17 November 1798 – Saturday – from Steventon

My dear Cassandra

If you paid any attention to the conclusion of my last letter, you will be satisfied, before you receive this, that my mother has had no relapse, and that Miss Debary comes.  The former continues to recover, and though she does not gain strength very rapidly, my expectations are humble enough not to outstride her improvements.  She was able to sit up nearly eight hours yesterday, and to-day I hope we shall do as much. . . . So much for my patient–now for myself.

Mrs Lefroy did come last Wednesday, and the Harwoods came likewise, but very considerately paid their visit before Mrs Lefroy’s arrival, with whom, in spite of interruptions both from my father and James, I was enough alone to hear all that was interesting, which you will easily credit when I tell you that of her nephew she said nothing at all, and of her friend very little.  She did not once mention the name of the former to me, and I was too proud to make any enquiries; but on my father’s afterwards asking where he was, I learnt that he was gone back to London in his way to Ireland, where he is called to the Bar and means to practise.  She showed me a letter which she had received from her friend a few weeks ago (in answer to one written by her to recommend a nephew of Mrs Russell to his notice at Cambridge), towards the end of which was 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 a 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 all go on exceedingly well, and decline away in a very reasonable manner.  There seems 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.  Mrs Lefroy made no remarks on the letter, nor did she indeed say anything about him as relative to me.  Perhaps she thinks she has said too much already.

She saw a great deal of the Mapletons while she was in Bath.  Christian is still in a very bad state of health, consumptive, and not likely to recover.  Mrs Portman is not much admired in Dorsetshire, the good-natured world, as usual, extolled her beauty so highly, that all the neighbourhood have had the pleasure of being disappointed.

My mother desires me to tell you that I am a very 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 tomorrow.  We are to kill a pig soon.

There is to be a ball at Basingstoke next Thursday.  Our assemblies have very kindly declined ever since we laid down the carriage, so that dis-convenience and dis-inclination to go have kept pace together.  My father’s affection for Miss Cuthbert is as lively as ever, and he begs that you will not neglect to send him intelligence of her or her brother, whenever you have any to send.  I am likewise to tell you that one of his Leicestershire sheep, sold to the butcher last week, weighed 27 lb. and 1/4 per quarter.  I went to Deane with my father two days ago to see Mary, who is still plagued with the rheumatism, which she would be very glad to get rid of, and still more glad to get rid of her child, of whom she is heartily tired.  Her nurse is come, and has no particular charm either of person or manner; but as all the Hurstbourne world pronounce her to be the best nurse that ever was, Mary expects her attachment to increase.

What fine weather this is! Not very becoming perhaps early in the morning, but very pleasant out of doors at noon, and very wholesome– at least everybody fancies so, and imagination is everything.  To Edward, however, I really think dry weather of importance.  I have not taken to fires yet.  I believe I never told you that Mrs Coulthard and Anne, late of Manydown, are both dead, and both died in childbed.  We have not regaled Mary with this news.  Harry St. John is in Orders, has done duty at Ashe, and performs very well.  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, that I may fancy myself at Godmersham.

I hope George was pleased with my designs.  Perhaps they would have suited him as well had they been less elaborately finished; but an artist cannot do anything slovenly. I suppose baby grows and improves.

[Letter is continued on the following day, Sunday 18th November]

One Response to 17 November 1798 – Saturday – from Steventon

  1. Pingback: 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 | QuinnTessence

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