TriviaPosted: October 21, 2013 Filed under: writing 2 Comments
Jane Austen died a virgin.
(so says John Sutherland in The Lives Of The Novelists. Portrait of Jane Austen by her sister Cassandra).
In December 1802, Austen received her only known proposal of marriage. She and her sister visited Alethea and Catherine Bigg, old friends who lived near Basingstoke. Their younger brother, Harris Bigg-Wither, had recently finished his education at Oxford and was also at home. Bigg-Wither proposed and Austen accepted. As described by Caroline Austen, Jane’s niece, and Reginald Bigg-Wither, a descendant, Harris was not attractive — he was a large, plain-looking man who spoke little, stuttered when he did speak, was aggressive in conversation, and almost completely tactless. However, Austen had known him since both were young and the marriage offered many practical advantages to Austen and her family. He was the heir to extensive family estates located in the area where the sisters had grown up. With these resources, Austen could provide her parents a comfortable old age, give Cassandra a permanent home and, perhaps, assist her brothers in their careers. By the next morning, Austen realised she had made a mistake and withdrew her acceptance. No contemporary letters or diaries describe how Austen felt about this proposal.
I randomly came across your blog and saw your quotation from John Sutherland, which amuses me because he was my professor for a Jane Austen class that I took at Caltech. He had so much interesting information about her.
awesome! one of the points he makes as you surely know is how little there is to know about Austen. Cassandra burned all her letters!