These letters, written for a Valentine’s Day blog series, were exchanged by James and Julia of The Viscount’s Inconvenient Temptation (originally titled Season for Temptation) about two months after their marriage.
If you’ve read their love story, you’ll see references to the plot in the way the letters are exchanged–and, of course, in what they discuss.
Letter from James, Viscount Matheson, to Julia, Viscountess Matheson. Folded somewhat untidily and hidden behind an embroidered cushion on the lady’s favorite chair.
My dear Julia–
Since we’ve now been married for two months, I owe you two presents. No, three. In all the hurry over our wedding—I’m going to imagine you blushing as you read that, because you always blush, and it is delightful—I never gave you a wedding present.
All right. Three gifts.
The first time we met, in your parents’ drawing room, I learned several things about you. You have unshakeable good humor, you are devoted to family, and you dislike watercress. In all of these qualities, I thought you perfectly correct.
You require no help with humor and devotion, but when the kitchen sent out watercress sandwiches yesterday and you looked positively ill, I realized I needed to become high-handed and interfering. Therefore, I told the steward to tell the housekeeper to tell the cook that we don’t wish to have it served anymore. I believe that’s the right chain of communication. Isn’t it? You know I’m still working out the intricacies of country house staffing.
Onward. Second gift. Your sister has found a book in the library that she and I both thought you would like. It’s the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, published in 1811. Considering you won my heart when you said “hell”—very demurely, of course—in the middle of a crowded ballroom, this seemed essential reading.
Third, I promise I shall never stop courting you. To that end, please join me in the drawing room immediately after dinner. A month ago, I asked the cook to make you a plum pudding, and it should be aged to perfection now. It shall be served to you tonight, and you don’t have to share a bite of it. Not even the plummiest bits.
All my love,
Letter from Julia, Viscountess Matheson, to James, Viscount Matheson, written the day after his missive to her. Folded inside a blank paper and left on the desk in his private study.
The way to a woman’s heart is through her stomach, is that right? It’s certainly true for me, and has been so ever since we first met over a tea table. Though the way to my heart was also through laughter, and so I’m delighted that two of your gifts had to do with food, and one of them with unladylike speech. I’ve already read some of the little book you gave me, and I’m sure my face was redder than a coal as I learned that “tickle tail” and “arbor vitae” mean the same thing, and such an intriguing thing it is.
And now, a bit of an apology for spoiling your lovely surprise. You must be wondering why I didn’t eat up the plum pudding after dinner, but simply fell asleep in an undignified heap (is there any other sort? Not for me) in an armchair before the fire.
You might also be wondering why simply looking at the watercress sandwiches made me feel ill.
You are possibly wondering whether I have a gift for you in return?
Indeed I do. You know how efficient I like to be in household matters. Therefore I have one present for you, and it answers all the questions I have stated. But you can’t have it yet. Not for about seven more months.
I’m glad you’re so much more patient than I.
Your loving wife,