Archive for October, 2014

Elizabeth (Anna Maxwell Martin) in her characteristic thoughtful posture of the film, observing others

Another talking at cross-purposes while dancing scene: here irritated by Mrs Bennet’s talk of Lydia not coming to the ball, and differing on Georgiana marrying Colonel Fitzwilliam

Dear friends and readers,

What was aired on PBS last night was a spoilt version of the three-part mini-series I saw in the BBC version this summer using a BBC region 2 DVD.

Segments and scenes have been rearranged so as to turn an almost 3 hour mini-series (180 minutes) into a two part drama each 80 minutes (160), where the most hectic and thriller type scenes had the place of climax. The US PBS first part does not end on the parallel set up in the original mini-series between the boy poacher, young Riley, being taken away in a cart from his mother to be tried and then hanged and now George Wickham (Matthew Goode) being taken away in a cart from a wailing Lydia (Jenna Coleman — who appears to have gained a little weight since her last frighteningly anorexic outing in a costume drama) as does the BBC first part of three. When the young boy, Riley was cared away the boy Darcy and the boy Wickham rushed after him; now at the close Darcy retreats to the house, and Elizabeth stands on the porch in her surveillance posture and the reason for Darcy’s brooding is lost.

The worst aspects of the take-over of mystery thrillers and cheap modern sensationalist costume dramas all this summer have been deliberately made to dominate this Jane Austen sequel film. I wrote about the gothicization of Victorian novels on PBS in August (Bloody Murders and Country Houses), and this mini-series is seeking to titillate the same taste. They think they are not making a mistake for they will still get the costume drama and Janeite viewership and the more complaints will just get more hits, and be dismissed and may make up for any loss with attracting the same viewership that watched Masterpiece Mystery this summer — for note the rubric for this two parter — a Masterpiece Mystery.

What they did was ignore the art, pace, and meaning Towhidi and Daniel Percival’s contemporary and filmically stylish 3 hour costume drama, which includes the use of lingering voice-over from interwoven juxtaposed shots from deep past, recent past and sometimes more than one present scene throughout the 3 hours, a kind of spillage of thoughts and sounds across remembered time, and spectacular visual dissolving landscapes. The colors of the film are often golden, brown, burnt oranges and reds.

Opening shot

Allured by the film’s beauty and the performances of a number of the actors, this summer I studied Juliette Towhidi’s screenplay against intermediary sequel novel (I’d call it) by P.D. James, Death comes to Pemberley and can vouch for a number of still silent moments being shortened or cut altogether in this PBS version. In the BBC film Elizabeth’s shots (second long) are not cut or undermined so we see her in various stages of memory (first somewhat happy and triumphant as she looks forward to another Lady Anne Ball, but also remembers some of her mortifications at the first one when she had just married Darcy and overheard sneers at her), puzzle, brooding, hurt, disillusion, anxiety over Darcy’s attitude towards her, and (not to cover the long sequence of emotional development) across an intermingling reaction to his reactions. It is painful for her to remember how Wickham took her in:


This long tracing of an inner journey of Elizabeth’s ends not in (as is so common in women’s films, including the Austen canon) Elizabeth apologizing, humiliated in front of herself for her flaws, but at the close of Part 3 in Darcy apologizing, aware he has been mistreating Elizabeth, wrong to inflict on her his sensitive injured pride, and their making love successfully (in the middle of the movie, he comes to her in bed, sees her peacefully sleeping and decides to move away). He does this before she solves the mystery of who killed Denny. Towhidi’s conception of Darcy shows the inadequacy of the view Darcy is shy (the reading of Macfayden and Joe Wright in the 2005 P&P film) or needs to undergo an Oedipal transformation (Andrew Davies): he is a proud aristocrat whose self-esteem is rooted in his family history, public honor, home, lands and rank. He learns to moderate his adherence to these things in this film: by its end he has seen that Colonel Fitzwilliam is a flawed man, not to be fully trusted as an individual (Fitzwilliam’s rank is less important than Elizabeth’s integrity), and the worth of the lower status lawyer, Alveston (James Norton) as a person and Darcy supports Elizabeth’s encouragement of Georgiana’s engagement with Alveston.

Matthew Rhys as Darcy taking his son to ride, smiling at the reverence with which Mr Bidwell treats the boy and his job as steward/butler

This trajectory, this underlying plot-design with Elizabeth as the key pivotal figure in most of the scenes, and Darcy the reactive one, which Towhidi drew out of James’s meandering novel has been lost completely from Part I. Its climax comes about 2/3s the way through the BBC Part 2 where Elizabeth goes to a temple on the Pemberley grounds to think and Jane (Alexandra Moen) joins her to comfort her.

Elizabeth’s nadir from Part 2

Where that will find a place in the next 80 minutes of the film PBS is airing I have no idea.

Irritatingly to me, the PBS people especially eschewed moments where both Martin and Rhys are not beautiful people but Darcy and Elizabeth aging and under pressure, either (in this first part) still talking to one another, and (I expect in the next two) growing estranged. What I liked especially was this lack of glamor. Yes it’s not probable or realistic that Elizabeth would be so underdressed, her hair except when at a ball neglected altogether (she appears not to have a lady’s maid to do her hair), but it’s in line with recent heritage Austen films which dress the Austen heroines to be genteelly on the edge or at least not super-rich, which after Elizabeth marries Darcy she is. But it does fit the character of Elizabeth as enacted by Martin — not pompous, not involved with self, but with her boy (we see her reading to him) and her function as the mistress of Pemberley as a sort of going concern of people to be seen to, fed, gardens to be cared for, menus gotten up. Darcy is seen at the stable with his little son, about to go riding. Above all both are clever, but Elizabeth less prejudiced: she isthe person who puts together first who murdered Denny and why and her quick application of a signed statement by the murderer saves Wickham’s life. Sir Selwyn Hardcastle (our detective magistrate) played with a virtuoso flare by Trevor Eve never gets near the truth; has it all wrong from the end of the original Part 1 on (taking Wickham’s emotional self-blaming to be a confession). Nancy Drew could do no more.


Mrs Reynolds showing off what has been prepared for the ball — historically accurate — P.D. James’s stories often have an upstairs/downstairs perspective

James’s novel is a weak sequel: she tries to tell a story of the next phase of the characters’ existence as left there by Austen at the close of P&P. In James’s book The mystery element only emerges about half-way through: we do not meet the Bidwells until the last third of the novel: in the film the gothic elements begin immediately and the Bidwells are visited before the end of 10 minutes and their life and presence at the cottage and the father’s as butler in the house are woven into the film early on and throughout. James is writing a romance, rehearsing some of Pride and Prejudice in case the reader doesn’t know the story (!) and her book meanders tepidly as a novel of manners. Hers is the idea (to give her credit where it’s due), that the Darcy and Elizabeth marriage is not going well because of the distance in rank between them, how people treat them, and thus the death threatens their marriage centrally because it threatens Darcy’s self-esteem and the reputation (as he sees it) of Pemberley. James is politically conservative and this fits her outlook: an egalitarian marriage will be rocky, strained at best. Some of her descriptions of the grounds of Pemberley show she has Ann Radcliffe in mind.

Trevor Eve as Hardcastle

There are number of problems in James’s novel: She’s just not passionate enough about the detective murder bit — she’s doing that because it’s what she knows how to do (her life’s metier), and her treatment of the magistrate is apparently not anachronistic (though Trevor Eve in the film adaptation is made to act a Sherlock Holmes role — he does it rather well). She has read 18th century novels and historical novels and to some extent this sequel novel reminds me of Winston Graham and is like Jo Baker’s Longbourne. However, it’s not just not as good, not as thoroughly realized or researched because its franchise is not the 18th century or 18th century novel or modern fictional historal novel: it is Austen seen through a Radcliffean kind of descriptive glass. I did bond with Elizabeth as recreated by James: I am drawn to James’s use of theme of disillusion for Elizabeth, anxiety Darcy does not value her, Darcy’s own humiliation, and all this getting in the way of their marital relationship because it is so hard to escape other people’s views of you outside your relationship.

Juliette Howtidi has so re-structured the original novel and changed it — darkened, gothicized, swung the politics in another direction — the screenplay and then this film is almost another work. Some elements are the same. The basic story outline. The depiction of the relationship between the servants and the Darcys is even more reactionary than that found in Downton Abbey. The lead servants, Mrs Reynolds (Joanne Scanlon) and the Bidwell father (Philip Martin Brown) treat the lower servants with condescension and ruthless discipline, disrespect really, identifying wholly with the idea that they are living their long- hard working lives worthily by abasing themselves before the patrician luxury they provide. On the other hand, her scenes of the family together are filled with good feeling, the humane characters sympathized with, including when dancing …

One of the family scenes from Part 1 — click on image to make larger

In Twohidi’s mini-series there is a certain amount of understandable mutiny, and Wickham and his sister’s angry and resentment is made palpable. Towhidi weaves the Bidwells in early to show us one family’s vulnerability and anger (Will murders Denny thinking Denny is Wickham, the man who seduced and abandoned his sister). Howtidi changes Elizabeth to make her identify with the Bidwells, protest against coerced marriage for money. In the book there is a deep sense that somehow Darcy was right to doubt whether he should go against all norms and relatives and that is taken up By Howtidi’s film but in the film Darcy is shown to be wrong: James undercut whatever questioning content there is in Austen’s and her book can be fitted into those readings which interpret Austen’s P&P as humiliating Elizabeth and teaching her a lesson (there’s a scholarly essay to called “The humiliation of Elizabeth … following on “The humiliation of Emma …”), but this is not how Howtidi and Percival’s film has it. The film questions this stance intensely at the same time as it presents Elizabeth’s hurt and pride. The film’s depiction of their struggling relationship is valuable and I hope influences further heritage films and appropriations of Pride and Prejudice.

Given the time and arrangement originally followed on the BBC the relationship of Darcy and Elizabeth as an development out of Darcy and Elizabeth some 6 to 7 years ago works. It does not come out firmly and clearly in this PBS foreshortened and rearranged version so the best part of the film is lost (or spoilt).

I am not claiming this is a great mini-series in the BBC version. I concede that Towhidi was not above herself mixing the subgenres of the Austen canon (familial romance, melodrama with recently some use of gothic features) with those of the mystery thriller, with its use of horror characteristics (thus we had Denny’s bloody head crushed by a piece of iron in both versions), and a group of secrets as linchpin: who killed Captain Denny (Tom Canton), why did Denny rush out of the carriage to the woods (where was he going). All that Austen avoided in her books like poison is shoved back in. Anthony Trollope mocked the kind of reading and readers’ experience where it mattered who was at a stile at 1:15 pm on a specific day (in the Victorian period Wilkie Collins was among the first to feed this game taste), but it seems when combined with violence (and sex) this kind of thing is seen by PBS as a winner for increasing popular readership (and sales of books and advertiser’s interests). But in the structuring of BBC three hour mini-series, the psychological development of the characters, the nearly thwarted or destroyed romance of Georgiana and Henry Alveston (she accepts Fitzwilliam in Part 2), are at least as dominant as the mystery thriller obsessive gothic elements.

A good filmic moment: combines the film noirish gothic colors with a moment of strain for Elizabeth and Darcy

In addition, Towhidi (far more than James) tried to piggyback the formulaic mystery plot stuff (where the detective usually tidies up the world by the end) onto a new reading of Wickham (which has been becoming more widespread since the 2005 Joe Wright P&P and the 2009 Lost in Austen) as having offered in his original story some real truths (such as Darcy’s rivalry with him as a motive for strong antagonism) so that part of the story of the murder is the stigmatizing Wickham has endured, his bitterness and ruthless behavior in response. She has harked back to older readings of P&P where Lydia is seen as a spiteful shallowly vain creature: in this film adaptation we are asked to feel sorry for Wickham who was pressured into marrying Lydia: he would have had a happier life, perhaps been a better man could he have married the cottager, Louisa Bidwell (Nichola Burdell); at the same time he is clearly (as Denny is trying to point out in the scene Wickham obsessively remembers over and over) cruel in his behavior to Louisa. At the very close of the book, Mrs Younge (Mariah Gale) is discovered to be his sister, intensely devoted to him (for which he is grateful) to the point she wants to bring up his child as its mother; in the film we discover this early in the third part and it explains Mrs Younge’s presence in the first and second parts. Wickham is trying to buy his son from Louisa and using Denny as a proxy to give the baby to his sister: Wickham and Mrs Younge are also willing to snatch the baby, and Colonel Fitzwilliam to abet them.

In Towhidi’s version, Georgiana and Henry Alveston carry the film’s explicit mainstream liberal humane message: Henry is a lawyer who is sympathetic to the goals and ideals of the French revolution, and he and Georgiana are kindred spirits. They sit and look at picturesque views of Colonel Fitzwilliam’s Scottish castle over a river. Their romance is not used to make a contrast with Elizabeth and Darcy’s conventionally pro-establishment one in James’s book; it is in this film.


A general outline and some features of Part I (nearly 60 minutes) of Death Comes to Pemberley as available on the Region 2 DVD version of the BBC version:

Gravestone of Darcy’s great-grandfather, a suicide, almost lost Pemberley, lived alone in his later years with a dog

The story of Part 1 begins with two housemaids’s terror in the woods: they have been tricked by some male servants to look for the ghost of Mrs Riley into the woods. They are (very like Austen sees the gothic in part in Northanger Abbey) over-excited and glad to be frightened by their own nervous over-reaction to signs of a ghost. We see a grave of another generation Darcy. The next sequence is about Elizabeth’s delight in her existence: her boy, Fitzwilliam, running about the house, preparations for a extravagant ball she with Mrs Reynolds’s help has shown she can cope with. Her pride and triumph are tempered by her knowledge of how others see her and her memories. She talks with Georgiana, who is staring out windows: longing for Alveston to turn up as escort to Mr and Mrs Bennet. Elizabeth visits the Bidwells: Will dying of a disease, Louisa home with her sister’s baby (so it’s said to be).

Louisa and baby George (we discover named after Wickham, the father)

The elusive bed-ridden reading Will

On her way home, Elizabeth encounters Mrs Younge, and tells Darcy about it when she returns to Pemberley. The Bennets arrive and the first vexations emerge with Mrs Bennet trying to persuade Darcy to allow Lydia and Wickham to come to the ball.


James Fleet as Mr Bennet has lost his cool wit against the hysterics of his wife, and Towhidi is not above using despising of women to give us scenes where the wise doctor is told to give large drafts of sedatives to both Mrs Bennet and Lydia. But he does love his daughter, Lizzie, and in the BBC version near the opening of part 2 we see a moment of his peaceful satisfaction as he sits in the Pemberley library escaped to his books.

Fitzwilliam first trying to persuade Elizabeth

In a threaded in talk with Fitzwilliam in a garden who then proceeds to try to court Georgiana to persuade her to marry him (despite his misgivings over her reputation, to him stained by her early near-elopement with Wickham), it emerges that Darcy is so fragile he cannot stand to have the Wickhams mentioned, much less in his house.

And of course Lydia arrives, selfishly hysterical in a flying coach, and the flashbacks begin. The still below is of Wickham’s memories of Denny’s protests against him, and Denny’s scorn of Wickham.


We move back to the carriage drive, see Wickham and Denny’s coldness, and the silly Lydia’s complacency and Denny’s abrupt rush out of the carriage. There’s a confused time of running about in the wood which ends with Wickham coming upon Denny’s bleeding to death before Wickham can quite reach Denny, and
Wickham’s shooting his gun to attract help. This occurs at the 30 minute point in the original BBC version.


Now Darcy and Elizabeth’s marriage is to be tested. The formulation “death comes to” is found in a number of James’s novels and it is central to this film. In the second deepening half-hour, the intermingled talking and walking of Elizabeth and Darcy occurs, with scenes of them in their drawing room, as they try to cope with what’s happened and the behavior of everyone around them. Darcy must call a magistrate, Hardcastle, the son it emerges of the man who insisted on hanging the Riley boy. This Hardcastle is intensely aware of how he’s seen hostilely by those who remember his father’s harsh injustice. The use of landscape and voice-over and intermingled shots of past memories and present shots begins.

Threaded in are the scenes (brief but there) between Georgiana and Alveston, their joy in one another, their having to deal with Fitzwilliam’s scorn of him, and reactionary put-downs, how he would send Georgiana to stay with Lady Catherine de Bourgh lest she be somehow “besmirched” or hurt by nearness to this crisis. Repeatedly Elizabeth defends her right to stay, to help out, to follow her individual desires, which include loving the lawyer. Elizabeth’s scenes with Georgiana over the course of the whole film show their developed relationship and is another of the element which come out of Austen’s book.

Elizabeth listening hard to Georgiana towards the end of the original Part 1

The neutral way Wickham’s envy and anger at his lack of status are presented constitutes a less usual way to present the source of revolutionary feeling: rage at injustice. Wickham has brought Lydia to a ball she is not welcome to come to. They were going to “crash” their way in by coming late at night and daring the Darcys to turn them away. Wickham does feel rage; how could others think he’d murder his best friend so brutally? He is the outsider. He is admired by Colonel Fitzwilliam for his violence against the Irish in the Irish uprising; he is himself no revolutionary, rather simply narrowly amoral on his own behalf. He extracted (in one of the film’s many flashback scenes) as much money as he could get from Darcy as payment to marry Lydia. But in Part 3 of the BBC version Wickham is almost executed because he is nobody, as the boy Riley was cruelly cut off. Mrs Younge’s fierce malignity towards Elizabeth is jealousy but it’s made understandable; at the opening of Part 1 the actress conveys something poignant in the wood.

Mariah Gale as we first see her (through Elizabeth’s eyes)

The BBC hour ends with Wickham taken away because Hardcastle is convinced Wickham killed Denny nefarious reasons, like the 30£ Hardcastle finds in Wickham’s hat (actually we will discover the money Fitzwilliam gave Mrs Younge to buy the infant from Louisa Bidwell with), that the shots were fired by Denny to try to protect himself. Hardcastle never deviates from this conclusion and his gathering of clues after this (in Part 2) just serves this thesis.

As I am a reader who has never liked Lydia, I like Towhidi’s depiction of her as doing all she can to needle Darcy (saying in another room how Elizabeth wanted Wickham to marry her), and making her vanity at thinking all men are after her a hard version of Mrs Bennet, similarly silly. They both have a wholly inadequate idea of how they fit into society, of their own status as nullities. In the film gradually we see that Wickham and Lydia suit one another: the way they get through life is to live off others and pretend to be gay.

I’d call the novel a weak sequel, and its film adaptation in the 3 part version a strong one, even if under pressure to draw an audience, the genre of mystery thriller or a P.D.James novel (she is an English and BBC brand name) was resorted to.


PBS has only so much money (see Rebecca Eaton’s book reviewed by me, a sort of apology for what Masterpiece theater has become in the last couple of years). From their point of view it is more valuable to pay for the Newshour to send Margaret Warner to the Ukraine, to have foreign correspondents, to support good documentaries. There has ever been a contingent at the BBC which despises costume dramas a tea-time soap operas for women. This despising and the lack of money since Mobil left (Viking Cruise and Ralph Lauren are no substitutes) is what leads to not having beautifully-done and respectfully aired adaptations of great books and to trashing even of minor work.

Next week I will write about Part 2 (the second hour) of the mini-series as aired in Britain.



See Part Two: Interwoven Threads

See Part Three: A Story of Self-Recognition

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Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.’
    ‘Have you, indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?’
    ‘I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.’
    ‘Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?’

Friends and readers,

I am delighted to be able to announce the publication by Valancourt Press of a scholarly edition of what was once the rarest of the seven famous “horrid novels” listed in Austen’s Northanger Abbey: Eleanor Sleath’s The Orphan of the Rhine (1798). The text is based on the first edition and includes an accurate life of Eleanor Sleath (misidentified in the 1968 Folio Press edition) and useful bibliography. Readers will be able to experience for themselves the nature of the text, and another interesting woman writer is added to a fuller spectrum of gothic and women writers. The male lead is a secondary intriguing figure, who, together with the book’s heroine Julie de Rougine (Madame Chamont — characters regularly have more than one name), obliquely mirror a long-time love affair in Sleath’s life. The story belongs to a type outlined by Marianne Hirsh in her The Mother/Daughter Plot, except this solitary mother’s boy and girl grow up to become a Paul et Virginie pair (I allude to Bernardin St Pierre’s wildly popular novella, Englished by Helena Maria Williams). For myself the power of the novel resides in its many descriptive landscapes which capture some still or distant numinous pastoral vision whose deepest impulse is retreat.

Valancourt has also published Sleath’s Pyrenean Banditti (1811), introduction by Rebecca Czlapinski and Eric C. Wheeler


The gothic owes much … to the emancipation of the novel from overt moral commitment. Perhaps it derives most from the enormous interest around the turn of the century in the solitary eccentric, the misfit, the social outcast, or, to use the handy phrase, the guilt-haunted wanderer — Lowry Nelson, Jr, ‘Night Thoughts on the Gothic Novel’


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Matavai Bay (1773-74) by William Hodges (at times in the entourage of Hastings)

Dear friends and readers,

In my previous, a preliminary portrait sketch of Philadelphia Austen Hancock, known to “history” as Jane Austen’s cousin Eliza’s mother and Warren Hastings’s mistress for a brief time, I spoke of a single letter by her to Hastings somewhere in Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh’s invaluable Austen Papers. I have since discovered it appears in the section immediately after that made up of Saul Tysoe Hancock, Phila’s husband’s letters, mostly to her: Chapter 4: Eliza in France, 1777-78. Written four years after Hancock’s death, and sent by Hastings’s brother-in-law and man of business in England, Woodman, who controlled and conducted all the Hancock affairs, it confirms all I suggested was true of her character and circumstances.

Although Ronald Dunning has placed on line copies of the texts from this edition, for the convenience of the reader I replicate the text here: its poignancy speaks for itself:

Philadelphia Hancock to Warren Hastings, Paris, 3rd March 1780

After a silence of so many years on your part, nothing shd have prevailed on me to have troubled you with another Letter but my earnest desire to have some information concerning Mr. Hancock’s affairs, and and to whom can I apply but you? Let me conjure you by your Friendship for his memory and by those uncommon marks you have given of it to his Family not to refuse me this request last perhaps I shall ever make you & by the very opportunity let me know how far Mr. Hancock’s have been collected in and how far his Creditors satisfied or likely to be so. Mrs. Forde continues to write e and distresses me beyond measure on account Louisa’s Fortune which was in Mr. Hancock’s Hands. I know not what answer to make her & have vainly waited to receive some Account from you. I shall be happy to hear it will not be all lost. Mrs. Davis is returned from America a Widdow with two Children in great Distress. Is there anything for her? Has my Uncle given you any Account of the Money in his Hands? — about two thousand pounds, I imagine, besides my Brother Hancock’s Bond which I fear we shall see but little of. I have met with many mortifying and disagreeable Events in my Life, but none that has given such lasting Affliction as the reflection that many worthy Persons may be sufferers by the confidence they have unfortunately placed in person whose name I bear, not from any fault of his I will be bold to say for never was there a Man of better principles than Mr. Hancock but from a concurrence of unlucky events — I know not what — some people are born to be unfortunate — I wish also much to know if anything is secured for Clarinda whose demand I enclose to you, be t ht as it may I take it on myself that she shall not be a sufferer in her little Fortune. Alas! She has but too severely suffered in her Health and perhaps may not live to to want it — it is now more than five months that she has been quite helpless and that from so small a beginning as a whitlow on her left thumb which notithstanding all possible assistance and after six operations performed threatened the loss of her Hand & even her life & before those wounds were healed the humour conveyed itself to her right shoulder where she has already had three severe operations performed and threatened with a fourth without some extraordinary change in her favor. She has been attended by three Surgeons, one of them the first in Paris, and a Physician; the latter still attends her and one of the Surgeons Dresses her Arm twice a Day — God knows how it will end, though I am assured her life and the use of her Hands are at present in no danger. — This has been a most unfortunate affair on all accounts & has cost me more anxiety than I can describe; the expence too has been and is still very heavy, it could not have happened at a worse time, but of that I shan’t complain if the poor faithful creature can be restored to me.

I once thought to have confined this Letter to Business but knowing your Heart as I know it and convinced that in spite of appearances it is not changed for your Friends, I cannot refuse you the satisfaction of knowing my Daughter, the only thing I take Comfort in, is in perfect Health, and joins me in every good wish for your Happiness — you may be surrounded by those who are happy in frequent opportunities of shewing their attachment to you, but I will venture to say not one among them who can boast a more disinterested steady and unshaken friendship for you tnan that which for so many years animmated and will ever continue to animate the Breast of

        Dear Sir, your obliged Friend, Phila: Hancock

It is with pleasure I can add here that Clarinda is much better and altho still quite helpless is thought to be out of danger & in about a fortnight may be able to quit her Chamber.

In a letter I some time ago troubled you with, I requested you would send me a collection of Coins &c. I now request you will not think about it as the person I designed them for I shall probably never see again.

Phila’s tone is that of a woman who has had an intimate (using the world in its moral and emotional sense more than the physical, though the physical was there originally) with Hastings. She opens with his silence of so many years. After that letter of 31 January 1772 which I summarized in my previous, whose text begins on p 58 of the Austen Papers, which Hastings wrote to Philadelphia as he was landing in India, he did not write again — as we recall it was one which let her know he was dismissing her. She is hurt and knows he does not want any letters from her. In her Postscript she refers to a letter which she did “send some time ago,” disobeying his implied orders not to bother him ever again, and which he never answered. But, asks she, “to whom can I apply but you?” She conjures him by all their ties to tell her what he knows of Hancock’s financial affairs.

So Woodman has not been forthcoming — for he would know and had not told her. And her brother, George Austen has been cautious and either not told what he was not sure Hastings would approve of or was not fully apprized of what Philadelphia needed to know. I fear that Philadelphia wanted to know about her money and get it at to pay either Lambert or de Feuillide and surmize both Woodman and George Austen were holding out in order to stop this relationship from going further. It could have stopped Feuillide marrying Eliza. We do not know if in response Hastings directed Woodman to be more forthcoming.

And as I surmised, we have evidence at last — testimony — to how much these unpaid bills and all this borrowing Hancock insisted she keep up from her uncle (Francis), from others (anyone who would give her money that Hancock thought ought to), distressed her and continues to aggravate her as people as desperately genteel as herself try to collect from her all the more persistently now that he’s dead. Hancock mentioned his guilt over Louisa (as I wrote these are relatives by second marriages: Mrs Davis may be another. We confront the problem that when women married we get only their married names so we lose where the connection is: we just have it Mrs Davis is widowed and broke.

Philadelphia feels an intense mortification at bearing the name of this man who died owing so much money and having failed to live up to the confidence others had in his abilities. This sense of the man’s name who shames you because it is yours is found repeatedly in women’s correspondence where there is debt: Charlotte Smith voices it over her extravagant husband. These debts are the result of his persistently buying into the values of high status as we shall see in his letters in my next installment on Chapter 3: Hancock and India. When Philadelphia says Hancock had “high principles” but she is referring to morals outside social status, probably to his not having deserted her and having taken on the role of legitimate father to Betsy.

Clarinda is the servant Hancock kept mentioning: I assumed she was young, perhaps a sort of playmate for Eliza, but now it emerges she is old, and has endured the misery of surgery in this era (no anesthetic). Philadelphia seems to have has this woman with her (though she may be staying at an infirmary run by the Surgeon). She clearly sees herself as obliged to care for her. When she says “the poor creature” needs to be “restored” to her perhaps it’s a way of saying Philadelphia wants her health restored so she can be a servant again. Servants did lend masters on the economic edge money (we see how Thackeray’s Crawleys fleece and bankrupt Rawdon’s aunt’s servants and their landlord in Vanity Fair this way)

But Philadelphia cannot resist moving out from “business” to speak of the “heart.” Despite all appearances she must believe “Knowing your heart as I know it” he still wants to hear of “my Daughter.” Eliza in “perfect health”: and “joins in every good wish” for his “happiness.” He may be surrounded by people now with frequent opportunities of showing their attachment but hers and Eliza remains “disinterested” “steady” over “many years.” Such feelings continue to “animate the breast” of Phila Hancock.

A PS tells of how Clarinda is better, and “although helpless” she will be “out of danger” in about a fortnight.” Able to “quite her chamber.” It ends on a note of despairing pathos: he should ignore the letter she troubled him with “some time ago” (he did, not to worry) to ask for “a collection of Coins” but now she says he should “not think about it” (no evidence he did anyway) “as the person I designed them for I shall probably never see again.” She plangently tries to reach him emotionally but and expresses how the social arrangements she must endure have repeatedly cut her off from others whose friendship she valued and thought valued hers.

A (not very accurate) image of a “white Persian cat” (angora), for a time a popular and prestigious cat to own in the 18th century (by Jean-Jacques Bachelier, 1724-1806): in Hancock’s letters he mentions in passing the murder of one Hastings bought for Eliza by someone angry possibly at Hastings or Hancock

My next two blogs from the Austen Papers will be on Hancock’s letters to Philadelphia from India. Before that though I will be posting about the papers I heard at the October 2014 Burney and JASNA conferences in Montreal.


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Artist unknown, a painting of Philadelphia around the time of her initial return to England — she was clearly what was known as a “beauty”

… una donna senza storia …
… une femme sans histoire …

NPG 4445,Warren Hastings,by Sir Joshua Reynolds
Warren Hastings, by Joshua Reynolds (1732-1818); painted around the time of the above, their first return to England with Saul Tysoe Hancock (her husband of whom no image has survived)

Dear friends and readers,

For the past month (we have been going slowly) a group of us on Austen-l, Janeites and cc’d to other listservs have been reading the third chapter of Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh’s invaluable Austen Papers. We are near the end; it has taken us thus long because in order to begin to understand Hancock’s letters one must know the contemporary history of Indian colonialism, inside the state despotism and the East India. While we made a couple of startling inroads such as there was a devastating famine at the time of Hancock’s return to India (partly engineered by British and Dutch colonialist policies), we have not had the kind of sources or resources to understand Hancock’s context adequately.

One must also know the life-history and as far as if possible, character of his wife, George Austen’s sister, Jane Austen’s paternal aunt, Philadelphia Austen Hancock. Most of Saul Tysoe Hancock’s letters are addressed to her: all but a few to their legal daughter, Eliza Hancock, and to a family friend from Phila’s young years, Molly Freeman. Philadelphia is the elephant in the room, the silent presence. This preliminary sketch has to be regarded as a pendant to those I wrote on Philadelphia’s daughter, Eliza Hancock de Feuillide Austen, and her husband, Jane’s fourth brother, Henry Thomas Austen. I will follow this with a two-part blog on Hancock’s letters to Phila.

Sources include Jane Austen’s Catherine or the Bower; the letters of George and Cassandra (Steventon) and Hancock in the Austen Papers; Claire Tomalin’s scattered account in JA: A Life; Deirdre LeFaye’s life of Eliza Austen and Eliza’s letters; short lives of Warren Hastings in various articles in JStor and the Literature Resource Center (on-line at Mason); the four articles cited on Henry Austen; and the sources for the previous biographical blogs (family papers, biographies); mostly importantly for the French phase of Phila’s life, Michel Devert, “Le Marais de Gabbarret and de Barbotan, Bulletin de la Societe de Borda, 340 (190):331-350.


Anglo-Indian painting from the later 18th century: early image of the Raj

The first attempt to tell the history of Philadelphia candidly is in her niece Jane Austen’s unfinished novel, Catherine, or the Bower (1792): we are told the heroine, Kitty, had had a friend who disaster had visited:

It was now two years since the death of Mr Wynne, and the subsequent dispersion of his family who had been left in great distress. They had been reduced to a state of absolute dependance on some relations, who though very opulent and very nearly connected with them, had with difficulty been prevailed on to contribute anything towards their Support. Mrs Wynne was fortunately spared the knowledge and participation of their distress, by her release from a painful illness a few months before the death of her husband. — The eldest daughter had been obliged to accept the offer of one of her cousins to equip her for the Indies, and tho’ infinitely against her inclinations been necessitated to embrace the only possibility that offered to her, of a Maintenance; Yet it was one, so opposite to all her ideas of Propriety, so contrary to her Wishes, so repugnant to her feelings, that she would almost have preferred Servitude to it, had Choice been allowed her — . Her personal Attractions had gained her a husband as she had arrived at Bengal, and she had now been married nearly a twelve month. Splendidly, yet unhappily married. United to a Man of double her own age, whose disposition was not amiable, and whose Manners unpleasing, though his Character was respectable. Kitty had heard twice from her freind since her marriage, but Letters were always unsatisfactory, and though she did not openly avow her feelings, yet every line proved her Unhappy. She spoke with pleasure of nothing, but of those Amusements which they had shared together and which could return no more, and seemed to have no happiness in veiw but that of returning to England again.

Philadelphia was born in 1730 (her brother George, 1731, Leonora 1732) to William and Rebecca Walter (nee Hampson) Austen; her mother died when she was 2 (at the birth of Leonora). There had been a baby girl who died before (1728-30). Rebecca had also had a son by her first husband, William Hampson Walter (1721-98). William remarried a second much older wife (by 13 years) and died himself 1736. Susanna Kelk was this woman’s name, she lives on in his house but refused to take his children; he had not revised his will (remember John Austen IV).

This is not a formula for producing a self-asssured identity. The biographers of Austen comment that Philadelphia must’ve had a hard time in the early years of her life.

From Andrew Davies’s film adaptation of Cleland’s Fanny Hill: Mrs Cole (Samantha Bond) greeting Fanny

We next find Philadelphia at age 15, apprenticed to a Covent Garden milliner, Hester Cole, a sum of 45 pounds paid for her to learn for 5 years how to make an sell hats. So while her brother George was placed on his way to become a gentleman at Oxford (so too Hastings whose biography resembles that of George Austen), Philadelphia is placed in a trade that bordered on respectability in London. A curious coincidence: 1748-49 was the year Fanny Hill was published and Phila begins life in what she assumes andis cited as a millinery shop – to a Mrs Cole of Covent Garden. Perhaps Cleland used the familiar shop’s name? Philadelphia had 2 fellow apprentices, Sarah and Rose. It was at this time a family connection whose names were Freeman were so kind to Phila as to elicit her husband Hancock’s continuing desire to reciprocate – we do not know what that kindness consisted of but it seems to have been to rescue her from spending her life as a seamstress.

Family history of this sub-branch of people:

George Austen’s mother, Rebecca had married as her first husband William Walter and as we’ve seen the son of this marriage, William Hampson Walter married Susanna Weaver and she and Cassandra Austen were correspondents and George Austen honored the half-brother connection (or step-brother). Philly their daughter became Eliza’s correspondent when they were young and as Mrs Whitaker sister Cassandra’s correspondent when they are much older. Well William Walter had a sister, Catherine Margaret who married John Cope Freeman. So here is where the Freeman family comes in. Hancock remains grateful to them for having helped Philadelphia when she was a seamstress;he writes to Molly. Catherine Margaret and John Cope Freeman had two children, son and daughter, whom they named precisely after themselves (doubtless to confuse us). John Cope Freeman Jr was the father of the Miss Freeman Hancock wrote to (Molly or Mary, or maybe Stella). The daughter, Catherine Margaret (II) married a Charles Stanhope. Ah. So now the Stanhope name comes in and they had a son, Philip Dormer Stanhope born 1753. He is the Stanhope who plagues Hancock’s life in his last months; he first married in 1780 Elizabeth Hughes.

When Phila’s five year apprenticeship was over, Philadelphia is recorded as off to India. It seems the process may have been set on foot by Francis, the same uncle (third son of Elizabeth Weller Austen, George’s uncle, Henry Austen’s great-uncle), acting for a client in the employ of East India company. Phila had to get permission from directors of the company and have names of friends in India to act as “surety.” For the trip round Africa and into Indian Ocean with landing on Bombay Castle she is responsible for herself; 2 years earlier Warren Hastings (orphaned like George Austen with his gifts recognized by those who had the care of him) had been plucked out of Westminster and sent by guardians to East India company clerkship. Hastings goes to Calcutta, Phila lands in Madras in 1752 (Chennai). A turmoil of violence erupting in that city at the time. Six months later Phila marries Saul Tysoe Hancock, that is to say February 1753, when he was 30 and had been in India for 5 years. Francis was Hancock’s lawyer too. No children were born to the couple.

In 1759 Saul and Phila Hancock move to Bengal where Hancock becomes friends with Hastings, who by then had become dedicated to the work and his career, had studied and understood something of India (though he was arrogant in his dealings with Indians). Hastings’s first wife died in 1759, an infant daughter lived but a week, a baby son George sent to England to George and Cassandra Austen. Think of Hastings as a CEO of a corporation, and Hancock a minor but centrally placed private contractors and operative in the corportion. Hastings has a town house in Calcutta, a garden at Belvedere. Phila seems to have known first wife — it was a small world of interconnected people. A private business partnership for two men, trading ventures in salt, timber, carpets, Bihar opium, rice for Madras, money made. Phila is now pregnant and a baby girl was born in 1761. She is given name of Hastings’s dead daughter (so Eliza named after Hastings’s first daughter) and Hastings becomes godfather. (Pride made Hancock brazen out situation says Tomalin). Hastings had built up spectacular fortune mostly from opium; 1764 Hastings pays 1500 pounds for himself, Hancocks, baby girl and Indian servants to return to England.

Jane’s father, George Austen had married Cassandra April 1764, and went almost immediately to the parsonage at Deane; so the Austens had the care of this precious Hastings baby right away. The Hancocks and Hastings arrived in England on June 16, 1765 and Hancock took a house in Norfolk Street, with Hastings nearby in Essex Street, off Strand. Hastings learns baby George died of diptheria the previous autumn – of course George and Cassandra desolated. Could we expect anything else?

In the Austen Papers (Chapter 2: Steventon) letters we saw that Phila visited in 1766 with Hancock and was there at the birth of George, Hancock a godfather. Hancock met Leonora in London and took a kindly interest. (Leonora lived on to 1784; Elizabeth Hinton died, Hinton was decemt but she was not considered eligible to go to her brother George, notice. Dropped from family including by Phila). Next two years George borrows from Hancock, to the tune of 228 pounds. Hancock leaves to make more money in 1768.

A vignette of Philadelphia by Cassandra Austen to Susannah Walter in a letter of August 1770:

Sister Hancock staid with us only a few days, she had more courage than you had, and set out in a post-chaise with only her little Bessy, for she brought neither Clarinda or Peter with her, but believe me she sincerely repented, before she got to her journey’s end, for in the middle of Bagshot heath, the postilion discovered that he had dropped the trunk from off the chaise. She immediately sent him back with the horses to find it, intending to sit in the chaise till he returned, but was soon out of patience and began to be pretty much frighted, so began her walk to the ‘Golden Farmer’ about two miles off, where she arrived half dead with fatigue, it being in the middle of a very hot day. when she was a little recovered she recollected she had left al lthe reset of her things (amongst which were a large parcel of India letters, which she had received the night before, and some of them she had not read) in the chaise with the door open, she sent a man directly after them and got them all safe and after some considerabel time the driver came with the trunk and without any more misfortune got to Bolton Street about nine o’clock. She is now settled in her cottage near Cobham, Surrey. The lettes brought good accounts of both my brother Hancock and Mr Hastings.

We come to our one and only letter from Hastings to Phila; by this time Hancock’s letters have recorded considerable financial help to the Hancocks, and we have seen that Hastings gives financial help, returned to India and took up with Mrs Imhoff, the wife of another partner (a pattern here) – Phila’s first response was to offer to return to India. Hancock forbids it and then now and again reports about Mrs Imhoff and Hastings’s relationship. Philadelphia was clearly out.

A summary of the letter: Fort St George, 31st January, 1772 (p. 58, the Austen Papers): Hastings is on his way back to India; as opposed to Hancock, while it was to make more money, he had a high position awaiting him. We have to recall there was an imposed famine in Bengal, because the one book I have omits all these realities. In the early part of his time there Hastings seems to have been successful — for the East India company and himself, with the usual information about improvements to economic structure and judicial trials (for efficiency), some respect for certain kinds of Muslim law Hastings achieved — but later he found the office far too problematic and his taking of huge sums (especially some bullying of famously local begums) come out of this. Upper class lives are a tiny part of what is being experienced here.

Tellingly (not in the letter) Hastings was having his trouble with Junius at this juncture, which we know about because Junius was famous anonymous writer who wrote for reform strongly: he is today thought to be Philip Francis; well Francis was in India at the time and Hastings and Francis conflict over the spoils so to speak (and appointments) to the point they actually duelled: later in England at the trial Francis was one of the key witnesses against Hastings.

Philadelphia and her daughter Eliza were among those people Hastings sent money from India for — she is regarded as part of this demi-monde milieu that Hancock seems so to loathe and does not want Betsy to become any part of. Now Hancock’s position as a surgeon (not a sinecure as he complains bitterly and one he has to pay taxes on) kept him at a geographic distance from Hancock He has little time for Hancock and basically interacts with Woodman, his brother-in-law, close to George Austen, and disburser of funds and advice to Philadelphia.

This letter cannot be readily understood on its literal surface well beyond the actual relationship of Philadelphia and Hastings. On more diurnal matters, it’s interesting he says he is writing her late at night, reserving to himself this private time to talk to her (as it were) by letter. There is an intimate tone here: he regrets parting from Fort St George and the Council Board there, a British stronghold by the sea, a sto-pover:

Hastings is not looking forward to Bengal — Hastings was by the way a highly educated man in the language of the country. He is sending yet another child, a little Watson — someone should look to see if this name shows up on George Austen’s school roster. Maderia, a painting on dooruars, a fashionable fad at thetime, chintz.

The letter was prompted by other considerations too. We come to the business of the letter: he hopes “our concerns” will come to some conclusion now.” It’s his going which enables this – the increase in revenue to him. He does not have the difficulties Hancock does. If Hancock is like a small private contractor of a corporation. Hastings is one of the official CEOs. He says Hancock’s health has held out and it is the dry air of Madra. Hancock is not keen on Madras’s air as we have seen — he suggests it’s very humid. I know who I believe. Then an emotional goodbye of sorts to Betsy and herself. I suggest it’s easier to break firmly from Philadelphia and let her know it once he has left the Austen grounds of their relationship. Future letters show her abject and him referring to Woodman.

Hastings then thanks Phila for some disinterested act of friendship — she did some favor, achieved something in the patronage line. He will write again on this subject — but we lack that letter — it was not saved. I suggest this too was the cause of this letter. Again Betsy should be reminded to love him as her godfather and mother’s sincere and faithful friend.

It startles me to think of the great fuss made about a non-existent conversation over slavery in MP, though I don’t discount the business in Antigua, Emma has far more on slavery explicitly. The passages in Catherine or the Bower are part of this larger world the Austens themselves fed off of (in their naval sons, and their banking son) as well as Wentworth’s abilty to make money off the empire. These are the real contexts. A propos of these letters they are not annotated because they deal with real sore content the Austen family is not keen on, and Hancock and India this chapter takes us far more into the direct terrain than any other. I recommend Smith’s Ethelinde too for the light it sheds on Edmund Bertram’s unwilling to take a position in the navy or other charming occupations Mary Crawford sees as money-making and prestigious.

There is one (eloquent) letter from Philadelphia to Hastings, written well after the above letter from Hastings to he in the Austen Papers — categorized as part of another subset of the family doings; I have printed it complete in a second blog on Philadelphia). This separation of her letters into categories that do not directly reflect her life shows how little her individual personality is paid attention to or her story. It is, as Jane Austen, suggested significant and characteristic of the stories of women. In the letter she is hesitant and apologetic. She is worries lest she offend him because he has told her not to bother him directly. We cannot see what might be her real feelings (anger, hurt? indifference to him by this time) because her need and anxiety about his response to her is too great. It does show the woman who lost her poise in a carriage accident recorded by Cassandra Austen; the woman who could not make up her mind where to live in the 1770s.

In 1776 George and Cassandra Austen in London visited Phila and Betsy, with word that Hancock had died (November 1775), she afflicted, he died penniless. Woodman: “all his effects will not clear his debts here.” We see from letters by George and Cassandra that Phila cannot make up her mind where to live precisely (with her daughter), loses her poise (and consequently nearly some valued goods) in being forced to roam around the countryside with an entourage of babies, children, child-minders …

1773 Hastings had given Betsy 5000 pounds (he was Governor of Bengal and is referred to as “the Governor” by Hancock in his later lettrs); in 1775 Hastings gave another 5000. Everyone sworn to secresy. Woodman was also Hastings’s borther-in-law. Woodman and George Austen trustees.

A few months later Phila receives 3500 from Woodman, another sum of 5000 from “bill on Ind. Co” She opens an account with Messrs Hoare & Co, her brother’s bankers. George also continues to repay money owed to his sister (from Hancock)

One should remark (as Tomalin does) that there was no attempt to send Eliza away to a school. I see this as to Phila’s credit and we may assume Eliza did have good masters, was dressed well, rode and the rest of Hancock’s curriculum for her. Pace Hancock though connections were kept up with George and Cassandra Austen in Hampshire and the Walters in Kent.


Chateau du Marais, a Barbotan — where Feuillide took Eliza and her mother to live

Hancock’s death mattered: it was after his death that Phila moves to France with Eliza – no longer called Betsy.

Phila is 46 and Eliza 13 when Hancock died. A striking and pathetic glimpse of Philadelphia when the news finally reached her that Hancock had died: Woodman to Hastings (Woodman was Hastings’s brother-in-law and agent): the “story of your success” is

dampened by the “unwelcome news of poor Hancock’s death by a letter from Mrs Bowers [Hancock’s housekeeper? a member of his household in India], which Mrs Hancock received on Friday last: we feel much for her, & endeavour to support her under the affliction. Her brother and sister Austen were there when she received the letter, which has helped to comfort her, as it adds much to her distress that she had not received any other letter from India. the Salisbury having put into Cork in Ireland, only part of her letters are yet come up” (Austen Papers, p 82)

On the 20th of June Woodman wrote Hastings to confirm that Hastings’ letter to Philadelphia had arrived “confirming the death” while Woodman finds that Hancock was so badly in debt what he left could scarce clear “his debts here.”

Two years later they go to France: the man Phila now became involved with was Sir John Lambert, an Anglo-French baronet. Why? It’s assumed that their position was not comfortable: they did not have huge sums to silence everyone. Here a fragment of Mary Crawford’s mind reflects the Hancock women: she says with large enough parties, a house, and enough spent Maria Bertram if married to Henry Crawford would find a world to belong to. But you have to throw a lot of money at this.

This would be 1778 and in a note Tomalin says Phila’s account at Hoare’s “shows many transfers of money to Sir John Lambert during 1778; there’s also a letter of credit to Lambert at Paris for 200 pounds – that means he gets 200 pounds. Phila and Eliza were in Germany and then Brussels in June 1778 – and then Paris. Much that we know about this visit comes from Eliza’s letters to her cousin which we’ll be getting to in these Austen papers eventually.

The survival of Eliza’s letters from France to her cousin is attributed to her mother saving them.

Eliza is 19 when she marries Feuillide (age 30) in 1782 and she herself says it was not a love match – she was bound to follow ‘advisors of rank and title” – in that sentence she is excusing herself. Lambert was called by Eliza “le chevalier de Lambert” – he had French relatives. Capot de Feuillide was not a count; this was a misrepresentation; he is said to have been known as handsomest officer in the army; attended balls.

Woodman to Hastings in a letter “They [the de Feuillide family] seem already desirous of draining her [Phila] of every shilling she has. Phila defended her decisions; “it is “entirely to her satisfaction, the gentleman having great connections and expectations.” Great expectations – remember Dickens’s great novel’s title. Phil is recorded as lending money to Feuillide for his draining projects too. How much not said. Eliza is the conduit for money wrenched from the abysmally vulnerable of India.

Lambert was involved in the affairs of the Capot de Feuillide (to give this 30 year old man his full name) for years after Eliza’s death – for Henry Austen does business with Lambert’s heirs after her death. Again Tomalin cites amounts paid to Lambert – 370 pounds between Oct and Dec 1778, more again in 1780

After Lambert got out of Phila what he could and vanished, she seems to cave in (as it were) and spend the rest of her life as mother, mother-in-law, grandmother. This is from within as she had the wherewithal to do otherwise. She reminds me of Madame de Genlis up to this point: both not mothered, both married up to gain security, the husbands of both not high enough so that they must look to another more powerful man and do; both became devoted to their children (with yet more ambivalent actions by Genlis) out of memories of what they had not known and known. The daughters of both show devotion to them and to their own children, in Eliza’s case to a disabled grandchild of the powerful man; but Madame de Genlis can lead her own life once the threat of the guillotine is removed; Philadelphia had not the connections of Genlis and she had had it. Genlis seems to have bones of steel inside her where others have mere calcium,and she never lost her grim determined hypocritical performative abilities. These Philadelphia never had (it seems to me if she had she might not have lost Hastings).

Perhaps she’d had enough after Lambert and what she saw was the result of Eliza’s first marriage (Feuillide’s house, land projects, mistress, ceaseless desire for money); I see her as tiring of the struggle and letting Eliza take over with herself as advisor at most. It is said that one of the many causes of cancer is stress; I’ve read these hinting analyses of Austen’s fatal illness which suggest stress was an element, especially after there was no legacy, to be no relief when the uncle died. Against that cancer repeated itself in Eliza and there does seem to have been genes inherited in the family which made for severely disabled children.

In 1784 records show Eliza and Phila traveling south to live in a romantic chateau in southern France, 450 miles from Paris, sparse population; Feuillide’s mother lived with them. (No records of mistress until he returns to Paris to try to wrest his property back.) His mother died at the end of the winter; “fever’ everywhere (marshes remember, perhaps malaria). Phila lives with her daughter and son-in-law, Eliza upset by miscarriage and – Feuillide building a chateau on his northern lands which Eliza enthusiastic about. James Ausen plans a visit. 1785 – but Feuillide, Phil a and Eliza go to Pyrenees spa very favored by aristocratic and rich bourgeois French – Bagneres-de-Bigorre (Sophie Cottin went there for her health and the French social world doubtless too)

The final return to England:

Gravestone of Phila, Capot, Eliza …

Eliza pregnant again and Feuillide wants child born in the UK especially as Hastings has returned; May 1786 Phila and Eliza set off on bad roads, into a ship across the channel, baby born in London June 1786. Named what? You guessed it: Hastings. (Eliza named after Hasting’s first dead daughter.)

Eliza will not give baby up when it does not develop as expected and her mother is with her. Now there is plan for Henry to accompany Eliza to France; Eliza reported as richly dressed. No one reports on Phila except she is with daughter at Tunbridge Wells.

The next autumn (1787-88) was when theatricals start occurring in Steventon – we must assume Phila there too. Eliza much older than her boy cousins who are rivals. Phila may be helper to Cassandra Austen — as women did, and friends too. They keep up with Walters (Eliza writes cousin)

Phila is not individually mentioned until her illness and death in 1792 (age 62). Phila had a “hard and painful swelling on one of her breasts;” a mountebank (but no one then knew what to do – today we are not much on) woman doctor hired; pain was reduced. Eliza stays with her mother in Orchard street that summer of 1792. Edward visited on his way to Lake district (remmber he lives the life of an heir). Phila in “acute pain” in August; Eliza talks of her amendment (how people hope on), Eliza calls in one Dr Roops; October Phila confined to bed, severe attack Laudanum prescribed. Eliza in a state of distress “bordering on distraction. Terrible autumn. I can imagine it.

Christmas 1792-93 Phila still alive with ”violent cough, no appetite, disordred bowels.” She is recorded as telling Eliza her complaint is “getting better” by Eliza in a letter and Eliza does not believe this.. She has Hasting son her hands – he is 5. Boy cannot keep upright. Count attacked by angry mob at his property; new house pillaged (this commonly happened during first English civil war too – 1642-47), draining projects cease. He goes to Paris and is recorded as owing Phila 6500 pounds.

Phila dies Feburary in Hampstead. Tomb: “Philadelphia wife of Tysoe Saul Hancok” whose “moral excellence united the praise of every Christian virtue” commended for her pious resignation to “severest trials of a tedious and painful malady.” Feuillide is there and takes his wife to Bath, but then the fool return to Paris lest his property be forfet – those who survived knew better than to do this. It was hopeless. The thing to have done was join the emigres developing an army to attack the French republic.

Eliza lives through a very hard time from the time of her first miscarriage on. Some bright spots: love of mother, love of child, enjoys theatricals, husband does show up. We have nothing of Phila’s inner life but a widow whose first love (Hastings) remarried and who was otherwise exploited by men but her brother (George), with Hastings paying people to try to advise her from afar.

Wm Hodges (hired by Hastings) View of Calcutta from Fort William, 1781:

The life of Philadelphia Austen Hancock as revealed in the letters of others (she is silent woman) show the continuing marginality of many of the Austens, who hovered uncertainly on the periphery of the wealthy world. Worry about money seems to have run in much of the family. In Philadelphia’s case, she was forced to go India to seek a husband, and married one 20 years older than herself. According to the introduction, the family tried to move back to England but couldn’t make it financially, so Tysoe returned to India to try to make a second fortune there. The family he left behind included Philadelphia and the daughter Eliza. He buys utterly into the values that life is not worth living without high status and that is his ruination and in a way hers too.

In his first letters, Hancock exhibits continual anxious stress about expenses, appears thwarted in business ventures and laments that he may never be able to return to England. I am reminded strongly of Burnett’s The Making of the Marchioness, written 130 years later, but still describing the same situation–the disenfranchised poor relation forced unwilling to live in India and to make a life there, no matter the longing to be in England. Once again, we see the cruelties of primogeniture, and not incidentally, the added pressure to exploit the Indians because of the concentration of wealth in just a few hands, leaving the English who might otherwise have done well in England to wrench fortunes out of other lands. We feel Tysoe’s unhappiness. He longs to be with his wife, laments the huge expenses he bears in India and sees few opportunities. He tries to control her behavior to force her to educate Eliza so as to find her an upper class husband and thus provide him with prestige by proxy. But over the years, he does not make the money he wants to be able to insist on their living a fully upper class luxurious life; he dreads any return, has perhaps gone native to some extent, and does not want to show himself out of shame: he regards himself as a failure in every way. He knows Eliza is not his and others do too. He scolds his wife irritably so that we see how hard pressed she is, but also registers her loyalty to him. It may be said he drove her to marry her daughter to the false count. She did not live to see her daughter’s second wise marriage to the kind and upright Henry Austen and good life with him in London.

Often the magic figure of 600 pounds per annum comes up. Hancock does not want Phila to manage on less. He is fiercely opposed to any drop in the class ladder he envisages for Phila and Betsy. Money, money, money, the endless concern, threads through these letters to Phila. (Much more on Hancock in my next blogs on the Austen Papers.)

As to any kind of in-depth portrait of Philadelphia (which could be attempted for her daughter, though LeFaye has not done this), we can say little about her from the records I’ve seen, but that hers was a desperate flotsam and jetsam life and she won the deep affection of her daughter. She was taught no system of values or norms whereby she would want to express her inner life or have feelings of her own, never mothered, hardly fathered. The letters to Hancock show their marriage was a bargain whereby he said he would provide for her and on those grounds she married him. She may have hoped Hastings would love her, but it seems she lacked the social cunning he felt a mistress or wife of his would need; I surmise she was either not smart enough or too smart for his taste. Perhaps she was too dependent in nature. She exhibited wary judgement while in England and with the money Hancock provided and Hastings through his agents, she lived a conventional life of a gentry mother bringing up her daughter genteelly. After Hancock’s death, she showed herself susceptible to unscrupulous exploiters. Not surprising: perhaps Lambert exhibited concern and helped her with kindness and grace (something Hancock does not understand in the least). In her last years she turned to her daughter; during her decline and illness she was with her brother and his wife as well.

Her fate was shaped by the death of her parents when she was young; then by her having had an affair and child by a powerful man when she had no power. Everyone knew who was Eliza’s father, but it was equally in everyone’s interest at the time not to acknowledge Hasting’s parentage in any open way too — no drop in legitimate status either: there is the determination to keep the 10,000 pounds a secret and the poignant letter from Philadelphia herself to Hastings saying how she leaves him alone (as I said above, I will add that one from later in the Austen Papers). Hastings preferred another married woman who had been married to an underling. So she allures people who want money and yet is stigmatized, a semi-pariah at the same time. She may have been persuaded to marry her daughter to a French count thinking that would give them status. It did not because of his motives and nature.

Nokes opens his biography with Hancock’s letters and the story of his life — but no one tries to tell the life of Philadelphia. This has been one of the first attempts to bring the documents we have together to tell her life. Jane Austen thought it important: it’s one of the first she tries to tell after the Juvenilia — and the few paragraphs in Catherine, or the Bower, bear witness to the initial crucial phase of Phila’s life.


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