From the Diary of Dorothea Latimer
Friday 20th November, 1809
Under Mrs Derby's watchful eye I assisted in the packing of our carriage and the accompanying wagons in the drizzling rain. The aim was to allow me the opportunity to practice some of what I had learned of household management, which will be essential if I am fortunate enough to make a good match. Despite having been out for several months now the thought still seems daunting, it is one thing to practice preparing place laying and menus with ones governess, it is quite another to contemplate hostessing my own events. Indeed, I have no idea how Mrs Derby manages to pull things together so seamlessly. The reality is should I make a good match this season my husband would expect me hostess at least small events by this time next year, I really must improve my flower arrangements if that's to be the case. Perhaps I can ask Lady Cavendish to join me for tea and teach me a few tricks as her arrangements bloomed most beautifully.
The journey was long in the inclement weather, though time passed quickly as Mrs Derby quizzed me upon the precedence and reminded Lord Fawcett of the foibles of his various guests. I was also allowed to read her copy of the Daily Sketch, which was hot off the press and contained some most interesting gossip pertaining to several of the other guests. I stowed various snippets away in my head, hoping they would be useful conversation points later in the evening.
The staff at Fawcett Hall were flawless and there was even a charming maid named Kitty who was assigned to assist my roommates and I with unpacking our trunks and dresses. I was to share a room with Lady Francesca, a sweet girl who I had met at a previous dinner hosted by Lord Fawcett and Lady Cecily, who was new to my acquaintance if somewhat preceded by her reputation as a reformatory girl in the Sketch!
We chatted about the coming weekend as we bathed and prepared for the drinks reception. I had a new dress in pale blue silk and a blue feather and amethyst tiara borrowed from Mrs Derby for my hair. Lady Francesca was resplendent in purple velvet and Lady Cecily in forest green. Another friend, Lady Grace joined us and the four of us descended the stairs together. The champagne was flowing and the gentlemen looked most dashing in their breeches and waistcoats. I congratulated Sir Abel on his appointment as Chief Punishment Officer and held back my giggles as Lady Francesca proclaimed her views that corporal punishment was not suitable for young ladies. Apparently she and Lady Grace had succeeded in talking their governess around to this viewpoint, I have no idea how. I fear Miss Anstruthers would have combusted on the spot had I suggested such a thing, and besides regular discipline is efficacious for young ladies and assists in avoiding serious mishaps that could lead to sterner measures.
My dining companion for the evening was a Mr Random, who had recently won a duel fought in the nude against Sir Mulberry Hawke. I was a little perturbed by his suggestion that in order to have a political discussion one must be nude and by some of his other references but attempted to steer him to less risque topics. The food was divine, especially the beautifully peeled grapes that made the stuffed quail. If Father's chef was as talented as Lord Fawcett I'm sure I would be as big as a house.
After dinner the ladies retired and the gentlemen prepared for a meeting of the notorious Hellfire Club. Being an acquaintance of Lord Fawcett I had previous been initiated into the order so had to offer a tribute for the gentlemen to bid for. Mindful that it would not be appropriate for me to make too much of a public display I offered half an hour private play as a prize with the offer to take a spanking from each of the gentlemen as a tit bit to whet their appetites. Standing before the masked Brothers I felt exceptionally nervous, a feeling which did not dissipate as my tribute was announced and each brother in turn placed me over his lap and spanked my bottom. Indeed, I don't know which set of cheeks were blushing more! The start of the bidding sent butterflies to my stomach, as did the deadlock between two brothers both offering 38 guineas before one offered 39 and the other 40, the bidding limit. Brother Edward had won and later I was to be his prize...