Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters

A Family Record

Chapter XI

Bath Again


In the separation of Jane and Cassandra, the letters begin again.

Paragon: Tuesday [May 5, 1801].

MY DEAR CASSANDRA,-- . . . Our journey here was perfectly free from accident or event; we changed horses at the end of every stage, and paid at almost every turnpike. We had charming weather, hardly any dust, and were exceedingly agreeable, as we did not speak above once in three miles.

* * * * *

We had a very neat chaise from Devizes; it looked almost as well as a gentleman's, at least as a very shabby gentleman's; in spite of this advantage, however, we were above three hours coming from thence to Paragon, and it was half after seven by your clocks before we entered the house.

Frank, whose black head was in waiting in the hall window, received us very kindly; and his master and mistress did not show less cordiality. They both look very well, though my aunt has a violent cough. We drank tea as soon as we arrived, and so ends the account of our journey, which my mother bore without any fatigue.

* * * * *

There is to be only one more ball--next Monday is the day. The Chamberlaynes are still here. I begin to think better of Mrs. C., and upon recollection believe she has rather a long chin than otherwise, as she remembers us in Gloucestershire,[124] when we were very charming young women.

The first view of Bath in fine weather does not answer my expectations; I think I see more distinctly through rain. The sun was got behind everything, and the appearance of the place from the top of Kingsdown was all vapour, shadow, smoke, and confusion.

I fancy we are to have a house in Seymour Street, or thereabouts. My uncle and aunt both like the situation. I was glad to hear the former talk of all the houses in New King Street as too small; it was my own idea of them. I had not been two minutes in the dining-room before he questioned me with all his accustomary eager interest about Frank and Charles, their views and intentions. I did my best to give information.

* * * * *

Tuesday Night.--When my uncle went to take his second glass of water I walked with him, and in our morning's circuit we looked at two houses in Green Park Buildings, one of which pleased me very well. We walked all over it except into the garret; the dining-room is of a comfortable size, just as large as you like to fancy it; the second room about 14ft. square. The apartment over the drawing-room pleased me particularly, because it is divided into two, the smaller one a very nice-sized dressing-room, which upon occasion might admit a bed. The aspect is south-east. The only doubt is about the dampness of the offices, of which there were symptoms.

Paragon: Tuesday [May 12, 1801].

Sixty-one guineas and a-half for the three cows gives one some support under the blow of only eleven guineas for the tables. Eight for my pianoforte is about what I really expected to get; I am more anxious to know the amount of my books, especially as they are said to have sold well.

* * * * *

In the evening, I hope you honoured my toilette and ball with a thought; I dressed myself as well as I could, and had all my finery much admired at home. By nine o'clock my uncle, aunt, and I entered the rooms, and linked Miss Winstone on to us. Before tea it was rather a dull affair; but then the before tea did not last long, for there was only one dance, danced by four couple. Think of four couple, surrounded by about an hundred people, dancing in the Upper Rooms at Bath.

After tea we cheered up; the breaking up of private parties sent some scores more to the ball, and though it was shockingly and inhumanly thin for this place, there were people enough, I suppose, to have made five or six very pretty Basingstoke assemblies.

I then got Mr. Evelyn to talk to, and Miss T. to look at; and I am proud to say that though repeatedly assured that another in the same party was the She, I fixed upon the right one from the first. A resemblance to Mrs. L. was my guide. She is not so pretty as I expected; her face has the same defect of baldness as her sister's, and her features not so handsome; she was highly rouged, and looked rather quietly and contentedly silly than anything else.

Mrs. B. and two young women were of the same party, except when Mrs. B. thought herself obliged to leave them to run round the room after her drunken husband. His avoidance, and her pursuit, with the probable intoxication of both, was an amusing scene.

* * * * *

Wednesday.--Another stupid party last night; perhaps if larger they might be less intolerable, but here there were only just enough to make one card table, with six people to look on and talk nonsense to each other. Lady Fust, Mrs. Busby, and a Mrs. Owen sat down with my uncle to whist, within five minutes after the three old Toughs came in, and there they sat, with only the exchange of Adm. Stanhope for my uncle, till their chairs were announced.

I cannot anyhow continue to find people agreeable; I respect Mrs. Chamberlayne for doing her hair well, but cannot feel a more tender sentiment. Miss Langley is like any other short girl, with a broad nose and wide mouth, fashionable dress and exposed bosom. Adm. Stanhope is a gentlemanlike man, but then his legs are too short and his tail too long.

Paragon: Thursday [May 21, 1801].

The friendship between Mrs. Chamberlayne and me which you predicted has already taken place, for we shake hands whenever we meet. Our grand walk to Weston was again fixed for yesterday, and was accomplished in a very striking manner. Every one of the party declined it under some pretence or other except our two selves and we had therefore a tête-à-tête, but that we should equally have had, after the first two yards, had half the inhabitants of Bath set off with us.

It would have amused you to see our progress. We went up by Sion Hill, and returned across the fields. In climbing a hill Mrs. Chamberlayne is very capital; I could with difficulty keep pace with her, yet would not flinch for the world. On plain ground I was quite her equal. And so we posted away under a fine hot sun, she without any parasol or any shade to her hat, stopping for nothing and crossing the churchyard at Weston with as much expedition as if we were afraid of being buried alive. After seeing what she is equal to, I cannot help feeling a regard for her. As to agreeableness, she is much like other people.

* * * * *

I went with my mother to help look at some houses in New King Street, towards which she felt some kind of inclination, but their size has now satisfied her. They were smaller than I expected to find them; one in particular out of the two was quite monstrously little; the best of the sitting-rooms not so large as the little parlour at Steventon, and the second room in every floor about capacious enough to admit a very small single bed.

* * * * *

You will be sorry to hear that Marianne Mapleton's disorder has ended fatally. She was believed out of danger on Sunday, but a sudden relapse carried her off the next day. So affectionate a family must suffer severely; and many a girl on early death has been praised into an angel, I believe, on slighter pretensions to beauty, sense, and merit, than Marianne.

Paragon: Tuesday [May 26, 1801].[125]

The Endymion came into Portsmouth on Sunday and I have sent Charles a short letter by this day's post. My adventures since I wrote you three days ago have been such as the time would easily contain. I walked yesterday morning with Mrs. Chamberlayne to Lyncombe and Widcombe, and in the evening I drank tea with the Holders. Mrs. Chamberlayne's pace was not quite so magnificent on this second trial as on the first: it was nothing more than I could keep up with, without effort, and for many many yards together on a raised narrow footpath I led the way. The walk was very beautiful, as my companion agreed whenever I made the observation. And so ends our friendship, for the Chamberlaynes leave Bath in a day or two. Prepare likewise for the loss of Lady Fust, as you will lose before you find her. My evening visit was by no means disagreeable. Mrs. Lillingston came to engage Mrs. Holder's conversation, and Miss Holder and I adjourned after tea to the inner drawing-room to look over prints and talk pathetically. She is very unreserved and very fond of talking of her deceased brother and sister, whose memories she cherishes with an enthusiasm which, though perhaps a little affected, is not unpleasing. She has an idea of your being remarkably lively, therefore get ready the proper selection of adverbs and due scraps of Italian and French. I must now pause to make some observation on Mrs. Heathcote's having got a little boy.[126] I wish her well to wear it out--and shall proceed. Frank writes me word that he is to be in London to-morrow: some money negotiation, from which he hopes to derive advantage, hastens him from Kent and will detain him a few days behind my father in town. I have seen the Miss Mapletons this morning. Marianne was buried yesterday, and I called without expecting to be let in to enquire after them all. On the servant's invitation, however, I sent in my name, and Jane and Christiana, who were walking in the garden, came to me immediately, and I sat with them about ten minutes. They looked pale and dejected but were more composed than I had thought probable. When I mentioned your coming here on Monday they said they should be very glad to see you.

We drink tea to-night with Mrs. Lysons: now this, says my Master, will be mighty dull. . . .

I assure you in spite of what I might choose to insinuate in a former letter, that I have seen very little of Mr. Evelyn since my coming here; I met him this morning for only the fourth time, and as to my anecdote about Sydney Gardens, I made the most of the story because it came into advantage, but in fact he only asked me whether I were to be in Sydney Gardens in the evening or not. There is now something like an engagement between us and the Phaeton, which to confess my frailty I have a great desire to go out in; but whether it will come to anything must remain with him. I really believe he is very harmless; people do not seem afraid of him here, and he gets groundsel for his birds and all that. . . .

Yours affectionately,
J. A.

Wednesday.--I am just returned from my airing in the very bewitching Phaeton and four for which I was prepared by a note from Mr. E., soon after breakfast. We went to the top of Kingsdown, and had a very pleasant drive. One pleasure succeeds another rapidly. On my return I found your letter, and a letter from Charles, on the table. The contents of yours I suppose I need not repeat to you; to thank you for it will be enough. I give Charles great credit for remembering my uncle's direction, and he seems rather surprised at it himself. He has received £30 for his share of the privateer, and expects £10 more, but of what avail is it to take prizes if he lays out the produce in presents to his sisters? He has been buying gold chains and topaze crosses[127] for us--he must be well scolded. The Endymion has already received orders for taking troops to Egypt--which I should not like at all if I did not trust to Charles being removed from her somehow or other before she sails. He knows nothing of his own destination he says--but desires me to write directly--as the Endymion will probably sail in three or four days. He will receive my yesterday's letter to-day, and I shall write again by this post to thank and reproach him. We shall be unbearably fine.

So began the five years' residence at Bath.

Cassandra and her father (the latter having been paying visits in Kentand London) joined the others at the beginning of June; and from that date till September 1804 there is little that can be said definitely about Jane's life.

We know, however, that it was the intention of the Austens to spend the summer of 1801 by the sea--perhaps at Sidmouth; and a letter of Eliza Austen informs us that this plan was duly carried out. She writes to Phila Walter on October 29:--

I conclude that you know of our uncle and aunt Austen and their daughters having spent the summer in Devonshire. They are now returned to Bath, where they are superintending the fitting up of their new house.

So the house had at last been fixed on; and we learn in the Memoir that it was No. 4 Sydney Terrace,[128] in the parish of Bathwick. The houses here face the Sydney Gardens, and it is a part of Bath that Jane seems to have fancied. Her residence there is now commemorated by a marble tablet. How long the Austens resided in this house cannot definitely be stated; perhaps they took it for three years--at any rate, by the beginning of 1805 they had moved to 27 Green Park Buildings. Possibly Mr. Austen, as he grew older, had found the distance to the centre of the town too great for his powers of walking.

One of the few facts we know concerning their stay in Sydney Place is that at one time Mrs. Austen was extremely ill, but the skill of her medical adviser, a certain Mr. Bowen,[129] and the affectionate care of her daughters pulled her through and enabled her to live for another twenty-five years. Mrs. Austen has recorded the fact of her illness in some humorous verses, entitled 'Dialogue between Death and Mrs. A.'

Says Death, 'I've been trying these three weeks and more
To seize on old Madam here at Number Four,
Yet I still try in vain, tho' she's turned of three score;
To what is my ill-success owing?'

'I'll tell you, old Fellow, if you cannot guess,
To what you're indebted for your ill success--
To the prayers of my husband, whose love I possess,
To the care of my daughters, whom Heaven will bless,
To the skill and attention of Bowen.'

In 1802, in addition to the visit to Steventon with its distressing incidents,[130] Jane was at Dawlish; for, in a letter written in 1814, she says of the library at Dawlish that it 'was pitiful and wretched twelve years ago and not likely to have anybody's publications.' A writer, too, in Temple Bar[131] for February 1879, states that about this time the Austens went to Teignmouth (which would be very easily combined with a stay at Dawlish), and that they resided there some weeks.

This was the year of the short cessation of hostilities brought about by the Peace of Amiens. During its continuance, we are told that the Henry Austens went to France in the vain hope of recovering some of her first husband's property, and narrowly escaped being included amongst the détenus. 'Orders had been given by Bonaparte's Government to detain all English travellers; but at the post-houses Mrs. Henry Austen gave the necessary orders herself, and her French was so perfect that she passed everywhere for a native, and her husband escaped under this protection.'[132]

Our only evidence of Jane's having been absent from Bath in 1803 is that Sir Egerton Brydges,[133] in speaking of her, says: 'The last time I think that I saw her was at Ramsgate in 1803.'

On Francis Austen's promotion (already mentioned), Admiral Gambier seems rather to have gone out of his way to choose him as his flag-captain on the Neptune; but on the Peace of Amiens, he, like many others, went on half-pay. His first employment when war broke out again, in 1803, was the raising from among the Kent fishermen of a corps of 'sea fencibles,' to protect the coast from invasion. His head-quarters were at Ramsgate, and it was quite likely that Jane would visit him there, especially if she could combine this visit with one to Godmersham. We shall see later that the 'sea fencibles' did not take up the whole of Frank's time.

She must now have begun to turn her mind again to her neglected MSS., and especially to Northanger Abbey. This, no doubt, underwent a thorough revision (Belinda, mentioned in the famous dissertation on novels, was not published till 1801); and there is evidence[134] that she sold the MS., under the title of Susan, in the spring of 1803: not, indeed, to a Bath publisher--as has been often stated--but to Messrs. Crosby & Son of London, for ten pounds, stipulating for an early publication. Distrustful of appearing under her own name in the transaction, Jane seems to have employed a certain Mr. Seymour--probably her brother Henry's man of business--a fact which suggests that the sale was effected while Jane was staying in London with Henry. For reasons best known to himself, Mr. Crosby did not proceed with the publication.

Besides Northanger Abbey, Jane seems to have written at this time the beginning of a tale which was published in the second edition of the Memoir as The Watsons,[135] although the author had not given that, or any other name, to it. The setting of the story was very like that of the novels with which we are so familiar, and the characters were sketched in with a firm hand. One of these creations in particular might have been expected to re-appear in another book (if this work was to be laid aside); but such a procedure was contrary to Jane Austen's invariable practice. It is the character of a young man--Tom Musgrave by name--a clever and good-natured toady, with rather more attractive qualities than usually fall to the lot of the members of that fraternity. But why was it laid aside? The writer of the Memoir suggests[136] that the author may have become aware 'of the evil of having placed her heroine too low, in a position of poverty and obscurity, which, though not necessarily connected with vulgarity, has a sad tendency to degenerate into it; and therefore, like a singer who has begun on too low a note, she discontinued the strain.'

To this we may add that circumstances soon occurred to divert her mind from original composition for a considerable period; and when at last she returned to it, she was much more likely to think of the two completed stories that were lying in her desk than of one that was only begun. She did, however, retain in her recollection the outline of the intended story. The MS. of The Watsons, still existing, is written on the small sheets of paper described in the Memoir: sheets which could be easily covered with a piece of blotting-paper in case of the arrival of unexpected visitors, and which would thus fit in with her desire for secrecy. All the pages are written in her beautifully neat handwriting; but some seem to flow on without doubt or difficulty, while others are subject to copious corrections. As all the MSS. of her six published novels have perished, it is worth our while to notice her methods where we can.

The first interruption that occurred to her writing in 1804 was of a pleasant nature, and none of her admirers need regret it: she went to Lyme with her family. They had been joined in their summer rambles by the Henry Austens, who afterwards proceeded with Cassandra to Weymouth, leaving Jane with her parents at Lyme. We have it on record that Jane loved the sight of the beauties of nature so much that she would sometimes say she thought it must form one of the joys of heaven; but she had few opportunities of visiting any scenes of especial beauty. We need not therefore be surprised that the impression produced by Lyme was so great that she retained a vivid and accurate memory of the details eleven years afterwards. In Persuasion, she allowed herself to dwell on them with greater fullness and greater enthusiasm than she had ever displayed on similar occasions before. Readers of that book who visit Lyme--especially if they have the valuable help of the Miss Hills' descriptions and sketches--will feel no difficulty in recognising the exact spot on the Cobb which was pointed out to Tennyson as the scene of the fall of Louisa Musgrove, or the well-placed but minute house at the corner of the pier, past which Captain Benwick was seen rushing for the doctor, and in which the Harvilles managed to entertain a large party; they may note the point on the steps leading down to the sea where Mr. Elliot first saw Anne; and if they go to the 'Royal Lion' Hotel and engage a private sitting-room, they can look from the window, as Mary Musgrove looked at her cousin's carriage, when she recognised the Elliot countenance, but failed to see the Elliot arms, because the great-coat was folded over the panels.[137]

The letter which follows was written when Cassandra was just leaving Weymouth to go to Ibthorp where old Mrs. Lloyd lay very ill.

Lyme: Friday [September 14, 1804].[138]

MY DEAR CASSANDRA,--I take the first sheet of fine striped paper to thank you for your letter from Weymouth, and express my hopes of your being at Ibthorp before this time. I expect to hear that you reached it yesterday evening, being able to get as far as Blandford on Wednesday. Your account of Weymouth contains nothing which strikes me so forcibly as there being no ice in the town. For every other vexation I was in some measure prepared, and particularly for your disappointment in not seeing the Royal Family go on board on Tuesday, having already heard from Mr. Crawford that he had seen you in the very act of being too late. But for there being no ice, what could prepare me? . . . You found my letter at Andover, I hope, yesterday, and have now for many hours been satisfied that your kind anxiety on my behalf was as much thrown away as kind anxiety usually is. I continue quite well; in proof of which I have bathed again this morning. It was absolutely necessary that I should have the little fever and indisposition which I had: it has been all the fashion this week in Lyme. . . . We are quite settled in our lodgings by this time, as you may suppose, and everything goes on in the usual order. The servants behave very well, and make no difficulties, though nothing certainly can exceed the inconvenience of the offices, except the general dirtiness of the house and furniture, and all its inhabitants. I endeavour, as far as I can, to supply your place, and be useful, and keep things in order. I detect dirt in the water decanters, as fast as I can, and keep everything as it was under your administration. . . . James is the delight of our lives, he is quite an Uncle Toby's annuity to us. My Mother's shoes were never so well blacked before, and our plate never looked so clean. He waits extremely well, is attentive, handy, quick and quiet, and in short has a great many more than all the cardinal virtues (for the cardinal virtues in themselves have been so often possessed that they are no longer worth having), and amongst the rest, that of wishing to go to Bath, as I understand from Jenny. He has the laudable thirst I fancy for travelling, which in poor James Selby was so much reprobated; and part of his disappointment in not going with his master arose from his wish of seeing London.

* * * * *

The ball last night was pleasant, but not full for Thursday. My father staid very contentedly till half-past nine (we went a little after eight), and then walked home with James and a lanthorn, though I believe the lanthorn was not lit, as the moon was up; but this lanthorn may sometimes be a great convenience to him. My mother and I staid about an hour later. Nobody asked me the two first dances; the two next I danced with Mr. Crawford, and had I chosen to stay longer might have danced with Mr. Granville, Mrs. Granville's son, whom my dear friend Miss A. offered to introduce to me, or with a new odd-looking man who had been eyeing me for some time, and at last, without any introduction, asked me if I meant to dance again. I think he must be Irish by his ease, and because I imagine him to belong to the hon^{ble} B.'s, who are the son, and son's wife of an Irish viscount, bold queer-looking people, just fit to be quality at Lyme.

* * * * *

I called yesterday morning (ought it not in strict propriety to be termed yester-morning?) on Miss A. and was introduced to her father and mother. Like other young ladies she is considerably genteeler than her parents. Mrs. A. sat darning a pair of stockings the whole of my visit. But do not mention this at home, lest a warning should act as an example. We afterwards walked together for an hour on the Cobb; she is very converseable in a common way; I do not perceive wit or genius, but she has sense and some degree of taste, and her manners are very engaging. She seems to like people rather too easily. She thought the D.'s pleasant, &c., &c.

* * * * *

Friday Evening.--The bathing was so delightful this morning and Molly so pressing with me to enjoy myself that I believe I staid in rather too long, as since the middle of the day I have felt unreasonably tired. I shall be more careful another time, and shall not bathe to-morrow as I had before intended. Jenny and James are walked to Charmouth this afternoon. I am glad to have such an amusement for him, as I am very anxious for his being at once quiet and happy. He can read, and I must get him some books. Unfortunately he has read the first Vol. of Robinson Crusoe. We have the Pinckards' newspaper however which I shall take care to lend him.

As the autumn of 1804 was succeeded by winter, Jane's thoughts were to be taken up by more serious considerations. On her birthday, December 16, occurred the death (by a fall from her horse) of her great friend, Mrs. Lefroy, on which we have already dwelt.[139]

But she was shortly to suffer an even greater loss, for on January 21, 1805, her father died, after an illness of only forty-eight hours. Jane's letter, or rather two letters--for, the first being wrongly directed, she had to write a second--to her brother Frank on this occasion have fortunately been kept.

Green Park Buildings:
Tuesday evening, January 22, 1805.[140]

MY DEAREST FRANK,--I wrote to you yesterday, but your letter to Cassandra this morning, by which we learn the probability of your being by this time at Portsmouth, obliges me to write to you again, having unfortunately a communication as necessary as painful to make to you. Your affectionate heart will be greatly wounded, and I wish the shock could have been lessened by a better preparation; but the event has been sudden and so must be the information of it. We have lost an excellent father. An illness of only eight and forty hours carried him off yesterday morning between ten and eleven. He was seized on Saturday with a return of the feverish complaint which he had been subject to for the last three years. . . . A physician was called in yesterday morning, but he was at that time past all possibility of cure; and Dr. Gibbs and Mr. Bowen had scarcely left his room before he sunk into a sleep from which he never woke.

It has been very sudden. Within twenty-four hours of his death he was walking about with only the help of a stick--was even reading.

We had, however, some hours of preparation, and when we understood his recovery to be hopeless, most fervently did we pray for the speedy release which ensued. To have seen him languishing long, struggling for hours, would have been dreadful, and, thank God, we were all spared from it.

* * * * *

Except the restlessness and confusion of high fever, he did not suffer, and he was mercifully spared from knowing that he was about to quit objects so beloved, and so fondly cherished as his wife and children ever were. His tenderness as a father, who can do justice to?

* * * * *

The funeral is to be on Saturday at Walcot Church.[141] The serenity of the corpse is most delightful. It preserves the sweet benevolent smile which always distinguished him. They kindly press my mother to remove to Steventon as soon as it is all over, but I do not believe she will leave Bath at present. We must have this house for three months longer, and here we shall probably stay till the end of that time. We all unite in love, and I am

Affectionately yours,
J. A.

The companion letter, sent to a different address, gives a similar account, and contains also these words[142]:--

Heavy as is the blow, we can already feel that a thousand comforts remain to us to soften it. Next to that of the consciousness of his worth and constant preparation for another world, is the remembrance of his having suffered, comparatively speaking, nothing. Being quite insensible of his own state, he was spared all pain of separation, and he went off almost in his sleep. My mother bears the shock as well as possible; she was quite prepared for it and feels all the blessing of his being spared a long illness. My uncle and aunt have been with us and show us every imaginable kindness.

* * * * *

Adieu, my dearest Frank. The loss of such a parent must be felt, or we should be brutes. I wish I could give you a better preparation, but it has been impossible.

Yours ever affectionately,
J. A.

Mr. Austen's death placed his widow and daughters in straitened circumstances; for most of his income had been derived from the livings of Steventon and Deane. In fact the income of Mrs. Austen, together with that of Cassandra (who had inherited one thousand pounds from her intended husband, Thomas Fowle), was no more than two hundred and ten pounds. Fortunately, she had sons who were only too glad to be able to help her, and her income was raised to four hundred and sixty pounds a year by contributions of one hundred pounds from Edward, and fifty pounds from James, Henry, and Frank respectively. Frank, indeed, was ready to do more; for Henry wrote to him to say that their mother 'feels the magnificence of your offer and accepts of half.' Mrs. Austen's first idea was to remain in Bath so long as her brother, Mr. Leigh Perrot, lived there. Accordingly, she gave up her house at Lady Day, and moved, with her daughters and one maid, into furnished lodgings at 25 Gay Street.

Early in April, Cassandra was staying at Ibthorp, where it was her lot to attend another death-bed--that of old Mrs. Lloyd.

25 Gay Street: Monday [April 8, 1805].

MY DEAR CASSANDRA,--Here is a day for you! Did Bath or Ibthorp ever see a finer 8th of April? It is March and April together, the glare of one and the warmth of the other. We do nothing but walk about. As far as your means will admit, I hope you profit by such weather too. I dare say you are already the better for change of place. We were out again last night. Miss Irvine invited us, when I met her in the Crescent, to drink tea with them, but I rather declined it, having no idea that my mother would be disposed for another evening visit there so soon; but when I gave her the message, I found her very well inclined to go; and accordingly, on leaving Chapel, we walked to Lansdown. This morning we have been to see Miss Chamberlayne look hot on horseback. Seven years and four months ago we went to the same riding-house to see Miss Lefroy's performance! What a different set are we now moving in! But seven years, I suppose, are enough to change every pore of one's skin and every feeling of one's mind. We did not walk long in the Crescent yesterday. It was hot and not crowded enough; so we went into the field, and passed close by S. T. and Miss S.[143] again. I have not yet seen her face, but neither her dress nor air have anything of the dash or stylishness which the Browns talked of; quite the contrary; indeed, her dress is not even smart, and her appearance very quiet. Miss Irvine says she is never speaking a word. Poor wretch; I am afraid she is en pénitence. Here has been that excellent Mrs. Coulthart calling, while my mother was out, and I was believed to be so. I always respected her, as a good-hearted friendly woman. And the Brownes have been here; I find their affidavits on the table. The Ambuscade reached Gibraltar on the 9th of March, and found all well; so say the papers. We have had no letters from anybody, but we expect to hear from Edward to-morrow, and from you soon afterwards. How happy they are at Godmersham now! I shall be very glad of a letter from Ibthorp, that I may know how you all are, but particularly yourself. This is nice weather for Mrs. J. Austen's going to Speen, and I hope she will have a pleasant visit there. I expect a prodigious account of the christening dinner; perhaps it brought you at last into the company of Miss Dundas again.

Tuesday.--I received your letter last night, and wish it may be soon followed by another to say that all is over; but I cannot help thinking that nature will struggle again, and produce a revival. Poor woman! May her end be peaceful and easy as the exit we have witnessed! And I dare say it will. If there is no revival, suffering must be all over; even the consciousness of existence, I suppose, was gone when you wrote. The nonsense I have been writing in this and in my last letter seems out of place at such a time, but I will not mind it; it will do you no harm, and nobody else will be attacked by it. I am heartily glad that you can speak so comfortably of your own health and looks, though I can scarcely comprehend the latter being really approved. Could travelling fifty miles produce such an immediate change? You were looking very poorly here, and everybody seemed sensible of it. Is there a charm in a hack post-chaise? But if there were, Mrs. Craven's carriage might have undone it all. I am much obliged to you for the time and trouble you have bestowed on Mary's cap, and am glad it pleases her; but it will prove a useless gift at present, I suppose. Will not she leave Ibthorp on her mother's death? As a companion you are all that Martha can be supposed to want, and in that light, under these circumstances, your visit will indeed have been well timed.

* * * * *

The Cookes want us to drink tea with them to-night, but I do not know whether my mother will have nerves for it. We are engaged to-morrow evening--what request we are in! Mrs. Chamberlayne expressed to her niece her wish of being intimate enough with us to ask us to drink tea with her in a quiet way. We have therefore offered her ourselves and our quietness through the same medium. Our tea and sugar will last a great while. I think we are just the kind of people and party to be treated about among our relations; we cannot be supposed to be very rich.

* * * * *

Thursday.--I was not able to go on yesterday; all my wit and leisure were bestowed on letters to Charles and Henry. To the former I wrote in consequence of my mother's having seen in the papers that the Urania was waiting at Portsmouth for the convoy for Halifax. This is nice, as it is only three weeks ago that you wrote by the Camilla. . . . I wrote to Henry because I had a letter from him in which he desired to hear from me very soon. His to me was most affectionate and kind, as well as entertaining; there is no merit to him in that; he cannot help being amusing. . . . He offers to meet us on the sea coast, if the plan of which Edward gave him some hint takes place. Will not this be making the execution of such a plan more desirable and delightful than ever? He talks of the rambles we took together last summer with pleasing affection.

Yours ever,
J. A.

From the Same to the Same.

Gay Street: Sunday Evening,
April 21 [1805].[144]

MY DEAR CASSANDRA,--I am much obliged to you for writing to me again so soon; your letter yesterday was quite an unexpected pleasure. Poor Mrs. Stent! it has been her lot to be always in the way; but we must be merciful, for perhaps in time we may come to be Mrs. Stents ourselves, unequal to anything, and unwelcome to everybody. Your account of Martha is very comfortable indeed, and now we shall be in no fear of receiving a worse. This day, if she has gone to church, must have been a trial to her feelings, but it will be the last of any acuteness. . . . Yesterday was a busy day with me. I went to Sydney Gardens soon after one and did not return until four, and after dinner I walked to Weston. My morning engagement was with the Cookes, and our party consisted of George and Mary, a Mr. and Miss B. who had been with us at the concert, and the youngest Miss W. Not Julia; we have done with her; she is very ill; but Mary. Mary W.'s turn is actually come to be grown up, and have a fine complexion, and wear a great square muslin shawl. I have not expressly enumerated myself among the party, but there I was, and my cousin George was very kind, and talked sense to me every now and then, in the intervals of his more animated fooling with Miss B., who is very young, and rather handsome, and whose gracious manners, ready wit, and solid remarks, put me somewhat in mind of my old acquaintance L. L. There was a monstrous deal of stupid quizzing and common-place nonsense talked, but scarcely any wit; all that bordered on it or on sense came from my cousin George, whom altogether I like very well. Mr. B. seems nothing more than a tall young man. . . . My evening engagement and walk was with Miss A., who had called on me the day before, and gently upbraided me in her turn with a change of manners to her since she had been in Bath, or at least of late. Unlucky me! that my notice should be of such consequence, and my manners so bad! She was so well disposed, and so reasonable, that I soon forgave her, and made this engagement with her in proof of it. She is really an agreeable girl, so I think I may like her; and her great want of a companion at home, which may well make any tolerable acquaintance important to her, gives her another claim on my attention. I shall as much as possible endeavour to keep my intimacies in their proper place, and prevent their clashing. . . . Among so many friends, it will be well if I do not get into a scrape; and now here is Miss Blachford come. I should have gone distracted if the Bullers had staid. . . .

I am quite of your opinion as to the folly of concealing any longer our intended partnership with Martha, and wherever there has of late been an enquiry on the subject I have always been sincere, and I have sent word of it to the Mediterranean in a letter to Frank. None of our nearest connections I think will be unprepared for it, and I do not know how to suppose that Martha's have not foreseen it.

When I tell you we have been visiting a Countess this morning, you will immediately, with great justice, but no truth, guess it to be Lady Roden. No: it is Lady Leven, the mother of Lord Balgonie. On receiving a message from Lord and Lady Leven through the Mackays, declaring their intention of waiting on us, we thought it right to go to them. I hope we have not done too much, but the friends and admirers of Charles must be attended to. They seem very reasonable, good sort of people, very civil, and full of his praise.[145] We were shewn at first into an empty drawing-room, and presently in came his lordship, not knowing who we were, to apologise for the servant's mistake, and tell a lie himself that Lady Leven was not within. He is a tall gentlemanlike-looking man, with spectacles, and rather deaf. After sitting with him ten minutes we walked away; but, Lady Leven coming out of the dining parlour as we passed the door, we were obliged to attend her back to it, and pay our visit over again. She is a stout woman, with a very handsome face. By this means we had the pleasure of hearing Charles's praises twice over. They think themselves excessively obliged to him, and estimate him so highly as to wish Lord Balgonie, when he is quite recovered, to go out to him. . . . There is a pretty little Lady Marianne of the party, to be shaken hands with, and asked if she remembered Mr. Austen. . . .

I shall write to Charles by the next packet, unless you tell me in the meantime of your intending to do it.

Believe me, if you chuse,
Yr affte Sister.

'Cousin George' was the Rev. George Leigh Cooke, long known and respected at Oxford, where he held important offices, and had the privilege of helping to form the minds of men more eminent than himself. As tutor at Corpus Christi College, he had under his charge Arnold, Keble, and Sir J. T. Coleridge.

The 'intended partnership' with Martha was an arrangement by which Martha Lloyd joined the family party: an arrangement which was based on their affectionate friendship for her, and which succeeded so well that it lasted through Southampton and Chawton, and did not end until after the death of Mrs. Austen in 1827.


[124] Probably, when they were on a visit to the Fowles at Elkstone, between Cheltenham and Cirencester. See p. 373.

[125] Family MS. One short paragraph, Memoir, p. 65; the remainder unpublished.

[126] Afterwards Sir William Heathcote, M.P.

[127] We remember that in Mansfield Park William Price had been able to afford only the amber cross as a present to Fanny, and not the chain. See Sailor Brothers, p. 92.

[128] Terrace seems to be a slip; at least, its present name is Sydney Place. We have, unfortunately, no letters dated from this house.

[129] There is an inscription to his memory on the wall of the south aisle in the Abbey.

[130] See p. 92.

[131] In an article called 'Is it Just?' p. 282.

[132] Memoir, p. 24.

[133] Autobiography, vol. ii. p. 40.

[134] See end of Chapter XIII.

[135] The watermarks of 1803 and 1804 on the paper are the sole authority for this date.

[136] P. 296.

[137] Miss Hill seems to have identified also the cottage, 'Mrs. Dean's house,' in which the Austens themselves lodged in 1804. No doubt decanters, and everything else, have long been perfectly immaculate.

[138] Nearly all Memoir, p. 68; the remainder unpublished.

[139] Chap. V.

[140] Sailor Brothers, p. 127.

[141] Mr. Oscar Fay Adams, a most careful investigator, failed to discover the inscription in Walcot Church to the memory of George Austen. It is in the crypt below the church, and runs as follows: 'Under this stone rest the remains of the Rev. George Austen, Rector of Steventon and Dean in Hampshire, who departed this life the 21st of January 1805, aged 73 years.'

[142] Sailor Brothers, p. 125.

[143] A gentleman and lady lately engaged to be married.

[144] Memoir, p. 74.

[145] It seems that Charles Austen, then first lieutenant of the Endymion, had had an opportunity of showing attention and kindness to some of Lord Leven's family.