Vaste bezoeker van deze website Hans van Leeuwen schreef onlangs een brief aan Jane Austen. De komende weken zullen wij deze brief in delen plaatsen. Vandaag deel 1.

Nijmegen, Gelderlandshire

13th of November 1816 2016

Dear Jane

It is no uncommon occurrence for me to be seen opening a book not written by yourself for the sake of propriety, but hardly have I progressed to chapter two of such a book when I find myself growing increasingly uncomfortable from an anxiousness to replace it by one of your works. How exasperating that I should think it wrong sometimes to be always seen reading the same book or a book by the same authoress! I do, in the end, follow my own inclinations rather than bend to the wishes of others, but only after caring too much about other people’s opinions and patiently putting up with their suggestions to read what they themselves probably have not read. Yet even then I feel the shackles of conventionality, as testified by my continually looking about me when, at length, I have mustered courage enough to go to our library upstairs and choose one of your books again, on which, to your credit, dust never has time to settle.

To have been thus saved from an evening spoilt by a fire lit too late, is a blessing indeed.

I had gone thither for that very purpose a couple of days ago, and after hurriedly descending the stairs in excited spirits tinged with apprehension, while holding the cover of your book towards me so as to conceal it from view, joined my father and mother in the drawing room, whither they had repaired after dinner. A genial fire in the grate, lit earlier than usual by the housemaid on account of its being a remarkably cool evening for the season, made this the room all living creatures in the house were drawn towards, and when Maria came in with tea, Max and Joe, our two cocker spaniels, who had eagerly but obediently been waiting in the chilly hall for an opportunity to get in, sped past her to lay themselves to rest at our feet and, like ourselves, bask in the warm glow of the flames. After serving us, Maria was about to leave the room when my father addressed her thus:

“The exemplary foresight shown in lighting the fire as early as has been done, is to be unequivocally commended, and I have been told that the idea proceeded from you, Maria. To have been thus saved from an evening spoilt by a fire lit too late, is a blessing indeed.”

“Thank you, Sir,” was Maria’s humble reply.

My father mercilessly continued his tribute

Unsure whether she was meant to stay or leave the room, Maria felt all the discomfort of those finding themselves the recipients of commendation when it is neither expected nor felt to be deserved, and a hunching of the shoulders and restlessness of the hands were the surest symptoms of her agony. My father mercilessly continued his tribute, and although he now generously bestowed it on all those employed in his house, she still felt as awkward as if it had been exclusively intended for her.

“Within a 50 miles radius I venture to say there is not a house to be found with domestics as fine as ours. I received further proof of it less than an hour ago, when the stable boy informed me of its threatening to be a very cold night. The gushes of mist forming as he spoke as well as the clear, star-spangled sky left me no doubt as to the accuracy of his forecast, and the very precautions I was about to suggest that he take lest the horses should grow cold proved to have already been taken.”

These words spoken, my father turned to where he expected to see the object of his first praise only to find that the maid had gone.

Deel 2 van A Letter to Jane verschijnt op 29 december!