This highly original study looks at rituals of sociability in new and creative ways. Based upon thousands of personal letters, it reconstructs the changing country and London worlds of an English gentry family, and reveals intimate details about the social and cultural life of the period.Challenging current influential views, the book observes strong connections, instead of deep divisions, between country and city, land and trade, sociability and power. Its very different view undermines established stereotypes of omnipotent male patriarchs, powerless wives and kin, autonomous eldersons, and dependent younger brothers. Gifts of venison and visits in a coach reveal unexpected findings about the subtle power of women over the social code, the importance of younger sons, and the overwhelming impact of London. Successfully combining storytelling and historical analysis, the bookrecreates everyday lives in a period of overseas expansion, financial revolution, and political turmoil.