Sample #2 (Part of first letter)

Letter I.

My Dear Mrs. Marsingale,

It is only right that I should begin by acknowledging that your recommendation of Mrs. More’s Essays, as the most suitable companion for our journey, proved accurate in every respect. Its size rendered it both easily retrieved and replaced; the pungency of her paragraphs, and the brevity of her subjects, lent themselves to the exigencies of travel in all its various, interrupted guises; and the almost universal respect which her name and character commands, coupled with the timeliness and practical nature of her subject matter, rendered her, I do trust, an acceptable companion even to such as Mr. Bowman. Though it is possible he might have found Dr. Johnson’s essay on “The miseries of an infirm constitution” of slightly more utility; and had the good doctor not been residing most inconveniently at the very bottom of my knapsack I might have made the effort to draw him forth. In any event, it is a certainty that my original choice of Dr. Watts would not have served me half so well, and that in this, as in every other instance I can recall, I have had no cause to regret giving over my original preference in favor of your own.

If Mr. Bowman should complain to you, that in agreeing to allow Jane and myself to accompany him to Bristol, he had not anticipated having almost the entirety of the journey given over to the opinions of even so amiable a Bas Bleu [1] as Mrs. More, then I desire you should tell him, that I would have been wholly content to keep those opinions to myself, and allow him to meditate on the peculiar digestive requirements of Mrs. Bowman in his usual unrelieved silence, if he had not been quite so niggardly in the matter of straw. From long usage, he may have become so insensible to the sound of clinking glass as to possess the power of effortlessly dismissing it from his consciousness, but he should not have so blithely assumed that others must enjoy the same proficiency. Beset by the sound of so many dozens of empty jars (packed in their boxes, one infers, with just enough straw to prevent them rattling about in the absolute abandonment which must lead to breakages, whilst leaving them regrettably free to indulge in an incessant clink! clink! clink! as they became unavoidably reacquainted with the sides of their fellows at every turn of the wheels), what choice had I, but to seek distraction however it might be found? A driver of near-fabled taciturnity, and a vehicle designed rather to facilitate the transportation of large, inanimate objects than to ensure the comfort of passengers—both of these I had expected, and even judged fitting concomitants to a journey I had no wish to undertake, and a destination I had no ambition to achieve; but I perceived no reason why the additional irritation of spirit visited upon me by Mr. Schweppe’s empty jars should be endured without challenge of any sort. I remembered your excellent dictum that “a complaint is a useless indulgence, but a sensible, concerted attempt to ameliorate a disagreeable circumstance is to be commended,” and industriously sought to implement it.

[1]  “Blue Stocking” Clubs were originally assemblies of both men and women and designed for conversation  chiefly on literary subjects, the name coming (according to James Boswell) from the color of the stockings worn by one of the men who attended them. Gradually, however, “Blue Stocking” became a term used exclusively for “learned ladies”, and was often used in a rather derisive manner. In 1786 Hannah More wrote a poem—Bas Bleu: Or, Conversation– in praise of these little society gatherings, which linked her name inextricably with the phrase.


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