Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition
Letters to her sister Cassandra Austen, 1807

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THERE are no letters of 1806, so that this batch were written after the Austens had been established at Southampton for more than a year. "Our guests" in the thirty-sixth letter were James and Mary, who had been staying with their relations in Castle Square. There is little to observe in the rest of the letter, although one is glad to find that Captain Foote was not put out of temper by having to eat underdone mutton, and that Mrs. Austen's finances were in a satisfactory condition at the commencement of the new year.

"Clarentine" is, of course, Miss S. S. Burney's work, which other people besides Jane have thought "foolish." It is a novel of the most ordinary description, and not one which she would have been likely to approve. There is a playful allusion in these letters to the chance of Martha Lloyd's marriage; Jane could not foresee that this even would be delayed until her own brother Frank sought the lady's affection many years later.


Southampton: Wednesday (January 7).


You were mistaken in supposing I should expect your letter on Sunday; I had no idea of hearing from you before Tuesday, and my pleasure yesterday was therefore unhurt by any previous disappointment. I thank you for writing so much; you must really have sent me the value of two letters in one. We are extremely glad to hear that Elizabeth is so much better, and hope you will be sensible of still further amendment in her when you return from Canterbury.

Of your visit there I must now speak "incessantly"; it surprises, but pleases me more, and I consider it as a very just and honourable distinction of you, and not less to the credit of Mrs. Knight. I have no doubt of your spending your time with her most pleasantly in quiet and rational conversation, and am so far from thinking her expectations of you will be deceived, that my only fear is of your being so agreeable, so much to her taste, as to make her wish to keep you with her for ever. If that should be the case, we must remove to Canterbury, which I should not like so well as Southampton.

When you receive this, our guests will be all gone or going; and I shall be left to the comfortable disposal of my time, to ease of mind from the torments of rice puddings and apple dumplings, and probably to regret that I did not take more pains to please them all.

Mrs. J. Austen has asked me to return with her to Steventon; I need not give my answer; and she has invited my mother to spend there the time of Mrs. F. A.'s confinement, which she seems half inclined to do.

A few days ago I had a letter from Miss Irvine, and as I was in her debt, you will guess it to be a remonstrance, not a very severe one, however; the first page is in her usual retrospective, jealous, inconsistent style, but the remainder is chatty and harmless. She supposes my silence may have proceeded from resentment of her not having written to inquire particularly after my hooping cough, &c. She is a funny one.

I have answered her letter, and have endeavoured to give something like the truth with as little incivility as I could, by placing my silence to the want of subject in the very quiet way in which we live. Phebe has repented, and stays. I have also written to Charles, and I answered Miss Buller's letter by return of post, as I intended to tell you in my last.

Two or three things I recollected when it was too late, that I might have told you; one is, that the Welbys have lost their eldest son by a putrid fever at Eton, and another that Tom Chute is going to settle in Norfolk.

You have scarcely ever mentioned Lizzy since your being at Godmersham. I hope it is not because she is altered for the worse.

I cannot yet satisfy Fanny as to Mrs. Foote's baby's name, and I must not encourage her to expect a good one, as Captain Foote is a professed adversary to all but the plainest; he likes only Mary, Elizabeth, Anne, &c. Our best chance is of "Caroline," which in compliment to a sister seems the only exception.

He dined with us on Friday, and I fear will not soon venture again, for the strength of our dinner was a boiled leg of mutton, underdone even for James; and Captain Foote has a particular dislike to underdone mutton, but he was so good-humoured and pleasant that I did not much mind his being starved. He gives us all the most cordial invitation to his house in the country, saying just what the Williams ought to say to make us welcome. Of them we have seen nothing since you left us, and we hear that they are just gone to Bath again, to be out of the way of further alterations at Brooklands.

Mrs. F. A. has had a very agreeable letter from Mrs. Dickson, who was delighted with the purse, and desires her not to provide herself with a christening dress, which is exactly what her young correspondent wanted; and she means to defer making any of the caps as long as she can, in hope of having Mrs. D.'s present in time to be serviceable as a pattern. She desires me to tell you that the gowns were cut out before your letter arrived, but that they are long enough for Caroline. The Beds, as I believe they are called, have fallen to Frank's share to continue, and of course are cut out to admiration.

"Alphonsine" did not do. We were disgusted in twenty pages, as, independent of a bad translation, it has indelicacies which disgrace a pen hitherto so pure; and we changed it for the "Female Quixotte," which now makes our evening amusement; to me a very high one, as I find the work quite equal to what I remembered it. Mrs. F. A., to whom it is new, enjoys it as one could wish; the other Mary, I believe, has little pleasure from that or any other book.

My mother does not seem at all more disappointed than ourselves at the termination of the family treaty; she thinks less of that just now than of the comfortable state of her own finances, which she finds on closing her year's accounts beyond her expectation, as she begins the new year with a balance of 30l. in her favour; and when she has written her answer to my aunt, which you know always hangs a little upon her mind, will be above the world entirely. You will have a great deal of unreserved discourse with Mrs. K., I dare say, upon this subject, as well as upon many other of our family matters. Abuse everybody but me.

Thursday. -- We expected James yesterday, but he did not come; if he comes at all now, his visit will be a very short one, as he must return to-morrow, that Ajax and the chair may be sent to Winchester on Saturday. Caroline's new pelisse depended upon her mother's being able or not to come so far in the chair; how the guinea that will be saved by the same means of return is to be spent I know not. Mrs. J. A. does not talk much of poverty now, though she has no hope of my brother's being able to buy another horse next summer.

Their scheme against Warwickshire continues, but I doubt the family's being at Stoneleigh so early as James says he must go, which is May.

My mother is afraid I have not been explicit enough on the subject of her wealth; she began 1806 with 68l., she begins 1807 with 99l., and this after 32l. purchase of stock. Frank, too, has been settling his accounts and making calculations, and each party feels quite equal to our present expenses; but much increase of house rent would not do for either. Frank limits himself, I believe, to four hundred a year.

You will be surprised to hear that Jelmy is not yet come back; we have heard nothing of her since her reaching Itchingswell, and can only suppose that she must be detained by illness in somebody or other, and that she has been each day expecting to be able to come on the morrow. I am glad I did not know beforehand that she was to be absent during the whole or almost the whole of our friends being with us, for though the inconvenience has not been nothing, I should have feared still more. Our dinners have certainly suffered not a little by having only Molly's head and Molly's hands to conduct them; she fries better than she did, but not like Jenny.

We did not take our walk on Friday, it was too dirty, nor have we yet done it; we may perhaps do something like it to-day, as after seeing Frank skate, which he hopes to do in the meadows by the beech, we are to treat ourselves with a passage over the ferry. It is one of the pleasantest frosts I ever knew, so very quiet. I hope it will last some time longer for Frank's sake, who is quite anxious to get some skating; he tried yesterday, but it would not do.

Our acquaintance increase too fast. He was recognized lately by Admiral Bertie, and a few days since arrived the Admiral and his daughter Catherine to wait upon us. There was nothing to like or dislike in either. To the Berties are to be added the Lances, with whose cards we have been endowed, and whose visit Frank and I returned yesterday. They live about a mile and three-quarters from S. to the right of the new road to Portsmouth, and I believe their house is one of those which are to be seen almost anywhere among the woods on the other side of the Itchen. It is a handsome building, stands high, and in a very beautiful situation.

We found only Mrs. Lance at home, and whether she boasts any offspring besides a grand pianoforte did not appear. She was civil and chatty enough, and offered to introduce us to some acquaintance in Southampton, which we gratefully declined.

I suppose they must be acting by the orders of Mr. Lance of Netherton in this civility, as there seems no other reason for their coming near us. They will not come often, I dare say. They live in a handsome style and are rich, and she seemed to like to be rich, and we gave her to understand that we were far from being so; she will soon feel therefore that we are not worth her acquaintance.

You must have heard from Martha by this time. We have had no accounts of Kintbury since her letter to me.

Mrs. F. A. has had one fainting fit lately; it came on as usual after eating a hearty dinner, but did not last long.

I can recollect nothing more to say. When my letter is gone, I suppose I shall.

Yours affectionately, J. A.

I have just asked Caroline if I should send her love to her godmama, to which she answered "Yes."

Miss Austen, Godmersham Park,
Faversham, Kent.


Southampton: February 8.


My expectation of having nothing to say to you after the conclusion of my last seems nearer truth than I thought it would be, for I feel to have but little. I need not, therefore, be above acknowledging the receipt of yours this morning, or of replying to every part of it which is capable of an answer, and you may accordingly prepare for my ringing the changes of the glads and sorrys for the rest of the page.

Unluckily, however, I see nothing to be glad of, unless I make it a matter of joy that Mrs. Wylmot has another son, and that Lord Lucan has taken a mistress, both of which events are, of course, joyful to the actors; but to be sorry I find many occasions. The first is, that your return is to be delayed, and whether I ever get beyond the first is doubtful. It is no use to lament. I never heard that even Queen Mary's lamentation did her any good, and I could not, therefore, expect benefit from mine. We are all sorry, and now that subject is exhausted.

I heard from Martha yesterday. She spends this week with the Harwoods, goes afterwards with James and Mary for a few days to see Peter Debary and two of his sisters at Eversley, the living of which he has gained on the death of Sir R. Cope, and means to be here on the 24th, which will be Tuesday fortnight. I shall be truly glad if she can keep to her day, but dare not depend on it, and am so apprehensive of farther detention, that, if nothing else occurs to create it, I cannot help thinking she will marry Peter Debary.

It vexed me that I could not get any fish for Kintbury while their family was large, but so it was; and till last Tuesday I could procure none. I then sent them four pair of small soles, and should be glad to be certain of their arriving in good time, but I have heard nothing about them since, and had rather hear nothing than evil. They cost six shillings, and as they travelled in a basket which came from Kintbury a few days before with poultry, &c., I insist upon treating you with the booking, whatever it may be. You are only eighteen pence in my debt.

Mrs. E. Leigh did not make the slightest allusion to my uncle's business, as I remember telling you at the time, but you shall have it as often as you like. My mother wrote to her a week ago.

Martha's rug is just finished, and looks well, though not quite so well as I had hoped. I see no fault in the border, but the middle is dingy. My mother desires me to say that she will knit one for you as soon as you return to choose the colours and pattern.

I am sorry I have affronted you on the subject of Mr. Moore, but I do not mean ever to like him; and as to pitying a young woman merely because she cannot live in two places at the same time, and at once enjoy the comforts of being married and single, I shall not attempt it, even for Harriet. You see I have a spirit as well as yourself.

Frank and Mary cannot at all approve of your not being at home in time to help them in their finishing purchases, and desire me to say that, if you are not, they will be as spiteful as possible, and choose everything in the style most likely to vex you -- knives that will not cut, glasses that will not hold, a sofa without a seat, and a book-case without shelves.

Our garden is putting in order by a man who bears a remarkably good character, has a very fine complexion, and asks something less than the first. The shrubs which border the gravel walk, he says, are only sweetbriar and roses, and the latter of an indifferent sort; we mean to get a few of a better kind, therefore, and at my own particular desire he procures us some syringas. I could not do without a syringa, for the sake of Cowper's line. We talk also of a laburnum. The border under the terrace wall is clearing away to receive currants and gooseberry bushes, and a spot is found very proper for raspberries.

The alterations and improvements within doors, too, advance very properly, and the offices will be made very convenient indeed. Our dressing table is constructing on the spot, out of a large kitchen table belonging to the house, for doing which we have the permission of Mr. Husket, Lord Lansdown's painter -- domestic painter, I should call him, for he lives in the castle. Domestic chaplains have given way to this more necessary office, and I suppose whenever the walls want no touching up he is employed about my lady's face.

The morning was so wet that I was afraid we should not be able to see our little visitor, but Frank, who alone could go to church, called for her after service, and she is now talking away at my side and examining the treasures of my writing-desk drawers -- very happy, I believe. Not at all shy, of course. Her name is Catherine, and her sister's Caroline. She is something like her brother, and as short for her age, but not so well-looking.

What is become of all the shyness in the world? Moral as well as natural diseases disappear in the progress of time, and new ones take their place. Shyness and the sweating sickness have given way to confidence and paralytic complaints.

I am sorry to hear of Mrs. Whitfield's increasing illness, and of poor Marianne Bridges having suffered so much; these are some of my sorrows; and that Mrs. Deedes is to have another child I suppose I may lament.

The death of Mrs. W. K. we had seen. I had no idea that anybody liked her, and therefore felt nothing for any survivor, but I am now feeling away on her husband's account, and think he had better marry Miss Sharpe.

I have this instant made my present, and have the pleasure of seeing it smiled over with genuine satisfaction. I am sure I may, on this occasion, call Kitty Foote, as Hastings did H. Egerton, my "very valuable friend."

Evening. -- Our little visitor has just left us, and left us highly pleased with her; she is a nice, natural, open-hearted, affectionate girl, with all the ready civility which one sees in the best children in the present day; so unlike anything that I was myself at her age, that I am often all astonishment and shame. Half her time was spent at spillikins, which I consider as a very valuable part of our household furniture, and as not the least important benefaction from the family of Knight to that of Austen.

But I must tell you a story. Mary has for some time had notice from Mrs. Dickson of the intended arrival of a certain Miss Fowler in this place. Miss F. is an intimate friend of Mrs. D., and a good deal known as such to Mary. On Thursday last she called here while we were out. Mary found, on our return, her card with only her name on it, and she had left word that she would call again. The particularity of this made us talk, and, among other conjectures, Frank said in joke, "I dare say she is staying with the Pearsons." The connection of the names struck Mary, and she immediately recollected Miss Fowler's having been very intimate with persons so called, and, upon putting everything together, we have scarcely a doubt of her being actually staying with the only family in the place whom we cannot visit.

What a contretemps! in the language of France. What an unluckiness! in that of Madame Duval. The black gentleman has certainly employed one of his menial imps to bring about this complete, though trifling, mischief. Miss F. has never called again, but we are in daily expectation of it. Miss P. has, of course, given her a proper understanding of the business. It is evident that Miss F. did not expect or wish to have the visit returned, and Frank is quite as much on his guard for his wife as we could desire for her sake or our own.

We shall rejoice in being so near Winchester when Edward belongs to it, and can never have our spare bed filled more to our satisfaction than by him. Does he leave Eltham at Easter?

We are reading "Clarentine," and are surprised to find how foolish it is. I remember liking it much less on a second reading than at the first, and it does not bear a third at all. It is full of unnatural conduct and forced difficulties, without striking merit of any kind.

Miss Harrison is going into Devonshire, to attend Mrs. Dusantoy, as usual. Miss J. is married to young Mr. G., and is to be very unhappy. He swears, drinks, is cross, jealous, selfish, and brutal. The match makes her family miserable, and has occasioned his being disinherited.

The Browns are added to our list of acquaintance. He commands the Sea Fencibles here, under Sir Thomas, and was introduced at his own desire by the latter when we saw him last week. As yet the gentlemen only have visited, as Mrs. B. is ill, but she is a nice-looking woman, and wears one of the prettiest straw bonnets in the place.

Monday. -- The garret beds are made, and ours will be finished to-day. I had hoped it would be finished on Saturday, but neither Mrs. Hall nor Jenny was able to give help enough for that, and I have as yet done very little, and Mary nothing at all. This week we shall do more, and I should like to have all the five beds completed by the end of it. There will then be the window curtains, sofa-cover, and a carpet to be altered.

I should not be surprised if we were to be visited by James again this week; he gave us reason to expect him soon, and if they go to Eversley he cannot come next week.

There, I flatter myself I have constructed you a smartish letter, considering my want of materials, but, like my dear Dr. Johnson, I believe I have dealt more in notions than facts.

I hope your cough is gone and that you are otherwise well, and remain, with love,

Yours affectionately,

Miss Austen, Godmersham Park,
Faversham, Kent.


Southampton: Friday (February 20).


We have at last heard something of Mr. Austen's will. It is believed at Tunbridge that he has left everything after the death of his widow to Mr. M. Austen's third son John; and, as the said John was the only one of the family who attended the funeral, it seems likely to be true. Such ill-gotten wealth can never prosper.

I really have very little to say this week, and do not feel as if I should spread that little into the show of much. I am inclined for short sentences.

Mary will be obliged to you to take notice how often Elizabeth nurses her baby in the course of twenty-four hours, how often it is fed, and with what; you need not trouble yourself to write the result of your observations, your return will be early enough for the communication of them. You are recommended to bring away some flower seeds from Godmersham, particularly mignonette seed.

My mother has heard this morning from Paragon. My aunt talks much of the violent colds prevailing in Bath, from which my uncle has suffered ever since their return, and she has herself a cough much worse than any she ever had before, subject as she has always been to bad ones. She writes in good humour and cheerful spirits, however. The negotiation between them and Adlestrop so happily over, indeed, what can have power to vex her materially?

Elliston, she tells us, has just succeeded to a considerable fortune on the death of an uncle. I would not have it enough to take him from the stage; she should quit her business, and live with him in London.

We could not pay our visit on Monday; the weather altered just too soon, and we have since had a touch of almost everything in the weather way; two of the severest frosts since the winter began, preceded by rain, hail, and snow. Now we are smiling again.

Saturday. -- I have received your letter, but I suppose you do not expect me to be gratified by its contents. I confess myself much disappointed by this repeated delay of your return, for though I had pretty well given up all idea of your being with us before our removal, I felt sure that March would not pass quite away without bringing you. Before April comes, of course, something else will occur to detain you. But as you are happy, all this is selfishness, of which here is enough for one page.

Pray tell Lizzy that if I had imagined her teeth to be really out, I should have said before what I say now, that it was a very unlucky fall indeed, that I am afraid it must have given her a great deal of pain, and that I dare say her mouth looks very comical.

I am obliged to Fanny for the list of Mrs. Coleman's children, whose names I had not, however, quite forgot; the new one I am sure will be Caroline. I have got Mr. Bowen's recipe for you; it came in my aunt's letter.

You must have had more snow at Godmersham than we had here; on Wednesday morning there was a thin covering of it over the fields and roofs of the houses, but I do not think there was any left the next day. Everybody used to Southampton says that snow never lies more than twenty-four hours near it, and, from what we have observed ourselves, it is very true.

Frank's going into Kent depends, of course, upon his being unemployed; but as the First Lord, after promising Lord Moira that Captain A. should have the first good frigate that was vacant, has since given away two or three fine ones, he has no particular reason to expect an appointment now. He, however, has scarcely spoken about the Kentish journey. I have my information chiefly from her, and she considers her own going thither as more certain if he should be at sea than if not.

Frank has got a very bad cough, for an Austen; but it does not disable him from making very nice fringe for the drawing-room curtains.

Mrs. Day has now got the carpet in hand, and Monday I hope will be the last day of her employment here. A fortnight afterwards she is to be called again from the shades of her red-checked bed in an alley near the end of the High Street, to clean the new house and air the bedding.

We hear that we are envied our house by many people, and that the garden is the best in the town. There will be green baize enough for Martha's room and ours, not to cover them, but to lie over the part where it is most wanted, under the dressing table. Mary is to have a piece of carpeting for the same purpose; my mother says she does not want any, and it may certainly be better done without in her rooms than in Martha's and ours, from the difference of their aspect.

I recommend Mrs. Grant's letters, as a present to the latter; what they are about, and how many volumes they form, I do not know, having never heard of them but from Miss Irvine, who speaks of them as a new and much-admired work, and as one which has pleased her highly. I have inquired for the book here, but find it quite unknown.

I believe I put five breadths of linsey also into my flounce; I know I found it wanted more than I had expected, and that I should have been distressed if I had not bought more than I believed myself to need for the sake of the even measure, on which we think so differently. A light morning gown will be a very necessary purchase for you, and I wish you a pretty one. I shall buy such things whenever I am tempted, but as yet there is nothing of the sort to be seen.

We are reading Barretti's other book, and find him dreadfully abusive of poor Mr. Sharpe. I can no longer take his part against you, as I did nine years ago.

Sunday. -- This post has brought our Martha's own assurance of her coming on Tuesday evening, which nothing is now to prevent except William should send her word that there is no remedy on that day. Her letter was put into the post at Basingstoke on their return from Eversley, where she says they have spent their time very pleasantly. She does not own herself in any danger of being tempted back again, however, and as she signs by her maiden name, we are at least to suppose her not married yet.

They must have had a cold visit, but as she found it agreeable I suppose there was no want of blankets, and we may trust to her sister's taking care that her love of many should be known. She sends me no particulars, having time only to write the needful.

I wish you a pleasant party to-morrow, and not more than you like of Miss Hatton's neck. Lady B. must have been a shameless woman if she named H. Hales as within her husband's reach. It is a piece of impertinence, indeed, in a woman to pretend to fix on anyone, as if she supposed it could be only ask and have. A widower with three children has no right to look higher than his daughter's governess.

I am forced to be abusive for want of subject, having really nothing to say. When Martha comes she will supply me with matter; I shall have to tell you how she likes the house, and what she thinks of Mary.

You must be very cold to-day at Godmersham. We are cold here. I expect a severe March, a wet April, and a sharp May. And with this prophecy I must conclude.

My love to everybody.

Yours affectionately,

Miss Austen, Godmersham Park,
Faversham, Kent.

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