Lesley Castle (excerpts)

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This is another parodic-humorous piece from Jane Austen's Juvenilia (like Frederic & Elfrida, Jack & Alice, or Love and Freindship). From the dates given to the letters, Lesley Castle was probably written in early 1792 (when she was 16). It contains some amusing bits, but may be slightly confusing overall, since Jane Austen introduces a number of separate sub-plots and supporting characters. For this reason, I wasn't motivated enough to scan in the whole thing, but only certain selected portions (cutting away a few of the sub-plots but retaining most of the funnier parts).


an unfinished Novel in Letters

To Henry Thomas Austen Esqre.


I am now availing myself of the Liberty you have frequently honoured me with, of dedicating one of my Novels to you. That it is unfinished, I greive, yet fear that from me, it will always remain so; that as far as it is carried, it Should be so trifling and so unworthy of you, is another concern to your obliged humble

The Author

Messrs Demand & Co -- please to pay Jane Austen, Spinster, the sum of one hundred guineas on account of your Humbl. Servant.

H T Austen.

£105. 0. 0

Letter The first is from
Miss Margaret Lesley to Miss Charlotte Lutterell.

Lesley-Castle Janry 3d -- 1792.

MY Brother has just left us. "Matilda" (said he at parting) "you and Margaret will, I am certain, take all the care of my dear little one, that she might have received from an indulgent, an affectionate, an amiable Mother." Tears rolled down his cheeks as he spoke these words -- the remembrance of her, who had so wantonly disgraced the Maternal character and so openly violated the conjugal Duties, prevented his adding anything farther; he embraced his sweet Child and after saluting Matilda & Me, hastily broke from us and seating himself in his Chaise, pursued the road to Aberdeen. Never was there a better young Man! Ah! how little did he deserve the misfortunes he has experienced in the Marriage state. So good a Husband to so bad a Wife! for you know, my dear Charlotte, that the Worthless Louisa left him, her Child & reputation a few weeks ago in company with Danvers & dishonour.* Never was there a sweeter face, a finer form, or a less amiable Heart than Louisa owned! Her child already possesses the personal charms of her unhappy Mother! May she inherit from her Father all his mental ones! Lesley is at present but five and twenty, and has already given himself up to melancholy and Despair.

...Matilda and I continue secluded from Mankind in our old and Mouldering Castle, which is situated two miles from Perth on a bold projecting Rock, and commands an extensive view of the Town and its delightful Environs. But tho' retired from almost all the World (for we visit no one but the M'Leods, the M'Kenzies, the M'Phersons, the M'Cartneys, the M'donalds, The M'Kinnons, the M'lellans, the M'Kays, the Macbeths and the Macduffs), we are neither dull nor unhappy; on the contrary there never were two more lively, more agreable, or more witty Girls than we are; not an hour in the Day hangs heavy on our hands. We read, we work, we walk and when fatigued with these Employments releive our spirits, either by a lively song, a graceful Dance, or by some smart bon-mot, and witty repartée. We are handsome, my dear Charlotte, very handsome and the greatest of our Perfections is, that we are entirely insensible of them ourselves. But why do I thus dwell on myself? Let me rather repeat the praise of our dear little Neice, the innocent Louisa, who is at present sweetly smiling in a gentle Nap, as she reposes on the Sofa. The dear Creature is just turned of two years old; as handsome as tho' 2 & 20, as sensible as tho' 2 & 30, and as prudent as tho' 2 & 40. To convince you of this, I must inform you that she has a very fine complexion and very pretty features, that she already knows the two first letters in the Alphabet, and that she never tears her frocks. -- If I have not now convinced you of her Beauty, Sense, & Prudence, I have nothing more to urge in support of my assertion, and you will therefore have no way of deciding the Affair but by coming to Lesley Castle, and by a personal acquaintance with Louisa, determine for yourself. Ah! my dear Freind, how happy should I be to see you within these venerable Walls! It is now four years since my removal from School has separated me from you; that two such tender Hearts, so closely linked together by the ties of simpathy and Freindship, should be so widely removed from each other, is vastly moving. I live in Perthshire, You in Sussex. We might meet in London, were my Father disposed to carry me there, and were your Mother to be there at the same time. We might meet at Bath, at Tunbridge, or anywhere else indeed, could we but be at the same place together. We have only to hope that such a period may arrive. My Father does not return to us till Autumn; my Brother will leave Scotland in a few Days; he is impatient to travel. Mistaken Youth! He vainly flatters himself that change of Air will heal the Wounds of a broken Heart! You will join with me, I am certain my dear Charlotte, in prayers for the recovery of the unhappy Lesley's peace of Mind, which must ever be essential to that of your sincere freind

M. Lesley.

Letter the second
From Miss C. Lutterell to Miss M. Lesley in answer

Glenford Feb:ry 12

I HAVE a thousand excuses to beg for having so long delayed thanking you, my dear Peggy, for your agreable Letter, which beleive me I should not have deferred doing, had not every moment of my time during the last five weeks been so fully employed in the necessary arrangements for my sister's Wedding, as to allow me no time to devote either to you or myself. And now what provokes me more than anything else is that the Match is broke off, and all my Labour thrown away. Imagine how great the Dissapointment must be to me, when you consider that after having laboured both by Night and Day, in order to get the Wedding dinner ready by the time appointed, after having roasted Beef, Broiled Mutton, and Stewed Soup enough to last the new-married Couple through the Honey-moon, I had the mortification of finding that I had been Roasting, Broiling and Stewing both the Meat and Myself to no purpose. Indeed, my dear Freind, I never remember suffering any vexation equal to what I experienced on last Monday when my Sister came running to me in the Store-room with her face as White as a Whipt syllabub, and told me that Hervey had been thrown from his Horse, had fractured his Scull and was pronounced by his Surgeon to be in the most emminent Danger. "Good God!" (said I) "you don't say so? Why what in the name of Heaven will become of all the Victuals? We shall never be able to eat it while it is good. However, we'll call in the Surgeon to help us. -- I shall be able to manage the Sir-loin myself; my Mother will eat the Soup, and You and the Doctor must finish the rest." Here I was interrupted, by seeing my poor Sister fall down, to appearance Lifeless, upon one of the Chests, where we keep our Table linen. I immediately called my Mother and the Maids, and at last we brought her to herself again; as soon as ever she was sensible, she expressed a determination of going instantly to Henry, and was so wildly bent on this Scheme, that we had the greatest Difficulty in the World to prevent her putting it in execution; at last however more by Force than Entreaty we prevailed on her to go into her room; we laid her upon the Bed, and she continued for some Hours in the most dreadful Convulsions. My Mother and I continued in the room with her, and when any intervals of tolerable Composure in Eloisa would allow us, we joined in heartfelt lamentations on the dreadful Waste in our provisions which this Event must occasion, and in concerting some plan for getting rid of them. We agreed that the best thing we could do was to begin eating them immediately, and accordingly we ordered up the cold Ham and Fowls, and instantly began our Devouring Plan on them with great Alacrity. We would have persuaded Eloisa to have taken a Wing of a Chicken, but she would not be persuaded. She was however much quieter than she had been; the Convulsions she had before suffered having given way to an almost perfect Insensibility. We endeavoured to rouse her by every means in our power, but to no purpose. I talked to her of Henry. "Dear Eloisa" (said I) "there's no occasion for your crying so much about such a trifle." (for I was willing to make light of it in order to comfort her) "I beg you would not mind it. -- You see it does not vex me in the least; though perhaps I may suffer most from it after all; for I shall not only be obliged to eat up all the Victuals I have dressed already, but must if Hervey should recover (which however is not very likely) dress as much for you again; or should he die (as I suppose he will) I shall still have to prepare a Dinner for you whenever you marry any one else. So you see that tho' perhaps for the present it may afflict you to think of Henry's sufferings, Yet I dare say he'll die soon, and then his pain will be over and you will be easy, whereas my Trouble will last much longer, for work hard as I may, I am certain that the pantry cannot be cleared in less than a fortnight." Thus I did all in my power to console her, but without any effect, and at last as I saw that she did not seem to listen to me, I said no more, but leaving her with my Mother I took down the remains of The Ham & Chicken, and sent William to ask how Hervey did. He was not expected to live many Hours; he died the same day. We took all possible care to break the Melancholy Event to Eloisa in the tenderest manner; yet in spite of every precaution, her Sufferings on hearing it were too violent for her reason, and she continued for many hours in a high Delirium. She is still extremely ill, and her Physicians are greatly afraid of her going into a Decline. We are therefore preparing for Bristol, where we mean to be in the course of the next week. And now, my dear Margaret, let me talk a little of your affairs; I think your Brother is extremely right in the resolution he has taken of travelling, as it will perhaps contribute to obliterate from his remembrance those disagreable Events, which have lately so much afflicted him -- I am happy to find that tho' secluded from all the World, neither you nor Matilda are dull or unhappy -- that you may never know what it is to be either is the wish of your sincerely Affectionate


Letter the third
From Miss Margaret Lesley to Miss C. Lutterell

...My Brother is already in Paris. I beleive you never yet heard the particulars of his first acquaintance with her. Louisa Burton was naturally ill-tempered and Cunning; but she had been taught to disguise her real Disposition, under the appearance of insinuating Sweetness, by a father who but too well knew that to be married would be the only chance she would have of not being starved, and who flattered himself that with such an extraordinary share of personal beauty, joined to a gentleness of Manners, and an engaging address, she might stand a good chance of pleasing some young Man who might afford to marry a Girl without a Shilling. Louisa perfectly entered into her father's schemes and was determined to forward them with all her care & attention. By dint of Perseverance and Application, she had at length so thoroughly disguised her natural disposition under the mask of Innocence and Softness, as to impose upon every one who had not by a long and constant intimacy with her discovered her real Character. Such was Louisa when the hapless Lesley first beheld her at Drummond-house. His heart, which (to use your favourite comparison) was as delicate as sweet and as tender as a Whipt-syllabub, could not resist her attractions...

Letter the fourth
From Miss C. Lutterell to Miss M. Lesley

Bristol February 27th


I HAVE but just received your letter, which being directed to Sussex while I was at Bristol, was obliged to be forwarded to me here, & from some unaccountable Delay has but this instant reached me. -- I return you many thanks for the account it contains of Lesley's acquaintance, Love, & Marriage with Louisa, which has not the less entertained me for having often been repeated to me before.

I have the satisfaction of informing you that we have every reason to imagine our pantry is by this time nearly cleared, as we left particular orders with the Servants to eat as hard as they possibly could, and to call in a couple of Chairwomen to assist them. We brought a cold Pigeon pye, a cold turkey, a cold tongue, and half a dozen Jellies with us, which we were lucky enough with the help of our Landlady, her husband, and their three children, to get rid of in less than two days after our arrival. Poor Eloisa is still so very indifferent both in Health & Spirits, that I very much fear the air of the Bristol downs, healthy as it is, has not been able to drive poor Henry from her remembrance.

...Perhaps you may flatter me so far as to be surprised that one of whom I speak with so little affection should be my particular freind; but to tell you the truth, our freindship arose rather from Caprice on her side than Esteem on mine. We spent two or three days together with a Lady in Berkshire with whom we both happened to be connected. -- During our visit, the Weather being remarkably bad, and our party particularly stupid, she was so good as to conceive a violent partiality for me, which very soon settled in a downright Freindship, and ended in an established correspondence. She is probably by this time as tired of me, as I am of her; but as she is too polite and I am too civil to say so, our letters are still as frequent and affectionate as ever, and our Attachment as firm and sincere as when it first commenced. --

...Eloisa's indisposition has brought us to Bristol at so unfashionable a season of the year, that we have actually seen but one genteel family since we came. Mr. & Mrs. Marlowe are very agreable people; the ill health of their little boy occasioned their arrival here; you may imagine that being the only family with whom we can converse, we are of course on a footing of intimacy with them; we see them indeed almost every day, and dined with them yesterday. We spent a very pleasant Day, and had a very good Dinner, tho' to be sure the Veal was terribly underdone, and the Curry had no seasoning. I could not help wishing all dinner-time that I had been at the dressing it. -- A brother of Mrs. Marlowe, Mr. Cleveland, is with them at present; he is a good-looking young Man, and seems to have a good deal to say for himself. I tell Eloisa that she should set her cap at him, but she does not at all seem to relish the proposal. I should like to see the girl married and Cleveland has a very good estate. Perhaps you may wonder that I do not consider myself as well as my Sister in my matrimonial Projects; but to tell you the truth, I never wish to act a more principal part at a Wedding than the superintending and directing the Dinner, and therefore while I can get any of my acquaintance to marry for me, I shall never think of doing it myself, as I very much suspect that I should not have so much time for dressing my own Wedding-dinner, as for dressing that of my freinds.

Yrs sincerely

Letter the seventh
From Miss C. Lutterell to Miss M. Lesley

Bristol the 27th of March.

...I suppose this Letter must be directed to Portman Square, where probably (great as is your affection for Lesley Castle) you will not be sorry to find yourself. In spite of all that People may say about Green fields and the Country, I was always of the opinion that London and its Amusements must be very agreable for a while, and should be very happy could my Mother's income allow her to jockey us into its Public-places during Winter. I always longed particularly to go to Vaux-hall, to see whether the cold Beef there is cut so thin as it is reported, for I have a sly suspicion that few people understand the art of cutting a slice of cold Beef so well as I do: nay, it would be hard if I did not know something of the Matter, for it was a part of my Education that I took by far the most pains with. Mama always found me her best Scholar, tho' when Papa was alive Eloisa was his. Never, to be sure, were there two more different Dispositions in the World. We both loved Reading. She preferred Histories, & I Receipts. She loved drawing Pictures, and I drawing Pullets. No one could sing a better Song than She, and no one make a better Pye than I. -- And so it has always continued since we have been no longer Children. The only difference is that all disputes on the superior excellence of our Employments then so frequent are now no more. We have for many years entered into an agreement always to admire each other's works; I never fail listening to her Music, & she is as constant in eating my pies. Such at least was the case till Henry Hervey made his appearance in Sussex. Before the arrival of his Aunt in our neighbourhood, where she established herself, you know, about a twelvemonth ago, his visits to her had been at stated times, and of equal & settled Duration; but on her removal to the Hall which is within a walk from our House, they became both more frequent & longer. This, as you may suppose, could not be pleasing to Mrs. Diana who is a professed Enemy to everything which is not directed by Decorum and Formality, or which bears the least resemblance to Ease and Good-breeding. Nay, so great was her aversion to her Nephew's behaviour that I have often heard her give such hints of it before his face that, had not Henry at such times been engaged in conversation with Eloisa, they must have caught his Attention and have very much distressed him. The alteration in my Sister's behaviour which I have before hinted at, now took place. The Agreement we had entered into of admiring each others productions she no longer seemed to regard, & tho' I constantly applauded even every Country-dance She play'd, yet not even a pidgeon-pye of my making could obtain from her a single word of approbation. This was certainly enough to put any one in a Passion; however, I was as cool as a Cream-cheese and having formed my plan & concerted a scheme of Revenge; I was determined to let her have her own way & not even to make her a single reproach. My Scheme was to treat her as she treated me, and tho' she might even draw my own Picture or play Malbrook (which is the only tune I ever really like) not to say so much as "Thank you Eloisa"; tho' I had for many years constantly hollowed whenever she played, Bravo, Bravissimo, Encora, Da Capo, allegretto, con expressione, and Poco presto with many other such outlandish words, all of them, as Eloisa told me, expressive of my Admiration; and so indeed I suppose they are, as I see some of them in every Page of every Music book, being the Sentiments, I imagine, of the Composer.

I executed my Plan with great Punctuality; I can not say success, for Alas! my silence while she played seemed not in the least to displease her; on the contrary, she actually said to me one day "Well Charlotte, I am very glad to find that you have at last left off that ridiculous custom of applauding my Execution on the Harpsichord till you made my head ake, & yourself hoarse. I feel very much obliged to you for keeping your Admiration to yourself." I never shall forget the very witty answer I made to this speech. "Eloisa" (said I) "I beg you would be quite at your Ease with respect to all such fears in future, for be assured that I shall always keep my Admiration to myself & my own pursuits, & never extend it to yours." This was the only very severe thing I ever said in my Life; not but that I have often felt myself extremely satirical, but it was the only time I ever made my feelings public.

I suppose there never were two young people who had a greater affection for each other than Henry & Eloisa; no, the Love of your Brother for Miss Burton could not be so strong tho' it might be more violent. You may imagine therefore how provoked my Sister must have been to have him play her such a trick. Poor Girl! she still laments his Death with undiminished Constancy, notwithstanding he has been dead more than six weeks; but some people mind such things more than others. The ill state of Health into which his Loss has thrown her makes her so weak, & so unable to support the least exertion, that she has been in tears all this Morning merely from having taken Leave of Mrs. Marlowe, who with Her husband, Brother, and Child are to leave Bristol this Morning. I am sorry to have them go, because they are the only family with whom we have here any acquaintance, but I never thought of crying; to be sure Eloisa & Mrs. Marlowe have always been more together than with me, and have therefore contracted a kind of affection for each other, which does not make Tears so inexcusable in them as they would be in me. The Marlowes are going to Town; Cleveland accompanies them, as neither Eloisa nor I could catch him; I hope you or Matilda may have better Luck. I know not when we shall leave Bristol; Eloisa's Spirits are so low that she is very averse to moving, and yet is certainly by no means mended by her residence here. A week or two will I hope determine our Measures -- in the mean time believe me

&c -- &c -- Charlotte Lutterell

Letter the Tenth
From Miss Margaret Lesley to Miss Charlotte Lutterell

Portman Square April 13th


WE left Lesley-Castle on the 28th of Last Month, and arrived Safely in London after a Journey of seven Days; I had the pleasure of finding your Letter here waiting my Arrival, for which you have my grateful Thanks. Ah! my dear Freind, I every day more regret the serene and tranquil Pleasures of the Castle we have left, in exchange for the uncertain & unequal Amusements of this vaunted City. Not that I will pretend to assert that these uncertain and unequal Amusements are in the least Degree unpleasing to me; on the contrary, I enjoy them extremely and should enjoy them even more, were I not certain that every appearance I make in Public but rivetts the Chains of those unhappy Beings whose Passion it is impossible not to pity, tho' it is out of my power to return. In short, my Dear Charlotte, it is my sensibility for the sufferings of so many amiable Young Men, my Dislike of the extreme Admiration I meet with, and my Aversion to being so celebrated both in Public, in Private, in Papers, & in Printshops, that are the reasons why I cannot more fully enjoy the Amusements, so various and pleasing, of London. How often have I wished that I possessed as little personal Beauty as you do; that my figure were as inelegant; my face as unlovely; and my Appearance as unpleasing as yours! But ah! what little chance is there of so desirable an Event; I have had the Small-pox, and must therefore submit to my unhappy fate.

I am now going to intrust you, my dear Charlotte, with a secret which has long disturbed the tranquillity of my days, and which is of a kind to require the most inviolable Secrecy from you. Last Monday se'night, Matilda & I accompanied Lady Lesley to a Rout at the Honourable Mrs. Kickabout's; we were escorted by Mr. Fitzgerald who is a very amiable Young Man in the main, tho' perhaps a little singular in his Taste -- He is in love with Matilda. -- We had scarcely paid our Compliments to the Lady of the House and curtseyed to half a Score different people when my Attention was attracted by the appearance of a Young Man, the most lovely of his Sex, who at that moment entered the Room with another Gentleman & Lady. From the first moment I beheld him, I was certain that on him depended the future Happiness of my Life. Imagine my surprise when he was introduced to me by the name of Cleveland -- I instantly recognised him as the Brother of Mrs Marlowe, and the acquaintance of my Charlotte at Bristol. Mr. and Mrs. M. were the gentleman & Lady who accompanied him. (You do not think Mrs. Marlowe handsome?) The elegant address of Mr. Cleveland, his polished Manners and Delightful Bow, at once confirmed my attachment. He did not speak; but I can imagine every thing he would have said, had he opened his Mouth. I can picture to myself the cultivated Understanding, the Noble Sentiments, & elegant Language which would have shone so conspicuous in the conversation of Mr. Cleveland. The approach of Sir James Gower (one of my too numerous Admirers) prevented the Discovery of any such Powers, by putting an end to a conversation we had never commenced, and by attracting my attention to himself. But oh! how inferior are the accomplishments of Sir James to those of his so greatly envied Rival! Sir James is one of the most frequent of our Visitors, & is almost always of our Parties. We have since often met Mr. & Mrs. Marlowe, but no Cleveland -- he is always engaged some where else. Mrs. Marlowe fatigues me to Death every time I see her by her tiresome conversations about You & Eloisa. She is so Stupid! I live in the hope of seeing her irresistable Brother to night, as we are going to Lady Flambeau's, who is I know intimate with the Marlowes...

Adeiu, my Dear Charlotte --
Yr. faithful Margaret Lesley


"£105. 0. 0":
Since there were 20 shillings to the pound and 21 shillings to the guinea, her brother's fictitious payment of one hundred guineas is equal to 105 pounds (and zero shillings, zero pence). This sum is the equivalent of at least several thousand dollars of 1996 US currency, no matter how one calculates the conversion.
"With Danvers and dishonour":
Jane Austen's footnote here:
``* Rakehelly Dishonour Esqre.''
Curdled milk, often sweetened and flavored.
Could also mean "recipe".
A song sung to almost the same melody as "For he's a jolly good fellow" (the word "Malbrouk" is a French corruption of the Duke of Marlborough's title); you can find more info on "Malbrouk" at this page.

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