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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Digression: Jane Austen, Americans and Weddings–royal or not.

As American anglophiles, this morning my mum and I watched the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  Since we live in Eastern Standard Time, it was an early morning call, and set my clock just in case I did not wake up in time–which I did.  Together we have watched Charles marry Diana, Andrew marry Sarah, and more recently William marry Kate, with all the required protocol that goes with the vows.

The U.S. coverage was pretty complete, including interviews with Americans who were there trying to catch a glimpse in the crowds. A lot of people see the wedding as a little bit of bright news in the otherwise blanketing darkness of the television landscape — another school shooting and ongoing, troubling international affairs.

Routinely, Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra of engagements and reported on the wives and husbands of friends and acquaintances. Often passing judgment on their looks and manners as well.  Sometimes that wicked wit of hers was even a bit harsh.

Not sure how Austen would feel about the new Duchess of Sussex — the ceremony was definite a blending of old and new but beyond that, I don’t think Austen was terribly found of Americans in general, her opinion on the slave trade was well executed in Mansfield Park, obviously her related view of these activities involving Americans was presumably low, and also there was her ongoing concerns with her brothers in the Royal Navy during the War of 1812.

Yesterday at work, we watched the U.S.S. constitution sail by the windows far down in the harbor below. During the War 1812, The USS Constitution was successful from fleeing from two (2) British Warships by sailing into Marblehead harbor.  Yesterday, had a bit of memory lapse and had to recheck the history.  And it turned out, the ship was taking part of celebratory anniversary of the Vietnam War veterans, long overdue and I’m sure unthinkable many years ago, when they returned from their tours of duty.

Today’s wedding as well, again turning toward change in many directions not sure that Austen would understand or approve — although I’m sure the beautiful day they had for the ceremony, would have made for a good walk through the Town of Windsor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to Cassandra, Thurs. 20-Fri. 21, Nov. 1800–Mean Girls, a bad gentleman, and new gowns.

Writing to her older sister Cassandra visiting their brother’s estate in Godmersham park in Kent, from their home in Steventon — Austen is conveying all the local news, gossips, and goings on with a large dose of her wicked wit.

First starts out with a bit of health issues, she attributes to over indulging: “Your letter took me quite by surprise this morning; you are very welcome however, & I am very much obliged to you.–I beleive I drank too much wine last night at Hurstborne; I knew not how else to account for the shaking of my hand to day;–You will kindly make allowance therefore for any indistinctness of writing by attributing this venial Error.”  (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

Next up, report on their brother Charles who seems to be visiting Steventon not just to see the Austen family, but to attendance the balls including a ball at Deane, and see various ladies: “Charles found it remarkably so, but I cannot tell why, unless the absence of Miss Terry–towards whom his conscience reproaches him with now being perfect indifferent–was a relief to him.”

And a report on her dance card: “There were only twelve dances of which I danced none, & was merely prevented from dancing the rest by the want of a partner.–”

Continues on with a list of dance partners: “My partners where the two St. Johns, Hooper Holder–and very prodigious Mr. Matthew, with whom I called the last, & whom I like the best of my little stock.”

Then her wicked wit kicks in with a detail of the competition of the ladies in attendance: “There were very few Beauties, & such as there were, were not very handsome.”

Austen does a very detailed run down of the people she met, spoke with and disliked, unsparing of a critical evaluation in a very “Mean Girls” kind of way, and also including  some bad gentleman’s behavior: “I looked at Sir Thomas Champneys & thought of poor Rosalie; I looked at his daughter & thought her a queer animal with a white neck.–Mrs. Warren, I was constrained to think a very fine young woman, which I made regret.  She has got rid of some part of her child, & danced away with great activity, looking by no means very large.–Her husband is ugly enough; uglier even than his cousin John; but he does not look so very old.–The Miss Maitlands are both prettyish; very like Anne; with brown skins, large dark eyes, & a good deal of nose.–The General has got the Gout, & Mrs. Maitland the Jaundice.–Miss Debary, Susan and Sally all in black, but without any Statues, made their appearance, & I was as civil to them as their bad breath would allow me.”  (Austen’s own punctuation and emphasis.) Per the notes Rosalie was a former maid of their cousin Eliza, that “had attracted Sir Thomas’s attention.  Not sure if this means he had some sort of a physical relationship with this servant, got her pregnant and somehow ruined her life.  Austen seems to include a note of sympathy but the notes do not detail further.  Also per the notes, the reference to “statues” is presumed to be a family joke, making a reference to the color of gowns and the black statues or ornaments which were fashionable and on display in that family’s drawing room.

Austen also includes news of her wardrobe as well: “Mary said I looked very well last night; I wore my Aunt’s gown & handkercheif, & my hair was at least tidy which was all my ambition.”  (Austen’s own spelling and grammar.)  Per the notes, it’s unclear if their aunt had given Austen money for a new gown or if Jane was gifted an old gown of her aunt’s to alter and wear herself.

Later Austen adds more news on fashion: “Miss Summers had made my gown very well indeed & I grow more & more pleased with it.–Charles does not like it, but my father & Mary do; my Mother is very much reconciled to it, & as for James, he gives it the preference over every thing of the kind he ever saw; in the proof which I am desired to say that if you like to sell yours, Mary will buy it.”

Jumps next to news and a detailed account of a dinner party at Ashe including her sisterly observation: “James Digweed left Hampshire to day.  I think he must be in love with you, from his anxiety to have you go to the Faversham Balls, & likewise from his supposing, that the two Elms fell from their greif at your absence.–Was it not a galant idea?–It never occurred to me before, but I dare so it was so.”  (Austen’s own spelling and punctuation.)

From here, Austen continues onto gardening and improvements at Steventon but adding: “–What is your opinion?–I say nothing & am ready to agree with anybody.”

The letter continues here, with Austen reacting to Cassandra’s previous letter, and asking: in her witty style: “What a droll party!–Do the Ashford people still come to Godmersham Church every Sunday in a cart?”

Austen continues with a combination and/or rundown comparison of liking and disliking people they have met in Kent before sending love from their brothers and closing with a long post script including more debates on the reception of her new gown, more news updates including a removal to Bath, plus additional quips of her wicked wit with rather unkind descriptions: “I had the comfort of finding out the other evening who all the fat girls were that disturbed me at the 1st H.Ball. They all proved to be Miss Atikinsons of Enham.”  All notes to: Jane Austen’s Letters, edited by Deirdre Le Faye, Fourth Edition, Oxford University Press, 2011.

 

 

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.