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.

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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 Bath, “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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to Cassandra Monday 21-Wed. 23 January 1799 — “What time in March may we expect your return in?”

Jane Austen writes again to her older sister Cassandra, who remains away visiting their brother Edward in Kent.  Per the notes, there is a letter missing here in her correspondence.  Austen though seems to be continuing an apology for an empty sheet/requiring the postage being paid for blank paper from previous letters earlier in January and perhaps the missing letter from before this one, was rather on the shorter side, because she writes joking about the charge from the local postmaster: “I will endeavour to make this letter more worthy your acceptance than my last, which was so shabby a one I think Mr. Marshall could never charge you with postage.”  (Austen’s own spelling.)

Austen then relays that her eyes are improving from her previous illness and gives an update on their brother Charles and his naval commissions, and his plans to travel to recently arrived and docked ship, “The Tamar,” which did not exactly work out.  Austen in fact sounded like she was a bit frustrated about scheduling: “I want to go with him, that I may explain the country to him properly between Canterbury and Rowling, but the unpleasantness of returning by myself deters me.”

The relaying a little bit of gossip and/or another’ lady’s opinion of the Austen men: “Martha writes me word that Charles was very much admired at Kintbury, and Mrs. Lefroy never saw anyone so much improved in her life, and thinks him handsomer than Henry.”

Austen adds on her own comments about their brother Charles: “He appears to far more advantage here than he did at Godmersham, not surrounded by strangers and neither oppressed by a pain in his face or powder in his hair.”  Austen leaves off and goes onto other subjects, but later will return to the change in Charles’ appearance.

She then includes an update family news via letter received by Mrs. Austen from their cousin Edward Cooper, details a new living and a move to Staffordshire including a good amount of Austen’s wicked wit:  “Staffordshire is a good way off; so we shall see nothing more of them till, some fifteen years hence, the Miss Coopers are presented to us, fine, jolly, handsome, ignorant girls.”  Austen then specifies the amount of the living before again summing up, and somewhat teasingly adding: “Our first cousins seem all dropping off very fast.”

Austen then jumps from family to neighborhood social news, “Our ball on Thursday was a very poor one, only eight couple and but twenty-three people in the room; but it was not the ball’s fault, for we were deprived of two or three families by the sudden illness of their neighbor Mr. Wither, who was seized that morning at Winchester with a return of his former alarming complaint.”

Continues to update Cassandra with a run down of the smaller ball and her dancing partners, as well as an update for Mr. Withers who had fallen ill: “In such a disorder his danger, I suppose, must always be great; but from this attack he is now rapidly recovering, and will be well enough to return to Manydown.”  As well as a bit of a report on their sister: “Mary behaved very well, and was not at all fidgety.  For the history of her adventures at the ball I refer you to Anna’s letter.”

Austen then shifts back to their brother Charles and apparently outfitting him for his new post, then pausing to note: “Tuesday.–Your letter has pleased and amused me very much.  Your essay on happy fortnights is highly ingenious, and the talobert skin made laugh a good deal.”

Readers here are left out of the loop.  There is no way to know what Cassandra wrote about a “happy fortnight” or two weeks, and the notes presume “talobert” is either a misreading of rabbit skin or a in-family joke.

Also in response to Cassandra’s recent letter, Austen provides a mom update: “It began to occur to me before you mentioned it that I had been somewhat silent as to my mother’s health for some time, but I thought you could have no difficultly in divining its exact state–you, who have guessed so much stranger things.”

From the tone, seems Austen’s patience with her mother’s complaints are wearing a bit thin: “She is tolerably well–better upon the whole than she was some weeks ago.  She would tell you herself that she has a very dreadful cold in her head at present; but I have not much compassion for colds in the head without fever or sore throat.”

The it’s back to domestic business, with a reference to Charles “Our own particular little brother,” resuming his travel plans and per the notes a joke and/or reference to Burney’s novel Camilla.  Before happily delegating to Cassandra, purchasing clothes while away in Kent: “I have no objection at all to your buying our gowns there, as your imagination has pictured to you exactly such a one as is necessary to make me happy.”   Austen also praises Cassandra, “You quite abash me by your progress in notting, I am still without silk.”  Per the notes, “notting” is most likely a misreading of “netting,” which was a fashionable at the time, and a process often used on clothing and accessories, and per the notes, Austen referenced netting in her novels: Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice.

Here, Austen returns to the recent changes in their brother Charles’ appearance.  Per the notes, apparently he cut his hair, as Austen refers to him as a “crop.”  In addition, the fashion of the cropped hair and losing the wigs, was it appears, a bit of a touchy subject between the siblings: “I thought Edward would not approve of Charles being a crop, and rather wished you to conceal it from him at present, lest it might fall on his sports and retard his recovery.”

Although it is difficult to know, but it definitely seems like Austen is asking for a sisterly confidence here.  Again missing letters perhaps hold the key, but apparently Edward was ill, and from afar their brother Edward (the wealthly brother), may have been upset by these changes in Charles, even if it wasn’t politically motivated.  Per the notes, “a new fashion for young men, and viewed with some disapproval since it might imply sympathy with the fashions of Republican France.”

This letter then turns to domestic talk of animals and food provisions, as well as another update on a neighborhood marriage announcement, before Austen implores her sister:  “What time in March may we expect your return in?  I begin to be very tired of answering people’s questions on the subject, and, independent of that, I shall be very glad to see you home again, and then if we can get Martha and shirk … … who will be so happy as we?”  Presuming that “Martha” is their friend Martha Lloyd — rest though a mystery.  Per the notes, it’s unclear if Cassandra or another relative struck this out, regarding Austen’s plans: “I think of going to Ilbthorop in”

But this is left as a fragment, for Austen continues noting: “Wednesday, 23rd.”  With birthday wishes to her niece: “I wish my dear Fanny many returns of this day, and receiving from her doll’s beds.”

And Austen closes this letter a final update about their brother: “I have just heard from Charles, who is by this time at Deal.  He is to be Second Lieutenant, which pleases him likewise.”  Apparently, there was a change in ship assignment as well: “He expects to be ordered to Sheerness shortly, as the ‘Tamar’ has never been refitted.”

All notes/cites to: Jane Austen’s Letters, collected and edited by Deidre Le Fay, Oxford University Press, 4th edition, 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digression: Invitation — Nov. 6, 2017, New York City–Where are the women? New Central Park monument.

Via the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust — NYC Parks, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, & The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund cordially invite you to attend the launch of: The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Woman Suffrage Movement Monument, Monday, November 6th, 2017, 11:30 a.m. The Mall, Central Park (between 67th and 68th Streets) RSVP to 212-360-8143 or Colombina.valera@parks.nyc.gov — Organized in partnership with New York Life and The Central Park Conservancy.  For more information please visit these websites: Elizabethcadystanton.org; MonumentalWomen.org and CentralParkWhereAreTheWomen.org