It has been a quiet year. A dreadful year. I have not wished to write. Many times I picked up my pen and almost wrote, but my mind has been in a turmoil and I could not bear it. Now that I am feeling calmer I feel I can begin to document my life again, here in this journal.
Last winter was very cold, and Mama became very sick. She has always had a weak chest and the doctor told us she had consumption and he did not think she could recover. I did not go to the North to stay with my Aunt, I was needed at home. I cared for my Mother through the winter and watched her get sicker and sicker. Her face grew so pale. She couldn’t eat, she couldn’t sleep. She became very thin and weak, and there was nothing I could do. I did my best to make her comfortable with the help of Cook and a girl from the village. But she faded away from us and by the Spring she was gone. It was a long winter.
I did not expect to lose my mother so early. I thought she would be here forever. I thought she would help my buy my wedding clothes and watch me have children and make a home with my husband. I thought she would be a dear Grandmother to my children. I thought she would always be here for me to talk to.
I feel so much older than I was last summer when all I cared for was London, and Balls, and pretty dresses and friends. I feel like that girl was a fool to care for such things. There are much more important things in this life.
I have spent a Spring and a Summer grieving for Mama and looking after Father. Father has been so sad, he truly loved my Mother. I think we are beginning to recover, but sometimes I miss my Mother so much it is overwhelming. I go to the church once a week to pray. I find it calming and I feel a peace beyond explanation when I kneel on the stone floor and pray.
Francis left to study law in London in September. I am glad he has left, not because I do not miss his companionship, but because I know it is good for him to leave home and live as an independent man in London. I will visit him soon and I imagine I will have to scold him for being untidy and tidy his room for him, just as I do at home. I dread to think what mischief he will get up to! He deserves to laugh.
The first leaves are turning. The air is becoming colder and soon summer will have left us entirely. I hope Mama will not be affected by the cold this year. I am knitting her a shawl, if I don’t finish it before I leave I will send it back home.
My younger brother Francis is fast growing old enough to go to university. I will miss him when he becomes a man and leaves our home to train as a lawyer in London. He is the brother who is closest in age to myself, we have always been close, especially as he is my younger brother. George has always seemed so much older and so independent and fearless but I feel protective and sentimental about Francis, as he is my younger brother.
I am leaving for the North again soon, to keep my Aunt company, and much as I wish to do my duty to her, for she has been so very good to me, I lament any time away from Francis in particular.
Francis is so happy to have me home, we do have fun together. We have spent all day in the garden, picking blackberries, watching the butterflies and sketching. Francis sketched me and a very good likeness it is, he has a fine talent for drawing, he is much better at art than I will ever be, even with practise. I will miss this time when I am back in Town with my Aunt. I will miss the sun, the fields, and most of all my family.
I have had a delightful time in London, but as I approached my little village I realised how happy I was to be coming home. I do love the countryside, and the sight of fields and trees and the wide expanse of sky are refreshing to me after weeks surrounded by tall grey buildings, thick, unpalatable air, and the constant noise of people and carriages on the street outside the house. Perhaps I do not want to exchange my country life for Miss Y—s busy London life after all…
The weather is beautiful, I do believe summer is my favourite season of all. There are hundreds of blackberries at the bottom of our garden so Francis and I will pick them tomorrow, and Cook will make bramble jelly.
I am getting ready for the ball! An evening I have anticipated for days is finally here! I am wearing my new dress again, and Lucy is so kind as to lend me a necklace. It is blue like my dress and will suit very well. The maid has just knocked to put my hair up, I will write again after the ball!
It is late and I am tired but I have had an eventful evening and I cannot sleep until I have written about it!
The ball was a grand affair in one of the biggest rooms I have ever seen. There were some very important people there, including Lady S— and her daughter. The room was ablaze with lights and the music was wonderful. I danced the first two dances with a Mr F— who is friends with George. He was agreeable enough, but ill-favoured, and his dancing was a little awkward. Still, I was glad to have someone to dance with. The ballroom was so busy and it would have been awful to sit out as everyone would have noticed.
I had great fun with Lucy, meeting new people, hearing gossip, and commenting on everybody’s dress and hair. Robert Audley and his sister joined us later in the evening, and to my surprise Mr Audley asked me for the next two dances! He looked so genteel and handsome in his dark blue jacket, like an Italian Count. He is an excellent dancer and I enjoyed our dance.
After our dances, he went and fetched me a drink and then sat and conversed with me for some time. It was such a noble gesture and I’m sure others noticed his attentions. We talked of the ball and the people around us and I found him to be an interesting and well-informed conversation partner. He is not as good-natured as some men I know, for example Lieutenant Commander Oakley or my brother George, but he seems kind and he is well-respected.
After that I danced with other gentlemen for the rest of the evening, though none were as handsome as Mr Audley. I love to dance and I dance well, even though it was very hot in the ballroom. George was as jolly as ever, and danced twice with Lucy! I know that he was attentive to her because she is my friend, but he should be careful he does not give her too marked attention. I know he means nothing by it but Lucy seemed so well-pleased I fear for her. However, there is nothing better than a jolly ball and I enjoyed my first London ball immensely. CS
Last night Lucy’s cousins were here for an intimate evening party. I wore my new dress and the maid put up my hair in a new style which is very fashionable in London.
Robert and Henrietta Audley are very interesting, well-educated, and handsome. They are both tall with dark hair and dress very fashionably. Henrietta is the same age as me and her brother is a few years older. They are obviously of good family and I felt a little intimidated in their presence. Their Mother is Mrs Y—‘s sister, she made a very good marriage and her children’s poise and gentility are proof of it.
After dinner we played at cards and I was on a table with Robert Audley. He was polite and confident, but I would not have called him good natured, though he is very handsome. We will be in their company for a few days more, they are staying nearby and Lucy and Henrietta are very fond of each other. CS
Mr and Mrs Y— invited George to come for dinner so that he could see me, which I think very kindly of them. George is as well as ever, full of energy and good humour, and he was very happy to see me as I was him. I could not ask for a more attentive elder brother. Lucy has no brothers and I think she envies me that. I could not monopolise all George’s attention as he seemed delighted to see Miss Y— again, and they talked much during the evening too.
I was proud of George, he was a cheerful and well-mannered dinner guest and I think Mr Y— was impressed with him. George is intelligent and Mr Y— enjoyed their conversation. They did begin to talk of Napoleon and the war, subjects I do not understand well but do interest me, but Mrs Y— felt that was her cue to gather up Lucy and I and take us through to the drawing room, leaving the gentlemen to discuss those “unladylike topics” as she called them.
I will see George again soon as he is also invited to a ball that I am attending with Lucy. A ball in London! I am looking forward to it exceedingly. CS