Letter from Andrew Blaikie to his wife, Jean

Windsor, Friday Evening, 7 o’clock.

My dear,

I arrived here to-day at 12 as little fatigued as when I left you. As to Frank, he is as well as I could wish; the distance excepted. He set me to Burton, and even past it. Sunday morning we parted in seeming good spirits. But I durst not look back to him; and so childish was I that my heart filled and swelled, that I was obliged to give vent to the effusion of tears and cry like a bairn. In a mile or two came round, and saw Lichfield Cathedral. Grand indeed, both out and in. Have seen Blenheim House round and round; Woodstock parks, &c. I did not think there was such a place on earth. Saw all the different Colleges in Oxford, 18 in number, with many noble things else. I sent Lord Chesterfield’s letter to the King’s farmer after I lighted, with a card of my own, wishing to know when and where I was to see him to-morrow to see all His Majesty’s farming stocks, &c. I received a very genteel card telling me he would call upon me in the morning at 8, and show me anything I wished. After dinner the master of the public-house, such a man as, a very great intimate of Frank’s, went out with me. Walked out to the park, where I saw the sheep, feeding cattle, dairy of cows, milk-houses, and all the apparatus. The mistress of that appointment also acquainted with Frank. I understood the King’s servants and Chesterfield’s were as well acquainted as Mr Murray’s and ours are – the principal groom, huntsman, and others. We then got into Windsor Castle or Palace, into every room of it. The paintings, statues, state beds, ancient dresses and arms deposited there are superb, and vast in number beyond what I can say or any person conceive that has not seen them. The Royal flag flying on the top of the castle. The whole of the Princesses, King, and Queen here. This day being Good Friday, they were all at church, but out before I was ready to go out. They live in a separate house from the palace, in a house not much better than Merton. They call it Windsor Lodge. There is to be a public view of the Royal family on Sunday afternoon on the terrace, when every person of decent appearance may walk past and past them, and hear them conversing. I shall wait that exhibition. Ride as far that night as I can, in order to see Smithfield market.

Monday morning .- Still civil usage and moderate charge. In the very best inns, 2s for dinner, Is 4d breakfast; but very few above 1s 2d breakfast and 1s 6d dinner. My mare perfectly fresh, has never mistaken a foot. The road I have come will be 450 miles, I daresay. It gives me the greatest happiness to hear Frank’s character everywhere is known. You never saw two men as like one another as Cousin and him are, in their walk, speech, and manner. When hearing any person speak, he gives a nod with his head as a token he hears you. They are as kind people as I ever saw in their line. After dining in large parties, as is the ordinary at inns, I always keep quiet till I hear how the conversation goes. Generally some one or other begins on farming. I can then give in a word. Then some say, Sir, I presume you come from Scotland, by your tongue. I say so, and then must describe our customs, farming rents or others. They then are the kindest people I ever met with. I lose no time, in husbanding time; when my mare rests at meal-time, I walk about and see everything. For last 9 miles the road lies on the banks of the Thames. Though fresh water, sloops of 100 tons come up the river, but drawn by horses -sometimes 6, 8, or 12 horses. All the ground quite level, dry, and the best husbandry. I shall keep open till to-morrow evening, or perhaps Sunday.

Saturday morning, 6.- slept well. Prince of Wales’ Regiment Bays gone past to exercise just now. A pretty sight indeed. Butcher market begun. A fine sight also. The way they cut the meat is quite new. I’m just getting breakfast, to be ready for His Majesty’s farmer, who is to call at 8. I shall see new things to-day. By way of revenge for payment, I drink sugar here. I never was in a more hospitable, decent inn than this. Mrs Gurly, the landlady, has a great many flowers in pots she got from Frank, that goes by his name. I think she would weigh Betty, Bell, and you, all three. They have no family; four children dead. I never was more at home not to be at home. Tell Mr Kinghorn I regret his loss in not getting with me. He might come twenty times before he had such opportunitys as the present.

I shall see everything I wish at the least expense. Remember me to all that asks for me. Tell G Wilkie I have no doubt the shoes will come home on the mare without removing. Wonderfull fine horses of every kind in this country. My black nags would appear small colts beside them.

This letter will amuse all the family. Remember me to Tom, Peter Mills, and Betty. Tell them I begin to clip the King’s English, and will no doubt smell of state, Mind me to J. Milne, Captain Binnie, the good-wife, and Robie; Mary Murray, my favourite, and that family; Mr and Mrs Kinghorn, &c. I think I see Holydean and all about it. I wish them all well. I believe they pray for me. Mr Frost, the farmer, calls. Adieu for the time. Lord Chesterfield a great support to this family. 3/A I have rode over the King’s farms with Mr Frost, the farmer, a genteel, clever man. He is as like the late David M’Dougal, Caverton Mill, as I ever saw, but speaks fast, as they generally do here. I saw 120 draught oxen. We were riding in the great park, a wonderful! one, when one of the King’s servants came in quest of Mr Frost, telling him to meet the King at the farmstead. We, of course, went there, and waited, when the King, General Harcourt, and Lord Sommerviile came, and went in to view the fat oxen, which we had seen before. I waited till they came out, when Mr Frost told the King my name and country, who I farmed under, &c. He came to me, asked me a great many questions as to the place I lived, the kinds of cattle, sheep, &c, rents of lands, and various other things; all which I answered with as much ease as I could have done to any neighbour farmer. Lord Sommerville is well acquainted in our country, and even had heard of my name. The King speaks fast, and I was sometimes at a loss; but Lord Sommerville made up for both. After that we rode a long way in the park, looking at draining, &c. I rode behind about 40 or 50 feet, when  Mr Frost would call me to come forward, which I evaded as much as I could. I was surprised when coming over a small rise in the park; there was the pack of harriers, and I daresay 40 or 50 noblemen or gentlemen, all in waiting, with a hare in a box. They all turned in the rear of the King and General Harcourt. The hare was set out, and off they went. Such a sight I never saw in my life. My mare would have joined the sport; but Mr Frost and me came home and dined here. I never spent as happy a day in my life. I shall not stay to see the Queen and Princesses tomorrow, but set off early to London. My dear Jean, did you ever think I was to speak to the King? You cannot conceive a plainer man. He seems much shrunk. Though only three months younger, I think I’m a great deal more in bodily strength or agility. He has been very full, and his face empty. He put a great many questions about Scotland which I could not answer; but by Lord Sommerville’s aid I came pretty well on. Lord Chesterfield and Lord Sommerville and Mr Frost shall have my toast often if I live. I have taken a good many notes on the field. This seemed to please vastly. Mr Frost is gone. I shall walk over the Thames and see Eton College in the evening; it is more than 1½  mile. I shall be in London to-morrow evening. Then my head and heart is home. Shall write you before I leave it. In the meantime, God bless you and keep you all. —

P.S.-Keep this letter carefully, as I will have recourse to it.