In which she urges her friend to make her home in Hove
You gave me such a fright when you talk about confiding in your dressmaker and your milliner in your last letter. Please, I beg of you, do not. Indeed I only hope this comes in time to stop you. These trades people will only spread all manner of nonsense about you and before long you will be ostracised by society. (Not, of course, that you have done anything to be ostracised for, but you know the way of tittle-tattle; things so quickly grow out of all proportion to reality). I admit that Tunbridge itself does not have very high society or many pretensions, but it does have standards and it is our duty to maintain them. I wish I could prevail upon you to move here. I realise of course that Mr Hankey’s wealth is particular to him and indeed I thank God for it, for can you imagine my dear, what perturbation he would have caused on his return from the Caribbean and with such ill manners, had we had to stay in Tunbridge! My heart races just to think about it. But surely there might be some agreeable place to rent here that you could afford? I have seen gentlewomen taking the air by the sea, and no apparent man in their vicinity. Oh, I adore the idea of you living here. Imagine the pleasures we could have. Please think about this Elinor for if you did, you would never even have to think of confiding in any one at all unsuitable.
My dear, I have at long last been invited to take tea with Lady Ponsonby. This will be in three day’s time and I have decided upon a very pretty dress which you have not yet seen, made from dimity brought from India with the most elegant and wonderful sleeves. My only worry is that it may be a little grand for afternoon tea, but I am so longing to show it. There is new and utterly delightful fabric shop with the very latest pattern book that has opened in St James’s Street and my dressmaker Mrs Beale has made me three gowns which all have matching reticules, shoes and even hats.
Do you remember in my last letter, that I talked about Lucinda Prescott’s flighty daughters? Last week, in the afternoon, Eliza Prescott came calling for Martha to ask her out for a walk by the sea. I suspected that this was because a new regiment has just encamped on the Downs, and the front is an established place where the young go to inspect each other – or so it appears to me. To my great concern, Martha went down to the sea front with Eliza, arm in arm and although she returned after an hour and there has been no repeat performance, I am worried I must confess, that Eliza will become a friend and will lead Martha astray. She may be self willed and a young adult at twenty five, but in so many ways she is so innocent.
Sometimes I feel that I live in another country entirely from that of Mr Hankey with all his politicking and womanising. Indeed all he seems interested in is parliament, about which he grumbles for it has in truth robbed him of his beloved plantations, and also in female company of a particular sort for which he does not at least turn to me. You had a perfect relationship with Commander Vicary and talked about many things, but Mr Hankey and I have no subjects of mutual interest. For example, I know very little of Captain Swing except that he is the reason for many noble families not to be here at present because they are worried about the well fare of their estates. You talk of with amazement and wonder of the day when we women may possibly be enfranchised but I feel I know too little of the world to profit from being enfranchised and that the responsibility would burden me, for without the company of a man to enlighten me about important matters how should I learn things. Which brings me to ask you my dear, how do you learn about important matters? You see, in order to vote one needs to know about affairs, and in truth I do not, nor do I know how to know. Oh dear, fashion and cards are so much easier.
As ever, I long to hear from you