My dear Ellie
I am much distressed to hear that you find little Caroline to be sly and untruthfull, which are very serious failings; you must be greatly troubled in the matter as to what to do, given her mother’s excessively indulgent ways: though her mother’s preference for Charlotte may have some bearing. I regret to say that I have no immediate solution to recommend: Bess and Meg are entirely straightforward young women.
If they have any little failing it is that they are, as their parents remark, sad hoydens, that are much given to romping play and a fondness for joining in their brothers’ games: but this is surely a fault that growing into womanhood will amend.
At present they are being given a very fine example that I hope will convey a little polish, for the Marchioness of B- is come to visit her old friend Mrs F- once more. I know you chid me for being beguiled by rank when I wrote of her first visit, but indeed she is a lady of the most remarkable quality. She is still in mourning for her late husband, but she does not impose her own sorrow on the company, tho’ doubtless she grieves in private. There is nothing of haughtiness in her manner and she will most pleasantly enter into the children’s interests and even romp with little Quintus at his desiring it. She is most exceedingly taken with that loveliest of infants, Flora, and will sit her upon her lap and listen to her babble by the hour.
I know you will tell me that good looks are a snare and a delusion but Lady B-'s beauty, it seems to me, is like that of flowers or a fine piece of musick, a natural wonder. She also reads very fine and with great apprehension: there are passages of Shakspeare that I only fully comprehend now I have heard her speak them. She will even demonstrate how various actors will interpret particular parts, which is most instructive.
Bess and Meg like her extremely and make her little nosegays &C. The boys, that are lately returned from school, are also very prepossessed by her. Josh indeed tried to prevail upon her to accept a hedgehog for a pet, but she most kindly explained that, even aside from its surely missing its family, she doubted it would do well in Town, for her house only has a yard, and did she take it into Hyde Park, she confided that the hedgehogs that reside there, for 'tis a very eligible address for their kind, would be proud and haughty. She then turned a pretty little story on the matter quite like unto that the Town and the Country Mouse. I said to her that she could write tales for children to rival Mrs Trimmer’s, at which she laughed.
She very kindly offered the services of her lady’s maid (a fine young black woman that dresses most exceeding stylish) to me when we lately had very grand company, a Lady J- that is sister to the Duke of M- and a most particular friend to both Mrs F- and Lady B-. I think you will agree that it is not mere vanity that one should be well-turned out on such an occasion. She contrived the most becoming way of doing my hair.
Lady J- is very noted for her philanthropick enterprizes and spoke highly of Lady B-'s similar work. I suppose that must be what she is ever writing about, for she does write a great deal while she sits with Mrs F- while the latter is busy about the many concerns she has to manage.
It is very pleasing to see that Mr F- does not, as husbands are wont to do, resent the visit of his wife’s old friend but is more than merely civil, is entirely genial towards Lady B-, and treats her indeed as a friend of the family rather than of Mrs F- alone. Mrs F- quite doats upon her friend, and I do not wonder at this. She is the most sympathetick of women: for I happened to disclose to her some little matter that had been troubling my mind, and she went about to ease my worries in the very kindest fashion.
I am persuaded that I am indeed most fortunate in this place – I know you had some concerns about my taking it, but in particular now the family has moved to this fine new house a little way out of town where 'tis a good deal less smoky, and not so close to the works, I could not hope for a better. I feel this particularly when you write of the difficulties you have in the family where you are.
I send with this a copy of Mrs Marcet’s Conversations on Chemistry, which I have found to answer most exceedingly with my girls here.
Your affec't: sister.