Writing from Rowling, to her older sister Cassandra home in Steventon, Austen opens with a big query: “I shall be extremely anxious to hear the Event of your Ball, & shall hope to receive so long & minute an account of every particular that I shall be tired of reading it.” Sounds like someone wanted the 411!
Austen’s insistence on details from Cassandra continue, as well as updates of her own social activities, noting that she opened the ball, and she gives her sister many details of her dancing partners, attendees, and
continues to recount activities, people seen and spoken to including this bit of clandestine news: “Mr. Richard Harvey is going to be married; but as it is a great secret, & only known to half the Neighborhood, you must not mention it. The Lady’s name is Musgrove.”
This is pretty interesting, since Austen incorporates secret engagements into her narratives: including Sense and Sensibility (Lucy Steele and Edward), and Emma (Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax). It seems then, that Jane Austen was inspired by real life events. Also worth to note the last name Musgrove — which Austen will use for one of her minor but important characters, Louisa Musgrove in her novel Persuasion — Louisa in full flirt mode takes a ill-timed fall off the Cobb (walkway) in Lyme.
Returning to Austen’s letter, she directly appeals to Cassandra for advice about a parting gifts to her hosts? “I am in great Distress. — I cannot determine whether I shall give the Richis half a guinea or only five Shillings when I go away. Counsel me, amiable Miss Austen, and tell me which will be the most.” Definitely seems, like Austen relied for Cassandra to give her direct and appropriate advice in handling the matter, protocol, and Jane Austen seemed to be concerned about not doing the right thing, or committing some sort of faux pas.
This letter closes with even more news, and another imploring of Cassandra: “Pray remember me to Everybody who does not enquire after me.” Not sure if this another aspect of Austen’s wicked wit — I tend to think it is — sort of a private joke between sisters, because she ends with this: “Give my Love to Mary Harrison, & tell her I wish whenever she is attached to a Young Man, some respectable Dr. Marchmont may keep them apart for five Volumes. Apparently, this reference to Dr. Marhmont a character the novel Camilla. All cites/notes to: Jane Austen’s Letters, Fourth Edition, Collected and Edited by Deirdre LeFaye, Oxford University Press, 2011.