The Tattler received this dispatch from Cambridge some time ago. We reprint it to coincide with sale of the fifth edition of Poetry by the Female Authors of Ancient Greece.
The weather here turned ugly last week; strong winds and icy rain made the streets miserable. The Ladies’ Sewing and Charitable Project Association met in spite of that at Abigail Clarke’s home. Abigail, agog with news, clearly cared little for the niceties of such events, which may explain why her soda bread, dry as wood, had little taste.
The tea (a fine oolong) had scarcely found its way into every cup before she burst out with, “You will never guess what She has done now.”
One did not need to ask who “She” was. The main topic this past year has been the doings of Lady Georgiana Hayden, in residence at Helsington Cottage, an unnatural creature if ever I saw one. When her great aunt sat in residence she kept to herself and provided little fodder for our little discussions. At first the niece did the same, but that was before her true eccentricity exhibited itself for all to see.
Of course, the ladies could hardly wait to hear what had happened now, but Abigail would draw out her story for effect. “Well, you’ve heard about her writing, have you not?” she began. Well, of course we had. The unnatural creature claims to study Greek. It’s no wonder she’s never married if you ask me. No man would want a wife who spouted Plato. Can you imagine if she did that in the marriage bed?
“Get on with it Abigail,” Molly Harding urged, giving voice to all of us. “What has happened now?”
“Last week I heard she petitioned to use the Wren Library at Trinity College,” Eliza Barlowe sniffed. “As if they would admit a woman to that place.”
“Woman she may be,” Abigail intoned, drawing attention back to herself, “But lady she is not. My Ernest told me…” Here she dropped her voice so we all had to lean in. She looked around at each of us to make sure we were attentive. How could we not be? “She approached one of the fellows in his premises.”
I can tell you every woman in that room sat back, stunned. I demanded more information. “Who?” I dared not ask why she went there. Some things are not fit for ladies’ conversation.
“Watterson. He sent her on her way fast enough. She asked for tutoring! Can you imagine such a thing? She may be a duke’s daughter but asking a fellow of a great university for private lessons is, is—“ She sputtered so bad that she couldn’t finish. She didn’t need to.
After a moment Abigail pulled herself together and added, “That Hayden woman is no better than she should be, mark my words. She reads Greek? Who really believes that?”
I would have pointed out that my husband, sole proprietor of one of the better bookstores—all of Cambridge knows Groghan’s Scholarly Bookshop—told me she orders highly inappropriate books and manuscripts. He only services her order because, after all, if he didn’t another store might. He makes sure she pays a pretty penny. I didn’t get a chance to say it.
The replies that might have been made died on our lips when Abigail’s maid of all work admitted two more ladies. Edwina Potter stood in the doorway looking like she’d eaten something foul. She didn’t come alone. Towering behind her stood Lady Georgiana Hayden herself, fire in her eyes and a frown on her face. No true lady would have eavesdropped! How Edwina thought that woman would be welcome I cannot say.
You may assume that the rest of the meeting, such as it was, lurched on with awkward silences. Molly Harding, ever the jolly molly, attempted greeting as false as it was cheerful. Edwina Potter attempted to introduce church matters, cooking, and sewing for the poor with little success.
The meeting came to a swift end. Next month we meet at Molly Harding’s lovely home. One can only hope for more superior fare than the cold tea and dry bread Abigail served, but perhaps equally titillating gossip. One doubts She will have the nerve to show her face.
Your devoted correspondent
Mrs. Virgil Groghan
Alas, poor Georgiana! She does eventually find a tutor who teaches her more than she bargained for.
About Dangerous Works
A little Greek is one thing; the art of love is another. Only one man ever tried to teach Lady Georgiana Hayden both. If it takes a scandalous affair to teach her what she needs to complete her work, she will risk it. Major Andrew Mallet returns to Cambridge a battle scarred hero and would be scholar. His last encounter with Georgiana cost him eleven years of his life. Determined to avoid her, he seeks work to heal his soul and make his scholar father proud. The work she offers risks his career, his peace of mind, and (worst of all) his heart. Can he protect himself from a woman who almost destroyed him? Does he want to?
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Soul Mate: http://www.soulmatepublishing.com/dangerous-works/
About Caroline Warfield
Bluestocking Belle, history buff, traveler, would-be adventurer, former tech writer and library technology professional, Caroline Warfield has now retired to the urban wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania, and divides her time between writing and seeking adventures with her grandbuddy and the prince among men she married.