In this letter to her older sister Casandra at home in Steventon, Jane Austen continues to write from Rowling, giving a full account of social activities including: “dining at Nackington, returning by Moonlight, and everything quite in Stile, in to mention Mr. Claringbould’s funeral.” Per the notes the Claringboulds are described as “a farming family, at Goodnestone, Kent.” Austen goes onto say that their brother Edward was considering taking “Claringbould” as a name, but: “that scheme is over” — apparently this is well before Edward became Edward Austen Knight. And apparently this “scheme” was also monetary in nature, and did not work out too well because Jane Austen continued, “nothing was said on the subject, and unless it is in your power to assist you Brother with five or six Hundred pounds, he must entirely give up the idea.”
Jane Austen cheerfully describes their visit to Nackington, home in Kent of the Milles family, giving Cassandra a round down of their house tour, including a portrait painted by Reynolds.
Glimpses here of her wicked wit abound: “Miss Fletcher and I were very thick, but I am the thinnest of the two — She wore her purple Muslin, which is pretty enough, tho’ it does not become her complexion. There are two Traits in her Character which are pleasing; namely, she admires Camilla & drinks no cream in her Tea.”
Sort of a vibe of eavesdropping here between sisters, I’m not saying that Jane Austen is being catty, rather she is painting a portrait for her older sister with words, and apparently two standards were very important by which she did judge new acquaintances: by the writers they admired, and how they took their tea.
The letter relays the rest of the particulars of their visit to Nackington, as well as the carriage ride home and large swath of news concerning both the Field and Digweed families. Once news of neighbors of news is finished, Jane Austen adds news about their brothers, and discusses travel and scheduling. Just shy of two hundred years later, pouring over this correspondence it may seem unlikely, but this was again a large part of her life, which all had to be arranged and approved by their male relatives, “I want to go in a Stage Coach, but Frank will not let me.”
Austen closes this letter with orders for shopping and errands, “If anybody wants anything in Town, they must send their Commissions to Frank, as I shall merely pass thro’ it. –” Followed by a referenced to buy candles? “The Tallow Chandler is Pennington, at the Crown & Beehive Charles Street, Covent Garden.” However, she wrapped this correspondence up by assuring Cassandra, “Buy Mary Harrison’s Gown by all means. You shall have mine for ever so much money, tho’ if I am tolerably rich when I get home, I shall like it very much myself.”
All notes to Jane Austen’s Letters, Fourth Edition, Collected and Edited by Deirdre LeFaye, Oxford University Press, 2011. The underline emphasis was not added but was retyped as it appeared in the text.