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- Letters of Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra Austen
- Letters to Fanny Knight 1814-1816. [THIS FILE]
- Letters to Anna Austen Lefroy, 1814-1816
- Letters from Cassandra Austen to Fanny Knight, 1817
- Poetry, Backwards letter
[Letters to Fanny Knight] 1814-1816
I CONFESS to having entertained some doubts as to the publication of the
five letters addressed by "Aunt Jane" to my mother in 1814-16 -- doubts
not so much as to the propriety of their publication as to the possible
dislike which some of my own family might feel at the dragging to light of
items of private history which, seventy years ago, were no doubt secret
and sacred to both the writer and the recipient of the letters which
contain them. But two considerations have weighed with me above all others,
and I trust they will be deemed sufficient, even if the lapse of time
since the letters were written did not in itself remove every reasonable
objection. The one consideration is that, as regards Jane herself, these
five letters are peculiarly interesting, not only because in every line
they are vividly characteristic of the writer, but because they differ
from all the preceding letters in that they are written, not to an elder
sister, but to a niece who constantly sought her advice and sympathy, and
whom she addressed, of course, in a different manner, and from a different
standpoint. The other and, naturally, to me a consideration even more
important, is that, according to my humble judgment, these letters, whilst
they illustrate the character of my great-aunt, cannot, when explained,
do otherwise than reflect credit upon that of my beloved mother; whilst
they prove the great and affectionate intimacy which existed between her
and her aunt, and incidentally demonstrate the truth of a remark in one
of Cassandra's letters that there were many points of similitude in the
characters of the two. If my mother had preserved more of the thirty
or forty letters which she received from "Aunt Jane" during the years
1814-16, it might have been possible for me, if it seemed desirable,
to eliminate the portions which related to her own "love affairs," and
to still obtain the illustrations of Jane Austen's character which her
letters to a niece specially afford when compared with her letters to a
sister. I am not sure, however, that such an elimination would not have,
to a great extent, spoiled, or at least diminished, the interest of the
letters; and, when it became a question of omitting altogether these
five letters, I thought that their interest was so great that I could
not persuade myself to do so. After all, the story is very simple, and
one which can offend or injure nobody by its relation. My mother was a
handsome and agreeable young woman, fond of society, and endowed with a
large portion of practical common sense. A friendship sprang up between
her and a gentleman of about her own age, whose name it is unnecessary
for me to mention. He was a man of high character, the two saw much of
each other, and the friendship ripened into an attachment which very
nearly became an engagement. There was, however, one point of difference
which stood in the way, and prevented this result. The gentleman was of
a very serious disposition, and eventually his religious views induced
him to think dancing and other social amusements of the same sort things
which ought to be eschewed and avoided by Christian people. My mother
was of a different opinion. I do not suppose there ever was a woman
more profoundly and really religious; throughout the whole of her life
she attended assiduously to her religious duties, never a day passed
that she did not devote some portion of it to the perusal of some pious
author (which she called "reading my goodness"), and no one ever strove
more earnestly to do her duty and to follow the teaching of the Gospel.
But she entertained a strong opinion that this might be done without a
severance from the ordinary pursuits and amusements of other people;
that a person might live "in the world" without being "of the world,"
and that to perform the duties which came before her in life, and set a
practical example of a Christian life in her everyday existence, was as
likely to be acceptable to God as the withdrawal from pursuits in which
everybody else indulged, as if a Christian's duty required that he should
live apart from other people, by which means his influence over them for
good must of necessity be diminished. From the entries in her diary, as
well as from the letters before me, it is evident that about this time a
struggle went on in my mother's mind upon these points. "Plagued myself
about Methodists all day," and "had a nice conversation with Mr. Sherer
about Methodists," are entries in the autumn of 1814, which evidently bear
upon the matter, while other entries throughout this and the early part
of the following year testify to the fact that she entertained a strong
regard for the gentleman, but that she was in the position which many
young women have been in before and since -- namely, doubtful whether she
cared enough for him to become his wife. This doubt became a certainty
in 1815, and I find at the end of her pocket-book for that year, in her
usual summary of the principal events of the year, that there were "many
serious discussions and vexatious circumstances on subjects tending nearly
to dissolve the intimacy between ---- and myself." I cannot more aptly
illustrate my mother's real feelings upon these matters which she speaks
of as "serious" than by a quotation from a letter to her from my father
before they were married, which appears to me to speak, in the stronger
language of a man, that which was in her woman's heart. It so happened
that immediately after they became engaged my father was summoned to
Lincolnshire upon affairs arising out of the death of Sir Joseph Banks,
and obliged to be away for more than a fortnight, during which time he
wrote daily to my mother, who preserved all these letters -- interesting
mementoes to her children. In one of them, answering some remarks and
inquiries of his correspondent, he writes as follows: -- "In all that
I have had to undergo I have been supported by that Power from above
without whose aid I must long ago have sunk; but, seriously as I have
always regarded every occurrence of life, and attributing as I always do
everything that happens to a superintending Power, I have never suffered
these considerations to interfere with the duties or even the amusements
of life. I have never felt that it could become me to find fault with the
conduct of others, and dogmatically prescribe what course it is best to
pursue. To act upon a steady and uniform principle, to adhere to what is
right and to abstain from what is wrong, to afford the best example in
my power, never to obtrude my opinions, but never upon proper occasions
to be ashamed or afraid of avowing them -- these have been the rules upon
which I have acted, and I believe they will bring peace at the last. I
dislike everything that savours of levity in matters of religion, and
much more do I dislike that affected and presumptuous vanity which dares
to censure the innocent amusements of life -- which secludes people from
the common enjoyments necessary to the comfort of society, and which,
clothed in puritanical hypocrisy, affects a superiority to which it has
no claim whatever. These are serious subjects; you first mentioned them
to me, and I love you too well not to tell you without hesitation what I
think and feel. Your own principles as expressed to me are right -- grounded
on humility, admitting how unequal we are to perform our duties, but
resolutely and constantly persevering to the utmost of our ability to
discharge them properly -- thinking seriously of everything that happens,
constantly mixing with the world, but enjoying it more or less according
as we meet with similar feelings and kindred spirits, and always hoping
that our example and principles will effect some good and receive the
respect to which they are entitled." It was necessary to the elucidation
of these five letters that this insight into my mother's affairs should
be given; her feelings may be gathered from "Aunt Jane's" remarks upon
them, and I might close these prefatory observations by saying that this
difference upon "serious subjects" did overcome my mother's regard for the
gentleman in question, that the "intimacy" was "dissolved," and within a
couple of years he found his happiness elsewhere. I am unable, however,
to avoid another quotation from one of my father's letters in 1820, which
evidences the frank, fearless, open nature which, in common with "Aunt
Jane," my mother possessed. He writes: "I will now reply to that part of
your letter which relates to Mr. ---. Our meeting, my dearest Fanny, in
the library at Godmersham on Friday fortnight we can neither of us ever
forget -- within ten minutes you mentioned to me the circumstances of this
attachment. Of course I felt surprised till you told me all, and then I
felt still more surprised, and happy beyond what I can declare, at having,
as it were at once, developed to me a mind capable of expressing what I
do not believe any other woman in the world would have had courage, or
firmness, or candour, or sense enough to have mentioned. Let me say that my
esteem for you is not of very recent date, but I hardly know of anything
that has raised you higher in my opinion than your frank and sensible
avowal in this instance. I would not say this if it were not true, and
that you well know." The meeting in the library at Godmersham was, of
course, that at which my father and mother became engaged, and with the
hatred of concealment which was a part of her character, she evidently
told him at once and fully of the past, and by so doing confirmed and
strengthened his confidence in herself for the future.
The first two of these letters were written in November, 1814, one from
Chawton and the other from Hans Place; they speak for themselves, and
comment would only weaken their effect. The visit to Hendon (mentioned in
the second letter) was to "Anna Lefroy," née Austen, and the Mr. Hayter
mentioned in the same letter was the same who was afterwards for many
years Patronage Secretary of the Treasury in several Liberal Governments.
The third letter, written in February, 1816, may perhaps require a word
of explanation. There are two gentlemen therein referred to, one whom
Jane believes determined to marry her niece, the other (the hero of
the former letters) for whom she suspects that "sweet, perverse Fanny"
has still some regard, which she no longer endeavours to rekindle and
strengthen, but to lessen and extinguish. The first gentleman is again
referred to in the next letter, before writing which Jane seems to have
discovered that her niece's peril of matrimony was not so imminent as she
had supposed: she considers upon the whole that Mr. --- "cannot be in
love with you, however he may try at it," and exhorts her niece not to
be "in a hurry" -- "the right man is sure to come at last." He did come,
but unfortunately not until the grave had closed for three years over
the aunt who took such a warm and lively interest in all that concerned
her niece, and who would have sincerely and heartily rejoiced could she
have seen her in the position which she so long and so worthily occupied.
Chawton: Friday (Nov. 18, 1814).
I feel quite as doubtful as you could be, my dearest Fanny, as to when
my letter may be finished, for I can command very little quiet time at
present; but yet I must begin, for I know you will be glad to hear as soon
as possible, and I really am impatient myself to be writing something on
so very interesting a subject, though I have no hope of writing anything
to the purpose. I shall do very little more, I dare say, than say over
again what you have said before.
I was certainly a good deal surprised at first, as I had no suspicion of
any change in your feelings, and I have no scruple in saying that you
cannot be in love. My dear Fanny, I am ready to laugh at the idea, and
yet it is no laughing matter to have had you so mistaken as to your own
feelings. And with all my heart I wish I had cautioned you on that point
when first you spoke to me; but, though I did not think you then so much in
love, I did consider you as being attached in a degree quite sufficiently
for happiness, as I had no doubt it would increase with opportunity, and
from the time of our being in London together I thought you really very
much in love. But you certainly are not at all -- there is no concealing it.
What strange creatures we are! It seems as if your being secure of him
had made you indifferent. There was a little disgust, I suspect, at the
races, and I do not wonder at it. His expressions then would not do for
one who had rather more acuteness, penetration, and taste, than love,
which was your case. And yet, after all, I am surprised that the change
in your feelings should be so great. He is just what he ever was, only
more evidently and uniformly devoted to you. This is all the difference.
How shall we account for it?
My dearest Fanny, I am writing what will not be of the smallest use to you.
I am feeling differently every moment, and shall not be able to suggest
a single thing that can assist your mind. I could lament in one sentence
and laugh in the next, but as to opinion or counsel I am sure that none
will be extracted worth having from this letter.
I read yours through the very evening I received it, getting away by
myself. I could not bear to leave off when I had once begun. I was full
of curiosity and concern. Luckily your At. C. dined at the other house;
therefore I had not to manoeuvre away from her, and as to anybody else,
I do not care.
Poor dear Mr. A.! Oh, dear Fanny! your mistake has been one that thousands
of women fall into. He was the first young man who attached himself to
you. That was the charm, and most powerful it is. Among the multitudes,
however, that make the same mistake with yourself, there can be few indeed
who have so little reason to regret it; his character and his attachment
leave you nothing to be ashamed of.
Upon the whole, what is to be done? [words omitted in Brabourne edition: "You certainly have
encouraged him to such a point as to make him feel almost secure of you"]
You have no inclination for any other
person. His situation in life, family, friends, and, above all, his
character, his uncommonly amiable mind, strict principles, just notions,
good habits, all that you know so well how to value, all that is really
of the first importance, everything of this nature pleads his cause most
strongly. You have no doubt of his having superior abilities, he has
proved it at the University; he is, I dare say, such a scholar as your
agreeable, idle brothers would ill bear a comparison with.
Oh, my dear Fanny! the more I write about him, the warmer my feelings
become -- the more strongly I feel the sterling worth of such a young man
and the desirableness of your growing in love with him again. I recommend
this most thoroughly. There are such beings in the world, perhaps one
in a thousand, as the creature you and I should think perfection, where
grace and spirit are united to worth, where the manners are equal to the
heart and understanding, but such a person may not come in your way, or,
if he does, he may not be the eldest son of a man of fortune, the near
relation of your particular friend and belonging to your own county.
Think of all this, Fanny. Mr. A. has advantages which do not often meet
in one person. His only fault, indeed, seems modesty. If he were less
modest he would be more agreeable, speak louder, and look impudenter; and
is not it a fine character of which modesty is the only defect? I have
no doubt he will get more lively and more like yourselves as he is more
with you; he will catch your ways if he belongs to you. And, as to there
being any objection from his goodness, from the danger of his becoming
even evangelical, I cannot admit that. I am by no means convinced that
we ought not all to be evangelicals, and am at least persuaded that they
who are so from reason and feeling must be happiest and safest. Do not be
frightened from the connection by your brothers having most wit -- wisdom
is better than wit, and in the long run will certainly have the laugh on
her side; and don't be frightened by the idea of his acting more strictly
up to the precepts of the New Testament than others.
And now, my dear Fanny, having written so much on one side of the question,
I shall turn round and entreat you not to commit yourself farther, and
not to think of accepting him unless you really do like him. Anything
is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without affection;
and if his deficiences of manner, &c. &c., strike you more than all his
good qualities, if you continue to think strongly of them, give him up
at once. Things are now in such a state that you must resolve upon one
or the other -- either to allow him to go on as he has done, or whenever
you are together behave with a coldness which may convince him that he
has been deceiving himself. I have no doubt of his suffering a good deal
for a time -- a great deal when he feels that he must give you up; but
it is no creed of mine, as you must be well aware, that such sort of
disappointments kill anybody.
Your sending the music was an admirable device, it made everything easy,
and I do not know how I could have accounted for the parcel otherwise; for
though your dear papa most conscientiously hunted about till he found me
alone in the dining-parlour, your Aunt C. had seen that he had a parcel
to deliver. As it was, however, I do not think anything was suspected.
We have heard nothing fresh from Anna. I trust she is very comfortable in
her new home. Her letters have been very sensible and satisfactory, with
no parade of happiness, which I liked them the better for. I have often
known young married women write in a way I did not like in that respect.
You will be glad to hear that the first edition of M. P. is all sold.
Your uncle Henry is rather wanting me to come to town to settle about a
second edition, but as I could not very conveniently leave home now, I
have written him my will and pleasure, and, unless he still urges it,
shall not go. I am very greedy and want to make the most of it, but as
you are much above caring about money I shall not plague you with any
particulars. The pleasures of vanity are more within your comprehension,
and you will enter into mine at receiving the praise which every now and
then comes to me through some channel or other.
Saturday. -- Mr. Palmer spent yesterday with us, and is gone off with Cassy
this morning. We have been expecting Miss Lloyd the last two days, and
feel sure of her to-day. Mr. Knight and Mr. Edwd. Knight are to dine with
us, and on Monday they are to dine with us again, accompanied by their
respectable host and hostess.
Sunday. -- Your papa had given me messages to you, but they are unnecessary, as
he writes by this post to Aunt Louisa. We had a pleasant party yesterday,
at least we found it so. It is delightful to see him so cheerful and
confident. Aunt Cass. and I dine at the Great House today. We shall be a
snug half-dozen. Miss Lloyd came, as we expected, yesterday, and desires
her love. She is very happy to hear of your learning the harp. I do not
mean to send you what I owe Miss Hare, because I think you would rather
not be paid beforehand.
Yours very affectionately,
[Words omitted in Brabourne edition: "Your trying to excite your
own feelings by a visit to his room amused me excessively. The dirty
shaving rag was exquisite! Such a circumstance ought to be in print.
Much too good to be lost. Remember me particularly to Fanny C. -- I
thought you would like to hear from me, while you were with her."]
Miss Knight, Goodnestone Farm,
 Mansfield Park.
23 Hans Place: Wednesday (Nov. 30, 1814).
I am very much obliged to you, my dear Fanny, for your letter, and I hope
you will write again soon, that I may know you to be all safe and happy
Our visit to Hendon will interest you, I am sure, but I need not enter
into the particulars of it, as your papa will be able to answer almost
every question. I certainly could describe her bedroom, and her drawers,
and her closet, better than he can, but I do not feel that I can stop to
do it. I was rather sorry to hear that she is to have an instrument; it
seems throwing money away. They will wish the twenty-four guineas in the
shape of sheets and towels six months hence; and as to her playing, it
never can be anything.
Her purple pelisse rather surprised me. I thought we had known all
paraphernalia of that sort. I do not mean to blame her; it looked very
well, and I dare say she wanted it. I suspect nothing worse than its
being got in secret, and not owned to anybody. I received a very kind
note from her yesterday, to ask me to come again and stay a night with
them. I cannot do it, but I was pleased to find that she had the power
of doing so right a thing. My going was to give them both pleasure very
I just saw Mr. Hayter at the play, and think his face would please me on
acquaintance. I was sorry he did not dine here. It seemed rather odd to
me to be in the theatre with nobody to watch for. I was quite composed
myself, at leisure for all the agitation Isabella could raise.
Now, my dearest Fanny, I will begin a subject which comes in very naturally.
You frighten me out of my wits by your reference. Your affection gives me
the highest pleasure, but indeed you must not let anything depend on my
opinion; your own feelings, and none but your own, should determine such
an important point. So far, however, as answering your question, I have no
scruple. I am perfectly convinced that your present feelings, supposing
you were to marry now, would be sufficient for his happiness; but when
I think how very, very far it is from a "now," and take everything that
may be into consideration, I dare not say, "Determine to accept him;" the
risk is too great for you, unless your own sentiments prompt it.
You will think me perverse perhaps; in my last letter I was urging everything
in his favour, and now I am inclining the other way, but I cannot help
it; I am at present more impressed with the possible evil that may arise
to you from engaging yourself to him -- in word or mind -- than with anything
else. When I consider how few young men you have yet seen much of; how
capable you are (yes, I do still think you very capable) of being really
in love; and how full of temptation the next six or seven years of your
life will probably be (it is the very period of life for the strongest
attachments to be formed), -- I cannot wish you, with your present very
cool feelings, to devote yourself in honour to him. It is very true that
you never may attach another man his equal altogether; but if that other
man has the power of attaching you more, he will be in your eyes the most
I shall be glad if you can revive past feelings, and from your unbiassed
self resolve to go on as you have done, but this I do not expect; and
without it I cannot wish you to be fettered. I should not be afraid of
your marrying him; with all his worth you would soon love him enough for
the happiness of both; but I should dread the continuance of this sort
of tacit engagement, with such an uncertainty as there is of when it
may be completed. Years may pass before he is independent; you like him
well enough to marry, but not well enough to wait; the unpleasantness of
appearing fickle is certainly great; but if you think you want punishment
for past illusions, there it is, and nothing can be compared to the misery
of being bound without love -- bound to one, and preferring another; that
is a punishment which you do not deserve.
I know you did not meet, or rather will not meet, to-day, as he called here
yesterday; and I am glad of it. It does not seem very likely, at least,
that he should be in time for a dinner visit sixty miles off. We did not
see him, only found his card when we came home at four. Your Uncle H.
merely observed that he was a day after "the fair." He asked your brother
on Monday (when Mr. Hayter was talked of) why he did not invite him too;
saying, "I know he is in town, for I met him the other day in Bond St."
Edward answered that he did not know where he was to be found. "Don't
you know his chambers?" "No."
I shall be most glad to hear from you again, my dearest Fanny, but it
must not be later than Saturday, as we shall be off Monday long before
the letters are delivered; and write something that may do to be read or
told. I am to take the Miss Moores back on Saturday, and when I return I
shall hope to find your pleasant little flowing scrawl on the table. It
will be a relief to me after playing at ma'ams, for though I like Miss
H. M. as much as one can at my time of life after a day's acquaintance,
it is uphill work to be talking to those whom one knows so little.
Only one comes back with me to-morrow, probably Miss Eliza, and I rather
dread it. We shall not have two ideas in common. She is young, pretty,
chattering, and thinking chiefly, I presume, of dress, company, and
admiration. Mr. Sanford is to join us at dinner, which will be a comfort,
and in the evening, while your uncle and Miss Eliza play chess, he shall
tell me comical things and I will laugh at them, which will be a pleasure
I called in Keppel Street and saw them all, including dear Uncle Charles,
who is to come and dine with us quietly to-day. Little Harriot sat in my
lap, and seemed as gentle and affectionate as ever, and as pretty, except
not being quite well. Fanny is a fine stout girl, talking incessantly,
with an interesting degree of lisp and indistinctness, and very likely
may be the handsomest in time. That puss Cassy did not show more pleasure in seeing
me than her sisters, but I expected no better. She does not shine in the
tender feelings. She will never be a Miss O'Neil, more in the Mrs. Siddons
Thank you, but it is not settled yet whether I do hazard a second edition.
We are to see Egerton to-day, when it will probably be determined. People
are more ready to borrow and praise than to buy, which I cannot wonder
at; but though I like praise as well as anybody, I like what Edward calls
"Pewter," too. I hope he continues careful of his eyes and finds the good
effect of it. I cannot suppose we differ in our ideas of the Christian
religion. You have given an excellent description of it. We only affix a
different meaning to the word evangelical.
Yours most affectionately,
Miss Knight, Godmersham Park,
[This letter and the two following are actually from 1817.]
Chawton: (Feb. 20, 1816).
MY DEAREST FANNY,
You are inimitable, irresistible. You are the delight of my life. Such
letters, such entertaining letters, as you have lately sent! such a
description of your queer little heart! such a lovely display of what
imagination does. You are worth your weight in gold, or even in the new
silver coinage. I cannot express to you what I have felt in reading
your history of yourself -- how full of pity and concern, and admiration
and amusement, I have been! You are the paragon of all that is silly
and sensible, commonplace and eccentric, sad and lively, provoking and
interesting. Who can keep pace with the fluctuations of your fancy, the
capprizios of your taste, the contradictions of your feelings? You are
so odd, and all the time so perfectly natural! -- so peculiar in yourself,
and yet so like everybody else!
It is very, very gratifying to me to know you so intimately. You can
hardly think what a pleasure it is to me to have such thorough pictures
of your heart. Oh, what a loss it will be when you are married! You are
too agreeable in your single state -- too agreeable as a niece. I shall
hate you when your delicious play of mind is all settled down in conjugal
and maternal affections.
Mr. B--- frightens me. He will have you. I see you at the altar. I have
some faith in Mrs. C. Cage's observation, and still more in Lizzy's;
and, besides, I know it must be so. He must be wishing to attach you. It
would be too stupid and too shameful in him to be otherwise; and all the
family are seeking your acquaintance.
Do not imagine that I have any real objection; I have rather taken a fancy
to him than not, and I like the house for you. I only do not like you
should marry anybody. And yet I do wish you to marry very much, because
I know you will never be happy till you are; but the loss of a Fanny
Knight will be never made up to me. My "affec. niece F. C. B---" will be
but a poor substitute. I do not like your being nervous, and so apt to
cry -- it is a sign you are not quite well; but I hope Mr. Scud -- as you
always write his name (your Mr. Scuds amuse me very much) -- will do you
What a comfort that Cassandra should be so recovered! It was more than we
had expected. I can easily believe she was very patient and very good.
I always loved Cassandra, for her fine dark eyes and sweet temper. I am
almost entirely cured of my rheumatism -- just a little pain in my knee
now and then, to make me remember what it was, and keep on flannel. Aunt
Cassandra nursed me so beautifully.
I enjoy your visit to Goodnestone, it must be a great pleasure to you;
you have not seen Fanny Cage in comfort so long. I hope she represents
and remonstrates and reasons with you properly. Why should you be living
in dread of his marrying somebody else? (Yet, how natural!) You did not
choose to have him yourself, why not allow him to take comfort where he
can? In your conscience you know that he could not bear a comparison with
a more animated character. You cannot forget how you felt under the idea
of its having been possible that he might have dined in Hans Place.
My dearest Fanny, I cannot bear you should be unhappy about him. Think of
his principles; think of his father's objection, of want of money, [Words
omitted in Brabourne edition: "of a coarse mother, of brothers and sisters
like horses, of sheets sewn across"]
&c. But I am doing no good; no, all that I urge against him will rather
make you take his part more, sweet, perverse Fanny.
And now I will tell you that we like your Henry to the utmost, to the very
top of the glass, quite brimful. He is a very pleasing young man. I do
not see how he could be mended. He does really bid fair to be everything
his father and sister could wish; and William I love very much indeed,
and so we do all; he is quite our own William. In short, we are very
comfortable together; that is, we can answer for ourselves.
Mrs. Deedes is as welcome as May to all our benevolence to her son; we only
lamented that we could not do more, and that the 50l. note we slipped into
his hand at parting was necessarily the limit of our offering. Good Mrs.
Deedes! [Words omitted in Brabourne edition: "I hope she will get the better of
this Marianne, and then I would recommend to her and Mr. D. the simple
regimen of separate rooms."] Scandal and gossip; yes, I dare say you are well stocked, but I
am very fond of Mrs. --- for reasons good. Thank you for mentioning her
praise of "Emma," &c.
I have contributed the marking to Uncle H.'s shirts, and now they are a
complete memorial of the tender regard of many.
Friday. -- I had no idea when I began this yesterday of sending it before
your brother went back, but I have written away my foolish thoughts at
such a rate that I will not keep them many hours longer to stare me in
Much obliged for the quadrilles, which I am grown to think pretty enough,
though of course they are very inferior to the cotillions of my own day.
Ben and Anna walked here last Sunday to hear Uncle Henry, and she looked
so pretty, it was quite a pleasure to see her, so young and so blooming,
and so innocent, as if she had never had a wicked thought in her life,
which yet one has some reason to suppose she must have had, if we believe
the doctrine of original sin [Words omitted in Brabourne edition: "or if we
remember the events of her girlish days"]. I hope Lizzy will have her play very kindly
arranged for her. Henry is generally thought very good-looking, but not
so handsome as Edward. I think I prefer his face. Wm. is in excellent
looks, has a fine appetite, and seems perfectly well. You will have a great
break up at Godmersham in the spring. You must feel their all going. It
is very right, however! Poor Miss C.! I shall pity her when she begins
to understand herself.
Your objection to the quadrilles delighted me exceedingly. Pretty well,
for a lady irrecoverably attached to one person! Sweet Fanny, believe
no such thing of yourself, spread no such malicious slander upon your
understanding, within the precincts of your imagination. Do not speak ill
of your sense merely for the gratification of your fancy; yours is sense
which deserves more honourable treatment. You are not in love with him;
you never have been really in love with him.
Yours very affectionately,
Miss Knight, Godmersham Park
Chawton: Thursday (March 13).
AS to making any adequate return for such a letter as yours, my dearest
Fanny, it is absolutely impossible. If I were to labour at it all the rest
of my life, and live to the age of Methuselah, I could never accomplish
anything so long and so perfect; but I cannot let William go without a
few lines of acknowledgment and reply.
I have pretty well done with Mr. ---. By your description, he cannot be in
love with you, however he may try at it; and I could not wish the match
unless there were a great deal of love on his side. I do not know what to
do about Jemima Branfill. What does her dancing away with so much spirit
mean? That she does not care for him, or only wishes to appear not to
care for him? Who can understand a young lady?
Poor Mrs. C. Milles, that she should die on the wrong day at last, after
being about it so long! It was unlucky that the Goodnestone party could
not meet you, and I hope her friendly, obliging, social spirit, which
delighted in drawing people together, was not conscious of the division
and disappointment she was occasioning. I am sorry and surprised that you
speak of her as having little to leave, and must feel for Miss Milles,
though she is Molly, if a material loss of income is to attend her other
loss. Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor, which is
one very strong argument in favour of matrimony, but I need not dwell on
such arguments with you, pretty dear [words omitted in Brabourne edition: "you do not want inclination"].
To you I shall say, as I have often said before, Do not be in a hurry,
the right man will come at last; you will in the course of the next two
or three years meet with somebody more generally unexceptionable than
anyone you have yet known, who will love you as warmly as possible, and
who will so completely attach you that you will feel you never really
loved before. [Words omitted in Brabourne edition: "And then, by not
beginning the business of mothering quite so early in life, you will
be young in Constitution, spirits, figure, & countenance,
while Mrs. Wm. Hammond is growing old by confinements and nursing."]
Do none of the A.'s ever come to balls now? You have never mentioned them
as being at any. And what do you hear of the Gipps, or of Fanny and her
husband? [Words omitted in Brabourne edition: "Mrs. F. A. is to be confined the middle of April, and is by no means remarkably large for her."]
Aunt Cassandra walked to Wyards yesterday with Mrs. Digweed. Anna has had
a bad cold, and looks pale. She has just weaned Julia.
I have also heard lately from your Aunt Harriot, and cannot understand
their plans in parting with Miss S., whom she seems very much to value
now that Harriot and Eleanor are both of an age for a governess to be so
useful to, especially as, when Caroline was sent to school some years,
Miss Bell was still retained, though the others even then were nursery
children. They have some good reason, I dare say, though I cannot penetrate
it, and till I know what it is I shall invent a bad one, and amuse myself
with accounting for the difference of measures by supposing Miss S. to
be a superior sort of woman, who has never stooped to recommend herself
to the master of the family by flattery, as Miss Bell did.
I will answer your kind questions more than you expect. "Miss Catherine"
is put upon the shelf for the present, and I do not know that she will
ever come out; but I have a something ready for publication, which may,
perhaps, appear about a twelvemonth hence. It is short -- about the length
of "Catherine." This is for yourself alone. Neither Mr. Salusbury nor Mr.
Wildman is to know of it.
I am got tolerably well again, quite equal to walking about and enjoying
the air, and by sitting down and resting a good while between my walks, I
get exercise enough. I have a scheme, however, for accomplishing more,
as the weather grows spring-like. I mean to take to riding the donkey;
it will be more independent and less troublesome than the use of the
carriage, and I shall be able to go about with Aunt Cassandra in her walks
to Alton and Wyards.
I hope you will think Wm. looking well; he was bilious the other day, and
At. Cass. supplied him with a dose at his own request. I am sure you would
have approved it. Wm. and I are the best of friends. I love him very much.
Everything is so natural about him -- his affections, his manners, and his
drollery. He entertains and interests us extremely.
Mat. Hammond and A. M. Shaw are people whom I cannot care for, in themselves,
but I enter into their situation, and am glad they are so happy. If I
were the Duchess of Richmond, I should be very miserable about my son's
choice. [Words omitted in Brabourne edition: "What can be expected from a
Paget, born and brought up in the centre of conjugal infidelity and divorces?
I will not be interested about Lady Caroline. I abhor all the race of Pagets."]
Our fears increase for poor little Harriot; the latest account is that Sir
Ev. Home is confirmed in his opinion of there being water on the brain.
I hope Heaven, in its mercy, will take her soon. Her poor father will be
quite worn out by his feelings for her; he cannot spare Cassy at present,
she is an occupation and a comfort to him.
[Words omitted in Brabourne edition: "Adieu my drearest Fanny. Nothing
could be more delicious than your letter, and the assurance of your feeling
relieved by writing it made the pleasure perfect. But how could it possibly
be any new idea to you that you have a great deal of imagination? You are all
over imagination. The most astonishing part of your character is that with so
much imagination, so much flight of mind, such unbounded fancies, you should
have such excellent judgement in what you do! Religious principle I fancy
must explain it. Well, good bye and God bless you.
Yours very affectionately,
Chawton: Sunday (March 23).
I am very much obliged to you, my dearest Fanny, for sending me Mr. W.'s
conversation; I had great amusement in reading it, and I hope I am not
affronted, and do not think the worse of him for having a brain so very
different from mine; but my strongest sensation of all is astonishment
at your being able to press him on the subject so perseveringly; and I
agree with your papa, that it was not fair. When he knows the truth he
will be uncomfortable.
You are the oddest creature! Nervous enough in some respects, but in others
perfectly without nerves! Quite unrepulsable, hardened, and impudent. Do
not oblige him to read any more. Have mercy on him, tell him the truth,
and make him an apology. He and I should not in the least agree, of
course, in our ideas of novels and heroines. Pictures of perfection, as
you know, make me sick and wicked; but there is some very good sense in
what he says, and I particularly respect him for wishing to think well
of all young ladies; it shows an amiable and a delicate mind. And he
deserves better treatment than to be obliged to read any more of my works.
Do not be surprised at finding Uncle Henry acquainted with my having another
ready for publication. I could not say No when he asked me, but he knows
nothing more of it. You will not like it, so you need not be impatient.
You may perhaps like the heroine, as she is almost too good for me.
Many thanks for your kind care for my health; I certainly have not been
well for many weeks, and about a week ago I was very poorly. I have had a
good deal of fever at times, and indifferent nights; but I am considerably
better now and am recovering my looks a little, which have been bad
enough -- black and white, and every wrong colour. I must not depend upon
being ever very blooming again. Sickness is a dangerous indulgence at my
time of life. Thank you for everything you tell me. I do not feel worthy
of it by anything that I can say in return, but I assure you my pleasure
in your letters is quite as great as ever, and I am interested and amused
just as you could wish me. If there is a Miss Marsden, I perceive whom
she will marry.
Evening. -- I was languid and dull and very bad company when I wrote the
above; I am better now, to my own feelings at least, and wish I may be
more agreeable. We are going to have rain, and after that very pleasant
genial weather, which will exactly do for me, as my saddle will then be
completed, and air and exercise is what I want. Indeed, I shall be very
glad when the event at Scarlets is over, the expectation of it keeps us in
a worry, your grandmamma especially; she sits brooding over evils which
cannot be remedied, and conduct impossible to be understood.
Now the reports from Keppel St. are rather better; little Harriot's headaches
are abated, and Sir Evd. is satisfied with the effect of the mercury,
and does not despair of a cure. The complaint I find is not considered
incurable nowadays, provided the patient be young enough not to have the
head hardened. The water in that case may be drawn off by mercury. But
though this is a new idea to us, perhaps it may have been long familiar
to you through your friend Mr. Scud. I hope his high renown is sustained
by driving away William's cough.
Tell Wm. that Triggs is as beautiful and condescending as ever, and was
so good as to dine with us to-day and tell him that I often play at nines
and think of him. [Words omitted in Brabourne edition: "Anna has not a
chance of escape; her husband called here the other day, and said she was
pretty well but not equal to so long a walk; she
must come in her Donkey Carriage. Poor Animal, she
will be worn out before she is thirty. -- I am very sorry for
her. Mrs. Clement too is in that way again. I am quite tired of so
many children. -- Mrs. Benn has a 13th."]
The Papillons came back on Friday night, but I have not seen them yet, as
I do not venture to church. I cannot hear, however, but that they are
the same Mr. P. and his sister they used to be. She has engaged a new
maidservant in Mrs. Calker's room, whom she means to make also housekeeper
Old Philmore was buried yesterday, and I, by way of saying something to
Triggs, observed that it had been a very handsome funeral; but his manner
of reply made me suppose that it was not generally esteemed so. I can only
be sure of one part being very handsome -- Triggs himself, walking behind in
his green coat. Mrs. Philmore attended as chief mourner, in bombazine,
made very short, and flounced with crape.
Tuesday. -- I have had various plans as to this letter, but at last I have
determined that Uncle Henry shall forward it from London. I want to see
how Canterbury looks in the direction. When once Uncle H. has left us I
shall wish him with you. London has become a hateful place to him, and
he is always depressed by the idea of it. I hope he will be in time for
your sick. I am sure he must do that part of his duty as excellently as
all the rest. He returned yesterday from Steventon, and was with us by
breakfast, bringing Edward with him, only that Edwd. stayed to breakfast
at Wyards. We had a pleasant family day, for the Altons dined with us,
the last visit of the kind probably which she will be able to pay us for
many a month. [Words omitted in Brabourne edition: "Very well, to be able to do
it so long, for she expects much about this day three weeks, and is
generally very exact."]
I hope your own Henry is in France, and that you have heard from him;
the passage once over, he will feel all happiness. I took my first ride
yesterday, and liked it very much. I went up Mounter's Lane and round by
where the new cottages are to be, and found the exercise and everything
very pleasant; and I had the advantage of agreeable companions, as At.
Cass. and Edward walked by my side. At. Cass. is such an excellent nurse,
so assiduous and unwearied! But you know all that already.
Very affectionately yours,
Miss Knight, Godmersham Park,