Jane Austen’s ‘own darling Child’

Gentle Readers: This year we have just entered upon will be a long and interesting 365 days of celebrating the 1813 publication of Pride and Prejudice ! There are festivals, conferences, blog postings, reading challenges, and already many newspaper and journal articles on this timeless work by Jane Austen.  I would like to start off my own celebration of this beloved classic with repeating a post I wrote two years ago, where I had pulled together all the references that Austen makes to this, her “own darling Child,” in her letters.  It makes fascinating reading to “hear” her…
The publishing history of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s most popular book, then and now, is an interesting study in the book trade of early 19th century England.  First completed in 1797 (and called First Impressions) and rejected by the publisher her father took the manuscript to, Austen reworked her draft over time and submitted it to Thomas Egerton, the publishing house of her Sense & Sensibility, in 1812 (it was published on January 28, 1813).   She sold the copyright outright for £110, and did not incur other expenses in its publication, as she did in the three other works published in her lifetime [see links below for more information.]  How we would love to know her thoughts on this road to publication! – how we would love to have her letters written while in the process of the writing to give us some idea of her imagination at work – where WAS the model for Pemberley?  was Mr. Darcy someone REAL?  was Elizabeth Bennet her alter ego? was MR COLLINS drawn from life? – or to have the letters to her brother Henry and his to Egerton – but alas! we have very little, just a few comments scattered among the surviving letters.
Austen does not give us much in her letters as to her writing practices or narrative theory, and thus such a disappointment when they were first published, criticized for their “mundaneness,” their focus on domestic nothings and neighborhood gossip! – the most we have is her writing advice penned to her neice – but if you dig for diamonds you will find them, and these scattered mentions noted below are certainly diamonds – it is the feeling of having her right over your shoulder when you read that she is “disgusted” with the way her mother is reading her book aloud, or that she REALLY likes this earning money for her labors, or being miffed [but also full of pride!] with Henry for telling her Secret to one and all – we see Jane Austen here in her own words – the funny, ironic, brilliant Jane Austen – never enough, but this is as good as it is going to get.
So in this post I offer all the references she makes to Pride & Prejudice, her “own darling Child” – read them and enjoy!
[NOTE:  all page references are to Deirdre Le Faye, ed., Jane Austen’s Letters, 3rd ed., Oxford, 1997;  all abbreviations and spelling errors are retained]
book cover - JA letters - le faye 3
Letter 17. January 8-9, 1799 to Cassandra, from Steventon
I do wonder at your wanting to read first impressions again, so seldom as you have gone through it, & that so long ago. [page 35]
[Le Faye notes that this is the first surviving mention of Austen’s literary work, this prototype of Pride and Prejudice having been finished in August 1797; Note, p. 366]
Letter 21. June 11, 1799,  To Cassandra, from Bath
I would not let Martha read First Impressions again upon any account, & I am very glad that I did not leave it in your power. – She is very cunning, but I see through her design; – she means to publish it from Memory, & one more perusal must enable her to do it.  [p.44]
Letter 77.  November 29-30, 1812, to Martha Lloyd from Chawton
P.& P. is sold. – Egerton gives £110 for it. – I would rather have had £150, but we could not both be pleased, & I am not at all surprised that he should not chuse to hazard so much. – It’s being sold will I hope be a great saving of Trouble to Henry, & therefore must be welcome to me. – The Money is to be paid at the end of the twelvemonth. [p. 197]
Letter 79.  January 29, 1813, to Cassandra from Chawton

I want to tell you that I have got my own darling Child from London; – on Wednesday I received one Copy, sent down by Falknor, with three lines from Henry to say that he had given another to Charles & sent a 3d by the Coach to Godmersham; just the two Sets which I was least eager for the disposal of.  I wrote to him immediately to beg for my own two other Sets, unless he would take the trouble of forwarding them at once to Steventon & Portsmouth – not having any idea of his leaving Town before today; – by your account however he was gone before my Letter was written.  The only evil is the delay, nothing more can be done till his return.  Tell James & Mary so, with my Love. – For your sake I am as well pleased that it shd be so, as it might be unpleasant to you to be in the Neighborhood at the first burst of the business. – The Advertisement is in our paper to day [the Morning Chronicle of January 28, 1813]. – 18s – He shall ask £1-1- for my two next, & £1-8 – for my stupidest of all. I shall write to Frank, that he may not feel himself neglected.  Miss Benn dined with us on the very day of the Books coming, & in the eveng we set fairly at it & read half the 1st vol. to her – prefacing that having intelligence from Henry that such a work wd soon appear we had desired him to send it whenever it came out – & I beleive it passed with her unsuspected. – She was amused, poor soul! that she cd not help you know, with two such people to lead the way [JA and her mother]; but she really does seem to admire Elizabeth.  I must confess that I think her as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print, & how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know. – There are a few Typical errors – & a “said he” or a “said she” would sometimes make the Dialogue more immediately clear – but “I do not write for such dull Elves” “As have not a great deal of Ingenuity themselves.”  [from Scott’s Marmion] – The 2d vol. is shorter than I cd wish – but the difference is not so much in reality as in look, there being a a larger proportion of Narrative in that part.  I have lopt & cropt so successfully however that I imagine it must be rather shorter than S. & S. altogether. – Now I will try to write of something else; – it shall be a complete change of subject – Ordination. [p. 201-2]

Letter 80.  February 4, 1813, to Cassandra from Chawton
Your letter was truely welcome & I am much obliged to you all for your praise; it came at a right time, for I had had some fits of disgust. – our 2d evening’s reading to Miss Benn had not pleased me so well, but I beleive something must be attributed to my Mother’s too rapid way of getting on – & tho’ she perfectly understands the Characters herself, she cannot speak as they ought. – upon the whole however I am quite vain enough & well satisfied enough. – The work is rather too light & bright & sparkling; – it wants shade; – it wants to be stretched out here & there with a long Chapter – of sense if it could be had, if not of solemn specious nonsense – about something unconnected with the story; an Essay on Writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or a history of Buonaparte – or anything that would form a contrast & bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness & Epigrammatism of the general stile. –  I doubt your quite agreeing with me here – I know your starched Notions. – The caution observed at Steventon with regard to the possession of the book is an agreable surprise to me, & I heartily wish it may be the means of saving you from everything unpleasant; – but you must be prepared for the Neighbourhood being perhaps already informed of there being such a Work in the World, & in the Chawton World! Dummer will do that you know. – It was spoken of here one morng when Mrs. D. [Digweed] called with Miss Benn. – The greatest blunder in the Printing that I have met with is in Page 220 – Vol.3 where two speeches are made into one. – There might as well have been no suppers at Longbourn, but I suppose it was the remains of Mrs. Bennet’s old Meryton habits. [p. 203]

Mrs. George Austen

I had a letter from Henry yesterday, written on Sunday from Oxford; mine had been forwarded to him… he says that copies were sent to S. [Steventon] & P. [Portsmouth] at the same time as the others. [p. 204]
Letter 81.  February 9, 1813, to Cassandra from Chawton
I am exceedingly pleased that you say what you do, after having gone thro the whole work – & Fanny’s praise is very gratifying; – my hopes were tolerably strong for her, but nothing like a certainty.  Her liking Darcy & Elizabeth is enough.  She might hate all the others, if she would. I have her opinion under her own hand this morning, but your transcript of it which I read first, was not & is not the less acceptable. – To me, it is of course all praise – but the more exact truth which she sends you is good enough. [p. 205]
Yes, I beleive I shall tell Anna – & if you see her, & donot dislike the commission, you may tell her for me.  You know I meant to do it as handsomely as I could.  But she will probably not return in time [p. 205, referring to telling her niece Anna that she is the author of S&S and P&P, note p. 414]
…- there is still work for one evening more. [p. 206, to finish reading P&P aloud, note p. 414]
Letter 85.  May 24, 1813, to Cassandra from London
…Henry & I went to the Exhibition in Spring Gardens.  It is not thought a good collection, but I was very well pleased – particularly [pray tell Fanny] with a small portrait of Mrs. Bingley, excessively like her.  I was in hopes of seeing one of her Sister, but there was no Mrs. Darcy; – perhaps however, I may find her in the Great Exhibition which we shall go to, if we have time; – I have no chance of her in the collection of Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Paintings which now is shewing in Pall Mall & which we are also to visit. – Mrs. Bingley is exactly herself, size, shaped face, features and sweetness; there never was a greater likeness.  She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I have always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her.  I dare say Mrs. D. will be in Yellow. [p. 212]
 [Portrait of a Lady, by J.F.M. Huet-Villiers]
a.k.a. Mrs. Bingley
I am very much obliged to Fanny for her Letter; – it made me laugh heartily; but I cannot pretend to answer it.  Even had I more time, I should not feel at all sure of the sort of Letter that Miss D. would write… [p. 213, referring to a letter from Fanny written to and expecting a response from Georgiana Darcy – Note p. 417]
We have been to both the Exhibition & Sir J. Reynolds’, – and I am disappointed, for there was nothing like reynolds - self-portrait detail - britannicaMrs. D. at either. – I can only imagine that Mr. D. prizes any Picture of her too much to like it should be exposed to the public eye. – I can imagine he wd have that sort [of, omitted] feeling – that mixture of Love, Pride & Delicacy. [p. 213]
 Letter 86.  July 3-6, 1813, to Francis Austen from Chawton
You will be glad to hear that every Copy of S.&S. is sold & that it has brought me £140 – besides the Copyright, if that shd ever be of any value. – I have now therefore written myself into £250. – which only makes me long for more. – I have something on hand – which I hope on the credit of P. & P. will sell well, tho’ not half so entertaining… [referring to Mansfield Park] [p. 217]
 Letter 87.  September 15-16, 1813, to Cassandra from London
Lady Robert [Kerr, nee Mary Gilbert] delighted with P. & P – and really was so I understand before she knew who wrote it – for, of course, she knows now. – He [Henry] told her with as much satisfaction as if it were my wish.  He did not tell me this, but he told Fanny.  And Mr. Hastings – I am quite delighted with what such a Man writes about it. – Henry sent him the Books after his return from Daylesford – but you will hear the Letter too.  // Let me be rational & return to my two full stops. [p. 218]
I long to have you hear Mr. H’s [Warren Hastings] opinion of P&P.  His admiring of Elizabeth so much is particularly welcome to me. [p. 221]
Warren Hastings by Tilly Kettle - wp

Warren Hastings by Tilly Kettle – wp

Letter 89.
  September 23-24, 1813, to Cassandra from Godmersham Park

Poor Dr. Isham is obliged to admire P.&P. – & to send me word that he is sure he shall not like Mde. Darblay’s new Novel half so well. – Mrs. C. [Cooke] invented it all of course. [referring to Frances Burney’s The Wanderer, published in 1814] [p. 227]
Frances Burney

Frances Burney

Letter 90.  September 25, 1813, to Francis Austen from Godmerhsam Park
I thank you very warmly for your kind consent to my application & the kind hint that followed it. [asking Frank if she can use the names of his old ships in her her current work, MP] – but the truth is that the Secret has spread so far as to be scarcely the Shadow of a secret now – & that I beleive whenever the 3d appears I shall not even attempt to tell Lies about it. – I shall rather try to make all the Money than all the Mystery I can of it. – People shall pay for their knowledge if I can make them. – Henry heard P. & P. warmly praised in Scotland, by Lady Robt Kerr & another Lady; – and what does he do in the warmth of his Brotherly vanity & Love, but immediately tell them who wrote it! – A Thing once set going in that way – one knows how it spreads! – and he, dear Creature, has set is going so much more than once.  I know it is done from affection & partiality – but at the same time, let me here again express to you & Mary my sense of the superior kindness which you have shewn on the occasion, in doing what I wished. – I am trying to harden myself. – After all, what a trifle it is in all its Bearings, to the really important points of one’s existence even in the World! [p. 231]
There is to be a 2d Edition of S.&S. Egerton advises it. [p. 232, referring to her publisher]
Letter 104.  August 10-18, 1814, to Anna Austen from Chawton
Now we have finished the 2d book – or rather the 5th – I do think you had better omit Lady Helena’s postscript; to those who are acquainted with P.&P it will seem an Imitation. [p. 268, referring to Anna’s manuscript sent to JA for advice]
Letter 128.  November 26, 1815, to Cassandra from London
Mr. H is reading Mansfield Park for the first time & prefers it to P&P. [p. 301, referring to Mr. Haden, London surgeon, who brought good Manners & clever conversation]
Letter 132(Draft).  December 11, 1815, to James Stanier Clarke from London
James Stanier Clarke - Austenonly

James Stanier Clarke – Austenonly

My greatest anxiety at present is that this 4th work [Emma] shd not disgrace what was good in the others.  But on this point I will do myself the justice to declare that whatever may be my wishes for its’ success, I am very strongly haunted by the idea that to those readers who have preferred P&P. it will appear inferior in Wit, & to those who preferred MP. very inferior in good sense… [p. 306]
Countess of Morley - National Trust

Countess of Morley – National Trust

Letter 134(A).  December 27, 1815, from the Countess of Morley to JA at Chawton

I am most anxiously waiting for an introduction to Emma…. I am already become quite intimate in the Woodhouse family, & feel that they will not amuse & interest me less than the Bennetts [sic], Bertrams, Norriss & all their admirable predecessors – I can give them no higher praise- [p. 308]
Ah! indeed! – no higher praise…
Further reading:
c2013, Jane Austen in Vermont

7 thoughts on “Jane Austen’s ‘own darling Child’

  1. Love this post about P&P, Deb. I have read Jane’s comments about her book separately, but not strung together like this! What a great way to start out the celebration! Vic


    • Thanks Vic – it does give more of a sense that she did indeed comment on her work in her letters – it often gets lost in all the other “gossip”!

      It is going to be a long year of P&P!
      Best to you,


  2. Pingback: Pride and Prejudice at 200 | VABA News Blog

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