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|Claire Tomalin on JA's schools
Written by MiriB
(2/14/2003 4:41 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, MT: Early education, penned by LindyS
Claire Tomalin in her book is rather critical of Mrs. Austen’s decision to send Jane to boarding school at the age of seven and again at the age of nine, but she also tries to find the reasons for that decision. Jane and Cassandra were sent to Mrs. Cawley’s school in Oxford with their cousin Jane Cooper, Mrs. Cawley was Jane Cooper’s aunt. Claire Tomalin writes: “Mrs. Cawley as well as being Jane Cooper’s aunt, was eminently respectable, as the widow of Master of Brasenose, and her school was in Oxford, familiar territory to both Austen parents. James was now at St. John and Mrs. Austen’s uncle was still master of Balliol; not perhaps much comfort to the small girls but in principle able to keep an eye on things.” At some point Mrs.Cawley moved her school to Southampton. There Both the Austen girls and their cousins became ill. Although Mrs.Cawley instructed the girls not to notify the parents of their illness Jane Cooper sent a message to her mother and Mrs. Cooper and Mrs. Austen came to Southampton, nursed the girls and removed them from the school.
At the age of nine the Austen girls were sent to Mrs. La Tournelle’s school. Madam La Tournelle‘s real name was Sara Hackitt and Tomalin writes she spoke no French. According to Tomalin the school was a cozy quite pleasant place but not much learning was done. From Tomalin’s book: “The girls slept six to a room, and were taught some spelling needle work and French.”
] Apparently educational expectations for Jane were low: family recollections are that "Jane was too young to make her going to school at all necessary, but it was her own doing, she would go with Cassandra: - if Cassandra's head had been going to be cut off Jane would have hers cut off too.'" (letter of Anna Lefroy)
Claire Tomalin writes that this was written decades later and she finds a note of defensiveness in Mrs. Austen's explanation that Jane herself insisted on going to school.
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