Gentle Readers, Little did Miss Eleanor Pritchard realize when she wrote Mrs. Elton for advice that she would unleash a firestorm of controversy that would precipitate her admirer to admonish Mrs. Elton, sparking Mr. Elton's ire and involving that most estimable of gentlemen, Mr. Knightley. For a review of all the goings on between Houghton House and Highbury, please click on this link.
The Right Honble. James Glover Arden
To: Mr. George Knightley
Dear Mr. Knightley,
Pray excuse my writing to you on a most absurd, even an embarrassing subject; but a matter of some delicacy regarding the vicar of your parish has arisen, and I dare to approach you not only because this vicar, Mr. Elton, has mentioned your name, but because I am aware that you have been known to my family in other days, through having gone to school with my older brother. The memory of the happy friendship of past times is still dear to him, and his description of you as a most sensible and humane person, as well as your reputation as a Magistrate, which has spread far beyond Surrey I can assure you, have emboldened me to venture upon this approach.
I attach a fair copy of the letter which I have lately received from this Mr. Elton. Farther comment is hardly necessary. Is the man mad? Have you ever heard before, in this the nineteenth century, of a respectable clergyman actually challenging a gentleman to a duel? I presume upon your patience to the farthest extent, by also attaching a copy of my own letter, which drove this maddened clergyman to such an extremity. I do not perceive that there is anything shameful in it; I merely strove to correct a factual error, and some presumptuous remarks, of his wife, who sounds rather a vain and foolish woman.
There seems little I can do but to entrust the matter into your hands, not only for my own sake, so that I will not be required to hazard my entire future existence by being taken up on charges of murder for shooting this eccentric cleric, but in common charity, for his own sake as well. If the story gets out, it could ruin his entire standing in the Church. Whether you would wish to have him placed somewhere as far away from Highbury as possible, is not for me to presume to suspect; but I do know that in confiding the matter to you, I am safe, in its being handled in a discreet and proper fashion.
Very gratefully yours,
James Glover Arden, Esq.
To: The Right Honble. James Glover Arden
Dear Mr. Arden,
I have been most sorry to learn of your being troubled by the fiery effusions of our local vicar, Mr. Elton, but let me put your mind to rest at once, by assuring you that you will not be hearing from him again. I have taken care of the matter.
Mr. Elton is a very good sort of man, perhaps not above the common in intelligence, but respectable, and ever conscientious in his duties. Since his marriage, however, he has been too much influenced by his wife, who is, you will hardly be surprised to collect, a woman whose wisdom is not always consistent. At times lately he has seemed to be in a state bordering almost upon derangement; what part his marriage has played in the disordering of his mental faculties, I cannot presume to say. At any rate, I walked over to the Vicarage today, at a time when his wife was out gadding, and had a word with him. His temper had by then subsided, and he was already in a state of regret, over his hot and injudiciously rash letter to you. It was an easy matter to represent to him what events a duel might be expected to lead; and he was immediately his usual rational self. You may be sure he will not importune you again, and I have taken the liberty to impress upon him that a letter of apology from him to you is not at all necessary, as you would not wish to receive any farther communication from such a quarter.
Rest in the knowledge, then, that the matter is peaceably and satisfactorily settled. Remember me to your brother, of whom I have the fondest recollections, and in whose well-doing I most earnestly rejoice.
Mrs. Elton Sez is written/channeled by Austen-esque author Diana Birchall, whose latest book, Mrs. Elton In America, is now available.. Please join her once a week for her sage and sometimes sardonic voice, as she graciously condescends to advise on a variety of subjects as Mrs. Elton or in this case as Mr. Arden and Mr. Knightley.