Letter from Miss Rebecca Nettletop

Mrs Flaxman

Much honour’d Sir

I certainly should have written to you first, being as it were the President of this Society, but as my friend Miss Quickset inform’d you, I was at that time very busy, quite up to my very elbows in marmalade, jams, and pickles, which I have the happiness to inform you are now all safely lodged in my store-room, for you must know, Sir, I have taken upon myself all these sort of things, for the health of the community of which I have become a member, for we tried pickles from the shops till they made us very ill. I am sure, Sir, I can speak for number one, for my bowels ached for two or three days whenever I eat of them, and in good truth I really do not know what would have become of me, but for my dear aunt Prunella’s book of materia medica, but she dear lady was a very Esculapius in Physic, her book of culinary receipts too, is most admirable, it would suit the palate of Epicius himself — I do sometimes treat my ladies with a nice dish or two from it, but I will say no more about my dearly beloved aunt, for I assure you Sir her virtues are a never-ending theme of all that is great and good. Only Sir I was going to tell you that Miss Sacharissa Murmur eats unconscionably of the above-said green pickles and thereby forms an excuse to send daily for Doctor Cardamom into her own room. But I say nothing, for as the saying says, least said is soonest unsaid, and it would not be seemly in me to bring scandal upon my body — no, no, I have lived too long not to know that — otherwise I could tell you Sir a very good story which Mr Scratch brought to Miss Quickset and me the other day quite piping hot, and as one fool makes many, you know Sir, we three got together, quite snug, in my room, and so we heard it all, over a glass of my ginger wine, which by the by is an excellent thing for the wind — but to the purport of my letter — having been inform’d how very communicative you are on all subjects, and how very willing you are to give your advice on matters of taste, I will instantly proceed to state the case, and freely ask your counsel concerning my great work, which Miss Botheram, our new young Lady, has talked to me much about — you must know Sir I have a very great dislike to be idle, for idleness is the root of all evil, and an idle brain is the old gentleman’s workshop, as I have heard say, and besides, I well know when the Devil finds us idle, he never fails to set us to work, as he did me the other morning, but I stopped in time — now whilst I am waiting for worsteds from London, to be sure they make us wait sadly for things — but that’s all one, for I have enough to do, I can assure you Sir, we are going to receive two new boarders — indeed one of them is already come and is the Miss Botheram I mentioned above. She seems a very learned lady, indeed I verily believe she knows more than all of us put together — but more of this lady in a future letter, only I must say I don’t quite understand her philosophies, and this brings me to my purpose for you must know Sir, I have almost ended my piece of embroidery for the breakfast parlor, it is a curtain to hang before the door of our breakfast room to keep out the north wind. The subject is of my own choosing, it represents the continence of Scipio. It is done in very bright colors, and I have been careful to make Scipio and the Lady very large, and the soldiers and people in the background very small. I thought this would be a good moral lesson for our Society, since they have admitted the men. I only wanted Mr Scratch, he poor soul could have done no harm — now Sir I have a very large piece of canvas for our double doors in the general sitting room, for the next winter, for whether our modern architects are in too great haste to finish their jobs and thereby make use of green wood, or whether it is that they don’t know exactly what they are about, I won’t say, but this I can say, that in all our rooms the wind roars in, enough to blow all the candles out, and think Sir what a scandalous thing it would be for any of us to be found with the gentlemen in the dark. I am sure I myself should be so shock’d if such a think were ever to happen. So, sir, this brings me to the purport of my letter, as I said before — which is to beg of you to send my your counsel and advice freely: what story you think I should work upon this canvas. Miss B. proposed to me Friar Bacon sitting in his study, with all his what do you callums about him — or if I wish’d for something classical, she advised Actaeon and Diana, but friend Squib tells me the 1st won’t be understood, and the latter will be indelicate. Miss Sacharissa Murmur has propos’d to me Ladona dissolv’d into a fountain, this is surely a very pretty subject, but I must say I think it would be too cold for winter, and indeed I fear much too difficult for my needle, for should I chance to fail in the effect, it would look for all the world like and old powder’d perriwig. Miss Croaker gave me a living theme but I totally rejected that — now altho’ I cannot well remember (for I have not the book here) some of Ovid’s stories yet you Sir can perhaps assist me, only let it be very delicate and apropos. In letting me hear from you soon, you will much oblige — 

Your most Humble Servant

Rebecca Nettletop