The house party at Hollystone Hall has a spy: a lady correspondent for the Teatime Tattler. To find out more about the stories she discusses below, see Holly and Hopeful Hearts—release date and buy links on our project page.


Dear Mr. Clemens,

I have arrived at Hollystone Hall, and, as I suggested to you, the cream of Society is gathering for the Duchess of H.’s house party. The invitations for this event were much sought after and cherished. (Of course they are. It is always so with Her Grace’s entertainments.) Yet I wonder, too, if recipients have not felt a soupcon of trepidation?

For those of your readers not familiar with this great lady, let me explain.

She is, of course, the wife of the Duke of H., and his opposite in every way. Where he is profligate in his private life, reactionary in his politics, and rigidly committed to the existing social order, she is a lady of great probity, and staunchly reformist. Witness this particular event: the lady intends to raise money for a new charity set up to fund education for women! Her Grace will undoubtedly be looking for contributions throughout the fortnight of the house party, as well as at the charity ball at the end.

Not only that, but the duchess is well known for her belief that even marriages at the highest level of Society can be love matches, despite what are undoubtedly her personal experiences.

Can we doubt that those attending will be keeping a careful eye on both their pocketbooks and their hearts?

I shall report further. I am confident that the coming weeks will present many morsels of interest to your readers.

With grateful thanks for the opportunity to be your correspondent,

I remain,

A Lady.


Dear Mr. Clemens

We were greatly excited today when the reclusive, elusive Earl of S. arrived to join the house party, bringing with him the notorious actress, C.H., whom he introduced as his intended!

You can imagine the buzz of gossip that ensued amongst the mothers of hopeful would-be countesses, and who can blame the young ladies for their disappointment? Lord. S. proved to be an ethereally handsome young man with impeccable manners and an air of sad distance that tempts a susceptible maiden to offer a comforting shoulder, or lap.

Miss H. is widely known not to be a maiden, but is she susceptible? I have seen her eyes following the earl, and suspect that she is by no means the gold-digger she is being painted.

His lordship’s cousin, who is also at the party, says Lord S. won’t go through with the scandalous match, but the couple smell of April and May. I rather believe that the cousin’s hopes for the succession are to be frustrated.

Yours sincerely,

A Lady


Dear Mr. Clemens

We have been joined by the Dowager Countess of E. and her daughter, Lady A.W., who appears to have not one but two suitors! The Polite World has long watched with interest as Lady A. attempted to hide her regard for the Duke of B.. The scoundrel paid her no more attention than all the other delicate buds — and more mature blooms — around whose petals he buzzed.

One would assume all this would change with the duke’s recent (and somewhat scandalous) betrothal. The lady, indeed, appears to have had a change of heart, looking with favour upon the morose Earl of P., and one cannot miss that the earl’s rare smiles are saved only for this one lady.

Unaccountably, the duke seems to have forgotten his betrothed, and his eyes follow Lady A. around the room. We can only wait and see whether the fair damsel is to be a countess, a duchess, or free to explore the options in another Season.

With cheerful anticipation, I remain,

A Lady


Dear Mr. Clemens,

Her Grace can take no credit for the romance between Miss V.S. and Mr. G.D., which has been a settled thing between the couple for some time. A betrothal has not yet been announced, and some ill-natured people have suggested that Miss S. is reluctant to commit to a marriage that would make her the mother of a daughter only a few years younger than herself.

Having seen the lady with her prospective groom and his daughter, I wish to assure your public that such calumnies are unfounded. Miss S. is a charming lady, much admired in right-thinking circles for her practical work in educating orphans. Mr. D. likewise has an interest in that worthy cause, so they have much in common.

Besides, the way they look at one another makes me almost regret my own resolve to stay fancy free.

Sighing, but unreformed, I remain

A Lady.


Dear Mr. Clemens,

The duchess’s goal for her companion is no secret to those at the houseparty. Has Her Grace not, for many years, taken in one distant relation after another and seen them placed in an advantageous marriage or some other occupation that better suits them?

Indeed, Miss C.G. has not minced words. The duchess has advised her to search the house party for ‘a suitable husband’.

Although several men have taken an interest in the shy, attractive, competent young lady, she will not believe this to be the case. However, I believe that her attention has been fixed, and in a most unlikely direction.

The duchess is known for her surprisingly egalitarian views, but what will she make of her companion’s choice? Will Miss G.’s venture below the salt lead to marriage, to scandal, or to a retreat into the safety of life as a poor relation?

I will hope to report a happy outcome in time, but scarcely know what it might be.

A Lady


Dear Mr. Clemens

Were it not clearly distressing those most closely concerned, the tension between Lady de C. and Lord N.L. would be most amusing. And now I learn that Lord N. has made a fundamental and ridiculous mistake about the lady’s marital state.

He has been looking daggers at her for the past few days, and leaving the room whenever she enters it? Surely such strong feelings betoken more than a passing fancy?

On her part, the lady is offended that the gentleman will not listen to her, and who can blame her. What can possibly break the stalemate between these two proud and stubborn people?

One hopes that Her Grace has an idea.

I remain,

Your bewildered correspondent,

A Lady


Dear Mr. Clemens

We have had some unexpected late arrivals. First was Viscount E., the grandson of the Duke of W.

If any of your readers have been foolish enough to risk their blunt in the betting book at White’s on who V.E. will choose as his bride, I suggest they prepare to lose their money. His presence here is evidence enough that he will not obey his grandfather and wed his cousin, Lady C.W., who is not at the house party. Why would he risk entering the house of his father’s greatest enemy, if not for the sake of the woman he loves.

And I can assure you he is not pursuing Lady F.B., the other lady named in the impertinent bet. Far from it. His own cousin, Mr. W.W., is a guest at the house party, and is spouting nonsense, but your correspondent is not in the least taken in by the common opinion. Lord E.’s attention to a certain lady cannot be doubted. Her brother frowns, concerned about the suitor’s uncertain status while the House of Lord’s deliberates on the validity of his parent’s marriage. But the lady herself is not, I venture to hint, unmoved.

As to the identity of the fair charmer, my lips are sealed.

Later in the day, Her Grace’s sons arrived to make her Christmas complete. And certainly the presence of two rakes must make the party more entertaining for those who watch.


A Lady


Dear Mr. Clemens,

We have enjoyed the company of Miss E.B., a perfectly lovely young lady, educated in the best schools, and an invited guest of the duchess. Yes, her father is in trade, and she is of the Hebrew race and faith. But what of that? She is a fine person, and I am proud to call her friend.

On Christmas Day, the household welcomed the arrival of Mr. A.H. It was very romantic. He has been on a mission for the government, carrying some unnamed supplies to our hero in Spain, the Duke of Wellington himself, and rode through the night directly from London to be here.

When one sees him watching Miss B., one cannot doubt his reasons, though the lady herself seems resistant. Will he have the reward he deserves?

In hope, I remain,

A Lady


Dear Mr. Clemens,

The Dowager Viscountess S. is very loud in her comments on others. But will the houseparty ever find out why she arrived alone at the party, without her daughter and her step-son? Perhaps her constant barrage of criticism is a smokescreen for scandal in her own family.

Certainly, one can ignore her unpleasant hints about Mr. and Miss W. Mr. W. is a war hero, and his sister a woman of excellent character, and a confirmed spinster.

Perhaps the Viscountess’s viputeration arises from the marked interest that Mr. W. showed in Miss S. earlier in the year, but they have not been seen together for several months, and we are given to understand that he has been in the north learning his duties as his uncle’s heir.

But the house party finishes after tomorrow’s ball, so perhaps we shall never find out the truth of it.

Yours sincerely,

A Lady