Maria continued to write to her mother, but now more frequently to her son, Jimmy, apprenticed wheelwright in Warminster. Jimmy lodged in Warminster during the week and walked the 7 miles to Chitterne and back at weekends. Maria relied on him to cash the money order she regularly sent him, and to take the money to his grandmother. In January 1874, when Maria was earning £22 per annum and Jimmy was 17 years old, she writes this to him:
Well, my dear, I have not been able to get you a birthday present, but I have enclosed an order for £3. 3/- (£3.15). The three pounds you must take to your Grandmother, and the 3/- you can buy what you like best with. I know you will not squander it away. You can buy a Book or any thing to wear that you like best.
In the summers of 1875 and 1876 Maria goes sailing with the Hamiltons aboard the yacht ‘Diana’ heading towards the Channel Islands and France. In 1875 in France Maria was shocked to see businesses open on a Sunday and has this to say:
We went ashore Saturday afternoon and I went marketing with the Steward. The women all wear clean white mob caps instead of Bonnets or hats, and wooden shoes. Then on Sunday we went ashore again. Plenty of Roman Catholic Churches and plenty of Women and Children and old men but all the young men would be at their business. Every shop open and every trade going on. Builders, Painters, shoemakers, drapers and Grocers. Oh, I would not live in France for all the money I could see.
On that particular trip they were unable to make the Channel Islands due to the weather, but in Portsmouth Maria had a surprise:
I went to Portsmouth one day last week to see a friend and I walked up to an Inspector to enquire for the street, and I heard the Policeman say, I know that Lady, so I looked at him and thought, well, I don’t know you. So he says, you don’t come from Wiltshire, do you? I said yes, I do. You were Mrs Feltham. I should know you among ten thousand. Do you know Charles Ashley? And then I could see some Whatley in him. I was very pleased and he politely put me in a tramsway and I bid him good bye. I was pleased to see another Chitterne man, but I hardly step ashore but someone knows me.
The policeman was George Ashley 1851-1901, son of Charles Ashley 1827-1898 and Jane Whatley 1828-1907.
Winter 1975 Maria’s charges Eva 11, and Beryl 10, are being educated at home, Armadale, Row, Scotland, as she describes in a letter to her mother dated 3 December:
We have the snow lying on the ground, but hard frost and bright sunshine. Our Children skate and slide for 2 hours a day between lessons, but they have 3 miles to walk to the pond. They are in the schoolroom every morning at 10 minutes to 8 and after skating, resume them again till ½ past 6.
And we get some Chitterne news, so we are able to accurately date the letter to 1875:
The sudden death of Mr Poolman (I have not been able to identify this man) must have cast a gloom over the festivities of Annie Titt’s marriage. It speaks aloud to all of us, be ye also ready. (Ann Sarah Titt, born 1849, who had lived with her aunt Amelia at the Poplars smithy, married widower Henry Maffey on 24 November 1875 at Chitterne Church.)
I am glad my dear Boy has joined the Bible class. Hoping to hear from you soon with all the news of Imber people (Maria’s mother Euphemia was born Daniells in Imber). I see Mr Parham is gone (John Parham 1795/6- 1875, farmed at Tilshead Lodge). Mr Morris is left a lonely Oak in the forest. (Charles Morris 1785/6-1879, lived at the Round House for over 60 years).
The following year Maria is under sail again from Scotland to France. This time the family are accompanied by Archibald Lawrie 1837-1914, who will later marry the widowed Constance Hamilton. During this trip Maria and Jimmy fall out over the purchase of a bicycle. She writes a letter gently chastising him from aboard the Yacht ‘Diana’ anchored off Gosport, Hampshire, on 22nd September 1876:
My darling Boy,
I was so glad to get your letter and am sending you an order for £1, but, my dear Boy, I do not approve of your having any thing without paying ready money for it. Your dear Grandmother always taught us never to buy any thing till we had the money to pay for it, a practice I have always carried out, and would hope you will do the same. Out of debt, out of danger.
I could not think of you going abroad, a young respectable man like you, saddled with debt, so I am sending this at no little inconvenience to myself, as there are many things I too would like to have and could have, if I liked to spend my last penny or run in debt. But it would not make me happy if I could not enjoy it, and I hope you will not be so imprudent again. As it’s the first time you have asked me for any thing, I have sent it.
Now, my dear Boy, we expect to have the yacht on Monday, and when I get to Paris I will write. I hope you will enjoy your Bicycle and that you will never again buy any thing till you can pay for it.
The following week on the 1st October Maria writes to her son from the Hotel St James, Rue St Honoré, Paris:
Here I am in Paris, and a Sunday in Paris is a very different thing to a Sunday in Scotland, or even England, but I went to a very nice English Protestant Church on Sunday and enjoyed it. But when I came out, it was very different. All kinds of trades going on. No rest for man or Beast. In a carpenter’s shop just opposite here, the men and boys have been working and singing the whole day long.
It is a beautiful city. A lovely river called the Seine, like our Thames runs through it. The buildings too are very noble and the monuments very grand indeed. The public parks and Gardens you can go in free of charge and there are plenty of seats to rest on. Then, they are laid out for miles with grass plots, Flowers and Statuary and Fountains playing. I have been to the Tomb of Napoleon the great, and driven in the Bois de Boulogne, been to the Louvre, where is gathered all the National property: Pictures, Statuary, precious stones, Jewellery, works of art of every description. Also to the Tuileries or Royal Palace. It was burnt at the war (destroyed during the Commune in 1871). I have also been to the Palais Royale and to some of the most famous churches, and yet one feels almost inclined to say with St Paul, a city given over to Idolatry.
Mrs Hamilton is very kind. She has taken me out in the carriage each day. We live very well at this Hotel. We have Coffee, Roll and Butter and an Egg for Breakfast, Dinner at 1, Soup, Fish, 2 Meats, 2 Vegetables, pudding or tart and Grapes, Peaches and Pears, and as much Claret as we like to drink. No tea but at ½ past 7 Meat, Salad, Bread and Potatoes and Claret again, but all very good. Just 3 meals a day.
During the 19th century, the affluent Rue Saint-Honoré started to attract young talented craftsmen whose names became the ultimate symbol of luxury. Among them were the trunk makers Louis Vuitton and Lancel, the saddler Thierry Hermès and the fashion designer Jeanne Lanvin.