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Posts Tagged ‘Reverend George Austen’

Inquiring readers: WordPress has changed its editor, and I am still wrestling with the changes, especially on different computers – Mac and Android. You can see it in the changes in spacing and font. I am also experiencing internet connectivity problems. For these reasons, this post is published 4 days later than I intended. When we celebrated Father’s Day in the U.S., I thought of my beloved father and of his dry wit, which influenced my love for Austen and her novels (especially of Mr Bennet’s comments in Pride and Prejudice that reminded me of my father’s droll, but gentle humor). As I pondered the connection, I asked: “How did Jane Austen’s father influence her writing?” Here is my very short analysis.

Jane Austen was born on December 16th in 1775 on a bitter cold day in Steventon, a village in Hampshire. One day after her birth, her father, the village’s pastor, wrote a family member about his 7th child (out of 8) and second daughter:

“You have doubtless been for some time in expectation of hearing from Hampshire, and perhaps wondered a little we were in our old age grown such bad reckoners but so it was, for Cassy* certainly expected to have been brought to bed a month ago: however last night the time came, and without a great deal of warning, everything was soon happily over. We now have another girl, a present plaything for her sister Cassy** and a future companion. She is to be Jenny…” (Lane, 63). (*His wife, Cassandra; **His daughter.)

George Austen

One senses a father’s pride in the tone of this letter, as well as George Austen’s pleasure that Cassy, the only girl among his six children, and almost three years older than *Jenny*, would have a sister as a playmate. 

Reverend George Austen baptized his new daughter on December 17th in his home, as he had done with his other children. While Mrs Austen rested during her lying in, he wrote notes announcing the birth to friends and acquaintances. As far as we know, this was the last time that he called his newborn Jenny.  On April 5th, baby Jane was formally christened in St. Nicholas church. She was named after her godmother; her two aunts – Mrs Cooper and Mrs Leigh Perrot – and her maternal grandmother. 

Despite the high infant mortality rate during this era, the Austens sent their babies to “a good woman at Deane” three months after their births. This custom was commonly practiced at that time.  Cassandra Austen visited her babies daily in the nearby village, until they returned to the family fold at around 18 months of age. The reasons for this custom can be found in the following article on Breast Feeding in the Early 19th Century on this blog. 

A loving father and mother:

George and his wife were equally hard working parents who provided a stable and often joyful childhood for their children, except perhaps for the physically disabled George, who might have suffered from epilepsy. (His condition is more fully discussed in this article by Geri Walton: Jane Austen’s Disabled Brother George Austen. 

Early childhood and an education at home

Once the infants were returned to Steventon Parsonage, the parents took over raising their children. By all accounts, the Austen family was close-knit. After baby Jane’s return to the family fold, her parents’ teachings and examples during her formative years modeled intellectual, creative, and practical activities in a comfortable home and rural setting. 

“She was apparently a tomboy as a child, preferring to play cricket and roll down hills with her brothers than play ‘girls’ games, much like the character of Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey.” (Ivins, p 2.)

Book cover with image of a family with two parents and six childrendancing, with carpet rolled up and one of the girls playing piano.

Mrs Hurst Dancing book cover from Amazon books. The image shows a family of 8 dancing inside a drawing room, with the carpets rolled up.

Many facts exist about the timeline of Rev George Austen’s life, but what was his relationship with his family, and, in the interest of this article, with his famous daughter?  From an early age, George Austen led a hard-scrabble life. He lifted himself up through extraordinary intelligence and industry.  

Young Jane and her sister learned about history, literature, and the classics from their father and brothers. George’s library consisted of 500 volumes, an enormous (and expensive) number for a mere country parson. Shades of Mr Bennet! The library contained both classical books and novels, the latter of which were first frowned upon by academics and traditionalists, but were read with enjoyment by the Austen family. 

“…most of [the sisters’] education was undertaken privately at home, where their father, Reverend George Austen, supplemented his clerical income by taking boy pupils as boarders. It is likely that the Austen sisters benefited from their father’s library and from his informal instruction. We do not know whether or not they also sat in on any of the boys’ classes.” – Sutherland, British Library

Boarding school and “formal” education:

Jane and Cassandra acquired some formal education, although there were no expectations that their education would be as rigorous as their brothers’.

“In 1782 at the age of 7 Jane Austen went to school for the first time. Theories [conjecture] that she wanted to go to school because her elder sister Cassandra was being sent to Mrs Cawley’s school in Oxford to accompany their cousin Jane Cooper who was being sent there.” – Jane Austen Went to School

In 1783, Jane, Cassandra, and their cousin Jane Cooper caught an infectious disease spread by troops returning to Southampton. The three became quite ill. Jane Cooper sent a letter about the situation to her parents, who informed the Austens. Alarmed, Mrs Austen and Mrs Cooper immediately traveled to the school to retrieve their daughters. Mrs Austen nursed Jane back to health, but sadly Mrs Cooper caught the disease and died from it.

In the following three years, Jane and Cassandra continued their education at home. Then, when Jane was ten, the girls set off again to school, one that seemed similar to Jane’s description of Mrs. Goddard’s school in Emma:

“Mrs. Goddard was the mistress of a school — not a seminary, or an establishment, or anything which professed, in long sentences of refined nonsense, to combine liberal acquirements with elegant morality, upon new principles and new systems — and where young ladies for enormous pay might be screwed out of health and into vanity — but a real, honest, old-fashioned boarding school, where a reasonable quantity of accomplishments were sold at a reasonable price, and where girls might be sent to be out of the way, and scramble themselves into a little education, without any danger of coming back prodigies. Mrs. Goddard’s school was in very high repute, and very deservedly; for Highbury was reckoned a particularly healthy spot: she had an ample house and garden, gave the children plenty of wholesome food, let them run about a great deal in the summer, and in winter dressed their chilblains with her own hands.”

The school Jane and Cassandra attended between the spring of 1785 and December of 1786 was the Abbey School in Reading (remarkably still a girl’s school today https://theabbey.co.uk), where the curriculum included writing, spelling, French, history, geography, needlework, drawing, music and dancing – subjects that were considered essential for a girl’s education during the girls’ formative years to prepare them for attracting a husband and running a household. Few roads for women in Austen’s time led to higher education, travel abroad, or a career.

Unlike most of their female contemporaries, Jane’s and Cassandra’s education did not stop when they returned to Steventon. In fact, they were exposed to a wider variety of topics, subjects, and intellectual skills than they would have encountered in boarding schools. In addition:

“[Jane] was not denied “unladylike” material; she mentioned Henry Fielding’s bawdy novel Tom Jones in one of her letters and wrote that the Austen family were “great novel readers and not shamed of being so.” – Sullivan, (p180).

Early writing

Jane wrote her Juvenilia between 12 – 18 years of age as “gifts to her family” (Ivins). She frequently read these short, hilarious pieces of fiction to her siblings, parents, and friends. An early draft of Pride and Prejudice (First Impressions) was a particular favorite of her audience and remained so for years. Importantly, Rev. Austen encouraged her writing. In later years Cassandra recalled Jane reading from Elinor and Marianne (later Sense and Sensibility) before 1796. These carefree times in the Austen family’s social lives were filled with laughter, games, riddles, plays, readings, and intellectual discussions.

“…the relationship of Jane Austen with her own father seems, from what remains of her correspondence, to have been a good one. John Halperin characterizes him as a gentle, scholarly man, a good teacher and an excellent classical scholar. It was he who gave his daughter her literary education, and he who took sufficient interest in her work to offer her first novel to a publisher.” (Gibbs).

Despite their loving relationship, Austen’s six major novels described deeply flawed fathers with a variety of issues: Sir Walter Elliot was a snob and a spendthrift (P); Mr Woodhouse was a fearful hypochondriac whose neediness bound his youngest daughter to their home (E); General Tilney, another snob, was a truly nasty man all around (NA); and Mr Henry Dashwood (SS) left the financial fate of his second wife and daughters to the mercy of his weak-willed son and heir for lack of planning and foresight. 

Sir Thomas Bertram’s fathering skills in Mansfield Park were more nuanced. While he wasn’t a model father, his understanding and insights changed. The growth of his character is one of many reasons why Mansfield Park is considered by many to be Jane’s masterpiece.

I have reserved Mr Bennet (PP), for last. When I was fourteen his character delighted me – his witticisms, his criticisms of his silly wife and three younger equally silly daughters, and his close relationship with Jane and Elizabeth, who I adored, all had my approval. But then I grew up and saw him in a different light.

In my mature years I saw a man whose wit and sarcasm hid an underlying cruelty. He was a husband who made fun of his wife; who favored two daughters above three others; a man who bought extremely expensive books, but who failed to set a portion of that expense aside for future investments for his wife and daughters. I now see a man who retreated from daily reality and, for all his intellectual curiosity, was generally lazy. 

Even after Mr Wickham compromised his daughter, Lydia, and after Mr Darcy did everything in his power to rectify the situation, including providing the shameless couple with a yearly income, Mr Bennet quipped to Elizabeth:

“I admire all my three sons-in-law highly,” said he. “Wickham, perhaps, is my favourite; but I think I shall like your husband quite as well as Jane’s.”

That statement put the nail in the coffin to my youthful admiration of this father. 

George Austen’s support:

George Austen was proud of all his children. He actively supported Jane’s talents as a writer and encouraged her from childhood and on. In a letter to publisher Thomas Cadell, Jr., who was a partner in the firm that had published Fanny Burney’s novels, he proposed to submit her completed manuscript of First Impressions. George’s letter, written in November, 1797, offered “A Manuscript Novel, comprised in three Vols., about the length of Miss Burney’s Evelina.” Cadell, Jr. returned the letter unopened, and so the manuscript languished for 16 years.

Edward’s gift, and the fortuitous consequences of Cadell’s rejection:

George Austen’s sudden death in Bath on 21 January 1805, when Austen was nearly 30, placed his female family in uncertain circumstances. All the brothers, except for George, contributed enough funds towards their mother’s and sisters’ upkeep to relieve some of their financial burdens. Nevertheless, Jane’s creative writing suffered as her female family sought a permanent place to land after George’s death. In 1809, the group found a permanent home in Chawton Cottage, a house that Jane’s brother, Edward Austen Leigh, had refurbished for them.

Black and white pen and ink drawing of the cottage by Ellen Hill

Chawton Cottage by Ellen Hill

The move to Chawton Cottage created a perfect storm of creativity and success for Jane. Thanks to Edward, she returned to the rural countryside she loved, and once again her talent and creativity flourished. First on her to-do list was to rewrite Sense and Sensibility. A publisher had not rejected this manuscript and she sensed its commercial value. After its modest success, she turned to her other novel, First Impressions, the family favorite which had languished unpublished. We have no way of knowing how often Jane revised this beloved story, which, like Sense and Sensibility, started out as an epistolary novel. What we do know is that the finished product, renamed Pride and Prejudice (published in 1813), was well received. The book retains its literacy rock star status to this day.

I have no doubt that George Austen’s unshakable faith in Jenny’s brilliance as an author contributed to her success. His gift was his consistent confidence and encouragement in nourishing her spectacular talent. Well done, George!

______

Articles from this blog:

Online Articles

Gibbs, C. (1986) Absent Fathers: An Examination of Father-Daughter Relationships in Jane Austen’s Novels (Persuasions #8. JASNA. PDF Downloaded 6/26/21: http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/printed/number8/gibbs.pdf

Sutherland, K. (2014) Female education, reading and Jane Austen, British Library. URL Downloaded 6/26/21: https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/female-education-reading-and-jane-austen

Books

Grey, J.D. (1986) The Jane Austen Companion (with A Dictionary of Jane Austen’s Life and Works by H. Abigail Bok (U.S.). Macmillan Publishing Company.

Lane, M. (1997) Jane Austen’s Family: Through Five Generations (Paperback reprint (U.K.) St. Edmundsbury Press, Ltd.

Hannon, P. (2007) 101 Things You Didn’t Know About Jane Austen: The Truth About the World’s Most Intriguing Literary Heroine (U.S.). Fall River Press.

Ivins, H. (2010) The Jane Austen Pocketbook Bible (1st ed. U.K.). Crimson Publishing.

Mingay, G & Sperling, D. (1981) Mrs Hurst Dancing And Other Scenes from Regency Life 1812-1823 (U.K.). Victor Gollancz Ltd.

Sullivan, M.C. (2007) The Jane Austen Handbook: Proper Life Skills from Regency England (U.S.). Quirk Books.

https://www.amazon.com/Hurst-Dancing-Scenes-Regency-1812-1823/dp/0312551290

 

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Reverend George Austen

As many Jane Austen fans know, Rev. George Austen ran a boarding school out of his parsonage house in Steventon to augment his £230 pr year income. In1793 he began to teach the sons of local gentlemen in his home to prepare them for university. His library was extensive for a man of modest means, from 300- 500 volumes, depending on the source, an amazing collection, for books were frightfully expensive. Rev. Austen encouraged Cassandra and Jane to read from his library and supported budding author Jane in her writing. At some point, the Austens sent the girls to boarding school in Reading, for which he paid £35 per term, per girl, a not inconsiderable sum. He received around the same amount of money per boarder, and it is conjectured that the Austens hoped to replace their two daughters with many more pupils, which made economic sense. (See Linda Robinson Walker’s link below.) Mrs. Austen was not an indifferent bystander. She cooked, cleaned, sewed, and clucked over the boys like a mother hen, and was involved in their maintenance in a hands-on and caring way, acting as a surrogate mother.

In his Travels Through England in 1782, German traveler Karl Phillip Moritz describes learning academies, head masters, and boarding schools. From his observations, one gains a sense of what life must have been like for the Austens and their pupils:

A few words more respecting pedantry.  I have seen the regulation of one seminary of learning, here called an academy.  Of these places of education, there is a prodigious number in London, though, notwithstanding their pompous names, they are in reality nothing more than small schools set up by private persons, for children and young people.

One of the Englishmen who were my travelling companions, made me acquainted with a Dr. G– who lives near P–, and keeps an academy for the education of twelve young people, which number is here, as well as at our Mr. Kumpe’s, never exceeded, and the same plan has been adopted and followed by many others, both here and elsewhere.

18th Century school room. One imagines a less formal setting for Rev. Austen’s school.

At the entrance I perceived over the door of the house a large board, and written on it, Dr. G–’s Academy.  Dr. G– received me with great courtesy as a foreigner, and shewed me his school-room, which was furnished just in the same manner as the classes in our public schools are, with benches and a professor’s chair or pulpit.

The usher at Dr. G–’s is a young clergyman, who, seated also in a chair or desk, instructs the boys in the Greek and Latin grammars.

Such an under-teacher is called an usher, and by what I can learn, is commonly a tormented being, exactly answering the exquisite description given of him in the “Vicar of Wakefield.”  We went in during the hours of attendance, and he was just hearing the boys decline their Latin, which he did in the old jog-trot way; and I own it had an odd sound to my ears, when instead of pronouncing, for example viri veeree I heard them say viri, of the man,exactly according to the English pronunciation, and viro, to the man.  The case was just the same afterwards with the Greek.

Mr. G– invited us to dinner, when I became acquainted with his wife, a very genteel young woman, whose behaviour to the children was such that she might be said to contribute more to their education than any one else.  The children drank nothing but water.  For every boarder Dr. G– receives yearly no more than thirty pounds sterling, which however, he complained of as being too little.  From forty to fifty pounds is the most that is generally paid in these academies.

I told him of our improvements in the manner of education, and also spoke to him of the apparent great worth of character of his usher.  He listened very attentively, but seemed to have thought little himself on this subject.  Before and after dinner the Lord’s Prayer was repeated in French, which is done in several places, as if they were eager not to waste without some improvement, even this opportunity also, to practise the French, and thus at once accomplish two points.  I afterwards told him my opinion of this species of prayer, which however, he did not take amiss.

After dinner the boys had leave to play in a very small yard, which in most schools or academies, in the city of London, is the ne plus ultra of their playground in their hours of recreation.  But Mr. G– has another garden at the end of the town, where he sometimes takes them to walk.

After dinner Mr. G– himself instructed the children in writing, arithmetic, and French, all which seemed to be well taught here, especially writing, in which the young people in England far surpass, I believe, all others.  This may perhaps be owing to their having occasion to learn only one sort of letters.  As the midsummer holidays were now approaching (at which time the children in all the academies go home for four weeks), everyone was obliged with the utmost care to copy a written model, in order to show it to their parents, because this article is most particularly examined, as everybody can tell what is or is not good writing.  The boys knew all the rules of syntax by heart.

Reading Abbey, where Jane and Cassandra Austen were sent to boarding school

All these academies are in general called boarding-schools.  Some few retain the old name of schools only, though it is possible that in real merit they may excel the so much-boasted of academies.

It is in general the clergy, who have small incomes, who set up these schools both in town and country, and grown up people who are foreigners, are also admitted here to learn the English language.  Mr. G– charged for board, lodging, and instruction in the English, two guineas a-week.  He however, who is desirous of perfecting himself in the English, will do better to go some distance into the country, and board himself with any clergyman who takes scholars, where he will hear nothing but English spoken, and may at every opportunity be taught both by young and old.

Source: Moritz, Karl Philipp, 1757-1793. Travels in England in 1782 by Karl Philipp Moritz (Kindle Locations 645-656). Mobipocket (an Amazon.com company).

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Gentle Reader: This Father’s Day weekend, I salute Jane Austen’s father, George Austen. This post, which I wrote three years ago, has been resurrected and updated for this occasion.

Rev. George Austen was by all accounts a handsome man. Anna LeFroy, Jane’s niece wrote,

I have always understood that he was considered extremely handsome, and it was a beauty which stood by him all his life. At the time when I have the most perfect recollection of him he must have been hard upon seventy, but his hair in its milk-whiteness might have belonged to a much older man. It was very beautiful, with short curls about the ears. His eyes were not large, but of a peculiar and bright hazel. My aunt Jane’s were something like them, but none of the children had precisely the same excepting my uncle Henry.”

George Austen was born in 1731. His mother died in childbirth and his father died a year after marrying a new wife, who did not want the responsibility of taking care of the young lad. George then lived with an aunt in Tonbridge and earned a Fellowship to study at St. John’s. Smart, ambitious, and self-made (with the support of his uncle Francis), he received a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Arts, and a Bachelor of Divinity degree at Oxford. Considered good looking all his life, he was called “the handsome proctor” as he worked as an assistant chaplain, dean of arts, and Greek lecturer while going to school.

George first met Cassandra Leigh in Oxford when she was visiting her uncle Theophilus, a renowned scholar. After marrying Cassandra in Bath, George became rector in several country parishes, including Steventon. The family grew by leaps and bounds, and eventually he and Cassandra had six sons and two daughters.

Shortly after Jane was born, her father said: “She is to be Jenny, and seems to me as if she would be as like Henry, as Cassy is to Neddy.” But the little girl was known as Jane all her life.

By all accounts George and Cassandra Austen had a happy marriage. His annual income from the combined tithes of Steventon and the neighboring village of Deane was modest. With so many mouths to feed, the family was not wealthy. To augment the family income,  George Austen opened a boarding school at Steventon Rectory for the sons of local gentlemen, and sold produce from his farm.

George Austen presents his son Edward to the Knights, who adopted him. This was a common practice in that era. Image from Chawton House.

Rev. Austen, a doting father to all his children, encouraged Cassandra and Jane to read from his extensive library, and taught his boys in his boarding school. For entertainment, the family read to each other, played games, and produced poetry, novels, and plays. James, the eldest son, an accomplished writer and poet, was considered to be the “writer” of the family, especially by his mother, Cassandra, who doted on him. George Austen was proud of his youngest daughter’s accomplishments, and tried to get First Impressions, the first draft of  Pride and Prejudice published. The “Memoir of Jane Austen” by Edward Austen-Leigh contains a letter from George Austen to Mr. Cadell, publisher, dated November 1797, in which he describes the work as a “manuscript novel comprising three volumes, about the length of Miss Burney’s ‘Evelina'” and asks Mr. Cadell if he would like to see the work with a view to entering into some arrangement for its publication, “either at the author’s risk or otherwise.” Unfortunately, nothing came of this query, but P&P became hugely popular among the friends and family who read it before it was published. The original 3-part manuscript no longer exists, and a much shorter form of the novel was finally published in 1813, long after George’s death and only four short years before Jane’s fatal illness.
Rev. George Austen died unexpectedly in Bath on  January 1, 1805, where the Austen family had moved after living in Steventon for over 30 years. This move did not sit well with Jane, who, as legend goes, fainted when she learned that the family was moving to Bath. (The silhouettes above are of George and Cassandra, who had not aged well). Rev. Austen did not linger long after falling ill, and on January 21,  Jane Austen would write sorrowfully to her brother, Frank, one of two sailors in the family:

“We have lost an excellent Father. An illness of only eight and forty hours carried him off yesterday morning between ten and eleven. His tenderness as a father, who can do justice to?” – Sir Francis William Austen

Rev. Austen was buried in St. Swithin churchyard in Bath. The inscription on his grave reads:

Under this stone rests the remains of
the Revd. George Austen
Rector of Steventon and Deane in Hampshire
who departed this life
the 1st. of January 1805
aged 75 years.”

Double click on this grave marker to read the words. (From: Find a Grave Memorial. Image of George and his grave is from this site.)

More on the topic:

The Austen Family:

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Upper School, Tonbridge, where George Austen taught

Upper School, Tonbridge, Where George Austen taught

A circular walk in Tonbridge celebrates the family links of Jane Austen, including Tonbridge School, where Jane’s father studied and taught. Learn more about Jane Austen’s family in this fascinating video. Learn more about Jane Austen’s Tonbridge relations in this link to Tonbridge History. Read the first chapter of Jane Austen: A Life, by David Nokes. The link is cached, since the New York Times now charges for their online subscriptions.

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francis william austen

My dearest Frank, You will be glad to hear that every copy of  S. and S. is sold, and that it has brought me £140 besides the copyright, if that should ever be of any value.

In 1788,  14 ½ year-old Frank Austen prepared to put out to sea and leave his family. After excelling in his courses at the Portsmouth Naval Academy, the Commissioner of the Dockyards recommended that Frank join the Perserverance under the direction of Cornwallis, who was recently appointed Commander-in-Chief of India. The letter that young Francis received from his father, Rev.  George Austen, upon his departure was one that he would treasure for the rest of his life. In part, the Reverend wrote:

As you have hitherto, my dear Francis, been extremely fortunate in making friends, I trust your future conduct will confirm their good opinion of you; and I have the more confidence of this expectation because the high character you acquired at the Academy for propriety of behaviour and diligence in your studies, when you were so much younger and had so much less experience, seems to promise that riper years and more knowledge of the world will strengthen your naturally good disposition. That this may be the case I sincerely pray, as you will readily believe when you are assured that your good mother, brothers, sisters and myself will all exult in your reputation and rejoice in your happiness …

Ten years later, Jane would write with exultation:

My dear Cassandra, Frank is made. He was yesterday raised to the rank of Commander and appointed to the Petterel sloop, now at Gilbraltar. – Dec 28, 1798

Vice Admiral Sir Francis Austen

Vice Admiral Sir Francis Austen

By 1800, Frank, was still single, although his captain’s salary would enable him to marry and support a family in reasonable comfort. The letter Jane would write him on January 21, 1805 was heartbreaking:

My dearest Frank

I have melancholy news to relate, & sincerely feel for your feelings under the shock of it.—I wish I could better prepare you for it. But having said so much, your mind will already forestall the sort of event which I have to communicate.—Our dear Father has closed his virtuous & happy life, in a death almost as free from suffering as his Children could have wished. He was taken ill on Saturday morning, exactly in the same way as heretofore, an oppression in the head, with fever, violent tremulousness, & the greatest degree of Feebleness….towards the Evening however he got better, had a tolerable night, & yesterday morning was so greatly amended as to get up & join us at breakfast as usual, & walk about with only the help of a stick, & every symptom was then so favourable that when Bowen saw him at one, he felt sure of his doing perfectly well. But as the day advanced, all these comfortable appearances gradually changed; the fever grew stronger than ever, & when Bowen saw him at ten at night, he pronounc’d his situation to be most alarming. At nine this morning he came again—& by his desire a Physician was called in;—Dr. Gibbs—But it was then absolutely a lost case—. Dr. Gibbs said that nothing but a Miracle could save him, and about twenty minutes after Ten he drew his last gasp…My Mother bears the Shock as well as possible; she was quite prepared for it, & feels all the blessing of his being spared a long Illness. My Uncle & Aunt have been with us, & shew us every imaginable kindness. And tomorrow we shall I dare say have the comfort of James’s presence, as an express has been sent to him. Adieu my dearest Frank. The loss of such a Parent must be felt, or we should be Brutes—. I wish I could have given you better preparation—but it has been impossible. Yours Ever affectly – J A.

The news must have been a great blow to Frank, who sailed the world over and only saw his family sporadically. Perhaps his grief was somewhat ameliorated by Jane’s next letter a little over a week later:

My mother has found among our dear father’s little personal property a small astronomical instrument, which she hopes you will accept for his sake. It is, I believe, a compass and sundial, and is in a black shagreen case…Yours very affecly, JA.

When Frank asked Miss Mary Gibson to marry him, Jane and Cassandra discovered that they liked her extremely well. Their cordial relationship had an opportunity to flourish after Rev. George Austen’s death. Frank invited his mother and sisters to live with him and his bride in Southampton from 1806 to 1808.  It was to be a mutually beneficial arrangement, for Frank did not want his young wife to be alone while he was away on his next voyage. He rented a house in Castle Square  with a fine garden and a view across Southampton Water to the Isle of Wight, which Jane found very much to her liking. The invitation included the Austen women’s close friend, Martha Lloyd, sister to James Austen’s wife Mary.

Sir Francis Austen lived until 1865, well into the age of photography

Sir Francis Austen lived until 1865, well into the age of photography

Unfortunately, like Edward’s wife Elizabeth, Mary did not survive into old age and died after the birth of her 11th child in 1823.  In an ironic turn of events, Frank asked Martha Lloyd to be his second wife in 1828 and she accepted. By any stretch of the imagination, Frank’s career was illustrious. He eventually achieved Knighthood as Sir Francis Austen and rose to the position of Admiral of the Fleet. Jane last saw her brother in the New Year of 1817, when a lull in her fatal illness allowed her to visit Frank and his large rambunctious family in Alton.

Thirty-five years after her death there came also a voice of praise from across the Atlantic. In 1852 the following letter was received by her brother Sir Francis Austen:

Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A., 6th Jan. 1852

Since high critical authority has pronounced the delineations of character in the works of Jane Austen second only to those of Shakspeare, trans-atlantic admiration appears superfluous; yet it may not be uninteresting to her family to receive an assurance that the influence of her genius is extensively recognised in the American Republic, even by the highest judicial authorities. The late Mr Chief Justice Marshall, of the supreme Court of the United States, and his associate Mr Justice Story, highly estimated and admired Miss Austen, and to them we owe our introduction to her society. For many years her talents have brightened our daily path, and her name and those of her characters are familiar to us as ‘household words’. We have long wished to express to some of her family the sentiments of gratitude and affection she has inspired, and request more information relative to her life than is given in the brief memoir prefixed to her works.

Having accidentally heard that a brother of Jane Austen held a high rank in the British navy, we have obtained his address from our friend Admiral Wormley, now resident in Boston, and we trust this expression of our feeling will be received by her relations with the kindness and urbanity characteristic of Admirals of her creation. Sir Francis Austen, or one of his family, would confer a great favour by complying with our request. The autograph of his sister, or a few lines in her handwriting, would be placed among our chief treasures.

The family who delight in the companionship of Jane Austen, and who present this petition, are of English origin. Their ancestor held a high rank among the first emigrants to New England, and his name and character have been ably represented by his descendants in various public stations of trust and responsibility to the present time in the colony and state of Massachusetts. A letter addressed to Miss Quincey, care of the Honble Josiah Quincey, Boston, Massachusetts, would reach its destination.

Sir Francis Austen returned a suitable reply to this application; and sent a long letter of his sister’s, which, no doubt, still occupies the place of honour promised by the Quincey family. – A Memoir of Jane Austen by her nephew, Chapter IX

More links:

Gentle reader: In honor of JASNA’s annual meeting in Philadelphia this week, this blog, Austenprose, and Jane Austen Today will be devoting posts to Jane Austen and her siblings. Look for new links each day.

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