Fanny Knight: Jane Austen’s Niece, without affection?

Image of watercolor painting of Fanny Knight, by Cassandra AustenAFFECTION

“And now, my dear Fanny, having written so much on one side of the question, I shall turn round and entreat you not to commit yourself farther, and not to think of accepting him unless you really do like him. Anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without affection.” Letter to her niece Fanny Knight, 18 November 1814, The Letters of Jane Austen

The airing of the new biopic Miss Austen Regrets has refreshed my interest in the relationship between Jane Austen and her niece Fanny Knight. You can read about a recent post that I wrote on her family background and relationship with her aunt Jane here.  In re-reading some of their correspondence, I came across some interesting lines that you might recognize in the movie.

“Only one comes back with me tomorrow, probably Miss Eliza, & I rather dread it. We shall not have two ideas in common. She is young, pretty, chattering, & thinking chiefly (I presume) of dress, company, & admiration.”  November 30, 1814

“Nothing is to be compared to the misery of being bound without Love, bound to one, & preferring another. That is a Punishment which you do not deserve.” November 30, 1814

“Do not be in a hurry; depend upon it, the right Man will come at last; you will in the course of the next two or three years, meet with somebody more generally unexceptional than anyone you have yet known, who will love you as warmly as ever He did, and who will so completely attach you, that you will feel you never really loved before.” March 13, 1817

“Single women have a dreadful propensity for being poor-which is one very strong argument in favor of matrimony.” March 13, 1817

“Do not oblige him to read any more. Have mercy on him, tell him the truth, and make him an apology. He and I should not in the least agree, of course, in our ideas of novels and heroines. Pictures of perfection, as you know, make me sick and wicked.”  23 March 1817

“There are such beings in the world perhaps, one in a thousand, as the creature you and I should think perfection, Where grace & spirit are united to worth, where the manners are equal to the heart & understanding, but such a person may not come in your way, or if he does, he may not be the eldest son of a man of fortune, the brother of your particular friend & belonging to your own country.”  November 18, 1814

You can read further about their relationship at this post at Jane Austen’s World, and Jane’s Advice to Fanny Knight, at the Becoming Jane Fansite. In addition here are some excellent books for your consideration.

Image of book cover of The Letters of Jane Austen, (2006)Jane Austen’s Letters, by Deirdre Le Faye

Almost Another Sister: The Story of Fanny Knight, Jane Austen’s Favorite Niece, by Margaret Wilson

Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters: A Family Record, by William Austen-Leigh    

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