Jane Austen, Her Life and Letters

A Family Record

Chapter XVII



The last letter but one of the foregoing chapter contains two sentences mentioning the writer's brother, Mr. Knight, which will help us to carry on our story.

Writing on March 5, 1814, Jane says: 'It is a nasty day for everybody. Edward's spirits will be wanting sunshine, and here is nothing but thickness and sleet'; and towards the conclusion of the same letter we find the following: 'Perhaps you have not heard that Edward has a good chance of escaping his lawsuit. His opponent "knocks under." The terms of agreement are not quite settled.'

There can, we think, be little doubt that both passages--the depressed and the hopeful--refer to a claim over Edward's Hampshire property made by some of the heirs-at-law of the former Knight family whom the Brodnaxes of Godmersham had succeeded. Unfortunately, the cheerful forecast contained in the second passage did not prove to be in accordance with the facts. The lawsuit hung on for three years and was then compromised by Mr. Knight's paying a large sum of money.[288]

Perhaps the claim also had its influence in producing the one unflattering estimate of Jane which we shall have to lay before the reader.

Miss Mitford was a convinced--but apparently a reluctant--admirer of her genius; and she dwells without disguise on what she considers the want of taste in Pride and Prejudice, though even here she adds that Miss Austen 'wants nothing but the beau idéal of the female character to be a perfect novel writer.'

In another letter she refers to her mother's unfavourable reminiscences of Jane Austen as a husband-hunter; although Mrs. Mitford's remark must (as we have already pointed out[289]) have been based on an entire misrepresentation, owing to Jane's youthful age at the time when that lady could have known her.

She proceeds thus:--

A friend of mine who visits her now, says that she has stiffened into the most perpendicular, precise, taciturn piece of 'single blessedness' that ever existed, and that, till Pride and Prejudice showed what a precious gem was hidden in that unbending case, she was no more regarded in society than a poker or a fire-screen, or any other thin, upright piece of wood or iron that fills the corner in peace and quietness. The case is very different now: she is still a poker--but a poker of whom every one is afraid. It must be confessed that this silent observation from such an observer is rather formidable. Most writers are good-humoured chatterers--neither very wise nor very witty; but nine times out of ten (at least in the few that I have known) unaffected and pleasant, and quite removing by their conversation any fear that may have been excited by their works. But a wit, a delineator of character, who does not talk, is terrific indeed!
Miss Mitford has, however, the candour to add a qualification which diminishes the force of her earlier remarks, and bears upon our present subject. She says:--
After all, I do not know that I can quite vouch for this account, though the friend from whom I received it is truth itself; but her family connexions must render her disagreeable to Miss Austen, since she is the sister-in-law of a gentleman who is at law with Miss A.'s brother for the greater part of his fortune. You must have remarked how much her stories hinge upon entailed estates--doubtless she has learnt to dislike entails. Her brother was adopted by a Mr. Knight, who left him his name and two much better legacies in an estate of five thousand a year in Kent, and another of nearly double the value in Hampshire; but it seems he forgot some ceremony--passing a fine, I think they call it--with regard to the Hampshire property, which Mr. Baverstock has claimed in right of his mother, together with the mesne rents, and is likely to be successful.[290]
Miss Mitford, indeed, could hardly have done less, after repeating this somewhat spiteful gossip, than mention the hostile quarter from which it arose. We have considered it right to quote part of it, as the writer is an author of some note: but we venture to think that those readers who have accompanied us so far will believe that Jane was guilty of nothing worse than being shy, and talking but little among strangers; and that such strangers as knew something of her literary ability believed, but were quite wrong in believing, that she was taking stock of their peculiarities with a view to introducing them into her next novel.

Jane had now completed the first of three visits which she was to pay to Henry this year, and Cassandra was in London in her place; while the Godmersham party were spending two months at Chawton. The two following letters were written by Jane from Chawton in anticipation of a visit to the Cookes at Bookham. Incidentally, Mr. Cooke's remark (quoted in the first) shows that Mansfield Park was already published. We must not forget, however, that its author had been, since January 1814, deep in the composition of Emma, and she would be sure to use a visit to the neighbourhood of Leatherhead and Box Hill to verify geographical and other details for her new work. Since her fame was fully established, there have been many attempts to identify the locality of Highbury. 'There is a school of serious students who place it at Esher; another band of enthusiasts support Dorking'; but Mr. E. V. Lucas, in his introduction to a recent edition of the novel, prefers the claim of Leatherhead, which, he says, is rightly placed as regards London and Kingston, and not far wrong as regards Box Hill.[291] Near Leatherhead is a house called 'Randalls'; and in 1761 the vestry of the parish paid their thanks 'in the most respectful manner to Mr. Knightley,' who had remodelled the pulpit and reading-desk of the church.[292]

Cobham should be mentioned as another possible alternative, as the distances from London, Richmond, Kingston, and Box Hill suit well.[293] But the most probable supposition of all is that the author purposely avoided identifying it with any one village, while sufficiently defining its position in the county of Surrey.

Chawton: Tuesday [June 14, 1814].

MY DEAREST CASSANDRA,--Fanny takes my mother to Alton this morning, which gives me an opportunity of sending you a few lines without any other trouble than that of writing them.

This is a delightful day in the country, and I hope not much too hot for town. Well, you had a good journey, I trust, and all that, and not rain enough to spoil your bonnet. It appeared so likely to be a wet evening that I went up to the Gt. House between three and four, and dawdled away an hour very comfortably, though Edwd. was not very brisk. The air was clearer in the evening and he was better. We all five walked together into the kitchen garden and along the Gosport road, and they drank tea with us.

The only letter to-day is from Mrs. Cooke to me. They do not leave home till July, and want me to come to them, according to my promise. And, after considering everything, I have resolved on going.

In addition to their standing claims on me they admire Mansfield Park exceedingly. Mr. Cooke says 'it is the most sensible novel he ever read,' and the manner in which I treat the clergy delights them very much. Altogether, I must go, and I want you to join me there when your visit in Henrietta St. is over. Put this into your capacious head.

Take care of yourself, and do not be trampled to death in running after the Emperor.[294] The report in Alton yesterday was that they would certainly travel this road either to or from Portsmouth. I long to know what this bow of the Prince's will produce.

Thursday [June 23].

I heard yesterday from Frank. When he began his letter he hoped to be here on Monday, but before it was ended he had been told that the naval review would not take place till Friday, which would probably occasion him some delay, as he cannot get some necessary business of his own attended to while Portsmouth is in such a bustle. I hope Fanny has seen the Emperor, and then I may fairly wish them all away. I go to-morrow, and hope for some delays and adventures.

* * * * *

Henry at White's! Oh, what a Henry! I do not know what to wish as to Miss B., so I will hold my tongue and my wishes.

* * * * *

We have called upon Miss Dusantoy and Miss Papillon, and been very pretty. Miss D. has a great idea of being Fanny Price--she and her youngest sister together, who is named Fanny.

Yours very affectionately,

Jane's visit to Bookham began on June 24, as soon as the Knights had left Chawton. She was to be away for more than a fortnight, and must have been at Chawton again for a month till the middle of August, when she once more went to join Henry in London. On this occasion she had no rich brother to take her in his carriage, and was forced to come by Yalden's somewhat crowded coach--four inside and fifteen on the top. Henry had moved between June and August, finding a house in his old neighbourhood at 23 Hans Place. Next to him (but separated from him by the entrance to the Pavilion, now the road leading to Pont Street), at No. 22, was the St. Quentins' celebrated school, at which Miss Mitford had been a pupil, as well as Miss Landon and Lady Caroline Lamb.[295] Three doors off, at No. 26, lived Henry's partner, Mr. Tilson, with whom it was possible to converse across the intermediate gardens.

23 Hans Place: Tuesday morning [August, 1814].

MY DEAR CASSANDRA,--I had a very good journey, not crowded, two of the three taken up at Bentley being children, the others of a reasonable size; and they were all very quiet and civil. We were late in London, from being a great load, and from changing coaches at Farnham; it was nearly four, I believe, when we reached Sloane Street. Henry himself met me, and as soon as my trunk and basket could be routed out from all the other trunks and baskets in the world, we were on our way to Hans Place in the luxury of a nice, large, cool, dirty hackney coach.

There were four in the kitchen part of Yalden, and I was told fifteen at top, among them Percy Benn. We met in the same room at Egham, but poor Percy was not in his usual spirits. He would be more chatty, I dare say, in his way from Woolwich. We took up a young Gibson at Holybourn, and, in short, everybody either did come up by Yalden yesterday, or wanted to come up. It put me in mind of my own coach between Edinburgh and Stirling.[296]

* * * * *

It is a delightful place--more than answers my expectation. Having got rid of my unreasonable ideas, I find more space and comfort in the rooms than I had supposed, and the garden is quite a love. I am in the front attic, which is the bedchamber to be preferred.

* * * * *

Wednesday.--I got the willow yesterday, as Henry was not quite ready when I reached Hen^{a.} St. I saw Mr. Hampson there for a moment. He dines here to-morrow and proposed bringing his son; so I must submit to seeing George Hampson, though I had hoped to go through life without it. It was one of my vanities, like your not reading Patronage.

* * * * *

Is not this all that can have happened or been arranged? Not quite. Henry wants me to see more of his Hanwell favourite, and has written to invite her to spend a day or two here with me. His scheme is to fetch her on Saturday. I am more and more convinced that he will marry again soon, and like the idea of her better than of anybody else, at hand.

Yours very truly and affectionately,

Miss Austen, Chawton.
By favour of Mr. Gray.

All through this year and the early part of the next, Emma (begun January 1814, finished March 29, 1815) was assiduously worked at. Although polished to the highest degree, it was more quickly composed than any previous work and gave evidence of a practised hand. It was also the most 'Austenish' of all her novels, carrying out most completely her idea of what was fitted to her tastes and capacities. She enjoyed having a heroine 'whom no one would like but herself,' and working on 'three or four families in a country village.' Emma appeals therefore more exclusively than any of the others to an inner circle of admirers: but such admirers may possibly place it at the head of her compositions. There are no stirring incidents; there is no change of scene. The heroine, whose society we enjoy throughout, never sleeps away from home, and even there sees only so much company as an invalid father can welcome. No character in the book is ill, no one is ruined, there is no villain, and no paragon. On the other hand, the plot is admirably contrived and never halts; while the mysteries--exclusively mysteries of courtship and love--are excellently maintained. Emma never expresses any opinion which is thoroughly sound, and seldom makes any forecast which is not belied by the event, yet we always recognise her acuteness, and she by degrees obtains our sympathy. The book also illustrates to the highest degree the author's power of drawing humorous characters; Miss Bates, Mr. Woodhouse, and Mrs. Elton in the first class, and Harriet Smith in the second. And the humour is always essential to the delineation of character--it is never an excrescence. It also depends more on what is said than on any tricks of speech; there are no catch-words, and every one speaks practically the same excellent English. Besides this, Emma also gives a very good instance of the author's habit of building up her characters almost entirely without formal description, and leaving analysis to her readers.

Her custom of following her creations outside the printed pages enables us to say that the word swept aside unread by Jane Fairfax was 'pardon'; and that the Knightleys' exclusion from Donwell was ended by the death of Mr. Woodhouse in two years' time. According to a less well-known tradition, Jane Fairfax survived her elevation only nine or ten years. Whether the John Knightleys afterwards settled at Hartfield, and whether Frank Churchill married again, may be legitimate subjects for speculation.[297]

Meanwhile, Mansfield Park was selling well, and the idea of a second edition began to be mooted. Writing from Chawton to her niece Fanny on another subject (November 18, 1814), she tells her that the first edition is all sold, and adds:--

Your Uncle Henry is rather wanting me to come to town to settle about a second edition, but as I could not very conveniently leave home now, I have written him my will and pleasure, and, unless he still urges it, shall not go. I am very greedy, and want to make the most of it, but as you are much above caring about money I shall not plague you with any particulars. The pleasures of vanity are more within your comprehension, and you will enter into mine at receiving the praise which every now and then comes to me through some channel or other.

She did, however, leave home; and our next extract is from a letter written to Fanny from 23 Hans Place, and dated November 30:--

Thank you, but it is not yet settled whether I do hazard a second edition. We are to see Egerton to-day, when it will probably be determined. People are more ready to borrow and praise than to buy, which I cannot wonder at; but though I like praise as well as anybody, I like what Edward calls 'Pewter' too.

Apparently, Egerton did not fancy taking the risk; for there was no second edition until 1816, when it appeared from the publishing house of Murray.

Jane's stay in London was a short one; but it included a visit to her niece Anna, who had lately been married to Ben Lefroy, and who was living for the time at Hendon. Early in December, Jane returned home; and three weeks later she and Cassandra set out for a couple of visits: one for a week to Mrs. Heathcote and Miss Bigg in Winchester; the other of longer duration, to their brother at Steventon. Then the curtain is rung down once more, not to be raised till the end of September 1815. During this quiet time, Emma was prepared for the press, and it was no doubt in connexion with its publication that she went to Hans Place on October 4, 1815, for a visit which proved to be much longer and more eventful than the last. For some reason that we are unable to explain, Jane now forsook her former publisher, Mr. Egerton, and put her interests in the charge of the historic house of Murray. She travelled up once more in the company of Henry, who had been paying his mother and sisters a short visit at the cottage. The prolongation of Jane's stay in London to more than a couple of months was caused by Henry's dangerous illness. She gives the news in a letter written to Cassandra and dated Tuesday, October 17:--

. . . What weather we have! What shall we do about it? The 17th October and summer still! Henry is not quite well--a bilious attack with fever. He came back early from Henrietta Street yesterday and went to bed--the comical consequence of which was that Mr. Seymour and I dined together tête-à-tête. He is calomeling, and therefore in a way to be better, and I hope may be well to-morrow.

* * * * *

Wednesday.--Henry's illness is much more serious than I expected. He has been in bed since three o'clock on Monday. It is a fever--something bilious but chiefly inflammatory. I am not alarmed, but I have determined to send this letter to-day by the post, that you may know how things are going on. There is no chance of his being able to leave Town on Saturday. I asked Mr. Haden[298] that question to-day. Mr. H. is the apothecary from the corner of Sloane Street, successor to Mr. Smith, a very young man, said to be clever, and he is certainly very attentive, and appears hitherto to have understood the complaint.

* * * * *

As for myself, you may be sure I shall return as soon as I can. Tuesday is in my brain, but you will feel the uncertainty of it.

* * * * *

You must fancy Henry in the backroom upstairs, and I am generally there also, working or writing.

Even in illness, the interests of Emma were not neglected; and a day or two later Henry was able to dictate the following letter to Mr. Murray:--

DEAR SIR,--Severe illness has confined me to my bed ever since I received yours of y^{e} 15th. I cannot yet hold a pen, and employ an amanuensis. The politeness and perspicuity of your letter equally claim my earliest exertion. Your official opinion of the merits of Emma is very valuable and satisfactory.[299] Though I venture to differ occasionally from your critique, yet I assure you the quantum of your commendation rather exceeds than falls short of the author's expectation and my own. The terms you offer are so very inferior to what we had expected that I am apprehensive of having made some great error in my arithmetical calculation. On the subject of the expence and profit of publishing you must be much better informed than I am, but documents in my possession appear to prove that the sum offered by you for the copyright of Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, and Emma is not equal to the money which my sister has actually cleared by one very moderate edition of Mansfield Park;--(you yourself expressed astonishment that so small an edition of such a work should have been sent into the world)--and a still smaller one of Sense and Sensibility.[300]

Henry, however, became so alarmingly ill that on October 22 Jane dispatched expresses to her brothers and sister, summoning them to London. Mr. Knight left Godmersham for town on the 23rd, but owing to a delay in the delivery of the letter, James Austen did not receive his till the 24th. He rode to Chawton that evening, and the next day he and Cassandra arrived in London. For a time Henry's life was in imminent danger, but after a week's anxiety he was so far on the road to recovery that his two brothers were able to return home, leaving Jane and Cassandra in charge.

It was owing to Jane's untiring exertions at this time that her health began to suffer. One other consequence too, but of a less tragical kind, was due to Henry's illness. The physician that attended him--supplementing, no doubt, Mr. Haden--was one of the Prince Regent's physicians, and he, either knowing or hearing (for it was now an open secret) that Jane Austen was the author of Pride and Prejudice, informed her that the Prince greatly admired her novels, 'that he read them often, and kept a set in every one of his residences; that he himself had thought it right to inform His Royal Highness that Miss Austen was staying in London.' The Prince did not so far condescend as to desire to see Miss Austen in person, but he instructed his librarian, Mr. Clarke, to wait upon her and show her any civility in his power. The result was that on November 13 Jane was shown over the library and other apartments at Carlton House, and in the course of the visit Mr. Clarke announced that if Miss Austen had any other novel forthcoming, she was at liberty to dedicate it to the Prince. We cannot tell what may have been the exact amount of pleasure given to Jane by this piece of information, as Cassandra was at that time also in Hans Place, and there is therefore no letter of Jane to her on the subject. But, at any rate, Jane was loyal enough to wish to do what was right and proper in the circumstances. Consequently, on November 15, we find her writing to Mr. Clarke as follows:--

SIR,--I must take the liberty of asking you a question. Among the many flattering attentions which I received from you at Carlton House on Monday last, was the information of my being at liberty to dedicate any future work to His Royal Highness, the Prince Regent, without the necessity of any solicitation on my part. Such, at least, I believed to be your words; but as I am very anxious to be quite certain of what was intended, I entreat you to have the goodness to inform me how such a permission is to be understood, and whether it is incumbent on me to show my sense of the honour by inscribing the work now in the press to His Royal Highness; I should be equally concerned to appear either presumptuous or ungrateful.

To which Mr. Clarke replied:--

Carlton House: November 16, 1815.

DEAR MADAM,--It is certainly not incumbent on you to dedicate your work now in the press to His Royal Highness; but if you wish to do the Regent that honour either now or at any future period, I am happy to send you that permission, which need not require any more trouble or solicitation on your part.

Your late works, Madam, and in particular Mansfield Park, reflect the highest honour on your genius and your principles. In every new work your mind seems to increase its energy and power of discrimination. The Regent has read and admired all your publications.

Accept my sincere thanks for the pleasure your volumes have given me: in the perusal of them I felt a great inclination to write and say so. And I also, dear Madam, wished to be allowed to ask you to delineate in some future work the habits of life, and character, and enthusiasm of a clergyman, who should pass his time between the metropolis and the country, who should be something like Beattie's Minstrel:--

Silent when glad, affectionate tho' shy,
And now his look was most demurely sad;
And now he laughed aloud, yet none knew why.
Neither Goldsmith, nor La Fontaine in his Tableau de Famille, have in my mind quite delineated an English clergyman, at least of the present day, fond of and entirely engaged in literature, no man's enemy but his own. Pray, dear Madam, think of these things.

Believe me at all times with sincerity and respect,

Your faithful and obliged servant, J. S. CLARKE, Librarian.

P.S.--I am going for about three weeks to Mr. Henry Streatfeild, Chiddingstone, Sevenoaks, but hope on my return to town to have the honour of seeing you again.

On November 17 Henry was sufficiently recovered to address a letter to Mr. John Murray on his sister's behalf. This was followed by a letter from herself on November 23.

Hans Place: Thursday [November 23, 1815].

SIR,--My brother's note last Monday has been so fruitless, that I am afraid there can be but little chance of my writing to any good effect; but yet I am so very much disappointed and vexed by the delays of the printers, that I cannot help begging to know whether there is no hope of their being quickened. Instead of the work being ready by the end of the present month, it will hardly, at the rate we now proceed, be finished by the end of the next; and as I expect to leave London early in December, it is of consequence that no more time should be lost. Is it likely that the printers will be influenced to greater dispatch and punctuality by knowing that the work is to be dedicated, by permission, to the Prince Regent? If you can make that circumstance operate, I shall be very glad. My brother returns Waterloo[301] with many thanks for the loan of it. We have heard much of Scott's account of Paris.[302] If it be not incompatible with other arrangements, would you favour us with it, supposing you have any set already opened? You may depend upon its being in careful hands.

I remain, Sir, your obt. humble Set.,

Meanwhile, as Henry was mending, his brother Edward, who had brought his daughter Fanny up to town, left her as a companion to her Aunt Jane, and escorted Cassandra to Chawton.

Hans Place: Friday [November 24, 1815].

MY DEAREST CASSANDRA,--I have the pleasure of sending you a much better account of my affairs, which I know will be a great delight to you.

I wrote to Mr. Murray yesterday myself, and Henry wrote at the same time to Roworth.[303] Before the notes were out of the house, I received three sheets and an apology from R. We sent the notes, however, and I had a most civil one in reply from Mr. M. He is so very polite, indeed, that it is quite overcoming. The printers have been waiting for paper--the blame is thrown upon the stationer; but he gives his word that I shall have no farther cause for dissatisfaction. He has lent us Miss Williams[304] and Scott, and says that any book of his will always be at my service. In short, I am soothed and complimented into tolerable comfort.

To-morrow Mr. Haden is to dine with us. There is happiness! We really grow so fond of Mr. Haden that I do not know what to expect. He, and Mr. Tilson, and Mr. Philips made up our circle of wits last night; Fanny played, and he sat and listened and suggested improvements, till Richard came in to tell him that 'the doctor was waiting for him at Captn. Blake's'; and then he was off with a speed that you can imagine. He never does appear in the least above his profession, or out of humour with it, or I should think poor Captn. Blake, whoever he is, in a very bad way.

Yours very affectionately,

I have been listening to dreadful insanity. It is Mr. Haden's firm belief that a person not musical is fit for every sort of wickedness. I ventured to assert a little on the other side, but wished the cause in abler hands.

Hans Place: Sunday [November 26, 1815].

I did mention the P. R. in my note to Mr. Murray; it brought me a fine compliment in return. Whether it has done any other good I do not know, but Henry thought it worth trying.

The printers continue to supply me very well. I am advanced in Vol. III. to my arra-root, upon which peculiar style of spelling there is a modest query in the margin. I will not forget Anna's arrowroot. I hope you have told Martha of my first resolution of letting nobody know that I might dedicate, &c., for fear of being obliged to do it, and that she is thoroughly convinced of my being influenced now by nothing but the most mercenary motives.

* * * * *

Then came dinner and Mr. Haden, who brought good manners and clever conversation. From 7 to 8 the harp; at 8 Mrs. L. and Miss E. arrived, and for the rest of the evening the drawing-room was thus arranged: on the sofa side the two ladies, Henry, and myself, making the best of it; on the opposite side Fanny and Mr. Haden, in two chairs (I believe, at least, they had two chairs), talking together uninterruptedly. Fancy the scene! And what is to be fancied next? Why, that Mr. H. dines here again to-morrow. To-day we are to have Mr. Barlow. Mr. H. is reading Mansfield Park for the first time, and prefers it to P. and P.

* * * * *

Fanny has heard all that I have said to you about herself and Mr. H. Thank you very much for the sight of dearest Charles's letter to yourself. How pleasantly and how naturally he writes! and how perfect a picture of his disposition and feelings his style conveys! Poor dear fellow! Not a present! I have a great mind to send him all the twelve copies which were to have been dispersed among my near connections, beginning with the P. R. and ending with Countess Morley. Adieu.

Yours affectionately,

Miss Austen.

Saturday [December 2, 1815].

MY DEAR CASSANDRA,--Henry came back yesterday, and might have returned the day before if he had known as much in time.

* * * * *

I had the comfort of a few lines on Wednesday morning from Henry himself, just after your letter was gone, giving so good an account of his feelings as made me perfectly easy. He met with the utmost care and attention at Hanwell, spent his two days there very quietly and pleasantly, and, being certainly in no respect the worse for going, we may believe that he must be better, as he is quite sure of being himself. To make his return a complete gala Mr. Haden was secured for dinner. I need not say that our evening was agreeable.

But you seem to be under a mistake as to Mr. H. You call him an apothecary. He is no apothecary; he has never been an apothecary; there is not an apothecary in this neighbourhood--the only inconvenience of the situation perhaps--but so it is; we have not a medical man within reach. He is a Haden, nothing but a Haden, a sort of wonderful nondescript creature on two legs, something between a man and an angel, but without the least spice of an apothecary. He is, perhaps, the only person not an apothecary hereabouts. He has never sung to us. He will not sing without a pianoforte accompaniment.

* * * * *

I am sorry my mother has been suffering, and am afraid this exquisite weather is too good to agree with her. I enjoy it all over me, from top to toe, from right to left, longitudinally, perpendicularly, diagonally; and I cannot but selfishly hope we are to have it last till Christmas--nice, unwholesome, unseasonable, relaxing, close, muggy weather.

Yours affectionately,
J. A.

It strikes me that I have no business to give the P. R. a binding, but we will take counsel upon the question.

Two more letters were written by the author to her publisher while the work was in his hands.

On December 11, she writes:--

As I find that Emma is advertised for publication as early as Saturday next, I think it best to lose no time in settling all that remains to be settled on the subject, and adopt this method as involving the smallest tax on your time. . . .

. . . The title-page must be 'Emma, dedicated by permission to H.R.H. the Prince Regent.' And it is my particular wish that one set should be completed and sent to H.R.H. two or three days before the work is generally public. It should be sent under cover to the Rev. J. S. Clarke, Librarian, Carlton House. I shall subjoin a list of those persons to whom I must trouble you to forward also a set each, when the work is out; all unbound with 'From the Authoress' on the first page.[305]

. . . I return also Mansfield Park as ready for a second edition, I believe, as I can make it.[306] I am in Hans Place till the 16th; from that day inclusive, my direction will be Chawton, Alton, Hants.[307]

On receipt of this, Mr. Murray seems to have sent round a note immediately, asking if it really was Miss Austen's wish that the dedication should be placed on the title-page, for we find Jane writing again the same day:--

DEAR SIR,--I am very much obliged by yours, and very happy to feel everything arranged to our mutual satisfaction. As to my direction about the title-page, it was arising from my ignorance only, and from my having never noticed the proper place for a dedication. I thank you for putting me right. Any deviation from what is usually done in such cases is the last thing I should wish for. I feel happy in having a friend to save me from the ill effect of my own blunder.

On December 11, Jane resumed her correspondence with Mr. Clarke:--

DEAR SIR,--My Emma is now so near publication that I feel it right to assure you of my not having forgotten your kind recommendation of an early copy for Carlton House, and that I have Mr. Murray's promise of its being sent to His Royal Highness, under cover to you, three days previous to the work being really out. I must make use of this opportunity to thank you, dear Sir, for the very high praise you bestow on my other novels. I am too vain to wish to convince you that you have praised them beyond their merit. My greatest anxiety at present is that this fourth work should not disgrace what was good in the others. But on this point I will do myself the justice to declare that, whatever may be my wishes for its success, I am very strongly haunted by the idea that to those readers who have preferred Pride and Prejudice it will appear inferior in wit; and to those who have preferred Mansfield Park, very inferior in good sense. Such as it is, however, I hope you will do me the favour of accepting a copy. Mr. Murray will have directions for sending one. I am quite honoured by your thinking me capable of drawing such a clergyman as you gave the sketch of in your note of November 16th. But I assure you I am not. The comic part of the character I might be equal to, but not the good, the enthusiastic, the literary. Such a man's conversation must at times be on subjects of science and philosophy, of which I know nothing; or at least occasionally abundant in quotations and allusions which a woman who, like me, knows only her own mother tongue, and has read little in that, would be totally without the power of giving. A classical education, or at any rate a very extensive acquaintance with English literature, ancient and modern, appears to me quite indispensable for the person who would do any justice to your clergyman; and I think I may boast myself to be, with all possible vanity, the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress.

Believe me, dear Sir,
Your obliged and faithful humbl Sert,

But Mr. Clarke had not finished with his suggestions, for he replied in a few days:--

Carlton House: Thursday [December 1815].

MY DEAR MADAM,--The letter you were so obliging as to do me the honour of sending, was forwarded to me in Kent, where, in a village, Chiddingstone, near Sevenoaks, I had been hiding myself from all bustle and turmoil and getting spirits for a winter campaign, and strength to stand the sharp knives which many a Shylock is wetting [sic] to cut more than a pound of flesh from my heart, on the appearance of James the Second.[308]

On Monday I go to Lord Egremont's at Petworth--where your praises have long been sounded as they ought to be--I shall then look in on the party at the Pavilion[309] for a couple of nights, and return to preach at Park Street Chapel, Green Street, on the Thanksgiving Day.

You were very good to send me Emma, which I have in no respect deserved. It is gone to the Prince Regent. I have read only a few pages, which I very much admired--there is so much nature and excellent description of character in everything you describe. Pray continue to write and make all your friends send sketches to help you--and Mémoires pour servir, as the French term it. Do let us have an English clergyman after your fancy--much novelty may be introduced--show, dear Madam, what good would be done if tythes were taken away entirely, and describe him burying his own mother, as I did, because the High Priest of the Parish in which she died did not pay her remains the respect he ought to do. I have never recovered the shock. Carry your clergyman to sea as the friend of some distinguished naval character about a Court, you can then bring forward, like Le Sage, many interesting scenes of character and interest.

But forgive me, I cannot write to you without wishing to elicit your genius, and I fear I cannot do that without trespassing on your patience and good nature.

I have desired Mr. Murray to procure, if he can, two little works I ventured to publish from being at sea--sermons which I wrote and preached on the ocean, and the edition which I published of Falconer's Shipwreck.[310]

Pray, dear Madam, remember that beside my cell at Carlton House, I have another which Dr. Barne procured for me at No. 37 Golden Square, where I often hide myself. There is a small library there much at your service, and if you can make the cell render you any service as a sort of halfway house when you come to Town, I shall be most happy. There is a maid servant of mine always there.

I hope to have the honour of sending you James the Second when it reaches a second edition, as some few notes may possibly be then added.

Yours, dear Madam, very sincerely,

It is evident that what the writer of the above letter chiefly desired, was that Jane Austen should depict a clergyman who should resemble no one so much as the Rev. J. S. Clarke. This is borne out again in a further letter in which Mr. Clarke expressed the somewhat tardy thanks of his Royal master.

Pavilion: March 27, 1816.

DEAR MISS AUSTEN,--I have to return you the thanks of His Royal Highness, the Prince Regent, for the handsome copy you sent him of your last excellent novel. Pray, dear Madam, soon write again and again. Lord St. Helens and many of the nobility, who have been staying here, paid you the just tribute of their praise.

The Prince Regent has just left us for London; and having been pleased to appoint me Chaplain and Private English Secretary to the Prince of Cobourg, I remain here with His Serene Highness and a select party until the marriage. Perhaps when you again appear in print you may chuse to dedicate your volumes to Prince Leopold: any historical romance, illustrative of the history of the august House of Cobourg, would just now be very interesting.

Believe me at all times,
Dear Miss Austen,
Your obliged friend,

Jane's sensible reply put an end to any further suggestions:--

MY DEAR SIR,--I am honoured by the Prince's thanks and very much obliged to yourself for the kind manner in which you mention the work. I have also to acknowledge a former letter forwarded to me from Hans Place. I assure you I felt very grateful for the friendly tenor of it, and hope my silence will have been considered, as it was truly meant, to proceed only from an unwillingness to tax your time with idle thanks. Under every interesting circumstance which your own talent and literary labours have placed you in, or the favour of the Regent bestowed, you have my best wishes. Your recent appointments I hope are a step to something still better. In my opinion, the service of a court can hardly be too well paid, for immense must be the sacrifice of time and feeling required by it.

You are very, very kind in your hints as to the sort of composition which might recommend me at present, and I am fully sensible that an historical romance, founded on the House of Saxe Cobourg, might be much more to the purpose of profit or popularity than such pictures of domestic life in country villages as I deal in. But I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or at other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter. No, I must keep to my own style and go on in my own way, and though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other.

I remain, my dear Sir,
Your very much obliged, and sincere friend,

Chawton, near Alton, April 1, 1816.


[288] Chawton Manor and its Owners, p. 171.

[289] Page 84.

[290] Life of Mary Russell Mitford, by the Rev. A. G. L'Estrange (Bentley, 1870). We ought to add that Miss Mitford's admiration increased with time. Thus, in August 1816, she speaks of Emma 'the best, I think, of all her charming works'; and, at a later date, of her 'exquisite' Persuasion. In September 1817 she mentions her death as a 'terrible loss'; and a year afterwards, calls her 'our dear Miss Austen.'

[291] Box Hill, however, was seven miles from Highbury, whereas it is only three miles from Leatherhead.

[292] Highways and Byways in Surrey, by Eric Parker.

[293] In support of Cobham, it has been suggested that in chapter xi., where mention is made of this village, the author had forgotten to alter the name to Highbury. Jane knew Cobham as a halting-place on the way from Chawton to London (p. 292). Bookham is another possible claimant.

[294] Emperor of Russia, who with the King of Prussia was then visiting England.

[295] See p. 26.

[296] A visit of Jane to Scotland, of which no record is left in family tradition, is so improbable that we must imagine her to be referring to some joke, or possibly some forgotten tale of her own.

[297] One of our author's few inaccuracies is to be found in chapter xlii., where an 'orchard in blossom' is made to coincide with ripe strawberries. When her brother Edward next saw her, he said 'Jane, I wish you would tell me where you get those apple-trees of yours that come into bloom in July!' W. H. Pollock's Jane Austen, etc., pp. 90-91.

[298] No doubt the father of Sir Seymour Haden, and the introducer into England of the stethoscope. He lived at the corner of Hans Street and Sloane Street.

[299] Mr. Murray's 'reader' on this occasion was evidently William Gifford, the editor of the Quarterly Review, who writes under date Sept. 29, 1815: 'Of Emma I have nothing but good to say. I was sure of the writer before you mentioned her. The MS. though plainly written has yet some, indeed many little omissions, and an expression may now and then be amended in passing through the press. I will readily undertake the revision.' Memoir of John Murray by Samuel Smiles (1891), vol. i. p. 282.

[300] The present Mr. John Murray kindly informs us that the original edition of Emma consisted of 2000 copies, of which 1250 were sold within a year.

[301] (?) The Field of Waterloo, by Sir Walter Scott.

[302] Paul's Letters to his Kinsfolk; or possibly John Scott's Paris Revisited in 1815.

[303] The printer.

[304] A narrative of the events which have lately taken place in France, by Helen Maria Williams. London, 1815.

[305] These included a set to Miss Edgeworth (Life and Letters of Maria Edgeworth, edited by A. J. C. Hare (1894), vol. i. p. 235), and another to Lady Morley, a clever woman, to whom Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice had at one time been ascribed (Life of M. R. Mitford, by the Rev. A. G. L'Estrange, vol. i. p. 241).

[306] Unfortunately, most of the worst misprints remained in the new edition, while certain new ones were added.

[307] Memoir, pp. 122-4.

[308] Life of King James II, from the Stuart MSS. in Carlton House, published 1816.

[309] At Brighton.

[310] Published, 1804.