Penelope Clay to Adelaide Hampson
12 Queen-square, Bath. Sunday, September 18
My dear Adelaide,
Well, we are arrived at Bath and just settled in to a tolerable house in proximity to Milsom-street shops and within comfortable distance of the Lower Rooms. Tolerable indeed to your sister, whose habitual cheerfulness, you will allow, is not impaired by “narrow rooms” and “mean furnishings” – but my companions are nicer, and Sir Walter is determined that a more suitable residence be procured as soon as may be.
I shall write to you at once of any change of address since I depend on your kindness to write to me frequently with reports on my two girls. It was indeed painful for their mama to leave them, particularly with Jane’s suffering another attack of croup, but I am fully confident of the capable care of your Nurse Thomas and of the devotion of their aunt, uncle and cousins.
I suspect that my task in these first weeks in Bath may be to rally the spirits of Elizabeth and to reassure Sir Walter that his decision – on Papa’s advice – to let Kellynch-hall is in no respect to be construed as an embarrassment to the Elliot name. Our departure from Kellynch-hall was not greatly enlivened by the shuffling appearance at the main gates of a few surly tenants, to whom Sir Walter bowed with condescension. He seemed not at all discomposed by the sparseness of the attendance on the occasion since, as he was quick to assert, it was such a blowing day of wind and rain. (I could not but fancy that their countenances must have cheered as the Elliot carriage swept out of view!)
The newness of our residence in Bath has not yet permitted much adventure. I am occupied in the mornings with assisting Sir Walter with letters, or in reading to him the Bath Chronicle with special attention to the column “Arrived Here”: a weekly list of those of consequence who have arrived for the season. In the mornings, we survey the shops, Miss Elizabeth and I too frequently treated to Sir Walter’s contemptuous reflections on current fashions – or on the ugliness of the wearers. We stroll in the Crescent fields or in Sydney-garden, where we quiz other strollers. In the evenings we are so far rather stupid, since our circle of acquaintance is yet small – a few games of cribbage (which I make sure that Sir Walter wins), while Elizabeth on the sopha by the fire yawns over her work.
Sir Walter at present refuses to take the waters, deeming them the feeble resource of the gouty and the decrepit. But I fancy this reluctance may lessen when we are fully established, and he is convinced of the social opportunities of Pump-room events, where he may be seen to advantage. I am at pains to persuade him that his handsome presence at such functions can but enhance the dignity of the occasions: “What, after all, sir” – pointing to the latest list of arrivals – “Can these Colonels and Admirals, Captains and Clergymen offer to Bath society in comparison with the figure and elegance of the Elliots?”
In my Thursday morning reading also I am assiduous in pointing out the recitals, concerts and balls “which Miss Elliot might enjoy,” and which would certainly ease the discomfort of their decline from the dignity and consequence of Kellynch-hall to the relative anonymity of Bath. They would also, I confess, relieve me of Miss Elizabeth’s fretful lassitude and ill-humour. I do not mention my own secret disappointment in having my anticipations of the pleasures of Bath so far unsatisfied.
My next letter may be from a new address. I hope to hear from you.