Gay Street may be seen just off The Circus (see brief history of Austen moves)
Dear friends and readers,
This letter to Cassandra at Ibthorpe with Martha and Mary Lloyd while Mrs Lloyd, their mother is dying, gives us a picture of Austen’s life as a single woman living in straitened circumstances in lodgings in Bath. She has fallen in status and now finds herself in social circles of women like herself — evoking the world of Emma from partly from a point of view like that of Miss Bates or Jane Fairfax..
Miss Bates (Constance Chapman) having to keep up a brave front before the grand lady, Emma (Doran Godwin) because her niece, Jane Fairfax has taken a position as a governess (1972 BBC Emma — at Miss Bates’s lodgings)
Jane Austen is throughout this letter acutely aware of this. The letter shows many other parallels between Austen’s life in Bath and experiences and scenes in Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Persuasion. I suggest that perhaps Jane Austen took the name of her friend, Anne Sharp and gave it to her last heroine, Anne Elliot.
Perhaps it would be well at this point to detail the income she, her mother and sister were living on: 450 £ (pounds) a year. Shortly after Mr Austen died, the brothers added to the tiny income coming to Mrs Austen from her investments (which were hers at the time of her marriage): 210 £ a year. That’s too small to live genteelly on. It may include Cassandra’s small annuity income from the investment made with the 1000 £ Tom Fowles left her. So James and Henry made that up with 240 more pounds to come to 450 a year. At or around the time of the funeral James pledged 50, Henry did the same, Edward (they decided) was to be relied on for 100. At first Frank wanted to give 100, but it was beyond him, so the mother said no, and it was a pledge of 50. Of course these are pledges not the same as getting money from what you own yourself. Henry’s shallow (unthinking) optimism in a letter to Frank:
I really think that my mother & sisters will be to the full as rich as ever. They will not only suffer no personal deprivation, but will be able to pay occasional visits of health and pleasure to their friends
As Honan (one of Austen’s biographers) remarks: this overlooks the psychological as well as dependent status the three women must now endure: they have to rely on other people who have committments of their own, must live in lodgings not their own home, which they would never be able to afford. One servant kept in the furnished lodgings, no carriage, no means of washing easily, have to buy all food, where they went to the bathroom becomes an issue they had to be aware of. Austen turned this into the words of Fanny to John Dashwood in the bitter Chapter 2 of S&S:
Do but consider, my dear Mr. Dashwood, how excessively comfortable your mother-in-law and her daughters may live on the interest of seven thousand pounds, besides the thousand pounds belonging to each of the girls, which brings them in fifty pounds a year apiece, and, of course, they will pay their mother for their board out of it. Altogether, they will have five hundred a year amongst them, and what on earth can four women want for more than that? They will live so cheap! Their house-keeping will be nothing at all. They will have no carriage, no horses, and hardly any servants; they will keep no company, and can have no expenses of any kind! Only conceive how comfortable they will be! Five hundred a year!
Fanny (Harriet Walter) to John (James Fleetword) Dashwood (1995 Miramax S&S)
The letter itself is a sudden burst — reminding me of the one from Lyme (39, 14 September 1804, Lyme). They both have this burst-forth feel. In the case of Letter 39 there is the distinct feel of someone who has been ill and is recovering. In this Letter 43 it’s Cassandra who has been ill, and of course, being Cassandra, presenting herself as far better than she is. Jane ignores this and speaks to what she assumes is the reality: Cassandra is “already the better for the change of place.” So much for Bath; there’s no getting away from Jane Austen’s distaste for the place and now she has had years to confirm this.
It’s now my belief that Jane Austen had some kind of breakdown during the four years we have no letters for. Tomalin thinks she went into a many year depression and that’s why there was no writing; I conceive from the calendars and texts we have that Austen did write during these years, but she had a hiatus which the absence of letters hides. And she comes back to learn to live with her vulnerability, their mortifications and accept these. Her way of life is determined walking, quietly writing and a social round with others like herself.
This is my sense of the full meaning of the utterance in this letter: “What a different circle are we now moving in! But seven years I suppose are enough to change every pore of one’s skin, & every feeling of one’s mind.” A cataclysm of emotion occurred for which we have no document – but of course the novels — and we have a woman on the other side of intense longings for what her world would never give her (real respect, any money, any power). And she really has turned to her novels to experience some of this in her imagination and to feel real respect for her work even if no one else who counts (meaning the public world) does.
Note it’s the mother the brothers are supporting first and foremost. I suppose that might be because it’s probable she will not remarry (toothless, lost her looks long ago with all those pregnancies and probably not well from it all, and certainly no money to come to tempt most males sufficiently), but it does have this curious feel of excluding the sisters even if they too will live on it. On Frank and Jane’s special relationship (remember the 3 packets of destroyed letters), it was he who first made a home for her and his mother and Cassandra in Southampton, well before Edward who easily could have from the time of the father’s death on.
She’s not strained in the way of the 1801 letters and even the one from 1804. It’s much more accepting or cheerful: “Here is a day for you! Did Bath or Ibthorpe ever see a finer 8th of April? — It is March & April together, the glare of one & the warmth of the other.” No false idealizing as usual and throughout there is a continual alert feeling of their status, with the implication that it’s low continually, that they are not exactly sought after by anyone who counts. If you read what’s in front of you, you see that Martha has lost her mother and thus her security and place and Cassandra has gone there to comfort – to reassure, for they did invite Martha to come live with them. You see that another friend, Anne Sharpe (ex-governess at Godmersham — I’ve always wondered what happened there) is again seeking employment and (from Austen’s point of view) not from people she admires or anyone would (I realize LeFaye has argued this paragraph is about a lower servant of Austen’s named Anne — but who would this be? Jenny is the servant, and the passage then doesn’t make sense, as we will see below.)
In the later letters when they are in Southampton and especially once they get to Chawton Austen’s cheer increases. She was then at least in her private house in controlled space, had some status and belongings around her, time for solitude, herself and could write uninterruptedly with more space, and then of course was re-juvenated and brought back to herself through the publications. Her plan to publish S&S on her own savings (with Henry’s help) spurred the re-writing of the first three novels and then expansion and writing of the last three novels to where we have them. But here we do have a glimpse of that later mood. And I find a sentence which I think refers to her writing her novels: “I was not able to go on yesterday, all my Wit & leisure were bestowed to Charles & Henry.” Go on? Go on with her novel writing.
This is a piece of journalizing, a diary sent her sister (the way Fanny Burney wrote her journals which survived because Burney outlived not only her own generation but the next one and left the papers to a great-great niece).
Gay Street, a recent photo: the Jane Austen museum has located itself where the Austens lodged
The letter opens and we find Austen on Gay Street. I’ve walked there, a middling sort of row, a steep hill, not a bad part of town then or now. In-between the assembly rooms, near shopping, a bit of a walk from the river and lower parks. In the center of town though.
It begins with cheer: “Here is a day for you!” Cassandra likes this sort of day. She would enjoy it. “Did Bath or Ibthorpe ever see a finer eighth of April?” The two of them have been living between Bath and Ibthorpe (the beloved Martha’s home) these five years. “It is March & April and the glare of one & the warmth of the other.” Anne Elliot hated the white glare of Bath, Fanny Price basked in the warmth of Portsmouth when spring came.
We do nothing but walk about; as far as your means will admit I hope you profit by such weather too.
She does walk about; from the 1801 to this letter that is what we most see her doing. Walking is cheap. It’s an escape from social entanglements. Myself I like a train for this reason too, like what I call “wandering about.”
But it seems that Cassandra’s means may get in the way. Her feet? a carriage? she has not been in good health or spirits. This is recurred to several times in this letter.
Jane was not the only one who suffered from living in Bath — Cassandra might also have suffered from Godmersham for it seems as if she was the aunt called upon most often to serve Elizabeth and Edward Austen. Without pay.
Austen thinks “I dare say you are already better for change of place.” As I wrote quickly endless are the comments which show us Austen didn’t like Bath.
And the one of these endured nights out. They got through the time. Miss Irvine had invited them for tea, and Jane declined it “having no idea that my Mother would be disposed for another Evening visit there so soon: but when I gave her the message I found her well inclined to go.”
No help for it then. They left the chapel (that might be the one where this philanthropic domineering religious woman ran whose name escapes me right now) — it’s high up — and “walked to Lansdowne.” Even higher. One has to have good feet, stout shoes, a good back.
We’ve met the Chamberlaynes before; this time a Mr Ripley, yet another clergyman type. Then in the morning (doubtless form a promise) they go see Miss Chamberlayne ride. This is a typical reality in Austen’s life habits: she watches others ride, others skate, others play tennis. Not her.
Note the exactitute of this: 7 years and 4 months ago they went to hear Miss Chamberlayne play there. That’s 1798 — the visit to Bath we saw recorded in the earlier letters. I’m struck by the precise time. Here I see it as her caring about the Lefroys: Mrs Lefroy, and maybe the memory of Tom stuck too somewhere buried by now.
This is what the gentry who don’t work for a living but don’t have a helluva a lot of money nor an occupation that they can present to the world do: go to tennis courts, watch people ride, performs on piano. We don’t usually feel this passing of time in the costume dramas.
Then the striking remark about time:
What a different circle are we now moving in! But seven years I suppose are enough to change every pore of one’s skin, & every feeling of one’s mind.
And now she moves on to Sunday. They didn’t walk long in the Crescent yesterday (very pretty place by the way — half country half town) it was too hot & not crouded enough.
Did she want it crouded? Does that make it more interesting? LIke walking in Central Park, NYC to watch the people doing their various things .Maybe
Austen does not have anything against Miss Seymour so much as resenting (once again) false praise. Perhaps there is jealousy here too. She has not yet seen her face! Nothing of dash or stylishness, quite the contrary, her dress not even smart, very quiet. Miss Irvine says “she is noever speaking a word.” Why Austen calls Miss Seymour ‘Poor Wretch” and offers the idea she is “in penitence” bothers me. A sexual pecadillo? if so, it’s disdainful and narrow, ungenerous.
There is an implicit contrast with the “good-hearted friendly” Mrs Coulthard. If in her novels Austen could imagine and find sympathy for the world’s victims who were reserved, she could not in life so much. Here she is a kind of Emma. She called while Mrs Austen was out & I was believed to be so.
Interesting: Mrs Coulthard was shy of these two women. She calls to leave her card hoping they will not be there. The dysfunctionalities of social life were rampant in the 18th century, maybe more so than today. Austen recognizes this in her next coment. The affadavits on the table left by the Brownes (who successfully called when no one was there) is a joke about this.
The Ambuscade is not one of Charles or Francis’s ships: Austen keeps an eye on them all. Teh significance is it sent back news that all well on Gibraltar — so about Austen’s brother. As of 9th of March.
NO letter from anybody and then turning to family news: why they are happy at Godmersham I can’t say, as Edward will write tomorrow and she is waiting for a letter from Cassandra about Ibthorpe to see how they are doing there too.
The people she cares about; they are in her mind and she is with them that way. She wants to know how Cassandra is going on especially – as she was not well.
Then a moment of generosity for James’s wife: nice weather for her visit to Speen, and Austen expects a prodigious account (boasting, Mary boasts) of a Christmas diner. And finally a reference to Miss Dundas who Cassandra had apparently liked to have as a friend and would have liked to see again.
A world of women for Cassandra too. The world of Emma outside the heroine.
Miss Bates’s lodgings: Jane Fairfax, Mrs Bates, Harriet, Emma (1996 Meridian Emma)
And so her account of Monday ends.
Opening establishment shot of Part 4 of the BBC Sense and Sensibility (filmed in Bath)
Mrs Jennings (Annie Leon) welcomes Elinor (Irene Richards) and Marianne (Tracey Childs) to a far nicer, be-servanted room than the Austens had
There are several topics under the date of Tuesday: the death of Mrs Lloyd, Mary and Martha’s (harridan of a it’s said) mother. Of interest here is the sombreness with which Austen treats this — she often does not treat death this way, but these are friends and the friends’ mother. While the whole thrust is secular: “consciousness of Existence was gone” (no talk of souls, spirits) and while at first I thought the next line referred to an afterlife it’s rather that Mrs Lloyd is not dead yet:: “May her End be peaceful & easy, as the Exit we have just witnessed.” She died 5 days later.
Cassandra’s state of health which Jane insists was very bad, and cannot have improved so rapidly (unless post-chaises are miraculous healing vehicles which patently they are not) and will not be fobbed off with reports that others tell Cassandra she is better (“People think you in a very bad way I suppose, & pay you Compliments to keep up your Spirits”).
Then there is the combined interactive topic of how much Cassandra’s company probably means to Martha: “As a companion You will be all that Martha can be supposed to want; & in that light, under those circumstances you visit will indeed be well-timed, & Your presence & support have the utmost value.” The circumstances referred to are economic: very nice house but not owned or controlled by Martha at all and in letter 44 Jane refers to a scheme Cassandra had apparently brought with her: that all 3 women would set up life as partners, live together – Jane said she agrees it is bad policy to try to hide it; best to say it out and brave all comment for hiding it would give ammunition to anyone who wanted to oppose (what you see you are ashamed?). All of which helps support Donoghue’s thesis that Austen was living the life of a lesbian spinster.
On this the utterance about 7 years and 4 months gone by is about the way she is seeing and feeling and reacting to the world. She presents the endless babies women have more as an instance of pathos (Mrs Buller). There is no apparent interest in males or dancing (no jokes) and this may just be an instance of the letter to hand and later we have evidence of interest in the apothecary but I feel less tension about this. No one nagging her to marry; no one expects it; no one drives her into circles where she might just pull this off. She is freer. Arnie wrote that he thought “outrage[d] response only arose when that hardship was avoidable and was caused by the unconcern of others>” Well she certainly dislikes “perfect unconcern” (her phrase for Lydia Bennet) but I feel the outrage is gone (and thus the bitter witticisms) because she is no longer bothered personally.
A thread throughout this and the other letters is walking. Austen walks to live, for very life; it’s what she does, how she passes time. It’s not nothing for shoe leather does wear out I suppose; but as entertainments go it’s the cheapest and I suggest keeps individuals away from too much intimacy, social entanglement. It fits my view of Austen. Interestingly they get other women wanting to come. Accompany them. For the same reasons: given nothing to do for real, and no income beyond the barest to keep up the genteel lifestyle in a boarding house. There is a sense of the Austen women as self-reliant, as somehow stalwart people around whom others may (pretend to?) hold up their heads (against far worse snobberies and exclusions).
They do have 450 £ which these acquaintances and friends may not, are more self-possessed perhaps and people are glad to have Austens as their clique or company. Miss Irvine who we have heard of before. “A very pleasant walk to Twerton.”
The Bullers. I went over Mrs Buller in an earlier posting so here just talk of Mr who is very sick: “bilious” signifies real illness. This paragraph reminds us people came to Bath because they were ill, and illness is everywhere — or hypochondria. Sanditon had some roots here.
And now Austen has a visitor, a headmistress, Miss Colburne of Lansdowne Cresdent, which I’ll treat separately
Lansdowne Crescent, 1820 (it has been suggested b Rictor Norton that Anne Radcliffe attended this or another school, perhaps run by the Lee sisters in Bath)
We had a bit of controversy over this on Austen-l. I now suggest that perhaps Anne Elliot’s first name honors Anne Sharp, the governess. There is to be explained when LeFaye inventing another servant, also named Anne (!): there is only the one servant, Jenny, and we know of no other but Nanny and those left behind at Steventon, not upper servant types for an elite girls’ school. LeFaye invented this second mythical presence to distance Austen from having been interviewed as a near equivalent of Jane Austen.
I first wrote:
You see that another friend, Anne Sharpe (ex-governess at Godmersham — I’ve always wondered what happened there) is again seeking employment and (from Austen’s point of view) not from people she admires or anyone would: she refers to “the ignorant class of school mistresses” when she refers to the woman who showed up (presumably to interview Miss Sharpe?) Much snobbery here on Austen’s part I’m afraid and I can find no excuse for this as she is one of these people and she knows it, for her letter is filled with the same kind of fringe women we saw in 1801. Indeed the same families mentioned: Chamberlaynes, Miss Irvine — and not because she loves them for they are still not on a first name basis at all. Nonetheless, the feel is “never mind” and “no matter,” she’s glad to “be of any use” to say “poor Mrs Buller.” “What honour I am come to!” (wry ironies).
Diana B countered with LeFaye’s theory that this Anne is not Ann Sharpe but a servant, Anne and provided LeFaye’s note:
Anne Sharp was governess at Godmersham from 1804-1806 but had to resign owing to continued ill-health; in March 1806 she was with a Mrs Raikes as governess to one little girl aged 6; but even this was too much for her strength, and in May 1806 she moved to become companion to Mrs. Raikes’s sister, the crippled Miss Bailey, in Hinckley, Leics. In the summer of 1811 Miss Sharp left Miss Bailey and [became] governess to the four young daughters of the recently widowed Lady Pilkington…By 1823 she was running her own boarding-school. Here’s where it gets confusing. LeFaye writes, “It is not certain from JA’s surviving letters whether Miss Sharp did eventually manage to visit Hampshire in the late summer of 1811, but she certainly was at Chawton in June 1815, and again for a longer visit in August-September 1820, when JEAL met her at the Cottage and told his sister Anna that she was ‘horridly affected but rather amusing.’ The Miss Sharp whom JA mentions as being in Bath in 1805 is clearly not the same as this Miss Anne Sharp.” Two of them? So the “Anne” who is being interviewed by the Crescent lady in Letter #43, and the “Miss Sharpe” in Letter #44 (“They go on with their Masters & Mistresses, & are now to have a Miss; Amelia is to take lessons of Miss Sharpe”) is not the Anne Sharp, governess, who was Jane Austen’s friend?
My reply is though it’s possible the woman referred to as Anne is another woman, it seems unlikely from the whole tenor of the interview. Who goes to such trouble for a servant. LeFaye has invented a second Anne because she cannot bear to think of Austen interviewed in effect as an equivalent of a friend, or sister of Elizabeth Austen who employed Sharp as a governess. It could be a servant — yes — but servant doesn’t quite fit what’s happening. A headmistress interviewing Austen for a servant this way plus the reference to what school mistresses want? The way servants were regarded was very condescending (to say the least).
Let us look at the passage.
“What honour I am come to! — I was interrupted by the arrival of a Lady to enquire the character of Anne, who is returned from Wales & ready for service. — and I hope I have acquitted myself pretty well, but having a very reasonable Lady to deal with, one who only requited a tolerable temper, my office was not difficult. — Were I going to send a girl to school I would send her to this person; to be rational in anything is great praise, especially in the ignorant class of school mistresses — and she keeps the School in the upper Crescent.”
This is a good passage to show how important it is to read carefully and how much we can pick up this way even from these remnants.
What an honour I am come to! is the end of an ironic discourse on how Austen is fallen. She is reduced to being glad to be of use to “poor Mrs Buller” for whom “all that can constitute enjoyment” is having her children around her. She has no status or regard anywhere else.
Austen goes away and comes back and moves on associatively. Now she is the person whom a school mistress has come to examine for the character of a prospective employee. Austen does hope she acquitted herself very well: now she Austen is of use again — as she is glad to be “of use” to Mrs Buller (though she admits Mrs Buller sits with that “quiet composedness of mind” that _seems_ sufficient to itself” — italics mine).
I agree Austen does praise the school mistress: calls her a “Lady”, grants her a rare “rational mind”. I am drawn to that phrase as a general comment that makes Austen the writer she is, the mind she is. Rationality is rare and she sees it in this woman; she is “very reasonable.” But then the other vein in the passage is even anti-school, implicitly disvaluing the academic learning of such a place for girls. And we see this in Austen’s comments on Mrs Goddard’s school: it’s one thing to be against false learning which is what is implied in Emma but not quite here. Austen is praising this woman for wanting so little of Anne Sharpe. Only a “tolerable temper” (that’s Austen’s italics). It is then okay apparently for a teacher to be meaner, a hard disciplinarian, sharp. This does go with what Sarah Fielding presents in her The Governess where one finds harsh punishments accepted (including physical ones with little limit) accepted. And there is downright snobbery in that last phrase. This is especially good in “that ignorant class of school mistresses.”
By happenstance I am listening to The Last chronicle of Barset where we meet the school mistresses of a place Grace Crawley is educated in. Genteel, well read , well educated. I need not instance Jane Fairfax I hope. What impresses Austen is the school is “in the upper Crescent” — where she, Austen, cannot afford to live. This does remind me of Mrs Weston who was herself a governess but hesitate and regrets that Frank should so lower himself to marry Jane Fairfax who could have been a governess. (Is she ignorant? no. It’s Mrs Smallridge who is the horror). Now Austen does (I like to think) satirize implicitly Mrs Weston for Austen remembers and expects us to remember Mrs Weston was a governess.
Perhaps she is skewering herself in Emma both in the central character in part and Mrs Weston but how serious this is we have to ask.
The passage is fascinating as revealing all sorts of things. Austen is one of those who could be a governess. I assume by the way the lady who came to visit and question her might evince the same snobberies towards Austen and her lodgings as Austen towards her.
What a scene. I like Austen for her friendship of course for Anne Sharp and think the passage also shows us where to place Austen in her novels. What her angle is. The threatened woman, near declasse, at risk of being brought down, but idealised to the extent that she will not sell herself egregiously in the way of a Lucy Steele. There she stretches out a hand to Charlotte Bronte finally:
I can live alone, if self-respect and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure, born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld; or offered only at a price I cannot afford to pay
The Watsons has the closest portrait to herself and her circumstances and that of her father originally than any of the books. I think she was writing that relatively finished opening we have at this time.
Austen then went out for a walk with her mother, a very long walk: “that is a very long Walk” said Mary Cook.
St. James’s Square (where they walked, some of this is very hilly)
Tuesday carried on with a long walk by Mrs Austen and Austen to ST James Square and the Paragon to see the uncle and aunt but I’m not sure who was at St James Square. Neither was home. I hope they were not snubbed.
She then went to the Cooks (a mutual acquaintance with Burney).
A cerrtain comedy of jockeying for position goes on even among the “lower” echelons and for diurnal doings: Apparently Austen hoped to get Mary to walk with them, but no Mary “was on the point of taking a long walk with some other Lady …” There’s something human in this little snubbing. Austen wanted to know then how far were they going and Mary then did (relent) and invite her but she “excused herself” as having come from St James Square (already walk) and Mary replied: “that is a _long_ walk indeed.” I don’t get whether she was implying something derogatory; it does seem so but quite on what terms hard to say. (Social experience is often ambiguous this way). That there was strain in all this mild cross-fire kind of talk can be seen in Austen’s next sentence: “they want us to drink tea with them tonight, I do not know whether my Mother will have nerves for it.”
So maybe Mary was the sort of person that today if she phoned, the people receiving the call would use the answering machine to winnow out?
At any rate “We are engaged tomorrow Evening.” Then the irony again; “What request we are in!” This parallels “What honour I am come to?” Throughout the letter Austen is acutely aware of her fall in status: maiden lady on severely limited income in lodgings.
Still they are wanted by the Chamberlaynes still, Mrs C says her niece will appreciate their “quietness” Austen is ironic about this (she doesn’t quite believe the Cs value this), and says along with themselves and “our quietness”: “Our tea and sugar will last a great while.” So maybe the idea here is the C’s are partly getting a free cup of tea and sugar too?
We don’t know what the Chamberlaynes were living on, do we? I wonder suddenly how cold these people were in their lodgings. April is not exactly warm in the UK.
Austen says she and her mother are just the sort of people the Chamberlaynes would turn to as “we cannot be supposed to be very rich.” They need not feel ashamed in front of the Austens even if the Austen have more tea, sugar and this supposedly desirable quietness.
I too would like to know why Mrs Austen snubbed the Duncans (said they weren’t in) and why Austen was hurt. Why tell Cassandra?
Then it was Wednesday evening and Mr John and alas he has a very bad cold but then they all had bad colds — “& he has but just caught his.”
Something quietly funny here. Austen appreciates the absurdity of what they are reduced to noticing.
Jenny and Robert are the servants we heard about at Lyme, Robert with his hoped-for taste for Robinson Crusoe and Jenny walking with him. both professed themselves to be glad to hear Cassandra better. The uncle too was earnest for her recovery
But of course Cassandra is not better.
I assure you, you were looking very ill indeed, & I do not beleive [sic] much of your being looking well already. People think you in a very bad way I suppose, & pay you Compliments to keep up your Spirits.
[And then to bed or read or whatever]
Jane Austen (Anna Hathaway) writing at night in Bath (2007 Becoming Jane)
Appparently on Thursday Austen had hoped to write her novel (“go on”) but expended all her with in letters to Henry and Charles. Austen explains why she wrote to these brothers. Mrs Austen saw information she wanted cleared up: “the Urania was waiting at Portsmouth for the Convoy to Halifax.” Where would her son have to go now? Three weeks ago Cassandra had written “by the Camilla.” Austen registers satisfaction that they have this new information inside three weeks from previous information.
As to Henry she had had a letter from him, he wanted to hear from her “very soon” and he was “most affectionate & kind” as well as entertaining” in his. She says (complimenting him too) that there is “no merit there” as he cannot help being “amusing.” This is a double edged compliment: does she mean unconsciously amusing? I think so.
Then Henry and Eliza have been been all over themselves with politeness. He just loves the screen above all things; idea and execution. So too Eliza and she is keen on the broach too: “he expresses himself as very pleased with the Screen … Eliza of course goes halves in all this” — these were then gifts Cassandra sent Henry and Eliza. Henry had sent one of Mary Gibson’s letters to Frank using General Tilson and couldn’t the Austen sisters do the same using Mr Turner. There would be no post direct to ships.
There is real pleasure in the tone of the paragraph when she comes to say that Henry
offers to meet on the Sea-coast … if the plan Edward “gave him some hint of, took place. Will not this be making the Execution of such a plan, more desirable and delightful than Ever. — He talks of the rambles we took together last Summer with pleasing affection.
The tone mirrors that of Persuasion where the group goes to Lyme.
Group plans to go to Lyme (1995 BBC Persuasion)
Anne (Amanda Root) listening (she has no say in all this but someone does remark: “what a fine thing for Anne!”)
The group at Lyme (1995 BBC Persuasion)
Then some corrections added upside down and on the panel: after all Mary Cooke did walk with them on Tuesday and they drank tea in Alfred Street. So the colloquy ended cordially. But they did not share sugar, tea and quietness with Mrs Chamberlayne as the mother had a heavy cold. (Maybe brought on by unacknowledged nerves and tiredness?) And then the ill Mr Buller drinks the pump water, Mrs Buller goes to their chapel with them. And just as I (and Austen) thought Mrs Austen did not have such a bad cold after all nor fever to affect her appetite.
This last sentence and idea reminds me of Persuasion) again: Mary Musgrove saying I am so ill and complaining to Anne of of her not coming sooner and neglect but soon getting up and beginning to put away plenty of food.
Mary Musgrove (Sophie Thompson) getting up from her sick bed (1995 Persuasion)
One of the Fowles (almost related directly to Cassandra) just there, he has rented No 20 from Michaelmas (Sept to Sept was how places could be rented).
And so the letter comes to an end. And we have a picture of straitened life which does remind me of all Emma’s women associates (if not the heroine herself) in Emma: think of the other people Miss Bates and Jane Fairfax would know.
For further general summation, see comments.
See Letters 29, 30, 31, 32, 33 and 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40-42.
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