“I hope I do not break your heart”

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jane_in_my_heartOn this melancholy day, we remember Jane Austen and present the heartrending letter from her sister, Cassandra Austen, to their niece, Fanny Knight, about Jane’s death.

Winchester: Sunday.

My dearest Fanny,​

Doubly dear to me now for her dear sake whom we have lost. She did love you most sincerely, and never shall I forget the proofs of love you gave her during her illness in writing those kind, amusing letters at a time when I know your feelings would have dictated so different a style. Take the only reward I can give you in the assurance that your benevolent purpose was answered; you did contribute to her enjoyment.

Even your last letter afforded pleasure. I merely cut the seal and gave it to her; she opened it and read it herself, afterwards she gave it me to read, and then talked to me a little and not uncheerfully of its contents, but there was then a languor about her which prevented her taking the same interest in anything she had been used to do.

Since Tuesday evening, when her complaint returned, there was a visible change, she slept more and much more comfortably; indeed, during the last eight-and-forty hours she was more asleep than awake. Her looks altered and she fell away, but I perceived no material diminution of strength, and, though I was then hopeless of a recovery, I had no suspicion how rapidly my loss was approaching.

I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself. I loved her only too well—not better than she deserved, but I am conscious that my affection for her made me sometimes unjust to and negligent of others; and I can acknowledge, more than as a general principle, the justice of the Hand which has struck this blow.

You know me too well to be at all afraid that I should suffer materially from my feelings; I am perfectly conscious of the extent of my irreparable loss, but I am not at all overpowered and very little indisposed, nothing but what a short time, with rest and change of air, will remove. I thank God that I was enabled to attend her to the last, and amongst my many causes of self-reproach I have not to add any wilful neglect of her comfort.

She felt herself to be dying about half-an-hour before she became tranquil and apparently unconscious. During that half-hour was her struggle, poor soul! She said she could not tell us what she suffered, though she complained of little fixed pain. When I asked her if there was anything she wanted, her answer was she wanted nothing but death, and some of her words were: ‘O God grant me patience, pray for me, oh, pray for me!’ Her voice was affected, but as long as she spoke she was intelligible.

I hope I do not break your heart, my dearest Fanny, by these particulars; I mean to afford you gratification whilst I am relieving my own feelings. I could not write so to anybody else; indeed you are the only person I have written to at all, excepting your grandmamma—it was to her, not your Uncle Charles, I wrote on Friday.

Immediately after dinner on Thursday I went into the town to do an errand which your dear aunt was anxious about. I returned about a quarter before six and found her recovering from faintness and oppression; she got so well as to be able to give me a minute account of her seizure, and when the clock struck six she was talking quietly to me.

I cannot say how soon afterwards she was seized again with the same faintness, which was followed by the sufferings she could not describe; but Mr. Lyford had been sent for, had applied something to give her ease, and she was in a state of quiet insensibility by seven o’clock at the latest. From that time till half-past four, when she ceased to breathe, she scarcely moved a limb, so that we have every reason to think, with gratitude to the Almighty, that her sufferings were over. A slight motion of the head with every breath remained till almost the last. I sat close to her with a pillow in my lap to assist in supporting her head, which was almost off the bed, for six hours; fatigue made me then resign my place to Mrs. J. A. for two hours and a-half, when I took it again, and in about an hour more she breathed her last.

I was able to close her eyes myself, and it was a great gratification to me to render her those last services. There was nothing convulsed which gave the idea of pain in her look; on the contrary, but for the continual motion of the head she gave one the idea of a beautiful statue, and even now, in her coffin, there is such a sweet, serene air over her countenance as is quite pleasant to contemplate.

This day, my dearest Fanny, you have had the melancholy intelligence, and I know you suffer severely, but I likewise know that you will apply to the fountain-head for consolation, and that our merciful God is never deaf to such prayers as you will offer.

The last sad ceremony is to take place on Thursday morning ; her dear remains are to be deposited in the cathedral. It is a satisfaction to me to think that they are to lie in a building she admired so- much; her precious soul, I presume to hope, reposes in a far superior mansion. May mine one day be re-united to it!

Your dear papa, your Uncle Henry, and Frank and Edwd. Austen, instead of his father, will attend. I hope they will none of them suffer lastingly from their pious exertions. The ceremony must be over before ten o’clock, as the cathedral service begins at that hour, so that we shall be at home early in the day, for there will be nothing to keep us here afterwards.

Your Uncle James came to us yesterday, and is gone home to-day. Uncle H. goes to Chawton tomorrow morning ; he has given every necessary direction here, and I think his company there will do good. He returns to us again on Tuesday evening.

I did not think to have written a long letter when I began, but I have found the employment draw me on, and I hope I shall have been giving you more pleasure than pain. Remember me kindly to Mrs. J. Bridges (I am so glad she is with you now), and give my best love to Lizzie and all the others.

I am, my dearest Fanny,
Most affectionately yours,
Cass. Eliz. Austen.

I have said nothing about those at Chawton, because I am sure you hear from your papa.

Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!

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It’s Jane Austen’s 241st birthday today.

Jane Austen Birthday Cake

This is the birthday cake that JASNA’s Eastern Pennsylvania region, of which the Editrix is a member, enjoyed at our recent celebration of Jane’s birthday. The cake, from Bredenbeck’s bakery in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, was delicious as well as beautiful.

Please be upstanding and lift your beverage of choice in a toast to an authoress whose work has endured for two centuries after her death. That is an accomplishment indeed.

It is our custom for birthday posts to imagine a gift that we would like to give Jane for her birthday. It’s cold tonight at AustenBlog World Headquarters (though rather warmer in Winchester) so maybe we’ll crochet her some fuzzy slippers to keep off the chill. Our other gift is more ephemeral, and we hope it will work out. We’re going to promise to write more. More for AustenBlog, more for our personal blog, and more in general. It is rather a selfish gift, as we are doing it for ourself as well as for Jane, but somehow we don’t think she’ll mind. We have a couple of projects in the fire and hope to share them in the New Year with our Gentle Readers.

And speaking of stuff we’ve written, see the post below this one for a giveaway in honor of Herself’s natal day!

Jane Austen Travel Guide on Kickstarter

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Dutch Janeite, journalist, and photographer Karin Quint has put up a Kickstarter to have her travel guide, Jane Austen’s England, translated to English. If you pledge at least €20, you will receive a copy of the book (with an additional charge for shipping).

We know many Janeites are planning a pilgrimage to the UK to commemorate the bicentennial of Jane Austen’s death in 2017, so this book will come in handy.

They are very, very close to reaching their funding goal, and there’s a couple of days left to get in on it. We’ve backed this project–won’t you?

(And being from Philadelphia, we are on board with the Rocky references!)

UPDATE: The goal has been reached! But you can still get in on it, and get a book when it’s done.

Love & Friendship DVD/Blu-ray Out in September in U.S. and UK

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landfdvdThe title says it all…the DVD and Blu-ray of Love & Friendship is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. The discs will be available in the U.S. on September 6 and in the UK on September 26 (as promised by Whit Stillman).

If you do not live in the U.S. or UK, please be sure that the disc of your choice will work in your country before ordering.

DVD/Blu-ray at Amazon U.S.

DVD at Amazon UK

Blu-ray at Amazon UK

What Would You Write to Jane?

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By Petar Milošević (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

We heard from Gabrielle, who has started a very interesting website called the Dear Jane Project. We will let her tell you about it in her own words.

I know exactly the ways in which Jane Austen has affected my life. I am very interested in knowing how Jane has had an impact on everyone else. I propose to start a collaborative blog. I have created a blog titled “Dear Jane Project”: https://dearjaneproject.wordpress.com. Someone who is interested in participating in this project can submit a letter to Jane explaining how her works and her life have affected them through an email: dearjaneproject@gmail.com. Submitted texts will be uploaded to the blog. Hopefully, this project will allow fans from around the world to share their stories, and create a community with people around the world.

I believe this project can become something great. Each one of us has a story, and my goal is for us all to be able to share them. I think it is a great way to commemorate the life of Jane Austen as we approach the 200th anniversary of her death.

What would you write to Jane?

We love the idea of this project and will be keeping an eye on the blog!

Your Sunday Austen Meditation

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Today’s lesson is from Mansfield Park, Volume I, Chapter XII, in honor of the holiday tomorrow in the U.S.; if memory serves, the only time Jane Austen mentioned our country in one of her novels.

Listening and wondering were all suspended for a time, for Mr. Bertram was in the room again; and though feeling it would be a great honour to be asked by him, she thought it must happen. He came towards their little circle; but instead of asking her to dance, drew a chair near her, and gave her an account of the present state of a sick horse, and the opinion of the groom, from whom he had just parted. Fanny found that it was not to be, and in the modesty of her nature immediately felt that she had been unreasonable in expecting it. When he had told of his horse, he took a newspaper from the table, and looking over it, said in a languid way, “If you want to dance, Fanny, I will stand up with you.” With more than equal civility the offer was declined; she did not wish to dance. “I am glad of it,” said he, in a much brisker tone, and throwing down the newspaper again, “for I am tired to death. I only wonder how the good people can keep it up so long. They had need be all in love, to find any amusement in such folly; and so they are, I fancy. If you look at them you may see they are so many couple of lovers–all but Yates and Mrs. Grant–and, between ourselves, she, poor woman, must want a lover as much as any one of them. A desperate dull life hers must be with the doctor,” making a sly face as he spoke towards the chair of the latter, who proving, however, to be close at his elbow, made so instantaneous a change of expression and subject necessary, as Fanny, in spite of everything, could hardly help laughing at. “A strange business this in America, Dr. Grant! What is your opinion? I always come to you to know what I am to think of public matters.”

Mr. Bertram was possibly referring to the War of 1812, which would have been going on while Jane Austen was writing Mansfield Park. This is a funny little moment, and Fanny laughing at Tom’s awkward predicament makes her seem a little more human than she is sometimes perceived. Here endeth the lesson.

Had She Been In Love

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Something pretty to start off a long weekend here at AustenBlog World Headquarters…a rehearsal of the song “Had I Been In Love” (a/k/a Lizzy’s Big Epiphany) from Austen’s Pride: A New Musical of Pride and Prejudice, coming up at the Nazareth College Arts Center in Rochester, NY, this month. The performers are Heather Botts as Elizabeth Bennet and Lindsie VanWinkle as Jane Austen. Yes, this is the P&P musical we’ve seen several times and been loving for years…the title has been changed to distinguish it from the several other P&P musicals around.