Welcome to All Things Austen in April!
In this second letter from Jane Austen to her beloved Cassandra in April, 1805, we have more insight into Jane Austen’s life in Bath and the social circle she inhabited as well as her dry wit that is present throughout this particular letter.
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Sunday 21-Tuesday 23 April 1805
25 Gay St
My dear Cassandra
I am much obliged to you for writing to me again so soon; your letter yesterday was quite an unexpected pleasure. Poor Mrs Stent! It has been her lot to be always in the way; but we must be merciful, for perhaps in time we may come to be Mrs Stents ourselves, unequal to anything and unwelcome to everybody.
We shall be very glad to see you whenever you can get away, but I have no expectation of your coming before the 10th or 11th of May.
Your account of Martha is very comfortable indeed, and now we shall be in no fear of receiving a worse. This day, if she has gone to Church, must have been a trial of her feelings, but I hope it will be the last of any acuteness.
James may not be a Man of Business, but as a “Man of Letters” he is certainly very useful; he affords you a most convenient communication with the Newbury Post.
You were very right in supposing I wore my crape sleeves to the Concert, I had them put in on the occasion; on my head I wore my crape and flowers, but I do not think it looked particularly well.
My Aunt is in a great hurry to pay me for my Cap, but cannot find in her heart to give me good money. “If I have any intention of going to the Grand Sydney-Garden Breakfast, if there is any party I wish to join, Perrot will take out a ticket for me.” Such an offer I shall of course decline; and all the service she will render me therefore, is to put it out of my power to go at all, whatever may occur to make it desirable.
Yesterday was a busy day with me, or at least with my feet and my stockings; I was walking almost all day long; I went to Sydney Gardens soon after one, and did not return till four, and after dinner I walked to Weston. My morning engagement was with the Cookes, and our party consisted of George and Mary, a Mr and Miss Bendish who had been with us at the Concert, and the youngest Miss Whitby;—not Julia, we have done with her, she is very ill, but Mary; Mary Whitby’s turn is actually come to be grown up and have a fine complexion and wear great square muslin shawls. I have not expressly enumerated myself among the party, but there I was, and my Cousin George was very kind and talked sense to me every now and then in the intervals of his more animated fooleries with Miss Bendish, who is very young and rather handsome, and whose gracious manners, ready wit, and solid remarks put me somewhat in mind of my old acquaintance Lucy Lefroy. There was a monstrous deal of stupid quizzing, and common-place nonsense talked, but scarcely any Wit;—all that border’d on it, or on Sense came from my Cousin George, whom altogether I like very well. Mr Bendish seems nothing more than a tall young Man.
I met Mr F. Bonham the other day, and almost his first salutation was “So Miss Austen your Cousin is come.”
My Evening Engagement and walk with Miss Armstrong, who had called on me the day before, and gently upbraided me in her turn with change of manners to her since she had been in Bath, or at least of late. Unlucky me! That my notice should be of such consequence and my Manners so bad! She was so well-disposed, and so reasonable that I soon forgave her, and made his engagement with her in proof of it. She is really an agreeable girl, so I think I may like her, and her great want of a companion at home, which may well make any tolerable acquaintance important to her, gives her another claim on my attention. I shall endeavour as much as possible to keep my Intimacies in their proper place, and prevent their clashing.
I have been this morning with Miss Irvine; it is not in my power to return her evening-visits at present. I must pay her as I can. On Tuesday we are to have a party. It came into my wise head that tho’ my Mother did not go out of an evening, there was no reason against her seeing her friends at home, and that it would be as well to get over the Chamberlaynes visit now, as to delay it. I accordingly invited them this morning; Mrs C. fixed on Tuesday, and I rather think they will all come; the possibility of it will deter us from asking Mr and Mrs L.P. to meet them. I asked Miss Irvine, but she declined it, as not feeling quite stout, and wishing to keep quiet;—but her Mother is to enliven our circle.
Bickerton has been at home for the Easter Holidays and returns tomorrow; he is a very sweet boy, both in manner and countenance. He seems to have the attentive, affectionate feelings of Fulwar-William—who by the bye is actually fourteen—what are we to do? I have never seen Bickerton without his immediately enquiring whether I had heard from you—from “Miss Cassandra,” was his expression at first. As far as I can learn, the Family are very much pleased with Bath, and excessively overcome by the heat, or the Cold, or whatever happens to be the weather. They go on with their Masters & Mistresses, and are now to have a Miss; Amelia is to take lessons of Miss Sharpe.
Among so many friends, it will be well if I do not get into a scrape; and now here is Miss Blachford come. I should have gone distracted if the Bullers had staid. The Cookes leave Bath next week I believe, and my Cousin goes earlier.
The papers announce the Marriage of the Rev: Edward Bather, Rector of some place in Shropshire to a Miss Emma Halifax—a Wretch!—he does not deserve an Emma Halifax’s maid Betty.
Mr Hampson is here; this must interest Martha; I met him the other morning on his way (as he said) to Green Park Bgs; I trusted to his forgetting our number in Gay St when I gave it him, and so I conclude he has, as he has not yet called.
Mrs Stanhope has let her house from Midsummer, so we shall get rid of them. She is lucky of disposing of it so soon, as there is an astonishing number of Houses at this time vacant in that end of the Town. Mrs Elliot is to quit hers at Michaelmas.
I wonder whether Mr Hampson’s friend Mr Saunders is any relation to the famous Saunders whose letters have been lately published! I am quite of your opinion as to the folly of concealing any longer our intended Partnership with Martha, and whenever there has of late been an enquiry on the subject I have always been sincere; and I have sent word of it to the Mediterranean in a letter to Frank. None of our nearest connections I think will be unprepared for it; and I do not know how to suppose that Martha’s have not foreseen it.—When I tell you that we have been visiting a Countess this morning, you will immediately with great justice, but no truth, guess it to be Lady Roden. No, it is Lady Leven, the mother of Ld Balgonie. On receiving a message from
Lord and Lady Leven thro’ the MacKays declaring their intention of waiting on us, we thought it right to go to them. I hope we have not done too much, but the friends and admirers of Charles must be attended to. They seem very reasonable, good sort of people, very civil, and full of his praise. We were shewn at first into an empty Drawing-room, and presently in came his Lordship, not knowing who we were, to apologise for the servant’s mistake, and tell a lie himself, that Lady Leven was not within. He is a tall, gentlemanlike looking man, with spectacles, and rather deaf;—after sitting with him ten minutes we walked away; but Lady L. coming out of the dining parlour as we passed the door, we were obliged to attend her back to it, and pay our visit over again. She is a stout woman, with a very handsome face. By this means we had the pleasure of hearing Charles’s praises twice over;—they think themselves excessively obliged to him, and estimate him so highly as to wish Ld Balgonie when he is quite recovered, to go out to him.
The young man is much better, and is gone for the confirmation of his health, to Penzance. There is a pretty little Lady Marianne of the party, to be shaken hands with and asked if she remembers Mr Austen.—
Monday. The Cooke’s place seems of a sort to suit Isaac, if he means to go to service again, and does not object to change of Country. He will have a good Soil, and a good Mistress, and I suppose will not mind taking physic now and then. The only doubt which occurs to me is whether Mr Cooke may not be a disagreeable, fidgety Master, especially in matters concerning the Garden.
Mr Mant has not yet paid my Mother the remainder of her money, but she has very lately received apology for it, with his hope of being able to close the account shortly.
You told me some time ago that Tom Chute had had a fall from his horse, but I am waiting to know how it happened before I begin pitying him, as I cannot help suspecting it was in consequence of his taking orders; very likely as he was going to do Duty or returning from it.—
Tuesday. I have not much more to add. My Uncle and Aunt drank tea with us last night, and in spite of my resolution to the contrary, I could not help putting forward to invite them again this Evening. I thought it was of the first consequence to avoid anything that might seem a slight to them. I shall be glad when it is over, and hope to have no necessity for having so many dear friends at once again. I shall write to Charles by the next Packet, unless You tell me in the meantime of your intending to do it. Believe me if you chuse,
Yr affecte Sister.
Huge hugs and thanks to the lovely Jane Odiwe for taking a last minute picture of 25 Gay Street for me.
Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. web.archive.org/web/20110213220052/http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=AusLett.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=44&division=div2
Le Faye, Dierdre. Jane Austen’s Letters. Oxford University Press. 4th ed.