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|Letter 30 "Expensively and Nakedly Dressed"
Written by JulieW
(9/16/2007 10:07 a.m.)
Now, you see this is an example of what I fear would happen if I ever managed , despite the laws of physics and all my misgivings, to go back in time and meet with JA . She would rip m to shreds ( in private, of course) and I would be immortalised as one of her more irritating or ridiculous characters.
For this is, I think, what happened to a certain Mrs Powlett.
Martha and I dined yesterday at Deane to meet the Powletts and Tom Chute, which we did not fail to do. Mrs. Powlett was at once expensively and nakedly dressed; we have had the satisfaction of estimating her lace and her muslins; and she said too little to afford us much other amusement.
The Reverend Charles Powlett had, of course, once admired JA:
Tell Mary that I make over Mr. Heartley and all his estate to her for her sole use and benefit in future, and not only him, but all my other admirers into the bargain wherever she can find them, even the kiss which C. Powlett wanted to give me, as I mean to confine myself in future to Mr. Tom Lefroy, for whom I don't care sixpence.
See Letter 2 and page 91 Le Faye : Jane Austen :A Family Record, )
but he had not married JA: no, he married not JA one Miss Anne Temple in November 1796.
JA described the new Mrs Powlett with some venomous relish in Letter number 14:
His wife(was) discovered to be everything that the Neighbourhood could wish her, silly and cross as well as extravagant.
(See Letter to Cassandra,Tuesday 18th January 1798.)
And she probably paid great attention to the manner in which this lady spoke.And she proably spoke as she wrote….For in a letter to a Miss Peters dated 20th June 1799 she refers to her husband as( wait for it) her
Mrs. Elton was first seen at church: but though devotion might be interrupted, curiosity could not be satisfied by a bride in a pew, and it must be left for the visits in form which were then to be paid, to settle whether she were very pretty indeed, or only rather pretty, or not pretty at all……
"Knightley!" continued Mrs. Elton; -- "Knightley himself! Was not it lucky? For, not being within when he called the other day, I had never seen him before; and of course, as so particular a friend of Mr. E.'s, I had a great curiosity. 'My friend Knightley' had been so often mentioned, that I was really impatient to see him; and I must do my caro sposo the justice to say that he need not be ashamed of his friend. Knightley is quite the gentleman. I like him very much. Decidedly, I think, a very gentleman-like man."
I think when she created Mrs Elton , another newly married wife of a clergyman arriving in new terriroty ,I rather think JA had Mrs Powlett in mind ;-)
Charles Powlett had his revenge in his own journal, however. He recorded his impression of his visit to James Austen's house as thus:
we dined and slept at J Austen's: dies perdita
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