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Dear friends and readers,

This blog interweaves into Letters 8 and 9, the happenings omitted from this time (perhaps originally recorded by Jane Austen or someone else in the family but now destroyed that mattered intensely:  the courtship and rejection of Eliza by James; the courtship and marriage of Henry to Eliza; Jane's writing First Impressions; the death of Tom Fowles and Cassandra's (unexplained in the records anywhere) decision never to marry. In context Austen almost losing her life's writing in her box might be regarded as a sort of black comedy :) and her father's reading Lathom's The Midnight Bell too.


A year and 8 months have gone by between Letter 7 (18 Sept 1796) and 8 (8 April 1798); another 8 months between Letter 8 and 9 (24 Oct 1798).  Since the last (7) JA has written First Impressions. Not mentioned anywhere in these letters.  Letter 8 a letter of condolence; letter 9 a traveling letter:  Austen's writing desk almost goes to the West Indies. Must've been pure panic ...  Her father reads Midnight Bell at their coaching inn. Mother in delicate health? A letter from Eliza to Philadelphia Walter included.

So how do we know JA wrote First Impressions between these two letters. 
We are told by Cassandra that the first full complete P&P in the form of First Impressions was written between Letter 7 and 8 in a series of brief jotted notes:

First Impressions begun in Oct 1796/Finished in Augt 1797.

Jane Austen is 23-24 during this time.  We suppose she has just written a great masterpiece of comedy -- it may be our present P&P is better; I incline to think it's shorter and we have lost much delight.  It may be FI (First Impressions) was epistolary. I've never been convinced it was because it's S&S that we are told was once E&M in letters not P&P.  It takes a whole-scale revision to change an omniscient novel into letters and the calendar doesn't support this. Not that the calendar here means much as the letters could have been unbroken series of one sister to another, with little ironic juxtaposition.  The present calendar for S&S has startling ironic juxtapositions when you put the events chronologically.

Also between Letters 7 and 8 James and Henry both married (James remarrying) and between Letter 8 and 9 Tom Fowles died. We have no notice of any of this in these letters.  While Cassandra and Jane may have been together through much of this, Jane still wrote letters -- to Frank for example.   There were letters between cousins.  That nothing is left but contentless remarks (with the supposed comedy of almost losing all her work) is Cassandra's doing -- as well as the relatives who destroyed other letters..

Tomalin tells the tale concisely with apt quotation from people close to Cassandra and Jane: I've added the bits about the brothers marrying which also happened during the interval. Not for them mourning/being single for the rest of their lives. I don't agree at all with Tomalin that James and Mary were a happy couple; his poems show quite otherwise ...

Quesions that have no real answer:  she is traveling with her parents.  What were the patterns of life for a young woman then?  I do think it was common for young women to be with their parents; it would not be today. But how common?  would girls more commonly have a friend with them?  Would they more commonly be married by this time?  I think not, from this class the women married a little later, but I find myself wondering.

I recommend Maggie Lane's Jane Austen's England for some revealing contemporary illustrations of all places in the counties Jane and her family traveled near, e.g., Manydown House in Basingstoke (assemblies held there), Ramsgate in Kent (holiday and naval place).

Manydown House, Basingstoke where assemblies where held

Christy has patiently typed out a letter from Eliza Hancock Feuillide now Austen to Philadelphia Walter, 16th February 1798 -- this would be 3 months before Philadelphia's father died. Perhaps people would like to see the chronology I've worked out for Eliza and Henry between 18 Sept 1796 and 16th February 1798  See comments below.


Ramsgate, Kent

Chronology of Henry and Eliza [Hancock de Feuillide] Austen:

1796, September:  Jane, from Rowing, to Cassandra at Steventon reports on Henry's activities: he brings Mary Pearson over, he is ill and returns to Yarmouth to consult physician, two weeks early; Jane is irritated she has no one to bring her home; she is unsympathetic to Henry

1796, October:  Henry gets away, perhaps escorts Jane home (no one knows how she got back), perhaps away to Godmersham for shooting; engagement with Mary Pearson broken off

1796, 7 November:  Eliza to Philadelphia: she saw Henry during a leave given him as Paymaster.  He went to Greenwood and Cox; Eliza says he looks thin and ill; that his late intended is a flirt [Miss Pearson?] and his heart could not withstand her

1796, middle November:  Oxfordshire regiment quartered in Colchester Barracks

1797, 18 February:  Henry made Adjutant of Regisment, he supervises internal management, directs men's training.  He takes no more personal leave.

February, March & April:  men of new Supplemental Militia given 20 days of training in home districts, supervised by Adjutant and NCOs complimented for sober & orderly behavior, May 9th they reach Norwich where there are again riots (John Thelwall involved) just around tim of mutinies at sea

1797, 29 March:  Colonel promotes Henry to Captain Lieutenant

1797, 3 May:  Eliza to Philadelphia rejoices over Henry's promotions, he 'bids  fair to possess a considerable share of riches and honours.  I believe he has given up all thoughts of the Church, and he is right for he certainly is not so fit for a parson as a soldier'

1797, 4 August:  Eliza to Philadelphia:  although in July she had planned to go to Brighton, now she is going to Norwich with her boy; Henry is there

1797, 22 September Eliza to Philadelphia denies she has come to Lowestoft [a spa young couples went to] to be with Henry; he cannot be away for more than a few hours at a time, is 28 miles away; but later she tells of driving over to Yarmouth, and Henry as Paymaster would visit Yarmouth

1797, 14 November Oxfordshires moves to Ipswich after Admiral Duncan defeated Dutch fleet at Camperdown; a detachment stays at Yarmouth, another goes to Landguard Fort, the only fortress on the east coast, guarding entrance to Harwich

1797, 28 December:  Eliza to Warren Hastings tells of her coming marriage to Henry Austen and praises him strongly

1797, 31 December:  Eliza and Henry marry; George Austen sends £40; Henry has about £281 a year from military posts and Eliza an income of her own; they settle down at Ipswich

Eliza and Henry's wedding (Becoming Jane, played by Joe Anderson, Lucy Cohu)

1798, 16 February:  Eliza's letter about threatened invasion; meanwhile more officers; in April 354 more men; some sent off for specialized training. Very large group of men now divides into 2 wings, each with major, sergeant major and adjutant; Henry hands duties to lieutenants and takes leave of absence, probably to visit Edward in Kent with parents, Jane and Cassandra

Note that Eliza writes happy that Henry has given over all thoughts of the church; this registers the origin of Mary Crawford asking Edmund to do so much better for himself than be a parson. Tomalin explains that James had courted Mary and been rejected:

"Eliza liked to affirm that she was altogether immune to love. Some time in the sum­mer of 1796 she had reappeared at Steventon, and James plucked up his courage to court her. It was a most suitable arrangement, after all, the young widower with a small daughter and his widowed cousin with her poor boy; all the family must approve, and they could live very comfortably together on his income and herfortune. So he danced at­tendance, riding over from Deane, offering up verse tributes, and whatever took her fancy. Eliza enyed being wooed, and toyed with the idea of accepting; then she went back to London to think about it and decided that James had not enough to tempt her, and that she preferred "dear Liberty, & yet dearer flirtation." Being confined all the year round in a country parsonage would not do: sermon writing, hunting, tithe gathering and dinners with the same local squires for him; children, and tea with the squires' wives for her. She was used to something livelier. She liked to go to Brighton and other resorts: sea bathing for Hastings, with a little flirting with the officers for his mother, made a very acceptable programme. None of the tragedies life threw at Eliza stopped her from treating it as a game to be played for as much rational enjoyment as could be extracted from it, and at thirty-five she still dressed and behaved as a conquering beauty (p. 125)

Cassandras with Tom Fowles (Becoming Jane, played by Anna Maxwell Martin and Tom Vaughn-Lawlor): Cassandra's fiance was a clergyman, and Henry was to become one


Anna Austen Lefroy (later in life, now married; we find her living with her grandmother and aunts after James married Mary)

James's story:

From Tomalin:

"Mary, whose face was scarred by smallpox, was jealous of James's old passion for Eliza, and Jane came to think she ruled his life too unrelentingly, the marriage was a happy one. James accepted that Eliza was never to be invited to the house; nor did any account of his visit to France and the de Feuillide estates survive, either in prose or verse; which is surprising, given his habit of recording the major events of his life, and the careful preservation of letters such as Mrs. Austen's. Family tradition has it that Mary Austen continued to speak ill of Eliza, whom she long outlived, to the end of her days, so the bad feeling must have run deep. Eliza, all innocent of this-or at least pre­tending innocence-spoke kindly, if condescendingly, of James's choice, as "not either rich or handsome, but very sensible & good hu­moured."

They were married at Hurstbourne Tarrant, near Ibthorpe, where Mrs. Lloyd lived with Martha and Mary, on a snowy day in January. ... Anna [stepdaughter who Mary openly didn't treat as well as her own children] herself was not so pleased, and there were problems between her and her stepmother; and Jane, who was devoted to Anna, failed to warm to Mary as the years went by.  James and Mary were married at the start of 1797, and the news of Tom's death came in May ...


George Austen (Jane's father) (Becoming Jane, James Cromwell)

Letter 8 contains the death of Jane Austen's father's half-brother. It's worth reminding ourselves who he was:  William Hampton Walker, the son of Rebecca Walter who married George Austen's father, William, surgeon.  William Hampton Walker's father was Rebecca's first husband, William Walter, MD, a country doctor.  William Austen, her second husband and Jane Austen's grandfather was also a surgeon. So from the same milieu.  These are positions in trade at the time. William Austen, Austen's grandfather, lost Rebecca to childbirth, remarried himself, and then died (1737).  His son George had been theoretically attached to three mothers by this time (biological and two married).  This amorphous marrying and remarrying is characteristic of the era. Also who came across for George finally and put him into college, another uncle, Francis, brother to William and the heir, a John. Francis succeeded as a lawyer, working for the family.

It's salutary to remember the Austen real origins: not in the upper class super-gentry with their great estates, but in class much closer to The Watsons.  Her indomitable great-grandmother, Elizabeth, found when her husband died, his father would only provide money for her eldest son, the heir. The rest were to go to pot - or be dependent on him.  Elizabeth Weller Austen refused to let this happen; she hired herself out as a housekeeper and placed all her sons, including William, George's father.  At great personal sacrifice, very hard work, and still her sons had to take much lesser positions.

Austen writes the letter on a Sunday. But this is not religious in the sense of giving testimony or its mystic feel.  Jane registers the possibly desperate situation her half-uncle's widow and his children would be in -- as she and her mother and sisters would find themselves soon. There is a note of genuine empathy, especially in the un-cliched lines. WE are told the half-uncle had been very sick ("the very circumstance which at present enhances your loss, must gradually propose you to it the better"

Why Austen and not her father? Perhaps because it was recognized that people of an age while not necessarily liking her topics, they do have enough time to invent an unusual payment in architecture, showing this film, that's fine.

It may bet here needs no explanation for why Austen wrote the letters of condolence:  I'm not wedded to my theory, Why Jane? just speculating.  I would say she's more than an amanuensis; she's writing the letter.  True, the expressions are conventional.  But then would her father empathize at the loss of the chief male (with the sense the women are more vulnerable)?

And more generally, I want not to cut off dialogue but seek to find explanations even if mild ones. 

Good books on the family include (a must-read people), Jane Austen's Family by Maggie Lane -- which has essential timelines, essential personnel.  Deidre LeFaye's Outlandish Cousins. takes the askance attitude towards Eliza and (like so many of the Christianizers and conservative-pro-family scholars) insists against much evidence that Eliza is not Hasting's daughter.  By that she throws out much understanding of what we are reading.

Why Austen rather than her father? She is of an age with Philadelpha.  As Christy's excerpts show, Eliza was Philadelphia's friend -- Eliza apparently did not interact in any way but this manner coy kind of joking -- a guard, a carapace. Austen was friends with Eliza so by extension perhaps it was thought more appropriate. Later when Mr Austen died, Austen wrote two condolence notes. Perhaps the family admitted she wrote better than they did ...

This letter is unusual: no barbs, perhaps much appreciated.
Between Letters 8 and 9:

Cassandra and Jane grieving together (Cassandra has lost Tom forever, Jane has lost her Tom Lefroy in the movie, Becoming Jane, Anna Maxwell Martin and Anne Hathaway

Cassandra and the death of Tom Fowles (also from Tomalin):

In one letter she says a Kentish friend supposes that Cassandra is making her wedding clothes, which was no doubt true. Only now the sequence of letters ends, and in the gap between their ending and re­sumption came the ending of Cassandra's happiness and hopes. In the spring of 1798 the news of the death of Tom Fowle came from the West Indies. He was expected back from St. Domingo in May 1797, "but alas instead of his arrival news were received of his death."4 He had died of fever in February, and this is Eliza de Feuillide writing, in­formed by Jane. The whole family was afflicted around her, for Tom was James's close friend as well as Cassandra's intended husband. James wrote of his grief years later, imagining the body of Tom lying

... where Ocean ceaseless pours
His restless waves 'gainst Western India's shores;
Friend of my Soul, & Brother of my heart! ...
Our friendship soon had known a dearer tie
Than friendship's self could ever yet supply,
And I had lived with confidence to join
A much loved Sister's trembling hand to thine.

The rhyme of 'Join" and "thine" startles for a moment as it reminds you about the Austen pronunciation; the feeling rings true, and touches the heart. James never forgot his friend, and for Cassandra the loss was an absolute one. But there was no screaming in agony or refusing to eat; religion, reason and constant employment were Cassandra's re­source. 'Jane says that her sister behaves with a degree of resolution & propriety which no common mind could evince in so trying a situa­tion," wrote Eliza to Phila Walter.6 Tom's legacy of £1,000 became her widow's portion; and she seems never to have thought of another man, although she was only in her twenties, and said to be beautiful. Later Jane some­times encouraged her to notice the attentions paid to her by other men, but she turned her face against them, and there were no more of the jokes that had made the younger sister praise her as "the finest comic writer of the present age." Cassandra hurried into spinsterly middle age, and the attachment to her sister became more important than ever: Jane was at once her child to be protected, her friend to be encouraged, and her sister to be given unconditional love.

On the other hand, I wonder myself about this interpretation.  Was there some pressure on Cassandra not to remarry or find another man?  to be the sister at home to care for others? Was she really beautiful -- or ugly.  Was there some traumatic incident we cannot begin to guess. Early on she put on garb seen as that of a spinster and perhaps encouraged her sister to do likewise.  We just don't know.  But these idealistic explanations are too pat and complacent, mainlyi because (as Jane said) a poor spinster was a despised woman.

While 1797 brought tragedy to Cassandra, it resolved the comic emotional tangles of two of her brothers and their cousin Eliza. None of them took Cass's view that you could love only once


Former 18th century coaching inn, Boarshead, Yorkshire

Letter 9 is more interesting to us than Letter 8, well to me -- it has more varied details of Austen's life. Another 8 months since April 1798 to Oct 1798. We might call it "On the move." Cassandra is not at home in Stevenson, but seems a semi-permanent fixture at Godmersham. The family is now spread between wherever and moving on.

Canterbury, Kent, then a place to shop -- and the Austens did shop there

I take it that the Austens have been visiting, what we'd call a vacation of sorts. They have no settled plans, note. They have left Godmersham but if they are on their way to Steventon, they are in no hurry and do not know which way they are headed next: "Our route to-morrow is not determined. We have none of us much inclination for London." They may be avoiding the traffic on the way home, but determined not to tax themselves and they are on the lookout for things of pleasure.

Christy wrote: "The coachman, Daniel, is from Godmersham and he is the one who has carried them to the Bull and George"

I thank Derrick for working out the distances and times. That's what I believe Austen did to modify and control and let go of passing time. When I was doing my calendars for Austen's novels I often had recourse to these, e.g., Mansfield Park

A second book I recommend: MacKinnon, Frank. "Typology and Travel in Austen," in a volume entitled The Murder in the Temple and other Holiday Tasks."   One wants to get hold of actual maps of the era circled around the local pubs.

Details insist on her mother's illness with fine details yet I don't feel any intense annoyance. One could argue there is no annoyance to peace, tranquillity, to sit in her own place herself

I take it that Austen is ironic about her mother's behavior (in the way Diane Reynolds infers):

We get a sense in the letter that traveling with her mother was a trial: "the road was heavy and our horses indifferent ...however ... my mother bore her journey so well, that expedition was of little importance to us ..." Also, that travel itself was a trial--her comments about her day being better than expected: "very little crowded and by no means unhappy" attesting to her low level of expectation. She is enduring with patience.

A travel writing desk

Then we also hear of the incident where she almost lost her writing desk. Jane Austen did not have backups. She had at most one copy of her manuscript. Yes I imagine such deep panic she daren't let herself go to rabbit inch.  The bigger world obtrudes: her manuscript could go post-colonial. Austen imagines some far away place. She got 7 pounds with it and permission for a boy to go out and commit murder/suicide.

Yes Mr and Mrs Austen don't sleep together; she is something of a petted hypochrondiac perhaps. On the other hand, we know of 9 children; we don't know of all the miscarriages and what she might have suffered in these pregnancies and childbirths. She had no teeth by this time (nor Mr Austen).

Some sweet moments. She and little George (the boy breeched and whipped) are now fast friends. She felt for him and he appreciated this.  "It is a "very bright chrystal afternoon.  Kiss him for me."

Mr Austen reads by candlelight and wanted to do it at 11  On Midnight Bell, this is one of the novels called Northanger ones. Here's an excerpt from it:  Here's an evaluation:  It's said to be compellingly readable, very easy and it pulls you in.

This letter contains one of my favorite lines:

My day's journey has been pleasanter in every respect than I expected.  I have been very little crowded and by no means unhappy.

It's tone of resignation and cheer being pulled back by an engulfing disappointment is perfect.

We know a month after our second letter Mr Austen sent an inquiry about a manuscript of a book about the length of Evelina to a reputable publisher, to Cadell & Davies in London. They rejected it by return of post. They didn't want to see it. She seems to me very gallant here when she come close to losing her precious cargo.



( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 2nd, 2011 03:40 am (UTC)
Eliza's letter to Philadelphia (1)
From the DLF's "...Outlandish Cousin":

The letter to 'Phylly' Walter, which carried the news of Eliza's marriage to Henry Austen, was evidently lost, and this follows:

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From the DLF's "...Outlandish Cousin":

The letter to 'Phylly' Walter, which carried the news of Eliza's marriage to Henry Austen, was evidently lost, and this follows:

<Ipswich 16th February 1798 -Matrimony is generally accused of spoiling Correspondents, but I was so bad a one before I entered the holy state, that it could not well make me worse, and therefore I trust my dear Friend that do no put down my late silence to its account -Indeed the fact is that in addition to my accustomed dislike to writing, my time has been constantly taken up, for on my arrival here most of the families in the place were civil enough to visit me, and my Brother Officers[underlined]and Brother Officers Wives of course did likewise. To all these visitations succeeded invitations to Parties which are as thick in this Country as Hops in yours, and besides these parties there is at least one Ball every Week -so that what with my morning avocations and walks or drives for I am sometimes so gracious or so imprudent[underlined] as to trust my neck to Henry's Coachmanship, I find it difficult to make a leisure hour-

<And now having accounted for, if not justified[underlined] my late omission let me return You my sincere acknowledgements for your good wishes and kind congratulations on an event by which I have hitherto had every reason to hope that my Happiness will be greatly forwarded -Unmixed Felicity is certainly not the Produce of this World, and like other People I shall probably meet with many unpleasant and untoward circumstances but all the Comfort which can result from the tender Affection & Society of a Being who is possessed of an excellent Heart, Understanding, & Temper I have at lease ensured -to say nothing of the pleasure of having my own way in every thing, for Henry well knows that I have not been much accustomed to controul and should probably behave rather awkwardly under it, and therefore, like a wise Man he has no will but mine, which to be sure some people would call spoiling me, but [I] know it is the best way of managing me.

<...I include myself, and look forward with much pleasure to the visit which has so long been promised me. Perhaps I may never be Mistress of a Rectory[underlined]but as soon as I have done Campaigning[underlined] I shall look out for some settled Residence where you will ever be a most welcome Guest.

<I have some thoughts of going to London for a few days in the course of next month, and proceeding from thence into Hampshire. It will be a comical sort of expedition, for I mean to send my servants &cc by the Stage and let Henry drive me because it will same Post Horses, for you must know that I am become excessively stingy and am scraping up all I can against the arrival of the French who will of course deprive me of every thing but the few Guineas which I may have contrived to hoard. I suppose you have seen a print of the Rafts on which they mean to reach us->

(to be cont'd)

Edited at 2011-02-02 03:43 am (UTC)
Feb. 2nd, 2011 03:42 am (UTC)
Eliza's letter to Philadelphia (2)
<-It seems as if these Rafts are to be worked with Wheels which have the effect of oars, that they are to be bordered with Cannon and support a Tower filled with Soldiers--I can hardly believe that they seriously mean to trust to such a Contrivance, which I should suppose a rough Sea would soon render ineffectual -however I do believe that they will make an attempt on the Country, and Government appears to be convinced of it, for we[underlined] have received orders to add one hundred & fifty Men to our[underlined] Regiment, and hold ourselves [underlined] in readiness to march at the shortest notice, so that I am going to be drilled[underlined] and to bespeak by Regimentals without further delay.

<I have not yet given you any account of my Brother Officers of whom I wish You could judge in Person for there are some with whom I think You would not dislike a flirtation -I have of course entirely{of-course-entirely is underlined] left off trade[underlined] but I can however discover that Captn. Tilson is remarkably handsome, and that Messrs. Perrott and Edwardes may be chatted with very satisfactorily, but as to my Colonel Lord Charles Spencer if I was married to my third husband instead of my second I should still be in love with him -He is a most charming creature so mild, so well bred, so good, but Alas he is married as well as myself, and what is worse he is absent and will not return to us in less than a Month. The inhabitants of this place are much more fashionable People than I expected, and are exceedingly [kind] to us strangers -As every thing is known in such small circles they [are] acquainted with my having been a Comtesse[underlined] and politely give [me the precedence which Courtesy grants to that title in England. [I think] we shall not remove from hence till May and to what [place we] shall then remove is yet undetermined. (to be cont'd)

Edited at 2011-02-02 03:44 am (UTC)
Feb. 2nd, 2011 03:45 am (UTC)
Eliza's letters to Philadelphia (3)
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<I had a letter from [Jane] the other Day in which She says that her mother has had [a slig]ht Complaint -She had benefited very much by the Bath Waters.

<Talking of Bath reminds me of one of our Officers Wives who was a Bath Beauty of the name of Bedingfield -About eight months since She married Lord Shrewsbury's Brother Captn. Talbot who went out of his senses in a very few days after his Nuptials, He continued in this melancholy state for some months and now to the great astonishment of every one is perfectly recovered. His Wife is very young & very beautiful and what made me mention her to you is her style of Dress of which I think it will entertain you to have a description. She wears only one thick muslin Petticoat and a thin muslin Robe over that, of which the sleeves come only three inches
below her shoulders. Her ears, throat & bosom are entirely bare for She never wears either Earrings, necklace, tucker, Handkerchief or Stays, and on her Head She generally has no other ornament or covering than a little curled black wig which I suppose you know to be the height of fashion -Such a mode of Dress or rather undress would be remarked even in London, so that you may guess what an uproar it makes in a Country Town.

<I much regret my inability of getting a Frank for I am sure this scrawl is not worth paying for, but I will endeavor to manage better when I write again. You will continue to direct to me at this place for my going to London is very uncertain, and should it take place will not keep me from hence more than a fortnight. I think you will be glad to hear that Hastings has already benefited very materially by change of Air -There is a garden to the house which I now occupy in which he spends great parts of the day, and by this means takes constant air and exercise which I have ever found of much more service to him than medicine. Adieu My dear Phillida I don't teize you with soft things[both underlined] from my Cousin[both underlined] (I have an aversion to the word Husband [underlined] & never make use of it) because they are all implied, for I trust you do not doubt the very sincere regard which I assure you he often expresses for you and yours -once more Adieu say every thing that is kind for me to your good Mother & poor Father when ever he shews any recollection of me and believe me your truly affectionate Friend and Relation, Eliza. >[End]

<The French were issuing propaganda pictures of the 'war machines' which they claimed would be used for the invasion of England: these were , as Eliza says, giant rafts, with paddles powered by windmills. The biggest of these, supposedly being built at Brest, had four windmills and supported a battlemented wooden fortress with batteries of 48-pounder guns at each corner. A raft at St. Malo was of much the same design, except that its fort was provided with a dome, and it carried two tents; smaller rafts, to be built at Calais, were to be three
hundred feet square and capable of carrying sixty guns and four thousand men. The Officers in the Oxford Militia were Col. Lord Charles Spencer, brother of the 3rd Duke of Marlborough; Captain John-Henry Tilson, elder brother of the James Tilson who later became one of Henry Austen's business partners; Lieuts. Thomas Perrott and John Edwardes; Captain John-Joseph Talbot, already a widower with two small children, married Harriet-Anne Bedingfield on 4th May 1797 and in due course had several more children by her. <Phylly's father, William Hampson Walter, died on 6th April 1798, after being senile for some years, and Phylly was not left alone with her old mother. No doubt Eliza wrote a formal letter of condolence...>[End]

Christy from LeFaye's book on Eliza Hancock de Feuillide Austen
Feb. 2nd, 2011 03:46 am (UTC)
Letter 9 is some six months after the letter of condolence. The conditions of travel and the mother's state of health are mentioned but there is no mention of the father except briefly. IN fact when I first read the letter some years ago, I had to read it several times to discover who did sleep in the smaller room with the single bed.

Can you imagine the panic, the frantic searching, the applying to those in charge and how she must have been nearly wringing her hands as Mr. Nottley sent a man on horseback after the chaise to retrieve the items.
They do not want to travel through London for the same reason many people will take the highway around a big city if that city is not their destination. They wanted to avoid London Traffic.


Actually I am wrong about one point. Cassandra and Jane were separated for part of this time because she says so in the beginning of the letter: As Cassandra is at present from home..." I wonder if it was the oldest daughter's duty to write such letters. Why wouldn't her father write his own letter of condolence?

Nancy Mayer
Feb. 2nd, 2011 03:47 am (UTC)
Time, space, and food
The journey from Godmersham to Stevington took 3 days, with stops at Dartford and Staines. At Ospringe, near Faversham, the route joined Watling Street, the Roman road from Dover through London to the North. It had been used as a track by pre-Roman Britons, and by medieval pilgrims en route to Canterbury. Where it crossed the River Darent, a settlement grew to be known as Dartford. One of several coaching inns, the Bull and George survived until 1981, when it was demolished to be replaced by Boots the Chemist. Such is progress.

I make the distances approximately Godmersham to Dartford 39 miles, Dartford to Staines 33 miles, and Staines to Steventon 36 miles, a total of 108 miles. The stretch from Sittingbourne to Rochester is about 11 and a half miles, so it was travelled at a speedy 9mph.

The north coast of Kent is famed for its seafood, Whitstable especially for its oysters. Given her delicate constitution and the rigours of coach travel, Mrs Austen was probably wise to avoid the oyster sauce. There was a hiatus when Jane's boxes were mistakenly put onto a chaise heading east, but recovered. Modern travellers will be familiar with this scenario. British Airways can now lose ten thousand bags at the push of a button, and have them in Australia before you know it! Such is progress.

There were alternate routes from Dartford to Staines, avoiding central London. As today, the more southerly routes were more pleasant. Also on the Thames, Staines is probably better known now for its proximity to Heathrow airport. Such is progress.


Edited at 2011-02-02 03:48 am (UTC)
Feb. 2nd, 2011 03:49 am (UTC)
Distances in the novels
Compare the distances and the speed at which they travelled to Darcy's comment that Charlotte Lucas was close enough to her family for frequent visits -- or something along those lines. Elizabeth's answer is that in her experience a distance of fifty miles (50 miles) was not an afternoon drive.

It seems the Austens were known to Mr. Nottely which probably meant that was a regular stopping place. A post boy would be a postilion who sat on one of the horses to guide the team. The post chaise did not have a coachman. It does seem as though Edward sent then on their way with his coach and coachman to a Sittingbourne posting house where they changed to the post chaise and the speeding post boy.

They traveled the 11 miles in 90 minutes and then travelled the remaining 22 miles to Dartford in 150 minutes a little over 6 minutes to the mile---if my arithmetic is correct.

My index to the stage coaches shows an average of 5 miles an hour. That is taking the distance and the time of the journey into account. Of course the stage coach schedule includes tops for changing horses and for the feeding of the passengers. Some visitors to England thought that the stage coaches travelled at 8 miles an hour on certain stretches though 7 miles an hour was considered fast.

How could Jane Austen have Darcy saying that 50 mile journey was a nothing?

Nancy Mayer

Perhaps Darcy was used to travelling the long distances between Derbyshire and London. I'm not an equestrian to know how fast those journeys could be made as a rider on horseback. However, I was recently reading of the race to deliver the news of Trafalgar by Lieutenant Lapenotiere to Charles Middleton at the Admiralty, for a reward of £500. He landed at Pendennis and travelled by a post chaise with 19 changes of horses, the 266 miles taking 37 hours. Even in those frenetic circumstances, that's still only an average of 7.2 mph.


Edited at 2011-02-02 03:52 am (UTC)
Feb. 2nd, 2011 03:56 am (UTC)
Nests of relatives
At first, it does sound like Revd Austen has not written his own letter, but then, perhaps the words "our sincere Condolance" might refer only to Cassandra and Jane, the only Austen children still living at home in April, 1798? Perhaps Revd. Austen or Mrs. Austen wrote a separate letter of "condolance" to the widow Mrs. Walter? Or is it possible that Revd. Austen (whether or not accompanied by Mrs. Austen) actually traveled to attend the funeral, or at least to pay respects afterwards? How far exactly was Steventon from Sevenoaks?

The Deceased, William-Hampson Walter, of course was Revd Austen's half brother, ten years older than Revd. Austen and born from the same mother. What was the relations hip between Revd. Austen and his much older half-brother?

The Family Record says the following of "George Austen's relations of the half-blood--the Walters. With his mother's son by her first husband, William Hampson Walter, he remained on intimate terms. A good many
letters are extant which passed between the Austens and the Walters during the early married life of the former, the last of them containing the news of the birth of Jane. Besides this, William Walter's daughter, 'Phila,' was a constant correspondent of George Austen's niece Eliza."

I at first wondered whether there might have been some strain in the relationship between Wiiliam Hampson, on the one hand, and his younger half siblings, on the other, because of the especially hard times that befell those younger half siblings when their mother died, leaving them orphans when George was 6 and Phila was 7, whereas William Hampson was already 17. E.g., could William Hampson, who married in 1745 and proceeded to sire many children, have done more to help his
half-siblings, especially Phila? Who knows. But I can see no evidence of an estrangement during their adult lives.

My main interest in Philadelphia Walter is all the "smoke" that suggests that she is one of the real life models for Fanny Price, with the young Eliza Hancock playing the role of Mary Crawford. This has been written
about in several of the Austen bios and novel analyses, in regard to the Steventon theatricals and Eliza flirting with James and Henry, while the teenaged JA and CEA watched. And I also was already aware that Eliza and
Phylly Walter exchanged many letters which can be seen in the Austen Papers and also in Le Faye's bio of Eliza, which are very reminiscent of the relationship between Mary C. and Fanny P. in MP--with Eliza's spirited wit and flirtatiousness in counterpoint to Phylly's shy caution. It very much sounds like Fanny and Mary!

But...I did not know till this morning that there was a _second_ real life family depicted in MP, and not just any family, but a family as closely connected by blood to the Steventon Austens as the MP Bertrams were to the Portsmouth Prices!

I found it very interesting just now learning from Ruth Perry, in her chapter "JA and British Imperialism" in _Monstrous dreams of reason: body, self, and other in the Enlightenment_ (2002), edited by Laura Jean Rosenthal and Mita Choudhury, at P 236, that "...[JA's] father's older
half brother, William-Hampson Walter, had two sons (William and George) who settled in the West Indies. A letter from Jane's mother...to her niece Philadelphia Walter at Christmastime 1786, wishing she were with
them and describing the happy family circle at Steventon, declared 'You might as well be in Jamaica keeping your Brother's House, for anything that we see of you or are like to see."

Perry perhaps did not peruse Le Faye's Biographical Index, so as to realize that George Walter had already died in his twenties in 1779, and William was about to die in his thirties in 1787, i.e., soon after Mrs.
Austen's letter--it sounds like the West Indies was a place where young English men went to die of infectious diseases! And perhaps we have a conscious allusion to this in the near-death of Tom Bertram, and the worries of Mrs. Norris and Lady Bertram about Sir Thomas's safe return from Antigua.

(to be cont'd)
Feb. 2nd, 2011 03:56 am (UTC)
Nests of relatives
And it makes Phila Walter as Fanny Price even more interesting, when we consider this strong West Indian connection, and also Mrs. Austen's joking suggestion that the unmarried 27 year old Phila might have been playing the same sort of role in her soon-to-die brother's home in
Jamaica as both the young Fanny Price and the mature Mrs. Norris played at Mansfield Park.

And there is an even more dramatic MP connection, when we read in Tucker's _A Goodly Heritage:a history of Jane Austen's family_ at P. 43:

"...when [Phiadelphia Hancock] was staying with her half brother, William Hampson Walter, in Kent, her visit was considerably enlivened when one of his young sons became so infatuated with the already flirtatious Betsy that, as the latter recalled, 'he made verses on me in which he compared me to Venus & I know not what other Divinity, & played off fireworks in the cellar in honour of my charms." [Austen Papers, 101]

So that suggests Phila Hancock as Mrs. Grant, and Betsy Hancock as Mary Crawford, William Hampson as Sir Thomas, and the Walter sons as Tom and Edmund.

And...what is not commonly known to Janeites is that Phylly Walter did not die a spinster, but actually married in 1811 at the age of 50--of course a whole lot sooner than Fanny ties the knot with Edmund. I cannot
find out if Phylly married a clergyman--and (as JA did not live to find out) Phylly died (of course childless) at age 73 in 1834. It is a pity that JA did not obtain her cousin's opinion of MP--and of course it was too late to obtain Eliza's, who died while JA was writing MP.

So the plot, as they say, has considerably thickened!
Feb. 2nd, 2011 03:59 am (UTC)
Notes on competence, self-control
I am focusing here on Letter 8 rather than Letter 9.

Who or what was Cax? I looked it up as a Latin word and came up with such a multiplicity of possibilities, many quite plausible, that I'm still at a loss. One would be "mule driver." Fast as a mule driver?

Does anyone know it JA had any concern for postboys, who I dimly remember to have been young and often harshly used--long drives, cruel weather, no protection from the weather, and needless to say, low pay.

As someone noted, Mr And Mrs Austen do not sleep together.

We get a sense in the letter that traveling with her mother was a trial: "the road was heavy and our horses indifferent ... however ... my mother bore her journey so well, that expedition was of little importance to us ..." Also, that travel itself was a trial--her comments about her day being better than expected: "very little crowded and by no means unhappy" attesting to her low level of expectation. She is enduring with patience.

We can only imagine the panic, carefully smoothed over, she must have experienced at almost losing her writing desk and seven pounds to the West Indies. Lucky for her that it was retrieved. I wondered how I would feel if my laptop ended up, by mistake, in a fed ex pouch to a different country, and how relieved I would feel at being able to intervene. I would have liked more information on that episode. Once again, we intuit that she is competent; that she managed the situation, yet we get few details. We see her here more composed and controlled than in the prior letter, which stands to reason--she is at least in motion, making progress towards homecoming.

Diane R

Edited at 2011-02-02 04:50 am (UTC)
Feb. 2nd, 2011 12:37 pm (UTC)
Letter 8: amanuensis
Diana B:

"< Why Austen rather than her father? She is of an age with Philadelpha. As Christy's excerpts show, Eliza was Philadelphia's friend -- Eliza apparently did not interact in any way but this manner coy kind of joking -- a guard, a carapace. Austen was friends with Eliza so by extension perhaps it was thought more appropriate. Later when Mr Austen died, Austen wrote two condolence notes. Perhaps the family admitted she wrote so much better than they did, but don't count on it.

Not convinced about the age thing, Ellen. Phylly was born 1761, Jane 1775. Of course that's close enough for friendship (Austen's friend Mrs. Lefroy was older too), but I don't know that either age, or degree of her
friendship with Phylly or Eliza, or any of that, was the reason why she was chosen to write the letter. Your wry "don't count on it" about her writing, rings only too true! Of course, Cassandra could also write a neat little letter. No; my guess is simply that daughters were often their father's amanuensis, and Jane was the one who was there at the moment. In fact, she tells
us exactly that, by the way she starts the letter: "As Cassandra is at present from home, You must accept from my pen, our sincere Condolance..."

Her older sister would have been first choice...or anyway was the major family correspondent. Perhaps as another way to give JA more time for her own writing.

Feb. 2nd, 2011 06:24 pm (UTC)
Reflections in the novels
It occurs to me now remembering all the events between Letters 7 and 8 and between 8 and 9, having just read Tomalin's account of James's courtship of Eliza, that we see a parallel between Mary Crawford and Edmund Bertram in Mary's distaste for Edmund's clerical career, which is part of what drives them apart. That there is a sort of outline parallel of Cassandra and Fanny Price insofar as Cassandra certainly was not just willing to marry a clergyman, but apparently had been very attached to him (as Fanny is devoted to Edmund). Not that that alone accounts for the choice of spinsterhood. That again Eliza and Henry reflect Eliza in MP and to some extent the gay Henry in MP.

I have read Philadelphia's letters in the Austen letters and admit there are parallels to Fanny: Philadelphia would not consider play-acting; she is very narrow and rigid when it comes to considering Eliza (and Fanny is that and not just out of jealousy).

Mary's rejection of her stepdaughter is also a harsh hard personality -- not beyond Mrs Norris _vis-a-vis_ Fanny. Fanny can do no right; Mrs Norris corrodes her mind, all the while justifying herself. (I incline to see Mrs Norris as mirroring the keptomaniac aunt, sponging you see, but there are these straws too).

And while I'm at it, I have no evidence but suspect that aspects of Lady Bertram come from Elizabeth Austen -- who takes the best seat in one letter.

Yet a few more thoughts: in my calendar I suggest MP existed as fragmentary drafts in the later 1790s, the sections about the play-acting especially.

Feb. 3rd, 2011 04:28 am (UTC)
A single man .... and the lacunae
Perhaps I've said enough in response to the letters for this week and to what others have said but I've one more comment on these letters.

I begin with James marrying Mary. Amanda Vickery in her _Behind Closed Doors_ makes a great deal of the pressure men were under to marry. Not as much as women, but still strong: she suggests that we see men in this era who didn't marry often did not run a house for themselves unless they had a sister or female relative; the housekeeper could be a mistress too. A woman was needed to manage the servants, and in some occupations a wife was expected. One of these was a vicar. Another book I'm reading talks about the centrality of wives to missionaries, how much unsung work they did. Mr Austen did not have a lot to give his eldest son; he had to give up his own vicarage to him, and James needed a wife. Apparently he asked Eliza first who turned him down; she was pretty and (if not overtly so it's an ambiguous prestige) well connected to Hastings. Not getting her, he turned to Mary. Like Frank many years later a man with a limited income who didn't move about, had not all that much choice more than a woman. Frank ended up marrying a woman he had basically refused years before.

Henry would be similar -- though not under the same pressure as a vicar.

And then the devastating death of Fowles for Cassandra and whatever was her behavior and motives for her resolution since it seems to have formed quickly and gained only strength as time went on.

These two letters so far apart and with so little real content seem to me to argue that letters were destroyed. It's not probable that nothing would have survived from all this and that things so empty of reference -- even if Jane and Cassandra were not separated and we see that they were. I disagree with Christy on the absolute way she framed her defense of the destruction of letters. To the contrary, it's important that women and children too be regarded as individuals and it's during this era that we first see them beginning to be, specifically in the publication of court cases (judicial memoirs, correspondences). Many families are as adversarial to individuals in them as supportive; more to the point there is wife and children abuse to protect against. Thus in the 19th century and our own era have developed many precedents and procedures for separation, divorce, for separating children from parents

Next week we have a very long letter :).


Feb. 4th, 2011 11:09 pm (UTC)
Individuals are not owned by their families nor their papers nor their lives
From a debate on Janeites: what I was getting at in response to one person is that although she lives in a benign and apparently utterly benevolent group of people where they have your interest at heart -- though probably not even at the cost of their own, not everyone does. Far from it. For many the interests of one individual go against the rest. In Austen's time this is seen in primogeniture in spades and Austen shows it in S&S (John Dashwood), MP (Tom spends money which then deprives Edmund of a living perhaps for the rest of his life, and much less income anyway). We see it in the requirement both sons (Frank and Charles) go to sea at 12 and that was a hard dangerous life. We don't see much because much of their papers were destroyed. We don't know what pressures were put on Cassandra to make her make her decision. Thus far we have seen that Tom Lefroy was ridiculed, humiliated and then removed from Austen: the family wanted him to marry money and as far as Miss Austen went, that was the concern of her family; Austen's family scolded, preached, demanded she repress herself, period. And she did. No rebellions allowed.

These seem small (not going to sea though) but in our own period wife and child abuse is still common; murders and violence exist far more often within families. Tell police it's the family's business and not their own and you make for horrible miseries. It's taken over a century and more for it to be institutionally set up that police will intervene, that they will be shelters for women. We have had instutitions like schools and colleges and other places for individuals to turn to in the west. These are now being shut down or diminished and it's money only that can get you there, or contacts -- a return to the ancien regime in some ways.

As to the 18th century, all these things -- wife abuse, children abuse -- were common and just beginning to be fought and fought hard. The first thing the French did was abolish lettres de cachet. They did not come back -- though some of their effects came back in other ways. Families used them against rebellious individuals ruthlesslessly

I've been reviewing an important book about the liberalization of marriage laws and customs over these weeks and have two blogs to share thus far. The point of my aper on the gothic was to argue that many of these gothic stories are retelling of actual court cases, real life. Vickery tells us it was not uncommon for men to punish wives by insisting they stay in a small space of the house or throw them out, women could not control what happened to their children, no custody for a woman:



It is in fact of paramount importance for women that they can tell their stories in print as well as aloud to others.

Ellen Moody
Feb. 4th, 2011 11:10 pm (UTC)
Missing the point
To another: you're missing my point. I was not arguing particulars: I was arguing against the principle enunciated. It's the principle that's wrong. Look back at what I said: I cannot agree with the absolute way she couched it.

Thus to get down to the particular I did have in mind: I come out firmly against the idea that families have the right to destroy the papers of any given individual. Frank saved 3 packets of letters Jane sent him, kept them all his life. The great-grand niece or whoever did it who destroyed those papers did wrong.

And unless Jane Austen told Cassandra she could destroy the letters, Cassandra did wrong.

Ours is a partial picture of the Austens. yes we have statements which look ever so generous by Mrs Austen (the mother), But they were saved. Remember how Mrs Norris's view of herself was utterly benign. For all we know some kind of bad experience or pressure led to Cassandra's decision which did lead to a severely restricted life as a nurse to her sibling's children.

Feb. 4th, 2011 11:11 pm (UTC)
Law and morality not the same
Law and morality are not coterminous. Far from it. For centuries slavery was legal. During Austen's period wife-beating was legal -- so were lettres de cachet. When we have reform, unless the word is used in an Orwellian sense (turning back the clock to repression, cruelty &c&c), the law is changed to make it more ethical. Today still in many countries there are barbaric practices allowed by law. In the US it is allowed to put a man for years in solitary confinement and recently the argument has been made that this is a form of inhumane torture, counterproductive and expensive. It's legal all right.


If Austen gave permission for her letters to be destroyed, then it was okay. If she did not, it was not.

They were artefacts of her. The relatives didn't destroy these letters simply because they were getting in the way. In fact many were deliberately saved. What happened was those that were deemed telling things that it was in the interest of those then living not to be told were destroyed.

I cited the case of Frank for to have saved the letters during a very long life and yet put them away, shows a case he valued them. He was not himself literary at all. He did not begin to know how to publish them. And the story (as I recall) is that very quickly these relatives found and destroyed them. I don't think it was a case of sex -- though I suppose family gossip from early times could be there. Probably politics and various attitudes. Also the very relationship was what those who destroyed them wanted hidden; that very relationship was what Frank kept alive.

As to citing carelessness as a principle of morality, that doesn't begin to be ethical. It sounds like something Mrs Norris might say off the cuff. I can't be bothered to walk my kid to school today and the world is filled with people who don't. So what if there's traffic that this particular child is not able to cope with. It cannot be her fault Fanny had a headache; she needed X and therefore the child had to walk back and forth twice. It was no more than anyone else (Lady Bertam) for example would have done. Such thinking leads to justifying the behavior of the aunts. It's Austen's point they are utterly destructive of Fanny. They have helped make her the abject thing she partly is -- not altogether for she has many strengths and wins out enough to survive and become Edmund's wife (though there because Mary revealed herself).

Letters can be and often are works of art just as strongly as any novels. One of the two essays (from Sent as a Gift) argues Austen's letters are brilliant letters. And they are remarkable even in their present mutilated remnant state.

We would have perhaps four more full books of Austen. Cassandra did have the moral right to destroy her own. She may have had the legal right to destroy Austen's. She certainly possessed them literally and did whatever she did. But moral right. No.

As I said, though, this goes beyond Austen. In the past 150 years much legislation has passed to protect individuals as individuals (adults, children, especially women in western countries) from their families, to define them as separate entities with certain rights (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness &c&c). One group still not recognized sufficiently are children.

Ellen Moody
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