Posts Tagged ‘Francis Austen’

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.

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.

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.


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).

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.


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.


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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.


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.

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).


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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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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.

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

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
[Letters missing here J


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.


My response and additions:

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.

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.


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Hans Place today — see Jane Austen’s World: In 1814, Henry moved from his rooms above his bank to a house he purchased in Hans Place in Knightsbridge ….

Dear friends and readers,

As we had a debate over this letter I decided to put it on my blog separately (see letters 76, 103-4). Austen has returned to London despite her voiced reluctance for several letters to take up Henry’s invitation. Still, having, as usual, lost, she allows herself to have a good time. Diane mentioned a dry tone; I thought of Elinor Dashwood. The feeling Austen conveys is an over-full schedule which she’s enjoying because it is over-full; at the same time she has intervals of quiet (with Henry and without so that she can write) and solitude too:, e.g.

Our evening yesterday was perfectly quiet; he only talked a little to Mr Tilson across the intermediate Gardens; she was gone out airing with Miss Burdett. — It is a delightful Place — than answers my expectation.

I live in his room downstairs, it is particularly pleasant, from opening upon the garden. I go & refresh myself every now & then, and then come back to Solitary Coolness.–

Now, I have breakfasted & have the room to myself again. —
It is likely to be a fine day. — How do you all do? —

Henry continues working at his business through socializing; he has moved and set up a new home for himself. He has now done more than adjust to Eliza’s death as we see him courting two new women. The family group soon consists of Henry and Jane, brother Edward and his oldest daughter, Fanny, who go to the races and a ball; and brother James and his son, Edward (who would grow up to become James-Edward Austen-Leigh) who come to London, ostensibly to go to the dentist and buy wigs. Glimpses of each and Jane in Henry’s garden. Cassandra does not like Edgeworth’s Patronage! Jane remains obtuse towards Anna. We also see how in Austen’s mind her Juvenilia remain as central to her created world as her later novels, in this case Love and Freindship.

I quote the whole letter passage by passage so no need to reprint the text separately. Diana Birchall’s reading, Diane Reynolds’.


Henrietta Street today — courtesy of Jane Austen’s World — where Austen had stayed with Fanny after Eliza’s death, his rooms above the business

On Tuesday morning, she begins with a vignette of her trip:

I had a very good Journey, not crouded, two of the three taken up at Bentley being Children, the others of a reasonable size; & they were all very quiet & civil. — We were late in London, from being a great Load & from changing Coaches at Farnham, it was nearly 4 I beleive when we reached Sloane Street; Henry himself met me, & as soon as my Trunk & Basket could be routed out from all the other Trunks & Baskets in the World, we were on our way to Hans Place in the Luxury of a nice large cool dirty Hackney Coach. There were 4 in the Kitchen part of Yalden — & I was told 15 at top, among them Percy Benn; we met in the same room at Egham, but poor Percy was not in his usual Spirits. He would be more chatty I dare say in his way from Woolwich. We took up a young Gibson at Holybourn; & in short everybody either — did come up by Yalden yesterday, or wanted to come up. It put me in mind of my own Coach between Edinburgh & Sterling. —

It’s clear she enjoyed this excursion — as one might today a train, looking all about her, and not minding the other people as long as she is not too crowded in. We might look at the vignette as capturing what she would have liked to do many times but was constrained to be dependent on a brother or relative or friend to take her. We don’t know who paid but perhaps she did — she has some money of her own beyond the allowance now.

At Farnham she does switch to Henry’s private coach; they then ate out: I take it the numbers cited are people and where they are, downstairs (in the kitchen part) and upstairs (15 at the top — floor?) at Yalden — the coach service. Percy Benn would have been happier had he been coming away from his academy (perhaps he is going there). They had been together before in another similar place (“we met in the same room at Egham). (Reading letters so poorly annotated is so frustrating.) A Gibson picked up — this would be a relative of Frank’s wife; Lefaye as ever gives us a full family tree and leaves it to us to guess. Austen enjoys the idea that the experience is one she suggested in Love and Freindship.

Henry is at last recovering. Eliza died April 1813 and it’s now August 1814. We see how he still wants to have people about him.

Henry is very well has given me an account of the Canterbury Races, which seem to have been as pleasant as one could wish Everything went well. Fanny had good Partners, Mr John.Plumptre was her 2d on Thursday, but he did not dance with her any more. — This will content you for the present. I must just add however that there were no Lady Charlottes. They were gone off to Kirby — & that Mary Oxenden, instead of dieing, is going to marry Wm Hammond.-

While Jane was contentedly at Chawton, he went to visit Edward and Fanny Austen; they went to the races at Canterbury which occasion included a dance or ball: Fanny Austen Knight with him (so perhaps the father-brother, Edward) and John Plumptre who danced only the second dance with her. The next line suggests some estrangement — they did eventually break up. Godmersham is close to Eastwell and we’ve seen the continual interaction with the Finch-Hattons from letters dating back to 1805. Perhaps Jane hints that Henry has been flirting with Lady Charlotte. Another family in this area were the Oxendens (the later 17th century Finch family interacted with them); one girl reputed to have died, but no such thing, she married. I see a curious equivalence (marriage as an alternative to death) suggested in the witticism.

Then they are waiting for the older brother James and his son, James-Edward — the first mention of the nephew who will become important to Jane and who has been rightly credited with starting the Janeite cult. Whatever people individually think of his biography, it contains much that is invaluable; a great deal we know comes ultimately from it. And he and Anna clubbed together to begin to publish the as yet unpublished fragments: Lady Susan and The Watsons (second edition of memoir)

So there she and Henry sit, and it’s here we get her celebrating Henry’s garden, and her quiet. There is perhaps some explanation here for her part of her reluctance to accept Henry’s invitation. She had thought she would be squeezed in; so perhaps when she came with Fanny and they slept together over his shop she had not cared for that after all. But he has fixed his home yet more now, clearly eager for company to live there. Austen also characteristically mentions the servant, John, the young woman nameless (it could be she is fastidious in the sentence and means to suggest many servants are not so clean looking) and Richard a sort of footman. (I take it the never mentioning servants in the novels unless they were needed for a plot moment is her obeying a convention lest her snobbish readers despise her or disapprove her fiction).

No James & Edward yet. — Our evening yesterday was perfectly quiet; he only talked a little to Mr Tilson across the intermediate Gardens; she was gone out airing with Miss Burdett. — It is a delightful Place — than answers my expectation.Our evening yesterday was perfectly quiet; he only talked a little to Mr Tilson across the intermediate Gardens; Having got rid of my unreasonable ideas, I find more space & comfort in the rooms than I had supposed, & the Garden is quite a Love. I am in the front Attic, which is the Bedchamber to be preferred. Henry wants you to see it all, & asked whether you would return with him from Hampshire; I encouraged him to think you would. He breakfasts here, early, & then rides to Henrietta St — If it continues fine, John is to drive me there by & bye, & we shall take an Airing together; & I do not mean to take any other exercise, for I feel a little tired after my long time Jumble. — I live in his room downstairs, it is particularly pleasant, from opening upon the garden. I go & refresh myself every now & then, and then come back to Solitary Coolness. — There is one maid servant only, a very creditable, clean-looking young Woman. Richard remains for the present. —

Again there seems to be hinted a reluctance: Jane encouraged Henry to think Cassandra would come, suggests some dubiety they are not telling him.

Onto Wednesday:

Modern edition, recent review

It seems that James and the young JEAL can escaped from Mary, but not not Anna. Either James or JEAL has need of a dentist and one of them there to buy a wig. Austen’s errand to buy some “willow”. Again something which cries out for a decent note. It could be willow-bark from an apothecary, but I wonder if it isn’t something to plant in Henry’s garden the way she planted syringa in Southampton. I believe there’s a passage about willow in Cowper too.

Wednesday morning –My Brother & Edward arrived last night. — They could not get Places the day before. Their business is about Teeth & Wigs, & they are going after breakfast to Scarrnan’s & Tavistock St — and they are to return, to go with me afterwards in the Barouche. I hope to do some of my errands today. I got the Willow yesterday, as Henry was not quite ready when I reached Hen” St-I saw Mr Hampson there for a moment. He dines here tomorrow & proposed bringing his son; sol must submit to seeing George Hampson, though I had hoped to go through Life without it. — It was one of my vanities, like your not reading Patronage.

I agree there is snideness and it’s odd in a way since the Hampsons are related to Jane Austen by blood. Her grandmother was a Hampson — that is her father’s mother, Rebecca Hampson, William Austen’s first wife. This is not the first snobbery towards them; when Eliza had that large party Austen again wrote of the reluctance of her family group to be friendly with this branch of the family when a member showed up around the time of the party. They had to include him. She would prefer not to pollute herself by seeing him (shades of Lady Catherine I’m making this, but it’s the same root feeling that rejects Cassie as “too Palmery”)

Since we’ve mentioned snideness I’ll fast forward to the close of the letter where Jane finds room for a sneer at Anna’s Ben:
“All well at Steventon. I hear nothing particular of Ben, except Edward is to get him some pencils.” James and JEAL conveyed this need and Austen mocks it. He thinks himself some kind of intellectual with his apparently (in the family’s eyes) anti-careerist behavior based on conscience you see …

This is gratuitous, uncalled for. She never thinks that Anna is not invited to races or balls; had she been would she have turned to Ben? A shutting off of her niece’s realities has gone on in her mind since 1801 (when she wrote the poem and gave her the Murray Mentoria).

She lightens her dislike of meeting her father’s less than upper class Hampton family by saying it’s like Cassandra refusing to read Edgeworth’s Patronage, a superb novel by the way – and another where the characters do a play — a translation of one by Voltaire so if Jane and Cassandra had been reading Patronage aloud the past month the reference to too many plays in the previous letter could be to Patronage. Patronage is influenced by _S&S_ (it has a doppleganger heroine reminiscent) and the depiction of the great house culture and sycophantic patronage needed anticipates Mansfield Park. It’s worth remark that the sisters’ taste differed: Cassandra preferred Hannah More’s didactic Colebs in Search of a Wife, Jane Edgeworth’s sophisticated novels

She then turns to the visiting. I don’t know why the hit at Mrs Latouches.

After leaving Henrietta Street we drove to Mrs Latouches, they are always at home — & they are to dine here on friday. — We could do no more, as it began to rain. — We dine at 1/2 past 4 today, that our Visitors may go to the Play, and Henry & I are to spend the evening with the Tilsons, to meet Miss Burdett, who leaves Town tomorrow. — Mrs Tilson called on me yesterday. — Is not this all that can have happened, or been arranged? — Not quite. — Henry wants me to see more of his Hanwell favourite, & has written to invite her to spend a day or two here with me. His scheme is to fetch her on Saturday. I am more & more convinced that he will marry again soon, & like the idea of her better than of anybody else at hand.

It seems to be implied Mrs Latouche has no one to visit? They (she and Henry? or with James and JEAL?) could do no more than invite these people with nowhere to go normally. Underlying this is her identification with this from her years in Bath. Then James and JEAL want to go to the play (doubtless Paula Byrne or Gay looked up which play it was the two men went to and then made much of it as an influence on Jane’s work), but Jane will accompany Henry to the Tilsons once again. These are his important business partners and we see throughout these letters how he never neglects his partners or contacts if he can at all help it. Mrs Tilson must therefore be endured. She is the “She” mentioned in the scene before the garden time as gone out for an airing with Miss Burdett (much to Austen’s apparent relief). Henry has now a new candidate for companion: Miss Harriet Moore is brought up here.

LeFaye’s note (on p 555) is her usual absurdity; tons of stuff about the family connections, their status (is what’s she’s after) and for Harriet all we get is Harriet’s name and who her sister, and who she was either the niece or granddaughter of. It seems never to have crossed LeFaye’s mind that Harriet’s liking “Emmy very much, but MP was her favorite of all” (quoted by LeFaye in her note to the letter) was her flattering Henry for this genius in the family whom Henry was helping to publish (or Jane as her sister). Instead of all but the stuff on John Moore (which is relevant to another letter and in “biographical index”) the note should have consisted of the passage quoted where she gets this information about Harriet’s preferences and then the reader could see how far this is phony, and how far it’s just an attribution to her.

There is no entry for Harriet Moore in Tomalin. Nokes paraphrases the letter but says nothing beyond that (p. 444), then we are told Miss Moore was “a beauty;” later Austen has to play hostess to her and says she knows “so little about her” and the idea of a coach ride with a younger sister floors Jane: “We shall not have two ideas in common” (p. 455); that when Henry fell sick later on Jane was relieved that at least now she was spared Harriet and her relations (who were “fortunately” sick too (p. 464), and when the sickness was over there was less need for the apothecary Mr Haden (who Nokes agrees with me Jane was intensely attracted to) and Henry went to spend a weekend with the Moores where “he met with the utmost care and attention” (p. 475). Still nothing about Harriet.

LeFaye just repeats the lines of this letter (p. 193) and repeats the lines which Nokes at least tried to say something about on p. 455, but then does go on to offer what Jane said of the sister: “She is young, pretty, chattering & thinking cheifly (I presume) of dress, company, & admiration.”

We know that Henry eventually married a sober, serious basically impoverished gentlewoman, Eleanor Jackson who quietly endured the endlessly religious life of his later years and whom in an earlier latter Jane presented as slightly imbecilic. Eleanor in that letter sat gravely and did not get Jane’s mode of joking. (By the way Lefaye’s family trees in her Family Record are as confusing as her biographical index, with information we don’t want and without information we want so it’s not easy to make out where Henry’s second wife is among them.) From the above it seems as if Harriet was a very different kind of choice, but no more intelligent or cultivated — in the way Eliza was.


2008 S&S: Charity Wakefield as Marianne in a pelisse meant for travel

Time has passed before the next paragraph begins as Jane declares she has now eaten breakfast. You could not tell from LeFaye’s note that the Crutcheleys include a young widow whom Henry was also attracted to: Elizabeth or Mary I’m not sure which. In another letter Austen calls her his “favorite” and that’s why she needs to have a pretty Pelisse so she looks right for the visit.

Now, I have breakfasted & have the room to myself again. — It is likely to be a fine day. — How do you all do? — Henry talks of being at Chawton about the 1st of September — He has once mentioned a scheme, which I should rather like — calling on the Birches &-the Crutchleys in our way. It may never come to anything, but I must provide for the possibility, by troubling you to send up my Silk Pelisse by Collier on Saturday. — I feel it would be necessary on such an occasion; — and be so good as to put up a clean Dressing gown which will come from the Wash on friday.-You need not direct it to be left anywhere. It may take its chance.-We are to call for Henry between 3 & 4-& I must finish this & carry it with me, as he is not always there in the morning before the Parcel is made up. — And before I set off, I must return Mrs Tilson’s visit.-I hear nothing of the Hoblyns & abstain from all enquiry. —

Henry is suddenly including his relatives on his future choices — that’s why he wants to go to Chawton in part. And that’s why the phrase “it may never come to anything.” I presume Austen hoped it would not and we see her reluctance to be dressed up as she is willing to let the dress get to her by chance. Without the knowledge Mrs Crutchley is another candidate the paragraph remains obscure: it’s Nokes who supplies this information. Tomalin who did little original research hasn’t got the name in her index. Lefaye identifies the Hoblyns only as people who were possibly on Sloane Street or Portman Square. Either way they are upper class and genteel; possibly Henry is cultivating friends for clients and Jane hopes she is will not be called upon to have to go with him. It does seem it was de rigueur for him to have a female relative visit to make these connections

In her last paragraph Jane remembers the people at home, followed by the sneer at Ben Lefroy in a postscript Jane is remembering her nephews and nieces here: they have a garden, she imitates baby language she used with them. These appear to be Frank’s children (who she would be sure to say something gentle like this too, affectionate vicariously). As she wrote this perhaps brother James read it over her shoulder or she read the letter to him or she spoke of it, because his reply is his gardens are doing well too. Mrs C is Mrs Craven: since she is known to have been such a harridan, LeFaye suggests Jane is ironic here. (We might remember Mrs Craven’s power over Martha Lloyd here too). “What a comfort!” (Could it be death is rescuing her?) . I suppose then the closing sneer would come out of this hard irony — if it is ironic.

I hope Mary Jane & Frank’s Gardens go on well. — Give my Love to them all-Nunna Hat’s Love to George — A great many People wanted to mo up in the Poach as well as me. — The wheat looked very well all the way, & James says the same of his road.- The same good account of Mrs Craven’s health continues, & her circumstances mend. Sh egets farther & farther from Poverty. — What a comfort! [Good bye to You.-Yours very truely & affectionately Jane Austen

All well at Steventon. I hear nothing particular of Ben, except that Bdward'” is to get him some pencils. –

Diana Birchall on Love and Freindship

Joan Hassell’s illustration for Love and Freindship where the friends faint alternatively on one couch

Thank you very much for the reference Diana and the literary criticism/reading of Love and Freindship, taking us back to her juvenilia — but let’s note here how she does not regard the juvenilia as lesser. We know that to the end she continued to keep them by her side as much as she did her fragments, her unfinished books, her manuscripts — and probably her letters too.

The reference reminds us how she valued her comedy and it may be that the comic aspect of her work was what she came closest to understanding of the parts of her work she is most valued for today. Today her literal verisimilitude is not what most people read her for though they will acknowledge how that aspect of her art makes it so believable as an experience. I admit hilarity while delicious is not what I value her for most and I think were it not backed up by some valid vision of experience she would remain a lesser writer.

I read the letters probably primarily as life-writing, for that’s what they are, and seek to build up a picture of Jane Austen as she was, as a person. Given her deep embeddedness in her family it’s central to understanding her to understand them far better than has been done, to both value and see their traits which stymied and actuated her as a writer and experience as a woman too.

My original aim was to get behind the biographies, to see for myself the evidence upon which the biographers build and as Tomalin says and Nokes enacts, the life blood of biographies are the letters the subject left. For us that includes the letters her close relatives left. And after this their imaginative fictional and other writings.

My aim has become to shape a more adequate picture of Jane’s family and friends. I’ve learned how she loves Francis and how their relationship is not done justice to, how she yearned to be a partner to Martha and came as close as she could to being that (given their financial circumstances and strong censoring social constraints). I’ve learned that Henry and Eliza are distorted in the representation, that James’s work is wrongly dissed and dismissed. To see who and how and why Henry is courting this or that women is part of each tiny stroke by which the real Henry can emerge — to him we must be grateful for the publication of the novels.

So yes it irritates me to see the new bits of evidence as we go towards a better understanding of her family and herself ignored or ridden over. Not that anyone is going to pay any attention to me beyond perhaps reading what I write and maybe thinking about it. Only those who publish books and are part of the academic world or high in the commercial social one can alter the larger public image which is to the monetary and career advantage of those in charge today. They are ever slightly recasting it to flatter them and her cult’s identity politics.


The latest reprint of Chapman’s still fundamental edition of Austen’s fiction

On my continuing critique of LeFaye’s edition of Austen’s letters –

Though I’ve edited only two novels (on the Net – the two French novels, both of which have been commended in reviews in peer-edited journals, French ones: Caroline de Litchfield, Amelie Mansfield) and am editing a third for Valancourt: Smith’s Ethelinde, I write out of an experience of reviewing letter editions. I did two in Renaissance studies, two for Jane Austen for academic periodicals (Later manuscripts is on line) and now am studying the Burney, Volume 5.

And I wrote a biography of Anne Finch, found many of her unattributed poems. It’s all on the Net and this is used by scholars.

It’s true the Burney volumes seem to have a team and enormous resources, but each volume comes down to a single or two editors. You can compare Betty Rizzo’s Volume 4, part 2 (Streatham volume) to Lefaye’s.

It’s against all these latter, though since I’m now about the Burney and recently published on the Austen later manuscripts that I speak. LeFaye falls into the category of “family friend and advocate:” she really edits from that point of view. I’d say that (as well as the muddled way the volume is set up) is the origin of all the faults and flaws in this edition. Reiman’s study of modern manuscripts describes her behavior (so to speak) in this edition, her choices to a T.

It’s not just a matter of caution. There is a document that Nokes cites which leads him to call say Harriet Moore a beauty; he doesn’t quote the whole but does cite his source. What is the source text for the statement about Moore’s liking for Emma and preference for MP. LeFaye should have quoted that, not given us an extensive appreciation of Moore family connections is my point.

She knows a helluva a lot I’m sure and about the Gibsons. If there is no document, she should say so. Not give us another extended (and confusing) family history. Is she giving us these data is to assume (in effect) that we are going to check them out ourselves? That’s not what an editor of letters is supposed to do. An editor of letters is supposed to make a complete compact volume for a more general readership

in this week’s letter we had the remnants of two broken off but started new romances for Henry. LeFaye’s notes obscure this. Here she may not be that aware but she is aware of her view of Henry and the one she wants us to see. Shallow and worldly. If so, why marry Eleanor Jackson? what he was was desperately trying for independence as a fourth son.


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Carnarvon 1800 by John Sell Cotman 1782-1842
John Sell Cotman (1782-182), Carnarvon — one vision of her poetry, geologic cataclysmic time

To Hope

Oh, Hope! thou soother sweet of human woes!
    How shall I lure thee to my haunts forlorn!
For me wilt thou renew the withered rose,
    And clear my painful path of pointed thorn?
Ah come, sweet nymph! in smiles and softness drest,
    Like the young hours that lead the tender year
Enchantress come! and charm my cares to rest:
    Alas! the flatterer flies, and will not hear!
A prey to fear, anxiety, and pain,
    Must I a sad existence still deplore?
Lo! the flowers fade, but all the thorns remain,
    ‘For me the vernal garland blooms no more.’
Come then, ‘pale Misery’s love!’ be thou my cure,
And I will bless thee, who though slow art sure.

Dear friends and readers,

A milestone on my edition of Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde, or The Recluse of the Lake for Valancourt: I’ve typed two volumes and have begun the third. I’m slowly accumulating material for an introduction and notes. It ought to have been titled Newenden (the way d’Epinay titled hers Montbrillant).

I cannot say my reading of the novel has changed much. It’s more a matter of emphasis. I had not realized quite how central & dominant to the novel are the slow devolution into a bitter loneliness on the part of Sir Edward and adultery on the part of Lady Newenden. I find the depiction more true to life on the part of both people and their slow interaction with others than anything in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: Smith gives us the how and why, the real feel of such a drift. Ethelinde a study in adulterous longing from a genuinely woman’s point of view: sexual fulfillment and companionship ached for.

She is Sir Edward and in later novels he as a figure will be given her poems. Her rotten marriage transposed sexually. I’m puzzled why Sir Edward does not kill himself. Outflanked by the social hypocrisies of his wife’s parents, the vicious rumors of Lord Danesforte about him and Ethelinde; a clever man the wife’s apparent lover, his misery because she is such a bitch (Lady Newenden), his relationship with Ethy a ruin, Ethy’s father taking the money loaned him and gambling and giving it to Lady Newenden’s lover. In other novels Smith’s greatest poetry is often attributed to such a male figure.

There is ever a male who is obsessively after the heroine. Whether his general behavior otherwise be reprehensible (Delamare in Emmeline) or noble & self-sacrificing (Montgomery), it’s this obsessive pursuit of the heroine that makes for the discomfort and misery of the story. In Emmeline, the heroine is not openly willing to reject him but rather flees; in Ethelinde we get these emotionally twisted scenes of her not being able to say yes or no. Could this be a version of her relationship with her husband? of what he was? these have an individuality beyond the typical portrait of the upper class male educated to be a vicious bully and amoral and yet think very well of himself — as we see in Stael’s and Epinay’s fictions — how Smith read the French! In the light of French women’s more explicit fiction, when we place Ethelinde’s wastrel selfish gambling brother and the father’s original behavior, the novel becomes feminist in the 18th century way.

Cotman: Normandy fantasy

I would have much preferred for Sir Edward to end up with Ethelinde: I almost believe in their relationship as much as any marriage. Her Manon is deeply transgressive in its sympathy for the lovers and Manon herself, The Romance of Real Life reveals families as they are and this book fits right into this trajectory too.

The recluse would have been left out at the end, but she would then have been a more tragic figure had the son drowned as we thought — a sixth volume had been in the works. Could it be she was planning to have Montgomery return after Sir Edward marries Ethy; it would have become an emotional version of the Martin Guerre story.

I was blaming Smith for marginalizing transgressive heroines, female characters led to live with men outside wedlock, for making her heroine super-chaste, but after reading Wollstonecraft’s really stinging attack on Adeline in that novel, and realizing how much time and space and sympathy Smith gives such heroines across her oeuvre (here Caroline’s unnamed mother, Montgomery’s grandmother) and the thoughts she gives her — in this novel several female figures have lovers and children outside marriage — to have some joy, they take a risk and pay.

The novel has little specific politics of Desmond and the later books. The wide landscape there, but here acid satire on the hypocrisies and snobberies of social life is central to her purpose. I just love it. It connects her to Thackeray. Long obsessive conversations between Ethelinde and Montgomery about how they cannot afford to marry, how this will “ruin” their chances in life go round and round. I can only think there is a personal element here, she must have been herself subjected to this morbid nagging. When she is pictured sitting on the stairs as her father and Montgomery talk, the scene feels like a memory — maybe when she was sold to Benjamin Smith. Austen’s Persuasion with its thrust to trust at the close, and several stories by Crabbe are aimed at just this kind of cruel prohibition — which in Crabbe ruins lives all the more, as the people haven’t got a chance of growing rich anyway. Whatever happiness they can have is in personal fulfillment.

I probably enjoy the novel more when it approaches from a frank and caustic point of view the kind of satire we find in Austen towards say Lady Catherine de Bourgh or Mrs Norris. For example, the hypocrisy and insolence (Smith’s narrator calls it) when Mrs Ludford, Ethelinde’s rich aunt pretends to forget her siblings’ ages and says how good it was Ethy’s mother’s other children except for the one brother did die (p 186 in 1790 ed, p 40 in my edition: Mrs Norris expresses the same idea only it’s presented more indirectly. (The line is later in MP than I thought). These intersections they bring out Austen for me where I could be exhilarated in a twisted kind of way as we both dig the imaginary knife in and so doing expose the pettiness meanness of the world — there is more truth in Smith’s opener version: paradoxically it’s true that Colonel Chesterville has not put his son to the right path; maybe he would have been better off apprenticed (p 187) than brought up in idleness and self-indulgence. But this establishment view is presented against a backdrop that makes us see the ugly nature of Mrs Ludford’s motives for saying this (unlike Trollope say where such establishment comments are not undercut in this way).

There are long similar stretches in Celestina.

It’s remarkable how many scenes in Austen occur in variation in other novels by women of the era. The difference between Austen and Smith includes Smith lets us feel the full bitterness of these. I’m struck by how the tone of the plangent section of Volume 2 when Montgomery comes to London, Edward is in love with Ethelinde and she more in love with Edward than she realizes, is close the mood and atmosphere of the 1983 S&S mini-series by Alexander Baron. The 1980s darker mini-series were more like these novels than any films before or since.

Irene Richards as Elinor Dashwood, Bosco Hogan as Edward — conversing over her drawings, the landscape, sitting together — perfect image for Smith’s Edward and Ethelinde (1981 BBC S&S by Alexander Baron)

What emerges in the latter part of Volume 2 is that Chesterville is a stand-in for Charlotte Smith’s own father who failed her so abysmally, who sold her, betrayed her. The acid in the soul of his novelist is Colonel Chesterville’s not caring for his daughter, and when Ethelinde’s aunt (it was an aunt who suggested to the father to marry Charlotte off and married Charlotte’s farther herself), Mrs Ludford, suggests Ethelinde needs another situation and her father would be glad to get rid of her (by implication) this touches upon how the orignal sin in her life was her father’s deserting her for a nasty woman and giving her up to an awful boy. If Charlotte was too young to know, Mr Turner was not (Elibon, Vol 2,, p 203, p 44 my typescript)

The novel’s scenery is all great prose poetry wants but it remains a framing.

Helen Allingham (1848-1926), Temple of Winds, Blackdown, Sussex — another, botanic, allusive, southern England

The undermining of false stereotypes of masculinity.

Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton in 1935 A Tale of Two Cities — perfect for Sir Edward

Sir Edward refuses to duel. After reading on Inimitable-Boz, a defense of Carton’s sexuality and courtship of Lucie Manette I began to see Sir Edward as anticipating Sydney Carton.

Sir Edward’s wife, Maria, is a cold tempered socialite, presented as nasty-tongued, nervy, bored with anything but her vanity, loving gambling, despising anyone who likes to read or walk in the landscape and mocking the depression marriage with her is causing Sir Edward. He married her for her money but also to be her husband, and she wanted his title, but now she is clever enough to throw this up to him and when he forbids her to see or be with Lord Danesforte any more — on the score of gambling debts too – she turns on him and accuses him of adultery with her cousin, Ethelinde. There is no adultery (both too virtuous) but he loves Ethelinde intensely and now feels he must cut himself off from her and her improvident father (a gambler) and brother (yet worse)

A long meditation of Sir Edward as he contemplates Ethelinde’s future as the wife of a man without any adequate monetary support and connections — his desire to help alleviate any of her difficulties at any cost to himself reminds me of Sydney Carton. We might historicize Carton too: this is a time when there is no state or gov’t or any kind of safety net. Reading the brilliant analysis of Charlotte Smith’s depiction of Edward’s selfless yet deeply selfish (she is so deeply congenial a spirit, so good) and sexual (she is beautiful ohim) love for Ethelinde, and how persuasive their relationship, teaches me that the problem we have in reading Dickens’s Carton and many other heroes of “sensibility” and depression, is that the time is indeed more than 160 years ago when women also had no means of getting decent support on their own either. I find Volume 2, chapter 10, pp 239-44, the long inward delving into this man astonishing still.

Smith provides the psychological underpinning that Dickens & other male authnors omit to understand this kind of male temperament — they are too embarrassed. Who would admit desperation at their class background in this way (except for Godwin). To call them men of sensibility is to use a label to erase what the text does: undermine masculine stereotypes.

It’s ridiculous to get too worked up over a novel but as I’m typing it I do bond with it, and did find myself intensely hurt when at the ASECS someone ridiculed Sir Edward and read the book as if we were to empathize genuinely with Lady Newenden when she is the cruel pernicious presence of the piece from her outward conduct.

Smith gives Edward a good phrase for his attitude towards Ethelinde: she has a sanctity of character. So much better than purity which brings in this baggage of asexuality no no sexuality in this woman for real. She’s not corrupted or corruptible because of her background and asocial-ability. Sanctity of character is a phrase I’d use for Esther Summerson as well as Jarndyce as played by Denholm Elliot (the 1988 Bleak House like the 1989 ATOTC written by Arthur Hopcroft).

How Edward feels about Ethelinde:

that her whole life might be exposed to trials, he could not soften, to difficulties he could not alleviate; all his sense, his morality, his resolution, hardly supported him when he considered it; and he sometimes fancied he could rather bear to destroy her, and then himself, than endure the certainty of that, the very idea of which inflicted anguish so acute

When she writes so moving and ably and subtly we have to see that she did value her fiction and talked denigratingly of it because others didn’t value it or wouldn’t admit they saw it what is there (p 241-43 of Elibron, pp 52-53 of my new edition)

Again the lone figure against time and nature.

John Sell Cotman, from a Dulwich exhibit of his Normandy watercolors

From her poetry: the autobiographical background: Her terrors for her children, several of whom predeceased her and did know hardship. I’ve no doubt she saw a version of this woman who lies at several removes behind this novel; Sir Edward’s terrors for Ethelinde’s future

The Female Exile.
WRITTEN AT BRIGHTHELMSTONE IN NOV. 1792. [from Elegiac sonnets (1797-1800)]

November’s chill blast on the rough beach is howling,
   The surge breaks afar, and then foams to the shore,
Dark clouds o’er the sea gather heavy and scowling,
   And the white cliffs re-echo the wild wintry roar.

Beneath that chalk rock, a fair stranger reclining
   Has found on damp sea-weed a cold lonely seat;
Her eyes fill’d with tears, and her heart with repining,
   She starts at the billows that burst at her feet.

There, day after day, with an anxious heart heaving,
   She watches the waves where they mingle with air;
For the sail which, alas! all her fond hopes deceiving,
   May bring only tidings to add to her care.

Loose stream to wild winds those fair flowing tresses,
   Once woven with garlands of gay Summer flowers;
Her dress unregarded, bespeaks her distresses,
   And beauty is blighted by grief’s heavy hours.

Her innocent children, unconscious of sorrow,
   To seek the gloss’d shell, or the crimson weed stray;
Amused with the present, they heed not to-morrow,
   Nor think of the storm that is gathering to day.

The gilt, fairy ship, with its ribbon-sail spreading,
   They launch on the salt pool the tide left behind;
Ah! victims—for whom their sad mother is dreading
   The multiplied miseries that wait on mankind!

To fair fortune born, she beholds them with anguish,
   Now wanderers with her on a once hostile soil,
Perhaps doom’d for life in chill penury to languish,
   Or abject dependance, or soul-crushing toil.

But the sea-boat, her hopes and her terrors renewing,
   O’er the dim grey horizon now faintly appears;
She flies to the quay, dreading tidings of ruin
   All breathless with haste, half expiring with fears.

Poor mourner!—I would that my fortune had left me
   The means to alleviate the woes I deplore;
But like thine my hard fate has of affluence bereft me,
   I can warm the cold heart of the wretched no more!


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Henry Robert Morland, late 18th century, a laundress

Dear friends and readers,

Again Diana Birchall and I in tandem. This time the best way to convey the outline and pith of this letter is to provide the text, Diana’s walk though the content more or less step-by-step and then my contextualized approach of its themes seen in terms of its individuals who matter to Austen.

The letter is cheerful. This is what Cassandra has demanded all along and Jane has acceded to since she was able to, which is around the time they arrive at Southampton — and especially since she begins to write for publication. She has MP out in print and is working on Emma.

What strikes me are the paradigms — or repeating patterns — we’ve seen from just before Austen was ejected from Steventon and forced to go to Bath (as we saw something she intensely did not want); a desire to develop a woman’s community, a time together with beloved women friends is thwarted. Martha and Anne can’t make it; they lack free time altogether. Her recognition of marginalized women and their problems. In this letter there are so many mentions of servants, and predominantly women servants, including the girl who will go do very hard work for Frank and Mary.

Although Austen doesn’t seem to recognize its importance, she does record how two women whom she is pushed into visiting are identifying with another woman, the fictional heroine, Fanny Price. I say she doesn’t recognize its importance, since this is not included in the folder of comments on her novels that she gathered. It’s not conventional: not overt I like this or disdain that in the way the other exclamations or occasionally more thoughtful general judgements she copied out are.

That much more than what is usually paid attention to (“oh what a Henry!”) out of context or with no context. One good reason for him to be there as we’ve seen him emerge, especially since Eliza’s death when he begins to turn up regularly in Austen’s letters (as she is one of those who come to visit and to help) is to network for business. His business was dependent on the rich and well-heeled investing in his firm as well as borrowing from it. And so goes even if (as we’ve seen) he himself when asked about these parties says he would prefer not to; we may assume he liked the theater but can’t say for sure. It seems to be Edward who has gone this trip; the women need a male with them as escort and the younger girls get a great kick out of the popular trash of the theaters of the day.

This letter also makes it clear beyond the complicated family trees, we want specific information about individuals; it’s hard but not impossible. I note each of the Burney Journals and Letters do just this: entries are about individuals. LeFaye also provides no meaningful information on the ball at White’s — that it was, for exampple, more than a bit premature, because (as we all instantly recall) Napoleon escaped from Elba, came back and there was another long bout of war as the Allied powers regrouped determined to stamp him out and put a Bourbon back on the throne. We need to know something about the UK economy at this point too. Henry’s there to help his banking business.


GMT 14
Burlington House, today the home of the Royal Academy

Diana’s paraphrase:

A week later, another letter to Cassandra, who is still at Henrietta Street.

Jane calls Cassandra’s a “pretty letter,” brought by Mr. Louch, one of Henry’s banking partners. She has heard also from Frank, whose visit is delayed by a Naval Review, and Portsmouth being in a bustle. This must have to do with the visit of the Emperor, whom she hopes Fanny has seen, “& then I may fairly wish them all away.” She goes tomorrow (where?) “& hope for some
delays & adventures.” A mention of her mother’s wood, and “Bavins,” which I’ve never heard of, but the dictionary calls it “a fagot of brushwood or other light combustible matter, for kindling fires,” though apparently you bought it.

Then a famous line: “Henry at White’s! – Oh! what a Henry.” This of course refers to Henry’s excursion into high social public life, being at the fabulous ball sponsored by White’s Club at Burlington House, lent by the Duke of Devonshire, to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon. Beau Brummell was one of the organizers, and there were 4,000 attendees, including the Tsar of Russia, King of Prussia, Byron, Lady Caroline Lamb, and all the ton, at a cost of £10,000. Whatever you may think of Henry, it would be impossible to think of any other of Jane Austen’s brothers at White’s – or at least, he was the most likely!

I don’t know what to make of the “Miss B” reference – Deirdre thinks it was Miss Burdett. A possible match for Henry? Mention of Sackree and the children, and a gift of a ham and “4 Leeches” from Godmersham. Leeches seem an odd gift, did you keep them in water or something until somebody needed to be bled? [see just below]

Now here comes mention of how they have “called upon Miss Dusautoy & Miss Papillon & been very pretty.” Deirdre has long footnotes on the Dusautoy, Papillion, and Hinton families, who seem complicatedly interrelated. I suppose we ought to research it, and there’s an article on the Dusautoys in the Collected Reports, but as usual she sites the volume not the year of the journal. What’s amusing is that she says, “Miss D. has a great idea of being Fanny Price, she & her youngest sister together, who is named Fanny.” You can read the touch of subacid mixed amusement and horror. Little did she know that it was only the beginning of thousands of people thinking they “are” one or another of her characters – another was Princess Charlotte, who thought herself like Marianne.

A bit about Miss Benn and her infected finger – a much more serious matter then, before antibiotics. Oh! (slaps forehead) Arnie will say I am having a Breakthrough Moment. Perhaps this is what the Leeches are for! Or not.

“The Clements are gone to Petersfield, to look.” An innocuous statement enough. Notes tell us that the Henry Clement was Henry Austen’s banking partner in Petersfield, and a member of this Alton family, who were connected to the Prowtings, whom Miss Benn has just visited. One of the major obstacles to understanding these letters is the heavy interconnectedness of these families, all of the permutations of which would have been known to Jane Austen, but which are murky to us.

“Only think of the Marquis of Granby being dead,” she comments. “I hope, if it please Heaven there should be another Son, they will have better Sponsors, & less Parade.” The sponsors of the Duke of Rutland’s child were the Prince Regent and the Duke of York. Jane Austen often mentions matters concerning noble personages, almost as if she knew them; she certainly took an interest in them, but I suppose these things were made much of in the newspapers, so she’s commenting on what she reads.

Trip planning – she hopes Henry doesn’t want her in town again; she’s planning to go to Bookham, and wants to go straight home afterward. Then something about the movements of Martha, and the Deans Dundases, who have taken a house at Clifton. More interesting is that she has received a letter from Miss Sharpe, who has been suffering (we don’t know with what), but is now
more comfortable. She is at the house of Sir William Pilkington, in Yorkshire. Austen writes, “She writes highly of Sir Wm – I do so want him to marry her! – There is a Dow: Lady P. presiding there, to make it all right.” Sir William, born 1775, didn’t marry until 1825. Mysteriously, she writes, “The Man is the same; but she does not mention what he is by Profession or Trade. – She does not think Lady P. was privy to his Scheme on her; but on being in his power, yielded.” Yielded to what? What scheme on her? Has Miss Sharp been telling Austen hopefully about advances from her employer? Not very decorous, but Austen writes in a sort of odd glee, “Oh! Sir Wm – Sir Wm – how I will love you, if you will love Miss Sharp!”

We commonly write about the situation of spinsters forced into governess work, as serious and pitiable (as it is treated in the novels), but here it seems to be a matter for pleasantry. Yet Miss Sharp was her good friend, and she certainly sympathized with her. Perhaps this girlish sort of levity was how they joked together.

Some domestic material about Mrs. Driver (housekeeper at Godmersham) being off by Collier (coachman), and not having time to leave the keys. “The Coach was stopt at the Blacksmith’s, & they came running down, with Triggs, & Browning, & Trunks & Bird cages. Quite amusing!” A farcical scene, one presumes.


A Marengo c.1903-4 by Walter Richard Sickert 1860-1942
Walter Richard Sicket (1860-1942): A Marengo, an imitation conversation piece

My exegeses from the point of view of the individuals on Austen’s mind. The paragraphs arise associatively as themes runs through Austen’s mind.

So, to Frank (first Frank):

She has had a letter from Frank; apparently he hoped to come to Chawton to see Jane and mother but has been delayed:

— I heard yesterday from Frank; when he began his Letter he hoped to be here on Monday, but before it was ended he had been told that the Naval Review will not take place till Friday, which will probably occasion him some delay, as he cannot get some necessary business of his own attended to, while Portsmouth is in such a bustle

At the close in a postscript: Frank and his wife Mary have hired Mary Goodchild to be an undermaid. She’s just delighted …

Then Henry:

The famous way over-quoted exclamation about Henry. Diana provides some context by seeing the juxtaposition might have meaning. I agree. It sounds like the two sisters have been wishing for a possible new sister-in-law. Certainly he wants women around. About the individual LeFaye says nothing, but the family was politically radical and rich. That’s interesting that he was drawn to a rich and radical woman — he wants interesting people I see. He likes to travel into the country, of course was married to Eliza:

Henry at Whites! — Oh! what a Henry.-I do not know what to wish as to Miss B, so I will hold my tongue & my wishes …

But there is more on Henry. Jane is reluctant to come back: Henry wants her in town perhaps when Cassandra leaves, but this is not what Jane wants; however, she feels she can’t say no since it was “kindly intended:” he takes her places and also helps her with her publishing. MP has just come out and Emma is going strong. Still she doesn’t want it. I think that’s significant.

I certainly do not wish that Henry should think again of getting me to Town. I would rather return straight from Bookham; but if he really does propose it, I cannot say No, to what will be so kindly intended. It could be but for a few days however, as my Mother would be quite disappointed by my exceeding the fortnight which I now talk of as the outside;-at least we could not both remain longer away comfortably. —

Now for Martha Lloyd:

This is as and more significant than the passages about her brothers or Anne Sharpe (to follow). There are as many lines about Martha as Frank, more than about Henry, and as many as about Anne Sharp. Jane does not want to return to Henry because Martha is coming. This was to be Martha’s time and it appears that Cassandra wants to be there too. The friendship has stayed strong — more than friendship it was at one time.

The details (not looked into by LeFaye at all) are about Martha’s constraints and lack of money. Martha is a paid companion (toady was the ugly sneering term): Mrs Craven we are told by Caroline was a harridan of a woman (that’s backed up by others). And notice she’s not been paid. The tiny sum not given her. Would she quit? not likely. We are not reminded in modern serials that often it was hard to get the money owed, as servants were used by fringe people. Martha needs this money to to come: “I fear her going at all, depends on that.” She also worked for the Dundases – remember that old lady’s death. Well this group is going to Clifton instead of Bath; Martha would not prefer this (she prefers seeing Jane and Cassandra) but it would make a change (away from the lady she works for and Mrs Craven). It’s very hot at that time of year (to the English at any rate): I find poignant: “as far as she has any time …”

— The middle of July is Martha’s time, as far as she has any time. She has left it to M” Craven to fix the day.-I wish she could get her Money paid, for I fear her going at ail, depends upon that. — Instead of Bath, the Deans Dundases have taken a House at Clifton, — Richmond Terrace — & she is as glad of the change as even You & I should be-or almost. — She will now be able to go on from Berks & visit them, without any fears from Heat. —

By association and because the plan (thwarted again) was for the four friends Austen turns to write of Ann Sharpe. People quote the joke about Mr Pilkington marrying Ann as evidence of how Austen is partly desperately mercenary and because the line is half-jokey. But coming up after Martha’s problems it’s not all that funny nor is it quite intended to be. First she has been suffering but we don’t know why; anyhow now she’s better comparatively. Perhaps just being a governess to this man and some children? but it does read like a physical ailment. Worse yet: another planned happy time for the women crushed here too. “There is no appearance of her quitting them.” A real pleasure lost. What kind of man was Pilkington? LeFaye tells us what sister married who. Useless. So it could be that Austen is half-mocking that Anne writes so highly of the very man whose family keeps her from coming. He is her boss, one of her bosses. Perhaps she was excusing him for not giving her this time. “The man is the same” suggests they have met him and he’s the same sort of man still, not changed. There have been love passages is hinted too: Lady P privy and the need of another woman, the dowager.

— This Post has brought me a Letter from Miss Sharpe. Poor thing! she has been suffering indeed! but is now in a comparative state of comfort. She is at Sir WP’s, in Yorkshire, with the Children, & there is no appearance of her quitting them. — Of course, we lose the pleasure of seeing her here. She writes highly of Sir Wm — I do so want him to marry her! –There is a Dowager Lady P presiding there, to make it all right.- The Man is the same; but she does not mention what he is by Profession or Trade. — She does not think Lady P was privy to his Scheme on her; but on being in his power, yielded. — Oh! Sir Wm — Sir Wm — how I will love you, if you will love Miss Sharp!

Miss Benn:

Might as well bring in Miss Benn (reflected in Miss Bates) here and while not too many words, she has been in these letters for years now and occurs in two separates places. Her finger not yet good, but she is in good spirits – as Miss Bates often was and she too was glad to “accept any invitation:”

— Miss Benn has drunk tea with the Prowtings, & I beleive comes to us this evens, She has still a swelling about the fore-finger, & a little discharge, & does not seem to be on the point of a perfect cure; but her Spirits are good-& she will be most happy I beleive to accept any Invitation. —

I will agree that the leeches are perhaps for Miss Benn. Indeed I think it’s probable from what I’ve read about leeches, and actually I’ve read some genuinely medically informed papers on this. They used leeches for digits (fingers, extremities). It’s good to see that the Austens are taking care for Miss Benn to help her, and they are enlisting the woman servant, Sackree to help too. That’s picture of decent caring for someone who is a nobody.

Mansfield Park as subject, aka Fanny Price:

Fewer lines. These have escaped critics as remarks on MP Austen gathered, probably because she didn’t single them out in the folder she kept. She did not see this identification as important as it is for readers reading her (and other books like hers:

— We have called upon Miss Dusautoy & Miss Papillon & been very pretty.-Miss D. has a great idea of being Fanny Price, she & her youngest sister together, who is named Fanny. —

This could mean they want to be Fanny, they see she’s the heroine, or Miss Dusautoy fears that Austen herself has her in mind or if not her, someone like her. That would imply trepidation when the lines suggest they are delighted to be Fanny together. They recognize traits and are not at all put off. Miss Papillon is part of a family Austen saw often and makes fun of so it’s not improbable the people in the neighborhood did fear they’d find themselves in these books (another reason for anonymity in the era).

A dead baby joke. We haven’t had one of these in a while. The irritant here is her revulsion against the phoniness of the people’s professions (the sponsors) and the overt displays:

Only think of the Marquis of Granby being dead. I hope, if it please Heaven there should be another Son, they will have better Sponsors & less Parade.

For the rest we have household news. Of this we can say Austen is paying attention Sackree, a woman servant and conveys her anxieties the work she did will get there:

Sackree & the Children set off yesterday & have not been returned back upon us. They were all very well the Evening before. — We had handsome presents from the Gt House yesterday, a Ham & the 4 Leeches. — Sackree has left some shirts of her Master’s at the School, which finished or unfinished she begs to have sent by Henry & Wm. — Mr Hinton is expected home soon, which is a good thing for the Shirts

After all Sackree’s efforts Jane would not want them to get lost. Jane is described in another letter as making shirts for men. An arduous task, time-consuming, difficult. Remember how she said she wished she could buy dresses ready-made at one point. That awareness plus the servant wanting her work to acknowledged (and thus herself feel more secure).

Mrs Austen’s doings

It may be hot, but it’s going to be cold and Mrs Austen thinking ahead (a long life of required thrift here) is getting her wood in, and a wood that provides heat quickly and light (you save on candles)

— -I go tomorrow, & hope for some delays & adventures.-My Mother’s Wood is brought in — but by some mistake, no Bavins.’ She must therefore buy some. —

At the very close, her mother wants a letter from Cassandra.

And just before the very end: Triggs, the gamekeeper: a comical scene of the gamekeeper trying to cope with the birds that have been brought from elsewhere, making sure they don’t get loose, Triggs who supplied a chair to get to Bookham — did he not? Austen knows him too:

The Coach was stopt at the Blacksmith’s, & they came running down, with Triggs, & Browning, & Trunks & Bird cages. Quite amusing!


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b Walter Launt Palmer1854-1932) Sunshine and Snowstorblog
Walter Launt Palmer (1854-1932), Snow and Sunshine (1909): we have several snow-y letters coming up

Dear friends and readers,

A snowy letter. So is the next.

Three months have passed, and according to LeFaye and the evidence of this letter itself Jane did visit Henry in late November after all. We will recall by early November she had been eager to go for 3 weeks, apparently she did go after all and LeFaye thinks one thing she did was contact Egerton over the coming publication of MP in May. We have no letters from this time, no sign of it anywhere, and no mention by Jane. Henry and Jane are clearly getting along but why the letters were destroyed we can only guess. At any rate she went home and did not return until spring.

In this letter Austen appears to have the proofs of Mansfield Park — or at least a copy for Henry to read. She is reading The Heroine, and presumably in the throes of early composition of Emma. She goes to the theater to see the great Kean, enacting Shylock in a new psychologically sympathetic way. She visits with Henry’s friends. She hears from Cassandra: poor Cassy stayed at Chawton after all – and was de-flea-ed. Jane discovers she is without her trunk of small clothing items so she must borrow or re-buy.

After reviewing this letter (with Diana Birchall), I attempt a comparison between Burney’s journalizing letters and Austen’s — this comes out of my reading of Burney the last month or so.


Farnham, 19th century print

Diana went over Henry and Jane’s itinerary according to the map:

“A gap in letters of three months. We left her at Godmersham in November; Christmas is long past, she has gone to see Henry, and is staying with him in Henrietta Street. She has just arrived: Cassandra was wrong to think of them at Guildford last night, they stayed at Cobham. Cobham is 20 miles
southwest of London, and 10 northeast of Guildford, which shows us their route from Kent. Earlier they went through Farnham, which gives a picture of their mode of carriage-traveling, from village to village. Everything at Cobham was comfortable, and it is pleasant to think of the party sitting down to a “very nice roast fowl.” We don’t know why she could not pay Mr. Herington (a Cobham grocer, Deirdre guesses)”

I too was happy for Henry and Jane they “had a very nice roast fowl” (she likes to eat), “very good Journey, & everything at Cobham was comfortable,” but it would seem to have detracted from the atmosphere that she could not pay her bill. What bill was this? I assume Henry paid for the food and lodging. It was over £2, the amount sent by Mrs Austen which is now returned as useless. So she’s not a rich lady, is she? Why is Cassandra to “try her luck?” Is there some dispute over the amount? So we are still in the Bath world of tiny amounts — people made fun of the 1995 S&S film for having Emma-Elinor worry over the price of sugar and meat. It was true to Austen’s continuing experience.

But they did not begin reading until later, Bentley Green not far from getting back to London. Is it a proof of MP he has? If so, how do they have it? It is improbable that it’s a copy for selling, for then it would be put on sale. A MS? not likely as the revision process would make them a mess unless this was a copied out fair copy. Sigh. (Partly over the idea that this fair copy was not saved if it was one.)

Anna Massey as the scolding Mrs Norris (1983 MP)

“Henry’s approbation hitherto is even equal to my wishes; he says it is very different from the other two [P&P and S&S], but does not appear to think it at all inferior. He has only married Mrs. R[ushworth]. I am afraid he has gone through the most entertaining part. – He took to Lady B[ertram] & Mrs. N[orris] most kindly, & gives great praise to the drawing of the Characters. He understands them all, likes Fanny & I think foresees how it will all be.”

Angela Pleasance as the self-absorbed Lady Bertram (same production)

People talk to please. Henry says he foresees how it will be to please. He sees (Austen says it was kind in him) that she labored hard over Lady Bertram and Mrs Norris — so we see how the hard comedy of the novel is what she is conscious of. For Fanny-haters, note she is pleased he “likes Fanny.”

Her doubt in herself is seen in her comment on Henry’s reading, but more than that is suggested by her her comment: “I am afraid he has gone through the most entertaining part.” If you go to my calendar, you will find the calendar of the book shows what we have falls into three distinct parts:

1) Sotherton, the play, 2) the aftermath of Henry breaking off and then Mary stuck there, he returning to fall in love with Fanny, her growing up and ball, and the proposal, with the 3) last section in Portsmouth that forms an sub-epistolary novel suddenly not fitting the 1806-1809 calendar of the rest of the novel at all, but one for 1797-98.

My calendar shows (like as several other studies before me have done) the play sequence was written at a different time from the courting, and the real result of the play, Henry and Maria’s encounter in London and elopement part of the text written at the time the play was written. So the middle section (Henry going off, return, Fanny and Mary’s difficult friendship, his courting and falling in love with Fanny, the Ball, the trip to Portsmouth) are later interwoven stories filling the book out to 3 volumes and making it into a conventional novel about a nearly coerced marriage (between Henry and Fanny) which was luckily avoided.

Austen here shows she thinks the earlier material will be much more entertaining for her reader. It’s brilliant, the play within the play, the salaciousness, the investigation into the nature of love and marriage in Inchbald’s Lovers Vows as in the speeches rehearsed by Edmund and Mary, maybe too she liked the Sotherton sequence leading into it.

Diana’s comment: “If he foresaw all that, he had the cleverness of a Frenchman or an elf, because people have been debating for two centuries about alternate endings to MP!”


Diana: Austen adds that she finished The Heroine last night and was very much amused; she wonders James did not like it better. . This is a novel by Eaton Stannard Barrett, an Irish lawyer and poet. The subtitle at the time JA read this was “Adventures of a Fair Romance Reader,” and was changed in a later edition to Adventures of Cherubina.

My commentary: The Heroine by Barrett was an influential book on other books beyond Austen’s, Austen used the previous text from MP to help her give structure and patterning to Emma. See my Barrett’s The Heroine. The Heroine is a deeply conservative, nay reactionary text in the tradition of Cervantes’s Don Quixote (as pointed out by Gary Kelly among others)

I’m not surprised Austen’s oldest brother, James, didn’t like it. He writes sensitive melancholy landscape poetry.

I leave those who are interested to read the plot-outline of The Heroine and how it parallels Emma’s (destructive finally) friendship with Harriet and how Cherry-Emma learns a lesson and to depend on the sensible male Stuart-Knightley.

What it’s not is a parody of Radcliffe. There are allusions to Radcliffe’s book but what is sent up is not her style rather the outlook which makes important the heroine’s sensitivity and the whole exploration of sex is dismissed. From my blog:

“The text is presented as a series of letters from Cherry to an unnamed correspondent and begins as a transparent parody of Pamela. The style is nothing like Radcliffe; the prose is simple and direct. These really could be renamed Chapters as there is little use of epistolarity, but the mode combined with the obvious caricatured presences does has the effect of ironic distance.”

Austen is ever the partisan and just cannot see what is in front of her if she is herself involved — or she refuses to (as in the case of Byron in the next letter where she seems to shut her mind, snap it goes.) She is endlessly jealous of Radcliffe as a rival. Barrett is burlesquing many books, and the kind of attack he mounts would also skewer her Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park too. He is at his funniest when at the opening when he alludes to politics of the day (as in the idea that while other characters can appear in his hell, Junius remains invisible). Again my blog:

Barrett is enormously well-read in romance; my edition by Sadleir includes pages and pages of allusions from major (Goethe’s Werther) to minor and popular books (Children of the Abbey). If anything Radcliffe is a minor presence in his book; he may be thinking of her when he writes against “impassioned sensibility … exquisite art … depicting the delicate and affecting relations between the beauties of nature and the deep emotions of the soul” that seduce female readers sexually (“voluptuous languor”), but his text is far more like Walpole’s Otranto. Barrett’s hostility to the gothic, though, is undermined by his fascination with it — though he does not go so far as to enact it quite in the way of NA.

Austen also enjoyed The Female Quixote where the heroine is similarly taught a lesson against reading women’s romances and how she must depend on sensible men. FQ is exquisitely funny when it parodies later 17th century French heroic romance, but it has nothing to do with the gothic; about a third of the way into the book Charlotte Lennox can no longer keep up the burlesque, and her text becomes a domestic courtship romance.


Arnaud the sleigh 1776blog
A. d’Arnaud, The Sleigh. 1776. Image @Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide

Back to the trip where Diana enjoys the line: “I was very tired, but slept to a miracle, & am lovely today.” I agree Jane is luxuriating and the allusion to Mr Knight (rich, he left Godmersham to Edward let’s recall) is to the rich way she feels herself traveling. “Bait” means to refresh the horses. They are wiped down, allowed to rest, given water. The next passage shows us they went on with the same pair.

They arrive, the upper servant, Mr Barlowe, knows his place, Austen unpacks, sends out letters to friends with the letter P (I feel like Mrs Jennings because LeFaye is no help. She does not like the Papillons, makes fun of them. My guess is single women of the type she has been visiting and visited by in towns she stays at for years.)

It is snowing. – We had some Snowstorms yesterday, & a smart frost at night, which gave us a hard road from Cobham to Kingston; but as it was then getting dirty & heavy, Henry had a pair of leaders put on from the latter place to the bottom of Sloane Street. His own Horses therefore cannot have had hard work

I like that Jane is aware of how the horses did suffer. Though they did not change horses, he paid for two more to pull them. She remembers there is a slaughtering colonialist war going on in Portugal and Spain — though she does not use this term she does show interest in it again and again throughout the letters though her reactions are not exemplary (how wonderful we know so few who are dead, her attack on that general). For those who don’t know about this war it was deadly and had slaughter after slaughter; Goya’s paintings and famous May 2nd comes from it. (A busy year Diana puts it — so too this year in Syria and Afghanistan — the latter a real equivalent. Bigland’s book (see letter 90) read aloud by Jane by the way includes a large section on European politics; and the stuff on Paisley connects too.)

So I take the unusual explicit reference to the weather (but remember the last letter registered the cold) as part of her awareness of the world around her. Horses overworked in the wretched raw March snow, men dying still not so far away.

Her “veils” reference is not so decent. She is making fun of how lower class people are getting above their station by wearing fancy hats with veils. She watches for them and takes pleasure in the women’s attempts to get above their stations because she feels so secure in hers.

All this brings to mind some worry Cassandra had yesterday and Martha Lloyd. Not exactly rich and easy Martha’s life (as we’ve seen) — that’s the association. Austen’s letters move by association. Jane hopes Martha had a pleasant visit to them or somewhere else and thus Cassandra and Mrs Austen could sit down to their beef-pudding without too much guilt. This cold and train of thought brings on the misery of the chimney sweep to her mind. She says she will think of his cleaning the chimney in Chawton tomorrow.

About the end of the first page, she turns her attention to London. Crowds are enormous for Edmund Kean. It’s probably worth it to say a new style of acting was coming in: not so much more naturalistic, but more willing to open up the inner vulnerable psyche. That’s what Mrs Siddons and it led to Shylock being presented no longer as this comic or vengeful villain, but a sympathetic outsider. This was only the beginning, but it was important. You can see a reflection of this in Scott’s Isaac of York in his Ivanhoe.

Diana comments:

“A good play for Fanny. She cannot be much affected I think,” she comments. Fanny is now aged twenty, and I suppose Aunt Jane is looking out for her, to see that the impressionable girl won’t take in anything she shouldn’t – which is pretty rich coming from someone who’d been reading Les Liaisons Dangereuses when she was several years younger than Fanny!”

I don’t see what one text has to do with the other> Why Fanny cannot be much affected by this play and therefore it’s good for her to watch is a puzzling statement. If Austen means to suggest she is aware Fanny is not exactly a sensitive original type when she watches a play then why is it good for her to watch this one? It had not yet been interpreted to be anti-bigotry.

Mrs Perigord was Madame Bigeon’s daughter who had left her husband (probably over his abuse of her). She cannot have much money so it’s important that Austen pay this bill for a willow for hat-making and she does. Muslin was delicate material and Austen has not yet allowed it to be dyed although “promised” by others several times. She probably means she wouldn’t let them. Why are people wicked for dying cloth? It may be a joke, word play as Diana says, with the underlying idea that white is pure:


“Now comes another quote I love, and it is rather startling to see it in context of a fairly prim and prosy paragraph; we are suddenly moved to remember that the maiden aunt is Jane Austen, capable of anything. For Mrs. Perigord has come, bringing some Willow, and she mentions that “we owe her Master for the Silk-dyeing.” Jane, however, protests that her “poor old Muslin has never been dyed yet,” despite several promises. And then she says: “What wicked People Dyers are. They begin with dying their own Souls in Scarlet Sin.” This can only be written for the pleasure of the word play, the fancy.”

I don’t get it as dyes come in all sorts of colors.

In the evening Austen tore through The Heroine and Henry read more of MP “admiring Henry Crawford” only “Properly” “as a clever pleasant man.” This does sound priggish — she is saying that he does not admire Henry Crawford as a rake or cad who uses women (the way a man might).

The last sentence suggests that Austen is telling only the good things that are occurring or occurred that night or over the days: we have seen many times that Cassandra wants upbeat stories and what is not upbeat given a virtuous turn or told not at all. This is the best she can produce about their evening is another way of paraphrasing this.

And now a paragraph about Henry’s friends and business associates who naturally are invited — and just as naturally may well refuse. Performative behavior is nothing new.

I suggest by-the-way that Fanny Price and Henry Crawford would not do as partners because Jane does not herself find Henry that congenial nor he her. That’s (Jane and Henry Austen’s relationship) an undercurrent in the novel. All her novels are rooted in her life-story. She is attracted to Henry, he is amusing, but her dream life declares it would never do. — unlike dear Frank.

Austen does not expect John Warren and his wife actually to come. The implication of the next sentence is that she at least (and maybe Henry) regards this socializing as an affliction. It’s said in a jok-y way: “Wyndham Knatchbull is to be asked for Sunday, & if he is cruel enough to consent, someone must be sent to meet him.” The Knatchbulls were upper class people and Wyndham a learned man from Oxford (in Arabic no less). Fanny Austen Knight would marry into this family and become a Lady.

From The Loiterer I’d say Henry was a reader and fit into Oxford so I assume this joke is for Austen’s benefit who is not keen on social life. Then Kean mentioned with a sarcastic voice, as if she’s repeating other people’s cant. I do think LeFaye guess may be right: that Henry’s friend may have played in a performance as Frederick. I think it’s the MP Frederick referred to, so it may be that the friends joked that Tilson or Chownes was a Frederick-Henry Crawford type (rakish).

At the end of the paragraph we see Austen still cannot get over being someone who moves about in her own carriage: she is to call upon Henry’s friends this way: “Funny me.”

The next fortnight tickets for all good seats gone at Drury Lane but Henry means to buy ahead for when Cassandra comes. He does seem to like Cassandra; she was his choice when he was ill.
A pathetic vignette occurs right after a mention of Sarah Mitchell who LeFaye has discovered had an illegitimate child. So a servant whom Cassandra has had to hire (and didn’t like this at all): Jane wonders what “worst thing” has been forced upon Cassandra.

Well Cassy springs to mind. Let us recall how badly Cassy did not want to be left with her Aunt Cassandra. Well she was left and is apparently treated as someone with fleas. No wonder she was not keen to stay. I feel for the child who had wanted to be with her parents. There are not many beds at Chawton we see and she got her aunt Jane’s.

Then Austen answering some joke about grotesque looking people; Austen is alive to people’s bodies and she says she has not seen anyone in London with quite Dr Syntax’s long nose or as montrous as two figures in a comic afterpiece burlesque.
The whole paragraph is to me distasteful, unfeelingly jocular.

And so the evening comes to an end.


A still extant modest 18th century trunk

The following morning she reports her trunk has still not come. A loss of her clothes could not be a small thing to Austen. Apparently she did not bring a second set of small things with her in case the trunk was lost or stolen, and now she may have to borrow “stockings & buy Shoes & Gloves for my visit,” but she says (ironically) that by writing about it this way (berating herself for her foolishness) that will make the gods relent and it will show up. There’s nothing the gods like more than people admitting to learning lessons

There’s a decidedly irritated undercurrent here starting with the mention of the “Warrens, or maybe it goes back to where Austen admits she is not telling what happened in the evening that was not good.

Lady writerblog
19th century drawing of a “lady writer”

I’ve been reading Burney’s diaries and journals and thought I’d end today’s offering with a comparison. Austen’s letters contrast to Burney’s journals which are far more formal, self-conscious, fictionalized in part. Austen is immersed in life and reflecting it in her words. In some ways I much prefer Austen’s though concede the general public would find Burney’s “more entertaining” to use Austen’s diplomatic phrase

It’s sometimes said that Boswell’s Life of Johnson, huge as it is, once you see all Boswell’s journals emerges as an interlude where a secondary hero takes the stage, but it is no different in feel or outlook from the rest. I suggest that Fanny Burney’s novels — huge as 3 are — and her plays too — might be considered as interludes, special episodes in the 50 volume book that was her life. It’s easy to discover there’s a preface to Cecilia not printed in the present editions, but found in the diaries and journals, a previous partial manuscript of Camilla extant in the diaries and journals; you might say the novels spill over into the journals or the novels spill out. The plays are notoriously life-writing spilling out expressionistically. Burney saved the drafts of her plays.

By contrast, Austen’s novels not interludes or continuations in a new spirit within her epistolary writing; I have (I think) demonstrated that both S&S and P&P were originally epistolary (and so have others) and think parts of MP were epistolary, but they are no longer. The novels do not spill out of the letters, anything but … at least as we now have the letters. Once her book was published, Austen did not save her drafts. Perhaps she had only one fair copy or two at most and Burney had many more. Burney appears to have been given so much more time and liberty to write.

One problem we are having reading these letters is Austen is journalizing just as surely as Burney, loving to put down her life. But Austen appears not to have had as much time to work out her vignettes, she gets them down rapid-scapid. Austen died young and when Burney’s husband died (November 1817, a few months after Austen), she worked for 23 further years elaborating her 50 volume + work.

That Austen is aiming at the sort of thing Burney was but didn’t have the time or life span to work it out expresses one we have such trouble going over these letters. It’s like we have drafts of letters. And of course our editor is not only not up to it, she doesn’t want to help us for real. I had really meant to go through this letter thematically not chronologically (section by section), but it seems to me demand the step-by-step or sentence-by-sentence approach. I will however as in the previous two letters reprint the text in the comments.

An interesting parallel: Austen has one beautiful fair copy of a text prepared as if a presentation copy; clearly she wanted Lady Susan to last. So Burney did precisely that with one of the plays her father and “Daddy Crisp” repressed (Witlings?)

Of course it might be Austen poured herself into the novels while Burney poured into the life-writing. We don’t know this for sure as we are missing the majority of the letters and all but a few drafts.

I was amused to discover in A Scribbler’s Life, a one volume excerpt from the 40 volume set (before the court journals came out and emphasizing the earlier years) that Burney as a girl would “always have the last sheet of my Journal in my pocket, & when I have wrote it half full — I join it to the rest, & take another sheet.”

These pockets are great bag-like things inside one’s skirt — no need for a handbag and reticule just for show.

The niece who described Austen at Godemersham in the visit we’ve just read about (her hair long and black) also said that she remembered Austen walking about with her writing desk at Godmersham. It is somewhere in the family papers.

A comparison: for both the life of a courtier is a death-in-life.


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Fanny (Imogen Poots) and Jane Austen (Olivia Williams) having frisks at Godmersham — drunk and running about garden (Miss Austen Regrets 2008)

Dear friends and readers,

The second of the two letters we’ve discussed this month on Austen-l (see letter 95). Very long, written within 3 days of the first, it represents the actual rhythm of exchange, and is (further typically) filled with people of whom we know nothing and LeFaye is disinclined to give away; there are many tiny vignettes, if incisive still half-formed, so to close read is quite a job. On the first week Diana Birchall took us but 1/3rd the way in.

I’d like to try as an experiment a different way of proceeding than we have been doing lo these weeks, months, and years. I will for a change do a general reading zeroing in on themes — because I feel I am ready to see larger patterns now (having gone through 95 letters just about all by Jane Austen), and get them right as I was not when we began. I will scan the whole letter and place it into the comments for reference. As Diana remained faithful to our proceeding all along, she has the last word.

Gentle reader, if you feel you can, comment on this different way of proceeding and say which you prefer.

18th century print of Streatham

There’s Jane’s view of herself. It is clear she does not get many compliments and is inclined to think she is not valued, and is sceptical about all such utterances. Towards the end we get a strong statement about how she values Cassandra and the Bigg sisters. She likes being with them better than being at Streatham or Bookham (you can have these fancy houses you see). She says she can’t get used to seeing them in Henry’s carriage. What a view she has of herself. We saw how she couldn’t get over seeing herself in a carriage. She comes back to the weather several times. It’s apparently nice for November. She does this to say to Cassandra that she knows Cassandra is making the most of this in order to enjoy life as best she can. “I was in hopes of your seeing the illuminations and you have seen them.” It’s here an association comes which makes her remember Frank’s use of the past participle or country accent as a boy so fondly. I see an important undercurrent here, which leads me to …


Austen as reader and writer. From the standpoint of books Austen read and admired and her work as a writer: again there is the liking for Crabbe; she’s pleased that the conservative (anti-Jacobin is the phrase used) Elizabeth Hamilton admires her work sufficiently; she does not care if the people at Cheltenham really don’t like her books if they are willing to buy them (“a disagreeable duty”), still “so as they do it” makes her happy. She is working on the 2nd edition of S&S — those long mornings we’ve observed mentioned in other letters must be when it’s done. There is a reference to Madame de Sevigne which suggests that Austen had read her letters. She likens Mrs Hamilton’s relationship with her daughter to madame Sevigne’s with hers.

Cheltenham, the 18th century spa era … again highly idealized

Her brothers: She wants to visit Henry and he has been ill (she says we rejoice sincerely in his gaining ground), and she is aware that the illness is his anxiety and his state of mind for the past year or so (so since Eliza’s death), but it’s clear she is not certain he wants her around. She may see that she’s an uncomfortable person in some ways to have around (she does not like social life, is part of it only it “bits and starts” either because she’s snubbed as older, single, poorer), but she would like to go to be there. I don’t think this is ironic as she repeats the idea more than once. Note she has these plans 3 letters ago to go to Henry quickly but not stay long and has yet to leave.

She also is remembering language as a child that Frank used, with a kind of cherishing — again that strong love for him, which we’ve had some evidence comes from their childhood. The remarks people make about Frank as a boy all come from her passing phrases. He apparently would use the past tense participle when he should not and she imitates this several times even to ‘draved.” It may be she is also imitating his country accent. Poor Mary in the last part of the letter is a reference to Mary Gibson Austen. She was pregnant again. Frank is stuck in the Baltic. Jane thinks of this, and feels for Mary vicariously.

Bath, the River Avon

Edward and she have become quite companionable since Elizabeth’s death: it’s worth remarking that the sharp asides about his miserliness, possessiveness over land, egoism have stopped. She notes that he hates to be around sick people in a previous letter with respect to Lady Bridges. I remind everyone in a previous letter Lady Bridges and her doctor (Parry) and coming to Bath were mentioned and Jane said Edward won’t go to Bath now rather than be around sick people — even if Louisa is going (Edward has had a letter from her we are told at the close). The Lady B seen here is the same sick lady of the previous letter that Edward wanted to avoid, e.g., “Dr Parry does not want to keep Lady B at Bath when she can once move.”

Edward (played very well by Pip Torrens, MAR 2008)

But no sharp comments about Edward over this — earlier much earlier she made fun of his going to Bath for his health and again there is no mockery of this type of him any more. Perhaps the absence of Elizabeth made her like him better. There’s only “you may guess how Edward feels.” He wants to avoid this sick lady and will bring back Fanny Cage (who we must assume didn’t like being around the sick either.) Again I see in John and Fanny Dashwood aspects of this brother and (now dead, mercifully I expect Jane would admit to herself) sister-in-law. Lady B has money and status; as Diana remarks when Lady B wants to leave, she ups and does — unlike Jane who must wait on everyone else. (Anne Elliot’s powerless has its source here.) And Jane admires the decisiveness. I rather suspect she really was so frustrated in the time she had to waste with dullards; the irritation is not so strong as it once was.

Jane and Fanny look through window at men playing cards (MAR 2008)

Jane’s niece Fanny whom we have to accept was her favorite by this time is not too keen on the aunt just now. She favors the younger people around her and Mr Wildman. Jane enjoys running about with them outside the house, sitting in a row for fun — this is used in Miss Austen Regrets (2009) we see Olivia Williams just with Fanny drinking a lot and running about (to be scolded by Edward Bridges in the person of Hugh Bonneville). She does find companionship with Mrs Lefroy’s sister, Mrs Harrison, but note the repeated self-consciousness. She cannot resist praising people who are not eager over the concert (Lady B). She kids about Miss Lee who likes Crabbe and talks up a ball too much — perhaps the woman was pompous.

Yes Jane does not like over refined and elegant people – or laughs at them, or tries to. They irritate her probably because of her own lower status and it must have grated knowing herself to be so much more gifted and yet so undervalued for this.

Notice how she is often paired with Miss Clewes. This is the common way at Godmersham, Aunt Jane and the governess.

On people important to Austen, people who are not relatives: The Hattons (some of whom she has a relationship with) come and go and so do the Bridges. There is another mention of Edward Bridges with an enigmatic statement about why he keeps coming “for more reasons than one.” Apparently Austen did not like him by this time at all. We’ve seen this growing since the beginning of a previous visit to Godmersham. I agree with Diana that Austen at Chilham must’ve met Mr Breton (spelt here Britton), an intelligent man would make it a decent party (“the pleasantest party ever known there”) but note she does not say so. It’s curious how she represses this kind of thing — Cassandra would not like it?

Tomalin remarks how loathe Austen was to mention First Impressions in her letters. This is the same reluctance. Harman sees this as the result of her literary work not being valued by her society or her family enough — or her fear they would think she was getting too full of herself.

The Sherers are really gone — remember last week’s letter (this is the problem with taking such time over these) how she lamented they were really going. She likes Mrs Sherer especially. Perhaps this woman and Mrs Harrison valued her for real somehow the others did not — parts of her personality no one else responded to.

I think by this time she has become cool with Martha altogether. At Worthing might have been a high point for them, but life has intervened. Martha persisted in wanting to marry; is a poor dependent who must sell herself as a companion. They are apart too much and she expected too much of Martha. She expected less of Miss Sharpe and consequently the friendship stays easier — we lack many letters they apparently exchanged.

As will be seen I did this letter differently. I’ve deliberately picked out what is important here.

A costume used in the 1995 S&S film

Now for the minutiae which make up style and tone. In her first posting on this letter, Diana admired the sweep, concision of “very snug, in my own room, lovely morning, excellent fire, fancy me” — it shows a confidence with language found and way with words like Dickens’s in Pickwick Papers, the famous passage ending “sagacious dog, very.” Austen does the same thing with Mrs Elton only then the style is to send Mrs Elton up. I agree there is a feel of bitterness in her references to the Fowles’s buying her book reluctantly.

Authorship is not paling, but she has not the same first elan and ecstasy after 30 years waiting. It’s only human when you have felt your 2nd edition staring you in the face. The truth was she was not independent, far from it, not making anywhere near enough money to effect a life change.

She is though in the same letter genuinely pleased to be older, to be out of the “rat race” of procuring partners, and looking attractive to young men: “as I must leave off being young I find many Douceurs in being a sort of Chaperon. I am put on the sofa near the Fire & can drink as much wine as I like.” she does not want to be old but as time has enforced age upon her, she finds real compensations.

She finds some of her guests dull, but some she takes real pleasure in and there’s are these strong utterances:

“We had a beautiful night for our frisks.” Like lively horses.

“Dog-tired” the next day. (Why are dogs proverbally tired?)

“The shades of evening are descending, & I resume my narrative” is an interjection between a list of people’s names who might be a “a good ball next week, as far as females go.” Maybe the local area didn’t support assemblies, book circulating libraries.

Jane Austen no longer goes to balls to find male partners. Company, good female company is what she wants — and we see this in this letter from her enjoyment of Mrs Harrison, to her gratitude to Mary Plumptre whom Jane would hardly have known but “was delighted with me, good Enthusiastic Soul!” By contrast, men are “useful” (Mr Gibbs), provide carriages (Henry) or they are “unsteady” (Mr Paget). A rare sort of proto-feminist quip Diana overlooks: “what is wrong is to be imputed to the Lady — I dare say the House likes Female Government.”

Rex Whistler (1905-1944) painting bought by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Tritton at Godmersham is now in the possession of Mrs. Sam Hood (daughter of Mrs. Tritton)

Diana picks up on the quip about Sophia as “comer” (more comments on women) and how Jane disses the Hattons — she is always dissing them, if not the women, then George. This is not the first came and sat and went about them. They were above her socially, lived in far greater luxury, with a bigger library … but now I’m looking for phrases, style, tone that matter I am struck by this:

“Dear Henry! what a turn he has for being ill! & what a thing Bile is!” This attack has probably been brought on in part by his previous confinement & anxiety.”

She hopes it is going fast and then resorts to that time-keeping one sees in her novels: she will look for a good account from Cassandra on Tuesday, but since letters come on Wednesday she can’t hope for the letter written on Tuesday to arrive before Friday. I don’t know why a letter to Wrotham would make Henry feel better. Jane is concerned. When I read this passage and think of the undercurrents about him and his living over his business since Eliza’s death, I am not surprised at his later retreat to a plain woman and quiet curacy. He’d had enough.

Cassandra (Gretta Scacchi) at Chawton (MAR, 2008)

By contrast, Cassandra’s letter is “excellent sweetness … to send me such a nice long letter — it made its appearance, with one from my Mother, son after I & my impatient feelings walked in.’

Her impatient feelings have feet too. Diana ended on something not explained, well after she mentions her mother’s letter she writes; “How glad I am that I did what I did! I was only afraid that you might think the offer superfluous, but you have set my heart at ease.” This brings her back to Henry and her determination to stay with him whether he will or not, “let it be ever so disagreeable to him.” But she has not time or “paper for half I want to say.”

We cannot know what Jane did that she was so glad about and she thought Cassandra might find superfluous except it be her offer to visit Henry. In context it feels to me to be more about her mother. I take the above to be some of the more important tones and sharp memorable turns of phrase and minutiae in this letter.

For Austen’s text and Diana’s close reading see continuation in the comments.


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Sackree does not at all approve of Mary Doe and her nuts — on the score of propriety rather than health — She saw some signs of going after her [Mary, a servant] in George & Henry, & thinks if you could give the girl a check, by rather reproving her for taking anything seriously about nuts which they said to her, it might be of use. — This of course between our three discreet selves … Mon, the 11th

Edward Bridges’s friend is a Mr Hawker I find, not Harpur. I would not have you sleep in such an Error for the World … Everything of Love & Kindness — proper & improper must now suffice … Tues, the 12th

Stephen Rumboldt-Lushington, who appears in Austen’s letters during this visit to Godmersham

As played by Olivia Williams and Tom Goodman-Hill, Jane meets the literary Lushington who quotes Crabbe at her (Miss Austen Regrets 2009)

Dear friends and readers,

Two long letters, a journal really sent Cassandra, just stuffed with diurnal detail and (today) obscure people from the Austen milieu, about whom Austen seems to say the least “alienated” (on Austen-l, the words were “sour,” “sniping, “resentful” that they were there) caused a large number of postings, debate over whether Austen had Aspergers traits, and much half-puzzled deciphering. We spent three weeks (four if you include the week break for New Year’s). She had been at Godmersham since September 24th (see letter 90) and would stay at least until November 3rd, after which he returned to Henry’s home in Henrietta Street, for another stay.

As they are very long and so replete I will treat them in two blogs as one long journal piece. The next 4 differ in tone as half of 93 is a letter by Lizzy, or Elizabeth, one of Edward’s daughters, the niece who writes the PS to letter 91 because she wanted to write a letter of her own inside Aunt Jane’s letter and is finally permitted to. All three (93, 94 and 95) are addressed to Cassandra at Henrietta Street, not Chawton and there is a corresponding change of subject matter and tone.

As in the case of Letters 87, 88, and 89, Gwyneth Hughes dramatized scenes from the two letters, especially the Edward Bridges’ thwarted romance, and Jane’s enjoyment and irritation at the county house socializing expected (demanded) of her. I surmise that beyond being kept from her writing and expected to pretend to enjoy wasting time with the dull and petty, something is grating on Austen’s nerves, but what it is we cannot know. Many of the sharper detached comments are well-known, minus their context:

Only think of Mrs Holder’s being dead! — Poor woman, she has done the only thing in the World she could possibly do, to make one cease to abuse her. — Now if you please, Hooper must have it in his power to do more by his Uncle. — Lucky for the little girl! — An Anne Elkins can hardly be so unfit for the care of a Child as Mrs Holder

The context is Phillipa Holder (the dead woman) had been the widow of William-Thorpe Holder. Anne Elkins had just married Philippa’s oldest son so she would take over the care of Philippa’s grand-daughter. A hard comment to say the little girl was lucky, but Austen did not flinch from truths. The heir to the property, James Thorpe Holder (brother to William-Thorpe) could now help these people (with Philippa out of the way?)

But the revelations about treatment of servants are not well known — such as Edward’s sacking a long-term servant and Jane saying “good riddance” (in effect) or that when two of Edward’s sons had been harassing (testing they might call it) a young maid with salacious double entendres (nuts = testicles), Austen’s agrees that the way to deal with it is to scold the already anxious vulnerable frightened maid that she is not to take such joking seriously.

Nor Austen’s apparent attraction to yet another young man: Stephen-Rumboldt Lushington:

Mr Lushington goes tomorrow. — Now I must speak of him — & I like him very much. I am sure he is clever & a Man of Taste. He got a vol. of Milton last night & spoke of it with Warmth. — He is quite an M.P. — very smiling, with an exceeding good address, & readiness of Language. — I am rather in love with him. –I dare say he is ambitious & Insincere.– He puts me in mind of Mr Dundas. He has a wide smiling mouth & very good teeth, & something the same complexion & nose. — He is a much shorter Man, with Martha’s Leave.

The running joke of this letter is that Austen is looking forward to, enduring Mr Lushington because he can frank this letter, but it’s clear a flirtation between this literary man and woman has been going on once again (see letter 90): the letter’s first sentence says this and the last two words declare it has gone for free, signed by Lushington. She’s still taken by George Hatton and insists “there is no truth in the report of G. Hatton being to marry Miss Wemyss. He desires it may be contradicted.” The only male who she is flirting with and does not look over her shoulder is Edward Bridges, perhaps because he is busy with his friend, Robert Wigram, about which Jane is continually complaining, viz.,

I wish there were no Wigrams & Lushingtons in the way to fill up the Table & make us such a motley set. — I cannot spare Mr Lushington either because of his frank, but Mr Wigram does no good to anybody. — I cannot imagine how a Man can have the impudence to come into a Family party for three days, where he is quite a stranger, unless he knows himself to be agreable on undoubted authority. — He & Edward Brydges are going to ride to Eastwell

Edward only brought this son of

a great rich mercantile Sir Robert Wigram with him so he could ride free in Wigram’s gig and not be alone and Godmersham would be the cheapest and pleasantest way of entertaining himself and his friend … Mr W is about 5 or 6 & 20, not ill-looking, & not agreable. — He is certainly no addition. — A sort of cool, gentleman-like manner, but very silent.

Anyone would think Jane was jealous or spent the time having semi-antagonistic lover’s quarrels with Bridges, though she may be acting this out for Martha and Cassandra’s benefit at whom some of these remarks are aimed. Throughout the letter there is flirting,
gibes, a kind of antagonistic coquetry at Lushington and Bridges (with a moment taken out for George Hatton too).

The thorny Austen of these letters is not unknown, but not the coquet. In recent years John Halperin’s biography and some scenes in Gwyneth Hughes’s Miss Austen Regrets feature Austen mocking and needling others (e.g., Rev Mr Papillon) and terribly earnest with Bridges. No one captures this vividly acidular improper woman, the one who wrote the Juvenilia, Lady Susan and Sanditon.

An advertisement for the Basingstoke races

91, Mon-Tues, 11-12 Oct 1813

She begins:

You will have Edward’s Letter tomorrow. He tells me that he did not send you any news to interfere with mine, but I do not think there is much for anybody to send at present. We had our dinner party on Wednesday with the addition of Mrs & Miss Milles who were under a promise of dining here in their return from Eastwell whenever they paid their visit of duty there, & it happened to be paid on that day. – -Both Mother & Daughter are much as I have always found them. — I like the Mother, 1st because she reminds me of Mrs Birch & 2dly because she is chearful & grateful for what she is at the age of 90 & upwards. — The day was pleasant enough. I sat by Mr Chisholme & we talked away at a great rate about nothing worth hearing. — It was a mistake as to the day of the Sherers going being fixed; they are ready but are waiting for Mr Paget’s answer. — I enquired of Mrs Milles after Jemima Brydges & was quite greived to hear that she was obliged to leave Cantr some months ago on account of her debts & is nobody knows where.-What an unprosperous Family! – –

She opens with Edward; they read one another’s letters, and Austen has become closer to Edward and likes him better since Elizabeth’s death — remember the comments (more than one) how a spouse affects another spouse adversely or favorably. The details are all about single women one of whose company reminded Jane of a woman she liked: Mrs Birch because she is chearful though old and not rich (anticipating the fictional Mrs Smith). Austen is on the side of self-control and acceptance as wisdom.

Jemima Brydges. We don’t know why she went broke and disappeared, but a good guess is that she was unmarried; one sentence gives enough to see the personal catastrophe of yet another single woman. Perhaps Edward Bridges is on Austen’s mind. Diana Birchall commented:

The Jemima Brydges of LeFaye’s notes, this girl’s mother, died 1809 … the Jemima Austen refers to, died unmarried in 1818. Deirdre does not give her birth date, but as her brothers and sisters were born in the 1840s she must have been in her late 60s when she died … it is four years after her mother’s death … Jemima’s older sister was Anne Lefroy, Jane’s friend who died in a horseback accident in 1804, so perhaps the “unprosperous” comment relates to Anne.

Tom Hiddleston played John Plumptee, earnest suitor for Fanny Austen’s hand in Miss Austen Regrets

On Saturday soon after breakfast Mr John Plumptree left us for Norton Court. — I like him very much.– He gives me the idea of a very amiable young Man, only too diffident to be so agreable as he might be. — He was out the cheif of each morning with the other two-shooting & getting wet through. — Tomorrow we are to know whether he & a hundred young Ladies will come here for the Ball. — I do not much expect any. — The Deedes cannot meet us, they have Engagements at home. I will finish the Deedes by saying that they are not likely to come here till quite late in my stay — the very last week perhaps — & I do not expect to see the Moores at all. — They are not solicited till after Edward’s return from Hampshire. Monday, Nov: 15th is the day now fixed for our setting out. — Poor Basingstoke Races! — there seem to have been two particularly wretched days on purpose for them; — Weyhill week does not begin much happier. —

Plumptre: Jane really likes him and it’s clear Fanny really doesn’t. He’s a kind of Edward Ferrars, Edmund Bertram, Colonel Brandon: Austen likes his seriousness, his intelligence, his sensitivity his high ethics. In the later letters we will see these characteristics bored Fanny and she was willing to countenance him because he was a good match and as religious her relatives approved of him. A ball at Godmersham (so in Miss Austen Regrets showing everyone dancing upon first night’s meeting is accurate as far as it goes)

Who came and who went and we see that the Basingstoke races bore Jane. Two days before she died she wrote a poem mocking people who go to such things. She knew she’d be bored at that fair in a previous letter and got out of it. IN the poem she wishes bad weather on them and here she is ;half-glad they had bad weather: “Poor Basingstoke races! — there seem to have been two particularly wretched days on purpose for them … ” Nature on purpose thwarting them.

We were quite surprised by a Letter from Anna [Austen soon to be Lefroy] at Tollard Royal last Saturday — but perfectly approve her going & only regret they should all go so far, to stay so few days. We had Thunder & Lightens here on Thursday morns between 5 & 7 — no very bad Thunder, but a great deal of Lightning –It has given the commencement of a Season of wind & rain; & perhaps for the next 6 weeks we shall not have two dry days together. — Lizzy is very much obliged to you for your Letter & will answer it soon, but has so many things to do that it may be four or five days before she can. This is quite her own message, spoken in rather a desponding tone. —

Then Anna — now visiting in-laws and of course the relatives approve. They only regret she and Ben have to go so far and plan only to stay briefly. Jane so obtuse sometimes when she is not sympathetic. I see a girl glad to get away from home and glad for a longer trip with her boyfriend. An effective bit of description, showing how alive Austen was to natural world and appreciated hard winter too. Diana “And for a moment Lizzy, overwhelmed and guilty at not being better organized, rises before us, so very human.”

The next section of Monday’s journal I’ve gone over. The story of the maid servant harassed by Edward’s sons. George, born 1795, and Henry, born 1797, just the right age to go over a maid born in 1796 (LeFaye’s note). Austen’s rush ahead then divides into topics: First Austen as a snobbish Emma enduring a Mrs Elton:

Mrs Britton called here on Saturday. I never saw her before. She is a large, ungenteel Woman, with self-satisfied & would-be elegant manners.

Then more passages about Edward Bridges, this time reported coming with a Mr Harpur a neighboring clergyman, and Mr R. Marshall to go shooting, Mr Lushington too and another ball, the Ashford to come, the ball makes her think of the nephews, George and Edward again:

As I wrote of my nephews with a little bitterness in my last, I think it particularly incumbent on me to do them justice now, & I have great pleasure in saying that they were both at the Sacrament yesterday. After having much praised or much blamed anybody, one is generally sensible of something just the reverse soon afterwards. Now, these two Boys who are out with the Foxhounds will come home & disgust me again’ by some habit of Luxury or some proof of sporting Mania — unless I keep it off by this prediction. — They amuse themselves very comfortably in the Evens=-by netting; they are each about a rabbit net, & sit as deedily to it, side by side, as any two Uncle Franks could do …

IN the notes LeFaye seems to miss that two of Edward’s sons have been harassing the maids: The equivalent in US life in the 20th century is boys in high school handing girls photos of girls naked with the absurd egoistic expectation the girl will be aroused; at any rate signalling to her somehow and watching to see “how far she’ll go.” Yuk. But Cassandra did not and has destroyed a letter inbetween 90 and 91 where Austen blamed these young men sharply. This is a good example of where Cassandra saves what makes Jane dislikable and destroys what might have mitigated this letter or made her decent to the maid. The letter where Jane let her nephews have it (apparently) for their reprehensible behavior can be atoned for only by saying they went to church to the sacrament. To Cassandra all that counts are these selfish, lazy stupid young men. The maid doesn’t matter. The result: the only passage that has survived clearly is where Austen looks like she’s condoning exploitation and has no feeling for the maid.

Austen’s note on Brunton’s Self-Control I covered in an earlier letter when Austen showed that she saw she had a rival in Brunton who as aiming at some of the same kinds of writing and audience that Austen had in mind. Here we can remember she is just now also writing Mansfield Park (not mentioned at all) and may have begun Emma and may have been comparing her own art with Brunton’s and seen that Brunton does not have this original grasp of realism she is working so hard to get. She finds it nowhere in the novel and maybe it’s not..

I am looking over Self Control again, & my opinion is confirmed of its being an excellently-meant, elegantly-written Work, without anything of Nature or Probability in it. I declare I do not know whether Laura’s passage down the American River, is not the most natural, possible,every-day thing she ever does.

Olivia Williams as Austen passing the night walking in the grounds of Godmersham; the next morning she is writing again (Miss Austen Regrets)

The second part of the letter was written Tuesday, and perhaps in response to a long letter from Cassandra (42 lines in one page though LeFaye has it as 36), Jane’s is thick with references to people and events, reading, all crowded together. Here is the whole text and I will summarize only a few, the most salient elements:

Dear me! What is to become of me! Such a long Letter — Two & forty Lines in the 2n Page. — Like Harriot Byron I ask, what am I to do with my Gratitude? — I can do nothing but thank you & go on. — A few of your enquiries I think, are replied to en avance. The name of F. Cage’s Draws Master is O’Neil. — We are exceedingly amused with your Shalden news — & your self reproach on the subject of Mrs Stockwell, made me laugh heartily. I rather wondered that Johncock [the butler] the only person in the room, could help laughing too. — I had not heard before of her having the Measles. Nrs Heathcote & Alethea’s [sisters] staying till Friday was quite new to me; a good plan however — I oould not have settled it better myself, & am glad they found so much in the house to approve — and I hope they will ask Martha to visit them. — I admire the Sagacity & Taste of Charlotte Williams. Those large dark eyes always judge well. — I will compliment her, by naming a Heroine after her. — Edward has had all the particulars of the Building & can read to him twice over & seems very well satisfied; — a narrow door to the Pantry is the only subject of solicitude — it is certainly just the door which should not be narrow, on account of the Trays — but if a case of necessity, it must be borne. –I knew there was Sugar in the Tin, but had no idea of there being enough to last through your Company. All the better. — You ought not to think. This new Loaf better than the other, because that was the first of 5 which all came together. Something of fancy perhaps, & something of Imagination. – Dear Mrs Digweed! — I cannot bear that she should not be foolishly happy after a Ball. — I hope Miss Yates & her companions were all well the day after their arrival. — I am thoroughly rejoiced that Miss Benn has placed herself in Lodgings — tho’ I hope they may not be long necessary. — No Letter from Charles yet. — Southey’s Life of Nelson. — I am tired of Lives of Nelson, being that I never read any. I will read this however, if Frank is mentioned in it. – -Here am I in Kent, with one Brother in the same County & another Brother’s Wife, & see nothing of them — which seems unnatural — It will not last so for ever I trust. — I should like to have Mrs F.A. & her Children here for a week — but not a syllable of at nature is ever breathed. — I wish her last visit had not been so long one. — I wonder whether Mrs Tilson has ever lain-in. Mention it, if ever comes to your Knowledge, & we shall hear of it by the same post from Henry. Mr Rob. Mascall breakfasted here; he eats a great deal of Butter. — I dined upon Goose yesterday — which I hope will secure a good Sale of my 2d Edition [of S&S]. — Have you any Tomatas? — Fanny & I regale on them every day. — Disastrous Letters from the Plumptres & Oxendens. — Refusals everywhere — a Blank partout — & it is not quite certain whether we go or not; — something may depend upon the disposition of Uncle Edward when he comes — & upon what we hear at Chilham Castle this morning — for we are going to pay a visit

Much that is here is a continuation of what we’ve seen elsewhere of

1) the very down-to-earth indeed hard scrabble existence in some ways of the Austen’s;

2) the in-jokes: isn’t it amusing the butler laughed too. Normally invisible you see. And Austen’s unusual detachment: she mentions measles after a joke when it was a a virulent killer disease in this era

3) the marginalized women alone: Miss Benn is not after all be to be homeless; Austen hopes her friends, the Biggs will remember Martha (this is a hint to Cassandra to remind them if they do

4) her reading and interest in literature kept to the margins. She makes a joke of her narrow partisanship: she will read Southey’s life of Nelson only if her brother is mentioned in it. He’s not. Nelson himself (of course Deirdre would tell us this) praised FWA. Everyone was reading Southey and the life is very readable. Frank of course all to her.

She mentions the then growing common opposition of fancy and imagination. Until later in the century people, writers, philosophers opposed reason and judgement to fancy and the imagination and on either side of the equation the terms were interchangeable. Among those who began to distinguish these faculties of the mind: Reid, Kames, Hartley. Johnson is among those who still see in imagination much danger: delusion, that way madness, egoism, and Austen reflects this in her portrait of Marianne Dashwood. The phrase suggests she has been reading about poetry but who is not clear.

5) The jokes about lying in: Mrs Tilson is Henry’s business partner and as Henry goes to their parties even when he doesn’t want to (as we saw in one letter), he makes it his business to be seen to know when new babies arrive.

6) family troubles: that after the Southampton debacle and Mary Gibson Austen decamped, she kept away from Austen and her husband’s female relatives

7) Austen’s unwillingness to waste time in dull social life so that when she’s forced she mocks it.

It is probably unfair that those who do remember Mascall, remember him as a man who ate “a great deal of butter.” There are again more sharp mentions of Bridges (I don’t quote them all), and then this passage where we see Edward working away at maintaining his properties:

My Brother desires his best Love & Thanks for all your Information. He hopes the roots of the Beach [sic] have been dug away enough to allow a proper covering of Mould & Turf. — He is sorry for the necessity of building the new Coin [corner] — but hopes they will contrive that the Doorway should be of usual width; — if it must be contracted on one side, by widening the other.- The appearance need not signify. — And he desires me to say that your being at Chawton when he is, will be quite necessary. You cannot think. it more indispensable than he does. He is very obliged to you for your attention to everything.-Have You any idea of returning with him to Henrietta Street & finishing your visit then? —

Hundreds of fragments of pottery and crockery found at rectory site

This close and Edward’s attention to the particulars of the building, doors, and places for sugar and bread at Chawton can allow me to refer the reader to an excavation going on at Steventon as a way of learning about the Austen family. Continued in the comments.


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Two post-chaises under the escort of George conveyed eight more across the Country; the Chair brought two, two others came on horseback & the rest by the Coach — & so by one means or another we all are removed. — It puts me in mind of the account of St Paul’s Shipwreck’ where all are said by different means to reach the Shore in safety — [How they got to Godmersham]

Hugh Bonneville as Edward Bridges talking to Olivia Williams as Jane Austen in a dramatization of the visit described in this letter (2008 Miss Austen Regrets)

Dear friends and readers,

Again I make a single blog for a single letter as again the letter is long with some revealing material. It’s the second letter to Francis Austen (for the first see letter 86, 3-6 July 1813) by Jane that we have (the fourth written communication, as the collection includes her two loving poems to Francis too (48, 24 July 1806; 69, 26 July 1809). Jane also wrote Francis shortly before Eliza Austen’s death but the letter has been destroyed (83, 17 Feb 1813, left blank in LeFaye’s edition).

For this letter I’m going to return to bringing out the themes of a letter rather than paraphrasing it section by section, as that will bring out its content concisely and more clearly — though as it happens to do this I do begin with its long opening. We see in it both her depictions of her brothers and some values she hold dear. We have the probable resumption of a half-romance she had refused some years before with Edward Bridges. Austen attempts a more generous assessment of Anna’s coming marriage. Fanny (by contrast to her serious cousin) is eager for a fair (and cutting gold paper) while Jane thrills to praise and money for her novels.

First Jane and her brothers:

Ciaran Hinds as Wentworth startled by Anne’s passionate response to his passionate letter (1995 Persuasion, scripted Nick Dear)

My dearest Frank

The 11th of this month brought me your letter & I assure you I thought it very well worth its 2’/3d. — I am very much obliged to you for filling me so long a sheet a [sic] paper, you are a good one to traffic with in that way; You pay most liberally;-my Letter was a scratch of a note compared with yours — & then you write so even, so clear both in style & Penmanship, so much to the point & give so much real intelligence that it is enough to kill one …

With yet another lavish over-praise, we can say Jane Austen made a habit of over-praising her relatives’ writing and, when she could, whatever she could think of about themselves. She does it repeatedly to Cassandra, and now out of four communications to Frank we’ve had, three have been filled with over-praise. This time it’s his handwriting too — as it has also so many times been with Cassandra. I had put her comments down to Cassandra to a way to try to keep Cassandra writing to her and frequently; early on when Cassandra would withdraw from Jane (after some tension) or write to someone else and not Jane, Austen did complain and bitterly. Now she does not have that problem but still keeps it up. Later she will overpraise her young nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh’s writing ludicrously in the one letter to him that we have: his strong manly sketches, her things are nothing to his, little twigs in baskets (146, 16-17 Dec 1816); she treats his first efforts as if they were an equivalent to Emma.

Exceptions include Anna Austen Lefroy about Anna’s one effort at a novel. Jane paid Anna the compliment of paying attention to her novel, rationally reacting (see last of series of 6, 113, Wed, 30 Nov 1814). Also Fanny Austen Knight who didn’t write novels who presumably wouldn’t have appreciated. Jane does gurgle with glee over Fanny’s absurd divagations over her suitors (making Fanny uncomfortable): the spectacle of Fanny is fodder for her novels (151, Thurs-Fri, 20-21 Feb 1817: “You are inimitable, irresistible … Such a lovely display … “).

Why? Is she placating them? sometimes to Cassandra it does seem so. Or is she trying to make her talent seem negligible so not noticed. I suggest she’s eager not to be seem different. I find a real pathos in this. One of her mother’s letters shows us she didn’t fool Mrs Austen (in the Austen papers where Mrs Austen says she lord knows where Jane will be a few years from now; her other children she can predict). I doubt Jane fooled the others (James’s poem on S&S suggests he saw into the autobiographical roots of her first heroine), but she persists (James in another poem also register how some in the family were jealous, showed real resentment a poem quoted by Claire Harman [Jane’s Fame] — here the family can mean those outside the nuclear group).

In our talk on Austen-l, Diana B still voiced scepticism that William Price, Wentworth are surrogates for Frank — though she used as context quotations from MP. The Hubbard’s (JA’s Sailor Bros) don’t doubt it for a moment. They print a version of this letter by Jane (as doctored by Bradbourne by combining it with others) in the context of much commentary from MP: they make a different choice than Diana, but it’s the same contextualizing. Southam (JA and the Navy) does the same — only he has accurate texts. All three offer logs from Frank to show where he was just then. Southam’s chapter on Persuasion returns to these letters, and his remarks on Wentworth early in his book are about this strong idealization and friendship between them. Park Honan too (he has a chapter called Martha and Frank). Frank himself wrote the portrait of Harville at home is exquisitely him.

Three packets of letters destroyed by Frank’s youngest daughter. Why did this survive her and Cassandra’s depredations? because Frank did not leave it in three packets in his drawer but gave it to his grandson (in the navy) who before he died put it in the British Museum. So here’s a relative with respect for the grandfather and great-aunt.

What’s of interest throughout the letter is an intense respect for the man. To call it (as Diana does) awe and says it’s a mystery gets us nowhere. What awe? The letter is filled with straightforward information directly given and rapidly, an attempt at a larger picture of the family, their places, their doings. I suggest Jane respects him for running this ship, for the powerful people he sees and escorts.

— I am sorry Sweden is so poor & my riddle so bad. — The idea of a fashionable Bathing place in Mecklenburg! — How can people pretend to be fashionable or to bathe out of England! — Rostock Market makes one’s mouth water, our cheapest Butcher’s meat is double the price of theirs; — nothing under 9d all this Summer, & I beleive upon recollection nothing under 10d. — Bread has sunk & is likely to sink more, which we hope may make Meat sink too. But I have no occasion to think of the price of Bread or of Meat where I am now; — let me shake off vulgar cares & conform to the happy Indifference of East Kent wealth.-I wonder whether You & the King of Sweden know that I was to come to Godmersham with my Brother. Yes, I suppose you have received due notice of it by some means or other. I have not been here these 4 years, so I am sure the event deserves to be talked of before & behind as well as in the middle. —

The modesty topos is more than half-sincerely meant and yet the ironies are sharp. She wonders the King of Sweden has not been informed of her trip to Godmersham — she remembers and reminds Frank she has not been invited for 4 years. Frank will have received due notice of it somewhere. Such an earth-shaking event. Frank had mentioned that Sweden was nothing for scenery (he would not see it anyway) so she jokes that one cannot have a fashionable bathing place at Mecklenburg. How can anyone pretend to be fashionable outside England. So Frank is not to worry. As to the price of meat, it’s gone way up she knows — more than 10P. But bread is cheap and just now “I have no occasion to think of the price of Bread or of Meat where I am now — let me shake off Vulgar Cares and conform to the happy indifference of East Kent Wealth.”

Jane knows she couldn’t, few could do what Frank was doing as a captain in the Baltic. I contextualize this with Persuasion and where Anne Elliot feel that in marrying her Wentworth has the superiority of her (!). What does she bring to the marriage but a worthless father, cold vain sister, indebted property. She discounts her rank, connections, her jointure — this is startling. Lady Russell thought they mattered.

Jane Austen has Anne Elliot use the word “real respectability” which Lady Elliot when she was alive promoted for Sir Walter and is now gone. I don’t think this shows Austen to be utterly radical as obviously her books show characters caring intently about hierarchy and their place: in P&P Elizabeth does not do away with hierarchy, only says I am a gentleman’s daughter, Darcy is a gentleman so far are we equal, to which the vicious tongued Lady Catherine replies, but who were your mother’s connections, who are your uncles. No reply from Miss Bennet.

Jane Austen respected hard-earned efforts, work, honorable paying of debts, decent behavior, loyal friendship which is not networking or keeping up your contacts, but from the heart. All this she gets with Wentworth. All much better than rank and property which come from chance (as do the genes that enable Mary Crawford to ride better than Fanny). Jane seems to feel her brother Frank did this more than any other brother. Maybe there’s some of her in Mary Crawford when she sees her clergyman brother, James’s good fortune. What did he do for it? Southam says (from the letters) she just doesn’t show much of this to Charles. This is so. In the letters we have we see a brief affectionate reference or references to his coming and going with his wife. Cassandra’s letters (such as we have them) show far more interest.

She admires Frank’s profession: Jane was deeply conservative politically by this time (as we’ve seen from her avid reading of Pasley’s Essay on the Military Power and Institutions of the British Empire) she admires imperial militarism. In Persuasion we are asked to admire Wentworth for making money. His work is his way of making money. Some intuitive tact makes her not admire him for what he actually does to make that money (flog, kill, destroy). With Fanny who is presented as naive William’s behavior can be presented as tremendous bravery, and Henry Crawford as envied respect. But Anne Elliot is 27 and not an idle half-rake. Wentworth-Frank the Corsair, only Austen’s Byronic figure is in it for the money. In this opening section we see again how she kept up with the politics and events of what was happening. In the letter she had written the day before (89, 23-24 Sept 1813) she records she and Fanny were reading Bigland’s Modern History, which has long sections on politics in Europe — and she could learn recent doings there as she and Fanny read aloud in the library. Perhaps she was reading thinking of Frank — she wrote him as regularly as she did Cassandra.

Adrian Edmondson as Henry greeting Jane come to London well after Eliza’s death (2008 Miss Austen Regrets)

The letter also includes a section on Henry; the contrast in her more distant attitude to Henry is worth underlining. I bring together the passages in the letter on Henry:

We were accomodated [sic] in Henrietta St — Henry was so good as to find room for his 3 neices & myself in his House. Edward slept at an Hotel in the next Street. — No 10 is made very comfortable with Cleaning, & Painting & the Sloane St furniture. The front room upstairs is an excellent Dining & common sitting parlour — & the smaller one behind will sufficiently answer his purpose as a Draws room. — He has no intention of giving large parties of any kind. — His plans are all for the comfort of his Friends & himself — Mmd Bigeon & her Daughter have a Lodging in his neighbourhood & come to him as often as he likes or as they like. Mde Bigeon. always markets for him as she used to do; & upon our being in the House, was constantly there to do the work. — She is wonderfully recovered from the severity of her Asthmatic complaint. — Of our three evenings in Town one was spent at the Lyceum & another at Covent Garden; — the Clandestine Marriage was the most respectable of the performances, the rest were Sing-song & trumpery, but did very well for Lizzy & Marianne, who were indeed delighted; — but I wanted better acting. — There was no Actor worthy naming. — I believe the Theatres are thought at a low ebb at present.-Henry has probably sent you his own account of his visit in Scotland. I wish he had had more time & could have gone farther north, & deviated to the Lakes in his way back, but what he was able to do seems to have afforded him great Enjoyment & he met with Scenes of higher Beauty in Roxburghshire than I had supposed the South of Scotland possessed. — Our nephew’s gratification was less keen than our brother’s. — Edward is no Enthusiast in the beauties of Nature. His Enthusiasm is for the Sports of the field only. — He is a very promising and pleasing young Man however upon the whole, behaves with great propriety to his Father & great kindness to his Brothers & Sisters — & we must forgive his thinking more of Grouse & Partridges than Lakes & Mountains. He & George are out every morns either shooting or with the Harriers. They are both good Shots. … [from the close of the letter] I hope Edward’s family-visit to Chawton will be yearly, he certainly means it now, but we must not expect it to exceed two months in future. — I do not think however, that he found five too long this Summer.-He was very happy there. — The Poor Mr Trimmer is lately dead, a sad loss to his Family, & occasioning some anxiety to our Brother; — for the present he continues his Affairs in the Son’s hands, a matter of great consequence to them — I hope he will have no reason to remove his Business. —

She just does not pay the same kind of attention or respect to Henry as a banker, nor show quite the kindness or warmth we find at this stage for Edward Austen (earlier she did not show this). It seems hard for Jane Austen to see the kind of effort Henry was straining to make money, from her words in the last letter it’s not quite clear she takes in the death of Henry’s partner is bad news for him: he needed that partner as he brought money to the firm which Henry had none of himself. Now he’s dead his relatives will take it away. But she does see how Edward losing business from Trimmer will hurt the both of them (Edward and Henry by extension)

Pip Torrens as Edward Austen Knight telling Jane about his money troubles one morning at Godmersham (Miss Austen Regrets)

She does give Henry this: in his new apartment he won’t be giving those big parties. I detect a note of scepticism there though: she dissed Henry on the basis of his enjoyment of shallow social intermingling with rich people, not quite forgetting he needed to do this as part of business contacts (the way he keeps up with the Tilsons). She can sympathize with his finding comfort, pleasure distraction in lakes and mountains as she did too. The nephew, Edward apparently didn’t — but then neither did Frank). She registers that Henry’s apartment is not big enough for his housekeeper and her daughter to live in or to accommodate Edward. Mme Bigeon and her daughter must come there when he wants them; then she does all and shops for him too. He does not shop for himself it seems.

Sylvie Herbert as Mme Bigeon (Miss Austen Regrets)

It is very curious how Henry is kept at a distance. (So too is James by this time and she started out so filled with enthusiasm for their literary gifts as she saw them in the Loiterer). He began as near broke as Frank, is as hard-working as she or Frank, on the make just as hard as Frank. Maybe his relationship with Eliza stood in her way. Mary (Mrs FA) as we have saw is dull, flees the household in Southampton with its books, so no rival? Also maybe she did hear of that letter by Henry where he said of her mother and sisters just after they lost the father, we need not give them more, just think how comfortable they’ll be … &c&c)

Austen had known what it was to have nothing and she knows that Frank knows. Henry tried to hide it. She observes that Henry sent wine to Godmersham, tried to keep up with Edward (she saw through that and tells Cassandra so). She does not have parties and neither does Frank.

To return to the opening of the letter and Frank without the other brothers:

I left my Mother, Cassandra & Martha well, & have had good accounts of them since. At present they are quite alone, but they are going to be visited by Mrs Heathcote & Miss [Althea] Bigg — & to have a few days of Henry’s company likewise. — I expect to be here about two months. Edward is to be in Hampshire again in November & will take me back. — I shall be sorry to be in Kent so long without seeing Mary; but am afraid it must be so. She has very kindly invited me to Deal, but is aware of the great improbability of my being able to get there. –It would be a great pleasure to me to see Mary Jane again too, as well as her Brothers, new & old — Charles and his family I do hope to see; they are coming here for a week in October. —

The brief vignette of Martha, Cassandra and her mother “well” at Chawton; that she has had “a good account of them” is without irony. That another women friend is to visit: Alethea Bigg (not married). They are “quite alone” otherwise. Henry is expected in a few days, and she will be back with them two months from now. Not a shred of irony here. The little women’s circle, Martha, not forgotten. It’s easy to overlook for by association she jumps to explain how it can be she should be in Kent for 2 months and never see Mrs F. A. …. Paying attention we see that once Mrs F.A. escape Southampton she never visits if she can help it. We saw that she was intimidated by their reading, perhaps alienated by Martha’s ex-relationship to Frank (Martha did eventually marry him); something repelled her utterly and she de-camped. We also saw that this hurt Frank; he had wanted to be the provider of his sisters and mother, and that when the plan to live in Chawton became serious he rushed to Cassandra to try to stop it, to no avail.

Now Jane says there is no way for her to get to Mary and tactfully does not bring up how Mary does not try to get to her — never does try. Mary now has the excuse of children. Austen says in her novels that for a women children can be a help in conversation; they can be an excuse not to see people, to stay put. Too much to bring them.

To conclude, we have another instance of Jane’s devotion to Frank (we must not forget the two poems and her PS line about his rich hair) and her respect, something explicitly made in Persuasion not to rank or money inherited or genealogy or luxurious things or prestigious places. Austen identifies with Frank: as honorable (within the terms of his profession) and doing what’s asked in daily life, no complaints, decent to others. Not using your rank to corrode the respect of others as many of her upper class ugly types do. No pretense about the man either.

Which leads to the second topic of the letter I’d like to cover: Jane and Edward Bridges. Jane did not chose to marry Bridges though with him she could have had the rank of a married woman, his income, respect, safety from poverty.

Jane enjoying her solitude and self-ownership at Godmersham while the others are away (Miss Austen Regrets)

— Just at present I am Mistress & Miss & altogether here, Fanny being gone to Goodnestone for a day or two, to attend the famous Fair which makes its yearly distribution of gold paper & coloured persian through all the Family connections. — In this House there is a constant succession of small events, somebody is always going or coming; this morns we had Edward Bridges unexpectedly to breakfast with us, in his way from Ramsgate where is his wife, to Lenham where is his Church — & tomorrow he dines & sleeps here on his return. — They have been all the summer at Ramsgate, for her health, she is a poor Honey — the sort of woman who gives me the idea of being determined never to be well-& who likes her spasms & nervousness & the consequence they give her, better than anything else. — This is an illnatured sentiment to send all over the Baltic! —

This letter is central to Miss Austen Regrets (which is why it’s so easy to draw upon the film for actors playing the roles of the people in this letter and those from London). Using Nokes’s perceptive take on the letters; we’ve noticed in one the early flirting of Bridges with Jane; in another his partnering her as the first couple and her real pleasure at this; a third, his real kindness to her when she was at first impoverished and left Steventon and was snubbed by others; and finally indirectly stated that she had a proposal of marriage from him and rejected it. So this visit is of interest.

Bonneville as Edward telling Williams as Jane about his relationship with his wife, and appealing for sympathy (Miss Austen Regrets)

We heard about this fair in the last letter, and Austen’s ennui and desire to escape. The love of gold paper is child-like — Austen has the Musrgrove children cutting gold paper at Christmas. Colored persian I’m at a loss to explain except that it might be delicate material used with the paper.

In the film, Edward comes upon her alone. Hughes dramatizes and provides insight into this incident: she presents Edward Bridges as deliberately coming to Godmersham when his wife goes off to her holiday (“enjoying her illness”). We’ve seen Austen’s disdain over other women’s illness before: a “poor honey.” Like her mother? Austen was probably scolded (as we can see in her mother’s poem on her boy pupils’ complaints) when younger not to inflict this kind of thing on other people.

The film-makers suggest Bridges encouraged Austen to see his wife from this angle. They though have him scolding her for drinking too much and being jealous of her dancing with others. There’s nothing in the letters to suggest any of this. Maybe they sat together in the library and read and talked, or walked and talked. Ate together of course. I will be on the lookout in the later letters to see if he visits again when she is very ill.

It does seem to me there is evidence then the Edward did love her and wanted to marry her, that he still was interested, was drawn I assume to her conversation and company (as opposed to his wife’s). Jane knows repeating part of what she and Edward discussed is to end “ill-natured” commentary across the world — to the Baltic. But she cannot help it. She is here glad to have talked with this man and been made to feel the partner he chose was inferior to her. She could, any would have been a better wife. And she can have such feelings without the pregnancies and taking time from her work (except such talk).

I look forward to the letters she writes just as she realizes she is ill to see if there any notice or memories of Edward Brides — as is presented in the film.

The letter includes Fanny right there and Anna off at Chawton.

Anna’s wedding to Ben as envisaged in Miss Austen Regrets

There is a slight change in the emphasis of Austen remarks on Anna, or to put it another way, Austen adds a thought about Anna’s coming marriage that she has not written down before.

I take it for granted that Mary has told you of Anna’s engagement to Ben Lefroy. It came upon us without much preparation; — at the same time, there was that about her which kept us in a constant preparation for something.-We are anxious to have it go on well, there being quite as much in his favour as the Chances are likely to give her in any Matrimonial connection. I beleive he is sensible, certainly very religious, well connected & with some Independance. — There is an unfortunate dissimularity of Taste between them in one respect which gives us some apprehensions, he hates company & she is very fond of it; — This, with some queerness of Temper on his side & much unsteadiness on hers, is untoward.

We’ve said that by this time Austen has taken on the family’s view of Anna’s engagement and her personality. This is painful when we consider Mary Lloyd’s treatment of Anna — Ben was an escape. Not that Jane pretends to be physically sick as Mary is recorded doing (in the previous letter) when Jane thinks of this engagement. Austen says here (as she did not before) that Anna can’t do much better. Remember from Shakespeare’s AYLI: sell when you can you are not for all markets. If Austen in her novels as Anne Elliot ignores rank, she knows in the world others do not. She writes: “We are anxious to have it go on well, there being quite as much in his favour as the Chances are likely to give her any matrimonial connection.”

Later in life when Ben died, Anna had no money, no place either. So her father gave her nothing or a tiny stipend. Mr Collins would know what to think of such a bride. Austen can play endless games with Fanny over her prospects because Fanny is a catch in the sense of money and rank; Anna is the opposite. The real worry comes out too and it is a decent one: like must marry like. She fears Anna will not be happy since Ben is reclusive and Anna (she thinks) gregarious — remember the continent poem. In fact Anna was not gregarious;she longed for company and to go to Godmersham or London. Who wouldn’t? But like Emma it was that she had so little chance. Once married we see she turned inward and lived upon herself, wrote fiction, bought herself what pretty things she could. So the match was more of likes than Austen gave her credit for.

P&P and MP and S&S (!):

A scene where Olivia Williams as Jane enjoys being seen quietly as the novelist by everywhere, including Fanny (Imogen Poots) (MAR)

— I thank you very warmly for your kind consent to my application & the kind hint which followed it. — I was previously aware of what I should be laying myself open to — but the truth is that the Secret has spread so far as to be scarcely the Shadow of a secret now-& that I beleive whenever the 3d appears, I shall not even attempt to tell Lies about it. — I shall rather try to make all the Money than all the Mystery I can of it — People shall pay for their Knowledge if I can make them. — Henry heard P&P warmly praised in Scotland, by Lady Robert Kerr & another Lady; & what does he do in the warmth of his Brotherly vanity & Love, but immediately tell them who wrote it! — A Thing once set going in that way — one knows how it spreads!-and he, dear Creature, has set it going so much more than once. I know it is all done from affection & partiality — but at the same time, let me here again express to you & Mary my sense of the superior kindness which you have shewn on the occasion, in doing what I wished.-I am trying to harden myself. — After all, what a trifle it is in all its Bearings, to the really important points of one’s existence even in this World! — [and in a PS] There is to be a 2d Edition of S.&S. Egerton advises it.

It seems to me this passage shows her wanting to keep her status as a respected novelist a secret has become a pose. She’s glad “not to tell Lies” about P&P. It’s a relief and she’s all in a flutter with the glory of it. As she says she is very glad to make money and not worred about making mysteries. She has been deeply gratified and buoyed by the praise. She is still using Henry to blame, and by contrast thanks Frank for allowing her to use the name of his ship and says yes she knows that (nasty people) may use this bit of autobiography so to let it out might result in pain, but apparently she’s willing to take the risk. (She knew much of her novels were autobiographical in origin. How could they not be? or she not know? All novels are however indirectly and formulaic, and many novelists cover up — understandably.)

For more minor moments in the letter, see comments.


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