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Jane Austen Life and Letters

Jane Austen Life and Letters

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Published by: andra_mine on Jun 25, 2008
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JANE AUSTENHER LIFE AND LETTERSA Family Record byWILLIAM AUSTEN-LEIGHandRICHARD ARTHUR AUSTEN-LEIGHWith a PortraitPREFACESince 1870-1, when J. E. Austen Leigh[1] published his _Memoir of JaneAusten_, considerable additions have been made to the stock of information available for her biographers. Of these fresh sources of knowledge the set of letters from Jane to Cassandra, edited by LordBrabourne, has been by far the most important. These letters areinvaluable as _memoires pour servir_; although they cover only thecomparatively rare periods when the two sisters were separated, andalthough Cassandra purposely destroyed many of the letters likely to prove the most interesting, from a distaste for publicity.Some further correspondence, and many incidents in the careers of two of her brothers, may be read in _Jane Austen's Sailor Brothers_, by J. H.Hubback and Edith C. Hubback; while Miss Constance Hill has been able toadd several family traditions to the interesting topographicalinformation embodied in her _Jane Austen: Her Homes and Her Friends_. Nor ought we to forget the careful research shown in other biographiesof the author, especially that by Mr. Oscar Fay Adams.During the last few years, we have been fortunate enough to be able to
 
add to this store; and every existing MS. or tradition preserved by thefamily, of which we have any knowledge, has been placed at our disposal.It seemed, therefore, to us that the time had come when a more completechronological account of the novelist's life might be laid before the public, whose interest in Jane Austen (as we readily acknowledge) hasshown no signs of diminishing, either in England or in America.The _Memoir_ must always remain the one firsthand account of her,resting on the authority of a nephew who knew her intimately and that of his two sisters. We could not compete with its vivid personalrecollections; and the last thing we should wish to do, even were it possible, would be to supersede it. We believe, however, that it needsto be supplemented, not only because so much additional material has been brought to light since its publication, but also because theaccount given of their aunt by her nephew and nieces could be given onlyfrom their own point of view, while the incidents and characters fallinto a somewhat different perspective if the whole is seen from agreater distance. Their knowledge of their aunt was during the last portion of her life, and they knew her best of all in her last year,when her health was failing and she was living in much seclusion; andthey were not likely to be the recipients of her inmost confidences onthe events and sentiments of her youth.Hence the emotional and romantic side of her nature--a very realone--has not been dwelt upon. No doubt the Austens were, as a family,unwilling to show their deeper feelings, and the sad end of Jane's oneromance would naturally tend to intensify this dislike of expression; but the feeling was there, and it finally found utterance in her latestwork, when, through Anne Elliot, she claimed for women the right of 'loving longest when existence or when hope is gone.'Then, again, her nephew and nieces hardly knew how much she had goneinto society, or how much, with a certain characteristic aloofness, shehad enjoyed it. Bath, either when she was the guest of her uncle andaunt or when she was a resident; London, with her brother Henry and hiswife, and the rather miscellaneous society which they enjoyed;Godmersham, with her brother Edward and his county neighbours in EastKent;--these had all given her many opportunities of studying the particular types which she blended into her own creations.A third point is the uneventful nature of the author's life, which, aswe think, has been a good deal exaggerated. Quiet it certainly was; butthe quiet life of a member of a large family in the England of that datewas compatible with a good deal of stirring incident, happening, if not
 
to herself, at all events to those who were nearest to her, and whocommanded her deepest sympathies.We hope therefore that our narrative, with all its imperfections and itsinevitable repetition of much that has already been published, will atleast be of use in removing misconceptions, in laying some new facts before the reader, and in placing others in a fresh light. It isintended as a narrative, and not as a piece of literary criticism; for we should not care to embark upon the latter in competition with biographers and essayists who have a better claim to be heard.Both in the plan and in the execution of our work we have received muchvaluable help from another member of the family, Mary A. AustenLeigh.[2]An arrangement courteously made by the owners of the copyright has procured for us a free and ample use of the Letters as edited by LordBrabourne[3]; while the kindness of Mr. J. G. Nicholson of CastlefieldHouse, Sturton-by-Scawby, Lincolnshire, has opened a completely newsource of information in the letters which passed between the Austensand their kinsmen of the half-blood--Walters of Kent and afterwards of Lincolnshire. Miss Jane Austen, granddaughter of Admiral Charles Austen,and Miss Margaret Bellas, great-granddaughter of James Austen, are sogood as to allow us to make a fuller use of their family documents thanwas found possible by the author of the _Memoir_; while Mr. J. H.Hubback permits us to draw freely upon the _Sailor Brothers_, andCaptain E. L. Austen, R.N., upon his MSS. Finally, we owe to AdmiralErnest Rice kind permission to have the photograph taken, from which thereproduction of his Zoffany portrait is made into a frontispiece for this volume. We hope that any other friends who have helped us willaccept this general expression of our gratitude.W. A. L.R. A. A. L._April 1913._ In the notes to the text, the following works are referred to under theshortened forms here given:--_Memoir of Jane Austen_, by her nephew, J. E.Austen Leigh: quoted from second edition, 1871. As_Memoir_.

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