Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Work, Her Family, and Her Critics

Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Work, Her Family, and Her Critics

Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Work, Her Family, and Her Critics

Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Work, Her Family, and Her Critics

Excerpt

That our knowledge of Jane Austen's life and (so far as precise evidence from letters might have provided) of her thoughts and feelings, is so comparatively slight, is due in the first instance to her sister Cassandra's determined reticence. I question if she even approved, or at any rate really liked, the information given in Henry Austen brief Biographical Notice, introducing his sister to the public by name. It is well known that some time before her death she destroyed all of Jane's letters to her which were intimately concerned with family matters. What remained were left to Fanny Knight (Lady Knatchbull). When her cousin, J. E. Austen-Leigh, was writing the Memoir Lady Knatchbull was "too infirm to undertake the labour of looking through them and, without having done so, did not wish to place them in any other hands," so that he had no opportunity of examining them. Catherine (Mrs. Hubback, eighth child of Francis) also refused to lend him Jane's letters to her mother, née Mary Gibson, and these were afterwards burned, as Mr. Hubback informs me, by her younger sister, Fanny Sophia Austen.

In the Letters Lord Brabourne could only draw on those he inherited from his mother, Lady Knatchbull; except for the small, important series to Anna (Mrs. Lefroy) about her unfinished novel.

Thus, when various members of later generations had recognized that the public cared enough for Jane Austen, and understood her sufficiently, to value every available detail with discretion, they were compelled largely to depend on memories of childhood, family traditions, and . . .

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