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Posts Tagged ‘Francis Austen’

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Bath House, for Mrs James Henry Leigh by John Adey (1755-1860, Humphry Repton’s son)

“Those cottages are really a disgrace. The church spire is reckoned remarkably handsome. I am glad the church is not so close to the great house as often happens in old places. The annoyance of the bells must be terrible. There is the parsonage: a tidy–looking house, and I understand the clergyman and his wife are very decent people. Those are almshouses, built by some of the family. To the right is the steward’s house; he is a very respectable man. Now we are coming to the lodge–gates; but we have nearly a mile through the park still. It is not ugly, you see, at this end; there is some fine timber, but the situation of the house is dreadful. We go down hill to it for half a mile, and it is a pity, for it would not be an ill–looking place if it had a better approach — Mansfield Park, Chapter 9

“… the Cobb itself, its old wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful line of cliffs stretching out to the east of the town, are what the stranger’s eye will seek; and a very strange stranger it must be, who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it better. The scenes in its neighbourhood, Charmouth, with its high grounds and extensive sweeps of country, and still more its sweet, retired bay, backed by dark cliffs, where fragments of low rock among the sands make it the happiest spot for watching the flow of the tide, for sitting in unwearied contemplation; the woody varieties of the cheerful village of Up Lyme; and, above all, Pinny, with its green chasms between romantic rocks, where the scattered forest-trees and orchards of luxuriant growth declare that many a generation must have passed away since the first partial falling of the cliff prepared the ground for such a state, where a scene so wonderful and so lovely is exhibited, as may more than equal any of the resembling scenes of the far-famed Isle of Wight: these places must be visited, and visited again to make the worth of Lyme understood — ” Persuasion, Chapter 11

Dear friends and readers,

I thought before going on to notes from my last conference this fall, “EC/ASECS: The Strange and Familiar,” I would devote a working blog to my project and thinking about “Ekphrastic patterns in Jane Austen.” After all this is supposed a blog focusing on Jane Austen.

For the past month, I’ve been slowly making my way through Austen’s famous six novels alongside many studies of the picturesque in landscaping, about landscape architects in her era and their debates, on how literary people, gardeners, historians have approached the mode (especially different when it comes to the use of enclosures to take the land from the propertyless and vulnerable), and how writers about Austen in particular place her and her novels in these debates. One might expect her outlook to change because the worlds of her books have different emphases, and since her stance towards life changed over the years: from (generalizing) a mildly rebellious, personally acid (as a woman) point of view to seriously politically grave and questioning, to acceptance, ever with irony, mockery of the very gothic mode she had loved, to late melancholy over what she wished she had known, and a new valuation of the sheerly aesthetic.

Yet I find broadly across the thirty years of writing life (1787-1816/7) a sameness, a steady holdfast to a point of view. This may be voiced as a strong adherence to judging what is presented as aesthetically pleasing or true by its usefulness. How far is what is created useful for those who live in or near it — use includes how much comfort and pleasure an individual can have from art, which seems to depend how far it works with the natural world (or against it, destroys the natural world), at what cost does this use come, and she counts as cost not only the removal of people and destruction or neglect of their livelihoods (especially in Mansfield Park and Emma), but how far it erases history or the past which she sees as giving meaning to the present through group memory and identity. She excoriates those who seek only status through their purchases and efforts, shaping what emerges from this motive as hypocritical at least as regards joy in all the aspects of the natural world, and disrespectful of animals, plants, whatever has been built. There’s nothing she despises more than someone who professes to love something because it’s fashionable — as say the gussied-up cottage. She has little use for celebrities: partly she is too snobbish and proud to chase after someone whose work so many profess to admire but in fact understand little of. To appreciate any art, no matter what it is, from drawing, to singing and playing an instrument, to curating (as it were) an estate, you must do it diligently and caring how it will turn out for its own sake, not for the reward you might personally get.

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John Linnell (1792-1882), Gravel Pits in Kensington (1812)

This is what I found to be true of the implied author’s attitudes and to account for the treatment of pictorialism wherever it be found in her works. I began with the idea that she found very funny viewers, readers who approach art and judge it insofar as it literally imitates what happens in life: walking in the autumn or death of the year, sitting in a garden in the cool fall, working in a kitchen, aboard a boat — these three are the subject of aesthetic conversations, however brief, in, respectively Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion. Now I see she partly wants to take aboard critiques from characters who never forget the practical realities of life, so remain unable to engage with improbable conventions of design, typical scene drawing, and what’s left out and/or assumed. The aesthetically naive or obtuse reaction has something direct to tell us about what is the relationship of what is seen to person seeing. I originally saw in the gap between artistic convention in a medium and what it’s representing in real life as allowing for enjoyment in contemplating how the convention is just a convention and we could presumably choose another. So we are free in art. Now I’m seeing the importance of going outside convention, our own enjoyment of whatever it is, to understand ourselves better. Then we can do justice to others who may not be able to respond imaginatively on a sophisticated level but have other valuable traits.

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John Crome (1768-1821), A Heath

This is a very serious or moral way of putting this matter but I think in what seems to be the beginning of an era of indifference to the needs of others, to previous understood relationships, to truth anything less is a further betrayal.
I found myself so strengthened by Austen as I went along (as I have been before) this time because in contrast our world outside is seeing remorseless attacks on the natural world, most people inhabiting the earth, worship of pretension, competition for rank and accumulation of money at whatever cost to others and group loyalty (never mind what to). A different version of these latter probably dominated the world-centers and made the later 18th century world the suffering-drenched place it was, but there were at the time groups of reformists, revolutionaries who were (to use FDR’s formulation) for a much better deal for all, even including animals.

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George Morland (1763-1804), The Artist’s Cat Drinking

I’m going to hold back on working this thought pattern out in close reading of appropriate places in Austen’s books for my paper, and here just briefly survey one old-fashioned book published surprisingly recently (1996) for the way Austen is treated as knitted to and writing for her family.  Matey belongs to those who read Austen’s books as non-critical of her era, to some extent unexamined creations (staying away from “politics”), belonging to a closed small world of what I’d call rentier elites. I thoroughly disagree with most of this; I think Austen’s outlook to be so much larger than this, and critical of her world and family too, but Batey understands what is provable by close reading and relevant documents (which recent published critics seem not to). Matey’s book is good because Matey uses the particulars of Austen’s family’s lives and their neighborhood (and its inhabitants), their properties and how they treated them wisely.  She looks at how authors that Austen is known to have read or from her novels probably knew and how their topics and attitudes are treated in Austen’s books. Her documented sources  are books Austen quotes, alludes to, or are unmistakably part of her text). She researched about these common sensically and with discrimination, ever thinking of what is Austen’s tone as Batey decides whether this or that text or garden place or drawing could be meant to be part of Austen’s discourse.

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Contemporary illustration: Box Hill

Each of the chapters is attached either to a period of Austen’s life or one or a group of her texts; they all have beautifully appropriate reproductions of picturesque landscapes; they all pick up on some aspect of debates on the picturesque in the era, often closely attached to, coming out of the particular Austen texts (but not always). “The Background” (1) tells of Austen’s family’s life briefly, how they lived in picturesque landscapes, how Edward the third brother was adopted by a rich couple who gifted him with immense wealth in the form of two country mansions and wide lands with all the patronage, rents, and power and education that came with that. The Austen family is presented as highly intelligent, wanting few personal relationships outside themselves (unless it be for promotion) and their gentry world. Austen wrote for her family is Batey’s assumption. We learn how Austen grew up inside “The Familiar Rural Scene” (2), loved Cowper, band egan her first long novel as epistolary narrative .  Batey dwells on Austen’s love of Cowper and how his poetry educated her into the kind of writing she did. Cowper is much quoted, how Marianne is passionate over his verse, Fanny has imbibed it in the deepest recesses of feeling and memory.

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Selbourne today —

Batey swerves slightly in “Agonies of Sensibility” (3): as she is herself politically deeply conservative, she makes fun (unexpectedly given how she’s presented Austen thus far) of the writers and the texts she says influenced Austen profoundly: Goethe’s Sorrows of Werther (where, I suggest, the hero kills himself as much because he has to live in a sycophantic court as any love affair he has), Charlotte Smith’s deeply depressed poetry and more desperate novels (highly critical of the social and political arrangements of the day): as with Cowper, Batey quotes at length and Smith’s poetry does justice to itself. Batey shows how the family paper, The Loiterer mocks “Rousseau’s half-baked” (her words) ideas. She goes over the juvenilia she can link directly to the family members: “Henry and Eliza” where she uses names and places of people close by:

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Lady Harcourt’s flower garden in Nuneham Courtenay (based on precepts in Rousseau’s La Nouvelle Heloise)

The same paradoxical pull-back shapes her “The Gothic Imagination” (4):  Batey talks of “the whine” of this material: the graveyard poets, the grand tour, Ossian, Blake. Batey does not take seriously any of this as deriving from contemporary anguish; her perspective is that of the aesthete (very 1950s American); she discuss the sublime from Burke apolitically, the lucky landowners, and even (or perhaps especially because ever sceptical). Samuel Johnson is hauled for his sceptical assessments (no sign of his Journey to the Western Islands). So Batey’s outlook on Northanger Abbey is it is about this “craze” which Austen saw through. Nonetheless, she quotes tastefully, and you can come away from this chapter with a much richer terrain and Austen text than Batey herself allows for. And she combines, so Smith’s Emmeline now comes in. She quotes from the effective presence of the abbey, the Tilney’s conversations on the picturesque and history, Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forest as found in Austen’s text (amply quoted with illustrations appropriate).

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Thomas Jones (1742-1803), The Bard

Batey has not heard of feminism but she does know these are women’s texts and includes a reproduction of an landscape by a woman I’d never seen before but alas tells nothing of the artist, not even her first name:

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Lady Leighton, a watercolor of the gothic seat at Plas Newyd where the ladies of Langollen (a famous lesbian couple) read Ossian together (it was said).

I must start to condense. “Enamoured of Gilpin on the Picturesque” (5) and “The Beautiful Grounds at Pemberley” (6) contain a valuable discussion of Gilpin, who he was, how he came to wander all over England and write books on landscape and accompany them with evocative illustrations. She goes over the flaws in these (they are semi-fake, omitting all that is unpleasant, like exhausted hard-working human beings, and “eyesores” like mines), his theoretical works, of course the mockery of him (Batey is big on this). She does tell how Richard Payne Knight and Uvedale Price exposed the way these landscapes avoided showing how exploitative of the people and landscape products (for use) these enclosures and picturesque-makers were, but does not apply this to Austen: rather she quotes Marianne either engaged with the sublimely or critical of hypocritical cant. For the Sense and Sensibility discussion (where Batey stays on the surface again) she includes many lovely black-and-white and grey illustrations of real landscapes (ruins that real, i.e., crumbling buildings), tourist sites (Netley Abbey to which Austen’s family came). The productions for Pemberley are gorgeously colored: a Turner, a Joseph Wright of Derby, photographs of vast green hills. For Pride and Prejudice Batey simply dwells on the visit to Pemberley saying how unusually detailed it is, without asking why. She does notice Darcy has left much of the original placement of streams in place, and invites gentlemen to fish there; but how is it that every window has a gorgeous view from it, how did this come about, were these specifics originally related to some discussion (in a previous longer P&P) of how Darcy made the landscape never crosses her mind.

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Batey thinks Ilam Circuit walk gives us a sense of what was to be seen outside Pemberley windows

No matter how much was “lopp’d and chopp’d” says Batey, we have all in place that we need.

Batey approves of the chapters on Mansfield Park, “A Mere Nothing Before Repton (7)” and Emma, “The Responsible Landlord” (8), because there is so much serious criticism of the picturesque which Batey finds herself able to enter into in the first (land should be useful, should honor history, the church). She has a fine thorough discussion of Stoneleigh Abbey which Mrs Austen’s cousin tried to take over when its owners died so took his aunt and her daughter with him, possession being nine points of the law: the letters are quoted and they feel like a source for Northanger Abbey. Repton’s work for the Austens as well as generally is done far more justice to than Mr Rushworth ever understands.

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Stoneleigh Abbey before (Batey includes an “after” too: all the animals, the gardening work are removed as unsightly)

Batey believes Mr Knightley is modeled on Austen’s wealthy brother, Edward, who did work his own land, who valued his cows, who was conscientious — within limits: she does not bring out how later in life Edward was among those who refused to pay for a share of improvements of roads as he himself would not profit from it (we can’t do that, must not share). She does not seem to realize the earlier portrait of John Dashwood is also Edward nor that Edmund (whom she also identifies with Edward) is more than a little dense. But yes Mr Knightley is our ideal steward of land, working hard to make sure all can get something from nature (though, let me add, some do get more than others as the pigs in Animal Farm said was only right), and has not bowed to fashion, kept his trees, his house in a low sheltered place, has not spent enormously for “an approach.”

It comes as no surprise that Batey’s last chapter, “The Romantic Tide” (9), does not concentrate on Persuasion or Sanditon. These do not fit into her idealization of wealthy mansions, landscapes of and from power (I’d call them) . The aesthetic debates of MP and Emma set in a larger social context do not reach her radar. Thus that the Elliots have lost their house as Austen’s sixth longer book begins, the money basis of the economy, of war (Wentworth’s business like William Price’s is when called for killing and grabbing the property of others) and increasingly transient nature of existence for the fringe gentry are not topics here. We begin in Upper Cross but move to dress and harps in Mansfield Park (Regency costume enables Batey to bring in Fanny Knight and Austen’s times together in London). The furor over cottages orne probably represents an association from Mary Musgrove’s house, but the details are now all taken from the satire on Robert Ferrars’s despising of large buildings, worship of cottages and hiring Bonomi (without further context) in Sense and Sensibility. Sanditon‘s seaside gives way to “the insufferable Mrs Elton’s” lack of a real abode, her origins in trade in Bristol, and Lydia Bennet’s vulgarity. Batey’s text turns snobbish itself.

Where originality comes in again is not the sublimity of the sea, but in how the Austens enjoyed themselves in summer after summer of Austen’s last few years on the coast, “undeterred by threats of invasion.” Batey thinks the source place for Sanditon Bognor, which made a great deal of money for its entrepreneur, something what we have of the fragment suggests Mr Parker will not do. Anna Lefroy’s apt continuation has him going broke but for brother Sidney, a hero only heard of in the extant text. Jane Austen, we are told, disapproved of challenges to the traditional way of life, was against exploiting sickness and hypochondriacs like the Parker sisters. Batey seems to forget Austen was herself dying but includes the idea she “had little time for the socialistic propaganda of William Godwin”! In Sanditon Austen is harsh towards Burns and (we know from her letters) was strongly enamored of Crabbe — he has a hard look at nature and the rural landscape. A Fanny Price, name and character type, the story of a couple separated as imprudent with no retrieval are found in Crabbe. However, as Batey acknowledges in her book’s last few paragraphs, in Persuasion Austen revels in Charmouth, Pinny, Lyme.

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William Turner, watercolor of Lyme Regis seen from Charmouth — Austen stayed there in 1803 and 180 and Anne Elliot discusses romantic poetry with Captain Benwick there

Batey’s is a useful book if you don’t look in it for any perception of why Austen was compelled to write and the full complicated nature of her texts. If it seems to be, it is not much different from Janine Barchas’s comparable History, Location and Celebrity, recent, respected: Barchas’s book is not filled with matters of fact in Austen, but in other books (of genealogy), in Barchas’s case buildings Austen never mentions (interesting if lurid), in amoral people not connected to her except by chance of first or last names (of which Austen does not have much variety). A “proof” can hinge on a number: Thorpe and Catherine have driven seven miles to one place, well seven miles in another there is this other gothic place, and Barchas has her subject matter. Both give us historical context, and between the two, Barchas remains speculative, a matter of adding one speculation to the next, and then crowding them around a text that never mentions them; Batey has the merit of writing about texts and movements Austen discussed, alludes to, quotes from, places we know for sure she visited, lived in. Both have good bibliographical references and you can use them as little encyclopedias.

Ellen

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Master-and-Commander A heroic scene done exquisitely realistically in Weir’s Master and Commander (2003)


Geologizing

The contrasting geologizing scene on the Galapagos Islands

Dear friends and readers,

As it was more than 2 weeks ago now that I spent three nights as much mesmerized by the features about Peter Weir’s Master and Commander as by the movie itself, I had better write now before I lose contact with what made the movie the meaningful experience it is, and (as I am told) reflects the poetic center of Patrick O’Brian’s historical adventure fiction. It’s this: it combines utterly incompatible feelings (Robert Graves wrote about this regarding verse): on the one hand, the worship necessarily blind to reality of violence on behalf of securing power (and with it wealth, privilege, status, the ceremonies of admiration), and on the other, the realization this demands death, maiming, torture (whipping, flogging, whatever it takes to enforce discipline to be cruel) when what makes life worth living is friendship, imaginative arts, knowledge and immersion in the natural world. Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe in the film) enacts the thrust of the first, and Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany) the activities and point of view of the second, with all the characters arranging themselves variously on a continuum between them.

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This kind of intense quiet music-making punctuates the sequences

I seem to remember best a wholly naturalistic (it was filmed not computer generated) of Russell Crowe as the captain going for a swim, and everyone aboard watching him with bated breathe lest they lose him.

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Russell Crowe as hero

Also the horror of the ship hospital, the operating table as the maimed men were amputated, sewn, and on beds left to die. Richard McCabe as Mr Higgon’s surgeon’s mate’s anguished terror at making a mistake as he imitates Maturin as surgeon whose arm is too hurt to perform himself.

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The boy has lost his arm, we watch him follow Maturin around the Galapagos; he is groomed to be a captain himself

I have listened to a marvelous reading aloud on books-on-CD of the third book of the series, H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick Tull where the character of Stephen Maturin emerges fully for the first time as sceptic, objector, doubter, sensitive soul, the alternative voice, and have now placed the first book high on a TBR pile of historical fiction.

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Paul Bettany as questioner

I’ve also looked up on my Eighteenth Century World at Yahoo list to see if there was any commentary on the film in 2003 when I saw it with Yvette. I had gone to a session in a ASECS (American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies) panel on film where:

A young Spanish professor, Diego Tellez Alarcia, gave a remarkably well-organized, lucid, and detailed exposition on Master and Commander, an adaptation of several novels by Patrick O’Brian. Mr Alarcia went over the type of film M&C represents, the real historical & contemporary events (one involving the USS Essex) it alludes to, its relationship to O’Brian’s novels, and how it functioned to whip up patriotic emotion after 9/11. Mr Alarcia first used Krakauer, an important film critic (who I’ve read) to argue that films provide a new way of studying history: we can study our culture as an engine of history itself as well as a mirror of society. Films are a new way of writing history as valid as speech and the written word. Mr Alarcia went on about how much effort was put into making the details of the film historically accurate (ship, food, clothes &c). The genre this film belongs to also is the swash-buckler, the rebellious adventure film, the tongue-in-cheek (Captains Courageous, Mutiny on the Bounty, Billy Budd, Pirates of the Carribean). I learned something new about O’Brian’s career: I had thought the Jack Aubrey novels are a roman fleuve, but did not know that O’Brian also translated 30 books from French.

I’ve appended as the comments I received on that listserve some 12 years ago on the film, beginning with a person who loved the books to someone who differed on the film but was glad of the attention repaid to journalism at the time.

We can connect this to Austen in various ways because of her sailor-brothers: here I choose to compare her with her brother’s Francis’s viewpoint on a renegade hero of the time, and Byron’s ironic understanding.

One chapter in Southam’s JA and the Navy is about a little known satire by Austen which shows her to have been a narrowly partisan amoral imperalist Tory type. Southam prints a little known and until now Austen’s little understood satire in the manner of Pope, Swift and others:

Of A Ministry Pitiful, Angry, Mean Of a Ministry pitiful, angry, mean, A gallant commander the victim is seen. For promptitude, vigour, success, does he stand Condemn’d to receive a severe reprimand! To his foes I could wish a resemblance in fate: That they, too, may suffer themselves, soon or late, The injustice they warrent. But vain is my spite They cannot so suffer who never do right.

In brief, Popham was court-martialed for disobeying an order to protect ports in the Cape of Good Hope. Instead he took his ships and attacked some ports in Argentina in order to steal their cargo and help friends upset the Argentinian gov’t and eventually take over. Among other helpmates were the revolutionaries: politics makes temporary bedfellows this way. There’s a long chapter in Southam’s JA and the Navy which shows that in this case Austen was fiercely on the side of an amoral thug-pirate type, Popham.

Why? because he was supported by her brothers; for among other things, his relationship with Moira and others to whom Henry had (very unwisely, but trying hard to make money from money) lent big sums of money. It’s a good instance of her narrow Toryism. The man was out for himself to make huge amounts of money; left his post to go over to another country and simply grab it. One of the sorts of people that make the world miserable for the average person. Even Nelson thought him a horror: Nelson, we have to give this to him, did not seek wealth personally except as it came as part of actions he thought genuinely for the good of the people and land of England.

People like to ignore or not talk about how Wentworth is presented as making money from his ships; we are not told what this actually means in reality. He, though, is not the charlatan type Popham was.

Now Southam keeps saying that the brothers (Francis and Charles and in this case Edward and Henry) would have approved of Popham, but while Henry clearly has behaviors that resemble Popham’s (and Edward is fiercely partisan on behalf of his property, will not help other landowners), not Francis and the two passages that Southam quotes are filled with comments that were they turned to look at Popham would judge him “horrible” and very wrong. In the chapter he registers the idea that it’s just “horrible” for people to bomb others. Popham was an early inventor of the equivalent of today’s drones (drop it on the ship and blow it up), but it was real claptrap and when used as often killed those using it. Nonetheless, he tried it and destroyed four ships in the process.

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A drawing-illustration made from the movie — the officers studying maps, planning strategy

Given the continual dropping of bombs on people helpless against them and the targeting of civilians since WW2, it’s worth it to quote some of Francis’s words here. He speaks first (at length, a long sentence) of how impossible it is to “direct” the bombs with “any tolerable precision.” When people drop drones, we are often told a single “terrorist” is killed; not so; you cannot direct them that way; the drone drops the bombs on a house and destroys the house and anyone in it plus usually the whole street. Hundreds are killed and maimed and lives destroyed. Francis Austen:

“This horrible mode of warfare seems scarcely justifiable in principle (amongst civilized nations) short of self-preservation and perhaps its entire want of success may have been a fortunate circumstance for England who could not have expected to be the only power to use such machines and whose shipping would be constantly liable to similar attacks with much greater facility from the exposed situations of the anchorages then used.”

In other words, such bombs could be used against England’s ships. The second is a long passage where he says one must obey the orders of one’s commander. When one is ordered to stay and protect a port, one must. Francis always behaved that way and he missed Trafalgar (which he regretted all his life because it meant less money and less prestige and fewer connections he could pressure) because he obeyed an order. Jane Austen was taking precisely the opposite position. Throughout her letters we see her usual mockery (Southam calls this joking) and adversarial positions to whatever is happening.

Here Southam cavalierly says that Austen liked Popham because her brothers did. One can see parallels with Henry’s banking and loan practices and who he was more than willing to be friendly with but all the evidence suggests Francis would have judged Popham fiercely and said he should be court-martialed.

During this time Jane Austen was reading Charles Pasley’s Essay on Military Policy (you can download this as an ebook and I have) and we find in her letters one of these short phrases, but it is in full admiration. The man advocates the most ruthless of imperalist policies, the sort that leads to what Belgium did in the Congo. I wondered what Austen would have thought of Maturin.

Byron provides a rejoinder to Jane Austen, Pasley, and Popham: Wellington: The Best of Cut-Throats (1819)

Though Britain owes (and pays you too) so much,
Yet Europe doubtless owes you greatly more:
You have repaired Legitimacy’s crutch,
A prop not quite so certain as before:
The Spaniard, and the French, as well as Dutch,
Have seen, and felt, how strongly you restore:
And Waterloo has made the world your debtor
(I wish your bards would sing it rather better).

You are ‘the best of cut-throats’: – do not start;
The phrase is Shakespeare’s, and not misapplied;
War’s a brain-spattering, wind-pipe-slitting art,
Unless her cause by right be sanctified.
If you have acted once a generous part,
The world, not the world’s masters, will decide,
And I shall be delighted to learn who,
Save you and yours, have gained by Waterloo?

I’ve done. Now go and dine from off the plate
Presented by the Prince of the Brazils,
And send the sentinel before your gate
A slice or two from your luxurious meals:
He fought, but has not fed so well of late.
Some hunger, too, they say the people feels: –
There is no doubt that you deserve your ration,
But pray give back a little to the nation.

Never had mortal man had such opportunity
Except Napoleon, or abused it more:
You might have freed fallen Europe from the unity
Of tyrants, and been blest from shore to shore:
And now – what is your fame? Shall the Muse tune it ye?
Now – that the rabble’s first vain shouts are over?
Go! hear it in your famished country’s cries!
Behold the world! and curse your victories!

crewbattle

To return to the 21st century film, Stuart Klawans, the film critic of The Nation provides a perceptive commentary on this film helps explain why it’s alluring experience. His argument is that it has a

deeply erotic charge … which turns out to be powerful and strange.” “It’s there from the first wordless, nocturnal sequence, in which the camera follows a prowling character through the sleeping quarters below deck, where rows of hammocks, seen from below, swing from the ceiling like multiple scrotums. Perhaps the penis is Russell Crowe himself, who makes his first appearance semi-dressed, bursting erect from the captain’s quarters through doors that part like a loosely buttoned fly. Never mind that the Surprise, like all ships, is calls ‘she.’ Weir conceives of it as a huge male body, whichis literally suffused with its crew’s blood. [Klawans was puzzled to read reviews claiming the picture was “stupendously entertaining” and “thrilling”.] You might have thought these writesr were describing The Adventures of Robin Hood rather tnan movie that lingers over the amputation of a young boy’s arm. Sailors are lavishly blown apart; a skull is opened and the brains probed before a fascinated crew; in one extended scene Maturin even performs surgery on himself, digging into his own guts while watching the spectacle in a mirror. Even during the longueurs, when male bodies are not being ripped into, Weir reminds you of the permeability of flesh by providing all the actors with highly visible scars. So it came to me: This penetration of male bodies is what’s thrilling about Master and Commander. How’s that for an S&M title? The infliction and endurance of pain is the sex …

Klawans isn’t “belittling the grandeur, the magnificence, the meticulous recreation” of details of “nautical life, or neglecting “Crowe’s wonderfully assured performance, which is as self-amused as it is amusing.” He agrees with Crowe “that M&C is one enormously expensive art movie.”

I was struck by the emotionalism of Maturin’s intellectual senstive-physician sidekick. I liked how the film questioned and exposed the values behind the male world. Yvette said to that they are the same pair of A Beautiful Mind. Maybe it’s a woman’s emotion picture shot into the center of a swashbuckler by way of Captain Hornblower. It is also siimply a bunch of men enjoying themselves enormously, pretending they are the men at sea, in danger, winning battles, exploring, watching punishment of those who risk all, or betray or undercut the rules. All this under the cover or rational of historical accuracy.

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And given my return to historical fiction (Poldark novels, Wolf Hall) and its relationship to historic fiction (older), biography, our understanding of history, now I would like to read a few of the novels

Ellen

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Flirting amid piles of plays (Maria and Henry with Tom and Yates in the background, the 1983 MP by Ken Taylor)

Dear friends and readers,

Herewith my second blog report on the gist of the individual papers delivered on Saturday, October 10th, at the JASNA AGM in Montreal. Looking over the 7 to 8 break-out sessions on against the one I chose, I again regret that so many papers were on against one another.

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I went to hear Br. Paul Byrd’s paper comparing Mansfield Park with Margaret Oliphant’s Perpetual Curate because I’m a reader of Oliphant’s fiction, and know she was influenced by and wrote a perceptive essay on Austen’s fiction and Austen’s nephew’s memoir of his aunt. He brought the two novels together as by two Anglican women who saw the need for reform in the church with clerical heroes who suffer repeated attacks. Mansfield Park: Edmund is distracted by his personal involvement from his vocation; his religion though more often discussed than portrayed; pluralism and absenteeism condemned. He is contrasted to Dr Grant. Mary argues priests have little influence on people, represents a segment of society that no longer believes thoroughly in the Christian religion; mercenary considerations strongly influence her judgement; Henry Crawford is sensual, self-indulgent. Edmund’s relationship to Fanny shows him thoughtful, meaning to be reflective though he fails to be an accurate observer. The Perpetual Curate: Frank Wentworth presents a Victorian ideal and knows what a clergyman ought to be; but is his own worst enemy, not politic, handles a scandal foolishly, yet remains true to himself; Br Byrd brought in each author’s male relatives who were clergymen, and seemed to believe that Austen assumed her readers believed that Anglicanism could be an effective force in the world while Oliphant delivers a blistering critique of Anglican church of her day: Br Bryd thought Oliphant was showing a cultural shift from a gentleman who is a clergyman to clergyman who have a calling; he also read Mansfield Park as seriously about religion and religious failings in Austen’s characters and the cultural world they belonged to.

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I went to hear Kathryn Davis’s “Charles Pasley’s Essay and the ‘Governing Winds of Mansfield Park,” because during the long course of reading and analyzing Austen’s letters (see my blog analysis of Letter 78) I became aware of how she admired the ruthless imperialism of Pasley through what she said in a letter and Southam’s analysis of Pasley’s career and writing (in his book on Austen’s brothers) and how narrowly partisan Austen could be when it came to what she thought were her brothers’ interests. Ms Davis talked of Austen’s admiration for this man, and of his life as retold in the ODNB, and then presented Pasley’s writing in terms of his patriotic ideals and worry about the navy weakening; how he reminds his audience of the commercial good (profit, well ordered places) the military could lay the grounds for in conquest and expansion; she quoted eloquent passages (duty is service); he recognizes there is a loss of social and economic liberty but such bonds as are formed are a deterrent to war. I had not realized Pasley wrote specifically about the West Indies (e.g., Antigua must be held onto). I was much relieved when Robert Clark who had given a paper in the previous break-out session on the British empire at the time of and as reflected in MP (I heard a version of his excellent papers at the ASECS in Williamsburg last spring), when Mr Clark brought out the murder and destruction of societies found in these colonial places, the suffering inflicted on these native peoples; that Pasley’s is a ruthless militarist deeply anti-liberal argument, where the East India Company’s doings are an exemplary norm. Southam shows how he disobeyed orders to aggrandize himself. Mr Clark remarked that it’s telling that Pasley was republished around the time of WW1.

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Fanny Price and Henry Crawford dancing foreground, Mary and Edmund just behind them, at the Mansfield ball (1999 MP by Rozema)

I went to hear Nora Stovel Forster’s paper because it was about film, specifically “dancing as a blueprint for marriage in Rozema’s MP.” Ms Forster argued that Rozema modernized MP by politicizing its themes to push her own agenda. Austen’s MP is relentlessly about money as intertwined with love (Mary sees everything in terms of money; Maria marries to gain the use of a great deal of money). Ms Stovel spent a lot of time on the Portsmouth episode in the movie where (Ms Stovel felt) the poverty of the Prices is exaggerated, and drives Fanny to accept Henry Crawford’s proposal momentarily. Slavery is brought in as Fanny journeys around England; through the horrors illustrated in Tom’s sketches of his father’s plantation in Antigua; the sexuality made explicit for us to see the corruption of the hollow characters. Fanny’s character is much changed and she is (in effect) made the author of the movie. I liked how Ms Stovel showed us some of her stills in slow motion. It was hard to tell but I thought the audience this time was more pleased by Ms Stovel’s talk about Rozema’s movie than they had by Sorbo’s presentation because it could be taken as implicitly criticizing the movie for not being faithful (but that is not why they dislike it so as other movies as unfaithful, say Ang Lee and Emma Thompson’s S&S is very popular among such people).

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The Harp arrives (1999 MP)

I did not know that the session where Jeanice Brooks and Gillian Dow were listed was actually an attempt to present two papers in the 60 minutes. Ms Brooks’s paper was on French culture and music in Paris and as sold and mirrored in London and the provinces of England around the time of MP. I hope hers is one of those papers published in Persuasions for she presented much valuable information in a perceptive way applicable to Austen’s novel and life too (Austen played the pianoforte; Eliza, her cousin, the harp). She told of the invention and history of the harp in the 18th century, the music books in Austen’s household, and went over two volumes of selections from 18th century periodicals which only Eliza de Feuillide could have supplied. She gave a brief resume of Eliza’s movements in France and England from 1780 to 1813 when she died (1780 in Paris with harp; 1781 married, lived in Paris; 178-86 lives on husband’s estates; 1786-87 visits Steventon; Sept 1788 returns to Paris, back in 1789; death of Feuillide, of her mother, her marriage to Henry, the musical party Austen records in April 1811; Fanny Knight’s note on Eliza’s cancer); she then played a lovely piece of music to which one of the songs in the book was set at the time. I regret not having a copy of the text to share with others. I was unable to take it down in sten quickly enough.

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Edmund reading to Fanny as children (he made her books meaningful to her, 1983 MP)

I was not able to stay for much of Gillian Dow’s paper which had to be fitted in to the tail end of the session. Ms. Dow attempted a speculative answer to the question, from what books did Fanny Price learn French? She talked of what we know of Austen’s interactions with Grandison (reading, alluding, the playlet) and how she uses Lovers’ Vows in MP, to show Austen’s interest in plays, and she suggested Austen may have meant us to think the Fanny learned French by reading the plays Madame de Genlis wrote for children. While I agree that Adele et Theodore is an important source in two of Austen’s novels (Emma and NA) and Austen seems to have been an avid reader of Genlis’s fiction (which we can see from her reading with her sister in her letters), but at the time I left the session I had heard no evidence Austen read these plays or meant us to feel Miss Lee would be a person who would teach from them. Sir Thomas seems to have instructed his sons through having them declaim plays but there is no sign his daughters or niece were encouraged in such self-displays (even if the texts were impeccably moral).

My daughter, Izzy, may have chosen more wisely than me.

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Everyone reading and rehearsing playscript (2007 MP by Maggie Wadey)

On Saturday she listened to Nancy Yee outline how Shakespeare’s Henry VIII relates to MP (she had a sheet of passages from Henry VIII); she was amused by Arnie Perlstein’s paper on subtexts in the allusions to plays in Mansfield Park; she said she understood Susan Allen Ford’s paper on Hester Chapone’s Letters and their relationship to Mansfield Park (was persuaded there really was one), and she positively enjoyed Sara Bowen’s “Fanny’s future, Mary’s Nightmare, on Jane Austen’s understanding of a clergyman’s wife’s life in the context of all the clergyman’s wives that she knew, from her mother, to her sisters-in-law, her niece, Anna Austen Lefroy and many other kin, friends and acquaintances.

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From 1982 Barchester Chronicles, scripted Alan Plater (the clerical families dining, Mr Harding and his daughter, Archdeacon and Mrs Grantley and Mr Arabin, adapted from Trollope’s Barchester Towers)

Izzy talked of (I imagine from this paper) Trollope’s presentation of the life of Archdeacon Grantly’s wife in Barchester Towers, Mrs Proudie across the Barsetshire series, and what we see of clergymen’s wives in his mid- to later 19th century books, and said Ms Bowen argued that the demands on a woman’s life as a clergyman’s wife were changing and are reflected in Austen’s books: we see little expectation of religious doings or doctrine in Elinor Dashwood; we seem never to see Henry Tilney do or think about religion or doctrine (even if he does not neglect his parish and preaches there of a Sunday); in Mansfield Park things are changing, expectations growing. Izzy was amused to try to count up all the female characters in Austen’s fiction who either might have or do become clergyman’s wives.

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Mrs Norris humiliating Fanny over her refusal to play (1983 MP)

The most fun she and I had together while at the JASNA conference was when she downloaded all of MP onto my ipad (there is a library APP which permits this, offering free books out of copyright and books you must buy) and we read together parts of MP found suggestive hints in the first three chapters of the book tending to prove McMaster’s thesis that Mrs Norris loathed Fanny because she had wanted to have her as a vicarious child through Sir Thomas and found her personality one a vindictive, selfish, aggressive, competitive and greedy personality would bitterly resent.

I know I reported that my proposal to present a paper on the relationship of the four Mansfield Park films with the novel was rejected, though happily I wrote a brief elaboration of what I would have said and it was published on-line by BSECS, but I believe I never wrote about how I had had an idea to compare Smith’s Ethelinde, or the Recluse of the Lake with Mansfield Park. A well-meaning friend suggested to me my idea was too dry or scholarly or narrow (who reads Ethelinde?) and the MP proposal was more likely to find acceptance. I’ll end on this proposal I never sent: “Empire, Marriage, and Epistolarity in Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde and Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park.”

I propose to give a talk on revealing parallels between Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde; or the Recluse of the Lake, and Austen’s Mansfield Park. First, the novels both use visual space, be it a country, rural, town or city, a prison or a great house, to project the inner psychic and moral state of a character in the context of a larger exploration of empire. Characters in both value male work which is part of a professional career to gain money and rank; whether they travel widely or spend their days in a local parish, the two novelists justify and/or critique the means by which the characters succeed or fail. Second, the novels contain slowly evolving love stories which end in an unexpectedly welcome misalliance for one couple and adultery for another, destroying the destined hopes of some of the characters, all seen in the context of arranged, mercenary, and far-flung marriage, further career moves. Last, the development of the novels’ plot-design relies on epistolary situations, characters who reach others only through letters, and reading with all the tension, misunderstanding and critique from afar distance creates and facilitates.
In other words, I’ll be discussing these novels from a post-colonial standpoint. Smith’s central characters are openly driven by economic need, caught up in wars, bad marriages and illegitimate yet loving liaisons, exile and painful and distant correspondences; while most of Austen’s characters’ circumstances are economically comfortable, and adultery is only adumbrated; nonetheless, her characters go through the same paradigms of need, war, mismatch and have to force themselves to write and read their letters Whether it’s a question of intertextuality or influence, a comparison of the way Smith’s and Austen’s characters discuss, dramatize and solve their career, marital and social or moral needs, will shed light on these novels and contemporary attitudes towards the demands of the local mercenary and rank-based and global commercial worlds as these intersect with the people’s private needs and desires.

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After Harvest Storm, Richard Westnall by R.M. Meadows (early 19th century)

E.M.

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Cassandra Austen — our only image of her

Dear friends and readers,

As I end this four year long close-reading of the letters of Jane Austen as they appear in Deirdre LeFaye’s edition, based on Chapman’s originating scholarship, it is time to make some attempt at an assessment of Cassandra and Jane’s relationship. These last letters occasioned controversy on Janeites as to how far was Cassandra a confidante who understood her sister and appreciated her full gifts?

I read these letters closely to try to break away from conventionalized stereotypical views and believe I did manage that with respect to Henry and Eliza Austen, Jane’s relationship with Martha Lloyd and her brother, Francis. I did not know that the letters to Charles and Henry were so few (and Jane so disdainful of Charles’s first wife’s family), and am convinced now there was a cache of letters between Jane and Eliza (as there was between Francis and Jane) destroyed.

I was reconfirmed in my idea that Jane favored her father, remained in a tense relationship with her mother for many years, that her Aunt Jane Leigh-Perrot stole that lace (or “smooched” it as Maria Bertram says of Mrs Norris’s propensities), that unhappily due to her older brother, James’s bullying wife, Mary Lloyd, Jane and her older brother lost a closeness they originally had. I did realize that equally unhappily after Anna Lefroy grew older, Jane was unsympathetic, unfair to a niece who had looked upon her as one of her surrogate mothers, but not that Anna’s novel-writing was an offering to draw her aunt in again. Nor that Jane was at once aware of Fanny Austen Knight’s limitations and kept an emotional intellectual distance while at the same time drawing close to the conventional niece because she, Jane, was perhaps more comfortable with someone who could not understand her. I knew about her early love for Thomas Lefroy, Mrs Lefroy’s compensating attempt to match Jane with Rev. Samuel Blackall, an apparently real regard for Edward Bridges which was cut off, and the sudden late congeniality with Charles Thomas Haden (too young for her by this time and beneath her socially). I did not know how much she favored Frank until these letters. I did not know that she loved Martha Lloyd potentially the way she perhaps could have at least adhered as a wife to man she could be congenial with. The letters do not include the affair with Harris Bigg-Wither which culminated in an acceptance and then clumsily broken off engagement. I did not realize how complicated and interesting a person Henry’s thwarted career (that he went as far as he did is remarkable), his marriage to Eliza and his helping his sister publish her books shows him to have been, nor how little Jane did him justice.

I am persuaded I see the over-all arc or trajectory of the two sisters’ relationship over the years but the details of what quite was understood between them by Cassandra as opposed to Jane either were never written down or destroyed by Cassandra. In their earliest letters to the time of leaving Steventon, the letters between them register much tension and disagreement: Cassandra repeatedly not only does not approve, she scolds, she does not respond to Jane’s letters, she writes others more often (she is not comfortable); Jane is guarded, indirect, placating (Cassandra writes the best letters anyone ever did and Jane longs for these). Jane has turned to Martha Lloyd just before the Steventon breakup; Mrs Lefroy steps in – very badly – to try to find a man for Jane after having herself colluded in removing Tom Lefroy. There is no sense at this time in the wild hurt Jane Austen registers at how everything is being done for her brothers, how she is expected to give everything up to James (even books and piano) that Cassandra at all shared Jane’s feelings. She seems to have accepted the roles imposed on her.

Then we have the time in Bath and the silence of 4 years. My reading of the letters just before and especially after, the one new novel from this time (The Watsons) compelled me to conclude Jane Austen had a breakdown of some sort, from which she came back with difficulty and through resuming writing (Lady Susan, preparing Catherine or Northanger Abbey for publication) — when we pick her up again we find her exchanging visits with single women of desperate gentry level like themselves, especially after her father’s death when they move from Green Park buildings to Trim Street. A new note is seen in the open intense relief of leaving Bath and the letters of their times away at the seashore in summer.

I suggest at some point in these 5 years Jane made her compromise; she acceded to appear and act the way Cassandra wanted in reciprocation for the real help Cassandra afforded — she was given space and time to write. This space and time was essential to her recovery. The plan concocted by Frank was part of this. So by the time of Southampton, like a married couple, Jane and Cassandra and Martha too have made an understood bargain. Frank is in on it. Unfortunately the household did not work because Mary Gibson was deeply uncomfortable with these triangular relationships. She wanted and got out as soon as she could. She also (like Mary Lloyd Austen) was no reader and wanted out of the nights of reading and days of writing (for Jane) too.

We need to recall how almost immediately from the time of Thomas Fowles’s death, Cassandra excludes marriage and by the time of Southampton, with Jane as moral support in effect, is dressing like an older spinster. Being thrown at men (implicitly) in Bath must not have been much fun for them. Like others before them, Emma Donoghue sees in their behavior a pattern of understood lesbian spinsterhood — they had with them other friends, a female community Jane was repeatedly trying to stabilize. Then we see tension with Martha who during the time at Southampton wants marriage and can’t find anyone (no money, she had had small pox, and from the one painting she was very homely in the first place; and she had no connections). Cassandra does now agree to the idea of a female group of friends to live together — she, Jane, Martha and here and there Jane yearns for others — apart from the mother. But one dialogue with the brothers, and that’s made hopeless.

Many people who read this blog have even close friends and more to the point relatives they may see and depend upon and like very much who are different from them fundamentally. And spouses too — who live a life together where nonetheless there are big gaps. There was enough shared — more than enough — of spinsterhood, poverty, family; Martha came on the trips (we have her at Worthing one of the trips for which we have evidence of who was there), ever there on and off until May 1817, a ghostly second or first love for Jane. All the talk about the deep confidence and how Jane and Cassandra told one another more than any one else is at one point contradicted by Fanny — so Jane in a spontaneous moment denied this. And it was three-way anyway. The way in which it’s phrased has a double symmetry that reminds me of such statements in romances (like of Pamela and Philomena in Sidney’s Arcadia).

There was an important part of Jane Cassandra did not understand and just tolerated. Jane’s books are talked about as simply laugh, what fun she had writing them. The talk about the novels as reflected in the family letters was, isn’t Aunt Jane a card? What good fun these novels are. We are told of Jane Austen getting up, walking about in gales of laughter and then returning to her desk. My sense that Austen was not in fully conscious contact with what are the depth of her fiction is part of that. The work of revision is probably not what is being described when Jane is getting up and down doing what the relatives described as fun. Cassandra was sounding board for these readings which ended in gales of laughter (as heard on the other side of a door) and for the literal verisimiltude Jane Austen was consciously working; this latter one aesthetic rule rigidly adhered to by both Cassandra and Jane is reconfirmed in what Jane says Cassandra had to say about Anna Lefroy’s fiction.

I have become convinced through this close reading of Austen’s letters and a study I did of the manuscripts for a review for an Eighteenth Century bibliographical periodical that Austen’s deepest imaginative gifts were only part of her conscious life through her tenacious practice of absolute unqualified verisimilitude through literal probability and her attention to style. What she did was endlessly revise and we have evidence that all the novels up to Emma and Persuasion were the product of many years of revision. You can study the process a bit in the few left and you discover she characteristically begins with burlesque with a kind of rigid moral message or anger at some perverse social custom, and then as she proceeds, not just softens but will change the tone until we are near the grave, plangent, and have an utterance that does not fit this morality and is at a distance from the anger. Her criticism in the letters shows no awareness of the deeper strains of the books she reads.

I’m not sure that makes her into two Jane Austens but I think another part of her writing career does. I agree with Harman that the family’s toleration and pride in her books was limited — to all Harman’s instances I add the striking comment on Emma a couple of months after publication, no one will want this copy around here. Only after her death do we know her name and only more than 50 years later a memoir with a repressed book (so she fits into the 1790s — and I’d like to add her “Plan of a Novel” resembles Blake’s “Jerusalem” in its idiosyncratic mix of names of real people she knows, archetype, and allusions to a book by Cottin itself a semi-political one) and one where only volume 1 was complete.

The savings of the comments Jane got rarely show any appreciation of what these texts are. Note what Cassandra says she likes to remember of Jane in these letters: in all the circumstances of their lives together probably includes reading and writing but what is specified is the “chearful family,” and then during the illness and death – when she was so dependent, filled with anxious semi-penitence.

They shared a room. It was understood they would. Another way of putting this is Jane Austen never had a room of her own. In London she often slept with Fanny. At Chawton when she was gone her bed was given to young Cassy to sleep in. (I could repeat how until the end Jane Austen hadn’t the power to go and come in a carriage as she pleased. Had she married she would have had that, but also a master over her head who could control her movements, take even her jointure if he pleased, impregnate her endlessly, which from her letters she did not want. Her novels would be her children.) Casssandra and Jane are as a pair ignored when their financial means are discussed. The family wanted them as a pair. Yet they were often apart. Jane was not much at Godmersham; she was more with Henry and Eliza at London where Cassandra seems not to have gone much. We are missing all the letters between Eliza and Jane and what happened when Jane arrived for the last two months of Eliza’s agon into death.

There’s the problem that Jane Austen’s letters have not exactly been inspiring works of great imaginative thought or feeling; passages here and there have been remarkable for concision of wit, and one can’t get entirely out of this by arguing for Jane’s double life, or that the letters we have are not only a remnant but wholly unrepresentative. Had Austen written to someone who was (as we see at the opening of the collection) not disposed to disapprove scold, grow cold and not write back when Jane does not obey conventions, someone who Jane would have to exercise her gifts, maybe thecollection would have been different. From Frank’s letters we know he could be decent, humane (though a cruel flogger, so mean that he was in effect reprimanded for it and in this period that suggests ferocity). He occasionally shows original thought (he is horrified at the early use of versions of bombs as barbaric and refuses to go along with their use), but on the whole Jane’s attraction was to a pragmatic brother. The few we have to Frank show she was wary of him, slightly in awe of his power. Yet there is the oddity of how his daughter hated these letters so that she rushed to burn them the moment she had opportunity (was alone with them). Those comments we have by Jane on Henry are superficial, dismissive of his grief for his wife, his depths; Jane was not invited to Godmersham as he was, not a favorite there as he and Cassandra were. Later in life Jane has been co-opted into the family conventional erasure of anything uncomfortable or with the slightest whiff of unrespectability. If the portraits of Lady Susan or Mary Crawford are meant to evoke Eliza Austen, this is as painful as Austen’s snide comments about Anna just after her marriage (including a piano that she as a young woman had been deprived of). Later in life Austen apparently turned into mild version of what happens to people when they become hostages of others — the family way of erasing Eliza’s illegitimacy and Henry’s endlessly maneuvrings to escape the fate of a fourth brother in a family with little money and weak connections.

Nontheless, enough is here from these three letters to show an enormous gap in understanding between Cassandra and Jane. Just read Cassandra’s words (see comment from Middlemarch below). When Jane is on the same page as Cassandra it’s in some of Jane’s worst moments and in some of Jane’s literary criticism of Anna’s novels and various texts by others. In the case of novels, all fail for both Jane and Cassandra on the criteria of strict verisimilitude.

I see Cassandra as dealing with her own grief in these three letters; she deflects Fanny and she deflects Anne Sharpe, and what she’s on about is what she feels for herself and wants to believe for her sister. She is constantly alluding to heaven: Jane’s up there in heaven. Yes she wants hope for Jane and herself. She is scared of of that God and placates to the nth degree of self-censorship so as to hope all this was not and is really not as bad as it is. Well, Cassy it is and was that bad — meaningless deeply painful ordeal of death at a young age. Cut off. Jane recognized it — in the poem she was angry and in her last words saw all that was left was oblivion from pain.

That’s as far as one can go for an outline of an adult relationship finally forming, once of compromise and understanding and support enough in the exigencies of a difficult fringe powerless life.

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CEA 3. From Cassandra Austen to Fanny Knight. Tuesday, 29, July 1817. Chawton Tuesday.

Diane Reynolds led again:

Here stands the final letter. Jane has laughed much and danced often and enjoyed her years at Steventon, including naming the new furniture. She has suffered much, as has Cassandra. They draw closer than close, an impregnable duo, a fact C does not let go of in the last letters. They move to Bath, Jane falls into depression, her father dies, the mother and sisters become poor dependents, sometimes humiliated, though Jane can still enjoy a good slide on the ice, and then vital life returns as they settle into Chawton. All along Jane has been writing and finally, in 2011, Sense and Sensibility is published, followed by four to five glory years as book after book emerges, four in all, catches the eye of the Prince Regent’s librarian, visits London gloriously, then experiences mysterious illness, decline and death.

Reading the letters has been enormously important, inadequate as they are, for my understanding of Austen’s life and personality.

In this final letter, written to Fanny, Cassandra opens with flattery, working as hard as she can to erase any idea in FK’s mind that Jane didn’t like her, though C doesn’t go as far as to say that FK was actually a favorite. Instead, C leans into the intimacy FK and Jane shared: “her who was I believe [here C is qualifying with the “I believe”] better known to you than to any human being besides myself.”

FK apparently sent C a letter of grievance and condolence. C reads it three times, thanks her for it, says “nothing could have been more gratifying to me than the manner in which you write of her.” As for Jane, now “a dear Angel,” the praise she imagines Jane bestowing on FK’s letter is more qualified: in heaven Jane “may perhaps receive pleasure in being so mourned.” (Or not.) C then dwells NOT on JA’s love for FK, but on the similarities between the two: “there are certainly many points of strong resemblance in your characters.” But what C comes up with is weak indeed. “in your intimate acquaintance with each other and your strong mutual affection you were counterparts.” In others words, they knew each other well and liked each other. This is meant as warm reassurance to Fanny–and yet this is far as C will take it. Fanny must be satisfied that her praises pleased C, might possibly have given JA “pleasure” (of what sort we don’t know) and that C acknowledges that Fanny was an intimate.

The next paragraph is more satisfying in giving us some historical particulars: the funeral day was tranquil and quiet, C watched the “little mournful procession” down the length of the street, until Jane’s coffin was out of sight around the corner. Her emotions are more stirred in recollection than they were at the time. We get the necessary conventional statements about how deeply JA was mourned (which may well have been true, but the language is conventionalized) and of Jane being “hailed in Heaven: with “joy.” C mentions–and I find this interesting–experiencing not only “considerable fatigue of body” but “anguish of mind for months back.” We can assume C knew for months her sister was not going to recover, but we must add to that the blow of the L-P will. However, C quickly assures FK, she really is well and grateful for God’s support: more conventionalities, more ways of deflecting pity or effusions.

C naturally writes of herself, not forgetting to mention Edward’s kindness during the funeral time, and in phrasing that sounds very much like Miss Bates to me (could C have been Miss Bates–this would shed new light on Miss Bates as possibly catering to superiors and snobbish to inferiors) C writes “indeed I can never say enough of the kindness I have received from him and from every other friend.”

C also does not want to forget JA–indeed wants to remember her all the time and looks forward to the day they will be reunited in heaven. We get a glimpse of the variety of her relationships with Jane: “confidential intercourse” (they had secrets, a special relationship known only to them), of Jane as part of the “chearful family party” (another face of Jane) and then in Jane’s aspects of invalid and dying self. Interestingly C. adds the words “I hope” JA is in heaven–she can’t quite simply mouth the commonplace without acknowledging that we really don’t know. C is unusually heartfelt, however, as she writes, with exclamation pints, “Oh! If I may be one day reunited to her there!”

And then, as the letter and thus all the letters end, C gets down to business. There’s a lock of hair for Fanny and the question of whether Fanny prefers a brooch of Jane’s or a ring. C also mentions the gold chain for Jane’s goddaughter Louisa. These are finer gifts than anything given to Miss Sharp, and come with the assurance that every one of Jane’s bequests is “sacred” to C.(Perhaps this a sharp allusion to promises made to fulfill the wishes of other dying people that were quickly broken.)

C ends with a much warmer salutation than that offered Anne: “God bless you my dearest Fanny! Believe me most affectionately yours.” And that is it.

An unremarkable gentry life and death for the times, except for six extraordinary novels. If Jane could only know how beloved she has become.

This letter contrasts sharply with the one to Ann Sharp; in the first paragraph Cassandra comes near to gushing. Diane characterizes it as full of flattery, seeking to assert (again) how close Jane was to Fanny: she thinks her sister “better known to” Fanny “than any human being besides myself.” Cassandra seems here not to have read – or understood – Jane’s letters to Fanny which show Aunt Jane openly peering intently into the consciousness of Fanny for material because she expects Fanny will not understand what she is doing, and then seeing that she had made Fanny very uncomfortable, trying to backtrack but still convinced that Fanny knows herself little (and this writer even less). When she fancies her sister speaking of Fanny in heaven in the same terms as Jane’s letters thought about her when in life we see the difference between a mediocre mind and that of genius. Again we have how Jane up there in heaven may be receiving pleasure in seeing Fanny so mourn her. Fanny has apparently written again (to Cassandra) and Cassandra read it three times and just rejoiced in Fanny’s kind expressions to Cassandra and yet more strongly for Aunt Jane. Fanny Knight is certainly more valuable object (personage) than Ann Sharp in Cassandra’s mind. It would probably be wrong to suggest that Cassandra did not understand Fanny nor Fanny her: they lived on the same plane with the same values, norms. Not that Fanny sees through this; it’s what she expects.

Then a paragraph on the funeral, to which Cassandra not only did not go but seems to have tried to behave as if she was not even paying attention when she was alert every split minute. All calm and tranquil. This woman spent her life denying emotions she felt which she had been taught she was not supposed to have – so “when I had lost sight of her forever – even then I was not overpowered, nor so much agitated as I am now in the writing of it.” In the writing of this event and her emotions, she cannot ignore the latter as they fuel her pen. Then how much Jane is mourned sincerely – by her family. Scattered throughout the letters are the assertions about how Jane is now in heaven – of course it’s put that Cassandra hopes this as Cassandra would not presume and is ever so grateful to God for supporting her in all this. (Good of him – I find myself remembering Eliot’s analysis of this kind of thinking which I posted yesterday.) In the midst of this she admits to the ‘fatigue and anguish of mind for months back.” She then turns to Fanny’s father – Fanny has said he looked unwell when he got back – Fanny is not into this denying business. Cassandra replies she did not think Edward “appeared unwell” (careful qualification there) but she “understands that he seemed much more comfortable after his return from Winchester …” Perhaps relief now the remains are gone. An ordeal finished, the burden a little lifted because the presence of the person and then the corpse showing what had happened vanished. She need not tell Fanny what a great comfort he was to her.

Then how she is getting through these first days. Always a problem. She goes out a lot – into the yard? To visit – employs herself, but of course she chooses those employments which give her leisure to remember.

Note how this woman is continually monitored by her super-ego. It’s interesting how she likes to remember her sister: not writing, not reading but “in confidential discourse, in the cheerful family party, which she so ornamented, in her sick room, on her death bed.” (She and I part company there, I’m not keen on remembering the sick time, nor death bed, though it is ineradicable and keeps coming back.) But there is that “the cheerful. She then hopes to be united in Heaven but lets slip how grieved she will feel when “the time must come when my mind will be less engrossed by her idea [image is the meaning of this word, from Locke]. She then hastes to placate her God again – never cease to reflect on Jane as inhabiting Heaven and never cease all those humble endeavours (please God) to join her there. I seem to temember it was around the changeover from BC to AD when this notion of a personal God really somehow paying attention to what’s in someone mind, personal prayer as actuating anything was first articulated.

And so now to give Fanny out of “the precious papers” “now my property” – Austen had written out a few more bequests it seems – so a gold chain to Louisa, and lock of hair to Fanny. Every one of Jane’s requests will be sacred. (Did Jane say nothing about the letters?). Does Fanny prefer a broche or a ring.’

And so these letters end. Diane set them in the context of this 42 year life emphasizing its successes and concluding on how Austen is now so beloved. I know this is a strong impulse: while the person is dying you want to reassure them they have lived a good life, been so loved. Jane’s last poem does not suggest she was thinking over her life;she was asserting a kind of immortality some of us might like to think she felt from her books but what the poem shows is her identifying with Venta. When she is buried, the foolish people with their races will think she is gone, but no such thing, she has been able to get back at these ‘sinners” by raining on them. In the last stanza she enacts what Johnson said the mad astronomer did in Rasselas: asserts her control over the weather. Mad jokes? Those are her last words that we have beyond the few where she begs for the oblivion, the surcease of death.

For Diana Birchall’s reading see comments.

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MissAustenregrets
Thus Miss Austen Regrets registers Jane Austen’s death: as absence, the film takes us two years past Austen’s death after the scene of her grieving with Cassandra and opens on a church graveyard (2008)

As in her other letters Cassandra’s last is filled with religious egoism which she presents as consolation. George Eliot’s Middlemarch‘s analysis of the ultimate sources of this kind of religious utterance in her Mr Bulstrode, a “humble” evangelical Christian, offers an explanation. Eliot was brought up among such people and shows us a man who looks out at the world from the standpoint of self: Bulstrode says of an enemy who comes to Middlemarch, God made this man come to Middlemarch because God had me in mind; when another individaul wants to sell a property and Bulstrode can afford it, this is God manipulating the world to reward me; in CEA’s letters, God must be gratified to look down and see you, Miss Sharpe get this bodkin I send; the smallest thing in the universe is intended for and about her or Jane Austen, and this includes cruel horrifying events: hideous death for Jane Austen very young is God wanting to punish Cassandra. The person does not conceive how insignificant he or she is against the huge universe, how many more real motives and circumstances and history actuate whatever happens because he or she is putting an unthinking utterly self-centered view as controlling the universe. In his Varieties of Religious Experience William James describes these circuits of what passes for thought more abstractly.

Cassandra was uttering what she could out of her denied pain; she had the cant of religion available to her and unlike her sister didn’t pay attention to the full meaning of words she wrote down. Diane Reynolds offers the modern kinds of consolation: look at the valuable life, see the person valued by all around her as she vanishes forever. Psychologists urge the people around the dying person to assure the person they will be okay financially, and to tell them they had a good life and were valued (whatever the words). This is for the sake of the people around the dying. The social world urges the grieving person to begin to recover quite quickly, or hide it. And that is what we also see Cassandra obediently doing. Diana points out what she calls the oddities of the final poem. Having watched a beloved person die in an ordeal of horrifying pain and drugged last days, someone quite intelligent, I know from him that he saw my repetition too of these sorts of useless statements — you were a good father, good husband, lived a good life, for the irrelevance they were. There is no use in anything we say to the person destroyed in the prime of life. Words are then powerless.

Austen was not a solitary genius and her family encouraged her, and some did understand her books to some extent. But a number did not. My sense is Austen never did come into contact in a close way with anyone with her calibre of mind; some of her relatives recognized its value. I see Henry as one of them. Consciously she did not give him credit enough. She kept people away from her insofar as she could, especially I feel the more sensitive insightful ones. (This might not be true of Eliza Austen or Anne Sharpe). I feel for Cassandra; the words she uses are not important it’s the emotion she feels and ahead of her lies long years of absence, and after her mother predeceased her.

I put the picture of Jane’s four books up as preface to Cassandra’s first letter. But were they consolation for Jane? Let us not insult her instinct. What we have from Jane shortly before death is remnants of a letter where she is presenting some case to Henry’s business partner’s wife. We know how devastated she was to see no money would be coming from her mother’s brother. I infer she knew that bad mistakes had been made in the few business dealings Henry did for her over her books. She had made little by Emma, lost the copyright of Pride and Prejudice. Then the twisted angry half-mad poem and records of her begging for oblivion, surcease from pain and life during the last ordeal.

I mean this when I conclude this collection by saying I see in these framings “hope spring eternally in the human breast.” Can’t give up hope, can we?

I have written this from the standpoint of what I take to be an accurate biographer of a life as it is lived. Yes in 1870 James-Edward Austen-Leigh wrote a loving memoir of his aunt, and began the wider popularity of his aunt’s books by providing a sentimental framing and reading of her life and works. He printed two valuable works by her. Yes other relatives, Lord Brabourne in particular, began further to publish her letters. Yes today she is known across the world, her books exist in beautiful varied editions, films have made her name a household word, and they themselves provide some knowledge of the books. But none of this is what she died knowing. What her life was. And a good deal of this wider dissemination makes a travesty of the meaning and reading of life her books offer us. That’s why it’s important to see the letter collection for what it shows us.

Theburningoftheletters
Cassandra’s burning of the majority of Jane’s letters (also included in Miss Austen Regrets)

Ellen

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cassandralistens
Gretta Scacchi as Cassandra Austen looking down at Jane towards the end of Miss Austen Regrets — Cassandra is the silent continually-there and caring presence throughout these last letters

Dear friends and readers,

This week we are chronologically up to one of the few openly vulnerable and near despairing letters of Jane Austen, this the first and only one we have to her younger brother, Charles, telling him how very ill she has been, of the shock and dismay of the family when upon the death of the wealthy uncle, James Leigh-Perrot, they learned he had deliberately misled them to believe he would relieved their exigent needs by immediate legacies, sorrow over what was thought to be the hopeless case of Charles’s young daughter, Harriet with her “water on the brain,” and Jane’s inability to travel without a hired coach, due to her weak and pained state. The second has a claim to uniqueness too: this is the only letter we have to Jane Austen by a member of her family (the others are business letters, letters from the Rev Clarke): written a day after hers to Charles, Edward Cooper proves himself not to be the fatuous cant-filled evangelical implied by Austen in an earlier letter, but someone perceptive and brave enough to put down in print his sense of a double-dealing betrayal. And twenty days later Jane Austen’s will as dictated to Cassandra.

Cooper’s letter first appeared in Richard A. Austen-Leigh’s invaluable edition of the Austen Papers, published in 1940. He was a grandson of Austen’s nephew, James-Edward Austen-Leigh, who was responsible for the memoir, publication of Lady Susan and The Watsons; and like his grandfather dedicated to publishing and sharing with the public papers about the life and work of Jane Austen; with his uncle William Austen-Leigh (one of James-Edward’s sons), he produced the family biography, Jane Austen: her Life and Letters, and by himself other articles and notes. The papers contain letters by nearly all the near family members of Jane Austen, and by her cousins, people related by marriage, including Mr and Mrs Austen, Henry and Frank Austen, Thomas Leigh, letters by and to Warren Hastings, a series by Eliza de Feuillide to her cousin Philadelphia Walter, letters of Jane Leigh-Perrot to a cousin, James-Edward Austen-Leigh’s letters. They begin with the important biographical explanation by Jane’s father’s grandmother as to how she and all her children but the eldest were deprived of an inheritance and how she worked all her life to try to provide enough for her sons to become gentlemen. They end with Francis’s letters late in life to interested Americans conceding that Harville (and by extention Wentworth) contain aspects of his character. He recognizes himself in them. The letters and documents are set up as correspondences so you can read with understanding of what was said and what is replied. Essential context for Jane’s letters and what is known of her intimate life. They were reprinted by Thoemmes Press in 1990 with an introduction by David Gilson.

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charles-austen
Charles Austen

157. To Charles Austen. Sunday, April 1817. Chawton

This is the letter before her will — as in the case of many women from the medieval period to the later 19th century (until 1870, the Married Women’s Property Act), it’s an informal letter signed by her — and co-signed. Most of such letters show a pathetic few belongings, cherished by the dying person, a tiny bequest. So here we have the bequest; after Jane died, Cassandra distributed Jane’s belongings and in lieu of the usual sheerly physical items, shared out writing by Jane.

Her letter to Charles tells of how sick she has been — unable to write “anything not absolutely necessary.” So that means she has not lost sufficient control of her consciousness to put together sentences. (I’ve seen that in cancer; the person cannot write at all, cannot understand what he or she reads.) Bilious attack is bile — she’s sick to her stomach, nausea, and it feels acidic. She’s had high fever.

But it is also a relapse — so she was this bad before. The news the uncle misled them and left everything to the stingy (kleptomaniac) corrosive-tongued aunt then hit her hard. Foolish she says, but she could not get over this important disappointment, understandably. She asked that Cassandra return from the funeral (so women did attend even if not at graveside). Mrs Austen, as ever phlegmatic on the outside, and, as people do often do, making excuses for that which hurt them (it’s an assertion the world is fair): oh he never expected his wife would outlive him.

No? he did make the will knowing the money was his.

Mrs Austen wishes her younger children had got something immediately — James got the vicarage, Edward adopted a rich man, and Frank doing very well with his prizes and working for private companies. But Charles in need and Jane with the small sums she’s made from her books.

Austen concedes the aunt is just now so miserable they are feeling more regard for her than they ever did before. To paraphrase Mr Bennet, not to worry, none of this would last, neither her affliction nor liking her more — and with good reason, especially James-Edward Austen-Leigh whose life she made a misery eventually by tyrannizing over him with threats of disinheritance. Now her immediate prostration makes them feel for her. Mrs L-P had lost her one companion and thorough friend.

Austen is not surprised at Harriet Palmer’s illness — well her older sister, dead in childbed, the infant dead, 4 children now to care for, one with a mysterious brain problem (perhaps autism of some sort now emerging), who would not be ill. Charles’s mother-in-law feeling better. Charles’s diaries show his real involvement. Apparently their cousin Cooke showed real kindness and affection — since this is not common, Austen rightly emphasizes this and wants to convey it. The Cookes are the same favored kindly Cookes of Bookham that we meet in Frances Burney d’Ablay’s life, and one of the few direct connections between FBA and Jane Austen. One might have expected some explicit talk by the Cookes about the Austens (including Jane and her novels) to enter FBA’s voluminous life-writing, but there is apparently no reference to Jane Austen at all. On the Cookes of Great Bookham, Jane’s two visits (1799, 1814), see Lucinda Brant, In Jane’s Visting Footsteps.

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The rectory, demolished 1961

In the PS she remembers that Harriet, the sister-in-law has been asking to see her. Perhaps to be nice, as Harriet must know how sick her sister’s husband’s sister was, Austen says she can only come if a hackney coach is sent (that costs, this is not a group which keeps carriages). A moment of levity that connects to some private teasing — she hope Cassy takes care the coach is green. Was green a favorite color of Cassy?.

She realizes she didn’t use black-edged paper to signal their mourning for the uncle.

She ends the letter itself with a “God bless you all” — more emotional than usual — and that Charles should “conclude me to be going well if you hear nothing the contrary.” Meaning no news is good news — shall I paraphrase Mr Bennet again? no, just say often for the powerless the best news is not to hear anything from anyone for why would they be contacting you? most letters are after all about business. There’s a telling dialogue about letters and how when you pay people they will work for real and continually (otherwise not is implied) in Emma between John Knightley and Jane, but I digress …

Diane Reynolds responded:

Ellen has covered this letter well, and despite Austen’s attempts at humor–that Cassy must send a green hackney chariot for Jane should Jane be needed to visit, it is arguably more relentlessly dark than anything we have yet read. She is badly ill and her illness magnified by the “shock” of the uncle’s will, leaving the bulk of the money to the (nasty) aunt. The will has “brought on a relapse.” But my sense from the Le Faye notes is that the “younger Austen children” — that would include Jane, no (?), would inherit a 1000 pounds each should the aunt pre-decease them. Maybe some of the shock is the misery ofJane knowing she won’t live long enough to inherit–or am I entirely misreading this?

Jane tries to rouse herself to better cheer in the middle of the letter, speaking of being “better this morning” and “coddled,” mentioning her mother never had great expectations from the inheritance, but wished more for her younger children–and sooner. JA even expresses sympathy for the misery of the aunt.

As I think of the great importance in Regency England of inheritance, I think too of the new book, Capital by Piketty, that posits we are turning a corner in the US where inheritance will assume such importance–a time when people will inherit more than the average person can earn in a lifetime. The importance of this loss to the
Austens was great.

In the last part of the letter, JA is back to illnesses — Miss Palmer and Harriet. But she tries to end on a more cheerful note, with the joke about the green chariot–which also communicates how ill she is.

See also Diana Birchall’s reading.

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EdwardCooper
Rev Edward Cooper, Rector of the Church of St Michael and All Angels, Hamstall Ridware, Jane Austen’s first cousin ( their mothers were sisters and granddaughters of Theophilus Leigh of Adlestrop)

Letter from Rev. Edward Cooper to Jane Austen -Hamstall, April 7, 1817

Edward Cooper’s letter is important because of the rarity of any letter to Jane Austen. That there is none other by any family member seems such an unexpected thorough-going absence it feels the result of an agreement, a plan. They all agreed to destroy whatever they had written to her — for surely some members of her family kept copies of what they had written. To us today it seems a lot of effort, but people did it; before computers when I was young people used carbon paper and thin tissue sheets to make typed and written copies. I also knew that ironically (and unfortunately) that Edward Cooper was someone who Jane Austen is down as to some extent despising, feeling he was somehow dull or ludicrous in his evangelical enthusiasm, or maybe it was that she wasn’t having any of it. He grated on her.

Now reading it in the light of all the letters we have, especially the most recent again we have an instance of Jane Austen maybe being wrong about people. Cooper seems not only intelligent but he appeals by his frankness; he is disappointed, he was led to believe he would be getting something. His letter confirms that the uncle was himself knowingly giving the wrong impression in order to make sure the family remained nice to him, grateful until he died. It’s interesting Cooper suggests he had reason to believe nonetheless he was “no great favorite” with the uncle; as far as we have documents (from James-Edward later and his daughter Mary), this might have been the aunt’s doing; it is just the sort of thing a Mrs Norris might do: sow discord to keep the uncle estranged from others and tied to her. Since we are not to speak ill of the dead Cooper turns round to say after he wants to think charitably of the uncle so if in thought or act the uncle did think unjustly of he, Cooper, he forgives the uncle. A bit absurd but no more than some of the contradictions on behalf of morality we find in other of the relatives’ letters (including Cassandra): when they get to heaven, they will understand one another.

Note though he does not want to write James, who as eldest son was one of the executors – thus could push things his own way and was to inherit after the aunt. (In the event James Austen predeceased Jane Leigh-Perrot.) He’s unwilling to write because he does feel uncomfortable in talking to someone who will be taking all the advantage of this title — so he foresees that James will somehow show off, not be tactful and asks that Jane ask her brother to lay aside this status. Also what is the requisite period of mourning? One black suit for his boys should be enough — he is thinking of the cost of mourning clothes, of dying the boys’ regular clothes.

The letter also shows that this man had no idea Jane was dying. Cassandra had told him both were unwell to explain why she Cassandra had no time to write. There is this strong tendency in this family to secrecy — as a girl Austen in her Juvenilia mocked this whispering secresy (especially one of her playlets), but by the time she was writing the novels it had been inculcated into her as thoroughly as any of George Austen’s children. In effect Edward Cooper has been lied to enough to fool him. There are no phones, no internet, no trains, no cars: it’s easy to fool people who are outside walking distance. To be fair, there is still a strong inhibition today against telling that someone is actually dying and when they have died, including cause of death in the obituary.

His tone would be quite different were he to know how ill his cousin, Jane, is. If you you look carefully you see the main evidence for Cooper’s dullness are quotations from Jane Austen — irritated by his overt perhaps proselytizing evangelicalism. The man was not a genius, but this is the letter of a frank person who is alive to the nuances of things around him and willing to articulate them (thus refreshing and giving us truths hard to find written down in the case of the Leigh-Perrots and now James).

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St Michael’s Church, Hamstall Ridware, Staffordshire (recent photo)

Again Diane:

It reinforces how the blow of the inheritance going to Aunt LP reverberated through the family. People needed and expected that money. Rev. Edward sounds utterly stunned — and is reaching out in shock to a sympathetic party, which meant JA’s attitude, as well the expectations of she and her sister and mother, must have been known to him. I find it interesting that he wrote to her, even though he knew she was sick, rather than her mother or Cassandra. He evidently felt more assured that she would feel as he did. Obviously, this is also a way to avoid writing a letter to James he simply can’t bear to write — he seemingly can rely on Jane to be a tactful–or at least reliable — intermediate.

Given that this was a family that gives no sign of pie in the sky fantasies or wishful thinking, people truly were led to believe they would inherit, leading one to suspect a level of cruelty in this whole affair. We feel how far up the class ladder the lack of social safety net went–these gentry people really needed this money. This appears to have the shock the unexpected loss of a good job would have on a modern person–or perhaps the shock of the sudden closing down of a business that had employed more than one family member.

For a gathering together of what is known about Edward Cooper and what Jane wrote see Jane Austen in Vermont, a 2013 Midlands tour to the UK.

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MmdeBigeon
Sylvie Herbert as Madame Bigeon — showing real identification and interest — in the film she dines with the family, sits by Jane in front of their London fire (Miss Austen Regrets, 2008)

It does not seem out of place to reprint Jane Austen’s will here too — numbered as one of the letters in Deirdre LeFaye’s edition:

158. To Cassandra Austen
Sunday 27 April 1817

I Jane Austen of the Parish of Chawton do by this my last Will & Testament give and bequeath to my dearest Sister Cassandra Elizabeth every thing of which I may die possessed, or which may be hereafter due to me, subject to the payment of my Funeral Expences, & to a Legacy of £50. to my Brother Henry, & £50. to Mde Bigeon – -which I request may be paid as soon as convenient. And I appoint my said dear Sister the Executrix of this my last Will & Testament.

Jane Austen
April 27, 1817.
My Will.-
To Miss Austen

Jane Austen had a very bad day or night indeed, so harrowing they thought she was near death. Most comments are on the 50 pounds to Madame Bigeon, but we could equally wonder why Austen felt she owed Henry 50. She might have wanted to send this sum to Madame Bigeon to signal to Madame how grateful she felt towards Madame for her years of faithful friendly work for Henry and herself. We should remember that throughout Austen’s letters once she is in Bath we find she is friendly with servants, sometimes eats with them, takes books out of the library for them, treats them with respect, and then and in later years (at Godmersham for example), identifies herself with governesses in the great houses where she is a visitor.

Diana Birchall:

Solemn and moving. It is time. All to Cassandra, who will be Executrix (interesting that women, denied so much, could do that), except for legacies of fifty pounds to Henry (who needs it) and the same to Mme. Bigeon, his housekeeper.

Ellen

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cassandra-austen
Cassandra Austen — as close as we come to an image of her made during her lifetime

Do pray meet with somebody belonging to yourself. — I am quite weary of your knowing nobody. — Jane

Dear friends and readers,

This very long letter may be the last Jane wrote to Cassandra: our documents begin on 10 January 1796 and end 20 years later. It is a very long one, such as we’ve not had since Southampton, perhaps wholly saved and unmutilated because it is the last one saved. No 158 in LeFaye’s edition is Jane’s will addressed to Cassandra in the form of a letter, and reminds me of the few 17th and 18th century wills by women I’ve read: similarly leaving a very few personal belongings and small sum of money.

As last week’s penultimate letter come down to us in fragments may have faced up to the reality of whatever this grave illness was doing and going to do to her; this whole one is written in an implicit denial and pretense that all is fundamentally (approved by Cassandra — ever keeping the conventional front from 1796 on). When we come upon letters like these, in effect journal-entries, we realize, Austen’s letters resemble Frances Burney D’Arblay’s, at least in their first versions, written to a beloved or trusted person recording her life as it unfolded.

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145. To Cassandra Austen
Sunday 8-Monday 9 September 1816
Chawton, Sunday Sept: 8.

My dearest Cassandra

I have borne the arrival of your Letter today extremely well; anybody might have thought it was giving me pleasure. –I am very glad you find so much to be satisfied with at Cheltenham. While the Waters agree, every thing else is trifling. — A Letter arrived for you from Charles last Thursday. They are all safe, & pretty well in Keppel Street, the Children decidedly better for Broadstairs, & he writes principally to ask when it will be convenient to us to receive Miss Palmer, the little girls & himself. — They will be ready to set off in ten days from the time of his writing, to pay their visits in Hampshire & Berkshire — & he would prefer coming to Chawton first. I have answered him & said, that we hoped it might suit them to wait till the last week in September, as we could not ask them sooner, either on your account, or the want of room. I mentioned the 23d, as the probable day of your return. — When you have once left Cheltenham, I shall grudge every half day wasted on the road. If there were but a coach from Hungerford to Chawton! — I have desired him to let me hear again soon. — He does not include a Maid in the list to be accomodated [sic], but if they bring one, as I suppose they will, we shall have no bed in the house even then for Charles himself — let alone Henry. But what can we do? — We shall have the Great House [Chawton mansion] quite at our command; — it is to be cleared of the Papillons Servants in a day or two; — they themselves have been hurried off into Essex to take possession — not of a large Estate left them by an Uncle — but to scrape together all they can I suppose of the effects of a Mrs Rawstorn a rich old friend & cousin, suddenly deceased, to whom they are joint Executors. So, there is a happy end of the Kentish Papillons coming here.

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Broadstairs, contemporary advertising photograph: August 2008

She begins sometime Saturday. The opening paragraph is about Charles and his family. Charles is said to have been strained and depressed after the shipwreck and court martial so a trip to the seacoast was tried: Broadstairs is a coastal town on the Isle of Thanet in the Thanet district of east Kent, England, about 80 miles (130 km) east of London. but it’s embedded in her missing Cassandra badly and not hiding that at all: she shows the difficulties they have accommodating people in their small cottage (recalling the Dashwood’s Barton cottage in Sense and Sensibility). Note how Charles taking responsibility for his sister-in-law — eventually his second wife. Austen grudges days lost from Cassandra — she knows her time is limited? where shall they put him, let alone Henry. The big house will come in usefully, and then Charles and family are off to pay visits — almost like a couple introducing themselves I’d say …

Then an anecdote which shows the desperate behavior of these people when it comes to money. The Papillons have rushed off the way we saw some of Mrs Austen’s relatives do some years before. Not a large estate either, but scraping together what may be grabbed by sheer possession. Jane is not sorry the Papillons will not be in Kent any more. There is a good deal of her old hardness here. Maybe we have not seen it because the letters containing it were destroyed. We have always to remember there are no job ads to get a job in this world, only the beginning of employment bureaus in London, and the way to climb is inherit, marry or patronage (which often comes down to bribes). No meritocracy (not that ours exists any more either — or only a remnant).

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A walk by moonlight

The paper shows her writing on the next page so perhaps she broke off that Saturday and is continuing noon Sunday and she explains why:

No morning service to day, wherefore I am writing between 12 & 1 o’clock — Mr Benn in the afternoon — & likewise more rain again, by the look & the sound of things, You left us in doubt of Mrs Benn’s situation, but she has bespoke her Nurse. — Mrs. F.A. [Frank’s wife] seldom either looks or appears quite well. — Little Embryo is troublesome I suppose. — They dined with us yesterday, & had fine weather both for coming & going home, which has hardly ever happened to them before. — She is still unprovided with a Housemaid. — Our day at Alton was very pleasant — Venison quite right — Children well-behaved — & Mr and Mrs Digweed taking kindly to our Charades, & other Games. — I must also observe, for his Mother’s satisfaction, that Edward at my suggestion, devoted himself very properly to the entertainment of Miss S. Gibson. — Nothing was wanting except Mr Sweney; but he alas! had been ordered away to London the day before. — We had a beautiful walk home by Moonlight. — Thank you, my Back has given me scarcely any pain for many days. — I have an idea that agitation does it as much harm as fatigue, & that I was ill at the time of your going, from the very circumstance of your going. — I am nursing myself up now into as beautiful a state as I can, because I hear that Dr White means to call on me before he leave the Country. —

She writes between 12 and 1 because there is no morning service. The nearly destitute Miss Benn died some time back, so the reference to the Mr and Mrs Benn are to other members of the family. As we saw Anna so troubled with endless pregancies so Frank’s wife continues to be, the famous sharp line: “Little Embryo is troublesome I suppose.” No housemaid. But a pleasant afternoon was had. She remembers to write for Mary Lloyd Austen’s satisfaction that JEAL did devote himself to the entertainment of one Miss Gibson — a relative of Mary’s (Frank’s wife). So Mary is trying to engineer her son’s marital fate. Jane does seem to have enjoyed the games, charades (word games after all), and then this. After writing “We had a beautiful walk home by Moonlight” the association of walking causes her to offer a diagnosis which seems sound: emotional distress does her back as much harm as physical fatigue, and she was ill because Cassandra had been leaving her. This is unusually frank.

Austen may be joking still — again about a supposed suitor, John White (1759-1821), who had been a chaplain and physician to the Gibraltar garrison, practiced as a surgeon in Alton and Salisbury (LeFaye’s biographical notes). She writes as she does as a way of denying how bad she is beginning to or does look at this point. From her earliest years when she registered three marriages for herself in her father’s parish register to this point (see Paula Byrne’s The Real Jane Austen, “The Marriage Banns”) to when she’s gravely ill and moving into dying, she makes fun of courtship and marriage — and also in Sanditon grave illness and death itself. It was her way of dealing with pressure and trauma.

Perhaps it is not amiss to point out here as we come to the end of her life that Austen’s gay flirtations and (more probably) conversations about books with Haden were great fun and a solace for her (and a bit of rivalry she didn’t mind pretending to), and that she did experience pressure to marry in Bath, but once she did become the respected author among them (after the publication of Sense and Sensibility), that and her age, and the lack of full pressure before, ended all serious thought of any marriage. She was never much pressured by them — or the letters that recorded this have been destroyed. Ditto on teaching or, say, becoming someone’s companion which both Martha Lloyd and Anne Sharpe did for money. There are no letters remaining to suggest she was ever so pressured — but perhaps she was implicitly or explicitly — giving rise to some of the bitterness about teaching in The Watsons and Emma, and some of the sudden outcries in the novels and letters to never marry without affection and respect for your partner.

***********************

MadamePerigord
From Miss Austen Regrets 2008: Sylvie Herbert as Madame Bigeon (Madame Pericord was Madame Bigeon’s daughter)

Evening. — Frank & Mary & the Children visited us this morning. — Mr & Mrs Gibson are to come on the 23d — & there is too much reason to fear they will stay above a week. — Little George could tell me where you were gone to, as well as what you were to bring him, when I asked him the other day. — Sir Thomas Miller is dead. I treat you with a dead Baronet in almost every Letter. — So, you have Charlotte Craven among you, as well as the Duke of Orleans & Mr Pococke. But it mortifies me that you have not added one to the stock of common acquaintance. Do pray meet with somebody belonging to yourself. — I am quite weary of your knowing nobody. —

It’s now evening that Sunday and Austen reports further that she did have a pleasant morning with her brother, Mary and their children. But she is not similarly keen on Mary’s relatives. Bad news they will stay for “above a week.” Little George knows about Cassandra but not Austen — why is that,Austen asks teasingly. Something is being kept from her, and then her old self steps forth for a moment: “Sir Thomas Miller is dead, I treat you with a dead baronet in almost every letter.” Like LeFaye (who characteristically offers a longer note on the aristocracy) Cassandra offers news of the upper class in Cheltenham, but Jane sees through this or comments, who cares? These are not people you or I know and she would rather hear of Cassandra gaining one acquaintance or friend. The ironic tone registers her awareness of how hard this is in an exclusive society.

Appropriate Austen then turns to the real people she and Cassandra do know: servants, ordinary folk around them, relatives, including Edward’s son, and Anna (who we see Austen again put off visiting); servant-friends in distress (the Perigords) and the perpetually unlucky Anna Sharpe, the people Miss Sharpe works for and lives with, a doctor and his wife at the seaside resort who took pity on her (like Martha often unwell) hand finally Mrs Jane West whom Austen earlier spoke of in just this tone of semi-amazement not at what she wrote but that she wrote it at all.

Mrs Digweed parts with both Hannah & old Cook, the former will [po 3] not give up her Lover, who is a Man of bad Character, the Latter is guilty only of being unequal to anything. — Miss Terry was to have spent this week with her Sister, but as usual it is put off. My amiable friend knows the value of her company. — I have not seen Anna since the day you left us, her Father & Brother visited her most days. — Edward & Ben called here on Thursday. Edward was in his way to Selborne. We found him very agreable. He is come back from France, thinking of the French as one could wish, disappointed in every thing. He did not go beyond Paris.-I have a letter from Madame Perigord, she & her Mother are in London again; — she speaks of France as a scene of general Poverty & Misery, — no Money, no Trade — nothing to be got but by the Innkeepers — & as to her own present prospects, she is not much less melancholy than before. — I have also a letter from Miss Sharp, quite one of her Letters; — she has been again obliged to exert herself more than ever — in a more distressing, more harrassed state — & has met with another excellent old Physician & his Wife, with every virtue under Heaven, who takes to her & cures her from pure Love & Benevolence. — Dr & Mrs Storer are their [her?] Mr & Miss Palmer — for they are at Bridlington. I am happy to say however that the sum of the account is better than usual. Sir William is returned; from Bridlington they go to Chevet, & she is to have a Young Governess under her. — I enjoyed Edward’s company very much, as I said before, & yet I was not sorry when friday came. It had been a busy week, & I wanted a few days quiet, & exemption from the Thought & contrivances which any sort of company gives. — I often wonder how you can find time for what you do, in addition to the care of the House; — And how good Mrs West could have written such Books & collected so many hard words, with all her family cares, is still more a matter of astonishment! Composition
seems to me Impossible, with a head full of Joints of Mutton & doses of rhubarb. —

Mrs Digwood fires Hannah and an old cook because the cook (!) will not give up her lover said to have a bad character, but Austen thinks he is guilty only of “being unequal to anything.” In other words he wouldn’t be a servant himself. Austen tells truths about servants when she knows it. Mrs Digweed emerges as a kind of Fanny Dashwood here.

A sharp observation about how Miss Mary Terry (a contemporary living in the village — her family described in LeFaye’s notes) is not coming again “as usual” and “my amiable friend”, Miss Terry’s sister, knows the value of her company. The sarcasm works several ways: the friend is also not so amiable, Miss Terry’s company is not of much value. Anyway she doesn’t want to come but is unwilling to say so and so they play a fake social game. Austen does not like this sort of thing.

Poor Anna: reduced to visits by father and brother – she can’t go out, too weak and ill. Her second baby, Julia Cassandra, was born at Wyards on 27 September, only eleven months after Jemima’s birth. She, her father and brother do appear to have been a congenial trio. Then prejudice against the French as a group. Things were not going well just after the Napolenic wars collapsed – Henry not the only one to go bankrupt. She’s glad Edward (brother to Ben, Anna’s husband) was disappointed in everything.

Three of Austen’s friends — all single women — in distress. Mrs Perigord and mother, Madame Bigeon, Henry’s servants in London – Madame Perigord’s husband early on deserted. Austen left Madame Bigeon a small sum in her will. General poverty misery no trade no money nothing to be got but by the innkeepers (who get from tourism and people moving about). Henry had to let them go … Miss Sharp has sent one of her letters: it’s typical and Jane likes it: “quite one of her letters.” Miss Sharp, we recall, had been a governess at Godmersham where she and Austen became good friends. Suffering yet again, more distressed, more harassed, has been taken in by a decent couple who Austen likens to Mr and Mrs Palmer – so we now have some agreeable words about those Palmers at last. I do not know the details about the people Miss Sharp is involved with and this is just the sort of thing an edition of letters is supposed to do. LeFaye is supposed to tell us who Sir William is in relation to Miss Sharp, how he’s returned, why from Bridlington to Chevet and suggest (you are allowed to do this) why the “sum total” is on the whole Miss Sharp has weathered some more miseries of her existence as a governess. She is to haved a young governess under her

Finally, Austen glad of JEAL’s company and yet relieved when he went. People are a burden to one another – “a busy week, & I wanted a few days quiet & exemption from Thought & Contrivances, which any sort of company gives.” This does suggest her health was better since she was entertaining these people. How does Cassandnra find time to cater to people this way and keep a house. Paula Byrne states unequivocally how Austen disliked Jane West’s fiction but the next comment is the third in the letters where she speaks affectionately and fondly of the author as someone she identifies with – West had children so Austen sees her as having to cook and provide “Composition seems to me Impossible, with a head full of Joints of Mutton & doses of rhubarb. Rhubarb is given to regulate one’s digestive and execretory systems. This does tell us she was trying to write her novels still.

**********************

caughtinrain
1983 Mansfield Park: Fanny (Sylvestre Le Tousel) caught in the rain

Only this last part is Monday and the weather has gone bad again – Austen knows she is not far away from Cassandra and judges Cheltenham weather by their own (They did not have a weather channel.)

Monday. Here is a sad morning — I fear you may not have been able to get to the Pump. The two last days were very pleasant. — I enjoyed them the more for your sake. — But today, it is really bad enough to make you all cross. — I hope Mary will change her Lodgings at the fortnight’s end; I am sure, if you looked about well, you would find others in some odd corner, to suit you better. Mrs Potter charges for the name of the High Street — Success to the Pianoforte! I trust it will drive you away. — We hear now that there is to be no Honey this year. Bad news for us. — We must husband our present stock of Mead; & I am sorry to perceive that our 20 Galloons is very nearly out. — I cannot comprehend how the 14 Gallons could last so long. —

We do not much like Mr [Edward] Cooper’s new Sermons — they are fuller of Regeneration & Conversion than ever –with the addition of his zeal in the cause of the Bible Society. – -Martha’s love to Mary & Caroline, & she is extremely glad to find they like the Pelisse. — The Debarys are indeed odious! – -We are to see my Brother tomorrow, but for only one night. — I had no idea that he would care for the Races, without Edward. — Remember me to all. Yours very affectionately J. Austen
Miss Austen
Post Office
Cheltenham

Sad morning. The last two Jane says she enjoyed for Cassandra’s sake. I’ve come across this idea: we are supposed to enjoy ourselves for someone else’s sake – because they would want us to (we may be told). This a reference to her illness. But today bad enough to make you all cross. Now a reference to Mary Lloyd Austen as a difficult personality I suggest. Apparently Cassandra subject to Mary Lloyd Austen and Jane hopes Mary will change the lodging at the end of the next two weeks. Cassandra and Mary’s visit is made to feel interminable. So Mary has been cross; Mrs Potter over-charging for name of street anyway. A pianoforte has been bothering them – imagine a boarding house. Jane wishes it success in driving them away and finding some odd corner or other (I like her tone here) that is much cheaper. Another reading: Cassandra does not like the lodging and Jane hopes for her it will “drive” Mary and by extension, Cassandra, her forced companion, away.

That there is no honey means less homemade wine. Jane liked to drink wine we know, enjoyed it – home-made wine is heavy and sweet, probably nournishing. Austen surprised by how fats the 20 gallons went when 14 before lasted so long. This is indeed life’s trivia.

The statement about Edward Cooper, Austen’s cousin, shows the limits of Austen’s sympathies with evangelicals. His is one of the few letters to her that has survived (in The Austen Papers): it suggests a dull mind, someone without any sense of insight into the person he is writing to. As with More, Austen did not like the insistent didacticism and pomposity. She earlier mentioned Cooper when after Elizabeth Austen’s death she hoped one of Cooper’s letters of “cruel comfort” would not be sent. The book in question is Two Sermons Preached in the Old and New Churches at Wolverhampton, preparatory to the Establishment of a Bible-Institution, published in 1816. The “zeal” Austen refers to is everywhere: it is that of a man who has had a conversion experience and expects others to have had the same. He had earlier written tirades: Sermons of 1809, according to Paula Byrne, is one of these nagging books: it insists on the necessity that the reader experience conversion. Richard Wright in his Native Son explains how such attitudes permeating a particular church and environment can literally terrorize and shame a person not susceptible and force that person into faking a conversion experience.

In closing Martha there – always there it seems, now in Jane’s decline — sends love to Mary and Caroline. So Caroline with Cassandra and her mother. Glad they like the pelisse – made by Martha? Austen validates whatever Cassandra said about the Debarrys: “The Debarys are indeed odious. The brother coming – is it Edward himself or Henry? Austen did not think he would enjoy the races without Edward’s son. And a brief cordial close.

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Sanditonfirstpage
The first page of Sanditon manuscript

And so ends the letters that we have to Cassandra. When Cassandra came home, and took one look at Jane, she did not travel away again except the one last visit to Winchester. She may have written others and these were destroyed. Notes while home say or short stays elsewhere we don’t know about. But we do not have them. Austen is still working on Catherine and the novel that Austen does not give any title to: Persuasion. There will be one more intensely forced attempt: the draft of Sanditon written in a height of Intensity: it’s dated as begun 17 January 1817, and put down 18 March 1817.

Ellen

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emma-first-editionblog
Emma — the first edition in question

Henry is an excellent patient, lies quietly in bed & is ready to swallow anything …

Tuesday is in my brain …

Dear friends and readers,

A separate blog for an important letter — it is rich with matter. It introduces another phase of the letters (121-133), about Austen’s publication as a respected author, of Emma, with ensuing correspondence by Henry to John Murray, Jane to Murray; the letters to the Prince Regent’s librarian, James Stanier Clarke, whom, like it or not, represented a rare meeting for Jane Austen with a professed and actual literary person, with connections. Henry falls ill, partly under a strain from coming bankruptcy.

HadenHenryblog
Jack Huston as Haden and Adrian Edmondson as Henry (Miss Austen Regrets, 2008)

We glimpse from afar one possible flirtation: with William Seymour, Henry’s firm’s lawyer, and we will see another (her rival Fanny Austen Knight) Charles Haden, the apothecary hired to help during Henry’s momentarily grave illness.

No less important in understanding the atmosphere and milieu that Jane did have to live in daily: niece Caroline sends a manuscript of her novel for her aunt to read.

We begin with the text:

Tuesday 17- Wednesday 18 October 1815
Hans Place, Tuesday Oct. 17.

My dear Cassandra

Thank you for your two Letters. I am very glad the new Cook begins so well. Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness — Mr Murray’s Letter is come; he is a Rogue of course, but a civil one. He offers £450 — but wants to have the Copyright of MP. & S&S included. It will end in my publishing for myself I dare say. — He sends more praise however than I expected. It is an amusing Letter. You shall see it. — Henry came home on Sunday & we dined the same day with the Herrieses — a large family party — clever & accomplished. — I had a pleasant visit the day before. Mr Jackson is fond of eating & does not much like Mr or Miss Papillon — What weather we have — What shall we do about it? — The 17th of October & summer still! Henry is not quite well — a bilious bilious attack with fever — he came back early from Harley Street yesterday & went to bed — the comical consequence of which was that Mr Seymour & I dined together tete-a-tete. — He is calomeling & therefore in a way to be better & I hope may be well tomorrow. The Creeds of Hendon dine here today, which is rather unlucky – for he will hardly be able to shew himself — they are all Strangers to me. He has asked Mr Tilson to come & take his place. I doubt our being a very agreable pair. — We are engaged tomorrow to Cleveland Row — I was there yesterday morning. — There seems no idea now of Mr Gordon’s going to Chawton — nor of any of the family coming here at present. Many of them are sick. Wednesday.–

Henry’s illness is more serious than I expected. He has been in bed since three o’clock on Monday. It is a fever — something bilious, but cheifly Inflammatory. I am not alarmed — but I have determined to send this Letter today by the post, that you may know how things are going on. There is no chance of his being able to leave Town on Saturday. I asked Mr Haden that question today. — Mr Haden is the apothecary from the corner of Sloane Street — successor to Mr Smith, a young Man said to be clever, & he is certainly very attentive & appears hitherto to have understood the complaint. There is a little pain in the Chest, but it is not considered of any consequence. Mr Haden calls it a general Inflammation. — He took twenty ounces of Blood from Henry last night — & nearly as much more this morning — & expects to have to bleed him again tomorrow, but he assures me that he found him quite as much better today as he expected. Henry is an excellent Patient, lies quietly in bed & is ready to swallow anything. He lives upon Medicine, Tea & Barley water. — He has had a great deal of fever, but not much pain of any sort — & sleeps pretty well. — His going to Chawton will probably end in nothing, as his Oxfordshire Business is so near; — as for myself, You may be sure I shall return as soon as I can.

Tuesday is in my brain, but you will feel the Uncertainty of it. — I want to get rid of some of my Things, & therefore shall send down a parcel by Collier on Saturday. Let it be paid for on my own account.- It will be mostly dirty Cloathes — but I shall add Martha’s Lambswool, your Muslin Handkerchiefs.-(India at 3/6) your Pens, 3 shillings & some articles for Mary, if I receive them in time from Mrs Hore. — Cleveland Row of course is given up. Mr Tilson took a note there this morning. Till yesterday afternoon I was hoping that the Medicine he had taken, with a good night’s rest would set him quite to rights. I fancied it only Bile — but they they say the disorder must have originated in a Cold.

You must fancy Henry in the back room upstairs — & I am generally there also, working or writing. — I wrote to Edward yesterday, to put off our Nephews till friday. I have a strong idea of their Uncle’s being well enough to like seeing them [tornJ that time. — I shall write to you next by my parcel — two days hence — unless there is anything particular to be communicated before, always excepted.–

The post has this moment brought me a letter from Edward. He is likely to come here on Tuesday next, for a day or two’s necessary business in his Cause.

Mrs Hore wishes to observe to Frank & Mary that she doubts their finding it answer to have Chests of Drawers bought in London, when the expense of carriage is considered. The two Miss Gibsons called here on Sunday, & brought a Letter from Mary, which shall also be put into the parcel. Miss Gibson looked particularly well. — I have not been able to return their call. — I want to get to Keppel Street again if I can, but it must be doubtfuL — The Creeds are agreable People themselves, but I fear must have had a very dull visit. —

I long to know how Martha’s plans go on. If you have not written before, write by Sunday’s post to Hans
Place. — I shall be more than ready for news of you by that time. — A change of weather at last! –Wind & Rain — Mrs Tilson has just called. ~ Poor Woman, she is quite a wretch, always ill. — God bless you.-
Yours affectionately
JA

Uncle Henry was very much amused with Cassy’s message, but if she were here now with the red shawl she woul make him laugh more than do him good. —
Miss Austen
Chawton
Alton
[Letters missing here J

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SwallowAnythingblog
Adrian Edmondson as Henry Austen (Miss Austen Regrets, 2009) who will swallow anything

First Diana’s reading:

“Writing to Cassandra from London, Jane Austen starts out in pleasantly epigrammatic manner: “Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness,” she remarks, about the new cook. Then turning to her letter from the publisher John Murray, she delivers her famous quote: “He is a rogue of course, but a civil one.” Like a sharp businessman, he offers £450 for Emma – but “wants to have the Copyright of MP and S&S included. It will end in my publishing for myself I dare say. – He sends more praise however than I expected. It is an amusing Letter. You shall see it.”

There are some cheerful goings-on – Henry has returned, they dined with the Herries family, a large party of friends, “clever and accomplished,” and the day before was a pleasant visit with Mr. Jackson who “is fond of eating and does not like Mr. or Miss P.” Mr. Jackson, Deirdre tells us, married Miss Sarah Papillion. The Papillions were distant connections of the Knights, but more importantly, the Jacksons had three daughters, one of whom, Eleanor was to marry Henry Austen in 1820.

One more joking epigrammatic remark: “What weather we have! – What shall we do about it?” It’s summer still. And then the tone turns more serious. “Henry is not quite well – a bilious attack with fever – he came back from H. St yesterday & went to bed – the comical consequence of which was that Mr. Seymour & I dined tete a tete.” Wiliam Seymour was Henry’s friend and lawyer, a widower who contemplated proposing to Jane Austen but never did. Interestingly, I see that he is also the man who offered Jane Austen’s novel Susan to the publisher B. Crosby & Co.! Makes sense, as who better to do this business than Henry’s lawyer. It is of Seymour that Jane Austen writes in her signed “MAD” letter of 5 April 1809: “In the Spring of the year 1803 a MS Novel in 2 vol. entitled Susan was sold to you by a Gentleman of the name of Seymour, & the purchase money £10 recd. at the same time.”

However, a brisk search turns up many mentions of Seymour’s contemplated proposal but maddeningly no citations! He is said to have told Henry he would like to seek her hand, and he once escorted her from London to Chawton, but never made the proposal. The vague attributions are to Deirdre’s A Family Record, 2004 edition, but my edition is older and doesn’t have this reference. And nowhere does it say where Deirdre got her information. Argghh. Maybe someone else can find this? A Persuasions article by Deirdre cites her own article, “Jane Austen’s Laggard Suitor.” Notes and Queries ns 47 245.3 (Sept. 2000): 301-04. but I don’t have that lying around.

Jane continues about Henry, “He is calomeling & therefore in a way to be better & I hope may be well tomorrow.” A reminder (as if the vague mentions of bile and fever weren’t enough) how bad was medicine of the period; calomel is toxic mercury used at that period as purgative and laxative – we may recall how it wrecked the health of Louisa May Alcott. Still Jane is not seriously alarmed, and makes the social rearrangements necessary in Henry’s illness: “The Creeds of Hendon dine here today, which is rather unlucky – for he will hardly be able to show himself – & they are all Strangers to me. He has asked Mr. Tilson to come & take his place. I doubt our being a very agreable pair.” Deirdre’s biographical notes are unsatisfactory; she tells us that a Catherine Herries married 1813 Henry Knowles Creed, who later took Holy Orders, and that a Mr. William Creed and daughter “were living in Hampstead, near Hendon, in 1795, and in 1815 a Mr. H. Creed was living at 19 Hans Place, who may be the same HKC.” Well maybe he is and maybe he isn’t; but I do myself note that Hendon is where Anna and her husband were living recently, so maybe there’s some connection.

Mr. Gordon, a business friend of Henry’s, won’t be going to Chawton, nor any of the family coming here, for “Many of them are sick.” Then she writes the next day (Wednesday): “Henry’s illness is more serious than I expected. He has been in bed since three o’clock on Monday. It is a fever – something bilious, but cheifly Inflammatory. I am not alarmed – but I have determined to send this Letter today by the post, that you may know how things are going on.”

Mr. Haydon is called in. He is “the apothecary from the corner of Sloane St – successor to Mr. Smith, a young man said to be clever, & he is certainly very attentive & appears hitherto to have understood the complaint. There is a little pain in the Chest, but it is not considered of any consequence. Mr. H. calls it a general inflammation.” (Deirdre tells us he is Charles-Thomas Haden, not Haydon as Jane wrote it, 1786-1824), apothecary and surgeon, and a few more details about him, including that he was “delighted with Emma.”)

Then back to the ghastly period medicine: “He took twenty ounce of Blood from Henry last night – & nearly as much more this morng – & expects to have to bleed him again tomorrow, but he assures me that he found him quite as much better today as he expected.” Eeek! We have 12 units of blood in an average-sized man’s body, there’s 15.2 ounces in a unit. So if this much blood was taken from Henry in two days, that’s 60 ounces – that’s 4 units – A THIRD OF THE BLOOD IN HENRY’S BODY!! Can that be POSSIBLE? Holy cow. It’s no wonder Byron died partly from excessive blood letting…as well as many others. Reading about blood letting (Wiki), I see this is pretty standard treatment for “inflammation,” and the article says succinctly, “some successful, some not.”

Poor Henry “is an excellent Patient, lies quietly in bed & is ready to swallow anything. He lives upon Medicine, Tea & Barley water. – He has had a great deal of fever, but not much pain of any sort – & sleeps pretty well.” Jane Austen writes of the arrangements – she will send down a parcel to Chawton (“mostly dirty Cloathes but I shall add Martha’s Lambswool, your Muslin Handks…”) She fancied the illness “only Bile – but they say, the disorder must have originated in a Cold. You must fancy Henry in the back room upstairs – & I am generally there also, working or writing.”

She says she wrote to Edward to put off their nephews till Friday, “I have a strong idea of their Uncle’s being well enough to like seeing them by that time.” Edward himself is likely to come next Tuesday, “for a day or two’s necessary business in his Cause” (the Hinton lawsuit).

More chatter: advice to Frank and Mary from a Mrs. Hore about furniture (she seems to be a relation of Mary’s), and more of Mary’s relations, the Gibsons, have called, but JA could not return their call, nor get to Keppel Street, home of Charles’s wife’s family. The weather has changed, rainy now, and Mrs. Tilson has called, “quite a wretch, always ill.”

She closes with an unaccustomed “God bless you,” perhaps showing her anxiety, but to ease Cassandra’s, she mentions that Henry was amused by a message from Cassy, and if she was there “she wd make him laugh more than wd do him good.”

She is trying to be reassuring, but Deirdre’s note tells us that Henry “grew worse, and on Sunday 22 October JA wrote by express post to Cassandra, James, and Edward. Edward set off immediately for London on 23 October, James collected Cassandra from Chawton and they arrived in London on 25 October.”
This is not reflected in the letters, but I’ll end here, and take up the rest of the story next week.

Diana”

****************
My response and additions:

PleasedAuthorblog
Henry’s Hans Place provides a congenial atmosphere for socializing: Olivia Williams as Jane now proud of her publishing (Miss Austen Regrets, 2008)

This is an important letter: real news of dealings over Emma (followed by a remnant of a letter by Henry to Murray), we see that Austen is dealing with a pre-eminent publisher of her day by this time. Her stature is coming along; whatever might be the stupidities of the remarks she copies out or the press, all three novels, S&S, P&P, and MP have been recognized as finished fine novels, moral, of a highly intelligent writer. Whence the review by none other than Scott of mostly Emma (we’ll come to that later).

Henry’s sickness. Details of medicine, his strain over coming bankruptcy coming out? More suitors? Henry looking for a wife, Henry’s friends and associates attracted to his sister? Mr Seymour, the so-called “laggard suitor” (the phrase is LeFaye’s) is said to have been someone who at least thought of proposing, was involved with the attempt to publish Northanger Abbey as Susan in 1803. A relationship with Haden, the apothecary begun.

One of the segments of Miss Austen Regrets conveys very well the sequence where Henry sickens, the bleeding, the real worry, and intertwine it accurately enough with the visit of Austen to Clarke. There they fictionalize by having Haydon the go-between, or (perhaps this is what was meant) someone accompanying her in the coach.

Both highly unlikely, but that there was a flirtation and real interest in this young man in Austen I am persuaded and the movie does justice — but not too much as he is attracted to the younger Fanny more (as the letters seem to suggest). It’s of interest that they call an apothecary; such a person is much less expensive, plus (to us paradoxically) apothecaries were more likely to hand out remedies, what passed for medicine. As today status is all in professions throughout the 19th century a man who made and sold medicines was of a muc lower stature than a surgeon (who could perform things) and surgeon lower than physician (theoretical). The doctor was gentleman, could and did dine with the family (remember Mr Gibson of Wives and Daughters), surgeons were lower and (paradoxically to us) took the title of Dr (Dr Thorne of Trollope’s novel of that name). There was slide though and Lydgate in Middlemarch is both surgeon and learned physician, but then he was a reformer (Deerbrooke by Harriet Martineau is another book which explores this). And here’s Val Sanborn’s good discussion in her Jane Austen’s worlds:

WE have one of the rare spots in the letters which makes for important Tuesdays however enigmatic. “Tuesday is in my brain.” I know this can be interpreted locally but the phrase itself is suggestive of something much more.

Cassandra hired a new cook — things looking up. Jane liked to eat and to drink. The phrase “domestic happiness” is redolent of 18th century values.

The publication of Emma: I add to Diana’s comments: Jane, Henry and Murray compromised in the end: published and advertised on 21, 22, 23 December 1815, Murray brought it out, but at the Austen’s expense with profits to her after 10 per cent commission to publisher, with copyright remaining hers. I wish we had that “amusing” letter – what was amusing about it, I wonder. His hypocrisy and dealings over money because in the next letter we find that Henry was not amused — but he is often austere and slightly disdainful, anything but pleased in his letters meant for public consumption.

Murray was not wrong to offer a lower price; when the price of the expensively printed book was set against the profits for it and a second edition of Mansfield Park, Jane Austen got only £121 and then £38 18. In fact she’d have done better to take the 450. (It’s not true that one should always hold onto copyrights if the case if you can get a large sum for a first copy; Trollope took big fees for his books upfront, sold the copyright and did very well — he didn’t want to be bothered with later cheaper editions, trying to make more money that way. ) By 1820, 529 copies of Emma were still in stock! There are similar disappointing figures for the second edition of Mansfield Park (the first sold briskly aftter P&P; so 1820 498 copies still on hand and remaindered). By contrast, the post-humous publication of NA and Persuasion did much better (1818 only 312 ot of 1,750 copies printed left with a profit of £ 515 17s 7d for Cassandra and Henry) — perhaps attention had been attraced by _telling her name_ and offering biogrpahy. That’s the way of the world. The clearest least tendentious account of this with numbers is by David Gilson, “Editions and Publishing History,” in J.David Grey’s The Jane Austen Handbook.

A very hot October. Then we find Austen in Henry’s world. The people mentioned are associates, friends, lawyers, all of whom connected with Austen as Henry’s sister. So the Jacksons have intermarried with the Papillons (remember the later joke by Jane that she will Papillon, no sacrifice too small); Eleanor would become Henry’s wife. I am impressed this morning by the reality that she was not a great catch (so like Francis’s choice of Mary Gibson); he was a bankrupt and curate by then, but also that he did marry non-materialistically. Austen alas characterized Eleanor as dumb in an earlier letter (see Diana’s quotation). Let’s hope Austen was unfair. Tilson is someone that Austen does regard as a partner they must visit Gordon connects to other marriage possibility as well. Seymour as Diana says was Henry’s lawyer, negotiated that niggardly £10 with Crosby; he does not seem to be a very good negotiator. This is the price Fanny Burney got in the later 1770s; the women at Minerva Press did better than this. And no clause demanding immediate or quick publication. It also shows how Austen was a nobody in 1803.

Then the long worrying sequence of Henry’s serious illnes,for so it was even at the start. Again I’m just adding to Diana’s comments: That’s a lot of blood all right to take out. Here I’d like to compare what’s being done to Henry today’s cancer treatments. Calomel was a hard poison — so is chemotherapy and chemotherapies are not well understood at all, why sometimes they work for this person, have disastrous adverse effects on other. Haydon did not try cupping but that’s burning which is how radiation feels. Finally the blood taking: a show of force like enemas (and today’s drastic surgeries).

How I love Henry for being ready to “swallow anything.” A man after my own heart. That’s a joke that extends beyond the food Austen makes him; he also swallows the concoctions Haydon puts together. Barley water is a traditional British Herbal tea — so she’s giving him this to be soothing. I note that in the paragraphs there is a strong tendency to look on the best side, and the attitude of mind reminds me of Elinor in the book (as opposed to the movies since 1995): Austen herself is hoping for the best, that this is not serious: “I was hoping that the Medicine he had taken, with a good night’s rest, would set him to rights.” Elinor at first hoped much from a good night’s rest for Marianna; alas, the next morning Marianne was worse.

Visits planned have to be given up: Cleveland Row, the Tilsons. Nephews put off until Uncle better and will “like seeing them.” They feared contagion? Edward coming for his lawsuit. I note that Tuesday is when Edward is coming (no resonance there) but again Henry had some business to transact (given up) but it seems Jane was not hopeful the business end would come out well, “the uncertainty of it” is tied to Tuesday in her brain.

Things needed are being sent (Jane will now pay!) and things sent (dirty clothes). I note Martha is not forgot: she has given Jane some lambswool she made.

I agree that note on Creed is evasive.

She ends on family news. I add to Diana’s on Mary and Frank, Keppel Street is where the Palmers reside — so that’s Charles news. There’s a slight dig about the Palmers (alas). Austen thinks the Creeds (whoever they were) would have a dull visit with the Palmers (as lower class, not as well educated?)

Again though Martha not forgot: “I long to know how Martha’s plans go on.” If Cassandra has not written before, she should write by Sunday to Hans Place.” I feel her anxiety there, the tone a spill over from Henry, but the content is she wants to know what is going on with Martha at Chawton. I see in these last phrases a sense of a woman’s world Jane implicitly assumes (but our editor and our male-dominated culture overlooks), it’s this association that brings Henry’s partner’s wife to mind: the wife is wretched all the time because if you pay attention you find she is often pregnant – and pregnancies meant childbirths with aftereffects, miscarriages (rarely mentioned in letters – Austen an exception here), I take it she’s tired.

I shall be more than ready for news of you by that time. — A change of weather at last! — Wind & Rain. — Mrs Tilson has just called. Poor Woman, she is quite a wretch, always ill. — God bless you …

Cassandra as dependable person.

Let us remember Cassy’s letter — No 93 — a clever one showing a girl who actually could identify servants as people like herself (Lefaye, 4th edition, pp 252-53, dated Mon-Thurs 18-21 Oct 1813). So Palmers are not always dull, are they? I take it Cassy is succeeding in making witty jokes to cheer her uncle: she apparently made laughter with something she did with a red shawl.

DiningTogetherblog
Cast ensemble of Miss Austen Regrets used to give us a feel of the gaiety Henry attempted in his London life, which Austen joins in herre.

We all need laughter, and Jane Austen too.

Ellen

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