In my last blog post I found letters which contained words of love but with a tinge of sadness. It became clear that the collection of letters from Viscount Adam Duncan-Huldane to his fiancée Julia Cavendish Philips needed a blog post of their own. This one comes with a health warning courtesy of our online catalogue: "Unless specified the contents are purely personal, with much use of pet names." Apart from the pet names however these letters are rather entertaining, witty and contain fascinating glimpses into life in the House of Lords in the 19th century.
The letters span the period 1838-1839 in the lead up to the couple's wedding on 23 March 1839. The Viscount signs off his letters as "Duncan" and was the 2nd Earl of Camperdown, a nobleman and a politician. Julia was the daughter of Sir George Philips, 2nd Baronet, a whig politician. Julia was the sister of Louisa who featured in my previous post. They later had three children, one of which was Julia who became Lady Abercoromby , lady in waiting to Queen Victoria and had the honour of painting the first portrait of the Queen for the National Portrait Gallery.
On 22nd July 1838 Duncan writes to Julia on her leaving:
I ought to have acknowledged your last look but my heart thought it was to go with you and jumped into my throat and Adam Duncan-Haldane commonly called xc. Xc.
...The crab the owl and the tortoise unite with me in sending their love and each a kiss which plan to my account. As for me what would I not give to wander where my young companions dwell. Fair thee well – & fair thee well – Your very truly & affectionately devoted devil Duncan— DR 198/58
Duncan's style of writing is very imaginative and full of mischief, in this letter from 25 July 1838 he writes more about the crab and describes Julia as "creechur" which seems to be one of the aforementioned pet names. It seems there have been some health problems for both of them but his description of such troubles are packed with personality.
I thought you would have some difficulty about measuring my clown feet, but the difficulty is solved. I shall have funny slippers – so I will – and such is my Royal will and pleasure – so I desire you....no no. Pray pray make my slippers accordingly – slippers put me in mind of SLIPS. “Walk fast in snow. In frost walk slow. And still as you go. Tread on your toe Where Rain and cold come both together – sit by the fire and spare shoe leather.” There’s advice for you!! This is a slight return for the valuable manuscript on the back of your letter this morning. If the crab had not been sitting by my side. __ Crab which is in high favour – I should at once have supposed his claw had directed your letter for the writing is all walking backwards. I won’t apologise like you for not talking about myself I am afraid I chatter about nothing else. Though I have got no cold. So the cold has turned poor Jui. Yellow and brown – nay it turned your mamma blue? Pray turn back again Madam to your former colour with as little delay as possible – for you will not find a prettier colour among all the ones of the rainbow – The Ghost of a departed box on the ear has just made my ears tingle for writing such stuff. ... You say your writing to me every day would be too much of a good thing....In your letter: “you may write as often as you like” – for MAY read SHOULD . This is right for it is so in my grammar and I cannot find the word MAY used by a lady in my Matrimonial Dictionary. I never said your letter was shorter than my one. What I said was your first letter was perfect. .. So you did not get a letter after all on Monday. It is fortunate that “It’s absence made your heart grow fonder” (not of apple tart I hope) I can assure you it was not for want of my being in a proper bustle (without any padding) to execute your commands. Now don’t kill my joy – for I am up in my stirrups at the prospect of seeing you – sooner – sooner – sooner. I am in such spirits at the idea of seeing you that I have no time to think of anyone else. ... Your ever being truly Duncan
As well as some amusing doodles the letters contain snippets of life in the House of Lords including speeches about the Corn Law and visiting French beauties:
In the House of Lords...The Duke of Wellington was a little the worse for wear in personal appearance but spoke his mind most manfully. When he sat down he was obliged to wrap himself in a waterproof cloak to keep himself warm and his...white eyebrows contrasted with his brown macintosh made him look very funny. Lord Melbourne made a speech that said nothing and I am afraid too little about the Corn Laws to keep him long in office. Lord Brougham made a most powerful speech and said all Lord Melbourne ought to have said and a good deal more besides against everything and everybody except himself.— DR198/66
There was a great French beauty newly imported in the House of Lords last Tuesday. Every body raves about her. I did not see her but I am told where I am standing I could not help seeing her so I suppose I did not remark her, which is very likely for I dare say I was thinking of a far prettier person at Weston.— DR198/69
Finally my favourite letter is probably the rather comic tale of an unfortunate accident which happened on the road. This selection of letters are a fascinating insight into the lives and personalities of those writing and though I came to them through searching for love they also contain so many other themes and topics of politics, society and a time when everything was changing. Letters and documents such as these can lead researchers in so many directions and far away from their starting point and there is always more interesting information to unearth! You can search through documents such as these in our Reading Room and find out what we have on our online catalogue. Meanwhile enjoy the saga of Berger's wig...
...Poor Berger got on the step of the carriage to desire the postboy to pass a coach – he slipped off his feet and fell into the road fortunately he has not hurt himself badly. ...but the most doleful part of the performance was that his wig was left on the road and Cannon laughed and apologised to him alternately all the rest of the journey for poor Berger’s dignity was sadly discomposed ... He recovered his wig and put it on the wrong side foremost before he answered any questions— DR198/65 Bath November 1838