An advice column by Persuasion’s Mary Musgrove
If only I could sleep properly! But the demands of a household are myriad, and as you know I am the most responsible member of the family. Charles shrugs off our troubles, while I am kept awake thinking of solutions for future events.
It’s as if Thinking has become a profession. This is most unfair, for I am an Elliot and a gentlewoman. I should not have a profession! I should not have to think!
One of the London papers had an article about sleeplessness recently, and the suggestions offered were idiotic. If my husband were to read them, my life would be worse, not better. I sent that newspaper straight into the fire.
I share those so-called solutions here because I daresay you could use a laugh.
Exercise and stay active. I walk quite enough, thank you. My husband will never purchase a proper carriage if he thinks strolling about will improve my health. It won’t.
Avoid Naps. Bless me, if I do not nap, how will I stay awake at parties and assemblies? I am not about to become like one of the dowagers, snoozing open-mouthed on the sofa instead of dancing.
Abstain from caffeine and wine. What am I to offer callers instead of tea, pray? Warm milk? I must serve wine with dinner and strong coffee with dessert. The sort of people who read London newspapers obviously have no social life.
Moderate large meals, particularly those with meat. Look, when I am invited to dinner, of course I will eat meat and plenty of it. Meat is not only healthful but also expensive. I enjoy meat the most when my father-in-law is paying for it, thank you. Besides, hosts expect their guests to partake with enthusiasm. To abstain would be rude.
Get out of the bed when not sleeping. And go where? Sharing a bedchamber is not easy. My husband will thrash about in his sleep and pull off the blankets. He says I hog them, but I act only in self-defense.
Fill the bedchamber with pleasing floral aromas. As I said, I share with my husband. Not only do we not have flowers available year-round (for he refuses to put up a hothouse), but the scent in our room is far from floral!
Hide the bedroom clocks. I would like a clock to hide! Charles will not purchase one for our bedchamber or any other room; he says they are unnecessary for country life. We have a mournful longcase clock in the entrance hall and an elegant ormolu clock–a wedding gift from Father–in the drawing room. And that’s it.
Buy a good mattress. This is the only decent suggestion of the lot. Ours was supposedly restuffed or refluffed or reticked (or whatever one does to mattresses) when we were married five years ago. I say my in-laws lied. This mattress has been around since before William the Conqueror. Yes, it would be just the thing for a battle-hardened Saxon brute.
Alas, I must selflessly make do with what beauty sleep I can snatch. I trust you are able to do the same.
Mary Elliot Musgrove
Daughter of Sir Walter Elliot, Bart.
Future Mistress of Uppercross
Mary’s “portrait” is Afternoon Stroll by Giovanni Boldini