They were a large, young family, five boys and five girls, ranging from the ages of three years old to eighteen in 1830, when her diaries begin, all eager, high-spirited children, and exceptionally strong and healthy. In her early diaries, describing day-long journeys in coaches, early starts and late arrivals, she hardly ever mentions feeling tired, and she enjoyed the old methods of travelling infinitely more than the railway journeys of later days, about which she felt like the Frenchman who said: “On ne voyage plus; on arrive.” Long wild country walks in Scotland and mountain-climbing in Switzerland were particularly delightful to her.
This stock of sound vitality stood her in good stead all her life; only during those years which followed the birth of her eldest son does it seem to have failed her. Her life was an exceptionally busy one, and her strong feelings and sense of responsibility made even small domestic affairs matters for close attention; yet in the diaries and letters of her later life there are no entries which betray either the lassitude or the restlessness of fatigue. She was not one of those busy women who only keep pace with their interests by deputing home management to others. This power of endurance in a deeply feeling nature is one of the first facts which any one attempting to tell the story of her life must bring before the reader’s notice.
There was much reading aloud in the fireside circle at Minto, and for the boys much riding and sport. Many hours were spent upon the heather or in fishing the Teviot. Lady Fanny herself cared little for sport, or only for its picturesque side. Near the house are the rocks known as Minto Crags, mentioned by Sir Walter Scott in the “Lay of the Last Minstrel,” where many and many a time Lady Fanny raced about on hunting days, watching the redcoats with childish eagerness—intensely interested in the joyousness and beauty of the sight, but in her heart always secretly thankful if the fox escaped. Fox-hunting on Minto Crags must indeed have been a picturesque sight, and there was a special rock overhanging a precipice upon which she loved to sit and watch the wild chase, men and horses appearing and disappearing with flashing rapidity among the woods and ravines beneath. The pleasures of an open-air life meant so much to her that, in so far as it was possible for one with her temperament to pine at all, she was often homesick in the town, longing for the peace and freedom of the country.