7/11/99 Ray Mitchell [GRM34@mailcity.com] - Promises and threats

Dear Folks,

I leave in two days with high hopes and great expectations. From the advice I have been given by you guys, I feel that I can deal with just about anything from raging feminists to any bizarre spin that some twisted sister might put on anything that Jane Austen ever said or thought she said.

I hope that I will be pampered, if not fought over, by my fellow travelers.

While I am gone and while you are waiting word from the traveler, I encourage everyone to harken to Cheryl’s advice on the Flashman books. They are truly wonderful. Another book by the same author, which is often overlooked, is Mr. American.

Julie can rest assured that I will walk in our Lady’s footsteps just as often as possible, and not only will I walk the walk, I will talk the talk until everyone will wish to God I had never gone on the trip. I will follow Heather’s advice to say what I will and not worry my pretty head about it. I do like the sound of that.

When I visit the tomb I expect to be so touched that I will experience emotions enough for both Ash and myself.

If you all promise to read everything I write about the trip, I will see that each of you get a genuine Jane Austen key ring or sun visor from Chawton. And yes, Ash I still have your requests for photos even though I expect a fight to the death with the ladies in tweed at Chawton who, I am sure, have a rule against photos indoors or within three miles of the house.

7/11/99 The Meister - From one Meister to another

Dear Ray,

Have a great trip big guy.

It has been decided, unanimously, that you are to carry the credentials of the Official European Meister and Spokesman for our Bulletin Board. Congratulations. You may present your credentials at the English Court. Try to arrange for an alliance - and some money. I will back up anything you say in England.

I supported you all along because I admire any guy that can arrange to escape the summer climate of Georgia to go to England in order to live in close quarters with eleven women - no other men - while discussing and learning about Jane Austen. And THEN - this is the impressive part - and then you actually managed to convince Julie and Heather to commiserate with you about it!

7/7/99 Cheryl - Wickham's commission

I've just read a fascinating little book called Mr. Kipling's Army.  Of course the information comes from a few years later than JA's, but as stagnant as this book makes the Army appear, that may not make all that much difference.

Though he tries, the author, Byron Farwell, can't make sense of the regimental system for me. I hadn't actually realized that not only was the original commission purchased, but so were promotions. I no longer wonder how men like the Earl of Cardigan ended up in a position to kill so many men.  I wonder that there weren't more like him.  He paid £40,000 (!) for the privilege.

At any rate, the book includes a table of the fair market cost of commissions circa 1840. For Wickham's commission as an Ensign in an "Infantry of the line" regiment, Darcy would have paid about  £450.  That's the absolute low end of the scale.  As regiments went up in status and desirability, the price would have gone up as well.  For an Ensign in the Foot Guards (which Wickham didn't have the ancestry let alone the means to join) the cost was around £1,200.  Since Wickham appears to have stayed in England gadding about, we may be able to assume his commission was in a regiment somewhere between the two.

Pay while in England, no matter what regiment, was 4s 6d per day, minus meals.  Officers also had to pay a fixed amount annually to the officers' mess to provide money for all that wine and haute cuisine, other possible subscriptions would be for hounds, regimental coaches, theatricals, and a wine cellar.  Lieutenant-Colonel William Bellairs estimated that a private income of  £60-100 per year was required for infantry officers in an average regiment.  £500 minimum was required in regiments like the 4th Hussars.

Certain appointments brought some extra pay with them, which explains why Lydia was angling for "a place at court."  Not paying tradesmen seems to have been a long tradition:  Winston Churchill took over 6 years to pay his military tailors after joining up.

I can't help but wonder where Wickham got the money for his commission in Colonel Fosters's regiment, if he ever actually coughed it up.  This might be part of the cause for his hasty departure from the regiment and subsequent hiding.  Mr. Bennet might not have dueled it out with Wickham, but the new made Lieutenant who was counting on that money could be a different matter.

7/8/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@onaustralia.com.au] That book

Dear Cheryl,

Must have, must have, must have that book.  Could I have details of publisher, etc?  If not, I'm afraid, you will simply have to loan my your copy.  I'll send it back as soon as I've finished.  I promise. (Reference here to previous correspondence with Ray on libraries and books).  David Niven, in his delightful biography, talks of the amount of money he had to spend after being commissioned to a regiment in Imperial India - actually, a lot of English people do, and for further information, I recommend you to a book called Plain Tales From The Raj.  No, of course you can't borrow it!  It's mine.  The system to which you refer seems to have been but a pup in Jane Austen's time:  by the time of Imperial Britain, it was ludicrous.  The system by which Wickham gained advantage was alive and well in clerical cirlces, also: Trollope does a fine job on this subject in his Barchester novels, especially the contrast between, say Dr Grantly and the Rev. Quiverfull.  What the hell (!) did God have to do with it, one wonders.  For real life, intelligent, political and social commentary on the position of the clergy in England in the late 18th and early 19th century, I cannot recommend too highly the biography of the Brontes, by Juliet Barker (Phoenix, 1994).  One needn't have the slightest interest in the Brontes as writers to gain from this remarkable book, in which Ms Barker chronicles Patrick Bronte's professional life, and political interests.  Once more I feel myself banging my head against the wall of prejudice (Hi, Ashton!), but this book is an historical document of such value, and of such interest, that I must rave a little.  The section in which Patrick went in to bat on his parishoners' behalf, just to obtain a clean water supply for Haworth, is in itself reason to read the book.

Anyway, it's all settled:  you'll loan me your books, and of course I won't loan you mine. Bilbo Baggins made the ultimate point on this subject.


7/9/99 Cheryl - Book info, and some other stuff

Dear Julie,

Of course you may borrow my copy.  Maybe we could barter for Tim Tams.  However, it might be easier to seek out Amazon.com, although that's not where I got mine.  This particular author also wrote The Gurkhas and Queen Victoria's Little Wars both of which are gems. Oddly enough, it wasn't until we had all three books until we figured out it was all the same person. It's all the fault of George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman books. (Yes, the Flashman from Tom Brown's School Days.  Although this character's adventures bear a close resemblance to those of Captain Sir Richard Burton.)  Fraser also has written excellent [mostly] fiction stories about life as a subaltern in the post-WWII British Army, collected in a series of books which include The General Danced At Dawn, McAuslan in the Rough and The Sheik on the Dustbin as well as one of the funniest books in the English language The Pyrates. There's also his non-fiction The Hollywood History of the World - a look at historical movies as history - and Quartered Safe Out Here which is about his experiences in the second world war.  His screenplay credits include the Michael York/Oliver Reed/Richard Chamberlain version of The Three Musketeers.

Mr. Kipling's Army subtitled All the Queen's Men by Byron Farwell is published by W.W. Norton & Company with a copyright date on our book of 1981.  We got it in San Francisco, oddly enough.  The other two we got at Half Price Books in Seattle, just in case you're ever visiting.

I'll definitely keep an eye out for Plain Tales From The Raj -- sounds like our kind of book.

7/10/99 Ashton - Bribes or Fees?

Dear Cheryl,

Actually, Wickham had the means to pay for his commission with Colonel Foster. Darcy had given him 3,000 pounds when Wickham had renounced his plans to be ordained according to the wishes of the older Mr Darcy. That is quite a bit of money and would have earned a prudent man about 150 Pounds p.a., which is at the lower end of what a "living" would have brought him. But, as you say, Wickham was not a prudent man and one likely to have eaten well into his capital if not having squandered it all. Did you know that Jane Austen's favorite brother Henry was an officer of the militia for some time? The militia was an organization of some importance then because of the continual fear of invasion.

The customs may not have changed much between Jane Austen's time and 1840, but the purchasing power of the pound may be another matter. Jane Austen's time was one of continual inflation due to the cost and waste of external wars. (In JA's early childhood, Britain was fighting the Americans while officially at war with France and Spain and, effectively, at war with the countries of the "Armed Neutrality". Britain's hand was raised against all nations and all nations' hands were raised against her.) Our Lady's brother, Charles, and paternal aunt, Philadelphia, suffered severe sticker-shock upon return to England after long absences.

What is not clear to me is how or why money changed hands during these appointments and advancements. I remember all of the machinations that Jane Austen's father went through to get his two youngest sons advanced from midshipmen to Lieutenants but that seemed more a matter of influence than money. Mr Crawford used his uncle's influence to get Fanny Price's brother advanced, but did any money exchange hands on that occasion? - I don't recall. On the other hand, I seem to remember Elinor Dashwood's brother speculating that Colonel Brandon could have received 1,500 pounds for the living he gave, gratis, to Edward Ferrars.

7/7/99 Ashton - 1771-75: Love, Marriage, and Murder in Jane Austen's Time

Dear Friends,

I am going to excerpt some entries from the Parson Woodforde's Diaries. I will be very interested in your reactions.


September 25th. ... I carried Miss Betsy White and little Jacky White with me and brought them both back to Ansford. I had hard Work to prevail on Mrs. White of Shepton to let Miss White return with me, but she did at last. She is a sweet tempered Girl indeed and I like her very much, and I think would make a good Wife, I do not know but I shall make a bold stroke that way.


December 10th. ... Betsy White, Jenny Clarke & Brother John supped and spent the Evening at Parsonage & very agreeable. ...



January 23rd. ... I went up to Sister Whites this Evening to desire Betsy White to spend this Evening with us, but she would not. She is highly affronted with me or Sister Jane I believe. ...



August 24th. ... Betsy White came from London only last Saturday. She is greatly improved and handsomer than ever. ...


September 6th. I drank tea at Mr Whites with him, his Wife and my dear Betsy White. ...


September 16th. ... I then went and spent the whole Afternoon at Mr Whites with Mrs White and my dear Betsy White.



May 28th. ... I went home with Betsy White & had some talk with her concerning my making her mine when an Opportunity offered, and she was not averse to it at all.


September 27th. ... I took a ride this morning to Shepton Mallett to see my dear Betsy White, but she & her Father are gone to Bristol to day so I only saw her Mother & that after Dinner.



January 28th. ... I called on Mr White at Shepton but Betsy White was not at home, she being in Devonshire at Mr Troits & is to remain there till Easter, was told. ...


March 13th. At half past eleven this morning went with Cooke to see George Strap hanged, who was hung about a Qtr before one o'clock near the Castle. He confessed (just as he came out of the Castle) the crime for which he suffered, but not before. He pulled up his cap two or three Times to delay. A Methodist prayed by him in the Cart for some Time under the Gallows. He seemed full hardy. It is said that he declared Yesterday, if he had only his Liberty for one Qtr of an Hour, he would employ it in the murdering of his wife. I think I never saw such sullenness & Villainy on one Face, Jack Ketch kissed him twice before he went off. His Body was carried off to Dr Parson's to be dissected, and anatomized pursuant to the Sentence. I do believe that there were more than six Thousand Spectators present when he was hanged.


June 17th. This Day the following shocking Account was on the Oxford Journal--Extract of a Letter from Ansford [Woodforde's home town], June 13: 'Thursday last, about six o'clock in the Evening the Inhabitants of this Parish were alarmed by a report that Mrs. Tucker, wife of Mr Reginald Tuckker had dropt down dead in an apoplectic Fit. Several People immediately repaired to the house where a scene most shocking to human nature presented itself, one of the finest Women in these parts dead on the floor, weltering in her blood, with her Skull fractured, ... her face, breast, shoulders, arms, and one of her ears bruised in a barbarous manner. The Coroner was sent for and a Jury empanelled to sit on the body, before whom it was given in Evidence, that Mr Tucker left the house about half an Hour after twelve to go to Mr Petty's, at Haspen, only about a Mile distant: that when he came there he was in such a Sweat as to be obliged to strip of his Shirt, put on one of Mr Perry's ... Mr Tucker was examined, but insisted on his Innocence: Blood however appearing on his Cloaths, and strong grounds of Suspicion arising against him, the Jury brought in their Verdict Wilful Murder, and he was taken into Custody. A second Jury were summoned the next Day, who gave the same Verdict.' May God preserve poor Miss Tucker in her great distress.
For Wine this afternoon in M.C.R. pd 0.0.6.


August 1st. Whilst I was at breakfast this morning, Tucker's Attorney South's Clerk of Wells called upon me with a Sub-poena to appear at Wells on Monday the 21 of the Month, in behalf of Tucker as to his Character. In the Sub-poena was a Shilling as is usual.


August 10th. ... Betsy White of Shepton is to be married in a fortnight to a Gentleman of Devonshire by name Webster a Man reported to have 500 Pd per Annum, 18000 in the Stocks besides Expectations from his Father. He had settled 300 Pd Per Annum on Betsy.
August 25th. ... At half past 8 this morning I went to the Assize Hall ... Tucker's trial was the first that came on. Tucker walked into the Hall very undaunted and behaved without any Concern for a long Time. The first thing he did was to object to the major Part of the Jury and others put & sworn in their Room. ... I went to the Goat & ate a bit of Dinner, ... the Judge was summing up the Evidence to the Jury which lasted a great while, and after that the Jury was a long Time in how to bring him in. At last however at about a quarter after six the Jury delivred in their Verdict and brought him in guilty. The Judge then immediately passed Sentence of Condemnation on him, and to be executed Monday next. The whole Hall seemed to rejoice at the Sentence, as it was the general Opinion that he was guilty. He persisted still in his Innocence at the very last. When Miss Tucker gave her Evidence most of the Ladies cried and greatly pitied her in her Situation. The Judge greatly condemned the Evidence given in by John Perry and his Wife of Hatspen, as they varied greatly from their first Examination. ... [The trial] lasted near ten hours. ...
August 28th. Poor Tucker was hung this Aft. about 5 o'clock near Wells--& it is reported that he persisted in his Innocence to the very last--however I cannot think him innocent: if he is I doubt not but he will be amply rewarded, if he is not--Lord be merciful unto his Soul.


September 16th. ... I did not go to Mrs White's to day tho' much pressed in the aft. ... we met Mr and Mrs Webster on the Turnpike Road. Mrs Webster spoke as usual to me, but I said little to her being shy as She has proved herself to me a mere Jilt. ...

All that took place in Somerset. Later in that year, another clergyman in a nearby county - a man who had married the woman he loved - became the father of a baby girl he called "Jenny". As was the custom in those days, Jenny was allowed two weeks with her mama before she was sent to live with a wet nurse for two years. Mama and papa would visit her there until it was decided she was healthy enough and fit enough to be welcomed into her parent's home. One of her brothers had not passed this test. I don't know many of the details so I can't tell you if little Jenny wept for the loss of her foster mother or foster home. But, I do know enough to hazard the guess that Jenny's sister and brothers comforted her, played with her, and helped her over any rough spots. Perhaps it was they that taught the baby that "Jenny" was only a nickname sometimes given to small children and that she could now use her big-girl name - the name she had been christened with - "Jane Austen".

7/8/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@onaustralia.com.au] Love, marriage and privities in Jane Austen's time

Dear Sir,

Come on, come on.  If you don't give us the quote about the discharge from the privities following the private connection, I'll ....... well, I don't quite know what I'll do, but I will think of something.  In a clergyman, no less!

From the Meister: Here it is folks, Julie's favorite diary entries (for a nurse, no less!). This is from 1777 and, so, after the good Parson's disappointment over Betsy.

July 21st. ... Very low indeed all Day long, being afraid that I am not right in Health having something (tho' at present trifling) not right with my Privities, having a small discharge from the same, owing to a private Connection when at Abington with one Miss Clarke, which I am fearful of. ...
July 22nd. ... I was much better today and more easy in my mind. ...

7/6/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@onaustralia.com.au] I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir,' said Alice, 'because I'm not myself, you see.'

Dear Heather,

'I don't see,' said the caterpillar."  Jane Austen was the best student of human behaviour I have ever encountered, and, believe me, I've been forced to meet (and read) a few.  I've been obliged to study tomes on psychiatry and abnormal psychology and (God help me) sociology (note: favourite phrase here - 'for a whole range of reasons') and Jane Austen beats them all, and manages to be entertaining as well.  People who find out by accident that I am a psychiatric nurse sometimes assume a strange look and begin to walk in reverse: Jane Austen has the same effect on people.  They are afraid of her because they think she knows what they are thinking. She does.

I don't, mainly because I can't be stuffed unless I'm getting at least $30.00 per hour.

"'How am I to get in?' asked Alice ..........
'Are you to get in at all?' said the Footman.  'That's the first question, you know.'"

This could get dangerous. The Rev. Mr Dodgson had some peculiar habits. He was a mathematician, you know.

7/6/99 Heather Swallow - [hms@blakes.ca] Elmira and Dorinda - Not another addendum to the Juvenilia

Dear Ray and Julie,

Ray: I really can't wait to hear what your new friends are like.  There are a few who sound like they might have stepped right out of the pages of Austen's more youthful works -- or something even more classical.  I consider you very brave to embark upon this mission to Albion for our greater edification.  That you must dwell, however briefly, among so many sirens or Amazons (there, I said it so you didn't have to), without benefit of a politically correct manual to guide you and only your charm as your sword, and your impressive physique as your shield only convinces me of your sincere dedication to Our Lady.  Though you appear to be the lone male on this adventure, I believe that if you can steer clear of Circe, you are in no danger of being considered a pig either of the male chauvinist sort or otherwise.  Indeed, I am beginning to suspect that you are going to be pampered outrageously and that perhaps is your real reason for embarking on this mission.

Julie: I'm surprised to hear that you are not as interested in the epistolary form as Ashton and I.  I quite agree with him that it is marvelous to try to detect the difference between what a writer says and what a writer means. This is particularly true with Lady Susan, who constantly writes one thing and does another.

The fact that it is a third person, neither the sender nor receiver of the letter, who is putting words on someone else's stationery and ideas in the readers' minds makes me believe that this is a method of writing that is a lot less lazy than might be perceived.  It isn't so much what the correspondents write about, as what they do not write about that is interesting to me, and the fact that an author can impart that information without writing it down anywhere -- not even with the narrative voice -- is not only fascinating, it's downright exciting!

But there is some detective work going on here, when reading this kind of novel, and that isn't for everybody.

I'm sorry you haven't read the Juvenilia through at least once.  Your insights are always enjoyable.  I was going to embark on a discussion of Austen's notion of marriage as it is manifest in her early writings, but it appears that I will have no one to discuss it with, alas and woe.  Perhaps another time.

7/7/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@onaustralia.com.au] juvenalia

Dear Heather,

Oh, I've read it, several times.  It's just that I didn't enjoy it very much.  Those writings of Jane Austen that I enjoy I pretty well know by heart - that is not the case with the juvenalia.  Perhaps I shouldn't try reading it end to end, but rather in bits, in between other work.  It's the same with Sense and Sensibility - I don't like the novel much, to me it has too much of immaturity about it.  Most people disagree, I know, but I find it inferior to Northanger Abbey, which most rate as the least mature of Jane Austen's work.  As to the epistolary style - well, that is personal prejudice, and nothing more.  I also have a prejudice against novels written in the first person, though obviously I have read them (mental nod here to Miss Eyre).

Are the slythey toves brilling out your way?

From the Meister: Sure, we
get out that way all the time.

7/7/99 Julie Grassi - [banya@onaustralia.com.au] (Reluctantly): Feminism

Dear Ray,

When the word 'feminism' appears, I generally fall silent (handy hint there, folks!), firstly because I think the whole thing too silly for words (and there are few topics I consider unworthy of words), and secondly because I've never felt inferior to anybody or anything in my entire life, and don't understand what all the fuss was about.  I do wish Germaine could have managed to just shut up (as if!) and enjoy her geese and the poems of Andrew Marvell.  But, Raymond, on your behalf and for your good alone, here goes.

If the hairy-legged feminists do indeed look like spoiling your nice convention (I doubt it will actually happen, but anything is possible), you can rebut anything they say by simply returning to them, unopened, their own sentences, with the word 'human' subsituted for their word 'feminist.'  The whole concept is too anachronistic and silly for me to spend much typing time on it, but Jane Austen is, as she was, one of the most acute observers of human behaviour to be found in print.  I would suggest you get hold of a collection of her letters, if you haven't done so already, and have a read.  Look especially at the series written just after Elizabeth Knight's death, where she describes to Cassandra the visit of two of Elizabeth's children, sent to their aunt from school.  It is in the detail.  She speaks of their mourning dress, for instance, and comments how important it is for the boys not to be made noticeable by any oddity of dress - that they must have what is usual for the occasion.  Many adults today still cannot remember, and certainly cannot sympathise with, the exquisite embarrassment and self-consciousness of young people.  She was a wonderful aunt and companion to the boys on their visit - the letters contrast with a certain 'wooden' feel of the two letters she wrote to her brother at the time of her father's death.  Like most of us, in times of stress she was better off with something to do, and indeed, this is just the advice she gave Fanny Knight, urging her into activity on her father Edward's behalf.  Now, I'm sure I've wandered way off the point in all of this, but if you can do the same, and produce mouthfuls of waffle just as I type them, you should be able to shut most of the hairy-legged ones up, assuming they appear.  But I wouldn't worry too much - they are probably attending a goose seminar at Germaine's house.

Don't forget to try and take one of Jane Austen's walks for me, will you - assuming it would not involve a six-lane highway now, which is probably the case.

Actuallly, I have before me a copy of The World of Jane Austen, by Nigel Nicolson, and it shows the site of Steventon Rectory, with some nice friesian cows grazing on the site, so you shouldn't have too much trouble taking a walk.  If you don't have that book, you should try for it before you leave, as it is virtually a photographic history of the places in which Jane Austen lived.  Not that you'll need the photos, I suppose, if you are going there, but you might be able to construct some clever-sounding questions from it in advance - about friesian cows, for example.


Back To The Bulletin Board

Table Of Contents

The Male-Voices Home Page