Ways of Seeing

Sydney Walk
May 31st 1853

May the Lord bless and save Boo – she is such a good friend to me. After my letter yesterday in which I spilt all my fears about Papa’s state of mind she found the time in the midst of her maternal whirl to send me words of comfort. I had been pacing the hall downstairs, as she knew I would, with Dauncey skipping about fit to trip me over. A boy arrived not four hours after I had written to her, with a note which has set my heart at rest.

She wrote,

Oh, Eff you ninny! Do not worry so. Your Papa is made of stronger stuff than you imagine. I can quite see why your experience at his house today has put you in mind of some mental weakness to which he may fall prey. But Eff, with all the faith you have in my judgement, please trust that he will not. George is a most unusual man and one whose character and opinion I have always held in the highest regard. He simply would not allow his mind to reel in the manner you so fear.

As for the unprepared state you found him in when you called – what, do you think he must sit at his desk waiting for you to visit, wearing his day clothes and fully coiffured? You yourself have said that you have not seen him or spoken to him for a good two months. Is he to sit in aspic until you do? No, he can and should indulge himself in any way he sees fit to pass the time.

I know something about your Papa that you do not, Effie, and now is the time for me to tell you. Your own thoughts cast about so wildly for explanations that I cannot allow you to suffer another minute in this misapprehension that George has run mad. Not at all. What he does to fill his days, and which he is, in truth, a little shy to disclose to you is this – he has become fond of theatricals, the kind performed by enthusiasts for their own entertainment, and that of others I’ll grant. What you stumbled upon this morning was him in full flight, rehearsing a scene for a play!

I know this because he has in the past conferred with Bradstone about such matters as what drives a man to action and how his innermost feelings may be conveyed convincingly to a watching crowd. Eff, your Papa is an actor.

You must not ever tell him I have said this to you. He is biding his time until he is fit to give a performance of which you could be proud and will most likely present you with a Chelsea Players’ playbill before long. When he does, you must feign surprise or else his plan will be thwarted. I have only told you this to set your mind at ease, Eff. Your imagination is remarkable, my dear, but bound to cause you heartache on occasion so I am here to help temper its excesses.

Say nothing of this note and under no circumstances ask Josiah to invite your Papa to live with you – that is where the madness lies, if anywhere! We need George in good health, with his faculties intact and still the master of his own resources – that is how we know and love him, is it not?


Oh, I am so relieved! I shall be able to go to tea tomorrow with a lightened heart. Heavens I may even be able to tease him a little. How blessed I am to have Boo.

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