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 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.