20th January 1826

Fanny spared me a couple of pennies and so I bought the new edition of the Terrific Register from Grafton. He offered to sell me a volume of Nuts to Crack for sixpence (‘leather-bound! An asset and an ornament to any household!’) but I said that I was not interested in his Christmas leftovers. Grafton was quite vexed and said that they did not have such things as The Terrific Register in his day and it would rot my unformed brain and corrupt my youthful morals. I began to tell him about the play I am thinking about writing – I am sure it will have a strong moral, once I truly get started – but he drifted off and commenced recounting to me (again!) the occasion when he saw Beau Brummell in the Park (‘not half so tall as I’d imagined and, here’s a queer thing, young master – despite everything they say – very coarse eyebrows’). He is a very queer and disagreeable old fellow and his anecdotes are awfully tedious. There is nothing terribly wrong with the Terrific Register, in any case, as you learn about people and customs from all over the world, such as human sacrifice in Mexico, and why all other nations are savages.

At dinner, Mama insisted upon schooling myself and Fanny on acceptable topics of conversation for our visit to the Hathersages – such as comments pertaining to the weather (“How temperate it is for the time of year, is it not?”; “Would you not agree it is unseasonably cold at present?”); complimentary remarks regarding furniture (“For instance, Charles, you might say, ‘What a fine table! Is it rosewood?’ – naturally, my dear, you may adapt the wood to suit the circumstance”); declaring a love for music (“Fanny, you might inquire whether Miss Hathersage is fond of the … well, let us say Mr Handel or Mr Haydn … you had better confine yourself to sacred works.”); and, lastly, cake, if present (“Fanny, you might remark, ‘What a sweet, delicate, nourishing morsel!’ and, mind you, Charles, there must be not hint of gluttony.”)

I hope there is cake; and I shall eat it all in one gigantic piece.

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