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Dear friends and readers,

To me the most interesting content in these two letters is in Letter 17, the snubbing Jane Austen received at the Dorchester ball:  men did not dance with her unless they could help it; she and friends tried to maneuver someone into dancing with her but did not manage it; she snubbed someone else.  These tiny moments are part of what lies behind the several snubbing incidents in the novels (especially of Harriet in Emma; The Watsons has one also) and the quiet exultation of the rejection scenes (Elizabeth of Darcy most especially, but also of Mr Collins, perhaps Fanny of Henry Crawford)

I begin as usual with a general comment:  Letter 16 brings home how much this packet of letters is a mirror of Cassandra, a construction by her.  We don't have the letters just after this and before Letter 17; ditto the letters after 17 and before 18. Cassandra chose to save this one. Not just this choice but Cassandra's very destruction of so much shows Jane and Cassandra both demonstrate the reality most writers about so-called private letters and diaries postulate:  the writer (and/or editor here, Cassandra) hopes or/and fears this writing will reach a public. That's why writer does it and the editor censors and/or publishes it justly.


Greta Scacchi as Cassandra choosing which letters to burn (Miss Austen Regrets)

I note the same trajectory of movement of thought in 15:  there a long copying out of the promise of coming promotions, and then (in the context of thoughts of the navy live) she, Jane, might as well go hang herself as she can do nothing which will be valued anything near this.  She concludes this trajectory similarly. First the worked-at happiness ("This Letter is to be entirely dedicated to Good News"), her recitation of the promotion -- though not without remembering the specific family arrangements and people responsible (General Matthews, the father-in-law of James's now dead wife; this father-in-law's niece was Gambier's wife -- that's why Frank got the promotion) and how Frank has not got the money he wanted to pay his way. Then she says of an invitation to a Ball she just got "an humble Blessing compared with what the last page records, I do not consider any Calamity."  What is important in her life, gives her possible happiness is as nothing, has no value or importance; it is in comparison at least not a Calamity (which being hung would be). It's the same kind of thinking.

I'm nobody and nothing -- when I win something in comparison it's merely not a calamity.  Fanny Burney wrote to nobody as nothing in the earlier parts of her diary.

Not that this letter is unhappy. It concludes with the statement that she has written it _for_ Cassandra. It is a kind of gift, what is "enough to make you very happy."  So she may "safely conclude" without worrying what Cassandra might say that is adversarial to her.

Letter 17 then contains usual kinds of utterances that Cassandra permitted to come through to us. Alas Jane did not have a good time at that ball -- as I've said and about which much more below. 


Jane Austen's letters burning at the close of Miss Austen Regrets (two Austen movies end in book burning:  1986 and 2007 NA in the burning of Radcliffe's Udolpho)

In the light of her gift to Cassandra, the close of 17 were she refers to the reality of the time that the recipient paid the postage is significant. Jane is aware that Cassandra is the one paying and he who pays the piper gets to call the tune. The last paragraph there has an apology for not filling the paper and offers a sentiment which she says Cassandra may imagine "in studied Language" ["of pleasure"] which Cassandra prefers."   We see here Austen working hard to please this conventional woman.  I surmise she has been told in letters by Cassandra we haven't got of course to be upbeat, use more respectable style and of course not waste any paper. Fill it before you send it. Jane has not been able to come up to all this quite in this one.

The letters of Cassandra would be as apt title for this collection as letters by Jane.

*******************************************

Letter 16:   So, let's see what's in this letter that Cassandra saved.  "Frank is made.  Then two sentences telling the rank he will have, the name of the ship, the name of the Naval Clerk who wrote the official pronouncement, and how it was confirmed by the people whose biological/marital relationship to Gambier made this possible.


James Gambier, 1st Baron Gambier, Admiral

Then a dry statement that this is probably not a group of false hopes or lies: "We have no reason to suspect the truth of this."  A sharp sceptical perspective confirms the ocular proof (as Iago would say) of Daysh's letter.

Now of course time out for Cassandra "to cry a little with joy".

Then it seems that it just may be possible that Frank will get a refund for his passage to India -- which he used to conduct the less than salubrious business of the company.  It was in the event disallowed.  The word reminds me of Social Security and other US programs: the logic behind all this is to not pay anything they can avoid.  The admiral (himself) confirms that Charles's ship will be changed. We all instantly recall that Charles complained bitterly about being left in the ship he was in in Letter 15 ("poor fellow!" Austen wrote, p 29); and that Austen was so embarrassed at the shamelessness of all the scurrying about (a la Anne Elliot). The moral I take from S&S

"The whole of [x]'s behaviour in the affair, and the prosperity which crowned it, therefore, may be held forth as a most encouraging instance of what an earnest, an unceasing attention to self-interest, however its progress may be apparently obstructed, will do in securing every advantage of fortune, with no other sacrifice than that of time and conscience ..."

The family members at Steventon do not know where the Tamer frigate is: I've started Charlotte Smith's letters and Stanton's introduction brings home to the reader how little information people had of one another in an age of no phone, weak postage system still, no telegrams &c (of course no internet). Southam (JA and the Navy) informs us the Tamer was at Deal (much further from Steventon than Portsmouth).


A frigate, a warship

The family does hope Charles will make it home anyway (they know he's somewhere in the UK) and by Letter 18 we will learn that Charles did come home.

Then the statement this letter is to be all good news so perhaps there was something she could have said which she's leaving out lest it displease Cassandra (see final lines of this and the next letter).

And in the joy of the moment Mr Austen is going to send money! for Cassandra's washing, for paper and postage for letters, for her next quarter allowance and Edward's rent.

Did Edward charge Cassandra for the room? No wonder John Dashwood is characterized as having grown very mean indeed. 

Austen urges Cassandra to buy a muslin gown on the strength of this. Presumably she means the quarter allowance not the money for washing, paper and Edward's rent.

Not only is Cassandra blessed, but Jane too: an invitation to a ball, where we get that turn (like the one of Letter 15) into how little anything Jane (or presumably I now see Cassandra) can do or achieve counts at all in comparison:   "an humble Blessing compared with what the last page records, I do not consider any Calamity."  What counts to Jane, gives her possible happiness is as  is in comparison with the brothers only not a Calamity.

The line brings to mind a line in Richardson's Clarissa where the heroine's brother turns round and tells the heroine that women in a family are all a burden, something they have to bring up for "other men's tables". It's harshly stated but the world view Austen slips in her because despite her vow to be all good news, she cannot forget the realities she lives under. If nothing else, telling Cassandra about the bits of money sent Cassandra reminds Jane of it.

And to conclude, she has produced "enough to make you very happy."  So she may "safely conclude" without worrying what Cassandra might say that is adversarial to her.

******************************************
Letter 17:  The letter begins with a compliment to Cassandra:   "You must read your letter over five times in future ... I laughed at several parts of the one I am now answering." 

We are in a better position to understand these over-estimations.  Cassandra writes pieties, upbeat, "starched notions" characterize hers:  Jane wants Cassandra to write and praises her to get her to do it.  Cassandra (like many people who lurk on lists say) has much less urge to write than Jane has need of the letters.  In a later letter not far ahead Jane also registers the same sort of idea she has when she contemplates Fanny Austen in letters: they are a kind of specimen and teach her about humanity.  This is the way she gains access to material that's alive and matters (because they are people with contradictions, flaws, usable characteristics for novels.)

Then a line tells us that the Austens now know where Charles is and are awaiting him: a comic urgent threat;  "he must come this morning, or he shall never know what I will do to him."


Willemzal, meant to evoke an image of Kempshott Park

A ball is to be held "this evening" at Kempshott Park (a fancy house, owned by the Cookes). She got Charles an invitation though not a partner. Apparently Eliza Bailey is sick -- "in a dieing way" suggests mockery so maybe she's not got an absolutely fatal condition -- but unlike her Charles can get a partner for himself. 

She apologizes for a mistake in saying it was Monday.  Her mind reverts to her rich Austen relatives: now Elizabeth is characterized as making fun of her for writing -- out for someone to play at the ball? I presume, Austen not being an original composer. Austen seems slightly irritated, enough to register a threat joke: she'll make Elizabeth write out the stuff in future, and this brings Edward to mind.

Apparently Cassandra had been asserting or rejoicing in Edward's income, perhaps counting it up in the manner of John Dashwood in accounting for a present Edward gave her, to which Elinor Dashwood we recall replied (S&S, Ch 33:  "You expences both in town and country ... but your income is a large one").  Jane's comment is in the tone or mindset of Elinor:  "I am tolerably glad to hear that Edward's income is so good a one" but she breaks down in downright statement: "as glad as I can at anybody's being rich besides You and me."  Reverting back to irony: he was so rich he could give Cassandra a present it seems. And of course Jane rejoices at this.


Olivia Williams as Jane Austen dressing for a dance at Godmersham

Perhaps it was an item for a dance for now we get a description of items of Austen's dress tonight: not the white satin cap but "marmalouc" -- one of these pseudo-Egyptian fashions.

Interesting this: it's a kind of hand-me-over. Charles Fowles had sent it to Mary (Austen?) and she sent it to Jane.

Thrift, thrift, Horatio.

This kind of thing is all the fashion now. The Mildmays are a fashionable rich set in Hampshire (we learn from the note) so this kind of thing is worn at the opera and ball by "lady Mildmays."

Then we get another piece of downright truthfulness: she hates describing these things. Let Cassandra guess.  (Again: she does not really enjoy the description of fashions: it's to please Cassandra who asked for it, or fill the paper).

She's glad to say she has overgrown the era when girls sit round making hats and headgear (as we see Lydia Bennet does in P&P), and a description of her dress. She does though use words to give an accurate idea:  as one pictures it probably influenced by seeing them in real life at JASNAs and elsewhere today one should remember women then wore corsets so like actresses in films they would not look like cows.


Crabtree Cottages, Surrey, on the way from Great Bookham to Box Hill (Nigelson, The World of Jane Austen)

Cassandra has been dreading the idea of going to Bookham and Jane assure her she does too.  Perhaps something will turn up to prevent it.  LeFaye does tell us something was erased or cut: so Jane and Cassandra not keen on the Cookes (a Burney connection too). Theo is Theophilus-Leigh Cooke.  LeFaye's notes show that Fanny Burney described this family in the usual pious way ("very worthy man") but also because she seems to have liked them (p. 509). Not Jane. In that half-joking way she hopes they "will be overturned on their way to Bath" in spring and so laid up for the summer.

Curious that Cassandra kept the curse and not the actual detail of why Jane didn't like them. So we are led not to take the joke seriously because we don't know what Jane didn't like them. Perhaps she had very good reason for it.

Jane puts down her pen.

***************************************

The instalment about Wednesday is very long: she was inspired by the experience she had, and tells the circumstances surrounding said ball, the ball (which though the mother wrote, Jane wrote anyway).


Samantha Morton as Harriet Smith, rescued from being a wallflower at Crown Inn (1996 A&E Emma -- Letter 17 contains an analogous incident)

It's in this entry that she makes the first reference in these extant letters to one of her novels: "I do  not wonder at your wanting to read first impressions again, so seldom as you have gone through it, & that so long ago."  All ironies. This is a central interest of this letter.


First Impressions (from opening of 2005 P&P: Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet, supposed reading First Impressions)


Writing unpleasant because a cold in her eyes. Apparently once she warmed to her topic, she couldn't resist going on.

What happened was they stayed over, dined at the Harwoods on Thursday and then the party broke up on Friday.

So she's got a great deal of social matter for a change.

The Hulberts lived in Berkshire and Jane decides to refer to some earlier incident by saying that Cassandra not expressing "great anxiety" lest she be murdered by a servant prompts her not to tell whether she was.  Really nonsense. She was not at home not because dead but because she stayed over at Martha Lloyd.

The next vignette is often quoted or paraphrased in the biographies. Martha and she had the bed and stayed late into the nigth talking (good friends: "I love Martha better than ever ...") and put the nurse and child onto the floor.

Poor nurse.  A real indifference to servants registered as it has been before

With her eyes she can't read or sew so she plays the pianoforte. She will get so good she will be able to replace the music-master at Finch-Hatton. She's mentioned this man before: a joke earlier suggesting him as a courting partner in marriage.


The jokes about the music-master (Austen didn't have one) and Elizabeth Austen wanting her to write out music remind us another area Austen does not speak of in the letters beyond her novel writing is her playing of music

She is sure of Elizabeth Austen's recommendation (after all she had insisted on Jane writing out music), if only for Harriot - whom they want to be married off to one of the Bridges.

She moves on to other accomplishments (these letters work by association) and as she has no real talent in drawing so Mary needs to get reasonable about her child's beauty. The equation here is between the unmarried woman showing off with accomplishments and the married one with a baby.  Why hard names for stars comes in but that astronomy must have been a form of showing off too.  Jane suspects that Mary becoming more moderate does not reflect her real attitude:  I think to myself that Mary is naturally super-ecstatic because what else does she have and we see her an instance of why Mary would grow irritated. The Austen girls did not go ga-ga when she demanded admiration.  The W-W's were people who were deluded and overspoke about themselves too.

The whole passage reminds me of the talk about accomplishment in P&P which is often talked of as a general satire. Here we see the personal input into this, her own irritations and resentments.


2005 P&P:  Darcy suggests rigorous standards for accomplished lady

I can see where Mary responded to the Austen girls lack of responsiveness:  she and James will make and go out for dinner parties again. (Now that she's not so enormously pregnant).

So now one is coming and Jane is invited. We see the connection with the Biggs again: again Catherine is there.  A boast for Catherine; her name is the one that dominates this set of people.

Jane's scepticism: "She congratulated me last night on Frank's promotion as if she really meant it."

Her relationship with that child she felt for over his breeching and whipping continues despite her havng half-mocked and denied it (he would grow up to be as bad as other male adolescents). I take her denial to be her way of covering up against Cassandra's dislike of this special relationship. So she gain makes fun in a not nice way: he's just so great at face-making and she admires his yellow wafer.  If I read aright, George was at the party (where Jane wore green shoes) and did not get a chance to throw her "white fan" in the river.

The scenes these letters conjure up -- much much more daily violence and horse-play than ever in any of the novels.

***************************************

General:  I wonder how a grown woman feels writing this stuff. I can see how the first readers of it and many dismiss it. What saves them (makes them at all readable) is the bitterness and ironies,dryness.  I am alive to how equally pathetic I am writing about it.

So, these emerge more and more as kinds of hurried jottings.  As I wrote yesterday (maybe) I'm reading Charlotte Smith's letters and have read a good deal of Burney. What's strikingly different is how coherent they are, full paragraphs, dramatized scenes, grammatically correct sentences, not sentences which trace the flow of imagined talk moving swiflty.  Austen scarcely finishes a thought; she is endlessly elusive, evasive,  One explanation is Smith is comfortable in saying forthrightly what's on her mind; another she really has more time and space to do it in. And it must be admitted Smith writes of serious adult responsibilities and terrors too she is enduring, negotiatoins in business and perforce her living a life on her own out in the world.

Again one sees why Austen is often thought (whatever fans and Austen scholars might want to say to shore up their own ego) to be a sheltered woman.

***************************************

The detail about Mrs Knight's generosity (and she was) is threaded into Edward's greed.  She is imitating his reaction to Mrs Knight:  it seems (he suggested) that her "giving p the Godmersham Estate to Edward" wa sno great thing ("prodigious act of Generosity) as

"for she reserved to herself an income out of it still."

He wanted her to be a Lear and live on him?

Jane is repeating Edward's attitude strongly ironically. she's sending this message on "that her [Mrs Knight's] conduct might not be over-rated."  And so Edward "shews the greater Magnanimity of the two" in accepting this property with such "incumbrances."


James Fleet as John Dashwood easily persuaded into not giving his sisters annuities, a lump sum, any thing at all (1995 S&S, Harriet Walters as Fanny)

I remember Fanny Dashwood inveighing against annuities.  Mrs Knight will get her income as an annuity.  John Dashwood appears a mild portrait in comparison with Austen's portrait of Edward's implicit tenacious wanting of everything.  We should remember Cassandra saved this too.  Cassandra went to live with these people, she was their upper servant in some ways, the maiden lady with no children helping out.  She may have paid rent. She didn't mind us knowing this either.

Jane's eyes are feeling much better now (that she's had some release in exposing Edward -- and we may assume Cassandra in reading this -- for there is no sense of Cassandra resenting this sort of thing as Jane keeps it up), and at that I'll stop to cover the last part of the letter tomorrow evening.

Having recounted circumstances surrounding the ball (sleeping with Martha, dining out, comments on talk she heard about accomplishments and on family and friends, Mary's pride in the child, her connection to George [covered up with ironies], once again skewering Edward for his greed), she comes to the ball itself.  She says she spent "a very pleasant evening"; perhaps this is in retrospective and also simply because she was active and busy, since the tale is reminiscent of Harriet Smith at the Crown Inn, viz,

"People were rather apt not to ask me till they could help it."

How awful. She is saying she was aware that people (men) were avoiding her and only because they didn't want to pull an Elton on Harriet [that is obviously snub her], did they ask her.  The implication is whoever she is talking of saw her as desperately sitting there waiting.


Mrs Weston fails to persuade Mr Elton to ask Harriet to dance at the Crown Inn (1972 BBC Emma)

Others noticed it, and tried to soothe or console her (or perhaps triumphed in the way in _Emma_ the Coles at their dinner party do over Jane Fairfax with their piano when Jane lacks one):

"There was one Gentleman, an officer of the Chesire, a very good looking young Man, whom I was told wanted very much to be introduced to me; -- but he did not want it quite enough to take much trouble in effecting it, We could never bring it about..."

From that last phrase it seems that Jane Austen had the mortification of others trying to get this guy to ask to be introduced and he eluded them.

Then we get a list of who she did manage to dance with. They are objects of jokes: Mr South is not connected to the Bishop as the Bishop is named North [so nothing aggrandizing to be gained there]; a Lefroy; Harwood is someone she made fun of dull earlier (during a visit); now she gains on him (whoopee). John Wood did ask her twice.

So here we have a twig or parallel of emotion for the emotion that floods Emma at the Crown Inn. Jane got back a little by declining a lord:  "My gayest action was sitting down two Dances in preference to having Lord Bolton's son for my partner." He just danced too ill to be endured

She got to snub someone else.  Here we are in Elizabeth Bennet country.  The chapter where Elizabeth so over-the-top insults Darcy's proposal, rejects marriage to a great man (rich, handsome) so triumphantly, is Austen getting back big. The electrifying emotion there comes from that satisfaction. 


Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet refusing Mr Darcy (1995 P&P)

Charles did not come, couldn't get someone to stand in for him?  and two Miss Charteris played some part that Cassandra will recognize by being told they acted out the Miss Edens

Why was she not "very much in request."  As opposed to the dance she described in the previous letter where the men outnumbered the women so strongly?  Hard to say; we are not told.  She says there were "more Dancers than the room could conveniently hold".


1972 Jane at Emma's dinner party, also snubbed, also rescued by Mr Knightley (2 snubbings occur in the 1972 BBC Emma, both times Mr Knightley comes to the rescue, here he talks to Jane)

***************************************
Again a general comment:  The letters are certainly enigmatic and while some of the puzzle can be put down to something being cut which would elucidate a passage, it's obvious that much that we have is not snipped at carefully but just the result of crude big cuts: Cassandra simply threw away or burnt whole letters most of the time; once in a while when she did want to save a letter but saw some spot that she deemed unacceptable, then we have the scissors snipping.

She assumes Cassandra knows why no one wanted her.  She is not having a good time at that ball. She seems not to mind that much as she's now writing; as with all disappointments big and small, she turns the emotion away by making fun; so when she loses Lefroy it's a joke; now her own wallflower state is a joke. 


Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth managing to contain a smile; Mr Collins is proposing (1995 P&P)

The worst of it seems to have been that others noticed.

***************************************


Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen supposed writing First Impressions (2007 Becoming Jane, the anachronisms include the amount of paper she has)

Back to paper.  Now she discusses two more sheets. Terence (I allude to A. E. Housman) this is desperate stuff.  She has as a topic bits of paper.  It seems that Miss Debary replaced the two she took with two of superior quality so she doesn't grudge her taking the first two now.

No use to say this level of need and topic is pathetic, for she was a writer. After recounting some marriages, her mind reverts to her novel, and at long last we hear of one:  I am beginning to realize why some of these statements are so over-quoted; there are so few of them:

"I do not wonder at your wanting to read First impressions again so seldom as you have gone through it, & that so long ago."

No one can doubt she is exulting here through her ironies.

Still, in the next line she in effect likens the book to Cassandra's old petticoat, at least she mentions the two in the same breath.  I agree with Diane Reynolds here:

" Then she juxtaposes her dear-to-her-heart MS (my goodness, the first draft of Pride and Prejudice!) with an old petticoat. She is in a spirited, joking mode again (or so I read her) and it's almost as if she wants to bury her mention of her novel between mindless chatter about clothes--perhaps so that others reading the letter won't pay the MS much mind? Is this part of her tendency, as Ellen says, to evade or elude about what is most important to her? She must protect herself and the clothes she doesn't like to describe provide a "cover" in more ways than one. She can communicate with C about what is most important and yet it gets mixed amid a bundle of details. She mentions a "lack of courage" twice after mentioning her novel--I wonder if that is what she was really lacking courage about, as she seems to be joking when she writes she lacks the courage to ask for a petticoat or go through C's old letters. Her repetition about lacking courage in back-to-back lines
seems significant--esp after mentioning her darling."

For some reason Jane does not have the courage to look through Cassandra's letters to find the name of Maria Montresor's lover which Mrs Austen wants to know.  Why?  To see who this "catch" is related to? At the opening of this evening she mentions the Bramstone's "movable little apartment" -- I imagine that means they kept moving from room to room to stay together (perhaps to exclude others, to keep to themselves), the "little" denigrates their house, Oakley Hall, one of these great mansions. Jane Austen is ever aware that her family lives in a vicarage they get with Mr Austen's job, and as JEAL says, nothing to boast of at all.

Money may be the association, the lack of it, the lack of being able to send her letter as she's no one to send it by pops into her mind.  Cassandra will be disappointed as she won't be able to send this for a couple more days.

Then a nasty dig at people about to go bankrupt. Jeffrey Toomer and Legge's partnership is about to end; "it is to be hoped that Jeffreys will break" for the sake of a few heroines whose money he will have.  She implies one of these men will go bankrupt to please a young woman who he is going to marry for her money.  This is irony upon irony. 

A great fuss is made about how she writes coolly about women having still born children, for men, money and their careers are as important. This is as egregious -- for the thought is not attributed to the neighbors, but her own.  With gaiety like this, one is in great need of cheer.  No wonder she looks so strained under the eyes in the portrait Cassandra took from the front.

She does wish her sister real joy on her sister's birthday ; that I agree.  Then we get this overspeak: sudden mandarin language in a complicated syntactical utterance.  As I wrote two days ago, the last paragraph there has an apology for not filling the paper and offers a sentiment which she says Cassandra may imagine "in studied Language" ["of pleasure"] which Cassandra prefers."   We see here Austen working hard to please this conventional woman after the genuine wish of a happy birthday.  Jane has been told in letters by Cassandra (we haven't got of course) to be upbeat, use more respectable style and of course not waste any paper. Fill it before you send it. Jane has not been able to come up to all this quite in this one:

"Do not be angry with me ..."

Was Cassandra often angry? I  surmise that the self-directed and nasty ironies at others did not amuse but irritated Cassandra. 

**********************************

Olivia Williams as Jane Austen in reverie, wandering about the garden near Chawton (later  in movie, already very ill)

Closing general comments and inferences:

How much these letters show us Austen's biography is just so interwoven -- I really did not expect this.  At the same time (or a corollary) how limited Austen is. How limited her experience "of the world."  And limited in outlook -- though again this may be the result of so many having been destroyed.  Tomalin's lament about these letters is well taken.

We continually come up against the remnant nature of these documents -- in a way they are documents left over as one can't really finally argue for them as Jane Austen's letters as she left them and they appeared before the several destructions and censorships.  I wanted to agree with Diane Reynolds (see comments) that while one could read the tone of Letter 17 as light despite the obvious remembered mortification, the next letter suggests that Austen saw what she had written as bleak -- or it was complained about by Cassandra:

"I will endeavour to make this letter more worthy your acceptance than my last ..."  Jane now agrees with Cassandra:  "which was so shabby a one that I think Mr Marshall could never charge you with the postage."  Marshall was the innkeeper and postmaster where Cassandra lived. I know a little about the post office since Trollope worked there for 37 years full-time, and among other things not until the mid-19th century was most of the corruption rooted out, so it might be that Mr Marshall charged a bit more than he should have.

Clearly an irritant to Cassandra when she picks up this letter not worthy her acceptance.

Except that Letter 17 did not come just before Letter 18; Letter 18 is not referring to Letter 17, but to missing one.

We can see only that this experience sunk into her memory and emerged as the gold of the humiliation at the Crown Inn (Emma) and can be said to form part of the background of the exultant rejection of Darcy we may assume was part of First Impressions (already written).


The manuscript of Emma so precious to Austen (from Miss Austen Regrets, she takes it to Godmersham with her)

My aim is to study the letters themselves, not to read secondary studies or other letters by her relatives or friends who have already put so many barriers up and framed her as they wanted us to see them.

See 1&2, 3&4, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 9 , 10, 1112, 13, 14 and 15

Ellen

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
misssylviadrake
Mar. 28th, 2011 04:57 am (UTC)
Enigmatic elsive nature, what tone is Letter 17 written in?
From Diane R:

"Ellen brought up the issue of how much Cassandra snipped out of the letters as well as the fact that some letters were destroyed outright. This is a fascinating issue--not only do we have the conscious and unconscious "silences" of JA herself, her various self-censorships, we have the conscious silences and gaps engineered by Cassandra. This adds yet another layer to looking at what is unsaid, the province of
post-structuralism --but maybe it is not so different from censorship imposed on published works in general. Cassandra was possibly unintentionally subversive in exposing--by being so blatant--the kind of "snipping" that was going on everywhere but more covertly with people pretending it wasn't happening.

In any case, I am, for a number of reasons, looking at only the
letters themselves. Time is a factor, but more than that, I want to examine the letters more closely as "raw data," before I am influenced by other people's framing and interpretation, though I have to say that what facts people are offering on the lists are very interesting. My more "new critical" method creates its distortions, but I am fine with that for now. What we have is the text we have, and part of the aim is to study that.

Tone is so problematic in Austen's letters, as in her novels. We just often don't know, probably more so in the letters, when she is being serious and when she is joking; when she is sliding into fiction and when she is chronicling.

Ellen reads letter XVII as sad not happy--I struggle with that and half agree. Or more than half agree. Intuitively, on a gut level, I do agree. Her tone is one of gaiety, lightness and laughter, but is it a desperate sort of brittle gaiety that masks a profound alienation? Do I want to read her as the suffering artist because that's a Romantic frame I've imbibed? (La Traviata?) I don't know. I think she must have suffered but ... is this a suffering letter? I don't know. And
this is what makes it so interesting."

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