Sydney Smith, Jane Austen, and Henry Tilney
Viveash, Chris, Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal
WHEN JANE AUSTEN WAS JUST THREE YEARS OLD, two brothers, quite unknown to her family, crossed Salisbury Plain to visit an heiress, with a view to marriage. The elder of the two brothers, the prospective bridegroom, was an Oxford graduate and heir to a baronetcy; the younger brother was a vigorous, handsome charmer, about to enter Oxford. As is the way with these things, the heiress promptly fell in love with the penniless younger brother. They were married the following year, 1779, in the little Saxon church at the bottom of the garden of Netheravon House, Wiltshire, home of the bride, Henrietta Maria Beach. The bridegroom, Michael Hicks, described himself, in his courting letters to Henrietta Maria, as "your Constant, Sincere and Affectionate Lover," and so he remained for the rest of his life (Hicks Beach 283).
The bride's mother, Mrs. Anne Beach, was a daughter of Charles Wither, of Oakley Hall, near Manydown Park, Hampshire. Henrietta Maria's aunt (also Henrietta) had married Edmund Bramston. Their son, Wither Bramston, appears in Jane Austen's letters as the host who served "sandwiches all over mustard" (25 October 1800). The Beach and Wither families were well known, and frequently discussed, by the Austens at Steventon. When Michael and Henrietta Maria Hicks Beach, as the young couple were now designated, lost one of their babies, in 1796, Jane Austen was well enough acquainted with their romantic story to confide to her sister Cassandra, "I am sorry for the Beaches' loss of their little girl, especially as it is the one so like me" (9 January 1796).
The grieving couple also received a letter of condolence from the pleasingly plump curate of Netheravon church, the Rev. Sydney Smith. He wrote to Henrietta Maria, "Pray remember me to Mr. B. I feel for you both sincerely, …
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Publication information: Article title: Sydney Smith, Jane Austen, and Henry Tilney. Contributors: Viveash, Chris - Author. Journal title: Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal. Volume: 24. Publication date: Annual 2002. Page number: 251+. © 2008 Jane Austen Society of North America. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
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