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Written by Julie W
(Sunday, 11 January 2009, at 8:45 a.m.)
In 1803 Napoleon broke the Peace of Amiens and England was once more on a war footing.
Eliza de Feuillide ( now married to Henry Austen ) was in France at the time attempting to recover some de Feuillide property and managed to escape-orders were given by the French government to detain all English travellers in France- and returned to England safely.
With the resumption of hostilities between Great Britain and France, Frank and Charles returned to active service in the navy
Charles again took up his post as first lieutenant of The Endymion: in 1804 he was promoted to the command of the sloop HMS Indian.
Frank however went to Ramsgate, under orders from the Admiralty to set up a division of Sea Fencibles ( more on that later) where he was to make an important new acquaintance, Mary Gibson (of whom a lot more later ;-)…)
Edward Austen Knight, as Captain, formed villagers into the Godmersham and Molash Company of the East Kent Volunteers . At the same time James Austen helped recruit men not a troop of volunteers to help with the defence of the parishes of Ashe, Deane, Steventon and Hannington.
In 1803, with no French invasion forthcoming , the Austens visited Edward at Godmersham in Kent, and on the way back to Bath stopped off at Ashe to visit Jane's old friend Mrs Lefroy. They then seemed to have travelled to Lyme Regis for another holiday in November 1803.
In 1804 , while still living at Number 4 Sydney Place, Mrs Austen became ill, and a Mr Bowen an apothecary of the firm of Spry and Bowen of 1 Argyle Buildings, Bath treated her. She celebrated her recovery in a poem entitled, Dialogue between Death and Mrs A:
Says Death, 'I've been trying these three weeks and more To seize on old Madam here at Number Four, Yet I still try in vain, tho' she's turned of three score; To what is my ill success owing?' 'I'll tell you, old Fellow, if you cannot guess, To what you're indebted for your ill success- To the prayers of my husband, whose love I possess; To the care of my daughters, whom Heaven will bless, To the skill and attention of Bowen.
Once Mrs Austen was well again the family took a trip from Bath to the seaside resorts of Devon and Dorset accompanied by Henry And Eliza.
Some time in late summer they arrived at Lyme Regis, and this is where Cassandra made her famous sketch of JA :
It is an Austen family tradition that during one of the West Country holidays JA met a man, fell in love with him, he proposed but died suddenly , all romance ending with him.
Here is Caroline Austen's view of the romance from her Memior:
All that I know is this. At Newtown, Aunt Cassandra was staying with us [Caroline and her mother, Mary Lloyd - when they lived at Newtown, near Newbury, Berkshire, from 1825 to 1836] when we made acquaintance [during 1828] with a certain Mr Henry Edridge, of the Engineers. He was very pleasing and very good-looking. My aunt was very much struck with him, and I was struck by her commendation; she so rarely admired strangers.
I'm not sure about all this- it is, IMHO, all very vague and dependant on a lot of memories being absolutely correct: Caroline was writing her memoirs in 1867-a long time after her conversation with Cassandra and the actual incident....oh well, who am I to pour doubts on it all.....
To resume.....Early in September Henry and Eliza took Cassandra to Weymouth, leaving the rest of the Austen family at Lyme and this is where we resume our acquaintance with JA's correspondence … and so on to Letter 39.
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