24 January 1817 – Friday – from Chawton

[to Alethea Bigg]

My dear Alethea

I think it time there should be a little writing between us, though I beleive the Epistolary debt is on your side, & I hope this will find all the Streatham party well, neither carried away by the Floods nor rheumatic through the Damps.  Such mild weather is, you know, delightful to us, & though we have a great many Ponds, & a fine running stream through the Meadows on the other side of the road, it is nothing but what beautifies us & does to talk of.  We are all in good health [&] I have certainly gained strength through the Winter & am not far from being well; & I think I understand my own case now so much better than I did, as to be able by care to keep off any serious return of illness.  I am more & more convinced that Bile is at the bottom of all I have suffered, which makes it easy to know how to treat myself.  You will be glad to hear thus much of me, I am sure, as I shall in return be very glad to hear that your health has been good lately.

We have just had a few days’ visit from Edward, who brought us a good account of his Father, & the very circumstance of his coming at all, of his Father’s being able to spare him, is itself a good account.  He is gone to spend this day at Wyards & goes home to-morrow.  He grows still, & still improves in appearance, at least in the estimation of his Aunts, who love him better & better, as they see the sweet temper & warm affections of the Boy confirmed in the young Man: I tried hard to persuade him that he must have some message for William, but in vain.  Anna has not been so well or so strong or looking so much like herself since her Marriage, as she is now; she is quite equal to walking to Chawton, & comes over to us when she can, but the rain & dirt divide us a good deal.  Her Grandmama & I can only see her at Chawton as this is not a time of year for Donkey-carriages, & our Donkeys are necessarily having so long a run of luxurious idleness that I suppose we shall find that they have forgotten much of their Education when we use them again.

Anna’s eldest child just now runs alone, which is a great convenience with a second in arms, & they are both healthy nice children– I wish their Father were ordained & all the family settled in a comfortable Parsonage house.  The Curacy only is wanting I fancy to complete the Business.  Our own new Clergyman is expected here very soon, perhaps in time to assist Mr Papillon on Sunday.  I shall be very glad when the first hearing is over.  It will be a nervous hour for our Pew, though we hear that he acquits himself with as much ease & collectedness, as if he had been used to it all his Life.

We have no chance I know of seeing you between Streatham & Winchester:  you go the other road & are engaged to two or three Houses; if there should be any change, however, you know how welcome you would be.  Edward mentioned one Circumstance concerning you my dear Alethea, which I must confess has given me considerable astonishment & some alarm– Your having left your best Gown at Steventon.  Surely if you do not want it at Streatham, you will be spending a few days with Mrs G. Frere, & must want it there.  I would lay any wager that you have been sorry you left it.

We have been reading the “Poet’s Pilgrimage to Waterloo”, & generally with much approbation.  Nothing will please all the world, you know; but parts of it suit me better than much that he has written before.  The opening– the Proem I beleive he calls it– is very beautiful.  Poor Man!  One cannot but grieve for the loss of the Son so fondly described.  Has he at all recovered it?  What do Mr and Mrs Hill know of his present state?

I hear from more than one quarter that Miss Williams is really better, & I am very glad, especially as Charlotte’s being better also must I think be the consequence of it.  I hope your Letters from abroad are satisfactory.  The would not be satisfactory to me, I confess, unless they breathed a strong spirit of regret for not being in England.  Kind love & good wishes for a happy New Year to you all, from all our four here.  Give our love to the little Boys, if they can be persuaded to remember us.  We have not at all forgot Herbert’s & Errol’s fine Countenances.  Georgiana is very pretty I dare say.  How does Edward like school?–I suppose his holidays are not over yet.

Yours affecly   J. Austen

The real object of this Letter is to ask you for a Receipt, but I thought it genteel not to let it appear early.  We remember some excellent orange Wine at Manydown, made from Seville oranges, entirely or chiefly– & should be very much obliged to you for the receipt, if you can command it within a few weeks.

Miss Bigg
The Revnd Herbert Hill’s

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