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|Ibthorpe and Nonsense
Written by Julie W
(Tuesday, 13 January 2009, at 7:47 a.m.)
The two letters under discussion today were sent to Cassandra while she was staying at Ibthorpe( the house is pictured above).
Ibthorpe was the home of the Lloyd family, friends of the Austens and also another clerical family. They lived at Ibthope from 1792. There was always a lot of intercourse between the families: JA made her debut from Ibthorpe with the Lloyds, and of course Mary Lloyd became James Austen's second wife, while her sister, Martha was Jane and Cassandra's greatest and closest friend.
If you read about the intertwining lives of these clerical families, you can see that they were their own support system: they helped each other in time of illness and death and provided much practical as well as spiritual/mental support.Indeed, Jand And Cassandra appear to be plotting:
I am quite of your opinion as to the folly of concealing any longer our intended Partnership with Martha, & whenever there has of late been an enquiry on the subject I have always been sincere; & I have sent words of it to the Mediterranean in a letter to Frank.-None of our nearest connections I think will be unprepared for it; & I do not know how to suppose that Martha's have not foreseen it.- Letter 44
The reason Cassandra went to in 1805 visit as rather sad- Mrs Lloyd was in the last stages of her last illness. I think JA deliberately fills her letters with lots of gossipy comments - or nonsense as she calls it-to provide news for Cassandra that might distract and entertain Cassandra and Martha in a time of great trial. Something to talk about in the hush of the sick room....
Tuesday. I received your letter last night, & wish it may be soon followed by another to say that all is over; but I cannot help thinking that Nature will struggle again & produce a revival. Poor woman! May her end be peaceful & easy, as the Exit we have witnessed! And I dare say it will. If there is no revival, suffering must be all over; even the consciousness of Existence I suppose was gone when you wrote. The Nonsense I have been writing in this & in my last letter, seems out of place at such a time; but I will not mind it, it will do you no harm, & nobody else will be attacked by it. Letter 43
One of the saddest things in JAs letter is her mention of poor , deaf Mrs Stent:
Poor Mrs Stent! it has been her lot to be always in the way; but we must be merciful, for perhaps in time we may come to be Mrs Stents ourselves, unequal to anything & unwelcome to everybody.
Mrs Stent was if you recall an old freid of Mrs Lloyd who was rather poor and lived with Mrs Lloyd and Martha. She was rather deaf,and Jane had talked of her oddities in the past:
With such a provision on my part, if you will do yours by repeating the French Grammar and Mrs Stent will now and then ejaculate some wonder about the Cocks and Hens,what can we want? Letter 26
Caroline Austen in her book Reminiscencesprovides us with the only information we have of what actually became of Mrs Stent:
I remember her quite and old lady , loding at Highclere in a small cottage, near to Mrs Criswick
No wonder JA feared becoming a "Mrs Stent" too.....
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