My Dear Mrs Doughty
I trust this letter finds you in good spirits. My reason for sending this note is to enquire whether you might like to join my Papa and me for afternoon day one day next week? I am normally ‘at home’ on Wednesdays, as you know, but I have recently been spending a good deal of time with Papa and he has expressed a particular wish to see you. He is a man of propriety, which is why the invitation is reaches you from my hand, not his, but I do wish to stress that he is most keen to further your acquaintance. I rather think he may be hatching an entrepreneurial proposition about which he would welcome your advice.
I know that you have met with Papa privately on previous occasions and that you and he are of a mind on many of the important issues of the day. Please do not be alarmed, therefore, if he begins to discuss a new avenue of thought with you. He has become somewhat enamoured of the fashion for communication with those who have gone before. He and I were present when Mrs Maria Hayden spoke recently in Chelsea. Really, she is a quite remarkable woman. She spoke normally for a good few minutes – just as I would speak to you – and then she became overwhelmed by voices from those we have lost. I could not possibly convey the feelings she aroused in me in this note, Mrs Doughty, nor will I try to. But it is enough for now to say that Papa was quite taken with the notion that the dead can alert us to our fate.
I write this simply to prepare you, Mrs Doughty, for what may seem at first to be the frailty of a decent man. I do hope you will not dismiss Papa if he grows vague whilst you talk to him – he has begun to fancy that he can hear my long past Mama and that she is tending to him in death as she did in life. I should be sorry if a woman of your compassion could not find it in herself to tolerate a good man’s foibles. Tuesday would be best for us, if you are free – do send word as soon as you can.