Dear friends and readers,
For tonight a short letter: it consists of a poem Austen wrote as a sort of playful epithalamion for her brother’s wedding day. Jane writes the poem as if she were Fanny; that is, she is writing it for Fanny to present to Frank as an offering once Frank arrives. It’s eager, open; the couple are escaping; it’s all about movement as Nokes says; the couple “career” through Canterbury, Stambord bridge and Chilham village (just what Jane couldn’t do). It’s an epithalamion where a few scenes are visualized, vigorously suggested. Fanny’s stolid remark: “I had a bit of a letter from Aunt Jane, with some verses of hers”
See they come, post haste from Thanet,
Lovely couple, side by side;
They’ve left behind them Richard Kennet
With the Parents of the Bride!
Canterbury they have passed through;
Next succeeded Stamford-bridge;
Chilham village they came fast through;
Now they’ve mounted yonder ridge.
Down the hill they’re swift proceeding
Now they skirt the Park around;
Lo! The Cattle sweetly feeding
Scamper, startled at the sound!
Run, my Brothers, to the Pier gate!
Throw it open, very wide!
Let it not be said that we’re late
In welcoming my Uncle’s Bride!
To the house the chaise advances;
Now it stops-They’re here, they’re here!
How d’ye do, my Uncle Francis?
How does do your Lady dear?
Eleven months have passed (see Letter 47) since the date of the last letter and this is really not a letter but a substitute for one which Cassandra saved because it records the date of Frank’s wedding.
Frank had missed the Trafalgar action which grated — he wanted to win prizes and money and rank. What he had was enough to marry on and all the biographers agree that he had already developed his plan that his two sisters, mother and wife would live together in Southampton in a house he would help pay for and could get to quickly when he was on shore. It’d be close proximity (as Nokes says) to the naval dockyards at Portsmouth. Nothing fashionable but a south coast town with summer balls, winter assemblies. Jane was at Clifton, not there to greet the couple in person. Clifton says Nokes was a small not fashionable spa (so not too expensive). Remember how she longed to go to Worthing the year before
So Frank married Mary 24 July 1806 (the date of the letter the poem might have been part of) and honeymooned at Godmersham. Everyone was aware if hardly ever stated how gorgeous and unusual for anyone in the period is that estate; that Frank could not afford to take Mary someone where he would have to pay in order to have some privacy. Within the next year or so Mrs FA would show that she had felt uncomfortable at Godmersham; so too James’s wife (even she)