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Title: Jane Austen and Her Times
Author: Mitton, G. E. (Geraldine Edith)
Language: English
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   [Illustration: MORNING EMPLOYMENTS]

                              JANE AUSTEN
                             AND HER TIMES


                              G. E. MITTON


                             METHUEN & CO.
                          36 ESSEX STREET W.C.

                       _First Published in 1905_


  CHAP.                                                      PAGE

      I. PRELIMINARY AND DISCURSIVE                             1
     II. CHILDHOOD                                             22
    III. THE POSITION OF THE CLERGY                            34
     IV. HOME LIFE AT STEVENTON                                49
      V. THE NOVELS                                            80
     VI. LETTERS AND POST                                     105
    VII. SOCIETY AND LOVE-MAKING                              117
   VIII. VISITS AND TRAVELING                                 148
     IX. CONTEMPORARY WRITERS                                 161
      X. A TRIO OF NOVELS                                     176
     XI. THE NAVY                                             196
    XII. BATH                                                 212
   XIII. DRESS AND FASHIONS                                   229
    XIV. AT SOUTHAMPTON                                       249
     XV. CHAWTON                                              266
    XVI. IN LONDON                                            278
   XVII. FANNY AND ANNA                                       296
  XVIII. THE PRINCE REGENT AND _EMMA_                         303
    XIX. LAST DAYS                                            313
         INDEX                                                327


  MORNING EMPLOYMENTS                              _Frontispiece_
    From a Painting by BUNBURY.

  THE REV. GEORGE AUSTEN                       _Facing page_   16
    From a Family Miniature.

  THE REV. JAMES AUSTEN                            „     „     16
    From a Family Miniature.

  JUVENILE RETIREMENT                              „     „     26
    From a Painting by JOHN HOPPNER.

  THE VICAR RECEIVING HIS TITHES                   „     „     42
    From a Drawing by H. SINGLETON.

  JANE AUSTEN                                      „     „     58
    From a Portrait by her Sister CASSANDRA.

  THE HAPPY COTTAGERS                              „     „     74
    From a Painting by GEORGE MORLAND.

  MISS BURNEY (MADAME D’ARBLAY)                    „     „     96
    From a Portrait by EDWARD BURNEY.

  FROM A SUMMER’S EVENING                          „     „    156
    From a Drawing by DE LOUTHERBOURG.

    From an Old Engraving.

  DOMESTIC HAPPINESS                               „     „    170
    From a Painting by GEORGE MORLAND.

  COWPER                                           „     „    192
    From a Painting by GEORGE ROMNEY, in the
    possession of B. Vaughan Johnson, Esq.

  VICTORY OF LORD DUNCAN (CAMPERDOWN), 1797        „     „    208
    From a Painting by J. S. COPLEY.

    EIGHTEENTH CENTURY                             „     „    220
    From a Contemporary Engraving.

  DRESSING TO GO OUT                               „     „    230
    From a Drawing by P. W. TOMKINS.

  INIGO JONES, HON. H. FANE, AND C. BLAIR          „     „    246
    From a Painting by Sir JOSHUA REYNOLDS.

  A PLATE FROM THE GALLERY OF FASHION              „     „    260

  CHARING CROSS, 1795                              „     „    285
    From an Engraving in the Crace Collection.

  THE LITTLE THEATRE, HAYMARKET                    „     „    291
     From an Engraving by WILKINSON in _Londina

  THE REV. GEORGE CRABBE                           „     „    293
    From a Drawing by Sir F. CHANTREY, in the
    National Portrait Gallery.

  THE GARDEN OF CARLTON HOUSE                      „     „    304
    From a Painting by BUNBURY.




Of Jane Austen’s life there is little to tell, and that little has
been told more than once by writers whose relationship to her made them
competent to do so. It is impossible to make even microscopic additions
to the sum-total of the facts already known of that simple biography,
and if by chance a few more original letters were discovered they could
hardly alter the case, for in truth of her it may be said, “Story there
is none to tell, sir.” To the very pertinent question which naturally
follows, reply may thus be given. Jane Austen stands absolutely alone,
unapproached, in a quality in which women are usually supposed to be
deficient, a humorous and brilliant insight into the foibles of human
nature, and a strong sense of the ludicrous. As a writer in _The
Times_ (November 25, 1904) neatly puts it, “Of its kind the comedy
of Jane Austen is incomparable. It is utterly merciless. Prancing
victims of their illusions, her men and women are utterly bare to our
understanding, and their gyrations are irresistibly comic.” Therefore
as a personality, as a central figure, too much cannot be written about
her, and however much is said or written the mystery of her genius will
still always baffle conjecture, always lure men on to fresh attempts to
analyse and understand her.

The data of Jane Austen’s life have been repeated several times, as
has been said, but beyond a few trifling allusions to her times no
writer has thought it necessary to show up the background against
which her figure may be seen, or to sketch from contemporary records
the environment amid which she developed. Yet surely she is even more
wonderful as a product of her times than considered as an isolated
figure; therefore the object of this book is to show her among the
scenes wherein she moved, to sketch the men and women to whom she was
accustomed, the habits and manners of her class, and the England with
which she was familiar. Her life was not long, lasting only from 1775
to 1817, but it covered notable times, and with such an epoch for
presentation, with such a central figure to link together the sequence
of events, we have a theme as inspiring as could well be found.

In many ways the times of Jane Austen are more removed from our own
than the mere lapse of years seems to warrant. The extraordinary
outburst of invention and improvement which took place in the reign
of Queen Victoria, lifted manners and customs in advance of what two
centuries of ordinary routine would have done. Sir Walter Besant in his
_London in the Eighteenth Century_ says, “The passing of the Reform
Bill in 1832, the introduction of steamers on the sea, the beginning
of railways on land, make so vast a break between the first third and
last two-thirds of the nineteenth century, that I feel justified in
considering the eighteenth century as lasting down to the year 1837;
in other words, there were so few changes, and these so slight, in
manners, customs, or prevalent ideas, between 1700 and 1837, that
we may consider the eighteenth century as continuing down to the
beginning of the Victorian era, when change after change—change in
the constitution, change in communications, change in the growth and
extension of trade, change in religious thought, change in social
standards—introduced that new time which we call the nineteenth

According to this reckoning, Jane Austen may be counted as wholly an
eighteenth-century product, and such a view is fully justified, for the
differences between her time and ours were enormous. It is impossible
to summarise in a few sentences changes which are essentially a matter
of detail, but in the gradual unfolding of her life I shall attempt
to show how radically different were her surroundings from anything to
which we are accustomed.

It is an endless puzzle why, when her books so faithfully represent the
society and manners of a time so unlike our own, they seem so natural
to us. If you tell any half-dozen people, who have not made a special
study of the subject, at what date these novels were written, you will
find that they are all surprised to hear how many generations ago Jane
Austen lived, and that they have always vaguely imagined her to be
very little earlier than, if not contemporary with, Charlotte Brontë or
George Eliot. So far as I am aware, no writer on Jane Austen has ever
touched on this problem before. Her stories are as fresh and real as
the day they were written, her characters might be introduced to us in
the flesh any time, and, with the exception of a certain quaintness of
eighteenth-century flavouring, there is nothing to bring before us the
striking difference between their environment and our own. It is true
that the long coach journeys stand out as an exception to this, but
they are the only marked exception. If we had never had an illustrated
edition of Jane Austen, nine people out of ten at least would have
formed mental pictures of the characters dressed in early Victorian, or
perhaps even in present-day, costume. It is only since Hugh Thompson
and C. E. Brock have put before us the costumes of the age, that
our ideas have accommodated themselves, and we realise how Catherine
Morland and Isabella Thorpe looked in their high-waisted plain gowns,
when they had arrived at that stage of intimacy which enabled them to
pin “up each other’s trains for the dance.” Or how attractive Fanny
Price was in her odd high-crowned hat, with its nodding plume, and the
open-necked short-sleeved dress, as she surveyed herself in the glass
while Miss Crawford snapped the chain round her neck. The knee-breeches
of the men, their slippers and cravats, the neat, close-fitting
clerical garb, these things we owe to the artists,—they are taken for
granted in the text. It would have seemed as ridiculous to Jane Austen
to describe them, as for a present-day novelist to mention that a
London man made a call in a frock-coat and top-hat.

Yet her word-pictures are living and detailed, filled in with
innumerable little touches. How can we reconcile the seeming
inconsistency? The explanation probably is, that without acting
consciously, she, with the unerring touch of real genius, chose that
which was lasting, and of interest for all time, from that which was
ephemeral. In her sketches of human nature, in the strokes with which
she describes character, no line is too fine or too delicate for
her attention; but in the case of manners and customs she gives just
the broad outlines that serve as a setting. Her novels are novels of

But the problem is not confined to the books; in her letters to her
sister, though there is abundant comment on dress, food, and minor
details which should mark the epoch, yet the letters might have been
written yesterday. Austin Dobson in one of his admirable prefaces to
the novels says: “Going over her pages, pencil in hand, the antiquarian
annotator is struck by their excessive modernity, and after a prolonged
examination discovers, in this century-old record, nothing more fitted
for the exercise of his ingenuity that such an obsolete game at cards
as ‘Casino’ or ‘quadrille.’”

And this is true also of her letters. More remarkable still is the
entire absence of comment on the great events which thrilled the world;
with the exception of an allusion to the death of Sir John Moore, we
hear no whisper of the wars and upheavals which happened during her
life. It is true that the Revolution in France, which shook monarchs
on their thrones, occurred before the first date of the published
letters, yet her correspondence covers a time when battles at sea
were chronicled almost continuously, when an invasion by France was
an ever-present terror; Trafalgar and Waterloo were not history, but
contemporary events; but though Jane must have heard and discussed
these matters, no echo finds its way into her lively and amusing
budgets of chit-chat to her sister. Of course women were not supposed
to read the papers in those days, but with two sailor brothers the news
must have often been personal and intimate, and she was, according to
the notions of her time, well educated; yet we search in vain for any
allusion to such contemporary matters. It may be objected that the
letters of a modern girl to a sister would hardly touch on questions
which agitate the public, but there are several replies to this: in
the first place, few such exciting events have occurred in recent
times as happened during Jane Austen’s life; our war in Africa was
a mere trifle in comparison with the bloody field of Waterloo, where
Blucher and Wellington lost 30,000 men, or the thrilling naval victory
of Trafalgar; and stupendous as have been the recent battles between
Russia and Japan, they affect us only indirectly—England is not herself
involved in them, nor are her sons being slain daily. In the second
place, surely even the South African War would probably produce some
comment in letters, especially if the writer had brothers in the army
as Jane had brothers in the navy. Thirdly, letters in Jane Austen’s
time were one great means of news, for newspapers were not so easy to
get, and were much more costly than now, so that we expect to find more
of contemporary events in letters than at a time like the present, when
telegrams and columns of print save us the trouble of recording such
matters in private.

In the forty-two years between 1775 and 1817, vast discoveries of
world-wide importance were made. When Jane Austen was born, Captain
Cook was still in the midst of his exploration, and the map of the
world was being unrolled day by day. Though New Zealand and Australia
had been discovered by the Dutch in the previous century, they were all
but unknown to England. Six years only before her birth had the great
navigator charted and mapped New Zealand for the first time, also the
east coast of Australia, and had christened New South Wales. When she
was four years old, Cook was murdered by the natives at Hawaii.

The atlas from which she learnt her earliest geography lessons
was therefore very different from those now in use. The well-known
cartographer, S. Dunn, published an atlas in 1774, where Australia is
marked certainly, but as though one saw it through distorted glasses;
the east coast, Cook’s discovery, is clearly defined, the rest is
very vague; and the fact that Tasmania was an island had not then
been discovered, for it appears as a projecting headland. In the same
general way is New Zealand treated, and neither has a separate sheet
to itself; beyond their appearance on the map of the world, they are
ignored. Japan also looks queer to modern eyes, it almost touches China
at both ends, enclosing a land-locked sea.

The epoch was one of change and enlargement in other than geographical
directions. In the thirty years before Jane Austen’s birth an immense
improvement had taken place in the position of women. Mrs. Montagu, in
1750, had made bold strokes for the freedom and recognition of her sex.
The epithet “blue-stocking,” which has survived with such extraordinary
tenacity, was at first given, not to the clever women who attended
Mrs. Montagu’s informal receptions, but to her men friends, who were
allowed to come in the grey or blue worsted stockings of daily life,
instead of the black silk considered _de rigueur_ for parties. Up to
this time, personal appearance and cards had been the sole resources
for a leisured dame of the upper classes, and the language of gallantry
was the only one considered fitting for her to hear. By Mrs. Montagu’s
efforts it was gradually recognised that a woman might not only have
sense herself, but might prefer it should be spoken to her; and that
because the minds of women had long been left uncultivated they were
not on that account unworthy of cultivation. Hannah More describes Mrs.
Montagu as “not only the finest genius, but the finest lady I ever saw
... her form (for she has no body) is delicate even to fragility; her
countenance the most animated in the world; the sprightly vivacity of
fifteen, with the judgment and experience of a Nestor.”

In art there had never before been seen in England such a trio of
masters as Reynolds, Gainsborough, and Romney. Isolated portrait
painters of brilliant genius, though not always native born, there had
been in England,—Holbein, Vandyke, Lely, Kneller, and Hogarth are all
in the first rank,—but that three such men as the trio above should
flourish contemporaneously was little short of miraculous.

In 1775, Sir Joshua had passed the zenith of his fame, though he lived
until 1792. Gainsborough, who was established in a studio in Schomberg
House, Pall Mall, was in 1775 at the beginning of his most successful
years; his rooms were crowded with sitters of both sexes, and no one
considered they had proved their position in society until they had
received the hall-mark of being painted by him. He was only sixty-one
at his death in 1788. Romney, who lived to 1802, never took quite the
same rank as the other two, yet he was popular enough at the same time
as Gainsborough; Lady Newdigate (_The Cheverels of Cheverel Manor_)
mentions going to have her portrait painted by him, and says that
“he insists upon my having a rich white satin with a long train made
by Tuesday, and to have it left with him all the summer. It is the
oddest thing I ever knew.” Sir Thomas Lawrence and Hoppner carried on
the traditions of the portrait painters, the former living to 1830;
with names such as these it is easy to judge art was in a flourishing

Among contemporary landscape painters, Richard Wilson, who has been
called “the founder of English Landscape,” lived until 1782. But
his views, though vastly more natural than the stilted conventional
style that preceded them, seem to our modern eyes, trained to what
is “natural,” still to be too much conventionalised. Among others the
names of Gillray, Morland, Rowlandson stand out, all well on the way to
fame while Jane was still a child.

These preliminary remarks have been made with a view to giving some
general idea of that England into which she was born, and they refer
to those subjects which only affected her indirectly. All those
things which entered directly into her life, such as her country
surroundings, contemporary books, prices of food, fashions, and a host
of minor details, are dealt with more particularly in the course of the

As we have said, matters of history are not mentioned or noticed
in Jane Austen’s correspondence, which is taken up with her own
environment, her neighbours, their habits and manners, and illumined
throughout by a bright insight at times rather too biting to be
altogether pleasant. Of her immediate surroundings we have a very clear

Of all the writers of fiction, Jane Austen is most thoroughly English.
She never went abroad, and though her native good sense and shrewd
gift of observation saved her from becoming insular, yet she cannot be
conceived as writing of any but the sweet villages and the provincial
towns of her native country. Even the Brontës, deeply secluded as their
lives were, crossed the German Ocean, and saw something of Continental
life from their school at Brussels. Nothing of this kind fell to
Jane Austen’s share. Yet people did travel in those days, travelled
amazingly considering the difficulties they had to encounter, among
which were the horrors of a sailing-boat with its uncertain hours.
Fielding, in going to Lisbon, was kept waiting a month for favourable
winds! There was also the terrible embarking and landing from a small
boat before such conveniences as landing-stages were built.

In one of Lord Langdale’s letters, dated 1803, we have a vivid
description of these horrors: “We left that place [Dover] about six
o’clock last Saturday morning, and arrived at Calais at four in the
afternoon. Our passage was rather disagreeable, the wind being chiefly
against us, and rain sometimes falling in torrents. I never witnessed
a more curious scene than our landing. When the packet-boat had come
to within two miles of the coast of France, we were met by some French
rowing boats in which we were to be conveyed on shore. The French
sailors surrounded us in the most clamorous and noisy manner, leaping
into the packet and bawling and shouting so loud as to alarm the
ladies on board very much. To these men, however, we were to consign
ourselves, and we entered their boats, eight passengers going in each.
When we got near the shore, we were told it was impossible for the boat
to get close to land, on account of the tide being so low, and that
we must be carried on the men’s shoulders. We had no time to reflect
on this plan before we saw twelve or fourteen men running into the
water,—they surrounded our boat and laid hold of it with such violence,
that one might have thought they meant to sink it, and fairly pulled
us into their arms.... For my part I laughed heartily all the time,
but a lady who was with us was so much frighted, that I was obliged
to support her in my arms a considerable time before she was able to

It was not only in the arms of men that passengers were thus carried
ashore, in _Napoleon’s British Visitors and Captives_, by J. G. Alger,
there is a still more extraordinary account quoted from a contemporary
letter. “In an instant the boathead was surrounded by a throng of women
up to their middles and over, who were there to carry us on shore. Not
being aware of this manœuvre, we did not throw ourselves into the arms
of these sea-nymphs so instantly as we ought, whereby those who sat at
the stern of the boat were deluged with sea spray. For myself, I was in
front, and very quickly understood the clamour of the mermaids. I flung
myself upon the backs of two of them without reserve, and was safely
and dryly borne on shore, but one poor gentleman slipped through their
fingers, and fell over head and ears into the sea.”

From the same entertaining book we learn that, “For £4, 13s. you could
get a through ticket by Dover and Calais, starting either from the
City at 4.30 a.m. by the old and now revived line of coaches connected
with the rue Notre Dame des Victoires establishment in Paris, or
morning and night by a new line from Charing Cross. Probably a still
cheaper route, though there were no through tickets, was by Brighton
and Dieppe, the crossing taking ten or fifteen hours. By Calais it
seldom took more than eight hours, but passengers were advised to
carry light refreshments with them. The diligence from Calais to Paris,
going only four miles an hour, took fifty-four hours for the journey,
but a handsome carriage drawn by three horses, in a style somewhat
similar to the English post-chaise, could be hired by four or five
fellow-travellers, and this made six miles an hour.”

During a great part of Jane Austen’s life, much of the Continent was
closed to English people because of the perpetual state of war between
us and either Spain or France, but in any case such an expedition would
seem to have lain quite outside her limited daily round, and was never
even mooted.

Steventon Rectory, where she was born on December 16, 1775, has
long ago vanished, and a new rectory, more in accordance with modern
luxurious notions, has been built. Of the old house, Lord Brabourne,
great-nephew to Jane Austen, writes: “The house standing in the valley
was somewhat better than the ordinary parsonage houses of the day;
the old-fashioned hedgerows were beautiful, and the country around
sufficiently picturesque for those who have the good taste to admire
country scenery.”

Steventon is a very small place, lying in a network of lanes about
seven miles from Basingstoke. The nearest points on the high-roads are
Deane, on the Andover Road, and Popham Lane on the Winchester Road.
There is an inn at the corner of Popham Lane to this day, and that
there was an inn there in Jane Austen’s time we know, for Mrs. Lybbe
Powys, writing in 1792, says: “We stopped at Winchester and lay that
night at a most excellent inn at Popham Lane.” At this time, curiously
enough, her fellow-travellers were Dr. Cooper, Jane Austen’s uncle,
and his son and daughter, though whether the party made a détour to
visit the rectory we do not know. Of course at that time Jane was of
no greater importance than any seventeen-year-old daughter of a country
clergyman, and there would be no reason to mention her.

It is difficult to find Steventon, so little is there of it, and that
so much scattered; a few cottages, a farm, and beyond, half a mile
away, the church, with a pump in a field near to mark the site of the
old rectory house where Jane Austen was born. This is all that remains
of her time. The new rectory stands on the other side of the narrow
road, raised above it, and sheltered by a warm backing of trees in
which evergreens are conspicuous. A very substantial-looking building
it is, much superior to what was considered good enough for a clergyman
in the eighteenth century. The country is well wooded, and the roads
undulating, so that there are no distant views. Probably a good deal
of the planting has been done since Jane Austen’s time, but that there
were trees then we know from her own account, and some of the fine
oaks that still stand can have altered but little since then. Mr.
Austen-Leigh’s account of the house in which she was born is worth

“North of the house, the road from Deane to Popham Lane ran at a
sufficient distance from the front to allow a carriage drive through
turf and trees. On the south side, the ground rose gently, and was
occupied by one of those old-fashioned gardens in which vegetables and
flowers are combined, flanked and protected on the east by one of the
thatched mud walls common in that country, and overshadowed by fine
elms. Along the upper or southern side of this garden ran a terrace
of the finest turf, which must have been in the writer’s thoughts when
she described Catherine Morland’s childish delight in ‘rolling down the
green slope at the back of the house.’”

Though there is so little left to see, and the church has been
“restored,” yet it is worth while to pass through this country to
realise the environment in which the authoress spent her childhood.
There are still left in the neighbourhood, notably at North Waltham,
some of the old diamond-paned, heavily-timbered brick houses with
thatched roofs, to which she must have been accustomed. The gentle
curves of the roads, the oak and beech and fir overshadowing the sweet
lanes, the wild clematis, which grows so abundantly that in autumn
it looks like hoar-frost covering all the hedgerows, these things
were prominent objects in the scenery amid which she lived. It is not
likely she looked on her surroundings in the same way as any ordinarily
educated person would now look on them. Love of scenery had not then
been developed. The artificial and formal landscape gardening, with
“made” waterfalls, was the correct thing to admire. Genuine nature,
much less homely nature, was only then beginning to be observed. This
is strange to us, for, as Professor Geikie says, “At no time in our
history as a nation has the scenery of the land we live in been so
intelligently appreciated as it is to-day.”

But Jane was not in advance of her times, and though she loved her
trees and flowers, we find in her writings no reflections of the scenes
amid which she daily walked; in her books scenery is simply ignored. We
know if it rained, because that material fact had an influence on the
actions of her heroines, but beyond that there is little or nothing;
yet she greatly admired Cowper, one of the earliest of the “natural”

Mr. Austen-Leigh, her own nephew, speaks of the scenery around her
first home as “tame,” and says that it has no “grand or extensive
views,” though he admits it has its beauties, and says that Steventon
“from the fall of the ground, and the abundance of its timber, is
certainly one of the prettiest spots.” But this quiet prettiness,
without the excessive richness to be found in other south-country
villages, is perhaps more thoroughly characteristic of England than any

The impressions of childhood are invariably deep, and are cut with a
clearness and minuteness to which none others of later times attain.
Just as a child examines a picture in a story-book with anxious and
searching care, while an adult gains only a general impression of the
whole, so a child knows the place where it has played in such detail
that every bough of the trees, every root of the lilacs, every tiny
depression or ditch is familiar. And thus Jane must have known the home
at Steventon.

Writing about a storm in 1800, she says: “I was just in time to see
the last of our two highly valued elms descend into the Sweep!!! The
other, which had fallen, I suppose, in the first crash, and which was
the nearest to the pond, taking a more easterly direction, sunk amid
our screen of chestnuts and firs, knocking down one spruce fir, beating
off the head of another, and stripping the two corner chestnuts of
several branches in its fall. This is not all. One large elm out of
the two on the left-hand side as you enter, what I call, the elm walk,
was likewise blown down; the maple bearing the weathercock was broke
in two, and what I regret more than all the rest is that all the three
elms which grew in Hall’s meadow, and gave such ornament to it, are

This bespeaks her intimate acquaintance with the trees, of which each
one was a friend.

The country and the writer suited each other so wonderfully, that one
pauses for a moment wondering whether, after all, environment may not
have that magic influence claimed for it by some who hold it to be more
powerful than inherited qualities. Influence of course it has, and one
wonders what could possibly have been the result if two such natures as
those of Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë had changed places; if Jane
had been brought up amid the wild, bleak Yorkshire moors, and Charlotte
amid the pleasant fields of Hampshire. As it is, the surroundings of
each intensified and developed their own peculiar genius.

Jane was born of the middle class, her father, George Austen, being a
clergyman in a day when clergymen were none too well thought of, yet
taking a better position than most by reason of his own family and good
connections. George Austen had early been left an orphan, and had been
adopted by an uncle. He showed the possession of brains by obtaining
first a scholarship at St. John’s College, Oxford, and subsequently a

He took Orders which, in the days when rectories were looked upon
simply as “livings,” was a recognised mode of providing for a young
man, whether he had any vocation for the ministry or not. But he seems
to have fulfilled his duties, or what were then considered sufficient
duties, creditably enough. Of George Austen one of his sons wrote—

“He resided in the conscientious and unassisted discharge of his
ministerial duties until he was turned of seventy years.” He was
a “profound scholar” and had “exquisite taste in every species of

The subject of the clergy at that date, and the examples of them
which Jane has herself given us in her books, is an interesting one,
and we shall return to it. The rectory of Steventon was presented to
George Austen by Mr. Knight, the same cousin who afterwards adopted
his son Edward; and the rectory of Deane, a small place about a mile
distant, was bought by an uncle who had educated him, and given to
him. The villages were very small, only containing about three hundred
persons altogether. In those days parish visiting or parochial clubs
and entertainments were unthought of, Sunday schools in their earliest
infancy, and we hear nothing whatever throughout the whole of Jane
Austen’s correspondence which leads us to think that she, in any way,
carried out the duties which in these days fall to the lot of every
clergyman’s daughter. This is not to cast blame upon her, it only means
that she was the child of her times; these things had not then been

   [Illustration: THE REV. JAMES AUSTEN]

   [Illustration: THE REV. GEORGE AUSTEN]

George Austen married Cassandra, youngest daughter of the Rev. Thomas
Leigh, who was of good family, her uncle was Dr. Theophilus Leigh,
Master of Balliol College, a witty and well-known man. These things are
not of importance in themselves, but they serve to show that the family
from which Jane sprang was on both sides of some consideration. The
Austens lived first at Deane, but moved to Steventon in 1771. They had
undertaken the charge of a son of Warren Hastings, who died young, and
they had a large family of their own, as was consistent in days when
families of ten, eleven, and even fifteen were no uncommon thing.

There were five sons and two daughters in all, and Jane was the
youngest but one. (See Table, p. 326.) James, the eldest, was probably
too far removed in age from his younger sister ever to have been very
intimate with her. It is said that he had some share in her reading
and in forming her taste, but though she was very fond of him she
never seems, as was very natural, to have had quite the same degree
of intimate affection for him as she felt for those of her brothers
nearer to her own age. James was twice married, and his only daughter
by his first wife was Anna, of whom Jane makes frequent mention in
her letters, and to whom some of the published correspondence was
addressed. His second wife was Mary Lloyd, whose sister Martha was the
very devoted friend, and frequent guest, of the girl Austens, and who
late in life married Francis, one of Jane’s younger brothers. The son
of James and Mary was James Edward, who took the additional name of
Leigh, and was the writer of the _Memoir_ which supplies one of the
only two sources of authoritative information about Jane Austen. He
died in 1874.

The next brother, Edward, as already stated, was adopted by his cousin
Mr. Knight, whose name he took. He came into the fine properties of
Chawton House in Hampshire and Godmersham in Kent, even during the
lifetime of Mr. Knight’s widow, who looked on him as a son and retired
in his favour. Edward married Elizabeth Bridges, and had a family
of eleven children, of whom the eldest, Fanny Catherine, married Sir
Edward Knatchbull, and their eldest son was created Lord Brabourne;
to him we owe the _Letters_ which are the second of the authoritative
books on Jane Austen.

Jane Austen was attached to her niece Fanny Knight in a degree only
second to that of her attachment to her own sister Cassandra. Fanny’s
mother, Mrs. Edward Austen or Knight (for the change of name seems not
to have taken place until her death), died comparatively young, and the
great responsibility thrown upon Fanny doubtless made her seem older,
and more companionable, than her years; of her, her famous aunt writes—

“I found her in the summer just what you describe, almost another
sister, and could not have supposed that a niece would ever have been
so much to me. She is quite after one’s own heart. Give her my best
love and tell her that I always think of her with pleasure.”

The third Austen brother, Henry, interested himself much in his
sister’s writing, and saw about the business arrangements for her,
when, after many years, she decided to publish one of her own books
at her own risk. He was something of a rolling stone, filling various
positions in turn, and at length taking Orders and succeeding his
brother James in the Steventon living. During part of his life he
lived in London, where Jane often stayed with him. He married first
his cousin Eliza, the daughter of George Austen’s sister; she was the
widow of a Frenchman, the Count de Feuillade, who had suffered death
by the guillotine. Eliza was very popular with her girl cousins, as
we can see from Jane’s remarks; she died in 1813, and in 1820 Henry
married Eleanor, daughter of Henry Jackson. The two youngest brothers,
Francis and Charles, came above and below Jane, with about three years’
interval on either side. They both entered the navy, and both became

Frank rose to be Senior Admiral of the Fleet, and was created G.C.B.;
he lived to be ninety-two. He, like another of his brothers, was twice
married,—a habit that ran abnormally in the family,—and his second wife
was Martha, the sister of his brother James’s wife, mentioned above.
Charles married first Fanny Palmer, and was left a widower in 1815 with
three small daughters. He married secondly her sister Harriet. The two
Fannies, Mrs. Charles Austen and the eldest daughter of Edward Knight,
sometimes cause a little confusion. Jane Austen mentions calling with
the younger Fanny on the motherless children of her brother, one of
whom was also Fanny, soon after their loss. “We got to Keppel Street,
however, which was all I cared for, and though we could only stay
a quarter of an hour, Fanny’s calling gave great pleasure, and her
sensibility still greater; for she was very much affected at the sight
of the children. Little Fanny looked heavy. We saw the whole party.”

It has been necessary to give a few details respecting the brothers
who played so large a part in Jane’s life, because her visits away from
home were nearly all to their houses, her letters are full of allusions
to them, and the great family affection which subsisted between them
all made the griefs and joys of the others the greatest events in a
very uneventful life. The dearest, however, of the whole family was
the one sister Cassandra, who, like Jane herself, never married, which
seems the stranger when we consider how many of the brothers married
twice. There was a sad little love-story in Cassandra’s life. She
was engaged to a young clergyman who had promise of promotion from a
nobleman related to him. He accompanied this patron to the West Indies
as chaplain to the regiment, and there died of yellow fever. There is
perhaps something more pathetic in such a tale than in any other, the
glowing ideal has not been smirched by any touch of the actual sordid
daily life, it is snatched away and remains an ideal always, and the
happiness that might have been is enhanced by romance so as to be a
greater deprivation than any loss of the actual.

The two sisters were sisters in reality, sharing the same views, the
same friendships, the same interests. When away, Jane’s letters to
Cassandra are full and lively, telling of all the numberless little
events that only a sister can enjoy. And if Jane’s own estimate is to
be believed, Cassandra’s are to the full as vivacious.

“The letter which I have this moment received from you has diverted me
beyond moderation. I could die of laughter at it, as they used to say
at school. You are indeed the finest comic writer of the present age.”

Cassandra lived to 1845, long enough to see that her beloved sister’s
letters would in all probability be published; she was of a reticent
nature, with a strong dislike to revealing anything personal or
intimate to the public, she therefore went through all these neatly
written letters from Jane, which she had so carefully preserved, and
destroyed anything of a personal nature. One cannot altogether condemn
the action, greatly as we have been the losers; the letters that
remain, many in number, deal almost entirely with outside matters,
trivialities of everyday life, and they are written so brightly that we
can judge how interesting the bits of self-revelation by so expressive
a pen would have been.

In 1869, when Mr. Austen-Leigh published his _Memoir_, only one or
two of Jane Austen’s letters were available; but in 1882, on the
death of Lady Knatchbull (_née_ Fanny Knight), the letters above
referred to, which Cassandra Austen had retained, were found among her
belongings, having come to her on her aunt’s death. Her son, created
Lord Brabourne, therefore published these in two volumes in 1884, and
when quotations and extracts are given in this book without further
explanation, it must be inferred that these are taken from letters of
Jane to Cassandra, as given by Lord Brabourne.



Of Jane Austen’s childhood in the quiet country rectory we know little,
probably because there is not a great deal to know. It was the custom
in those days to put babies out to nurse in the village, sometimes
until they were as much as two years old, a point often overlooked when
the mothers of what is now extolled as a domestic period are held up
as patterns to a more intellectual and roving generation. Certainly
it was an easy and cheap method of getting rid of the care and trouble
involved by a baby in the house, and it probably answered well, as the
child would learn to do without too much attention, and at an early
age, faddists notwithstanding, could hardly suffer from any influence
of its surroundings, other than physically, and it may be taken for
granted that the material necessities were well provided and kept under
supervision. Nevertheless, a mother who adopted this course at the
present day could hardly escape the epithet of “heartless,” which would
assuredly be levelled at her.

In the time of Jane’s childhood the old days of rigid severity toward
children were past, no longer were mere babies taken to see executions
and whipped on their return to enforce the example they had beheld. In
fact a period of undue indulgence had set in as a reaction, but this
does not seem to have affected the Austen family, who were brought up
very wisely, and perhaps even a little more repressively than would be
the case in a similar household to-day. Jane herself was evidently a
diffident child.

She says of a little visitor many years afterwards: “Our little visitor
has just left us, and left us highly pleased with her; she is a nice
natural open-hearted, affectionate girl, with all the ready civility
one sees in the best children in the present day; so unlike anything
that I was myself at her age, that I am often all astonishment and

“What is become of all the shyness in the world? Moral as well as
natural diseases disappear in the progress of time and new ones take
their place. Shyness and the sweating sickness have given way to
confidence and paralytic complaints.”

Her own attitude toward children is peculiar. Though on indisputable
testimony she was the most popular and best loved of aunts, the fact
remains that she had no great insight into child nature, nor does she
seem to have had any general love of children beyond those who were
specially connected with her by close ties. She loved her nieces, but
much more as they grew older than as children.

Mr. Austen-Leigh says: “Aunt Jane was the delight of all her nephews
and nieces. We did not think of her as being clever, still less as
being famous; but we valued her as one always kind, sympathising, and
amusing,” and he quotes “the testimony of another niece—’Aunt Jane
was the general favourite with children, her ways with them being
so playful, and her long circumstantial stories so delightful.’” And
again, “Her first charm to children was great sweetness of manner ...
she could make everything amusing to a child.”

The truth probably is that her innate kindness of heart and
unselfishness compelled her to be as amusing as possible when thrown
with little people, but perhaps because she took so much trouble to
entertain them she found children more tiresome than other people
who accept their company more placidly. However this may be, it is
undeniable that the attitude she takes toward children in her books
is almost always that of their being tiresome, there never appears any
genuine love for them or realisation of pleasure in their society; and
she continually satirises the foolish weakness of their doting parents.
It is recorded as a great feature in the character of Mrs. John
Knightley “that in spite of her maternal solicitude for the immediate
enjoyment of her little ones, and for their having instantly all the
liberty and attendance, all the eating and drinking, and sleeping
and playing, which they could possibly wish for, without the smallest
delay, the children were never allowed to be long a disturbance to him
[their grandfather] either in themselves or in any restless attendance
on them.”

Poor Anne in _Persuasion_ is tormented by “the younger boy, a
remarkably stout forward child of two years old, ... as his aunt would
not let him tease his sick brother, [he] began to fasten himself upon
her, in such a way, that busy as she was about Charles, she could not
shake him off. She spoke to him, ordered, entreated, insisted in vain.
Once she did contrive to push him away, but the boy had the greater
pleasure in getting upon her back again directly.”

Perhaps to Anne this annoyance was a blessing in disguise, as it
brought forward the whilom lover to her assistance, but that is beside
the point!

The children of Lady Middleton in _Sense and Sensibility_ are
particularly badly behaved and odious.

“Fortunately for those who pay their court through such foibles, a fond
mother, though in pursuit of praise for her children the most rapacious
of human beings, is likewise the most credulous; her demands are
exorbitant, but she will swallow anything, and the excessive affection
and endurance of the Miss Steeles towards her offspring were reviewed
therefore by Lady Middleton without the smallest surprise or distrust.
She saw with maternal complacency all the impertinent encroachments and
mischievous tricks to which her cousins submitted. She saw their sashes
untied, their hair pulled about their ears, their workbags searched and
their knives and scissors stolen away, and felt no doubt of its being
a reciprocal enjoyment.

“‘John is in such spirits to-day!’ said she, on his taking Miss
Steele’s pocket-handkerchief and throwing it out of the window, ‘he is
full of monkey-tricks.’

“And soon afterwards on the second boy’s violently pinching one of the
same lady’s fingers, she fondly observed, ‘How playful William is!’

“‘And here is my sweet little Anna-Maria,’ she added, tenderly
caressing a little girl of three years old, who had not made a noise
for the last two minutes; ‘and she is always so gentle and quiet, never
was there such a quiet little thing!’

“But unfortunately in bestowing these embraces a pin in her ladyship’s
head-dress slightly scratching the child’s neck produced from
this pattern of gentleness such violent screams as could hardly be
outdone by any creature professedly noisy ... her mouth stuffed with
sugar-plums ... she still screamed and sobbed lustily, and kicked her
two brothers for offering to touch her.

                             . . . . . . .

“‘I have a notion,’ said Lucy [to Elinor] ‘you think the little
Middletons are too much indulged. Perhaps they may be the outside of
enough, but it is so natural in Lady Middleton, and for my part I love
to see children full of life and spirits; I cannot bear them if they
are tame and quiet.’

“‘I confess,’ replied Elinor, ‘that while I am at Barton Park I never
think of tame and quiet children with any abhorrence!’”

Those children in the novels who are not detestable are usually
lay-figures, such as Henry and John Knightley, rosy-faced little boys
not distinguished by any individuality. Others are merely pegs on which
to hang their parents’ follies, such as little Harry Dashwood, who
serves his parents as an excuse for their unutterable meanness. The
fact remains there are only two passable children in the whole gallery,
and one is the slightest of slight sketches in that little-known and
half-finished story _The Watsons_. Here the little boy, Charles, spoken
of as “Mrs. Blake’s little boy,” is a real flesh-and-blood child,
who at his first ball when thrown over remorselessly by his grown-up
partner, though “the picture of disappointment, with crimsoned cheeks,
quivering lips, and eyes bent on the floor,” yet contrives to utter
bravely, “‘Oh, I do not mind it!’” and whose naïve enjoyment at dancing
with Emma Watson, who offers herself as a substitute, is well done. His
conversation with her is also very natural, and his cry, “‘Oh, uncle,
do look at my partner; she is so pretty!’” is a human touch.

   [Illustration: JUVENILE RETIREMENT]

The other instance is a sample of a very nervous, shy child, perhaps
drawn from the recollections of Jane Austen’s own feelings in
childhood, this is Fanny Price, whose loneliness on her first coming to
Mansfield Park is carefully depicted, but Fanny herself is unchildlike
and exceptional. Her younger brothers rank among the gallery of bad
children, for by “the superior noise of Sam, Tom, and Charles chasing
each other up and down stairs, and tumbling about and hallooing, Fanny
was almost stunned. Sam, loud and overbearing as he was, ... was clever
and intelligent.... Tom and Charles being at least as many years as
they were his juniors distant from that age of feeling and reason which
might suggest the expediency of making friends, and of endeavouring
to be less disagreeable. Their sister soon despaired of making any
impression on them; they were quite untamable by any means of address
which she had spirits or time to attempt.... Betsy, too, a spoilt
child, trained up to think the alphabet her greatest enemy, left to be
with servants at her pleasure, and then encouraged to report any evil
of them.”

But Jane Austen’s abundant pictures of over-indulged, badly-behaved
children are not the only ones to be found in contemporary fiction;
in Hannah More’s _Cœlebs in Search of a Wife_ the children come in
for dessert, “a dozen children, lovely, fresh, gay, and noisy ... the
grand dispute, who should have oranges, and who should have almonds
and raisins, soon raised such a clamour that it was impossible to
hear my Egyptian friend ... the son and heir reaching out his arm to
dart an apple across the table at his sister, roguishly intending to
overset her glass, unluckily overthrew his own brimful of port wine.”
And of another and better behaved family it is observed as a splendid
innovation that the children are not allowed to come into dessert, to
clamour and make themselves nuisances, but are limited to appearing in
the drawing-room later.

One of the characters in _Cœlebs_ is made to observe, “This is the
age of excess in everything; nothing is a gratification of which the
want has not been previously felt. The wishes of children are all so
anticipated, that they never experience the pleasure excited by wanting
and waiting.” He speaks also of the “too great profusion and plethora
of children’s books,” which is certainly not a thing we are used to
attribute to that age.

Several of the children’s books of that date are kept alive to the
present day by a salt of insight into child nature, and are published
and re-published perennially. Many a child still knows and loves _The
Story of the Robins_, by Mrs. Trimmer, first brought out in 1786;
and as for _Sandford and Merton_, by Thomas Day, which was at first
in three volumes, published respectively in 1783, 1787, and 1789,
many a boy has revelled in it, not perhaps entirely from the point of
view in which it was written, but with a keen sense of the ridiculous
in the behaviour of the little prig Harry. Mrs Barbauld’s (and her
brother’s) _Evenings at Home_ still delights many children; and Miss
Edgeworth’s _Parent’s Assistant_, of which the first volume appeared in
1796, is a perennial source of amusement in nurseries and schoolrooms.
_The Fairchild Family_ suffers from an excess of religiosity, and a
terrible belief in the innate wickedness of a little child’s heart,
which is not now tolerated. When Emily and Lucy indulge in a childish
quarrel, they are taken to see what remains of a murderer who has hung
on a gibbet until his clothes are rotting from him, and the warning
is enforced by a long sermon; but in spite of much that would not be
suitable according to present ideas for a child to hear, _The Fairchild
Family_, the first part of which came out a year subsequently to the
death of Jane Austen, contains much that is very human in behaviour and
action. Though later in date than the others mentioned as surviving, it
really is quite as early in treatment, as it is a record of what Mrs.
Sherwood, born in the same year as Jane Austen, remembered of her own

The book contains many examples of the spoilt-child phase, in contrast
with which the strict upbringing of the young Fairchilds is shown
as the better way. What Mrs. Sherwood puts into the mouth of Mrs.
Fairchild about her childhood is probably autobiographical, and may
be quoted as an instance of the sterner modes which were then rapidly
passing out of vogue.

“I was but a very little girl when I came to live with my aunts, and
they kept me under their care until I was married. As far as they knew
what was right, they took great pains with me. Mrs. Grace taught me to
sew, and Mrs. Penelope taught me to read; I had a writing and music
master, who came from Reading to teach me twice a week; and I was
taught all kinds of household work by my aunts’ maid. We spent one day
exactly like another. I was made to rise early, and to dress myself
very neatly, to breakfast with my aunts. After breakfast I worked two
hours with my aunt Grace, and read an hour with my aunt Penelope; we
then, if it was fine weather, took a walk; or, if not, an airing in
the coach, I and my aunts, and little Shock, the lap-dog, together.
At dinner I was not allowed to speak; and after dinner I attended my
masters or learned my tasks. The only time I had to play was while my
aunts were dressing to go out, for they went out every evening to play
at cards. When they went out my supper was given to me, and I was put
to bed in a closet in my aunts’ room.”

A modern child under such treatment would probably develop an acute
form of melancholia.

The home education of the time, for girls at least, was very
superficial. We gather something of what was supposed to be taught from
the remarks of the Bertram girls in _Mansfield Park_ when they plume
themselves on their superiority to Fanny—

“‘Dear mamma, only think, my cousin cannot put the map of Europe
together—or my cousin cannot tell the principal rivers in Russia, or
she never heard of Asia Minor, or she does not know the differences
between water colours and crayons! How strange! Did you ever hear
anything so stupid?’

“‘My dear,’ their considerate aunt would reply, ‘it is very bad, but
you must not expect everybody to be as forward and quick at learning as

“‘But, aunt, she is really so very ignorant. Do you know we asked her
last night which way she would go to get to Ireland, and she said she
should cross to the Isle of Wight. I cannot remember the time when I
did not know a great deal that she has not the least notion of yet. How
long ago is it, aunt, since we used to repeat the chronological order
of the kings of England, with the dates of their accession, and most of
the principal events of their reigns?’

“‘Yes,’ added the other, ‘and of the Roman Emperors as low as Severus,
besides a great deal of the heathen mythology, and all the metals,
semi-metals, planets, and distinguished philosophers.’”

The rattle-pate, Miss Amelia, in _Cœlebs_ thus gives an account of her
education: “I have gone on with my French and Italian of course, and
I am beginning German. Then comes my drawing-master; he teaches me to
paint flowers and shells, and to draw ruins and buildings, and to take
views.... I learn varnishing, gilding, and Japanning. And next winter,
I shall learn modelling and etching and engraving in mezzotint and
aquatinta. Then I have a dancing-master who teaches me the Scotch and
Irish steps, and another who teaches me attitudes, and I shall soon
learn to waltz. Then I have a singing-master, and another who teaches
me the harp, and another for the pianoforte. And what little time I can
spare from these principal things, I give by odd minutes to ancient and
modern history, and geography and astronomy, and grammar and botany,
and I attend lectures on chemistry, and experimental chemistry.”

Jane’s early childhood was probably a very happy one; what with the
companionship of Cassandra, with the liveliness and constant comings
and goings of the brothers who were educated at home by Mr. Austen
himself, with all the romps of a large family having unlimited country
as a playground, it can hardly have failed to be so. While she was
still too young to profit much by school teaching on her own account,
she was sent to a school at Reading kept by a Mrs. Latournelle,
because Cassandra was going, and the two sisters could not bear to be
parted. How long she was at this school I do not know, but the subjects
taught were probably those scheduled in the comprehensive summary of
smatterings given by the two Miss Bertrams. This school was a notable
one, and among the later pupils was Mrs. Sherwood, who followed Jane
after an interval of nine years. She probably went to school as late
as Jane went early, which would account for the gap in time between two
who should have been contemporary.

Miss Mitford was also a pupil; she went in 1798 when the school
had been removed to Hans Place, London. She gives a lively account
of it. It was kept by M. St. Quintin, “a well-born, well-educated,
and well-looking French emigrant,” who “was assisted, or rather
chaperoned, in his undertaking by his wife, a good-natured, red-faced
Frenchwoman, much muffled up in shawls and laces; and by Miss Rowden,
an accomplished young lady, the daughter and sister of clergymen, who
had been for some years governess in the family of Lord Bessborough.
M. St. Quintin himself taught the pupils French, history, geography,
and as much science as he was master of, or as he thought it requisite
for a young lady to know; Miss Rowden, with the assistance of finishing
masters for Italian, music, dancing, and drawing, superintended the
general course of study; while Madame St. Quintin sat dozing, either in
the drawing-room, with a piece of work, or in the library with a book
in her hand, to receive the friends of the young ladies or any other
visitors who might chance to call.”

Miss Mitford says further that the school was “excellent,” that the
pupils were “healthy, happy, well-fed, and kindly treated,” and that
“the intelligent manner in which instruction was given had the effect
of producing in the majority of the pupils a love of reading and a
taste for literature.”

Of course Jane, being such a child when she went, can hardly have taken
full use of the opportunities which were afforded her, but perhaps she
laid at school the foundations of that cleverness in neat sewing and
embroidery which is manifested in the specimens still in the possession
of her relatives.

There is a portrait of Jane painted when she was about fifteen. It
shows a bright child with shining eyes and one loose lock of hair
falling over her forehead; not particularly pretty, but intelligent
and with character. She is standing, and is dressed in the simple white
gown, high waist, short sleeves, and low neck which little girls wore
as well as their elders, and round her neck is a large locket slung on
a slender chain. Her portrait was painted by Zoffany when she was about
fifteen, on her first visit to Bath, but whether this reproduction,
which appears in the beginning of Lord Brabourne’s _Letters of Jane
Austen_, is from that picture I have not been able to ascertain.

Mr. Austen-Leigh says of her—

“In childhood every available opportunity of instruction was made use
of. According to the ideas of the time she was well-educated, though
not highly accomplished, and she certainly enjoyed that important
element of mental training, associating at home with persons of
cultivated intellect.” He says in another place, “Jane herself was fond
of music, and had a sweet voice, both in singing and conversation; in
her youth she had received some instruction on the pianoforte ... she
read French with facility, and knew something of Italian.”

In French she had at one time a great advantage in the continual
association with Madame de Feuillade, her cousin, and afterwards
her sister-in-law, who, as already mentioned, had been married to a

The illustration on p. 26 is a portrait group of the children of the
Hon. John Douglas of the Morton family. It was painted by Hoppner,
who lived 1758-1810; and, in the costumes of the little boy and elder
girl especially, gives a good notion of the dress of the better-class
children of the period.



Jane Austen was a clergyman’s daughter. At the present time there are
undoubtedly wide differences in the social standing of the clergy
according to their own birth and breeding, but yet it may be taken
for granted that a clergyman is considered a fit guest for any man’s
table. It was not always so. There was a time when a clergyman was a
kind of servant, ranking with the butler, whose hospitality he enjoyed;
we have plenty of pictures of this state of affairs in _The Vicar of
Wakefield_, to go no further. But before Jane was born, matters had
changed. The pendulum had not yet swung to the opposite extreme of our
own day, when the fact of a man’s being ordained is supposed to give
him new birth in a social sense, and a tailor’s son passes through the
meagrest of the Universities in order that he may thus be transformed
into a gentleman without ever considering whether he has the smallest
vocation for the ministry. In the Austens’ time the status of a
clergyman depended a very great deal on himself, and as the patronage
of the Church was chiefly in the hands of the well-to-do lay-patrons,
who bestowed the livings on their younger sons or brothers, there was
very frequently a tie of relationship between the vicarage and the
great house, which was sufficient to ensure the vicar’s position. In
the case of relationship the system was probably at its best, obviating
any inducement to servility; but there was a very evil side to what
may be called local patronage, which was much more in evidence than
it is in our time. Archbishop Secker, in his charges to the clergy
of the diocese of Oxford, when he was their Bishop in 1737, throws a
very clear light on this side of the question. He expressly enjoins
incumbents to make no promise to their patrons to quit the benefice
when desired before entering into office. “The true meaning therefore
is to commonly enslave the incumbent to the will and pleasure of the
patron.” The motive for demanding such a promise was generally that the
living might be held until such time as some raw young lad, a nephew
or younger son of the lord of the manor, was ready to take it. The
evils of such a system are but too apparent. We can imagine a nervous
clergyman who would never dare to express an opinion contrary to the
will of the benefactor who had the power to turn him out into the
world penniless; we can imagine the time-server courting his patron
with honied words. This debased type is inimitably sketched in the
character of Mr. Collins in _Pride and Prejudice_. “‘It shall be my
earnest endeavour to demean myself with grateful respect towards her
ladyship, and be very ready to perform those rites and ceremonies which
are instituted by the Church of England.’ Lady Catherine [he said] had
been graciously pleased to approve of both the discourses which he had
already had the honour of preaching. She had also asked him twice to
dine at Rosings, and had sent for him only the Saturday before, to make
up her pool of quadrille in the evening. Lady Catherine was reckoned
proud, he knew, by many people, but he had never seen anything but
affability in her. She had always spoken to him as she would to any
other gentleman; she made not the smallest objection to his joining in
the society of the neighbourhood.”

In his delightful exordium to Elizabeth as to his reasons for proposing
to her, he says—

“‘My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing
for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the
example of matrimony in his parish; secondly, that I am convinced it
will add very greatly to my happiness; and, thirdly, which perhaps I
ought to have mentioned earlier, that it is the particular advice and
recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have the honour of calling
patroness. Twice has she condescended to give me her opinion (unasked
too!) on this subject; and it was but the very Saturday night before I
left Hunsford—between our pools at quadrille while Mrs. Jenkinson was
arranging Miss de Bourgh’s footstool—that she said, ‘Mr. Collins, you
must marry. A clergyman like you must marry. Choose properly, choose a
gentlewoman for my sake, and for your own; let her be an active useful
sort of person, not brought up high, but able to make a small income go
a good way.’”

And when, after his marriage with her friend, Elizabeth goes to stay
with them, and is invited to dine with them at the Rosings, Lady
Catherine’s place, he thus encourages her—

“‘Do not make yourself uneasy, my dear cousin, about your apparel.
Lady Catherine is far from requiring that elegance of dress in us
which becomes herself and daughter. I would advise you merely to put on
whatever of your clothes is superior to the rest, there is no occasion
for anything more. Lady Catherine will not think the worse of you
for being simply dressed. She likes to have the distinction of rank

In the case of Mr. Collins, the patron happened to be a lady, but
the instances were numberless in which clergymen spent all their time
toadying and drinking with a fox-hunting squire.

Arthur Young says of the French clergy—

“One did not find among them poachers or fox-hunters, who, having
spent the morning scampering after hounds, dedicate the evening to the
bottle, and reel from inebriety to the pulpit,” from which we may infer
that many English clergymen did.

Cowper’s satire on the way in which preferment is secured is worth
quoting in full—

    “Church-ladders are not always mounted best
    By learned clerks and Latinists professed.
    The exalted prize demands an upward look,
    Not to be found by poring on a book.
    Small skill in Latin, and still less in Greek,
    Is more than adequate to all I seek.
    Let erudition grace him or not grace,
    I give the bauble but the second place;
    His wealth, fame, honours, all that I intend
    Subsist and centre in one point—a friend.
    A friend whate’er he studies or neglects,
    Shall give him consequence, heal all defects.
    His intercourse with peers and sons of peers—
    There dawns the splendour of his future years;
    In that bright quarter his propitious skies
    Shall blush betimes, and there his glory rise.
    ‘Your lordship’ and ‘Your Grace,’ what school can teach
    A rhetoric equal to those parts of speech?
    What need of Homer’s verse or Tully’s prose,
    Sweet interjections! if he learn but those?
    Let reverend churls his ignorance rebuke,
    Who starve upon a dog-eared pentateuch,
    The parson knows enough who knows a duke.”

At the end of the eighteenth century the Church was at its deadest,
enthusiasm there was none. Torpid is the only word that fitly describes
the spiritual condition of the majority of the clergy. Secker says,
“An open and professed disregard of religion is become, through a
variety of unhappy causes, the distinguishing character of the present
age”; and the clergy, as the salt of the earth, had certainly lost
their savour, and did little or nothing to resist an apathy which, too
commonly, extended to themselves.

The duties of clergymen were therefore almost as light as they chose
to make them. One service on Sunday, and the Holy Communion three times
yearly, at Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide, was considered enough.

“A sacrament might easily be interposed in the long interval between
Christmas and Whitsuntide, and the usual season for it, the Feast of
St. Michael, is a very proper time, and if afterwards you can advance
from a quarterly communion to a monthly one, I make no doubt you will.”

Baptisms, marriages, and funerals were looked on as nuisances; the
clergyman ran them together as much as possible, and often arrived
at the last minute, flinging himself off his smoking horse to gabble
through the service with the greatest possible speed; children were
frequently buried without any service at all.

The churches were for the most part damp and mouldy; there were, of
course, none of the present conveniences for heating and lighting.
Heavy galleries cut off the little light that struggled through the
cobwebby windows. There were mouse-eaten hassocks, curtains on rods
thick with dust, a general smell of mouldiness and disuse, and a cold,
but ill-ventilated, atmosphere.

In some old country churches there still survive the family pews, which
were like small rooms, and in which the occupants could read or sleep
without being seen by anyone; in one or two cases there are fire-grates
in these; and in one strange example at Langley, in Bucks, the pew is
not only roofed in, but it has a lattice in front, with painted panels
which can be opened and shut at the occupants’ pleasure, and there is
a room in connection with it in which is a library of books, so that
it would be quite possible for anyone to retire for a little interlude
without the rest of the congregation’s being aware of it!

The church, only opened as a rule once a week, was left for the rest
of the time to the bats and birds. Compare this with one of the neat,
warm, clean churches to be found almost everywhere at present; churches
with polished wood pews, shining brass fittings, tessellated floor in
place of uneven bricks, a communion table covered by a cloth worked by
the vicar’s wife, and bearing white flowers placed by loving hands. A
pulpit of carved oak, alabaster, or marble, instead of a dilapidated
old three-decker in which the parish clerk sat below and gave out the
tunes in a droning voice.

Organs were of course very uncommon at the end of the eighteenth
century in country parishes, and though there might be at times a
little local music, as an accompaniment, the hymns were generally
drawled out without music at all. This is Horace Walpole’s idea of
church in 1791: “I have always gone now and then, though of late years
rarely, as it was most unpleasant to crawl through a churchyard full
of staring footmen and apprentices, clamber a ladder to a hard pew, to
hear the dullest of all things, a sermon, and croaking and squalling of
psalms to a hand organ by journey-men brewers and charity children.”

The sermons were peculiarly dry and dull, and it would have taken
a clever man to suck any spiritual nourishment therefrom. They were
generally on points of doctrine, read without modulation; and if, as
was frequently the case, the clergyman had not the energy to prepare
his own, a sermon from any dreary collection sufficed. The black gown
was used in the pulpit.

Cowper gives a picture of how the service was often taken—

    “I venerate the man whose heart is warm;
    Whose hands are pure, whose doctrine and whose life
    Coincident, exhibit lucid proof
    That he is honest in the sacred cause.
    A messenger of grace to guilty men.
    Behold the picture! Is it like? Like whom?
    The things that mount the rostrum with a skip,
    And then skip down again; pronounce a text,
    Cry, ahem! and reading what they never wrote,
    Just fifteen minutes, huddle up their work,
    And with a well-bred whisper, close the scene.”

In this dismal account the average only is taken, and there were many
exceptions; we have no reason to suppose, for instance, that the Rev.
George Austen marred his services by slovenliness or indifference,
though no doubt the most earnest man would find it hard to struggle
against the disadvantages of his time, and the damp mouldy church must
have been a sore drawback to church-going.

Twining’s _Country Clergyman_ gives us a picture of an amiable sort of
man of a much pleasanter type than those of Cowper or Crabbe.

We gain an idea of a man of a genial, pleasant disposition, cultured
enough, and fond of the classics; who kept his house and garden well
ordered, who enjoyed a tour throughout England in company with his
wife, who thoroughly appreciated the lines in which his lot was cast,
but who looked upon the living as made for him, and not he for the
parishioners. A writer in the _Cornhill_ some years ago gives a series
of pleasant little pen-pictures of typical clergymen of this date. “Who
cannot see it all—the curate-in-charge himself sauntering up and down
the grass on a fine summer morning, his hands in the pockets of his
black or drab ‘small clothes,’ his feet encased in broad-toed shoes,
his white neckcloth voluminous and starchless, his low-crowned hat a
little on one side of his powdered head, his eye wandering about from
tree to flower, and from bird to bush, as he chews the cud of some
puzzling construction in Pindar, or casts and recasts some favourite
passage in his translation of Aristotle.”

There was the fox-hunter who in the time not devoted to sport was
always “welcome to the cottager’s wife at that hour in the afternoon
when she had made herself tidy, swept up the hearth, and was sitting
down before the fire with the stockings of the family before her. He
would chat with her about the news of the village, give her a friendly
hint about her husband’s absence from church, and perhaps, before
going, would be taken out to look at the pig.”

Or “the pleasant genial old gentleman in knee-breeches and sometimes
top-boots, who fed his poultry, and went into the stable to scratch the
ears of his favourite cob, and round by the pig-stye to the kitchen
garden, where he took a turn for an hour or two with his spade or
his pruning knife, or sauntered with his hands in his pockets in the
direction of the cucumbers ... coming in to an early dinner.”

Mr. Austen seems to have been a mixture of the first and third of these
types, for he was certainly a good scholar, and yet some of his chief
interests in life were connected with his pigs and his sheep.

But though these are charming sketches, and their counterparts were
doubtless to be found, we fear they are too much idealised to be a
true representation of the generality of the clergy of that time; and,
charming as they are, there is an easy freedom from the responsibility
of office which is strange to modern ideas.

Livings, many of which are bad enough now, were then even worse paid;
£25 a year was the ordinary stipend for a curate who did most of
the work. Massey (_History of England in the Reign of George II._)
estimates that there were then five thousand livings under £80 a year
in England; consequently pluralism was oftentimes almost a necessity.
Gilbert White, the naturalist, was a shining light among clergymen; he
was vicar of Selborne, in Hampshire, until his death in 1793; but while
he was curate of Durley, near Bishop’s Waltham, the actual expenses of
the duty exceeded the receipts by nearly twenty pounds in the one year
he was there. To reside at all was a great thing for a clergyman to do,
and we may be sure, from what we gather, that the Rev. George Austen
had this virtue, for he resided all the time at Steventon.

But though the clergy frequently left all the work to their curates,
they always took care to receive the tithes themselves. In the picture
engraved by T. Burke after Singleton, in the period under discussion,
we see the fat and somewhat cross-looking vicar receiving these tithes
in kind from the little boy, who brings his basket containing a couple
of ducks and a sucking pig into the vicarage study.


Hannah More gives us an account of the usual state of things in regard
to non-residence—

“The vicarage of Cheddar is in the gift of the Dean of Wells; the
value nearly fifty pounds per annum. The incumbent is a Mr. R., who
has something to do, but I cannot find out what, in the University
of Oxford, where he resides. The curate lives at Wells, twelve miles
distant. They have only service once a week, and there is scarcely an
instance of a poor person being visited or prayed with. The living of
Axbridge ... annual value is about fifty pounds. The incumbent about
sixty years of age. Mr. G. is intoxicated about six times a week, and
very frequently is prevented from preaching by two black eyes, honestly
earned by fighting.”

“We have in this neighbourhood thirteen adjoining parishes without so
much as even a resident curate.”

“No clergyman had resided in the parish for forty years. One rode
over three miles from Wells to preach once on a Sunday, but no weekly
duty was done or sick persons visited; and children were often buried
without any funeral service. Eight people in the morning, and twenty in
the afternoon, was a good congregation.”

She evidently means that the service was sometimes held in the
morning, and sometimes in the afternoon, as she says there were not two

She also speaks of it as an exceptionally disinterested action of Dr.
Kennicott that he had resigned a valuable living because his learned
work would not allow him to reside in the parish.

By far the best account of what was expected from a contemporary
clergyman is to be gathered from Jane Austen’s own books. It is one of
her strong points that she wrote only of what she knew, and as her own
father and two of her brothers were clergymen, we cannot suppose that
she was otherwise than favourably inclined to the class. Her sketch
of Mr. Collins is no doubt something of a caricature, but it serves
to illustrate very forcibly one great error in the system then in
vogue—that of local patronage.

The other clergymen in her books are numerous: we have Mr. Elton in
_Emma_, Edmund Bertram and Dr. Grant in _Mansfield Park_, Henry Tilney
in _Northanger Abbey_, and Edward Ferrars in _Sense and Sensibility_.

It is impossible to deny that Edmund Bertram is a prig, or perhaps,
to put it more mildly, is inclined to be sententious, so sometimes
one almost sympathises with the gay Miss Crawford, whose ideas so
shocked him and Fanny; yet though those ideas only reflected the
current opinion of the times, they were reprehensible enough. When Miss
Crawford discovers, to her chagrin, that Edmund, whom she is inclined
to like more than a little, is going to be a clergyman, she asks—

“‘But why are you to be a clergyman? I thought that was always the lot
of the youngest, where there were many to choose before him!’

“‘Do you think the Church itself never chosen, then?’

“‘Never is a black word. But yes, in the never of conversation which
means not very often, I do think it. For what is to be done in the
Church? Men love to distinguish themselves, and in either of the other
lines distinction may be gained, but not in the Church. A clergyman is

And in reply to Edmund’s defence, she continues—

“‘You assign greater consequence to a clergyman than one has been used
to hear given, or than I can quite comprehend. One does not see much of
this influence and importance in society, and how can it be acquired
where they are so seldom seen themselves? How can two sermons a week,
even supposing them worth hearing, supposing the preacher to have the
sense to prefer Blair’s to his own, do all that you speak of, govern
the conduct and fashion and manners of a large congregation for the
rest of the week? One scarcely sees a clergyman out of his pulpit!’

“‘You are speaking of London, I am speaking of the nation at large.’”

But it is noteworthy that even Edmund, who is upheld as a bright
example, does not in his defence assert anything relative to the
careful looking after the lives of his flock which nowadays is a chief
part of a parish clergyman’s duty. He speaks of conduct, and declares
that “as the clergy are or are not what they ought to be, so are the
rest of the nation,” but all the retort he wins from the girl he so
much admires is that she is just as much surprised at his choice as
ever, and that he really is fit for something better!

In another place, where the same discussion is reopened, she says: “‘It
is indolence, Mr. Bertram, indeed—indolence and love of ease—a want of
all laudable ambition, of taste for good company, or of inclination
to take the trouble of being agreeable, which make men clergymen. A
clergyman has nothing to do but to be slovenly and selfish, read the
newspaper, watch the weather, and quarrel with his wife. His curate
does all the work, and the business of his own life is to dine.’”

This type is exemplified in the same book by Dr. Grant, who is not
drawn vindictively, but is described by his own sister-in-law, Miss
Crawford, as “‘an indolent, selfish _bon vivant_, who must have his
palate consulted in everything; who will not stir a finger for the
convenience of anyone; and who, moreover, if the cook makes a blunder,
is out of humour with his excellent wife. To own the truth, Henry and
I were driven out this very evening by a disappointment about a green
goose, which he could not get the better of. My poor sister was forced
to stay and bear it.’”

And when Edmund is about to enter on the living, Henry Crawford gaily
observes, “‘I apprehend he will not have less than seven hundred a
year. Seven hundred a year is a fine thing for a younger brother;
and as, of course, he will still live at home, it will be all for his
_menus plaisirs_; and a sermon at Christmas and Easter, I suppose, will
be the sum total of sacrifice.’”

After all this, it is pleasant to know that some upright and serious
men, even in those days, thought differently of the life and duties of
a clergyman, for Jane makes Sir Thomas Bertram reply—

“‘A parish has wants and claims which can be known only by a clergyman
constantly resident, and which no proxy can be capable of satisfying
to the same extent. Edmund might, in the common phrase, do the duty of
Thornton, that is, he might read prayers and preach without giving up
Mansfield Park; he might ride over every Sunday to a house nominally
inhabited, and go through divine service; he might be the clergyman
of Thornton Lacey every seventh day, for three or four hours, if that
would content him. But it will not. He knows that human nature needs
more lessons than a weekly sermon can convey; and that if he does not
live among his parishioners, and prove himself by constant attention to
be their well-wisher and friend, he does very little either for their
good or his own.’”

It is also striking to see how very much the taking of Orders depended
upon some living to be obtained; there seems to have been no special
idea of suitability, and still less of preparation, only the merest and
most perfunctory examination was demanded of the candidate for Orders.
There is a story of this date of one examination for ordination where
only two questions were asked, one of which was, “What is the Hebrew
for a skull?”

In an entertaining book on Jane Austen by Miss Constance Hill,
published in 1902, there is a quotation from a letter anent the
ordination examination of Mr. Lefroy, who married Anna, Jane’s niece.
“The Bishop only asked him two questions, first if he was the son of
Mrs. Lefroy of Ashe, and secondly if he had married a Miss Austen.”

It is said also that Brownlow North, Bishop of Winchester, examined
his candidates for ordination in a cricket-field during a match.
One candidate is described by Boswell as having read no books of
divinity, not even the Greek Testament. There were, of course, serious
and learned bishops enough; Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury, who lived
from 1643 to 1715, was horrified at the ignorance of candidates, who
apparently had never read the Old Testament and hardly knew what was
in the New. “They cry, and think it a sad disgrace to be denied Orders,
though the ignorance of some is such that in a well-regulated state of
things they would appear not to know enough to be admitted to the Holy

It is probable that the Bishops judged a great deal more, on the whole,
by the appearance and manners of the man before them, and the prospects
he had of holding a living, than by his own knowledge, and in the case
of a well-born, serious-minded man like Edmund Bertram there would be
no difficulty whatever about his lack of divinity.

Of Henry Tilney’s duties in _Northanger Abbey_, very little can be
said or gathered, he never appears like a clergyman at all. We are told
that the parsonage was a “new built, substantial stone house.” We know
that he had to go there, much to Catherine Morland’s distress, when
she was a guest at his father’s house, Northanger Abbey, because the
engagements of his curate at Woodston obliged him to leave on Saturday
for a couple of nights. But at all events he does seem to have spent
most of his time at the parsonage, though he still kept on his room at

Of Edward Ferrars’ clerical avocations we also hear so very little that
he might almost as well have been of any other profession.

The only other clergyman in the novels is Mr. Elton, a specimen not
quite so egregious as Mr. Collins, but sufficiently so to be very
amusing. On him the waves of Emma’s match-making break with force—

“‘Poor Mr. Elton! You like Mr. Elton, papa! I must look about for a
wife for him. There is nobody in Highbury who deserves him, and he
has been here a whole year, and has fitted up his house so comfortably
that it would be a shame to have him single any longer; and I thought
when he was joining their hands to-day, he looked so very much as if he
would like to have the same kind office done for him!’”

Emma thinks he will do admirably for her somewhat ambiguously placed
friend Harriet Smith, while Mr. Elton himself fixes his eyes on the
heiress Emma. A nice little illustration of the social status of the
cleric, who would not have been thought entirely out of the question
for the heiress, though doubtless a little beneath her. Mr. Elton is
represented as a handsome, ingratiating, debonair young man, who spends
his time playing the gallant, reading aloud, making charades with the
young ladies, and preaching sermons that please everybody. However, he
meets his match in the dashing and vulgar Mrs. Elton, whom he picks up,
soon after his rejection by Emma, at a watering place, and thereafter
they spend their time in a blissful state of mutual admiration.



For the first five-and-twenty years of her life, from her birth in
December 1775 to the spring of 1801, Jane lived at Steventon, in her
father’s rectory, as peaceful and quiet a home as even she could have
wished. But though her own circumstances were peaceful and happy, the
great world without was full of flux and reflux.

Wars and rumours of wars, revolutions and upheavals, which changed
the whole face of Europe, were going on year by year, but of these
things, as I have said, hardly an echo reaches us in her writing; not
even in the correspondence with her sister, which begins in 1796 when
the turmoil was at its height, which is the more surprising when we
consider that her own sailor brothers were taking an active part in
affairs; and her cousin, the Countess de Feuillade, had fled to the
Austens for shelter when her husband suffered death by the guillotine.
What depths these things stirred in Jane, or whether she lacked the
imagination to bring home to her their enormous importance relative to
the small details of immediate surroundings, we shall never know. Her
minute observation, her unrivalled faculty for using that which lay
under her hand, the stores of little human characteristics which, by
her transmuting touch, she invested with such intense interest, lead
one to suppose that such a clear, near-sighted mental vision carried
with it defective mental long sight. There are a number of persons who,
deeply and warmly interested in that which immediately appeals to them,
cannot throw their sympathy far out over unseen events and persons. We
are all prone to this, there is not one of us who is not more affected
by a single tragic death in the neighbourhood than by the loss of
a hundred lives in America; life in this world would be intolerable
were it not so, this is one of the provisions of a merciful providence
for making it endurable. But there are some more near-sighted in this
respect than others, and from internal evidence in the letters we may
judge that Jane belonged to them; it is only conjecture, but it is
often the case in life, that virtues carry corresponding faults, that
extreme cleverness in one direction induces a little want of perception
in another. The law of balance and compensation is so omnipresent, that
Jane’s intensely clear vision in regard to near objects may have been
paid for by absorption in them, somewhat to the exclusion of larger

In 1789, while she was yet but fourteen years old, there began that
Revolution which, taking it altogether, is the most tremendous fact in
the history of Europe. France was seething, but as yet the ferment had
not affected other nations. In the July of that year the tricolour was
adopted as the national flag, excess reigned supreme, and the nobles
began to emigrate. It was not until 1792 that France began to grasp
the lands of others, and reached forth the first of those tentacles,
which, like those of an octopus, were to spread all over Europe. In
the beginning Austria and Prussia opposed her, but after the murder
of the French King, in January 1793, England was forced to join in to
protect Holland, and to uphold the general status of nations. Treaties
were signed between almost all the civilised nations of Europe, for
the crushing of a common enemy; Switzerland alone, of those affected by
France’s movements, remaining perfectly neutral.

The echoes of the Reign of Terror that followed must have reached even
to the remotest recesses of England, and it is impossible to believe
that the Austens were not deeply affected.

Walpole’s forcible language on the Revolution shows its effect on
contemporary opinion: “I have wanted to vent myself, Madam [the
Countess of Ossory], but the French have destroyed the power of words.
There is neither substantive nor epithet that can express the horror
they have excited! Brutal insolence, bloody ferocity, savage barbarity,
malicious injustice, can no longer be used but of some civilised
country, where there is still some appearance of government. Atrocious
frenzy would, till these days, have sounded too outrageous to be
pronounced of a whole city—now it is too temperate a phrase for Paris,
and would seem to palliate the enormity of their guilt by supposing
madness the spring of it—but though one pities a herd of swine that
are actuated by demons to rush into the sea, even those diabolical
vagaries are momentary, not stationary, they do not last for three
years together nor infect a whole nation—thank God it is but one nation
that has ever produced _two massacres_ of Paris.”

“But of all their barbarities the most inhuman has been their _not_
putting the poor wretched King and Queen to death three years ago. If
thousands have been murdered, tortured, broiled, it has been extempore;
but Louis and his Queen have suffered daily deaths in apprehension for
themselves and their children.”

The newspapers gave long extracts from the doings of the National
Assembly, but of course these always appeared some days subsequently
to the events. The news of the death of the French King was known, by
rumour at least, with extraordinary quickness, about two days after
it happened, and was received with execration. Detailed accounts did
not come in until some days after. The first notice is thus announced
in the _St. James’s Chronicle_: “The murder took place at four in the
morning on Monday, and was conducted in the most private manner. The
guillotine was erected in a court of the Temple. A hole dug under it
into which the King’s head fell, and his body was precipitated after.”
This was incorrect in some particulars, as the murder did not take
place until after ten in the morning. In all the newspapers of the
time, there are little sentences that strike us sadly even now, and
when freshly recorded, as having just happened, they must have moved
many persons to deep sorrow. July 1, 1793, “A greater regard is shown
for the august prisoners. A small waggon has been sent in loaded with
playthings for the son of the unfortunate Louis XVI.” “After many
entreaties the widow of Capet finally resolved to deliver up to us her
son, who has been conducted to the apartments designed for him under
the care of citizen Simon.” Charlotte Corday’s bold speech, when she
was brought up to answer for her murder of the tyrant, is quoted: “I
did not expect to appear before you; I always thought that I should be
delivered up to the rage of the people, torn in pieces, and that my
head, stuck upon the top of a pike, would have preceded Marat on his
state bed to serve as a rallying point to Frenchmen, if there still are
any worthy of that name.”

In August of the same year, the death of Marie Antoinette was daily
expected. “The queen was dressed in white lawn and wore a black girdle
... her cell is only eight feet long, and eight feet wide. Her couch
consists of a hard straw bed and very thin coverings; her diet, soup
and boiled meat.”

But in an anguish of mind which must have made her indifferent to
the horrors of material surroundings, the poor Queen was kept alive
until October, when finally news came of her execution. “As soon as
the ci-devant queen left the Conciergerie to ascend the scaffold, the
multitude cried out _brava_ in the midst of plaudits. Marie Antoinette
had on a white loose dress, her hands were tied behind her back. She
looked firmly round her on all sides, and on the scaffold preserved her
natural dignity of mind.”

This is the kind of reading of contemporary events that would greet
Jane when the household received its bi-weekly or tri-weekly paper.

All through 1794 war continued, while the French slowly bored their way
into the Continent. Of the splendid naval victories of these years we
speak in the chapter on the Navy; these surely must have affected Jane,
and made her heart beat high at the thought of what her brothers might
be called upon to undergo any day. Toward the end of 1795, Austria
and Britain alone were left to uphold the right of nations against the
all-devouring French. In England food was at famine prices, and there
was actually a party who wished the enemy to win in order that the war
might end. London was in a state of great agitation, so that public
meetings were suppressed in the interests of public safety. In 1796,
Spain declared war against Great Britain, having previously patched up
peace with her dangerous neighbour. In this year Napoleon Buonaparte
first began to be heard of outside his own country, by his successes in
his Italian campaign.

England, in sore straits, attempted to make peace, but the arrogance of
France left her no other course compatible with honour than to continue
the war, and the opening of 1797 found her in great difficulties. On
all sides invasion by France was dreaded; in fact, in the previous
December an attempt at such an invasion by landing on the coast
of Ireland, which was in a state of bitter rebellion, was made. In
February the victory of St. Vincent put a little heart into the English
people, and did away for a time with the possibility of another attempt
at invasion by Hoche, whose fleet was scattered by a storm. In May
of 1797 a dangerous mutiny broke out among the sailors, followed by
another at the Nore, but these were firmly quelled.

In 1798, Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign must have been followed with
tense interest, though news would be slow in coming, and it would
probably be many days before the news of Lord Nelson’s glorious
victory at the Battle of the Nile, which had smashed up the French
fleet and left Napoleon stranded, was received in England. This
victory gave renewed spirit to the Allies in Europe. A whole string
of affiliated Republics had now been established by France, made out
of her conquests—including Switzerland, whose strict neutrality had
not preserved her from invasion. Yet Austria carried on her share
of the war bravely, and in the autumn of 1799 the English made a
desperate attempt to retrieve the integrity of Holland, but after a
short campaign were compelled to evacuate the country. In October 1799,
Napoleon, finding his dreams of establishing a great Eastern kingdom
impracticable, returned to France, and in the December of the same year
was acclaimed First Consul.

Thus, from her early girlhood, Jane would hear of events which greatly
affected her own country, she would be accustomed to a perpetual state
of war, she would share in the apprehensions of invasions, and the
name of Napoleon, ever swelling into greater and greater menace, would
continually strike upon her ear.

In November 1800, Jane makes one of her few allusions to historical
events, and then only because it concerned her brother. “The _Petterel_
with the rest of the Egyptian squadron was off the Isle of Cyprus,
whither they went from Jaffa for provisions, and whence they were to
sail in a day or two for Alexandria, there to await the result of the
English proposals for the evacuation of Egypt.”

In 1800, with Buonaparte at the head of a military despotism, a new era
began in the war. The two terrific battles of Marengo and Hohenlinden,
hotly contested, left the French victors; and at the latter seven
thousand of the Allies were taken prisoners, and seven thousand killed
and wounded.

In this year, at home the most important event was the Union of Ireland
with Great Britain.

When the Continental war was going on, the news from the field of
battle was generally eight or nine days old. But this, of course, was
nothing to the time which elapsed in the case of India, for events
which had happened there in February were given to the public as news
in August! Then, indeed, to send a boy to the East was to part with
him in reality. There was a long voyage round the Cape, prolonged
indefinitely by wind and weather, to encounter. It would be a year
from his setting out before the news of his arrival could reach
his relations in England. It is the enormous difference made by the
telegraph that strikes us most in the contemplation of this era. Of
course the officials in India could not get instructions from home,
they were responsible for the conduct of affairs, and the sense of
responsibility and the impossibility of being checked in anything they
wished to do, no doubt gave them that splendid decision which won for
us our Indian Empire.

It was in 1784 that the India Act, introduced by Pitt, had given
England power over Indian affairs. In the following year, Hastings
had returned home, and his celebrated trial, ending in his complete
acquittal in 1795, must have taught the English more about Indian
matters than they had ever known before. To attend the trial in
Westminster Hall was one of the society diversions of the day.

In 1791, in one day, the Duchess of Gordon “went to Handel’s music in
the Abbey; she then clambered over the benches and went to Hastings’
trial in the Hall; after dinner to the play; then to Lady Lucan’s
assembly; after that to Ranelagh, and returned to Mrs. Hobart’s faro
table; gave a ball herself in the evening of that morning, into which
she must have got a good way, and set out for Scotland the next day.”

Long before Jane’s death, the mighty Empire of India had passed
almost completely under British control. But if her lifetime saw the
foundation of one Empire it witnessed also the loss of another country.
The United States were declared independent in the first year of
her life, and before she was of an age to take any practical note of
politics they had been recognised by France as an independent nation.
She lived, indeed, in an epoch when history was made, and she lived
on into a new era of things, when Buonaparte was finally subdued,
France settled, the Continent at peace. At present we have only
briefly outlined the extraordinary series of events which filled the
five-and-twenty years during which she, living in her sheltered nook at
Steventon, heard only echoes. There is something peculiarly suitable in
picturing her in this tranquil backwater.

As far as Jane’s personal appearance is concerned, we can gather some
notion of her, though the materials are slight. The only portrait
preserved of her when grown up is from a water-colour drawing by
her sister, and represents a bright, intelligent, but not very
prepossessing face, with large eyes and a straight nose. There is
humour and decision in the expression, and in spite of the quaint
cap and the simple dress with elbow-sleeves and tucked chemisette,
which make it look a little odd to modern eyes, there is distinct
personality. It may be a good likeness of her as she was then, but,
on the other hand, one must allow something for the treatment of an
amateur, and we can afford to think of her as being more attractive
than she is here represented. A contemporary verbal description left
of her is that given by Sir Egerton Brydges, who knew her personally.
He says: “She was fair and handsome, slight and elegant, but with
cheeks a little too full.” We may well believe that, as to looks, she
was in that middle state of neither exceptional beauty nor exceptional
plainness, which is certainly the happiest. Emma Woodhouse is supposed
to have resembled her more than any of her other heroines, and she
herself describes Emma by the mouth of one of the other characters in
the book: “‘Such an eye! the true hazel eye, and so brilliant! Regular
features, open countenance, with a complexion—oh, what a bloom of full
health; and such a pretty height and size, such a firm and upright
figure. There is health, not merely in her bloom, but in her air, her
head, her glance. One sometimes hears of a child being “the picture
of health,” now Emma always gives me the idea of being the complete
picture of grown-up health.’”

The most exact personal description we have of Jane is to be found in
the preface to the first edition of _Northanger Abbey_, written by her
brother Henry. Allowing for the fact that this was penned at a time
when the hearts of all who knew her were bleeding for the early death
by which she had been taken from them, and that her gentle and gradual
decline had previously softened and toned down the whole of that
bright lively nature, so that any small imperfections had been entirely
smoothed away, we may gather a good picture of her from his words—

“Her stature was that of true elegance, it could not have been
increased without exceeding the middle height. Her carriage and
deportment were quiet yet graceful. Her features were separately
good. Their assemblage produced an unrivalled expression of that
cheerfulness, sensibility, and benevolence, which were her real
characteristics. Her complexion was of the finest texture. Her voice
was extremely sweet.” He says also that “she excelled in conversation
as much as in composition; she was faultless, and never commented with
unkindness even on the vices of others; she always sought in the faults
of others something to excuse, forgive, or forget. She never uttered a
hasty, a silly, or a severe expression.” He speaks further of her good
memory, of her fondness for landscape, and her musical skill, and says
that Johnson was her favourite author in prose, Cowper in verse.

Yet though bright and clever, and animated by indisputable genius, she
was not intellectual; the world of ideas held no place in her mind. We
can see very well from her books that the great fundamental laws so
important to a wide, deep mind were entirely ignored by her. She was
of the mental calibre of her own Elizabeth Bennet, a bright intelligent
companion, without depth or brain force. We cannot imagine her grasping
abstractions or wrestling with theories; her mind was formed for
practicalities and facts.

   [Illustration: JANE AUSTEN]

Jane, we know, was very healthy and full of spirits, we hear of
no ailments beyond a weakness of the eyes from which she certainly
suffered; she says, “My eyes have been very indifferent since it [the
last letter] was written, but are now getting better once more; keeping
them so many hours open on Thursday night, as well as the dust of the
ballroom, injured them a good deal. I use them as little as I can,
but you know, and everybody who has ever had weak eyes knows, how
delightful it is to hurt them by employment, against the advice and
entreaty of all one’s friends.”

The Austens had special advantages in their position in the fact that
they were relatives of Mr. Knight, to whom the whole parish belonged.
Mr. Austen seems to have been referred to, in the absence of Mr.
Knight, as a kind of squire. He lived simply, but had apparently
enough money to allow his daughters the privileges of gentlewomen, and
they went to all the dances and balls in the neighbourhood, and paid
frequent visits to their brothers’ houses for weeks at a time. Mr.
Austen kept a carriage and pair, though that meant less than it would
do now, as private means of conveyance was much more necessary and
there was no carriage tax to add to the expense.

Mrs. Austen seems to have been constantly ailing, which threw the
housekeeping a good deal into the hands of her daughters. It is
possible that her ailments were more imaginary than real, as she lived
to a great age, and in her old age employed herself about the garden
and poultry, and is spoken of as being brisk and bright. Perhaps she
grew more energetic as she grew older, a not uncommon process. Jane’s
allusions to her mother’s health are frequent, and sometimes seem to
point to the fact that she did not altogether believe in them—

“Now indeed we are likely to have a wet day, and though Sunday, my
mother begins it without any ailment.”

“It began to occur to me before you mentioned it, that I had been
somewhat silent as to my mother’s health for some time, but I thought
you could have no difficulty in divining its exact state—you, who have
guessed so much stranger things. She is tolerably well, better upon the
whole than she was some weeks ago. She would tell you herself that she
has a very dreadful cold in her head at present, but I have not much
compassion for colds in the head without fever or sore throat.”

“My mother continues hearty; her appetite and nights are very good, but
she sometimes complains of an asthma, a dropsy, water in her chest, and
a liver disorder.”

“For a day or two last week my mother was very poorly with a return of
one of her old complaints, but it did not last long, and seems to have
left nothing bad behind it. She began to talk of a serious illness, her
two last having been preceded by the same symptoms, but thank heaven
she is now quite as well as one can expect her to be in the weather
which deprives her of exercise.”

In the family memoirs, Mrs. George Austen is always spoken of as a
person of wit and imagination, in whom might be found the germs of her
daughter’s genius; such opinion based on recollections must be deferred
to, but such is not the picture we gather from the letters. There, Mrs.
Austen seems to have exercised none but the slightest influence on her
daughters’ lives, and when they do mention her, it is only to remark on
her health, or the care of her in a journey, or that she will not have
anything to do with choosing the furniture for the new home in Bath.

It is a curious circumstance, taken in conjunction with this, that all
the mothers of Jane’s heroines, when living, are described as fools or
worse. It is not intended to hint that she drew such characters from
the home circle or from her mother’s friends, but it is plainly to be
seen that she did not look for, or expect from women of this standing,
the wit and sense she found elsewhere. Indeed, when one thinks of the
bringing up of women in those days, their narrowness of education and
extraordinary ignorance of the world, it is wonderful how many did
possess keen sense and mother wit. The most notable of the examples in
point in the books is Mrs. Bennet in _Pride and Prejudice_, who, with
her foolish indulgence of her younger children, her mad desire to get
her daughters married to anyone who could furnish a home of whatever
sort, is the worst specimen of her kind. “‘Oh, Mr. Bennet, you are
wanted immediately; we are all in an uproar. You must come and make
Lizzie marry Mr. Collins, for she vows she will not have him; and if
you do not make haste he will change his mind and not have her.’” Mr.
Bennet’s subsequent calm rebuke in his admonition to his daughter, “‘An
unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be
a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again
if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you
do,’” heightens the effect of his wife’s folly.

Mrs. Bennet’s fatuous self-complacency, selfishness, and want of sense
might have been almost too painful to cause amusement even in a book,
had they not been set off by her husband’s sardonic humour, just the
touch that Jane Austen knew so well how to give.

But Mrs. Bennet is not the only one. Mrs. Jennings, in _Sense and
Sensibility_, is “a good-humoured, merry, fat, elderly woman, who
talked a great deal, seemed very happy and rather vulgar.” She
is perpetually making the Dashwood girls wince with her outspoken
allusions, and seems altogether deficient in taste and sense, though
extremely kind-hearted.

As for Mrs. Dashwood senior, in the same book, in her belief in
the charming but double-faced Willoughby, she is, if possible, one
degree more credulous than her most foolish daughter. Lady Bertram
of _Mansfield Park_ is kind enough to her niece in her own way, but
“she did not go into public with her daughters. She was too indolent
even to accept a mother’s gratification in witnessing their success
and enjoyment at the expense of any personal trouble.” “Lady Bertram
did not at all like to have her husband leave her; but she was not
disturbed by any alarm for his safety or solicitude for his comfort,
being one of those persons who think nothing can be dangerous or
difficult or fatiguing to anyone but themselves.”

Mrs. Musgrove senior, in _Persuasion_, is nothing but a soft-hearted
fool, and “Captain Wentworth should be allowed some credit for the
self-command with which he attended to her large fat sighings over the
destiny of a son whom, alive, nobody had cared for.”

The middle-aged women without daughters, such as Lady Russell and Mrs.
Croft, in the same book, are allowed to be sensible, but a mother with
grown-up daughters seems always to be mercilessly delineated by Jane.

Of Mr. Austen not much is known; he was a quiet, reserved man, noted
for his good looks, and clever enough to educate his sons for the
University himself. In his younger days he took pupils, and it was one
of these pupils who in after years became so much attached to Cassandra
that he entered into the engagement with her which terminated so sadly.
Mr. Austen probably kept a restraining hand over his large household,
and was responsible for the sensible and kindly upbringing which his
daughters received; he seems to have placed no restraint whatever on
their pleasures as they grew up. It may be noted that the husbands
of all the foolish women in Jane’s books noted above are sensible,
self-restrained, capable men.

As for the surroundings and small details of the home where Jane
remained with her sister and parents when the brothers went out into
the world, it is very difficult to give an adequate picture. There was
a great simplicity, and an absence of many things which are now turned
out in profusion by machinery but were then not known. We have all
of us been in old houses of the simpler kind, and noted the severity
of uncorniced walls, the smallness of the inconvenient sash-windows,
the plainness of the whole aspect. To the furniture, also, the
same remarks would apply, there would be fewer things and of a more
solid kind. “Perhaps we should be most struck with the total absence
of those elegant little articles which now embellish and encumber
our drawing-room tables. We should miss the sliding bookcases, and
picture stands, the letter weighing machines and envelope cases, the
periodicals and illustrated newspapers—above all, the countless swarm
of photograph books which now threaten to swallow up all space.” (Mr.
Austen-Leigh in the _Memoir_.)

By the following quotation from Jane herself before the removal to
Bath, what a vision is instantly conjured up of the yellow speckled
prints in cheap, varnished frames, the crude colours and stereotyped
subjects of those old pictures which still occasionally remain in the
spare rooms of country houses—

“As to our pictures, the battle piece, Mr. Nibbs, Sir William East, and
all the old heterogeneous miscellany, manuscript, scriptural pieces
dispersed over the house are to be given to James. Your own drawings
will not cease to be your own, and the two paintings on tin will be at
your disposal. My mother says that the French agricultural prints in
the best bedroom were given by Edward to his two sisters.”

In regard to minor matters of domestic comfort, lucifer matches
were not in general use until 1834, though the fact that they were
anticipated by some genius in advance of his time is evidenced by this
advertisement in the _Morning Post_ of 1788—

“For Travellers, Mariners, etc., Promethean Fire and Phosphorus.

“G. Watts respectfully acquaints the public that he has prepared
a large variety of machines of a portable and durable kind, with
Promethean fire, paper and match enclosed, most admirably calculated
to prevent those disagreeable sensations which most frequently arise
in the dreary hour of midnight, from sudden alarm, thieves, fire, or

Considering this, it is probable that some sort of sulphur match was in
use before 1834, though the general method would be the tedious flint
and steel.

For firing, wood was, of course, largely used, the cottagers depended
totally on “pilfering, breaking hedges, and cutting trees.” Coal
was very expensive, being of course mined with difficulty in the
pre-machinery days; here is a contemporary account of a visit to
a coal-mine in Yorkshire. “We had the curiosity to walk and take a
near outside view of one seventy yards deep. The manner they work
them is strange and not a little dangerous, as they are obliged to
have candles, and sometimes with a roof so low that men dig on their
knees.... They have two boxes which are alternately pulled up and down
by pullies worked by a horse, which goes round and round in a sort of

Added to the expense of mining was the expense of carriage, which, in
the days before railways, had to be done by canal or sea, and the term
sea-coal so frequently used in the literature of the day refers to this
sea-borne coal. Sometimes after a storm the vessels were delayed, so
that the scarcity of coal ran up the price enormously.

This is a brief sketch of the details at the rectory. In such a home
there was plenty of occupation for a bright spirit like Jane’s, and
we can hardly imagine her ever to have been idle. When her sister was
away, she undertook the housekeeping, and writes playfully—

“My mother desires me to tell you that I am a good housekeeper, which
I have no reluctance in doing, because I really think it my peculiar
excellence, and for this reason—I always take care to provide such
things as please my own appetite, which I consider as the chief merit
in housekeeping. I have had some ragout veal, and I mean to have some
haricot mutton to-morrow. We are to kill a pig soon.”

“I am very fond of experimental housekeeping, such as having an
ox-cheek now and then; I shall have one next week, and I mean to have
some little dumplings put into it.”

At another time, speaking of the family doctor, she says—

“I was not ashamed of asking him to sit down to table, for we had some
pease-soup, a sparerib, and a pudding.”

Dinner at that date (1799) was, for the unfashionable, at the hour of
three, and for the fashionable not earlier than five, and sometimes
much later. Lady Newdigate (_The Cheverels of Cheverel Manor_) says,
“The hours of the family are what the polite world would not conform
to, viz., breakfast at half past eight, dine at half past three, supper
at nine, and go to bed at ten.”

Jane Austen in her home life was not in a fashionable set, and her
people did not ape the manners of society; she writes at another time,
“We dine now at half past three, and have done dinner I suppose before
you begin; we drink tea at half past six.”

When she went to stay at Godmersham, which she frequently did, she
mingled with county people and noted their manners and ways; but she
was entirely free from snobbishness, and her quiet satire of those who
imitated all the superficial details in the life of a higher class than
their own is seen in her account of Tom Musgrave in _The Watsons_,
who condescends to stay and play cards with the Watsons until nine,
when “the carriage was ordered to the door, and no entreaties for his
staying longer could now avail; for he well knew that if he stayed he
would have to sit down to supper in less than ten minutes, which, to a
man whose heart had long been fixed on calling his next meal a dinner,
was quite insupportable.”

It is not difficult to trace the evolution of the dinner-hour; in
the time of Pepys, busy men rose early and took hardly any breakfast,
perhaps a glass of wine or a draught of ale with a bit of bread.

M. Grosley, a Frenchman who visited England about the middle of the
eighteenth century, says that “the butter and tea, which the Londoners
live upon from the morning till three or four o’clock in the afternoon,
occasion the chief consumption of bread, which is cut in slices, and
so thin that it does as much honour to the address of the person who
cuts it as to the sharpness of the knife. Two or three of these slices
furnish out a breakfast.”

After this slight repast, corresponding to the Continental coffee and
roll, men worked hard until dinner-time, a meal that occupied several
hours, and at which they consumed an enormous amount; and they did
little or no work afterwards. It is easy to imagine how, on account
of work, the early dinner-hour of the poorer classes at noon began to
be postponed among men who were more or less their own masters until
they could feel, in a common phrase, they had “broken the back of
the day’s work”; hence the curious hour of three. In out-of-the-way
places to this day the Sunday dinner-hour is at four o’clock. When
breakfast became more usual, it was not necessary to have dinner so
early as three; and with our present fashion of breakfast and lunch,
to say nothing of afternoon tea, which we have transferred from after
to before dinner, the dinner may be postponed to as late an hour as is
desired without inconvenience.

Mrs. Lybbe Powys (then Caroline Girle) mentions in her lively Journal:
“We had a breakfast at Holkham in the genteelest taste, with all
kinds of cakes and fruit, placed undesired in an apartment we were to
go through, which, as the family were from home, I thought was very
clever in the housekeeper, for one is often asked by people whether one
chooses chocolate, which forbidding word puts (as intended) a negative
on the question.”

Table decorations were unknown even at large banquets, people sat on
benches and were served in the simplest manner. Lady Newdigate gives an
account of suppers and prices when she was staying at Buxton—

“Being examined by the Bart in regard to our suppers and what we paid,
he [her cousin] owned that we were charged but one shilling and it
seems they pay two. Upon this poor Mrs. Fox [the landlady] was attacked
and abused in very gross terms. So she came to us with streaming
eyes to beg we would explain to the Edmonstones that our suppers were
never anything more than a tart and cold chicken which we eat when the
company went to supper above, whereas the E.’s order a hot supper of
five or six dishes to be got at nine o’clock.”

She also gives many details as to the items constituting her meals: “We
are going to sup upon crawfish and roasted potatoes. Our feast [dinner]
will consist of neck of mutton, lamb steaks, cold beef, lobsters,
prawns, and tart.”

This is the menu of a dinner given to Prince William of Gloucester in

                             Salmon Trout.
               Fricando of Veal.       Raised Giblet Pie.
                           Vegetable Pudding.
                         Chickens.        Ham.
                            Muffin Pudding.
              Curry of Rabbits.        Preserve of Olives.
                     Soup.       Haunch of Venison.
                Open Tart Syllabub.       Raised Jelly.
                       Three Sweetbreads Larded.
                   Maccaroni.       Buttered Lobster.
                   Baskets of Pastry.       Custards.

Forks were two-pronged and not in universal use; knives were
broad-bladed at the ends, and it was the fashion to eat peas with them.

“The taste for cleanliness has preserved the use of steel forks with
two prongs.... With regard to little bits of meat, which cannot so well
be taken hold of with the two pronged forks, recourse is had to the
knife, which is broad and round at the extremity.”

It is to be wished that two-pronged forks still survived in the public
restaurants of to-day, as the use of the present forks in such places
is one of the minor trials of daily life.

Mrs. Papendick’s account of the plate and services acquired at her
marriage gives us an idea of what was then thought necessary in this
respect. She says, “Two of our rooms were furnished by her Majesty,
and a case of plate was also sent by her, which contained cruets,
saltcellars, candle-sticks, and spoons of different sizes, silver forks
not being then used. From the Queen came also six large and six small
knives and forks, to which mamma added six more of each, and a carving
knife and fork. Our tea and coffee set were of common Indian china,
our dinner service of earthenware, to which, for our rank, there was
nothing superior, Chelsea porcelain and fine India china being only
for the wealthy. Pewter and Delft ware could also be had, but were
inferior.” Though Mr. Papendick was attached to the Court, he was
anything but wealthy.

Turning to the novels, we find food frequently mentioned in _Emma_,
when the little suppers of minced chicken and scalloped oysters,
so necessary after an early dinner, were always provided at the
Woodhouses. Poor Mr. Woodhouse’s feelings on these occasions are mixed.
“He loved to have the cloth laid because it had been the fashion of his
youth; but his conviction of suppers being very unwholesome, made him
rather sorry to see anything put upon it; and while his hospitality
would have welcomed his visitors to everything, his care for their
health made him grieve that they would eat. Such another small
basin of thin gruel as his own was all that he could, with thorough
self-approbation, recommend; though he might constrain himself, while
the ladies were comfortably clearing the nicer things, to say—

“‘Mrs. Bates, let me propose your venturing on one of these eggs. An
egg boiled very soft is not unwholesome. Serle understands boiling an
egg better than anybody. I would not recommend an egg boiled by anyone
else, but you need not be afraid, they are very small you see—one of
our small eggs will not hurt you. Miss Bates, let Emma help you to a
little bit of tart—a very little bit. Ours are all apple tarts. You
need not be afraid of unwholesome preserves here. I do not advise
the custard. Mrs. Goddard, what say you to half a glass of wine? A
small half glass put into a tumbler of water? I do not think it could
disagree with you.’”

Arthur Young, who made a tour through the southern counties of England
in 1771, gives us carefully tabulated facts, from which we learn that
the average price for meat of all kinds, beef, mutton, veal, and pork,
was no more than 3½d. per pound. Butter was 6½d. per pound, and bread
a 1¼d. By 1786 we find that “meat, taking one kind with another, was
fivepence a pound; a fowl ninepence to a shilling; a quartern loaf
fourpence; sugar fourpence a pound; tea six shillings a pound and

With these prices it must be remembered that wages ruled much lower
than at present. By 1801, when Jane was in Bath, the incessant state
of war had raised everything. She writes: “I am not without hopes of
tempting Mrs. Lloyd to settle in Bath; meat is only 8d. per pound,
butter 12d., and cheese 9½d. You must carefully conceal from her,
however, the exorbitant price for fish; a salmon has been sold at 2s.
9d. per pound the whole fish.”

In 1800 the price of the quartern loaf was 1s. 10½d., and then peace
was declared. In the preceding ten years the scarcity of flour had
been so great that all sorts of changes were suggested in the making
of bread. The members of the Privy Council set the example in their
own households of not eating puddings, or anything that required flour,
excepting the necessary bread, which was to be half made of rye. Flour
as powder for wigs was no more used, being needed for consumption, and
rice was recommended to the poor.

In 1800, also, was passed the Brown Bread Act, forbidding the sale of
pure white wheaten bread, or the consumption of any sort of bread new,
as if it were stale it was thought it would go farther. In the seven
years before 1800 the prices of not only bread, but meat, butter, and
sugar, had risen to double what they had been previously.

With a small household of only three persons, in the absence of
Cassandra, the ordering at Steventon Rectory cannot have occupied much
time or thought.

Though there would possibly be rather more active superintendence of
the domestics than at present, ladies of comfortable means did not
then, any more than now, spend all their mornings in the kitchen, as is
sometimes erroneously supposed. Jane would doubtless fill up her time
with a little practising, a little singing, the re-trimming of a hat,
correspondence, and the other small items that go to make up a country
girl’s life. In the usual avocations of a genteel young lady, “the
pianoforte, when they were weary of the harp, copying some indifferent
drawings, gilding a set of flower pots, and netting white gloves and
veils,” we see a tedious inanition quite foreign to our conception of

Though gardening was not then a hobby, as it is now, there would be
general superintendence of the gardener, and many a lingering walk by
the borders and flower-beds on sunny mornings. Jane evidently loved
flowers, as she often refers to them in her letters.

“Hacker has been here to-day, putting in the fruit trees. A new plan
has been suggested concerning the plantation of the new enclosures on
the right-hand side of the elm walk; the doubt is whether it would be
better to make a little orchard of it by planting apples, pears, and
cherries, or whether larch, mountain ash, and acacia.”

There was at this time a reaction against the stiff and formal
gardening which had been in fashion since introduced by William III.
“It is from wild and uncultivated woods, that is from pure nature, that
the present (1772) English have borrowed their models in gardening ...
daisies and violets irregularly scattered form the borders of them.
These flowers are succeeded by dwarf trees, such as rose buds, myrtle,
Spanish broom, etc.” (Grosley.)

M. Grosley also speaks of wages for gardeners being very high: “I have
myself seen a spot of ground, not exceeding an acre, occupied partly by
a small house, partly by gravel walks, with two beds of flowers, where
the gardener, who was lodging in the house, had a salary of twelve
guineas a year.”

Wages for all classes were, as has been said, much lower than now; in
regard to this question the cry of a “Constant Reader” to _The Times_
in 1795 is amusing—

“Tell a servant now, in the mildest manner, they have not done
their work to please you, and you are told to provide for yourself,
and, should you offer to speak again, they are gone.... I look upon
their exorbitant increase of wages as chiefly conducive to their
impertinence; for when they had five or six pounds a year, a month
being out of place was severely felt; but now their wages are doubled,
they have in great measure lost their dependence. And what is this
increase of wages for? Not in order to lay by a little in case of
sickness, but to squander in dress. No young woman now can bear a
strong pair of leather shoes, but they must wear Spanish leather, and
so on in every article of dress.”

By Arthur Young’s account wages were less even than above, he says that
dairymaids received an average of £3, 12s. yearly, and other maids £3,
6s. Prices possibly varied in different places, being higher in London
where labour was scarcer. “Wages are very considerable ... a fat Welsh
girl who has just come out of the country, scarce understood a word of
English, capable of nothing but washing, scouring, and sweeping the
rooms ... [received] six guineas a year, besides a guinea a year for
her tea, which all servant maids either take in money, or have it found
for them twice a day. The wages of a cook maid who knows how to roast
and boil amount to twenty guineas a year.” (Grosley.)

When the household details had been attended to, the members of the
Austen family must sometimes have walked in the rough lanes. In order
to avoid the mud in winter or wet weather, ladies wore pattens, which
had an iron ring underneath and raised the foot, these pattens clinked
as they walked, and must have been very bad in causing an awkward
drag in the gait. But country lane walking was not greatly in favour
then, women’s gowns, with long clinging skirts, were not adapted for
such promenades, and it is amusing to think how surprised either Jane
or Cassandra would have been could they have met a modern tailor-made
girl, with gaiters, and comfortable, trim short skirt well clearing the

Though visiting the poor was not a regular duty, it is evident
from many indications that the girls took pleasure in knowing the
parishioners, and they must have been to see them occasionally.

The life of labourers was at that time extremely dull, and it is
little to be wondered at that they were rough boors when they were
left entirely without reasonable means of recreation, and without any
mental nourishment. The public-house was often the working-man’s sole
chance of relaxation. Very few could read or write; in the long winter
evenings there was nothing for them to do but to sit in a draughty
cottage over a small wood-fire, without any of the luxuries that are
now considered necessaries in every labourer’s cottage. The interiors
resembled a Highland crofter’s hut, with beaten earth flooring, often
damp; rough uncovered walls, no gay prints, or polished furniture.
The introduction of machinery has in this case, as in so many others,
altered the entire aspect of life. When sofa legs can be turned out
by the hundred by a machine for little cost, everyone can afford
sofas; when the process of reproduction of pictures is reduced to a
minimum, every wall is adorned. Even the woven quilts and patterned
chair-covers, now so little thought of as to be hardly noticed, were
then unknown; plain dyes for materials were all that could be had.

Though probably Cowper’s dismal picture is an extreme case, it has the
merit of being contemporary—

    “The frugal housewife trembles when she lights
    Her scanty stock of brushwood, blazing clear,
    But dying soon like all terrestrial joys.

                          ... The brown loaf
    Lodged on the shelf, half eaten without sauce
    Of savoury cheese, or butter costlier still.

                          ... All the care
    Ingenious parsimony takes but just
    Saves the small inventory, bed and stool,
    Skillet and old carved chest, from public sale.”

But to set against this we have the idyllic pictures of cottage life
to be found amid the works of Morland and his _confrères_. One of
these, engraved by Grozer, is given as an illustration. Here, though
the cottage is low and dark, with thatched roof and small windows, the
healthy, smiling faces of the cottagers themselves are very attractive.
The truth probably lay in the mean between Cowper’s realism and the
artist’s idealism, health and good temper may have been found even amid
dirt and squalor.

   [Illustration: THE HAPPY COTTAGERS]

At that time the state of the roads cut off the dweller in a small
village from any neighbouring town. At present the three or four miles
of good solid road in and out of a provincial town are nothing to a
young man who starts off after his work on Saturday evenings, and in
many cases he has a bicycle with which to run over them more easily
still. At that time the roads, even main roads, were in a filthy state;
the Act of 1775, by making turnpike roads compulsory, did much to
improve them, but previously they were often mere quagmires with deep
ruts, similar to the roads running by the side of a field where carting
has been going on. Many and many a record is there of the coaches being
stuck or overturned in the heavy mud.

The days of village merry-making and sociability seemed to have passed
away in Puritan times never to revive, and had not been replaced by
the personal pleasures of the present time. A labourer of Jane Austen’s
days had the bad luck to live in a sort of intermediate time. Not for
him the reading-room with its bright light and warm fire, the concert,
the club, and the penny readings, the smooth-running bicycle or the
piano. Here is Horace Walpole’s picture of suburban felicity: “The road
was one string of stage coaches loaded within and without with noisy
jolly folks, and chaises and gigs that had been pleasuring in clouds
of dust; every door and every window of every house was open, lights
in every shop, every door with women sitting in the street, every inn
crowded with drunken topers; for you know the English always announce
their sense of heat or cold by drinking. Well! It was impossible not
to enjoy such a scene of happiness and affluence in every village, and
amongst the lowest of the people; who are told by villainous scribblers
that they are oppressed and miserable.”

Wages for labourers, as in the case of servants, were very low. Arthur
Young gives an interesting digest of the wages then in vogue in the
southern counties. He divides the year into three parts: harvest, five
weeks; hay-time, six weeks; and winter, forty-one weeks; the average of
weekly wages for these three respective periods was 13s. 1d., 9s. 11d.,
and 7s. 11d., making a weekly medium of about 8s. 8d. all the year
round. The writer is very severe on the labourers for what he considers
their gross extravagance in the matter of tea and sugar, indeed his
remarks sound so queer to our ears now that they are worth quoting at
some length—

“All united in the assertion that the practice [of having tea and
sugar] twice a day was constant, and that it was inconceivable how much
it impoverished the poor. This is no matter of trivial consequence; no
transitory or local evil; it is universal and unceasing; the amount of
it is great ... this single article cost numerous families more than
sufficient to remove their real distresses, which they will submit to
rather than lay aside their tea. And an object, seemingly, of little
account, but in reality of infinite importance, is the custom, coming
in, of men making tea an article of their food, almost as much as
women; labourers losing their time to come and go to the tea table;
nay, farmers’ servants even demanding tea for their breakfast, with the
maids! Which has actually been the case in East Kent. If the men come
to lose as much of their time at tea as the women, and injure their
health by so bad a beverage, the poor, in general, will find themselves
far more distressed than ever. Wants, I allow, are numerous, but what
name are we to give to those that are voluntarily embraced in order
for indulgence in tea and sugar?... There is no clearer fact than that
two persons, the wife and one daughter for instance, drinking tea once
a day amounts, in a year, to a fourth of the price of all the wheat
consumed by a family of five persons; twice a day are half; so that
those who leave off two tea drinkings can afford to eat wheat at double
the price (calculated at six shillings a bushel).”

Tea was, of course, then very expensive. Lady Newdigate writes to
her husband in 1781, “I enclose Mr. Barton’s account for tea, the sum
frights one, but if the common tea runs—as Mr. B. says it does—near
eighty pounds the chest, it will answer well. The best is full 16s. a
pound, but Mundays and Newdigates who have also a lot and have also had
from the shops since the new tax was laid, say it is better than what
you can buy for 18s.” (_The Cheverels of Cheverel Manor._)

Besides other occupations, such as have been slightly indicated, there
was one in Jane’s life about which she seldom spoke to anyone; from her
earliest childhood the instinct to write had been in her, and she had
scribbled probably in secret. Such a thing would not be encouraged in
a child of her time. Nowadays, when every little Rosina and Clarence
has a page to themselves in the weekly papers, and can see her or his
own childish effusions in print, winning thereby the proud and admiring
commendations of mother and father, the case is different; Jane wrote
because she had to write, it was there and it must come out, but she
probably looked on her writing as something to be ashamed of, a waste
of time, and only read her compositions to her brothers and sisters
under compulsion when no adults were present. Mr. Austen-Leigh says,
“It is impossible to say at how early an age she began to write.
There are copy books extant containing tales, some of which must have
been composed while she was a young girl, as they had amounted to a
considerable number by the time she was sixteen. Her earliest stories
are of a slight and flimsy texture, and are generally intended to be
nonsensical, but the nonsense has much spirit in it.”

He gives as an instance “The Mystery, a short unfinished Comedy.” He
says later, “But between these childish effusions and the composition
of her living works, there intervened another stage of her progress,
during which she produced some stories, not without merit, but which
she never deemed worthy of publication.”

It was one of these, at first called _Elinor and Marianne_, which
became the germ of _Sense and Sensibility_, and perhaps from these
early stories she might, had she lived, have developed and produced
other books.

The beautiful old town of Winchester, once the capital of the kingdom,
lies only twelve miles from Steventon, and though there was no smooth,
hard high-road as we know it, the Austens’ carriage horses were
probably stoutly-built animals who pulled their load through the mire
with right goodwill. Many an expedition to the town must Jane have
made, and well would she know the ancient part by the Cathedral and
College, so little altered now that we may look upon it with her eyes.
The red walls, with their garnishing of lichen and ferns, the beautiful
nooks and sunny corners, would all be very familiar to her; and in
these happy days, when she was still a light-hearted girl without a
thought of fame, how little would she think that one day she should
pass away close to the old grey Cathedral, which itself should form her
burial-place, and which would be visited on that account by hundreds
yet unborn, who knew her only in her books.



The life of a genius is, after all, secondary to the works by which he
lives; no one would want to know anything about him had not the works
aroused their interest. The personality when revealed is oft-times
disappointing, sometimes repulsive, but that cannot alter the value
of the work. There is certainly no fear that we shall find anything
repulsive in the simple life of Jane Austen, or that we shall be
disappointed in knowing her as she was, but for all that the works are
the thing.

One writer on Jane Austen, in what purports to be a book, has devoted
three hundred and thirty-two pages out of three hundred and eighty-six
to a synopsis of the plots of the novels, told in bald and commonplace
language, without any of the sparkle of the original, so that even
the extracts embedded in such a context seem flat and uninteresting.
This sort of book-making is worse than useless, it is positively
harmful. Anyone who read the volume before reading the original novels
would assuredly never go to them after having seen them flattened
out in this style. There is no place for such a book; anyone who is
interested in Jane Austen at all should read her works as they are.
There can be no excuse on the ground of length, the longest, _Emma_,
runs to four hundred and thirty-six pages of clear type in duodecimo
form. For the publication of an abridged form of Richardson’s works,
there might be excuse; anyone who read such an abridgement might be
forgiven, for Richardson’s masterpiece filled seven volumes! But with
Jane Austen there is nothing to abridge, every sentence tells, there
is no prolixity, every word has its intrinsic value, and to retell her
sparkling little stories in commonplace language is indeed to attempt
the painting of the rose.

This book, at all events, is intended only for those who know the
novels at first hand, and there shall be no explaining, no pandering to
that laziness that prefers hash to joints. Taking it for granted that
everyone knows the six complete novels, we enter here on a discussion
of the excellencies common to all, leaving them to be discussed
singly as they occur chronologically in the life of their author. The
first question that occurs to anyone in this connection is how is it
that these books, without plot, without adventures, without _double
entendre_, have managed to entrance generations of readers, and to be
as much alive to-day as when they were written? The answer is simple
and comprehensive,—they are of human nature all compact. This is the
first and greatest quality. We have in them no heroes and heroines, no
villains, but only men and women; and while the world lasts stories of
real live flesh-and-blood characters will hold their own. The second
characteristic, which is the salt of fiction, is the keen sense of
humour that runs throughout. Jane Austen’s observation of the foibles
of her fellow-creatures was unusually sharp, her remarks in her letters
are not always kind, but in the novels this sharp and keen relish of
what is absurd is softened down so as to be nowhere offensive. Like her
own Elizabeth, she might say, “I hope I never ridicule what is wise or
good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies, do divert me, I
own, and I laugh at them whenever I can.”

A third characteristic, which is the result of genius alone, is her
dainty sense of selection. She never gives anything redundant either
in the actions or words of her characters, just enough is said or
done to reveal the people themselves to us. One has only to think of
writers deficient in this quality to realise how essential it is to
enjoyment. In Miss Ferrier’s _Marriage_, for instance, there are good
and striking scenes, but in her conversations she never knows when to
stop, the tedious long-winded sentences have to be skipped in order to
get on with the story. The art of selection is that which distinguishes
real dramatic talent from photographic realism. To be able to put down
on paper exactly what average people say is certainly a gift, for few
can do it, but a far higher gift is to select and combine just those
speeches and actions which give the desired effect without leaving
any sense of omission or incompleteness. Jane Austen had the power
also of giving a flash of insight into a state of mind or a personal
feeling in a few words more than any writer before or since. It is
one of her strongest points. Take for example that scene when Henry
Tilney instructing Catherine “talked of foregrounds, distances, and
second distances; side screens and perspectives; lights and shades;
and Catherine was so hopeful a scholar, that when they gained the
top of Beechen Cliff, she voluntarily rejected the whole city of Bath
as unworthy to make part of the landscape”; or the opening sentences
of _Mansfield Park_. “Miss Maria Ward of Huntingdon, with only seven
thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram of
Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton, and to be thereby raised
to the rank of a baronet’s lady, with all the comforts and consequences
of a handsome house and large income. All Huntingdon exclaimed on the
greatness of the match; and her uncle, the lawyer, himself, allowed her
to be at least three thousand pounds short of any equitable claim to

It is by touches such as these that the characters are made to live
before us, Jane never condescends to the device of tricks which Dickens
allowed himself to use with such wearisome iteration; we have none
of “the moustache went up and the nose came down” style. It is by a
perfect perspective, by light touches given with admirable effect, that
we know the difference between Fanny Price and Anne Elliot, both good,
sweet, retiring girls; or between Elinor Dashwood and Emma Woodhouse,
who both had the generosity of character to sympathise with another’s
love affairs while hiding their own. Henry Tilney and Edmund Crawford
were both young clergymen of a priggish type, but Henry’s didactic
reflections are not in the least the same as those which Edmund would
have uttered.

The silliness of Mrs. Palmer, with her final summary on the recreant
Willoughby, “She was determined to drop his acquaintance immediately,
and she was very thankful she had never been acquainted with him
at all. She wished with all her heart Combe Magna was not so near
Cleveland, but it did not signify for it was a great deal too far
off to visit; she hated him so much that she was resolved never to
mention his name again, and she should tell everyone she saw how good
for nothing he was,” is entirely different from the continuous weak
outpourings of poor little Miss Bates. “And when I brought out the
baked apples from the closet, and hoped our friends would be so very
obliging as to take some, ‘Oh,’ said he directly, ‘there is nothing
in the way of fruit half so good, and these are the finest looking
home-baked apples I ever saw in my life.’ That, you know, was so very—
And I am sure by his manner it was no compliment. Indeed, they are very
delightful apples, and Mrs. Wallis does them full justice, only we do
not have them baked more than twice, and Mr. Woodhouse made us promise
to have them done three times; but Miss Woodhouse will be so good as
not to mention it. The apples themselves are the very finest sort for
baking beyond a doubt—” and so on and so on for a page or more.

The truth is that Jane Austen seized on qualities which are frequently
found in human nature, and developed them with such fidelity that
nearly all of us feel that we have at one time or another met a Miss
Bates or a Mrs. Norris, or that we can see traits in others which
resemble theirs; it is this which makes the appeal to all humanity.
She did not take one person out of her acquaintance and depict him or
her, but represented, in characters of her own creating, these salient
traits which will ever revive perennially while men and women exist.

Lord Macaulay does not hesitate to speak of Jane in the same breath
with Shakespeare. “Shakespeare has had neither equal nor second, but
among the writers who have approached nearest to the manner of the
great Master, we have no hesitation in placing Jane Austen, a woman
of whom England is justly proud. She has given us a multitude of
characters, all, in a certain sense, commonplace, all such as we meet
every day, yet they are all as perfectly discriminated from each other
as if they were the most eccentric of human beings.” And Archbishop
Whateley makes the suggestive remark, “It is no fool that can describe
fools well.”

Before the birth of Jane Austen, the novel, which had been hardly
considered in England for many centuries, had suddenly found a
quartette of exponents which had placed the country in the foremost
rank of this branch.

It is rare indeed that four such men as Richardson, Fielding, Smollett,
and Sterne, with powers of imagination which make their work classic,
should be evolved at the same date. It would almost seem as if the
theory which declares that the world, in its onward rush through space,
passes through regions impregnated with certain forms of ether that
affect men’s minds, must have some grain of truth, when simultaneously
there leaped forth four exponents and first masters of an art that
hitherto can hardly have been said to exist. The united scope of their
four lives ranged from 1689 to 1771, and between these dates England
was enriched for all time.

With these four Jane Austen’s work has little in common. It is to
Richardson only that her novels owe anything, and they differ from
Richardson’s in many striking particulars.

Apart from the masters already mentioned, “A greater mass of trash and
rubbish never disgraced the press of any country than the ordinary
novels that filled and supported circulating libraries down nearly
to the time of Miss Edgeworth’s first appearance. There had been _The
Vicar of Wakefield_, to be sure, before, and Miss Burney’s _Evelina_
and _Cecilia_, and Mackenzie’s _Man of Feeling_, and some bolder and
more varied fictions of the Misses Lee. But the staple of our novel
market was beyond imagination despicable, and had consequently sunk and
degraded the whole department of literature of which it had usurped the
name.” (Jeffrey, _Essays_, Ed. 1853.)

And Macaulay says: “Most of the popular novels which preceded _Evelina_
were such as no lady would have written, and many of them were such as
no lady could without confusion own that she had read. The very name
of novel was held in horror among religious people. In decent families
which did not profess extraordinary sanctity, there was a strong
feeling against all such works. Sir Anthony Absolute, two or three
years before _Evelina_ appeared, spoke the sense of the great body of
sober fathers and husbands, when he pronounced the circulating library
an evergreen tree of diabolical knowledge. This feeling on the part of
the grave and reflecting, increased the evil from which it had sprung.
The novelist, having little character to lose, and having few readers
among serious people, took, without scruple, liberties which, in our
generation, seem almost incredible.”

The effect that Miss Burney’s stories had upon contemporary readers
may be judged from a letter of Mr. Twining, a country clergyman of
education and standing, who wrote in 1782 to her father, Dr. Burney:
“I need not tell you that I gobbled up _Cecilia_ as soon as I could
get it from my library. I never knew such a piece of work made with a
book in my life. It has drawn iron tears down cheeks that were never
wetted with pity before; it has made novel readers of callous old
maiden ladies, who have not for years received pleasure from anything
but scandal. Judge, then, what effect it has had upon the young and
the tender hearted! I know two amiable sisters at Colchester, sensible
and accomplished women, who were found blubbering at such a rate one
morning! The tale had drawn them on till near the hour of an engagement
to dinner, which they were actually obliged to put off, because there
was not time to recover their red eyes and swelled noses.”

Miss Burney’s works are real enough, and not lightly to be dismissed;
she understood the human heart, and especially the heart of a girl,
her sentimental side is perfect, but beyond that she ceases to claim
anything out of the common. Her society types are types only; the gay
young man, a rake, but charming at heart, whose excesses were but the
wildness of an ill-brought-up youth, had been drawn many times before.
When she goes beyond affairs of the heart she at once caricatures; her
Captain and Mrs. Duval are gross and overdrawn even according to the
manners of the age.

Miss Burney preceded Jane Austen by several years; _Evelina_ was
published in 1778, when the sister-author was but three years old;
_Cecilia_ came out four years later, and _Camilla_ in 1796, the same
year in which _Pride and Prejudice_ was written, though it was not
published until 1813. There is no doubt that Jane Austen owed much
to her rival and predecessor, but her gifts were incomparably the
greater. Miss Burney’s cleverness consisted in the portrayal of feeling
in a young girl’s sensitive mind, her stories are stories of fashion
and incident; Jane Austen’s are of country life, and simple everyday
scenes. The one had its vogue, and, as an account of contemporary
manners, the books have their value and delight now, especially
_Evelina_, which stands high above its successors, each one of which is
poorer than the preceding one; but none are to be compared with any of
Jane Austen’s novels, which are for all time.

“Miss Edgeworth indeed draws characters and details conversations such
as occur in real life with a spirit of fidelity not to be surpassed;
but her stories are most romantically improbable, all the important
events in them being brought about by most providential coincidences.”
(Archbishop Whateley.)

It was a transition age from the conventional to the natural; as in
the admiration of landscape, the love for natural gardens, the gradual
disappearance of the formal and empty compliment to which women had
hitherto been treated, we find taste changing, so in literature the
conventional was giving way to the natural. Fielding and Smollett had
broken down the barriers in this respect, they had depicted life as it
was, not as convention had decreed it should be, hence their gigantic
success; but the life they saw and rendered was the life of a man of
the world, with all its roughness and brutality. Jane Austen was the
first to draw exactly what she saw around her in a humdrum country
life, and to discard all incident, all adventure, all grotesque types,
for perfect simplicity. She little understood what she was doing, but
herein lies her wonderful power, she was a pioneer. Jane’s writing
had nothing in common with Mrs. Radcliffe, whose style is mimicked in
_Northanger Abbey_. It had absolutely no adventures. The fall of Louisa
on the Cobb is perhaps the most thrilling episode in all the books, yet
by virtue of its entire simplicity, its naturalness, its gaiety, her
writing never fails to interest. Perhaps the most remarkable tribute
to her genius lies in the fact that, though her books are simplicity
itself, dealing with the love-stories of artless girls, they are read
and admired not only by girls and women, but more especially by men of
exceptional mental calibre. It has been said that the appreciation of
them is a test of intellect.

Though her novels are novels of sentiment, they never drift into sickly
sentiment, they are wholesome and healthy throughout. With tragedy she
had nothing to do; her work is comedy, pure comedy from beginning to
end. And as comedies well done are the most recreative of all forms
of reading, it is no wonder that, slight as are her plots, hardly to
be considered, minute as are the incidents, the attention of readers
should ever be kept alive. In all her books marriage is the supreme
end; the meeting, the obstacles, the gradual surmounting of these, and
the happy ending occur with the regularity of clockwork. And yet each
one differs from all the others, and she is never monotonous. Every
single book ends well, and it is a striking fact that there is not a
death in one of them. When, after a slight improvement, Marianne, in
_Sense and Sensibility_, grows worse—

“The repose of the latter [Marianne] grew more and more disturbed; and
her sister who watched with unremitting attention her continual change
of posture, and heard the frequent but inarticulate sounds of complaint
which passed her lips, was most wishing to rouse her from so painful a
slumber, when Marianne, awakened by some accidental noise in the house,
started hastily up, and, with feverish wildness cried out, ‘Is mamma
coming?’... Hour after hour passed away in sleepless pain and delirium
on Marianne’s side, and in the most cruel anxiety on Elinor’s,” we know
that in most books we should expect the worst, but with Jane Austen
we are sure that it will all turn out well, as indeed it does, and our
feelings are not unduly harrowed.

One point which is obvious in all the books is the utter lack of
conversation, except about the merest trivialities, among women.
In _Sense and Sensibility_ it is remarked of a dinner given by
John Dashwood that “no poverty of any kind, except of conversation,
appeared.... When the ladies withdrew to the drawing-room after dinner,
this poverty was particularly evident, for the gentlemen had supplied
the discourse with some variety—the variety of politics, enclosing
land, and breaking horses—but then it was all over, and one subject
only engaged the ladies till coffee came in, which was the comparative
height of Harry Dashwood, and Lady Middleton’s second son, William,
who were nearly of the same age ... the two mothers though each really
convinced that her own son was the taller, politely decided in favour
of the other. The two grandmothers with not less partiality, but more
sincerity, were equally earnest in support of their own descendant.”

The Christian names of that date were plain, and, for women, strictly
limited in number; it detracts something from a heroine to be called
Fanny Price or Anne Elliot; and Emma Woodhouse and Elizabeth Bennet are
little better; Elinor and Marianne Dashwood are the most fancy names
applied by Jane to any of her heroines.

Another point which may be noticed in the novels is that the outward
forms of religion, beyond the fact of a man’s being a clergyman, are
never mentioned, and that on all religious matters Jane is silent;
but this does not signify that she was not herself truly religious at
heart, for we have the testimony of those who knew her to the contrary,
particularly that of her brother Henry in his preface prefixed to the
first edition of _Northanger Abbey_, published after her death. But
though actual religion does not appear in her pages, the lessons that
the books teach are none the less enforced; had she been taking for
her sole text the merit of unselfishness, she could not have done more,
or indeed half so much, to further the spread of that virtue. To read
the books straight through one after the other is to feel the petty
meanness of self-striving, and the small gain that lies therein. The
talk of the mammas, such as Mrs. Bennet, who are perfectly incapable of
seeing their neighbours’ interest should it clash with their own; the
picture of the egregious Mrs. Norris with her grasping at the aspect
of generosity and self-sacrifice, without any intention of putting
herself to any inconvenience thereby; the weakness of such characters
as Willoughby in _Sense and Sensibility_, who allow themselves to drift
along the lines of least resistance without a thought of the after
misery they may cause: each and all of these are more potent than a
volume of sermons.

It may be noted that Jane Austen chose her characters from the class
of life in which she herself lived, we meet in her pages no dukes or
duchesses, and only a few slightly sketched labourers and gardeners,
who are brought in when inevitable; the story itself is concerned
with people of the middle classes, the squires and country gentlemen,
the clergymen, and upper-class prosperous tradespeople. We have no
inimitable rustics as in George Eliot’s wonderful books, nor any
disreputable knaves of the fashionable rich as in Miss Burney’s works.
It is, however, a remarkable fact that all the mankind are always at
leisure to picnic and dance attendance on the ladies at any hour of
the day; we have no business men; rides and excursions and picnics are
always provided with a full complement of idle young men to match the
young women. To this rule the clergymen are, of course, no exception.

There was a particular sort of country gentleman who seemed to flourish
in those days, of the type of Mr. Knightley and Mr. Bennet. These men
did not own enough land to call themselves squires, their farming was
very slight, they owned a secure fortune in some safe investment, and
apparently spent their lives in the insipid avocations which, until
recently, were the lot of nearly all men who were neither rich nor
poor. They played cards, and rode and saw their neighbours, and read
the newspapers, without seeming to feel their time hang at all heavy
on their hands. This breed seems almost extinct now, we are all too
excitable, and live too rapidly to make it possible. A man with such an
income as either of the two mentioned would almost certainly travel,
or take up some special hobby; he would be a social reformer, or on
his County Council, a J.P., a M.F.H., or something of the kind, with
occupations varied enough to afford him some apology for his existence.

The lowest of what may be called Jane Austen’s speaking parts are
filled by well-to-do tradesmen, or people just emerging from trade, as
the Gardeners in _Pride and Prejudice_, who still lived at the business
house in Gracechurch Street; for it was a time when house and shop were
not divided.

Her characters are all supposed to be gentlepeople, but there is a
difference between those who are of better family than others, such
as Bingley, who condescends in marrying Jane Bennet. There is one
point on which I venture to disagree with Mr. Pollock, who, in his
extremely suggestive and interesting book on _Jane Austen and her
Contemporaries_, says—

“Comment has been made, and justly made, on the perfect breeding and
manners of those people in Miss Austen’s novels who are supposed and
intended to be well-bred.”

On the contrary, to go no further than _Pride and Prejudice_, Darcy
himself passes every canon of gentlemanly conduct, and the Misses
Bingley, who were supposed to be of irreproachable breeding, betray
vulgarity and lack of courtesy in every sentence. The observations of
Miss Bingley on Elizabeth and Darcy would disgrace a kitchen-maid. When
Darcy has danced once with Elizabeth, Miss Bingley draws near to him,
and observes of the society she is in—

“‘You are considering how insupportable it would be to pass many
evenings in this manner—in this society, and indeed I am quite of your
opinion. I never was more annoyed. The insipidity and yet the noise—the
nothingness and yet the self-importance of all these people! What would
I give to hear your strictures on them!’

“‘Your conjecture is totally wrong, I assure you. My mind was more
agreeably engaged. I have been meditating on the very great pleasure
which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow!’

“Miss Bingley immediately fixed her eyes on his face, and desired he
would tell her what lady had the credit of inspiring such reflections.
Mr. Darcy replied with great intrepidity, ‘Miss Elizabeth Bennet!’

“‘Miss Elizabeth Bennet!’ repeated Miss Bingley, ‘I am all
astonishment. How long has she been such a favourite? And pray when am
I to wish you joy?’

“‘That is exactly the question which I expected you to ask. A lady’s
imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love
to matrimony in a moment. I knew you would be wishing me joy.’

“‘Nay, if you are so serious about it, I shall consider the matter as
absolutely settled. You will have a charming mother-in-law indeed, and
of course she will always be at Pemberley with you.’”

The insolence of Lady Catherine de Bourgh might be adduced as a second
example from the same book. These people are well born and well bred,
but their manners and conduct are impossible. It may be alleged that
they were intended so to be. Probably; but that does not do away with
the fact that the well-bred people in the books are not always free
from vulgarity, which was the contention with which we started. They
might have been made disagreeable in a hundred other ways, had Miss
Austen so chosen, without violating all ordinary rules of conduct.

It is greatly to the author’s credit, and speaks of her refinement
of mind, that in an age when coarseness of every sort was rampant,
her books should be free from a whisper of it. We of this present
generation hardly realise how vice was countenanced in the days of the
Georges; well indeed was it for England that males of that line died
out, so that the heir to the throne was a girl-child, for during her
long reign the example which the court set, and which the inferiors
were quick to copy, was altered altogether. George the Third himself,
who occupied the throne during the whole of Jane Austen’s life, was a
happy exception among the Hanoverian sovereigns, but the excesses of
his sons were notorious.

Even the Duke of Kent, the best of them, accepts a left-handed alliance
as inevitable, to say nothing of worse. In writing familiarly to Mr.
Creevey after the death of Princess Charlotte, he says—

“The Duke of Clarence, I have no doubt, will marry if he can—he demands
the payment of all his debts, which are very great, and a handsome
provision for his ten natural children—God only knows the sacrifice it
will be to make, whenever I shall think it my duty to become a married
man. It is now seven and twenty years that Madame St. Laurent and I
have lived together; we are of the same age, have been in all climates
and all difficulties together, and you may well imagine, Mr. Creevey,
the pang it will be to part with her.” (_The Creevey Correspondence._)

The irregular unions of princes of the blood are unfortunately an
accepted fact, but the epoch in which such things were done in broad
daylight was one in which libertinism of all kinds was rampant. It was
an age also of excessive drunkenness, the Prince Regent frequently
appeared in public hardly able to stand. Creevey records that the
prince “drank so much as to be made very seriously ill by it”; he
says also, as if it were a thing to wonder at, “It is reckoned very
disgraceful in Russia for the higher orders to be drunk.”

The books of Smollett and Fielding had inculcated the general belief
that indecency and interest in a novel were inseparable, and it
is greatly to the credit of Miss Burney and Miss Austen that their
writings were of an entirely different tone.

Sir Walter Besant writes: “I do not wish to represent the eighteenth
century as much worse than our own in the matter of what is called
morality, meaning one kind of morality. The ‘great’ were allowed to
be above the ordinary restraints of morality. A certain noble lord
travelled with a harem of eight, which was, however, considered
scandalous.” (_London in the Eighteenth Century._)

No whisper of these things stains Jane Austen’s pages. And her clear,
unaffected view of middle-class life in small towns and villages was
true and not idealised, for these people were then, as they still
are, the salt of the world, neither apeing the fantastic vices of the
upper, nor the abandoned coarseness of the lower classes. They were
respectable and sometimes humdrum. They suffered from monotony, not
dissipation. That anyone should have been able to extract so much
pure fun from such slight materials is ever matter for wonder. She
did it by her marvellously close observation and power of selection,
qualities which are a gift. She was far more true to human nature than
the superficial reader knows, perhaps than she herself knew, for it is
a trait of genius to do by the light of nature what other people must
set about laboriously and ever fall short of attaining. When we notice
Mr. Bennet’s caustic humour reappearing in more genial form in his
second daughter, there is one of those little touches that binds the
characters together—the touch of heredity.

Another instance is in the case of Lady Middleton, who obviously
had not married either for love or for suitability, but only for
convenience; she is a cold woman, incapable of passion in the usual
sense, but her nature breaks out in an adoration of her children which
is neither for their benefit nor for hers. We see this again and again
in real life; it is the cold, unloving wives who idolise their children
because they are theirs, a feeling which is not real love but a kind
of extended selfishness, an instinct which, in the case of animals,
finds expression in licking their young. The books abound in similar
true touches, put in apparently without effort, and almost without
thought. When one considers that out of the mass of novels of that
age, then, as now, circulated and read by the aid of libraries, such
books as Hannah More’s _Cœlebs in Search of a Wife_ and Mackenzie’s
_Man of Feeling_ and _Man of the World_ were read and praised almost
universally as being far superior to the usual run of novels, one
gains some idea of the poverty of matter and manner that must have
disgraced the ruck. Both these “masterpieces,” so acclaimed as they
were issued, are the dullest, driest stuff, without a gleam of humour,
any attempt at a story, or any vivacity of expression or character.
The general style is, “Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So are to-day expected. Mr.
So-and-So is a pious, virtuous man, I am afraid I cannot say so much
for his wife,” and thereupon follows a long verbose description of the
two, who when they appear on the scene do and say nothing to indicate
any characteristics, but are mere dummies, pegs on which to hang the
discourse that precedes their entry. A favourite device for filling
up the pages that must be filled, is the narration by some secondary
character of all that has ever befallen them since their birth. Even
Miss Burney is not free from this; in _Cecilia_ at least the characters
break into narration as easily as some persons do into song. With this
kind of stuff to set the standard, the miracle of Jane’s books becomes
more admirable than ever, for anyone who has ever attempted to write
knows how exceedingly difficult it is to resist the influence of the
conventional canons in vogue.

   [Illustration: MISS BURNEY (MADAME D’ARBLAY)]

Jane Austen seems to have been also as far ahead of her time in the use
of simple direct English as she was in construction and effect. She is
at least a generation in advance of average contemporary letters and
journals, in which the phrasing is often ponderous; the sonorous roll
of heavily-weighted sentences in the Johnsonian style, then so much
admired, does not ever seem to have occurred to her.

Yet even in her lively, crisp narration there are a few phrases that
strike on a modern ear as unaccustomed. Such is the use of the active
for the passive tense, “tea was carrying round”; the elision of the
final “n” in the infinitive, “but she said he seemed very angry at
being spoke to”; the use of adjectives for adverbs (often reproved
as a form of slang in the present day), “she must feel she has been
acting wrong.” The general use of men’s surnames by women occurs in the
earlier books, but we see an indication of change in this respect in
the passage of Jane’s lifetime, for in _Emma_ it is considered vulgar
of Mrs. Elton to address Mr. Knightley without the prefix. There are
little ways of expressing things that are not now in vogue, men are
“gentlemanlike,” ladies “amiable,” also “genteel and elegant”; one
phrase which has now descended to the realm of the lady’s-maid was then
quite good English, “so peculiarly the lady in it.” “Excessively” takes
the place of our “awfully,” we hear continually such expressions as
“monstrous obliging,” “prodigious pretty,” and “vastly civil.”

We have not hitherto noticed Miss Edgeworth’s, Miss Ferrier’s, or Miss
Mitford’s work, though they are generally considered as belonging
to the clever group of women writers who illumined the end of the
eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries, because in this
chapter we are dealing only with Jane Austen’s own novels, not with
contemporary writers except as they affected her, and at the time when
she wrote her first books none of these writers had published anything,
and could not therefore possibly have influenced her. Miss Edgeworth’s
first novel, _Castle Rackrent_, came out in 1800, and Miss Ferrier’s
_Marriage_ in 1818, after Jane was in her grave.

Jane Austen’s own novels were written at such widely differing times,
and the interval between writing and publication was so great in some
cases, that the subject suffers from some confusion in the minds of
those who have not looked into the question closely. As the order of
writing is everything, and the order of publication a mere accident, we
will take them as they were written. This was in two groups of three
each. _Pride and Prejudice_ was begun in October 1796 and finished
the following August; _Sense and Sensibility_ was begun in 1797 and
finished in 1798, in which year _Northanger Abbey_ was also written.
Then there was a long gap, in which she produced only a fragment to be
noted hereafter, and not until 1812 was _Mansfield Park_ written; four
years later, in 1816, came _Emma_, quickly followed by _Persuasion_.
Of all these the first to be published was _Sense and Sensibility_
in 1811, and the dates of publication will thereafter be noted in
chronological order in the book as it progresses.

Besides these two distinct groups of three novels each, there is
another of the unfinished fragments, which never became real stories.
These consist of _Lady Susan_, a comedy in the form of letters, which
is ended up hastily with a few paragraphs of explanation; and _The
Watsons_, an unfinished tale, of which the end was told by Cassandra
Austen from remarks that her sister had made. Both of these are
included, as has been said, in Mr. Austen-Leigh’s _Memoir_, and it
seems a pity that they should not form a volume in one of the neat
series of Jane Austen’s novels now published, as to a real Austenite
they contain much that is valuable, and are full of characteristic
touches. Of the complete novels _Pride and Prejudice_ is admittedly
the best; there are several candidates for the second place, but
the superiority of _Pride and Prejudice_ is unquestioned. It was the
earliest of the books written, under the title _First Impressions_, and
as such it is referred to in Jane’s correspondence: “I do not wonder at
your wanting to read _First Impressions_ again, so seldom as you have
gone through it, and that so long ago;” this was to her sister in 1799,
and later on she adds, with the playfulness never long wanting, “I
would not let Martha read _First Impressions_ again upon any account,
and am very glad I did not leave it in your power. She is very cunning,
but I saw through her design, she means to publish it from memory, and
one more perusal must enable her to do it.”

There has been great diversity of opinion as to the relative merit of
the remaining books, but the concensus of opinion seems to declare
for _Emma_, the last but one in point of time, which shows that the
author’s genius had not abated. This book is totally different from the
first, it lacks the sparkle and _verve_ which runs all through _Pride
and Prejudice_, but it has perhaps more depth and is something softer
and more finished also.

These two books, and all the others, will be dealt with in detail as
they occur chronologically, for we are here only attempting to treat
them generally, and to bring out those characteristics and excellencies
common to all which made them such masterpieces, and gave their maker
such a unique place in the hierarchy of authors.

Jane Austen is one of the three greatest among English women novelists;
the other two being, of course, George Eliot and Charlotte Brontë,
whose lives overlapped at a much later date. The genius of these three
women is so entirely different in kind that the relative value of their
gifts can never be put into like terms; so long as men and women read
and discuss fiction, so long will each of the three styles have its
partisans who will argue it to be the supreme one of the trio. Yet
in spite of this, in spite also of a momentary fashion to decry the
wonderful gifts of George Eliot, it is quite certain that in depth and
breadth of feeling, and ability in its portrayal, she was unequalled
by either her predecessor or contemporary. Her range far surpasses
theirs. They each dealt with one phase of life or feeling: Jane Austen
with English village life, Charlotte Brontë with the element of passion
in man and woman, while George Eliot’s works embrace many varieties
of human nature and action. If her detractors are questioned, it will
commonly be found that they do not deny her ability or her brain power,
but her genius, which is of course a totally distinct thing. On further
probing of the matter, it is usually discovered that the contention is
based on the later works, such as _Middlemarch_ or _Daniel Deronda_. To
be quite fair, there are some appearances in these volumes to justify
such an estimate, but the mistake is that the opinion is superficial
and based on appearance only. In her later days George Eliot’s
tremendous ability, tremendous soul,—and tremendous is the only English
word that can be fitly applied to it,—made her see so far round and
over her own work, as well as allowing her such a wide survey as to the
causes and nature of things, that even the productions of her genius
were analysed, curbed, and held in channels. She could not let herself
go; her subtle insight, her complete knowledge of her characters, made
her qualify and account for their actions, perhaps more for her own
satisfaction than for that of readers. She might safely have left this
to her innate perception without fear, her genius would never have
let her go wrong, but she could not, she must analyse even her own
creations. No one in the world was more free from this tendency than
Jane Austen, she was perfectly unconscious of her own mastery of her
subject, as unconscious as the bee when it rejects all other shapes in
its cells for the hexagonal. The marvellous precision with which she
selected and rejected and grouped her puppets was almost a matter of
instinct. She put in the little touches which revealed what was in the
mind of her men and women without premeditation or any striving. It is
the perfection of this gift which allows her books to be read again and
again, for once the story is known, all the slight indications of its
ultimate ending, which may have been overlooked while the reader is not
in the secret, stand out vividly. We grant to George Eliot’s detractors
that in her later works her eyes were opened, and she analysed the
work of her genius instead of writing spontaneously, but to her true
admirers the genius is still there, though curbed and trammelled.

Every one of her men and women to the last are breathing human beings.
Having granted, however, so much, we turn to the earlier works, which,
amazing to say, are so often overlooked; here her gallery is full of
realities, not analysed or thwarted, but moving as impelled by nature.
Was there ever a boy-brother and girl-sister in all fiction to equal
Tom and Maggie Tulliver? And what of that inimitable trio, Sisters
Glegg and Tulliver and Pullet? Of its kind is there a scene that can
beat Bob Jakin’s twisting Mrs. Glegg round his finger with judicious
management? And these are from the abundance of one book only. No, Jane
cannot dispute precedence with George Eliot, but must yield the palm;
her characters, true and admirable as they are, lack that living depth
which George Eliot had the power to impart. But the two are so totally
different that it is difficult to find any simile that will bring them
into relation with one another. Perhaps the most expressive is that of
instrumental music: Jane Austen’s clear notes are like those which a
skilful performer extracts from a good harp, sweet and ringing, always
pleasant to listen to, and restful, but not soul stirring; while George
Eliot’s tones are like the deep notes of a violoncello, stirring up
the heart to its core, and leaving behind them feeling even after the
sound has ceased. The novels of Jane Austen were novels of character
and manners, those of George Eliot of feeling. There is no intention in
this comparison to minimise in any way the work of the earlier writer,
she chose her style, and of its kind it is perfect; her subtle touches
could only have been the result of the intuition which is genius, but
the profounder emotions, the slow development of character by friction
with those around, she did not attempt to depict.

We now turn to the third of the great trio. Charlotte Brontë’s gift
was a rush of strenuous passion that made her stories pour forth living
and molten as from the furnace. Her best characters are admirable, but
limited in number; we find the same timid heroine, who outwardly was
herself, and inwardly was full of force and passion, appearing in more
than one.

Charlotte’s bitter indictment of Jane’s work, though wholly untrue, can
be made allowance for, seeing that her eyes viewed such a different
section of the world of feeling. She says of _Pride and Prejudice_:
“An accurate daguerreotyped portrait of a commonplace face; a carefully
fenced, highly cultured garden, with neat borders and delicate flowers,
but no glance of a bright vivid physiognomy, no open country, no fresh
air, no blue hill, no bonny beck.” And at another time, with much
truth: “The passions are perfectly unknown to her; she rejects even a
speaking acquaintance with that stormy sisterhood. What sees keenly,
speaks aptly, moves flexibly, it suits her to study; but what throbs
fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through, what is
the unseen seat of life, and the sentient target of death, this Miss
Austen ignores.”

Charlotte Brontë’s own strongest point is her _story_, and as the
teller of an interesting story, absorbing in its wild and strenuous
action, she ranks very high, but character-drawing is not her forte.
She herself fails in the point of which she accuses Jane, she could
photograph those persons she knew intimately,—herself for instance, or
her father’s curates,—but directly she went beyond, she failed; what
could be weaker than the society people in _Jane Eyre_,—the ringletted
Blanche and the wooden young men?

A great many of her minor characters are mere dummies who do not
remain in the mind at all. But one of her strong points is one entirely
ignored by Jane, and that is the impression of scenery and the aspects
of weather. Which of us has not felt a chill of desolation as he stood
in fancy on the wet gravel-path leading up to Lowood? or not been
sensible of the exhilaration of that sharp, clear, frosty night when
Jane first encountered Mr. Rochester in the lane? In a few words,
very few, Charlotte Brontë has a marvellous capability for making one
feel the surroundings of her characters, and this is no mean gift.
Adherents she will always have, and to them it may be granted that
her whole theme was one totally ignored by Jane, whose men and women
are swept by no mighty whirlwinds of their own generating. In fact
it has been alleged against Jane that she had neither passion nor
pathos, and perhaps, if we except one or two touches of the latter
quality in dealing with forlorn little Fanny in _Mansfield Park_,
this is true. The only simile that occurs as suitable to use in the
comparison between Charlotte and Jane is that the soul of the one was
like the turbulent rush of her own brown Yorkshire streams over the
wild moorlands—streams which pour in cataracts and shatter themselves
on great grey stones in a tumultuous frenzy, while that of the other
resembled the calm limpid waters of her own Hampshire river, the
Itchen, wending its way placidly between luscious green meadows.

    “A deeper sky, where stooping you may see
    The little minnows darting restlessly.”

The preference between these two is all a matter of taste, and will be
decided by the fact whether the admiration of clear incisive humour
and comedy of manners outweighs that of fiery feeling and a rush of



The main source of information about Jane Austen is contained in her
letters. The bulk of those that have been preserved are to be found in
the two volumes edited by Lord Brabourne, her great-nephew. And these
are only the remnant of what we might have had but for Cassandra’s
action. It could not matter to Jane or Cassandra now if those gay
outpourings had been published in full, and we should have had a much
more complete and true picture of one whom England holds among her
three greatest women novelists. As it is, anything based on these
letters must necessarily be subject to modification, the inferences
drawn are imperfect, and there are long gaps in continuity, while
many events of great moment to the writer herself are not so much as
referred to in them. We owe it, however, to the fact that visits then
really were visits, extending over weeks or months, to compensate for
the difficulty and expense of travelling, that what remain are many in
number; and also we have cause to be thankful that on account of Mrs.
Austen and the household, the two sisters made a point of not leaving
home together, generally taking turns, so that the letters are very
much more numerous than they might otherwise have been.

Besides those written to Cassandra, there are a few given by Lord
Brabourne, which were written to his own mother as a girl, and these
are by no means the least interesting in the book. A certain number
also are addressed to Jane’s other niece, Anna. Besides those in Lord
Brabourne’s book, there are one or two additional ones in the _Memoir_
by Mr. Austen-Leigh, Jane’s own nephew.

The first of the published letters is dated the beginning of 1796, when
Jane was twenty-one. As the letters contain many comments on dress,
food, daily occurrences of all sorts, the best method seems to be to
use them as a thread on which to hang notes of the everyday life of the
period, collating what the writer herself says with what is otherwise
known, and in this way to gain a background against which her own
figure will stand out.

One great characteristic of her correspondence is its extreme
liveliness and humour. This is the more remarkable because in her age
and time letters were, with a few brilliant exceptions, ponderous and
laboured, written in the grand style, as was perhaps natural when the
sending of a letter was a serious consideration.

The following is a good specimen of the style considered proper for a
boy of sixteen, writing to his mother—

“I am extremely sorry to be thus troublesome to you, but I hope the
time may come when I shall be able to say that I have in some small
degree deserved the many cares and anxieties I have cost you, at least
no effort shall be lost to attain that end. There are two objects
(virtue and ability) constantly before my eyes; if I attain them I know
myself sure of your approbation, in the possession of which I shall
be happy, and without which I should be miserable, so that if selfish
gratification was the only cause, I should proceed in my grand object.
A more powerful cause, however, employs its influence upon my mind, a
desire of doing good, which cannot operate without ability, cannot have
effect without virtue.”

If a fond mother of the present day got such a letter from a schoolboy
son she would probably take the first train to see if he were ill!

The same stiffness was the rule in intimate family relations. This boy,
who was no peculiar specimen, but a natural boy of his times, writes
about his little sister: “I am very glad to hear that Anna Maria is
such a nice girl. I hope she is clever both at her books and at her
needle ... at the former I am sure she is, if she always writes such
nice letters as the last she sent to me. Is it asking too much, to beg
her to write another before she returns to Kendal?”

How different these sentences are from the lively ones of Jane Austen
to her sister: “Everybody is extremely anxious for your return, but as
you cannot come home by the Ashe ball, I am glad I have not fed them
with false hopes. James danced with Alithea, and cut up the turkey last
night with great perseverance. You say nothing of the silk stockings,
I flatter myself therefore that Charles has not purchased any, as I
cannot very well afford to pay for them.... We received a visit from
Mr. Tom Lefroy and his cousin George. The latter is really very well
behaved now, and as for the other he has but one fault, which time
will, I trust, entirely remove, it is that his morning coat is a great
deal too light.”

And again, “I am very much flattered by your commendation of my last
letter, for I write only for fame and without any view to pecuniary

It was an age of letter writing, periodicals were expensive, and, in
remote districts, difficult to get; even when obtained, the news was
what we should deem at the present time scanty in the extreme. _The
Times_, for instance, consisted of only a single folded sheet, of which
the front page was occupied with advertisements. The foreign news was
always some days old, as it was obtained by special packet-boats, which
brought across the French papers. These boats being dependent on the
wind and currents, were subject to many delays. The newspaper taxes
were heavy and burdensome, and though even the poorest sheet of news
must be considered wonderful in view of the difficulty and expense
attendant on the procuring of news in pre-telegraph days, the fact
remains that much was left out which could only be supplied by private
correspondence. Horace Walpole, of course, stands out as the prince of
letter-writers of his time; his published letters now amount to over
two thousand, and deal with all the current questions of the day. Of
course these letters are on an altogether different plane from the
little batch of about two hundred, which are all we have of Jane’s.
Walpole’s letters are read, not only for their style and manner, but
for the light they throw on society and politics. Jane’s can be of
interest to none but those who are interested in her. And at the time
they were published there were many voices raised in protest against
the publication of such very “small beer,” but in so far as they throw
light on her own daily life they are certainly worth having.

Considered merely as private productions, it is wonderful, considering
the expense of letter carriage and the delay of correspondence, that
she wrote so much as she did.

Letters in those days consisted only of a single sheet without an
envelope, which was formed by the last page of the sheet itself being
folded over and fastened by a wafer. This did not leave much room for

Jane wrote very small, and her lines are neat and straight, so that she
got the largest amount possible into the available space. At that time
a single sheet of paper, not exceeding an ounce in weight, varied in
price from 4d. to 1s. 6d., according to the distance it was carried;
if it exceeded an ounce, it was charged fourfold; any additional bit of
paper made it into a double letter, which was charged accordingly. But
the thing which would seem to us most intolerable of all, was that the
recipient and not the sender paid for the missive, whereby many modest
souls must have been prevented from ever writing to their friends lest
the letter should not be considered worth the charge. Not until long
after Jane had been in her grave did adhesive stamps come into use.

It is a commonly received idea that the Post Office as an institution
dates from the establishment of universal penny post in the British
Isles by Rowland Hill in 1840. But this is far from being the case;
there was a postmaster in 1533, if not before. In 1680 a parcels post
at a penny a pound was established in London by William Dockwra, who
also suggested passing letters in London at the same rate.

The profits of the post-office at that time were, by a most flagrant
abuse, the monopoly of the Duke of York, who vehemently resented
Dockwra’s improvements. In spite of this, however, Dockwra won his way.
The London letters for the penny post were daily “Transmitted to Lyme
Street, at the Dwelling House of the said Mr. Dockwra, formerly the
Mansion House of Sir Robert Abdy, Kt.

“There are Seven sorting Houses proper to the seven Precincts into
which the undertakers have divided London, Westminster, and the
Suburbs, situated at equal Distances, for the better maintenance of
mutual Correspondence. There are about 400 or 500 receiving Houses,
to take in letters, where the Messengers call every hour, and convey
them as directed; as also _post letters_, the writing of which are much
increased by this accommodation, being carefully conveyed by them to
the general Post Office in Lombard Street.”

These “post letters” are those for the country, still the monopoly of
the Duke, who had been persuaded to yield to Dockwra’s scheme as likely
to further his own revenue.

Also, “By these [clerks, messengers, etc.] are conveyed Letters and
Parcels not exceeding one Pound Weight, nor Ten Pound in Value, to
and from all Parts at Seasonable Times, viz.: of the Cities of London
and Westminster, Southwark, Redriff, Wapping, Ratcliff, Limehouse,
Stepney, Poplar, and Blackwall, and all other places within the weekly
Bills of Mortality, as also the four towns of Hackney, Islington, South
Newington Butts, and Lambeth, but to no other towns, and the letters to
be left only at the receiving offices of those towns, or if brought to
their Houses a penny more.”

Dockwra not only carried, but insured letters and parcels up to £10
in value. He was liberal in his deliveries. “To the most remote Places
Letters go four or five times of the day, to other Places six or eight
times of the day. To Inns of Court and Places of Business in Town,
especially in term or Parliament time, ten or twelve times of the day.”
Stamps were also used to mark the hour when the letters were sent out
to be delivered, an item only recently reintroduced into our postal
service. Much wailing was heard at Dockwra’s reforms from the porters
of London, who had made a fine living by carrying correspondence, their
outcries were much the same as those of the watermen, who afterwards
wailed at the introduction of hackney coaches.

Dockwra was not long allowed to enjoy his idea, for his scheme was
incorporated into the General Post Office, though he afterwards
received a pension of £500 a year, and was made Comptroller of the
London Post Office.

For anything outside of London, distance still counted in the cost,
though we read in _The Times_ of 1793 that a penny post had been
established in Manchester. It was Rowland Hill who introduced the
universal penny post in Great Britain, thus extending the Dockwra idea.
In 1710 the postal system was reformed and improved, three rates were
put in force, namely: threepence if under eighty miles; fourpence if
above; and sixpence to Edinburgh or Dublin. This explains the custom
of carrying letters for some distance and then posting them; Jane
Austen says, “I put Mary’s letter into the post office with my own
hand at Andover,” this was on the way to Bath. In 1720 cross-posts were
introduced by the suggestion of Ralph Allen, a Bath postmaster; before
that time every letter had to go round by London to be cleared, even
supposing it to be intended for a town not far off from the sender.
Allen offered to organise the whole thing, paying a fixed rent, and
taking the profits. His plan succeeded so well that he cleared £10,000
a year. At his death in 1764 the Government took over the contract.

Up to 1784, letters were carried on horseback by post-boys, who
were underpaid and undisciplined; if a boy got drunk, or entered
into conversation with strangers who turned out to be well-mannered
footpads, the bags never reached their destination. In 1783, John
Palmer, manager of the Bath and Bristol Theatre, suggested the
employment of regular coaches, which might at the same time carry
passengers, hence the inauguration of mail-coaches, the first two of
which started between London and Bristol in August 1784. The drivers
and guards were armed, and if this did not altogether ensure the
safety of the mails—as the weapons were often a mere farce, and the men
themselves either chicken-hearted or in collusion with the robbers—it
proved, at all events, productive of greater regularity in the delivery
of letters.

    “Hark! ‘Tis the twanging horn! O’er yonder bridge
    That with its wearisome but needful length
    Bestrides the wintry flood, in which the moon
    Sees her unwrinkled face reflected bright;
    He comes, the herald of a noisy world,
    With spattered boots, strapped waist, and frozen locks,
    News from all nations lumbering at his back.
    True to his charge the close packed load behind,
    Yet careless what he brings, his own concern
    Is to conduct it to the destined inn,
    And having dropped the expected bag—pass on.” (COWPER.)

Hannah More remarks on the innovation: “Mail coaches, which come to
others, come not to me; letters and newspapers now that they travel
in coaches, like gentlemen and ladies, come not within ten miles of my

The system of franking is one of those things that make us realise
the difference between the ideas of our own time and those of the
eighteenth century more than anything else; that such an abuse can have
been permitted is incredible, monstrous. Of course as it was in force
everybody availed themselves of it without scruple, few indeed are the
persons whose private consciences are in advance of public rules; Jane
writes frequently on the subject—

“As Eliza has been so good as to get me a frank, your questions shall
be answered without much further expense to you.... On Thursday Mr.
Lushington, M.P. for Canterbury, and manager of the lodge hounds, dines
here and stays the night. If I can, I will get a frank from him, and
write to you all the sooner.”

“Now, I will prepare for Mr. Lushington, and as it will be wisest also
to prepare for his not coming, or my not getting a frank, I shall write
very close from the first, and even leave room for the seal in the
proper place.”

    “Letters were sent when franks could be procured,
    And when they could not, silence was endured.” (CRABBE.)

Horace Walpole says, “I have kept this letter some days in my writing
box till I could meet with a stray member of parliament, for it is not
worth making you pay for.”

“The franking of letters as an institution commenced as early as the
year 1660, when it was resolved that members’ letters should come and
go free, during the sitting of the House. When the Bill was sent up to
the Lords, it was thrown out because the privilege was not extended to
them. When, however, the omission was supplied, the Bill passed. The
privilege in course of time was grossly abused. Members signed large
packets of envelopes at once, and either sold them, or gave them to
their friends. It was worth the while of a house of business, when
letters cost sixpence apiece, to buy a thousand franks at fourpence
apiece; sometimes servants got them from their masters and sold them.
In the year 1715, franked letters representing £24,000 a year passed
through the post. In 1763 the amount was actually £170,000. Supposing
that each letter would have brought in sixpence to the post office,
this means nearly 7,000,000 letters, so that every member of the two
Houses would have signed an average of 7000 letters a year. It was then
enacted that no letter should pass free unless the address, as well as
the signature, was in the member’s handwriting. Lastly, it was ordered
that all franks should be sealed and that they should be put into the
post on the day of the date. Even with these precautions the amount of
franks represented £84,000 a year. The privilege was finally abolished
with the great reforms of 1841. It is needless to add that a system of
wholesale forgery had sprung up long before.” “Members of Parliament
sold their privileges of franking sometimes for £300 a year.” (Sir
Walter Besant, _London in the Eighteenth Century_.)

In Joseph Brasbridge’s _Fruits of Experience_, it is mentioned that a
large firm of drapers used to buy their franks from the poor relations
of M.P.’s at forty-eight shilling the gross.

The abuse of franking was called in question at various dates, and
reforms advised. In reply to questions asked in Parliament, it was
stated that various clerks in Government offices used to frank to any
amount—not only their own correspondence but that of others; probably
receiving large sums of money for doing so. In fact it was known that
some persons whose salaries were £300 or £400 a year had been making
incomes of £1000 and £1200 by this means! The celebrated bookseller
Lackington had friends in one of the offices, and sent his catalogues
free all over the country. A majority of twelve decided for the
Question in the House.

The reforms practically meant the abolition of franks so far as private
persons were concerned, as Hannah More put it, Pitt had murdered
scribbling; while speaking of a friend she writes: “She will generously
tell me she has postage in her pocket, but we have been used to franks,
and besides the post is bewitched and charges nobody knows what for
letters; two shillings and ninepence, I think Mrs. L. says she paid
for a letter.” And again, “The abolition of franks is quite a serious
affliction to me, not that I shall ever regret paying the postage for
my friends’ letters, but for fear it should restrain them from writing.
It is a tax upon the free currency of affection and sentiment, and goes
nearer my heart than the cruel decision against literary property did,
for that was only taxing the manufacture, but this the raw material.”

These remarks were caused by the reforms of 1784.

But, as we have said, the whole system of franking was not abolished
until 1841.

Of course there were no postmen to deliver letters as they do now. It
was considered a great convenience to have a post-office at all, from
which letters could be fetched. In 1787, Horace Walpole says there was
no posthouse at Twickenham. The fetching of letters is one of the minor
peeps we get into the times through the novels. In _Emma_, when Mr.
Knightley meets Miss Fairfax he says—

“‘I hope you did not venture far, Miss Fairfax, this morning, or I am
sure you must have been wet. We scarcely got home in time. I hope you
turned directly!’

“‘I went only to the post-office,’ said she, ‘and reached home before
the rain was much. It is my daily errand, I always fetch the letters
when I am here. It saves trouble, and is a something to get me out. A
walk before breakfast does me good.’...

“‘The post-office has a great charm at one period of our lives. When
you have lived to my age you will begin to think letters are never
worth going through rain for.’...

“‘You are speaking of letters of business; mine are letters of

“‘I have often thought them the worse of the two,’ he replied coolly.

“‘Ah! You are not serious now.... You have everybody dearest to you
always near at hand. I probably never shall again; and therefore until
I have outlived all my affections, a post-office, I think, must always
have power to draw me out, in worse weather than to-day.’”

When we realise that every one of the letters preserved for us in Lord
Brabourne’s book must have cost on an average a shilling, we feel more
strongly than before the tie between Jane and Cassandra, which demanded
such constant communication, and the retailing of every minute affair.

We have nothing to tell us how letters came to Steventon, but can
form some sort of conjecture for ourselves. There was of course
no post-office in such a minute place; the letters would arrive at
Winchester, and from thence be forwarded by the Basingstoke coach,
and dropped at the inn which stands at Popham Lane End, about two
miles away. It would be almost certainly impossible for Jane to walk,
except in the driest weather, through lanes of which we are told they
were impassable for carriages at certain seasons, and could only be
traversed on horseback. The man-servant would therefore probably be
detailed to go for the post-bag, possibly riding on one of the carriage
horses; and Jane would wait in the damp mist of an autumn afternoon by
the front door, dressed in a costume most unsuitable for the climate,
according to our ideas, with thin heel-less slippers kept up by crossed
elastic, and long clinging skirts, with bare arms and only a dainty
chemisette not reaching to her neck. She would greet the man eagerly
to see if there was a letter for her in the handwriting of her beloved
sister,—a welcome break on the monotony of a grey day, when perhaps
Mrs. Austen was in bed with one of her chronic complaints.



The first of the published letters was written in January 1796, a
time of year when such a scene as that sketched at the end of the last
chapter must often have taken place. The season was far from being a
gloomy one, however, balls and entertainments were going on all round,
and the Austens had guests of their own also. These were their cousins
the Coopers, in regard to whom Lord Brabourne, who being himself a
great-nephew ought to have known, makes a most curious blunder. In his
notes previous to the letters he says, “The Coopers, whose arrival
is expected in the first, and announced in the second letter, were
Dr. Cooper, already mentioned as having married Jane Austen’s aunt,
Jane Leigh, with his wife and their two children, Edward and Jane, of
whom we shall frequently hear.” This was in 1796, but Dr. Cooper had
died in 1792; he had held the livings of Sonning, in Berkshire, and
Whaddon, near Bath, contemporaneously until his death. The Mr. Cooper
whom the Austens were expecting, was Dr. Cooper’s son Edward, of whom
Lord Brabourne speaks as a child, with his wife and _their_ two small
children, Edward and Isabella, then both under two years old. The
Coopers are mentioned a great deal in the entertaining Diary of Mrs.
Philip Lybbe Powys, from which we have already quoted, for Edward
Cooper married her daughter Caroline. He, like his father, was in
Orders, and was at first a curate at Harpsden under his non-residential
grandfather, the Rev. Thomas Leigh, and was afterwards presented to the
living of Hamstall Ridware, Staffordshire, by Mrs. Leigh, a relative
of his mother’s by whom he was connected with the Austens, Mrs. Austen
having been a Miss Leigh. On January 21, 1799, Jane writes: “Yesterday
came a letter to my mother from Edward Cooper to announce, not the
birth of a child, but of a living; for Mrs. Leigh has begged his
acceptance of the rectory of Hamstall Ridware in Staffordshire, vacant
by Mr. Johnson’s death. We collect from his letter that he means to
reside there. The living is valued at one hundred and forty pounds a
year, but it may be improvable.”

The little boy mentioned above as coming with his parents to stay at
Steventon, had been christened at Harpsden Church on December 3, 1794,
and Henry Austen was one of the sponsors. At the christening of another
little Cooper, named Cassandra, in 1797, Mrs. Austen stood sponsor.
Jane remarks of the two elder children who came to Steventon, “the
little boy is very like Dr. Cooper, and the little girl is to resemble
Jane, they say.” This probably gave rise to Lord Brabourne’s mistake,
but in reality Jane Austen was commenting on the child’s likeness to
its dead grandfather, not to its father, and the Jane the girl was to
resemble, was Edward Cooper’s sister Jane, who became Lady Williams,
and was killed in a carriage accident in 1798.

Even Mr. Austen-Leigh, Jane Austen’s own nephew, does not seem to have
realised Dr. Cooper’s plurality of livings, for he says, “The family
lived in close intimacy with two cousins, Edward and Jane Cooper, the
children of Mrs. Austen’s eldest sister, and Dr. Cooper, the vicar
of Sonning, near Reading. The Coopers lived for some years at Bath,
which seems to have been much frequented in those days by clergymen
retiring from work. I believe that Cassandra and Jane sometimes visited
them there, and that Jane thus acquired the intimate knowledge of the
topography and customs of Bath which enabled her to write _Northanger
Abbey_ long before she resided there herself.”

The inference is not quite true, for if this had been so she must
have acquired that knowledge before her seventeenth year, for she
was that age when her uncle Dr. Cooper died, and it is probable that
her aunt had predeceased him as she is never mentioned at all by
Mrs. Lybbe Powys, who relates a tour she made with him, his son and
daughter, to the Isle of Wight. But there is no need for any inference
of the sort at all, for Jane had another uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs.
Leigh-Perrot—her mother’s brother having adopted the additional name
of Perrot—who sometimes resided at Bath, and it is obviously to an
invitation from this aunt she refers in a letter of 1799.

As we have said, it was the season of balls at Steventon; quiet as
the rectory was there were many large houses of the country gentry
around in various directions, and entertainments of all sorts were
then perhaps even more in fashion than now; to all of these the
rectory party received invitations. In the second paragraph of the
first letter, Jane says, “We had an exceeding good ball last night,”
and later, “I am almost ashamed to tell you how my Irish friend and I
behaved. Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking
in the way of dancing and sitting down together ... we had a very good
supper, and the greenhouse was illuminated in a very elegant manner.”

In another letter, written later, she gives the following account of
a ball: “We were very well entertained, and could have stayed longer,
but for the arrival of my list shoes to convey me home, and I did not
like to keep them waiting in the cold. The room was tolerable full, and
the ball opened by Miss Glyn. The Miss Lances had partners, Captain
Dauvergne’s friend appeared in regimentals, Caroline Maitland had an
officer to flirt with, and Mr. John Harrison was deputed by Captain
Smith, himself being absent, to ask me to dance. Everything went well,
you see, especially after we had tucked Mrs. Lance’s neckerchief in
behind, and fastened it with a pin.”

Mr. Austen-Leigh says: “There must have been more dancing throughout
the country in those days than there is now, and it seems to have
sprung up more spontaneously, as if it were a natural production, with
less fastidiousness as to the quality of music, lights, and floor.
Many country towns had a monthly ball throughout the winter, in some of
which the same apartment served for dancing and tea-room.”

People in the country were then more dependent on each other for
entertainment, there was no looking upon the London season as a
necessity, and people could not rush about from one end of England
to another for a night or two as they now do. During the long winter
months, when the bitter cold and the cumbersome methods of travelling
made any journey out of the question for most, to say nothing of
the expense, balls for those in the neighbourhood of Steventon were
frequently given, and Jane and Cassandra Austen had their full share,
and seem to have most heartily enjoyed it. Jane herself evidently loved
dancing, balls are frequently mentioned in her novels, and the actual
dancing itself, even without its enjoyable concomitant of flirtation,
seems to have attracted her.

Customs, however, then differed very much from those that now reign
in ballrooms. In one way everything was more formal, in another more
simple. The music, the wines, and the floor were less considered; young
people got up an impromptu dance in a drawing-room very easily; and the
champagne, without which no one would dare to ask their friends to a
dance now, was then not considered necessary. On the other hand, the
actual performance was more formal; there were no romps at lancers,
no round dances such as waltzes at all; waltzes did not begin to be
danced generally until 1814, and the polka not until 1844. In the
beginning of 1814, when the waltz was just coming into fashion, Miss
Mitford declaims against it, and calls it this “detestable dance.”
“In addition to the obvious reasons which all women ought to have for
disliking it, I cannot perceive its much vaunted graces. What beauty
can there be in a series of dizzying evolutions, of which the wearisome
monotony banishes all the tricksy fancies of the poetry of motion,
and conveys to the eyes of the spectators the idea of a parcel of
teetotums set a-spinning for their amusement?” In Jane’s time, minuets,
cotillions, etc., were the staple of the programme, and toward the
end of the evening country dances, no doubt danced with much precision
and elegance. Deportment was then a necessary part of the curriculum
at every girls’ boarding-school; and the ways of getting in and out
of a carriage, and much more of bowing and entering a reception room,
were all taught as if the performer were to go upon the stage; every
motion was regulated. It is true that the custom, so aptly illustrated
in _Evelina_, when the lady was forced by politeness to accept the
first man who asked her, and to remain his partner for the evening, a
custom that must have been responsible for many sore hearts and spoiled
evenings, had gone out in Jane’s time. But it was the fashion, at what
were called private dances, for any man to ask any girl he fancied to
become his partner without previous introduction; at public balls the
Master of the Ceremonies did the introducing. In Evelina’s time, girls
must have had many an exciting evening, many an anguished moment when
the wrong man asked the honour of their hand while the right man had
not come forward! Evelina made a terrible mess of things at her first
dance. She refused the ridiculous little fop who first approached her,
and afterwards accepted the handsome and engaging Lord Orville, who, it
must be confessed, is a far superior man to Miss Austen’s corresponding
hero, Darcy. Evelina narrates her acceptance of him in a letter to her

“Well, I bowed, and I am sure I coloured; for indeed I was frightened
at the thoughts of dancing before so many people, all strangers, and,
which was worse, with a stranger; however, that was unavoidable; for,
though I looked round the room several times, I could not see one
person that I knew. And so he took my hand and led me to join in the

Of course the fop was not one to take this considered insult quietly,
he approached when Evelina and Lord Orville were sitting out between
the dances, and asked, “‘May I know to what accident I must attribute
not having the honour of your hand?’

“‘Accident, sir,’ repeated I much astonished.

“‘Yes, accident, madam,—for surely—I must take the liberty to
observe—pardon me, madam,—it ought to be no common one—that should
tempt a lady—so young a one too,—to be guilty of ill-manners.’

“A confused idea now for the first time entered my head, of something
I had heard of the rules of an assembly, but I was never at one
before—I have only danced at school—and so giddy and heedless I
was, that I had not once considered the impropriety of refusing one
partner, and afterwards accepting another. I was thunderstruck at the

“I afterwards told Mrs. Mirvan of my disasters, and she good-naturedly
blamed herself for not having better instructed me, but she said she
had taken it for granted that I must know such common customs.”

There is no trace of such a custom in Jane’s times, her partners were
always numerous. At the dances at Basingstoke or in the neighbourhood,
she probably knew almost everyone in the room on familiar terms; and
she frequently had a brother with her to counterbalance the brothers
of her girl friends. She danced well, with vivacity and grace; we can
imagine her appearance without difficulty; her hair encircled by some
neat bandeau or coquettish bow, her high-waisted simple frock of soft
white muslin, her curls escaping in little ringlets on forehead and
shoulders, her hazel eyes dancing as she parried the conversational
thrusts of some too bold admirer, even as her own Elizabeth Bennet
might have done. She certainly must have been popular; a girl who can
talk wittily, dance well, and who is bright and sweet-tempered must
always be in demand. And all the time her mind, half unconsciously,
was storing up the little words and gestures of the persons around.
Everything that was significant, everything that was amusing was
noted, and from this storehouse she was to draw many a scene to delight
unnumbered people yet unborn.

In her time, the acceptance of a dance still carried with it two
dances, or the twice going up and down in the minuet.

Foolish Mrs. Bennet, overflowing with the events of the evening, on her
return from the ball with her daughters, thus pours out her soul to her
satirical husband—

“‘Jane was so admired, nothing could be like it. Everybody said how
well she looked; and Mr. Bingley thought her quite beautiful, and
danced with her twice. Only think of that, my dear, he actually danced
with her twice; and she was the only creature in the room that he asked
a second time. First of all he asked Miss Lucas. I was so vexed to see
him stand up with her, however, he did not admire her at all; indeed,
nobody can, you know; and he seemed quite struck with Jane as she was
going down the dance. So he inquired who she was, and got introduced,
and asked her for the two next. Then the two third he danced with Miss
King, and the two fourth with Maria Lucas, and the two fifth with Jane
again, and the two sixth with Lizzy, and _the Boulanger_—’”

At another ball poor Elizabeth has Mr. Collins for a partner—

“The first two dances, however, brought a return of distress; they were
dances of mortification. Mr. Collins, awkward and solemn, apologising
instead of attending, and often moving wrong without being aware of it,
gave her all the shame and misery which a disagreeable partner for a
couple of dances can give.”

In _Northanger Abbey_ the hero and heroine first meet in the Lower
Rooms at Bath at a ball, where they are introduced by the Master of
the Ceremonies, but the subject of Bath is such an engrossing one that
it must be treated separately in another chapter. In public ballrooms
gentlemen wore swords, and ladies carried enormous fans; it must have
required some practice to manage these respective weapons in a crowded
room. Mr. Austen-Leigh says in a note, “Old gentlemen who had survived
the fashion of wearing swords, were known to regret the disuse of that
custom, because it put an end to one way of distinguishing those who
had, from those who had not, been used to good society. To wear the
sword easily, was an art which, like swimming or skating, required to
be learned in youth.”

As to the costumes worn, we get an idea of Catherine Morland’s dress in
her partner’s jocose remark describing the “sprigged muslin robe with
blue trimmings—plain black shoes.” A few of the fashions we learn from
contemporary newspapers, which thus filled their columns when foreign
news was scarce.

_The Times_ remarks facetiously,—for _The Times_ had not learnt to take
its high office seriously in those days,—”We are very happy to see the
waists of our fair countrywomen walking downwards by degrees towards
the hip. But as we are a little acquainted with the laws of increasing
velocity in fashionable gravitation, we venture to express, thus early
in their descent, a hope that they will stop there.” (April 15, 1799.)

About this time fashion required ladies to wear an enormous pyramid
of feathers on their heads, and many were the jests made about this
extraordinary whim of fashion—

“At all elegant assemblies there is a room set apart for the lady
visitants to put their feathers on, as it is impossible to wear them
in any carriage with a top to it. The lustres are also removed on this
account, and the doors are carried up to the ceiling. A well-dressed
lady, who nods with dexterity, can give a friend a little tap upon the
shoulder across the room without incommoding the dancers. The ladies’
feathers are now generally carried in the sword case at the back of the
carriage. (_The Times_, December 29, 1795.)

With the soft light of wax candles—even nowadays sometimes preferred
to modern brilliancy—shining on the long, clinging muslin dresses,
the arch head-dresses and nodding plumes, the swords and the fans,
a ball-room must have presented a most animated spectacle; added to
which the dress of the gentlemen was certainly far more picturesque and
becoming than that of the present day. The gay satin coats and ruffles,
the knee-breeches and silk stockings, must greatly have enlivened the
scene. The subject of dress is too large to be treated in the middle
of such a chapter, but to gain any idea of the balls which gave Jane
Austen so much entertainment, these things must be at least indicated.

Apropos of the minuet, Mr. Austen-Leigh says: “It was not everyone who
felt qualified to make this public exhibition, and I have been told
that those ladies who intended to dance minuets, used to distinguish
themselves from others by wearing a particular kind of lappet on their
headdress. I have heard also of another curious proof of the respect in
which this dance was held. Gloves immaculately clean were considered
requisite for its due performance, while gloves a little soiled were
thought good enough for a country dance; and accordingly some prudent
ladies provided themselves with two pairs for their several purposes.”

The lady of the greatest distinction in the room was chosen to open
the ball. Modest Fanny in _Mansfield Park_ was quite overwhelmed when
she discovered that she was expected to do this, in the absence of her
cousins, by taking the first part in the minuet, an idea that had never
occurred to her before. “She found herself the next moment conducted to
the top of the room, and standing there to be joined by the rest of the
dancers, couple after couple as they were formed.... The ball began. It
was rather honour than happiness to Fanny for the first dance at least;
her partner was in excellent spirits, and tried to impart them to her;
but she was a great deal too much frightened to have any enjoyment till
she could suppose herself no longer looked at.”

At balls there was generally a room set aside for the older people who
preferred to play cards. Mrs. Lybbe Powys, in 1777, gives an account of
a fashionable evening party—

“No minuets that night; it would have been difficult without a master
of ceremonies among so many people of rank. Two card-rooms, the
drawing-rooms and eating-room. The latter looked so elegant lighted
up; two tables at loo, one quinze, one vingt-et-une, many whist. At
one of the former large sums passed and repassed. I saw one lady of
quality borrow ten pieces of Tessier within half an hour after she
sat down to vingt-une, and a countess at loo, who owed to every soul
round the table before half the night was over. The orgeat, lemonade,
capillaire, and red and white negus with cakes, were carried round the
whole evening. At half an hour after twelve the supper was announced,
and the hall doors thrown open, on entering which nothing could be more
striking, as you know ‘tis so fine a one, and was then illuminated by
three hundred coloured lamps round the six doors, over the chimney,
and over the statue at the other end.... The tables had a most
pleasing effect ornamented with everything in the confectionery way,
and festoons and wreaths of artificial flowers prettily disposed; all
fruits of the season as grapes, pines, etc., fine wines—ninety-two sat
down to supper.... The once so beautiful Lady Almeria I think is vastly
altered. She and Lady Harriot Herbert had the new trimmings, very
like bell ropes with their tassels, and seemingly very inconvenient
in dancing. After supper they returned to dancing, chiefly then
cotillions, till near six.”

Cotillions were later replaced by quadrilles. In 1816, Jane writes to
her niece Fanny—

“Much obliged for the quadrilles which I am grown to think pretty
enough, though of course they are very inferior to the cotillions of my
own day.”

But balls were not the only recreations Jane and Cassandra had; people
were very sociable in those days; the sketch of Sir John Middleton’s
horror of being alone, and his delight at gathering together in his
house all the acquaintances whom he could persuade to come, is only
slightly exaggerated from the prevailing spirit of his times. People
were always running over to see each other, always spending long days
at each other’s houses; hospitality was taken for granted, and was too
common to be reckoned a virtue. Jane and Cassandra in this way were
continually in touch with their nearest neighbours at Deane and Ashe.

It is impossible to resist quoting the following malevolent description
of Jane Austen, so unlike anything we know of her; it was given to Miss
Mitford by a lady who, it is admitted, had every reason to dislike the
Austens, for her brother-in-law was engaged in a lawsuit with Edward
Austen (Knight), trying to get away from him one of his estates!
This lady says that Jane had “stiffened into the most perpendicular,
precise, taciturn piece of single blessedness that ever existed, and
that, till _Pride and Prejudice_ showed what a precious gem was hidden
in that unbending case, she was no more regarded in society than a
poker or a fire screen or any other thin upright piece of wood or
iron that fills its corner in peace and quietness. The case is very
different now, she is a poker, but a poker of whom everyone is afraid.”

And Mrs. Mitford professes to recollect Jane in girlhood as being “the
prettiest, silliest, most affected, husband hunting butterfly” she ever

The whole tone of Jane’s own writings and letters redeems her memory
from any possible reproach of affectation, and the evidence all points
to the fact that, though not averse from a flirtation, she was the very
last of all girls to desire a husband! But it is of interest to record
contemporary impressions, so as to show both sides of the shield.

The first of the letters in Lord Brabourne’s book contains suggestions
of a subject much more interesting than mere dancing or visiting. In
the case of an author like Jane Austen, who has become the world’s
property, it is impossible that there should be any concealment of
those affairs of the heart usually reserved for private confidence
only. To fail in discussing such a point would be to leave aside
a whole aspect of her life and books. Jane must have been admired,
her vivacity, her wit, her gaiety of heart, her pleasant person, and
her keen enjoyment of life must have attracted attention; we know
definitely she had at least two eligible offers, and probably others,
as she was the very last person to boast of such things openly. It
has sometimes happened that those most worth having have lived and
died single, for they are too fastidious, too difficult to please, to
mate readily, while a commonplace girl is made happy by the addresses
of any ordinary man, and gladly persuades herself to be in love.
Jane, who had a peculiar and deep knowledge of character, could not
be easily blinded, she would have required much in a man, and men no
doubt instinctively knew it. Her tongue, we know, was sharp, she had a
knack of saying sharp things, and those who did not know her well may
have been uneasy under her penetrating insight. Those who did know her
may have gathered from her perfectly spontaneous manner and absence
of any affectation that she was entirely heart whole, and been thus
discouraged from trying their fate. The extract naming her Irish friend
has already been quoted, this referred to the late Lord Chief Justice
of Ireland, at that time only Tom Lefroy, whose uncle was Rector of
Ashe, adjoining Deane, and with whom Jane seems to have carried on a
lively flirtation.

After telling Cassandra how much she had danced with him, she adds,
“I can expose myself, however, only once more, because he leaves the
country soon after next Friday, on which day we are to have a dance
at Ashe after all. He is a very gentlemanlike, good looking, pleasant
young man, I assure you. But as to our having ever met, except at the
three last balls, I cannot say much; for he is so excessively laughed
at about me at Ashe, that he is ashamed of coming to Steventon, and
ran away when we called on Mrs. Lefroy a few days ago.... After I
had written the above we received a visit from Mr. Tom Lefroy and his
cousin George.”

“I mean to confine myself in future to Mr. Tom Lefroy, for whom I don’t
care sixpence.”... _Friday._ “At length the day is come on which I am
to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy, and when you receive this it will be
over. My tears flow as I write at the melancholy idea.”

At this time she was twenty-one, and he twenty-three, but they do not
seem to have been of such susceptible dispositions as many young men
and women of their age.

We hear of Mr. Lefroy again in 1798, when his aunt has been calling
at Steventon. The reference is a little perplexing. Jane says first,
speaking of Mrs. Lefroy, “Of her nephew she said nothing at all, and of
her friend very little,” and a few sentences further on remarks, “She
showed me a letter which she had received from her friend a few weeks
ago, toward the end of which is a sentence to this effect, ‘I am very
sorry to hear of Mrs. Austen’s illness. It would give me particular
pleasure to have an opportunity of improving my acquaintance with
that family—with the hope of creating to myself a nearer interest. But
at present I cannot indulge any expectation of it.’ This is rational
enough; there is less love and more sense in it than sometimes appeared
before, and I am very well satisfied. It will go on exceedingly well,
and decline away in a very reasonable manner. There seems to be no
likelihood of his coming into Hampshire this Christmas, and it is
therefore most probable that our indifference will soon be mutual,
unless his regard, which appeared to spring from knowing nothing of me
at first, is best supported by never seeing me.”

It seems evident, therefore, that some friend who had been staying
at Ashe previously had also shown symptoms of losing his heart to
Jane, who did not take his affection seriously, and was in no danger
of losing her own. Her prediction seems to have been verified, for we
never hear of him again, unless he was the man to whom Mr. Austen-Leigh
refers when he says—

“In her youth she had declined the addresses of a gentleman who had
the recommendations of good character and connections, and position
of life, of everything in fact except the subtle power of touching her

The other offer above referred to was made to her in 1802 by someone
described by her niece Anna as a “sensible pleasant man,” but he also
failed in the essential particular.

Mr. Austen-Leigh tells us further of “one passage of romance in
her history with which I am imperfectly acquainted, and to which
I am unable to assign name, or date, or place, though I have it on
sufficient authority. Many years after her death, some circumstances
induced her sister Cassandra to break through her habitual reticence
and to speak of it. She said that, while staying at some seaside place,
they became acquainted with a gentleman, whose charm of person, mind,
and manners, was such that Cassandra thought him worthy to possess
and likely to win her sister’s love. When they parted he expressed his
intention of soon seeing them again, and Cassandra felt no doubt as to
his motives. But they never again met. Within a short time they heard
of his sudden death.”

This incident may seem too slight and unimportant even for reference,
but in reality it may have had a deep significance. Those who have
studied human nature, know that there are here and there among both men
and women, minds that are satisfied with nothing less than the best. A
temperament like Jane Austen’s, where the whole nature was extremely
sensitive, and the mind extremely clear-sighted, would have required
qualities of the heart and mind in a man to be loved that are not to
be found every day. In addition, it would have been quite impossible
for her to marry any man from respect only or simple friendship.
Nothing but love could have carried her fastidious nature over the
bound of matrimony. Such natures as Jane’s are not facile: not for them
the willing self-deception which imagines love in any man who is an
admirer; not for them the blindness which attributes qualities where
they are not, nor the vanity which credits a man with every virtue
merely because he has the taste to prefer them. Many marriages are made
on these lines, and a proportion turn out well; but the higher natures,
standing out here and there, require a sounder basis.

The incident above described is attributed by her niece (Anna Lefroy),
writing many years later, to the year 1799 or 1800, when Jane was on a
tour in Devonshire with her mother and sister, and other writers have
drawn from it the inference that from this heart distress came the
inability to create, and that it thus accounted for the long interval
during which she wrote nothing at all. This hardly seems likely, or
at all events there were many other causes equally likely, such as the
impossibility of getting her MSS. published, which may have militated
against her adding to them, and her own father’s death may have been a
shock from which she was slow to recover.

There is a cryptic sentence in the correspondence of 1808 which seems
to show that her heart was at that time touched, and that she expected
to meet someone who was an object of great interest to her. She was
then staying at Godmersham, and writes—

“I have been so kindly pressed to stay longer here, in consequence of
an offer of Henry’s to take me back some time in September, that, not
being able to detail all my objections to such a plan, I have felt
myself obliged to give Edward and Elizabeth one private reason for my
wishing to be at home in July. They feel the strength of it, and say
no more, and one can rely on their secrecy. After this I hope we shall
not be disappointed of our friend’s visit; my honour as well as my
affection will be concerned in it.”

If these words had occurred some years earlier, they would seem to
point directly to that visitor whose coming was hindered by death, but,
according to the niece’s account, they must have been written too long
after this incident to have any bearing upon it. It may be, however,
that Anna, being young at the time, and knowing of the affair only by
hearsay, was mistaken; and in any case she does not authoritatively
state the year as 1799, but believes it to have been about then. If,
however, the first meeting had taken place in 1805 or 1806, this remark
of Jane’s might allude to it, for no one says that the death of the
man in question took place immediately after she knew him, but only
before there was a second meeting. Jane’s own words, “my honour as
well as my affection,” point directly to some admirer, for she would
feel that once having betrayed her own eagerness to her brother and
sister-in-law, the fact of the visitor’s not taking the trouble to
come to see her would appear to them a direct slight. The reference can
hardly have been to anything but a love-affair, and her own eagerness
looks as if she were in earnest at last. If the words cannot be taken
to refer to the known admirer, they must certainly have referred to
some other; and as nothing more is heard of him, perhaps he did not
come as she anticipated, and she, who had found it so difficult to take
the proposals of others seriously, was herself mistaken when she was in
earnest; but all this is mere conjecture.

Sir Walter Scott, in his review of _Emma_ in the _Quarterly_, finds
generally in Jane Austen’s books a deficiency of what he considers
romance, and he thus indicts her—

“One word, however, we must say in behalf of that once powerful
divinity, Cupid, king of gods and men, who in these times of
revolution, has been assailed, even in his own kingdom of romance, by
the authors who were formerly his devoted priests. We are quite aware
that there are few instances of first attachment being brought to a
happy conclusion, and that it seldom can be so in a state of society so
highly advanced as to render early marriages among the better classes
acts, generally speaking, of imprudence. But the youth of this realm
need not at present be taught the doctrines of selfishness. It is
by no means their error to give the world, or the good things of the
world, all for love; and before the authors of moral fiction couple
Cupid indivisibly with calculating prudence, we would have them reflect
that they may sometimes lend their aid to substitute more mean, more
sordid, and more selfish motives of conduct, for the romantic feelings
which their predecessors perhaps fanned into too powerful a flame.
Who is it, that in his youth has felt a virtuous attachment, however
romantic, or however unfortunate, but can trace back to its influence
much that his character may possess of what is honourable, dignified,
and disinterested?”

With due deference to the opinion of the greatest romancer in English
fiction, he begs the question when he inserts the words “however
unfortunate.” An unfortunate love-affair in youth exercises without
doubt a lasting good effect on any man who has grit in him, it is the
fortunate ones that, paradoxically, are often so unfortunate.

Perhaps no word in the English language has ever been misused like
poor “romance”; Jane was not devoid of it, in almost every case she
distinguishes between the real and the false, Marianne’s silly girlish
admiration for Willoughby, and Emma’s purely imaginary inclination
toward Frank Churchill, are alike shown to be false, and founded only
on that fleeting attraction which both men and women in early youth
feel for the admirable person of one of the opposite sex. There are
many persons still who think that this first flush of passion is
real romance; that a young man who, at the most susceptible moment of
his life, sees a pretty face, and falls a victim to it, perhaps even
without ever having spoken to its possessor, has struck the real thing.
This is to put love on the lowest basis of animalism. The beautiful
girl, whatever the nature that lies beneath, is sought by a score of
young men purely because she arouses in them their first instincts of
manhood, but perhaps to no one of them is she the real mate. Love, that
true deep attraction of the heart and mind, does not come so readily,
nor is it induced by personal attractions without further knowledge,
though it may well be enhanced by them. Many and many a man takes a
rash step into marriage, solely on the ground of external attraction,
to gratify a youthful impulse, and having himself fitted the harness
to his shoulders, spends the rest of his life in accommodating himself
to it, without making the process of accommodation too patent to the
eyes of the world. If he be a man at all, he realises that it was his
own doing entirely, and he must bear the responsibility. Such marriages
may, if the two be malleable and adaptable, turn out happily enough,
especially if, as does sometimes happen, love comes after marriage,
but the risk is a terrible one to take. The perpetuation of the race
is the most urgent necessity, so nature takes care to secure it at all
risks to the happiness of individuals; and certainly were it not for
the indulgence of this momentary madness of youth, which oddly enough
Sir Walter seems to regard as a form of unselfishness, the world would
have fewer married couples in it.

When Jane depicted the slow growth of Emma’s love for Knightley,
she drew wisely. Lord Brabourne has remarked that he wished Emma had
married Frank Churchill, and herein he shows his own superficial view
of human nature. Emma was a strong character strongly developed. She
must either have married, for her own happiness, a man who was her
master, or one whom she could completely guide; the world usually
accords the latter kind of marriage to such natures, and in the
character of Elinor Dashwood, who in some ways resembles Emma, we see
this alternative match, for she marries the hopelessly weak Edward
Ferrars; but Emma’s was the better match; for many a man has discovered
for himself that when a strong nature finds its master it gives a far
higher and nobler love and obedience than that given by a shallow one
whose opinions and ideas are merely wisps of fancy. Emma recognised
that Knightley was her master, his quiet audacity, his failure to
join in the general pæan of flattery she received, his manliness in
controlling his own feelings, appealed to her, and we may feel sure
that her self-surrender just gave that finishing touch of softening to
her nature which it needed; as a loving wife with full confidence in
the judgment and principle of the man she had chosen, she would grow
softer and kindlier every day of her life. She and Frank Churchill
would very soon have been disgusted with each other, for he was not so
weak as to have surrendered entirely to her authority, and constant
friction would have been the result of their mating. Jane Austen
does not make her ideal marriage a mere cementing of friendship, she
recognises that to be perfect it must have that element of personal
attraction which, to fastidious minds, alone makes marriage possible.
Mr. Knightley was Emma’s friend and adviser from the first, but not
until her inclination for him was revealed in a lightning flash did
the idea of marrying him enter her head. The difference between this
personal inclination and the fantasy of youth is, that what is cause in
the one is effect in the other. In the case of real love, the personal
appearance is loved because of the personality behind it; in the
spurious attraction the personal appearance is the first consequence,
and the character behind it is idealised, with the constant result of
woeful disillusionment. In one place Jane shows how fully she realised
the difference between the true and the false by a little saying,
“Three and twenty—a period when, if a man chooses a wife, he generally
chooses ill.”

In the softest and most tender of her books, _Persuasion_, she gives
a beautiful picture of a girl’s real love, a love which lasted through
time and brought out what was best in the character, and in one of the
most charming scenes in this novel, Anne Elliot, the heroine, gives her
views on men’s and women’s constancy thus—

“‘Your [men’s] feelings may be the strongest,’ replied Anne, ‘but the
same spirit of analogy will authorise me to assert that ours are the
most tender. Man is more robust than woman, but he is not longer lived;
which exactly explains my view of the nature of their attachments.
Nay, it would be too hard upon you if it were otherwise. You have
difficulties, and privations, and dangers enough to struggle with. You
are always labouring and toiling, exposed to every risk and hardship.
Your home, country, friends, all quitted. Neither time, nor health,
nor life to be called your own. It would be too hard indeed if (with a
faltering voice) woman’s feelings were to be added to all this.’”

This, in spite of its somewhat glorified view of an ordinary man’s
career, is very touching, and still more so what follows—

“‘We can never expect to prove anything upon such a point. It is a
difference of opinion which does not admit of proof. We each begin
probably with a little bias towards our own sex; and upon that bias
build every circumstance in favour of it which has occurred within
our own circle.... I hope to do justice to all that is felt by you—I
believe you capable of everything great and good in your married lives.
I believe you equal to every important exertion and to every domestic
forbearance, so long as—if I may be allowed the expression—so long as
you have an object. I mean while the woman you love lives and lives
for you. All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very
enviable one, you need not covet it) is that of loving longest, when
existence or when hope is gone.’”

Natures which set their all on the chance of such a high throw as
the demand for a marriage combining personal attraction and real
suitability of character, know well that it is not likely that they
will win; people who ask only for personal attraction, and risk
all the rest, are in different case. But it is remarkable how the
growing generation of men are learning to look below the surface and
to take some trouble to find out the character of the girl who has
attracted them before binding themselves; men, even young men, do
not rush into marriage with the same lack of all self-control that a
previous generation did. With the evaporation of the sentimentality
of the Victorian period there has come also a far higher ideal of
marriage, and a man demands more of his wife than evanescent personal

Though Jane set love at a high altitude, she was perfectly free from
false sentiment or silly sentimentality. She says in one place of a
man who loves hopelessly, “It is no creed of mine, as you must be well
aware, that such sorts of disappointments kill anybody.”

And her delightful sense of humour shows up in an inimitable light
the foolish weakness of a girl suffering from a purely imaginary
love-affair. The occasion is after the disillusionment of poor
sentimental Harriet as to the real feelings of Mr. Elton, whom she had
been encouraged by Emma to regard as an unexpressed lover. “Harriet
came one morning to Emma with a small parcel in her hand, and after
sitting down and hesitating thus began—

“‘Miss Woodhouse, if you are at leisure, I have something that I should
like to tell you; a sort of confession to make—and then you know it
will be over.’

“Emma was a good deal surprised, but begged her to speak....

“‘How could I be so long fancying myself—,’ cried Harriet warmly. ‘It
seems like madness! I can see nothing at all extraordinary in him now,
I do not care whether I meet him or not, except that of the two I had
rather not see him; and indeed I would go any distance round to avoid
him, but I do not envy his wife in the least; I neither admire her
nor envy her as I have done. She is very charming, I daresay, and all
that, but I think her very ill-tempered and disagreeable; I shall never
forget her look the other night. However, I assure you, Miss Woodhouse,
I wish her no evil. No, let them be ever so happy together, it will
not give me another moment’s pang; and, to convince you that I have
been speaking the truth, I am now going to destroy—what I ought to have
destroyed long ago—what I ought never to have kept; I know that very
well (blushing as she spoke). However, now I will destroy it all, and
it is my particular wish to do it in your presence, that you may see
how rational I am grown. Cannot you guess what this parcel holds?’ said
she with a conscious look.

“‘Not the least in the world. Did he ever give you anything?’

“‘No, I cannot call them gifts, but they are things that I have valued
very much.’

“She held the parcel towards her and Emma read the words, ‘Most
precious treasures’ on the top. Her curiosity was greatly excited.
Harriet unfolded the parcel and she looked on with impatience. Within
abundance of silver paper was a pretty little Tunbridge-ware box,
which Harriet opened; it was well lined with the softest cotton; but
excepting the cotton, Emma saw only a small piece of court-plaister.

“‘Now,’ said Harriet, ‘you _must_ recollect.’

“‘No, indeed, I do not.’

“‘Dear me! I should not have thought it possible that you could forget
what passed in this very room about court-plaister, one of the very
last times we ever met in it.... Do not you remember his cutting his
finger with your new pen-knife, and your recommending court-plaister?
But, as you had none about you, and knew I had, you desired me to
supply him; and so I took mine out, and cut him a piece; but it was
a great deal too large, and he cut it smaller, and kept playing some
time with what was left before he gave it back to me. And so then, in
my nonsense, I could not help making a treasure of it; so I put it by,
never to be used, and looked at it now and then as a great treat.’

“‘My dearest Harriet!’ cried Emma, putting her hands before her
face, and jumping up, ... ‘And so you actually put this piece of
court-plaister by for his sake,’ ... and secretly she added to herself,
‘Lord bless me! when should I ever have thought of putting by in cotton
a piece of court-plaister that Frank Churchill had been pulling about!
I never was equal to this.’

“‘Here,’ resumed Harriet, turning to her box again, ‘here is something
still more valuable,—I mean that _has been_ more valuable,—because this
is what did really once belong to him, which the court-plaister never

“Emma was quite eager to see this superior treasure. It was the end of
an old pencil, the part without any lead.

“‘This was really his,’ said Harriet. ‘Do not you remember one morning?
... I forget exactly the day ... he wanted to make a memorandum in his
pocket-book; it was about spruce beer ... and he wanted to put it down;
but when he took out his pencil there was so little lead that he soon
cut it all away, and it would not do, so you lent him another, and this
was left upon the table as good for nothing. But I kept my eye upon it;
and, as soon as I dared, caught it up, and never parted with it again
from that moment.’...

“‘My poor dear Harriet! and have you actually found happiness in
treasuring up these things?’

“‘Yes, simpleton as I was!—but I am quite ashamed of it now, and wish I
could forget as easily as I can burn them. It was very wrong of me, you
know, to keep any remembrances after he was married. I knew it was—but
had not resolution enough to part with them.’”

This is pure comedy!

In Jane Austen’s day there certainly was an openness in the
arrangements about marriage that jars on our more reticent minds.
Of course it is undeniable that at that time a girl’s only vocation,
unless she happened to be a genius, was marriage, but the way in which
suitability as to means and position were frequently considered as
of all importance, and love merely as a secondary consideration, is
slightly perturbing. Jane Austen’s high ideal of marriage must have
been rarer then than at the present time. Perhaps the best example of
the shameless discussion of the _mariage de convenance_ in the novels
is the interview between Elinor Dashwood and her brother, when Colonel
Brandon has shown some slight attention to her. Her brother begins by

“‘Who is Colonel Brandon? Is he a man of fortune?’

“‘Yes, he has very good property in Dorsetshire.’

“‘I am glad of it. He seems a most gentlemanlike man; and I think,
Elinor, I may congratulate you on the prospect of a very respectable
establishment in life.’

“‘Me, brother! what do you mean?’

“‘He likes you. I observed him narrowly, and am convinced of it. What
is the amount of his fortune?’

“‘I believe about two thousand a year.’

“‘Two thousand a year!’ Then working himself up to a pitch of
enthusiastic generosity, he added, ‘Elinor, I wish with all my heart it
were twice as much for your sake.’

“‘Indeed, I believe you,’ replied Elinor, ‘but I am very sure that
Colonel Brandon has not the smallest wish of marrying me.’

“‘You are mistaken, Elinor; you are very much mistaken. A very little
trouble on your side secures him. Perhaps just at present he may
be undecided; the smallness of your fortune may make him hang back;
his friends may all advise him against it. But some of those little
attentions and encouragements which ladies can so easily give will fix
him in spite of himself. And there can be no reason why you should not
try for him. It is not to be supposed that any prior attachment on your
side—in short you know, as to an attachment of that kind it is quite
out of the question, the objections are insurmountable—Colonel Brandon
must be the man; and no civility shall be wanting on my part to make
him pleased with you and your family. It is a match that must give
universal satisfaction.’”

The “prior attachment” was that to his own brother-in-law, Edward
Ferrars, for whom his wife hoped to get a better match, and as a matter
of fact the man in question, Colonel Brandon, was not in love with
Elinor, but with her impulsive sister, Marianne, who was wasting away
under the slights of Willoughby. Of her, her brother kindly remarks—

“‘At her time of life, anything of an illness destroys the bloom
for ever! Hers has been a very short one! She was as handsome a girl
last September as ever I saw, and as likely to attract the men. There
was something in her style of beauty to please them particularly. I
remember Fanny used to say she would marry sooner and better than you
did; she will be mistaken, however. I question whether Marianne now
will marry a man worth more than five or six hundred a year at the
utmost, and I am very much deceived if you do not do better.’

“Elinor tried very seriously to convince him that there was no
likelihood of her marrying Colonel Brandon, but it was an expectation
of too much pleasure to himself to be relinquished.... He had just
compunction enough for having done nothing for his sisters himself to
be exceedingly anxious that everyone else should do a great deal.”

And John Dashwood’s idea of the barter of women for so much, according
to their attractions, though it differed not in essentials from that of
a Circassian slave-dealer, was quite an ordinary one. The un-blushing
eagerness with which any heiress was literally pursued, the desperate
devices to get portionless daughters married, doubtless have their
counterparts now, but they are not so prominent; portionless daughters
of wit and talent can make lives for themselves, independent of
matrimony, and heiress hunters have at least the decency to pretend
they are in love.

In view of the ideas of her times, Jane’s ideal of marriage stands out
conspicuously. She wanted all her heroines to have every probability
of happiness in the marriage state, and though perhaps she did not
consciously set to work to consider what would make them so in so
many words, it is remarkable that certain points which, from her
own observations of the human race, were the best foundations for
married happiness, are to be found in every one of the marriages of
her principal characters. The first essential which we have already
touched upon was suitability of character. Poor Marianne Dashwood and
the ardent Willoughby would have tried each other desperately with the
vehemence of their enthusiasm; in six months they would have loathed
each other as ardently as they had loved, therefore Marianne is not
allowed to marry Willoughby, but mates with Colonel Brandon, the sort
of man who would exercise an unconscious influence over her, teaching
her self-control, and who would be kindly indulgent to her whims and
wishes, not clashing with them on his own account.

The second essential, which is fulfilled in every case of the principal
characters in the novels, is that the marriages are real unions, not
those accidental associations which are based on imagination. Her men
and women get to know each other thoroughly by constant intercourse,
until the faults and virtues, the defects and abilities, are clear
and plain. Jane knew that real love may begin by attraction, but must
be built upon knowledge. In not a single case is a pretty face or a
handsome person the reason for a man’s or woman’s falling in love.
Darcy considers Elizabeth Bennet only “tolerable” when he first sees
her, it is when he begins to care for her that he notes her “fine
eyes.” Though Catherine Morland was a pretty girl, it was not that
which won Henry Tilney, but her naïve adoration of himself, and her
sweet sincerity. Edmund Bertram runs after Miss Crawford for a time,
but it is the excellence of Fanny’s mind which gives him his life’s
happiness, and so on through all.

The third essential in Jane’s mind was evidently that the love of the
two should be mutual. In every case her heroine is genuinely in love
before she gives her consent to marriage. Fanny Bertram of course knew
her own love for Edmund long before his eyes were opened to the need
he had for her. Anne Elliot had bitterly regretted for many weary years
the fatal compliance with the wishes of her friends which had separated
her from the man she loved, and when he returns only to pay attentions
to another, and she imagines she has lost him for ever, she still
never swerves in her loyalty to him. Poor Elinor has the mortification
of hearing from the lips of a rival that Edward Ferrars is engaged
to her, but still her choice never falters. For women of this kind,
women of fine character, marriage without love is impossible; in the
abstract it is not a necessity, as it often seems to be to a man; if
they cannot have the one man they love, they will infinitely prefer to
remain single. We must admit that, as Anne Elliot says, the power of
loving longest remains with women, only we should amend to the extent
of saying with the noblest women.

Many men hold that woman’s love is not essential to a happy marriage,
so long as they are in love with the woman they make their wife they
think that her love is not necessary. This arises purely from want
of imagination. They themselves, marrying a woman they passionately
admire, start with all the glamour and glory which suffices to
veil the difficult beginnings of a _menage à deux_; but the woman,
who enters without this help, has to expend an immense amount of
patience and self-control over wearisome domestic details, which
would be transformed into pure joy if she also saw through a glorified
atmosphere. A match where the woman does not love is very hard on her.
It is, of course, perfectly true that the ardent love of a man has
often won a woman’s love in return; many a happy marriage has sprung
from this beginning; but any man who is not more selfish than the rest
of his sex, should try to assure himself that the love is there before

Of course to a man it is incredible that girls will consent to marry
when they do not love; why should they? One knows it is not always
the prospect of a home and maintenance, one would scorn to assess
woman’s nature at so low a rate. There is no real explanation, though
possibly dense ignorance and girlish impulse toward the excitement, and
the trivial accessories of a bride’s position, may be the most usual
contributory causes. If this is so, as woman increases in intelligence
and reasonable knowledge, that is to say, as she becomes more fit to
be a real mate to man, so will man find it increasingly difficult to
persuade her into a one-sided-love marriage, oftentimes so disastrous
to both, and at the best such a makeshift for what might be.



Jane Austen’s life was very largely passed among her own relations, her
visits away from home were nearly always to the houses of her brothers.

In the August of 1796 she went to stay with her brother Edward, at
Rowling, a little place in Kent, near Goodnestone. Edward had been
married for some time to Elizabeth Bridges, daughter of Sir Brook
Bridges of Goodnestone. He had, as has been already stated, been
adopted by his relative, Mr. Knight of Godmersham in Kent and Chawton
in Hampshire, and had taken his name. This Mr. Knight had died two
years previously, and left Edward his heir, subject to the widow’s
life-interest, but Mrs. Knight herself loved Edward like a son and
retired from Godmersham in his favour. At this date, however, the
family had not yet moved there, but continued to live at Rowling. Of
the pleasant country life at Rowling we get several graphic touches.
“We were at a ball on Saturday, I assure you. We dined at Goodnestone,
and in the evening danced two country dances and the Boulangeries. I
opened the ball with Edward Bridges; the other couples were Lewis Cage
and Harriet, Frank and Louisa, Fanny and George. Elizabeth played one
country dance, Lady Bridges the other, which she made Henry dance with
her, and Miss Finch played the Boulangeries.”

The Boulangeries seems to have been an innovation adopted from France,
and occasionally formed the last figure of a quadrille, which had many
variations, “either with a ‘Chassecroise,’ or with ‘la boulangère,’ ‘la
corbeille,’ ‘le Moulinet,’ or ‘la ste Simonienne.’”

Of the couples mentioned above, Lewis Cage had married Fanny Bridges;
Harriet and Louisa were two young unmarried sisters; Frank and Henry,
Jane’s brothers. Henry Austen seems to have been of a very unsettled
disposition; in Jane’s first letter she says,—”Henry is still hankering
after the Regulars, and as his project of purchasing the adjutancy
of the Oxfordshire is now over, he has got a scheme in his head
about getting a lieutenancy and adjutancy in the 86th., a new raised
regiment, which he fancies will be ordered to the Cape of Good Hope.”

Later on Henry became Receiver-General for Oxfordshire, afterwards he
was partner in a bank, and when the bank broke in 1816, he took Orders,
and on the death of his brother James he held the living of Steventon
for a short time until one of his brother Edward’s younger boys was
ready for it.

After the impromptu evening’s entertainment at Goodnestone the party
walked home under the shade of two umbrellas. Another day they dined at
Nackington, returning by moonlight in two carriages.

Visits were of long duration in days when getting about was so costly
and difficult a process; Jane stayed on with her brother until October,
and in September she records: “Edward and Fly went out yesterday very
early in a couple of shooting jackets, and came home like a couple of
bad shots, for they killed nothing at all. They are out again to-day,
and are not yet returned. Delightful sport! They are just come home,
Edward with his two brace, Frank with his two and a half. What amiable
young men!” She also records: “We are very busy making Edward’s shirts
and I am proud to say I am the neatest worker of the party”; and again,
“Little Edward [her brother’s eldest boy] was breeched yesterday for
good and all, and was whipped into the bargain.”

This is very small beer, but it suffices to give a sketch of the
pleasant family life, where half the neighbours were related to each
other and on cordial terms, where entertainments were simple and
spontaneous, though it was an age that we are accustomed to regard as
one of the most formal in social history.

Jane alludes to her difficulties of tipping. “I am in great distress.
I cannot determine whether I shall give Richis half a guinea or only
five shillings when I go away. Counsel me, most amiable Miss Austen,
and tell me which will be the most.”

We are accustomed to consider our own age as lying under the thraldom
of tips, as none ever did before, but it is nothing to what the end of
the eighteenth century was in this respect. When people went to dinner
they were expected to tip the servants, who sometimes stood in long
rows in the hall waiting the customary douceur.

As for hotels, they were worse than to-day, for it must be remembered
money was of greater relative value. In a letter from a “Constant
Reader” to _The Times_ in October 1795, the vexed subject of tips is

“If a man who has a horse, puts up at an inn, besides the usual bill,
he must at least give 1s. to the waiter, 6d. to the chambermaid, 6d.
to the ostler, and 6d. to the jack-boot, making together 2s. 6d. At
breakfast you must give at least 6d. between the waiter and Hostler.
If the traveller only puts up to have a refreshment, besides paying
for his horses standing he must give 3d. to the hostler, at dinner 6d.
to the waiter and 3d. to the hostler; at tea 6d. between them, so that
he gives away in the day 2s. 6d., which, added to the 2s. 6d. for the
night, makes 5s. per day on an average to servants.”

Jane did not expect to be able to return to Steventon until about the
middle of October, but it was necessary to lay plans long before so
as to arrange if possible for the escort of one of her brothers, as
it was not thought at all the proper thing for a young lady to go by
herself on a journey, and considering the changes at inn-yards and
many stoppages, this is not to be wondered at. Just at this time Frank
Austen received a naval appointment, and had to be up in town the next
day, September 21, so Jane seized the opportunity to go with him. “As
to the mode of our travelling to town, I want to go in a stage coach,
but Frank will not let me.” This means of course that they would have
to travel post, a much more expensive performance.

The whole subject of travelling is one of the things that bring more
vividly before us than any other the difference of the then and the

In 1755 an Act was passed compelling districts all over the country
to make turnpike roads and charge toll accordingly; before this date
the state of the roads had been too terrible for description, and even
after it road-making progressed but slowly, for it was not until the
beginning of the nineteenth century that Macadam’s improvements were

Up to 1755 roads had been made certainly after a fashion, and many
Acts had been passed with the object of improving them, but these
had not had much effect. Even the great Act of 1755 seemed to be
of little practical efficacy, for between 1760 and 1764 inclusive,
upwards of four hundred and fifty Acts of Parliament were passed in
order to effect the formation of new, and the repair and alteration
of old, highways throughout the country, so Parliament certainly
cannot be accused of regarding the matter with indifference. Many are
the complaints of travellers. Arthur Young in his well-known _Tour_
mentions the roads frequently: “Much more to be condemned is the
execrable muddy road from Bury to Sudbury in Suffolk, in which I was
forced to move as slow as in any unmended lane in Wales. For ponds of
liquid dirt and a scattering of loose flints just sufficient to lame
every horse that moves near them, with the addition of cutting vile
grips across the road, under pretence of letting water off, but without
the effect, altogether render at least twelve of these sixteen miles
as infamous a turnpike as ever was travelled. Their method of mending
the last mentioned road I found excessively absurd, for in parts of
it the sides are higher than the middle, and the gravel they bring in
is nothing more but a yellow loam with a few stones in it, through
which the wheels of a light chaise cut as easily as in sand, with
the addition of such floods of watery mud as renders the road, on the
whole, inferior to nothing but an unmended Welsh lane. From Chepstow to
the half way house between Newport and Cardiff they continue mere rocky
lanes, full of hugeous stones as big as one’s horse, and abominable

Though the stones as “big as one’s horse” must be allowed for as
the pardonable exaggeration of a traveller’s tale, it is true that
the method of road mending previous to Macadam was nothing more than
setting down enormous stones to be crushed in by passing wheels, but as
they were not set close, the wheels went bumping into the mud between,
and the force of the jolt instead of setting the stones pushed them
out of position ever worse and worse. “Where they are mending, as they
call it, you travel over a bed of loose stones none of less size than
an octavo volume, and where not mended ‘tis like a staircase.”

As for the means of conveyance over these vile highways, before
the making of turnpike-roads waggons had been the usual method,
and flying coaches, as they were at first called, were considered a
great improvement; however, coach fares were high, and even after the
introduction of coaches many people who were unable to afford them
still travelled by the slow-going waggon.

This mode of proceeding must have been inexpressibly wearisome; here is
an account of a journey made by such means from London to Greenwich—

“We were twenty-four passengers within side and nine without. It was
my lot to sit in the middle with a very lusty woman on one side, and a
very thin man on the other. ‘Open the window,’ said the former and she
had a child on her lap whose hands were all besmeared with gingerbread.
‘It can’t be opened,’ said a little prim coxcomb, ‘or I shall get
cold.’ ‘But I say it shall, sir,’ said a butcher who sat opposite to
him, and the butcher opened it; but as he stood, or rather bent forward
to do this, the caravan came into a rut and the butcher’s head, by the
suddenness of the jolt, came into contact with that of the woman who
sat next to me, and made her nose bleed. He begged her pardon and she
gave him a slap on the face that sounded through the whole caravan.
Two sailors that were seated near the helm of this machine, ordered the
driver to cast anchor at the next public house. He did so and the woman
next to me called for a pint of ale which she offered to me, after she
had emptied about a pint of it, observing, ‘that as how she loved ale
mightily.’ I could not drink, at which she took offence.... A violent
dispute now arose between two stout-looking men, the one a recruiting
sergeant, the other a gentleman’s coachman, about the Rights of Man....
Another dispute afterwards was about politics, which was carried on
with such warmth as to draw the attention of the company to the head of
the caravan, where the combatants sat wedged together like two pounds
of Epping butter, whilst a child incessantly roared at the opposite
side, and the mother abused the two politicians for frightening her
babe. The heat was now so great that all the windows were opened, and
with the fresh air entered clouds of dust, for the body of the machine
is but a few inches from the surface of the road.”

If one can imagine this kind of thing continuing for hour after hour,
while one’s bones ached with the cramp, and one was stupefied with
the noise and smell, one gains some idea of the delights of waggon

We find an account of the roads actually in Hampshire, Jane Austen’s
own county, in the correspondence of Lady Newdigate (_The Cheverels of
Cheverel Manor_). In giving an account of going from Arbury (Warwick)
to Stanstead near Portsmouth in 1795, she says: “The sisters were
decidedly for going through Reading and Farnham, but Mr. Cotton, from
consultation of maps and conversation with postillions, believed it
would be full as good and pleasant and a much shorter road to go by
Basingstoke and Alton. In the first of these places we found it 19
miles instead of 15, and were informed that instead of ten miles good
turnpike to Alton there was not above three miles made, and the rest so
cut as to be impassable for such a carriage as mine; in short that we
had twelve miles across country road ... the consequence was that we
had eight miles bad road out of 16, and was an hour in the dark. But
the poneys performed wonders.”

Lady Newdigate also gives the cost of this journey, which is
interesting: “We paid 14d. per mile great part of the way for the
chaisehorses, and 6d. all the way for the saddle horse; the whole,
baits and sleepings included, comes to above £24 to this place.”

On the way to Brighton, two years later, she says, “I never saw this
road so rotted, so heavy, or so deep. It was with difficulty my poor
poneys could drag us.”

We have therefore a tolerable notion of the fatigues attendant on a
journey in those days.

Another drawback was, that if one wished to travel by coach instead
of going post, one could not always be sure of a place unless booked
beforehand. This kind of thing frequently happened—

“I was called up early—to be ready for the coach, but judge my
disappointment and chagrin, when on my approach I found it chock-full.
I petitioned, reasoned, urged and entreated, but all to no effect. I
could not make any impression on the obdurate souls, who, proud and
sulky, kept easy and firm possession of their seats, and hardly deigned
to answer, when I requested permission to squeeze in. I was hoisted
on the coach box as the only alternative; but on the first movement
of the vehicle, had it not been for the arm of the coachman, I should
have been instantly under the wheels in the street. I was chucked into
a basket as a place of more safety, though not of ease or comfort,
where I suffered most severely from the jolting, particularly over the
stones; it was most truly dreadful and made one suffer almost equal to
sea sickness.” (Tate Wilkinson, _Memoirs_.)

This basket was actually a basket slung on for the purpose of carrying
luggage, though it was also used for passengers, and sometimes filled
with people in spite of its discomfort, because seats here were charged
at a low price.

Richard Thomson, in _Tales of an Antiquary_, gives a very good
word-picture of a stage coach: “Stage coaches were constructed
principally of a dull black leather, thickly studded by way of ornament
with broad black head nails tracing out the panels, in the upper
tier of which were four oval windows with heavy red wooden frames or
leathern curtains. The roofs of the coaches in most cases rose in a
swelling curve. Behind the coach was the immense basket, stretching far
and wide beyond the body, to which it was attached by long iron bars
or supports passing beneath it. The wheels of these old carriages were
large, massive, ill-formed and usually of a red colour, and the three
horses that were affixed to the whole machine were all so far parted
from it by the great length of their traces that it was with no little
difficulty that the poor animals dragged their unwieldly burden along
the road.”

   [Illustration: FROM “A SUMMER’S EVENING”]

The accidents attendant on coach journeys were many and various, and
the badness of the roads was the principal cause. In _Under England’s
Flag_, the autobiography of Captain Charles Boothby, R.E., we have this
account of what happened to him in 1805 when he first left home—

“Down to Portsmouth then I went on the outside of the mail, in the
highest health and the ardent spirits of youth, spirits that made, I
suppose, even my body buoyant and elastic, for the Mail overturned
in the night and threw me on the road without giving me so much as
a scratch or a bruise. It was about twenty miles from London when we
met a team of horses standing in a slant direction on the road, the
night very foggy with misting rain, and the lamps not penetrating
further into the mist than the rumps of the wheelers. The coachman, to
avoid the waggon, turned suddenly out of the way and ran up the bank.
Finding the coach staggering, I got up, with my face to the horses,
hardly daring to suppose it possible that the Mail could overturn,
when the unwieldly monster was on one wheel, and then down it came
with a terminal bang. During my descent I had just time to hope that
I might escape with the fracture of one or two legs, and then found
myself on my two shoulders, very pleased with the novelty and ease of
the journey. I got up and spied the monster with his two free wheels
whirling with great velocity, but quite compact and still in the
body, and as soon as I had shaken my feathers and opened my senses I
began to think of the one female and three males in the inside, whom
I supposed to be either dead or asleep. I ran to open the door, when
the guard, having thought of the same thing, did it for me, and we then
took the folks out one by one, like pickled ghirkins or anything else
preserved in a jar, by putting our hands to the bottom; we found that
the inmates were only stupefied, though all had bruises of some kind,
and one little gentleman complained that he was nipped in the loins by
the mighty pressure of his neighbour, who had sat upon him some time
after the door was opened to recollect himself or to give thanks for
his escape.”

Coaches did not as a rule run on Sundays, so passengers whose journeys
were to extend over several days had to take care to start early in the
week if they did not wish to pay expenses at an inn during the Sabbath.

This rule was, however, not stringently observed, as M. Grosley found
when he landed in England on his tour of observation—

“The great multitude of passengers with which Dover was then crowded,
formed a reason for dispensing with a law of the police, by which
public carriages are in England, forbid to travel on Sundays. I
therefore set out on a Sunday with seven more passengers in two
carriages called flying machines. These vehicles, which are drawn
by six horses, go twenty-eight leagues in a day from Dover to London
for a single guinea. Servants are entitled to a place for half that
money, either behind the coach or upon the coach box, which has three
places. A vast repository, under this seat, which is very lofty, holds
the passengers’ luggage, which is paid for separately. The coachmen,
whom we changed every time with our horses, were lusty, well made men,
dressed in good cloth.”

Among the advantages of travelling on a Sunday when coaches were not
expected, he enumerates that “we should meet none of those gentry who
are called collectors of the highway, and of whom there is a great
number upon the road; in fact we saw none of that sort, but such as
were hanging upon gibbets at the road side; there they dangle, dressed
from head to foot, and with wigs upon their heads.”

The Austen women do not seem at any time to have travelled by coach,
but always post, a much more comfortable method, ensuring privacy,
though it also had its disadvantages, as when one arrived at an inn
requiring change of horses only to find the Marquess of Carabbas had
passed on before with a whole retinue of attendants, taking every horse
in the stable, and the second comers were therefore compelled to wait
until the return of the jaded steeds, and to use them again when the
poor beasts had only had half the rest they deserved. The keeping of
horses was a necessary branch of the business of every inn-keeper on
the high-road, a branch which is now seldom called for, so that it is
only at very large establishments, or those in the most out-of-the-way
districts where trains come not, that “posting in all its branches”
forms part of the landlord’s boast.


Though one lady could not very well go alone on a journey, for two
ladies to travel together was considered quite proper. In 1798, Jane
and her mother returning from Godmersham managed for themselves very
well. Jane says, “You have already heard from Daniel, I conclude, in
what excellent time we reached and quitted Sittingbourne and how very
well my mother bore her journey thither.... She was a very little
fatigued on her arrival at this place, has been quite refreshed by a
comfortable dinner, and now seems quite stout. It wanted five minutes
of twelve when we left Sittingbourne, from whence we had a famous pair
of horses, which took us to Rochester in an hour and a quarter; the
postboy seemed determined to show my mother that Kentish drivers were
not always tedious.

“Our next stage was not quite so expeditiously performed; the road was
heavy and our horses very indifferent. However we were in such good
time, and my mother bore her journey so well, that expedition was of
little importance to us; and as it was, we were very little more than
two hours and a half coming hither, and it was scarcely past four when
we stopped at the inn. My mother took some of her bitters at Ospringe,
and some more at Rochester, and she ate some bread several times. We
sat down to dinner a little after five, and had some beefsteak and a
boiled fowl, but no oyster sauce.”

Though Jane refused to avail herself of the very present excitement
of highwaymen in any of her novels, she might legitimately have done
so, for these perils were by no means imaginary; the newspapers of the
latter part of the eighteenth century are full of accounts of these
pests, who were seldom caught.

Mrs. Lybbe Powys says—

“The conversation was for some time on a subject you’d hardly
imagine—robbery. Postchaises had been stopped from Hodges to Henley,
about three miles; but though the nights were dark we had flambeaux.
Miss Pratt and I thought ourselves amazingly lucky; we were in their
coach, ours next, and the chaise behind that, robbed. It would have
been silly to have lost one’s diamonds so totally unexpected, and
diamonds it seems they came after, more in number than mine indeed.”

The Duke of York and one of his brothers were robbed of watches,
purses, etc., when they were returning late at night in a hackney coach
along Hay Hill.

In 1786, Horace Walpole mentions, “The mail from France was robbed
last night in Pall Mall, at half an hour after eight, yes! in the great
thoroughfare of London, and within call of the guard at the Palace. The
chaise had stopped, the harness was cut, and the portmanteau was taken
out of the chaise itself.”

The travellers who had to give up their valuables were numberless, and
many ladies took to carrying secondary purses full of false money,
which, with hypocritical tears they handed out on compulsion. There
was really not much risk in the business of a highwayman, if a man
had a good horse and good nerve. The poor citizens he robbed were not
fighting men, and though the penalty of hanging was the award if my
well-mannered and gallant gentleman were caught, yet his chances of
escape were many. The wonder is not that highwaymen were so numerous,
but that, with the cumbersome methods of capturing and dealing with
them, any of them were ever caught at all.



The end of the eighteenth century was an age when merit in literature
was an Open Sesame to the very best society that the capital could
supply. An author who had brought out a work a little above the
average was received and fêted, not only by the literary set, who
rapidly passed her or him on from one to another, but by the persons
of the highest social rank also. London was so much smaller then, that
there was not room for all the grades and sets that now run parallel
without ever overlapping. When anyone was made welcome they were free
of all the best society at once, and the ease with which some people
slipped into the position of social lions on the strength of very
small performance is little short of wonderful. When Hannah More first
visited London, in 1774, she was plunged at once into the society of
men of letters, of wit, of learning, and of rank. Her plays, which to
our taste are intolerably stiff and dull, were accepted by Garrick,
she became his personal friend, and he introduced her to everyone
whose acquaintance was worth having. The Garricks’ house became her
second home, and she met Bishops by the half dozen, visited the Lord
Chamberlain at Apsley House, and was on familiar terms with Sheridan,
Johnson, Walpole, Reynolds, and many another whose name is still a
household word in England.

In those days the same people met again and again at each other’s
houses, more after the fashion of a country town than of that of London
at present. Indeed they seem to have spent the whole day and most of
the night running after each other. There is one custom which we must
all be thankful exists no longer, the intolerable fashion of morning
calls. Calls are bad enough now as custom decrees, but we are at least
free from the terror of people dropping in upon us before the day’s
work is begun. When staying in Northumberland Miss Mitford remarks,
“Morning calls are here made so early, that one morning three different
people called before we had done breakfast.” Hannah More looked on
a morning visit as an immorality, yet she breakfasted with a Bishop,
afterwards going to an evening party with another on the same day! She,
being of a sensible mind, soon grew tired of the ceaseless talk, though
much of it may have been good stuff and worthy of preservation, and
she rejoiced when she could get a day to herself, and deny herself to

After Garrick’s death, when she came to stay with his brave but
heart-broken widow she lived very quietly. “My way of life is very
different from what it used to be. After breakfast I go to my own
apartment for several hours, where I read, write and work; very seldom
letting anybody in. At four we dine. We have the same elegant table
as usual, but I generally confine myself to one single dish of meat.
I have taken to drink half a glass of wine. At six we have coffee; at
eight tea, when we have sometimes, a dowager or two of quality. At ten
we have sallad and fruits.”

This was in 1779, and two years previously her play _Percy_ had been
brought out with extraordinary success; she says of it herself, “far
beyond my expectation,” and it produced more excitement than any
tragedy had done for many years. The author’s rights, sale of copy,
etc., amounted to near six hundred pounds, and “as my friend Mr.
Garrick has been so good as to lay it out for me on the best security
and at five per cent., it makes a decent little addition to my small
income. Cadell gave £150, a very handsome price, with conditional
promises. He confesses that it had had a very great sale and that he
shall get a good deal of money by it. The first impression is near four
thousand and the second is almost sold.”

It is customary to think of Hannah More as so quiet and Quakerish that
the idea of her writing plays and living a gay society life is new to
many people, but the seriousness and retirement came later.

Considering how easily the heights of celebrity were stormed at that
time, and especially by a woman, it is most remarkable that Jane
received no encouragement, and had no literary society, and not one
literary correspondent in the whole of her lifetime. Of course her
first novel was not published until 1811, and then anonymously, with
the simple inscription “By a Lady” on the title-page, yet it sold well
and became very popular, and though no effort was made to proclaim
her the authoress certainly there was no rigid attempt to hide her
personality. Before the publication of _Emma_ her identity was known,
for she was requested to dedicate this book to the Prince Regent, as
will be related in due course. And this was the only recognition of any
public sort she received. Many of her contemporaries were brought up
in a sort of hotbed of intellect, and associated with men of talent and
distinction from their cradles—what a wonderful quickening and impetus
must this have brought with it! Jane had none of these advantages, her
genius was her own entirely, and her material of the slightest; she
had no contemporaries of original talent with which to exchange ideas,
to strike out sparks or receive suggestions. She did not mingle with
people of her own calibre at all. Herein Miss Burney had an immense
advantage over her, from her babyhood she was surrounded by men and
women of distinction. Her father, himself an author and possessing
musical talent, drew to his house all sorts of persons. Macaulay
says, “It would be tedious to recount the names of all the men of
letters and artists whom Fanny Burney had an opportunity of seeing and
hearing. Hundreds of remarkable persons had passed in review before
her, English, French, German, Italian, lords and fiddlers, deans of
cathedrals and managers of theatres, travellers leading about newly
caught savages, and singing-women escorted by deputy-husbands.” She was
fêted, caressed and brought forward until she accepted the appointment
at the court which condemned her to a weary round of dull duties, and
must have made her life appear like a draught of ditch-water after the
heady champagne to which she was accustomed.

But the London of 1811, when we have the first record of Jane’s
visiting it, was not what it had been thirty years before. Johnson was
dead, Walpole was dead, Garrick was dead, Reynolds was dead, Sheridan
living but sunk in debt and disease; of the brilliant band that Hannah
More had known few were left. Doctor Johnson had died fourteen years
previously, when Jane was only nine years old. Miss Burney had had not
only his friendship but his help in the revision of her works—perhaps a
doubtful privilege. To quote Lord Macaulay again: “When she wrote her
early journals, and her novel of _Evelina_, her style was not indeed
brilliant or energetic; but it was easy, clear, and free from all
offensive faults. When she wrote _Cecilia_ she aimed higher. She had
then lived much in a circle of which Johnson was the centre; and she
was herself one of his most submissive worshippers.... In an evil hour
the author of _Evelina_ took the _Rambler_ for her model. She had her
style. It was a tolerably good one; she determined to throw it away to
adopt a style in which she could attain excellence only by achieving
an almost miraculous victory over nature and over habit. In _Cecilia_
the imitation of Johnson, though not always in the best taste, is
sometimes eminently happy. There were people who whispered that Johnson
had assisted his young friend and that the novel owed all its finest
passages to his hand. This was merely the fabrication of envy.”

But after the death of Johnson, “she had to write in Johnson’s manner
without Johnson’s aid. The consequence was that in _Camilla_ every
passage which she meant to be fine is detestable; and that the book has
been saved from condemnation only by the admirable spirit and force of
those scenes in which she was content to be familiar.”

After he had read _Camilla_, Walpole says of Miss Burney: “Alas! She
had reversed experience which I have long thought reverses its own
utility by coming at the wrong end of our life when we do not want
it. This author knew the world and penetrated characters before she
had stepped over the threshold; now she has seen so much of it she has
little or no insight at all.”

It was therefore, perhaps, lucky for Jane Austen that she was not so
overshadowed by the direct personality of a mighty man as to lose her
clear, bright English style. Her admiration for Miss Burney’s work was
decided and clearly expressed, and she was among the first subscribers
to _Camilla_ in 1796.

Though Jane never came into contact with the men and women who made
literature in her day, she took a keen interest in their works, and
was a great novel reader. She says in one place, “As an inducement to
subscribe (to her library) Mrs. Martin tells me that her collection
is not to consist only of novels but of every kind of literature. She
might have spared this pretension to our family, who are great novel
readers and not ashamed of being so.”

There are frequent references to novels in her letters: “We have got
_Fitz-Albini_, my father has bought it against my private wishes, for
it does not quite satisfy my feelings that we should purchase the only
one of Egerton’s works of which his family are ashamed.”

In another place: “To set against your new novel, of which nobody ever
heard before, and perhaps never may again, we have got _Ida of Athens_
by Miss Owenson, which must be very clever because it was written the
authoress says in three months. We have only read the preface yet,
but her Irish girl does not make me expect much. If the warmth of her
language could affect the body it might be worth reading this weather.”

There were many writers thought highly of at the time of their writing,
who have yet dropped into oblivion to all but the student; among these
is Jane Porter, born a year later than Jane Austen, who published her
first romance, _Thaddeus of Warsaw_, in 1803, this was a great success,
and immediately ran through several editions; it was followed in 1810
by her _chef d’œuvre_ _The Scottish Chiefs_. In 1809, when it had just
come out, and was anonymous, Hannah More’s _Cœlebs in Search of a Wife_
came into Cassandra’s hands.

Jane writes of it: “You have by no means raised my curiosity after
Caleb. My disinclination for it before was affected but now it is
real. I do not like the evangelicals. Of course I shall be delighted
when I read it like other people, but till I do, I dislike it.” And in
her next letter she replies to her sister, “I am not at all ashamed
about the name of the novel, having been guilty of no insult towards
your handwriting; the diphthong I always saw, but knowing how fond you
were of adding a vowel wherever you could, I attributed it to that
alone, and the knowledge of the truth does the book no service; the
only merit it could have was in the name of Caleb, which has an honest
unpretending sound, but in Cœlebs there is pedantry and affectation. Is
it written only to classical scholars?”

_Cœlebs_ itself it must be admitted is dull, unqualifiedly dull. Jane
Austen’s own books are not novels of plot, but they radiate plot in
comparison. In _Cœlebs_ a procession of persons stalks solemnly through
the pages; they never reveal themselves by action, but are described
as by a Greek chorus by the other characters in conversation or by
the author, while long dry disquisitions on religion fill half, or
more than half, of the book, and Cœlebs himself is a prig of the first
water. Yet there are certain little touches which indicate a knowledge
of human nature, such as that of the man who has married a beauty, “Who
had no one recommendation but beauty. To be admired by her whom all his
acquaintance admired gratified his _amour-propre_.”

A book called _Self Control_, which appeared in 1810, by Mary Brunton,
the wife of a Scotch minister, had a fair measure of success, and was
reprinted as lately as 1852. Jane speaks very slightingly of it: “I am
looking over _Self Control_ again, and my opinion is confirmed of its
being an excellently meant, elegantly written work, without anything of
nature or probability in it. I declare I do not know whether Laura’s
passage down the American river is not the most natural possible
every-day thing she ever does.” Miss Mitford in regard to this book
quotes the opinions of two men, one of whom said it ought to be burnt
by the common hangman and the other that it ought to be written in
letters of gold, which shows that public opinion was as various in
those days as it is in these. In 1807, Jane mentions _Clarentine_, a
novel of Sarah Burney’s, who was a younger sister of the famous Miss
Burney; though the same author brought out another novel later, it was
evidently only because she followed in her sister’s wake, and not from
any inherent ability. Jane says, “We are reading _Clarentine_ and are
surprised to find how foolish it is. I remember liking it much less
on a second reading than at the first, and it does not bear a third at
all. It is full of unnatural conduct and forced difficulties, without
striking merit of any kind.”

But these impressions of long-forgotten books are hardly worth
recording, except as specimens of the quantities of worthless novels to
be had at the libraries then.

Samuel Rogers says, “Lane made a large fortune by the immense quantity
of trashy novels which he sent forth from the Minerva press. I
perfectly well remember the splendid carriage in which he used to ride,
and his footmen with their cockades and gold-headed canes. Now-a-days
as soon as a novel has had its run, and is beginning to be forgotten,
out comes an edition of it as a standard novel.”

In Miss Mitford’s Life is given a list of the books which she had from
the circulating library in a month, and which she presumably read, when
she was a girl just back from school. It is here quoted as, with one or
two exceptions, the titles tell the style of work in vogue.

“St. Margaret’s Cave; St. Claire of the Isles; Scourge of Conscience;
Emma Corbett; Poetical Miscellany; Vincenza; A Sailor’s Friendship
and a Sailor’s Love; The Castles of Athlin and Dumbayn; Polycratia;
Travels in Africa; Novice of St. Dominick; Clarentina; Leonora; Count
de Valmont; Letters of a Hindu Rajah; Fourth Vol. of Canterbury Tales;
The Citizen’s Quarter; Amazement; Midnight Weddings; Robert and Adela;
The Three Spaniards; De Clifford.”

In his _History of Eighteenth Century Literature_ Edmund Gosse says:
“The flourishing period of the eighteenth century novel lasted exactly
twenty-five years, during which time we have to record the publication
of no less than fifteen eminent works of fiction. The fifteen are
naturally divided into three groups. The first contains _Pamela_,
_Joseph Andrews_, _David Simple_ (Sarah Fielding) and _Jonathan Wild_.
In these books the art is still somewhat crude, and the science of
fiction incompletely understood. After a silence of five years we reach
the second and greatest section of this central period, during which
there appeared in quick succession, _Clarissa_, _Roderick Random_, _Tom
Jones_, _Peregrine Pickle_, _Amelia_ and _Sir Charles Grandison_ ...
there followed another silence of five years, and then were issued each
on the heels of the other, _Tristram Shandy_, _Rasselas_, _Chrysal_,
_The Castle of Otranto_ and _The Vicar of Wakefield_—five years later
still—_Humphrey Clinker_, and then, with one or two such exceptions
as _Evelina_ and _Caleb Williams_, no great novel appeared again in
England for forty years until in 1811 the new school of fiction was
inaugurated by _Sense and Sensibility_.”

Though we may not agree entirely with Mr. Gosse’s classification, this
paragraph is suggestive.

As we have seen in her brother’s record, Jane’s favourites in prose and
poetry respectively were Johnson and Cowper. These two are mentioned in
one sentence of hers: “We have got Boswell’s _Tour to the Hebrides_,
and are to have his _Life of Johnson_; and as some money will yet
remain in Burdon’s hands, it is to be laid out in the purchase of
Cowper’s works.”

She warmly admired Cowper, which is hardly wonderful, for, with some
manifest differences, Cowper was trying to do in poetry what she did
in prose. He was utterly lacking, of course, in her light vivacity of
touch and sense of humour, but he did genuinely try to describe what
he saw, not what he merely knew by hearing. The green fields and full
rivers of the Olney country are depicted with fidelity to detail and
clearness of line. Cowper was born in 1731, but his first volume of
verse was not published until 1782, and it was not until _The Task_
appeared a year or two later, with _John Gilpin_ in the same volume,
that he really came to his own.

In 1798, Jane writes: “My father reads Cowper to us in the morning to
which I listen when I can.” This implies no disparagement of the poet,
but merely that her numerous household duties did not always allow her
time to listen. In Morland’s picture, “Domestic Happiness,” we have a
scene which helps us to realise the family group at these readings.
The mother and daughter in their caps, with elbow-sleeves and white
kerchiefs, are dressed as Jane and her mother must have been, and the
plain simplicity of the part of the room shown is quite in accordance
with the rectory environment.

   [Illustration: DOMESTIC HAPPINESS]

Another of Jane’s favourite poets was Crabbe. Crabbe and Cowper are
both rather heavy reading, and of both it may be said that their poetry
is not poetical, but they are honestly seeking after truth and thus
they attracted Jane Austen. They were amongst the earliest of the
natural school which used the method of realism. Crabbe had a bitter
struggle to obtain a hearing, but his struggle was over before 1796.
Burke had taken him up, and in those days much depended on a patron. In
1781 he had published _The Library_, two years after _The Village_, and
two years later again came _The Newspaper_, and then he did not bring
out anything more until 1807.

It is, of course, very difficult to give any picture of contemporary
literature in Jane Austen’s time without degenerating into mere strings
of names. The fact that she herself came in contact with no one of
the first rank in literature prevents any of the characters from being
woven into her life. The books she mentions as having read are a mere
drop in the ocean compared with the books which came out in her time,
and which she probably, in some cases almost certainly, read. It
was a brilliant age as regards writing. Perhaps the best way to give
some general idea of those writers not already mentioned will be to
divide the time into three sections; and, without any attempt at being
exhaustive, to mention generally the leading names among the writers
who lived on into her epoch, but whose best work had been published
before her time; those who actually were contemporary in the sense
that their books, by which their names are known, were published in
her lifetime; and those whose names had not begun to be known when she
died, though the owners were born in her epoch.

First, then, those whose work was done; foremost among these was
Johnson, who has already been mentioned.

Walpole was considerably past middle-age at her birth, and died in
1797; Wesley’s collected _Works_ came out in 1771, and he died in 1791;
Adam Smith preceded him by a year.

The seventies in the eighteenth century produced numerous brilliant
men and women whose names still live; besides Jane Austen herself,
we have Sir Walter Scott, Hazlitt, Sydney Smith, Lamb, Sir Humphry
Davy, Coleridge, Southey, Wordsworth, Hogg, Thomas Moore, and Thomas
Campbell, who were all born in this decade, though, as the development
of a writer differs enormously in growth, some of them were much later
in making their appearance in print than others. Among the better
known names of women novelists not already mentioned we have Miss
Edgeworth, Jane Austen’s senior by eight years, whose first novel,
_Castle Rackrent_, was published anonymously in 1800. That Jane knew
and admired her work is obvious from the fact that she sent her a copy
of _Emma_ for a present on its publication. Mrs. Inchbald, born in
1753, was at first known as an actress, her _Simple Story_, by which
she is best remembered, was published in 1791. Mrs. Radcliffe, whose
romances induced Jane Austen to write _Northanger Abbey_ in mockery,
was very busy between 1789 and 1797, during which time she published
five novels, including her famous _Mysteries of Udolpho_ in 1794.
Joanna Baillie published a volume of verse in 1790, and her first
volume of plays in 1798; though almost forgotten now, she was taken
very seriously in her time, and her play _De Montfort_ was produced
at Drury Lane in 1800 by Mrs. Siddons and Kemble. Anna Seward, who
was born in 1747, lived to 1809; she, like Hannah More, was far more
praised and valued than any of her poor little productions warranted.

Sheridan brought out his famous play _The Rivals_ in the year of Jane’s
birth; it was at first a dead failure, but, nothing daunted, he cut
it about and altered it, and when reproduced two years subsequently it
attained success at once. The same year saw _The School for Scandal_,
and the following one _The Critic_. In this year also the first volume
of Gibbon’s great History appeared.

Burns, who had written some of his best work while Jane was still a
child, died in 1796, and the brilliant Burke the succeeding year.

Just to give some general idea of the wonderful fruitfulness of this
epoch it may also be mentioned that Samuel Rogers’ _Pleasures of
Memory_ came out in 1792; _Lyrical Ballads_, including Coleridge’s
_Ancient Mariner_ and some of Wordsworth’s poems, in 1798; Campbell’s
_Pleasures of Hope_ in 1799.

Byron was thirteen years younger than Jane, yet his precocity was so
great that his first book, _Hours of Idleness_, was produced in 1807.
The first two cantos of _Childe Harold_ followed in 1812, but the
whole poem was not completed until Jane was in her grave; the _Giaour_,
_Corsair_, etc., she must have known as new books a year or two before
her death.

Southey’s _Thalaba_ came out in the first year of the new century, and
Thomas Moore published the first of his _Irish Melodies_ in 1807.

Scott’s literary career began with the publication of a translation
of Burger’s “Lenore” in 1799, between that date and 1814 his poems
appeared at intervals, and in 1814 his first great novel _Waverley_.
Though it was anonymous, Jane seems to have discovered the secret of
the authorship, for she writes: “Walter Scott has no business to write
novels, especially good ones. It is not fair. He has fame and profit
enough as a poet and ought not to be taking the bread out of other
people’s mouths. I do not mean to like _Waverley_ if I can help it, but
I fear I must.” But she was not the only one to make such a conjecture,
for Miss Mitford having read _Waverley_ also imputes it unhesitatingly
to him, she says, “If there be any belief in internal evidence it
must be his.” Judging by these two specimens, the secret of Scott’s
anonymity was not the great mystery it is generally imagined to have

The third period, that of the great men who were actually contemporary
with Jane Austen, though she was unconscious of their existence, as
they did not win their laurels until after her death, is of course much
less interesting, and may be quickly dismissed, such names as those
of Lingard and Hallam among historians; Mill, Hazlitt, and De Quincey
belong by right of birth to an earlier epoch, though their works place
them in this.

Miss Ferrier and Miss Mitford, too, were not much younger than Jane
Austen, but neither had brought out anything noticeable before her
death. Miss Ferrier’s first novel, _Marriage_, made its appearance
in 1818; and though Miss Mitford had written poems, her _Our Village_
first appeared in the _Lady’s Magazine_ only in 1819. As we have seen,
Miss Mitford was a scholar at the same school as Jane Austen, though
many years later. She was also a native of Jane’s county, Hants.

In the last decade of the eighteenth century were born among poets:
Shelley, Keats, Hood, Keble, and Mrs. Hemans; among historians, Grote,
Alison, Napier, Carlyle, and Thirlwall; among men of science, Faraday
and Lyell; and among novelists, Marryat.

In the beginning of the nineteenth century we have a string of great
names; a trio of poets: Tennyson, Longfellow, and Browning; men of
science such as Darwin; historians such as Macaulay; novelists in
numbers, such as Dickens, Thackeray, Charles Reade, Harrison Ainsworth,
Bulwer Lytton, and Trollope; statesmen such as Gladstone and Disraeli.

Perhaps no forty years that could have been chosen at any period of
English history would have covered such a variety of talent, and that
of such a high order, as was given to the world during Jane Austen’s
brief life. And if she did not know personally the men whose names have
lived with her own, at all events she drew from their works inspiration
and knowledge, and she herself was not by any means the least among so
mighty a company.



When Jane returned home in October, after her pleasant visit to
Godmersham, she began her first real novel. She was then nearly
twenty-one, and the girlish scribblings in which she had delighted
began to be shaped into something more coherent. This very visit, with
all its bright intercourse, all its pleasant variety,—for she had been
thrown among a set of county people of better social standing than
those she usually saw,—may have quickened the germ, and been the cause
of her development. The book was at first called _First Impressions_,
and under this title she herself frequently refers to it; but some time
later she re-christened it by the name under which it was published.

The idea that the name _Pride and Prejudice_ was suggested by some
sentences at the end of _Cecilia_ has been mooted, and though
arguments against this supposition have been found, it appears
extremely probable. For in _Cecilia_ it is declared, “The whole of
this unfortunate affair has been the result of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE,”
which last words are repeated twice on the same page, each time in
large type so that they catch the eye. _Cecilia_ itself might well
have borne this title in reference to the pride and prejudice of the
Delvile family. The book was published in 1786, and we know that Jane
had a great admiration for Miss Burney’s work. In re-reading it some
time subsequently it may very easily have struck her that “Pride and
Prejudice” was an improvement on her own more common-place title, and
there was nothing to prevent her adopting it. The repetition of two
striking qualities and the alliteration may further have given rise
to _Sense and Sensibility_, which also replaced an earlier title of
_Elinor and Marianne_.

_Pride and Prejudice_ was apparently written solely to gratify the
instincts of the writer, without any thought of publication. But after
it was completed, a year later, November 1797, Jane’s father wrote for
her to the well-known publisher Cadell as follows:—

   “SIR,—I have in my possession a manuscript novel comprising 3
   vols. about the length of Miss Burney’s _Evelina_. As I am well
   aware of what consequence it is that a work of this sort should
   make its first appearance under a respectable name, I apply
   to you. I shall be much obliged therefore if you will inform
   me whether you choose to be concerned in it, what will be the
   expense of publishing it at the author’s risk, and what you will
   venture to advance for the property of it, if on perusal it is
   approved of. Should you give any encouragement I will send you
   the work.”

This proposal, modest as it is, was rejected by return of post. One
would have thought that the success of Miss Burney’s books would have
made a leading publisher anxious to look at a work on similar lines,
but no—_Pride and Prejudice_ was destined not to be published until
1813, sixteen years later!

As we have said, it is unanimously accorded the premier place amongst
Jane Austen’s novels, partly because it is full of that brilliancy
and sparkle which are its author’s greatest characteristics, and
partly because of the inimitable character of Elizabeth Bennet, whose
combined archness and intelligence captivate everyone. Elizabeth is
the embodiment of the heroine so many authors have tried to draw.
Witty without being pert, having a reasonable conceit of herself
without vanity, and a natural gaiety of heart that makes her altogether
lovable. Whether she is repelling the patronage of Lady Catherine de
Bourgh, or chaffing the sombre Darcy, she is equally delightful. Her
first scene with Lady Catherine embodies much character—

“‘Are any of your younger sisters out, Miss Bennet?’

“‘Yes, Ma’am, all.’

“‘All! What, all five out at once? Very odd! And you only the second.
The younger ones out before the elder are married! Your younger sisters
must be very young?’

“‘Yes, the youngest is not sixteen. Perhaps she is full young to be
much in company. But really, Ma’am, I think it would be very hard upon
younger sisters that they should not have their share of society and
amusement, because the elder may not have the means or inclination
to marry early. The last born has as good a right to the pleasures of
youth as the first. And to be kept back on such a motive! I think it
would not be very likely to promote sisterly affection or delicacy of

“‘Upon my word,’ said her Ladyship, ‘you give your opinion very
decidedly for so young a person. Pray what is your age?’

“‘With three younger sisters grown up,’ replied Elizabeth, smiling,
‘your Ladyship can hardly expect me to own it.’”

And again, when Lady Catherine comes to ask if the report of her
nephew’s engagement to Elizabeth is true.

“‘If you believed it impossible to be true,’ said Elizabeth, colouring
with astonishment and disdain, ‘I wonder you took the trouble of coming
so far. What could your Ladyship propose by it?’

“‘At once to insist on having such a report universally contradicted.’

“‘Your coming to Langbourn to see me and my family,’ said Elizabeth
coolly, ‘will be rather a confirmation of it; if, indeed, such a report
is in existence.’

“‘If! Do you then pretend to be ignorant of it? Has it not been
industriously circulated by yourselves? Do you not know that such a
report is spread abroad?’

“‘I never heard that it was.’

“‘And can you likewise declare there is no foundation for it?’

“‘I do not pretend to possess equal frankness with your Ladyship. You
may ask questions which I shall not choose to answer.’

“‘This is not to be borne, Miss Bennet, I insist on being satisfied.
Has he, has my nephew, made you an offer of marriage?’

“‘Your Ladyship has declared it to be impossible.’”

Her verbal encounters with Darcy are equally characteristic.

“Elizabeth turned away to hide a smile.

“‘Your examination of Mr. Darcy is over, I presume?’ said Miss Bingley,
‘and pray what is the result?’

“‘I am perfectly convinced by it that Mr. Darcy has no defect. He owns
it himself without disguise.’

“‘No,’ said Darcy, ‘I have made no such pretension. I have faults
enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding. My temper I dare
not vouch for. It is, I believe, too little yielding; certainly too
little for the convenience of the world. I cannot forget the follies
and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offences against
myself. My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move
them. My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion once
lost is lost for ever.’

“‘_That_ is a failing indeed,’ cried Elizabeth. ‘Implacable resentment
_is_ a shade in a character. But you have chosen your fault well. I
really cannot _laugh_ at it. You are safe from me.’

“‘There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some
particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education
can overcome.’

“‘And _your_ defect is a propensity to hate everybody.’

“‘And yours,’ he replied with a smile, ‘is wilfully to misunderstand

Darcy, by the way, is one of the least attractive of the principal
men characters. It is inconceivable that any man with the remotest
pretension to gentlemanly feeling should say, even to himself, much
less aloud in a ball-room, on having his attention called to a young
girl sitting out: “‘Which do you mean?’ and, turning round, he looked
for a moment at Elizabeth, till, catching her eye, he withdrew his
own, and coldly said,—’She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to
tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young
ladies who are slighted by other men.’”

Indeed, Darcy’s whole character is so averse from anything usually
associated with the word gentleman, that one wonders where Miss Austen
found her prototype. Possibly he was one of the few characters for
which she drew entirely on her imagination. In saying this there is
no innuendo that in other cases she drew straight from the life; it
is, I believe, very few novelists who ever wish to do such a thing,
but it is certainly true, and everyone who has attempted fiction knows
it, that nearly every character in a life-like book has some prototype
in real life, some man or woman who gave the first indication of a
certain character; the personality may be altered entirely, it may be
only one small quality which is derived from the prototype, but it is
nevertheless that person who brought that particular character into
existence. So far as we know there was no haughty, self-satisfied man
of the world in Jane Austen’s list of acquaintances.

It is true that Darcy is represented as behaving much better when his
pride has been bitterly stung by Elizabeth’s rejection of him, but it
is hard to believe that a man, such as he is at first represented,
could have had sufficient good in him to change his character
completely as the effect of love.

To show how entirely opinions differ it is amusing to quote some of
the remarks of Miss Mitford, who wrote in 1814, the year after the
publication of _Pride and Prejudice_: “The want of elegance is almost
the only want in Miss Austen. I have not read her _Mansfield Park_ but
it is impossible not to feel in every line of _Pride and Prejudice_, in
every word of Elizabeth, the entire want of taste which could produce
so pert, so worldly a heroine as the beloved of such a man as Darcy.
Wickham is equally bad. Oh, they were just fit for each other, and I
cannot forgive that delightful Darcy for parting them. Darcy should
have married Jane. He is of all the admirable characters the best
designed and the best sustained. I quite agree with you in preferring
Miss Austen to Miss Edgeworth. If the former had a little more taste, a
little more perception of the graceful, as well as of the humorous, I
know not indeed anyone to whom I should not prefer her. There is none
of the hardness, the cold selfishness, of Miss Edgeworth about her
writings; she is in a much better humour with the world; she preaches
no sermons; she wants nothing but the _beau ideal_ of the female
character to be a perfect novel writer!”

Miss Mitford would no doubt have preferred as a heroine the elegant
languishing female, without any of the savour of originality about her,
who was the stereotyped heroine of most works of fiction at that time.

Sir Walter Scott in the _Quarterly Review_ of 1815 makes the base
insinuation that Elizabeth having refused Darcy “does not perceive
that she has done a foolish thing, until she accidentally visits a very
handsome seat and grounds belonging to her admirer.”

We are sure from what we know of Lizzie, that this is quite unfounded.
Had she been liable to any undue influence of that sort, she would
have accepted Darcy at the first, for she knew very well all about his
position and estates from the beginning. That she had the courage and
good sense to snub him speaks much more forcibly for her character than
a like action on the part of any girl similarly circumstanced would do
now. For then a position gained by marriage was the only one a woman
could hope for, and such chances were few and far between when, as we
have seen, men were desperately prudent in their matrimonial affairs,
and looked on marriage more as a well considered and suitable monetary
alliance than as a love match, though perhaps the actual person of
the woman was not always such a matter of perfect indifference to them
as it seems to have been to the writer of the following contemporary

“I thank you with ye utmost Gratitude for ye good offices you was
to have done me; and though I cannot now for Reasons above specifyd
accept of them, yet I hope they will still continue in Reversion:
not that I have any schemes for ever resuming my Designs upon Miss
A.: (on ye contrary I should be very loth she should wait so long)
but because whenever my Time is come You are ye first person I should
apply to, as having a good Number of Friends and Correspondents; and
none who are priviledged with ye Intimacy of Mrs. Jennings can fail of
Accomplishments to render them highly agreable to your most obedient
servant.” (_A Kentish Country House._)

The character of the solemn, pompous, thick-skinned Mr. Collins is
the best of the kind Jane ever drew; he is a creation whose name might
signify a quality of “collinesqueness.”

Perhaps within the limits possible for quotation there is nothing which
in so short a space sums up so well his inimitable character as the
letter of condolence he sends to Mr. Bennet on the occasion of Lydia’s
having eloped with the weak and untrustworthy Wickham.

“I feel myself called upon by our relationship and my situation in
life, to condole with you on the grievous affliction you are now
suffering under, of which we were yesterday informed by a letter from
Hertfordshire. Be assured, my dear sir, that Mrs. Collins and myself
sincerely sympathise with you, and all your respectable family, in
your present distress, which must be of the bitterest kind, because
proceeding from a cause which no time can remove. No arguments shall
be wanting on my part, that can alleviate so severe a misfortune; or
that can comfort you under a circumstance that must be of all others,
most afflicting to a parent’s mind. The death of your daughter would
have been a blessing in comparison of this. And it is the more to be
lamented, because there is reason to suppose, as my dear Charlotte
informs me, that this licentiousness of behaviour in your daughter has
proceeded from a faulty degree of indulgence; though, at the same time,
for the consolation of yourself and Mrs. Bennet, I am inclined to think
that her own disposition must be naturally bad, or she could not be
guilty of such an enormity, at so early an age. This false step in one
daughter will be injurious to the fortunes of all the others; for who,
as Lady Catherine herself condescendingly says, will connect themselves
with such a family? And this consideration leads me to reflect, with
augmented satisfaction on a certain event of last November, for had
it been otherwise I must have been involved in all your sorrow and
disgrace. Let me advise you then, my dear sir, to console yourself as
much as possible, to throw off your unworthy child from your affection
for ever, and leave her to reap the fruits of her own heinous offence.”

Jane’s own impressions of _Pride and Prejudice_ are given in a letter
to her sister, written many years later, on the publication of the

“Miss B. dined with us on the very day of the book’s coming, and in the
evening we fairly set at it and read half the first vol. to her....
She was amused, poor soul! _That_ she could not help you know, with
two such people to lead the way, but she really does seem to admire
Elizabeth. I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature
as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those
who do not like _her_ at least, I do not know. There are a few typical
errors; and a ‘said he’ or a ‘said she’ would sometimes make the
dialogue more immediately clear; but ‘I do not write for such dull
elves’ as have not a great deal of ingenuity themselves.... Our second
evening’s reading to Miss B. had not pleased me so well, but I believe
something must be attributed to my mother’s too rapid way of getting
on: though she perfectly understands the characters herself, she cannot
speak as they ought. Upon the whole, however, I am quite vain enough
and well satisfied enough. The work is rather too light and bright and
sparkling; it wants shade, it wants to be stretched out here and there
with a long chapter of sense if it could be had; if not, of solemn
specious nonsense, about something unconnected with the story; an essay
on writing, a critique on Walter Scott or the history of Buonaparte
or something that would form a contrast, and bring the reader with
increased delight to the playfulness and epigrammatism of the general
style.” And later, in reference to the same subject, she writes—

“I am exceedingly pleased that you can say what you do, after having
gone through the whole work, and Fanny’s praise is very gratifying. My
hopes were tolerably strong of _her_, but nothing like a certainty. Her
liking Darcy and Elizabeth is enough. She might hate all the others if
she would.” (Mr. Austen-Leigh’s _Memoir_.)

The fact that Jane felt the extreme brilliancy and lightness of her
own work shows that the critical faculty was active in her, but as
for wishing to do away with it in order to bring the book more into
conformity with the heavily padded novels of the time, that of course
is pure nonsense.

After only the lapse of a month or two from the completion of _First
Impressions_, Jane began on _Sense and Sensibility_, which she at
first called _Elinor and Marianne_, and which, in the form of letters,
had been written long before; probably, if the truth were known, this
might be called her first long story, and it was in any case the first
published. The story in letters has been wittily described as the
“most natural but the most improbable” form; and certainly, though
this style of novel had a brief renewal of popularity a year or two
ago, it is one that is aggravating to most readers, and requires many
clumsy expedients to fill in gaps in order to make the story hang
together connectedly. Miss Burney had employed it with good effect
in _Evelina_, but even here the story would have run much better told
straightforwardly. In any case Jane was well advised to abandon this
form. The novel was finished in 1798 but not published until 1811.

_Sense and Sensibility_, though it has never been placed first in
position among Jane Austen’s novels, has been accounted second by
many people. The two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, who represent Sense
and excessive Sensibility, are finely sketched. In this book the fact
that Jane Austen’s leading men are not equal to her leading women is
clearly exemplified. Mr. Austin Dobson speaks of the “colourless Edward
Ferrars and stiff-jointed Colonel Brandon,” and the epithets are well
deserved. We might add the selfish and unchivalrous Willoughby, for
here may be noted a defect not uncommon in women-writers, an inability
to grasp the code belonging to gentlemanly conduct. This is noticeable
in the behaviour ascribed to Darcy in _Pride and Prejudice_ already
mentioned, but it is worse in the case of Willoughby, who is supposed
to be brilliant, charming, and a gentleman, even though he acts badly
by Marianne. His long explanation with Elinor, when Marianne lies on a
sick-bed, and he himself is married, is supposed to atone for his bad
behaviour; at all events it is made to exonerate him in Elinor’s eyes,
whereas, far from exonerating him in the eyes of any ordinary person,
it shows him in a worse light than anything that has preceded.

It is only a scoundrel or cad of the weakest sort who speaks
slightingly of his wife, though unfortunately the code for women is
different, and many a woman “gives away” her husband on small enough
grounds. Yet in spite of one of the most stringent and least frequently
infringed rules of manly conduct, we find Willoughby saying, apparently
without any debasement in his creator’s eyes—

“‘With my hand and heart full of your sister, I was forced to play the
happy lover to another woman, ... Marianne, beautiful as an angel, on
one side ... and Sophia, jealous as the devil, on the other hand.’”
He then goes on to say that the letter sent in his name, which had
cut poor Marianne to the heart, was dictated by his wife. “‘What do
you think of my wife’s style of letter writing?—delicate—tender—truly
feminine—was it not?’” and in excuse for his marriage, “‘In honest
words her money was necessary to me.’”

After this even Elinor feels bound to rebuke him, saying: “‘You have
made your own choice. It was not forced on you. Your wife has a claim
to your politeness, to your respect, at least.’”

“‘Do not talk to me of my wife,’” he replies. “‘She does not deserve
your compassion. She knew I had no regard for her when we married.’”

In this book also there is a serious blot of another sort, a violation
of probabilities, which suffices to score a heavy mark against it. In
_Pride and Prejudice_ there is certainly improbability in the fact that
two portionless girls like Jane and Elizabeth Bennet should find such
husbands as Bingley and Darcy, but the improbability is lessened by the
fact that the pair of men were friends, and so one match contributes
to the other; but in _Sense and Sensibility_ the weak subterfuge for
getting rid of Lucy Price, to whom Edward holds himself in honour
bound, is hardly credible. There is no rational explanation of the
obliging conduct of Robert Ferrars, Edward’s brother; to make a man so
vain and selfish marry a woman who could bring him nothing, and whose
charms were not great, is a poor means of escaping from an undesirable

There remain a few other points for comment. We have in Mrs. Dashwood
one of the silly though fond mothers that Jane Austen delights to
describe. In Mrs. Jennings we have the comic relief, not so clever as
that supplied by Mr. Collins in _Pride and Prejudice_ or by Miss Bates
in _Emma_. A little too coarse for many people, but still true enough
to the times, when the fact of a man’s paying any attention to a girl
at all was sufficient to make the gossips discuss their marriage and
settlement in life with all openness.

The second chapter, often quoted, is one of the finest scenes in the
whole book; here John Dashwood, mindful of his promise to his dying
father, suggests giving each of his sisters a portion of one thousand
pounds out of the magnificent estate which has come to him under the
entail, but by the insidious arguments of his wife he at last settles
it with his conscience to afford them such assistance “as looking out
for a comfortable small house for them, helping them to move their
things, and sending them presents of fish and game and so forth,
whenever they are in season.”

The cottage in which the Dashwoods were installed at Barton seems
greatly to have resembled the cottage at Chawton. “As a house, Barton
Cottage, though small, was comfortable and compact; but as a cottage
it was defective, for the building was regular, the roof was tiled, the
window-shutters were not painted green, nor were the walls covered with
honeysuckles. A narrow passage led directly through the house into the
garden behind. On each side of the entrance was a sitting-room about
sixteen feet square and beyond them were the offices and the stairs.
Four bedrooms and two garrets formed the rest of the house. It had
not been built many years and was in good repair.” But as _Sense and
Sensibility_ was written long before Jane went to live at Chawton, it
is possible this account of the cottage was interpolated later, perhaps
when she revised the book for publication in 1811.

On the whole, though interesting enough, _Sense and Sensibility_
does not take very high rank among the novels. _Northanger Abbey_ was
begun in 1798, soon after the completion of _Sense and Sensibility_,
and, unlike its predecessors, it does not seem to have been based
on existing MSS., but to have been written as we now have it, though
the writing was spread over a long period. It is the one of all Miss
Austen’s novels about which opinions differ most. It was written
avowedly as a skit on the romantic school, whose high priestess was
Mrs. Radcliffe; but, as Mr. Austin Dobson says: “The ironical treatment
is not always apparent, and there are indications that, as often
happens, the author’s growing interest in the characters diverts her
from her purpose.” This is true enough, and the book certainly improves
in consequence as it goes on, for at first it is sententious, and the
author talks aside to her readers and explains her characters in a
way that she does nowhere else. Archbishop Whateley remarks that it is
“decidedly inferior to her other works—yet the same kind of excellences
that characterise the other novels may be perceived in this to a degree
which would have been highly creditable to most other writers of the
same school, and which would have entitled the author to considerable
praise had she written nothing better.”

The scene of _Northanger Abbey_ is laid in Bath, and it is easy to see
how very well acquainted not only with the topography, but with the
manners of Bath, Jane was. The chattering and running to and fro from
Pump rooms to Upper or Lower Assembly rooms, the continual meetings,
and the saunterings in the streets, with all the affected or real
gaiety, and the magnifying of trifles, are cleverly sketched in the
earlier part of the book. The sincere but foolish little heroine,
with her contrast to and intense admiration for her silly and selfish
friend, Isabella Thorpe, is a life-like figure. Her mother is one of
the very few elderly ladies who are allowed to be sensible in Jane’s
books, and she comes in so little as to be a very minor figure.

The account of Bath society is one of the principal features of the
book, another is that it abounds, perhaps more than any of the rest,
in those three or four line summaries which express so admirably
reflections, situations, and characters. Mrs. Thorpe’s “eldest daughter
has great personal beauty; and the younger ones by pretending to be as
handsome as their sister, imitating her air, and dressing in the same
style, did very well.” “Mrs. Allen was now quite happy, quite satisfied
with Bath. She had found some acquaintance—and as the completion
of good fortune, had found these friends by no means so expensively
dressed as herself.” “Her [Catherine’s] whole family were plain matter
of fact people, who seldom aimed at wit of any kind; her father at the
utmost being contented with a pun, and her mother with a proverb.”

“The advantages of natural folly in a beautiful girl have been already
set forth by the capital pen of a sister author, and to her treatment
of the subject I will only add, in justice to men, that though, to the
larger and more trifling part of the sex, imbecility in females is a
great enhancement of their personal charms, there is a portion of them
too reasonable, and too well informed themselves to desire anything
more in woman than ignorance.”

The rattle-pate Miss Thorpe is sketched with particular care, and if
we may judge from other contemporary novels, including _Cecilia_, this
was by no means an uncommon type at that day. Her conversation with
Catherine on the novels she had read is worth giving at length. She
asks: “‘Have you gone on with _Udolpho_?’

“‘Yes, I have been reading it ever since I woke; and I am got to the
black veil.’

“‘Are you indeed? How delightful! Oh, I would not tell you what is
behind the black veil for the world! Are not you wild to know?’

“‘Oh yes, quite! what can it be? But do not tell me, I would not be
told on any account. I know it must be a skeleton, I am sure it is
Laurentina’s skeleton! Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like
to spend my whole life in reading it, I assure you; if it had not been
to meet you I would not have come away from it for all the world.’

“‘Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have
finished _Udolpho_ we will read the _Italian_ together; and I have made
out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.’

“‘Have you indeed? How glad I am! Where are they all?’

“‘I will read you their names directly, here they are in my
pocket-book. _Castle of Wolfenbach_, _Clermont_, _Mysterious Warnings_,
_Necromancer of the Black Forest_, _Midnight Bell_, _Orphan of the
Rhine_, and _Horrid Mysteries_. Those will last us some time.’

“‘Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all

“‘Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine—a Miss Andrews—a
sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every
one of them. I wish you knew Miss Andrews, you would be delighted with
her. She is netting herself the sweetest cloak you can conceive. I
think her as beautiful as an angel, and I am so vexed with the men for
not admiring her! I scold them all amazingly for it.’

“‘Scold them! Do you scold them for not admiring her?’

“‘Yes, that I do. There is nothing I would not do for those who really
are my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is
not my nature. My attachments are always excessively strong. I told
Captain Hunt at one of our assemblies this winter, that if he was to
tease me all night, I would not dance with him unless he would allow
Miss Andrews to be as beautiful as an angel. The men think us incapable
of real friendship you know, and I am determined to show them the

And shortly after she exclaims, “‘For Heaven’s sake! let us move away
from this end of the room. Do you know there are two odious young men
who have been staring at me this half hour. They really put me quite
out of countenance! Let us go and look at the arrivals, they will
hardly follow us there.’

“In a few moments Catherine with unaffected pleasure assured her that
she need not be any longer uneasy, as the gentlemen had just left the
Pump room.

“‘And which way are they gone?’ said Isabella, turning hastily round.
‘One was a very good-looking young man.’

“‘They went towards the churchyard.’

“‘Well, I am amazingly glad I have got rid of them! And now, what say
you to going to Edgar’s Buildings with me and looking at my new hat?
You said you should like to see it.’

   [Illustration: COWPER]

“Catherine readily agreed. ‘Only,’ she added, ‘perhaps we may overtake
the two young men.’

“‘Oh! never mind that! If we make haste we shall pass by them
presently, and I am dying to show you my hat.’

“‘But if we only wait a few minutes there will be no danger of our
seeing them at all.’

“‘I shall not pay them any such compliment, I assure you. I have no
notion of treating men with such respect. That is the way to spoil

“Catherine had nothing to oppose against such reasoning, and therefore
to show the independence of Miss Thorpe and her resolution of humbling
the sex, they set off immediately as fast as they could walk in pursuit
of the two young men.”

Perhaps _Northanger Abbey_ may be described as the book which real
Austenites appreciate most, but which the casual reader does not
admire. The story is not interesting, the simplicity of Catherine
rather irritating than attractive, and it is the form and the flashes
of insight in the book that make it so enjoyable.

The writing, though begun in 1798, spread over a long period, for
the book was not finished until 1803, by which time Jane herself
was settled in Bath. It was then offered to a Bath bookseller, the
equivalent of a publisher in our day. He gave ten pounds for it,
probably because of the local colour, but evidently after reading it he
found it lacked that melodramatic flavour to which he was accustomed;
and it is also highly probable that he did not at all comprehend the
delightful flavour of irony. The book remained with him, luckily in
safety, until thirteen years had passed, when it was bought back by
Henry Austen on his sister’s account for the same sum that had been
given for it. When the transaction had been completed he told the
bookseller that it was by the author of _Sense and Sensibility_, which
had attracted much attention, whereat the man must have experienced the
regret he deserved to feel, as he had missed the honour of introducing
Jane to the public, an honour that would have linked his name with

The book did not appear until 1818, when the author was in her grave,
and it was the first to bear her name on the title-page. It was
published in one volume with the last of her writings, _Persuasion_.
In a preface written before her death, she says of _Northanger
Abbey_—Thirteen years have made it “comparatively obsolete, places,
manners, books, and opinions have undergone considerable changes.” It
is evident, therefore, she did not attempt to bring it up to date. This
preface is prefixed to the first edition, as is also the biographical
Memoir by her brother which has already been referred to.

The few closing years of the eighteenth century, the last spent at
Steventon, while these three works were in hand, must have been bright
ones to Jane; she had found an outlet for all the vivacious humour
that was in her, and must have lived in the world of fancy with her
characters, which were all very real to her, quite as much as in the
material world.

At this time her eldest brother James was living not far off, and
on November 8, 1796, his wife had become the mother of a boy, named
Edward. It was he who afterwards took the additional name of Leigh,
affixed to that of Austen, and who published the Memoir of Jane Austen
from which we have already drawn so much interesting detail. How little
could Jane have dreamt that night when her brother sent over a note
to tell her of the child’s safe arrival in the world, that more than
a hundred years later the work of that boy, describing her as one of
the world’s famous authoresses, would be read eagerly. It was only
the preceding month that she had begun to work on the first of her
delightful books. When she went to see the new baby she was allowed
a glimpse of him while he was asleep, and was told that his eyes were
“large, dark, and handsome.” What a subject for a picture! She in her
girlishness, quaintly dressed, bending over the cot of the infant,
quite as unconscious of all that was to come as even the baby itself!



The last few years of the century which passed so quietly at Steventon
were times of continual change and stir in the larger world, a world in
which both Francis and Charles Austen were taking an active part. But
except for the personal matters that affected them, Jane does not refer
to these events. It is true that from September 1796 to October 1798 we
have no letters of hers, which may be due to the fact that she and her
sister were not much parted then. This is one of the disadvantages of a
correspondence carried on with such a near relation. But subsequently
to this break the allusions to her brothers’ promotions and prospects
are fairly frequent.

“Admiral Gambier, in reply to my father’s application writes as
follows:—’As it is usual to keep young officers in small vessels, it
being most proper on account of their inexperience, and it being also
a situation where they are more in the way of learning their duty,
your son has been continued in the _Scorpion_, but I have mentioned to
the Board of Admiralty his wish to be in a frigate, and when a proper
opportunity offers and it is judged that he has taken his turn in a
small ship, I hope he will be removed. With regard to your son, now in
London, I am glad I can give you the assurance that his promotion is
likely to take place very soon, as Lord Spencer has been so good as to
say he would include him in an arrangement that he proposes making in
a short time relative to some promotions in that quarter.’

“There, I may now finish my letter and go and hang myself, for I am
sure I can neither write or do anything which will not appear insipid
to you after this.”

Again, “Frank is made. He was yesterday raised to the rank of
Commander, and appointed to the _Petterel_ sloop now at Gibraltar....
As soon as you have cried a little for joy you may go on, and learn
further that the Indian House have taken Captain Austen’s petition
into consideration, and likewise that Lieutenant Charles John Austen is
removed to the _Tamar_ frigate.”

Nearly a month later—

“Charles leaves us to-night, the _Tamar_ is in the Downs and Mr. Daysh
advises him to join her there directly, as there is no chance of her
going to the westward. Charles does not approve of this at all, and
will not be much grieved if he should be too late for her before she
sails, as he may then hope to get into a better station.”

And two days after, “I have just heard from Charles, who is by this
time at Deal. He is to be second lieutenant, which pleases him very
well. He expects to be ordered to Sheerness shortly as the _Tamar_ has
never been refitted.”

Frank apparently remained on the _Petterel_ until he received promotion
in the beginning of 1801, for his sister writes jestingly: “So Frank’s
letter has made you very happy, but you are afraid he would not have
patience to stay for the _Haarlem_, which you wish him to have done as
being safer than the merchantman. Poor fellow, to wait from the middle
of November to the end of December, and perhaps even longer, it must
be sad work; especially in a place where the ink is so abominably pale.
What a surprise to him it must have been on October 20, to be visited,
collared, and thrust out of the _Petterall_ by Captain Inglis. He
kindly passes over the poignancy of his feelings in quitting his ship,
his officers, and his men. What a pity it is that he should not be in
England at the time of his promotion, because he certainly would have
had an appointment, so everybody says, and therefore it must be right
for me to say it too. Had he been really here, the certainty of the
appointment, I dare say, would not have been half so great, but as it
could not be brought to the proof, his absence will always be a lucky
source of regret.”

The real name of the ship was evidently the _Petrel_, but it is very
variously spelt by other writers beside Jane, for orthography was not
considered of great moment in the eighteenth century.

Captain Francis Austen had done good service on board and had well
earned his promotion; in William James’s _Naval History of Great
Britain_, his name is mentioned with praise. On the 20th March, 1800,
in the evening, while the _Mermaid_, a twelve-pounder thirty-two gun
frigate, under Captain R. D. Oliver, and the ship sloop _Petrel_,
under Captain Francis William Austen, were cruising together in the
Bay of Marseilles, the _Petrel_, which was nearer the coast than the
_Mermaid_, came into action with three armed vessels; two escaped by
running on shore, but the third, the _Ligurienne_ of “fourteen long
six pounders two thirty-six pounder carronades all brass” and with one
hundred and four men on board to the _Petrel’s_ eighty-nine,—for the
first lieutenant and some of the crew were absent on prizes,—began to
fight. They kept up a running fight of an hour and an half’s duration,
within two hundred and fifty yards, and sometimes half that distance.
Then the _Ligurienne_ struck her colours, her commander being shot. The
_Petrel_ was at that time only six miles from Marseilles. No one was
hurt on the _Petrel_, though four of her twelve pounder carronades were
upset, and the sails riddled with shot holes. The _Mermaid_ apparently
stood in the offing, giving moral support throughout. The _Ligurienne_
was a fine vessel, only about two years old, and her capture must have
meant good prize-money into the pockets of the captain and crew of the
_Petrel_. After describing this action, Mr. James continues—

“Before quitting Captain Austen we shall relate another instance of
his good conduct; and in which, without coming to actual blows, he
performed an important and not wholly imperilous service.” On the
thirteenth of August, the _Petrel_ being then attached to Sir Sydney
Smith’s squadron on the coast of Egypt, he was the means of burning a
Turkish ship so as to prevent the French from stealing her guns, and
for this service the Captain Pacha presented him with a handsome sabre
and rich pelisse. Though his service seems to have landed the Turkish
vessel “out of the frying-pan into the fire.”

Charles Austen had seen active service when only a lad of fifteen,
and both brothers frequently took part in the small actions which were
continually occurring on the seas.

There was, as we have seen, six years’ difference in age between them,
but they were both at sea during some of the most glorious years in
the whole annals of England. In spite of bad provisions, bad quarters,
bad discipline, all of which will be again referred to, the English
seamen at this time showed pluck and energy that was limitless. Britain
was absolutely supreme on the seas. In 1794, Tobago, Martinique, St.
Lucia, and Guadaloupe were all taken in less than a month. In the
same year, Lord Howe, encountering twenty-six ships which the French
by great exertions had sent to sea, manœuvred for three days, but on
the “glorious first of June” bore down upon them and broke their line,
captured six, and dispersed the rest, while 8000 men were killed or
wounded on the French side against 1158 of the English. On September
16 of the following year, the Cape of Good Hope was taken by the
English under Sir James Craig. The Dutch made an attempt to retake the
Cape in 1796, but the whole of the armament they sent was captured
by Admiral Elphinstone. In 1797 the Spaniards, who had declared war
against Great Britain, put forth their full naval strength to attempt
to raise the blockade which bound the ports of France. They were met by
Sir John Jarvis, who had only fifteen ships of the line against their
twenty-seven, and half the number of frigates.

By the well-known manœuvre the Admiral broke the Spanish line, cutting
off a number of their ships, and when three of the largest wore round
to rejoin their comrades, they were met by Nelson and Collingwood.
Two of these Spanish ships got entangled with each other, and Nelson,
driving his own vessel on board of one of them, carried both sword
in hand, and received the sword of the Spanish Rear-Admiral in
submission; this was afterwards awarded to him for his own possession.
The Spaniards were totally routed and comparatively few ships were
taken; the battle, which earned its commander the title of Lord St.
Vincent, is considered one of the most important in the whole history
of England.

In October of the same year, the battle of Camperdown was gained by
Admiral Duncan, and these two victories together, by making the British
complete masters of the home seas allayed for a while the terror of
a French invasion. The mezzotint by James Ward from Copley’s famous
picture, given in illustration, shows the variety of costume adopted by
the British seamen at that time, the style of the officers’ dress, and
gives a very good idea of the appearance of the picturesque old wooden
sailing-ships in which such heroic services were performed.

The most amazing part of this splendid series of victories, all of
which contained much boarding and hand-to-hand fighting, demanding
personal pluck and endurance, is, that the sailors, as a mass, were
either unwilling men pressed into a service which they disliked, or
the very off-scourings of the country. On board there was bad food, bad
water, wretched accommodation, and often rank brutality. There was the
discipline of terror not of respect, and insubordination was only held
down by fear.

The officers fared a little better than the men in regard to comfort,
but it speaks well for young Charles Austen that he followed in his
brother’s steps when he must have known by word of mouth of all the
discomforts, to speak of nothing worse, which must be his lot on board

For the sons of gentlemen, the first entrance into the navy was a most
precarious venture, and the system, if system it can be called, so
haphazard, that one marvels men should have been found to let their
sons attempt it. A boy first obtained interest of some sort from an
admiral or captain on board a ship, and was taken by him in any odd
capacity for a voyage. He might go as “boy” or even as servant, and
though nominally a midshipman, was in reality without a position or
standing save what his patron allowed to him. He could not go in for an
examination until he had served on board for six years, then he might
do so to qualify for a lieutenancy. Once a lieutenant his position
was secured, and he had authority and consequently a very different
life. Captain Edward Thompson, writing in the middle of the eighteenth
century to a young relative who thought of following the sea for a
trade, says, “Besides, the disagreeable circumstances and situations
attending a subaltern officer in the navy, are so many and so hard,
that, had not the first men in the service passed the dirty road to
preferment, to encourage the rest, they would renounce it to a man.
It is a most mistaken notion that a youth will not be a good officer
unless he stoops to the most menial offices, to be bedded worse than
hogs, and to eat less delicacies. In short, from having experienced
such scenes of filth and infamy, such fatigues and hardships, that are
sufficient to disgust the stoutest and bravest, for alas there is only
a little hope of promotion sprinkled in the cup to make a man swallow
more than he digests the rest of his life.”

The wonder is that such boys as went to sea picked up enough seamanship
to pass any but the most practical examination. Navigation was in those
days even more difficult than at present, owing to the dependence on
the wind and the necessity for understanding the exact management of
sails. There were no engineers who could make the vessel go in any
direction the captain thought best at a moment’s notice; and the man on
the bridge had a heavy responsibility.

That matters in regard to the service were improving is evident, for
the same writer quoted above continues—

“The last war, a chaw of tobacco, a ratan, and a rope of oaths were
sufficient qualities to constitute a lieutenant, but now education and
good manners are the study of all.”

Yet the surroundings on board ship were enough to prevent any but the
most earnest and determined youth from studying; food and accommodation
were alike revolting. “At once you resign a good table for no table,
and a good bed for your length and breadth. Nay, it will be thought an
indulgence too to let you sleep where day ne’er enters; and where fresh
air only comes when forced. You must get up every four hours, and they
never forget to call you, though you may forget to rise.

“Your light for day and night is a small candle which is often stuck
on the side of your platter at meals for want of a better convenience.
Your victuals are salt and often bad; and if you vary the mode of
dressing them you must cook yourself ... in a man-of-war you have the
collected filth of jails; condemned criminals have the alternative of
hanging or entering on board. There is not a vice committed on shore
but is practised here, the scenes of horror and infamy on board a
man-of-war are so many and so great, that I think they must rather
disgust a good mind than allure it.”

Smollet’s pictures of life on board are too well known to quote.

The between decks, where the men slept, had not been ventilated at
all up to the middle of the eighteenth century, when a hand-pump
was invented to expel the foul air, the fresh air being left to find
its own way in. The noisome smells, the cramped space, the continual
darkness and disorder, must have bred sickness and debility in many,
which all the open-air life on deck could not counteract.

As for the food served for the men, it seems to have been loathsome.
In _Tracts relating to the Victualling of the Navy_, we read of “sour
tainted pickled meat. If such can be called food—human food—when dogs
that I have offered it to have flaged their tails, ran away, and would
not even smell to it;” of “rotten, musty, weevily flour,” and “as
for the butter, cheese, oil, raisins, they might have been expended,
the cheese into ammunition, cast into cannon balls, the raisins as
wadding, the butter and oil to grease their tackle with, for which
it may be thought very fit—stinking slush. It is no longer a wonder
at the pursers being tormented with execrations and bitter wrath from
remediless, aggrieved, and tortured men on board.”

It is said that any man who had been long a sailor, got into the habit
of tapping his biscuit on the table to knock the weevils out before he
ate it, a trick that old salts were seen to do at the tables of their
friends on shore!

As for the state of the hospitals in India and elsewhere, the following
story tells a tale. “Soon after the last action with the French fleet,
I observed a wounded seaman, who had lost part of his hand by a shot,
climbing up the side with one hand, and holding his bread bag in his
teeth. I asked why he had left the hospital. He answered they were
so much in want of provisions that he had come on board to beg some
biscuit (which was full of maggots) for his messmates. At that time I
understood Government was charged a rupee a day for every man in the
hospital (about 1000 or 1500) but I believe seven or eight pence was
all it cost the contractor for their provisions, and it was reported
that he was obliged to share the profits with the admiral and his
secretary, said to amount to about £70 a day.”

We have had some revelations of official corruption recently, but
there is nothing to compare with the openly recognised stealing of
the eighteenth century, when, so late as 1783, a minister could say
in earnest to a purser who had been a commissary and complained of
poverty, “You had your hand in the bag, sir, why did you not help
yourself?” And help themselves everyone apparently did, from the
highest to the lowest. Enquiry first began to be made by Lord St.
Vincent, who set himself to clean this Augean stable.

There being a prospect of a vacancy in the office of the Admiralty, a
satirical correspondent to the _Morning Chronicle_ in 1792 forwarded
the following list of qualities essential for any candidate applying:—

  He should know nothing of a ship.
  He should never have been to sea.
  He should be ignorant of geography.
  He should be ignorant of naval tactics.
  He should never attend office until four in the afternoon.
  He should be unfit for business every day.
  He should be very regular in keeping officers waiting for orders.
  He should not know a bumboat from a three decker.
  His hair should always be well dressed,
  And his head should be empty!

Though matters were bad enough for the officers they were fifty times
worse for the men, and it is not at all singular that men should
have been procured with difficulty to enter a service where they were
liable to all sorts of hardships; to great risk of life; where they
were at the mercy of an irresponsible commander, who could order them
to be strung up on the slightest provocation, and given any number
of lashes he thought fit; where they could be hanged for disobeying
or manifesting the smallest revolt to this tyrant; where prize-money,
which was freely distributed to officers, sometimes never reached the
men. There were instances of prize-money fairly due to the men being
held over for a year or more as “not worth distributing.”

The deficiency of men was, as we have seen, supplied by using the
criminals of the gaols. Bounty money was also liberally offered, the
authorities realising that a few pounds ready money were likely to be
a valuable bribe to a man out of luck. The _St. James’s Chronicle_
remarks at the beginning of the war, “Five pounds bounty, and two
pounds extra from the Corporation of London; surely no tars can be
found backward.”

In 1770 the Government had offered thirty shillings a head, which was
augmented by various towns; London offering forty shillings additional,
and Edinburgh forty-two shillings. In 1788 a prohibition forbidding
seamen to serve in foreign navies was issued, and in 1791 the bounty
money of London rose to two pounds for an ordinary seaman, and sixty
shillings for an able seaman. The city added twenty shillings to the
one, and forty shillings to the other at the beginning of the war in
1793. And in 1795 the total bounties in some places even amounted to
thirty pounds a head!

In 1795 an Act was passed demanding levies of men from the whole
country, the proportions varying according to the size of the county or
port; from Yorkshire more than a thousand were demanded. In addition
to this the pressgang was hard at work, and the monstrous injustice
perpetrated by it makes one wonder how, even in times of greatest
stress, it could have been allowed.

The difference between an ordinary press and a “hot press” was that in
the latter all protection was disregarded, and men of every sort, even
apprentices usually protected by law, were seized and carried off to
serve, utterly regardless of mercy. The odd part of it is that, when
it was found to be inevitable, the men who had been taken against their
will plucked up spirit and performed their duties well.

John Ashton in _Old Times_ quotes a number of cuttings from _The Times_
of 1793 and 1794 giving details of these presses. “The press in the
river Thames for the three last days has been very severe. Five or six
hundred seamen have been laid hold of.” (February 18, 1793.)

“A hot press has, for the last two nights, been carried on from London
Bridge to the Nore; protections are disregarded, and almost all the
vessels in the river have been stripped of their hands.” (April 26,

“Sailors are so scarce that upwards of sixty sail of merchant’s ships
bound to the West Indies, and other places, are detained in the river,
with their ladings on board; seven outward bound East Indiamen are
likewise detained at Gravesend, for want of sailors to man them.”
(January 7, 1794.)

“That part of Mr. Pitt’s plan for manning the navy, which recommends to
the magistrates to take cognizance of all idle and disorderly people,
who have no visible means of livelihood, may certainly procure a
great number of able-bodied men who are lurking about the Metropolis.”
(February 11, 1795.)

“There was a very hot press on the river on Friday night last,
when several hundred able seamen were procured. One of the gangs in
attempting to board a Liverpool trader, were resisted by the crew, when
a desperate affray took place, in which many of the former were thrown
overboard, and the lieutenant who boarded them killed by a shot from
the vessel.” (June 9, 1795.)

In 1798 all protection from the operations of the pressgang was
suspended, even in the case of the coal trade, for one month!

To counterbalance all the manifold disadvantages of service in the
navy, for the officers at least, there were some attractions; that of
prize-money was very great, for a man might literally make his fortune
at sea in a few years by lucky captures, and the spirit of gambling and
adventure to which this gave rise must have had a very strong effect in
attracting young officers.

The account of the sums received in prize-money is perfectly amazing;
the best haul of all was perhaps the _Hermione_, a Spanish ship taken
long before the Austens’ day, in 1762. The treasure was conveyed to
London in twenty waggons with the British colours flying over those of
Spain, a sight that would confound those of our own time, who seem to
think the true way to celebrate a victory is to give compensation to
those who have provoked war, and brought defeat upon themselves! The
share of one ship alone, the _Active_, amounted to over £250,000; and
the proportion given to the ships of the same squadron not actually
present amounted to nearly £67,000. The value of the _St. Jago_,
taken in 1793, as adjudged to the captors was £935,000, of which about
£100,000 went to Admiral Gell. (_The Times_, February 4, 1795.) Each
captain got nearly £14,000.

In 1801, Jane tells us that “Charles has received £30 for his share of
the privateer and expects ten pounds more, but of what avail is it to
take prizes if he lays out the produce in presents to his sisters? He
has been buying gold chains and topaz crosses for us. He must be well

After this it does not seem so strange to read in _Persuasion_ that in
only seven years Anne’s lover, Wentworth, “had distinguished himself,
and early gained the other step in rank, and must now, by successive
captures, have made a handsome fortune,” which otherwise strikes oddly
on our ears.


The abuses in the navy included those of interest, which in those days
honeycombed every branch of professional life. Lord Rodney made his son
John a post captain after he had been a midshipman little over a month,
and when he was just over fifteen years old. But this, at a time when
boys of fourteen held commissions in the Guards, must have seemed a
trifle. Mrs. Lybbe Powys, speaking of her brother-in-law, says—

“Our young officer is what I fear too generally young men in the army
are, gay, thoughtless, and very handsome; but what boy of fourteen,
having a commission in the Guards, can be otherwise?”

_The Times_ of 1797 speaks of the “baby officers,” and says—

“Some of the sucking colonels of the Guards have expressed their
dislike of the short skirts. They say they feel as if they were going
to be flogged.”

A peculiar feature of the end of the eighteenth and beginning of
nineteenth centuries was the tendency to mutiny, induced doubtless by
the terrible hardships and injustices undergone by the men on board.
And the wonder is, not that the men did mutiny, but that they endured
so long and fought so splendidly without doing so.

Some of the mutineers on board the _Téméraire_, in the beginning of the
nineteenth century, are thus described by an eye-witness. “They were
the noblest fellows, with the most undaunted mien, I ever beheld—the
beau ideal of British sailors; tall and athletic, well-dressed, in
blue jackets, red waistcoats, and trousers white as driven snow. Their
hair like the tail of the lion, hung in a queue down their back. At
that time this last article was considered, as indeed it really was,
the distinguishing mark of a thoroughbred seaman. Unfortunately, these
gallant fellows were as ignorant as they were impatient, and the custom
of the time was to hang everyone who should dare to dispute the orders
of his superior officers.”

Of the mutinies the most serious were those at Spithead and the Nore,
which followed closely upon one another. After the first, concessions
in regard to pay and various improvements in commissariat were granted;
and both mutinies were put down firmly and sharply, but they were
followed from time to time by lesser outbreaks.

All these excitements, and the constant changes in the pay of officers,
must have been watched with interest by the Austen family, whom they
touched so nearly. Jane certainly understood the best type of naval
officer, and had no little admiration and affection for him.

The officers in her novels may easily be divided into two sorts, they
are the officers of the old school, of which Admiral Crawford, in
_Mansfield Park_, to whom his nephew and niece were indebted for their
bringing up, is a prominent example. Here is the aforesaid niece’s
account of the type, when Edmund Bertram asks her whether she has not a
large acquaintance in the navy. “‘Among admirals, large enough, but,’
with an air of grandeur, ‘we know very little of the inferior ranks.
Post captains may be very good sort of men, but they do not belong
to us. Of various admirals I could tell you a great deal; of them and
their flags, and the gradation of their pay, and their bickerings and
jealousies. But in general, I can assure you that they are all passed
over and all very ill-used. Certainly my home at my uncle’s brought me
acquainted with a circle of admirals. Of Rears and Vices I saw enough.
Now, do not be suspecting me of a pun, I entreat.’”

Mr. Price, Fanny’s father, who is in the Marines, with his noise, and
his oaths, and his coarseness and ill-temper, is a terrible revelation
to his gentle daughter.

On the other side of the scale we may set Admiral Croft in
_Persuasion_, a polished and delightful man, “rear-admiral of the
white. He was in the Trafalgar action, and has been in the East Indies
since; he has been stationed there, I believe, several years.”

The younger generation of sailors is represented charmingly in the
novels from Fanny’s admirable, straightforward, single-minded brother
William, who, when he came to Mansfield Park shortly after getting
promoted to his lieutenancy, “would have been delighted to show his
uniform there too, had not cruel custom prohibited its appearance
except on duty. So the uniform remained at Portsmouth, and Edmund
conjectured that before Fanny had any chance of seeing it, all its
own freshness, and all the freshness of its wearer’s feelings must be
worn away; for what can be more unbecoming or more worthless than the
uniform of a lieutenant who has been a lieutenant a year or two, and
sees others made commanders before him.”

Captain Wentworth, Anne’s lover, who had been treated so cruelly in
deference to the wishes of her family, is gallant, handsome, charming,
a man of the world, without having lost his freshness, and a man who
has won his way and yet been unspoiled by flattery; he is one of the
best of Jane Austen’s heroes.



At the end of 1800, Mr. Austen made up his mind to put his son James
into the rectory at Steventon as _locum tenens_, and himself retire to
live at Bath. In those days parents were not quite so communicative to
their children as they are now; many things were decided without being
discussed in full family conclave, as propriety dictates at present,
and the change of plan does not seem to have been mooted to the girls
at all, so that, “coming in one day from a walk, as they entered the
room their mother greeted them with the intelligence: ‘Well, girls, it
is all settled. We have decided to leave Steventon and go to Bath.’ To
Jane, who had been from home, and who had not heard much before about
the matter, it was such a shock that she fainted away ... she loved
the country, and her delight in natural scenery was such that she would
sometimes say it must form one of the delights of heaven.” (From Family
MSS. quoted by Constance Hill, in _Jane Austen, Her Homes and Her

The break up of the home of one’s childhood is no trifling matter, and
it often carries with it removal from many friends and neighbours whose
society has become an integral part of life. It is no wonder that the
blow was severe, yet Jane was of a cheerful disposition, a disposition
that could make its own happiness anywhere, and it was not long before
she entered with alacrity into all the needful preparations.

She wrote not long after, “I get more and more reconciled to the idea
of our removal. We have lived long enough in this neighbourhood; the
Basingstoke balls are certainly on the decline; there is something
interesting in the bustle of going away, and the prospect of spending
future summers by the sea or in Wales is very delightful. For a time we
shall now possess many of the advantages which I have often thought of
with envy in the wives of sailors or soldiers. It must not be generally
known, however, that I am not sacrificing a great deal in quitting
the country, or I can expect to inspire no tender interest in those we
leave behind.”

Mr. Austen was perfectly justified in his decision to stop work;
he was then seventy, and had held the two livings for thirty-six
years, his son James was ready to take them up, he was living in the
neighbourhood, and had been of assistance to his father for some time
past. We learn this from many casual sentences in the letters, such
as the following: “James called by my father’s desire on Mr. Bayle
to enquire into the cause of his being so horrid. Mr. Bayle did not
attempt to deny his being horrid, and made many apologies for it; he
did not plead his having a drunken self, he talked only of a drunken
foreman, etc., and gave hopes of the tables being at Steventon on
Monday se’nnight next.”

Mr. Austen died in 1805, only four years after the removal, which shows
that he had not withdrawn from active life at all too soon. In giving
up country life he had to give up also many of the hobbies in which he
had taken delight; his pigs and his sheep could not accompany him to
Bath. References to these animals often occur in his daughter’s lively
letters. “My father furnishes him [Edward] with a pig from Cheesedown;
it is already killed and cut up, but it is not to weigh more than
nine stone; the season is too far advanced to get him a larger one. My
mother means to pay herself for the salt and the trouble of ordering it
to be cured, by the spareribs, the souse, and the lard.”

“Mr. Lyford gratified us very much yesterday by his praises of my
father’s mutton, which they all think was the finest that was ever

“You must tell Edward that my father gave twenty-five shillings apiece
to Seward for his last lot of sheep.”

In Bath, pigs, poultry, and a garden would be impossible, but there
would be compensating advantages. The country life had but narrow
interests, and trifles had to be made the most of.

Jane’s letters for the last few years before leaving Steventon show
some of the decadence due to trivial surroundings, and her remarks are
apt to be spiced with unkindness. Evidently her sister-in-law, James’s
wife, was not a favourite; she objected to her husband’s being so much
at Steventon, though Jane notes that he persevered in coming “in spite
of Mary’s reproaches.” But Jane’s sharpness is also extended to her
remarks on her acquaintances. “The Debaries persist in being afflicted
at the death of their uncle, of whom they now say they saw a great deal
in London.”

Poor Debaries, it is quite possible that his death had showed them how
much they had cared for him, at all events, after his death they could
have had nothing to gain by any display of affection!

After a small ball Jane writes: “There were very few beauties, and
such as there were were not very handsome. Miss Iremonger did not look
well, and Mrs. Blount was the only one much admired. She appeared
exactly as she did in September, with the same broad face, diamond
bandeau, white shoes, pink husband, and fat neck. The two Miss Coxes
were there; I traced in one the remains of the vulgar, broad-featured
girl who danced at Enham eight years ago; the other is refined into a
nice composed-looking girl like Catherine Bigg. I looked at Sir Thomas
Champneys and thought of poor Rosalie; I looked at his daughter, and
thought her a queer animal with a white neck.” And later she adds:
“I had the comfort of finding out the other evening who all the fat
girls with long noses were that disturbed me at the 1st H. ball.” It
is obvious that a wider horizon would do the writer of these remarks no

The income which the family would have is indicated in the following
remark of Jane’s made about this time: “My father is doing all in his
power to increase his income, by raising his tithes, etc., and I do not
despair of getting very nearly six hundred a year.”

Once the great fact of the removal was settled, there remained the
minor difficulty as to which part of Bath would be the best to live
in; of this Jane writes: “There are three parts of Bath which we have
thought of as likely to have houses in them—Westgate Buildings, Charles
Street, and some of the short streets leading from Laura Place or
Pulteney Street. Westgate Buildings, though quite in the lower part
of the town, are not badly situated themselves. The street is broad
and has rather a good appearance. Charles Street, however, I think is
preferable. The buildings are new, and its nearness to Kingsmead Fields
would be a pleasant circumstance. Perhaps you may remember, or perhaps
you may forget, that Charles Street leads from the Queen’s Square
Chapel to the two Green Park Streets. The houses in the streets near
Laura Place I should expect to be above our price. Gay Street would
be too high, except only the lower house on the left hand side as you
descend. Towards that my mother has no disinclination; it used to be
lower rented than any other house in the row, from some inferiority in
the apartments. But above all others her wishes are at present fixed
on the corner house in Chapel Row which opens into Prince Street.
Her knowledge of it, however, is confined only to the outside, and
therefore she is equally uncertain of its being really desirable as
of its being to be had. In the meantime she assures you that she will
do everything in her power to avoid Trim Street, although you have not
expressed the fearful presentiment of it, which was rather expected. We
know that Mrs. Perrot will want to get us into Oxford Buildings, but we
all unite in particular dislike of that part of the town, and therefore
hope to escape.” This was from Steventon in January 1801.

The Mrs. Perrot is the aunt, Mrs. Leigh-Perrot, before mentioned,
she was sister-in-law to Mrs. Austen, and her husband had taken the
additional name of Perrot. It was from him that Mr. Austen-Leigh
inherited the additional name of Leigh when he came into the estate.
The Austen family seem to have been almost as much in the habit of
changing their names as of marrying twice.

The topography of the letter can only be appreciated by those who
know Bath, and requires little comment. The various streets mentioned
are still existing, and we can pass through the despised Trim Street,
survey the house in Gay Street lower rented than the others, or cross
over the river to Laura Place to see the neighbourhood Jane feared
would be too expensive, just as well now, as she could then.

In May of 1801, Jane, with her father and mother, went to Bath and
stayed with Mr. and Mrs. Leigh-Perrot at Paragon, in order to hunt for
a house. Paragon remains unchanged, the doorways enclosed by pent-house
and pilasters remain the very type of late eighteenth-century

It is easy to imagine the difficulties that had to be encountered by
the Austens in their quest.

“In our morning’s circuit we looked at two houses in Green Park
Buildings, one of which pleased me very well. We walked all over it
except into the garret; the dining-room is of a comfortable size, just
as large as you like to fancy it; the second room about fourteen feet
square. The apartment over the drawing-room pleased me particularly,
because it is divided into two, the smaller one, a very nice sized
dressing-room which upon occasion might admit a bed. The aspect is
south-east. The only doubt is about the dampness of the offices, of
which there were symptoms.”

“Yesterday morning we looked into a house in Seymour Street which
there is reason to suppose will soon be empty; as we are assured from
many quarters that no inconvenience from the river is felt in those
buildings, we are at liberty to fix on them if we can. But this house
was not inviting; the largest room downstairs was not much more than
fourteen feet square, with a western aspect.”

“I went with my mother to look at some houses in New King Street,
towards which she felt some kind of inclination, but their size has now
satisfied her. They were smaller than I expected to find them; one in
particular out of the two was quite monstrously little; the best of the
sitting-rooms not as large as the little parlour at Steventon, and the
second room in every floor about capacious enough to admit a very small
single bed.”

“Our views on G.P. Buildings seem all at an end; the observation of
the damp still remaining in the offices of a house which has only
been vacated a week, with reports of discontented families and putrid
fevers, has given the _coup-de-grace_. We have now nothing in view.”

Anyone who has ever been house-hunting will sympathise with the
difficulties sketched in these remarks. It was finally decided that
the family should go to 4 Sydney Place, and later they removed to the
despised Green Park Buildings after all.

The sale of the effects at Steventon had begun before the family left,
and continued after.

“My father and mother, wisely aware of the difficulty of finding in
all Bath such a bed as their own, have resolved on taking it with them;
all the beds, indeed, that we shall want are to be removed.... I do not
think it will be worth while to remove any of our chests of drawers, we
shall be able to get some of a much more commodious sort, made of deal,
and painted to look very neat ... we have thought at times of removing
the sideboard, or a Pembroke table, or some other piece of furniture,
but on the whole it has ended in thinking that the trouble and risk of
the removal would be more than the advantage of having them at a place
where everything may be purchased.”

In another letter she imagines that the appraisement of the furniture
for sale will amount to about two hundred pounds, and when actually at
Bath she sends the following details:—

“Sixty-one guineas and a half for the three cows gives one some
support under the blow of only eleven guineas for the tables. Eight
for my pianoforte is about what I really expected to get.” “Mr. Bent
seems bent upon being very detestable, for he values the books at only
seventy pounds. Ten shillings for Dodsley’s Poems, however, please
me to the quick, and I do not care how often I sell them again for as

Sydney Place is on the east side of the River overlooking Sydney
Gardens, which had been opened for public entertainment in 1795; the
following description of the Gardens is given in a guide contemporary
with Jane’s residence in Bath. “The Kennet and Avon Canal runs through
the garden, with two elegant cast-iron bridges thrown over it, after
the manner of the Chinese. There are swings, bowling greens, and a
Merlin’s swing in the labyrinth. During the summer are public nights,
with music, fireworks, and superb illuminations.” Before Jane herself
lived here, while she was staying in Queen Square with her brother
and his family, she had been to a grand gala in Sydney Gardens, with
illuminations, and fireworks which “surpassed” her expectations. It
was a pleasant part of Bath, and probably the Austens were comfortable
enough here. The house is still standing; it is one of a solid uniform
row facing nearly due east, and bears a plate stating “Here lived
Jane Austen from 1801-1805,” an inscription not quite accurate as the
Austens left in 1804. It is one great charm of Bath that, electric
trams and modern buildings notwithstanding, the place is so very much
the same as it was when Jane knew it. The narrow intricate streets,
the little courts and passages, and jutting houses are everywhere to be
seen. The town is essentially late eighteenth century, and the modern
buildings are mere additions that do not in any way interfere with its

The beautiful abbey had in her time been more or less repaired, and
the choir was used as a parish church. But the pinnacles were added
to the spire only in 1834, and the complete restoration took place in
1874. The Pump Room, near at hand, was built in 1796, replacing one
which had existed for forty-five years. If we except a few trifles,
such as electric pendants to the great central chandelier, we see it as
it was in Jane’s day. The fluted pilasters running up to the ceiling
are very characteristic of the florid Georgian taste. In a print of
the interior of the Pump Room, dated 1804, we see all the women,
even the attendants, with bare arms and necks, quite uncovered,—a
fashion revived in 1905,—and some of the women wear a kind of modified
poke-bonnet with “coquelicot” plumes. In the alcove at the end is a
statue of fat little Beau Nash, who was the regenerator and in some
sense the maker of Bath.

But Nash’s name is associated even more with the Assembly Rooms than
the Pump Room. The Assembly Rooms are some distance from the Pump
Rooms and the Baths, being situated not far from the famous crescent.
In Jane’s time there were two sets of Assembly Rooms, upper and lower,
governed by two different masters of the ceremonies, positions which
were much coveted. In 1820 the Lower Rooms were burnt down and not
rebuilt, but the Upper are still used, and the names over the doors
of the rooms, Card-room, Tea-room, etc., recall many a scene in Jane
Austen’s novels.

Bath really began to be fashionable in the early part of Queen Anne’s
reign, but it was Nash who consolidated its attractions, and brought it
up to its highest pitch of popularity.


When he went there “the amusements of the place were neither elegant
nor conducted with delicacy. General society among people of rank or
fortune was by no means established. The nobility still preserved
a tincture of Gothic haughtiness, and refused to keep company with
the gentry at any of the public entertainments of the place. Smoking
in the rooms was permitted; gentlemen and ladies appeared in a
disrespectful manner at public entertainments in aprons and boots.
With an eagerness common to those whose pleasures come but seldom,
they generally continued them too long, and thus they were rendered
disgusting by too free an enjoyment. If the company liked each other
they danced till morning. If any person lost at cards he insisted on
continuing the game till luck should turn. The lodgings for visitants
were paltry, though expensive, the dining-rooms and other chambers
were floored with boards coloured brown with soot and small beer to
hide the dirt; the walls were covered with unpainted wainscot, the
furniture corresponded with the meanness of the architecture; a few oak
chairs, a small looking-glass, with a fender and tongs, composed the
magnificence of these temporary habitations. The city was in itself
mean and contemptible, no elegant buildings, no open streets, no
uniform squares.”

Thither Nash came in 1705. He was the man of all others to organise
fashionable entertainments. Under his severe, yet fatherly rule, the
place sprang quickly into popularity. Houses were built, streets
repaved, balls and entertainments followed each other in quick
succession. An Assembly Room was built, and good music engaged; but it
was not until 1769, eight years after Nash’s death, that the present
building was erected. Nash’s code of rules continued in force for long
after his death, before which he had sunk from the position of esteem
which he had once enjoyed. His rules throw some light on the conduct of
these delightful assemblies, and are worth quoting—

   1. That a visit of ceremony at first coming, and another at going
   away, are all that are expected or desired by ladies of quality
   and fashion—except impertinents.

   2. That ladies coming to the ball appoint a time for their
   footmen coming to wait on them home, to prevent disturbance and
   inconvenience to themselves and others.

   3. That gentlemen of fashion never appearing in a morning before
   the ladies in gowns and caps show breeding and respect.

   4. That no person take it ill that anyone goes to another’s play
   or breakfast and not theirs; except captious by nature.

   5. That no gentleman give his ticket for the balls to any but
   gentlewomen. N.B.—Unless he has none of his acquaintance.

   6. That gentlemen crowding before the ladies at the ball show
   ill manners; and that none do so for the future except such as
   respect nobody but themselves.

   7. That no gentleman or lady takes it ill that another dances
   before them; except such as have no pretence to dance at all.

   8. That the elder ladies and children be content with a second
   bench at a ball, as being past or not come to perfection.

   9. That the younger ladies take notice how many eyes observe

   10. That all whisperers of lies or scandal be taken for their

   11. That all repeaters of such lies and scandal be shunned by the
   company; except such as have been guilty of the same crime.

Nash’s rigour in regard to appearances in the case of top-boots is
elsewhere mentioned, he disliked quite as much the aprons which smart
ladies then wore on many occasions, and when the Duchess of Queensberry
entered one evening in one of these, he snatched it off and flung it
over the back benches among the ladies’ maids.

The rules for balls were probably very much the same when Jane Austen
attended them as when Nash was living. Everything was to be performed
in proper order. Each ball was to open with a minuet danced by two
persons of the highest distinction present. When the minuet concluded
the lady was to return to her seat, and Mr. Nash was to bring the
gentleman a new partner. The minuets generally continued two hours. At
eight the country dances began, ladies of quality according to their
rank standing up first. About nine o’clock a short interval was allowed
for rest, and for the gentlemen to help their partners to tea, the ball
having begun, it must be remembered, about six. The company pursued
their amusements until the clock struck eleven, when the music ceased
instantly; and Nash never allowed this rule to be broken, even when the
Princess Amelia herself pleaded for one dance more.

Among other rules was one mentioned by Mr. Austen-Leigh, that
ladies who intended to dance minuets were requested to wear lappets
to distinguish them. Also, in order that every lady may have an
opportunity of dancing, gentlemen should change their partners every
two dances. We see in this last rule how the transition from one
partner for the whole evening to the continual change of partners came
to pass.

After returning from Lyme Regis in the autumn of 1804, the Austens left
Sydney Place, and went to Green Park Buildings, which had been among
the houses first considered. They were here when Mr. Austen’s death
occurred in January 1805; and then Mrs. Austen and her daughters moved
into lodgings in Gay Street.

Mrs. Lybbe Powys gives us a lively word-picture of Bath in 1805—

“The Dress Ball, Upper Rooms immensely crowded at ten; but the number
of card parties quite spoilt the balls, as ‘tis fashionable to attend
five or six before you go to the room. It was endeavoured to alter
these hours, but fortunately for the old people, and those who drink
the waters, it was not permitted, and at eleven, if in the middle of
a dance, the music stops. But I suppose ‘tis reckoned vulgar to come
early, one sees nothing of the dancing or company for the crowds. The
rooms are not half so agreeable as they were some years ago, when the
late London hours were not thought of; and how prejudicial must they
be to the health of all, is very visible in the young as in the old....
Sixteen thousand strangers at Bath in the season 1805!”

Of Bath itself we hear in the satirical skit called _The New Guide_—

    “Of all the gay places the world can afford,
    By gentle and simple for pastime adored,
    Fine balls, and fine concerts, fine buildings and springs,
    Fine walks and fine views and a thousand fine things,
    Not to mention the sweet situation and air,
    What place, my dear mother, with Bath can compare?”

There is little reason to doubt that Jane would thoroughly enjoy
the change afforded by such constant opportunity for diversion, such
delightful mingling with a crowd in which her bright humour must have
found frequent opportunities for indulgence.

As we have seen, she had written her first Bath book, _Northanger
Abbey_, many years before, and while she sat in the Pump Room, awaited
a partner in the Assembly Rooms, or shopped in Milsom Street, she must
have recalled her own creations, Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe,
Henry Tilney and Mrs. Allen, quite as vividly as if they were real
persons of her acquaintance.

The second Bath book, _Persuasion_, was not written until many years
after, yet these two, chronologically so far apart, topographically so
near each other, have always been, owing to conditions of length, bound

This is Jane’s own account of her first ball after coming to live at
Bath: “I dressed myself as well as I could, and had all my finery much
admired at home. By nine o’clock my uncle, aunt, and I entered the
Rooms, and linked Miss Winstone on to us. Before tea it was rather a
dull affair; but then tea did not last long, for there was only one
dance, danced by four couple, think of four couple surrounded by about
an hundred people dancing in the Upper Rooms at Bath! After tea we
cheered up; the breaking up of private parties sent some scores more
to the ball, and though it was shockingly and inhumanly thin for this
place, there were people enough, I suppose, to have made five or six
very pretty Basingstoke assemblies.”

It is interesting to compare this with her account of her heroine,
Catherine Morland’s first appearance: “Mrs. Allen was so long in
dressing, that they did not enter the ball-room till late. The season
was full, the room crowded, and the two ladies squeezed in as well as
they could. As for Mr. Allen he repaired directly to the card-room
and left them to enjoy a mob by themselves. With more care for the
safety of her new gown than for the comfort of her protegée, Mrs.
Allen made her way through the throng of men by the door, as swiftly
as the necessary caution would allow; Catherine, however, kept close
at her side, and linked her arm too firmly within her friend’s to be
torn asunder by any common effort of a struggling assembly. But to
her utter amazement she found that to proceed along the room was by no
means the way to disengage themselves from the crowd; it seemed rather
to increase as they went on; whereas she had imagined that when once
fairly within the door, they should easily find seats, and be able
to watch the dances with perfect convenience. But this was far from
being the case; and though by unwearied diligence they gained even the
top of the room, their situation was just the same; they saw nothing
of the dancers, but the high feathers of some of the ladies. Still
they moved on, something better was yet in view; and by a continued
exertion of strength and ingenuity they found themselves at last in
the passage behind the highest bench. Here there was something less of
crowd than below; and hence Miss Morland had a comprehensive view of
all the company beneath her, and of all the dangers of her late passage
through them. It was a splendid sight, and she began, for the first
time that evening, to feel herself at a ball, she longed to dance, but
she had not an acquaintance in the room.... Everybody was shortly in
motion for tea, and they must squeeze out like the rest ... and when
they at last arrived in the tea-room ... they were obliged to sit down
at the end of a table, at which a large party were already placed,
without having anything to do there, or anybody to speak to except
each other.... After some time they received an offer of tea from one
of their neighbours; it was thankfully accepted, and this introduced
a light conversation with the gentleman who offered it, which was the
only time that anybody spoke to them during the evening, till they were
discovered and joined by Mr. Allen when the dance was over.

“‘Well, Miss Morland,’ said he directly, ‘I hope you have had an
agreeable ball.’

“‘Very agreeable indeed,’ she replied, vainly endeavouring to hide a
great yawn.”

But poor Catherine was much more fortunate in her second essay, being
introduced to Henry Tilney, the hero, who captivated her girlish
admiration, and who at last, struck by her _naïvété_ and earnest
affection for himself, fell in love with her and made her his wife.

In _Northanger Abbey_, Jane places the Thorpes in Edgar Buildings,
which she always spells “Edgar’s,” the Tilneys in Milsom Street, and
Catherine Morland with the Allens in Pulteney Street. Her topography is
always very exact and unimpeachable. Milsom Street also plays a large
part in _Persuasion_. It is here that Anne comes across Admiral Croft
looking into a print shop window, from whence he accompanies her back
to Camden Place where her father and sister are, and in the course
of the walk Anne learns, to her infinite relief, that Louisa Musgrove
is engaged to Captain Benwick, so that the terrible thought that she
might hear any day of her engagement to Captain Wentworth is dispelled
for ever. In Milsom Street also, while sheltering in a shop from the
rain, she first sees Captain Wentworth after his arrival in Bath, and
on his coming accidentally into the same shop with some friends, both
he and she are unable to hide their signs of perturbation. But it
is at a concert in the Upper Rooms that Anne goes through far worse
disquietude, while, with the tormenting uncertainty of an undeclared
love, she sits wondering whether he will come to speak to her or not.

It is at the White Hart Inn, which overlooked the entrance to the Pump
Room Arcade, that the real crisis of the book takes place. Here Anne,
on coming to spend the day with her sister Mary, Mrs. Charles Musgrove,
who is staying there with her husband, finds Captain Harville and
Captain Wentworth. It is her conversation with the former that reveals
to the latter her own unchanged feelings, and gives him the courage to
write her a letter declaring once more his own love, after the lapse of
many years. Anne is thereby rewarded for her gentle loyalty, and when
in going up Union Street with her brother-in-law she is overtaken by
Captain Wentworth, and handed over to his charge, mutual explanations
are made and mutual happiness reached.

Certainly to the lovers of Jane Austen’s books these characters people
the streets quite as vividly as any flesh-and-blood persons who have
ever lived in them.



Jane Austen had a lively and natural interest in dress, and her letters
abound in allusions to fashions, new clothes, and contrivances for
bringing into the mode those that had fallen behind it. She cannot have
had much chance of seeing new fashions at Steventon, but when she went
to a town her instincts revived. During her visit to Bath, 1799, when
she was staying with her brother Edward and his wife Elizabeth, and
some of their children, she writes—

“My cloak is come home, I like it very much, and can now exclaim with
delight, like J. Bond at hay harvest, ‘This is what I have been looking
for these three years.’ I saw some gauzes in a shop in Bath Street
yesterday at only fourpence a yard, but they were not so good or so
pretty as mine. Flowers are very much worn, and fruit is still more the
thing. Elizabeth has a bunch of strawberries, and I have seen grapes,
cherries, plums, and apricots. There are likewise almonds and raisins,
French plums, and tamarinds at the grocers’, but I have never seen
any of them in hats. A plum or greengage would cost three shillings;
cherries and grapes about five, I believe, but this is at some of the
dearest shops.”

The fashion to which she refers was soon carried to excess; Hannah
More in her Diary says that she met women who had on their heads “an
acre and a half of shrubbery, besides slopes, grass-plats, tulip beds,
clumps of peonies, kitchen-gardens, and green-houses,” and she “had no
doubt that they held in great contempt our roseless heads and leafless

“Some ladies carry on their heads a large quantity of fruit, and yet
they would despise a poor useful member of society who carried it there
for the purpose of selling it for bread.”

This fashion continued to increase until it was mimicked by Garrick,
who appeared on the stage with a mass of vegetables on his head, and a
large carrot hanging from each side, and ridicule killed the folly. It
seems quite certain that fashion, which never reached such grotesque
monstrosities as in the lifetime of Jane Austen, hardly touched, in
its extremer modes, herself and her sister, who kept to the simpler
styles with good taste. In fact the jest about the grocers shows that
Jane herself saw the humour of the thing even when living in the very
midst of it, a most unusual acuteness. She describes her own hat in the
same letter as being “A pretty hat,—a pretty style of hat too. It is
something like Eliza’s, only, instead of being all straw, half of it is
narrow purple ribbon,” which seems simple enough.

   [Illustration: DRESSING TO GO OUT]

What one would like to get is some mental picture of Jane as she
appeared indoors and out of doors, and this is extremely difficult. In
the illustration “Dressing to go Out,” by Tomkins, we get some idea of
everyday fashions. The simple style of a plain material, with perhaps
a little spot or sprig upon it, of soft muslin, made with a flowing
skirt, and a chemisette folded in, and with sleeves reaching only to
the elbow, was doubtless the most ordinary kind of indoor dress for
women; add to this a cap, and this is as near as we can get to Jane’s
usual appearance. The caps, however, varied greatly, being worn both
indoors and also for driving. Mr Austen-Leigh remarks that Jane and
her sister took to wearing caps earlier in life than was generally
the custom, but, on the contrary, caps were worn by very young girls
at this period, for Mrs. Papendick says in her Journal, which is
contemporary, that no young girl of eighteen was seen in public without
some head-covering of this description. We learn many particulars of
the different kinds of cap worn by Jane from her own letters.

“I have made myself two or three caps to wear of evenings since I came
home, and they save me a world of torment as to hairdressing which at
present gives me no trouble beyond washing and brushing, for my long
hair is always plaited up out of sight, and my short hair curls well
enough to want no papering.”

“I took the liberty a few days ago of asking your black velvet bonnet
to lend me its caul, which it readily did, and by which I have been
enabled to give a considerable improvement of dignity to the cap,
which was before too _nidgetty_ to please me.... I still venture to
retain the narrow silver round it, put twice round without any bow, and
instead of the black military feather shall put in the coquelicot one
as being smarter, and besides coquelicot is to be all the fashion this
winter. After the ball I shall probably make it entirely black.”

“I am not to wear my white satin cap to-night after all; I am to wear a
mamalouc cap instead, which Charles Fowle sent to Mary, and which she
lends me. It is all the fashion now, worn at the opera, and by Lady
Mildmay at Hackwood balls.”

The word “mamalouc” was used at this time to describe many articles
of dress; it had come into fashion after Nelson’s great victory in
Egypt, and there were mamalouc cloaks as well as caps, but whether
these articles of attire bore the most distant resemblance to those
worn in Egypt, or whether the word was tacked on to them merely for
the purpose of advertisement, I do not know. Another cap Jane mentions
seems to have been much more pert: “Miss Hare had some pretty caps and
is to make me one like one of them, only white satin instead of blue.
It will be satin and lace and a little white flower perking out of the
left ear, like Harriot Byron’s feather. I have allowed her to go as far
as one pound sixteen.” “My cap has come home, and I like it very much,
Fanny has one also, hers is white sarsenet and lace, of a different
shape from mine, more fit for morning carriage wear, which is what it
is intended for, and is in shape exceedingly like our own satin and
lace of last winter, shaped round the face exactly like it, with pipes
and more fulness and a round crown inserted behind. My cap has a peak
in front. Large full bows of very narrow ribbon (old twopenny) are the
thing. One over the right temple perhaps, and another at the left ear.”

Some ladies used to hang at the back of their turban-like caps four
or five ostrich feathers of different colours. But apparently a bow
or a bit of ribbon sometimes was worn instead of a cap, and supposed
to represent it, just as a bit of wire and gauze a few years ago was
supposed to be a toque. In one place Jane says—

“I wore at the ball your favourite gown, a bit of muslin of the same
round my head bordered with Mrs. Cooper’s band, and one little comb.”

The fashion of caps for middle-aged ladies has so recently gone out
that it is well remembered, but the fashion of night-caps, which
belongs to a much older generation, seems to us now curious. They were
then an essential part of a wardrobe; Henry Bickersteth, afterwards
Lord Langdale, writes to his mother in 1800, “I must give you my thanks
for the supply of linen you have sent me; it was indeed seasonable, as
that which I had before was completely worn out. I am still obliged
to solicit some night-caps.” He was then only a boy of sixteen, and
the vision of all the boys in a school going to bed in night-caps is a
funny one.

Head-dresses reached their climax of absurdity at the end of the
eighteenth century, but the styles varied so much that almost everyone
could please themselves. At a famous trial only a few ladies were
dressed in the French taste. “All the rest, decked in the finest manner
with brocades, diamonds, and lace, had no other head-dress, but a
ribband tied to their hair, over which they wore a flat hat, adorned
with a variety of ornaments. It requires much observation to be able to
give full account of the great effect produced by this hat; it affords
the ladies who wear it that arch and roguish air, which the winged hat
gives to Mercury.” And Sir Walter Besant says: “The women wore hoods,
small caps, enormous hats, tiny milkmaid’s straw hats; hair in curls
and flat to the head; ‘pompoms,’ or huge structures two or three feet
high, with all kinds of decorations—ribbons, birds’ nests, ships,
carriages and waggons in gold and silver lace—in the erection.”

“Nothing can be conceived so absurd, extravagant, fantastical, as the
present mode of dressing the head. Simplicity and modesty are things
so much exploded, that the very names are no longer remembered. I have
just escaped from one of the most fashionable disfigurers; and though I
charged him to dress me with the greatest simplicity, and to have only
a very distant eye upon the fashion, just enough to avoid the pride
of singularity without running into ridiculous excess, yet in spite
of all these sage didactics, I absolutely blush at myself and turn to
the glass with as much caution as a vain beauty, just risen from the
small-pox, which cannot be a more disfiguring disease than the present
mode of dressing.” (H. More, 1775.)

But in 1787 a great change occurred in the mode of hair-dressing, the
huge cushions disappeared and the main part of the hair was gathered
together at the back in a chignon from which one or two loose curls
were allowed to escape.

The long feathers, which have already been commented on, varied in
number from three to one, and continued to be worn well on into the
nineteenth century. These feathers appeared in turbans, bonnets,
and head-dresses of all kinds, and hardly a picture of the period
representing ladies at a card-table does not show one or more of these
ludicrous quivering monstrosities.

Samuel Rogers says that he had been to Ranelagh in a coach with a lady
who was obliged to sit on a stool on the floor of the coach on account
of the height of her head-dress.

Fantastic headgear was not in Jane’s line, all the accounts of her hats
and bonnets are simple. “My mother has ordered a new bonnet and so have
I; both white strip trimmed with white ribbon. I find my straw bonnet
looking very much like other people’s and quite as smart. Bonnets of
cambric muslin are a good deal worn, and some of them are very pretty,
but I shall defer one of that sort until your arrival.”

In the last ten years of the century, poke bonnets and Dunstable hats
were much in evidence, and with flowing curls, and flowing ribbons
tied in a large bow under the chin, were sometimes not unbecoming to a
pretty face.

But in Jane’s lifetime the strangest fashion, that ever caused
discomfort to a whole nation, gradually died down, that is to say the
use of wigs. Yet that they were worn so late as 1814 is shown by Jane’s
remark in one of the letters. “My brother and Edward (his son) arrived
last night. Their business is about teeth and wigs.”

Nothing quickened the departure of the wig so much as the tax put on
hair powder by Pitt in 1785; people argued that they did not mind the
money, but they thought it so iniquitous to tax powder that they left
off wearing powdered wigs to spite the Government, and probably, once
having discovered the comfort of doing without these hideous evils,
they would never return to them. Yet that the wig, even in its heyday,
was not universally worn is shown by the fact that King George III.
himself refused to wear one. The king’s “hair, which is very thick, and
of the finest light colour, tied behind with a ribband, and dressed
by the hand of the queen, is one of his most striking ornaments.
Notwithstanding this, the peruke makers have presented an address to
the king, requesting His Majesty that, for the good of their body and
the nation, he would be pleased to wear a wig.” (Grosley.)

No one has given a better account of the wig than Sir Walter Besant,
he says: “The wig was a great leveller ... with the wig it mattered
nothing whether one was bald or not. Again the wig was a great
protection for the head; it saved the wearer from the effects of cold
draughts; it was part of the comfort of the age like the sash window
and the wainscoted wall. And the wig, too, like the coat and the
waistcoat, was a means of showing the wealth of its owner, because a
wig of the best kind, new, properly curled and combed, cost a large
sum of money. Practically it was indestructible, and with certain
alterations descended. First it was left by will to son or heir;
next it was given to the coachman; then, with alterations, to the
gardener; then it went to the second-hand people in Monmouth Street,
whence it continued a downward course until it finally entered upon
its last career of usefulness in the shoeblack’s box. There was lastly
an excellent reason why in the eighteenth century it was found more
convenient to wear a wig than the natural hair. Those of the lower
classes who were not in domestic service wore their own hair. Their
heads were filled with vermin—these vermin were very easily caught—now
the man who shaved his head and wore a wig was free of this danger.”
(_London in the Eighteenth Century._)

We know that Dr. Johnson’s wigs were a constant source of trouble,
for they were not only dirty and unkempt, but generally burnt away in
the front, for being very nearsighted, he often put his head into the
candle when poring over his books. Whenever he was staying with the
Thrales therefore the butler used to waylay him as he passed in to
dinner, and pull off the wig on his head, replacing it with a new one.

Ladies rarely appeared without head-dresses of some kind, be it only a
bow or an ornamental comb, they seemed to think that a woman should be
seen with her head covered in every place as well as in church. Near
the end of _Cecilia_ the flighty Lady Honoria cries, “‘Why you know sir
as to caps and wigs, they are very serious things, for we should look
mighty droll figures to go about bareheaded,’” which shows how entirely
custom dictates what appears “mighty droll” or quite ordinary.

Wigs were sometimes the cause of ludicrous incidents, as when in the
House of Commons Lord North suddenly rising from his seat and going out
bore off on the hilt of his sword the wig of Welbore Ellis who happened
to be stooping forward.

Many people, when wigs began to go out of fashion, powdered their own
hair, and of this Besant gives us also an unpleasant but speaking
picture: “Among the minor miseries of life is to be mentioned the
slipping and sliding of lumps of the powder and pomatum from the head
down to the plate at dinner.”

Even boys at school wore queues. Of a master at Eton it is said that
his management of the boys, excellent in other respects, was in some
things amiss, for “he burnt all their ruffles, and cut off their

_The Times_ of April 14, 1795, mentions that: “A numerous club has been
formed in Lambeth called the Crop Club, every member of which, on his
entrance, is obliged to have his head docked as close as the Duke of
Bridgewater’s old bay coach horses. This assemblage is instituted for
the purpose of opposing, or rather evading, the tax on powdered heads.”

The use of powder is mentioned in Jane Austen’s story _The Watsons_,
and is one of the very few touches she gives that carry us backward in
time. Mrs. Robert Watson is speaking to her sisters-in-law, “‘I would
not make you wait,’ said she, ‘so I put on the first thing I met with.
I am afraid I am a sad figure. My dear Mr. W. (addressing her husband)
you have not put any fresh powder in your hair.’

“‘No, I do not intend it, I think there is powder enough in my hair for
my wife and sisters.’

“‘Indeed, you ought to make some alteration in your dress before dinner
when you are out visiting, though you do not at home.’


“Dinner came, and except when Mrs. Robert looked at her husband’s head
she continued gay and flippant.”

Later, when Tom Musgrave arrives, “Robert Watson, stealing a view
of his own head in an opposite glass, said with equal civility, ‘You
cannot be more in deshabille than myself. We got here so late that I
had not time even to put a little fresh powder in my hair.’”

The powders used were very various.

“And now we are upon vanities, what do you think is the reigning mode
as to powder? only tumerick, that coarse dye that stains yellow. It
falls out of the hair and stains the skin so, that every pretty lady
must look as yellow as a crocus, which I suppose will come a better
compliment than as white as a lily.” (Mrs. Papendick.)

Flour was frequently used for powdering heads, and in 1795 flour was
very scarce and enormously valuable. In the same year when the powder
tax was passed, the Privy Council “implored all families to abjure
puddings and pies, and declared their own intention to have only
fish, meat, vegetables, and household bread, made partly of rye. It
was recommended that one quartern loaf per head per week should be a
maximum allowance. The loaf was to be brought on the table for each
to help himself, that none be wasted. The king himself had none but
household bread on his table. In 1801 the Government offered bounties
on the importation of all kinds of grain and flour, and passed the
Brown Bread Act (1800) forbidding the sale of wheaten bread, or new
bread of any kind, as stale bread would go further” (Mary Bateson in
_Social England_). This scarcity and dearness of bread is a thing never
felt in the present day, when lumps of the best white bread are flung
in heaps in the squares and streets of London, and disdained even by
tramps and beggars, and when boys in the North Country go round with
sacks begging bits of bread which they afterwards use for feeding
ponies or horses!

Many epigrams and _bon mots_ were made on the new powder tax; a tax on
dogs had at that time been generally expected, so one wit wrote—

    “Full many a chance or dire mishap,
    Ofttimes ‘twixt the lip and the cup is;
    The tax that should have hung our dogs,
    Excuses them, and falls on puppies.”

Of the inconveniences attending the use of powder the following
anecdote is an instance—

“At one of Lady Crewe’s dinner parties, Grattan, after talking very
delightfully for some time, all at once seemed disconcerted, and sunk
into silence. I asked his daughter, who was sitting next to me, the
reason of this. ‘Oh,’ she replied, ‘he has just found out that he has
come here in his powdering coat.’” (Samuel Rogers, _Table Talk_.)

The Act claimed one guinea a year from every user of powder, and was
calculated to bring in about £400,000 per annum. The Royal Family,
clergymen whose incomes were under a hundred pounds, subalterns and
all below that rank in the army, officers in the navy under the rank of
commander, and all below the two eldest unmarried daughters of a family
were exempt.

Walter Savage Landor was the first of undergraduates at Oxford to do
without powder, and was told he would be stoned for a republican.

“The regular academic costume, so late as 1799, consisted of knee
breeches of any colour, and white stockings. The sun of wigs had not
even then set; they covered the craniums of nearly all dons and heads
of houses. The gentlemen wore their hair tied up behind in a thin loop
called a pigtail; footmen wore their hair tied up behind in a thick
loop called a hoop.” (Sydney, _England and the English_.)

In regard to the rest of the costume of ladies, the most noticeable
points of the mode were the high waists and long flowing skirts
clinging tightly to the figure. This, if not carried to excess, was
certainly becoming, but fashion cannot be content with mediocrity,
it must be extravagant. Consequently, “With very low bodices and very
high waists, came very scanty clothing, with an absence of petticoat, a
fashion which left very little of the form to the imagination. I do not
say that our English belles went to the extent of some of their French
sisters, of having their muslin dresses put on damp—and holding them
tight to their figures till they dried—so as absolutely to mould them
to their form ... but their clothes were of the scantiest, and as year
succeeded year, this fashion developed, if one can call diminution of
clothing development.” (John Ashton, _Old Times_.)

It is difficult to give any consecutive account of fashions extending
over such a long period, for they varied as frequently then as they do
now, however, here are a few notes.

Coquelicot, that is poppy colour, was very fashionable, Jane as we have
seen adopted it; at one time no lady’s dress was considered complete
without a dash of coquelicot in sash or trimmings.

Jane frequently mentions her cloak; this would not be what ladies call
a cloak now, but more what would be described as a fichu or tippet,
covering the shoulders and having long ends which fell like a stole in
front, some of the modern fur stoles are in fact made very much on the
same pattern; no lady’s wardrobe seems to have been complete without
at least one black silk cloak of this sort. Dresses were cut low in
front, either in V shape or curved, and even in winter this custom was
followed; a silk handkerchief was sometimes folded crosswise over the
opening, but very generally, though warmly dressed in other respects,
a lady had her neck quite uncovered. The short sleeves which went with
low necks necessitated the use of long gloves, which reached above
the elbow and were tied there with ribbon. The high waists made the
bodice of the dress so small that it was of very little consequence,
and sometimes was formed merely by a folded bit of material like
a fichu. This was covered by that fashionable and characteristic
garment, the pelisse. It was not considered proper for very young girls
to wear pelisses, they wore cloaks, but the pelisse did not really
differ very greatly from the cloak, for it was like a long open coat,
fitting closely to the arm, but falling straight in long ends from
the armholes, thus leaving the front of the dress exposed in a panel;
later, pelisses became more voluminous and completely covered the
dress, fastening in front.

Mrs. Papendick says, “The outdoor equipment in those days, when
pelisses and great-coats of woollen were not worn by girls, was a black
cloak of a silk called ‘mode,’ stiff, glossy, wadded, armholes with a
sleeve to the wrist from them, a small muff, and a quaker-shaped bonnet
all of the same material.”

Huge muffs were very common, and this is one of the features of
the dress of that date which is generally remembered because of its

The small girls were dressed in long skirts plainly made, and their
robes must have precluded any possibility of romping; the short skirts
and long stockinged legs of our present mode would have made them stare

As for the materials for dresses, they were of course much less varied
than the inventions of printing and machinery allow women to use
nowadays. Plain muslins, or muslins embroidered at the edge, were most
common, though there were other materials such as taffeta, sarsenet,
and bombazine. We must realise also that any lace used in trimming
must have been real lace, there was no machine-made stuff at 2¾d.
a yard with which every servant girl could deck herself as she does
now. India muslins were extremely popular, and seemed to have been
worn quite regardless of the climate, which according to accounts, our
grandmothers notwithstanding, does not seem to have changed remarkably.

When Lady Newdigate was at Brighton in 1797 she writes to her husband:
“Do ask of your female croneys if they have any wants in the muslin
way. Nothing else is worn in gowns by any rank of people, but I don’t
know that I can get them cheaper here, but great choice there is, very
beautiful and real India.”

In January 1801, Jane writes from Steventon, “I shall want two new
coloured gowns for the summer, for my pink one will not do more than
clear me from Steventon. I shall not trouble you, however, to get more
than one of them, and that is to be a plain brown cambric muslin, for
morning wear; the other, which is to be a very pretty yellow and white
cloud, I mean to buy in Bath. Buy two brown ones, if you please, and
both of a length, but one longer than the other—it is for a tall woman.
Seven yards for my mother, seven yards and a half for me; a dark brown,
but the kind of brown is left to your own choice, and I had rather they
were different as it will be always something to say, to dispute about,
which is the prettiest. They must be cambric muslin.”

Ten years later muslins are still fashionable. “I am sorry to tell you
that I am getting very extravagant [she was at this time in London] and
spending all my money, and what is worse for you, I have been spending
all yours too; for in a linendraper’s shop to which I went for checked
muslin, and for which I was obliged to give seven shillings a yard, I
was tempted by a pretty coloured muslin and bought ten yards of it on
the chance of your liking it; but, at the same time, if it should not
suit you, you must not think yourself at all obliged to take it. It is
only three and six per yard, and I should not in the least mind taking
the whole. In texture it is just what we prefer, but its resemblance to
green crewels I must own is not great, for the pattern is a small red

That silly and affected nomenclature for the dress fabrics was in use
then as it is still, is apparent from Hannah More’s remark, “One lady
asked what was the newest colour; the other answered that the most
truly fashionable silk was a _soupçon de vert_, lined with a _soupir
etouffée et bradée de l’espérance_; now you must not consult your
old-fashioned dictionary for the word _espérance_ for you will there
find that it means nothing but hope, whereas _espérance_ in the new
language of the time means rose-buds.”

The most particular description of a dress Jane ever gives is almost
minute enough to be followed by a dressmaker: “It is to be a round
gown, with a jacket and a frock front, to open at the side. The jacket
is all in one with the body, and comes as far as the pocket holes—about
half a quarter of a yard deep, I suppose, all the way round, cut off
straight at the corners with a broad hem. No fulness appears either in
the body or the flap, the back is quite plain—and the side equally so.
The front is sloped round to the bosom and drawn in, and there is to be
a frill of the same to put on occasionally when all one’s handkerchiefs
are dirty, which frill must fall back. She is to put two breadths and
a half in the tail, and no gores—gores not being so much worn as they
were. There is nothing new in the sleeves; they are to be plain, with
a fulness of the same falling down and gathered up underneath. Low in
the back behind, and a belt of the same.”

It is of course most obvious that the ludicrous fashions and enormous
erections, which were carried by the leaders of fashion, did not affect
quiet country girls; just as in our own time the distorted sleeves or
ever-changing skirts, and all the vagaries of the smart set, are known
and seen by hundreds who daily go about in perfectly simple clothes
which yet can not be called unfashionable because they conform in main
points to the dictates of the fashion of the moment without going to

Two more characteristic quotations from the letters must be given—

“How do you like your flounce? We have seen only plain flounces. I hope
you have not cut off the train of your bombazine. I cannot reconcile
myself to giving them up as morning gowns; they are so very sweet by
candlelight. I would rather sacrifice my blue one for that purpose; in
short I do not know, and I do not care,” and in the following year,
“I have determined to trim my lilac sarsenet with lilac satin ribbon
just as my chine crape is. Sixpenny width at bottom, threepenny or
fourpenny at top. Ribbon trimmings are all the fashion at Bath. With
this addition it will be a very useful gown, happy to go anywhere.”

In one small point the lady of the eighteenth century resembled her
successor of to-day.

_The Times_ of November 9, 1799, notes: “What is still more remarkable
is the total abjuration of the female pocket ... every fashionable fair
carries her purse in her workbag, and she has the pleasure of laying
everything that belongs to her upon the table wherever she goes.”

Hoops were worn in Court dress long after they were abandoned
elsewhere, someone describes them as the “excrescences and balconies
with which modern hoydens overwhelm and barricade their persons.” Apart
from this survival at Court, dress was generally long and clinging.

At one of the Drawing Rooms of 1796 crape was all the fashion; Princess
Augusta was dressed in “a rich gold embroidered crape petticoat in
leaves across, intersected with blue painted foil in shaded spots,
having the appearance of stripes from top to bottom; ornamented with
a rich embroidered border in festoons of blue shaded satin and gold
spangles. Pocket holes ornamented with broad gold lace, and blue
embroidered satin bows; white and gold body and train.” There are many
other costumes described at the same Drawing Room, from which we gather
that the hair was dressed very full and high, and quite off the ears,
and that bandeaus of gold or silver lace, or black velvet embroidered
with gold, were run through it. Gold and silver artificial flowers were
also very commonly worn, and some ladies had plumes. There were also a
few caps. “The ladies all wore full dress neckerchiefs with point lace,
sufficiently open to display irresistible charms.”

Men’s dress of the same period was most magnificent, and perhaps
the feature of it that would strike one most in contrast with modern
fashions, would be its variety of colour; coats and waistcoats were
always coloured, black was only donned for mourning. Gold and silver
lace and figured brocades, with lace cuffs and ruffles, were essential
to a beau. Horace Walpole notes at the wedding of a nephew that, except
for himself, there wasn’t a bit of gold lace anywhere in the dress of
the men, and he considered it altogether as a very poor affair.

A fairly good idea of the different degrees of plainness and ornament
in the clothes worn by gentlemen may be gathered from Reynold’s
portrait group of Inigo Jones, Hon. H. Fane, and C. Blair which was
done at this time.

The following is the wardrobe of a fashionable man of the time. “My
wardrobe consisted of five fashionable coats full mounted, two of
which were plain, one of cut velvet, one trimmed with gold, and another
with silver lace; two frocks, one of which was drab with large plate
buttons, the other of blue with gold binding; one waistcoat of gold
brocade, one of blue satin, embroidered with silver, one of green silk
trimmed with broad figured gold lace; one of black silk with fringes;
one of white satin, one of black cloth and one of scarlet; six pairs
of cloth breeches, one pair of crimson, and another of black velvet;
twelve pair of white silk stockings, as many of black silk, and the
same number of fine cotton; one hat laced with gold Point d’Espagne;
another with silver lace scalloped, a third gold binding, and a fourth
plain; three dozen of fine ruffled shirts, as many neckcloths; one
dozen of cambric handkerchiefs, and the like number of silk. A gold
watch with a chased case [it was the fashion to wear two watches at
one time during the century], two valuable diamond rings, two morning
swords, one with a silver handle, and a fourth cut steel inlaid with
gold; a diamond stock buckle and a set of stone buckles for the knees
and shoes; a pair of silver mounted pistols with rich housings; a
gold headed cane, and a snuff box of tortoiseshell, mounted with gold,
having the picture of a lady on the top.”

   [Illustration: INIGO JONES, HON. H. FANE, AND C. BLAIR]

In _The New Guide_ already quoted, the following account is put into
the mouth of a young gentleman of fashion:—

    “I ride in a chair with my hands in a muff,
    And have bought a silk coat and embroidered the cuff.
    But the weather was cold, and the coat it was thin,
    So the tailor advised me to line it with skin.
    But what with my Nivernois hat can compare,
    Bag-wig, and laced ruffles, and black solitaire?
    And what can a man of true fashion denote,
    Like an ell of good ribbon tied under the throat?
    My buckles and box are in exquisite taste,
    The one is of paper, the other of paste.”

Fox, when a very young man, was a prodigious dandy, wearing a little
odd French hat, shoes with red heels, etc. He and Lord Carlisle
once travelled from Paris to Lyons for the express purpose of buying
waistcoats; and during the whole journey they talked about nothing
else. (S. Rogers, _Table Talk_.)

Jane Austen’s brother Edward would dress, as befitted his position,
with greater variety of colour and style than his clergyman father and
brother. It was the usual thing for a clergyman to dress in black, with
knee-breeches and white stock, but it was not essential. In _Northanger
Abbey_ when Henry Tilney is first introduced to Catherine in the Lower
Rooms at Bath, there is nothing in his attire to indicate that he is a
clergyman, a fact which she only learns subsequently.

In ordinary civilian dress, men wore long green, blue, or brown cloth
coats with stocks and frilled ruffles. In the _Man of Feeling_ a man
casually met with is wearing “a brownish coat with a narrow gold
edging, and his companion an old green frock with a buff coloured
waistcoat,” while an ex-footman trying to play the gentleman has on “a
white frock and a red laced waistcoat.”

At that time footgear for men consisted of slippers in the house,
and riding-boots for out of doors. When Beau Nash was forming the
assemblies at Bath, as has been said he made a dead set against
the habit some men had of wearing boots in the dancing-room. “The
gentlemen’s boots also made a very desperate stand against him, the
country squires were by no means submissive to his usurpations, and
probably his authority alone would never have carried him through, had
he not reinforced it with ridicule.” His ridicule took the form of a
squib, one verse of which was as follows:—

    “Come Trollops and Slatterns,
    Cockt hats and white aprons,
      This best our modesty suits;
    For why should not we
    In dress be as free
      As Hogs-Norton squires in boots.”

“The keenness, severity, and particularly the good rhymes of this
little _morceau_ which was at that time highly relished by many of
the nobility at Bath, gained him a temporary triumph. But to push his
victories he got up a puppet show, in which Punch came in, booted and
spurred in the character of a country squire. When told to pull off his
boots he replies:—’Why, madam, you may as well bid me pull off my legs.
I never go without boots, I never ride, I never dance without them; and
this piece of politeness is quite the thing in Bath. We always dance at
our town in boots, and the ladies often move minuets in riding boots.’
From this time few ventured to appear at the assemblies in Bath in
riding dress.” (_Life of Nash_, 1772.)



For two and a half years, that is to say from May 1801 to
September 1804, we do not hear any more of Jane Austen from her own
correspondence. Then, while she was staying at Lyme, she sent a letter
to her sister which is given in Mr. Austen-Leigh’s _Memoir_. It will
be remembered that part of the scene in _Persuasion_ takes place at
Lyme, where the principal characters are transported, and where Louisa
Musgrove meets with her accident. Captain Wentworth’s friend, Captain
Harville, had settled there for the winter, and wrote such a glowing
account of the fine country around that “the young people were all wild
to see Lyme.” The party that finally went were the heroine, Anne Elliot
herself, her brother and sister-in-law, her two friends, Henrietta and
Louisa Musgrove, and her quondam lover, Captain Wentworth, who was at
this time paying rather more attention to Louisa Musgrove than could
be borne with easiness by poor Anne, who had realised the dreadful
mistake she had made in giving him up seven years before. “They were
come too late in the year for any amusement or variety which Lyme,
as a public place might offer; the rooms were shut up, the lodgers
almost gone, scarcely any family but the residents left—and as there is
nothing to admire in the buildings themselves, the remarkable situation
of the town, the principal street almost hurrying into the water, the
walk to the Cobb, skirting round the pleasant little bay, which in
the season is animated with bathing machines and company; the Cobb
itself, its old wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful
line of cliffs stretching out to the east of the town, are what the
stranger’s eye will seek; and a very strange stranger it must be who
does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme to make him wish
to know it better. The scenes in its neighbourhood, Charmouth, with
its high grounds and extensive sweeps of country, and still more its
sweet retired bay, backed by dark cliffs, where fragments of low rock
among the sands make it the happiest spot for watching the flow of the
tide, for sitting in unwearied contemplation; the woody varieties of
the cheerful vista of Up Lyme; and, above all, Pinny, with its green
chasms between romantic rocks, where the scattered forest trees and
orchards of luxuriant growth declare that many a generation must have
passed away since the first partial falling of the cliff prepared the
ground for such a state, where a scene so wonderful and so lovely is
exhibited, as may more than equal any of the resembling scenes of the
far-famed Isle of Wight; these places must be visited, and visited
again, to make the worth of Lyme understood.”

It is wonderful that Jane should have remembered in such detail a place
which she had apparently only seen on one visit, and that many years
before she wrote the book in which the description is embodied, but
it is not unlikely that, as the instinct of word-painting was strong
within her, she wrote down some such account on the spot, and had it
for reference afterwards.

Louisa’s wilfulness in leaping down the steps of the Cobb, and her
subsequent accident, at which Captain Wentworth deceives Anne further
as to the real state of his feelings by displaying much poignant and
unnecessary grief, form the chief episode in the book.

While at Lyme herself, Jane took part in the usual amusements; she went
to a dance and was escorted back by “James and a lanthorn, though I
believe the lanthorn was not lit as the moon was up.” She walked on the
Cobb, and bathed in the morning, also she looked after the housekeeping
for her father and mother, who were with her in lodgings.

This was in September. In the beginning of the following year her
father died, but there is no letter yet published from which we can
judge any of the details or the state of her feelings at this great

In the April after this event there are two letters, given by Mr.
Austen-Leigh, written from Gay Street, Bath, in which no allusion is
made to her father’s death. She and her mother were then in lodgings.
It was at the end of this year that they moved to Southampton.

Jane’s pen had not been altogether idle while at Bath, for it is
supposed that she there wrote the fragment _The Watsons_ which is
embodied in Mr. Austen-Leigh’s _Memoir_.

It must also have been at this time that the MS. of _Northanger Abbey_
was offered to the Bath bookseller, a transaction which is described

Before leaving Bath Jane went to stay with her brother, Edward Knight,
at Godmersham; this was in August of the same year, 1805.

Godmersham, to which the Austen girls so often went on visits, is thus
described by Lord Brabourne, who certainly had every right to know—

“Godmersham Park is situated in one of the most beautiful parts of
Kent, namely, in the valley of the Stour, which lies between Ashford
and Canterbury. Soon after you pass the Wye station of the railway
from the former to the latter place, you see Godmersham church on your
left hand, and just beyond it, comes into view the wall which shuts off
the shrubberies and pleasure grounds of the great house from the road;
close to the church nestles the home farm, and beyond it the rectory,
with lawn sloping down to the river Stour, which for a distance of
nearly a mile runs through the east end of the park. A little beyond
the church you see the mansion, between which and the railroad lies
the village, divided by the old high road from Ashford to Canterbury,
nearly opposite Godmersham. The valley of the Stour makes a break in
that ridge of chalk hills, the proper name of which is the Backbone of

“So that Godmersham Park, beyond the house, is upon the chalk downs,
and on its further side is bounded by King’s Wood, a large tract
of woodland containing many hundred acres and possessed by several
different owners.”

The children of Edward and Elizabeth were now growing up. The eldest
boy, Edward, was delicate, and there was some talk of taking him to
Worthing instead of sending him back to school; however, he apparently
grew stronger, for he returned to school again with his brother George.
The next two boys were Henry and William; Jane says, she has been
playing battledore and shuttlecock with the younger of the two, “he and
I have practised together two mornings, and improve a little; we have
frequently kept it up three times, and once or twice six.”

The eldest girl, Fanny, had become almost as dear as a sister to her
aunt, and the next, Elizabeth, are also mentioned in the letters; there
were besides these younger children, two more boys and three girls, a
fine family!

Before coming to Godmersham Jane had stayed at Eastwell, where George
Hatton and his wife Lady Elizabeth lived; their eldest son succeeded
later to the title of ninth Earl of Winchilsea; Jane mentions this lad
as a “fine boy,” but was chiefly delighted with his younger brother
Daniel, who afterwards married a daughter of the Earl of Warwick. At
the time she wrote this letter, Cassandra was at Goodnestone with the
Bridges. The two sisters soon after changed places, crossing on the
journey, as Jane went to Goodnestone and Cassandra to Godmersham; owing
to the difficulty of carriage transit, journeys must frequently have
been arranged thus to save the horses double work.

Jane in writing from Goodnestone alludes much to the two Bridges girls,
Harriet and her delicate sister Marianne.

There was to be a great ball at Deal for which Harriet Bridges received
a ticket, and an invitation to stay at Dover, but this was suddenly
put off on account of the death of the Duke of Gloucester, brother of
George III. Jane opined that everybody would go into mourning on his
account. Mourning was of course much more generally used then than now,
and everyone seems to have rushed into it whether they belonged to the
Court or not on the death of any member of the Royal Family.

During the four years that had passed since the beginning of the
century, Europe had been in a continual turmoil, a turmoil that could
never cease while Napoleon was at liberty. The Battle of Alexandria in
the first year of the new century had taught him that the English were
as formidable on land as on sea, and the Battle of the Baltic in the
following month, further convinced him that there was one unconquered
nation that dared oppose him. He recognised, however, that while he
could not but acknowledge the superiority of Britain on the sea, and
in places accessible by sea, he could do much as he pleased on the
Continent, therefore a compromise was arrived at, and on March 27,
1802, the Treaty of Amiens was signed, and for the first time for many
years the strain of war was relaxed in Great Britain.

The arrogance of Napoleon, however, made a continuous peace impossible,
and by the spring of the next year (1803) the two nations were again
ready to spring at each other’s throats. Napoleon seized and detained
10,000 British travellers who were in France, and this provoked fury
in Great Britain. Great preparations were now once more made in France
for the long-cherished project of the invasion of England, where in a
few weeks 300,000 volunteers were enrolled. The national excitement
was tremendous, and Jane must have heard at least as much about
the preparations for war, and the dangers of invasion, even in the
frivolous society of Bath, as about dress and trivial society details.

In May 1804, Napoleon threw aside all disguise, and had himself
proclaimed Emperor of the French, and by the end of the same year
Spain, having thrown in her lot with France, declared war also against
England. The whole of 1805 must have been one of tense excitement to
everyone with a brain to understand. The future of England trembled
in the balance, yet Jane’s pleasant letters from Godmersham deal in
nothing but domestic detail and small talk, not one allusion is there
to the throes which threatened to rend the national existence.

In the autumn of 1805 both the sisters had returned to their mother,
who in their absence had had the companionship of Martha Lloyd. Then
came the removal to Southampton, where they went to “a commodious
old-fashioned house in a corner of Castle Square.”

Mr. Austen-Leigh, writing from recollection, says: “My grandmother’s
house had a pleasant garden bounded on one side by the old city walls;
the top of this wall was sufficiently wide to afford a pleasant walk,
with an extensive view, easily accessible to ladies by steps.... At
that time Castle Square was occupied by a fantastic edifice, too large
for the space in which it stood, though too small to accord well with
its castellated style, erected by the second Marquess of Lansdowne,
half-brother to the well-known statesman who succeeded him in the
title. The marchioness had a light phaeton drawn by six, and sometimes
by eight little ponies, each pair decreasing in size and becoming
lighter in colour.... It was a delight to me to look down from the
window and see this fairy equipage put together, for the premises of
the castle were so contracted that the whole process went on in the
little space that remained of the open square.... On the death of the
Marquess in 1809 the castle was pulled down. Few probably remember its
existence; and anyone who might visit the place now would wonder how it
ever could have stood there.”

Mrs. Austen was not well off, for her husband had had no private means
and she herself but little, yet her son Edward was well able to help
her, for Chawton alone is said to have been worth £5000 a year. There
was also money in the family, for Jane some years later speaks of her
eldest brother’s income being £1100 a year. She and her sister must
have had some little allowance also, as it was with her own money that
she paid for the publication of the first of her books. Simply as she
had always lived, she does not seem to have had small ideas on the
subject, the couples in her books require about two thousand a year
before they can be considered prosperous, and incomes of from five
thousand to ten thousand pounds are not rare. She makes one of the
characters in _Mansfield Park_ remark, on hearing that Mr. Crawford
has four thousand pounds a year, “‘Those who have not more must
be satisfied with what they have. Four thousand a year is a pretty

There was apparently some question raised by her relations about the
income bestowed by Jane upon the mother and daughters in _Sense and
Sensibility_, namely, five hundred pounds a year. But having regard
to all the circumstances, the style to which they were accustomed, and
Mrs. Dashwood’s inability to economise, this could perhaps hardly have
been made less.

We hear at the close of one year at Southampton that Mrs. Austen is
pleased “at the comfortable state of her own finances, which she finds
on closing her year’s accounts, beyond her expectation, as she begins
the new year with a balance of thirty pounds in her favour.”

And afterwards, “My mother is afraid I have not been explicit enough on
the subject of her wealth; she began 1806 with sixty-eight pounds; she
begins 1807 with ninety-nine pounds, and this after thirty-two pounds
purchase of stock.”

In this year, 1805, the income tax was increased from 6½ per cent. to
10 per cent. on account of the tremendous war expenditure.

At this time an amicable arrangement had been arrived at, by which
Frank Austen and his wife shared the house of the mother and sisters at
Southampton, Frank himself being of course frequently away. His first
wife, Mary Gibson, whom he had only recently married, lived until 1823;
and is referred to by her sister-in-law as “Mrs. F. A.,” doubtless to
distinguish her from the other Mary, James’s wife. Martha Lloyd, whom
Frank married as his second wife, long, long after, seems to have been
such a favourite with the family that she practically lived with the
Austens at Southampton, as her own mother had died some years before.

The country round Southampton is pretty, and the town itself pleasant;
we have a contemporary description of it in 1792. “Southampton is one
of the most neat and pleasant towns I ever saw ... was once walled
round, many large stones of which are now remaining. There were four
gates, only three now. It consists chiefly of one long fine street
of three quarters of a mile in length, called the High Street.... The
Polygon (not far distant) could the original plan have been completed,
‘tis said, would have been one of the first places in the kingdom....
At the extremity a capital building was erected with two detached
wings, and colonnades. The centre was an elegant tavern, with assembly,
card rooms, etc., and at each wing, hotels to accommodate the nobility
and gentry. The tavern is taken down, but the wings converted into
genteel houses.” (Mrs. Lybbe Powys.)

There does not seem to be any record of the first year spent here,
there are no letters preserved, and we know that Jane wrote no more
novels. Household affairs and altering clothes according to the mode
must have filled up days too pleasantly monotonous to have anything
worth recording. Southampton evidently did not inspire her, for it
figures in none of her books, though its neighbour, Portsmouth, is
described as the home of Fanny Price in _Mansfield Park_.

Yet in October 1805, just at the time Jane was settling into her new
home, was fought the Battle of Trafalgar, which smashed the allied
fleets of Spain and France, and freed Britain from any fear of
invasion. As it was a naval battle, we can imagine for the sake of her
brothers she must have thrilled at the tremendous news, which would
arrive as fast as a sailing ship could bring it—probably a day or two
after the action.

In January 1807, Cassandra was again at Godmersham, and Jane writes her
several letters full of family detail as usual.

James Austen had then been staying at Southampton with his wife;
perhaps they had brought with them the little son who looked out of the
window at the fairy carriage and the ponies; as he was born in November
1798 he would be between eight and nine years old. His little sister
Caroline certainly was there, for she is mentioned by name.

In speaking of a book Jane draws a distinction between her two
sisters-in-law, “Mrs. F. A., to whom it is new, enjoys it as one could
wish, the other Mary, I believe, has little pleasure from that or any
other book.”

The garden at Southampton was evidently the cause of much enjoyment.
“We hear that we are envied our house by many people, and that our
garden is the best in the town.”

“Our garden is putting in good order by a man who bears a remarkably
good character, has a very fine complexion, and asks something less
than the first. The shrubs which border the gravel walk he says are
only sweet briar and roses, and the latter of an indifferent sort; we
mean to get a few of a better kind therefore, and at my own particular
desire he procures us some syringas. I could not do without a syringa,
for the sake of Cowper’s line. We talk also of a laburnum. The border
under the terrace wall is clearing away to receive currants and
gooseberry bushes, and a spot is found very proper for raspberries.”

In this extract the odd use of the active for the passive tense, in
fashion in the eighteenth century, jars on modern ears, these and
similar constructions, used throughout the novels, have had something
to do with the opinions of those people who have dismissed these
brilliant works as “vulgar.”

Terrific fighting continued on the Continent, and in December the
prestige of Napoleon was enhanced on the stubborn field of Austerlitz.
In the beginning of 1806, England had the misfortune to lose by death
the great minister Pitt, who had steered her through such perilous
times. It is said that the news of Austerlitz was the final blow to a
nature worn out by stress and anxiety. In September of the same year
his talented but inferior rival, Fox, died also.

In this year was issued the famous Berlin Decree, by which Napoleon
prohibited all commerce with Great Britain, and declared confiscated
any British merchandise or shipping. But Britain had spirit enough
to retort in the following year with a decree declaring a blockade of
France, and that any of her merchant vessels were fair prizes unless
they had previously touched at a British port.

The war continued without intermission throughout 1807. Austria,
exhausted, had sullenly withdrawn, Prussia had plucked up spirit to
join with Russia in opposing the conqueror of Europe, but in June,
after the hard fought battle of Frieland, France concluded with Russia
the secret Peace of Tilsit, based upon mutual hatred of England.
England, however, soon found out the menace directed against her, and
as the French troops marched to Denmark, evidently with the intention
of summoning that country to use her fleet in accordance with their
orders, England by a prompt and brilliant countermove appeared before
Copenhagen first, and by bombarding the town compelled submission, and
carried away the whole fleet for safety’s sake. Those were glorious
days for the navy, when measures were prompt and decisive, when no
hesitation and shilly-shallying and fear of “hurting the feelings” of
an unscrupulous enemy prevented Britain from taking care of herself.

Britain was now at war with Russia and Denmark as well as France, but
the unprecedented duplicity of Napoleon in Spain in 1807 gave Britain
an unexpected field on which to do battle, and allies by no means to be
despised. Spain was France’s ally, yet France after marching through
the country to crush Portugal, quietly annexed the country of their
ally in returning, and by a ruse made the whole Royal Family prisoners
in France, while Napoleon’s brother Joseph, King of Naples, was
subsequently proclaimed King. The Spaniards were aroused, and though
the best of their troops had been previously drawn off into Germany by
the tyrant, they managed to give a good account of themselves, even
against the invincible French. Joseph Buonaparte had been proclaimed
King of Spain in June 1808. In that month Jane was at Godmersham again,
and though she did not know it, this was the last visit she would pay
before the death of Mrs. Edward Knight, which occurred in the following
October, at the birth of her eleventh child; Jane seems to have noticed
her sister-in-law was not in good health, she says, “I cannot praise
Elizabeth’s looks, but they are probably affected by a cold.”

   [Illustration: FASHIONS FOR LADIES IN 1795]

Mr. and Mrs. James Austen accompanied her on this visit, and her
account of the arrival gives such a homely picture that, trivial as
it is, it is worth quoting. “Our two brothers were walking before the
house as we approached as natural as life. Fanny and Lizzy met us in
the hall with a great deal of pleasant joy.... Fanny came to me as soon
as she had seen her aunt James to her room, and stayed while I dressed
... she is grown both in height and size since last year, but not
immoderately, looks very well, and seems as to conduct and manner just
what she was and what one could wish her to continue.”

“Yesterday passed quite à la Godmersham; the gentlemen rode about
Edward’s farm, and returned in time to saunter along Bentigh with us;
and after dinner we visited the Temple Plantations.... James and Mary
are much struck with the beauty of the place.”

Lord Brabourne gives a note on the Temple Plantation, it was “once a
ploughed field, but when my grandfather first came to Godmersham, he
planted it with underwood, and made gravel walks through it, planted
an avenue of trees on each side of the principal walk, and added it to
the shrubberies. The family always walked through it on their way to
church, leaving the shrubberies by a little door in the wall at the end
of the private grounds.”

The casual sentence “Mary finds the children less troublesome than she
expected,” adds one more stroke to the character of that sister-in-law
which Jane makes us know so well.

Mrs. Knight senior was still living, and was generous toward the other
members of her adopted son’s family besides himself.

“This morning brought me a letter from Mrs. Knight, containing the
usual fee, and all the usual kindness.... She asks me to spend a day
or two with her this week ... her very agreeable present will make my
circumstances quite easy; I shall reserve half for my pelisse.”

It will be remembered that Mrs. Edward Knight had been a Miss Bridges,
and the good-natured Harriet, her sister, was now staying at Godmersham
with her own husband, Mr. Moore, whom Jane did not think good enough
for her, though she admits later, “he is a sensible man, and tells a
story well.” She refers to her sister-in-law’s opinion of her, “Mary
was very disappointed in her beauty, and thought him very disagreeable;
James admires her and finds him pleasant and conversable.”

It was at the conclusion of this visit that Jane wrote to her sister
of the pressing necessity of coming home again to meet the visitor with
whom her “honour as well as affection” were engaged.

She was now thirty-two, no longer a young girl, and not at all likely
to mistake the nature of attentions of which she had had her full
share. However it was, whether the visitor did not come, or coming
proved himself unequal to her ideal, we do not know, and in any case
the romance so mysteriously suggested by these few words, must ever
remain in the shadow.

Jane speaks with pleasure of her sister-in-law, Elizabeth, “having a
very sweet scheme of accompanying Edward into Kent next Christmas.”
Alas, before that Christmas came, the loving mother, who seems to have
been in every way a perfect wife and sister, was no more.

When this sad event occurred in October the sisters had again changed
places, Cassandra being at Godmersham and Jane at Southampton. The
first of Jane’s letters of this period is congratulatory on the birth
of Edward’s eleventh child, and sixth son, but very shortly afterwards
she writes in real sorrow at the dreadful news which has reached her of
the death of her dear sister-in-law. The news came by way of Mrs. James
Austen and her sister Martha, who was at Southampton.

“We have felt—we do feel—for you all as you do not need to be told; for
you, for Fanny, for Henry, for Lady Bridges, and for dearest Edward,
whose loss and whose sufferings seem to make those of every other
person nothing. God be praised that you can say what you do of him,
that he has a religious mind to bear him up and a disposition that will
gradually lead him to comfort. My dear, dear Fanny, I am so thankful
that she has you with her! You will be everything to her; you will
give her all the consolation that human aid can give. May the Almighty
sustain you all, and keep you, my dearest Cassandra, well.”

“With what true sympathy our feelings are shared by Martha you need not
be told; she is the friend and sister under every circumstance.”

Poor Fanny was then in her sixteenth year, the time when a girl perhaps
feels the loss of a sensible, affectionate mother more than any other.
She acquitted herself splendidly in the difficult task that fell on her
as the eldest of so many brothers and sisters. Her next sister Lizzy
was at this time only eight years old, and though she seems to have
felt the loss keenly, it could not be the same to her as it was to

Mourning at that time entailed heavy crape, and Jane at once fitted
herself out with all that was proper. The two eldest boys, Edward and
George, were by this time at Winchester College, but when their mother
died they went first to their aunt and uncle at Steventon, and on
October 24 came on to Southampton. Jane’s next letter is full of them.
“They behave extremely well in every respect, showing quite as much
feeling as one wishes to see, and on every occasion speaking of their
father with the liveliest affection. His letter was read over by each
of them yesterday and with many tears; George sobbed aloud, Edward’s
tears do not flow so easily, but as far as I can judge, they are both
very properly impressed by what has happened.... George is almost a new
acquaintance to me, and I find him, in a different way, as engaging
as Edward. We do not want amusement; bilbocatch, at which George is
indefatigable, spillikens, paper ships, riddles, conundrums, and cards,
with watching the ebb and flow of the river, and now and then a stroll
out keep us well employed.”

Rhymed charades were a very common form of amusement at that date, and
all the Austen family excelled in them.

It will be remembered that Mr. Elton’s charade, of which the meaning
was “Courtship,” further misled the match-making Emma into thinking he
was in love with Harriet the dowerless, while she herself, the heiress,
was the real object of his attentions.

Several charades of this type made up by the Austens are still extant;
the two following are Jane’s own.

    “Divided I’m a gentleman
      In public deeds and powers;
    United, I’m a monster, who
      That gentleman devours.”

To which the answer is _A-gent_.

    “You may lie on my first by the side of a stream,
      And my second compose to the nymph you adore;
    But if, when you’ve none of my whole, her esteem
      And affection diminish—think of her no more.”

Which is easily read as _Bank-note_.

Both of these specimens show the gaiety of spirit so noticeable in the
smallest extracts from her letters.

Her observations on her nephews put the two boys before us to the life.
“While I write now George is most industriously making and manning
paper ships, at which he afterwards shoots horse chestnuts, brought
from Steventon on purpose; and Edward equally intent over the Lake of
Killarney and twisting himself about in one of our great chairs.”

Her wonderful powers as an entertainer are clearly shown in this sad
time, when she strove to keep her nephews occupied to the exclusion of
sad thoughts; she took them for excursions on the Itchen, when they
rowed her in a boat, and she was never weary of entering into their
sports and feelings; her real unselfishness came out very strongly on
this occasion.

Sir Arthur Wellesley had sailed for Spain in the July of this year, and
now England was in the throes of the Peninsular War; some of the very
few allusions that Jane ever makes to contemporary events are to be
found in reference to the Peninsular War, and these are more personal
than general. On hearing of Sir John Moore’s death in January 1809, she
writes: “I am sorry to find that Sir J. Moore has a mother living, but
though a very heroic son, he might not be a very necessary one to her
happiness.... I wish Sir John had united something of the Christian
with the hero in his death. Thank heaven we have had no one to care
for particularly among the troops, no one in fact nearer to us than Sir
John himself.”



In 1809 another move was contemplated. Edward Knight had found it in
his power to offer his mother and sisters a home rent free; and he gave
them the choice of a house in Kent, probably not far from Godmersham,
or a cottage at Chawton close to his Manor House there.

The latter offer was accepted, and preparations were made to alter
the cottage, which had been a steward’s residence, into a comfortable
dwelling. The cottage is still standing, close by the main road, and
may be seen by anyone in passing; it is of considerable size, and
there are six bedrooms besides garrets. It stands close to the junction
of two roads, one of which passes through Winchester to Southampton,
and the other through Fareham to Gosport. Chawton lies about as far
north-west of Winchester as Steventon does north.

The considerable country town of Alton, which would be convenient for
shopping, is only about a mile from the village. The cottage, dreary
and weather-beaten in appearance, is of a solid square shape, and abuts
on the high-road with only a paling in front. It is not an attractive
looking dwelling, but probably at the time was fresher and brighter in
appearance than it is now. It had also the advantage of a good garden.

It is now partially used for a club or reading-room and partially by
cottagers. At the junction of the two roads aforesaid is a muddy pond,
that which was playfully referred to by Jane in writing to her nephew,
who had not been well, when she says “you may be ordered to a house by
the sea or by a very considerable pond.”

A short distance along the Gosport Road is the entrance gate to the
Manor House, and about fifty yards up the drive is the pretty little
church, considerably altered since Jane’s time, with pinnacled and
ivy-mantled tower. Just above it is the fine old Elizabethan house.

In 1525 one William Knight had a lease of the place; the house itself
was probably built by his son John, who bought the estate, and it has
remained ever since in the hands of the Knight family, if we may count
adoption as ranking in family inheritance.

The move to Chawton was evidently some time in contemplation before
actually taking place, for writing in December 1808, Jane says that
they want to be settled at Chawton “in time for Henry to come to us for
some shooting in October at least, or a little earlier, and Edward may
visit us after taking his boys back to Winchester. Suppose we name the
fourth of September.”

Of the actual settling in at Chawton we have no details, for the next
batch of letters begins in April 1811, and Jane, with her mother and
sister, had been there about a year and a half.

Chawton was her home for the rest of her short life, though she
actually died at Winchester. At Chawton her three last novels were
written, as will be recounted in detail. It is curious that the
periods of her literary activity seem to have been synchronous with
her residence in the country; at Steventon and at Chawton respectively
she produced three novels; at Bath only a fragment, and at Southampton
nothing at all.

The life at Chawton during this and the next few years must have been
part of the happiest time she ever experienced. Her first book, _Sense
and Sensibility_, was published in 1811; she had tasted the joys of
earning money, and, what was much greater, the joy of seeing her own
ideas and characters in tangible shape; she lived in a comfortable,
pretty home, with the comings and goings of her relatives at the Manor
House to add variety, and she had probably lost the restlessness of
girlhood. If the conjecture of which we have spoken in a previous
chapter was true, she had now had time to get over a sorrow which
must have taken its place with those sweet unrealised dreams in which
the pain is much softened by retrospect. That she fully appreciated
her country surroundings is shown by frequent notes on the garden at
Chawton. “Our young piony at the foot of the firtree has just blown
and looks very handsome, and the whole of the shrubbery border will
soon be very gay with pinks and sweet williams, in addition to the
columbines already in bloom. The Syringas too are coming out. We are
likely to have a great crop of Orleans plums, but not many greengages.”
“You cannot imagine what a nice walk we have round the orchard. The
row of beech look very pretty and so does the young quick-set hedge in
the garden. I hear to-day that an apricot has been detected on one of
the trees.” “Yesterday I had the agreeable surprise of finding several
scarlet strawberries quite ripe. There are more strawberries and fewer
currants than I thought at first. We must buy currants for our wine.”

Thus the seasons are marked. The Austens ate their own tender young
peas from the garden, and “my mother’s” chickens supplied the table.

Mrs. Austen at this time seems to have taken a new lease of life, she
busied herself with garden and poultry, and did not shirk even the
harder details necessitated by these occupations.

Her granddaughter Anna, James’s eldest daughter, now grown up, was a
constant visitor at the cottage, and speaks of Mrs. Austen’s wearing a
“round green frock like a day labourer” and “digging her own potatoes.”
Anna enjoyed the little gaieties that fell to her lot as freshly as
her aunt had done at her age, indeed with even more simplicity, for
Jane remarks of one ball to which she went “it would not have satisfied
me at her age.” And again, “Anna had a delightful evening at the Miss
Middletons, syllabub, tea, coffee, singing, dancing, a hot supper,
eleven o’clock, everything that can be imagined agreeable,” as if the
freshness of Anna’s youth were very fresh indeed.

The beautiful park stretching around Chawton House, with its fine beech
trees, was of course quite open to the inhabitants of the cottage, who
must have derived many advantages from their near relationship to the

Altogether, with the freedom from care for the future, the
companionship of her sister, the increased health and energy of her
mother, the solace of her writing, the comings and goings of the
Chawton party, and the occasional visits to London and elsewhere,
to give her fresh ideas, Jane’s life must have been as pleasant as
external circumstances could make it. We can picture her sauntering
out in the early summer sunshine, her head demurely encased in the
inevitable cap, while the long stray curl tickles her cheek as she
stoops to see the buds bursting into bloom or triumphantly gathers the
earliest rose. We can picture her standing about watching Mrs. Austen
feeding the chickens, and giving her opinion as to their management.
Then going in to the little parlour, or living-room, and sitting down
to the piano while Cassandra manipulated an old-fashioned tambour
frame. In this little parlour, in spite of frequent interruptions,
Jane did all her writing sitting at the big heavy mahogany desk of
the old style, like a wooden box, which opened at a slant so as to
form a support for the paper; at this time she was revising _Sense and
Sensibility_ for the press, or adding something to the growing pile
of MS. called _Mansfield Park_. We cannot imagine that she wrote much
at a time, for her work is minute, small, and well digested; probably
after a scene or conversation between two of the characters, she would
be interrupted by another member of the household, and stroll up to
the Manor House to give orders for the reception of some of the Knight
family, or go into Alton to buy some necessary household article.
Occasionally a post-chaise would rattle past, or the daily coach and
waggons would form a diversion.

For six months, during the year 1813, the whole of the Godmersham
party lived at Chawton, while their other house was being repaired and
painted, and this intercourse added greatly to Jane’s happiness. She
cemented that affectionate friendship with her eldest niece Fanny, and
Lord Brabourne gives little extracts from his mother’s diary to show
how close the companionship was between the two, “Aunt Jane and I had
a very interesting conversation,” “Aunt Jane and I had a very delicious
morning together,” “Aunt Jane and I walked into Alton together,” and so

But during these years there was no abatement of the fierce turmoil
in Europe, the Peninsular War, demanding ever fresh levies of men and
fresh subsidies of money, was a continual drain on England’s resources,
and the beginning of 1812 found the French practically masters of
Spain; but in that year the tide turned, and after continual and bloody
battles and sieges in which the loss of life was enormous, Wellington
drove the French back across the Pyrenees, and in the following year
planted his victorious standard actually on French soil.

But the effects of the continuous wars were being felt in England, in
1811 broke out the Luddite riots, nominally against the introduction
of machinery, but in reality because of the high price of bread and
the scarcity of employment and money. Austria had signed the disastrous
Peace of Vienna with France in 1809, and during this and the following
years the Continent with small exception was ground beneath the
heel of Napoleon, who in 1812 commenced the invasion of Russia which
was to cost him so dearly. In 1811 there is rather a characteristic
exclamation in one of Jane’s letters apropos of the war: “How horrible
it is to have so many people killed! And what a blessing that one cares
for none of them!”

Napoleon’s tyranny and utter regardlessness of the feelings of national
pride in the countries he had conquered now began to bring forth for
him a bitter harvest. The Sixth Coalition of nations was formed against
him, including Russia, Prussia, Austria, Great Britain and Sweden.
After terrific fighting his armies were forced back over the Rhine, and
the mighty Empire he had formed of powerless and degraded “Republics”
melted away like snow in an August sun. In March 1814, Paris itself was
forced to surrender to the triumphant armies of the Allies. In April,
Napoleon signed his abdication and retired to Elba. Ever since he first
appeared as an active agent on the battlefields of Europe he had kept
the Continent in a perpetual ferment; cruelty, bloodshed and horror
had followed in his train. His mighty personality had seemed scarcely
human, and his very name struck terror into all hearts, and became a
bugbear with which to frighten children.

We have two letters of Jane’s in the early part of March, written from
London where she was staying with her brother Henry. There is not
another until June, and that is dated from Chawton. Of course it is
difficult to imagine that any intermediate letters she wrote can have
been entirely free from allusion to the great news at which the whole
Continent burst into pæans of thankfulness, and which must have made
England feel as if she had awakened from a nightmare, but as we have no
proof either way it must be left open to doubt.

In the June letter she says to Cassandra, who was in London, “Take
care of yourself and do not be trampled to death in running after the
Emperor. The report in Alton yesterday was that they would certainly
travel this road either to or from Portsmouth.” This referred to the
visit of the Allied monarchs to England after their triumph in Paris,
and the “Emperor” was the Emperor Alexander of Russia, who but a few
years ago had formed a secret treaty with Napoleon to the detriment of

Here we must leave political matters, to take a short review of
the work which Jane had produced in the years since she had come to

In 1811 the first of her books, _Sense and Sensibility_, was published
at her own expense, and produced in three neat little volumes in clear
type by T. Egerton, Whitehall. Her identity was not disclosed by the
title-page, which simply bore the words “By a Lady.” She paid a visit
to her brother Henry in London in order to arrange the details, with
which Henry helped her very much. When in London with this object
she writes, “No, indeed, I am never too busy to think of _Sense and
Sensibility_. I can no more forget it than a mother can forget her
sucking child, and I am much obliged to you for your enquiries. I have
had two sheets to correct but the last only brings us to Willoughby’s
first appearance. Mrs. K. regrets in the most flattering manner that
she must wait _till_ May, but I have scarcely a hope of its being out
in June. Henry does not neglect it; he _has_ hurried the printer, and
says he will see him again to-day.”

_Sense and Sensibility_ did not come out until she had returned to
the country, and when she received £150 for it later on, she thought
it “a prodigious recompense for that which had cost her nothing.” And
certainly, considering her anonymity and the small chances the book
had, she had good reason to be satisfied. The gratifying reception of
_Sense and Sensibility_ seems to have awakened the powers of writing
which had so long lain dormant from want of encouragement. In 1812 she
began _Mansfield Park_, perhaps in some ways the least interesting,
though by no means the least well constructed, of her novels. Edmund
and Fanny are both a little too mild for the taste of most people, and
are far from taking their real place as hero and heroine. However,
Edmund’s blind partiality for Miss Crawford is very natural, and,
as Henry Austen himself said, it is certainly impossible to tell
until quite the end how the story is going to be finished. The minor
characters are throughout excellent; it is one of Jane’s shining
qualities that no character, however small the part it has to play,
remains unknown, she seems able to describe in a touch or two some
human quality or defect which at once brings us into intimate relations
with either man or woman. Mr. Rushworth’s self-importance, “I am to
be Count Cassel and to come in first in a blue dress, and a pink satin
cloak, and afterwards have another fine fancy suit by way of a shooting
dress. I do not know how I shall like it ... I shall hardly know myself
in a blue dress and pink satin cloak,” is excellent.

Lady Bertram’s character might be gathered from one sentence in the
letter which she sends to Fanny, telling of her elder son’s dangerous
illness: “Edmund kindly proposes attending his brother immediately,
but I am happy to add Sir Thomas will not leave me on this distressing
occasion as it would be too trying for me.”

Mrs. Norris, with her sycophantic speeches towards her well-to-do
nieces, her own opinion of her virtues, her admonitions to Fanny,
her habit of taking credit for the generous acts performed by other
people, her spunging, and trick of getting everything at the expense
of others, is the most striking figure in the book. When poor Fanny,
having been neglected and left alone all day, the odd one of the party,
is returning with the rest rather drearily from Rushworth Park, Mrs.
Norris remarks—

“Well, Fanny, this has been a fine day for you, upon my word! Nothing
but pleasure from beginning to end! I am sure you ought to be very
much obliged to your Aunt Bertram and me for contriving to let you
go. A pretty good day’s amusement you have had.” This, when she has
done her best to stop Fanny’s going at all, depicts her character in
unmistakable colours. On another occasion she tells the meek Fanny,
“The nonsense and folly of people’s stepping out of their rank and
trying to appear above themselves makes me think it right to give
you a hint, Fanny, now that you are going into company without any
of us, and I do beseech and entreat you not to be putting yourself
forward, and talking and giving your opinion as if you were one of
your cousins, as if you were dear Mrs. Rushworth or Julia. That will
never do, believe me. Remember wherever you are you must be the lowest
and last.” In the same book Sir Thomas Bertram’s conference with his
niece on the proposals he has received for her from Mr. Crawford is a
wonderful commentary on the opinions of the time, but is too long to
quote in entirety. That Fanny should refuse a handsome eligible young
man, merely because she could neither respect nor love him, was quite
incredible, and not only foolish but wicked. Sir Thomas speaks sternly
of his disappointment in her character, “I had thought you peculiarly
free from wilfulness of temper, self-conceit and every tendency to that
independence of spirit which prevails so much in modern days, even in
young women, and which, in young women, is offensive and disgusting
beyond all common offence.”

We know what Jane herself thought of coercion of this kind, and how
fully her sentiments were on the side of liberty of choice.

Among the other excellencies of _Mansfield Park_ we may note the
sketch of Fanny’s home at Portsmouth, with her loud-voiced father and
noisy brothers so distressing to her excessive sensitiveness. With
all these merits, and to add to them that of excellent construction,
_Mansfield Park_ may rank high in spite of its somewhat colourless
hero and heroine. We cannot, however, leave Edmund and Fanny in the
same certainty of a happy future as we may leave others of the heroes
and heroines in the novels; they may rub along well enough, but we
feel they cannot but be intolerably dull, though perhaps so long as
people are not aware of their own dulness they may enjoy happiness of
a negative sort!

Henry Austen read _Mansfield Park_ in MS. while travelling with his
sister, and she notes with pleasure, “Henry’s approbation is hitherto
even equal to my wishes. He says it is different from the other two,
but he does not think it at all inferior. He has only married Mrs.
Rushworth. I am afraid he has gone through the most entertaining
part. He took to Lady Bertram and Mrs. Norris most kindly, and gives
great praise to the drawing of all the characters. He understands them
all, likes Fanny, and, I think, foresees how it will all be.” And she
adds later, “Henry is going on with _Mansfield Park_. He admires H.
Crawford; I mean properly, as a clever pleasant man, I tell you all the
good I can, and I know how much you will enjoy it.” “Henry has this
moment said he likes my M. P. better and better; he is in the third
volume; I believe now he has changed his mind as to foreseeing the end;
he said yesterday at least he defied anybody to say whether H. C. would
be reformed or forget Fanny in a fortnight.”

The first two extracts are from a letter given in Mr. Austen-Leigh’s

In 1813 came the publication of _Pride and Prejudice_, apparently at
Mr. Egerton’s risk. This was evidently Jane’s own favourite among the
novels, and her references to it are made with genuine delight.

“Lady Robert is delighted with P. and P., and really was so, I
understand, before she knew who wrote it, for, of course she knows
now.” “I long to have you hear Mr. H’s opinion of P. and P. His
admiring my Elizabeth so much is particularly welcome to me.” “Poor
Dr. Isham is obliged to admire P. and P. and to send me word that he
is sure he shall not like Madam D’Arblay’s new novel half so well.
Mrs. C. invented it all of course.” The book had come out quite in the
beginning of the year, for in a letter dated Jan. 29, 1813, given by
Mr. Austen-Leigh, she writes—

“I hope you received my little parcel by J. Bond on Wednesday evening,
my dear Cassandra, and that you will be ready to hear from me again
on Sunday, for I feel that I must write to you to-day. I want to tell
you that I have got my own darling child from London. On Wednesday I
received one copy sent down by Falkner with three lines from Henry to
say that he had given another to Charles and sent a third by the coach
to Godmersham.... The advertisement is in our paper to-day for the
first time: 18s. He shall ask £1, 1s. for my two next and £1, 8s. for
my stupidest of all.”

_Mansfield Park_ was finished in the same year, and came out under
the auspices of Mr. Egerton in 1814, though the second edition was
transferred to Mr. Murray. Before the publication of _Emma_, Jane
had begun to be known in spite of the anonymity of her title-pages.
The only bit of public recognition she ever personally received was
accorded to her while she was in London, and must be told in the
account of her London experiences.



During the years when she lived at Chawton, Jane stayed pretty
frequently in London, generally with her brother Henry. She was with
him in 1811, when he was in Sloane Street, going daily to the bank in
Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, in which he was a partner.

Mr. Austen-Leigh says of Henry Austen, “He was a very entertaining
companion, but had perhaps less steadiness of purpose, certainly less
success in life, than his brothers.”

Jane was evidently very fond of Henry, and fully appreciated his ready
sympathy and interest in her affairs. In speaking of her young nephew
George Knight, she says: “George’s enquiries were endless, and his
eagerness in everything reminds me often of his uncle Henry.”

Henry was at this time married to his cousin Eliza, widow of the Count
de Feuillade, who has already been mentioned, and Eliza was evidently
vivacious and fond of society, so her sister-in-law had by no means a
dull time when staying with her. But how different were Jane’s visits
to London, unknown, and certainly without any idea of the fame that was
to attend her later, to those of her forerunners and contemporaries who
had been “discovered,” and who on the very slightest grounds were fêted
and adored. The company of Mrs. Austen’s friends, a little shopping,
an occasional visit to the play, these were the details which filled up
the daily routine of Jane’s visit. She made the acquaintance of many of
her sister-in-law’s French friends, and enjoyed a large musical party
given by her, where, “including everybody we were sixty-six,” and where
“the music was extremely good harp, pianoforte, and singing,” and the
“house was not clear till twelve.”

It is not difficult to reconstruct the London that she knew. Rocque’s
splendid map of the middle of the eighteenth century gives us a basis
to go upon, though houses had been rapidly built since it was made.
Even at Rocque’s date, London reached to Hyde Park Corner, and the
district we call Mayfair was one of the smartest parts of the town.
St. George’s Hospital stood at the corner as at present, and a line
of houses bordered the road running past it, but beyond this, over
Belgravia, were open fields called the Five Fields crossed by the
rambling Westbourne stream, and traversed by paths.

Sloane Street itself had been planned in 1780, and was called after
the famous Sir Hans Sloane, whose collection formed the nucleus of the
British Museum. It was therefore comparatively new in Jane’s time. To
the south, near the river, there were a good many houses at Chelsea,
that is to say south of King’s Road, and Chelsea Hospital of course
stood as at present. Next to it, where is now the strip of garden open
to the public, and lined by Bridge Road, stood the waste site and ruins
of the famous Ranelagh Rotunda, which had been in its time the scene
of so much gaiety; only a few years previous to Jane’s visit to Sloane
Street it had been demolished and the fittings sold.

Vauxhall, however, the great rival of Ranelagh, was still popular, and
continued, with gradually waning patronage, until after the middle of
the nineteenth century. It does not appear that Jane ever went there,

As for Knightsbridge, if we imagine all the great modern buildings such
as Sloane Court and the Barracks done away with, and picture a long
unpaved road stretching away into fields and open country westward,
with a few small houses of the brick box type on both sides, we get
some idea of the district. Sloane Street was then in fact quite the
end of London; not long before it had been dangerous to travel to the
outlying village of Chelsea without protection at night, and it was not
until another fourteen years had passed that the Five Fields were laid
out for building.

In the London of that date, many things we now take as commonplace
necessaries were altogether wanting, and if we could be carried back
in time it would be the negative side that would strike us most;
for instance, there was very little pavement, and what there was was
composed of great rounded stones like the worst sort of cobble paving
in a provincial town. Most of the roads were made of gravel and dirt;
Jane mentions a fresh load of gravel having been thrown down near Hyde
Park Corner, which made the work so stiff that “the horses refused
the collar and jibbed.” Grosley tells us many little details which are
just what we want to know, of the kind which in all ages are taken for
granted by those who live amid them, so that they need a stranger to
record them.

He gives us first an account of his arrival in London by coach over
Westminster Bridge.

“I arrived in London towards the close of the day. Though the sun
was still above the horizon, the lamps were already lighted upon
Westminster Bridge, and upon the roads and streets that lead to it.
These streets are broad, regular, and lined with high houses forming
the most beautiful quarter of London. The river covered with boats of
different sizes, the bridge and the streets [were] filled with coaches,
their broad footpaths crowded with people.”

The group of buildings on the west of the bridge belonged of course
to the old Palace, where, in the chapel of St. Stephen, sat the House
of Commons. The Abbey would be much as it is now, also St. Margaret’s
Church. The splendid Holbein gate standing across Whitehall had been
removed about fifteen years before Grosley’s visit. He tells us that:
“Means, however, have been found to pave with free-stone the great
street called Parliament Street. The fine street called Pall Mall is
already paved in part with this stone; and they have also begun to new
pave the Strand. The two first of these streets were dry in May, all
the rest of the town being still covered with heaps of dirt.”

The dirt is what strikes him most everywhere: “In the most beautiful
part of the Strand and near St. Clement’s Church, I have seen the
middle of the street constantly foul with a dirty puddle to a height
of three or four inches; a puddle where splashings cover those that
walk on foot, fill coaches when their windows happen not to be up, and
bedaub all the lower parts of such houses as are exposed to it. The
English are not afraid of this dirt, being defended from it by their
wigs of a brownish curling hair, their black stockings, and their blue
surtouts, which are made in the form of a nightgown.”

On each side of the road ran a kind of deep and dirty ditch called
the kennel, into which refuse and rubbish was thrown, and from which
evil and unwholesome odours came. When vehicles in passing splashed
into this, a shower of filth would bespatter the passers-by behind
the posts, therefore it was of no small consequence to keep to the
wall, and the giving up of this was by no means a mere matter of form,
and frequently produced quarrels between hot-tempered men. Toward the
end of the century, however, swords were not usually worn, except by
physicians, therefore these quarrels were not always productive of so
much harm as they might have been.

The streets were full of enormous coaches, sometimes gilt, hung on high
springs, drawn by four, and even six horses; footmen, to the number of
four or six, ran beside them, and the wheels splashed heavily in the
dirt described, sending up the mud in black spurts. It was early in
the nineteenth century that a new kind of paving was tried, blocks of
cast-iron covered with gravel, but this was not a success. Besides the
large coaches there were hackney coaches, which would seem to us almost
equally clumsy and unwieldy. Omnibuses were not seen in the metropolis
until 1823, but there was something of the kind running from outlying
places to London, for Samuel Rogers tells a story as follows:—

“Visiting Lady —— one day, I made inquiries about her sister. ‘She
is now staying with me,’ answered Lady ——, ‘but she is unwell in
consequence of a fright which she got on her way from Richmond to
London.’ On enquiry it turned out that while Miss —— was coming to
town, the footman observing an omnibus approach, and thinking she might
like to see it, suddenly called in at the carriage window, ‘Ma’am, the
omnibus!’ She, being unacquainted with the term, and not sure but an
omnibus might be a wild beast escaped from the Zoological Gardens, was
thrown into a dreadful state of agitation by the announcement, and this
caused her indisposition.”

Hackney coaches were in severe competition with sedan chairs, for to
call a chair was as frequent a custom as to send for a hackney coach.
The chairmen were notorious for their incivility, just as the watermen
had previously been, and as their successors, the cabmen, became later,
though now the reproach is removed from them.

The rudeness of chairmen is exemplified in _Tom Jones_, for when Tom
found himself after the masqued ball unable to produce a shilling for
a chair, he “walked boldly on after the chair in which his lady rode,
pursued by a grand huzza from all the chairmen present, who wisely take
the best care they can to discountenance all walking afoot by their
betters. Luckily, however, the gentry who attend at the Opera House
were too busy to quit their stations, and as the lateness of the hour
prevented him from meeting many of their brethren in the street, he
proceeded without molestation in a dress, which at another season would
have certainly raised a mob at his heels.”

These chairs were kept privately by great people, and often were very
richly decorated with brocade and plush; it was not an unusual thing
for the footmen or chairmen of the owner to be decoyed into a tavern
while the chair was stolen for the sake of its valuable furniture. The
chairs opened with a lid at the top to enable the occupant to stand up
on entrance, and then were shut down; in the caricatures of the day,
these lids are represented as open to admit of the lady’s enormous
feather being left on her head.

It was of course quite impossible for a lady to go about alone in the
streets of London at this date, and even dangerous sometimes for men.
The porters, carriers, chairmen, drunken sailors, etc., ready to make a
row, are frequently mentioned by Grosley, and scuffles were of constant
occurrence. George Selwyn in 1782 was so “mobbed, daubed, and beset
by a crew of wretched little chimney-sweeps” that he had to give them
money to go away.

These pests were under no sort of control, as there were no regular
police in the streets.

“London has neither troops, patrol, or any sort of regular watch; and
it is guarded during the night only by old men chosen from the dregs
of the people; who have no other arms but a lanthorn and a pole; who
patrole the streets, crying the hour every time the clock strikes; who
proclaim good and bad weather in the morning; who come to awake those
who have any journey to perform; and whom it is customary with young
rakes to beat and use ill, when they come reeling from the taverns
where they have spent the night.” (Grosley.)

It is bewildering to find that this sort of thing continued until
George the Fourth’s reign, when Sir Robert Peel’s Metropolitan Police
Act was passed. And in that lawless rowdy age, one wonders how the town
ever got on without police; probably there were numerous deaths from
violence. It carries us back almost to the Middle Ages to realise that
so late as 1783 the last execution took place at Tyburn; Samuel Rogers
recollected as a boy seeing a whole cartful of young girls in dresses
of various colours on their way to execution for having been concerned
in the burning of a house in the Gordon Riots. Though some of these
details belong to an age prior to that when Jane stayed in London, yet
they lingered on until the nineteenth century with little change.

   [Illustration: CHARING CROSS, 1795]

In 1811 gas was just beginning to be used in lighting the streets! The
town was in a strange transitional state. Pall Mall was first lighted
with a row of gas-lamps in 1807, and on the King’s birthday, June
4, the wall between Pall Mall and St. James’s Park was brilliantly
illuminated in the same way, but gas generally was not placed in the
thoroughfares until 1812 or 1813, and meantime oil-lamps requiring much
care and attention were the only resource.

It was a noisy, rattling, busy, dirty London then, as much
distinguished for its fogs as it is at present.

M. Grosley was much struck with the fogs: “We may add to the
inconvenience of the dirt the fog-smoke which, being mixed with a
constant fog, covers London and wraps it up entirely.... On the 26th of
April, St. James’s Park was incessantly covered with fogs, smoke, and
rain, that scarce left a possibility of distinguishing objects at the
distance of four steps.”

He speaks at another place of—

“This smoke being loaded with terrestrial particles and rolling in a
thick, heavy atmosphere, forms a cloud, which envelopes London like
a mantle, a cloud which the sun pervades but rarely, a cloud which,
recoiling back upon itself, suffers the sun to break out only now and
then, which casual appearance procures the Londoners a few of what they
call glorious days.”

In regard to the main streets and squares in the West End, the greatest
difference noticeable between the London of 1811 and of the present
time would be the network of dirty and mean buildings over-spreading
the part where is now Trafalgar Square. In the middle of these stood
the King’s Mews, which had been rebuilt in 1732, and was not done
away with until 1829. At the corner where Northumberland Avenue joins
Charing Cross, was the splendid mansion of the Duke of Northumberland,
which remained until 1874.

Another great difference lay in the fact of there being no Regent
Street, for this street was not begun until two years after Jane’s 1811
visit. Bond Street was there and Piccadilly, and across the entrance
to the Park, where is now the Duke of York’s column, was Carlton House,
the home of the obstreperous Prince of Wales.

In M. Grosley’s time, Leicester House, in Leicester Fields, was still
standing, but in 1811 it had been pulled down. Grosley lodged near
here, and his details as to rent, etc., are interesting.

He says that the house of his landlord was small, only three storeys
high, standing on an irregular patch of ground, and rented at
thirty-eight guineas a year, with an additional guinea for the water
supply, which was distributed three times weekly. In this house two or
three little rooms on the first storey, very slightly furnished, were
let to him at a guinea a week.

The touch about the water supply points to another deficiency; all
the present admirable system of private taps and other distributing
agencies, also the network of drains, sewers, etc., had yet to be
evolved, for sanitation was in a very elementary condition.

Many of the shops were still distinguished by signs, for though
the custom of numbering, in place of signs, had been introduced, it
had made way but slowly, thus we find Jane referring to “The tallow
chandler is Penlington, at the Crown and Beehive, Charles Street,
Covent Garden.”

It would be particularly pleasant to know where she did her own
shopping in which she was femininely interested, but it is difficult
to infer. But beyond the fact that “Layton and Shears” was evidently
the draper whom she patronised, and that “Layton and Shears is Bedford
House,” and that “Fanny bought her Irish at Newton’s in Leicester
Square,” we do not get much detail. But we glean a few particulars from
this visit, and one of a later date.

Grafton House was evidently a famous place for shopping, for she
and Fanny frequently paid visits there before breakfast, which was,
however, generally much later than we have it, perhaps about ten;
Jane says, “We must have been three quarters of an hour at Grafton
House, Edward sitting by all the time with wonderful patience. There
Fanny bought the net for Anna’s gown, and a beautiful square veil for
herself. The edging there is very cheap. I was tempted by some, and I
bought some very nice plaiting lace at three and fourpence.” Again she
says, “We set off immediately after breakfast, and must have reached
Grafton House by half past eleven; but when we entered the shop the
whole counter was thronged and we waited full half an hour before we
could be attended to.”

“Fanny was much pleased with the stockings she bought of Remmington,
silk at twelve shillings, cotton at four shillings and threepence; she
thinks them great bargains, but I have not seen them yet, as my hair
was dressing when the man and the stockings came.”

It was quite the fashion at that time to patronise Wedgwood, whose
beautiful china was much in vogue. The original founder of the firm had
died in 1795, and had been succeeded by his son.

“We then went to Wedgwood’s where my brother and Fanny chose a dinner
set. I believe the pattern is a small lozenge in purple, between lines
of narrow gold, and it is to have the crest.”

This identical dinner set is still in the possession of the family.

Mrs. Lybbe Powys also mentions Wedgwood. “In the morning we went to
London a-shopping, and at Wedgwood’s as usual were highly entertained,
as I think no shop affords so great a variety.”

In the spring of 1813 Jane was again in London, and visited many
picture galleries. The fact of having Fanny with her was enough to
enhance greatly her pleasure in these sights.

Mrs. Henry Austen had died in the early part of this year, leaving no
children. Henry, of course, eventually married again, as did all the
brothers with the exception of Edward Knight, but it was not for seven
years; his second wife was Eleanor, daughter of Henry Jackson. The
house in Sloane Street was given up after his wife’s death, and he went
to Henrietta Street to be near the bank. It was here Jane came to him.

A collection of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ paintings was being exhibited in
Pall Mall, though the great painter himself was dead. With her head
full of _Pride and Prejudice_, which had recently been published, Jane
looks in vain to discover any portrait that will do for Elizabeth
Bennet, and failing to find one, she writes playfully, “I can only
imagine that Darcy prizes any picture of her too much to like it should
be exposed to the public eye. I can imagine he would have that sort of
feeling—that mixture of love, pride, and delicacy.”

She, however, is more successful in finding one of Jane Bingley,
Elizabeth’s sister, “Mrs. Bingley’s is exactly herself—size, shaped
face, features and sweetness; there never was a greater likeness. She
is dressed in a white gown with green ornaments, which convinces me
of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with

Kensington Gardens were at that time the resort of many of the
fashionable; Jane mentions frequently walking there, though we doubt
if she were attracted by the scenes of struggle and confusion that
sometimes took place.

From _The Times_ of March 28, 1794, we learn, “the access to Kensington
Gardens is so inconvenient to the visitors, it is to be hoped the
politeness of those who have the direction of it will induce them to
give orders for another door to be made for the convenience of the
public; one door for admission, and another for departure would prove
a great convenience to the visitors. For want of this regulation the
ladies frequently have their clothes torn to pieces, and are much hurt
by the crowd passing different ways.”

“Two ladies were lucky enough to escape through the gate of Kensington
Gardens, on Sunday last, with only a broken arm each. When a few
lives have been lost perchance then a door or two may be made for the
convenience of the families of the survivors.”

This shows that there was a wall or high paling running completely
round the Gardens.

We find mentioned also the seats or boxes scattered up and down the
grass-plots, and moving on a pivot to catch the sun, a convenience it
would be well to restore.

When one realises the crowds that habitually frequented the place it
seems as if there must be some mistake in the record that a man was
accidentally shot in 1798 when the keepers “were hunting foxes in
Kensington Gardens!”

The Serpentine was made out of the Westbourne in 1730, and the gardens
reclaimed, having been up to then a mere wilderness. During the reign
of George II., the Gardens were only open to the public on Saturdays,
but when the Court ceased to reside at Kensington Palace, they were
open during the spring and summer. The Broad Walk seems to have been
the most fashionable promenade, and doubtless there was frequently to
be seen here some such crowd as that described by Tickell, when

    “Each walk with robes of various dyes bespread
    Seems from afar a moving tulip bed,
    Where rich brocades and glossy damasks glow,
    And chintz, the rival of the showery bow.”

During most of her visits to London, Jane went several times to the
theatre, chiefly to Covent Garden and Drury Lane, which were then
considered far the best, though there were many others existing,
among which were the Adelphi, which had been opened in 1806; Astley’s
Amphitheatre for the exhibition of trained horses, which was very
popular; the Haymarket, or Little Theatre, taken down in 1820; the
Lyceum, which was then the opera house, having been enlarged in 1809;
the Olympic, which belonged to Astley, and where there was the same
style of show as at his other theatre; the Pantheon, Oxford Street,
chiefly for masquerades and concerts, reopened as an opera house in
1812 and sold up in 1814; the Queen’s, near Tottenham Court Road, not
much known or frequented; a description which also applies to the old
Royalty in Well Street and others. Among places of amusement must also
be enumerated the Italian Opera House, which stood where His Majesty’s
Theatre is at present. It was opened in 1705, burnt down in 1789, and
rebuilt the following year.

Of the two principal theatres, Covent Garden had been opened by Rich in
1737, it was afterwards greatly enlarged and improved, and in 1803 John
Kemble became proprietor. Only five years later it was burnt to the
ground. The new theatre, built on the same site, was reopened in 1809,
when the prices were raised: they had been, boxes 4s.; pit 2s. 6d.;
first gallery 1s. 6d.; upper gallery 1s. There were then no stalls, and
persons of “quality” had to go to boxes. The prices demanded by Kemble
were: boxes 7s.; pit 3s.; gallery 2s.; while the upper gallery remained
the same. A fearful riot broke out on the first night of the new
prices, and the mob would hear no explanations, listen to no reason.
The members who banded themselves together adopted the name of O.P.,
for Old Prices, and would not allow the play to proceed, making an
indescribable din with whistles, cat-calls, and shrieks. After weeks of
dispute, a compromise was arrived at, the higher price being retained
in the case of the boxes.


At an earlier date some of the audience had actually been seated on
the stage among the performers; and there were still in Jane’s time
boxes on the stage, but outside the curtain. We can see this in the
illustration of the Little Theatre, Haymarket, where the pit comes
right up to the footlights, there being no stalls, and the patrons of
the pit are seated on backless benches not divided into compartments.

We gather from contemporary literature that it was a common thing to
go to rehearsals of the performances at the opera, and that there was
a coffee-room attached, which formed at least as great an attraction
to the idle rich, who loved to chatter sweet nothings, as the piece

Kemble was the brother of Mrs. Siddons, and did as much as any man for
the improvement of the stage; when he first began his career, he was
struck by the ludicrous conventionality of the dresses, which were as
much a matter of form as the custom of representing statues of living
men “in Roman habit.” He and the great Garrick killed this foolish

The conventionalism in matters of dress upon the stage is noticed by
the ubiquitous M. Grosley thus—

“On the stage the principal actresses drag long trains after them, and
are followed by a little boy in quality of a train-bearer, who is as
inseparable from them as the shadow from the body. This page keeps his
eye constantly upon the train of the princess, sets it to rights when
it is ever so little ruffled or disordered, and is seen to run after
it with all his might, when a violent emotion makes the princess hurry
from one side of the stage to another.”

Drury Lane Theatre has an older record than Covent Garden. It dates
from 1663, and in 1682 was the only theatre in London, being considered
sufficient for the joint representations of the two old established
companies of players, The King’s and The Duke’s. It was many times
rebuilt, being more than once destroyed by fire; in fact nothing is
more striking in the annals of theatres than the astonishing number
of times nearly every theatre has been burnt down. The third house
was burnt in February 1809, and its successor opened in 1812, with
a prologue by Lord Byron. During Jane Austen’s first recorded visit
to London, therefore, it would be in course of rebuilding, though on
subsequent visits it would be very fashionable, being new.

Just as in novels during the lifetime of Jane Austen, there was an
enormous change from the grandiloquent and conventional, to the natural
and simple, and the same in poetry, so it was on the stage. The absurd
conventionalism, the unsuitable dresses, no matter what, so long
as they were grand, were exchanged for easy declamation and natural

Garrick, as we have said, was one of the first actors to begin this
movement, and it is no wonder that he won the applause of London,
and that crowds came to hear him, so that in 1744, when he was to act
Hamlet, servants were sent at three o’clock in the afternoon to keep
places for their employers, for there were then no such things as
reserved seats. Fine actors and actresses abounded in the eighteenth
century; Mrs. Siddons, who was born in 1755, did not give her farewell
performance in Lady Macbeth until 1812, and lived long after. Both Mrs.
Oldfield and Peg Woffington, however, had passed away before Jane’s

   [Illustration: THE REV. GEORGE CRABBE]

It was an age when people were wild about acting, and private theatres
were a common hobby, many a young spark ruined himself in this
extravagance, and _The Times_ of 1798 mentions that there were no fewer
than six private theatres in London and Westminster.

The plays commented upon in Jane’s letters seem to us very dull,
“Fanny and the two little girls are gone to take places for to-night
at Covent Garden; _Clandestine Marriage_ and _Midas_. The latter will
be a fine show for L[izzie] and M[arianne]. They revelled last night in
_Don Juan_ whom we left in hell at half past eleven. We had Scaramouch
and a ghost, and were delighted. I speak of them; my delight was very
tranquil, and the rest of us were sober minded. _Don Juan_ was the last
of three musical things. _Five Hours at Brighton_, in three acts, and
the _Beehive_ rather less flat and trumpery.”

“We had good places in the box next the stage box.... I was
particularly disappointed at seeing nothing of Mr. Crabbe. I felt sure
of him when I saw the boxes were fitted up with crimson velvet. The new
Mr. Terry was Lord Ogleby, and Henry thinks he may do, but there was no
acting more than moderate.”

In the following year, 1814, her comments are, “We went to the play
again last night. The _Farmer’s Wife_ is a musical thing in three acts,
and, as Edward was steady in not staying for anything more, we were
home before ten. Fanny and Mr. J. P. are delighted with Miss S—— all
that I am sensible of ... is a pleasing person and no skill in acting.
We had Mathews, Liston, and Enery; of course some amusement.” “Prepare
for a play the very first evening, I rather think Covent Garden, to see
Young in _Richard_.”

Miss S—— was probably Miss Stephens, a singer who made her debut
in 1812 in concerts, and appeared on the stage at Covent Garden in
1813; she afterwards became Countess of Essex. She was considered
“unsurpassed for her rendering of ballads.” Jane mentions her again—

“We are to see the _Devil to Pay_ to-night. I expect to be very much
amused. Excepting Miss Stephens, I daresay _Artaxerxes_ will be very

The Mathews she mentions was Charles Mathews senior.

Liston was at first master of St. Martin’s Grammar School, Leicester
Square, but became a popular actor, and at the time of her writing
was appearing at Covent Garden. But by far the best actor she records
having seen is Kean. “We were quite satisfied with Kean, I cannot
imagine better acting, but the part was too short and excepting him and
Miss Smith,—and she did not quite answer my expectation,—the parts were
ill-filled and the play heavy. We were too much tired for the whole
of _Illusion_ (_Nourjahad_), which has three acts; there is a great
deal of finery and dancing in it, but I think little merit. Elliston
was Nourjahad, but I think it is a solemn sort of part, not at all
calculated for his powers. There was nothing of the best Elliston about
him, I might not have known him but for his voice,” and later, “I shall
like to see Kean again excessively, and to see him with you too. It
appeared to me as if there were no fault in him anywhere; and in his
scene with Tubal there was exquisite acting.”

In another place she says that so great was the rage for seeing Kean
that only a third or fourth row could be got, and that “he is more
admired than ever.”

This is very different from Miss Mitford’s account of her first
impressions of the great actor: “Well, I went to see Mr. Kean and
was thoroughly disgusted. This monarch of the stage is a little
insignificant man, slightly deformed, strongly ungraceful, seldom
pleasing the eye, still seldomer satisfying the ear—with a voice
between grunting and croaking, a perpetual hoarseness which suffocates
his words, and a vulgarity of manner which his admirers are pleased
to call nature ... his acting will always be, if not actually
insupportable, yet unequal, disappointing and destructive of all

But, as in her account of Darcy and Elizabeth, we have seen that Miss
Mitford preferred the stereotyped and conventional to the natural, of
which Jane Austen was so ardent an admirer, therefore we cannot feel
much surprise at the difference between the two opinions.

Jane evidently enjoyed good acting, but was critical and not a great
lover of the drama unless it was very well done; this we might expect,
for naturalness was her admiration, and naturalness she would only find
in first-rate performers such as Kean.



The nephews and nieces at Godmersham were rapidly growing into men
and women. Edward and George on leaving Winchester went to Oxford; the
luxurious way in which they were brought up evidently sometimes annoyed
their aunt, who was accustomed to see the younger generation more
repressed; she says of them—

“As I wrote of my nephews with a little bitterness in my last, I think
it particularly incumbent on me to do them justice now, and I have
great pleasure in saying they were both at the Sacrament yesterday;
now these two boys, who are out with the foxhounds, will come home
and disgust me again by some habit of luxury or some proof of sporting

While Jane was at Godmersham in 1813, her brother Charles, his wife,
and little daughters were there too. It was the custom then—though not
an invariable one but a matter of inclination—for a captain in the Navy
to take his wife and children voyaging with him. It will be remembered
that in _Persuasion_ Captain Wentworth says he hates “to hear of women
on board,” and Mrs. Croft, whose husband is an Admiral, declares “women
may be as comfortable on board as in the best house in England. I
believe I have lived as much on board as most women and I know nothing
superior to the accommodation of a man-of-war.”

Charles Austen’s wife and children seem to have spent a good deal of
time on board with him; and Cassy, the eldest girl, a delicate quiet
child, suffered from seasickness during rough weather. Jane says
affectionately of her, “Poor little love! I wish she were not so very
Palmery, but it seems stronger than ever. I never knew a wife’s family
features have such undue influence.” Cassy was not quite happy among
her cousins, “they are too many and too boisterous for her.” Jane
speaks of her and her mother as being “their own nice selves, Fanny
looking as neat and white this morning as possible, and Charles all
affectionate, placid, quiet, cheerful good humour.”

Alas, in September of the following year Mrs. Charles Austen died in
childbirth. Her husband, who was a very domestic man, felt the loss
severely; subsequently he married her sister Harriet, and became the
father of two boys in addition to his little daughters.

In 1814, Edward Knight was annoyed by a claimant to the Chawton estate,
and it appears from what Miss Mitford says on the subject in her
letters, that this was in consequence of old Mr. Knight’s not having
fulfilled some technical point in connection with the property. As
Chawton was worth about £5000 a year, the matter was serious, and that
it was not altogether a fancy originating in the mind of the claimant,
is shown by the fact that after protracted discussions, Edward Knight
did, in 1817, pay him a sum of money to settle the matter.

We have no letters of Jane’s before November 1815; but she was
probably at home at Chawton with her sister and mother, when the
news that Napoleon had escaped from Elba burst upon the world like
a thunder-clap! The call to arms rang throughout Europe, and then
followed the terrible Hundred Days which ended on June the eighteenth
with the Battle of Waterloo.

Alison in his _Epitome of the History of Europe_ says, “No one who
was of an age to understand what was going on can ever forget the
entrancing joy which thrilled through the British heart at the news
of Waterloo. The thanks of Parliament were voted to Wellington and
his army; a medal struck by government was given to every officer and
soldier who had borne arms on that eventful day; and not less than
£500,000 was raised by voluntary subscriptions for those wounded in the
fight, and the widows and orphans of the fallen.”

We wonder if the household at Chawton contributed its mite among the
rest? Jane’s heart surely must have thrilled in unison with those of
her countrymen!

Louis XVIII. was once more placed on the throne of his fathers, and
Napoleon was sent to St. Helena. He arrived there on November the
sixteenth, and by that date Jane was again in London nursing her
brother Henry.

Between 1814 and 1816 many charming letters passed between Jane and her
young niece Fanny, and as these contain more of the personal element
than any of the others that have been preserved, they are among the
most interesting of all. At the beginning of these letters Fanny was
twenty-one, which in those days was considered quite a staid age for
an unmarried girl. In one of her letters she tells her aunt that her
feelings had cooled towards someone, who at one time she had thought of

Jane’s answer is full of sense and sympathy, and gives us much insight
into her own views on the relations of the sexes. “What strange
creatures we are,” she writes, “it seems as if your being secure of him
had made you indifferent.... There was a little disgust I suspect at
the races, and I do not wonder at it. His expressions then would not
do for one who had rather more acuteness, penetration, and taste, than
love, which was your case, and yet after all I _am_ surprised that the
change in the feelings should be so great. He is just what he ever was,
only more evidently and uniformly devoted to _you_....

“Oh dear Fanny! Your mistake has been one that thousands of women fall
into. He was the _first_ young man who attached himself to you. That
was the charm, and most powerful it is.... Upon the whole what is to
be done? You have no inclination for any other person. His situation
in life, family, friends and above all his character, his uncommonly
amiable mind, strict principles, just notions, good habits, _all_ that
_you_ know so well how to value, _all_ that is really of the first
importance, pleads his cause most strongly. You have no doubt of his
having superior abilities, he has proved it at the University, he is,
I dare say, such a scholar as your agreeable idle brothers would ill
bear a comparison with. The more I write about him the more strongly
I feel the desirableness of your growing in love with him again....
There _are_ such beings in the world, perhaps one in a thousand,
as the creature you and I should think perfection, where grace and
spirit are united to worth, where the manners are equal to the heart
and understanding, but such a person may not come in your way, or,
if he does, he may not be the eldest son of a man of fortune, the
near relation of your own particular friend and belonging to your
own country.... And now my dear Fanny, having written so much on
one side of the question I shall turn round and entreat you not to
commit yourself farther, and not to think of accepting him unless you
really do like him. Anything is to be preferred or endured rather than
marrying without affection; and if his deficiencies of manner strike
you more than all his good qualities, if you continue to think strongly
of them, give him up at once....

“When I consider how few young men you have yet seen much of; how
capable you are of being really in love; and how full of temptation
the next six or seven years of your life will probably be, I cannot
wish you, with your present very cool feelings, to devote yourself in
honour to him. It is very true that you never may attach another man
his equal altogether; but if that other man has the power of attaching
you _more_, he will be in your eyes the most perfect.

“You are inimitable, irresistible. You are the delight of my life.
Such letters, such entertaining letters as you have lately sent! such a
description of your queer little heart! such a lovely display of what
imagination does!... You are so odd, and all the time so perfectly
natural, so peculiar in yourself, and yet so like everybody else. It
is very, very gratifying to me to know you so intimately.... Oh what
a loss it will be when you are married! You are too agreeable in your
single state. I shall hate you when your delicious play of mind is all
settled down into conjugal and maternal affections....

“And yet I do wish you to marry very much because I know you will never
be happy till you are,” and later on, apropos of someone else, she
adds: “Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor, which is
one very strong argument in favour of matrimony, but I need not dwell
on such arguments with you, pretty dear. To you I shall say, as I have
often said before, Do not be in a hurry, the right man will come at
last; you will in the course of the next two or three years meet with
somebody more generally unexceptionable than anyone you have yet known,
who will love you as warmly as possible, and who will so completely
attract you that you will feel you never really loved before.”

But it was not until 1820 that Fanny married, as his second wife, the
Rt. Hon. Sir Edward Knatchbull, 9th Bt., who had already five sons
and one daughter, the eldest boy being twelve years old. Six years
after the marriage, the daughter married Fanny’s brother Edward. She
herself lived to nearly ninety, and was the mother of five sons and
four daughters, and in 1880 her eldest son was created Baron Brabourne;
and he, as has been already stated, was the editor of the volumes of

But Jane’s sympathetic advice was called for by more than one niece
passing through the difficult time between girlhood and womanhood;
Anna, her eldest brother James’s daughter, was a frequent visitor at
Chawton, and though she does not seem ever to have taken quite the same
position in her aunt’s affections as Fanny did, she was yet a lively,
amusing, pleasant girl.

She had evidently determined to follow in her aunt’s footsteps,
as was most natural, and had attempted to write a novel herself;
Jane’s treatment of her tentative efforts was very kind, some of the
letters to the would-be authoress are preserved, and nothing could be
gentler. “I am very much obliged to you for sending me your MS. It has
entertained me extremely; indeed all of us. I read it aloud to your
grandmamma and aunt Cass, and we were all very pleased. The spirit
does not drop at all. Now we have finished the second book or rather
the fifth: Susan is a nice animated little creature, but St. Julian
is the delight of our lives. He is quite interesting. The whole of
his break off with Lady Helena is very well done.” She then goes in
great detail into all the characters, making various suggestions: “You
are but now coming to the heart and beauty of your story. Until the
heroine grows up the fun must be imperfect, but I expect a great deal
of entertainment from the next three or four books, and I hope you will
not resent these remarks by sending me no more.”

Then she gives one or two characteristic touches.

“Devereux Forester’s being ruined by his vanity is extremely good, but
I wish you would not let him plunge into a ‘vortex of dissipation.’ I
do not object to the thing but cannot bear the expression; it is such
thorough novel slang, and so old that I daresay Adam met with it in the
first novel he opened.”

In 1814, Anna was engaged to Benjamin Lefroy, whom she married in
November. After her marriage she first lived at Hendon, but in the
following year she and her husband took a small house near Alton,
so that she was within a walk of Chawton. She still went on with her
novel-writing. And Jane continued to criticise her progress—

“We have no great right to wonder at his [Benjamin Lefroy’s] not
valuing the name of Progillian. That is a source of delight which even
_he_ can hardly be quite competent to.”

“St. Julian’s history was quite a surprise to me. You had not very
long known it yourself I suspect. His having been in love with the aunt
gives Cecilia an additional interest with him. I like the idea, a very
proper compliment to an aunt! I rather imagine indeed that nieces are
seldom chosen but out of compliment to some aunt or other. I daresay
Ben was in love with me once, and would never have thought of you if he
had not supposed me dead of scarlet fever.”

Anna became the mother of six daughters and one son, and lived until



In October 1815, Henry Austen was dangerously ill. He had by this
time moved into another house, which was in Hans Place, quite near
his former residence in Sloane Street, though the connection with the
bank in Henrietta Street was still kept up. Both his sisters were
with him at first, and an express was sent for his brother Edward,
so critical was his state considered to be, but he rallied, and
afterwards, when he was out of danger, Edward and Cassandra went on to
Chawton, and Jane was left to nurse him back to complete health. The
ideas of medicine at that time were primitive, and consisted chiefly
of unmitigated blood-letting, an extraordinary custom, which must have
been responsible for many a weak body’s giving up the ghost.

This incredible system is exemplified in the following anecdote. When
Mrs. Lybbe Powys’ son Philip had a coach accident she comments on
his treatment thus: “He has not, since the accident, tasted a bit of
meat, or drunk a drop of wine, had a perpetual blister ever since, and
blooded every three or four days for many weeks.” Well may the editor
of the book remark, “Truly Mr. Powys’ enduring this treatment was a
survival of the fittest!”

There was then a wide distinction between the Physician and the
Apothecary, which may be noticed in Jane’s playful repudiation: “You
seem to be under a mistake as to Mr. H. you call him an apothecary.
He is no apothecary, he has never been an apothecary; there is not an
apothecary in the neighbourhood—the only inconvenience of the situation
perhaps—but so it is, we have not a medical man within reach. He is a
Haden, nothing but a Haden, a sort of wonderful nondescript creature on
two legs, something between a man and an angel, but without the least
spice of an apothecary. He is perhaps the only person not an apothecary

As it happened, this nursing of her brother brought her into public
notice, for the physician who attended Henry Austen was also a
physician of the Prince Regent’s. At that time, though Jane’s name
had not appeared on the title-page of her books, there was no longer
any secret as to the writer’s identity, and the doctor told her
one day that the Prince of Wales, who had been made Regent in 1811,
was a great admirer of her novels; this is the only good thing one
ever heard of George IV., and one cannot help doubting the fact;
it is hard to imagine his reading any book, however delightful. The
physician, however, added that the Prince read the novels often, and
kept a set in every one of his residences, further, he himself had
told the Prince that the author was in London, and he had desired his
librarian to wait upon her. The librarian, Mr. Clarke, duly came, and
Jane was invited to go to Carlton House, but it does not seem that
the Prince himself deigned to bestow any personal notice upon her,
or that he even saw her; she saw Mr. Clarke and Mr. Clarke alone,
and therefore one begins to feel tolerably sure that it was from
Mr. Clarke the whole thing originated. This worthy man deserves some
credit, but that he was lacking in any sense of humour or knowledge of
life was evidenced by his ponderous suggestions as to future books,
one of which was that Jane should “delineate in some future work the
habits of life, character, and enthusiasm of a clergyman, who should
pass his time between the metropolis and the country, who should be
something like Beattie’s minstrel”; and when this was rejected, “an
historical romance illustrative of the august house of Cobourg, would
just now be very interesting.” Jane’s reply is full of good sense
and excellently expressed. “You are very kind in your hints as to
the sort of composition which might recommend me at present, and I
am fully sensible that an historical romance, founded on the House
of Cobourg, might be much more to the purpose of profit or popularity
than such pictures of domestic life in country villages as I deal in.
But I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not
sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive
than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it
up, and never relax into laughing at myself or at other people, I am
sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter. I must
keep to my own style and go on in my own way; and though I may never
succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any
other.” (Mr. Austen-Leigh’s _Memoir_.) She, however, gladly agreed to
dedicate her next work to His Royal Highness. The next work was _Emma_,
then nearly ready for publication. Mr. Murray was the publisher, and
the dedication, which had been graciously accepted, appeared on the


The state of the Court at that time is abundantly pictured in numerous
memoirs, diaries, journals, etc., not the least among which is that
of Miss Burney, Jane’s contemporary and sister authoress. George
III. had one very striking virtue—striking in his time and position
and especially in his family—he seems to have lived a good domestic
life. He had been married young, to a princess who had no beauty to
recommend her, and his first feelings on seeing her had been those of
disappointment, but being a sensible, kindly man, he had soon learnt
to value the good heart and nature of the girl who had come so far
to marry a man she had never seen. Their numerous family linked them
together, and though the sons were a constant source of trouble and
notorious in their wild lives, the tribe of princesses seem to have
endeared themselves to everyone by their gracious manners. Poor old
George himself, with his well-meant, “What? What? What?” and his
homely ways, could never offend intentionally, and the “sweet queen,”
as Miss Burney so fulsomely calls her, though fully conscious of
her own dignity, and not disposed to make a fuss about the hardships
inseparable from the position of her waiting-women, was yet at the
bottom kind-hearted too.

As for most of the princes, however, their ways were a byword and
scandal. In every contemporary book we read of their being drunk, and
otherwise disgracing themselves.

The Prince of Wales and the Duke of York were the worst, and the Dukes
of Clarence and Kent seem to have been the best. At Brighton, where
the Prince of Wales had established his pavilion, orgies of drink
and coarseness went on that disgusted even those accustomed to very
free manners; the princes appeared in public with their mistresses,
and reeled into public ball-rooms. The Prince’s treatment of his own
ill-used wife is well known. Purely from caprice, and without a shadow
of justification, she, the mother of his only child Princess Charlotte,
was dismissed from her home, and forbidden any of the privileges or
respect due to her rank, a course of treatment which made England
despised among the nations. Of the other two we read:—

“The duke of Kent is certainly one of the most steady looking of the
princes, perhaps he may be heavy, but he has unquestionably the most of
a Man of Business in his Appearance.”

And Horace Walpole says—

“My neighbour, the Duke of Clarence, is so popular, that if Richmond
were a borough, and he had not attained his title, but still retained
his idea of standing candidate, he would certainly be elected there. He
pays his bills regularly himself, locks up his doors at night, that his
servants may not stay out late, and never drinks but a few glasses of
wine. Though the value of crowns is mightily fallen of late at market,
it looks as if His Royal Highness thought they were still worth waiting
for; nay, it is said that he tells his brothers, that he shall be king
before either; this is fair at least.” He was afterwards William IV.

The Prince of Wales mixed freely in political intrigues of the worst
kind, and took part in faction politics. As a man he was a contemptible
creature without character or intellect, but, in spite of all his
faults, he had a certain number of admirers, because as a young man he
was graceful and obliging in manners, and personal graciousness in a
sovereign covers a multitude of sins.

It is incongruous that a pure sweet story such as _Emma_ should
have been dedicated to a man whose faults and vices were such as the
clean-minded author could never have conceived, but the dedication
probably served the purpose of advertising this, the last novel that
Jane herself was to see issued to the public.

_Emma_ ranks very high indeed among the novels, but it relies for
its position on a different sort of excellence from that which
distinguishes _Pride and Prejudice_; there is in it, as we might
have expected, more finished workmanship and less of the brilliancy
of youth. The book is not so lively as _Pride and Prejudice_, and
its somewhat slow opening, unlike Jane’s usual style, is enough to
discourage some readers who expect to be plunged into a scene such as
that which begins her first novel, or which comes very soon in _Sense
and Sensibility_. _Emma_ has, however, more plot than is usual with
Jane Austen’s writings, it is more deliberately constructed, and yet
the whole scene takes place in a quiet country village without once

The heroine Emma, whose domestic importance as the only unmarried
daughter of a wealthy widower has given her a full idea of her own
value, has developed her individuality very strongly. She is not
spoilt, but all her words and actions betoken one accustomed to impress
her will on her surroundings, in a way not often allowed to unmarried
girls at home. The motif is her match-making propensity, which again
and again brings her to grief; this affords opening for many of the
humorous touches in which the author delights.

The book is very rich in secondary characters. The garrulous,
kind-hearted Miss Bates, with her rattling tongue, is one of the
strongly individualised comic characters which Jane generally manages
to insert. She ranks with Mr. Collins, with Mrs. Norris, and the
lesser specimens of the same gallery, Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Jennings.
She is admirably true to life, just such a garrulous, empty-headed,
good-hearted, tiresome creature as many a governess of the old school
has degenerated into in the evening of her life.

Emma’s father, the valetudinarian Mr. Woodhouse, has been said to
be overdrawn, but the great merit of Jane’s work is that she does
not exaggerate; traits to be found in people that any of us might
number among our acquaintance are so skilfully depicted as to appear
prominent; she selects true if extreme types, and does not draw
monstrosities such as those in which Dickens’s books abound, and of
which one can only say they _may_ have existed, once, at one time, but
are as rare as the exhibits in a dime museum.

Mr. Woodhouse’s married daughter, Mrs. Knightley, is excellently done;
her sympathy with her father’s tastes is only kept in check by her
affection for husband and children, which forces her to attend to
them and forget herself; yet the enjoyment with which she sips her
gruel, when allowed to have it, is real enjoyment, and she would have
certainly lived on gruel too had she been an old maid.

The hero, Mr. Knightley, is one of the few sensible men among Jane’s
heroes, and he with his experience and strength of character, is, as
has been said elsewhere, the only true mate for Emma. Knightley has
been criticised as a prig, but he is far from that. He was a stern
elderly man apparently at least forty-five in age, though we are told
he was only thirty. Emma herself has more ability than her rival,
Elizabeth Bennet, in _Pride and Prejudice_; her mind has more depth
and application: we could imagine Emma reading and studying, whereas,
pleasant as Elizabeth might have been as a companion, her forte was
general intelligent interest not depth, and we could not picture
her deeply absorbed in any book but a novel. Emma was one of Jane’s
own favourite heroines, and she said of her, “I am going to draw a
heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” It is true that for the
generality of men Emma would, in real life, have been just a little too
strong, but she is none the less interesting to read about.

Mr. Elton has already been commented on in the chapter on clergymen;
a more perfect match than he and his vulgar flashy wife would be
difficult to find. As for Jane’s traits of character in regard to the
hero and his brother, her genius cannot be better expressed than in the
words of Mr. Herries Pollock, who calls it “the finely touched likeness
and unlikeness between the brothers Knightley. At every turn of phrase,
at every step so to speak, one knows which is the better man, and yet
the point is never pressed by the author.” Though on the whole the book
has less _verve_ than _Pride and Prejudice_, it is rich in observation
and quiet humour.

It was published by Mr. Murray in December 1815. Jane says of it—

“My greatest anxiety at present is that this fourth work should not
disgrace what was good in the others. But on this point I will do
myself the justice to declare that, whatever may be my wishes for its
success, I am strongly haunted with the idea that to those readers
who have preferred _Pride and Prejudice_ it will appear inferior in
wit, and to those who have preferred _Mansfield Park_ inferior in good
sense.” (Mr. Austen-Leigh’s _Memoir_.)

A reviewer in _The Quarterly_ of the autumn 1815 includes _Emma_
with other works of the same writer. It has been supposed, therefore,
that the proof sheets must have been in the hands of the _Quarterly_
reviewer before the work was actually issued. Mr. Austin-Dobson,
by application to Mr. Murray, cleared up the difficulty, for he
ascertained that, owing to exceptional delays, the number of the Review
bearing date October 1815 did not in reality come out until March 1816,
and that therefore _Emma_ had actually appeared before its production.

The reviewer was Sir Walter Scott, as is stated by Lockhart in a note
to the _Life_, who adds that _Emma_ and _Northanger Abbey_ were in
particular great favourites of Scott’s. In his summary at the end of
the article, Sir Walter Scott says—

“The author’s knowledge of the world and the peculiar tact with which
she presents characters that the reader cannot fail to recognise,
reminds us something of the merits of the Flemish school of painting.
The subjects are not often elegant and certainly never grand; but
they are finished up to nature, and with a precision which delights
the reader.” “The faults on the contrary arise from the minute detail
which the author’s plan comprehends. Characters of folly or simplicity
such as those of old Woodhouse and Miss Bates, are ridiculous when
first presented, but if too often brought forward, or too long dwelt
upon, their prosing is apt to become as tiresome in fiction as in real

In this we cannot agree, to accuse Jane of it is to accuse her of
lacking the very gift in which she was pre-eminent—selection. The merit
of her bores is that they never bore, but are only amusing. She never
proses, and her few paragraphs of quotation from the sayings of Miss
Bates set that lady before us as clearly or more clearly than if fifty
pages from the actual life had been given by the phonograph.

From what Jane says she apparently saw this article in March 1816
when she was back at Chawton; for she writes: “The authoress of _Emma_
has no reason, I think, to complain of her treatment in it, except in
the total omission of _Mansfield Park_; I cannot but be sorry that so
clever a man as the reviewer of _Emma_ should consider it as unworthy
of being noticed.”

That Jane was satisfied with her treatment by Mr. Murray may be seen by
her handing over to him the conduct of the second edition of _Mansfield
Park_. She writes in one place, “I had a most civil note in reply from
Mr. Murray. He is so very polite indeed that it is quite over-coming.”

At this time she must have begun the last and shortest of her books,
_Persuasion_, which she finished in August of the same year. And with
this we enter on the last phase, the gradual decline and sinking of the
bright spirit, which had added so greatly to the happiness of thousands
it had never known.



The evening of Jane’s life had set in, but yet it had not occurred
even to those who loved her best that they must inevitably lose her.
She was in her forty-first year; recognition from the public had just
begun to be accorded to her; in the novels she had lately written
no sign of decay could be detected. It is true that in both _Emma_
and _Persuasion_ there is a particular maturity of rendering, and a
kindlier tone that marks perhaps a difference, but not degeneracy.
If the word seriousness can ever be used of such clear-cut, brilliant
work as hers, we might say that a certain sweet seriousness pervaded
these two, which are more alike in tone than any of the other
novels. _Persuasion_ has been called the “most beautiful of all the
novels”; it has many excellencies, not the least among which is the
character of the heroine, whose girlish weakness develops into a
loyal steadfastness. She has also that endearingness that perhaps
certain others of the heroines lack. In fact, of all the principal
female characters that of Anne Elliot has most of that nameless and
indefinable charm, which comes from a combination of qualities such as
firmness, gentleness, unselfishness, sympathy and sweetness, a charm
which is more lovable than any number of stereotyped graces. Though
Anne was at one time weak, we feel that she outgrows it, that it was
the weakness of immaturity, not of character, and that her loyalty
fully redeems it.

Jane herself says of Anne Elliot, “You may perhaps like the heroine
as she is almost too good for me,” yet the too-good note seems less
obtrusive with Anne than with Fanny Price, whose exceeding surface
meekness does sometimes produce a little exasperation. Anne and Fanny
have the most in common among the heroines of the novels, yet what a
difference is there! Fanny has many virtues, but her intense nervous
sensitiveness makes one feel her self-consciousness, and underlying all
her shrinking there was a quality of obstinacy that is felt without
being insisted upon. It is just the subtle difference that Jane knew
so well how to make, the feeling perhaps is that Fanny is not quite a
gentlewoman, that she would be difficult to get on with, however meek
and self-effacing on the surface, while Anne could never be anything
but a delightful companion.

Incidentally some parts of _Persuasion_ have already been referred to,
Louisa Musgrove’s fall on the Cobb, the scenes that take place in Bath,
the touching words of Anne when she feels that she has hopelessly lost
her lover, which strike a deeper note of feeling than any other in the
whole range of the novels. It remains therefore but to say that there
is no secondary character to equal those of Miss Bates or Mr. Collins,
that the secondary characters are in all cases less sharply defined
than those usually depicted by Jane, but that Captain Wentworth is
equal to his good fortune, and that as a pair of lovers he and Anne
stand unrivalled.

_Persuasion_ was finished in July 1816, but Jane was not satisfied with
it, perhaps her own failing health and the sense of tiredness that
went with it, had made her lose that grip of the action that she had
hitherto held so well; she felt the story did not end satisfactorily,
that it wanted bringing together and clinching so to speak; Mr.
Austen-Leigh says: “This weighed upon her mind, the more so probably on
account of her weak state of health, so that one night she retired to
rest in very low spirits. But such depression was little in accordance
with her nature, and was soon shaken off. The next morning she woke
to more cheerful views and brighter inspirations; the sense of power
revived and imagination resumed its course. She cancelled the condemned
chapter and wrote two others, entirely different, in its stead.”

These were the tenth and eleventh chapters, and contained the scene in
which Anne so touchingly expresses her ideas on the theme of woman’s
love. There is no question that the story as it now stands is improved
by the change, and that her instinct was true. Mr. Austen-Leigh gives
the cancelled chapter in his _Memoir_, and it certainly is “tame and
flat” compared with the others, and had she not made the substitution
it might justly have been said that _Persuasion_, however charming, did
show signs of failing power.

This book was not published until after her death, when it appeared
in one volume with _Northanger Abbey_, the first to which her name was
prefixed, this came out in 1818 with a Memoir by her brother Henry. Up
to the time of her death she had received nearly seven hundred pounds
for the published books, which, considering her anonymity, and entire
lack of publicity and influence, must have appeared to her, and indeed
was, wonderful, though in comparison with the true value of the work
very little indeed.

In December 1816 her brothers, Henry and Charles, were both at Chawton,
and she speaks of their being in good health and spirits. She got
through the winter well, and wrote to a friend in January, “Such mild
weather is, you know, delightful to us, and though we have a great many
ponds and a fine running stream through the meadows on the other side
of the road, it is nothing but what beautifies us and does to talk
of. I have certainly gained strength through the winter, and am not
far from being well. And I think I understand my own case now so much
better than I did, as to be able by care to keep off any serious return
of illness.”

She had taken to using a donkey-carriage in good weather, and doubtless
this was a great boon, though she was able to walk one way either to
or from Alton without over-fatigue, and hoped to be able to manage
both ways when the summer came. In January also she mentions that her
brother Henry, who was now ordained, was coming down to preach. “It
will be a nervous hour for our pew, though we hear that he acquits
himself with as much ease and collectedness as if he had been used to
it all his life.”

Her last completed book _Persuasion_ was not her last work, even in
declining strength the motive power was unabated.

“Upon a fitful revival of her strength, at the beginning of 1817, she
fell eagerly to work at a story, of which she wrote twelve chapters.
It has no name, and the plot and purpose are undeveloped. But some of
the personages sketched have more than promise. There is a Mr. Parker
with fixed theories as to the fashionable watering place he hopes to
evolve out of a Sussex fishing village; there is a rich and vulgar Lady
Denham, who will certainly disappoint her relatives by the testamentary
disposition of her property, and there are two maiden ladies who
thoroughly ‘enjoy’ bad health, and quack themselves to their heart’s
content. Whatever the plot to be unravelled, there is no sign that the
writer’s hand had lost its cunning.” (Mr. Austin Dobson’s preface to
Macmillan’s edition of _Northanger Abbey_.)

We are told by Mr. Austen-Leigh that the date on the last chapter of
this MS. was March 17, which, “as the watch of a drowned man denotes
the time of his death, so does this final date seem to fix the period
when her mind could no longer pursue its accustomed course.”

It was in March that her own family began to think seriously of the
malady that was so insidiously making inroads on her vitality. Her
niece Caroline, Anna’s half-sister, and sister of the Mr. Austen-Leigh
to whose _Memoir_ the world is so much indebted, was then a child of
twelve; she came about the end of March to stay at Chawton, but found
her aunt so ill that she could not be taken in, so she was sent on
to her half-sister Anna Lefroy; in her private records she gives the
following account from recollection: “The next day we walked over to
Chawton to make enquiries after our aunt, she was then keeping her
room, but said she would see us and we went up to her. She was in her
dressing-gown, and was sitting quite like an invalid in an arm-chair,
but she got up and kindly greeted us, and then pointing to seats which
had been arranged for us by the fire, ‘There is a chair for the married
lady, and a little stool for you, Caroline.’... I was struck by the
alteration in herself. She was very pale, her voice was weak and low,
and there was about her a general appearance of debility and suffering,
but I have been told that she never had much acute pain. She was not
equal to the exertion of talking to us, and our visit to the sick
room was a very short one, aunt Cassandra soon taking us away. I do
not suppose we stayed a quarter of an hour, and I never saw aunt Jane

It was in May that Jane was persuaded to go with her sister to lodgings
in Winchester for the sake of further medical advice, and she never
returned to Chawton, though probably that was the last thought that
would have occurred to her on leaving it, for she was never inclined to
be analytical or valetudinarian, and certainly she was one of the last
to affect illness, or become an invalid for fancy. Cassandra cannot
have known how soon she was to be bereaved of that dear sister whose
life had run in such harmony with her own, and though anxiety must have
darkened her heart, Jane’s own sanguineness would buoy her with fresh
hope, and the weeks the sisters passed together in Winchester must have
been singularly peaceful.

The house in which Jane stayed still stands, it is in College Street,
close to the great archway that marks the entrance to the College
precincts. She says of it herself, “Our lodgings are very comfortable,
we have a neat little drawing-room with a bow window overlooking Dr.
Gabell’s garden.”

Here her life and strength slowly ebbed away; day by day she was longer
chained to her sofa from increasing weakness. The elementary medical
knowledge of her day was powerless to help her, though her life,
humanly speaking, could probably have been prolonged if medical science
had then known what it knows now.

Day by day through the bow window overlooking the street, would come
the sound of boyish voices, the clatter of boyish feet, and she could
see the greenery of the trees in the garden beyond the wall. She had
plenty of companionship, Cassandra was ever with her, and Mrs. James
Austen helped in the nursing.

The slight sharpness arising from unusual penetration, which had
sometimes marked Jane’s comments in earlier days, had all died down,
she said gratefully to her sister-in-law, “You have always been a
kind sister to me, Mary,” and of her own dear Cassandra she said, “I
will only say further that my dearest sister, my tender, watchful,
indefatigable nurse, has not been made ill by her exertions. As to what
I owe her, and the anxious affection of all my beloved family on this
occasion, I can only cry over it, and pray God to bless them more and

And on July 18, when all the trees were at their greenest, and the
bright sunshine lighted up the walls of the hoary abbey, she passed
away. We can add nothing to her sister’s account, written in the agony
of the first bereavement, to her who was now closest to her heart, her
niece, Fanny Knight.

“My dearest Fanny,—Doubly dear to me now for her dear sake whom we have
lost. She did love you most sincerely.... Since Tuesday evening when
her complaint returned, there was a visible change, she slept more, and
much more comfortably; indeed during the last eight and forty hours she
was more asleep than awake. Her looks altered and she fell away, but I
perceived no material diminution of strength, and, though I was then
hopeless of her recovery, I had no suspicion how rapidly my loss was

“I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can
have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every
pleasure, the soother of every sorrow, I had not a thought concealed
from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself.

“... She felt herself to be dying about half an hour before she became
tranquil and apparently unconscious. During that half hour was her
struggle, poor soul! She said she could not tell us what she suffered,
though she complained of little fixed pain. When I asked her if there
was anything she wanted, her answer was she wanted nothing but death,
and some of her words were, ‘God grant me patience; pray for me, oh,
pray for me!’ Her voice was affected, but as long as she spoke she was

“I hope I do not break your heart, my dearest Fanny, by these
particulars, I mean to afford you gratification while I am relieving
my own feelings. I could not write so to anybody else.... On Thursday,
when the clock struck six, she was talking quietly to me. I cannot
say how soon afterwards she was seized again with faintness, which
was followed by the sufferings which she could not describe, but Mr.
Lyford who had been sent for, had applied something to give her ease,
and she was in a state of quiet insensibility by seven o’clock at the
latest. From that time till half past four when she ceased to breathe,
she scarcely moved a limb, so that we have every reason to think with
gratitude to the Almighty, that her sufferings were over. A slight
motion of the head with every breath remained till almost the last. I
sat close to her with a pillow in my lap to assist in supporting her
head which was almost off the bed, for six hours; fatigue made me then
resign my place to Mrs. J. A. for two hours and a half, when I took it
again, and in about an hour more she breathed her last.

“... There was nothing convulsed which gave the idea of pain in her
look; on the contrary, but for the continual motion of the head, she
gave one the idea of a beautiful statue, and even now in her coffin,
there is such a sweet serene air over her countenance as is quite
pleasant to contemplate.”

And later on after the funeral she wrote again, “Thursday was not
so dreadful a day to me as you imagined.... Everything was conducted
with the greatest tranquillity, and but that I was determined that I
would see the last, and therefore was upon the listen, I should not
have known when they left the house. I watched the little mournful
procession the length of the street, and when it turned from my sight,
and I had lost her for ever, even then I was not over-powered, nor so
much agitated as I am now in writing of it. Never was a human being
more sincerely mourned by those who attended her remains than was this
dear creature. May the sorrow with which she is parted with on earth be
a prognostic of the joy with which she is hailed in heaven!... Oh, if
I may one day be reunited to her there!”

Cassandra herself survived for twenty-eight years, and spent her last
days in the cottage at Chawton endeared to her by recollections of her
mother and beloved sister.

Jane’s resting-place in the Cathedral is almost opposite the tomb
of the founder, William of Wykeham. A large black slab of marble let
into the pavement marks the spot, it bears an inscription including
the following words: “The benevolence of her heart, the sweetness
of her temper, and the extraordinary endowments of her mind obtained
the regard of all who knew her, and the warmest love of her immediate

Subsequently her nephew Mr. Austen-Leigh inserted a brass on the wall
near with an inscription which runs as follows: “Jane Austen, known
to many by her writing, endeared to her family by the varied charms of
her character, and ennobled by Christian faith and piety, was born at
Steventon in the county of Hampshire Dec. 16, 1775, and buried in this
cathedral July 24, 1817. ‘She openeth her mouth with wisdom and in her
tongue is the law of kindness.’”

In 1900 a memorial window was inserted as the result of a public
subscription; it was designed and executed by C. E. Kemp. In the
head of the window is a figure of St. Augustine whose name in its
abbreviated form is St. Austin. In the centre of the upper row of
lights is David with his harp. Below his figure, in Latin, are the
words, “Remember in the Lord Jane Austen who died July 18, A.D. 1817.”
In the centre of the bottom row is the figure of St. John, and the
remaining figures are those of the sons of Korah carrying scrolls, with
sentences in Latin, indicative of the religious side of Jane Austen’s
character, namely, “Come ye children, hearken unto me; I will teach you
the fear of the Lord.” “Them that are meek shall He guide in judgement,
and such as are gentle them shall He teach His way.” “My mouth shall
speak of wisdom and my heart shall muse on understanding.” “My mouth
shall daily speak of Thy righteousness and Thy salvation.”

That Jane was so deeply and dearly loved by her own people speaks
much for her worth. She and Cassandra, especially Cassandra, were very
reticent in their expression of feeling, but seldom has heart been knit
to heart as were theirs. The love of sisters has not often formed the
theme of song or romance; we hear of a mother’s love for her son, of
a brother for a brother, but the love of sisters is, when it exists in
perfection, as strong as these, as pure in its spring, and more full of
feeling. Sisters whose hearts are open to one another, who have shared
the same experiences, look on the world from a similar standpoint,
and the breaking of such ties is severe agony. At only forty-one Jane
had passed away still in the highest maturity of her powers, leaving
behind her but six completed books, all short, but each one perfect in
itself. This is what will be said of her—She did what she attempted to
do perfectly. The books are all instinct with the same qualities, the
precision of word and phrase, the genius for knowing what to select and
what to leave unsaid, but not one is a repetition of another, in the
whole gallery of characters each one is distinct.

She was a real artist. Her work lay apart from and outside of herself.
We do not find a picture of herself under different names playing
heroine in different sets of circumstances; each heroine stands by
herself, and in her women’s portraits she reaches her high-water
mark—Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, Fanny Price, Anne Elliot,
Catherine Morland, Elinor Dashwood, we know each one as a friend, and
each one is completely differentiated.

So brilliant, so perfect, so stamped with its own individuality is each
of the books, that one wonders what she could possibly have produced
next to take rank with its forerunners. Within so small a compass, with
such a narrow stage on which to set the _dramatis personæ_, how did she
manage to make so great a variety?

It is in keeping with her character and work that there should be no
decline, no falling off, that all should be good; it is true that some
of the novels are preferred by one, some by another; some are stronger
in one point, some in another, but neither decay nor improvement can
justly be found between first and last. This is genius. Genius cannot
grow nor can it be cultivated, it is there, and its work is done
without effort and without labour. If Jane had not died at so early an
age, her life would not have seemed so complete, so rounded as it did.
Her dying in the full plenitude and maturity of power is in keeping
with the level excellence of her work.

Her life had been a happy one, free from mind worries, free from great
sorrows, her affections had wide play, her tastes full development;
she was happy in the love of one very near and dear, and if she missed
great ecstasies, she at least had no hideous sorrows to endure in the
sin or vice of those near to her. Her one great sorrow was perhaps the
death of her father, but he was not young, and in the natural course
of events his death cannot be called unexpected. Sunny, well-occupied,
surrounded with the refinements that a sensitive mind appreciates, she
lived out a life on a high uniform level. Her books supplied a motive
and mainspring that otherwise might have been felt to be lacking by
one so energetic. If, as has been said, happiness on earth demands
“someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for,” she had
all these, and much more.


  |          Name.          |    Begun.    | Finished. |   Published.  |
  | Pride and Prejudice     |  Oct. 1796   | Aug. 1797 | Early in 1813 |
  |   (First Impressions)   |              |           |               |
  |                         |              |           |               |
  | Sense and Sensibility   |  Nov. 1797   |   1798    |   June 1811   |
  |   (Elinor and Marianne) |              |           |               |
  |                         |              |           |               |
  | Northanger Abbey        |     1798     |   1803    |     1818      |
  |                         |              |           |               |
  | Mansfield Park          |     1812     | Mar. 1814 |   July 1814   |
  |                         |              |           |               |
  | Emma                    | 1814 or 1815 |   1815    |   Dec. 1815   |
  |                         |              |           |               |
  | Persuasion              | 1815 or 1816 | Aug. 1816 |     1818      |


  |                         |        From        |        To          |
  | Steventon, Hants        | _b._ Dec. 16, 1775 |    Spring 1801     |
  |                         |                    |                    |
  | Bath—                   |                    |                    |
  |   4 Sydney Terrace      |    Spring 1801     |    Autumn 1804     |
  |   Green Park Buildings  |    Autumn 1804     |        1805        |
  |   25 Gay Street         |    March 1805      |                    |
  |                         |                    |                    |
  | Southampton             |    End of 1805     |        1809        |
  |                         |                    |                    |
  | Chawton, Hants          |    Autumn 1809     | _d._ July 18, 1817 |


                    (Rev.) GEORGE AUSTEN=CASSANDRA LEIGH
                 |              |            |                  |     |
  Anne Matthew=James=Mary Lloyd | Eliza de=Henry=Eleanor    Cassandra |
              |     |           | Feuillade      Jackson              |
   B. Lefroy=Anna   |           |                                     |
                +---+------+    |                                     |
                |          |    |                                     |
     Edward Austen-    Caroline |                                     |
         Leigh                  |                                     |
                   Edward Knight=Elizabeth Bridges                    |
                                |                                     |
                        +-------+-+---------+------------+            |
                        |         |         |            |            |
    Sir E. Knatchbull=Fanny     Edward    George    Other sons        |
           Bart.     |                             and daughters      |
                     |                                                |
               Lord Brabourne,                                        |
                 and others             +-----------------------------+
                   |              |             |
           Mary=Francis=Martha    |    Fanny=Charles=Harriet
        Gibson (Admiral  Lloyd    |  Palmer |        Palmer
               of Fleet)          |         |
                                  |     Cassy, etc.


  Acting, 291-295.
  Alexander, Emperor, 272.
  Alexandria, Battle of, 253.
  Alger, J. G., on travel, 10-11.
  Allen, Ralph, 111.
  Amiens, Treaty of, 254.
  Art of the period, 8-9.
  Ashton, John, on the press-gang, 206-207;
    on feminine costume, 240.
  Austen family—
    Connections, 16.
    Genealogical table of, 326.
  Austen, Anna (niece), _see_ Lefroy.
  Austen, Caroline (niece), on Jane’s illness, 317.
  Austen, Cassandra (sister), Jane’s attachment to, 18, 19, 31,
  116, 322;
    engagement of, 19;
    Jane’s letters destroyed by, 20;
    visits to Goodnestone and Godmersham, 253, 258, 262-263;
    at Winchester, 317-319;
    letters after Jane’s death, 319-321;
    last days of, 321;
    _cited_—on the sea-side romance, 131-132;
    otherwise mentioned, 166-167, 303.
  Austen, Cassy (niece), 297.
  Austen, Adm. Charles John (brother), marriages of, 19, 297;
    naval career of, 19, 197, 199, 208;
    at Godmersham, 296;
    at Chawton (1816), 315;
    mentioned, 107.
  Austen, Mrs. Charles (Fanny Palmer), 19, 297.
  Austen, Edward (brother), _see_ Knight.
  Austen, Adm. of the Fleet Francis (brother), marriages of, 19, 256;
    naval career of, 151, 196-199;
    shares the home at Southampton, 256;
    otherwise mentioned, 148, 149.
  Austen, Mrs. Francis (Mary Gibson), 256, 258.
  Austen, Mrs. Francis (Martha Lloyd), popularity of, with the Austens,
  17, 256-257, 263;
    marriage of, 19, 256;
    at Bath, 254;
    at Southampton, 256-257.
  Austen, Rev. George (father), career of, 15-16;
    retirement to Bath, 212-213;
    hobbies, 213;
    income, 215;
    death, 133, 213, 223;
    characteristics, 41, 62;
    otherwise mentioned, 59, 177.
  Austen, Mrs. (mother), health of, 59-60;
    income of, 255, 256;
    at Chawton, 269;
    mentioned, 184.
  Austen, Rev. Henry (brother), marriages of, 18, 288;
    Jane’s literary affairs managed by, 18, 193, 272;
    Memoir by, prefixed to _Northanger Abbey_, 57-58, 194, 315;
    sponsor to Edward Cooper (junior), 118;
    Jane’s visits to, 278, 288, 298, 303;
    illness of, 303-304;
    at Chawton (1816), 315;
    in Orders, 316;
    career of, 149;
    estimate of, 278;
    _cited_—on _Mansfield Park_, 273, 276;
    otherwise mentioned, 148, 293.
  Austen, Mrs. Henry (Eliza de Feuillade), 18, 112, 278, 288.
  Austen, Mrs. Henry (Eleanor Jackson), 18, 288.
  Austen, Rev. James (brother), marriages of, 17;
    at Steventon, 212-213;
    visit to Southampton, 258;
    visit to Godmersham (1808), 260-262;
    otherwise mentioned, 194, 214.
  Austen, Mrs. James (Mary Lloyd), Jane’s attitude towards, 214, 258,
  261, 318-319;
    on Harriet Moore, 262.
  Austen, Jane—
    _Career_—parentage and family, 15-19;
      childhood, 23, 26, 31;
      school days, 31, 32;
      home life, 71;
      early writings, 77-78;
      visits to relatives, 19, 66, 105, 119, 133, 148-151;
      offers of marriage, 129, 131;
      romance, 131, 262, 268;
      _Pride and Prejudice_, 176, 184-185;
      _Sense and Sensibility_, 185, 188-189;
      _Northanger Abbey_, 189, 193-194;
      removal to Bath, 212-213, 215-218;
      Green Park Buildings and Gay Street, 223;
      at Lyme, 249-251;
      visit to Godmersham (1805), 251;
      move to Southampton, 251, 254;
      visits to Eastwell and Goodnestone, 253;
      at Southampton, 257-258;
      at Chawton, 267-270;
      visits to London, 278-279, 286-288;
      theatre-going, 290, 293-295;
      at Godmersham (1813), 296;
      nursing Henry (1815), 298, 303-304;
      interview with Prince Regent’s librarian, 304-305;
      failing health, 314-319;
      last work, 316-317;
      at Winchester, 318;
      death, 319-320;
      tomb and memorials, 321-322.
      Appearance, 58.
      Asperity, 129.
      Cheerfulness, 58, 129, 324.
      Critical faculty, 185.
      Fastidiousness, 129, 132.
      Health, 58-59.
      Humour, 1, 181.
      Narrowness of vision, 50, 254.
      Penetration and grasp of detail, 1, 9, 49, 81, 95, 129, 132, 318.
      Practicality, 58.
      Selective faculty, 311.
      Superficiality, 58.
      Vivacity and wit, 123, 129.
    Comparison of, with Fanny Burney, 87, 97;
      with George Eliot, 100-101;
      with Charlotte Brontë, 103-104;
      with Maria Edgeworth, 181-182.
    Estimates of, unfavourable, 128.
    Portrait of, at 15, 32;
      later, 57.
  Austen-Leigh, James Edward (nephew), birth of, 194;
    name of Leigh assumed by, 17, 216;
    _Memoir_ of Jane Austen by, 17;
    memorial brass inserted by, 321;
    _quoted_—on Steventon, 13, 14;
      on Jane’s popularity with children, 23;
      on Jane’s accomplishments, 32-33;
      on furniture, 63;
      on Jane’s early writings, 78;
      on the Coopers, 118;
      on minuets, 126;
      on the sea-side romance, 131-132;
      on the home at Southampton, 255;
      on Henry Austen, 278;
      on _Persuasion_, 314-315, 317;
    _cited_—on minuet-dancing, 223;
    letters in the _Memoir_, 249, 276;
    _The Watsons_ in the _Memoir_, 251;
    cancelled chapter of _Persuasion_ in the _Memoir_, 315.

  Baillie, Joanna, 172.
    Bath, at, 222-225.
    Country, 119-120.
    Dances at, 121 (_see also_ Dancing).
    Dress at, 124-127;
      masculine, 126.
    Etiquette of, 121-123.
    _Evelina_, account in, 121-123.
    Formality of, 121.
    Partners at, 121-123.
    Bateson, Mary, _cited_, 238.
    Abbey, 219.
    Assembly Rooms, 220-221.
    Austens’ removal to, 212-213, 215-218;
      house in Sydney Place, 219;
      table of residences, 325.
    Balls at, 222-225.
    Characteristics of the town, 219.
    House-hunting in, 215-218.
    Nash’s renovation of, 220-221, 247-248.
    _New Guide_ on, 224.
    Pump Room, 219-220.
    Society of, reproduced in _Northanger Abbey_, 189-190.
  Besant, Sir Walter, _quoted_—on eighteenth-century morals, 95;
    on franking of letters, 113-114;
    on wigs, 235-236.
  “Blue-stocking,” origin of epithet, 7.
  Boothby, Capt. Charles, _quoted_, 156-157.
  Brabourne, Lord, family of, 18, 301;
    _cited_—on the Coopers, 117-118;
      on Fanny Knight, 270;
    _quoted_—on Godmersham, 251-252, 261.
  Brasbridge, Joseph, _cited_, 114.
  Bridges, Harriet, _see_ Moore.
  Bridges, Louisa, 148, 149.
  Bridges, Marianne, 253.
  Brontë, Charlotte, compared with George Eliot, 100-102;
    with Jane Austen, 103-104.
  Brydges, Sir Egerton, on Jane’s appearance, 57.
  Burnet, Bishop, _quoted_, 47.
  Burney, Fanny, works of, 86-87, 97;
    Macaulay’s criticism of, 164-165;
    Walpole’s criticism of, 165;
    lively environment of, 164;
    _cited_—on the Court, 305-306.
  Byron, 173.

  Cage, Lewis, 148, 149.
  _Camilla_, 165.
  Campbell, Thomas, 173.
  Caps, 230-232.
  Card games, 5, 127.
  _Cecilia_, 86, 87, 97, 165, 176.
  Charades, 264.
  Chawton Cottage, Austens’ home at, 266-270.
  Chawton House—
    Acquisition of, by Edward Knight, 17.
    Lawsuit concerning, 128, 297.
    Value of, 255, 297.
  _Cheverels of Cheverel Manor, The_, 8, 65, 67, 77;
    travelling described in, 154-155.
    Books for, 28.
    Jane’s attitude towards, 23-24;
      her popularity with, 23;
      her delineation of, 24-27.
    Treatment of, 22, 27.
  Churches, 38-39.
  Clarence, Duke of (William IV.), 307.
  _Clarentine_, 168.
  Clarke, Mr., 304-305.
    Examination of, for Orders, 46-47.
    Jane’s references to, 43.
    Livings of, 42.
    Position of, 34-37, 44-45.
    Types of, 40-43.
  Coaches, 156-158, 282.
  Coals and coal mines, 64-65.
  _Cœlebs in Search of a Wife_, estimate of, 167;
    _quoted_, 27, 30;
    _cited_, 96.
  Coleridge, 173.
  Comedy of Jane Austen, character of, 1, 88.
  Cooper, Dr., 117, 119.
  Cooper, Edward, 117-118.
  Cooper, Jane (Lady Williams), 118.
  _Country Clergyman_—_cited_, 40.
  Country gentlemen, 91.
  Cowper, William, Jane’s partiality for, 14, 58, 169, 170, 258;
    _quoted_—on the clergy, 37, 40;
      on condition of labourers, 74.
  Crabbe, 170-171, 293.

  Dancing, 121, 123-124, 126-128;
    the waltz, 121;
    the minuet, 126, 223;
    the quadrille, 127-128, 149;
    the Boulangeries, 149.
  Deportment, 121.
  Dobson, Austin, _cited_, 186, 189;
    _quoted_, 316.
  Dockwra, William, 109-111.
    Academic, 239.
    Ball, 125-127.
    Caps, 230-232.
    Cloaks, 240.
    Excesses in, 229-230.
    Fabrics, 241-242;
      cost of, 242-243.
    Feminine costumes, 73, 239-241.
    Fruit-wearing, 229.
    Headgear, 230-234;
      feathers, 125, 232, 234, 283;
      wigs, 235-236, 239.
    Hoops, 244.
    Jane Austen’s lack of reference to, in the novels, 4;
      particular description of, in a letter, 243.
    Masculine, 126, 245-247.
    Mamaloucs, 231.
    Night-caps, 232-233.
    Nomenclature of, 243.
    Pelisses, 241.
    Pockets, absence of, 244.
    Scantiness of, 240.

  Edgeworth, Maria, works of, 87;
    _Emma_ presented to, 172;
    Jane Austen compared with, 181-182.
  Education of girls, 29-31.
  Eighteenth-century period, scope of, 3.
  Eliot, George, Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen compared
  with, 100, 101.
    Characters of, 308-310;
      children, 24, 26;
      clerical character, 43, 48;
      Mrs. Bennet, 61;
      Harriet, 139-142.
    Date of, 98.
    Dedication of, 163, 305, 307.
    Length of, 80.
    Love depicted in, 136.
    Personal appearance of heroine in, 57.
    _Persuasion_ compared with, 313.
    _Pride and Prejudice_ compared with, 99, 308-310.
    Scott’s review of, 134-135, 310-311.
    Otherwise mentioned, 69-70, 83-84, 91, 97, 115, 135.
  Entertainments, 120.
  _Evelina_, 87, 164, 186;
    _cited_, 121-122.

  _Fairchild Family, The_—_cited_, 28-29.
  Fashion (_see also_ Dress)—
    Bare necks, 220, 240.
    Excesses of, 229-230, 240, 244.
    Hair-dressing, 233-236, 239.
  Ferrier, Miss, 82, 98, 174.
  _First Impressions_, see _Pride and Prejudice_.
  Flirtation, 119, 129-130.
  Food, prices of, 70-71, 77.
  Foreign affairs, outline of, 49-56, 253-254, 259-260, 270-272,
  Fox, George, 247, 259.
  French Revolution and Reign of Terror, 50-53.
  Furniture, 63.

  Gardening, 71-72.
  Garrick, David, 161, 291, 292.
  Gas, 284-285.
  Geography of the period, 6-7.
  George III., King, 94, 235, 305-306.
  Gibson, Mary (Mrs. F. Austen), 256, 258.
  Gloucester, Duke of, 253.
    Acquisition of, by Edward Knight, 17, 148.
    Description of, 251-252.
    Temple Plantation, 261.
  Goodnestone, visits to, 253.
  Gordon, Duchess of (1791), 56.
  Gosse, Edmund, on eighteenth-century literature, 169.
  Grosley, M., _quoted_—on English breakfasts, 66;
    on wages, 72;
    on coaching, 157-158;
    on King George III., 235;
    on London, 280-281, 283-286;
    on the stage, 291-292.

  Hair-dressing, 231, 233-234;
    feathers, 125, 232, 234, 283;
    wigs, 235-236, 239;
    powder, 237-239.
  Hastings, Warren, 56.
  Hats and bonnets, 234.
  Hatton, George, 253.
  Highwaymen, 158-160.
  Hill, Constance, _cited_, 46.
  Hill, Rowland, 109, 111.
  Housekeeping, 65.

  Inchbald, Mrs., 172.
  India, affairs of, 55-56.
  Ireland, union of, with England, 55.

  Jackson, Eleanor (Mrs. H. Austen), 18, 288.
  _Jane Austen and Her Contemporaries_—_quoted_, 92.
  Johnson, Dr. Samuel, Jane’s partiality for, 58, 169;
    Fanny Burney influenced by, 164-165;
    wigs of, 236;
    otherwise mentioned, 164, 171.

  Kean, Charles, 294-295.
  Kemble, 291.
  Kensington Gardens, 288-289.
  Kent, Duke of, 307;
    letter of, to Mr. Creevy, 94.
  _Kentish Country House, A_—_cited_, 182-183.
  Knatchbull, Lady (Fanny Catherine Knight) (niece), Jane’s attachment
  to, 18, 252, 270, 288;
    shopping with, 287;
    letter to, on marriage, etc., 298-301;
    Cassandra’s letters to, after Jane’s death, 319-321;
    estimate of, 260-261, 263;
    marriage and family of, 18, 301;
    mentioned, 19.
  Knight, Mr., presents Steventon to George Austen, 16;
    adopts Edward Austen, 17, 148;
    mentioned, 59.
  Knight, Mrs., 17, 148, 261.
  Knight, Edward (brother), adopted by his cousin, 17, 148;
    marriage of, 18;
    Jane’s visits to (1796), 148-151;
      (1805), 251-252;
      (1808), 260-261;
    lawsuit concerning Chawton, 128, 297;
    family of, 252;
    offers Chawton Cottage to his mother, 266;
    otherwise mentioned, 133, 255, 287, 293, 303.
  Knight, Mrs. E. (Elizabeth Bridges), 133, 148;
    death of, 260, 262-263.
  Knight, Edward (nephew), 150, 263-264, 296.
  Knight, Fanny (niece), _see_ Knatchbull.
  Knight, George (nephew), 263-264, 296.

    Condition of, 73-75.
    Wages of, 76.
  Lackington (bookseller), 114.
  _Lady Susan_, 99.
  Landor, W. S., 239.
  Langdale, Lord, _quoted_—on travel, 10;
    on night-caps, 233.
  Latournelle, Mrs., 31.
  Lefroy, Mrs. Benjamin (Anna Austen) (niece), at Chawton, 269;
    novel-writing by, 301-302;
    marriage of, 302;
    _cited_, 131-133;
    mentioned, 17.
  Lefroy, Tom, 107, 119, 129-130.
  Leigh, Rev. Thomas (grandfather), 16, 118.
  Leigh-Perrot, Mrs., 119, 216.
  Letters of Jane Austen—
    Contemporary events, lack of reference to, 5, 9.
    Date of earliest published, 106, 117.
    Pettiness in, 214-215.
    Style of, 107.
  Letters of the period—
    Carriage of, 109-111.
    Cost of transmission of, 109, 111, 114, 116.
    Fetching of, 115-116.
    Form of, 108.
    Franking of, 112-115.
    Importance of, as news-carriers, 6.
    Style of, 106-107.
  Liston, 293, 294.
  Literature of the period—
    Leading works of, classified, 171-174.
    Novels, _see that title_.
  Lloyd, Martha, _see_ Austen, Mrs. F.
  London of the period—
    Coaches in, 282.
    Dangers of, 283-284.
    Dirt of, 281-282.
    Extent of, 279-280.
    Fogs of, 285.
    Kensington Gardens, 288-289.
    Lighting of, 284-285.
    Paving in, 280-282.
    Postage arrangements in, 109-110.
    Press-gang in, 207.
    Rent, etc., in, 286.
    Shops in, 286.
    Streets in, 285.
    Theatres in, 290-292;
      private, 193,
    Watchmen in, 284.
  Love, 135-139, 146-147.
  Lyme, 249-251.

  Macaulay, Lord, _quoted_—on Jane Austen’s art, 84;
    on novels previous to Miss Burney’s, 86;
    on Miss Burney’s environment, 164;
    on her work, 164-165.
  Mail-coaches, 111-112.
  _Mansfield Park_—
    Characters of, 210-211, 273-275;
      children, 26-27;
      clerical characters, 43-46;
      Fanny Price, 314.
    Date of, 98.
    Education described in, 29-30.
    Minuet described in, 126.
    Publication of, 277.
    Scene of, 257, 275.
    Second edition of, 311.
    Writing of, 270, 273.
    Otherwise mentioned, 4, 62, 82-83, 104, 145, 256, 310.
    Jane Austen’s view of, 137, 144-146.
    Modern attitude towards, 139.
  _Marriage_, 82, 98, 174.
  Matches, sulphur, 64.
  Mathews, Charles, 293, 294.
  Meal times, 65-67, 162.
  Meals, 68.
  Mitford, Miss, description of Jane Austen given to, 128;
    list of books read by, 168-169;
    publication of _Our Village_ by, 174;
    _quoted_—on M. St. Quintin’s, 31-32;
      on the waltz, 121;
      on morning calls, 162;
      on _Waverley_, 173;
      on _Pride and Prejudice_, 181-182;
      on Kean, 295;
    _cited_—on _Self Control_, 167;
      on the Chawton lawsuit, 297.
  Mitford, Mrs., recollections of Jane Austen by, 128.
  Montagu, Mrs., 7.
  Moore, Mrs. (Harriet Bridges), at Godmersham, 261-262;
    mentioned, 148, 149, 253.
  Moore, Sir J., 265.
  Moore, Thomas, 173.
  Morals, 94-95.
  More, Hannah, fêting of, 161;
    popular estimate of, 172;
    plays by, 162-163;
    _quoted_—on Mrs. Montagu, 7;
      on children, 27;
      on mail-coaches, 112;
      on abolition of letter-franking, 114-115;
      on dress, 243;
    _cited_—on fruit-wearing, 229-230;
    _Cœlebs in Search of a Wife_, see that title.
  Morning calls, 162.
  Mothers as depicted by Jane Austen, 60-62, 89-90, 188.
  Mourning, 253.
  Murray, Mr., 310-312.

  Names, female, 90.
  Napoleon Bonaparte, 53-54, 253-254, 259-260, 271, 297, 298.
  Nash, Beau, 220-223, 247-248.
    Bounties, system of, 206.
    Captains accompanied by their families, custom of, 296.
    Corruption in, 204.
    Hardships of, 201-205.
    Interest, abuse of, 208-209.
    Mutiny in, 209-210.
    Officers’ careers in, 201.
    Press for, 206-207.
    Prize-money in, 207-208.
    Victories of, 199-200.
  _New Guide, The_—_quoted_, 224, 246-247.
  Night-caps, 232-233.
  _Northanger Abbey_—
    Ball described in, 225-226.
    Biographical Memoir prefixed to, 58, 90, 194.
    Date of, 98.
    Estimates of, 189, 193.
    Local colour in, 227.
    Preface to, by Jane Austen, 194.
    Publication of, 315.
    Publisher’s neglect of, 193, 251.
    Scene and characters of, 189-193.
    Otherwise mentioned, 4, 13, 43, 47, 82, 88, 119, 124, 145,
    224-225, 247.
  Novelists prior to Jane Austen, 85.
  Novels of Jane Austen (_see also separate titles_)—
    Character the main feature of, 4, 102.
    Characters of, 91-92;
      children, 24-27;
      mothers, 60-62, 89-90, 188;
      male characters, 186, 210-211;
      secondary characters, 308.
    Comedy of, 1, 88.
    Humanity of, 81, 84.
    Humour of, 81.
    Individuality of, 323.
    Modernity of, 5.
    Refinement of, 94-95.
    Religion, lack of mention of, 90.
    Scenery ignored in, 14.
    Selective art exhibited in, 82, 95, 311.
    Style of, 97.
    Tabular list of, 325.
  Novels of the period—
    Character of, 85-86, 168.
    Gosse’s classification of, 169.
    Jane Austen’s reading of, 166.

  Omnibuses, 282.
  _Our Village_, 174.

  Palmer, Fanny, _see_ Austen, Mrs. C.
  Papendick, Mrs., _quoted_—on plate and services, 69;
    on hair-powder, 238;
    on dress, 231, 241.
  Parish visiting, 73.
  Perrot, _see_ Leigh-Perrot.
    Characters in, 210-211;
      Anne Elliot, 314.
    Date of, 98.
    Estimate of, 313.
    Local colour in, 227-228.
    Love depicted in, 137-138.
    Publication of, 315.
    Scene of, 249-250, 314.
    Writing of, 312, 314-315.
    Otherwise mentioned, 24, 62, 90, 208, 224-225, 296.
  _Petrel_ (ship sloop), 198-199.
  Plate and services, 68-69.
  Pollock, Mr., _cited_, 92, 310.
  Porter, Jane, 166.
  Post office, development of, 109-111, 115.
  Post-boys, 111.
  Powys, Mrs. Philip Lybbe (Caroline Girle), 117, 119;
    _quoted_—on Steventon inn, 12;
      on Holkham, 67;
      on an evening party, 127;
      on highway robbery, 160;
      on boy officers, 209;
      on Bath balls, 223-224;
      on Southampton, 257;
      on Wedgwood’s, 287;
      on medical treatment, 303.
  _Pride and Prejudice_—
    Characters of—Mr. Collins, 35-36, 183-184;
      Elizabeth, 58, 81, 95-96, 123, 178-180, 182;
      Darcy, 179-181;
      Jane Bingley, 288.
    Date of, 98.
    _Emma_ compared with, 308-310.
    _First Impressions_ the original title of, 99, 176.
    Improbability in, 187.
    Opinions on—by Sir W. Scott, 182;
      by Miss Mitford, 181-182;
      by Jane Austen, 184-185.
    Publication of, 276-277.
    Publisher’s refusal of, 177.
    Social caste in, 92-93.
    Otherwise mentioned, 58, 81-82, 124, 128, 145.
  Prince Regent, _Emma_ dedicated to, 163, 305, 307;
    librarian of, 304-305;
    character of, 306-307;
    home of, 286.

  Radcliffe, Mrs., 88, 172, 189.
  Residences of Jane Austen, table of, 325.
  Roads, state of, 75, 116, 151-154.
  Rogers, Samuel, _Pleasures of Memory_ published by, 173;
    omnibus story of, 282;
    _quoted_—on novels, 168;
      on hair-powdering, 239;
    _cited_—on head-dresses, 234;
      on Fox, 247;
      on executions, 284.
  Romance, Scott’s plea for, 134-135.
  Rowling, life at, 148-150.

  St. Vincent, Battle of, 200.
  Scott, Sir W., review of _Emma_ by, 134-135, 310-311;
    authorship of _Waverley_ imputed to, 173;
    _cited_—on _Pride and Prejudice_, 182.
  Secker, Archbishop, cited, 35, 38.
  Sedan chairs, 282-283.
  _Self Control_, opinions on, 167-168.
  Selwyn, George, _cited_, 283-284.
  _Sense and Sensibility_—
    Anonymous issue of, 163.
    Characters of—children, 24-26;
      Elinor, 136;
      male characters, 86-187;
      minor characters, 188.
    Date of, 98.
    Estimate of, 189.
    Improbability in, 187.
    Letter form of, 185.
    Marriage, views on, depicted in, 142-144.
    Origin of, 78.
    Publication of, 268, 272-273.
    Revision of, 270.
    Title of, 177.
    Otherwise mentioned, 26, 43, 47, 61-62, 83, 89, 91, 135, 136, 308.
  Servants, wages of, 72-73.
  Seward, Anna, 172.
  Sheridan, R. B., old age of, 164;
    plays of, 172.
  Sherwood, Mrs., 28, 31.
  Shopping, 286-287.
  Siddons, Mrs., 292.
  Sloane, Sir Hans, 279.
  _Social England_—_cited_, 238.
  Society of the period, entrée of, 161.
  Southampton, 251, 254.
  Southey, Robert, 173.
  Stephens, Miss, 293, 294.
  Steventon Rectory—
    Description of, 12.
    Sale of furniture of, 218.
    Situation of, 12-14.
  Style of the eighteenth century, 97, 258.
  Swords, wearing of, 124-125, 282.

  Tea, price of, 77.
  _Téméraire_, mutineers on, 209.
  Theatres, 290-292;
    private, 293.
  Thompson, Capt. Edward, on the navy, 202-203
  Thomson, Richard, _quoted_, 156.
  Tilsit, Peace of, 259.
  _Times_ of the period—
    “Baby officers” satirised in, 209.
    Dress fashions satirised in, 125, 244.
    Form of, 107-108.
    Kensington Gardens exit advocated by, 288-289.
    Press-gang’s activities described in, 206-207.
    Private theatres mentioned in, 293.
  Tips, 150-151.
  Trafalgar, Battle of, 257.
    Conditions of, 9-11.
    Ladies, by, 159.
    Methods of—post, 151, 158-159;
      by waggon, 153-154;
      by private chaise, 154-155;
      by coach, 155-158.

  United States of America, secession of, 56.

  _Vicar of Wakefield, The_—_cited_, 34.

  Walpole, Horace, letters of, 108, 113;
    death of, 171;
    _quoted_—on churchgoing, 39;
      on the French Revolution, 51;
      on village merry-makings, 75-76;
      on highway robbery, 160;
      on Fanny Burney, 165;
      on the Duke of Clarence, 307;
    _cited_—on Twickenham, 115;
      on dress, 245.
  _Watsons, The_, 66, 99, 251;
    child character in, 26.
  Wedgwood, 287.
  Whateley, Archbishop, _quoted_, 84, 87, 189.
  Wigs, 235-236, 239.
  Winchester, 78, 317-319, 321.
  Women, advancement in position of, 7.
  Wordsworth, William, 173.

  York, Duke of, post office the monopoly of, 109-110;
    robbed by highwaymen, 160;
    character of, 306.
  Young, Arthur, _quoted_—on French clergy, 37;
      on roads, 152;
    _cited_—on food prices, 70;
      on wages, 73, 76.

_Printed by_ MORRISON & GIBB LIMITED, _Edinburgh_

Transcriber's Note

Original punctuation and spelling (including spelling variants such
as near-sighted/nearsighted) have been preserved as much as possible,
correcting minor typographical errors without note.

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