Jane Austen and Her Times
Chapter 10 - A Trio of Novels
When Jane returned home in October, after her pleasant visit to Godmersham, she began her first real novel. She was then nearly twenty-one, and the girlish scribblings in which she had delighted began to be shaped into something more coherent. This very visit, with all its bright intercourse, all its pleasant variety,for she had been thrown among a set of county people of better social standing than those she usually saw, may have quickened the germ, and been the cause of her development. The book was at first called First Imnpressions, and under this title she herself frequently refers to it; but some time later she re-christened it by the name under which it was published.
The idea that the name Pride and Prejudice was suggested by some sentences at the end of Cecilia has been mooted, and though arguments against this supposition have been found, it appears extremely probable. For in Cecilia it is declared, "The whole of this unfortunate affair has been the result of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE," which last words are repeated twice on the same page, each time in large type so that they catch the eye. Cecilia itself might well have borne this title in reference to the pride and prejudice of the Delvile family. The book was published in 1786, and we know that Jane had a great admiration for Miss Burney's work. In rereading it some time subsequently it may very easily have struck her that "Pride and Prejudice" was an improvement on her own more common-place title, and there was nothing to prevent her adopting it. The repetition of two striking qualities and the alliteration may further have given rise to Sense and Sensibility, which also replaced an earlier title of Elinor and Marianne.
Pride and Prejudice was apparently written solely to gratify the instincts of the writer, without any thought of publication. But after it was completed, a year later, November 1797, Jane's father wrote for her to the well-known publisher Cadell as follows:--
"SIR,--I have in my possession a manuscript novel comprising 3 vols. about the length of Miss Burney's Evelina. As I am well aware of what consequence it is that a work of this sort should make its first appearance under a respectable name, I apply to you. I shall be much obliged therefore if you will inform me whether you choose to be concerned in it, what will be the expense of publishing it at the author's risk, and what you will venture to advance for the property of it, if on perusal it is approved of. Should you give any encouragement I will send you the work."This proposal, modest as it is, was rejected by return of post. One would have thought that the success of Miss Burney's books would have made a leading publisher anxious to look at a work on similar lines, but no--Pride and Prejudice was destined not to be published until 1813, sixteen years later!
As we have said, it is unanimously accorded the premier place amongst Jane Austen's novels, partly because it is full of that brilliancy and sparkle which are its author's greatest characteristics, and partly because of the inimitable character of Elizabeth Bennet, whose combined archness and intelligence captivate everyone. Elizabeth is the embodiment of the heroine so many authors have tried to draw. Witty without being pert, having a reasonable conceit of herself without vanity, and a natural gaiety of heart that makes her altogether lovable. Whether she is repelling the patronage of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, or chaffing the sombre Darcy, she is equally delightful. Her first scene with Lady Catherine embodies much character--
"'Are any of your younger sisters out, Miss Bennet?'And again, when Lady Catherine comes to ask if the report of her nephew's engagement to Elizabeth is true.
"'Yes, Ma'am, all.'
"'All! What, all five out at once? Very odd! And you only the second. The younger ones out before the elder are married! Your younger sisters must be very young?'
"'Yes, the youngest is not sixteen. Perhaps she is full young to be much in company. But really, Ma'am, I think it would be very hard upon younger sisters that they should not have their share of society and amusement, because the elder may not have the means or inclination to marry early. The last born has as good a right to the pleasures of youth as the first. And to be kept back on such a motive! I think it would not be very likely to promote sisterly affection or delicacy of mind.'
"'Upon my word,' said her Ladyship, 'you give your opinion very decidedly for so young a person. Pray what is your age?'
"'With three younger sisters grown up,' replied Elizabeth, smiling, 'your Ladyship can hardly expect me to own it.'"
"'If you believed it impossible to be true,' said Elizabeth, colouring with astonishment and disdain, 'I wonder you took the trouble of coming so far. What could your Ladyship propose by it?'Her verbal encounters with Darcy are equally characteristic.
"'At once to insist on having such a report universally contradicted.'
"'Your coming to Longbourn to see me and my family,' said Elizabeth coolly, 'will be rather a confirmation of it; if, indeed, such a report is in existence.'
"'If! Do you then pretend to be ignorant of it? Has it not been industriously circulated by yourselves? Do you not know that such a report is spread abroad?'
"'I never heard that it was.'
"'And can you likewise declare there is no foundation for it?'
"'I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your Ladyship. You may ask questions which I shall not choose to answer.'
"'This is not to be borne, Miss Bennet, I insist on being satisfied. Has he, has my nephew, made you an offer of marriage?'
"'Your Ladyship has declared it to be impossible.'"
"Elizabeth turned away to hide a smile.Darcy, by the way, is one of the least attractive of the principal men characters. It is inconceivable that any man with the remotest pretension to gentlemanly feeling should say, even to himself, much less aloud in a ball-room, on having his attention called to a young girl sitting out: "'Which do you mean?' and, turning round, he looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till, catching her eye, he withdrew his own, and coldly said,-- 'She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.'"
"'Your examination of Mr. Darcy is over, I presume?' said Miss Bingley, 'and pray what is the result?'
"'I am perefectly convinced by it that Mr. Darcy has no defect. He owns it himself without disguise.'
"'No,' said Darcy, 'I have made no such pretension. I have faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding. My temper I dare not vouch for. It is, I believe, too little yielding; certainly too little for the convenience of the world. I cannot forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offences against myself. My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move them. My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion once lost is lost for ever.'
"'That is a failing indeed,' cried Elizabeth. 'Implacable resentment is a shade in a character. Rut you have chosen your fault well. I really cannot laugh at it. You are safe from me.'
"'There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.'
"'And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody.'
"'And yours,' he replied with a smile, 'Is wilfully to misunderstand them.'"
Indeed, Darcy's whole character is so averse from anything usually associated with the word gentleman, that one wonders where Miss Austen found her prototype. Possibly he was one of the few characters for which she drew entirely on her imagination. In saying this there is no innuendo that in other cases she drew straight from the life; it is, I believe, very few novelists who ever wish to do such a thing, but it is certainly true, and everyone who has attempted fiction knows it, that nearly every character in a life-like book has some prototype in real life, some man or woman who gave the first indication of a certain character; the personality may be altered entirely, it may be only one small quality which is derived from the prototype, but it is nevertheless that person who brought that particular character into existence. So far as we know there was no haughty, self-satisfied man of the world in Jane Austen's list of acquaintances.
It is true that Darcy is represented as behaving much better when his pride has been bitterly stung by Elizabeth's rejection of him, but it is hard to believe that a man, such as he is at first represented, could have had sufficient good in him to change his character completely as the effect of love.
To show how entirely opinions differ it is amusing to quote some of the remarks of Miss Mitford, who wrote in 1814, the year after the publication of Pride and Prejudice: "The want of elegance is almost the only want in Miss Austen. I have not read her Mansfield Park but it is impossible not to feel in every line of Pride and Prejudice, in every word of Elizabeth, the entire want of taste which could produce so pert, so worldly a heroine as the beloved of such a man as Darcy. Wickham is equally bad. Oh, they were just fit for each other, and I cannot forgive that delightful Darcy for parting them. Darcy should have married Jane. He is of all the admirable characters the best designed and the best sustained. I quite agree with you in preferring Miss Austen to Miss Edgeworth. If the former had a little more taste, a little more perception of the graceful, as well as of the humorous, I know not indeed anyone to whom I should not prefer her. There is none of the hardness, the cold selfishness, of Miss Edgeworth about her writings; she is in a much better humour with the world; she preaches no sermons; she wants nothing but the beau ideal of the female character to be a perfect novel writer!'
Miss Mitford would no doubt have preferred as a heroine the elegant languishing female, without any of the savour of originality about her, who was the stereotyped heroine of most works of fiction at that time.
Sir Walter Scott in the Quarterly Review of 1815 makes the base insinuation that Elizabeth having refused Darcy "does not perceive that she has done a foolish thing, until she accidentally visits a very handsome seat and grounds belonging to her admirer."
We are sure from what we know of Lizzie, that this is quite unfounded. Had she been liable to any undue influence of that sort, she would have accepted Darcy at the first, for she knew very well all about his position and estates from the beginning. That she had the courage and good sense to snub him speaks much more forcibly for her character than a like action on the part of any girl similarly circumstanced would do now. For then a position gained by marriage was the only one a woman could hope for, and such chances were few and far between when, as we have seen, men were desperately prudent in their matrimonial affairs, and looked on marriage more as a well considered and suitable monetary alliance than as a love match, though perhaps the actual person of the woman was not always such a matter of perfect indifference to them as it seems to have been to the writer of the following contemporary letter:--
"I thank you with ye utmost Gratitude for ye good offices you was to have done me; and though I cannot now for Reasons above specifyd accept of them, yet I hope they will still continue in Reversion: not that I have any schemes for ever resuming my Designs upon Miss A.: (on ye contrary I should be very loth she should wait so long) but because whenever my Time is come You are ye first person I should apply to, as having a good Number of Friends and Correspondents; and none who are priviledged with ye Intimacy of Mrs. Jennings can fail of Accomplishments to render them highly agreable to your most obedient servant." (A Kentish Country House.)The character of the solemn, pompous, thick-skinned Mr. Collins is the best of the kind Jane ever drew; he is a creation whose name might signify a quality of "collinesqueness."
Perhaps within the limits possible for quotation there is nothing which in so short a space sums up so well his inimitable character as the letter of condolence he sends to Mr. Bennet on the occasion of Lydia's having eloped with the weak and untrustworthy Wickham. "I feel myself called upon by our relationship and my situation in life, to condole with you on the grievous affliction you are now suffering under, of which we were yesterday informed by a letter from Hertfordshire. Be assured, my dear sir, that Mrs. Collins and myself sincerely sympathise with you, and all your respectable family, in your present distress, which must be of the bitterest kind, because proceeding from a cause which no time can remove. No arguments shall be wanting on my part, that can alleviate so severe a misfortune; or that can comfort you under a circumstance that must be of all others, most afflicting to a parent's mind. The death of your daughter would have been a blessing in comparison of this. And it is the more to be lamented, because there is reason to suppose, as my dear Charlotte informs me, that this licentiousness of behaviour in your daughter has proceeded from a faulty degree of indulgence; though, at the same time, for the consolation of yourself and Mrs. Bennet, I am inclined to think that her own disposition must be naturally bad, or she could not be guilty of such an enormity, at so early an age. This false step in one daughter will be injurious to the fortunes of all the others; for who, as Lady Catherine herself condescendingly says, will connect themselves with such a family? And this consideration leads me to reflect, with augmented satisfaction on a certain event of last November, for had it been otherwise I must have been involved in all your sorrow and disgrace. Let me advise you then, my dear sir, to console yourself as much as possible, to throw off your unworthy child from your affection for ever, and leave her to reap the fruits of her own heinous offence."
Jane's own impressions of Pride and Prejudice are given in a letter to her sister, written many years later, on the publication of the book--
"Miss B. dined with us on the very day of the book's coming, and in the evening we fairly set at it and read half the first vol. to her. . . . She was amused, poor soul! That she could not help you know, with two such people to lead the way, but she really does seem to admire Elizabeth. I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her I do not know. There are a few typical errors; and a 'said he' or a 'said she' would sometimes make the dialogue more immediately clear; but 'I do not write for such dull elves' as have not a great deal of ingenuity themselves. . . . Our second evening's reading to Miss B. had not pleased me so well, but I believe something must be attributed to my mother's too rapid way of getting on: though she perfectly understands the characters herself, she cannot speak as they ought. Upon the whole, however, I am quite vain enough and well satisfied enough. The work is rather too light and bright and sparkling; it wants shade, it wants to be stretched out here and there with a long chapter of sense if it could be had; if not, of solemn specious nonsense, about something unconnected with the story; an essay on writing, a critique on Walter Scott or the history of Buonaparte or something that would form a contrast, and bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness and epigrammatism of the general style."And later, in reference to the same subject, she writes--
"I am exceedingly pleased that you can say what you do, after having gone through the whole work, and Fanny's praise is very gratifying. My hopes were tolerably strong of her; but nothing like a certainty. Her liking Darcy and Elizabeth is enough. She might hate all the others if she would." (Mr. Austen-Leigh's Memoir.)The fact that Jane felt the extreme brilliancy and lightness of her own work shows that the critical faculty was active in her, but as for wishing to do away with it in order to bring the book more into conformity with the heavily padded novels of the time, that of course is pure nonsense.
After only the lapse of a month or two from the completion of First Impressions, Jane began on Sense and Sensibility, which she at first called Elinor and Marianne, and which, in the form of letters, had been written long before; probably, if the truth were known, this might be called her first long story, and it was in any case the first published. The story in letters has been wittily described as the "most natural but the most improbable" form; and certainly, though this style of novel had a brief renewal of popularity a year or two ago, it is one that is aggravating to most readers, and requires many clumsy expedients to fill in gaps in order to make the story hang together connectedly. Miss Burney had employed it with good effect in Evelina, but even here the story would have run much better told straightforwardly. In any case Jane was well advised to abandon this form. The novel was finished in 1798 but not published until 1811.
Sense and Sensibility, though it has never been placed first in position among Jane Austen's novels, has been accounted second by many people. The two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, who represent Sense and excessive Sensibility, are finely sketched. In this book the fact that Jane Austen's leading men are not equal to her leading women is clearly exemplified. Mr. Austin Dobson speaks of the "colourless Edward Ferrars and stiff-jointed Colonel Brandon," and the epithets are well deserved. We might add the selfish and unchivalrous Willoughby, for here may be noted a defect not uncommon in women-writers, an inability to grasp the code belonging to gentlemanly conduct. This is noticeable in the behaviour ascribed to Darcy in Pride and Prejudice already mentioned, but it is worse in the case of Willoughby, who is supposed to be brilliant, charming, and a gentleman, even though he acts badly by Marianne. His long explanation with Elinor, when Marianne lies on a sick-bed, and he himself is married, is supposed to atone for his bad behaviour; at all events it is made to exonerate him in Elinor's eyes, whereas, far from exonerating him in the eyes of any ordinary person, it shows him in a worse light than anything that has preceded.
It is only a scoundral or cad of the weakest sort who speaks slightingly of his wife, though unfortunately the code for women is different, and many a woman "gives away" her husband on small enough grounds. Yet in spite of one of the most stringent and least frequently infringed rules of manly conduct, we find Willoughby debasement in his saying, apparently without creator's eyes--
"With my hand and heart full of your sister, I was forced to play the happy lover to another woman, . . . Marianne, beautiful as an angel, on one side Sophia, jealous as the devil, on the other hand.'" He then goes on to say that the letter sent in his name, which had cut poor Marianne to the heart, was dictated by his wife. "What do you think of my wife's style of letter writing--delicate-tender-truly feminine--was it not'" and in excuse for his marriage, "In honest words her money was necessary to me.'"After this even Elinor feels bound to rebuke him, saying: "'You have made your own choice. It was not forced on you. Your wife has a claim to your politeness, to your respect, at least.'
"'Do not talk to me of my wife,'" he replies. "'She does not deserve your compassion. She knew I had no regard for her when we married.'"
In this book also there is a serious blot of another sort, a violation of probabilities, which suffices to score a heavy mark against it. In Pride and Prejudice there is certainly improbability in the fact that two portionless girls like Jane and Elizabeth Bennet should find such husbands as Bingley and Darcy, but the improbability is lessened by the fact that the pair of men were friends, and so one match contributes to the other; but in Sense nnd Sensibility the weak subterfuge for getting rid of Lucy Price, to whom Edward holds himself in honour bound, is hardly credible. There is no rational explanation of the obliging conduct of Robert Ferrars, Edward's brother; to make a man so vain and selfish marry a woman who could bring him nothing, and whose charms were not great, is a poor means of escaping from an undesirable deadlock.
There remain a few other points for comment. We have in Mrs. Dashwood one of the silly though fond mothers that Jane Austen delights to describe. In Mrs. Jennings we have the comic relief, not so clever as that supplied by Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice or by Miss Bates in Emma. A little too coarse for many people, but still true enough to the times, when the fact of a man's paying any attention to a girl at all was sufficient to make the gossips discuss their marriage and settlement in life with all openness.
The second chapter, often quoted, is one of the finest scenes in the whole book; here John Dashwood, mindful of his promise to his dying father, suggests giving each of his sisters a portion of one thousand pounds out of the magnificent estate which has come to him under the entail, but by the insidious arguments of his wife he at last settles it with his conscience to afford them such assistance "as looking out for a comfortable small house for them, helping them to move their things, and sending them presents of fish and game and so forth, whenever they are in season."
The cottage in which the Dashwoods were installed at Barton seems greatly to have resembled the cottage at Chaqton. "As a house, Barton Cottage, though small, was comfortable and compact; but as a cottage it was defective, for the building was regular, the roof was tiled, the window-shutters were not painted green, nor were the walls covered with honeysuckles. A narrow passage led directly through the house into the garden behind. On each side of the entrance was a sitting-room about sixteen feet square and beyond them were the offices and the stairs. Four bedrooms and two garrets formed the rest of the house. It had not been built many years and was in good repair." But as Sense and Sensibility was written long before Jane went to live at Chawton, it is possible this account of the cottage was interpolated later, perhaps when she revised the book for publication in 1811.
On the whole, though interesting enough, Sense and Sensibility does not take very high rank among the novels. Northanger Abbey was begun in 1795, soon after the completion of Sense and Sensibility, and, unlike its predecessors, it does not seem to have been based on existing MSS., but to have been written as we now have it, though the writing was spread over a long period. It is the one of all Miss Austen's novels about which opinions differ most. It was written avowedly as a skit on the romantic school, whose high priestess was Mrs. Radcliffe; but, as Mr. Austin Dobson says: "The ironical treatment is not always apparent, and there are indications that, as often happens, the author's growing interest in the characters diverts her from her purpose." This is true enough, and the book certainly improves in consequence as it goes on, for at first it is sententious, and the author talks aside to her readers and explains her characters in a way that she does nowhere else. Archbishop Whateley remarks that it is "decidedly inferior to her other works--yet the same kind of excellences that characterise the other novels may be perceived in this to a degree which would have been highly creditable to most other writers of the same school, and which would have entitled the author to considerable praise had she written nothing better."
The scene of Northanger Abbey is laid in Bath, and it is easy to see how very well acquainted not only with the topography, but with the manners of Bath, Jane was. The chattering and running to and fro from Pump rooms to Upper or Lower Assembly rooms, the continual meetings, and the saunterings in the streets, with all the affected or real gaiety, and the magnifying of trifles, are cleverly sketched in the earlier part of the book. The sincere but foolish little heroine, with her contrast to and intense admiration for her silly and selfish friend, Isabella Thorpe, is a life-like figure. Her mother is one of the very few elderly ladies who are allowed to be sensible in Jane's books, and she comes in so little as to be a very minor figure.
The account of Bath society is one of the Principal features of the book, another is that it abounds, perhaps more than any of the rest, in those three or four line summaries which express so admirably reflections, situations, and characters. Mrs. Thorpe's "eldest daughter has great personal beauty; and the younger ones by pretending to be as handsome as their sister, imitating her air, and dressing in the same style, did very well." "Mrs. Allen was now quite happy, quite satisfied with Bath. She had found some acquaintance--and as the completion of good fortune, had found these friends by no means so expensively dressed as herself." "Her [Catherine's] whole family were plain matter of fact people, who seldom aimed at wit of any kind; her father at the utmost being contented with a pun, and her mother with a proverb."
"The advantages of natural folly in a beautiful girl have been already set forth by the capital pen of a sister author, and to her treatment of the subject I will only add, in justice to men, that though, to the larger and more trifling part of the sex, imbecility in females is a great enhancement of their personal charms, there is a portion of them too reasonable, and too well informed themselves to desire anything more in woman than ignorance."
The rattle-pate Miss Thorpe is sketched with particular care, and if we may judge from other contemporary novels, including Cecilia, this was by no means an uncommon type at that day. Her conversation with Catherine on the novels she had read is worth giving at length. She asks: "'Have you gone on with Udolpho?'
"'Yes, I have been reading it ever since I woke; and I am got to the black veil.'Perhaps Northanger Abbey may be described as the book which real Austenites appreciate most, but which the casual reader does not admire. The story is not interesting, the simplicity of Catherine rather irritating than attractive, and it is the form and the flashes of insight in the book that make it so enjoyable.
"'Are you indeed? How delightful! Oh, I would not tell you what is behind the black veil for the world! Are not you wild to know?' "'Oh yes, quite! what can it be? But do not tell me, I would not be told on any account. I know it must be a skeleton, I am sure it is Laurentina's skeleton! Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it, I assure you; if it had not been to meet you I would not have come away from it for all the world.'
"'Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.'
"'Have you indeed? How glad I am! Where are they all?'
"'I will read you their names directly, here they are in my pocket-book. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.'
"Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?'
"'Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine-- a Miss Andrews--a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them. I wish you knew Miss Andrews, you would be delighted with her. She is netting herself the sweetest cloak you can conceive. I think her as beautiful as an angel, and I am so vexed with the men for not admiring her! I scold them all amazingly for it.'
"Scold them! Do you scold them for not admiring her ?' "Yes, that I do. There is nothing I would not do for those who really are my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature. My attachments are always excessively strong. I told Captain Hunt at one of our assemblies this winter, that if he was to tease me all night, I would not dance with him unless he would allow Miss Andrews to be as beautiful as an angel. The men think us incapable of real friendship you know, and I am determined to show them the difference.'"
And shortly after she exclaims, "For Heaven's sake! let us move away from this end of the room. Do you know there are two odious young men who have been staring at me this half hour. They really put me quite out of countenance! Let us go and look at the arrivals, they will hardly follow us there.'
"In a few moments Catherine with unaffected pleasure assured her that she need not be any longer uneasy, as the gentlemen had just left the Pump room.
"'And which way are they gone?' said Isabella, turning hastily round. 'One was a very good-looking young man.'
"'They went towards the churchyard.'
"Well, I am amazingly glad I have got rid of them! And now, what say you to going to Edgar's Buildings with me and looking at my new hat? You said you should like to see it.'
"Catherine readily agreed. 'Only,' she added, 'perhaps we may overtake the two young men.'
"Oh! never mind that! If we make haste we shall pass by them presently, and I am dying to show you my hat.
"'But if we only wait a few minutes there will be no danger of our seeing them at all.'
"'I shall not pay them ally such compliment, I assure you. I have no notion of treating men with such respect. That is the way to spoil them.'
"Catherine had nothing to oppose against such reasoning, and therefore to show the independence of Miss Thorpe and her resolution of humbling the sex, they set off immediately as fast as they could walk in pursuit of the two young men."
The writing, though begun in 1798, spread over a long period, for the book was not finished until 1803, by which time Jane herself was settled in Bath. It was then offered to a Bath bookseller, the equivalent of a publisher in our day. He gave ten pounds for it, probably because of the local colour, but evidently after reading it he found it lacked that melodramatic flavour to which he was accustomed; and it is also highly probable that he did not at all comprehend the delightful flavour of irony. The book remained with him, luckily in safety, until thirteen years had passed, when it was bought back by Henry Austen on his sister's account for the same sum that had been given for it. When the transaction had been completed he told the bookseller that it was by the author of Sense and Sensibility, which had attracted much attention, whereat the man must have experienced the regret he deserved to feel, as he had missed the honour of introducing Jane to the public, a, honour that would have linked genius.
The book did not appear until 1818, when the author was in her grave, and it was the first to bear her name on the title-page. It was published in one volume with the last of her writings, Persuasion.In a preface written before her death, she says of Northanger Abbey--Thirteen years have made it "comparatively obsolete, places, manners, books, and opinions have undergone considerable changes." It is evident, therefore, she did not attempt to bring it up to date. This preface is prefixed to the first edition, as is also the biographical Memoir by her brother which has already been referred to.
The few closing years of the eighteenth century, the last spent at Steventon, while these three works were in hand, must have been bright ones to Jane; she had found an outlet for all the vivacious humour that was in her, and must have lived in the world of fancy with her characters, which were all very real to her, quite as much as in the material world.
At this time her eldest brother James was living not far off, and on November 8, 1796, his wife had become the mother of a boy, named Edward. It was he who afterwards took the additional name to that of Austen, and who published the Memoir of Jane Austen from which we have already drawn so much interesting detail. How little could Jane have dreamt that night when her brother sent over a note to tell her of the child's safe arrival in the world, that more than a hundred years later the work of that boy, describing her as one of the world's famous authoresses, would be read eagerly. It was only the preceding month that she had begun to work on the first of her delightful books. When she went to see the new baby she was allowed a glimpse of him while he was asleep, and was told that his eyes were "large, dark, and handsome." What a subject for a picture! She in her girlishness, quaintly dressed, bending over the cot of the infant, quite as unconscious of all that was to come as even the baby itself!
This text was originally digitized by Catherine Dean for her "Jane Austen E-Texts, Etc." website, and is archived at Molland's with Ms. Dean's permission.