Jane Austen begins her letter from Rowling to her older sister Cassandra home in Steventon with this bit of news: “This morning has been spent in Doubt & Deliberation; in forming plans, and removing Difficulties, for it ushered in the Day with an Event which I had not intended should take place so soon for a week.”
In this letter, there was both good and bad news to relay to Cassandra. Their brother Frank had received an appointment to a ship, and therefore, the delay/difficulties were in the scheduling of Frank escorting Jane Austen to her next destination. Per Austen’s post script and the notes the ship Frank was newly assigned to was a frigate called the Triton.
Austen in leaving Rowling, was supposed to travel for a visit with Mary Pearson and her family, before they would leave together for Stevenson, but leaving Rowling early via Frank was an issue. Austen was not sure this would line up with the Pearson’s schedule, and there was an issue on confirming this change: “I wrote to Miss P — on friday, & hoped to receive an answer from her this morning, which would have rendered everything smooth & easy, and would have enabled us to leave this place tomorrow, as Frank on first receiving his Appointment to do so.”
Seems Austen did not hear back from Miss Mary Pearson and plans as she continued to write/describe were unsettled. Per the notes, Mary was the eldest daughter of Captain Sir Richardson Pearson of the British Royal Navy, Lt. Governor of the Greenwich Hospital for Seaman.
Austen indulges here in a bit of her wicked wit with a bit of a confidence to her sister, “If Miss Pearson should return with me, pray be careful not to expect too much Beauty.” And following with a little bit of a snarky reference to Mrs. Austen as well, “My Mother I am sure will be disappointed, if she does not take great care.”
Austen relays that her brother Frank had to change things around, “He remains till Wednesday merely to accommodate me.” She adds that she had written to Ms. Pearson again and was trying to see about alternative plans with another brother, “Edward has been so good as to promise to take me to Greenwich the following Monday which was the day before fixed on, if that suits them better–”
And this letter continues: “If I have no answer at all on Tuesday, I must suppose that Mary is not at Home, & must wait till I do hear; as after having invited her to Steventon with me, it will not quite do, to go home and say no more about it.–”
Then noting perhaps Mr. Austen could also assist, “My Father will be so good to fetch home is prodigal Daughter from Town, I hope, unless he wishes me to walk the Hospitals, Enter at the Temple, or mount Guard at St. James.” Per the notes “walk the Hospitals” is a term meaning to study medicine/become a medical student.
Austen’s tone seems to be light-light hearted and joking, but there does seem to be an underlining concern to confirm plans and prevail one or more of her brothers and father, “It will hardly be in Frank’s power to take me home; nay, it certainly will not. I shall write again as soon as I to Greenwich.”
Seems to be anxious awaiting from Miss Pearson relaying to Cassandra alternative plans proposed and shot down by her brothers. Apparently Austen felt bad the letter was dominated by scheduling issues and schemes she did include this one other tidbit of news: ‘Mary is brought to bed of a Boy; both doing very well. I shall leave you to guess what Mary I mean–” Per the notes this is presumed a reference to Mary Robinson a maidservant at Rowling. So perhaps this was a bit of gossip and Austen was a bit guilty to indulge for she closed the letter with, “How ill I have written. I begin to hate myself.”
All notes/cites to: Jane Austen’s Letters, Fourth Edition, Collected and Edited by Deirdre LeFaye, Oxford University Press 2011.