Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition
Letters to her niece Fanny Knight, 1814-1816

*Return to Jane Austen's life
*Return to Jane Austen's writings

[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.[1] 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,
Wingham, Kent.

[1] 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 at home.

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 properly.

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 perfect.

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 to both.

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 line.

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,
Faversham, Kent.


[This letter and the two following are actually from 1817.]

Chawton: (Feb. 20, 1816).


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 good.

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 the face.

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
Faversham, Kent.


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,
J. Austen"]


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 under herself.

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,

*Return to Jane Austen's life
*Return to Jane Austen's writings
*Go to table of contents at top of file

Group Read Board Pride & Prejudice Board Emma Board Sense & Sensibility Board Persuasion Board Mansfield Park Board Northanber Abbey Board Austenuations Board Jane Austen's Life & Times Board Lady Catherine & Co. Board Library Board Virtual Views Board Ramble Board Meetings Board Newcomers' Board Milestones Board Help Board Pemberleans Board

- Jane Austen | Republic of Pemberley -

Quick Index Home Site Map JAInfo

© 2004 - 2011 The Republic of Pemberley

Get copyright permissions