What intricate, amusing, thought-provoking letters people used to write. I recall the first time I picked up the Paston Letters from Tudor-era England, and thinking how cool it would be if people still blessed anyone mentioned: "so and so, whom God assoil." (Assoil: to absolve, acquit, pardon.) But that's an aside.
The letter I want to share with you today is a thank you letter from a sister to a brother, regarding the gift of a pet dog. The brother is the Duke of Devonshire (not the one from The Duchess, but his son); the sister is Harriet, Countess Granville (dishy take on her here - it's fun). Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire was their mother.
The dog's name is Tiber, and Harriet perhaps loves him a bit, do you think?
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To The Duke Of Devonshire.
Rome : April 15, 1843.
My dearest brother,—I sing Tiber. There never was such a darling. Beautiful I think, caressing, soft, helpless, and yet with a spice of the family temper, which prevents insipidity. Desperate volitions exerted with the utmost gentleness, a quiet little fury now and then. Oh ! there never was such a love of a dog. You know that, from our peculiarity of our never letting our little Blenheims out of our sight they have immense advantages. We do not attempt education; all our care goes to health, and the success is perfect. He is plumping up, his coat glossy, his paws beginning to flounce and furbelow, his cough gone. I took him to Gott, who said as Gibson had done, ' What a beautiful little dog, exactly like one his Grace the Duke of Devonshire had here !' 'He gave it me.' ' Do I see Lady Granville ?'
Brother, you will be jealous, you must expect it; he beats them all hollow—much more like Boneyi than Till. No accomplishments, it is true, but such quickness of comprehension, and when he walks with us, such ' let observation with extensive view.' And then his beauty where he is in action, when he sees a lizard on the wall, or a crow in the heavens.
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-- from Letters of Harriet, Countess Granville, 1810-1845, The Hon. F. Leveson Gower, ed. (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1894), pp. 358-59.