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Saturday, 10 December 2016

JANE AUSTEN AND SORORICIDE

Here's a good question: where did Jane Austen write the words 'I am now going to murder my sister'?

Read on and you will find out.

When Jane Austen's niece Fanny Knight was born (in Kent, where she was to grow up), the teenage Jane wrote some 'instructive' pieces for the baby. She writes: 'As I am prevented by the great distance... from superintending Your Education Myself, the care of which will probably on that account devolve on your Father and Mother, I think it my particular Duty to prevent your feeling as much as possible the want of my personal instructions, by addressing to You on paper my Opinions and Admonitions on the conduct of Young Women...'.

Of course there are no 'opinions and admonitions' in these scraps. In the first piece - a letter entitled The female philosopher - Arabella writes to tell Louisa how Mr. Millar, an old friend her father had not seen for twenty years, has called on them with his two younger daughters. One of them, Julia, with her tedious, trivial moralizing, may have established a pattern for Mary Bennet: '...the amiable Julia uttered Sentiments of Morality worthy of a heart like her own... Mr. Millar observed (and very justly too) that many events had befallen each during that interval of time, which gave occasion to the lovely Julia for making most sensible reflections on the many changes in their situation which so long a period had occasioned, on the advantages of some, and the disadvantages of others. From this subject she made a short digression to the instability of human pleasures and the uncertainty of their duration, which led her to observe that all earthly Joys must be imperfect. She was proceeding to illustrate this doctrine by examples from the Lives of Great Men when the Carriage came to the Door and the amiable Moralist with her Father and Sister was obliged to depart...' (mercifully!).

Jane then offers her niece a Letter from a Young Lady, 'whose feelings being too Strong for her Judgement led her into the commission of Errors which her Heart disapproved'. Anna Parker writes: 'I murdered my father at a very early period of my Life, I have since murdered my Mother, and I am now going to murder my Sister. I have changed my religion so often that at present I have not an idea of any left.' She has decided to reform and marry Colonel Martin of the Horse Guards, whom she has helped swindle his elder brother out of a massive inheritance. The letter ends:

I am now going to murder my Sister. Yours Ever,

Anna Parker.