Letter to Cassandra, Sunday 2 June 1799; 13 Queen Square–Bath.

This letter follows one that is missing in the chronology of Austen’s correspondence.  Here she is writing to her older sister Cassandra in Stevenson from hBath, “I am obliged to you for two letters, one from Yourself & the other from Mary, for of the latter I knew nothing till on the receipt of Yours yesterday, when the Pigeon Basket was examined & I received my due.–”

Austen dives into business first, as for shopping and receiving what seems to be a reply to an order for certain wardrobe and latest fashionable clothing items from Bath: “I will lay out all the little judgment I have in endeavouring to get such such stockings for Anna as she will approve;–but I do not know that I shall execute Martha’s commission at all, for I am not fond of ordering shoes, & at any rate they shall have flat heels.”  (Austen’s own spelling.)  So apparently, not a fan of the shoe shopping.  Duly she returns to the themes of shopping and fashion, as well as shoes later in this letter.

First, this letter proceeds with updates first on their brother with a dose of her wicked wit, “What must I tell you of Edward?–Truth or Falsehood?–I will try the former & you may cause yourself another time.”  Seems she is being a bit cheeky here, but then gives an update, as it seems Edward has been somewhat ill from their travels or adjusting to the visit in Bath and is now recovering and taking part in some of the local activities, “He was better yesterday than he had been for two or three days before, about as well as while he was at Steventon–He drinks at the Hetling Pump, is to bathe tomorrow & try Electricity on Tuesday;–he proposed the latter himself to Dr. Fellowes, who made no objection to it, but I fancy we are all unanimous in expecting no advantage from it.”  The notes does not offer any details and so presuming here that “electricity” is some sort of a curative that is a bit of a long shot, or is well known generally not too be really effective.

Hard to say at this point, if Austen is having a good stay or not on this short-term visit to Bath, along with a scheduling update: “At present I have no great notion of our staying here beyond the Month.–I heard from Charles last week; they were to sail on wednesday.”  (Austen’s own capitalization.)

And onto with a very quick update on Mrs. Austen’s health which seems to always be a required part of her letters to Cassandra: “My Mother seems remarkably well.”  Before adding, “My Uncle overwalked himself at first & can now only travel in a Chair; but is otherwise is very well.”

Austen then returns to clothing and wardrobe matters and the letter includes a short sketch of lace, “My Cloak is come home, & here follows the pattern of its’ lace.”  (Austen’s own capitalization and punctuation.)  Again there is a discussion of money for purchasing more lace and fabric, as well as Austen’s observances and experiences shopping in Bath, as well as her describing the fashion trend of flowers and faux fruit decorating hats: “Flowers are very much worn, & Fruit is still more the thing.–Eliz: has a bunch of Strawberries, & I have seen Grapes, Cherries, Plumbs & Apricots–There are likewise Almonds & raisins, french plumbs & Tamarinds at the Grocers, but I have never seen any of them in hats.”  Per the notes,Tamarinds were pods from a tree native to East India and most likely the Bath shopkeeper were stocking them as a popular item in demand.

Austen then notes how much this fruit fashion trend will actually will cost to her older sister and possible bargain hunt, “A plumb or green gage would cost three shillings; Cherries & Grapes about 5 I believe–but this is at some of the dearest Shops;–My Aunt has told me of a very cheap one near Walcot Church, to which I shall go in quest of something for You.”  (Austen’s own spelling.)  “Dear” I believe in this context means expensive or costly.

Austen continues the fashion update with noting: “Eliz: has given me a hat & it is not only a pretty hat, but a pretty stile of hat too–It is something like Eliza’s–only instead of being all straw, half of it is narrow purple ribbon.–I flatter myself however that you can understand very little of it, from this description.–Heaven forbid that I should ever offer such encouragement to Explanations, as to give a clear one on any occasion myself.”  (Austen’s own emphasis and spelling.)

The discussion of hats and fashion is left off at this point, for more of a social update, although it rings a bit of her being leery of meeting new people in Bath: “I spent friday evening with the Mapletons, & was obliged to submit to being pleased in spite of my inclination.”  After a updating Cassandra on names of new acquaintances, Austen returns with including her worries about purchases and bringing them back to Steventon, “I am afraid I cannot undertake to carry Martha’s Shoes home, for tho’ we had plenty of room in our Trunks when we came, We shall have many more things to take back & I must allow besides for my packing.”  (Austen’s own emphasis, spelling and punctuation.)

Austen then returns to telling Cassandra of the activities in Bath and apparently noting a disdain for concerts or loud music: “There is to be a grand gala on tuesday evening in Sydney Gardens;–a Concert with Illuminations & fireworks;–to the latter Eliz: & I look forward with pleasure, & even the Concert will have more than its’ usual charm with me, as the Gardens are large enough for me to get pretty well beyond the reach of its sound.”  (Austen’s own punctuation.)

There is an off and off sad tone here I detect reading all of this, perhaps she is just missing her older sister, as well as a return to another fashion or wardrobe discussion this time of patterns and caps: “I am quite pleased with Martha & Mrs. Lefroy for wanting the pattern of our Caps, but I am not so well pleased with Your giving it to them.”  Seems a little upset that Cassandra has been so generous with the patterns, but then continues: “Some wish, some prevailing Wish is necessary to the animation of everybody’s Mind, & in gratifying this, You leave them to form some other which will not probably be half so innocent.”  (Austen’s own punctuation and capitalization.)  There is really no way to know if she is referring back again to Martha and Mrs. Lefroy here, or if this an extension or a return to a discussion of another issue with Cassandra, as it seems more detailed and complex — but the specifics are lost.

This is where I wish, and I’m sure certain scholars for the return of the lost letters, and perhaps to read Cassandra’s letters — in order to “read” or “hear” Cassandra’s side of their conversations and discussions.

Austen closes the letter saying she will not forget to write to their brother Frank and includes a post script about their sisterly correspondence: “My Uncle is quite surprised at my hearing from you so often–but as long as we can keep the frequency of our correspondence from Martha’s Uncle, we will not fear our own.”  Per the notes, this may be a reference to either Reverend John Craven or Reverend Thomas Fowle, but why either man would have an opinion on Jane and Cassandra’s often writing to each other is a mystery for me.

All notes to, Jane Austen’s Letters, Collected and Edited by Deirdre Le Faye, Fourth Edition, Oxford University Press, 2011.









Mass. JASNA’s Annual Birthday Celebration for Jane Austen.

All photos by Dena Barisano, copyright 2017.

Today, a dear friend treated me to an early holiday present, we attended the Mass. Chapter of JASNA’s annual Jane Austen birthday celebration event.  This year in 2017, it was a concert featuring a Musical Program by Laura Jeppesen on the viola da gamba, Catherine Liddell on the lute, and tenor Jason McStoots.

It was held at Endicott House in Dedham, Massachusetts — my photo of the stately entrance is above. It is owned by MIT and part of a conference center complex.

The concert was held on the second floor, up this lovely staircase (see my photo below).

IMG_0219The music was just wonderful, and afterwards we had tea in what is apparently called the “gun room,” but  the folks at our table, renamed it “the library,” with tables very festively set in red and green. My photo of “the library/gun room” is below.


Thanks to all at Mass. JASNA that organized this event!

For more information about Endicott House link/url is below:






Emerson College, Boston–Theater Production of Pride and Prejudice December 1-9, 2017

Via Opus Affair Boston — Emerson College is putting on a stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice during the week of December 1-9, 2017.  This is the first I heard of it, or perhaps would have tried to get to get tickets (well you never know there is still time).  Tickets are $12.00 US.  For more info. on this production link/url is below



Letter to Cassandra Friday 17 May 1799 — Regency Road Trip to Bath

There is quite a gap in the collection of Jane Austen’s letters here, because the last letter in the collection was January 1799 — when Austen was writing to Cassandra who was still visiting their brother Edward and his family in Kent — anxiously wanting to know Cassandra’s return date home.  We can only presume Cassandra traveled home in March or perhaps April 1799 — for this letter picks up the time line in mid-May 1799.  And here, Austen is writing to Cassandra, now at home in Steventon.

This letter conveys another Regency road trip, Austen writes of her experience traveling with her mother, their brother Edward, Edward’s wife Elizabeth and per the notes, Elizabeth and Edward’s two eldest children Fanny and Edward Jr.

Describes the trip in stages and starting of on a good note:  “Our Journey yesterday went off exceedingly well; nothing occurred to alarm or delay us;–We found the roads in excellent order, had good horses all the way, & reached Devizes with easy 4 o’clock.”

Seems Cassandra had a fondness for certain foods, or Austen just missed her elder sister at dinner, “At Devizes we had comfortable rooms, & a good dinner to which we sat down about 5; amongst other things we had Asparagus & Lobster which made me wish for you, & some cheesecakes on which the children made so delightful a supper as to endear the Town of Devizes to them for a long time.”

There is a sort of a pause here to Cassandra, not so much about their sister-in-law but perhaps more about Austen’s own misgivings about traveling to Bath: “Poor Eliz: has had a dismal ride of it from Devizes, for it has rained almost all the way, & our first view of Bath has been just as gloomy as it was last November twelvemonth.”

Not sure if this sort of is her own fatigue from travel, but Austen seems to be noting to her sister some sort of a pause: “I have got so many things to say, so many things equally unimportant, that I know not on which to decide at present, & shall therefore go & eat with the Children.”

Relays their continued journey, notes stopping at Paragon and meeting a few acquaintances.  Again there were some issues with Jane Austin’s trunk, specifically its weight and transporting it.  Apparently, Austen was not a light packer when she traveled: “I have some hopes of being plagued about my Trunk; I had more than a few hours ago, for it was too heavy to go by the Coach which brought Thomas & Rebecca from Devizes, there was reason to suppose that it might be too heavy likewise for any other Coach & for a long time we could hear of no Waggon to convey it.”  (Austen’s own emphasis and spelling.)

Austen notes they were able to find someone to transport it, but she notes there was to be a bit of a delay: “At last however, we unluckily discovered that one was just on the point of setting out for this place–but at any rate, the Trunk cannot be here till tomorrow.”

Then jumps to the accommodations at Bath with a dose of her eye for detail and wicked wit:  “We are exceedingly pleased with the House; the rooms are quite as large as we expected, Mrs. Bromley is a fat woman in mourning, and a little black kitten runs about the Staircase.”

Details to Cassandra, all of their room assignments and gives updates about both Mrs. Austen’s and their brother Edward’s post-journey states of health:  “My Mother does not seem at all the worse for her Journey nor are any of us I hope, tho’ Edward seemed rather fagged last not & not very brisk this morning, but I trust the bustle of sending for Tea, Coffee & Sugar, & c., & going out to taste a cheese himself will do hi good,–”  (Austen’s own spelling and phrasing.)

The notes don’t elaborate, but for anyone unfamiliar I believe “fagged” here probably means tired.  And Austen’s concern seemed to be minimal.  Perhaps just caffeine withdrawal?  Seems that Austen was certain that some form of coffee and tea and breakfast would recharge their brother Edward.

Also includes concerns about the weather and updates:  “I hope it will be a tolerable afternoon; when we first came, all the Umbrellas were up, but now the Pavements are getting very white again.”

Austen then conveys the social news with it seems a little combination of both wit and  unease: “There was a long list of Arrivals here, in the Newspaper yesterday, so that we need not immediately dread absolute Solitude–& there is a public Breakfast in Sydney Gardens every morning, so that we shall not be wholly starved.”

Closes the letter with some general news, that Elizabeth had a good report about the children still home and Kent, and returns to her concerns about the trunk: “I am rather impatient to know the fate of my best gown, but I suppose it will be some days before Frances can get through the Trunk–In the mean time, I am with many thanks for your trouble in making it, as well as marking my Silk Stockings.”  Per the notes, Frank or Frances–was most like one of Edward and Elizabeth’s servants.

All notes to Jane Austen’s Letters, collected and edited by Deirdre LeFaye, 4th edition, Oxford University Press, 2011.