Academic journal article Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal

Jane Austen and Rhoda: A Further Postscript to Persuasions 20 (1998). (Miscellany)

Academic journal article Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal

Jane Austen and Rhoda: A Further Postscript to Persuasions 20 (1998). (Miscellany)

Article excerpt

IN MY BOOK A Bibliography of Jane Austen I quoted some comments on Emma made in 1816 by Maria Edgeworth, ending with the words "it is very difficult to make a cook understand what you mean by smooth thin water gruel!" (71). I took these comments from Marilyn Butler's Maria Edgeworth (44.5); a re-reading of Mrs. Butler's book reveals that she added on the same page: "And the family went on to Frances Jackson's Rhoda, which Maria liked 'much--50%--better than Emma.'"

Maria Edgeworth herself, writing on 24 November 1818 to Miss Waller (aunt of the fourth Mrs. Edgeworth) says: "We have not yet seen any visitors since we came here and have paid only one visit to the Miss Jacksons. Miss Fanny you know is the author of Rhoda--Miss Maria Jackson the author of Dialogues on botany..." (Letters from England 141).

But who was Frances Jackson? I have only now discovered (through the kindness of Christine Penney of Birmingham University Library, which led me to an article published in 1997 by Joan Percy) that her name was in fact Frances Jacson (Maria Edgeworth's spelling was at fault), that she lived from 1754 to 1842, and that she published, as well as Rhoda, four other anonymous novels: Plain Sense (1795), Disobedience (1797), Things by their Right Names (1812), and Isabella (1823)--the first two of the novels being published by William Lane at the Minerva Press--and a pamphlet entitled Everyday Christianity (1816). Copies of all five novels are in fact in the British Library (while I have Isabella, in addition to my copy of Rhoda).

Richard Lovell Edgeworth, Maria Edgeworth's father, had as his second and third wives Honora Sneyd (1751-1780) and her sister Elizabeth Sneyd (1753-1797), daughters of Major Edward Sneyd of Byrkley Lodge, near Lichfield, Staffordshire; Maria's letter of 24 November 1818 was in fact written from Byrkley Lodge, where she was staying with members of the Sneyd family Joan Percy's well-documented article (which is based on family papers), not only reproduces an 1814 watercolor portrait of Frances Jacson aged 60 by Henry Edridge, but also reveals that the novelist and her sister Maria were distantly related to the Sneyd family (whom they regularly visited) through Edward Sneyd's wife. …

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