Persuasions #3, 1981 Pages 29-30
THE CHAWTON LETTERS
by H. F. Ellis
From Sir Thomas Bertram, Bart.
SIR, – I do not perfectly comprehend the inconvenience to which Mr. Carpenter, of the North West postal district of London, finds himself exposed. But permit me to observe that domestic tranquillity and the comforts of an agreeable home are seldom to be reconciled with a large acquaintance or the encouragement of too frequent visits. It is now some years since I was in Antigua for the better arrangement of my affairs, but I cannot easily forget the disturbance occasioned in my own house here by the introduction, during my absence, of two or three from outside the family circle: paint every where, the billiard table awry, my own bookcase removed, all the coachman’s sponges ruined, and five of the under-servants idle and dissatisfied. Where two or three can thus disorder what has hitherto been uniformly admired – everything easy, everything decent, nothing illiberal in the coachhouse – what is to be looked for when parties of fifty or more are recklessly admitted? Pitting and splintering, however objectionable such language might appear in ordinary conversation between gentlemen, hardly seem strong enough terms in this case to express the likely outcome of such imprudence.
Hospitality is never in itself to be reprobated. Thoughtlessness, and want of resolution in turning away over-zealous or importunate callers, in whatever manner they may be shod, will always deserve, and receive, punishment.
etc. Thomas Bertram.
Sir, – I have long been persuaded of the folly of heels for young ladies of gentle birth and merry disposition. That dreadful business at Lyme could never, I believe, have reached its overpowering denouement had Miss Louisa Musgrove, as she then was, been content to temper the demands of fashion with a due regard for the pitfalls of a dangerous coast. Some advantage in dress, a desire to please, are what must be expected to engage the attentions of any young woman bent upon pleasure. But high heels must always be injudicious; not to be thought of, when a jump from the new Cobb is to be attempted. Mr. Thomas Carpenter, who seems to be a good sort of man, deserves the approbation of all men of sense for calling attention to this widespread evil.
My Dear Sir, – My late employer Mr. Woodhouse has been very much upset by the mention of overshoes in your newspaper, which he was in the way of chancing upon before so disturbing a communication could be kept from him; and I am giving myself the trouble of writing to you – Mrs. Knightley being much engaged at present upon an endeavour – not altogether well advised in the general judgment – to bring about an understanding between the great-great-great-granddaughter of Mrs. Robert Martin (nee Harriet Smith) and a curate without superior talents or the fortune to discount their lack – I write to remind you of the harm, the very great harm, that may be done to persons of sensibility by trifling in matters of health. Mr. Woodhouse is unable to understand why overshoes cannot be provided. He is seriously alarmed. Old people especially are very apt to catch cold, and though Mr. Woodhouse has no acquaintance in Chawton he had heard that Hampshire is often damp and by no means a safe locality for persons of delicate constitution to walk abroad in imprudently clad. He is reduced to a nervous fever, will not touch even an egg lightly boiled, keeps every one within doors. A serious decline, perhaps worse, is to be feared, unless speedy assurances can be given to him that all possible care will be taken of what he constantly refers to as “this poor party of over fifty.”
obediently, A. Weston (Mrs.) Randalls, Highbury.
Dear Sir, – I feel it my duty, as a clergyman, to protest in the strongest terms against the proposal, put forward in your columns, that elderly ladies of good family should jump in overshoes from the coachhouse of a gentleman resident in Bath. This intelligence has reached me through the condescension of my patroness, the Right Honourable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who has sanctioned me to inform you that in no circumstances will she be a party to such licentious behaviour, or countenance it in others. Her Ladyship is far from objecting to divertissements conducted with propriety, as an invitation to Rosings – unlikely as such an attention must be to one of your inferior rank and squalid occupation – would speedily convince you; but to want of principle and taste, in conduct as in attire, she remains as always unalterably opposed.
Lady Catherine has been kind enough to communicate to me her intention to cancel her subscription to your newssheet, and I should be guilty of a faulty degree of indulgence were I to fail to apprise you without delay of this heavy misfortune.
I am, dear sir, etc., etc.
Sir, – I observe that you appended the warning “This correspondence must now cease” to a letter of today’s date from Mr. William Collins. You are wasting your time.
Yours, etc. (Unsigned)
For those of our readers who have not previously seen this delightful piece, and for those who would like to read it again, we have reprinted it, with permission, from Punch, June 5, 1963. © 1963 Punch/Rothco. All rights reserved