Posted by Caroline on August 01, 1998 at 16:14:06:
In response to Family Secrets, written by Lesley on July 31, 1998 at 01:24:21
One of the points made about Cassandra's censoring of JA's letters is that she seems to have removed all mention of physical illness. I'm not sure, but I think it's Deirdre le Faye who discusses this, in her edition of the letters. Nobody seems to have any good idea about why Cass did this, except, perhaps, that it was considered as not something to put in print and allow the whole world to bandy about. I don't think it was a great secret as such. I think of it in terms of myself - I have plenty of family "problems" myself, but I don't splash them all over the internet, because they are irrelevant to everyone else.
Of her uncle and her brother we know very little, except that the same family was paid to look after both of them. I don't think they were banished from conversation though. What about that bit about Jane knowing sign language? The family visited George from time to time, and I have a feeling he might have come to them for visits, too, perhaps when all those little boys were back home with their parents! I do know that they didn't just shove poor George in an asylum and forget about him.
As for Aunt Phila, her marriage doesn't seem to have been that extraordinary, according to the mores of the day, as Tomalin and le Faye both point out. No-one seemed to deny that Hastings was Eliza's father, either, though I'm sure they didn't advertise the fact in the papers! Being the illegitimate offspring of a Nobleman was usually seen as an asset, I think. As long as the said Nobleman took some responsibility for you (and Hastings did, it seems) then it was actually something to crow about, and better than to have no connections at all.
As for Little Lord Portsmouth, well, he really was a bit of a wierdo, wasn't he? I wonder if he went around Steventon pulling the wings off flies, and stuff? Perhaps he was a very normal little boy, and only got strange later on. He was incarcerated in an asylum, as an adult, but then friends rallied round and got him released, to be cared for at home. But I don't think it was a case of 'hiding' a family secret, it was simply a case of his heirs wanting to get their hands on his possessions and having him declared insane was the quickest and easiest way of doing it. And his friends got him out, not because he was cured (he definitely wasn't) but because they wanted him to be treated decently.
I like to think that both the Austen Family and the Portsmouth Family had human dignity as much in mind as 'appearances' when dealing with their family problems.
- I agree with Cassandra Golda 14:28:02 8/03/98 (0)
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