(An original story copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace; all rights reserved) [(1) story cover, left]
[From time to time, I will illustrate my story characters with: Emma Hamilton as Lady Madeline Sinclair, Richard Armitage as Lord Christian Blount Earl of Sussex, and others as noted.]
Authors Content Note: “Encouragement” is a frothy love story with sometimes humorous and sometimes dramatic themes of love and relationships. It will mostly be at the PG and PG-13 movie levels. Specific chapters or passages may have a further rating of: D for dramatic emotions, and LS for love scenes that are tenderly sensuous and not explicit. And I will rate the chapters accordingly. If you are unable or unwilling to attend a movie with the ratings that I provide for a chapter, then please do not read that chapter. This is my disclaimer. And as is my habit, I will summarize the previous chapter’s events at the beginning of each chapter.
“Encouragement”, Ch. 1 (PG): Grandmama’s Courtship Advice
Lady Madeline Lucretia Sinclair–Lady Maddie to her family and intimate friends–is a young lady of seventeen about to embark upon her first London Season. Lady Maddie possesses a pleasing petiteness of height so favored by middling to tall men, copper flecked silky brunette hair, a cheerful face when smiling, and she enjoys robust health with a figure with pleasing womanly attributes so favored by gentleman, and curvy hips that show promise for child bearing. Yet her youthful beauty is not all of her charm. She is a young lady who knows her own mind—or thinks that she does.
And in Lady Madeline’s time of 1816 Regency England [(2)], women and young ladies have to rely upon men for everything—their lifestyle, their protection, their permission to do … anything—or the ladies learn how to get around them. And having a man—or husband as they prefer to be referred to—is de rigeur. Husbands proliferate and are as plentiful as blades of grass. And yet, as with most lawns, not all grass is equal. Some grass is more pleasing than others. And nascent London society debutante Lady Madeline Sinclair promises herself to find a very pleasing husband.
Her wants in a husband are many and varied—that he be charming, handsome, older than she but not too old, comfortably situated, likes dancing, tall, not having alarming sideburns like her Papa, well respected, perhaps titled, romantic, have his own home that he is willing to allow her to redecorate, generous with her pin money and charities alike, supports and is prideful of her work for the less fortunate, does not gamble nor drink to excess, and is amiable in all things, etc. But at the top of Lady Madeline’s list of marital requirements in a husband is love—she for him, and he for her. And she will settle for nothing less than having a love match. So it is to the London marriage mart [(3)] that she goes filled with yearnings for a good match by her late mother and sage husband hunting advice from her mother’s mother, Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott.
In fact, when Lady Madeline was in a quandary as to one how goes about eliciting the attentions of the right man as a potential husband, Lady Madeline Lucretia Sinclair’s very proper and much esteemed maternal grandmother Lady Knott advised her that all a gentleman needs from a lady to offer for her is a little encouragement from that lady. But then again, it is encouragement that a lady must refrain from lest an unsuitable or undesirable gentleman presses his suit upon her. However therein lies the crux of Lady Madeline’s dilemma. How does a lady become sufficiently acquainted with a gentleman in order to discern if she wants to encourage him–without first seeking him out for conversation or dancing, and without seeming to encourage him before her mind is made up? And when her heart has chosen, but his has not, how does she help him find his heart’s desire in her? These will be the riddles that Lady Madeline must find the answers to for her happily ever after.
Lady Madeline Sinclair having made her entrance to the ballroom behind her grandmother this very chilly January evening, stands behind her now seated grandmother and gazes about the guests in attendance with a mixture of awe, glee, and some trepidation—for she is on a mission, to find a husband for herself. Lady Madeline’s gown is a delightful ivory with delicate lace and seed pearl embellishments edging her neckline and bodice in a most charming way for her youthful seventeen year old style and her still blossoming décolletage [(4) right].
And wherein unmarried ladies must where light and near white colors signaling their purity, Lady Madeline dares to flaunt convention this evening–in her own small way–by having had her ladies maid weave a slim but decidedly pink silk ribbon through her loosely upswept tresses at her crown at the back, with her unhindered wavy auburn hair flowing down her back. She feels oh so minxish, but still safe from overt censure from the society matrons in attendance because the ribbon can only be seen by someone walking behind her–since her having her pink ribbon on display at the front would have been considered outre at best and scandalously shocking at worst. And to be even more careful of malicious matrons well past their ability to wear pink, Lady Madeline has kept close to the outer perimeter of the room, gracefully gliding almost sideways but always with a charming smile.
As I scan the ballroom of my good friend Lady Lavendar Chartwell’s debut party–my having been spared being the first lamb to the slaughter this season, since my presentation ball is next week–I notice the clusters of noble and eligible gentleman that congregate around the lavishly appointed ballroom. The cost of the beeswax candles alone must be very dear for though it is night, the room is ablaze as if the midday sun were shining through the windows. Indeed, I would be wilting but for Winter raging outside having thinned some of the very great throng invited to tonight’s ball due to their concern about travel this night. But this good lighting affords me clear viewing as I observe the men who are possibly seeking wives–the better able I will hopefully be to discern if they are eligible and interesting to me.
And my dear Grandmama Lady Lucretia Beckham Knott advised me that there is a distinction between the two groups of men with whom I might become acquainted–because titled gentlemen of pecuniary circumstances are not always considered eligible if their intentions are not honourable, and wealthy men without titles are rarely considered noble, in spirit, if not in fact. A man graced with a long established title–and its attendant worthy connections–might oft times be tarnished by a dissolute manner with dissipated habits, though not necessarily. Conversely, a man who has had to make his fortune is sometimes generally believed to possess less than sterling qualities with regard to his obtaining rather than inheriting said wealth. However, a man of independent means being the second generation after the wealth was obtained is perfectly acceptable–even without possessing a noble title. And though a title is usually to be preferred, wealth can sometimes cushion one’s life most agreeably.
Yet it is really too provoking that some of the most intriguingly handsome gentlemen in the ballroom are considered to be ineligible by virtue of their lack of title or their lack of funds. Such that I feel that the former gentlemen could surely invent a titled antecedent from some obscure duchy in Europe where no one travels, nor could refute their claim. And the latter pecuniary noble gentlemen could perhaps aid in that endeavor for a small fee, thus refilling their coffers without being reduced to doing any real work that they might feel would sully their ancient titles. Or, the poor but titled gentleman could look in my direction, I inwardly giggle. I have a tidy dowry should I find myself a titled but impoverished gentleman whom I should fall in love with and wish to marry.
As to a lady’s origins and prospects among my competitor debutantes, my loving and wise Grandmama believes that any difficulties of another lady’s lesser dowry can be overcome by a pleasing countenance and a bright and cheery disposition–as well as strong family connections to recommend the lady. The inverse Grandmama also holds to be true–that even the plainest and most boring noble young lady will rise in a potential suitor’s estimation by virtue of her sizeable dowry and her family connections.
With handsome but poor titled gentlemen abounding, they must look to procure ladies with handsome dowries to become their wives and thus save their landed legacies. Why, I declare that the great noble families of England would have died out long ago were they left to the men who seem to keep losing all their money–because ladies with good dowries always want marriage and a family. And marriage and family are the cornerstones of any good dynasty–and many a bad dynasty if truth be told. Well, except for the happy noble spinsters with legacy settlements giving them their freedom to choose their way in life—who are not to be confused with the unhappy noble spinsters who must depend upon the kindness of their relatives. In any case, I aspire not to be any kind of spinster. I will be married and in love.
And I, Lady Madeline Sinclair, have marriage prospects somewhere in the nebulous middle ground. I am neither overly plain nor overly comely due to what I believe to be my unremarkable face—though my dear Grandmama would disagree with my harsh assessment. But I am realistic, upon my face is found a nose, two eyes and two cheeks, and a somewhat pouty chin that could be on anybody. Yet, my face has the good sense to be matched with my modestly rounded body that is rendered more favorable due to my pleasingly blossoming bosoms creating the optical illusion of my having a womanly curvy hour glass figure–and I have a pleasingly plump hour glass figure that I am told men so admire. Additionally, I have a not unsubstantial 20,000 pound dowry sponsored by my dear sweet Grandmama, as well as my having my noble connections to recommend me. The Knott’s have always distinguished ourselves in Parliament in the House of Lords. And there is the rumor of a royal service that we rendered centuries ago that has never fully been explained to me. Hmm.
And though I find that I am rather bereft of speech when around men not of my family–since I have lived in the shelter of our country estate Watford Hill for most of my seventeen years–I am determined to exert myself this season in order to attain my goal of finding a loving husband. Now mind you, I do not consider myself to be so vapid as to have marriage as my singular goal–and babies would be a few years off were I to wed this season. I am only seventeen and I want to do something helpful for others—and to see more of life than that which transpires between my country home and London. Yet my Grandmama desires that my hoped for marriage should also afford me enhanced social standing–by which I mean to further and support of worthy causes for social betterment, with children born into poverty being my chief focus—their sustenance, health, and education. Children are so precious, they should always be championed!
Grandmama would be only marginally scandalized if she knew that my interests tended to persons less fortunate than myself—for she has a soft heart as well. But ever since my ladies maid Anne Trask revealed to me her reasons for entering the service of my family was because she could support her baby sister of whom she had guardianship after their parents had died of sickness, my compassion for her flowered. That my parents had allowed this unusual occurrence–of engaging a servant of theirs who had what could turn out to be a distracting baby sibling–was Trask’s salvation. I was keenly aware that but for her service with us, Trask and her baby sister would have languished in poverty and died–or she might have felt forced to prostitute herself to buy the babe food and shelter. Shocking!
I have come to realize that one’s circumstances in life are very fragile–the accident of one’s birth and social connections making the difference between living and dying. And I believe that those of us with the means to make our lives pleasant and worthwhile should also be about trying to prevent others dying or being exploited. Of course, I am perhaps being a tad melodramatic–as is the case with most seventeen year olds–but I feel keenly about such things. And I will not let my future husband dissuade me from helping others. And it will be even better if my husband shares in my hopes and dreams.
Though I would like to marry a gentleman–such as a squire like my Papa or even a Baron with a small country estate–I might be obliged to look further afield with regard to second sons who might have taken up an agreeable profession. Perhaps someone of the clergy would do as my suitor–as long as they did not give long boring sermons that I would be forced to listen to more than once. Another suitable suitor profession might be a teacher at university–though, certainly not one who likes to feel superior to others because he knows Greek and Latin, when I dare say that any babe of those countries could speak rings around him. Yet I am so excessively fond of the countryside that a gentleman squire with horses and pastures and lambs would be quite bucolic and perfect for me–though the stench, from the animals, would definitely be a drawback and impel me to Town for frequent visits. Though London has its own smells, too—which a lady refrains from commenting upon. So I will restrain myself, for onc.e
And yet I fear that I might not be the one to make my choice for a husband, since it is understood that ladies must wait to be offered for. And therefore ladies must make themselves appear agreeable in all things to a prospective husband–liking his interests, catering to his every whim, hinting that life with her will be heaven on Earth, etc. And yet, would I want my hoped for husband to gain a rude awakening after our marriage were I to change my thoughts and behaviors to contrary to the woman whom he thought that he had married? Of course not! He would be shocked—and might feel rightly duped. So despite my Grandmama’s advice to temper revealing my thoughts in conversations to prospective suitors–her suggesting that I keep my conversation to safe topics such as the weather, the ballroom’s ornamentation, and fashion–I resolve to be who I am and to express my feelings and opinions honestly.
And I would also like to marry someone for whom I feel at least a fond affection, if not a very great love. Afterall, love may grow in time. But if my own choosing is allowed, I would want to marry for a great love. Yet if no one shares my interests–nor returns my fond affection? Then I will reluctantly have to be content with being a spinster. For I will not marry just for comfort nor merely for convenience. And with my Grandmama’s dowering me–and also her legacy that I am to inherit upon her death–I will be a woman of independent means.
Feeling the gentle nudge from my Grandmama’s lace covered fan upon my lower arm, I turn to face her in the now becoming rather over warm ballroom for my friend Lady Lavendar’s presentation ball—more guests seemed to have arrived–as we are seated along a perimeter wall affording us a very good view of the dancers and other attendees, and keeping my pink ribbon out of view.
Lady Madeline: “Yes, Grandmama?” I ask her sweetly.
Afterall, Grandmama is being so kind and generous to have me stay at her London townhouse with her and for her to supply me with a new wardrobe of ball gowns and morning dresses, and a riding habit, and such for my first season. Funds at home are a little tight just now as my country squire father has recently spent a small fortune on securing a commission in the army for my second eldest brother John Sinclair. Before her death three years ago, Mama had urged Papa to wait a year because our estate income was down due to poorer crop yields–but Papa would not hear of it. My eldest brother Edward will succeed my father one day, so he helps Papa manage the estates for now. And Edward placated Mama at the end with assurances that all would be in good order–with my brother John’s military campaigns bound to net him financial gain which would offer him the opportunity to help the family.
Lady Lucretia: “It is so very warm here tonight, please be a dear and fetch me some ices.” I smile at my sweet and obliging granddaughter. I just hope that Dear Maddie will find a husband who matches her sincerity–and her station in life.
After my granddaughter leaves to seek refreshments in the dining room to comply with my request for ices, a gentleman approaches me where I am sitting and he bows to me and I nod my head to him in acknowledgement. He is Lord Christian Blount –the thirty year old recently inherited Earl of Sussex, and more particularly styled as Lord Sussex. A more handsome, well connected, nor fiercely disdainful man of a distinguished family of ancient pedigree does not exist in all of Christendom [(5) right].
Lord Christian is also an excellent prize on the marriage mart—with his title, land holdings, and family connections, albeit their finances are a bit straitened at the moment. It is therefore a pity that Lord Christian is well aware of his appeal and he mostly shuns these gatherings. That is one reason why I am so astonished to see him in attendance this evening. His handsome attire of a gold waistcoat and matching cravat under his black frock coat encasing his inestimably powerfully strong and broad shoulders. If only I were forty years younger, I would flirt with him myself.
Lord Christian: “Lady Knott, May I wish you felicitations upon your attendance tonight. If my grandmother had known you were intending to come, I might have been able to convince her to join me here tonight.”
Lady Lucretia: “Now Christy …” I use the affectionate nickname that my friend Lady Catherine Blount, the Dowager Countess of Sussex, uses for her grandson–a nickname that I gave him when he was in leading strings. This reminds him of my long association with his family in answer to his slightly chiding tone. “Were I to know of Lady Catherine’s interest in my attendance, I would have made my presence known to her. But I had not realized that she returned to London so soon after …” I let my thoughts trail off as Lord Christian’s face becomes more grim.
Lord Christian: “Yes, quite. My Grandmother is still in mourning for my grandfather’s passing but two months ago. And she has not returned to society, per se. But we are in town to present my younger sister Lady Elizabeth to society. She is just seventeen, you know. So my Grandmother is setting aside her bereavement for Lizzie’s sake. Grandmother is not paying calls, but I am certain that she would welcome you, were you to pay a call to her at some time this week.” I add hopefully–thinking that a visit from an old friend might cheer up my grandmother.
Lady Lucretia: “I am exceedingly desirous of renewing my acquaintance with the Dowager Countess of Sussex. Pray convey to her that I will visit her on the morrow–at 10 o’clock, if that will be convenient.” Lord Christian nods agreeably. “And I shall bring my granddaughter Lady Madeline Sinclair with me to meet your sister Lady Lizzie. The girls are of the same age–and with both being presented this season they have much in common.” And, I am well aware of Christy’s younger sister’s shyness–so much so that I am astonished her family was able to prevail upon her to make her debut.
Lord Christian: I nod my agreement. “Thank you, Lady Knott. Your visit will certainly be welcome. Your servant, My Lady.” Respectfully, I bow deeply to her and kiss her hand. Then in returning upright and turning to take my leave, I nearly collide with a small lady whose top of her head does not even reach my shoulders. “Oh! I beg your pardon, Madam!” I try to catch hold of her arms to prevent her from falling, but I only succeed in knocking a punch cup out of her hand–as it splatters and shatters to the parquet wood floor. “My deepest apologies!” I bow again.
Lady Maddie: “Oh! I should say so! You have made me spill one of my ices!” I let out my annoyance to the granite mountain torso before me. At the moment, all I see is a gold waistcoat and a very broad chest.
Lady Lucretia: “Maddie Dear, please speak more softly. This is Lord Christian Blount–the Earl of Sussex–and my good friend Lady Catherine’s grandson.”
Cradling my remaining ices cup next to my youthful bosom, I look up into the face of the most handsome man I have ever seen–his scowl making him look even more so. Then I remember how clumsy he was in knocking one of the ices cups out of my hand. And much like I do with my elder brothers, I scold him.
Lady Maddie: “Oh! Hello! But you are rather a large and awkward fellow.” I say in brash annoyance. My grandmother gasps audibly. “You must take greater care not to bash into anyone else or there will be no ice cups left for refreshments.” The man looks at me in surprise, and then scowls again. But he is so large and imposing that he must have had similar accidents in the past. “My apologies, Grandmama. Here is your ices cup, at least. My treat is making a puddle on the floor next to the shattered glass punch cup.” I look at it with dismay.
Lord Christian: My brows knit together. “Permit me to fetch you another ices cup, My Lady.” I bow quickly and walk away before more formal introductions can be finished between myself and this rude chit. I also draw a footman’s attention with a flick of my hand to the ices puddle and glass shards on the floor–for it to be cleaned up.
After Lord Christian leaves, Lady Lucretia admonishes her granddaughter.
Lady Lucretia: “Maddie! You simply must learn to curb that sharp tongue of yours, or you will never appeal to anyone as a wife.”
Lady Maddie: “I am sorry Grandmama. But Lord Christian was a clumsy oaf in knocking the punch cup out of my hand.” I pout. “Besides, he is too handsome to ever look at me again. And he looks quite old.” At least thirty years, I think. Yet his strong jaw and noble nose are the stuff of many a marital fantasy husband that I have.
Having silently walked up behind Lady Lucretia’s granddaughter–whose name I only know as Maddie–I reach around her with a new punch cup of ices. I notice that her hair is wildly falling about her back in auburn waves. I look more closely. And I see that she also has a non-regulation pink ribbon in her hair. That will never do for the society matrons in attendance. They will pounce on her like a cat on a bowl of cream.
Lord Christian: “My Lady, your ices.”
Lady Maddie: “Oh!” Startled, now I nearly knock the ices cup out of his hand. But he holds firmly onto the cup with his large hand.
My Grandmama merely smiles at my flustered state as I stand intimately within Lord Christian’s surrounding arms, standing transfixed upon his handsome countenance that is barely a few inches from my own face. And he is annoyingly smirking at me–with a raised eyebrow as well.
Lady Lucretia: “Take the punch cup from Lord Sussex, Maddie Dear.” I sigh and shake my head. Perhaps I should have let Dear Maddie wait a year for her presentation ball—in order to give me time to smooth over any of her rough edges.
Lady Maddie: “Uh. Thank you, Lord Sussex.”
Lord Christian: “My pleasure, MiLady.” Then I stare at the little chit. She is barely out of the school room if her grandmother is telling the truth about her age. No wonder her manners are atrocious.
As I survey Lord Christian more closely, I take a small spoonful of the lemon ices that he just gave me–and I swallow its delicious coolness to calm my nervousness around this tall (check) and impressive looking titled fellow (check, check). Hmmm. As my first husband candidate, Lord Sussex is not half bad. In point of fact, Lord Christian is quite handsome (check).
Lady Maddie: “My! That is refreshing!” I smile to my Grandmama and then to the tall good looking Lord Christian standing next to me. I know that I must seem like a moronic school girl, but he is very swoon worthy. Except, I am not the type of lady who swoons—unless I am overly heated.
Lady Lucretia: “Maddie Dear, may I finally introduce you to Lord Christian Blount, the Earl of Sussex. He is the eldest grandson of my dear friend Lady Catherine Blount, the Dowager Countess of Sussex, whom we will visit tomorrow morning. Lord Sussex, this is my granddaughter, Lady Madeline Sinclair.”
Lord Christian’s impeccable manners cause him to bow and then lift Maddie’s gloved fingers to his lips for an air kiss. Thankfully, my granddaughter responds with a graceful curtsy.
Lord Christian: “My family and I look forward to seeing you both in the morning, Lady Knott. But now I must beg my leave from you. Late hours are not my habit.” I bow and leave the ladies and the party.
Lady Maddie: “Hmmm. Late hours? It is only just past midnight now, Grandmama. I wonder if he needs his beauty sleep or if he is so old that he needs a nap?”
Lady Lucretia: “Lady Madeline Lucretia Sinclair! Neither is the case, I am for certain. Lord Christian is a man in his prime–and his family spends most of their time at their country estate, and they keep country hours. Tomorrow morning when you meet them, you will be on your best behavior Madeline.” I hope.
Oh Dear! I know that Grandmama is vexed with me when she says my name full out. But can I help it if My Lord Earl Granite Mountain of Sussex is so clumsy? I cannot–just as surely as I cannot help thinking how wonderfully handsome he is. And we are to pay a call upon his grandmother tomorrow. If she is anything like my grandmother, I will be shaking in my slippers.
Lady Maddie: “Oh Grandmama, must we?” I whine.
I am shy around other society grandmothers as well, it seems. Then I think about my granite mountain. Sighhh! And I wonder if I will see him at his grandmother’s when we visit tomorrow? And I giggle about how he might wreak havoc with the refreshments that will undoubtedly be served.
As I walk away from Lady Knott and her urchin of a granddaughter, I am quite convinced that ladies who say whatever comes to mind, as she does, and who incorrectly wear pink ribbons are a plague to men’s souls. Who is she to say that I bashed into her, when it was she who crashed into me? If she had taken a breath or two, then perhaps I might have had time to view her in a more favorable light, perhaps my even thinking that she looks charming—when her mouth is closed, and no sound is emitted. But her hair is magnificent! An auburn curtain of silky tendrils that I would love to run my fingers through—if she were not so young and close to Lizzie’s age. And yet. No, no, she is too young for me. And forty years or more of her behavior like this every day as my wife? It would shorten my life considerably.
To be continued with Chapter 2
The References for Ch. 1 by Gratiana Lovelace, September 03, 2016 (Post #962)
1) The “Encouragement” story cover is an image representing our young heroine Lady Madeline Sinclair. The image is the young Emma Hart in a straw hat at 17 years old in painted by George Romney in 1782; she was later to marry Sir William Hamilton in 1791 and become Emma Lady Hamilton, was found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma,_Lady_Hamilton#/media/File:George_Romney_-_Emma_Hart_in_a_Straw_Hat.jpg ; For more about Emma Lady Hamilton, nee Emma Hart/Amy Lyon please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma,_Lady_Hamilton
2) Regency England is a period of time from 1811 to 1820, for more, please visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regency_era
3) The London Season euphemistically known as the “marriage mart” served as the primary social season from January to July when nobles searched for potential spouses; for more visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ton_(le_bon_ton)
4) Lady Madeline Sinclair image is the young Emma Hart as painted by George Romney (Grati fixed some of the image’s scratches), who would one day become Emma Lady Hamilton , was found at http://www.pcosta.net/ima/emma_circe.jpg
5) Lord Christian Blount, Earl of Sussex image is Richard Armitage as John Thornton in BBC’s 2004 drama North & South, epi2 (17h08m56s137Dec2213) GratianaLovelaceCapManip1-crop-brt