“A perpetual state of honeymoon” – snapshots from a Victorian marriage – 11th March 1867

Helen’s letter to Malcolm of this date begins with a short discussion of how long it taken for Malcolm’s letters from Scotland to reach her in Surrey. There were several postal deliveries each day, but it would still have taken some time for mail to get to the south of England from Perthshire, part of the journey by coach and part by rail at this date.

There is some discussion of the compensation the railway company will have to pay landowners for damage caused during the construction of the new Callander Oban line:

‘…besides paying the amenity & for the land, the railway will have to pay for every tree they cut down & every bit of damage done in the course of the work…’

Some incidental detail is delightful:

‘Malvina, who’s in the room, has just given me 2 kisses to send to you – i.e. I asked her would she send a kiss to Papa and she toddled up immediately & gave me one & then said “Mo-a” and gave me a 2nd.’

Poor Malvina is described as having had a cold;

‘I gave Malvina some camphor diluted with water on sugar 3 times yesterday & her cold seems gone today. She was much surprised by the first bit & picked it out of her mouth to look at, but did not seem to dislike it & the 2 other bits she ate up quite well.’

Camphor oil is still included in some cough syrups today.

There are some wry observations on the wrangling around the payment of compensation by the railway company relating to the Edinchip estate:

‘Edinburgh lawyers go on the principle of as much delay as possible in everything, more especially in allowing proprietors to know about their own affairs – although I think that is the creed of all lawyers.’

Malcolm describes going out hunting and fishing in his letter. Of course this was a common activity for the upper classes at this time and no to be particularly remarked upon. What is unusual is that he goes out with ferrets as well as a shotgun. Ferrets have traditionally been bred to use in rabbit hunting, as they will happily chase rabbits into their burrows and are good at killing their prey quickly. Malcolm remarks that:

‘… he [his companion, Donald] killed 7 rabbits but my ferret always saved me the trouble…’

Malcolm ends his letter with a long plea for Helen to send her view on the suggestions for possible housing solutions he has outlined:

‘Don’t be led away by what you thing I wish, but use your own good sense as to what our best course is, and help me to decide upon whatever plan may be as far as we can judge, wisest. I have a strong wish to be in this country, but a still stronger one to be out of debt. Once the move is made I believe we should be better able to economise. But if we do move I feel we shall be like the fable of the fox and the goose & the bag of oats – we shan’t know how to move or which to send over first. However, I daresay it will all come right in the end. My precious one I do so long to be with you again – kiss the bairnies…’