Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Just an Average Day for Georgiana

The Cavendish clan's life at Devonshire House in London was full of entertaining and one had barely any time to themselves! So part of the year would be spent in their country house, Chatsworth, for a little peace and quiet. Of course their idea of peace and quiet may have been a little different from everyone else's, as James Hare points out in his account of their day in, A Rational Day in the Country:
The Ladies rise from one o'clock to two - breakfast in their own rooms for the convenience of having their hair combed while they drink their tea. Cold meat is brought for the Dogs at the same time. Send messages or (if Time permits) write notes to each other, just to say, "Dearest one, how do oo do?" The usual answer is "As oo do, so does poor little I, by itself . . . I." This delicate complaint of solitude sets the whole house in motion. All the Ladies run from one room to another till they have mustered a sufficient force to venture among the men. . . . they write with the greatest ease and tolerable accuracy long letters on all subjects and to every sort of correspondent, standing, walking and even running, and without the least interruption of conversation, which at Chatsworth never goes beyond a whisper. . . . they take the precaution of beginning them all alike with the general terms of general civility that may apply to anybody, such as "My Dearest most dear ever adored Lord without whom I cannot live - Bess oo."

. . . If by this time it is grown nearly dark and snows and freezes pretty hard, walking is usually proposed. I forgot to observe that when the Ladies first come down to a small Room with a large fire they are wrapped up with furs and waddings of various sorts, but as this heavy "furniture" might impede their agility in walking, they throw it off, and chuse lighter drapery before they venture out - such as gauze or muslin shawls, thin silk sandals, which with the help of a long Pole with a spike in the end of it (to throw over their shoulders or stick into any gentleman's foot who has the honour of accompanying them) form the walking apparatus. The reflection of the snow in the glimmering of the Moon through the trees, if it is a clear night, enables them to find their way round the pleasure ground very tolerably.

. . . When the Dinner has been served up about half an hour they usually retire to dress, and then meet either in the Duchess' or Lady E.F.'s [Bess] room for a quarter of an hour's social talk. At length the female cohort enter the Dining Room. It is difficult to ascertain their exact diet, as it varies according to their health and humours. . . . By the noise and chatting that ensues on their leaving the Dining Room it is concluded that they remain some time in the Drawing Room, but as soon as the Gentlemen come out to Tea and Coffee, each Lady retires to her respective apartment, where to pass the time, for want of anything to do, she goes to sleep. . . . On waking they assemble in one of their rooms, and between eleven and twelve retire to the Music Room and crowd around the Pianoforte that each in her turn may have the pleasure of refusing to sing or play. . . . the moment that [supper] is brought in, everybody hastens to begin the day's amusements and repairs to whist, chess, backgammon, billiards, according to their fancies' direction. In the course of a few hours, the supper being sufficiently cooled, the Duke invites his friends to partake of the genial Board; every one presses eagerly for a place, especially those who do not sup. The Ladies sip by turns cowslip wine, punch, or cherry syrup, take their leave, and spend the remainder of the night in confidential discourse, dividing into small parties of two and three for this purpose, and then leaving the supper room, and separating for the night, as the Housemaids begin to twirl their mops and open the shutters to the sunshine.

[Except taken from Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman]


  1. AHHA Love it you were right! Most appropriate. well played my dear. well played.

  2. I had to read your post several times to see if they really began their day at 1:00 in the afternoon! I guess they did, if they went to bed when the sun was coming up. I wonder if that schedule was only when they were in the country? Very interesting.

  3. It is very wearing to be fabulous so beauty rest is required until past noon. Ya know, I think the schedule was even more crazy when they were in London. I know for a fact that the husbands (Devonshire and Duncannon) usually came back from the clubs at 11am or even noon on some days!
    Don't you wish James Hare wrote a similar record of Life in the City?

  4. Oh my! I thought that this was a great post. I love your Blog after just finding it a while ago. I don't think I could wake up at one in the afternoon. I've never been to England, I live in Canada and in the Winter the sun sets at four in the afternoon. If I were to get up when these 18th century ladies did it would only give me 3-4 four hours of daylight!

  5. Thank you so much! Actually that's a really good point your bring up. Funnily enough for a period in winter England only has about 4-5 hours of daylight. So that means that these classy ladies would (pretty much) only come out at night!