Her Letters from New Britain – 1

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Dear Mother,

The airship was a marvel, and though I’ll not say much considering the fiasco with my paper on tectonic plates, I fancied that when I looked very hard there was a curve to the horizon. But we did not go high enough to tell. Continue reading “Her Letters from New Britain – 1”

Her Seventh Letter to Kate

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Dearest Kate,

My new address will be The Haverly, Kingstowne, under the care of Mrs. Brougham. If you have not done this already, tell Everett that he is very lucky and that he had better bend to your every whim.

I am afraid that, after embarrassing myself, I recklessly made my application to serve as a District Officer for the Crown, and even wrote my name as G. C. Walker. I know they are even more for equality there than here, but the instinct to make myself as formidable as possible on paper took free rein. The short of it is that a wire arrived two days ago to congratulate me, and another came yesterday to ask if I might hasten my arrival; thus I will be on the airship mere hours after writing this letter.

I am very close to tears knowing that my letters to you and to my father will not reach their destinations before I am set upon my journey. And the lilacs are only just beginning to bloom. Continue reading “Her Seventh Letter to Kate”

Her Sixth Letter to Kate

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Dear Kate,

I’ve been negligent in writing, and I realize my last letter was only about me. I should have asked about Everett, for now you have surprised me – engaged, Kate! I cannot believe you didn’t tell me that you’ve been so much in love with him and his tennis arm for all these years. A thousand reproaches, and a thousand hugs. I have a lovely tennis arm if I do say so myself, so would you come and marry me instead?

I don’t mean to make fun, it’s only that you are so firmly rooted in York. And I am going to miss you very much, so much so that I was about to make a harebrained proposition, and it should have been very awkward to have you refuse. Continue reading “Her Sixth Letter to Kate”

Her Fifth Letter to Kate


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I am a monster of my own making, a gargoyle on the lintel, a capricious brownie. I have done badly and I may be committed to a rash course of action.

It is all because I cannot ignore stupid Edward. To like him is very vexing, and to disregard him is intolerable. It should be illegal for a gentleman to be so insensitive to a lady’s sentiments when such trouble as this can result.

At Alexandra’s last night I stood at the far end with the boys who don’t dance, both to keep myself out of the way of partners (who might be nonexistent and/or embarrassing), and to keep myself in the way of easy talk. We somehow got on the subject of New Britain, and Edward threw himself into it remarkably, saying that the future will be made across the Atlantic. Trying to be witty, I immediately interjected that, because things are rather odd over there, the future might be missing a few bolts.

I knew it was a mistake before I finished speaking. I cannot for the life of me recall the set-down that he delivered, but it mocked my tone, refuted my statement, and was much funnier than what I’d said all at once. Continue reading “Her Fifth Letter to Kate”

Her Fourth Letter to Kate

Her First Letter to Kate

Her Second Letter to Kate

Her Third Letter to Kate


Dearest Kate,

In a perfect world I would recommend painting over your father’s soldiers in your favourite colours and setting them out for a picnic romp – I like to imagine that the sight of his tin men cavorting would nauseate your father to the point of giving them up. But as he would probably have an apoplexy and burn your house down instead, I think you must continue to give up the tea table to the War of the Lilacs. Which actually seems like a sweet use for a tea table.

Or so say I, miles away, who need not be inconvenienced by holding my cup, saucer, and biscuits all in my lap, and by living in dread of stepping on the odd tin lance and having both a poke and a fuss for my pains. I hope this shows that I do understand your frustrations, Kate, but I can’t help but be amused by such scenes as you describe. Continue reading “Her Fourth Letter to Kate”

Her Third Letter to Kate

Her First Letter to Kate

Her Second Letter to Kate


Dear Kate,


Unless a lady is noticed by a gentleman, what use does she have for him? None!

Or so I have concluded from various tales and rules of propriety. Perhaps my review of the literature has been less than rigorous, but Kate, isn’t this what we have been learning? If a lady is charming then she is noticed, and pursued (and envied, rewarded with piquant notes and toads in her handbags). And if a gentleman handsome then he is all the better for doing the pursuing. On the other hand, I have been hard pressed to find instances of ladies instigating anything remotely titillating.

There are pretty sketches to go with our stories which draw a very clear line between the noticed and the not-noticed, the handsome and the not-handsome. Pages of pencil and watercolour may as well be hollering that we have made these norms and had damn well follow them! It’s like that fable with the man, the dogs, and the gross amount of saliva. Didn’t the dogs eat him when he wouldn’t reward them according to the rules he had established? Imagine the righteous indignation in those dogs.

Perhaps you can tell that I am straining to be funny, Kate. I am frustrated – I have again been in the company of a certain Mr. Thorton. Considering that we are a part of a circle of acquaintance in Kent I am ever a booby for being surprised and eager to see him. And then he gives me the notice due to a smudge upon one’s shoe, and then I invariably become desperate, and then my attempts to secure his attention end in sarcasm and failure. Very quickly too. Continue reading “Her Third Letter to Kate”

Her Second Letter to Kate

Her First Letter to Kate


Dear Kate,


I will lay our tardy postal service to waste for making me think you were too mad to write. I’m sorry for saying sorry so much, and I’m glad that Everett took all that about the Irish well. Your account of that winter ball is so romantic that it has opened my eyes – our stately public library, whose bookish smell I inhaled so happily, is just a drafty, ill-maintained nook, not to compare with fresh-cut evergreen boughs and spun snow. I’m truly, truly jealous and happy for you.

It is funny that I am back in Kent, armed with a university degree of questionable usefulness, only to be sequestered in another library. But there is some reading I should do for the dreaded little office job, and mother wanted some books too. I thought I would write to you while I am here, sitting at a wobbly desk in the corner, since it lends a desperate ambiance to the letter-writing, and since the steam coach will be another hour to take me home any way. Continue reading “Her Second Letter to Kate”