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|Letter 37: The Detestible Mr Bent.
Written by JulieW
(9/20/2007 8:58 a.m.)
So- what is going on here?
We know that the sale of the contents of the Rectory at Steventon had just taken palce: it was advertised in the Reading Mercury of 20 April 1801 as follows:
Steventon Parsonage, near Overton, Hants.
To be SOLD by AUCTION By Mr STROUD, On the premises, on Tuesday the 5th of May, 1801, and two following days, at eleven o' clock.
The neat HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, well made Chariot (with box to take off) and Harness, 200 volumes of Books, Stump of Hay, Fowling Pieces, three Norman Cows & Calves, one Horse, and other Effects...
The "200 volumes of Books' may here mean complete works which in the18th/early 19th century consisted of two or more individual books, for JA, remember wrote on 14 January 1801:
My father has got above 500 volumes to dispose of; - I want James to take them at a venture at half a guinea a volume.
Alternatively, it could mean that James Austen, who succeeded his father at the rectory, did in fact agree to buy three hundred of the five hundred volumes,and Mr Bent may have been asked to value them so that James might pay a "fair price".
If Jane had expected the sum of 150 guineas for 300 volumes it is small wonder that she felt aggrieved, don't you agree?
I thought you might like to see what at least one of the volumes of JA's book's looked like- this is the frontispiece of Dodley's Collection of Poems.
She didn't sell all her books, though, note: she gave her copy of the Elegant Extracts to Anna Austensometime in April before she left Steventon for Bath.
And this poignant little thing is the Reverend Geroge Austen's bookplate which has the Austen crest and would have been attatched to each volume of his books.
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