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Dear friends and readers,

A brief blog to let you know about my other reading among women which is not 18th century (even conceived of as very long). And to recommend yet another author.

She may seem to emerge more from the Rousseau part of the 18th century, the subjective epistolary urge, but as a woman writer, especially in the way her art fits l’ecriture-femme, Annie Ernaux belongs to our terrain. Her predecessors include the French women memorists of the era, the letter writers — and I’ve fallen in love with her writing. I’ve been reading about women who write in this way all my life whenever I come across any; they tend to be European and English (Iris Origo, A.S. Byatt, in some moods Margaret Drabble, as a scholar and non-scholar Anita Brookner) more than American. And they are common in Italy (Elena Ferrante [see also James Wood], Elsa Morante, Natalie Ginzburg), and France, Annie Ernaux. Ernaux seems to me very like a previous favorite, Chantal Thomas.

I began reading Ernaux because I was attracted by a brief essays by Michael Sheringham on her Ecrire la Vie and L’Atelier Noir, which is (happily) online for the public. A friend on WWTTA wrote:

Annie Ernaux is a fascinating author, from a working class background. She wrote a lot about the cultural differences between her family and herself: her parents encouraged her to attend a private school, but she was very different from the other girls, what with parents who owned a café-épicerie in the poorer part of
their small town in Normandy… (esp. in La place).

I find that Annie Ernaux writes beautifully and expresses her inner struggles very well. She has been criticised for not concealing enough, for being too crude at times (in Passion simple, for instance), but I think that’s what makes her work so powerful. She writes about the shame she felt around her parents, the shame she felt about herself. In one of her books she writes about her
experience with abortion, back when it was against the law in France (in L’évènement). In another one, she travels back in time and in place to try and decipher her mother and their relationship (in Une femme which somewhat mirrors La Place which was written shortly after her father’s death and explores similar themes).

I carried on loving it because I’ve discovered she writes about being a girl with no shame, with vivid interest, with even pride. I find those who automatically nowadays praise a girl for being “a tomboy” deny women as such. Austen said of novelists: “we are an injured body,” who will speak up for us if not us. And all the above women write as women, look to the threads which came out of girlhood.

Here are just a few notes: The style is very plain and simple. The discontinuous nature of the utterances reminds me of Jelinek but Ernaux is comfortable with herself; on the other hand, she need not go on and on like Anais Nin; she need not shock for shock’s sake.

I enter into Arnaux’s tone, even her memories, books she read (presumably when young in French translations). I didn’t expect a French woman to react to US “tribal” events (9/11) the way UK and other English readers do, but she does. The books she likes I see I like; and the whole attitude of mind is congenial. I was chuffed to see references to Gone with the Wind and wondered if she had read the book in the French translation — available in a a 3 volume paperback with stills from the 1939 movie, Autant en emporte le vent

One of the central themes of the book is how hard it is to get back to the past. How our memories are fake, not real, intermixed with what we have been told, and so the opening section is fragments of what comes into her mind purely as she thinks back to the past. What images especially. Among these

celle de Scarlett O’Hara trainant dans l’escalier le soldat yankee qu’elll vient du tuer — courant dans les ruses d’Atlanta a la rechercher d’un medicine pour Melanie qui va accoucher …

[that of Scarlett dragging along the stairs the Yankee soldier she has just killed — running through the streets of Atlanta in search of a doctor for Melanie who is about to give birth …]

Except it’s not Scarlet who drags the body; it’s Melanie. I wondered if she knew that she was misremembering and what other mis-memories that nonetheless are the meaningful ones for her. I have a still of Leigh as Scarlett on the stairs holding a gun looking a the soldier walking up. So the communal memory is of Scarlet’s actions not Melanie’s and we forget to attribute to Melanie her heroism.


I cannot find a still of Olivia di Havilland, all steel-grit dragging that body, telling Scarlett what to do next. I have to re-watch the film and snap a still. But like Nancy Drew in her 40s through 60s incarnations, Mitchell’s GWTW’s book crosses nationalities, races, ethnicities. I had students from Nigeria who had brought a copy of the book from Africa.

Like Liv Ullman in a recent Bergman film who sits with photos to remember the past, so then Ernaux turns to photos. She knows they are as misleading and these are intermixed with more fragmants.

She is collecting up her memories, as memories are what we can use to console and make up for our loss. Method: First photo of her as a child comes early; we return to it. It’s taken during WW2; she was born in 1940. She moves forward to talk about how no one wanted to remember much about the War and then deviated into her fragments and now is back with her photos.

I also to remark on the light ease with which she tells what were to me devastating sexual experiences. She says she felt guilt and she retreated but the feel is of acceptance of self. I’m talking about where she says (ever so lightly and impersonally) how she opted for fellatio in order to avoid worse (buggery) when she was with a guy. Neither risked pregnancy so they had that. We get an image of her with sperm in her mouth. Yuk but what happens. Naomi Wolf goes over the same kind of experiences in her Promiscuities, but cannot manage this savoir faire at all. Nor I. She only speaks of the melancholy of her spoiled girlhood.

I liked the device of the school picture for putting together her transition from girlhood to adolescence. How they were all looking out, looking alike, side-by-side but never telling one another who they were. She is unashamed to admit her loves, what a car means the freedom of it. How she took pride in her hair styles. She says that they were given impressions which made them suppose their lives were such as Marianne de ma jeunesse, but the point is this was false, a false imposition. I didn’t read that one but others like it I imagine.

I was again pleased on how she lit on an author I like. Rosamund Lehman for her listed with the (respected) likes of Milosz, Apollinaire. She names Poussiere by which I suppose she means Dusty Answer. I have written about Lehmann as one of the great powerful authors for women of the 20th century; this one is one of her earliest and I did not read it, but the one that so irritated Q.D. Leavis it became the focus of one of her hatchet jobs on women authors. I now long to read it. See my Post WW1 novls by women.

I found myself comparing her to Elfriede Jelinek who we have also tried to read on WWTTA. Like Wolf Jeninek cannot be light. Ernaux is so much less in a rage: Jelinek in comparison is harsh, jagged, with visercally ugly imagery and graphic sex that feels like an assault. And yet they are on about the same things, with Ernaux not mincing words deliberately.

I also keep thinking of Chantal Thomas’s La Vie Reelle des Petites Filles (Real life of Girls) I am wondering if parts 3 and 4 of Les Annees correspond to Thomas’s Comment supporter la liberte (badly Englished as Coping with Freedom), what decisions to make, how to live as a young man confronting life independently for the first time, and if Passion Simple corresponds to Souffrir, from which I quote: “Aussi triste qe soit un livre, it n’est jamais aussi triste que la vie”. I was exhilarated Chantal’s scholarly book on the cruel scandals heaped on Marie Antoinette and her novel, Farewell My Queen. It’s a sort of imitation of the fictional memoir-novel, which were written by women of the court close to Marie-Antoinette either before, during, or shortly after “the Terror.” In both the original French and Moishe Black’s lucid and elegant translation, the writer is enacting for her reader, providing a sense of what Talleyrand meant when he said “those who were born after the revolution could not know the sweetness of life”. (Well words to this effect in French). Thomas and Black’s texts both convey to the reader a deep-musing beauty and grace in the midst of stillness (the hierarchical world of distrust is there and it’s cold, keeps everyone in place and at a distance, at least from this subordinate woman reader’s position).

IF this is Thomas coping, she is more than a little anorexic; but I love the photo for its colors, the shadows, her smoking; it puts me in mind of Stephanie Audran as Lord Marchmain’s mistress in Brideshead

Ernaux is better, more full, containing more phases. As the above suggests, Thomas cannot resist a certain pomposity, OTOH, Thomas is more quotable, more Proustian (rich prose) and makes these axiomatic kinds of “pensees” in the French tradition. But Ernaux captures the kinds of thoughts that goes through one’s mind.

For those who can understand spoken French, here’s an audio adaptation of the first section of Les Annees.


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I wish there were no such things as Teeth in the World; they are nothing but plagues to one, and I dare say that People might easily invent something to eat with instead of them. —Catherine, or the Bower

… convinced that much of the evil lay in her gum, I persuaded her to attack the disorder there. She has accordingly had three teeth drawn, and is decidedly better, but her nerves are a good deal deranged … Sanditon

Friends, Austen-devotees,

I just lost another tooth today. Down to 10 on the bottom and 3 on top. I was shaken, but not deranged. Why? I kept Austen in mind. I made an appointment for a cleaning because I knew a middle tooth on the bottom (#24) was loose and had had it at long last (very grey where my tooth sat in my gum). The dentist took x-rays and as usual (remember I’m 66 and it’s been every child a quarter of a mouth), wanted to take 2 more (#s 23 & 25). The attitude of dentist’s towards the old person’s teeth needs improvement. They think what they offer will be better. (Doctor to patient: Let us take out those adenoids now; they are only going to give you trouble later.) But while I didn’t need Austen’s Susan to direct my conduct, to remember her amused me. I said I would stop at one today as drawing three would “a great deal derange my nerves.”


Did you know rich people paid poor people and some masters and mistresses pressured their servants into having their teeth pulled so they could have them put in their mouths. Eighteenth-Century Life 28.1 (2004) 21-68. That may be what’s happening to the black man sitting on the couch. The white woman hovering over him might be pressuring him to go ahead.

Less funnily and rightly sceptical: I love the scepticism of this.

From letters 87 and 88, Wed-Thurs, 15-16 Sept 1813

Going to Mr Spence’s was a sad Business & cost us many tears, unluckily we were obliged to go a 2d time before he could do more than just look: — we went I at 1/2 past 12 and afterwards at 3. Papa went with us each time — &, alas! we are to go again to-morrow. Lizzy is not finished yet. There have been no Teeth taken out however, nor will as I believe, but he finds hers in a very bad state, & seems to think ill of their Durableness. — They have been all cleaned, hers fled, and are to be filed again. There is a very sad hole between two of her front Teeth.

The poor girls and their teeth! I have not mentioned them yet, but we were a whole hour at Spence’s, & Lizzy’s were filed & lamented over again & poor Marianne had two taken out after all, the two just beyond the Eye teeth, to make room for those in front. –- When her doom was fixed, Fanny Lizzy & I walked into the next room, where we heard each of the two sharp hasty Screams —- Fanny’s teeth were cleaned too-& pretty as they are, Spence found something to do to them, putting in gold & talking gravely —- & making a considerable point of seeing her again before winter; —- he had before urged the expediency of Lizzy & Marianne’s being brought to Town, in the course of a couple of Months to be farther examined, & continued to the last to press for their all coming to him. —- My Brother would not absolutely promise. —- The little girls teeth I can suppose in a critical state, but I think he must be a Lover of Teeth & Money & Mischeif to parade about Fannys. –- I would not have had him look at mine for a shilling a tooth & double it. -– It was a disagreable hour

Today’s dentists don’t value biological teeth the way they ought to (they are ever willing to file them down, re-color them, cap them) because they make money off of cosmetics and making substitute magazine-looking teeth. Orthodonists fleece (complicit I agree) parents. They will pull a perfectly healthy tooth in order to make a mouth “look right” in child.

When Austen went to the dentist, she said she would not let him near her for a shilling a tooth. Today cost me $163 for everything (that’s with a reduction because she is a dentist associated with Kaiser). I remember when I used to pay $5.00 for a pull from a dentist in Brooklyn in the early 1970s. He did all the dentist did insofar as “extraction” (her term) is concerned.

Don’t get me wrong. I do like my dentist. She is not a disagreeable woman, and she is a Kaiser Dentist so I was not charged $700 (which is the sort of price I was paying in the 1990s when I had to go privately). Her dental hygienist who deep-cleans my teeth (ouch!) works as gently as he can, means very well. Both are there of course for the money. What they really wanted to do when I showed up was extract all my teeth, do “deep scaling,” put in implants, bridges for (with insurances) minimum for me of an estimated $20,000. What I have are modern partial dentures which stay in through the way the plastic puts pressure on my gums: $2000.

Oh the blood and pain people endure to look “middle class,” i.e., socially acceptable today. And gentle reader, remember implants don’t always “take.”

I’ll go one better than Austen: you couldn’t pay me to allow them to do what they wanted to. Or you’d have to pay me huge sums.

You will say I am anachronistic. Jane Austen would not feel today about dentistry the way I do. I am not so sure.


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I admire the Sagacity & Taste of Charlotte Williams. Those large dark eyes always judge well. — I will compliment her, by naming a Heroine after her — Tues Oct 12th.

Edward has driven off poor Mrs Salkend. — It was thought a good opportunity of doing something towards clearing the house — Thurs, Oct 14th

I should be most happy to see dear Charles, & he will be as happy as he can with a cross Child or some such care pressing in on him at the time … They had a very rough passage, he would not have ventured if he had known how bad it would be — Thurs-Fri, Oct 14th-15th

Charles Austen, 1796, in his lieutenant’s uniform

Fanny Palmer Austen, his wife, perhaps around 1807 when they married

Dear friends and readers,

A genuine “In continuation.”

We could call this letter more of the same, except, alas, it is much sourer than earlier in the week, and I cannot dispute Diana Birchall’s general assessment:

Let me say right up front that if I had to pick one, I believe this is the letter of Jane Austen’s with the highest number of nasty sniping comments. Some are famous. If we counted, there’s quite a total!

I suggested something had occurred to grate on Austen’s soul viscerally, and she just can’t stand the intrusion of so many “stupidish” (in both senses of the word), “ill”-dressed and “very plain” people who wear far too many “flounces:” “You must really get some flounces” (to Cassandra). A momentary relief:

We have got rid of Mr Mascall [who ate all that butter in the previous letter] however; — I did not like him either. He talks too much & is conceited — besides having a vulgarly-shaped mouth … [italics hers]

Everyone is very “wearying” and not only are “Mr and Mrs Moore & one Child” coming (on top of all these others) but it seems “Charles and Fanny” are coming “in October” as

if they come at all … in October they must. What is the use of hoping? — The two parties of children are the cheif Evil. To be sure, here we are, the very thing has happened, or rather worse, a Letter from Charles this very morning which gives us reason to suppose they may come today. It depends upon the weather, & the weather now is very fine. — No difficulties are made however & indeed there will be no want of room ….

Still she does not want them. Beyond the frustration of not writing enough, perhaps not reading enough:

The Comfort of the Billiard Table here is very great. — It draws all the Gentlemen to it whenever they are within, especially after dinner, so that my Brother [Edward], Fanny & I have the Library to ourselves in delightful quiet …

she does seem exasperated with Edward Bridges and his “motley crew,” which she returns to as a kind of suppurating sore. Mr Lushington is still available “for franking,” and he was nearby enough to write the address of this letter.

I was going to open by saying, let’s be frank for once: what we have are letters written to and saved by a narrow woman without general insight and no interests outside her family (i.e., Cassandra), who saves passages which condemn Jane (as when Jane laughs at a maid harassed by her nephews) and destroys the ones which exonerate her, but after all it’s Jane who wrote it. And the spirit coheres with her usual dislike of unknown company, possible boredom, snubbing, (justified I should concede) distrust of others’ motives and preference for going where there will be nobody (countryside which is not valued hypocritically).

I have indeed brought over from Tuesday a line I overlooked in my last blog: Charlotte Williams (about whom LeFaye seems to know nothing), who Austen was so taken with, she remembered her when she sat down to begin Sanditon — unless this the line may be taken as suggesting notes towards Sanditon had not already begun. I did in my last quote some of the famous bleak and bitter ripostes in this letter, only saving her unusual lack of sympathy for a single woman turned off, and in my last emphasized the coquetry with Lushington, Hatton and (antagonistically) Edward Bridges.

What’s left? cross remarks which I’ll spare the reader; that he “Brown Bombasin” was “much admired;” that although Cassandra has been sending details of Chawton house, Edward wants more (he “wants to be expressly told that all the Round Tower &c. is entirely down, & the door from the Best room entirely stopt up; — he does not know enough … “); a moment of relenting over Miss Benn (whom she does keep a kindness for), which spills into the genuinely comedic:

Have you done anything about our Present to Miss Benn? — I suppose she must have a bed at my Mothers whenever she dines there. — How will they manage as to inviting her when you are
gone? — & if they invite how they will contrive to entertain her? — Let me know as many of your parting arrangements as you can, as to Wine &c. — I wonder whether the Ink bottle has been filled. — Does Butcher’s meat keep up at the same price? & is not Bread lower than 2/ 6. — Mary’s blue gown! — My Mother must be in agonies. — I have a great mind to have my blue gown dyed some time or other — I proposed it once to you & you made some objection, I forget what. — It is the fashion of flounces that gives it particular Expediency

and Charles and Fanny’s visit.


Charles Austen, 1810

Charles appears least of all the brothers and sisters in Austen’s letters. When last seen he was an eager dancer at parties (both the uniform and this eagerness reminding us of William Price, Letter 17), and his sister enjoyed that. We saw him asserting himself tenaciously, stubbornly to be promoted just as rapidly as his older brother Francis, and Austen was not unsympathetic (e.g., Letters 14,15, & 18, 1798-99). We did hear when he was married (but no one went and the remark easy to overlook), and then light passing remarks about how hard-up he and Fanny were, living on board ship, and references to their problems in managing when they came on land in England, and their children insufficiently disicplined, but when we think of Frank (poems to him upon his liminal transitions), Edward (many and varied) and even Henry (not as sympathetic or understanding as we might wish her), we realize in comparison Charles seems hardly on her mind.

I suggested that we get some insight into her distancing herself from her brother in the telling flat announcement of Fanny’s death in yet another childbirth (Letter 107, 1807). The family did not approve of Fanny as a colonialist who brought nothing even if the daughter of a former attorney general (details in LeFaye’s Family Record, 143), a dismissal which comes out very distastefully when Charles remarrried, and chose her sister. Mrs Austen: “I am now very glad that his residence is at such a distance” (LeFaye, 138).

LeFaye says the remarks show their disapproval of his ignoring the Married Wife’s Sister Act (it was forbidden), but the content of the remarks gives the family’s real feelings away: Harriet is vulgar; “to elegance she has no pretensions.” Neither did Fanny living aboard ship with her husband, giving birth there, bringing up children (see Deborah Kaplan, “Domesticity at Sea: the example of Charles and Fanny Austen,” Persuasions 14 (1992a):113-22). The complaints about his children fit in here. He gets insufficient respect, if from Cassandra at any rate (it’s to her letters expressing worry over how Charles and Fanny will manage, that Austen’s brief remarks are addressed).

If any one doubts that Austen’s attitude is shaped by an idea that the Palmers are inferior, read her comment on the child being “so Palmery:”

I talk to Cassy about Chawton; she remembers much but does not volunteer on the subject. — Poor little Love — I wish she were not so very Palmery — but it seems stronger than ever. –I never knew a Wife’s family-features have such undue influence. –Papa & Mama have not yet made up their mind as to parting with her or not-the cheif, indeed the only difficulty with Mama is a very reasonable one, the Child’s being very unwilling to leave them. When it was mentioned to her, she did not like the idea of it at all. — At the same time, she has been suffering so much lately from Sea sickness, that her Mama cannot bear to have her much on board this winter. — Charles is less inclined to part with her. — I do not know how it will end, or what is to determine it. He desires his best Love to you & has not written because he has not been able to decide.- They are both very sensible of your Kindness on the occasion. — I have made Charles furnish me with something to say about Young Kendall. — He is going on very well. When he first joined the Namur, my Brother did not find him forward enough to be what they call put in the Office, & therefore placed him under the Schoolmaster, but he is very much improved, so goes into the Office now every afternoon — still attending School in the morns …

Kendall was a volunteer first class. No matter how Palmery Austen found the child it’s clear that life at sea is not healthy for her. The modern norm would leave her with relatives.


So let us situate this visit to Godmersham in the context of Charles’s whole career (I’ve culled this chronology from several sources, Sailor Brothers, Kaplan’s article on Charles and Fanny at sea in Persuasions most prominently):

1779 Charles Austen born

1791 (July) Charles matriculated into Royal Naval Academy

1794 Charles goes to sea; served first in Daedalus, first as Volunteer (?),then as midshipman (he is there as midshipman while Francis is on Glory); then on Unicorn, both ships under Captain Thomas Williams, at time of capture of La Tribune; June 8, 1796. Now Captain Thomas Williams was husband to Jane Cooper, an
Austen cousin. Last in the Endymion

1797 year of many mutinies

1797 December Charles promoted to be a Lieutenant, serving in the Scorpion, under command of Captain John Tremayne Rodd; chief event the capture of the Courier, a Dutch brig carrying 6 guns. He gets restless, agitates for removal.

1798 Nelson sails from England and joins St Vincent at Cadiz; goes on into Mediterranean. French seize Malta and British blockade it.

1798 1 August: Battle of Nile, Aboukir Bay, British victory cuts off Bonaparte in Eygpt; Turkey declares war on France; Nelson establishes himself off coast of Palermo, Sicily. Rear-Admiral Perrée had served in immense fleet which Bonaparte took to Egypt; most seniors killed or captured; he takes charge of remaining frigates, anchored at Alexandria, blockaded by Captain Toubridge (Sailor Brothers 78)

1798 December: Letters from Jane to Cassandr in which we learn:

Charles: George Austen writes to Dayshto desire Daysh inform him when Commission is sent (pushing it); Charles writes to Lord Spencer himself 28 Jane announces Frank is made, rank of Commander for Peterel sloop, now at Gibraltar; letter from Daysh announces, confirmed by friendly one from Mr Matthew transcribing one from Gambier to General; India House taken Charles’s petition into consideration (says Daysh), Lieutenant Charles to be removed to Tamar frigate

1799, January: Charles at home, not pleased with existing arrangements; leaves on 21st for Tamar in the Downs; only gets as far as Dean Gate because coaches full; calls on Daysh the next day to see if Tamar has sailed or not; he does get off, writes a few days later to say he is Second Lieutenant on Tamar; also in Downs was Endymion, and in February or 3 weeks later Charles appointed Lieutenant to this frigate in which he saw much service, chiefly Algeciras, under Thomas Williams once again

1799-1800: Endymion serves in Western Mediterranean too; attacks Spanish gunboats off Algecrias and captures privateers, including La Furie, from which Charles’s prize money is £40. Scipio in a violent gale captured, Charles and 4 men capture it, Le Faye, Family Record 111. Captain Thomas Williams is replaced by Philip Durham, Sailor Brothers, 91

1800, autumn: Endymion returns to Gosport, and Charles awaits new duties; Jane is to make shirts by the half dozens, 1 November 1800

1800 1 November: Jane to Cassandra reports on Francis’s activities as described by him in a letter:; Charles on the Endymion, ‘waiting only for orders, but may wait for them perhaps a month’, LeFaye, JA’s Letters, 1 November 1800, 52; Sailor Brothers, 95

20-21 November, Thurs-Fri: Charles came home on previous Tuesday; they walked to Deane and he danced the whole evening & is today no more tired than a gentleman ought to be, she got another letter from Frank dated 2nd of October (see above), LeFaye 60, Sailor Brothers, 96-97

1801 11 February: Jane to Cassandra reports on a letter received from Charles written 7 February: Charles coming from Lisbon on Endymion with Captain Boyle who reports he has not seen Frank, Captain Inglis [he had been a lieutenant in Penelope, distinguished himself in capture of Guillaume Tell] at Rhodes going to take command of Peterel; supposes Frank will arrive in England in about 2 weeks with dispatches from Sir Ralph Abercrombie; Charles surprised they are to leave Steventon for Bath ‘of course’, but will visit once more while place still theirs, LeFaye, Lets, 79-80; Sailor Brothers, 104-5

1803, after May 18: Charles reappointed to Endymion, served with distinction (until October 1804 when given command of Indian sloop): Captain of Endymion is Paget, prizes caught while Charles on board, the French corvette Bacchante on 25 June 1803, Sailor Brothers 123

1804: Charles Austen in Bermuda assigned to North American station, main duty as captain of Indian under Admiral John Warren is to prevent neutral countries from trading with France, DKaplain, Persuasions, 14, p 115; it would seem that from 1804 to 1810 Charles was basically stationed in North America whenever England was at war, Sailor Brothers, 205

1805, 23 April: Jane to Cassandra, from Gay street: they visit Lord and Lady Leven, are almost shownaway, then lied to about Lady: but theyare Charles’s friends so this ordeal must be endured, Le Faye 105

1807, Charles Austen in his late twenties marries Francis Fitzwilliam Palmer, daughter of Attorney General of Bermuda, in Bermuda, DKaplan, Persuasions, 14, p 115; Jane Austen mentions him in her letters

1808, the Indian Charles’s ship captured La Jeune Estelle, a small privateer, but work unprofitable as regards prize money, Sailor Brothers, 207

1808, 24 December: Charles to Cassandra, quoted in Sailor Brothers, 209-10: tells same story of almost capturing ship; to this he adds death of 12 men; he expects to sail on Tuesday for St Domingo.

1809, 24 January: Jane to Cassandra about a letter she has received from Charles; written at Bermuda on 7 & 10 December; he took a small prize in late cruize (La Jeune Estelle), a French schooner laden with Sugar, but bad weather parted them, and he didn’t get the prize his cruize ended Dec 1st, Le Faye 169

1810, Charles gains post rank as captain of Swiftsure flagship to Sir John Warren, Sailor Brothers, 207; he stayed there but five months, 210.

1810, 28 May, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, to Bermuda, Fanny Palmer
Austen to her sister: she and husband arrived there today

Bermuda, 1805-1810

1810, September: Charles takes command of Cleopatra and brings her home in April 1811, after he had been gone from England 6 and 1/2 years, Sailor Brothers, 210

1811, 25 April: Jane to Cassandra hears from Captain Simpson who had heard from another Captain just come from Halifax: Charles bringing Cleopatra home, she was probably in Channel by now, Le Faye 184

1811, November: Charles appointed to Namur, as Flag Captain to old friend, Sir Thomas Williams, now Commander-in-Chief at Noire, his job is to supervise naval recruits in Thames and eastern ports, to man warships being readied for action, Sailor Brothers, 211; DKaplan, Persuasions 14, p 115

1812, early in year: Fanny Palmer Austen expresses insistent cheer, hyperbolic unreal praise, DKaplan, Persuasions 14, p 115; Cassandra in Austen Papers calls them rather ‘very tolerably comfortable’

1813, 3 July: Jane to Frank, Let 86 in Le Faye; referring to his occupations in light way as form of sightseeing when it comes to Sweden; refers to lessons about Sweden they must have shared as children; at this time Charles and his wife Fanny at South End, Sailor Brothers, 233-38

1813, September: according to Hubbard while Jane writing her letter to Frank, Charles aboard the Namur with his wife and two small children, Sailor Brothers, 250

1813, 25 September: Jane to Frank, thanking him for his, said to be very full, Let 90 in LeFaye: he has said how poor people are in Sweden, how Mecklenburg is the fashionable bathing place, cost of food; she is at Godmersham for two months; Charles and Family are coming to Godmersham in October; Mary Gibson Austen had invited her to deal; she is sorry she cannot come but Jane avers Mary Gibson Frank is aware of improbability of her being able to get to Deal,

1813, October: Fanny Palmer Austen to a brother-in-law: difficult to hire and retain female servants, DKaplan, Persuasions 14, 117: she is at home and not looking forward to going to sea again; calls herself spoilt for last 3 years

1813, 14-15 October: Jane from Godmersham to Cassandra, Le Faye No 92, includes a long description of Charles (a letter of September 23, includes details of their plans to come from Fanny Austen [Knight]; ‘a very rough passage’, Charles and Fanny look well, the daughter Cassy ‘extremely thin and looks poorly; talks about having Cassy with them at Chawton Cottage as Aunt Cassandra wants her, Sailor Brothers, 250-54

1813, November: Fanny Palmer Austen insists how cozy it is to sleep with infant next to her; meanwhile other daughters sent to live in England with relatives to escape months of harsh weatherand rough seas, DKaplan, Persuasions 14, 118

1814: Fanny Palmer Austen to sister Esther in Bermuda: unhappy at
separation from Harriet, daughter in London living with Palmers; servant more a plague than anything; long given up planning occasions; pregnant in winter of this year with fourth child; she hides her discomfort from her husband, DKaplan, Persuasions 14, 118

1814, 6 September: death of Fanny Palmer Austen; a few weeks later the newborn baby dies too, Le Faye, xvii

1814, 26 December: Charles and Jane Austen at Winchester with Mrs Heathcote and Miss Bigg, Le Faye, xvii

1815: Charles’s diaries show him to have been grief-striken and lonely when his wife died in childbirth a few months after 1814 letters to her sister, DKaplan, Persuasions 14, 120

1815, 2-16 January Charles and Jane Austen at Steventon; visit Ashe and Laverstoke, Le Faye, xvii

1815, after January: Charles appointed to more active post, Phoneix, heads for Mediterranean, leaving children in London under care of sister-in-law, Harriet, DKaplan, Persuasions 14, 120

1815, March: Napoleon escapes Elba and war resumes; Charles is sent as captain of Phoenix with Undaunted and Garland in pursuit, 266 organizes a blockade of Brindisi; from here occurred his pursuit of a Neapolitan squadron in Adriatic; Sailor Brothers, ; poignant letter shows him dreaming his wife alive again; DKaplan,
Persuasions 14, 120

1815, 6 May: Charles to Jane Austen: he is kept busy with Greek pirates in the Archipelago until his Phoenix lost off Smyrna in 1816 after which he was returned to England,

1815, November, LeFaye No 128, Jane to Cassandra: she is grateful for a sight of Charles’s letter to Cassandra, Sailor Brothers, 261-62

1817, 6 April: Jane to Charles when she is a couple of months away from death, Le Faye, 157; Sailor Brothers, 270-71; he is living in Keppel Street

The rest of Charles’s career as told in Sailor Brothers, 274-81, and corrected by reading letters.

1826: Charles on West Indies station, employed for 2 years suppressing slave trade;

1828: Charles: stationed on board Aurora as second in command he again appointed Flag-Captain to Admiral Colpys in Winchester same place

1830: Charles invalided home as the result of bad accident and stays at home until 1838

1838: he is appointed to Bellerophon still just a Captain after 30 years of service; took part in bombardment of Beyrout forts at Acre; also stationed in a neighbouring bay, gauring the entrance of the pass by which Commodore Sir Charles Napier advanced up the Lebanon to attack Ibrahim Pasha’s army and Egyptians (it seems to have been British policy to intervene militarily to prevent alliances they feared would end up counter to their interests); Charles’s diary quoted to tell of his ship’s participation at Acre. Charles awarded a Companionship of the Bath for his part in this campaign

1846 Charles made a Rear-Admiral

1850 Charles appointed Commander-in-Chief on the East India Station; at 70 then he leaves England in P& steamer Ripon for Alexandria, crosses desert to Suez. In a series of battles which were the result of an attempt to stop the Burmese from exacting sums from people attempting to travel and trade on Rangoon, Charles forms part of naval expedition (there was an army) on the coast of Burma by end of March

1850, March: Charles now shifts his flat from Hastings to Rattler at Rincomalee in Ceylon, and proceeds up mouth of Ceylon river

1850, 3-14 April: Rattler with two more ships and troops attack Martaban and capture; took a place held by 5000 me, move onto Rangoon, Rattler on outlying stockades; cholera set in and Charles now ill; he goes to Calcutta where he appears to recover

1850, September – October: war resumes, Charles now on steam slop Pluto takes men up channel of Irrawadi; he waits in unhealthy region for 2 weeks for main boyd of men; last notes on October 6: ‘Received a report that two steamers had been seen at anchor some miles below, wrote this and a letter to my wife’; dies October 7. Whole area eventually became British

It’s worth it to direct the reader to an online description of Charles’s

We see him behave with compassion toward the abducted people (i.e., now enslaved people). While this might have been a legal requirement, we see the man had a heart. This is a man acting out of his own strong bent.

The capture of La Jeune Estelle, a slave ship (print)

And here he is gaining a prize: Sheila Kindred, “Charles Ausyen’s capture of the French privateer, La Jeune Estelle, Jane Austen Society Report (2006):50-53.


And now for Jane Austen at Godmersham on Thursday, 1813, greeting them:

By her own desire Mrs Fanny is to be put in the room next the Nursery, her Baby in a little bed by her; & as Cassy is to have the Closet within & Betsey William’s little Hole they will be all very snug together. — I shall be most happy to see dear Charles, & he will be as happy as he can with a cross Child or some such care pressing on him at the time.– I should be very happy in the idea of seeing little Cassy again too, did not I fear she would disappoint me by some immediate disagreableness. —

It does seem singularly disagreeable in Austen to judge the little girl by some standard of bad taste. This is the idea these Palmers are vulgar?

And then Friday:

They came last night at about 7. We had given them up, but I still expected them to come. Dessert was nearly over; — a better time for arriving than an hour & 1/2 earlier. They were late because they did not set out earlier & did not allow time enough. — Charles did not aim at more than reaching Sittingbourn by 3, which could not have brought them here by dinner time. — They had a very rough passage, he would not have ventured if he had known how bad it would be. — However here they are safe & well, just like their own nice selves, Fanny looking as neat & white this morns as possible, & dear Charles all affectionate, placid, quiet, chearful good humour. They are both looking very well, but poor little Cassy is grown extremely thin & looks poorly. — I hope a week’s Country air & exercise may do her good. I am sorry to say it can be but a week. — The Baby does not appear so large in proportion as she was, nor quite so pretty, but I have seen very little of her. — Cassy was too tired & bewildered just at first to seem to know anybody-We met them in the Hall, the Women & Girl part of us — but before we reached the Library she kissed me very affectionately — & has since seemed to recollect me in the same way. It was quite an evens of confusion as you may suppose at first we were all walking about from one part of the House to the other — then came a fresh dinner in the Breakfast room for Charles & his wife, which Fanny & I attended-then we moved into the Library, were joined by the Dining room people, were introduced & so forth. — & then we had Tea & Coffee which was not over till past 10 —

A photo of Godmersham today from the rear

There are a number of better impulses here. For the conclusion see comments.


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Dwight Enys and Caroline Penvenen marry; shot on location
at St Winnow Church, the River Fowey, Cornwall 1977-78 BBC Poldark

Dear friends and readers,

This is to announce a new Winston Graham and Poldark website. I’ve wanted to do this for a couple of years since my blog postings, first the Poldark novels, then on Winston Graham and Cornwell, then on historical fiction, especially 18th century and Cornish, and then on Winston Graham’s other novels — began to mount up.

I had first to ascertain that I was not duplicating what someone else had done. I explored the two online Winston Graham websites and discovered they are commercial, set up by Pan Macmillan; the purpose is to sell books and there is no information on Graham’s life, very little about the individual books, or historical or Cornish fiction. There are 3 factual wikipedia articles (on Graham, more briefly on the Poldark novels and on the mini-series) and I found one excellent account of the first series of Poldark films (1975-6), but these leave much room for discussing this worthy body of work (but see comment on an online literary society).

Graham reminds me of Trollope: both have legions of readers; Graham’s Poldark novels have never fallen out of print, yet they are neglected by academics & magazine people alike. I am doing what I can (adding my mite) on the Net to end that. I’ve written one paper, intend to write more, perhaps papers, or an article intended for serious readers who are yet not academics, and maybe even a fiction of my own. I just love many of his characters and his English style progressive stance, his descriptive abilties, his accurate portrayal of Cornwall circa later 18th into early 19th century.

So I’ve put together what I have made so as to share.

The Poldark series and other fiction and non-fiction by Winston Graham

accompanied by a working bibliography.

I know I’ve put most of my blogs on Graham on my Ellen and Jim have a blog, two blog. All the more reason to alert those interested in the 18th century, in feminist writing (even by men) and historical fiction. Graham imitates Austen scenes: in Ross Poldark, the rivalry for musicianship beween Demelza and Elizabeth at the close of the book recalls the rivalry of Jane and Emma in Emma; in Demelza the way the doctor-surgeon, Dwight Enys is confronted by Caroline Penvenen’s wealthy uncle and holds his own is a counterpart of Elizabeth versus Lady Caroline de Bourgh.

I hope eventually to extend this site to include more historical novels set in the 18th century which have a strongly progressive point of view, more Cornish fiction and to write more on the film adaptations of these and Graham’s Poldark novels. There is more but these must suffice for a short blog.

Jill Townsend as Elizabeth Chynoweth Polkark Warleggan, quietly desolate, bearing up, awakening to a full realization of what a cruel ruthless man she has married (1977-78 Poldark)


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Mary: “‘Oh! do not attack me with your watch. A watch is always too fast or too slow.I cannot be dictated to by a watch” (1983 BBC Mansfield Park, scripted Ken Taylor), Fanny, Mary, and Edmund walking into the part, MPII,Ch 9)

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve gotten into my project of study towards writing a paper on the curious pattern of “important” or bad Tuesdays I found several years ago in Austen’s novels as I drew out the timelines for her novels.


First, I’m returning to the novels rereading them and am almost through S&S and have confirmed for this first published novel there are three of these Tuesdays, with two named specifically. The day Elinor is humiliated and mortified by Mrs Ferrars in front of the Steeles, Dashwood, Brandon, Mrs Jennings and whoever else was at that dinner party is called “the important Tuesday” and a study of the timeline of S&S bears this out.

Two or three important Tuesdays:

The day Willoughby left his card is referred to by him as “last Tuesday” on the night of the snubbing, and my calendar bears out that the snubbing or the morning after of the terrible letter was a third Tuesday.

Monday or Tuesday 15-16 January 1798. “Nothing occurred during the next three or four days . . . about the end of this time” Dashwoods engaged to attend Lady Middleton to a party. Marianne’s public suffering is at least not prolonged. The meeting occurs soon after the Dashwoods enter the room: “They had not remained in this manner long . . . ” The important statement for the chronologist is Willoughby’s “I did myself the honour of calling in Berkeley-street last Tuesday . . . My card was not lost, I hope.” (1:6:175-77; 28:148-49) Tuesday or Wednesday 17 January 1798. The first letter in the novel we get to read; four altogether, one by Willoughby, and three by Marianne. “The next day . . . a cold, gloomy morning in January,” Marianne writes Willoughby last letter which is sent from his lodgings to where he is breakfasting with Sophia Grey at the Ellison’s. During long breakfast she receives the reply (“Bond Street, January“), together with her 3 letters of 4, 11, and 17 January 1798, and the lock of her hair. Around 1 o’clock Elinor is perusing Willoughby’s letter and remains dazed by Marianne’s side until the coming of Mrs. Jennings’s “chariot” to take Mrs. Jennings to Mrs. Palmer’s rouses her to go over the letters with Marianne.

All pivotal moments in the novel. The card produces Marianne’s second letter. The snub needs no explaining. The dinner party leads to Lucy Steele being taken into Fanny and John Dashwood’s house and then her exposure and Edward’s ejection.

“I did myself the honour of calling … last Tuesday … My card was not lost … ?” in S&S (1995 BBC, scripted Emma Thompson): a week later Wednesday dawn after Willoughby turns coldly away Tuesday night, snub/mortification, deep distress; Marianne writing, Elinor sitting by

Tuesday 13 February 1798, “The important Tuesday” dinner party which “introduces” Elinor and Lucy to Mrs. Ferrars who “distinguishes” Lucy in order to spite Elinor. Elinor overtly snubbed. (2:12:231-36; 34:196-99).

“The Important Tuesday” in S&S (1971 BBC, scripted DConstanduros): John and Fanny Dashwood’s dinner party: Mrs Ferrars has done all she can to mortify Elinor; Marianne defends her fiercely; Mrs Jennings to her right


Now I want to add to this an account of those days where we get three indications of time: day, month and if not the exact date (though in some of the novels we do), a indication of precisely which week in the month is meant. For example, when Elinor meets Nancy Steele in Kensington Gardens, we told this occurred on “the second week in March” and on a “Sunday. Since Austen has given us sufficiently precise information on when Easter occurred, the year may be arrived at (1798).

S&S 2008 (Andrew Davies): far shot of September trip to Barton Cottage

What months are mentioned: “very early in September,” a “showery October” “The first week of January” their departure from Barton to London “on the approach of January” “Latter end of January” Lucy to come to London because Edward will be there in “February” “a cold gloomy morning in January” “early in February” the two Miss Steeles present themselves in London. It was “last November” they came to Barton Park; Colonel Brandon remembers “February … almost a twelvemonth back”;and we are told the Dashwoods and Palmers and Mrs Palmer are considering leaving London the “end of March for the Easter holidays” and in the event leave “in the very early days of April.”

I’m looking at the distances and time carefully calculated: Cleveland (we are told) was within a few miles of Bristol, the distance to Barton was not beyond one day, though a long day’s journey (3:3:237) and intense attention paid to time: Marianne “draws up a statement of the hours, that were yet to divide her from Barton, 3:3:237; they’ll be home “in little more than three weeks’ time. Brandon “calculated with exactness the time in which she might look for his return”, 3:7:264. “How slow was the progress of time which yet kept them in ignorance”, 3:7:267. Brandon and Willougbhby’s stories filled with continual time-keeping, time words.

1983 S&S (scripted Alexander Baron): Brandon returning to Delaford; the ’81 film could have used more sense of Eliza Williams waiting there for him: all three men have a backstory to confess

After S&S, I’ll go for Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion, Lady Susan, The Watsons. Then the Juvenilia and then the letters.

What does this curious pattern mean? where does it come from? it’s an obsession with place as well as time: “What Edward felt on being within four miles … day after day passed off, and brought no letter, no tidings” (S&S III:12, 302-3)

2000 I Have Found It (Raj Menon): Sowmya (Elinor) watches Manohar from afar on TV

Well, in 1998 when I was writing my paper, “A Calendar for Sense and Sensibility,” I was so intent on demonstrating my thesis that the S&S we now have represents a revision of an epistolary novel into an omniscent one, with add-ons of chapters (1-6 for example), insertions of chapters (like Mrs Dennison’s musical party, and new connecting chapters (the trip from London to Cleveland for example, where either the pace of the novel was so different from that of the central sections or its content self-explanatory instead of narrative — that I was ignoring one obvious source. Austen’s obsessive time-keeping. Hardly a paragraph is written in those sections which were epistolary where we are not old so many minutes passed by for this to happen, so such-and-such amount of hours, or days, and occasionally weeks or a fortnight.

I had simply been looking for the instances of humiliation, mortification, loss that occur on Tuesdays, seeing the descriptions and creating a general picture. I wondered if Austen combined some memory of a personal trauma with a way of deflecting it through jokes, and to make a joke of it, Austen just might have used “bad Tuesdays” in Richardson

>Clarissa: Lovelace announces the rape of Clarissa on a Tuesday:  “Tuesday morn, June 13: “And now Belford, I can go no further. The affair is over. Clarissa lives. And I am your humble servant, R. Lovelace (Letter 257)

Clarissa 1991 (scripted by David Nokes): aggravated rape (Clary further humiliated because women there)

Grandison: Charlotte Grandison is married on Tuesday, it’s called “the Important Tuesday” and much attention is paid to coercing her acceptance of Lord G), many letters devoted to this;

whether bogus or not I know it but it’s said that Mary Queen of Scots had a very bad Tuesday night before her execution. Mary had a bad night one Tuesday in 1585 because she was executed the next day, Wednesday.

Now I shall take another trajectory which takes into account the calendars as such. I had not sufficiently considered how central is the keeping of and playing with time in the epistolary mode, especially when you have several central interlocutors, how this relates to the creation of a subjectivity that matters to the person experiencing it.

I’ve begun to read sources here: Norman Holland’s The I (the subject in intimate contact with another subject, self-formation); Janet Altman’s Epistolarity with its long section on temporality in epistolary narratives; and today I’ve been told about Stuart Sherman’s Telling Time: Clocks, Diaries and English Diurnal Form, 1660-1785: A revolution in clock technology in England during the 1660s allowed people to measure time more accurately, attend to it more minutely, and possess it more privately than previously imaginable. In Telling Time, Stuart Sherman argues that innovations in prose emerged simultaneously with this technological breakthrough, enabling authors to recount the new kind of time.

Perhaps worth while is to look into sophisticated writers’ use of time: Margaret Church’s Time and Reality (dealing with the awareness and uses of time in “modern” respected writers (Woolf, James, Proust), but I suspect I’d do better to see how Scott kept time in the portion of Redgauntlet that’s epistolary as opposed to the omniscient part. How much attention Richardson pays within a letter. Seek a few of the mass of epistolary novels of the era Austen knew so well, from the great by LaClos (Les Liaisons Dangereuses), to ordinary uses like de Stael (Delphine), to whatever is the most feeble — to see exactly what happens to time.

On my website I had suggested Austen was using time to imitate the pace of internal and external reality as we experience it in life. Now I want to look at how this keeping of time was also a form of controlled poetic utterance she could handle and shape step-by-step. Her metaphor of herself working on a tiny piece of ivory takes on a new meaning.

Now I need to take that more seriously and relate it to her sense of herself and her life story. That will (I hope) also provide a framework for my A Place of Refuge: The Sense and Sensibility films.

My underlying key idea is that authors who use epistolary narrative originally and with multivalent voices come to this from a life where they have themselves used routs, repetition, holding fast to time as a way of conquering and dealing with stress and depression. They seek control over their environment and shape for their existence this way. I saw Richardson that way, under his carapace Trollope and (from her letters and novels too and her picture and verse), Jane Austen.

I’ve long been fascinated myself as a person who needs routs in writers who make a sophisticated use of epistolary, e.g., Trollope’s Partly Told in Letters.

The Other Boleyn Girl: we never tire of these stories of compensatory victimhood; Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies the latest money-maker. Austen participated in these sorts of displaced emotions too


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1971 BBC S&S: our first shot of Elinor (Joanna David) confronted with John and Fanny Dashwood (Milton Johns and Kay Gallie) at Norland

Dear friends and readers,

She’s in London attending to her “suckling child” (the proofs of S&S): a party upon which much effort was expended,a museum trip, theater, visits with worldly political and cultured French friends of Eliza. An overturned carriage. The hard burlesque poem to Anna reflected in this letter. Austen has not changed much; by the end she seems eager to return to the country.

This is the third letter by Austen from the last phase of her life at Chawton (see Letter 69 and letter 70). It’s the second from London during the trip she took during the printing of Sense and Sensibility. In the previous she did not mention the book or anything about it; here for the first time since her two allusions to First Impressions (Letters 17 and 21), she names one of her books and talks about it in strikingly intimate bodily terms (“her suckling child”).

We again have a much more upbeat relatively cheerful text than we had in the early parts of the correspondence or those at Bath and Southampton, with the writer’s sense of herself now showing confidence and more openness to experience. This letter projects buoyant rhythms and outlook, but it also has a continual undercurrent of the prickly (rebarbative is now too strong a term) and muted sarcasms. Jane Austen may now be more openly be living a different kind of life apart at Chawton: her novel writing is acknowledged and understood; but she is still thwarted in fundamentals (e..g, her desire for a female community of friends at Chawton) and she still dislikes intensely all dishonesty of emotion, even when unconscious.

As in letter 70 I use stills from Sense and Sensibility to remind us this is the book she has been pouring herself into, saved enough money to publish on her own, is the reason why she is in London. There I used opening scenes of the novel in all but the Indian film; here I feature the famous second chapter in all the films, with a few of the heroines in the films.


1981 BBC S&S: in this second version Elinor does not interrupt John and Fanny (Peter Gale and Amanda Boxer) in their famous duo on how little they can get away with giving his sisters in fulfillment of his promise to his father to help them

The first line of the letter shows Austen’s ideas about pleasure were in line with Samuel Johnson and George Sand: the best pleasures are the unexpected unplanned ones; Johnson and Sand go so far as to say that such are the only really felt pleasures:

I can return the compliment by thanking you for the unexpected pleasure of your Letter yesterday, & as I like unexpected pleasure, it made· me very happy; And indeed, You need not apologise for your Letter in any respect, for it is all very fine, but not too fine I hope to be written again, or something like it.

Cassandra had complimented Jane upon her letter and the unexpected pleasure it gave Cassandra. Now this refers to Letter 70 (for there are no missing letters here): this implies Cassandra did not expect pleasure necessarily from Jane’s letters. I take it Cassandra likes cheerful letters and many of Jane’s were not. Now she Jane likes unexpected pleasure as such (a different turn of meaning given this phrase here), so therefore Cassandra’s letter made her happy. Cassandra had apologized but Jane says don’t, but the “it is all very fine” then registers a note of doubt about its sincerity, a sense it’s a performance. It was not that fine though so perhaps Cassandra or she Jane may write another just like it.

Edward again complaining about bodily stuff. We remember that occasioned the trip to Bath:

I think Edward will not suffer much longer from heat; by the look of Things this morning I suspect the weather is rising into the balsamic Northeast. It has been hot here, as you may suppose, since it was so hot with you, but I have not suffered from it at all, nor felt it in such a degree as to make me imagine it would be anything in the Country. Everybody has talked of the heat, but I set it all down to London

Our sceptical Jane; everyone here talks of heat but it’s all exaggeration. The word “balsamic” signals something restorative, curative, also a lovely odor, “a balsamic fragrance.” Far from uncomfortable, it’s ripe with lovely smell and warmth. I don’t understand the connection to the northeast. Was it somewhere northeast in the UK that the herbs for balsamic vinegar came?

The boy baby that Austen celebrated in her verse letter to Frank in 1809 has been mentioned by Cassandra; either he or the new baby boy is said to be a child who will be hanged. This is meant as a joke on the Eric or little by Little) syndrome — or perhaps Jane is serious and it’s a wry comment and in full context (which we cannot know) suggested misbehavior.

I give you joy of our new nephew, & hope if he ever comes to be hanged, it will not be till we are too old to care about it. — It is a great comfort to have it so safely & speedily over. The Miss Curlings must be hard-worked in writing so many Letters, but the novelty of it may recommend it to them; —

It seems that Cassandra has had a letter. Mary has had a third child by this time: yet another little boy. Remember Jane’s poem — that was Francis William born 1809, Mary’s second baby. Two years later it’s Henry Edgar born 1811, a third. Jane says let us not fret if Francis William is hanged (or Henry Edgar), she and Cass will be long dead. This is her vein of humor and reminds me of the dead plants and laughing Mrs Palmer in S&S and in Southampton how Austen wrote Cassandra she hoped Cassandra realized all the plants were dead — as a joke and it did make me laugh. I like morbid humor. But the great comfort is not this coming hanging, but Mary’s childbirth which has happened safely and is over. Another one much easier than that hard hard first with Mary Jane.

But the great comfort is not this coming hanging, but Mary’s childbirth which has happened safely and is over. Another one much easier than that hard hard first with Mary Jane. This dialogue shows Austen and Cassandra were aware of the hideous warning lesson school of children’s literature (Eric or Little by Little was a favorite text of Orwell’s to parody aloud in dramatic way; he’d send people off in stitches of hilarity at this poor little boy who one error led to hanging):

Now we get a preening triumphant over the Miss Curlings. They are writing letters as kin of Henry Edgar. Now I see another reason for this sneer. They are related to Mary Gibson and giving themselves airs. Austen was ever ambivalent about real children, and she’s right about the absurdity of this. They have not gone through the hardship and danger of childbirth. So Jane tosses her head and preens: the novelty of writing so many letters is nothing to her now. Now she is a novelist with her own suckling child. She could not know most of her letters would be destroyed.

Jane has had a letter too:

Mine was from Miss Eliza, & she says that my Brother may arrive today.

The brother in question is Frank. Since Austen is living with Eliza Austen, this Eliza cannot be her, but here LeFaye does not tell us which Eliza wrote.

And then the reference to which we have all be thirsting, the first open mention of her writing and it’s startlingly fleshly, even unexpected — given that for half the letters just about every reference to childbirth is half- mocking and askance, and who would go on to breast-feed if the body has been wracked with pain or dead to start with. One buried metaphor here is of a text living off her, her drained by what feeds off her yet is so precious

.– No indeed, I am never too busy to think of S&S. I can no more forget it, than a mother can forget her sucking child; & I am much obliged to you for your enquiries. I have had two sheets to correct, but the last only brings us to Willoughby’s first appearance.

That would be chapter 9 when Willoughby first appears.

Then the first literary criticism of her books we have. First she deprecates the flattery of Mrs Knight. The implication of the line is it’s kindness in Mrs Knight to express her eagerness. Austen thinks it will be another 2 months (it’s now April so not until June). Henry has been at it — and Austen we will later learn felt guilty for taking up his time over this. So we see her real modesty here. And after all why would she be otherwise — after 25 years of rejection (1796, 1803, 1809 are the attempts we know about). She underlines “has.” This implies that Cassandra has been doubting that Henry has been working at it. What is to be sent to Eliza in Henry’s absence? a contract? This brings up the tricky reality that women could not sign contracts; Radcliffe’s husband signed hers. What did a maiden lady do? turn to father or brother so the printer will send the contract to Henry’s wife?

I have read about this comment over incomes. Clearly Austen has been told by her family members something is wrong with the incomes. What could it be? As of what we have everything adds up correctly so perhaps it was the extravagance of 50,000 for Miss Grey. Or could it be Brandon’s income might make someone think Austen had someone they knew in mind. Austen’s family might have worried about that (and publishers do today with the disclaimers they have at the opening of fictions). I have read various speculations about what this correction would have been.

And what is Austen’s critical comment? the usual fondness for the heroine. This is just what we will see beyond her literalism over verisimilitude and probability. “my Elinor.” It is sweet.

Mrs K. regrets in the most flattering manner that she must wait till. May, but I have scarcely a hope of its being out in June.­ — Henry does not neglect it; he has hurried the Printer, & says he will see him again today. — It will not stand still during his absence, it will be sent to Eliza. — The Incomes remain as they were, but I will get them altered if I can. — I am very much gratified by Mtr K.s interest in it; & whatever may be the event of it as to my credit with her, sincerely wish her curiosity could be satisfied sooner than is now probable. I think she will like my Elinor, but cannot build on any thing else.

For many Emma Thompson embodied Elinor Dashwood perfectly

Let us give thanks to Cassandra here for becoming restless under her sister’s silence and demanding to know what’s happening with that book production, or nothing would be in this letter about this book.


1995 Miramax S&S: John and Fanny Dashwood (James Fleet, Harriet Walter) discuss the inheritance promise well before coming to Norland.

She moves quickly on to another topic. And we get a long vignette for Austen, not jumping off associatively in the way she usually has.

Our party went off extremely well. There were many solicitudes, alarms & vexations beforehand of course, but at last everything was quite right. The rooms were dressed up with flowers &c, & looked very pretty. — A glass for the Mantlepeice was lent, by the Man who is making their own.-M’ Egerton & M’ Walter came at l/2 past 5, & the festivities began with a pof very fine Soals. Yes, Mr Walter – -for he postponed his leaving London on purpose — which did not give much pleasure at the time, any more than the circumstance from which it rose, his calling on Sunday & being asked by Henry to take the family dinner on that day, which he did, ­but it is all smooth’d over now;-& she likes him very well.-‘

To me it’s telling how even the man doing well at this point (Henry) with his wife with her inherited monies, is still lending a glass mirror for over the mantelpiece. What they ate. Who came. I’m interested here to see also how even these networking gentry types or maybe I should say especially are solicitous of the least relative’s feelings. Mr Walter is related to Henry through Henry’s father’s mother and her first husband. Not that they were eager to have him for real (by which I mean any genuine feeling or friendship) for Mr Walter’s postponing his leaving gave no pleasure at the time nor why (alas we are not told about this). It seems this man’s vanity was ruffled, his amour-propre at a lack of invitation until that Sunday. Was Eliza as the known daughter (on the other side of the blanket) the cause? or the fashionable Hans Place? or just this feeling some people have of tenacious rights & a place to whatever is going however little in reality they might enjoy themselves there? Eliza now says she likes him very well. (What else could she say?) They ate fancy fish.

Then the paid entertainment and deliberately late coming upper class ones — rather like Darcy and his party who appear late in P&P and Lord and Lady Osborne who appear late in The Watsons. Austen notes these musisians come in a hackney coach so she’s bought into these values herself as she described:

At 11 past 7 arrived the Musicians in two Hackney coaches, & by 8 the lordly Company began to appear.

Then Austen’s happy time or what she enjoyed of this party: Mary Cooke was someone she wanted to be friends with we know, to bring back to Chawton. They sit in the connecting passage — reminding me of Emma (LeFaye quotes a book by Winifred Watson, JA in London which describes this Sloane Street apartment). Here she admits to the heat. The place the party was in was a small close area for 66 people.

Among the earliest were George & Mary Cooke, & I spent the greatest part of the evening very pleasantly with them. — The Drawg room being soon hotter than we liked, we placed ourselves in the connecting Passage,’ which was comparatively cool, & gave us all the advantage of the Music at a pleasant distance, as well as that of the first veiw of every new comer. — I was quite surrounded by acquaintance, especially Gentlemen; & what with Mr Hampson, M’ Seymour, M’ W. Knatchbull, M’ Guillemarde, M’ Cure, a Cap’ Simpson, brother to the Capt Simpson, besides M’ Walter & M’ Egerton, in addition to the Cookes & Miss Beckford & Miss Middleton, I had quite as much upon my hands as I could do. —

Quite the belle of the ball, no? Her description of herself surrounded by gentleman puts me in mind of Scarlett O’Hara surrounded by her beaux at the opening of GWTW.The list of men around her and her evident delight suggests I was not wrong about how she disliked assembly balls early on when she was snubbed. No snubbing now. She is the sister of the man running the party, Henry the banker, ex-military man with all his wife’s French friends: Note they are all either family, or business connections, or relatives and or maiden ladies

Not so keen on this maiden ladies though. Of Miss Beckford we are told

Poor Miss B. has been suffering again from her old complaint, & looks thinner than ever. She certainly goes to Cheltenham the beginning of June. We were all delight & cordiality of course.

Her tone acknowledges the phoniness of the moment:

Then Miss Middleton comes in for her share of the barbs:

Miss M. seems very happy, but has not beauty enough to figure in London.

No indeed.

Including everybody we were 66 — which was considerably more than Eliza had expected, & quite enough to fill the Back Drawg room, & leave a few to be scattered about in the other, & in the passage. —

Two drawing rooms full and one passage. I think Austen mentioned a figure in the 80s so that was really on the outside. Eliza had not expected about a quarter of the people she invited to come. (Interesting to me who has never given such a party and hardly ever gone to any such if at all that I can remember.)

And instead of saying how she fled the music, and was not such a hypocrite to pretend, she enters into it through her play-games with Fanny. If you think I am hard and misrepresenting the tone and undercurrents of this pay attention to those last lines: all the Performers gave great satisfaction by doing what they were paid to do.”

The Music was extremely good. It opened (tell Fanny) with “Prike pe Parp pin praise pof Prapela” -& of the other Glees I remember, “In peace Love tunes,” “Rosabelle,” ‘”The red cross Knight,” & “Poor Insect.” Between the Songs were =-.essons on the Harp, or Harp & Piano Forte together-& the Harp Player was Wiepart, whose name seems famous, tho’ new to me.­- There was one female singer, a short Miss Davis all in blue, bringing up for the Public Line, whose voice was said to be very fine indeed; & all the Performers gave great satisfaction by doing what they were paid for, & giving themselves no airs.-No Amateur could be persuaded to do anything. —

Those who suggest Austen was unqualifiedly after money should read these lines; as in other instances, what was good for the gander is not good for her goose — she can sneer at others working for money but when she works for it it’s just fine. And she does not like airs. I would agree that she would not have in public nor in these letters does she. She was very proud in the way of Elizabeth Bennet. That no one unpaid would sing is brought in. I cannot tell if this is a barb at those who do what they are paid to do with the idea they wouldn’t were they not paid or about the fear people have of performing lest others in their minds think less of them.

She concludes her description of the party which she now accounts for by implying that Cassandra wanted this — because she couldn’t be there:

he House was not clear till after 12. — If you wish to hear are of it, you must put your questions, but I seem rather to have exhausted than spared the subject.

The couple of moments of exhilaration were more than made up for by the weariness she experienced and her intensity of experiencing everything alertly through a disillusioned point of view by its end.


I Have Found It: our first view of Tabu as Sowmya (Elinor): two sisters have been bathing in their mansion-house: she does not know why her body’s obligation as a woman is any less than her intellect’s.

After accounting for the party, Austen turns to naval or political news. What was told her at the party about this is separated off:

This said Capt. Simpson told us, the authority of some other Captn just arrived from Halifax, that Charles was bringing the Cleopatra home, & that she was probably by this time in the Channel — but as Capt. S. was certainly in liquor, we must not quite depend on it. — It must give one a sort of expectation however, & will prevent my writing to him any more.-I would rather he should not reach England till I am at home, & the Steventon party gone.

This has several layers. Jane would rather greet her brother from the security and framework of the Chawton home — the family stronghold, the family grounds and privacy as it were – than outside it. She says she need not write to him anymore. She is not eager to, and it may be noted that whatever she wrote this younger brother has not survived. At this point Charles had been married to Fanny for about 4 years: they were married in 1807. By 1810 they have two children and (possibly) she is pregnant with the third She is at sea with him — it should be noted. (The article to read is by Kaplan, Persuasions 14 (1992):113-21) so it’s a case of her coming back with him. She is not mentioned by Austen at all and Kaplan says everyone understood he did not have the income to pay for living quarters (Later in life Francis lived at Chawton itself — on Edward’s inheritance as did his sisters and mother).

And now for the painful part of this letter.

My Mother & Martha both write with great satisfaction of Anna’s behaviour. She is quite an Anna with variations — but she cannot have reached her last, for that is always the most flourishing & shewey — she is at about her 3d or 4th which are generally simple & pretty. —

The flourishing and shewy Anna. Austen forgets her childhood, her cutting off of her hair in 1808 (age 15, a very hard year) and how the assembly balls Anna went to were nothing to hers. The language here echoes the language of the 2nd poem to Anna. The condescension is strong. Anna of course does not get to go to London (as she did not to Godmersham in 1808) For the poem see Letter 113; for more on the relationship of Anna and Jane, letters 104, 107, 108, and the collaboration of Sir Charles Grandison.

It seems just now Anna is obeying: “great satisfaction. So the couple of sentences are softened by the last two adjectives: Anna’s third and fourth variation are “generally simple and pretty.” Martha appeared as a rigid disciplinarian and older women to Catherine Anne Hubback when Frank married her (see Zoe Klippert’s An Englishwoman in Canada: Letters of Catherine Hubback, 1871-76); neither she or Anna could have any inkling of Martha as the lovely spirited young women whom her aunt’s spirits leapt out to; Martha by then had become older and behaved as a disciplinarian and probably she seemed something of this by 1811.

Your Lilacs are in leaf, ours are in bloom. — The Horse chesnuts are quite out, & the Elms almost. –I had a pleasant walk in Kensington G’ on Sunday with Henry, M’ Smith & M’Tilson — everythingwas fresh & beautiful.­

These are Henry’s friends. Austen is beating her sister out — it seems London is in bloom first. Part Three of Sense and Sensibility has Elinor walking in Kensington Gardens.

Then the lines about the plays and then the museum. The play is Isaac Bickerstaffe adapted from Cibber. Pretty bad. The distance from Moliere by this time huge — Shadwell comes close. These later adaptations were shortened and emasculated. I note that Austen goes to plays with a popular point of view. She does not pay attention to the play but the player. She does admire Siddons who was known for her projection of intensity of emotion (thats the point of the role of Constance in King John).

We did go to the play after all on Saturday, we went to the Lyceum, & saw the Hypocrite, an old play taken from Moliere’s Tartuffe, & were well entertained. Dowton & Mathews were the good actors. Mrs Edwin was the Heroine-& her performance is just what it used to be.-I have no chance of seeing Mrs Siddons. — She did act on Monday, but as Henry was told by the Boxkeeper that he did not think she would, the places, & all thought of it, were given up. I should particularly have liked seeing her in Constance, & could swear at her with little effort for disappointing me.

Lefaye notes there were two watercolor societies; the one started in 1808-9 had an exhibition for “the associated artists.” Austen did like landscapes, and among the materials on Sanditon is a comment by her about the man who might have been the source of Mr Parker, Ogle: she says he has no need of panoramas, meaning he need not go look at paintings since he owns so much shipping and spends so much time at seascapes for real – including Worthing. Miss Beaty is the sister or daughter of one of Henry’s friends, a Captain (so known from militia days); Henry’s bank also made a payment of 50 pounds to this captain in 1804.

— Henry has been to the Watercolour Exhibition, which open’d on Monday, & is to meet us there again some morn — If Eliza cannot go –( & she has a cold at present) Miss Beaty will be invited to be my companion. —

Cassandra has been asking what are Henry’s plans, but Austen puts her off. She will not herself be expansive and is aware that she might say offend were she to tell Henry’s plan. The awareness of her place as a guest comes next. She cannot send the muslim unless Cassandra really wants it because she’d have to send it by coach and that would give trouble (cost money)

Henry leaves Town on Sunday afternoon­ but he means to write soon himself to Edward – -& will tell his own plans. — The Tea is this moment setting out.-Do not have your cold muslin unless you really want it, because I am afraid I Could not send it to the Coach without giving trouble here. —

There follows the account of why Eliza is under the weather and the near accident. That she is so reactive reminds us that she did not have long to live. By this time her little son is dead 10 years. He died around the time the Austens left Steventon for Bath. A hard year for all, that.


In I have Found It: Srinivasan and Nalli (the equivalent of John and Fanny Dashwood) discussing how little they can give their mother-in-law and her daughters

The letter ends on two vignettes and enigmatic references to family politics combined with dropped comments on Austen’s plans to leave Sloan Street for Catherine Bigg and then home to Chawton. Muted sarcasm and coolness throughout comes out again and again. A quietly apart, estranged presence. This is what this woman has grown into in maturity — guarded.

Eliza caught her cold on Sunday in our way to the D’Entraigues; — the Horses actually gibbed on this side of Hyde Park Gate — a load of fresh gravel made it a formidable Hill to them, & they refused the collar; — I beleive there was a sore shoulder to irritate. — Eliza was frightened, & we got out-& were detained in the Eveng air several minutes.- The cold is in her chest ­but she takes care of herself, & I hope it may not last long.- This engagement prevented M’ Walter’s staying late-he had his coffee & went away. —

Gibbing is pulling back. The details intuitively picked out make us feel the misery of these horses, though Austen’s words about this are not at all necessarily sympathetic. Southey in his Letters from England talks of our horses are made to work on with their skin in terrible state. Austen saw that sore shoulder being whipped or pushed and prodded on. It seems cousin Eliza (now aged what — 50?) was made nervous by this and is said to have caught cold. The relative who had forced himself on them anyway didn’t stay. Had his coffee and went away.

They did get to the D’Entraignes (see LeFaye p 514, the biographical index).

Eliza enjoyed her evening very much & means to cultivate the acquaintance — & I see nothing to dislike in them, but their taking quantities of snuff. — Monsieur the old Count, is a very fine looking man, with quiet manners, good enough for an Englishman — & I beleive is a Man of great Information & Taste. He has some fine Paintings, which delighted Henry as much as the Son’s music gratified Eliza-& among them, a Miniature of Philip 5. of Spain, Louis 14.s Grandson, which exactly suited my capacity. — Count Julien’s performance is very wonderful. We met only Mrs Latouche & Miss East — & we are just now engaged to spend next Sunday Eveng at M” L.s-& to meet the D’Entraigues; — but M. Ie Comte must do without Henry. If he would but speak English, I would take to him.-

When they got there, Eliza enjoyed it very much. She will “cultivate” this acquaintance. Austen not so enthusiastic. (She reminds me of Elinor Dashwood here). She sees nothing to dislike but their taking quantities of snuff. Which makes us aware of how physically smelly they were. Austen disgusted by this. Apparently Henry was with them (yet he’s not mentioned in the vignette of the accident). Austen shows only grudging appreciation of a highly educated man of fine taste with real art and knowledge of the world. This man or his type does not appear in any of her novels. Maybe she didn’t go to that gathering with highly intelligent well-educated people where Henry wanted to take her to meet De Stael for more reasons than she thought she would not fit in (not used to it — “wild beast” that she is). Perhaps intimidated? perhaps she does not see what the man is. What we take to be modesty and self-deprecation (as when she says she is not well read meaning the reality that she has no latin and none of the academic type learning so respected then) here emerges as an instinctive suspicio or the result of years of exclusion.

Only miniatures for her. This though could be is also the result of many years hidden injuries and exclusions. She would never have a miniature. Only Cassandra sketched her.

[Joke digression: Bryne has not picked this passage up! (She has not read the letters with alert attentiveness to what does not flatter her.) Here is Austen looking at a miniature and saying this is just my capacity! (ironic joke alert). Now naive people that we are we think she is simply looking half-resentful; no it was here she hatched that plan to have a miniature made of her in secret.]

She keeps herself apart: it was Henry who delighted in the pictures, Eliza who was gratified with the music. Perhaps Austen saw them as posturing, as not emotionally completely honest here. LeFaye in her notes does not tell us who Count Julien was. She does not single him out (LeFaye seems to think society is families period.) Perhaps one of the performers? perhaps one of the family. They did not get to meet Count Julien it seems but only another relative, Mrs Latouche and her daughter called Miss East (p 543). Why? on account of her marrying a baronet (reminds me of Bleak House and Sir Leicester Dedlock baronet), but then she’d be an honorary Lady or at least Mrs.

Now next Sunday they all will go to the lodgings of the LaTouches, but they will have to do without Henry. (Business).

And then the concession:

If he would but speak English I would take to him.

We see early on in the paragraph that there is xenophobia or anti-French feeling here. The man’s manners were “good enough for an Englishman”! what more can she say? In other passages she describes typical English men as rowdy, aggressive, domineering … I wonder what M. L’Entraignes and his wife thought of Miss Austen. Certainly they did their best to entertain her.


2008 BBC S&S: does anyone surmise this Fanny (Claire Skinner) partakes of something of Austen?

The tone is muted sarcasm. Two sentences later she recurs to the evening and says:

Eliza has just spoken of it again. — The Benefit she has found from it in sleeping, has been very great. (Italics Austen’s)

Underlining she leaves a distance from Austen. “It” presumably refers to not drinking tea, but I’m not sure that “Eliza has spoken of it again” refers to Mrs K’s tea-drinking but rather the whole evening which benefitted Eliza so.

The whole of this last occasionally somewhat puzzling paragraph runs:

Have you ever mentioned the leaving off Tea to M” K.? — Eliza has just spoken of it again. — The Benefit she has found from it in sleeping, has been very great. I shall write soon to Catherine to fix my day, which will be Thursday.-We have no engagements but for Sunday. Eliza’s cold makes quiet adviseable. — Her party is mentioned in this morning’s paper. — I am sorry to hear of poor Fanny’s state. – -From that quarter I suppose is to be the alloy of her happiness. — I will have no more to say. —

The beloved (by both sisters, and for her generosity) Mrs Knight is an elderly elderly lady by this time. She had been so ill in a previous letter as they feared she’d die. Austen now writes in response to something Cassandra wrote (we should recall Cassandra destroyed all her own letters but two — the others that survived were out of her control). Then Austen reports she will write to Catherine Bigg to fix her day of arrival. No more engagements but that following Sunday as Eliza has a cold. We may wonder if there was some underlying condition She died two years later (aged 52). She is part of “le monde” — “her party mentioned in the paper.”

And then turning at last to Godmersham news. Fanny not in a good state? Well there must be some alloy in some lives. Austen has a hard comment to make here but refrains: “I _will_ have no more to say …” Perhaps about young men? perhaps about her position in the household — discipline pressed on her?

Austen closes with a pointed conveyance of love to her god-daughter, Louisa Austen Knight, one of Edward’s brood whom Cassandra is now caring for.

The letter is directed to Edward Austen at Godmersham.


Irene Richards as Elinor (1981 BBC S&S): I like her in the role

This letter is another which divides into sections with vignettes that may be excerpted — this is not that common for Austen the way it is for more performative letter-writers. She still does not take the time to make a fully realized dramatic scene the way Burney does and does not work out her thoughts the way say Anne Grant or many another letter-writer does on issues I’ll call them which come up (there are opportunities here to talk of paintings, or acting, or songs). But there is more willingness to expatiate in these vignette sectioned letters. She’s an impatient letter writer as she’s an immanent novel writer.

We see the same continually sceptical frame of mind we’ve seen throughout, with the same reluctance to be pleased, as when she now has met a genuinely interesting informed perceptive man with real taste, a decent collection of paintings, a relative who actually can play, it takes several clauses before she breaks down to say to say “If he would but speak English, I would take to him …” There is also real hardness towards Anna, Eliza, the Miss Curlings. The joke about the baby boy is not pleasant. Austen (as we have before) is her taking a mean family view towards an individual’s hurt and bewilderment (Anna) and reaching out for love relationships; when Austen did this (Tom Lefroy) she would have liked sympathy but in her guarded way pretended to dismiss her emotion. Anna does not. And there’s something pettily triumphant we’ve seen before (with respect to Anna) over the Miss Curlings. She tosses her head and preens: the novelty of writing so many letters is nothing to her.

We do see some real pleasure in the party, in London environs (Kensington “everything fresh and beautiful”), a lively interest in actors, a sense of the reality of the horse, near turn over of her and Eliza’s carriage, Eliza’s anxiety
and fright (you could have a very bad accident even die from an overturn) standing on the pavement. Still in this great moment of her “suckling child” come home to her with her scarce ability to still her intense excitement as the book is in printing I did expect the more or less unqualified cheer of the previous letter to continue.

She is in herself secretive, hidden and does not want (trust) anyone to know for sure where her real allegiances lie.

So, to try a little to get beyond or beneath this: Jane Austen took on board her family’s values of conventionality; she had no other. She never went to a school where she could reach another point of view, was literally not allowed associates who had them. It was from her nature as well as circumstances unthinkable for her to break away — some women did, but often we find their family life was hard, deprived. In her (later) letters to Fanny Austen Knight there is this chilling idea that Anna Austen Lefroy must now spend hours of her existence disciplining one of her children (Jemima) to make her into what the family wants her to be. (There is a similar observation found now and again in Trollope about mothers really punishing girls until these girls are what they want, censoring all that comes near them to
do it.) So I take this presentation of social life as her conventionality (and also how she treated Anna in her poem about her) and find in Letter 71 many barbs at it too, instinctive, irresistible.

A telling aspect of Hubback’s Younger Sister (revealing sequel to The Watsons) is how Hubback combines Austen’s Emma Watson with Anne Elliot to show someone not just tortured by those around her emotionally, absolutely turning from what is in front of her with boredom, but disliking intensely their values in the spirit of Elinor Dashwood. (My next blog will be on two Austen sequels.)

A picture is worth a thousand words. There’s that portrait of Austen by Cassandra – an honest one. A worn-woman, having a bad day, but one which shows she had many bad days and bad nights (there are three poems on headaches, one on her own migraine to be specific just before the publication of Sense and Sensibility” “When stretch’d on one’s bed,” Later Manuscripts, Cambridge ed, 253-54). Tight, arms crossed, grated by the demand she sit there. The other is better because she did not have to show her face she didn’t want to.

Yes in general she is so much more fulfilled in this second half of her letters — partly because she is feeling some respect and a modicum of power at last. Not much, she’s still utterly dependent (has to smooth her way to leaving) and she is still very jealous of those whose work is valued more than her or as much when she feels so strongly her genius. She’s not a very nice person by the way (in the general way we use that word nice), not herself empathizing with others in her predicament, instead she is one of those who inflicts on others what was inflicted on her, partly softened. Maybe she did try to save Anna from the marriage to Ben (in the later comments I quoted in the commentary on the 6 letters) but not on the grounds she could have and then when the girl still sought the only escape route offered (not an escape), Austen did not help her.

The archive for Jane Austen’s letters


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Anna Chancellor as Miss Bingley (the 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice by Davies)

Dear friends and readers,

Score another success for our JASNA-DC Janeite-Austenite group. Last spring we enjoyed a good luncheon together at the Holiday Inn Arlington, heard a stimulating talk by Patricia Meyer Spack on and (many of us) bought a beautiful, instructive and picture-laden edition of Pride and Prejudice, and had good company and talk; this year again the last two, this time the lecturer Deborah Kaplan who provided an insightful talk on the images of Austen, especially the Paula Byrne one. She meant not only to to try persuade the more sceptical among us to entertain the idea this new image could be (a poor) one of Austen but talk about why we want an image, what we come to any image armed with (so to speak) in the first place and corollary connected topics.

I’ve outlined the talk and our lively discussion afterward. See what you think.


Spring. Our JASNA-DC luncheo again at the Holiday Inn Arlington, this time featuring Deborah Kaplan, an 18th century and Jane Austen scholar (professor at George Mason University where I teach too). Her talk on authenticated and “pretender” images of Jane Austen brought us all back to the hot/sore topic of this past December: Paula Byrne’s claim that a 1814-1817 miniature painted of a spinster author at the back of whom the name Jane Austen can be seen is indeed Jane Austen.

Izzy was with me and appeared to enjoy the talk as much as I did and has written a succinct assessment of Professor Kaplan’s argument and discussion afterward about who this aspiring Regency authoress was: “Much ado about a picture.” I have blogged about the controversy before; that is, when first it erupted and when I saw the BBC program on YouTube. I wrote then that I thought the portrait was not of Jane Austen. Deborah has persuaded me to think again; her talk’s smaller goal was to demonstrate to us all the plausibility of the attribution. A larger issue was also canvassed: how our individual reactions to the image derive from our personal conjured-up sense of what Austen looked like, what she was like a person within, an identity we invent from reading her novels, letters and imagining her in her world.

Deborah began by handing out a sheaf of xeroxes of images of Austen: the Byrne portrait, Cassandra’s two portraits; the prettied up images commissioned by James Edward Austen-Leigh and the Rice portrait. She asked us to look at Byrne’s find and write next to that “yes [it’s Austen] or “no” [it’s not] and jot down a few reasons why we feel this way. I wrote “no,” she’s “very expensively dressed and likes stage-y self-projection;” “she’s a spinster and glad to be so;” and “she wants us to see her as an author.”

Deborah then began her talk. She first described and went over the history of the (above) previous images which have claimed authenticity. In 1804 Cassandra drew Jane in a bonnet from the back, gazing at a landscape; and in 1810 drew Jane sitting on a chair, facing really “scowling” at Cassandra, with her arms tightly-crossed, dark shadows under the eyes. In 1869 James Edward Austen-Leigh, her nephew (son of her eldest brother, James) commissioned James Andrew to produce a prettified cheerful version of the 1810 portrait for his memoir. Andrews made adjustments to her face, posture, arms, clothing. This was engraved and again “adjusted by Lizars for the actual printing. The dearth of images was lamented for decades.

Then two more contenders appeared. The first is known as the Rice portrait, a portrait of an adolescent girl, clearly not from the life which ignited a controversy in TLS in 1998. Since I have never put this one on any of my blogs or my website as I do not care for it (to me this image looks like a muscle-less feeble imitation of a Lancret or rococo Frency lady), I’ll put a copy of this one directly on this blog:

and a full account of the controversy.

The second is Paula Byrne’s husband’s find, the miniature which precedes this blog (see above) and presented by Byrne to the public as plausibly of Jane Austen in a TV documentary hosted by Martha Kearney.

Deborah suggested Ms Kearney asked a good question early on in her program: Why are we so desperate to know what Jane Austen looked like? Her program showed why we care about this author. Deborah said th specialists consulted and dialogue made the program into a study of seeing. We watched a curator gasp in excited recognition; we heard Roy Strong grumble at being asked to put rubber gloves on “for [in his words] an amateur crummy piece of drawing that is ridiculous.”

To the program: we first leartn how the portrait has come to the public’s attention. Paula Byrne’s husband, Jonathan Bate, bought it for her for £2000 because it has written on its back “Miss Jane Austen.” Paula had a moment of recognition as soon as she saw the portrait. By going to Kearney and through her husband’s connections, Byrne was able to get quick access to specialists in fashion, costume history, literary history, and experts in forensic facial techniques. Byrne and Kearney claimed we know what most well-known people of the era and in that milieu looked like. Byrne believes this miniature will revolutionize our view of Austen. We then witness on the program how works of art are authenticated.

The program had a plot-design of suspense built in because at the end we were to have a jury of Deirdre LeFaye, Claudia Johnson, and Kathryn Sutherland (three respected Austen scholars) to decide the case. The argument was described throughout as an “uphill struggle.” The experts already mentioned plus people who studied portrait motif & frames could not rule out this image nor what we know of Austen’s later years when she stayed frequently with her brother in London around the area the buildings in the painting are located. The style of dress is 1812-14 and it’s very hard to fake a dress in such paintings. The generic features do not rule out Austen. A telling sequence took this image and overlaid it with images of her brothers For examples, look at the miniatures of Henry:



and finally Charles

Is there not a strong resemblance (only Henry stands out and it’s because the artist is so much better at capturing a living complex mind behind the face). Art historians confirmed the Byrne portrait is poor: the head does not sit properly on the body, her right arm is too long. The noses are especially similar.

There were some thoughtful remarks by scholars interwoven in: Claire Tomalin said “people long to find a portrait of an author or people they admire; there she is at last.” “There” she is speaks to our sense that this person as seen as been in a room, really existed, and this is a relic as well as a record, evidence from the moment. Barthes wrote of how we read books to find the author in them confiding in us; we seek intimacy as we read or enjoy a book.

What the program suggested — that this image could teach us what Austen looked like — is just what it showed us could not be so. The image of Jane Austen her readers have comes from a reading of her texts (novels, letters) and nowadays perhaps what we feel in watching the film adaptations: we seek confirmation of an identity we are conjuring up. We look to see our expectations met. Each of us characterizes “our” Jane Austen. It’s not that we have nothing to go on; the program demonstrated that we have a developed sense of what we are looking for, what she looked like, her inner self shining out.

Jane Austen had no oil painting (£300 the average price) nor even a miniature (£30), which was accorded each of her brothers but Edward, who had a full-length oil painting done of him when young and on tour as a gentleman. Many readers are not happy with the image of Jane scowling, her arms crossed, almost mocking the genre (as it were). Byrne’s theory is that Jane snuck off between 1814 and 1816 when in London and for one time in her life flush with some money paid for an amateur to paint her as an author all dolled up. The problem with this is would not James Edward Austen-Leigh have known or found out about it when he and Anna and Caroline (his sisters, Jane’s nieces) were seeking images for the memoir.

At the end of the program the three famous scholars had their say and it seemed they were reacting to the portrait according to some internalized image inside themselves. LeFaye rejected it adamantly: “too solemn, too sanctimonious, no I could not accept that.” Johnson was glad to move away from both Cassandra’s dark and/or absent images. Sutherland alone did try to distinguish the real Jane Austen from all these images. Deborah presented them as open-minded, not looking through a narrowly personal lens. (Nor Tomalin who offered the idea the woman in the portrait was trying to look official, a lady author.) They all four agreed it lacks skill; what artist could Jane have afforded?

But if we step back a moment we can remember that all images are mediated, be they paintings or modern photographs; all are shaped by contemporary conventions, the media used and all show the relationship between the creator and subject as much as anything else. Cassandra’s image reflects Cassandra’s reaction to her sister and people have suggested its darkness, the tiredness of the sitter (she looks like she has not had a good night’s rest for several days) is the result of poor drawing, blotting the ink. Perhaps this one too does not persuade and is not really like Austen because it too is poor. Deborah thought this might be a portrait of a woman comfortable in her own skin who meant to be triumphant and thrilling but the ineptness of the artist could not put this across.

Deborah herself was falling back on her own book, Jane Austen among Women and her pre-conception. She suggested perhaps Jane was encouraged to have her portrait done by a woman friend; in her women’s circles, the women spoke far more confidently, and this is a product of her woman’s culture. As such, it’s endearing. Apparently Deborah at first liked the citation of Eliza Chute as the go-between who hired the painter, but as Byrne has dropped this idea (having over-emphasized Austen’s closeness to Chute) so has Deborah moved away.

No portrait can tell us what she looked like since we all see each one differently.


Jane Austen’s pelisse?

Deborah then threw the discussion open to all the audience and asked for a show of hands which of us thought this was audience and with a number raising their hands “yes” she looked surprised. She asked who said “no” and there were many more hands. She asked those who were willing to say why to volunteer what they had written down the Byrne portrait image she had handed out as a xerox at the opening.

The discussion was great fun as people were frank. I learned some new facts and about new paraphernalia associated with Austen I had not known about before. For example, there is a pelisse at Chawton cottage which is claimed to have been worn by Austen. But it is so tiny she would have to have been much shorter than 5 five 3 and very thin and all that has been said (and Cassandra’s portraits) show us a chubby and speak of a tall woman (5 five 7); Henry is said to have been tall, and so too Charles. Some people made intriguing observations: why did Cassandra draw Austen as depressed and unhappy even if she was? would not Cassandra have wanted to present a conventional happy image to the world, or simply remember Jane that way herself. One young woman said, oh yes, when she saw that face (in the Paula Byrne miniature) she said, that’s her, I know it. (Recognize her, this confirms my pre-conception.)

My contribution was to congratulate Deborah upon invalidating all of our arguments in the first place by arguing they were all reflecting our previously conceived Austen and whether the Byrne or Cassandra images confirmed that. I also liked her second sceptical reminder: that it may be that the portrait does not look like Jane very much because it’s so poor. But when I (and others) suggested that she was making us begin to entertain seriously the idea Byrne’s miniature was meant to be Jane, Deborah reminded us all that Byrne is an indepedent scholar, holds no position at a university (meaning she probably has no income of her own and is dependent on her husband). It costs to do research (traveling about, money for reproduction). If Bryne convinces people this is Jane Austen, she will not only sell her biography more widely, she will be able to see her miniature for something like 1 million pounds.



Anna Chancellor (played Miss Bingley in the 1995 P&P)

And so I come to an explanation for the presence of Anna Chancellor’s image at the top of this blog.

Over supper in the evening we (Izzy and I) discussed the portrait with Jim for the first time. It quickly emerged that when all has been said that can be, the case for the miniature being Austen still rests on a lack of evidence. Everything generally historical about it places it in Austen’s era but nothing else is known. The narrative of Austen sneaking off and turning to women friends is wholly made up. We can say this because (it’s said) we know little about how she spent all her days in London. But she didn’t have to have her portrait done at all. In Cassandra’s, she seems strongly adverse to having her image taken.

Izzy remembered in her blog the woman who said she thought Byrne’s miniature was Austen because it reminded her of Anna Chancellor, the actress who played Miss Bingley in the 1995 P&P and who is said to be a descendent of the Austens somehow or other. for my part I do see it and apart from Miss Bingley I often like the roles Anna Chancellor plays. I have to say that were a jury to hear the story of this attempt at a dignified image by Austen and her women friends, a judge would tell us the evidence for both theories is nil.

Does it matter? Yes. Does it matter to us what our authoress looked like? Deborah’s talk confirmed why a “yes” is not silly. To me Cassandra’s two portraits confirm what I feel is true about Jane Austen: nothing phony, more than a little asocial (understandably, for good reasons); on one day in 1810 she’s worn down, worn out by her marginalized position, tired from her efforts at living and writing against the odds, and as in her poetry, suffering bad headaches. On another six years earlier we see her in better spirits and loving to be absorbed in landscape, in reverie.


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