Dear Gentle Readers,
I sit this evening, with pen in hand, in hopes I may endeavor to convey my sheer delight in our small society’s gathering to welcome our dear Captain and Mrs. Cartwright home from their sojourn in India. Sir Thomas and myself made our way to the most delightful country estate of our dear friends, Sir Michael and Lady Devereux. We feared our arrival would be impeded by an overturned coach on the main road. However, our servant was kind enough to forewarn us of the delays that may have hindered our journey and we adjusted our departure accordingly. Thankfully, the journey was without incident and the coach had been cleared from the road before we happened upon it.
The Guests at Dinner
We arrived at the grand estate at five in the evening and to our surprise we had arrived before any of the other guests. The young housemaid, Sophie, carefully took our wraps and ushered us into the Formal Parlor, where we were greeted by our most amiable hosts. To my delight, we met a young mid-shipman, Mr. Halifax, who had also returned from India with our dear Captain Cartwright.
Mme de Bordeax at dinner
I immediately sought the lad out and began inquiring about his journeys. Soon, more coaches arrived conveying the guests as we conversed in the Parlor. Each guest was announced and present to Sir Michael and Lady Devereux. One of the party, Sir Reginald, was dressed in the style of the natives and shewed us trinkets and jewels from his travels abroad.
Sir Michael and Mrs. Marcum
At half past five, Lady Devereux announced that dinner was to begin and we made our way into the dining room. I was taken aback at the lovely display that lay before me as we entered the room. Fine bone china, silver candelabras, fine linen, crystal glasses, and wax candles graced the table. Once the guests had been seated, Lady D. signaled for dinner to begin. Our hosts had been fortunate to procure a chef who had expertise in Indian Cuisine and we were soon to experience his wonderful culinary creations.
Miss Hamlin and Lady Simpson
Our first course consisted of various breads and sauces, known as chutneys. I have never tasted so many different flavors in one course before, and to my surprise some of the chutneys contained spices that severely warmed the tongue and the lips long after one had finished eating it. Sir Reginald informed me that the heavily spiced food helped in cooling the body and was extremely beneficial in the heat of India. The conversation and the wine continued to flow throughout around the table and we were delighted with tales from this strange land.
Sir Reginald, the English Ambassador to India dressed in native gharb.
Soon, the second course was presented and served to our fine party. There were a number of dishes I had never heard of or seen before. Chef Gaston informed our party that the dishes he created originated from the Goan Region of India.
During the middle of the second course, the bell rang and young Mr. Halifax hurried into the room waving a parcel addressed to the Captain. It was an important missive promoting our dear Captain from Post Captain to Captain. He would soon take command of the 44 gun ship, the HMS Regulus, and an increase in pay. The orders were from His Majesty the King, and were to be carried out forthwith
Lady Devereux in he finery
After the commotion of Captain Cartwright’s promotion had subsided we were presented with the third course, mango ices. It was a lovely treat after the heat of the dishes that preceded it. Then, at half past seven, the ladies adjourned into the parlor for tea and the gentlemen took to the smoking room for port, cigars, and gentlemanly talk, which is not suited for mixed company.
Captain Cartwright, the Guest of Honor
Mrs. Cartwright, wife of the honored Captain
Colonel Etienne de Valois
Mme de Valois
We ladies sipped on fine Chai teas and Sherry and chatted about haberdashery, mantua makers, and the difficulties some of us were having with our servants. We were not in the parlor more than fifteen minutes, when myself and Mrs. Cartwright decided a stroll through the nearby parish would be most beneficial. Mr. Halifax kindly summoned the gentlemen and we set off into the evening.
Mrs. Hamlin, Miss Hamlin, and Lady Simpson
Lt. Armstrong, Sir Michael, and Mrs. Marcum
The sun had not quiet set and the air was beginning to cool. It had been unseasonably warm that day and the combination of candles and people made the dining room rather warm. I was most thankful for the fresh air and the turn through the small village. Sir Michael led us up and down the tiny streets and spoke of the history of the place. On our way back to the house, Sir Michael took us to a local Inn to meet some of the villagers who lived in the Parish. Most of the party declined to enter, however a few of us decided we would follow Sir Michael. Upon entering the establishment, the tavern owner, a middle-aged woman with a loud and slightly gruff voice, toasted our arrival and the rest of the patrons joined in. We stayed not but five or ten minutes before we said our goodbyes to the tavern mistress and her patrons and continued on our way.
Mrs. Housman and Mrs. Hamlin
Lt. Armstrong, Cpt Cartwright, and Midshipmen Mr. Halifax enjoying their Port
We arrived back at the house not half an hour after we had left for our stroll. The servants had already cleared away the dinner and the dining hall was now ready for dancing. Sir Reginald immediately took my hand and shewed me a new scandalous dance from the Continent, known as the waltz. It was so very different from our country dances and we seemed to float across the floor carried by the music. Sir Thomas, who is not very fond of dancing, also decided to give this new waltz a try. Although, I do fear we need more practice. Then, our long awaited guests, Colonel and Mme de Valois arrived. Mme de Valois had been performing in London that night, but could not bear to miss the welcoming of our Captain and Mrs. Cartwright.
Mrs. Hamlin and Miss Hamlin
I tried Sabrage with the help of Col Etienne
Sir Thomas and Myself
Champagne and Sherry on the porch
The evening continued on late into the night and into morning. Our merry party danced, played cards, drank champagne and enjoyed the delights of the season. Finally, at around one o’clock in the morning, the guests began to take their leave. Sir Thomas and I were some of the last to take our leave, along with the Valois’, and headed back to Portland House
Midshipmen Mr. Halifax recounts his tales of India
Well, I must end my tale here, and put away my quill. Morning does come rather early and I must away to town tomorrow on urgent business.
Your Most Humble and Gracious Servant
Lady Georgiana Sully