Arthur Balfour was born in East Lothian. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge where he read Moral sciences, and took a second-class degree.
He expected to marry his cousin, May Littleton, but she died of typhus when he was 27. He then remained a bachelor. He is credited with the expression: "Nothing matters very much and most things don't matter at all”. In middle-age he had a long friendship with Mary Wemyss, who was later Countess of Elcho, but biographers have not established that this was a sexual relationship. On the other hand he was in good terms with Harold Nicolson, the homosexual diplomat husband of Vita Sackville-West.
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