My dearest friend, Lydia,
Please accept my humble apologies for not writing to you sooner. Shortly after receiving your last letter, Papa discovered that we’d been corresponding secretly despite his orders. He was so furious that he removed all writing paper and instruments from my rooms and has kept them under lock and key! He has gone away on business for a few days, and Miss Mainwaring, my new chaperone, feeling partly responsible for my situation (as she was the one who happened to mention that I had sent you a letter), provided me with a few sheets of her own stationery. She says this is to be my final farewell to you, for she is beside herself with worry. Being a woman of no independent means, she does not want to lose her position, you see.
My heart is saddened, but perhaps this is for the best, for after you have read the contents of this letter you may never wish to receive news from me again. But first, let me tell you about my life in Bath. For someone who has experienced the delights of London as you have, Bath must seem awfully small and provincial. As for myself, I am quite delighted. Bath is ever so much more to my taste than Brighton, as I do not like the sea. And I am seldom in dull company here. Every morning Miss Mainwaring and I venture to the Pump Room, where we take the waters and greet our new acquaintances, taking a turn with them around the room for an hour or so. My new friends are so numerous that it has been hard to keep pace with them all. I met a Miss Catherine Morland, a very sweet and lively young woman, and her friend Miss Thorpe, who I do not care for at all, for she seems a bit too loose with her manners; but wherever Miss Morland goes, so goes Miss Thorpe, and I have had to bite my tongue on several occasions when watching her bat her eyelashes at every young gentleman who crosses her path. She reminded me a bit of your old self, dearest, but now that you are married your manners have been above reproach.
The shoppes are outstanding, especially those along Milsom Street, and I am prodigiously fond of taking tea at Sally Lunn’s establishment. I've become addicted to eating one Bath bun per day. There are so many balls, assemblies, and card parties that I can hardly keep up with the social whirl. And then there are the fireworks in Sydney Park, and long walks to Beechen Cliff and along the Avon river.
During the second week of my stay, I encountered Captain Carter, who was on leave and visiting his family. He has been assiduously courting me ever since, and, wonder of wonders, my papa approves! If all goes according to Captain Carter’s wishes, the banns will soon be announced. It is you I have to thank for my happiness, dear friend, because from knowing you, Colonel Forster introduced me to my handsome Captain in Brighton!
And now for my news! Lydia, my dear, if you are not sitting down, please find a chair now. I have so envied your marriage to your handsome Mr. Wickham. He is all that I would have expected for you in a husband, and I have long felt that you both deserved each other. So it is with great distress that I must inform you that I have seen him sporting about Bath on several occasions this past month behaving as if - oh, pardon me for being the bearer of bad tidings - as if he were not a married man! I will not go into the particulars, for that would be too painful for you, but dearest, do you think it is wise to remain in Newcastle at this time? You must hie to Bath and claim your place alongside your husband before something untoward happens. Not a moment must be wasted.
Miss Mainwaring will deliver your answer in private and I shall do what I can to help you find lodging, but I cannot be seen with you, my unfortunate friend. Papa, who disapproved of Mr. Wickham before, has absolutely forbidden me to have any social intercourse with him now.
Adieu, my dearest friend. We shall meet again after my marriage, for my dear Captain will not disallow our friendship, of that I am sure. Besides, I am on tenterhooks to learn more about Mr. Wickham's reasons for his recent ... actions.
My love and heart go out to you,
My Dear Lucy,
How delightful to hear from you again and to note that you are enjoying yourself in Bath – how diverting! I do hope you have not had occasion for ill health for it seems such a poor, infected place, which attracts the diseased and sick like flies to rotten meat. But I daresay you are in the pinkest health, you always did have a florid complexion, which never suited scarlet as I recall. Puce is far more becoming to your pallor, I daresay.
My, you are a very fast worker, are you not? I send my heartiest congratulations for your greatest felicity and pray you shall be vastly content with Captain Carter. He is a well looking man and if he did not have the unfortunate gap between his teeth left by the two extractions he suffered in Brighton I would consider him one of the most handsome men of my acquaintance. Wretched soul, it is a terrible thing to be always picking and probing in the mouth, plagued by the ulcers and sores to which he is prone. It would not be quite so inconvenient if he could only control his drooling. It is a pity. When I knew him there was hardly a gentleman with a finer set of whiskers. How they tickled! Such endearments and protestations of love – I very nearly fell for his charms. He chased me for so many months, but dear Wickham came along and has my heart forever.
I do not know, dearest friend, how you could have jumped to such dreadful conclusions about my darling husband who I am aware has been meeting a lady in Bath when he is not busy with his regimental offices. I believe he said in a letter to me that she was a cousin – they have loved one another from infancy. I daresay his behaviour might seem a little untoward, but Wickham is such an affectionate soul and cannot help but show his love for his fellow man, or woman, for that matter. He mentioned that he had seen you and was most insistent that I should relate the particulars of his relationship with Fanny, to you, if a query was made.
As for myself, I am far too busy to come to Bath. Which puts me in mind. Please do not feel obliged to invite me to your wedding, although of course I would love to come. Unfortunately I am leaving tomorrow for Pemberley, the estate of my esteemed brother and sister, the Darcys of Derbyshire. They live in the best style and I will have so many engagements – shopping with Lizzy, taking the waters at Buxton and moving in the highest circles in the land, that I do not think I shall be able to write to you in the foreseeable future, if indeed, at all. I believe there is to be a ball before Christmas – what a pity you could not be with me, for Mr Darcy is acquainted with a set of very good-looking and eligible beaux. And as for new gowns – Lizzy has promised me a wardobe of silks, satins and the finest muslin. How I would have loved to have you here for your opinion on everything. Do you think my shoes should be matching or contrasting? I cannot decide! At least three new bonnets will have to be ordered, for Lizzy will not like me to go about with her looking anything less than in the first fashion.
As soon as my sojourn at Pemberley is over, I am to make a visit to another grand establishment, that of my sister Jane at Netherfield, where I shall meet up with my angel for Christmas. Oh la! What a good joke!
How sad, dearest Lucy, to think that this is likely to be our last letter or means of loving communication.
I remain, Yrs ever,
- Image of Lydia Flirting With Two Soldiers from the Regimen: Jane Odiwe
- Image of Regency Couple Kissing: From Risky Regencies
About Jane Odiwe:
An author, artist, and historian, Ms. Odiwe has written Lydia Bennet's Story, a book published by SourceBooks in October. Having read the book, I recommend it wholeheartedly. Here is the synopsis:
Lydia Bennet is the flirtatious, wild and free-wheeling youngest daughter. Her untamed expressiveness and vulnerability make her fascinating to readers who¹ll love this imaginative rendering of Lydia¹s life after her marriage to the villainous George Wickham. Will she mature or turn bitter? Can a girl like her really find true love?
In Lydia Bennet's Story we are taken back to Jane Austen's most beloved novel, Pride and Prejudice, to a Regency world seen through Lydia¹s eyes where pleasure and marriage are the only pursuits. But the road to matrimony is fraught with difficulties and even when she is convinced that she has met the man of her dreams, complications arise. When Lydia is reunited with the Bennets, Bingleys, and Darcys for a grand ball at Netherfield Park, the
shocking truth about her husband may just cause the greatest scandal of all.