My Dearest Frank
Shortly after Jane Austen’s return to Hampshire from Bath in July 1809, she wrote a letter to her brother Francis William, or Frank, as he was known in the Austen family. Frank had been serving as a Captain in the Royal Navy, and latterly became a Rear Admiral. In her letter, Jane congratulated Frank and her sister-in-law, Mary, on the arrival of their newborn son, Francis William.
Jane’s letter was written verse in rhyming couplets. She depicts in detail the inherited resemblance of father and son and the name they jointly share, “Thy Name possessing with thy Blood, In him, in all his ways, may we Another Francis WIlliam see!”. Jane also writes joyfully of her nephew inheritance of her brother’s traits of kindness and consideration, but also highlights his flaws, “And anger only not to wound.Then like his Father too, he must, Then like his Father too, he must, To his own former struggles just, Feel his Deserts with honest Glow, And all his self-improvement know.”
In concluding her verse, Jane gives a positive account of the family’s adjustment to life in Chawton. Her descriptive verse evokes a secure feeling in her new found home amongst her nearest and dearest family.
My Dearest Frank I Wish You Joy
My dearest Frank, I wish you joy
Of Mary's safety with a Boy,
Whose birth has given little pain
Compared with that of Mary Jane.
May he a growing Blessing prove,
And well deserve his Parents' Love!--
Endow'd with Art's and Nature's Good,
Thy Name possessing with thy Blood,
In him, in all his ways, may we
Another Francis WIlliam see!--
Thy infant days may he inherit,
THey warmth, nay insolence of spirit;--
We would not with one foult dispense
To weaken the resemblance.
May he revive thy Nursery sin,
Peeping as daringly within,
His curley Locks but just descried,
With 'Bet, my be not come to bide'.
Fearless of danger, braving pain,
And threaten'd very oft in vain,
Still may one Terror daunt his Soul,
One needful engine of Control
Be found in this sublime array,
A neigbouring Donkey's aweful Bray.
So may his equal faults as Child,
Produce Maturity as mild!
His saucy words and fiery ways
In early Childhood's pettish days,
In Manhood, shew his Father's mind
Like him, considerate and Kind;
All Gentleness to those around,
And anger only not to wound.
Then like his Father too, he must,
To his own former struggles just,
Feel his Deserts with honest Glow,
And all his self-improvement know.
A native fault may thus give birth
To the best blessing, conscious Worth.
As for ourselves we're very well;
As unaffected prose will tell.
Cassandra's pen will paint our state,
The many comforts that await
Our Chawton home, how much we find
Already in it, to our mind;
And how convinced, that when complete
It will all other Houses beat
The ever have been made or mended,
With rooms concise, or rooms distended.
You'll find us very snug next year,
Perhaps with Charles and Fanny near,
For now it often does delight us
To fancy them just over-right us.
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