Letters of Jane Austen -- Brabourne Edition
Appendix III.
Letters from Mrs. Knight

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[Appendix] III. [Letters from Mrs. Knight]


Mrs. Knight to Mr. Knatchbull.


Indeed, my dear Edward I am very glad your wife gave you a scold: as I did not know that another sore finger prevented her holding a Pen, I was quite surprised at not hearing from her -- her constant attention has spoiled me and made me unreasonable. Yesterday, however, a kind present from Col. Knatchbull satisfied me that you were alive, whatever might have happened to your wife and children. It was very good of you to think of me; I am very fond of smelts, and enjoyed them exceedingly, but you should not have sent half the number, for I was obliged to let a neighbour help me to consume them. I was soon awakened from the dream of happiness in which Lady Honywood found me, for the next day, which was not cold, I was almost as ill as at any time, and I have since that had many painful Days, and am quite desponding again. People talk of the fine weather -- the hot sun I do not feel, but the cold N. E. wind penetrates to my fireside, and I am always starved.

I am glad I shall get a peep at dear Belle on the 15th. I hope you will both contrive to dine here with Charlie and his wife. The first day of their arrival I always provide for them. I do not much like the accounts they send me of my nephew Wyndham; he seems a most indolent young man, and I heartily wish he had gone into a Regiment of the Line. The sight of the Installations he pronounced a bore, and rejected a ticket. His father then kindly sent a chaise for Wadham, but Dr. Butler had refused permission to some other boys to go, and therefore could not grant it to him. I wonder whether you have seen your new neighbours yet. What an elegant way they fixed on to pass part of their wedding Day! An Ostler and Housemaid at an Inn, who had a chay lent them by their master for the Day, would probably have spent it in the same manner. Indeed, my dear Edward, I hope Lord Burleigh will not make his appearance in my Room at the same time with his son again; I have hardly recovered it yet. As the christening is to be on Tuesday, I suppose the whole Party will soon adjourn to Hatch; by that time, perhaps, he will be obliged to begin his canvass, and some puzzling questions he will have to answer in the course of it.

Miss Toke is much the same. Their sea Plan is now fixed, and a good House in Nelson's Crescent is engaged for them, from the 1st of July for 2 months, at 80 guineas. The expense seems to be a dreadful burthen upon all their minds; but as it will only cause Mr. T.'s putting a 100l. instead of a 1,000l. in the stocks, I cannot pity them. You will be glad to resign the correspondence to your wife, if you are to be plagued with such long letters. I expect you will put this into her hand before you have got half through it.

Adieu, dear Edward. My best love to Belle, and believe me, affectionately yours,

C. K.[1]

[1] This letter must have been written in 1808 or 1809. "Dear Belle" was Mrs. Knatchbull, my father's first wife, Annabella Christiana Honywood, who married in 1806, and died in 1814. "My nephew Wyndham" must mean a son of her brother Wyndham, who died during his father's lifetime, although I cannot find his name in any family pedigree. "Lord Burleigh" was her nickname for her cousin, my grandfather, Sir Edward Knatchbull. My father, by the kindness of Sir Joseph and Lady Banks (his aunt), had been placed in a position not so dependent upon his father as would otherwise have been the case, and was eventually very greatly benefited from the same sources. My grandfather, having married three times, and having many younger children, some differences upon pecuniary matters occurred between him and his son, during which they seem to have accidentally met at "Whitefriars," to which Mrs. Knight here alludes. I do not know what were "the puzzling questions" which my grandfather would have to answer; the fact of his third wife being a Roman Catholic had given great offence to the hot Protestants of Kent; but they had their revenge in 1802, when he was defeated at the general election, and the reference to my father's first wife shows that this letter was written several years later.

Talking of elections, the three famous contests of 1796, 1802, and 1806 furnished the text for some verses which I may as well insert here, although they have no more to do with Jane Austen than with the man in the moon, but may amuse those who take an interest in matters of the sort. The facts are briefly these -- Knatchbull and Honywood -- Tory and Whig -- were the great contending powers, whilst Geary was the moderate politician of neutral tint, who was happy to receive support from both, and had, moreover, as a popular and good man of business, a number of personal friends. In 1796, Knatchbull, by throwing his second votes to Geary, brought him in at Honywood's expense. In 1802, when he tried to do the same thing, various causes had contributed to strengthen Honywood, who was able to turn the tables and throw Knatchbull out by splitting his votes with Geary. In 1806 both had grown wary, each polled all the "plumpers" he could, and Geary, getting scarcely any second votes from the other two, had to retire discomfited. Hence the following verses in 1806: --

Some ten years ago, three men of great fame,
Filmer Honywood, Knatchbull, and Geary by name,
To the County of Kent did their service propose
As Parliament men, with a view to be chose.
The Freeholders then did most wisely decree
That Knatchbull and Geary were the best of the three.
Six years had elapsed when the very same men
To the County did offer their service again;
The Freeholders then did as wisely decide
To take t'other two and set Knatchbull aside;
Four years after this came another election,
When Geary in turn underwent his rejection.
Let no one from hence most rashly insist on't
That the County of Kent is not truly consistent --
Most consistent to all she appears, without doubt,
By putting all "in" and by turning all "out"!


Mrs. Knight to Miss Knight, afterwards Lady Knatchbull.

Oct. 26, 1809.

I was quite delighted with your letter, my dearest Fanny, but you have got yourself into a scrape by your kind attention to my wishes, for you sent me just such an account as I like to receive, and I shall therefore be the more desirous of hearing from you again. I have also heard from your uncle Henry, so that I believe I am almost as much acquainted with all your proceedings as if I bad been one of your Party. As I now do nothing, or go anywhere, it will not be in my Power to reward you for your trouble by an amusing letter in return, but as you are a reasonable, good girl, I know you will be satisfied with what I can tell you. Our Jubilee went off with great éclat; above 600l. were subscribed, and about as many persons were regaled with meat, Bread and Beer, and every private House, I believe, presented a scene of festivity and happiness. Mary Fox and Daniel assisted at a Bowl of Punch, &c. &c., at the Friars, and I was glad to hear from them a good account of the little ones at Godmersham. Mr. Honywood sent a Jubilee donation of 100l. to the Hospital, with a very handsome letter to Mr. Toke. Of the grand Ball I hope to give you an account which my Friends promised to bring me this morning. I hear the gowns &c. for the Goodnestone Party were got ready, but to be sure it was a little in the usual dilatory style of the Bridges's to put off all preparations till the preceding Monday. Pray tell me whether you ever saw your intended Aunt. It is a pity she cannot change her Christian, with her other name, for Dolly, my dear, will not sound well. I know something of her and have heard more, and as Sir Brook makes a second match I think the Family are very lucky in the Person he has fixed upon. I had a letter from dear Harriet, but she did not then know what was going forward. I am sorry to hear from herself, as well as others, that she is very thin, without any cause for it. She tells me she has had her hair cut off, and there are various opinions as to the effect. Her Husband, however, thinks it an improvement, and that is sufficient for a good wife. I heard of the Chawton Party looking very comfortable at Breakfast, from a gentleman who was travelling by their door in a Post-chaise about ten days ago. Your account of the whole family gives me the sincerest Pleasure, and I beg you will assure them all how much I feel interested in their happiness. I think, my dearest Fanny, that your poor little watch always seemed in an uncomfortable state. If you like to have a new one, I shall have great pleasure in providing you with one, and as I suppose you will be in Sloane Street a day or two in your return, it would be a good opportunity to make your choice. A watch and chain will certainly not cost less than 20 guineas, and you may be assured I shall not grudge 5 or 10 more to please my dear God-daughter. Draw upon your Uncle Henry, therefore, for what you require. By a letter from Miss Cuthbert, I find I am in your Papa's debt.

The Ball was full, but the harmony of the evening was destroyed by the folly of Lady C. Nelson, who made a select Supper Party, and disobliged all the rest. When she and her Party returned to the Ball-room, the other set would not join her dance, the music was stopped, and in short there was a grand Row. The Dinner had passed off better. No Toast was drank with more enthusiasm than Mr. Milles, who represented Canterbury at the time of the King's accession. He bow'd and bow'd again, and was cheer'd and cheer'd again. Mrs. Palmer was at the Ball.

Adieu, my dear. Affectionately yours,
C. K.[1]

[1] The "intended aunt" -- "Dolly, my dear" -- was Dorothy Hawley, Sir Brook's second wife.

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