18 November 1814 – Friday – from Chawton

[Letter to Jane Austen’s niece, Fanny Knight]

I feel quite as doubtful as you could be my dearest Fanny as to when my Letter may be finished, for I can command very little quiet time at present, but yet I must begin, for I know you will be glad to hear as soon as possible, & I really am impatient myself to be writing something on so very interesting a subject, though I have no hope of writing anything to the purpose.– I shall do very little more I dare say than say over again, what you have said before.– I was certainly a good deal surprised at first— as I had no suspicion of any change in your feelings, and I have no scruple in saying that you cannot be in Love.  My dear Fanny, I am ready to laugh at the idea– and yet it is no laughing matter to have had you so mistaken as to your own feelings.– And with all my heart I wish I had cautioned you on that point when first you spoke to me;– but tho’ I did not think you then so much in love as you thought yourself, I did consider you as being attached in a degree– quite sufficiently for happiness, as I had no doubt it would increase with opportunity.– And from the time of our being in London together, I thought you really very much in love.– But you certainly are not at all– there is no concealing it.–

What strange creatures we are!– It seems as if your being secure of him (as you say yourself) had made you Indifferent.– There was a little disgust I suspect, at the Races– & I do not wonder at it.  His expressions then would not do for one who had rather more Acuteness, Penetration & Taste, than Love, which was your case.  And yet, after all, I am surprised that the change in your feelings should be so great.– He is, just what he ever wasy, only more evidently & uniformly devoted to you.  This is all the difference.–

How shall we account for it?– My dearest Fanny, I am writing what will not be of the smallest use to you.  I am feeling differently every monment, & shall not be able to suggest a single thing that can assist your Mind.– I could lament in one sentence & laugh in the next, but as to Opinion or Counsel I am sure none will [be omitted] extracted worth having from this Letter.– I read yours through the very eveng I received it– getting away by myself– I could not bear to leave off, when I had once begun.– I was full of curiosity & concern.  Luckily Your Aunt C. dined at the other house, therefore I had not to manoeuvre away from her;– and as to anybody else, I do not care.–

Poor Mr J.P!– 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, & most powerful it is.– Among the multitudes however that make the same mistake with Yourself, there can be few indeed who have so little reason to regret it;– his Character & his attachment leave you nothing to be ashamed of.– Upon the whole, what is to be done?  You certainly have encouraged him to such a point as to make him feel almost secure of you– you have no inclination for any other person– His situation in life, family, friends, & 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 really is of the first importance– everything of this nature 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 agreable, idle Brothers would ill bear a comparison with.– Oh! my dear Fanny, the more I write about him, the warmer my feelings become, the more strongly I feel the sterling worth of such a young Man & the desirableness of your growing in love with him again.  I recommend this most thoroughly.– There are such beings in the World perhaps, one in a Thousand, as the Creature You & I should think perfection, where Grace & Spirit are united to Worth, where the Manners are equal to the Heart & 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 Brother of your particular friend, & belonging to your own County.–

Think of all this Fanny.  Mr J.P.- has advantages which do not often meet in one person.  His only fault indeed seems Modesty.  If he were less modest, he would be more agreable, speak louder & look Impudenter;– and is not it a fine Character, of which Modesty is the only defect?– I have no doubt that he will get more lively & more like yourselves as he is more with you;– he will catch your ways if he belongs to you.  And as to there being any objection from his Goodness, from the danger of his becoming even Evangelical, I cannot admit that.  I am by no means convinced that we ought not all to be Evangelicals, & am at least persuaded that they who are so from Reason & Feeling, must be happiest & safest.– Do not be frightened from the connection by your Brothers having most wit.  Wisdom is better than Wit, & in the long run will certainly have the laugh on her side; & don’t be frightened by the idea of his acting more strictly up to the precepts of the New Testament than others.–

And now, my dear Fanny, having written so much on one side of the question, I shall turn round & entreat you not to commit yourself farther, & 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 &c &c strike you more than all his good qualities, if you continue to think strongly of them, give him up at once.– Things are now in such a state, that you must resolve upon one or the other, either to allow him to go on as he has done, or whenever you are together behave with a coldness which may convince him that he has been deceiving himself.– I have no doubt of his suffering a good deal for a time, a great deal, when he feels that he must give you up;– but it is no creed of mine, as you must be well aware, that such sort of Disappointments kill anybody.–

Your sending the Music was an admirable device, it made everything easy, & I do not know how I could have accounted for the parcel otherwise; for tho’ your dear papa most conscientiously hunted about till he found me alone in the Ding-Parlour, Your Aunt C. had seen that he had a parcel to deliver.– As it was however, I do not think anything was suspected.– We have heard nothing fresh from Anna.  I trust she is very comfortable in her new home.  Her Letters have been very sensible & satisfactory, with no parade of happiness, which I liked them the better for.– I have often known young married Women write in a way I did not like, in that respect.

You will be glad to hear that the first Edit: of M.P. is all sold.– Your Uncle Henry is rather wanting me to come to Town, to settle about a 2d Edit:– but as I could not very conveniently leave home now, I have written him my Will & pleasure, & unless he still urges it, shall not go.– I am very greedy & want to make the most of it;– but as  you are much above caring about money, I shall not plague you with any particulars.– The pleasures of Vanity are more within your comprehension, & you will enter into mine, at receiving the praise which every now & then comes to me, through some channel or other.–

[To be continued briefly two days following, on Saturday, 20th November]

One Response to 18 November 1814 – Friday – from Chawton

  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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