“A perpetual state of honeymoon” – snapshots from a Victorian marriage – 13th March 1867

Malcolm starts his letter with a warning:

‘I am going to treat you very shabbily – for after getting 3 letters from you this morning I am about to give you one very short one. It is late & I have been standing in the cold all day ferreting and am peepums.’

The couple appear to have had their own private slang, peepums, meaning tired, being a good example of it.

This letter is mostly business relating to Malcolm’s plans to go to both St Fillans and Lochearnhead to visit potential properties that the family might rent. Of course at a time when letters were often sent several times a day, some of those letters are bound to be rather mundane. The Victorian really did treat the postal service rather as we do email now, putting pen to paper to record their thoughts whenever it occurred to them to do so. The upper classes had the leisure for this, ordinary working people wrote letters less often, and this is reflected in the records that remain to us from people at this time.

After commenting on what his wife has said about the housing and finance situation in her letters, Malcolm again asks Helen to send her thoughts:

‘…what I want is that you should balance the various pros & cons… and I daresay I shall hear more from you in a day or so when you have had more time to look into the matter.’

Helen begins her letter by responding directly to points in her husband’s letters:

‘I think you’re quite right as to the Travellers’ [the exclusive club Malcolm has been nominated to join] for you scarcely ever use a club & it would be an expense for nothing. I am so glad the finger stall does, I was afraid it would be too large.’

Much of Helen’s letter is devoted to describing her trip out and the people that she met, including friends and relations. She mentions a fund raising raffle at one point:

‘Mr MacNaughton (my Uncle Steuart) is getting up a lottery on the Art union principle to provide funds for a Drill Hall for his volunteers. The tickets are 6d each and they’ve asked me to get rid of some, or at least there are no tickets, merely numbers – I’m going to take 3 for you and 3 for each of the children… I enclose a copy of the list of possible prizes, there are I believe to be 20,000 tickets so the chances are considerably against one.’

The weather in 1867 is extremely wintery for March:

‘It was so cold this morning, when Rhoda came down the milk was frozen in the jug – it is snowing and freezing hard tonight.’