so, indeed, that the doctor informed Mrs. Davidson that, unless the tension could be relieved, there was a danger that neither husband nor wife would recover. Mrs. Davidson immediately visited the house, taking with her a couple of servants. The household was put in order, necessities provided, and one of the servants left behind, who remained until the wife was well enough to take charge of the domestic affairs herself.
An Archbishop's Day
As in the case of her husband, Mrs. Davidson's day's work practically starts at the breakfast - table, where there are always many guests who have come, some of them from abroad, to ask the Primate's advice on some question of Church doctrine or discipline, and cannot be allowed to go home again without a talk. Then there is an enormous correspondence to be dealt with. This is first sifted by secretaries, who afterwards consult Mr. or Mrs. Davidson concerning the replies to be sent. Apropos of episcopal correspondence, Mrs. Davidson's father, Dr. Tait, and her husband figure in an amusing story. In the latter's early days, when he was acting as secretary to Dr. Tait, he was flattered one day by his Grace asking his advice concerning a letter he was about to send to the Press. But Mr. Davidson, as he then was. did not feel quite so flattered when the Primate continued: "I have been more than twenty years a bishop, and I have never, if I could help it, written a single letter of importance without giving it to somebody to pick holes in. And the silliest people are often the best critics. So pray take the draft I have given you, and let me know in half an hour what you think of it."
Lambeth or the Alhambra
Dr. Davidson has often told this story against himself, and he is also fond of relating the adventures of his wife's aunt, Miss Spooner, who was Archbishop Tait's sister-in-law. In common with many other maiden ladies, Miss Spooner had a decidedly philanthropic bias. One evening, after a long day's slumming in London, she found she would have some difficulty in getting back to dinner in time. Accordingly she decided to take a cab. Hailing a hansom, whose driver she thought she recognised, Miss Spooner gave the cabman the single direction "Lambeth," meaning, of course, Lambeth Palace. Immersed in the absorbing contents of her newspaper, she heeded not the direction. Suddenly the cab pulled up, and Miss Spooner found herself in a blaze of light. The cabman had deposited her at the entrance to the Alhambra Theatre, Leicester Square. Archbishop Tait, too, used to love to tell this story, winding up with "Fancy sister going to the Alhambra." Reverting again for a moment to the Archbishop's day, it might be mentioned that Mrs. Davidson proves of great assistance to her husband in interviewing many of the callers. All sorts and conditions of folk, colonial bishops, foreign missionaries, English politicians, society folk, foreign diplomatists, theological students of every description, are continually calling on the Archbishop, and they must all be sent away satisfied. And then it must be borne in mind that Dr. Davidson takes a prominent part in political work. He believes in the Primate making the most of his position in the political life of the country, and regards his secular duties no less seriously than his clerical ones. And although Mrs. Davidson eschews politics, her duties as a hostess at Lambeth or Canterbury are considerably increased by the political gatherings which often take place there.
The Two Primates To be the wife of the Archbishop of Canterbury, by the way, is, officially, a greater honour than to be mistress of Bishopthorpe, York; for the Archbishop of Canterbury enjoys a pre-eminent position. This is marked in the titles which they respectively assume, the Archbishop of Canterbury being styled Primate of All England, whilst the Archbishop of York is simply called Primate of England. And, while the former's salary is £15,000 a year, the latter's is £5,000 less. To the Archbishop of Canterbury belongs the honour of placing the crown on the Sovereign's head at his coronation; and the Archbishop of York claims the like privilege in the case of the queen-consort, to whom he always holds the position of chaplain.