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Written by Barbara
(2/4/2003 2:08 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, And easygoing, penned by Golda
] In Carol Shield's bio about Jane Austen, she notes that Rev Austen was rather easy going in Jane's upbringing. This was partly because he was so busy with the little school that he ran and his clerical duties, but I imagine it was also part of his character. Perhaps Cassandra Leigh saw this trait too, and thought it a rather fine thing in a husband. I know that I would.
When I was reading about George Austen's childhood, it also struck me that this was part of his character--not only being easy going, but also being resilient and able to bounce back from hardships--and he had many.
When the six-year-old George's father (William) died in 1737, for 18 months there had been a stepmother--Susanna Kelk. William Austen had not changed his will when he remarried after the death of George's mother Rebecca. Susanna Kelk was therefore under no legal obligation to look after George and his sisters Philadephia and Leonora, and she didn't--although she did live on for another 31 years in their father's house.
The children were farmed out to relatives, none of whom seemed too anxious to take them. Their father's brother Stephen (who was married with a child of his own) was prevailed upon by the rest of the family to take them and did so begrudgingly. The book I have here Jane Austen: A Family Record says that he treated them "with neglect if not positive unkindness" and that "his idea of education developed itself strongly in a determination to thwart the natural tastes of the young people as much as possible" (quoted from some family letters and papers).
Eventually, George's father's sister, Betty Hooper, took him in when he went to school in Tonbridge starting at age 10. When I read that I thought it almost sounded like something Dickens would have liked to turn into a plot of one of his books!
George was able to bounce back from this horrid childhood and do very well at school.
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