Jane’s beloved niece, Fanny, recalled Jane and Cassandra in 1869, when Fanny was in her seventies.
[Jane] was not so refined as she ought to have been from her talent . . . They [the Austens] were not rich & the people around with whom they chiefly mixed, were not all high bred, or in short anything more than mediocre & they of course tho’ superior in mental powers and cultivation were on the same level as far as refinement goes . . . Aunt Jane was too clever not to put aside all possible signs of “common-ness” (if such an expression is allowable) & teach herself to be more refined . . . Both the Aunts [Cassandra and Jane] were brought up in the most complete ignorance of the World & its ways (I mean as to fashion &c) & if it had not been for Papa’s marriage which brought them into Kent . . . they would have been, tho’ not less clever & agreeable in themselves, very much below par as to good Society & its ways.*
Fanny’s seeming ungratefulness to an aunt who doted on her is deplored by many Jane fans. A forgiving Claire Tomalin explains this passage, saying “it should be remembered that Fanny was very fond of her aunt, and that she ended the passage, which was written in a private letter to her sister Marianne, ‘If you hate all this I beg yr. pardon, but I felt it at my pen’s end, & it chose to come along & speak the truth.'”
Image #1: Jane Odiwe’s watercolour of Jane and Cassandra
Image #2: Cassandra’s watercolour portrait of Fanny Knight.
*Jane Austen: A Life, Claire Tomalin, ISBN 0-679-44628-1, pages 134-135
Read a book review about Jane and Fanny in Austen’s Ungrateful Niece