© 2001/2/3 Note - for permission to quote from this extract or use for educational purposes, click here.
My Dear Maria,
When putting away some old letters I found one from you in which you say you should like to know the routine of my days at (inset) Charleton. I do not think I ever answered that letter, and in truth I had no routine more than every one must have who has a husband whose wishes she must consider, and who has a house, children and servants to look after; but if you care to know how I passed my time, I will tell you as far as my memory serves me, for it is now a very old story.
After leaving my room of a morning I had no fixed hour for anyhing but meals. We breakfasted at 9 and dined at 5 or 5.30 in early days. After breakfast I ordered dinner etc. etc., and John's father rode over his farm; then I possibly wrote letters or went into the garden to read my book. We rode out, or if J. was hunting, which was only twice a week, or he had gone up to one of the farms at Cupar, I either spent my time in the garden or drove out and visited my neighbours occasionally.
In summer evenings we used to have pleasant walks making plans for improvements. In winter, read, and I worked or played on the piano. We had often the doctor or the minister or sometimes a stray man would come in or send his groom before with saddlebags and come and stay a night or two, All visitors came for a night or two, either offering to come by invitation, but company dinners were unknown. The old Colonel and the sisters often came over from Coats, and we went there.
We used to go and visit for a couple of days in the country, for, as there were no railroads, few strangers came amongst us. My father and aunt and my brothers (when on leave) were very much with us, and Blair Adam was another home to the children in later days. In 1810 we spent a winter at my father's in London, when Eleonor was a year old, and after that I was never out of Scotland for thirteen years. We used to visit in E. Lothian and in Perthshire, and I think I have slept in most houses in Fife.
Sometimes these visits were stupid enough, but sometimes very pleasant - Dunikier, Balbirnie, Birkhill, Mount Melville, were the most frequent, and, nearer home, Largo, Kilconquhar, Gilston, but not much at Balcarres. Mr. Lindsay and John's father did not suit each other, but Mrs. L. and I visited.
In early days Sir Robert was the only inmate at Balcaskie, and a three o'clock dinner was rather a penitence - another three o'clock dinner at Innergellie. Mrs. Lumsden was our aunt, a dear, kind old lady but the laird was a very rough old soldier.
As the children grew up, of course, more of my time was occupied with them. They had their fixed hours with the governess, some of them rode, others walked with their governess, and then dinner hours were later, so they dined and early visitors lunched with them.
We twice had a house in Edinburgh for the winter. They had masters, and they always spent the evenings and all their spare time in the drawing-room, and often they danced in the evenings (always when grandpapa was with us), and the little things had a window with their own little table and toys so as to be my companions. John can tell you of these days.
Perhaps you will think I lived a very idle life. I did not. I read a great deal and worked, and as I had to spend many months on the sofa before some of the children came I could not get out much.
My uncle, Lord Kieth, paid us a visit, and the Flauhauts twice, and the Willoughbys offered, but a storm on the Forth stopped them. It was before the days of steamers. Lord Willoughby gave John's father shooting, so he used to go to the Highlands every year.
In '29 we went to Leamington for his health. He had always suffered much at times, and, as John knows, we latterly saw few people but my father, aunts and brothers, and a blessing they were to me.
It was always my father's desire to cherish the affection between my brothers and myself, and it has proved a comfort while they were spared, and John's father fully shared in it; and we tried to follow it out with our children, and I cannot tell you the blessing this has been to me for more than forty years now.
May you be so blessed and helped and strengthened as I have been under some very sore trials. God bless you.