Welcome to All Things Austen in April!
Today, we get a glimpse of Jane Austen’s life in Bath to coincide with today’s date. This letter, which illustrates well Jane Austen’s life in Bath only a few short months after the death of her father, is written to her beloved Cassandra, who, at the time, was staying at Ibthorpe (the transcriptions have JA writing it as Ibthrop), the home of Mrs Lloyd, the mother of Mary Lloyd (the second wife of James Austen) and Martha Lloyd, who was JA and Cassandra’s friend.
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Monday 8 – Thursday 11 April 1805
25 Gay St Monday
My dear Cassandra
Here is a day for you! Did Bath or Ibthrop ever see a finer 8th of April? It is March and April together, the glare of one and the warmth of the other. We do nothing but walk about; as far as your means will admit I hope you profit by such weather too. I dare say You are already the better for the change of place.
We were out again last night; Miss Irvine invited us, when I met her in the Crescent, to drink tea with them, but I rather declined it, having no idea that my Mother would be disposed for another Evening visit there so soon; but when I gave her the message I found her very well inclined to go;—and accordingly on leaving Chapel we walked to Lansdown. Richard Chamberlayne and a young Riply from Mr Morgan’s school, were there; and our visit did very well.
Seven years and four months ago we went to the same Ridinghouse to see Miss LeFroy’s performance! What a different set are we now moving in! But seven years I suppose are enough to change every pore of one’s skin, and every feeling of one’s mind.
We did not walk long in the Crescent yesterday, it was hot and not crouded enough; so we went into the field, and passed close by Stephen Terry and Miss Seymer again. I have not yet seen her face, but neither her dress nor air have anything of the Dash or Stilishness which the Browns talked of; quite the contrary indeed, her dress is not even smart, and her appearance very quiet. Miss Irvine says she is never speaking a word. Poor Wretch, I am afraid she is en Penitence.
Here has been that excellent Mrs Coulthard calling, while my Mother was out and I was believed to be so; I always respected her as a good-hearted, friendly woman;—And the Brownes have been here; I find their affidavits on the Table.
The Ambuscade reached Gibralter on the 9th of March and found all well; so say the papers. We have had no letters from anybody,—but I expect to hear from Edward tomorrow, and from you soon afterwards. How happy they are at Godmersham now! I shall be very glad of a letter from Ibthrop, that I may know how you all are there, and particularly yourself.
This is nice weather for Mrs J. Austen’s going to Speen, and I hope she will have a pleasant visit there. I expect a prodigious account of the Christening dinner; perhaps it brought you at last into the the company of Miss Dundas again.—
Tuesday. I received your letter last night, and wish it may be soon followed by another to say that all is over; but I cannot help thinking that Nature will struggle again and produce a revival. Poor woman! May her end be peaceful and easy, as the Exit we have witnessed! And I dare say it will. If there is no revival, suffering must be all over; even the consciousness of Existence I suppose was gone when you wrote. The Nonsense I have been writing in this and my last letter, seems out of place at such a time; but I will not mind it, it will do you no harm and nobody else will be attacked by it.
I am heartily glad that you can speak so comfortably of your own health and looks, tho’ I can scarcely comprehend the latter being really approved. Could traveling fifty miles produce such an immediate change? You were looking so very poorly here; everybody seem’d sensible of it. Is there a charm in an hack postchaise? But if there were, Mrs Craven’s carriage might have undone it all.
I am much obliged to you for the time & trouble you have bestowed on Mary’s cap, and am glad it pleases her; but it will prove a useless gift at present I suppose. Will not she leave Ibthrop on her Mother’s death? As a companion You will be all that Martha can be supposed to want; and in that light, under those circumstances your visit will indeed have been well-timed, and your presence and support have the utmost value.
Miss Irvine spent yesterday evening with us, and we had a very pleasant walk to Twerton. On our return we heard with much surprise that Mr Buller had called while we were out. He left his address, and I am just returned from seeing him and his wife in their Lodgings, 7 Bath St. His Errand as you may suppose is health, but his coming now seems to have been chiefly in consequence of his sister Susan’s wish that he would put himself under the care of Mr Bowen. Having so very lately heard from Colyton and that account is so tolerable, I was very much astonished—but Buller has been worse again since he wrote to me. His Habit has always been bilious, but I am afraid it must be too late for these waters to do him any good; for tho’ he is altogether in a more comfortable state as to Spirits and appetite than when I saw him last, and seems equal to a good deal of quiet walking, his appearance is exactly that of a confirmed Decline. The Children are not come, so that poor Mrs Buller is away from all that can constitute enjoyment with her. I shall be glad to be of any use to her, but she has that sort of quiet composedness of mind which always seems sufficient to itself.
What honour I come to! I was interrupted by the arrival of a Lady to enquire the character of Anne, who is returned from Wales and ready for service. And I hope I have acquitted myself pretty well; but having a very reasonable Lady to deal with, one who only required a tolerable temper, my office was not difficult. Were I going to send a girl to school I would send her to this person; to be rational in anything is great praise, especially in the ignorant class of school mistresses—and she keeps the School in the upper Crescent.
Since I wrote so far, I have walked with my Mother to St James Square and Paragon; neither family at home. I have also been with the Cookes trying to fix Mary for a walk this afternoon, but as she was on the point of taking a long walk with some other Lady, there is little chance of her joining us. I should like to know how far they are going; she invited me to go with them and when I excused myself as rather tired and mentioned my coming from St James Square, she said “that is a long walk indeed.” They want us to drink tea with them tonight, but I do not know whether my Mother will have nerves for it.
We are engaged tomorrow Evening. What request we are in!—Mrs Chamberlayne expressed to her niece her wish of being intimate enough with us to ask us to drink tea with her in a quiet way. We have therefore offered ourselves and our quietness thro’ the same medium. Our Tea and sugar will last a great while. I think we are just the kind of people and party to be treated about among our relations;—we cannot be supposed to be very rich.
The Mr Duncans called yesterday with their Sisters, but were not admitted, which rather hurt me. In the Evening we met Mr John, and I am sorry to say that he has got a very bad cold—they have all had bad colds—and he has but just caught his.
Jenny is very glad to hear of your being better, and so is Robert, with whom I left a message to that effect—as my Uncle has been very much in earnest about your recovery. I assure you, you were looking very ill indeed, and I do not believe much of your being looking well already. People think you in a very bad way I suppose, and pay you Compliments to keep up your Spirits.
Thursday. I was not able to go on yesterday, all my Wit and leisure were bestowed on letters to Charles and Henry. To the former I wrote in consequence of my Mother’s having seen in the papers that the Urania was waiting at Portsmouth for the Convoy for Halifax;—this is nice, as it is only three weeks ago that you wrote by the Camilla.
The Wallop Race seem very fond of Nova Scotia. I wrote to Henry because I had a letter from him, in which he desired to hear from me very soon. His to me was most affectionate and kind, as well as entertaining;—there is no merit to him in that, he cannot help being amusing. He expresses himself as greatly pleased with the Screens, & says that he does not know whether he is “most delighted with the idea or the Execution.” Eliza of course goes halves in all this, and there is also just such a message of warm acknowledgement from her respecting the Broche as you would expect.
He mentions having sent one of Miss Gibson’s Letters to Frank, by favour of Gen: Tilson, no waiting at Spithead. Would it be possible for us to do something like it, through Mr Turner’s means? I did not know before, that the Expedition were going to Frank. One thing more Henry mentions which deserves your hearing; he offers to meet us on the Sea-coast if the plan, of which Edward gave him some hint, takes place. Will not this be making the Execution of such a plan, more desirable and delightful than Ever.
He talks of the Rambles we took together last Summer with pleasing affection. Mary Cooke did walk with us on Tuesday, and we drank tea in Alfred St. But we could not keep our Engagement with Mrs Chamberlayne last night, my Mother having unluckily caught a cold which seems likely to be rather heavy.
Buller has begun the Waters, so that it will soon appear whether they can do anything for him. Mrs Buller goes with us to Chapel tomorrow;—which I shall put down as “Attention ye First.” I hope she will keep an account too.
My Mother’s cold is not so bad today as I expected. It is cheifly in her head, and she has not fever enough to affect her appetite. C. Fowle has this moment left us. He has taken No 20, from Michaelmas.
–Yrs Ever, JA.
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. http://web.archive.org/web/20110213220041/http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=AusLett.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=43&division=div2
Le Faye, Dierdre. Jane Austen’s Letters. Oxford University Press. 4th ed.