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Trying to Make an Effort

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posted by alias raaen99 on Sunday 24th of October 2021 05:39:08 AM

Cavendish Mews is a smart set of flats in Mayfair where flapper and modern woman, the Honourable Lettice Chetwynd has set up home after coming of age and gaining her allowance. To supplement her already generous allowance, and to break away from dependence upon her family, Lettice has established herself as a society interior designer, so her flat is decorated with a mixture of elegant antique Georgian pieces and modern Art Deco furnishings, using it as a showroom for what she can offer to her well heeled clients. Today however we are at Glynes, the grand Georgian family seat of the Chetwynds in Wiltshire, and the home of Lettice’s parents, the presiding Viscount and Countess of Wrexham and the heir, their eldest son Leslie. Lettice is visiting her family home after receiving a strongly worded instruction from her father by letter to visit without delay or procrastination. Over luncheon, Lettice was berated by her parents for her recent decision to decorate the home of the upcoming film actress, Wanetta Ward. Lettice has a strained relationship with her mother at the best of times as the two have differing views about the world and the role that women have to play in it, and whilst receiving complaints about her choice of clients, Lettice was also scolded by mother for making herself unsuitable for any young man who might present as an eligible prospect. Although Lettice is undeniably her father’s favourite child, even he has been less than receptive to her recent choices of clients, which has put her a little out of favour with him. After Lady Sadie stormed out of the dining room over one of Lettice’s remarks, Viscount Wrexham implored his headstrong youngest daughter to try and make an effort with her mother, which is something she has been mulling over during her overnight stay. Now Lettice stands in the grand Robert Adam decorated marble and plaster entrance hall of her family home as she prepares to take her leave. Outside on the gravel driveway, Harris the chauffer has the Chetwynd’s 1912 Daimler ready to drive her to the Glynes village railway station for the one fifteen to London. She has bid farewell to her brother Leslie and her father. Now there is just one final member of the family whom she needs to say goodbye to. “Thank you Marsen.” Lettice remarks to the liveried first footman as he carries the last of Lettice’s luggage out to the Daimler. “I hope you have a safe journey back to London, My Lady.” Bramley, the Chetwynd’s butler remarks as he walks into the entrance hall to see Lettice off. “Thank you, Bramley,” Lettice replies. “Oh, I’m glad you are here. Do you know where my Mother might be?” Considering her question, the old butler looks to the upper levels and ceiling of the hall before replying knowingly. “Well, it is still mid-morning according to Her Ladyship, so I would imagine that she will be in the morning room. Shall I go and see, My Lady?” “No thank you Bramley. You have more than enough to do I’m sure, managing this old pile of bricks, without doing that for me. I’m perfectly capable of seeking her out for myself.” Turning on her heel, Lettice walks away from the butler, her louis heels echoing off the marble tiles around the entrance hall in her wake. “Mamma?” Lettice trills with false cheer as she knocks with dread on the walnut door to the morning room. When there is no reply to her call, she considers two possibilities: either her mother is still in a funk with her and not speaking to her after the scene in the dining room yesterday, or she isn’t in the morning room at all. Both are as likely as each other. Taking a deep breath, she turns the handle and opens the door, calling her mother again as she does so. The Glynes morning room is very much Lady Sadie’s preserve, and the original classical Eighteenth Century design has been overlayed with the comfortable Edwardian clutter of continual and conspicuous acquisition that is the hallmark of a lady of her age and social standing. China cabinets of beautiful porcelain line the walls. Clusters of mismatched chairs unholstered in cream fabric, tables and a floral chaise lounge, all from different eras, fill the room: set up to allow for the convivial conversation of the great and good of the county after church on a Sunday. The hand painted Georgian wallpaper can barely be seen for paintings and photographs in ornate gilded frames. The marble mantelpiece is covered by Royal Doulton figurines and more photos in silver frames. Several vases of flowers stand on occasional tables, but even their fragrance cannot smother her mother’s Yardley Lily of the Valley scent. Lady Sadie is nowhere to be seen but cannot have been gone long judging by her floral wake. Walking over to the Eighteenth Century bonheur de jour* that stands cosily in a corner of the room, Lettice snorts quietly with derision as she looks at the baby photograph of Leslie, her eldest brother, which stands in pride of place in a big silver frame on the desk’s serpentine top, along with a significantly smaller double frame featuring late Nineteenth Century younger incarnations of her parents. Lettice, her sister Lally and brother Lionel have been relegated to a lesser hanging space on the wall, as befits the children seen as less important by their mother. Everything has always been about Leslie as far as their mother is concerned, and always has been for as long as Lettice can remember. Lettice runs her fingers idly over several books sitting open on the desk’s writing space. There is a costume catalogue from London and a book on Eighteenth Century hairstyles. “Making plans for the Hunt Ball.” Lettice muses with a smile. It is then that she notices a much thicker book below the costume catalogue which has a familiar looking worn brown leather cover with a gilt tooled inlay. Moving the catalogue Lettice finds a copy of Debrett’s** “Oh Mamma!” she exhales with disappointment as she shakes her head. As she picks it up, she dislodges a partially written letter in her mother’s elegant copperplate hand from beneath it. Lettice knows she shouldn’t read it but can’t help herself as she scans the thick white paper embossed with the Wrexham coat of arms. Its contents make her face go from its usual creamy pallor to red with frustration. “Ahh! Lettice!” Lady Sadie’s crisp intonation slices the silence as she walks into the morning room and discovers her daughter standing over her desk. “Heading back to London, are we?” she continues cheerily as she observes her daughter dressed in her powder blue travelling coat, matching hat and arctic fox fur stole. She smiles as she indicates to the desk’s surface. “I’m making plans for my outfit for the Hunt Ball. I thought I might come as Britannia this year.” Lettice doesn’t answer her mother immediately as she continues to stare down at the letter next to her mother’s silver pen and bottle of ink. Remembering her father’s request, she draws upon her inner strength to try and remain civil as she finally acknowledges, “How appropriate that you should come as the all-conquering female warrior.” “Lettice?” Lady Sadie remarks quizzically. “Perhaps you might like to reconsider your choice of costume and come as my faerie godmother, since I’m coming as Cinderella.” “Oh, now that’s a splendid idea! Although I don’t…” “Or better yet, come as cupid instead!” Lettice interrupts her mother hotly, anger seething through her clipped tones as she tries to keep her temper. “Now you’re just being foolish, Lettice,” Lady Sadie replies as she walks towards her daughter, the cheerful look on her face fading quickly as she notices the uncovered copy of Debrett’s on her desk’s surface. “Not at all, Mamma! I think it’s most apt considering what you are trying to do.” “Trying to do? What on earth are you talking about Lettice?” the older woman chuckles awkwardly, her face reddening a little as she reaches her bejewelled right hand up to the elegant strand of collar length pearls at her throat. Lettice picks up the letter, dangling it like an unspoken accusation between herself and her mother before looking down at it and reading aloud, “My dear Lillie, we haven’t seen you at Glynes for so long. Won’t you, Marmaduke and Jonty consider coming to the Hunt Ball this year? Do you remember how much Jonty and my youngest, Lettice, used to enjoy playing together here as children? I’m sure that now that they are both grown, they should be reacquainted with one another.” She lowers her hand and drops the letter on top of the edition of Debrett’s like a piece of rubbish before looking up at her mother, giving her a cool stare. “It isn’t ladylike to read other people’s correspondence, Lettice!” Lady Sadie quips as she marches up to her desk and snatches the letter away from Lettice’s reach, lest her daughter should cast it into the fire cracking peaceably in the grate. “Is it ladylike to arrange the lives of two strangers without discussing it?” “It has long been the prerogative of mothers to arrange their children’s marriages.” The older woman defends herself. “And you and Jonty Hastings aren’t strangers, Lettice. You and he…” “Haven’t seen each other since we were about six years old, when we played in the hedgerows together and had tea in the nursery with Nanny Webb after she had washed the mud off us!” “Well, all the better for the two of you to become reacquainted then, as I’m suggesting to his mother.” She runs her fingers along the edges of the letter in her hands defiantly. “And I am going to send this letter, Lettice,” Her voice gathers a steely tone of determination. “Whether you like it, or lump it.” “Yes, Pappa told me after you,” she pauses for a moment to consider her words carefully. “Left, us at luncheon yesterday, that you had been making some discreet enquiries about inviting some eligible young bachelors for me to the ball this year.” “And so I have, Lettice.” Lady Sadie sniffs. “Since you seem incapable of finding yourself a suitable match even after your successful debut London Season, I have taken it upon myself to do some…” “Matchmaking, Mamma?” “Arranging, Lettice. Tarquin Howard, Sir John Nettleford-Hughes…” “Sir John is as old as the hills!” Lettice splutters in disbelief. “You surely can’t imagine I’d consider him a likely prospect!” “Sir John is an excellent match, Lettice. You can hardly fail to see how advantageous it would be to marry him.” “Once I look past the twenty five, no more, years age difference. No, better he be chased by some social climbing American woman looking for an entrée into the society pages. Perhaps I should ask Miss Ward to the ball. I’m sure she would love to meet Sir John.” Lady Sadie’s already pale face drains of any last colour at the thought of an American moving picture star walking into her well planned ball. “Well, if you won’t countenance Sir John, I’ve also invited Edward Lambley and Selwyn Spencely.” “Selwyn Spencely?” Lettice laughs. “The guest list just gets more and more implausable.” “What’s so implausible about Selwyn Spencely, Lettice? The Spencelys are a very good family. Selwyn has a generous income which will only increase when he eventually takes his father’s place as the next Viscount Markham. He inherited a house in Belgravia from his grandfather when he came of age, so you two can continue to live in London until you become chatelaine of Markham Park.” “Can you hear yourself, Mamma?” Lettice cries as she raises her arms in exasperation, any good will she tried to muster for her Mother quickly dissipating. “Do you want to pick what wedding gown I am to wear too?” Lettice laughs again. “Selwyn and I haven’t laid eyes on each other for almost as long as Jonty and I.” “Well, he’s grown into a very handsome young man, Lettice. I’ve seen his photograph in The Lady.” Her mother bustles across the end of the floral chaise where a pile of well fingered magazines sit. “Look, I can show you.” “Oh, please don’t Mamma!” Lettice throws her hands up in protest. “Please don’t add insult to injury.” Lady Sadie turns around, a hurt look on her face. “How can you say that to me, Lettice? I’m only trying to do right by you, by securing a suitable and advantageous marriage for you.” “But what about love, Mamma?” Lettice sighs. “What if I don’t wish to marry at all? What if I am happy just running my interior design business.” “Oh what nonsense, Lettice! The younger generation are so tiresome. All this talk of love! I blame those moving pictures your Ward woman stars in that you and your friends all flock to slavishly! Your Father and I had our marriage arranged. We weren’t in love.” She emphasises the last two words with a withering tone. “We’d only even met a handful of times before we were married. Love came naturally in time, and look how happy we are.” She smiles smugly with self satisfaction. “And as for your business, you aren’t Syrie Maugham***, Lettice. You’ve always been told, from an early age, that your duty as a daughter of a member of this great and noble family, even as the youngest daughter, is to marry and marry well.” She sinks onto the chaise. “This foolishness about interior design,” She flaps her glittering fingers distractedly at Lettice. “Will have to end when you get married. Whether it be Jonty, Nicolas or Selwyn, you’ll have to give it up. No respectable man of position and good breeding will have his wife working as a decorator! He’d be ashamed!” At her mother’s harsh words, Lettice abandons any attempt to try and make an effort with her. She looks up to the ornate white painted plaster ceiling and crystal chandelier hanging in the middle of the room as she clenches her hands into fists. “Well,” she looks angrily at her mother. “We wouldn’t want my future husband to be ashamed of my success, now would we?” “What success, Lettice?” her mother scoffs. “You were only able to decorate Gwendolyn’s small drawing room because I asked her to allow you to do it.” “I’ve plenty of clients now, no thanks to you, Mamma!” “Dickie and Margot don’t count, dear,” Lady Sadie replies dismissively as she fingers the edges of a copy of the Tattler distractedly. “They are your friends. Of course they were going to ask you to decorate their house.” Lettice gasps as though her mother just punched all the air out of her chest. She stands, silent for a moment, her face flushing with embarrassment and anger. “You’ve always been so cruel to me Mamma, ever since I was little.” “And you’ve always been so stubborn and obstinate, ever since you were a child! Goodness knows what I did to deserve a wilful daughter. Lally was so lovely and pliable, and certainly no trouble to marry off.” She folds her hands neatly in her lap over her immaculately pressed tweed skirt and looks up at her daughter. “I don’t mean to be harsh, Lettice, but someone has to make you see sense. Goodness knows your Father can’t, what with him wound around your little finger! You will have to marry eventually, Lettice, and preferably soon. It’s a foregone conclusion. It’s what is expected of you, and as I said yesterday, you aren’t getting any younger, and you certainly don’t want to be left stuck on the shelf. Just think of the shame it would bring you.” “More think of the shame it would bring you, Mamma.” Lettice spits bitterly. “To have a daughter who is a spinster, an old maid, and in trade to boot!” “Now there is no need to be overtly nasty, Lettice.” Lady Sadie mutters brittlely. “It’s unbecoming.” A little gilt clock on an occasional table chimes one o’clock prettily. “Mamma, however much I would love to sit here and share bitter quips and barbs with you all day over a pot of tea, I really do have to leave!” Lettice says with finality. “I have a train to catch. Gerald and I have a reservation at the Café Royal**** tonight.” She walks over to her mother, bends down and goes to kiss her cheek, but the older woman stiffens as she averts her daughter’s touch. Lettice sighs as she raises herself up again. “I’ll see you in a week for Dickie and Margot’s wedding and then after that for Bonfire Night*****.” “Hopefully you’ll have come to your senses about marriage and this ridiculous designing business by then.” Lettice raises her head proudly and takes a deep breath before turning away from her mother and walks with a purposeful stride across the room. “No I won’t, Mamma.” she says defiantly. As she opens the door to leave the morning room, she turns back to the figure of her mother sitting facing away from her towards the fire. “Pappa asked me to make an effort at the Hunt Ball, and I will. I will dance and flirt with whomever you throw in my general direction, be they old, blind or bandy-legged.” She sees her mother’s shoulders stiffen, indicating silently that she is listening, even if she doesn’t want to acknowledge that she is. “However, be under no pretence Mamma. I am doing it for him, and not you.” “Lettice…” Lady Sadie’s voice cracks. “And,” Lettice cuts her off sharply. “No matter who I dance with, or charm, I will not marry any of them. Goodbye Mamma.” Lettice closes the door quietly behind her and walks back down the hallway to the entrance hall. She walks through the front doors with her head aloof, and steps into the back of the waiting Daimler. Marsden closes its door and Harris starts the engine. The chauffer can sense the tension seething through his passenger as she huffs and puffs in the spacious rear cabin, dabbing her nose daintily with a lace edged handkerchief, so he remains quiet as he steers the car down the sweeping driveway. As the car pulls away from Glynes basking in the early afternoon autumnal sun, Lettice can almost feel two sets of eyes on her back: one pair from her father looking sadly out from the library and the other her mother’s peering critically from behind the morning room curtains. *A bonheur de jour is a type of lady's writing desk. It was introduced in Paris by one of the interior decorators and purveyors of fashionable novelties called marchands-merciers around 1760, and speedily became intensely fashionable. Decorated on all sides, it was designed to sit in the middle of a room so that it could be admired from any angle. **The first edition of Debrett's Peerage of England, Scotland, and Ireland, containing an Account of all the Peers, 2 vols., was published in May 1802, with plates of arms, a second edition appeared in September 1802, a third in June 1803, a fourth in 1805, a fifth in 1806, a sixth in 1808, a seventh in 1809, an eighth in 1812, a ninth in 1814, a tenth in 1816, an eleventh in 1817, a twelfth in 1819, a thirteenth in 1820, a fourteenth in 1822, a fifteenth in 1823, which was the last edition edited by Debrett, and not published until after his death. The next edition came out in 1825. The first edition of The Baronetage of England, containing their Descent and Present State, by John Debrett, 2 vols., appeared in 1808. Today, Debrett's is a British professional coaching company, publisher and authority on etiquette and behaviour. It was founded in 1769 with the publication of the first edition of The New Peerage. The company takes its name from its founder, John Debrett. ***Syrie Maugham was a leading British interior decorator of the 1920s and 1930s and best known for popularizing rooms decorated entirely in shades of white. She was the wife of English playwright and novelist William Somerset Maugham. ****The Café Royal in Regent Street, Piccadilly was originally conceived and set up in 1865 by Daniel Nicholas Thévenon, who was a French wine merchant. He had to flee France due to bankruptcy, arriving in Britain in 1863 with his wife, Célestine, and just five pounds in cash. He changed his name to Daniel Nicols and under his management - and later that of his wife - the Café Royal flourished and was considered at one point to have the greatest wine cellar in the world. By the 1890s the Café Royal had become the place to see and be seen at. It remained as such into the Twenty-First Century when it finally closed its doors in 2008. Renovated over the subsequent four years, the Café Royal reopened as a luxury five star hotel. ****Guy Fawkes Day, also called Bonfire Night, British observance, celebrated on November the fifth, commemorating the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Guy Fawkes and his group members acted in protest to the continued persecution of the English Catholics. Today Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated in the United Kingdom, and in a number of countries that were formerly part of the British Empire, with parades, fireworks, bonfires, and food. Straw effigies of Fawkes are tossed on the bonfire, as are—in more recent years in some places—those of contemporary political figures. Traditionally, children carried these effigies, called “Guys,” through the streets in the days leading up to Guy Fawkes Day and asked passersby for “a penny for the guy,” often reciting rhymes associated with the occasion, the best known of which dates from the Eighteenth Century. Cluttered with paintings, photographs and furnishings, Lady Sadie’s morning room with its Georgian furnishings is different from what you might think, for it is made up entirely of 1:12 size dollhouse miniatures from my collection. Fun things to look for in this tableau include: The books on Lady Sadie’s desks are 1:12 size miniatures made by the British miniature artisan Ken Blythe. Most of the books I own that he has made may be opened to reveal authentic printed interiors. In some cases, you can even read the words, depending upon the size of the print! I have quite a large representation of Ken Blythe’s work in my collection, but so little of his real artistry is seen because the books that he specialised in making are usually closed, sitting on shelves or closed on desks and table surfaces. Therefore, it is a pleasure to give you a glimpse inside two of the books he has made. One of the books is a French catalogue of fancy dress costumes from the late Nineteenth Century, and the other is a book of Georgian hairstyes. To give you an idea of the work that has gone into these volumes, each book contains twelve double sided pages of illustrations and they measure thirty-three millimetres in height and width and are only three millimetres thick. What might amaze you even more is that all Ken Blythe’s opening books are authentically replicated 1:12 scale miniatures of real volumes. To create something so authentic to the original in such detail and so clearly, really does make this a miniature artisan piece. The 1908 Debrett’s Peerage book is also made by Ken Blythe, but does not open. He also made the envelopes sitting in the rack to the left of the desk and the stamps you can see next to the ink bottle. The stamps are 2 millimetres by two millimetres each! Ken Blythe’s work is highly sought after by miniaturists around the world today and command high prices at auction for such tiny pieces, particularly now that he is no longer alive. I was fortunate enough to acquire pieces from Ken Blythe prior to his death about four years ago, as well as through his estate via his daughter and son-in-law. His legacy will live on with me and in my photography which I hope will please his daughter. I hope that you enjoy this peek at just two of hundreds of his books that I own, and that it makes you smile with its sheer whimsy! On the desk is a 1:12 artisan miniature ink bottle and a silver pen, both made by the Little Green Workshop in England who specialise in high end, high quality miniatures. The ink bottles is made from a tiny faceted crystal bead and has a sterling silver bottom and lid. The Chetwynd’s family photos seen on the desk and hanging on the walls are all real photos, produced to high standards in 1:12 size on photographic paper by Little Things Dollhouse Miniatures in Lancashire. The frames are almost all from Melody Jane’s Dollhouse Suppliers in the United Kingdom and are made of metal with glass in each. The largest frame on the right-hand side of the desk is actually a sterling silver miniature frame. It was made in Birmingham in 1908 and is hallmarked on the back of the frame. It has a red leather backing. The vase of primroses in the middle of the desk is a delicate 1:12 artisan porcelain miniature made and painted by hand by Ann Dalton. The desk and its matching chair is a Salon Reine design, hand painted and copied from an Eighteenth Century design, made by Bespaq. All the drawers open and it has a lidded rack at either end. Bespaq is a high-end miniature furniture maker with high attention to detail and quality. The wallpaper is a copy of an Eighteenth Century blossom pattern.



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