Part I: Chapter I -- A Wedding, Two Ladies, And a Diary
From the diary of Helen Evelyn
4th August 1811
I am a married woman!. At last I can say what I like and do what I like with George!. Whoever said that love is patient (my mother actually) is wrong, never before in my life have I been so outwardly and inwardly impatient. True I was quite happy being betrothed but like many a bride to be I had worries; will he always love me?, will something prevent the wedding?, will a big wedding be too much hassle?. It is amazing how the most confident woman, who knows she is loved, can turn into a bundle of nerves and insecurities just because (in her eyes at least) she is marrying the most perfect man in the world.
Thinking back on the past six months I realise how fruitless all that anxiety was, but at the time my parents were slightly against George as he is not a peer. My parents are NOT snobs, but like every other parent they believe it their child's right to marry as high as is possible.
Anyhow I shall not dwell, for I was not jilted and he loves me even more than he once did. His love for me is evident to me by his kisses, evident to Caroline by his presents and obvious to the world by his generous settlement. Also (it must be owned) that after today big weddings are preferable to smaller ones, even if the only reason is that a big wedding means that people will remember it pleasantly for years to come.
The best part of a wedding for the guests is the wedding gown. My wedding gown was of white muslin, trimmed with silver braid and a little lace. My bonnet was a profusion of white feathers and roses. Everybody told me how elegant it was, everyone that is but Caroline. Caroline said there was a lack of lace, satin and peers.
Caroline was my bridesmaid, but only just!. I actually did not want any other bridesmaids apart from my dearest friend from school Anne. But then George suggested that his cousin Georgiana should be one, so I agreed for an even number of bridesmaids. But lo and behold!, no sooner had word spread about my new bridesmaid than Caroline, who had been presented with me, dropped a not so subtle hint that she should be a bridesmaid too. I agreed even though I knew that (in the words of my maid) Caroline had "set her cap" at Georgiana's brother Mr. Darcy.
Anyhow back to the wedding and my favourite part, the groom. George wore blue coat, said his vows beautifully and made my heart fill with pride. The wedding breakfast was held at my old home, but all I could think of was my new home and new life. I am sure it was a good wedding breakfast, I can not really remember (my thoughts being elsewhere) but I do have a dim recollection of George trying to lead Caroline away from a melancholy Georgiana.
Then suddenly I found myself in the hall, dressed defiantly, saying my goodbyes. My emotional parents, my family and George's family all said their farewells, the only ones left were the bridesmaids. Quite unexpectedly Caroline embraced me and asked me to write. I was surprised but in my happiness resolved to be a good friend to her (despite her failings). I promised all my bridesmaids a present from Brighton and stepped into the carriage for the Richmond to London journey. Having now arrived in Arlington Street I have but one worry.
TO LADY CATHRINE DE BURGH, ROSINGS PARK, HUNSFORD, KENT
5th August 1811
In reply to your letter of the 1st, I am writing to you of the marriage between your nephew and my niece. My brother held the wedding celebrations at his house, which is pleasant but not large, and the bridal pair were married at the church. The bride wore silver and white. You will be pleased to hear that lace was worn by the bridal party but not satin I am afraid. There was a lack of peers, just the bride's uncles, the Duke of Northumberland and the Earl of Houghton. The bridesmaids were your niece Georgiana, the Hon. Miss Scott and Miss Bingley (too conspicuous by far in orange satin). The bridesmaids wore red bonnets and red flowered spencers. The bride was happy but too distracted by her own thoughts to be attentive as she should, she is everything that one could hope for than her niece, you will not be disappointed when you meet her. The bridesmaids, however, were not very satisfactory. Miss Darcy seemed very melancholy, not really how a bridesmaid should look on her cousin's wedding day, she seemed to be suffering from a broken heart but I must be wrong as she meets nobody. Miss Scott was also far too conspicuous and was flirting with every eligible man, and every ineligible man too! Miss Bingley although less of a flirt, and just as rich as Miss Scott seemed to be completely ignoring the bride until the very end. The bridal pair after a sumptuous wedding breakfast left for London where they spent the wedding night. Today they will travel to Brighton for the honeymoon, afterwards they will travel to Oakdown.
In reply to the enquiry about connections and prospects, I can assure you that they are good. Your new niece has a dowry of £50,000 and your nephew has settled £1,500 a year pin money and a jointure of £3,000 a year. Her father's family will be well known to you. Her mother is the granddaughter of the Earl of Houghton and a Miss Masters. Miss Masters brought a great fortune, which was unfortunately acquired by trade, but the taint is slight upon Helen. Her maternal aunt also married an Earl. Income and connections will guarantee your nephew's place within society. There is unfortunately a great number of daughters born to both families.
However, I will conclude with my brother's salutations and my wish that your daughter's health will improve. Perhaps you should go to Ramsgate.
Lady Susan Aubrey
To: Lady Susan Aubrey, Mount Street, Mayfair, London
8th August 1811
I am grateful to you for your letter but there is a disgraceful lack of detail in your description of the wedding and the bride. It is of no importance however, as I intend to invite them to Rosings in April. From what I can gather the wedding was rather shabby; no lace!, no satin!. When my aunt marries she will have lace in excess and much nobler bridesmaids. I attribute the attentiveness of Miss Bingley to her low origins. The Bingley fortune was acquired in trade, I accept my nephew's friendship with Bingley as he has an easy manner and his low origins must be a great comfort to Darcy's sense of superiority. But that my nephew George should have HER at the wedding is beyond reason, I find it especially indelicate considering Darcy was also at the wedding and that baggage flatters herself the next mistress of Pemberley.
As to the behaviour of my niece Georgiana, there can be no excuse. Since her father's death she has had the most attentive of brothers and cousins as her guardians, and yet she is sullen. I believe that Georgiana has been spoilt to such a degree that she is insensible of propriety and duty. She never visits me, she never writes and when she meets me in London she makes no effort at conversation. It grieves me to think how well Anne would have played the piano and how illuminating she would have been if she had but Georgiana's health! However, I have heard that fortune hunters abound in Ramsgate and it would not surprise me that during her visit there Georgiana's affections had been trifled with. Fortunately, Georgiana is safe from such threats as her companion. Mrs. Young is with her always.
I am quite content with your information on your niece's prospects and of course their place in society is assured, I do not need telling that! I am thankful for the presence of the Duke at the wedding as it leads a dignity to their marriage. It is these small attentions to detail on my part that have excited the admiration of the county, and my clergyman, Mr. Collins, to remark "That loss of dignity in a peer's daughter is irretrievable". You must own that I am always conscious of my dignity!
Lady Catherine De Burgh
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