[Letter written to Jane Austen’s niece, Anna Austen]
My dear Anna
I hope you do not depend on having your book back again immediately. I keep it that your G:Mama may hear it– for it has not been possible yet to have any public reading. I have read it to your Aunt Cassandra however– in our own room at night, while we undressed– and with a great deal of pleasure. We like the first chapter extremely– with only a little doubt whether Ly Helena is not almost too foolish. The matrimonial Dialogue is very good certainly.– I like Susan as well as ever– & begin now not to care at all about Cecilia– she may stay at Easton Court as long as she likes.– Henry Mellish I am afraid will be too much in the common Novel style– a handsome, amiable, unexceptionable Young Man (such as do not much abound in real Life) desperately in Love, & all in vain. But I have no business to judge him so early.– Jane Egerton is a very natural, comprehendable Girl– & the whole of her acquaintance with Susan, & Susan’s Letter to Cecilia, very pleasing & quite in character.– But Miss Egerton does not entirely satisfy us. She is too formal & solemn, we think, in her advice to her Brother not to fall in love; & it is hardly like a sensible Woman; it is putting it into his head.– We should like a few hints from her better.–
We feel really obliged to you for introducing a Lady Kenrick, it will remove the greatest fault in the work, & I give you credit for considerable forebearance as an Author in adopting so much of our opinion.– I expect high fun about Mrs Fisher & Sir Thomas.–
You have been perfectly right in telling Ben of your work, & I am very glad to hear how much he likes it. His encouragement & approbation must be quite “beyond everything.”– I do not at all wonder at his not expecting to like anybody so well as Cecilia at first, but shall be surprised if he does not become a Susan-ite in time.– Devereux Forester’s being ruined by his Vanity is extremely good; but I wish you would not let him plunge into a “vortex of Dissipation”. I do not object to the Thing, but I cannot bear the expression;– it is such thorough novel slang– and so old, that I dare say Adam met with it in the first novel he opened.–
Indeed I did very much like to know Ben’s opinion.– I hope he will continue to be pleased with it, I think he must– but I cannot flatter him with there being much Incident. We have no great right to wonder at his not valueing the name of Progillian. That is a source of delight which he hardly ever can be quite competent to.–
Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones.– It is not fair.– He has Fame & Profit enough as a Poet, and should not be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths.– I do not like him, & do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it– but fear I must.– I am quite determined however not to be pleased with Mrs West’s Alicia de Lacy, should I ever meet with it, which I hope I may not.– I think I can be stout against any thing written by Mrs West.– I have made up my mind to like no Novels really, bt Miss Edgeworth’s, Yours & my own.–
What can you do with Egerton to increase the interest for him? I wish you cd contrive something, some family occurrence to draw out his good qualities more– some distress among Brothers or Sisters to releive by the sale of his Curacy– something to [take] him mysteriously away, & then heard of at York or Edinburgh– in an old great Coat.– I would not seriously recommend anything Improbable, but if you cd invent something spirited for him, it wd have a good effect.– He might lend all his Money to Captn Morris– but then he wd be a great fool if he did. Cannot the Morrisses quarrel, & he reconcile them?– Excuse the liberty I take in these suggestions.–
Your Aunt Frank’s Housemaid has just given her warning, but whether she is worth your having, or wd take your place I know not.– She was Mrs Webb’s maid before she went to the Gt House. She leaves your Aunt, because she cannot agree with her fellow servants. She is in love with the Man– & her head seems rather turned; he returns her affection, but she fancies every body else is wanting to get him too, & envying her. Her previous service must have fitted her for such a place as yours, & she is very active & cleanly.– She is own Sister to the favourite Beatrice.
The Webbs are really gone. When I saw the Waggons at the door, & thought of all the trouble they must have in moving, I began to reproach myself for not having liked them better– but since the Waggons have disappeared, my Conscience has been closed again– & I am excessively glad they are gone.–
I am very fond of Sherlock’s Sermons, prefer them to almost any.
Your affecte Aunt
If you wish me to speak to the Maid, let me know.–