November 16 1815: Some Suggestions for Jane

On November 16 1815,  Rev. James Stanier Clarke, the librarian of Carlton House, writes to Jane Austen to answer her letter of the previous day. He confirms that she can dedicate her next novel – Emma – to the Prince Regent.  Rev. Clarke also suggests that she write a novel about a clergyman who would “pass his time between the metropolis and the country”. Apparently, the Prince Regent read and admired all of Jane Austen’s novels, so he could not have been all bad. 

Carlton House: (Nov. 16, 1815).

DEAR MADAM, — It is certainly not incumbent on you to dedicate your work now in the press to His Royal Highness; but if you wish to do the Regent that honour either now or at any future period I am happy to send you that permission, which need not require any more trouble or solicitation on your part.

Your late works, Madam, and in particular “Mansfield Park,” reflect the highest honour on your genius and your principles. In every new work your mind seems to increase its energy and power of discrimination. The Regent has read and admired all your publications.

Accept my best thanks for the pleasure your volumes have given me. In the perusal of them I felt a great inclination to write and say so. And I also, dear Madam, wished to be allowed to ask you to delineate in some future work the habits of life, and character, and enthusiasm of a clergyman, who should pass his time between the metropolis and the country, who should be something like Beattie’s Minstrel —

Silent when glad, affectionate tho’ shy,
And in his looks was most demurely sad;
And now he laughed aloud, yet none knew why.

Neither Goldsmith, nor La Fontaine in his “Tableau de Famille,” have in my mind quite delineated an English clergyman, at least of the present day, fond of and entirely engaged in literature, no man’s enemy but his own. Pray, dear Madam, think of these things.

Believe me at all times with sincerity and
respect, your faithful and obliged servant,
J. S. Clarke, Librarian.

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