Last Friday, 16 December, was Jane Austen’s 236th birthday. To commemorate the birthday of our ‘girl’, I have chosen a quote she wrote to sister Cassandra on Wednesday 11 January 1809 from Castle Square. The quote was taken from Le Faye’s ‘Jane Austen’s Letters’, p. 165.
The Manydown Ball was a smaller thing than I expected, but it seemed to have made Anna very happy. At her age it would not have done for me.-
Jane was 34 when she wrote this letter. Anna Austen, being born in 1793, was 16. For our modern age, being 34 years old is definitely not old enough. However, for those days 34 years old was definitely seen as a very mature age. But just from the way Jane wrote her letters, I perceive no decline of her spirit at all. She might have danced slower and attended fewer balls, but that does not equate to being spiritless. I can hardly imagine how lively she was when she was at Anna’s age (16 years old), but I guess she must have carried on whatever spirit she had at that age into her twenties (when she met Tom Lefroy), her thirties (when she started to produce her famous novels) and even to the last day of her life.
So here’s a toast to Jane Austen. A fine lady who had made us captivated – until today – by her spirit and wit.
Pic: "Sisters Dancing"; Engraving by Marino or Mariano Bovi (Bova) (1758-1813)