Letter to Cassandra: Sat. 3-Mon. Jan. 1801- “I am not sacrificing a great deal in quitting the Country.”

Per the notes, this letter follows one that is missing, sent from Jane Austen, is sent from Steventon to her older sister Cassandra, still away at their brother’s estate Godmersham Park in Kent.  Wondering if there is only one letter missing — Mr. Austen has apparently announced his retirement, and plans our being made to leave Steventon and move to Bath: “As you have by this time received my last letter, it is fit that I should begin another; & I begin with the hope, which at present uppermost in my mind, that you wore a white gown in the morning, at the time of all the gay party’s being with you.”

Austen has shifted what she writes about significantly.  Gone from the sister relaying all the latest family, neighborhood news and gossip, and updates on balls Cassandra either missed or attend and needed to provided detailed accounts back to Jane — to focusing mostly on family and household concerns connected to this very large transition in the lives.

Most of this letter concerns what the Austen family members will be doing to move from their home in Steventon to Bath.  Overall, Austen’s tone sounds positive, with pockets of her wicked wit and sometimes even playful. “My Mother looks forward with as much certainty as you can do, to our keeping two Maids–my father is the only one not in the secret.–We plan having a steady Cook, & a young giddy Housemaid, with a sedate, middleaged Man, who is to undertake the double office of Husband to the former & sweetheart to the latter.”

Austen seems to be also referring to the loss of a male servant John Bond, and how he will be employed when the Austen family leaves Hampshire, and apparently Cassandra had a better opinion of him and worries than her younger sister: “You feel more for John Bond deserves;–I am sorry to lower his Character, but he is not ashamed to own himself, that he has no doubt at all of getting a good place, & that he had even an offer many years ago from Farmer Paine of taking him into his Service whenever he might quit my fathers.”

Austen lays out the various options of houses, apartments in streets in Bath they are considering noting issues of expense and location, and also the furniture they may or may not be taking with them.  There is also a large discussion of distributing the art work: “Upon all these different situations, You & Edward may confer together, & your opinion of each will be expected with eagerness.  As to our Pictures, the Battlepeice, Mr. Nibbs, Sir William East, & all the old heterogenous, miscellany, manuscript, Scriptoral pieces dispersed over the House are to be given to James.”  (Austen’s own spelling.)  To paraphrase the notes, Anna Lefroy recalled that “‘The Battlepeice” was an oil painting of the battle in 1565 between the Swedes and the Poles, which hung in the rectory dining room.  Mr. Nibbs and Sir William were family nicknames given to the figures in the painting, which again cites to Anna Leroy as recalling been stored in cottage of John Bond, the Austen’s former servant in Hampshire and lost when the cottage burned down.

Austen also mentions Martha Lloyd visiting to see Cassandra before they quit the neighborhood, and there is some discussion of scheduling to move everything and everyone from Hampshire to Bath, but I think this is the most telling part of Austen wrestling with this move in her life: “It must not be generally known however that I am not sacrificing a great deal in quitting the Country–or I can expect to inspire no tenderness, no interest in those we leave behind.”

All cites to: Jane Austen’s Letters, Collected and Edited by Deirdre Le Faye, 4th Edition, 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, 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.

 

 

 

Letter to Cassandra, 19 June 1799 — “I dare say she was nothing but an innocent Country Girl.”

Returning to Jane Austen’s letters with her correspondence to her older sister Cassandra. This particular letter, again follows another missing letter from the collection, per the notes.  Jane is still in Bath with her brother Edward and his family, and Cassandra is home at Steventon: “The Children were delighted with your letters, as I fancy they will tell you themselves before this is concluded.”

Opens with an update about their brother’s progress and treatment: “Edward has not been well these last two days; his appetite has failed him, & he has complained of sick & uncomfortable feelings, which with other Symptoms make us think of the Gout–perhaps a fit of it might cure him, but I cannot wish it to begin at Bath.

Recounts Edward’s major purchase, and or “secret” purchase of coach horses via his friend Austen apparently disliked, conveying this to her sister Cassandra, with a little bit of wicked wit: “His friend Mr. Evelyn found them out & recommended them, & if the judgment of a Yahoo can ever be depended on, I suppose it may now, for I believe Mr. Evelyn has all his life thought more of Horses that anything else.” Per the notes, Austen is making a direct reference to Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and not in a good way.

Continues still discussing Edward and his various doctors and treatments in Bath before updating Cassandra on different social obligations with different acquaintances: “We are always very glad to meet & I dod not wish to wear out our satisfaction.”

Austen describes an evening Gala at Sidney Gardens, fireworks and wrapping up their visit by attending a theatrical play, “The Play is on Saturday is I hope to conclude our Gaities here, for nothing but a lengthened stay will make it otherwise.”  (Austen’s own emphasis.)  Per the notes, the play they were to attend was: “The Grand Dramatic Romance of Blue Beard; or Female Curiosity, words by George Colman the younger, music composed and selected by Michael Kelly; London, 1798.”

Wit returns, as she describes their quitting Bath and scheduling: “Edward will not remain at Steventon longer than from Thursday to the following Monday I believe, as Rent-day is to be fixed for the consecutive friday.–I can recollect nothing more to say at present;–perhaps Breakfast may assist my ideas.”  (Austen’s own emphasis and punctuation.)

Per the notes the page breaks and Austen is back writing an update: “I was deceived–my breakfast supplied only two ideas, that the rolls were good, & the butter bad;–But the Post has been more friendly to me, it has brought me a letter from Miss Pearson.”
Many Austen scholars and devotees have studied how Austen wrote both with traveling with the move eventual move away from the country (Steventon) to Bath and other locations, the inferiority quality of the food — often commenting on dairy: butter and milk.

Austen returns to discussing her ongoing efforts to correspond with Miss Pearson and apparently resolving an issue regarding a transfer of parcels or packets, “I thought myself obliged to write again two or three days ago, for after all that had passed I was determined that the Correspondence should never cease thro’ my Means–.” Per the note, Miss Pearson apparently was once engaged to their brother Henry, but it was broken off during the Summer of 1796.

Discusses the apologies that Miss Pearson duly relays to Cassandra, “This Letter has produced an apology for her silence, founded on the Illness of several of the family.”

Further adding, “The exchange of packets is to take place through the medium of Mr. Nutt, probably one of the Sons belonging to Woolwich Academy, who comes to Overton in the beginning of July.”

Austen doesn’t elaborate — it is certain she and Cassandra understand what this is about and/or what they are trying to retrieve and or also return to Miss Pearson, Henry’s former fiancee but apparently Austen wasn’t completely found of her brother’s former love interest, “I am tempted to suspect from some parts of her Letter, that she has a matrimonial project in view–I shall question her about it when I answer her Letter; but all this you know is en Mystere between ourselves.  (Austen’s own emphasis.)

Returns to news about Edward and his dealing with the Apothecary and various medicines and diagnosis returning again to Gout before including this in her closing which appears to be in answer to Cassandra’s letter with local news or possible gossip about a match from back home in Steventon: “I cannot help thinking from your account of Mrs. E.H. that Earle’s vanity has tempted him to invent the account of her former way of Life, that his triumph in securing her might be greater;–I dare say she was nothing but an innocent Country Girl in fact.”   Again, sort of left to us that Jane and Cassandra are discussing the affairs of others here that might be a bit unsavory.

Austen signs off then, “Adieu–.I shall not write again before Sunday, unless anything particular happens.” Then includes/transcribes letters back to Aunt Cassandra from her niece and nephew.  After thanking Cassandra for the “pretty letter,” their main concerns seem to be a nest of chaffinches in the Steventon garden and whether or not the eggs have hatched.  Although they do say their dad isn’t feeling well and send regards to their Aunt and Grandparents, referencing both turkeys and gooseberries.

Another bit of wicked wit is included in the post script: “We shall be with you on Thursday to a very late Dinner–later I support than my Father will like for himself–but I give him leave to eat one before.  You must give us something very nice, for we are used to live well.”  (Austen’s own punctuation and syntax.)  All notes/cites to: Jane Austen’s Letters, Collected and Edited by Deirdre LeFay, 4th Edition, Oxford University Press 2011.