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|MT: JA's acquaintance
Written by Linden
(2/28/2003 12:55 a.m.)
I'm reading Deirdre Le Faye's excellent `Jane Austen's Letters', in which she provides an invaluable Biographical Index of the people mentioned in them. I am struck by the lack of famous names. Apart from Warren Hastings, there is hardly any name readily familiar these days. JA mentions a few people mildly famous these days (at least to the extent that Le Faye can say `For details of his career see DNB' [ie Dictionary of National Biography]), but these are usually mere comments about people whom JA may not have known at all except at second-hand, or seen at a function, like Sir Edward Pellew, the Marquis of Landsdowne, or the parents of Sir John Moore of Corunna.
The Biographical Index of the letters raises some false hopes: Mary Robinson turns out not to be the celebrated Perdita but a servant; and Mrs Baskerville is another servant, with no trace of An Enormous Hound.
Contrast this with biographies of other people of the period: all of them seem to know lots of other famous people. Just to take two examples I know well:
Mary `Perdita' Robinson twisted the arms of about six hundred people to subscribe a volume of her poems at a guinea a book, with many names now recognisable among them (and not all of them her former lovers), including Joshua Reynolds, John Burgoyne of Saratoga ill-fame, and the Duchess of Devonshire (incidentally, the only name that may be in common is Dr Moore, who I think was the aforesaid father of Sir John of Corunna). See the link below and scroll down a bit.
Another biography subject, Gouverneur Morris, who drafted the US Constitution and kept a diary of the French Revolution, knew Jefferson, Talleyrand, Washington, Boswell, John Paul Jones, Lafayette... He has a common link with JA because he shared a mistress at one time with Lord Wycombe who later became JA's Marquis of Landsdowne (I can't resist adding that snippet to Le Faye's wonderful scholarship).
OK, so Jane Austen wasn't a celebrated courtezan or well-connected politician and diplomat, and I may have missed a few names. All the same, it seems odd that she was so much out of the loop. In the thread below on JA's acquaintance in Bath there aren't any famous names whom we can be sure that she knew, not even the delightful Sidney Smith. Any thoughts?
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