Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters

A Family Record

Chapter X

Change of Home


Though we can guess what was constantly occupying the thoughts of the Austens in the autumn and winter of 1799-1800, nothing remains to tell us how they employed themselves during these anxious months. Perhaps the sisters were at home, and exchanged no letters; but had any been written, we may be pretty sure they would be among those destroyed by Cassandra. When we meet the family again, in October 1800, we find that they have returned to everyday life with its little incidents, its duties, and its pleasures; that Edward and his eldest son have lately left Steventon for Godmersham, taking Cassandra with them, and that Jane is remaining at home with her parents.

Steventon: Saturday evening [October 25, 1800].

MY DEAR CASSANDRA,-- . . . You have had a very pleasant journey of course, and have found Elizabeth and all the children very well on your arrival at Godmersham, and I congratulate you on it. Edward is rejoicing this evening, I dare say, to find himself once more at home, from which he fancies he has been absent a great while. His son left behind him the very fine chestnuts which had been selected for planting at Godmersham, and the drawing of his own which he had intended to carry to George; the former will therefore be deposited in the soil of Hampshire instead of Kent, the latter I have already consigned to another element.

We have been exceedingly busy ever since you went away. In the first place we have had to rejoice two or three times every day at your having such very delightful weather for the whole of your journey, and in the second place we have been obliged to take advantage of the very delightful weather ourselves by going to see almost all our neighbours.

On Thursday we walked to Deane, yesterday to Oakley Hall and Oakley, and to-day to Deane again. At Oakley Hall we did a great deal--eat some sandwiches all over mustard, admired Mr. Bramston's porter, and Mrs. Bramston's transparencies, and gained a promise from the latter of two roots of heartsease, one all yellow and the other all purple, for you. At Oakley we bought ten pair of worsted stockings and a shift; the shift is for Betty Dawkins, as we find she wants it more than a rug; she is one of the most grateful of all whom Edward's charity has reached, or at least she expresses herself more warmly than the rest, for she sends him a 'sight of thanks.'

This morning we called at the Harwoods', and in their dining-room found 'Heathcote and Chute[107] for ever'--Mrs. William Heathcote and Mrs. Chute--the first of whom took a long ride yesterday morning with Mrs. Harwood into Lord Carnarvon's park, and fainted away in the evening, and the second walked down from Oakley Hall attended by Mrs. Augusta Bramston; they had meant to come on to Steventon afterwards, but we knew a trick worth two of that.

* * * * *

James called by my father's desire on Mr. Bayle[108] to inquire into the cause of his being so horrid. Mr. Bayle did not attempt to deny his being horrid, and made many apologies for it; he did not plead his having a drunken self, he talked only of a drunken foreman, &c., and gave hopes of the tables being at Steventon on Monday se'nnight next. We have had no letter since you left us, except one from Mr. Serle, of Bishopstoke, to inquire the character of James Elton.

Sunday.--Our improvements have advanced very well; the bank along the elm walk is sloped down for the reception of thorns and lilacs, and it is settled that the other side of the path is to continue turfed, and to be planted with beech, ash, and larch.

Steventon: Saturday [November 1, 1800].

You have written, I am sure, though I have received no letter from you since your leaving London; the post, and not yourself, must have been unpunctual.

We have at last heard from Frank; a letter came from him to you yesterday, and I mean to send it on as soon as I can get a ditto (that means a frank), which I hope to do in a day or two. En attendant, you must rest satisfied with knowing that on the 8th of July the Peterel with the rest of the Egyptian squadron was off the Isle of Cyprus, whither they went from Jaffa for provisions, &c., and whence they were to sail in a day or two for Alexandria, there to wait the result of the English proposals for the evacuation of Egypt. The rest of the letter, according to the present fashionable style of composition, is chiefly descriptive. Of his promotion he knows nothing; of prizes he is guiltless.

* * * * *

Did you think of our ball [probably at Basingstoke] on Thursday evening, and did you suppose me at it? You might very safely, for there I was. On Wednesday morning it was settled that Mrs. Harwood, Mary, and I should go together, and shortly afterwards a very civil note of invitation for me came from Mrs. Bramston, who wrote I believe as soon as she knew of the ball. I might likewise have gone with Mrs. Lefroy, and therefore, with three methods of going, I must have been more at the ball than anyone else. I dined and slept at Deane; Charlotte and I did my hair, which I fancy looked very indifferent; nobody abused it, however, and I retired delighted with my success.

It was a pleasant ball, and still more good than pleasant, for there were nearly sixty people, and sometimes we had seventeen couple. The Portsmouths, Dorchesters, Boltons, Portals, and Clerks were there, and all the meaner and more usual &c., &c.'s. There was a scarcity of men in general, and a still greater scarcity of any that were good for much. I danced nine dances out of ten--five with Stephen Terry, T. Chute, and James Digweed, and four with Catherine.[109] There was commonly a couple of ladies standing up together, but not often any so amiable as ourselves.

* * * * *

You were inquired after very prettily, and I hope the whole assembly now understands that you are gone into Kent, which the families in general seemed to meet in ignorance of. Lord Portsmouth surpassed the rest in his attentive recollection of you, inquired more into the length of your absence, and concluded by desiring to be 'remembered to you when I wrote next.'

Lady Portsmouth had got a different dress on, and Lady Bolton is much improved by a wig. The three Miss Terries were there, but no Annie; which was a great disappointment to me. I hope the poor girl had not set her heart on her appearance that evening so much as I had. Mr. Terry is ill, in a very low way. I said civil things for Edward to Mr. Chute, who amply returned them by declaring that, had he known of my brother's being at Steventon, he should have made a point of calling upon him to thank him for his civility about the Hunt.

Steventon: Saturday evening [November 8, 1800].[110]

Having just finished Les Veillées du Château I think it a good opportunity for beginning a letter to you while my mind is stored with ideas worth transmitting.

* * * * *

I thank you for so speedy a return to my two last, and particularly thank you for your anecdote of Charlotte Graham and her cousin, Harriet Bailey, which has very much amused both my mother and myself. If you can learn anything farther of that interesting affair, I hope you will mention it. I have two messages; let me get rid of them, and then my paper will be my own. Mary fully intended writing to you by Mr. Chute's frank, and only happened entirely to forget it, but will write soon; and my father wishes Edward to send him a memorandum in your next letter of the price of the hops. The tables are come, and give general contentment. I had not expected that they would so perfectly suit the fancy of us all three, or that we should so well agree in the disposition of them; but nothing except their own surface can have been smoother. The two ends put together form one constant table for everything, and the centre piece stands exceedingly well under the glass, and holds a great deal most commodiously, without looking awkwardly. They are both covered with green baize, and send their best love. The Pembroke has got its destination by the sideboard, and my mother has great delight in keeping her money and papers locked up. The little table which used to stand there has most conveniently taken itself off into the best bedroom; and we are now in want only of the chiffonniere, which is neither finished nor come. So much for that subject; I now come to another, of a very different nature, as other subjects are very apt to be. Earle Harwood has been again giving uneasiness to his family and talk to the neighbourhood; in the present instance, however, he is only unfortunate, and not in fault.

About ten days ago, in cocking a pistol in the guard-room at Marcau (?) he accidentally shot himself through the thigh. Two young Scotch surgeons in the island were polite enough to propose taking off the thigh at once, but to that he would not consent; and accordingly in his wounded state was put on board a cutter and conveyed to Haslar Hospital, at Gosport, where the bullet was extracted, and where he now is, I hope, in a fair way of doing well. The surgeon of the hospital wrote to the family on the occasion, and John Harwood went down to him immediately, attended by James,[111] whose object in going was to be the means of bringing back the earliest intelligence to Mr. and Mrs. Harwood, whose anxious sufferings, particularly those of the latter, have of course been dreadful. They went down on Tuesday, and James came back the next day, bringing such favourable accounts as greatly to lessen the distress of the family at Deane, though it will probably be a long while before Mrs. Harwood can be quite at ease. One most material comfort, however, they have: the assurance of its being really an accidental wound, which is not only positively declared by Earle himself, but is likewise testified by the particular direction of the bullet. Such a wound could not have been received in a duel. At present he is going on very well, but the surgeon will not declare him to be in no danger. . . . James had not time at Gosport to take any other steps towards seeing Charles, than the very few which conducted him to the door of the assembly room in the Inn, where there happened to be a Ball on the night of their arrival; a likely spot enough for the discovery of a Charles: but I am glad to say that he was not of the party, for it was in general a very ungenteel one, and there was hardly a pretty girl in the room.

* * * * *

Yesterday was a day of great business with me; Mary drove me all in the rain to Basingstoke, and still more all in the rain back again, because it rained harder; and soon after our return to Deane a sudden invitation and an own postchaise took us to Ashe Park to dine tête-à-tête with Mr. Holder, Mr. Gauntlet, and James Digweed; but our tête-à-tête was cruelly reduced by the non-attendance of the two latter. We had a very quiet evening. I believe Mary found it dull, but I thought it very pleasant. To sit in idleness over a good fire in a well-proportioned room is a luxurious sensation. Sometimes we talked, and sometimes we were quite silent; I said two or three amusing things, and Mr. Holder made a few infamous puns.

* * * * *

Mr. Heathcote met with a genteel little accident the other day in hunting; he got off to lead his horse over a hedge, or a house, or something, and his horse in his haste trod upon his leg, or rather ancle, I believe, and it is not certain whether the small bone is not broke.

. . . Martha has accepted Mary's invitation for Lord Portsmouth's ball. He has not yet sent out his own invitations, but that does not signify; Martha comes, and a ball there must be. I think it will be too early in her mother's absence for me to return with her.

* * * * *

Sunday Evening.--We have had a dreadful storm of wind in the fore part of this day, which has done a great deal of mischief among our trees. I was sitting alone in the dining-room when an odd kind of crash startled me--in a moment afterwards it was repeated; descend into the Sweep!!!!! The other, which had fallen, I suppose, in the first crash, and which was the nearest to the pond, taking a more easterly direction, sunk among our screen of chestnuts and firs, knocking down one spruce-fir, beating off the head of another, and stripping the two corner chestnuts of several branches in its fall. This is not all. One large elm out of the 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, and what I regret more than all the rest is, that all the three elms which grew in Hall's meadow, and gave such ornament to it, are gone; two were blown down, and the other so much injured that it cannot stand. 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 neighbourhood. We grieve, therefore, in some comfort.

Mr. Holder's paper tells us that some time in last August Captain Austen and the Peterel were very active in securing a Turkish ship (driven into Port in Cyprus by bad weather) from the French. He was forced to burn her, however.

I am yours ever,
J. A.

Next in order comes a letter to Martha Lloyd:--

Steventon: Wednesday evening [November 12, 1800].[112]

MY DEAR MARTHA,--I did not receive your note yesterday till after Charlotte had left Deane, or I would have sent my answer by her, instead of being the means, as I now must be, of lessening the elegance of your new dress for the Hurstbourne ball by the value of 3d. You are very good in wishing to see me at Ibthorp so soon, and I am equally good in wishing to come to you. I believe our merit in that respect is much upon a par, our self-denial mutually strong. Having paid this tribute of praise to the virtue of both, I shall here have done with panegyric, and proceed to plain matter of fact. 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, and in the 2nd, 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 and 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. Our invitations for the 19th are arrived, and very curiously are they worded.[113] Mary mentioned to you yesterday poor Earle's unfortunate accident, I dare say. He does not seem to be going on very well. The two or three last posts have brought less and less favourable accounts of him. John Harwood has gone to Gosport again to-day. We have two families of friends now who are in a most anxious state; for though by a note from Catherine this morning there seems now to be a revival of hope at Manydown, its continuance may be too reasonably doubted. Mr. Heathcote, however, who has broken the small bone of his leg, is so good as to be going on very well. It would be really too much to have three people to care for.

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; and indeed I am now laying in a stock of intelligence to pour out on you as my share of the conversation. I am reading Henry's History of England, which I will repeat to you in any manner you may prefer, either in a loose, desultory, unconnected stream, or dividing my recital, as the historian divides it himself, into seven parts:--The Civil and Military: Religion: Constitution: Learning and Learned Men: Arts and Sciences: Commerce, Coins, and Shipping: and Manners. So that for every evening in the week there will be a different subject. The Friday's lot--Commerce, Coins, and Shipping--you will find the least entertaining; but the next evening's portion will make amends. With such a provision on my part, if you will do yours by repeating the French Grammar, and Mrs. Stent[114] will now and then ejaculate some wonder about the cocks and hens, what can we want? Farewell for a short time. We all unite in best love, and I am your very affectionate

J. A.

The Hurstbourne ball took place on November 19, and was graced by thepresence of Lieutenant Charles Austen. He had distinguished himself onthe Endymion, especially in the capture of the Scipio in a heavygale. His ship was now at Portsmouth waiting for orders.

Steventon: Thursday [November 20, 1800].

MY DEAR CASSANDRA,--Your letter took me quite by surprise this morning; you are very welcome, however, and I am very much obliged to you. I believe I drank too much wine last night at Hurstbourne; I know 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 it to this venial error.

Naughty Charles did not come on Tuesday, but good Charles came yesterday morning. About two o'clock he walked in on a Gosport hack. His feeling equal to such a fatigue is a good sign, and his feeling no fatigue in it a still better. He walked down to Deane to dinner; he danced the whole evening, and to-day is no more tired than a gentleman ought to be.

Your desire to hear from me on Sunday will, perhaps, bring you a more particular account of the ball than you may care for, because one is prone to think much more of such things the morning after they happen, than when time has entirely driven them out of one's recollection.

It was a pleasant evening; Charles found it remarkably so, but I cannot tell why, unless the absence of Miss Terry, towards whom his conscience reproaches him with being now perfectly indifferent, was a relief to him. There were only twelve dances, of which I danced nine, and was merely prevented from dancing the rest by the want of a partner. We began at ten, supped at one, and were at Deane before five. There were but fifty people in the room; very few families indeed from our side of the county, and not many more from the other. My partners were the two St. Johns, Hooper, Holder, and very prodigious Mr. Mathew, with whom I called[115] the last, and whom I liked the best of my little stock.

There were very few beauties, and such as there were not very handsome. Miss Iremonger did not look well, and Mrs. Blount was the only one much admired. She appeared exactly as she did in September, with the same broad face, diamond bandeau, white shoes, pink husband, and fat neck. The two Miss Coxes were there; I traced in one the remains of the vulgar, broad-featured girl who danced at Enham eight years ago; the other is refined into a nice, composed-looking girl, like Catherine Bigg. I looked at Sir Thomas Champneys and thought of poor Rosalie; I looked at his daughter, and thought her a queer animal with a white neck.

* * * * *

Mary said that I looked very well last night. I wore my aunt's gown and handkerchief, and my hair was at least tidy, which was all my ambition. I will now have done with the ball, and I will moreover go and dress for dinner.

* * * * *

The young lady whom it is expected that Sir Thomas[116] is to marry is Miss Emma Wabshaw; she lives somewhere between Southampton and Winchester, is handsome, accomplished, amiable, and everything but rich. He is certainly finishing his house in a great hurry. Perhaps the report of his being to marry a Miss Fanshawe might originate in his attentions to this very lady--the names are not unlike.

* * * * *

The three Digweeds all came on Tuesday, and we played a pool at commerce. 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, and likewise from his supposition that the two elms fell from their grief at your absence. Was not it a gallant idea? It never occurred to me before, but I dare say it was so.

* * * * *

I rejoice to say that we have just had another letter from our dear Frank. It is to you, very short, written from Larnica in Cyprus, and so lately as October 2nd. He came from Alexandria, and was to return there in three or four days, knew nothing of his promotion, and does not write above twenty lines, from a doubt of the letter's ever reaching you, and an idea of all letters being opened at Vienna. He wrote a few days before to you from Alexandria by the Mercury sent with despatches to Lord Keith. Another letter must be owing to us besides this, one if not two; because none of these are to me. Henry comes to-morrow, for one night only.

The visit to Ibthorp came off, as is shown by the following letter:--

Ibthorp: Sunday [November 30, 1800].[117]

MY DEAR CASSANDRA,--Shall you expect to hear from me on Wednesday or not? I think you will, or I should not write, as the three days and half which have passed since my last letter have not produced many materials towards filling another sheet of paper. But, like Mr. Hastings, 'I do not despair,' and you perhaps, like the faithful Maria, may feel still more certain of the happy event. I have been here ever since a quarter after three on Thursday last, by the Shrewsbury clock, which I am fortunately enabled absolutely to ascertain because Mrs. Stent once lived at Shrewsbury, or at least at Tewksbury. I have the pleasure of thinking myself a very welcome guest, and the pleasure of spending my time very pleasantly. Martha looks well, and wants me to find out that she grows fat; but I cannot carry my complaisance farther than to believe whatever she asserts on the subject. Mrs. Stent gives us quite as much of her company as we wish for, and rather more than she used to do; but perhaps not more than is to our advantage in the end, because it is too dirty even for such desperate walkers as Martha and I to get out of doors, and we are therefore confined to each other's society from morning till night, with very little variety of books or gowns. Three of the Miss Debaries[118] called here the morning after my arrival, but I have not yet been able to return their civility. You know it is not an uncommon circumstance in this parish to have the road from Ibthorp to the Parsonage much dirtier and more impracticable for walking than the road from the Parsonage to Ibthorp. I left my Mother very well when I came away, and left her with strict orders to continue so.

* * * * *

The endless Debaries are of course very well acquainted with the lady who is to marry Sir Thomas, and all her family. I pardon them, however, as their description of her is favourable. Mrs. Wapshire is a widow, with several sons and daughters, a good fortune, and a house in Salisbury; where Miss Wapshire has been for many years a distinguished beauty. She is now seven or eight and twenty, and tho' still handsome, less handsome than she has been. This promises better than the bloom of seventeen; and in addition to this they say that she has always been remarkable for the propriety of her behaviour distinguishing her far above the general classes of town misses, and rendering her of course very unpopular among them.

* * * * *

Martha has promised to return with me, and our plan is to have a nice black frost for walking to Whitchurch, and then throw ourselves into a post chaise, one upon the other, our heads hanging out at one door and our feet at the opposite one. If you have never heard that Miss Dawes has been married these two months, I will mention it in my next. Pray do not forget to go to the Canterbury Ball; I shall despise you all most insufferably if you do.

* * * * *

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; and by so doing, by sending Miss Bigg to the Town-hall[119] itself, and posting my mother at Steventon I hope to derive from their various observations a good general idea of the whole.

Yours ever,
J. A.

Miss Austen,
Godmersham Park,
Faversham, Kent.

While Jane was away on this visit, Mr. and Mrs. Austen came to a momentous decision--namely, to leave Steventon and retire to Bath. There can be little doubt that the decision was a hasty one. Some of Jane's previous letters contain details of the very considerable improvements that her father had just begun in the Rectory garden; and we do not hear that these improvements were concerted with the son who was to be his successor. So hasty, indeed, did Mr. Austen's decision appear to the Perrots that they suspected the reason to be a growing attachment between Jane and one of the three Digweed brothers. There is not the slightest evidence of this very improbable supposition in Jane's letters, though she does occasionally suggest that James Digweed must be in love with Cassandra, especially when he gallantly supposed that the two elms had fallen from grief at her absence. On the whole it seems most probable that Mrs. Austen's continued ill-health was the reason for the change.

Tradition says that when Jane returned home accompanied by Martha Lloyd, the news was abruptly announced by her mother, who thus greeted them: 'Well, girls, it is all settled; we have decided to leave Steventon in such a week, and go to Bath'; and that the shock of the intelligence was so great to Jane that she fainted away. Unfortunately, there is no further direct evidence to show how far Jane's feelings resembled those she has attributed to Marianne Dashwood on leaving Norland; but we have the negative evidence arising from the fact that none of her letters are preserved between November 30, 1800, and January 3, 1801, although Cassandra was at Godmersham during the whole of the intervening month. Silence on the part of Jane to Cassandra for so long a period of absence is unheard of: and according to the rule acted on by Cassandra, destruction of her sister's letters was a proof of their emotional interest. We cannot doubt, therefore, that she wrote in a strain unusual for her more than once in that month; but as she says of Elizabeth Bennet 'it was her business to be satisfied--and certainly her temper to be happy'; and the next letter that we have shows that she was determined to face a new life in a new place with cheerfulness.

Steventon: Saturday [January 3, 1801].

MY DEAR CASSANDRA, . . .--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 and a young, giddy housemaid, with a sedate middle-aged man, who is to undertake the double office of husband to the former and sweetheart to the latter.

* * * * *

There are three parts of Bath which we have thought of as likely to have houses in them--Westgate Buildings, Charles Street, and some of the short streets leading from Laura Place or Pulteney Street.

Westgate Buildings, though quite in the lower part of the town, are not badly situated themselves. The street is broad, and has rather a good appearance. Charles Street, however, I think is preferable. The buildings are new, and its nearness to Kingsmead Fields would be a pleasant circumstance. Perhaps you may remember, or perhaps you may forget, that Charles Street leads from the Queen Square Chapel to the two Green Park Streets.

The houses in the streets near Laura Place I should expect to be above our price. Gay Street would be too high, except only the lower house on the left-hand side as you ascend. Towards that my mother has no disinclination; it used to be lower rented than any other house in the row, from some inferiority in the apartments. But above all others her wishes are at present fixed on the corner house in Chapel Row, which opens into Prince's Street. Her knowledge of it, however, is confined only to the outside, and therefore she is equally uncertain of its being really desirable as of its being to be had. In the meantime she assures you that she will do everything in her power to avoid Trim Street, although you have not expressed the fearful presentiment of it which was rather expected.

We know that Mrs. Perrot will want to get us into Oxford Buildings,[120] but we all unite in particular dislike of that part of the town, and therefore hope to escape. Upon all these different situations you and Edward may confer together, and your opinion of each will be expected with eagerness.

* * * * *

I have now attained the true art of letter-writing, which we are always told is to express on paper exactly what one would say to the same person by word of mouth. I have been talking to you almost as fast as I could the whole of this letter.

* * * * *

My mother bargains for having no trouble at all in furnishing our house in Bath, and I have engaged for your willingly undertaking to do it all. I get more and more reconciled to the idea of our removal. We have lived long enough in this neighbourhood; the Basingstoke balls are certainly on the decline, there is something interesting in the bustle of going away, and the prospect of spending future summers by the sea or in Wales is very delightful. For a time we shall now possess many of the advantages which I have often thought of with envy in the wives of sailors or soldiers. 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.

The threatened Act of Parliament does not seem to give any alarm.

My father is doing all in his power to increase his income, by raising his tithes, &c., and I do not despair of getting very nearly six hundred a year.

Steventon: Thursday [January 8, 1801].

Mr. Peter Debary has declined Deane curacy; he wishes to be settled near London. A foolish reason! as if Deane were not near London in comparison of Exeter or York. Take the whole world through, and he will find many more places at a greater distance from London than Deane than he will at a less. What does he think of Glencoe or Lake Katherine?

I feel rather indignant that any possible objection should be raised against so valuable a piece of preferment, so delightful a situation!--that Deane should not be universally allowed to be as near the metropolis as any other country villages. As this is the case, however, as Mr. Peter Debary has shown himself a Peter in the blackest sense of the word, we are obliged to look elsewhere for an heir; and my father has thought it a necessary compliment to James Digweed to offer the curacy to him, though without considering it as either a desirable or an eligible situation for him.

* * * * *

Eliza has seen Lord Craven at Barton, and probably by this time at Kintbury, where he was expected for one day this week. She found his manners very pleasing indeed. The little flaw of having a mistress now living with him at Ashdown Park seems to be the only unpleasing circumstance about him. From Ibthorp, Fulwar and Eliza are to return with James and Mary to Deane.

* * * * *

Pray give my love to George; tell him that I am very glad to hear he can skip so well already, and that I hope he will continue to send me word of his improvement in the art.

* * * * *

Friday.--Sidmouth is now talked of as our summer abode. Get all the information, therefore, about it that you can from Mrs. C. Cage.

My father's old ministers are already deserting him to pay their court to his son. The brown mare, which as well as the black, was to devolve on James at our removal, has not had patience to wait for that, and has settled herself even now at Deane. The death of Hugh Capet, which, like that of Mr. Skipsey, though undesired, was not wholly unexpected, being purposely effected, has made the immediate possession of the mare very convenient, and everything else I suppose will be seized by degrees in the same manner. Martha and I work at the books every day.

Steventon: Wednesday [January 14, 1801].

Your letter to Mary was duly received before she left Deane with Martha yesterday morning, and it gives us great pleasure to know that the Chilham ball was so agreeable, and that you danced four dances with Mr. Kemble. Desirable, however, as the latter circumstance was, I cannot help wondering at its taking place. Why did you dance four dances with so stupid a man? why not rather dance two of them with some elegant brother officer who was struck with your appearance as soon as you entered the room?

* * * * *

At present the environs of Laura Place seem to be his [my father's] choice. His views on the subject are much advanced since I came home; he grows quite ambitious, and actually requires now a comfortable and a creditable-looking house.

* * * * *

This morning brought my aunt's reply, and most thoroughly affectionate is its tenor. She thinks with the greatest pleasure of our being settled in Bath--it is an event which will attach her to the place more than anything else could do, &c., &c. She is, moreover, very urgent with my mother not to delay her visit in Paragon, if she should continue unwell, and even recommends her spending the whole winter with them. At present and for many days past my mother has been quite stout, and she wishes not to be obliged by any relapse to alter her arrangements.

Mention is made in several letters of Frank's promotion and his ignorance of it. In 1799, while commanding the sloop Peterel, he had been entrusted by Lord St. Vincent with dispatches conveying to Nelson at Palermo the startling news of Admiral Bruix's escape from Brest with a considerable fleet, and his entry into the Mediterranean. So important did Francis Austen believe this intelligence to be, that he landed his first lieutenant with the dispatches on the coast of Sicily some way short of Palermo, the wind being unfavourable for the approach to the capital by sea. Nelson next employed him in taking orders to the squadron blockading Malta. Frank spent the autumn and winter cruising about the Mediterranean, and taking various prizes; the most important capture being that of the Ligurienne--a French national brig convoying two vessels laden with corn for the French forces in Egypt. This exploit took place in March 1800, and was considered of such importance that he was made a post-captain for it; but so slow and uncertain was communication to and from the seat of war that he knew nothing of his promotion till October--long after his friends at home had become acquainted with it. His being 'collared and thrust out of the Peterel by Captain Inglis' (his successor) is of course a graphic way of describing his change of vessel and promotion.

Steventon: Wednesday [January 21, 1801].

MY DEAR CASSANDRA,--Expect a most agreeable letter, for not being overburdened with subject (having nothing at all to say), I shall have no check to my genius from beginning to end.

Well, and so Frank's letter has made you very happy, but you are afraid he would not have patience to stay for the Haarlem which you wish him to have done as being safer than the merchantman. Poor fellow! to wait from the middle of November to the end of December, and perhaps even longer, it must be sad work; especially in a place where the ink is so abominably pale. What a surprise to him it must have been on October 20, to be visited, collared, and thrust out of the Peterel by Captain Inglis. He kindly passes over the poignancy of his feelings in quitting his ship, his officers, and his men.

What a pity it is that he should not be in England at the time of his promotion, because he certainly would have had an appointment, so everybody says, and therefore it must be right for me to say it too. Had he been really here, the certainty of the appointment, I dare say, would not have been half so great, but as it could not be brought to the proof his absence will be always a lucky source of regret.

Eliza[121] talks of having read in a newspaper that all the First Lieutenants of the frigates whose Captains were to be sent into line-of-battle ships were to be promoted to the rank of Commanders. If it be true, Mr. Valentine may afford himself a fine Valentine's knot, and Charles may perhaps become First of the Endymion, though I suppose Captain Durham is too likely to bring a villain with him under that denomination.

* * * * *

I join with you in wishing for the environs of Laura Place, but do not venture to expect it. My mother hankers after the Square dreadfully, and it is but natural to suppose that my uncle will take her part. It would be very pleasant to be near Sydney Gardens; we might go into the labyrinth every day.

Steventon: Sunday [January 25, 1801].

Your unfortunate sister was betrayed last Thursday into a situation of the utmost cruelty. I arrived at Ashe Park before the party from Deane, and was shut up in the drawing-room with Mr. Holder alone for ten minutes. I had some thoughts of insisting on the housekeeper or Mary Corbett being sent for, and nothing could prevail on me to move two steps from the door, on the lock of which I kept one hand constantly fixed. We met nobody but ourselves, played at vingt-un again, and were very cross.

* * * * *

Your brother Edward makes very honourable mention of you, I assure you, in his letter to James, and seems quite sorry to part with you. It is a great comfort to me to think that my cares have not been thrown away, and that you are respected in the world. Perhaps you may be prevailed on to return with him and Elizabeth into Kent, when they leave us in April, and I rather suspect that your great wish of keeping yourself disengaged has been with that view. Do as you like; I have overcome my desire of your going to Bath with my mother and me. There is nothing which energy will not bring one to.

On her way back from Godmersham, Cassandra spent some time with the Henry Austens now in Upper Berkeley Street; and while she was there, Jane sent her a letter, of which the following was a part. Information respecting the sailor brothers on active service was always rare, and proportionately valuable.

Manydown: Wednesday [February 11, 1801].[122]

MY DEAR CASSANDRA,-- . . . I should not have thought it necessary to write to you so soon, but for the arrival of a letter from Charles to myself. It was written last Saturday from off the Start, and conveyed to Popham Lane by Captain Boyle, on his way to Midgham. He came from Lisbon in the Endymion. I will copy Charles's account of his conjectures about Frank: 'He has not seen my brother lately, nor does he expect to find him arrived, as he met Captain Inglis at Rhodes, going up to take command of the Peterel as he was coming down; but supposes he will arrive in less than a fortnight from this time, in some ship which is expected to reach England about that time with despatches from Sir Ralph Abercrombie.' The event must show what sort of a conjuror Captain Boyle is. The Endymion has not been plagued with any more prizes. Charles spent three pleasant days in Lisbon.

They were very well satisfied with their royal passenger[123] whom they found jolly, fat, and affable, who talks of Lady Augusta as his wife, and seems much attached to her.

When this letter was written the Endymion was becalmed, but Charles hoped to reach Portsmouth by Monday or Tuesday. . . . He received my letter, communicating our plans, before he left England, was much surprised, of course, but is quite reconciled to them, and means to come to Steventon once more while Steventon is ours.

After this, we have no letters of Jane till she wrote from Bath; so we may suppose that the sisters were soon united. The months of March and April were spent in making the final preparations for leaving Steventon, and in receiving farewell visits from Edward Austen and his wife, as well as from Frank and Charles and Martha Lloyd. At the beginning of May, Mrs. Austen and her two daughters left their old home and went to Ibthorp; two days later, leaving Cassandra behind them, Jane and her mother went in a single day from Ibthorp to Bath, where they stayed with the Leigh Perrots in Paragon Buildings.


[107] The two M.P.'s for the county.

[108] The carpenter.

[109] Catherine Bigg.

[110] Partly Memoir, p. 58; partly unpublished.

[111] James Austen.

[112] Memoir, p. 61.

[113] The invitation, the ball-dress, and some remarks made in this and the preceding letter, refer to a ball annually given at Hurstbourne Park, on the anniversary of the Earl of Portsmouth's wedding-day. He was the third Lord Portsmouth, whose eccentricities afterwards became notorious, and the invitations, as well as other arrangements about these balls, were of a peculiar character. It will be remembered that he had been for a short time a pupil at Steventon Rectory (p. 21).

[114] A very dull old lady, then residing with Mrs. Lloyd.

[115] For this expression, see 'The Watsons' (in Memoir, p. 325).

[116] Sir Thomas Williams, whose first wife was Jane Cooper; 'Whapshare' is the correct name of the lady.

[117] Unpublished.

[118] The Debaries were a large family, one of whom had the Parsonage near Ibthorp.

[119] This seems to show that the balls were held at the town hall and not at the 'Angel Inn' (Miss Hill, pp. 51-54).

[120] Probably Jane wrote 'Axford Buildings,' which were a continuation of Paragon towards Walcot Church.

[121] Eliza Fowle.

[122] Memoir, p. 64.

[123] The Duke of Sussex, who married, without the King's consent, Lady Augusta Murray.