Anthony Trollope, Can You Forgive Her?: Vol. 2, Ch. 8

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Chapter XLVIII: Preparations for Lady Monk's Party 

Early in April, the Easter recess being all over, Lady Monk gave a grand party in London. Lady Monk's town house was in Gloucester Square. It was a large mansion, and Lady Monk's parties in London were known to be very great affairs. She usually gave two or three in the season, and spent a large portion of her time and energy in so arranging matters that her parties should be successful. As this was her special line in life, a failure would have been very distressing to her;—and we may also say very disgraceful, taking into consideration, as we should do in forming our judgement on the subject, the very large sums of Sir Cosmo's money which she spent in this way. But she seldom did fail. She knew how to select her days, so as not to fall foul of other events. It seldom happened that people could not come to her because of a division which occupied all the Members of Parliament, or that they were drawn away by the superior magnitude of some other attraction in the world of fashion. This giving of parties was her business, and she had learned it thoroughly. She worked at it harder than most men work at their trades, and let us hope that the profits were consolatory.

It was generally acknowledged to be the proper thing to go to Lady Monk's parties. There were certain people who were asked, and who went as a matter of course,—people who were by no means on intimate terms with Lady Monk, or with Sir Cosmo; but they were people to have whom was the proper thing, and they were people who understood that to go to Lady Monk's was the proper thing for them. The Duchess of St Bungay was always there, though she hated Lady Monk, and Lady Monk always abused her; but a card was sent to the Duchess in the same way as the Lord Mayor invites a Cabinet Minister to dinner, even though the one man might believe the other to be a thief. And Mrs Conway Sparkes was generally there; she went everywhere. Lady Monk did not at all know why Mrs Conway Sparkes was so favoured by the world; but there was the fact, and she bowed to it. Then there were another set, the members of which were or were not invited, according to circumstances, at the time; and these were the people who were probably the most legitimate recipients of Lady Monk's hospitality. Old family friends of her husband were among the number. Let the Tuftons come in April, and perhaps again in May; then they will not feel their exclusion from that seventh heaven of glory,—the great culminating crush in July. Scores of young ladies who really loved parties belonged to this set. The mothers and aunts knew Lady Monk's sisters and cousins. They accepted so much of Lady Monk's good things as she vouchsafed them, and were thankful. Then there was another lot, which generally became, especially on that great July occasion, the most numerous of the three. It comprised all those who made strong interest to obtain admittance within her ladyship's house,—who struggled and fought almost with tooth and nail to get invitations. Against these people Lady Monk carried on an internecine war. Had she not done so she would have been swamped by them, and her success would have been at an end; but yet she never dreamed of shutting her doors against them altogether, or of saying boldly that none such should hamper her staircases. She knew that she must yield, but her effort was made to yield to as few as might be possible. When she was first told by her factotum in these operations that Mr Bott wanted to come, she positively declined to have him. When it was afterwards intimated to her that the Duchess of St Bungay had made a point of it, she sneered at the Duchess, and did not even then yield. But when at last it was brought home to her understanding that Mr Palliser wished it, and that Mr Palliser probably would not come himself unless his wishes were gratified, she gave way. She was especially anxious that Lady Glencora should come to her gathering, and she knew that Lady Glencora could not be had without Mr Palliser.

It was very much desired by her that Lady Glencora should be there. "Burgo," said she to her nephew, one morning, "look here." Burgo was at the time staying with his aunt, in Gloucester Square, much to the annoyance of Sir Cosmo, who had become heartily tired of his nephew. The aunt and the nephew had been closeted together more than once lately, and perhaps they understood each other better now than they had done down at Monkshade. The aunt had handed a little note to Burgo, which he read and then threw back to her. "You see that she is not afraid of coming," said Lady Monk.

"I suppose she doesn't think much about it," said Burgo.