In this letter to her older sister Cassandra, Jane Austen writes from the Paragon in Bath, which seems to be a temporary accommodation, since she mentions looking at different properties.  The exit from their home at the parsonage at Stevenson seems to be first and foremost on Austen’s mind retelling her older sister an update on possessions that have been sold: “Sixty one Guineas & a half for the three Cows gives one some support under the blow of only Eleven Guineas for the Tables.–Eight for my Pianoforte, is about what I really expected to get; I am more anxious to know the amount of my books, especially as they are said to have sold well.–” (Per the notes/citation: The Sale at Steventon Parsonage, Collected reports, IV.  R. Vick.)

Austen’s descriptions of her activities in Bath are interesting. Often it seems she is trying to provide similar comparisons to places back in Hampshire: “Think of four couple, surrounded by about an hundred people, dancing in the upper rooms at Bath! … for tho’ it was shockingly & inhumanly think for this place, there were people enough I suppose to have made five or six pretty Basingstoke assemblies.”

Austen faithfully updates Cassandra on places that they visit, her uncle’s health improvements and new acquaintances: “Another stupid party last night; perhaps if larger they might be less intolerable, but here there were only just enough to make one card table, with six people to look over, & talk nonsense to each other.”

Austen’s wicked wit is prevalent as well and you can sense as a reader that she is making the most she can out of these anecdotes, usually at the person’s expense: “I respect Mrs. Chamberlayne for doing her hair well, but cannot feel a more tender sentiment.–Miss Langley is like any other short girl with a broad nose & wide mouth, fashionable dress, & exposed bosom.”

Austen also includes notes on her wardrobe and her mother’s health before wrapping up this letter.  Many scholars theorize she did like Bath or enjoy her time there, from this letter it seems clear she was having difficulty making the transition from Hampshire to Bath and finding people she liked and found interesting.

In the quotes, all grammar, abbreviations and grammar are Austen’s own.  All cites to: Jane Austen’s Letters, Fourth Edition, Collected and Edited by Deirdre LeFaye, Oxford University Press, 2011.

 

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