21 January 1799 – Monday – from Steventon

My dear Cassandra

I will endeavour to make this letter more worthy your acceptance than my last, which was so shabby a one that I think Mr Marshall could never charge you with the postage.  My eyes have been very indifferent since it was written, but are now getting better once more; keeping them so many hours open on Thursday night, as well as the dust of the ball-room, injured them a good deal.  I use them as little as I can, but you know, and Elizabeth knows, and everybody who ever had weak eyes knows, how delightful it is to hurt them by employment, against the advice and entreaty of all one’s friends.

Charles leaves us to-night.  The ‘Tamar’ is in the Downs, and Mr Daysh advises him to join her there directly, as there is no chance of her going to the westward.  Charles does not approve of this at all, and will not be much grieved if he should be too late for her before she sails, as he may then hope to get into a better station.  He attempted to go to town last night, and got as far on his road thither as Dean Gate; but both the coaches were full, and we had the pleasure of seeing him back again.  He will call on Daysh to-morrow to know whether the ‘Tamar’ has sailed or not, and if she is still at the Downs he will proceed in one of the night coaches to Deal.  I want to go with him, that I may explain the country to him properly between Canterbury and Rowling, but the unpleasantness of returning by myself deters me.  I should like to go as far as Ospringe with him very much indeed, that I might surprise you at Godmersham.  Martha writes me word that Charles was very much admired at Kintbury, and Mrs Lefroy never saw anyone so much improved in her life, and thinks him handsomer than Henry.  He appears to far more advantage here than he did at Godmersham, not surrounded by strangers and neither oppressed by a pain in his face or powder in his hair.

James christened Elizabeth Caroline on Saturday morning, and then came home. Mary, Anna, and Edward have left us of course; before the second went I took down her answer to her cousin Fanny.  Yesterday came a letter to my mother from Edward Cooper to announce, not the birth of a child, but of a living; for Mrs Leigh has begged his acceptance of the Rectory of Hamstall-Ridware in Staffordshire, vacant by Mr Johnson’s death.  We collect from his letter that he means to reside there, in which he shows his wisdom.  Staffordshire is a good way off; so we shall see nothing more of them till, some fifteen years hence, the Miss Coopers are presented to us, fine, jolly, handsome, ignorant girls.  The living is valued at 140l. a year, but perhaps it may be improvable.  How will they be able to convey the furniture of the dressing-room so far in safety?  Our first cousins seem all dropping off very fast.  One is incorporated into the family, another dies, and a third goes into Staffordshire.  We can learn nothing of the disposal of the other living.  I have not the smallest notion of Fulwar’s having it.  Lord Craven has probably other connections and more intimate ones, in that line, than he now has with the Kintbury family.

Our ball on Thursday was a very poor one, only eight couple and but twenty-three people people in the room; but it was not the ball’s fault, for we were deprived of two or three families by the sudden illness of Mr Wither, who was seized that morning at Winchester with a return of his former alarming complaint.  An express was sent off from thence to the family; Catherine and Miss Blackford were dining with Mrs Russell.  Poor Catherine’s distress must have been very great.  She was prevailed on to wait till the Heathcotes could come from Wintney, and then with those two and Harris proceeded directly to Winchester.  In such a disorder his danger, I suppose, must always be great; but from this attack he is now rapidly recovering, and will be well enough to return to Manydown, I fancy, in a few days.  It was a fine thing for conversation at the ball.  But it deprived us not only of the Biggs, but of Mrs Russell too, and of the Boltons and John Harwood, who were dining there likewise, and of Mr Lane, who kept away as related to the family.  Poor man!–I mean Mr Wither–his life is so useful, his character so respectable and worthy, that I really believe there was a good deal of sincerity in the general concern expressed on his account.

Our ball was chiefly made up of Jervoises and Terrys, the former of whom were apt to be vulgar, the latter to be noisy.  I had an odd set of partners: Mr Jenkins, Mr Street, Col Jervoise, James Digweed, J. Lyford, and Mr Briggs, a friend of the latter.  I had a very pleasant evening, however, though you will probably find out that there was no particular reason for it; but I do not think it worth while to wait for enjoyment until there is some real opportunity for it.  Mary behaved very well, and was not at all fidgetty.  For the history of her adventures at the ball I refer you to Anna’s letter.

When you come home you will have some shirts to make up for Charles.  Mrs Davies frightened him into buying a piece of Irish when we were in Basingstoke.  Mr Daysh supposes that Captain Austen’s commission has reached him by this time.

[Letter will continue on Tuesday, 22 January and again on Wednesday, 23d]

One Response to 21 January 1799 – Monday – from Steventon

  1. Pingback: Expect a most agreeable Letter; for not being overburdened with subject | QuinnTessence

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