A bewildered Mr C of Leicester has written to me on behalf of women to caution me to explain what women did in the country, as well as men.

He refers, quite properly, to my note 90 and, being a politician of the new school, is anxious that the Brown Advisor should not alienate one half of the population by ignoring it. It is a matter of some interest to me that the constraints of society and etiquette should force politicians to raise points that seem to the population as a whole an unnecessary blight, a bucket of oil spread across a limpid pool, stilling all the brightness of life and inducing only a longing for death, quick and sudden.

Well sir, such constraints did not restrain women in the 18th century so much as they did in the 19th, and though it might surprise you, there was little to prevent them pleasing themselves in the same pursuits as men. They were not bound to their embroidery.

Who is this at Combermere Abbey in around 1770, as wild as Natasha Rostova: ‘Riding like an Old Fool’ after hares, ‘& longing to follow Sir Robt over the Hedges, Hooping till I call’d off the Dogs’. Who, but Catherine Stapleton, and having a good time as usual?