[This letter is to Jane Austen’s niece, Fanny Knight, written over a two-day period beginning 2oth February 1817]
My dearest Fanny,
You are inimitable, irresistable. You are the delight of my Life. Such Letters, such entertaining Letters as you have lately sent!– Such a description of your queer little heart!– Such a lovely display of what Imagination does.– You are worth your weight in Gold, or even in the new Silver Coinage.– I cannot express to you what I have felt in reading your history of yourself, how full of Pity & Concern & Admiration & Amusement I have been. You are the Paragon of all that is Silly & Sensible, common-place & eccentric, Sad & Lively, Provoking & Interesting.– Who can keep pace with the fluctuations of your Fancy, the Capprizios of your Taste, the Contradictions of your Feelings?– You are so odd!– & all the time, so perfectly natural– so peculiar in yourself, & yet so like everybody else!– It is very, very gratifying to me to know you so intimately. You can hardly think what a pleasure it is to me, to have such thorough pictures of your Heart.– Oh! what a loss it will be, when you are married. You are too agreable in your single state, too agreable as a Neice. I shall hate you when your delicious play of Mind is all settled down into conjugal & maternal affections. Mr J. W. frightens me.– He will have you.– I see you at the Altar.– I have some faith in Mrs C. Cage’s observation, & still more in Lizzy’s; & besides, I know it must be so. He must be wishing to attach you. It would be too stupid & too shameful in him, to be otherwise; & all the Family are seeking your acquaintance.– Do not imagine that I have any real objection, I have rather taken a fancy to him than not, & I like Chilham Castle for you;– I only do not like you shd marry anybody. And yet I do wish you to marry very much, because I know you will never be happy till you are; but the loss of a Fanny Knight will be never made up to me; My “affec: Neice F. C. Wildman” will be but a poor Substitute.
I do not like your being nervous & so apt to cry;– it is a sign you are not quite well, but I hope Mr Scud–as you always write his name, (your Mr Scuds: amuse me very much) will do you good.– What a comfort that Cassandra should be so recovered!– It is more than we had expected.– I can easily beleive she was very patient & very good. I always loved Cassandra, for her fine dark eyes & sweet temper.–
I am almost entirely cured of my rheumatism; just a little pain in my knees now & then, to make me remember what it was, & keep on flannel.– Aunt Cassandra nursed me so beautifully!– I enjoy your visit to Goodnestone, it must be a great pleasure to you, You have not seen Fanny Cage in any comfort so long. I hope she represents & remonstrates & reasons with you, properly. Why should you be living in dread of his marrying somebody else?– (Yes, how natural!)– You did not chuse to have him yourself; why not allow him to take comfort where he can?– In your conscience you know that he could not bear a comparison with a more animated Character.– You cannot forget how you felt under the idea of its’ having been possible that he might have dined in Hans Place.– My dearest Fanny, I cannot bear You should be unhappy about him. Think of his Principles, think of his Father’s objection, of want of Money, of a coarse Mother, of Brothers & Sisters like Horses, of Sheets sewn across &c.– But I am doing no good–no, all that I urge against him will rather make you take his part more, sweet perverse Fanny.–
And now I will tell you that we like your Henry to the utmost, to the very top of the Glass, quite brimful.– He is a very pleasing young Man. I do not see how he could be mended. He does really bid fair to be every thing his Father & Sister could wish; and William I love very much indeed, & so do we all, he is quite our own William. In short we are very comfortable together– that is, we can answer for ourselves.–
Mrs Deedes is as welcome as May, to all our Benevolence to her Son; we only lamented that we cd not do more, & that the £50 note we slipt into his hand at parting was necessarily the Limit of our Offering.– Good Mrs Deedes!– I hope she will get the better of this Marianne, & then I wd recommend to her & Mr D. the simple regimen of separate rooms.– Scandal & Gossip;– yes I dare say you are well stocked; but I am very fond of Mrs C. Cage, for reasons good. Thank you for mentioning her praise of Emma &c.– I have contributed the marking to Uncle H.’s shirts, & now they are a complete memorial of the tender regard of many.–
[to be continued on the following day, Friday, 21st]