Anna Lefroy: “the sloppy lane through Steventon & Dean”

May 21, 2013 at 4:12 pm (history, jane austen, news, people, research) (, , , , , )

Anna Lefroy – sister-in-law to my Emma Austen Leigh – left a fourteen-page letter, written at the behest of James Edward Austen Leigh (when he was working on the Memoir of Jane Austen), describing her memories (or lack of) of their Aunt Jane.

anna-lefroyAnna (1793-1872), the eldest child of Jane’s eldest brother James, was certainly in a position to recall her aunt: if only she’d kept diaries or retained letters written in her youth! Her half-sister Caroline, had recourse to her mother’s diaries, those written by Mary (Lloyd) Austen, when writing up her own reminiscences.

Reading an article published by Deirdre Le Faye in 1988 (in The Review of English Studies), in which Anna’s letter was published in full, caused me to chuckle reading the first image young Anna recalled:

“I look back to the first period but find little that I can grasp of any substance, or certainty: it seems now all so shadowy! I recollect the frequent visits of my two Aunts, & how they walked in wintry weather through the sloppy lane between Steventon & Dean in pattens, usually worn at that time even by gentlewomen.”

In the course of writing, however, anecdotes slowly came back to Anna; this is one of the most delightful:

“I have been told that one of her earliest Novels (Pride & Prejudice) was read aloud (in MS of course) in the Parsonage at Dean, whilst I was in the room, & not expected to listen — Listen however I did with so much interest, & with so much talk afterwards about ‘Jane & Elizabeth’ that it was resolved for prudence sake, to read no more of the story aloud in my hearing.”

and

“the two years before my marriage, & the two or three years after, when we lived, as you know almost close to Chawton when the original 17 years between us seemed to shrink to 7 — or to nothing — It comes back to me now how strangely I miss her…”

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Jane Austen’s Business

February 20, 2011 at 12:00 pm (books, chutes of the vyne, people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Or, James Austen’s Shopping Spree:

A most useful account of soon-to-be new husband James Austen, eldest brother of Jane, when he was setting up a household with his first wife, Anne Mathew (mother of Anna Austen Lefroy), in 1792. The list (and costs) make for interesting reading.

The purveyor was RING BROTHERS of BASINGSTOKE; among their many clients: The Chutes of The Vyne. The company ledgers reside in the Hampshire Record Office (Winchester), although this list is taken from the delightful article written by Edward Copeland entitled “The Austens and the Elliots: A Consumer’s Guide to Persuasion (in: McMaster & Stovel, eds., Jane Austen’s Business: Her World and Her Profession). Ring Brothers is the same firm from which came the beds Rev. Austen purchased for his two daughters, as well as a little writing table.

Among the furniture items listed for purchase by James Austen:

A 2-foot 10-inch Mahogany Pembroke table on casters (£1 18s)
An Oval Mahogany Card Table, lined in green cloth (£2 2s)
2 Mahogany Convenient Stools (£1 11s)
2 Mahogany beds on casters (£4 4s)
A 4-poster bed on casters (£1 18s 6d)

Household “necessities” include a Dumb waiter on casters (£2 2s)
2 Mahogany Face Screens on Claws (£1 1s)
flat irons
a twenty-gallon tub
a deal ironing-board
a nutmeg grater
and “other backstairs necessities” (costs: unspecified by Copeland)

Another day evident found James bringing home such items as:
Best Urn Topped Shovel Tongs & Poker (8s)

My favorites are the eventual “extravagances”:
a clock — “arch head’ model, with a walnut case (£7)
sopha – “with all the extras of covers, pads, pillows” (£7)

I can’t wait to delve more into the Ring Brothers’ files at HRO. Another item for my list!

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Emma Meets the Austens

September 14, 2010 at 8:58 pm (people, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

In summer 1829, Emma Austen met her Austen relations. Two letters from this period exist, one written to ‘Aunt’ (Judith Smith, the only remaining sister of Emma’s father); the other to her own sister, Fanny.

The Edward Austens had visited Ben and Anna Lefroy, Edward’s brother-in-law and half-sister. Emma met ‘Mr Knight’, ‘who changed his name from Austen to Knight for a fortune.’ She describes to Aunt my favorite of them all: ‘Mrs Cassandra Austen’, whom she calls ‘a very pleasing lady like person’.

Emma goes on to describe the visit: ‘We staid at Ashe till Friday — Mr William Knight has the living of Steventon & his father has built him a capital parsonage house with every convenience & luxury about it’. This convenience, of course, is why the Steventon parsonage that was Jane Austen’s birthplace no longer exists. Progress…

But rather than write about Emma’s impressions of the family, I want to touch on the fact that after her discussion of Steventon the rest of the letter is physically missing! More than half of the page is just gone. So much information, then a SNIP and some precious other bit is torn away.

It’s rather like Emma’s diaries. One queer thing about them is that whenever she gave birth to one of her children pages have been removed and a notation made as to which child was born when. Why??? Souvenir? hiding intimate thoughts? Were the Pieces destroyed? Were the Pieces kept? I’ve just no clue.

More about these letters, and Emma’s impression, in some later post.

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