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.