Jane Austen's Sailor Brothers


PERHAPS some apology may be expected on behalf of a book about Jane Austen, having regard to the number which have already been put before the public in past years. My own membership of the family is my excuse for printing a book which contains little original matter, and which might be described as "a thing of shreds and patches," if that phrase were not already over-worked. To me it seems improbable that others will take a wholly adverse view of what is so much inwoven with all the traditions of my life. When I recollect my childhood, spent chiefly in the house of my grandfather, Sir Francis, and all the interests which accompanied those early days, I find myself once more amongst those deep and tender distances. Surrounded by reminiscences of the opening years of the century, the Admiral always cherished the most affectionate remembrance of the sister who had so soon passed away, leaving those six precious volumes to be a store of household words among the family.

How often I call to mind some question or answer, expressed quite naturally in terms of the novels; sometimes even a conversation would be carried on entirely appropriate to the matter under discussion, but the actual phrases were "Aunt Jane's." So well, too, do I recollect the sad news of the death of Admiral Charles Austen, after the capture, under his command, of Martaban and Rangoon, and while he was leading his squadron to further successes, fifty-six years having elapsed since his first sea-fight.

My daughter and I have made free use of the Letters of Jane Austen, published in 1884, by the late Lord Brabourne, and wish to acknowledge with gratitude the kind permission to quote these letters, given to us by their present possessor. In a letter of 1813, she speaks of two nephews who "amuse themselves very comfortably in the evening by netting; they are each about a rabbit-net, and sit as deedily to it, side by side, as any two Uncle Franks could do." In his octogenarian days Sir Francis was still much interested in this same occupation of netting, to protect his Morello cherries or currants. It was, in fact, only laid aside long after his grandsons had been taught to carry it on.

My most hearty thanks are also due to my cousins, who have helped to provide materials for our work; to Miss M. L. Austen for the loan of miniatures and silhouettes; to Miss Jane Austen for various letters and for illustrations; to Commander E. L. Austen for access to logs, and to official and other letters in large numbers; also to Miss Mary Austen for the picture of the Peterel in action, and to Mrs. Herbert Austen, and Captain and Mrs. Willan for excellent portraits of the Admirals, and to all these, and other members of the family, for much encouragement in our enterprise.


July 1905.