Readers Letters: Britain In Dark Ages

April 5, 1906 ·

Dearest Sasha,

I hope this letter finds you well now that the fog seems to have engulfed the entirety of our little island. I had hoped Father would avoid the worst of it by staying with you but it seems it was not to be. Please give him and Aunty Marjory my love.

Business is slow and difficult. Not only does the fog mean most airships across the country are gorunded but it also means the wealthiest citizens have gone, first out of the capital and then even out of the country I suspect. Suffices to say we have had few orders from our usual customers.

The market for luxury goods is at a definite low. Not only that but the speed at which we can bring any goods in is now relegated to that of another era when we had to rely on ships crossing the oceans, we can keep up a supply of tea and coffee but many of the goods we previously stocked just will not survive the journey. It is amazing how we took for granted how airships reduce the distance between continents.

“Britain feels very isolated.”

I’m sure it won’t surprise you to hear I am going stir-crazy. Not only am I prevented from travelling by my duties to the business while Father is out of London but the wretched curfew keeps means I must get home in the early evening and stay in until the next morning. I had planned for a year travelling the globe, meeting new people, seeing new sights, finding some new and exciting product for our business. Instead here I am stuck in either the house or the office, seeing no one but our employees.

Or at least I would be. You must promise not to tell Papa but I have been breaking curfew. It started a week or so after He left. I was so wracked with boredom I thought I might go mad. It was half past five and I had just enough time to make my way home befor the curfew bells when for some reason instead of taking my usual route home I started to head for the docks. I don’t know what I expected to find, perhaps I thought to enjoy the quiet I knew the curfew should bring to the normally bustling area. I certainly was not expecting to find it just as bustling as ever.

“Ladies of the night offer wares”

I spotted people meeting on the corners of streets and at the mouths of alleways, making surrpetitous exchanges and then parting again. I saw ladies of the night offering their wares discreetly with a gesture or a suggestive smile. There were even public houses, ostentatious signs outside declaring them closed but people entering and leaving nonetheless. It may shock you to know that I actually entered one of these bars.

I thought I would stand out like a sore thumb but the place was crowded with all sorts of people of all sorts of appearance, I even thought I saw a clock toward the back. This at last was something of the thrill of adventure and exploration that had been missing from my life. Needless to say I came back to the docks on more than one occaision and in my illicit explorations I have found other areas of the city equally nocturnal, all places I would have previously avoided by night. I’ve made a number of useful contacts too but I shan’t bore you by talking about that.

One positive side to all this is that the sense of British camraderie has increased. There is no help coming from the other countries and little enough from our own government but we carry on. A number of people have been tinkering with designs for devices to purify a portion of the air and allow the wearer to breathe freely. I was fortunate enough to run into one such would-be inventor on one of my late night jaunts. He was kind enough to give me one of his prototypes for a small sum and I must say it seems to work quite well. It has made travel much more bearable.

“Amateur devices are only hope”

I am meeting him again next week, he knows enough about engineering and such but he has little knowledge of business so has no idea how to get his design out to people who need it. I am hoping he will agree to let me act on his behalf in selling these. Looking around at the way many londoners are struggling, especially the poor who are often malnourished and cold as it is and so I think more at risk from the fog, I would dearly like to be able to simply give the things away but the price of materials is increasing as a direct result of the fog. Perhaps if enough profit can be made from the selling of these purifiers we can think about such charitable acts.

That is about all. I hope you will find time to write me a reply.

All my love,

Elizabeth Harcourt

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