Letters from a Regency Lady
To Captain Robert Jenson, from his sister Lady Horatia Melton. 27th December 1815.
My very dear Robert.
How we have missed your company this Christmas, dearest. Even Melton remarked that it was "damned slow without Robert" – which was unusual, for, as you know, his lordship is not one to crave company. I am sure if I did not insist upon it, we should go from one week to the next without dining with our friends. I, on the other hand, cannot be happy unless I am either dining out or entertaining, and since Melton is in no mood to deny me anything after my loss, he allows me to do much as I please.
Mama is staying with us, of course. I believe she spends more time with us here than in the dower house at Little Hall, which, given her delicate health, is a blessing in disguise. Melton has to bite his tongue often but Mama has never been the easiest of companions, as you know only too well, dearest. I never cease to wonder that she allowed you to escape to the army and the freedom I know you craved. Our sister Antoine is very well and sends her love. I may have further news on her account another time but I shall not even whisper it yet in case she is disappointed again. You know of what happy event I speak but the earl has not been told of her hopes so I shall not breathe a word to anyone.
Antoine and Bathurst were here for the affair on Christmas Eve but did not stay over night. I am fortunate to have my sister settled not more than ten miles distant. She was a great comfort to me at the time of my loss but I shall not dwell on that! for I have something of importance to tell you. Melton's cousin James is engaged to a very rich and beautiful young lady.
Miss Mary Jenkins is a sweet little thing with huge blue eyes and pale curls. She is an heiress of some note, which is a good thing for Melton's cousin; however, Melton feels she is too slender for child bearing and did not approve of poor James's choice for that reason. He never reproaches me, but I know that he feels our loss deeply, and, if the doctor is right, James may be called upon to provide the heir for Melton – but I shall say no more on that subject. I am determined to be quite gay and smile again. There have been too many tears these past months.
We have received an invitation to dine with the Regent at Carlton House next week and I dare say we shall go. I find Prinny's houses too warm for he invariably overheats them but he is a kind and generous host and Melton likes him so I shall have to bear it for his sake. I am determined to give a ball at Melton House next season and I pray that you will manage to come, dear Robert. You look so smart in your regimentals and I felt very proud of you going off to fight the way you did with Old Hookey, as you so wickedly call your commander. I know it to be a show of affection, but dare not think what he would make of such a term – though you say he is well aware of what his men call him and he named them far worse. Indeed, I know he believes in calling a spade a spade and some of the things he says are quite shocking, but he is charming. I shall allow no fault in him despite what others may say, for he spoke so kindly of you to me. His Grace told me you were a brave soldier and a man of honour, which I have always known, of course. It was a truly wonderful victory against Bonaparte and the country owes you all a debt of gratitude.
The Christmas Eve party passed off very well, though on Christmas Day itself there were only seven of us besides Melton and I. Melton's aunt Hortense is staying with us until after the New Year. She always brings her pug dog – a smelly little brute – but Melton feels obliged so we must put up with the creature; the pug not Hortense! Dear Hortense is always welcome, of course. Melton's sister Joan and her husband stayed for a week but left this morning. I shall miss her and her two boys. Matthew and Jack are as lively and noisy as ever. Melton felt I might be upset by their presence in the nursery, but it was a relief to hear a child's laughter again. George would have enjoyed their visit so much. They are two years older than he but were always so good with him. No more! I must not or I shall not see to write.
You must not think that your sister is sunk in grief, Robert dear. I promise you it is not so. I can write of my darling to you in the knowledge that you will not reproach me. Mama weeps if I mention his name, and Melton will not hear it. He cannot bear me to speak of our loss. I know he is grieving but I do not wish to forget my darling child. Antoine understands a little because of her two miscarriages but even she does not know what pain comes from losing a child and the heir Melton so desperately wanted. He does not blame me for producing only the one child thus far, but I know he wonders if he ought to have chosen his wife more carefully. I wish it were otherwise but I must not give up hope.
On Boxing Day we handed out gifts to the servants. Melton is very good at that, you know, and so generous. Each man received a gift of boots, cloth and some ten shillings; every woman received cloth, shoes and five shillings. I am not certain this is exactly fair. I think the maids work quite as hard as the footmen, perhaps more so at times. However, I sent the housekeeper, Mrs Benson, five pounds to distribute amongst them as she thought fit so I am content. Melton would no doubt think me extravagant but it is my own money so he does not need to know. You must not think I am in the habit of keeping secrets from my husband, dearest, but you and I always shared everything and so I tell you things that perhaps no one else hears. You will not think the worse of your sister, for if I had not your approval I should be bereft. I remember that you were not certain when I married Melton. Mama thought it an excellent match and everyone was of the same opinion, but you had reservations. Now do not think me unhappy, dearest one, for it is not so. I promise you I am much happier now than I was, though I did miss you this Christmas. Perhaps you will be home in the spring. You must promise to come to us for I long to see you and your letters are a ray of sunshine.
I shall not write more at this time for I must visit Mama and see if she has all she wants. Melton has gone out with the hunt. I think he was glad to see the guests go for his mood does not much improve.
Write to me soon, dearest. Your loving sister, Horatia
PS. Your present has just arrived. What joy is to be had in a book of poetry. Only you would understand my need. Thank you so much, dearest brother.
PPS. I forgot to say that Mama sends her love.