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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jane Austen's Letter 29: "So, Lady Bridges in the delicate language of Coulson Wallop is IN FOR IT! "

In Jane Austen's Letter 29, we read the following:

"So, Lady Bridges in the delicate language of Coulson Wallop is IN FOR IT! "

Le Faye's footnote advises the reader that Lady Bridges was pregnant, but what you have to work to find out is that Lady Bridges was the new bride of (and, at 22, eleven years younger than) the eldest Bridges son, Brook-William, and she wound up bearing him 4 children before she really _was_ "in for it", and died after giving birth to a baby girl. But then, Brook-William was not fazed, he remarried within three years, and since his "blue beard" was perhaps by then tinged with more than a touch of "grey", it took him seven years to murder his second wife in childbirth, when it only took him five years to finish off the first Lady Bridges!

So Jane Austen had this guy pegged a mile off. Add this vignette to the long list of Jane Austen's complaints about dutiful English wives being made serially pregnant by their proper English husbands until they either died or were overwhelmed with childcare.

And someone recently pointed out that Cassandra Austen spent a lot of time at Godmersham without Jane. I just did the math, and it seems to me that Cassandra was at Godmersham [the estate of brother Edward] for three months continuously between Letter 23 and Letter 33! I like to think that this was Cassandra being a very good sister to Jane, by relieving Jane of her share of being the tireless aunt to six (count 'em, six) children under the age of 8 at Godmersham. I feel confident from all the echoes of the novels in these letters that JA made the most of the time.

And there is another detail that is easily missed in the above quotation. Coulson Wallop was the younger (and presumably not disabled) brother of Lord Portsmouth (who, as I have previously claimed, is represented by Sir Walter Elliot in Persuasion), and Coulson apparently had a certain flair for telling it like it was that JA and CEA apparently felt a certain fondness for. Alas, poor Coulson died a scant 4 years after Letter 29 was written, at the tender age of 34.

Cheers, ARNIE

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