Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters

A Family Record

Chapter XIV

Sense and Sensibility

1809-1811

We are now bringing Jane Austen to the home which she was to occupy through all the remaining eight years of her life--the home from which she went to lie on her deathbed at Winchester. Into this period were to be crowded a large proportion of her most important literary work, and all the contemporary recognition which she was destined to enjoy. The first six of these years must have been singularly happy. So far as we know, she was in good health, she was a member of a cheerful family party, and she was under the protection of brothers who would see that she and her mother and sister suffered no discomfort. The eldest, James, Rector of Steventon, could reach his mother's house in a morning's ride through pleasant country lanes; Edward, the Squire, occasionally occupied the 'Great House' at Chawton, and often lent it to one of his naval brothers; while Henry in London was only too happy to receive his sisters, show them the sights of the metropolis, and transact Jane's literary business. At home were her mother, her life-long friend Martha, and above all her 'other self'--Cassandra--from whom she had no secrets, and with whom disagreement was impossible. But besides all these living objects of interest, Jane also had her own separate and peculiar world, peopled by the creations of her own bright imagination, which by degrees became more and more real to her as she found others accepting and admiring them. She must have resumed the habit of writing with diffidence, after her previous experience; but the sense of progress, and the success which attended her venture in publishing Sense and Sensibility would by degrees make ample amends for past disappointments. She was no doubt aided by the quiet of her home and its friendly surroundings. In this tranquil spot, where the past and present even now join peaceful hands, she found happy leisure, repose of mind, and absence of distraction, such as any sustained creative effort demands.

Chawton was a charming village, about a mile from Alton, and deep in the country; although two main roads from Gosport and Winchester respectively joined on their way towards London just in front of the Austens' cottage. Indeed, the place still refuses to be modernised, in spite of three converging railways, and a necessary but civil notice in the corner requesting motorists to 'drive slowly through the village.' The venerable manor-house (then always called the 'Great House') is on the slope of a hill above the Church, surrounded by garden, meadows, and trees, and commanding a view over the intervening valley to a hill opposite, crowned with a beech wood and known as 'Chawton Park.' The cottage is in the centre of the village, and, as it actually abuts on the road, the Austens could easily see or be seen by travellers. It is supposed to have been built as a posting inn, but it had lately been occupied by Edward Austen's steward. The author of the Memoir describes his uncle's improvements to the place in the following words[207]:--

A good-sized entrance and two sitting-rooms made the length of the house, all intended originally to look upon the road; but the large drawing-room window was blocked up and turned into a book-case, and another opened at the side which gave to view only turf and trees, as a high wooden fence and hornbeam hedge shut out the Winchester road, which skirted the whole length of the little domain.
He goes on to speak of the garden laid out at the same time, which proved a great interest to the party of ladies, and in which old Mrs. Austen worked vigorously, almost to the end of her days, often attired in a green round smock like a labourer's: a costume which must have been nearly as remarkable as the red habit of her early married life.

Jane Austen was now between thirty-three and thirty-four years old. She was absolutely free from any artistic self-consciousness, from any eccentricity of either temper or manner. 'Hers was a mind well balanced on a basis of good sense, sweetened by an affectionate heart, and regulated by fixed principles; so that she was to be distinguished from many other amiable and sensible women only by that peculiar genius which shines out clearly . . . in her works.'[208] Her tastes were as normal as her nature. She read English literature with eagerness, attracted by the eighteenth-century perfection of style--and still more by the return to nature in Cowper and the introduction of romance in Scott--but repelled by coarseness, which she found even in the Spectator, and the presence of which in Fielding made her rank him below Richardson. As for the latter, 'Every circumstance narrated in Sir Charles Grandison, all that was ever said or done in the "Cedar Parlour," was familiar to her; and the wedding days of Lady L. and Lady G. were as well remembered as if they had been living friends.' Her 'dear Dr. Johnson' was a constant companion; and a younger friend was found in Crabbe, whom--as she used to pretend--she was quite prepared to marry: not knowing at the time whether he had a wife living or not.[209] As to her other tastes, she greatly delighted in the beauties of nature, and no doubt would have enjoyed foreign travel, had not that pleasure been quite out of her reach. Her attitude to music, as an art, is more doubtful. She learnt to play the piano in her youth, and after spending many years without an instrument, took it up again on settling at Chawton; but she says herself that she did this in order to be able to play country-dances for her nephews and nieces; and when she goes to a concert she sometimes remarks on her inability to enjoy it. A concert in Sydney Gardens, however, was not perhaps likely to offer to the hearer many examples of high art; and we have no means of knowing whether, if she had had a chance of being introduced to classical music, it would have appealed to her, as it sometimes does to intellectual people who have been previously quite ignorant that they possessed any musical faculty. We are told that she had a sweet voice, and sang with feeling. 'The Soldier's Adieu' and 'The Yellow-haired Laddie' survive as the names of two of her songs.

She was extraordinarily neat-handed in anything which she attempted. Her hand-writing was both strong and pretty; her hemming and stitching, over which she spent much time, 'might have put a sewing-machine to shame'; and at games, like spillikins or cup-and-ball, she was invincible.

If this description does not seem to imply so wide a mental outlook as we wish to see in a distinguished author, we must remember that Jane Austen (as her nephew tells us) 'lived in entire seclusion from the literary world,' and probably 'never was in company with any person whose talents or whose celebrity equalled her own.'[210] She was in the middle of a small family circle, the members of which were well-educated according to the fashion of the times, intelligent, and refined; but not especially remarkable for learning or original thought. They accepted the standards and views of their generation, interpreting them in a reasonable and healthy manner. She had therefore no inducement, such as might come from the influence of superior intellects, to dive into difficult problems. Her mental efforts were purely her own, and they led her in another direction; but she saw what she did see so very clearly, that she would probably have been capable of looking more deeply into the heart of things, had any impulse from outside induced her to try. Her vision, however, might not have remained so admirably adapted for the delicate operations nearer to the surface which were her real work in life.

Jane's person is thus described for us by her niece Anna, now becoming a grown-up girl and a keen observer: 'The figure tall and slight, but not drooping; well balanced, as was proved by her quick firm step. Her complexion of that rare sort which seems the particular property of light brunettes; a mottled skin, not fair, but perfectly clear and healthy; the fine naturally curling hair, neither light nor dark; the bright hazel eyes to match, and the rather small, but well-shaped, nose.' This is a delightful description; but she adds that in spite of all this, her aunt was not regularly handsome, though most attractive. As to her charm and lovableness there is absolute unanimity among all those who were near enough to her to know what she really was. Jane had by this time seen a good deal of society, and enjoyed it, though with a certain critical aloofness which belonged to her family, and which was hardly to be avoided by so clever a person as herself. This critical spirit was evidently a quality of which she endeavoured to rid herself as of a fault; and one of her nieces, who was too young to know her aunt intimately, until almost the end of her life, was able then to say: 'She was in fact one of the last people in society to be afraid of. I do not suppose she ever in her life said a sharp thing. She was naturally shy and not given to talk much in company, and people fancied, knowing that she was clever, that she was on the watch for good material for books from their conversation. Her intimate friends knew how groundless was the apprehension and that it wronged her.' She was not only shy: she was also at times very grave. Her niece Anna is inclined to think that Cassandra was the more equably cheerful of the two sisters. There was, undoubtedly, a quiet intensity of nature in Jane for which some critics have not given her credit. Yet at other times she and this same niece could joke so heartily over their needlework and talk such nonsense together that Cassandra would beg them to stop out of mercy to her, and not keep her in such fits of laughing. Sometimes the laughter would be provoked by the composition of extempore verses, such as those given in the Memoir[211] celebrating the charm of the 'lovely Anna'; sometimes the niece would skim over new novels at the Alton Library, and reproduce them with wilful exaggeration. On one occasion she threw down a novel on the counter with contempt, saying she knew it must be rubbish from its name. The name was Sense and Sensibility--the secret of which had been strictly kept, even from her.

The niece who shared these hearty laughs with her aunts--James's eldest daughter, Anna--differed widely from her cousin, Edward's daughter, Fanny. She was more brilliant both in looks and in intelligence, but also more mercurial and excitable. Both occupied a good deal of Jane's thoughts and affections; but Anna must have been the one who caused her the most amusement and also the most anxiety. The interest in her was heightened when she became engaged to the son of Jane's old friend, Mrs. Lefroy. Anna's giddiness was merely that of youth; she settled down into a steady married life as the careful mother of a large family. She cherished an ardent affection for her Aunt Jane, who evidently exercised a great influence on her character.

Jane Austen's literary work was done mainly in the general sitting-room: liable at any moment to be interrupted by servants, children, or visitors--to none of whom had been entrusted the secret of her authorship. Her small sheets of paper could easily be put away or covered with blotting-paper, whenever the creaking swing-door (which she valued for that reason) gave notice that anyone was coming.

Her needlework was nearly always a garment for the poor; though she had also by her some satin stitch ready to take up in case of the appearance of company. The nature of the work will help to contradict an extraordinary misconception--namely, that she was indifferent to the needs and claims of the poor: an idea probably based on the fact that she never used them as 'copy.' Nothing could be further from the truth. She was of course quite ignorant of the conditions of life in the great towns, and she had but little money to give, but work, teaching, and sympathy were freely bestowed on rustic neighbours. A very good criterion of her attitude towards her own characters is often furnished by their relations with the poor around them. Instances of this may be found in Darcy's care of his tenants and servants, in Anne Elliot's farewell visits to nearly all the inhabitants of Kellynch, and in Emma's benevolence and good sense when assisting her poorer neighbours.

So began the Austens' life at Chawton--probably a quieter life than any they had yet led; their nearest neighbours being the Middletons (who rented the 'Great House' for five years and were still its inmates), the Benns at Faringdon, the Harry Digweeds, Mr. Papillon the Rector (a bachelor living with his sister), and the Clements and Prowting families.

The ladies took possession of their cottage on July 7, and the first news that we have of them is in a letter from Mrs. Knight, dated October 26, 1809: 'I heard of the Chawton party looking very comfortable at breakfast from a gentleman who was travelling by their door in a post-chaise about ten days ago.'

After this the curtain falls again, and we have no letters and no information for a year and a half from this time. We are sure, however, that Jane settled down to her writing very soon, for by April 1811 Sense and Sensibility was in the printers' hands, and Pride and Prejudice far advanced.

Since her fit of youthful enthusiasm, when she had composed three stories in little more than three years, she had had much experience of life to sober and strengthen her. Three changes of residence, the loss of her father, the friendship of Mrs. Lefroy and the shock of her death,[212] her own and her sister's sad love stories, the crisis in the Leigh Perrot history, and her literary disappointments--all these must have made her take up her two old works with a chastened spirit, and a more mature judgment. We cannot doubt that extensive alterations were made: in fact, we know that this was the case with Pride and Prejudice. We feel equally certain that, of the two works, Sense and Sensibility was essentially the earlier, both in conception and in composition, and that no one could have sat down to write that work who had already written Pride and Prejudice.[213] There is, indeed, no lack of humour in the earlier work--the names of Mrs. Jennings, John Dashwood, and the Palmers are enough to assure us of this; but the humorous parts are not nearly so essential to the story as they become in her later novels: the plot is desultory, and the principal characters lack interest. We feel, in the presence of the virtue and sense of Elinor, a rebuke which never affects us in the same way with Jane Bennet, Fanny Price, or Anne Elliot; while Marianne is often exasperating. Edward Ferrars is rather stiff; and Colonel Brandon is so far removed from us that we never even learn his Christian name.

Mr. Helm[214] makes some acute remarks on the freedom which Elinor shows in talking of embarrassing subjects with Willoughby, and on her readiness to attribute his fall to the world rather than to himself. We are to imagine, however, that Elinor had been attracted by him before, and felt his personal charm again while she was under its spell: all the more, because she was herself in a special state of excitement, from the rapid changes in Marianne's condition, and the expectation of seeing her mother. Her excuses for Willoughby were so far from representing any opinion of the author's, that they did not even represent her own after a few hours of reflection. It is one of the many instances which we have of Jane Austen's subtle dramatic instinct.

On the whole, there is great merit in the book, and much amusement to be got from it; but it seems natural to look upon it as an experiment on the part of the author, before she put forth her full powers in Pride and Prejudice. We are glad, by the way, to hear from Jane herself that Miss Steele never caught the Doctor after all.

We must now accompany the author to London, whither she went in April 1811 to stay with her brother Henry and his wife (who had moved from Brompton to 64 Sloane Street), having been preceded by her novel, then in the hands of the printers.

Cassandra had in the meanwhile gone to Godmersham.

Sloane Street: Thursday [April 18, 1811].

MY DEAR CASSANDRA,-- . . . The badness of the weather disconcerted an excellent plan of mine--that of calling on Miss Beckford again; but from the middle of the day it rained incessantly. Mary[215] and I, after disposing of her father and mother, went to the Liverpool Museum[216] and the British Gallery,[217] and I had some amusement at each, though my preference for men and women always inclines me to attend more to the company than the sight.

* * * * *

I did not see Theo.[218] till late on Tuesday; he was gone to Ilford, but he came back in time to show his usual nothing-meaning, harmless, heartless civility. Henry, who had been confined the whole day to the bank, took me in his way home, and, after putting life and wit into the party for a quarter of an hour, put himself and his sister into a hackney coach.

* * * * *

Eliza is walking out by herself. She has plenty of business on her hands just now, for the day of the party is settled, and drawing near. Above 80 people are invited for next Tuesday evening, and there is to be some very good music--five professionals, three of them glee singers, besides amateurs. Fanny will listen to this. One of the hirelings is a Capital on the harp, from which I expect great pleasure. The foundation of the party was a dinner to Henry Egerton and Henry Walter,[219] but the latter leaves town the day before. I am sorry, as I wished her prejudice to be done away, but should have been more sorry if there had been no invitation.

I am a wretch, to be so occupied with all these things as to seem to have no thoughts to give to people and circumstances which really supply a far more lasting interest--the society in which you are; but I do think of you all, I assure you, and want to know all about everybody, and especially about your visit to the W. Friars[220]; 'mais le moyen' not to be occupied by one's own concerns?

Saturday.--Frank is superseded in the Caledonia. Henry brought us this news yesterday from Mr. Daysh, and he heard at the same time that Charles may be in England in the course of a month. Sir Edward Pollen succeeds Lord Gambier in his command, and some captain of his succeeds Frank; and I believe the order is already gone out. Henry means to enquire farther to-day. He wrote to Mary on the occasion. This is something to think of. Henry is convinced that he will have the offer of something else,[221] but does not think it will be at all incumbent on him to accept it; and then follows, what will he do? and where will he live?

* * * * *

The D'Antraigues and Comte Julien cannot come to the party, which was at first a grief, but she has since supplied herself so well with performers that it is of no consequence; their not coming has produced our going to them to-morrow evening, which I like the idea of. It will be amusing to see the ways of a French circle.

* * * * *

Our first object to-day was Henrietta St., to consult with Henry in consequence of a very unlucky change of the play for this very night--Hamlet instead of King John--and we are to go on Monday to Macbeth instead; but it is a disappointment to us both.

Love to all.

Thursday [April 25, 1811].[222]

No, indeed, I am never too busy to think of S. and S.[223] I can no more forget it than a mother can forget her sucking child; and I am much obliged to you for your enquiries. I have had two sheets to correct, but the last only brings us to Willoughby's first appearance. Mrs. K. regrets in the most flattering manner that she must wait till May, but I have scarcely a hope of its being out in June. Henry does not neglect it; he has hurried the printer, and says he will see him again to-day. It will not stand still during his absence, it will be sent to Eliza.

The Incomes remain as they were, but I will get them altered if I can. I am very much gratified by Mrs. K.'s interest in it; and whatever may be the event of it as to my credit with her, sincerely wish her curiosity could be satisfied sooner than is now probable. I think she will like my Elinor, but cannot build on anything else.

Our party went off extremely well. There were many solicitudes, alarms, and vexations, beforehand, of course, but at last everything was quite right. The rooms were dressed up with flowers, &c., and looked very pretty. A glass for the mantelpiece was lent by the man who is making their own. Mr. Egerton and Mr. Walter came at half-past five, and the festivities began with a pair of very fine soles.

Yes, Mr. Walter--for he postponed his leaving London on purpose--which did not give much pleasure at the time, any more than the circumstance from which it rose--his calling on Sunday and being asked by Henry to take the family dinner on that day, which he did; but it is all smoothed over now, and she likes him very well.

At half-past seven arrived the musicians in two hackney coaches, and by eight the lordly company began to appear. Among the earliest were George and Mary Cooke, and I spent the greatest part of the evening very pleasantly with them. The drawing-room being soon hotter than we liked, we placed ourselves in the connecting passage, which was comparatively cool, and gave us all the advantage of the music at a pleasant distance, as well as that of the first view of every new comer.

I was quite surrounded by acquaintance, especially gentlemen; and what with Mr. Hampson,[224] Mr. Seymour, Mr. W. Knatchbull, Mr. Guillemarde, Mr. Cure, a Captain Simpson, brother to the Captain Simpson, besides Mr. Walter and Mr. Egerton, in addition to the Cookes, and Miss Beckford, and Miss Middleton, I had quite as much upon my hands as I could do.

* * * * *

Including everybody we were sixty-six--which was considerably more than Eliza had expected, and quite enough to fill the back drawing-room and leave a few to be scattered about in the other and in the passage.

The music was extremely good. It opened (tell Fanny) with 'Poike de Parp pin praise pof Prapela;'[225] and of the other glees I remember, 'In peace love tunes,' 'Rosabelle,' 'The Red Cross Knight,' and 'Poor Insect.' Between the songs were lessons on the harp, or harp and pianoforte together; and the harp-player was Wiepart, whose name seems famous, though new to me. There was one female singer, a short Miss Davis, all in blue, bringing up for the public line, whose voice was said to be very fine indeed; and all the performers gave great satisfaction by doing what they were paid for, and giving themselves no airs. No amateur could be persuaded to do anything.

* * * * *

This said Captain Simpson told us, on the authority of some other Captain just arrived from Halifax, that Charles[226] was bringing the Cleopatra home, and that she was probably by this time in the Channel; but, as Captain S. was certainly in liquor, we must not quite depend on it. It must give one a sort of expectation, however, and will prevent my writing to him any more. I would rather he should not reach England till I am at home, and the Steventon party gone.

My mother and Martha both write with great satisfaction of Anna's behaviour. She is quite an Anna with variations, but she cannot have reached her last, for that is always the most flourishing and showy; she is at about her third or fourth, which are generally simple and pretty.

* * * * *

We did go to the play after all on Saturday. We went to the Lyceum, and saw the Hypocrite, an old play taken from Molière's Tartuffe, and were well entertained. Dowton and Mathews were the good actors; Mrs. Edwin was the heroine, and her performance is just what it used to be. I have no chance of seeing Mrs. Siddons; she did act on Monday, but, as Henry was told by the box-keeper that he did not think she would, the plans, and all thought of it, were given up. I should particularly have liked seeing her in Constance, and could swear at her with little effort for disappointing me.

Eliza caught her cold on Sunday in our way to the D'Antraigues.[227] The horses actually gibbed on this side of Hyde Park Gate: a load of fresh gravel made it a formidable hill to them, and they refused the collar; I believe there was a sore shoulder to irritate. Eliza was frightened and we got out, and were detained in the evening air several minutes. The cold is in her chest, but she takes care of herself, and I hope it may not last long.

This engagement prevented Mr. Walter's staying late--he had his coffee and went away. Eliza enjoyed her evening very much, and means to cultivate the acquaintance; and I see nothing to dislike in them but their taking quantities of snuff. Monsieur, the old Count, is a very fine-looking man, with quiet manners, good enough for an Englishman, and, I believe, is a man of great information and taste. He has some fine paintings, which delighted Henry as much as the son's music gratified Eliza; and among them a miniature of Philip V. of Spain, Louis XIV.'s grandson, which exactly suited my capacity. Count Julien's performance is very wonderful.

We met only Mrs. Latouche and Miss East, and we are just now engaged to spend next Sunday evening at Mrs. L.'s, and to meet the D'Antraigues, but M. le Comte must do without Henry. If he would but speak English, I would take to him.

Sloane Street: [Tuesday, April 30, 1811].

My head-dress was a bugle-band like the border to my gown, and a flower of Mrs. Tilson's. I depended upon hearing something of the evening from Mr. W. K[natchbull], and am very well satisfied with his notice of me--'A pleasing-looking young woman'--that must do; one cannot pretend to anything better now; thankful to have it continued a few years longer!

* * * * *

We have tried to get Self-Control,[228] but in vain. I should like to know what her estimate is, but am always half afraid of finding a clever novel too clever, and of finding my own story and my own people all forestalled.

* * * * *

I forgot to tell you in my last that our cousin, Miss Payne,[2] called in on Saturday, and was persuaded to stay dinner. She told us a great deal about her friend Lady Cath. Brecknell, who is most happily married, and Mr. Brecknell is very religious, and has got black whiskers.

Yours very affectionately,
JANE.

Early in May, Jane left London; and, after paying a short visit to Mrs. Hill (née Catherine Bigg) at Streatham, returned home to Chawton, where she found only her mother and her niece Anna.

Chawton: Wednesday [May 29, 1811].

MY DEAR CASSANDRA,-- . . . You certainly must have heard before I can tell you that Col. Orde has married our cousin, Margt. Beckford,[229] the Marchess. of Douglas's sister. The papers say that her father disinherits her, but I think too well of an Orde to suppose that she has not a handsome independence of her own.

* * * * *

We sat upstairs [at the Digweeds'] and had thunder and lightning as usual. I never knew such a spring for thunderstorms as it has been. Thank God! we have had no bad ones here. I thought myself in luck to have my uncomfortable feelings shared by the mistress of the house, as that procured blinds and candles. It had been excessively hot the whole day. Mrs. Harding is a good-looking woman, but not much like Mrs. Toke, inasmuch as she is very brown and has scarcely any teeth; she seems to have some of Mrs. Toke's civility. Miss H. is an elegant, pleasing, pretty-looking girl, about nineteen, I suppose, or nineteen and a half, or nineteen and a quarter, with flowers in her head and music at her finger ends. She plays very well indeed. I have seldom heard anybody with more pleasure.

Friday [May 31].

I have taken your hint, slight as it was, and have written to Mrs. Knight, and most sincerely do I hope it will not be in vain. I cannot endure the idea of her giving away her own wheel, and have told her no more than the truth, in saying that I could never use it with comfort. I had a great mind to add that, if she persisted in giving it, I would spin nothing with it but a rope to hang myself, but I was afraid of making it appear a less serious matter of feeling than it really is.

* * * * *

From Monday to Wednesday Anna is to be engaged at Faringdon, in order that she may come in for the gaieties of Tuesday (the 4th), on Selborne Common, where there are to be volunteers and felicities of all kinds. Harriet B[enn] is invited to spend the day with the John Whites, and her father and mother have very kindly undertaken to get Anna invited also.

* * * * *

Poor Anna is suffering from her cold, which is worse to-day, but as she has no sore throat I hope it may spend itself by Tuesday. She had a delightful evening with the Miss Middletons--syllabub, tea, coffee, singing, dancing, a hot supper, eleven o'clock, everything that can be imagined agreeable. She desires her best love to Fanny, and will answer her letter before she leaves Chawton, and engages to send her a particular account of the Selborne day.

* * * * *

How horrible it is to have so many people killed![230] And what a blessing that one cares for none of them!

I return to my letter-writing from calling on Miss Harriot Webb, who is short and not quite straight and cannot pronounce an R any better than her sisters; but she has dark hair, a complexion to suit, and, I think, has the pleasantest countenance and manner of the three--the most natural. She appears very well pleased with her new home, and they are all reading with delight Mrs. H. More's recent publication.

You cannot imagine--it is not in human nature to imagine--what a nice walk we have round the orchard. The row of beech look very well indeed, and so does the young quickset hedge in the garden. I hear to-day that an apricot has been detected on one of the trees. My mother is perfectly convinced now that she shall not be overpowered by her cleft-wood, and I believe would rather have more than less.

God bless you, and I hope June will find you well, and bring us together.

Thursday [June 6].

[Anna] does not return from Faringdon till this evening, and I doubt not has had plenty of the miscellaneous, unsettled sort of happiness which seems to suit her best. We hear from Miss Benn, who was on the Common with the Prowtings, that she was very much admired by the gentlemen in general.

* * * * *

We began pease[231] on Sunday, but our gatherings are very small, not at all like the gathering in the Lady of the Lake. Yesterday I had the agreeable surprise of finding several scarlet strawberries quite ripe; had you been at home, this would have been a pleasure lost. There are more gooseberries and fewer currants than I thought at first. We must buy currants for our wine.

* * * * *

I had just left off writing and put on my things for walking to Alton, when Anna and her friend Harriot called in their way thither, so we went together. Their business was to provide mourning against the King's death, and my mother has had a bombasin bought for her. I am not sorry to be back again, for the young ladies had a great deal to do, and without much method in doing it.

Yours affectionately,
J. A.

The printing of Sense and Sensibility cannot have been very rapid, for in September 28 there is the following entry in Fanny Austen's diary: 'Letter from At. Cass to beg we would not mention that Aunt Jane wrote Sense and Sensibility.' This looks as if it were still on the eve of publication, and it was not in fact advertised until October 31.

Notes

[207] Memoir, p. 80.

[208] Ibid. p. 196.

[209] See pp. 275, 285.

[210] We are told in the biographical notice prefixed to Bentley's edition of the novels in 1833, that though Jane, when her authorship was an open secret, was once asked by a stranger to join a literary party at which Madame de Staël would be present, she immediately declined the invitation.

[211] Memoir, p. 89.

[212] She had experienced a similar shock before in the sudden death, by accident, of her cousin, Jane Williams.

[213] This judgment is based on the idea that Elinor and Marianne (admittedly earlier than First Impressions) bore something of the same relation to Sense and Sensibility that First Impressions did to Pride and Prejudice.

[214] Jane Austen and her Country-house Comedy, by W. H. Helm.

[215] Her cousin, Mary Cooke.

[216] This may have been Bullock's Natural History Museum, at 22 Piccadilly. See Notes and Queries, 11 S.v. 514.

[217] In Pall Mall.

[218] Theophilus Cooke.

[219] See p. 6.

[220] White Friars, Canterbury--the residence of Mrs. Knight.

[221] He took command of the Elephant on July 18, 1811, and became again concerned in the Napoleonic Wars. Sailor Brothers p. 226.

[222] The original of this letter is in the British Museum.

[223] Sense and Sensibility. We do not know whether the Incomes were ever altered.

[224] Mr. Hampson, like Mr. Walter, must have been related to Jane through her grandmother (Rebecca Hampson), who married first, Dr. Walter; secondly, William Austen. Mr. Hampson succeeded to a baronetcy, but was too much of a republican to use the title.

[225] Jane and her niece Fanny seem to have invented a language of their own--the chief point of which was to use a 'p' wherever possible. Thus the piece of music alluded to was 'Strike the harp in praise of Bragela.'

[226] We learn from a letter of Cassandra that he arrived in time to spend (with his family) a week at Chawton Cottage. He had been absent almost seven years. It was their first sight of his wife.

[227] The Comte d'Antraigues and his wife were both of them notable people. He had been elected deputy for the noblesse to the States-General in 1789, and had taken at first the popular side; but as time went on he became estranged from Mirabeau, and was among the earliest to emigrate in 1790. For the rest of his life he was engaged in plotting to restore the Bourbons. His wife had been the celebrated Madame St. Hubert of the Paris opera-house, and was the only woman ever known to have inspired Bonaparte to break forth into verse. Both the Count and Countess were murdered by their valet at Barnes, July 22, 1812. (Un agent secret sous la Révolution et l'Empire: Le Comte d'Antraigues, par Léonce Pingaud. Paris, 1894.)

[228] A novel by Mrs. Brunton, published in 1810.

[229] We can give no explanation of the cousinship, if any existed, of Miss Beckford; Miss Payne may have descended from a sister of Jane's grandmother, Rebecca Austen, who married a man of that name.

[230] Perhaps in the battle of Albuera, May 16, 1811, which is described by Professor Oman (Cambridge Modern History, ix. 467) as 'the most bloody incident of the whole Peninsular War.'

[231] June 2. They ought to have waited for the King's birthday (June 4), which was considered the correct day to begin pease upon.