The Comfortable Courtesan
Clorinda’s domestic upheavals have finally been resolved with the marriage of Hector and Euphemia. The political coterie of her friends and associates continues to expand, dogged by fears of covert endeavours to discover them to be involved in seditious activities. Clorinda is becoming increasingly widely received in Society, as are the F-s. Earlier events continue to have repercussions and further consequences.
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There is a deal of matter on hand
Sure I find myself quite fretfull that I cannot be writing at my memoirs as I am us’d, but indeed there is such a deal of matter on hand. For I am of sudden become quite a favourite in Society, beyond those sets I have already been in the habit of frequenting, and am bidden to a deal of social occasions of the Season, that, when I am already busy about philanthropickal matters, take up quite excessive amounts of time. But I bear in mind that I may garner intelligence usefull to our politickal set.
Do I find myself with a spare hour or so that I may spend at my desk, I have a great budget of events to record, ’tis most extreme tiresome and I fear I shall never get caught up. ’Tis foolish in me, for ‘tis a record I dare show to none, and even does posterity come across it (do I not burn it), the doings of a silly uneducat’d creature such as myself can hardly be of interest.
Seems like a great while since I held my soirée — perchance ’twas not so very long but have hardly been in of an evening since, and do I have a free evening, ’tis more like I will go have family dinner with my darlings at R‑ House, for indeed they find the like matter, that they are much invit’d hither and yon. Tho’ not always by the same sets.
There are those that quite hang out for a card for my soirée, but I have no intention of inviting just anyone and desire go keep the occasion select. I smile and say that alas, my house is a small house and do they not agree, an entire crush is no pleasure to anyone, but indeed, some day…
Nonetheless, tho’ I can readyly think of several whose company I should most greatly prefer, I feel oblig’d invite the Graf von M‑ and Mr W‑ Y‑ and one or two others that ‘tis prudent to ingratiate myself with, and also go keep an eye upon.
So, comes the day for my soirée, when indeed, some good old friends will alas not be present: was one so inclin’d, one might open a book upon which infant will be born first: Phoebe and Mr de C‑s’, Jacob and Martha S‑s’ long‑awaited offspring, or Biffle and Viola’s. All three ladies in question are no longer going into Society, tho’ ’tis possible that their spouses may look in for a while.
So altho’ there are still many of the usual set, we do feel a little the want of their good company.
I look around my good friends, that I have known so long, and am doubtfull I shall find any to match ‘em among all these new people that desire know Lady B‑. For in this room are those that knew me when I was Madame C‑, were my friends then, and are still now, with a few new added unto ‘em.
Hector shows in the Graf von M‑, that kisses my hand most extreme punctilious. I raise my fan as I greet him, and say that there is one here most greatly desires some converse with him. I lead him over to Mr N‑, that discourses of the latest revelations about body‑snatchers to Mr H‑, that looks most uneasy at this topick. (I confide he knows a deal more about the matter than Mr N‑, but ’twould hardly be prudent for him to say so.)
I make introductions, mentioning that Mr N‑ is one of the pillars of the Home Office. The Graf, somewhat imprudent, desires to be enlighten’d concerning this institution as he still goes fathom out the intricacies of the British government (sure I think he would do better asking Sandy, that would tell him that it most greatly resembles a basket of wool that the kitten has been at, for there is no logick nor system to the business, that has grown up much like an untend’d garden). Mr N‑, of course, is most exceeding happy to tell him at length, with much divagation on history, and I daresay in due course will come round to the fascinating question of the Bavarian constitution.
I look over at Mrs N‑, that is in conversation with the devot’d ladies Misses L‑ and McK‑, and we do not exactly wink at one another but exchange meaning glances.
I am a little surpriz’d to see Mr P‑ in converse with Lady J‑, but as I approach I apprehend that he is presenting to her his belief, that has continu’d to hold this long while, that Miss A‑ would make a fine tragedienne and should not be wasting her talents upon lighter matter, in some hopes that she will persuade her darling to this course.
Mr H‑, that has succeed’d in escaping from Mr N‑, goes join Sir Z‑ R‑, Sir B‑ W‑, Mr B‑ and Milord at the card table. Mrs O’C‑ deals him in and play commences.
Hector shows in Mr de C‑, that looks more than usual distract’d. I go ask him how Phoebe does. He sighs and says sure bearing offspring is a hard matter for a woman, but she is well, just most immense tir’d of the matter. Mr S‑ comes over and says these last weeks seem particular hard, and they go commiserate together. (I would be somewhat astonisht had Mr S‑ come leaving Martha alone, but that he has told me she goes sit with Viola at M‑ House and they exchange sisterly complaint, rub one another’s feet, &C.)
Arrives the dear Contessa that embraces me very effusive and murmurs sotto voce that this business with Lady Z‑ answers most extremely with Reynaldo. She then sights Signor V‑ and they are about what appears a flirtatious exchange in Italian, that I am in some suspicion is a cover for conveying certain revolutionary matters.
Comes Biffle, that looks somewhat haggard, ‘tis I daresay is only to be expect’d. Dear Josiah goes up to him and commences upon distracting his mind with some matter about the ironworks at N‑.
Sandy is in animat’d discourse with Susannah, Mrs P‑ and Miss W‑ on the topick of female education, and goes about to argue that perchance some reforming thought should be given to the education of boys.
Comes Mr W‑ Y‑, that kisses my hand somewhat too lingering and murmurs effusive compliments. Out of the corner of my eye I observe Mr P‑ hovering entire like unto a hawk that sights a vole in the grass (a thing that dearest Belinda point’d out to me as we rode about last year).
Oh, says I, I must go speak to Mr G‑ D‑ about the musick.
Mr P‑ stoops upon Mr W‑ Y‑, that I could almost, but not quite, pity: for Mr P‑ will ever be telling the poets of the present day that they should go lesson themselves with the great poets of past eras such as Pope and Dryden, can they not aspire to equalling Milton. Sure Mr W‑ Y‑ should go lesson himself with somebody, for his poems are quite exceeding poor stuff and ‘tis as embarrassing to me to find ‘em suppos’d on myself as to find myself in some coarse Holywell Street satire.
I look about me and do not see any that stand alone or need bringing into some conversation. I therefore go talk to Mr G‑ D‑ and the assembl’d musicians — Miss L‑ is already at the piano.
Hector and Timothy go about to refill glasses with wine, fruit cup and lemonade.
There is an interlude of musick, and then supper is serv’d.
There is some general rearrangement of the company, but Mr N‑ still has the Graf wound about in his toils, and Mr P‑ has so many complaints against the poetry of the day that he could go on for several days, I confide.
Sandy comes up and murmurs that perchance he should go confuse Mr W‑ Y‑ utterly by telling him he does not embody the spirit of this age in his verse and is quite old‑fashion’d?
My dear, do you wish preserve your incognito, I confide you should not, for do I not recollect a certain review that made precisely that criticism?
We have some more musick, and then my naughty Eliza says that sure ’tis not one of Lady B‑’s soirées without she presents one of her fam’d readings from the Bard.
Why, says I, I should not care to oblige my guests to be an audience, but do you request me to it, Mrs F‑, I should be delight’d to perform.
I go seat myself and open my fine volume of Shakspeare. I daresay ’twill shock the Graf something tremendous, but ’tis such a favourite with my friends that I give Juliet’s nurse along with a few other passages.
Mr W‑ Y‑, I see, has enough modesty not to propose that his own verses should follow, or perchance he considers how very much they will be shown up does he essay this.
All express great appreciation at the end of the e’en: both the Graf and Mr W‑ Y‑ hold my hand a little longer than good ton would require.
I go sit in my parlour for a little, for I confide that having quite open took leave and suppos’d on their way back to R‑ House, my very dearest loves will be about turning back and returning very discreet.
And indeed ’tis not long before Hector shows ‘em in and we embrace exceeding warm together and exchange the kisses that we long to give one another. We tell one another such news as has come to pass since we were last together.
Eliza says sure the children are ever asking where is Aunty C‑, why do you not invite her over, &C, and Flora most greatly desires her tiger and sleepy wombatt: renders me a little tearfull.
Indeed ’tis far too long since I have come see you, says I.
’Tis not as tho’ we are not out far too often ourselves, says Josiah.
’Tis the Season, says I. Tho’ does seem quite exceeding this year.
One may quite anticipate, says Eliza, resting her head in my lap, that the exquisite Lady B‑ would be much in demand, but comes an entire surprize to sad provincials such as we.
And as for the house‑parties over the summer! says Josiah.
We sigh. And then I say, are they going to fall into a melancholick fit they had best come up to my boudoir and meditate upon triangles, ‘tis a most sovereign remedy for that ailment.