On December 2 1815, Jane Austen writes again to her sister Cassandra. Jane Austen is in London. She has been staying with her brother Henry as he recovers from an illness. Jane has also been preparing for the publication of her novel Emma by John Murray, who is also Lord Bryon’s publisher. A frequent visitor is Charles Haden, a 28-year-old surgeon, who has been taking care of Henry. Jane teasingly describes this way:
He is a Haden, nothing but a Haden, a sort of wonderful nondescript creature on two legs, something between a man and an angel, but without the least spice of an apothecary. He is, perhaps, the only person not an apothecary hereabouts. He has never sung to us. He will not sing without a pianoforte accompaniment.
The full letter reads:
Hans Place: Saturday (Dec. 2).
MY DEAR CASSANDRA, Henry came back yesterday, and might have returned the day before if he had known as much in time. I had the pleasure of hearing from Mr. T. on Wednesday night that Mr. Seymour thought there was not the least occasion for his absenting himself any longer.
I had also the comfort of a few lines on Wednesday morning from Henry himself, just after your letter was gone, giving so good an account of his feelings as made me perfectly easy. He met with the utmost care and attention at Hanwell, spent his two days there very quietly and pleasantly, and, being certainly in no respect the worse for going, we may believe that he must be better, as he is quite sure of being himself. To make his return a complete gala Mr. Haden was secured for dinner. I need not say that our evening was agreeable.
But you seem to be under a mistake as to Mr. H. You call him an apothecary. He is no apothecary; he has never been an apothecary; there is not an apothecary in this neighbourhood — the only inconvenience of the situation perhaps — but so it is; we have not a medical man within reach. He is a Haden, nothing but a Haden, a sort of wonderful nondescript creature on two legs, something between a man and an angel, but without the least spice of an apothecary. He is, perhaps, the only person not an apothecary hereabouts. He has never sung to us. He will not sing without a pianoforte accompaniment.
Mr. Meyers gives his three lessons a week, altering his days and his hours, however, just as he chooses, never very punctual, and never giving good measure. I have not Fanny’s fondness for masters, and Mr. Meyers does not give me any longing after them. The truth is, I think, that they are all, at least music-masters, made of too much consequence and allowed to take too many liberties with their scholars’ time.
We shall be delighted to see Edward on Monday, only sorry that you must be losing him. A turkey will be equally welcome with himself. He must prepare for his own proper bedchamber here, as Henry moved down to the one below last week; he found the other cold.
I am sorry my mother has been suffering, and am afraid this exquisite weather is too good to agree with her. I enjoy it all over me, from top to toe, from right to left, longitudinally, perpendicularly, diagonally; and I cannot but selfishly hope we are to have it last till Christmas — nice, unwholesome, unseasonable, relaxing, close, muggy weather.
Oh, thank you very much for your long letter; it did me a great deal of good. Henry accepts your offer of making his nine gallon of mead thankfully. The mistake of the dogs rather vexed him for a moment, but he has not thought of it since. To-day he makes a third attempt at his strengthening plaister, and, as I am sure he will now be getting out a great deal, it is to be wished that he may be able to keep it on. He sets off this morning by the Chelsea coach to sign bonds and visit Henrietta St., and I have no doubt will be going every day to Henrietta St.
Fanny and I were very snug by ourselves as soon as we were satisfied about our invalid’s being safe at Hanwell. By manoeuvring and good luck we foiled all the Malings’ attempts upon us. Happily I caught a little cold on Wednesday, the morning we were in town, which we made very useful, and we saw nobody but our precious and Mr. Tilson.
This evening the Malings are allowed to drink tea with us. We are in hopes — that is, we wish — Miss Palmer and the little girls may come this morning. You know, of course, that she could not come on Thursday, and she will not attempt to name any other day.
God bless you. Excuse the shortness of this, but I must finish it now that I may save you 2d. Best love.
It strikes me that I have no business to give the P. R. a binding, but we will take counsel upon the question.
I am glad you have put the flounce on your chintz; I am sure it must look particularly well, and it is what I had thought of.
Miss Austen, Chawton, Alton, Hants.