|Text of Letters 40 and 41.
Written by Julie
(Monday, 12 January 2009, at 5:50 a.m.)
We still have JA's two letters to her brother Frank announcing the sad news, letters 40 and 41.
Here is the text of letter 40( almost identical to Letter 41 which JA had to re-write send again as Frank was not in Dungeness in Kent as she thought, but was at Portsmouth).
Text of Letter 40.
To Francis Austen
Monday 21 January 1805
Green Park Bgs Monday Janry 21st
My dearest Frank
I have melancholy news to relate, & sincerely feel for your feelings under the shock of it.-I wish I could better prepare You for it.-But having said so much, Your mind will already forestall the sort of Event which I have to communicate,-Our dear Father has closed his virtuous & happy life, in a death almost as free from suffering as his Children could have wished. He was taken ill on Saturday morning, exactly in the same way as heretofore, an oppression in the head with fever, violent tremulousness, & the greatest degree of Feebleness. The same remedy of Cupping, which had before been so successful, was immediately applied to-but without such happy effects. The attack was more violent, & at first he seemed scarcely at all releived by the Operation.---Towards the Evening however he got better, had a tolerable night, & yesterday morning was so greatly amended as to get up & join us at breakfast as usual, walk about with only the help of a stick, & every symptom was then so favourable that when Bowen saw him at one, he felt sure of his doing perfectly well. --But as the day advanced, all these comfortable appearances gradually changed; the fever grew stronger than ever, & when Bowen saw him at ten at night, he pronounc'd his situation to be most alarming.-At nine this morning he came again-& by his desire a Physician was called--Dr Gibbs--But it was then absolutely a lost case-. Dr Gibbs said that nothing but a Miracle could save him, and about twenty minutes after Ten he drew his last gasp.-Heavy as is the blow, we can already feel that a thousand comforts remain to us to soften it. Next to that of the consciousness of his worth & constant preparation for another World, is the remembrance of his having suffered, comparatively speaking, nothing.-Being quite insensible of his own state, he was spared all the pain of separation, & he went off almost in his Sleep.-My Mother bears the Shock as well as possible; she was quite prepared for it, & feels all the blessing of his being spared a long Illness. My Uncle & Aunt have been with us, & shew us every imaginable kindness. And tomorrow we shall I dare say have the comfort of James's presence, as an Express has been sent to him.-We write also of course to Godmersham & Brompton. Adeiu my dearest Frank. The loss of such a Parent must be felt, or we should be Brutes-. I wish I could have given you better preparation but it has been impossible. -Yours Ever affe&Y
Capt. Austen HMS Leopard Dungeness New Romney
And here is the text of Letter 41-almost identical as you can see to Letter 40.
Tuesday 22 January 1805
Green Park B5S Tuesday Eveng, Jan rY 22dĽ
My dearest Frank
I wrote to you yesterday; but your letter to Cassandra this morning, by which we learn the probability of your being by this time at Portsmouth, obliges me to write to you again, having unfortunately a communication as necessary as painful to make to you.-Your affectionate heart will be greatly wounded, & I wish the shock could have been lessen'd by a better preparation;-but the Event has been sudden, & so must be the information of it. We have lost an Excellent Father.-An Illness of only eight & forty hours carried him off yesterday morning between ten & eleven. He was seized on saturday with a return of the feverish complaint, which he had been subject to for the three last years; evidently a more violent attack from the first, as the applications which had before produced almost immediate releif, seemed for some time to afford him scarcely any.-On Sunday however he was much better, so much so as to make Bowen quite easy, & give us every hope of his being well again in a few days.-But these hopes gradually gave way as the day advanced, & when Bowen saw him at ten that night he was greatly alarmed. -A Physician was called in yesterday morning, but he was at that time past all possibility of cure--& Dr Gibbs & M Bowen had scarcely left his room before he sunk into a Sleep from which he never woke.-Everything I trust & beleive was done for him that was possible! -It has been very sudden!-within twenty four hours of his death he was walking with only the help of a stick, was even reading!-We had however some hours of preparation, & when we understood' his recovery to be hopeless, most fervently did we pray for the speedy release which ensued. To have seen him' languishing long, struggling for Hours, would have been dreadful!-& thank God! we were all spared from it. Except the restlessness & confusion of high Fever, he did not suffer- & he was mercifully spared from knowing that he was about to quit the Objects so beloved, so fondly cherished as his wife & Children ever were.-His tenderness as a Father, who can do justice to? -My Mother is tolerably well; she bears up with great fortitude, but I fear her health must suffer under such a shock.An express was sent for James, & he arrived here this morning before eight o'clock.-The Funeral is to be on Saturday, at Walcot Church.-
The Serenity of the Corpse is most delightful! -It preserves the sweet, benevolent smile which always distinguished him.-They kindly press my Mother to remove to Steventon as soon as it is all over, but I do not beleive she will leave Bath at present. We must have this house for three months longer, & here we shall probably stay till the end of that time.We all unite in Love, & I am affec:'Y Yours
JA. Capt. Austen HMS Leopard Portsmouth
I can only imagine how difficult it was for JA to write the first letter to Frank on sucha subject , but to have to write it again must have been a little tortuous,at such a time. I am so grateful for the ease of modern methods of communication at such a time.
Mr Austen was buried at St Swithin's Church in Bath, in the same parish in which he married Mrs Austen in 1764, but in a new church- this one was built in 1777.
Here is a link to the history of the church, and this is a photograph of the modern plaque commemorating George Austen at the church presented by the JAS: