Letter to Cassandra from Ibthrop, Sunday 30 Nov. – Mon. 1 Dec. 1800: Dirty roads, shopping in Andover, and gossip spies at Hampshire balls. (Photo Credit/Andover Museum via the Hampshire Cultural Trust.)

Photo credit via The Hampshire Cultural Trust web site, re: The Andover Museum.

This lively letter starts out bursting and wraps with many accounts of news and updates, as Jane Austen writes to her older sister Cassandra, still away in Kent — but here Jane is also away from home as well — visiting their friend Martha Lloyd in Ibthrop in Hampshire. Per the notes, sounds like: “Ibtrop.”

Apparently, the weather was poor: “…because it is too dirty even as such desperate Walkers as Martha  & I to get out of doors, & we are therefore confined to each other’s society from morning till night, with very little variety of Books or Gowns.”  (Austen’s own punctuation.)  Along with this initial report, Austen describes: “You know it is not an uncommon circumstance  in this parish to have the road from Ibthrsp to the Parsonage much dirtier & more impracticable for walking than the road from the Parsonage to Ibthrop–”

Austen adds a quick update on Mrs. Austen’s health filled with her wicked wit: “I left my Mother very well when I came away, & left her with strict orders to continue so.”

Also describes her shopping en route to Ibthrop: “I spent an hour in Andover, of which Messrs Painter & Redding had the larger part;–twenty minutes however fell to the lot of Mrs. Poore & her mother, whom I was glad to see in good looks & spirits.–”  Per the notes, Austen probably made references to having visited Thomas Painter a haberdasher and Grace Redding, a “linen-woolen-draper.”

Continues giving Cassandra a colorful run down of her meeting a Mrs. Poore & her mother and perhaps is joking around and or possibly speculating on a pregnancy: “The latter asked me more questions than I had very well time to answer; the former I believe is very big; but I am no means certain; she is either very big, or not at all big.  I forgot to be accurate in my observation at the time, & tho’ my thoughts are now more about me on the subject, the power of exercising them to any effect is diminished.” (Austen’s own spelling and grammar.)

Her arrival is then described in her own words: “The two youngest boys only were at home; I mounted the highly-extolled Staircase & went into the elegant Drawing room, which I fancy is now Mrs. Harrison’s apartment;–and in short did everything extraodinary Abilities  can be supposed to compass in so short a space of time.–”  (Austen’s own spelling.) Per the notes, this house as pictured above is The Andover Museum in Hampshire, England.

Provides Cassandra a full litany of news concerning Sir Thomas Williams and the Wapshires of Salisbury including all news, rumors, including prospectives regarding the upcoming marriage of Miss Wapshire who is getting up there in marriageable age with some editorial commentary:  “…where Miss Wapshire has been for many years a distinguished beauty.–She is now seven or eight & twenty, & tho’ still handsome less handsome than she has been.–This promises better, than the bloom of seventeen; & in addition to this, they say that she has always been remarkable for the propriety of her behavior, distinguishing her far above the general class of Town Misses, & rendering her of course very unpopular among them.–I hope I have now gained the real truth, & that my letters in future may go on without conveying any farther contradictions of what was last asserted about Sir Thomas Williams & Miss Wapshire.–I wish, I could be certain that her name were Emma; but her being the Eldest daughter leaves that circumstance doubtful.”  (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

Per the notes, as Austen is referring to gossip/stories about an eldest daughter aka Miss Wapshire there is no way to convey her Christian and/or first name.  Find it interesting though on the speculation, Austen can sometimes be a little bit of a “mean girl” but she particularly mentions the name Emma here, which has me wondering if she would have given Miss Wapshire the benefit of the doubt if that were truly her first name, because she [Austen] obviously was attracted to the name and would use it for a title character in her novel.  Or is she only regretting she can not confirm more detail in this report to her older sister, or perhaps a combination of a short hand between these two sisters?  Just saying…it is worth a pause to consider.

Continues with Austen returning to their friend Martha, who wants letters from Cassandra, and apparently is in favor of Austen’s recently acquired gown which has garnered mixed reviews among family members via previous letters:  “She is pleased with my Gown, & particularly bids me to say that if you could see me in it for five minutes, she is sure you would be eagar to make up your own.” (Austen’s own emphasis.)

Austen backtracks back to shopping and what she spent, coming clean and telling her older sister of her purchases at the stores, “I have been obliged to mention this, but have not failed to blush the whole time of writing it.–Part of the money & time which I spent at Andover were devoted to the purchase of some figured cambric muslin for a frock for Edward–a circumstance from which I derive two pleasing reflections; it has in the first place opened me a fresh source of self-congratulation on being able to make so munificent a present, & secondly it has been a means of informing me that the very pretty manufacture in question may be bought for 4s. 6d. pr yd — yard & half wide.”  (Austen’s own spelling and abbreviations).  Makes no explanation of who she is buying this fabric to gift to Edward, so presumably Cassandra is aware of it.

This letter flits along to Austen’s return plans and scheduling: “Martha has promised to return with me, & our plan is to [have] a nice black frost for walking to Whitchurch & there throw ourselves into a postchaise, one upon the other, our heads hanging out the door, & our feet at the opposite.”  Which sounds a bit unladylike but fun!

Austen adds another run down of news and updates, plus upcoming balls that follow, with another dose of her wicked wit, “Pray do not forget to go to the Canterbury Ball.  I shall despise you all most insufferably if you do.–By the bye, there will not be any Ball, because Delmar lost so much by the Assemblies last winter that he has protested against opening his rooms this year.”   However, she have missed the advertisement, because, per the Notes: “Delmar…rooms.  The Kentish Gazette of 4 November 1800 announces ‘A Ball at Delmar’s Rooms,’ the first of a series, to be held on 6 November.  The subscription for six balls was a guinea ₤1.05.”

In this letter, Austen continues joking about having a network to report on all local gossip from different balls to her sister: “I have charged my Myrmidons to send me an account of the Basingstoke Ball; I have placed my spies at different places that they may collect the more; & by so doing, by sending Miss Bigg to the Downhill itself, & posting my Mother at Steventon I hope to derive from their various observations a good general idea of the whole.”

For more information about The Andover Museum please visit the website of the Hampshire Cultural Trust — please see below for a link:

https://www.hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk/andover-museum

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Letter to Martha Lloyd, Wed. 12 – Thurs. 13, November 1800.

Austen is writing to her dear friend Martha Lloyd, away for a visit at Up-Hurstbourne, in Andover, Hants, a town, per the notes located 68 miles Southwest of London and 22 miles from Basingstoke.  Martha eventually became Frank Austen’s second wife, and is probably best known for her Household Book which included many of the Austen family’s recipes.

This letter Austen starts off with a clarification: “I did not receive your note yesterday till after Charlotte had left Deane, or I would have sent by answer by her, instead of being the means, as I now must be, of lessening the Elegance of your new Dress for the Hurstbourn Ball by the value of 3d.–”  (Austen’s own emphasis and phrasing.)

Continues onto to scheduling where Austen seems to be planning her own road trip, “In about a fortnight’s time I hope to be with you; I have two reasons for not being able to come before; I wish so to arrange my visit as to spend some days with you after your Mother’s return, in the 1st place that I may have the pleasure of seeing her, & in the 2d, that I may have a better chance of bringing you back with me.–Your promise in my favour was not quite absolute, but if your Will is not perverse, You & I will do all in our power to overcome your scruples of conscience.–I hope we shall meet next week to talk all this over, till we have tired ourselves with the very idea of my visit, before my visit begins.–” (Austen’s own spelling and phrasing.)

Then jumps right into the apparent, upcoming ball and the recent invitations: “Our invitations for the 19th are arrived & very curiously are they worded.”  Per the notes citing the Family Record, regarding the Hurstbourne ball, the host Lord Portsmouth was a former pupil of Mr. Austen at his rectory school in Steventon briefly as a child, but as an adult, became known as an eccentric and eventually notorious before being declared insane.

Austen continues her letter with an update of news concerning their neighbors the Harwoods, father and son — the father recovering from what seems to have been an accident with his gun or in Austen’s own words: “poor Earle’s unfortunate accident.”  Also Austen, adds more timely news about other neighbors including Mr. Heathcote breaking his leg before she seems to be responding to a specific request from Martha with a request of her own wicked wit: “You distress me cruelly by your request about Books; I cannot think of any to bring with me, nor have I any idea of our wanting them.  I come to  you to be talked to, not to read or hear reading.  I can do that at home; & indeed I am now laying in a stock of intelligence to pour out on you as my share of Conversation.–” (Austen’s own punctuation emphasis, and spelling.)

This is soon walked back with Austen relenting a little bit: “I am reading Henry’s History of England, which I will repeat to you in any manner you may prefer, either in a loose, disultary, unconnected strain, or dividing my recital as the Historian divides it himself, into seven parts, The Civil & Military–Religion–Constitution–Learning & Learned Men–Arts & Sciences–Commerce Coins & Shipping–& Manners;–So that for every evening of the week there will be a different subject; The friday’s lot, Commerce, Coins & Shipping, You will find the least entertaining; but the next Eveng:’s portion will make amends.” (Austen’s own punctuation emphasis, and spelling.)

Of course, Austen wrote her own version, considered part of her juvenila: The History of England. By a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian. (Note: There will be very few Dates in this History), illustrated by Cassandra.

Starts to close this letter, with Austen discussing a dinner when Martha returns: “Farewell for a short time–You are to dine here on tuesday to meet James Digweed, whom you must wish to see before he goes into Kent.”

Adds two postscripts and her wicked wit returns with news about a marriage announcement about a not so confirmed bachelor: “It is reported at Portsmouth that Sir T. Williams is going to be married–It has been reported indeed twenty times before, but Charles is inclined to give some credit to it now, as they ever hardly see him on board, & he looks very much like a Lover.–”

The second postscript and update concerns again the Harwood father recovering from his gun wound: “The Harwoods have received a much better account of Earle this morning; & Charles, from whom I have just had a letter, has been assured by the Hospital-Surgeon that the Would is in a s favourable a state as can be.”  (Austen’s own spelling.)

All cites to Jane Austen’s Letters, Fourth Edition, edited by Deirdre LeFaye, Oxford University Press, 2011.

 

 

 

Letter to Cassandra, Sat. 8–Sun. 9, November 1800.

On a Saturday evening,  Jane Austen begins this letter to her older sister Cassandra away again in Kent at their brother’s estate Godmersham Park.  Per the notes, this letter follows one that is missing in the order of Austen’s correspondence.  Full of news from home in Steventon including their neighbors in Ashe and Dean — the first order of business is thanking Cassandra for her recent letters , and interesting story (including a request for updates), and then updating her sister on the state of the rest of the Austen household’s correspondence: “I thank you for so speedy a return to my two last, & particularly thank you for your anecdote of Charlotte Graham & her cousin Harriet Bailey, which has very much amused both my Mother & myself. If you can learn anything further of that interesting affair I hope you will mention it.–I have two messages; let me get ride of them, & then my paper will be my own.–Mary fully intended writing to you by Mr. Chute’s frank, & only happened to entirely to forget it–but will write soon–& my father wishes Edward to send him a memorandum in your next letter, of the price of the hops.”  (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

Concluding these “messages,” Austen continues on describing to Cassandra recent furniture purchases and rearrangements at home in Steventon: “The two ends put together form our constant Table for everything, & the centre peice stands exceedingly well under the glass; holds a great deal most commodiously, without looking awkwardly.–They are both covered with green baize & send their best Love.” (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

Furniture update complete — this is Austen’s transition: “So much for that subject; I now come to another, of a very different nature, as other subjects are very apt to be.”

Moving on Austen relays what I’m presuming must’ve have been a shocking story that rocked the local neighborhood around Steventon concerning Earle Harwood:  “About ten days ago, in cocking a pistol in the guard-room at Marcou, he accidentally shot himself through the Thigh.”  Austen relates all of the details including “Two young Scot Surgeons” suggesting the amputation of the leg which Earle Harwood refused: “accordingly in his wounded state he was put on board a Cutter & conveyed to Haslar Hospital at Gosport: where the bullet was extracted, & where he now I hope in a fair way of doing well.”

Austen continues about news being brought back to the family and their neighbors: “They went down on tuesday, & James came back the next day, bringing such favorable accounts as greatly to lessen the distress of the family at Deane, tho’ it will probably be a long while before Mrs. Harwood can be quite at ease.”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

Next up a bit of sisterly correspondence on wardrobe: “I cannot possibly oblige you by not wearing my gown, because I have made it up on purpose to wear it a great deal, & as the discredit will be my own, I feel the less regret.–You must learn to like it yourself & make it up at Godmersham; it may easily be down; it is only protesting it to be very beautiful, & you will soon think it so.”

From here to a relaying a little adventure: “Mary drove me all in the rain to Basingstoke, & still more all in the rain back again, because it rained harder; & soon after our return to Dean a sudden invitation & an own putsches took us to Ash Park, to dine tete a tele with Mr. Holder, Mr. Gauntlett & James Digweed; but our tete a tete was cruelly reduced by the non-attendance of the two latter.–”  Austen and Mary were left to dine only with Mr. Holder one of primary residents of Ash Park, and also per the notes this may possibly be a reference to the Rev. Samuel Gauntlett, in Hampshire during this time.

Austen despite being stood up by the other two gentlemen, wrote that she enjoyed the dinner, and their visit to this comfortable home, but wrote to Cassandra, that Mary perhaps not so much: “We had a very quiet evening, I believe Mary found it dull, but I thought it very pleasant.  To site in idleness over a good fire in a well-proportioned room is a luxurious sensation.”  Interesting perhaps Austen really relished the idea of dining out and enjoying the food and resources of a larger house and estate.

Here, another transition, again per the notes sliding into news of correspondence from one of Mr. Austen’s former students: “I have had a most affectionate letter from Buller; I was afraid he would oppress me by his felicity & his love for his Wife, but this is not the case; he calls her simply Anna without any angelic embellishments, for which I respect & wish him happy–and throughout the whole of his letter indeed he seems more engrossed by his feelings toward our family, than towards her, which You know cannot give any one disgust.”  Wondering if this former student’s zeal for the Austen family affairs is perhaps attached to a former attachment or crush he had on one of the Austen sisters?  The idea that Austen’s wicked wit here is targeting the idea she was expecting too much cloying or braying about his wife, but instead finds him asking about their family has me wondering.  Again I wish we had Cassandra’s letters back to read the rest of this story between the two sisters.

Austen continues with news,a report of another injured neighbor, invitations and acceptances for local balls, and the ongoing debate between their brother Edward and Mr. Holder (from Ash) about a proposed plan for a Rookery.  Then adds news of a recent engagement and an item of news concerning  Frank one of their seafaring brothers: “Mr. Holder’s paper tells us that sometime in last August, Capt: Austen & the Petterrell were very active in securing a Turkish Ship (driven into a Port in Cyprus by bad weather) from the French.–He was forced to burn her however.–You will see the account in the Sun I dare say.–”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

Noting Sunday evening Austen gives an update on the severity weather apparently overnight that Saturday night, and its damage to their “Elm Walk” and maypole, as well: “We have had a dreadful storm of wind in the forepart of this day, which has done a great deal of mischeif among our trees.–I was siting alone in the dining room, when an odd kind of crash startled me–in a moment afterwards it was repeated; I then went to the window, which I reached just in time to see the last of our two highly value Elms descend into the Sweep!!!!!!  The other, which had fallen I suppose in the first crash, & which was the nearest to the pond, taking a more easterly direction sunk amongst our screen of Chestnuts & firs, knocking down one spruce fir, beating the head of another, & stripping the two corner chestnuts of several branches, in its fall.–This is not all—.One large Elm out of two on the left hand side, as you enter what I call the Elm walk, was likewise blown down, the Maypole bearing the weathercock was broke in two, & what I regret more than all the rest, is that all the three Elms which grew in Hall’s meadow & gave such ornament to it, are gone.–Two were blown down, & the other so much injured that it cannot stand.”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

After the reportage of the damage Austen adds though: “–I am happy to add however that no greater Evil than the loss of Trees has been the consequence of the Storm in this place, or in our immediate neighborhood.–We greive therefore in some comfort.–”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

This letter concludes with a short post script, making me think she received another letter and news from Cassandra about Charles — before sending this off: “You spend your time just as quietly & comfortably as I supposed you would.–We have all seen & admired Fanny’s letter to her Aunt.–The Endymion sailed on a cruize last friday.”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

All notes/cites to: Jane Austen’s Letters edited by Deirdre Le Faye, 4th Edition, Oxford University Press, 2011.

Letter to Cassandra, Saturday One November 1800–two Naval brothers, the “Petvals,” and a ball with a “Scarcity of Men.”

Austen is writing to her older sister Cassandra, away again visiting their brother’s household in Godmersham Park in Kent, from their home in Steventon.  This letter is full of news: including updates concerning their naval and seafaring brothers Frank and Charles, discussions of clothing and household purchases, a neighborhood ball Austen attended, plus other local news.

“You have written I am sure, tho’ I have received no letter from you since your leaving London;–the Post, & not yourself must have been unpunctual.”  Later on we learn, there a cross between the sisters letters along with a literary bit of Austen’s wicked wit: “Your letter is come; it came indeed twelve lines ago, but I could not stop to acknowledge it before, & I am glad it did not arrive till I had completed my first sentence, because the sentence had been made ever since yesterday, & I think forms a very good beginning.–”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

Before acknowledging the arrival of Cassandra’s letter Austen had delved first into news of naval brother Frank: “We have at last heard from Frank; a letter from him to You came yesterday, & I mean to send it on as soon as I can get a ditto, (that  means a frank,) which I hope to do in a day or two.”   (Austen’s own emphasis, spelling and punctuation.)

Not really sure what Austen means by a “ditto” if she means her own letter from brother Frank or some sort of word from Frank to forward the letter, obviously this is understood by the two sisters as Austen continues the update on their brother Frank with specific naval maneuvers: “En attendant, You must rest satisfied with a knowing that on the 8th of July the Petterell with the rest of the Egyptian Squadron was off the Isle of Cyprus, whither they went from Jaffa for Provisions, & c., & whence they were sail in a day or two for Alexandria, there to wait the result of the English proposals for the Evacuation of Egypt.  The rest of the letter, according to the present fashionable stile of Composition, is cheifly Descriptive; of his Promotion he knows nothing & of Prizes he is guiltless.–”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

To note, I did only a quick online search for the Petterell the ship, but I could not locate its historical record, so I’m presuming it was a British gunship or frigate of some kind due to the time period. But the name of the ship particularly intrigues me, in similarity to: “The Petvals” — or “Mother Carey’s Chickens” — Citing/paraphrasing: Barbara Walker here: “Mother Carey, Sea Goddess, per lore English Sailors.  Mother Cara (Latin) and literally: Beloved Mother.  Her “soul-birds” called Mother Carey’s Chickens or The Petvals.  Per the French, “Birds of our lady,” and later associated with St. Peter, i.e. with the name “Little Peters.”

After the Frank update, Jane Austen dives into wardrobe matter discussions apparently answering some of Cassandra’s opinions on either ordering or altering their clothes: “Your abuse of our Gowns amuses, but does discourage me; I shall take mine to be made up next week, & the more I look at it, the better it pleases me.–”  (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

Apparently, Cassandra was responsible for sending home certain items of clothing and glassware for the household and Austen is both confirming their arrival and everyone’s thoughts and opinions on them.  First, Austen seems very impressed with a cloak trimmed with lace her older sister selected and sent home to Steventon: “My Cloak came on tuesday & tho’ I expected a good deal, the beauty of the lace astonished me.–It is too handsome to be worn, almost too handsome to be looked at.”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

However, Austen seems to be gently breaking the news that Cassandra’s purchase of glassware for their house at Steventon was not as much as a success with their mother Mrs. Austen:  “The Glass is all safely arrived also, & gives great satisfaction.  The wine glasses are much smaller than I expected, but I suppose it is the proper size.–We find no fault with your manner of performing any of our commissions, but if you like to think yourself remiss in any of them, pray do.–My Mother was rather vexed that you could not go to Pennington’s, but she has since written to him, which does just as well.”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

Not sure, but it seems Cassandra did not go to a specific store or merchant that Mrs. Austen preferred, and Austen gives her older sister another sibling update: “Mary is disappointed about her Locket, & of course delighted about the Mangle which is safe at  Basingstoke.”  (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

Sort of like eavesdropping here, apparently something happened to Mary’s locket either it was lost or broken, but the mangle (an accessory to help wring out laundry) was either found or accessible at Basingstoke.  Austen doesn’t offer further details and this is a private exchange between the sisters, that obviously understand the unsaid details.

The neighborhood ball is the next topic of news Austen conveys to her sister, including her options for invitations, among other details: “I dined and slept at Deane.–Charlotte & I did my hair, which I fancy looked very indifferent; nobody abuse it however, & I retired delighted with my success.–It was a pleasant Ball, & still more good than pleasant, for there were nearly 60 people, & sometimes we had 17 couple.”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

And this next part of Austen’s letter, make me think of Pride and Prejudice:  “There was a scarcity of Men in general, & still a greater scarcity of any that were good for much.–I danced nine dances out of ten, five with Stephen Terry, T. Chute & James Digweed & four with Catherine.”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.) Not sure about that last name of a partner being “Catherine” as a surname for a male person, I am not familiar with Regency dance enough to elaborate, but generally I thought they were all male to female and females never danced together, but I could be wrong, and I will look into it.

“There was commonly a couple of ladies standing up together, but not often any so amiable as ourselves.–I heard no news, except that Mr. Peters, who was not there, is supposed to be particularly attentive to Miss Lyford.–You were enquired after very prettily, & I hope the whole assembly now understands that you are gone into Kent, which the families in general seemed to meet in ignorance of.–”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)  Again, this seems to be a private exchange or reference, between the two sisters regarding Cassandra’s often traveling to Kent.

Austen passes along a bit more about the ball, including who she chatted with; ” I said civil things for Edward to Mr. Chute, who simply returned them by declaring that had he known of my brother’s being at Steventon he should have made a point on calling on him to thank him for his civility about the Hunt.”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

From there, Austen delves right back into the second of their naval brothers, “I have heard from Charles, & am to send his shirts by half dozens as they are finished;–one sett will go next week.–The Endymion is now waiting only for orders, but may wait for them perhaps a month.–”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

Also includes a short bit about Charles had attempted a quick visit possibly to Chawton to see Edward but it did not work out: “Charles had actually set out & got half the way thither in order to spend one day with Edward, but turned back on discovering the distance to be considerably more than he had fancied, & finding himself & his horse to be very much tired.”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

Austen proceedings with a long paragraph filled with news and updates, closing with a little bit of extra fondness toward her nephew Edward’s son: “Love to all.–I am glad George remembers me.”  Before actually closing with two postscripts, the first with the owning up of a younger sister apparently have borrowed some of the older’s clothing: “I wore at the Ball your favourite gown, a bit of muslim of the same round my head, border’d with Mrs. Cooper’s band–& one little Comb.–”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.) Apparently, Austen forgot to mention this when she gave Cassandra the ball update earlier and per the notes, Mrs. Cooper was their aunt, Mrs. Austen’s sister.

The second postscript–also refers back to the second seafaring brother Charles and again crossing letters: “I am very unhappy.–In re-reading your letter I find I might have spared any Intelligence of Charles.–To have written only what you knew before!–You may guess how much I feel.–”   (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

Notes/cites to: 1) Jane Austen’s Letters, 4th Edition, Collected and Edited by Deirdre LeFay, Oxford University Press, 2011 & 2) A Companion to Jane Austen, by Claudia L. Johnson, 2011, via Google Books, and 3) Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara Walker.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to Cassandra, Sat. 25–Mon. 27, October 1800.

This letter per the notes follows a missing letter, dated Sunday 23 June. Back at home in Steventon, Jane Austen is writing to her old sister Cassandra, who has traveled with their brother Edward and family to their estate Godmersham Park in Kent.

Apparently they stopped in London and sent a package to Steventon which Jane relayed was still en route: “I am not yet able to acknowledge the receipt of any parcel from London, which I suppose will not occasion you much surprise.”

Her wicked wit kicks right off, “You have had a very pleasant Journey of course & have found Elizabeth & all the Children very well on your arrival at Godmersham, & I congratulate you on it.  Edward is rejoicing this even I dare say to find himself once more at home, from which he fancies he has been absent a great while.”

Continues onto the weather, describing their recent neighborhood visits to Deane, Oakley Hall and Oakley and procuring seeds: “At Oakley Hall we did a great deal–eat some sandwiches all over mustard, admired Mr. Bramston Porter’s & Mrs. Bramston’s Transparencies, & gained a promise of two roots of hearts-ease, one all yellow & the other all purple for you.”

There is a large update of local news including recent purchases, visitors, visitations, plus acquisitions including a new Horse bought at the Winchester Fair, and passing along updates of one neighbor’s misfortune: “Our whole Neighborhood is at present very busy grieving over poor Mrs. Martin, who has totally failed in her business, & had very lately an execution in her house.”  Which to clarify sounds like more like a repossession of assets to prevent bankruptcy: “Her own brother & Mr. Rider are the principal creditors, & they have seized her effects in order to prevent other people’s doing it.”

Austen follows this with news about a forced auction, plus more teasing wit, “There has been the same affair going on, we are told at Wilson’s, & my hearing nothing of you makes me apprehensive that You, your fellow travellers & all your effects, might be seized by the Bailiffs when you stopt at the Crown & sold altogether for the benefit of the creditors.”  (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)  The Crown  per the notes is a reference to a coaching inn, and Mr. Wilson was the landlord of that inn.

As the letter continues to Sunday, Austen notes she may be repeating herself on the subject of the fine weather or not having it, “This morning’s unpromising aspect makes it absolutely necessary for me to observe once more how peculiarly fortunate you have been in your weather, and then I will drop the subject for ever.–”

The subject shifts then to the preparation of seeds and planting, before the receipt of the package and her thanks for the contents: “I am now able to thank you for executing my Commissions so well.–I like the Gown very much & my Mother thinks it very ugly.–I like the Stockings also very much & greatly prefer having only two pairs of that quality, to three of an inferior sort.–The Combs are very pretty, & I am much obliged to you for your present; but am sorry you should make me so many.–The Pink Shoes are not particularly beautiful, but they fit me very well –the others are faultless.–I am glad that I have still my Cloak to expect.”  (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

The closing begins with Austen thanking Cassandra for writing when on a Regency Road Trip: “Among my other obligations, I must not omit to number your writing me so long a letter in a in a time of such hurry.  I am amused by your going to Milgate at last & glad that you have so charming a day for your Journey home.”

There is a bit of a back and forth at the end with another dose of wit, perhaps a little bit of a follow up discussion: “I am surprised Mrs. Marriot should not be taller–Surely You have made a mistake.–Did Mr. Roland make you look well?–” (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

Austen adds a postscript, about Mr. Austen opinions on these purchases and or gifts sent by Cassandra: “My father approves his Stockings very highly–& finds no fault with any part of Mrs. Hancock’s bill except the charge of 3s 6d for the Packing box.–”

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