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Excerpt from "A Proper Englishwoman" by Eloisa James


Book: eloisa james, talk of the ton.
Chapter One

In Which a Quote from Shakespeare Insults the Stodgy and Horrifies the Staid

March 15, 1817
Lady Cecilia Petworth to her sister, the Countess of Bredelbane.

Dearest Sister,
I take my pen in hand although it is almost dawn, because I know you will be most distressed when the news of this evening's entertainment at Sandleford House reaches you. Kerr has made quite a spectacle of himself, and although there's nothing new in that (as we've said of your godson before, he gives new definition to the term rakehell), last night his debauchery reached new heights. To the horror of all, he escorted a French très-coquette to Lady Sandleford's ball. Making mischief as usual, Lord Dressel strolled up to the couple and asked Kerr if he'd set a date to marry his fiancée. Kerr merely tightened his arm around his Bird of Paradise (for, not to mince words, she was no better) and drawled the most excruciating vulgarity: something like not until she has my baby in her belly and my ring on her finger. Lady Sandleford was naturally quite insulted by such unseemly behavior under her roof, and I'm certain that the story is traveling like wildfire…one must be grateful that Kerr's mother has gone to her rest. I shall write again tomorrow but, dearest, I think the time has come to put your foot down and cause your benighted godson to marry that poor girl - what is her name? It's too late at night for an old head like mine. I shall write again in the morn.

  Yours in all affection,
  Cecilia, Lady Petworth



March 16, 1817
Mrs. Broughton to The Hon. Emma Loudan, St. Albans, Herfordshire.

  Dear Miss Loudan,

I am not convinced that you will remember me, since we had only the slightest of acquaintances at Miss Proudfoot's School for Ladies. My maiden name was Laneham. I write you from the deep reverence I felt toward you and indeed, all my fellow students at Miss Proudfoot's School. The Earl of Kerr spoke of you in such a fashion last evening that I had difficulty restraining myself. To be precise, he said that he would not marry you, implying that you were with child. I know that this information will come as a great shock, given the unpleasant implication as regards your reputation. I hasten to tell you that no one believed it in the least. If our positions were reversed, and I as isolated from the town as you have been, I should wish to be told of his disgraceful comment.

  In hopes that you are not angered by my communication,
  Mrs. Broughton

March 16, 1817.
The Countess of Bredelbane to the Earl of Kerr.


I have now had notes from Mrs. Witter and Lady Flaskett. Lady Flaskett informs me that you exemplify the depraved appetite of this vicious age. Picture my dismay on hearing my godson described thusly. How long has it been since you even visited St. Albans? I know that you have had a difficult time since Walter's death, but your brother would not wish to you to lose all sense of decency. Next week at the latest I shall expect to hear of your nuptials.

  The Countess & etc.

March 17, 1817.
The Earl of Kerr to the Countess of Bredelbane

  My dear, dearest godmama,

I can't take myself to the country tomorrow and marry my provincial paragon; I have an appointment to look at a horse. And a fencing match to attend as well. She will have to wait. Granted, I haven't seen Miss Loudan for some time, but she seemed clear-headed enough when I last found myself in St. Albans. She won't think twice of these rumors of my degeneracy, should they make their way to her.

  Affectionately yours,

March 17, 1817.
Lady Dyott to The Hon. Emma Loudan, St. Albans, Herfordshire

  Dearest Emma,

"Gil, were you peering down my neckline again!"
"Trust me, dear Emma, it was Much Ado About Nothing."

This will be a quick note, as Dyott awaits me. We're off to Tattersall's to find a pony for Garret who is quite a bruising rider at age five, and does us proud. You know how much I hate bibble-babble, but I'm told Kerr informed a roomful that you are too old to bear a child; I merely wished to reassure you that I was all of forty-one when Garret was born, and since you are half that age, breeding is not a concern. I only have to think of your sporting nature, and I have no concern for your future. Thank God you didn't marry the man because he's nothing more than a job horse and you deserve a high-stepper. Do come to London, and we'll find you a proper husband.

Much love,
Your cousin, Mary, Lady Dyott

March 18, 1817.
The Countess of Bredelbane to the Earl of Kerr.

The news of your appalling jest has spread throughout the town. I have no doubt but that Emma has heard every loathsome detail. Can you not consider your duty, which is clearly to provide an heir to the estate without delay?

  The Countess & etc.

March 18, 1817.
Gilbert Baring-Gould, Earl of Kerr, to the Countess of Bredelbane

  Dearest Godmama,

I'll marry Miss Loudan someday, but not this week. And certainly not due to a jest on my part, if admittedly in poor taste. Don't you think that the ton has become alarmingly illiterate, given that no one seems to recognize a Shakespeare play? I shouldn't worry about the question of an heir; I've heard that country air is remarkably healthy. I can turn out five or six little Kerrs in the next decade.

Yours & etc.

March 19, 1817.
Lady Flaskell to her sister, The Hon. Emma Loudan.


I was suffering from a stomach upset and so missed the initial flurry of news about Kerr. Darling, I'm so sorry! But we must move quickly, Emma. You are all of twenty-four now, and fiancés, especially those with a hefty fortune and title, do not grow on trees. You have been immured in the country so long that you have no idea what it is like here. Women are considered decayed at two-and-twenty. You must come to London at once and find a husband. I shall arrive tomorrow and expect to find you packed.

  With love,
  Your sister Bethany Lynn

March 18, 1817.
The Earl of Kerr to Mademoiselle Benoit

  Madeline, ma cherie,

While I naturally adore you and kiss your feet in pure admiration, it would not be prudent for me to accompany you to the opera tonight. The Puritans are out in force. In fact, I am very much afraid that I shall have to forego the pleasure of your company in the future. Please accept this ruby as the smallest hint of my regard for you. Tu seras toujours dan mon cœur même si tu ne seras pas toujours avec moi.


March 19, 1817.
The Countess of Bredelbane to the Earl of Kerr.


Clearly I can't force you to abide honorably by the vows that your father made on your behalf. I take your behavior much amiss though, and I say that to you seriously. I shall write Emma myself and try to soothe her feelings. I've no doubt but that she's hearing the same as I: that you intend to marry some rubbishing Frenchwoman with putative claims to being a lady. Do so, Kerr, and you will never darken my door again.

  The Countess of Bredalbane

March 20, 1817.
Gilbert Baring-Gould, Earl of Kerr to the Countess of Bredalbane.

  Tsk, tsk, dearest godmama.

You who know your Shakespeare so well should avoid clichés about darkened doors and such like. When my sainted uncle was alive, did he object to your sharp tongue? I go about my business with a rejoicing heart, knowing that you will soothe my fiancée's troubled brow. You needn't worry about Mademoiselle Benoit. While I shall always find a French accent irrésistible, I concede that the country charmer is my fate. I also know that you, my sainted godmother, would never wish for me, her beloved godson, to be unhappy, so you will forgive me if I cease to think about marriage this very moment.

Yours & Etc.

From Eloisa James' "A Proper Englishwoman" in Talk of the Town (Jove Romance).

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