- 16 dec 2014 09:52
"The winter of 1775 was a hard one. On 11 November the naturalist Gilbert White saw that the trees around his Hampshire village of Selborne had lost almost all their leaves. "Trees begin to be naked," he wrote in his diary. Fifteen miles away, higher up in the Downs, in the village of Steventon, the rector's wife was expecting the birth of her seventh child from day to day as the last leaves fell. She was thirty-six and had been married for eleven years. Four sturdy little boys ran about the parsonage and the big garden at the back, with its yard and outhouses, rising to the fields and woodland beyond. The eldest, James, at ten already showed promise as a scholar, sharing his father's taste in books, and the only daughter, Cassy, kept her mother entertained with her constant chatter as she followed her round the house and out to visit the dairy and the chickens and ducks. Cassy would be three in January. Outside Mr. Austen's study the house was seldom entirely quiet.
The November days went by and the rains set in, keeping the boys indoors; by the end of the month it was dark in the house at three in the afternoon, and dinner had to be eaten very promptly if they were to do without candles. Still no baby appeared. December came, bringing an epidemic of colds and feverish complaints. There was a sharp frost, putting ice on the ponds, enough for the boys to go sliding; then, on the 16th, White noted, "Fog, sun, sweet day."
From Jane Austen: A Life
By Claire Tomalin
""A sense of humor can help you overlook the unattractive, tolerate the unpleasant, cope with the unexpected, and smile through the unbearable."