March in Jane Austen’s World

This year I’ve embarked on a new series that focuses on important details that happened in Jane Austen’s novels, letters, and lifetime during each month of the year. Each month, I share with you my findings as I scour her letters, novels, and personal and family history.

Thus far, we’ve covered January and February and learned a lot about the “Season” in London and Bath during the winter months during the Regency Era, as well as the garden the Austen women planned for their Southampton home during their first winter there.

Next, we turn to March in Austen’s novels. While January and February were still quite wintry, March in the south of England is a mix of weather and season. As always happens, this type of research is a “follow your nose”-type study – let’s see where March will take us!

March in Hampshire

The daffodils like to put on a good show at Jane Austen’s House Museum and Chawton House this time of year. The yellow pops of color are good for the soul and prove to be a hopeful sign that spring is on its way, to those who visit the grounds this time of year.

The daffodils in my yard are glorious right now and it makes my heart happy. I planted 250 bulbs last fall, which meant a lot of work … without anything to show for it at the time. But now that it’s spring, I’m seeing the fruit of my labors!

Daffodils and the like are a wonderful reminder that many worthwhile projects and tasks take work and time before we see fruit. In Austen’s life, before she was published, only her family and close friends enjoyed her work. But later, there was an abundance of fruit from her labors–and it continues to this day!

Daffodils at Chawton House in March, @ChawtonHouse.

March in Jane Austen’s Letters

Several of Austen’s surviving letters were written in March or about March. Here are some interesting highlights:

1814: We have several letters from Jane to Cassandra from March 1814, when Austen visited her brother Henry at his house in Henrietta Street in Covent Garden (you can read more here).

These letters give us a glimpse into Jane’s mind about London, the weather that winter, shopping for herself and the other women in her family, her brother Henry’s thoughts on Mansfield Park, and the plays they attended (several that she liked and others she did not).

Wednesday, 2 March (Henrietta Street):

  • Henry’s thoughts on MP: “We did not begin reading till Bentley Green. Henry’s approbation is hitherto even equal to my wishes. He says it is different from the other two, but does not appear to think it at all inferior. He has only married Mrs. R. (Rushworth). I am afraid he has gone through the most entertaining part. He took to Lady B. (Bertram) and Mrs. N. (Norris) most kindly, and gives great praise to the drawing of the characters. He understands them all, likes Fanny, and, I think, foresees how it will all be.”
  • More on that topic: “Henry is going on with ‘Mansfield Park.’ He admires H. Crawford: I mean properly, as a clever, pleasant man.”
  • Austen’s thoughts on reading The Heroine: “We have drank tea, and I have torn through the third vol. of the ‘Heroine.’ I do not think it falls off. It is a delightful burlesque, particularly on the Radcliffe style.” (The Heroine; Or Adventures of Cherubina is a novel by Eaton Stannard Barrett, 1813).
Henrietta Street today,

Saturday, 5 March (Henrietta Street):

In this letter, Austen provides short accounts from several different days in one week. She provides news each day for Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday:

  • The weather seems quite uncomfortable: “Do not be angry with me for beginning another letter to you. I have read the ‘Corsair’ (Byron), mended my petticoat, and have nothing else to do. Getting out is impossible. It is a nasty day for everybody. Edward’s spirits will be wanting sunshine, and here is nothing but thickness and sleet; and though these two rooms are delightfully warm, I fancy it is very cold abroad.”
  • She attends several plays at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, London. On Saturday, March 5, 1814, she sees Edmund Kean as Shylock in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and provides her thoughts: “We were quite satisfied with Kean. I cannot imagine better acting, but the part was too short; and, excepting him and Miss Smith, and she did not quite answer my expectation, the parts were ill filled and the play heavy. We were too much tired to stay for the whole of “Illusion” (“Nour-jahad”), which has three acts; there is a great deal of finery and dancing in it, but I think little merit. Elliston was “Nour-jahad,” but it is a solemn sort of part, not at all calculated for his powers. There was nothing of the best Elliston about him. I might not have known him but for his voice.”
  • Later, she continues with this: “I shall like to see Kean again excessively, and to see him with you too. It appeared to me as if there were no fault in him anywhere; and in his scene with “Tubal” there was exquisite acting.”
  • She writes more about Henry’s assessment of Mansfield Park: “Henry has this moment said that he likes my M. P. better and better; he is in the third volume. I believe now he has changed his mind as to foreseeing the end; he said yesterday, at least, that he defied anybody to say whether H. C. [Henry Crawford] would be reformed, or would forget Fanny in a fortnight.”
  • Her thoughts on the increase in the price of tea: “A cold day, but bright and clear. I am afraid your planting can hardly have begun. I am sorry to hear that there has been a rise in tea. I do not mean to pay Twining till later in the day, when we may order a fresh supply.”
Edward Kean as Shylock (Wiki Commons).
Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, sketched when it was newly built, in 1813 (Wiki Commons).

Wednesday, 9 March (Henrietta Street):

  • Jane Austen and her mother and Martha Lloyd all have winter colds: “I have a cold, too, as well as my mother and Martha. Let it be a generous emulation between us which can get rid of it first.” And later: “We are home in such good time that I can finish my letter to-night, which will be better than getting up to do it to-morrow, especially as, on account of my cold, which has been very heavy in my head this evening, I rather think of lying in bed later than usual. I would not but be well enough to go to Hertford St. on any account.”
  • Austen’s dress: “I wear my gauze gown to-day, long sleeves and all. I shall see how they succeed, but as yet I have no reason to suppose long sleeves are allowable. I have lowered the bosom, especially at the corners, and plaited black satin ribbon round the top. Such will be my costume of vine-leaves and paste.” And later: “Mrs. Tilson had long sleeves, too, and she assured me that they are worn in the evening by many. I was glad to hear this.”
  • And Henry’s final thoughts on Mansfield Park: “Henry has finished ‘Mansfield Park,’ and his approbation has not lessened. He found the last half of the last volume extremely interesting.”
Long-sleeved Regency gowns.

1816: Letters to Fanny Knight

Thursday, 13 March (Chawton):

  • Austen’s romantic advice: “To you I shall say, as I have often said before, Do not be in a hurry, the right man will come at last; you will in the course of the next two or three years meet with somebody more generally unexceptionable than anyone you have yet known, who will love you as warmly as possible, and who will so completely attach you that you will feel you never really loved before.”
  • Notes on writing: “I will answer your kind questions more than you expect. “Miss Catherine” (Northanger Abbey) is put upon the shelf for the present, and I do not know that she will ever come out; but I have a something ready for publication (Persuasion), which may, perhaps, appear about a twelvemonth hence. It is short — about the length of ‘Catherine.’ This is for yourself alone. Neither Mr. Salusbury nor Mr. Wildman is to know of it.”
  • Illness: “I am got tolerably well again, quite equal to walking about and enjoying the air, and by sitting down and resting a good while between my walks, I get exercise enough. I have a scheme, however, for accomplishing more, as the weather grows spring-like. I mean to take to riding the donkey; it will be more independent and less troublesome than the use of the carriage, and I shall be able to go about with Aunt Cassandra in her walks to Alton and Wyards.”

Sunday, 23 March (Chawton):

In this letter, Austen speaks of many other topics, but the state of her health seems to be the most important topic in this letter:

  • “Many thanks for your kind care for my health; I certainly have not been well for many weeks, and about a week ago I was very poorly. I have had a good deal of fever at times, and indifferent nights; but I am considerably better now and am recovering my looks a little, which have been bad enough — black and white, and every wrong colour. I must not depend upon being ever very blooming again. Sickness is a dangerous indulgence at my time of life. Thank you for everything you tell me. I do not feel worthy of it by anything that I can say in return, but I assure you my pleasure in your letters is quite as great as ever, and I am interested and amused just as you could wish me.”
  • Evening: “I was languid and dull and very bad company when I wrote the above; I am better now, to my own feelings at least, and wish I may be more agreeable. We are going to have rain, and after that very pleasant genial weather, which will exactly do for me, as my saddle will then be completed, and air and exercise is what I want. Indeed, I shall be very glad when the event at Scarlets is over, the expectation of it keeps us in a worry, your grandmamma especially; she sits brooding over evils which cannot be remedied, and conduct impossible to be understood.”
  • “I took my first ride yesterday, and liked it very much. I went up Mounter’s Lane and round by where the new cottages are to be, and found the exercise and everything very pleasant; and I had the advantage of agreeable companions, as At. Cass. and Edward walked by my side. At. Cass. is such an excellent nurse, so assiduous and unwearied! But you know all that already.”

March in Jane Austen’s Novels

The following are a collection of interesting little tidbits and important moments from Austen’s novels:

Sense and Sensibility

  • “The third day … was so fine, so beautiful a Sunday as to draw many to Kensington Gardens, though it was only the second week in March. Mrs. Jennings and Elinor were of the number; but Marianne, who knew that the Willoughbys were again in town, and had a constant dread of meeting them, chose rather to stay at home, than venture into so public a place.” While walking, Elinor meets Miss Steele (Anne) who says Edward tried to persuade Lucy to give up their engagement, but that Lucy has said she never will.
  • In that same chapter, a letter arrives: “The next morning brought Elinor a letter by the two-penny post from Lucy herself” (from Bartlett’s Building). In this letter, Lucy claims that she tried to persuade Edward to give her up, but “he would not hear of [their] parting.”
  • In the next chapter, we read this: “The Palmers were to remove to Cleveland about the end of March, for the Easter holidays; and Mrs. Jennings, with both her friends, received a very warm invitation from Charlotte to go with them.” Elinor and Marianne, both for different reasons, don’t want to go, but they are persuaded to go because going to Cleveland will mean they are only “a long day’s journey” from Barton and can soon go home.
Promenade in Kensington Gardens, 1804.

Pride and Prejudice

  • March was to take Elizabeth to Hunsford. She had not at first thought very seriously of going thither; but Charlotte, she soon found, was depending on the plan,{190} and she gradually learned to consider it herself with greater pleasure as well as greater certainty. Absence had increased her desire of seeing Charlotte again, and weakened her disgust of Mr. Collins. There was novelty in the scheme; and as, with such a mother and such uncompanionable sisters, home could not be faultless, a little change was not unwelcome for its own sake. The journey would, moreover, give her a peep at Jane; and, in short, as the time drew near, she would have been very sorry for any delay. Everything, however, went on smoothly, and was finally settled according to Charlotte’s first sketch. She was to accompany Sir William and his second daughter. The improvement of spending a night in London was added in time, and the plan became as perfect as plan could be.”

Mansfield Park

  • It’s in March that Mr. Crawford visits Fanny in Portsmouth. First, they go to church: “The Prices were just setting off for church the next day when Mr. Crawford appeared again. He came, not to stop, but to join them; he was asked to go with them to the Garrison chapel, which was exactly what he had intended, and they all walked thither together.”
  • Then, on a walk: “The day was uncommonly lovely. It was really March; but it was April in its mild air, brisk soft wind, and bright sun, occasionally clouded for a minute; and everything looked so beautiful under the influence of such a sky, the effects of the shadows pursuing each other on the ships at Spithead and the island beyond, with the ever-varying hues of the sea, now at high water, dancing in its glee and dashing against the ramparts with so fine a sound, produced altogether such a combination of charms for Fanny, as made her gradually almost careless of the circumstances under which she felt them.”
  • Later, we read these poignant thoughts from Anne on missing spring in the countryside: “It was sad to Fanny to lose all the pleasures of spring. She had not known before what pleasures she had to lose in passing March and April in a town. She had not known before how much the beginnings and progress of vegetation had delighted her. What animation, both of body and mind, she had derived from watching the advance of that season which cannot, in spite of its capriciousness, be unlovely, and seeing its increasing beauties from the earliest flowers in the warmest divisions of her aunt’s garden, to the opening of leaves of her uncle’s plantations, and the glory of his woods. To be losing such pleasures was no trifle; to be losing them, because she was in the midst of closeness and noise, to have confinement, bad air, bad smells, substituted for liberty, freshness, fragrance, and verdure, was infinitely worse: but even these incitements to regret were feeble, compared with what arose from the conviction of being missed by her best friends, and the longing to be useful to those who were wanting her!”
Fanny Price in Portsmouth, Mansfield Park, Folio Society, illustrated by Joan Hassall.


  • According to the Baronetage in Persuasion, a very important man (in his own estimation) was born in March: “ELLIOT OF KELLYNCH HALL: Walter Elliot, born March 1, 1760…”

Northanger Abbey

  • “[Catherine] was struck, however, beyond her expectation, by the grandeur of the abbey, as she saw it for the first time from the lawn. The whole building enclosed a large court; and two sides of the quadrangle, rich in Gothic ornaments, stood forward for admiration. The remainder was shut off by knolls of old trees, or luxuriant plantations, and the steep woody hills rising behind, to give it shelter, were beautiful even in the leafless month of March. Catherine had seen nothing to compare with it; and her feelings of delight were so strong, that without waiting for any better authority, she boldly burst forth in wonder and praise. The general listened with assenting gratitude; and it seemed as if his own estimation of Northanger had waited unfixed till that hour.”
Lismore Castle was used for the 2007 Northanger Abbey film adaptation.

March Dates of Importance

This brings us now to several dates that would have been important to Austen personally and to the Austen family as a whole:

Family News:

23 March 1773: Rev. Austen becomes rector of Deane parish (in addition to Steventon).

27 March 1792: James Austen marries Anne Mathew (they move into the parsonage in Deane).

25 March 1805: Mrs. Austen and her daughters move to 25 Gay Street, Bath.

Historic Dates:

11 March 1793: Civil war erupts in France.


March 1811: Austen corrects proofs of Sense and Sensibility.

29 March 1815: Emma finished.


January-March 1816: Austen begins work on Sanditon.

Spring 1816: Jane Austen begins to feel ill.

18 March 1816: Austen ceases work on Sanditon.

Cassandra’s handwritten copy of SanditonJaneAusten’s.House.

March in the Life of Austen

I hope you enjoyed this month’s overview of March in Jane Austen’s World. As always, there is so much more to explore! These are merely highlights and snippets. In some instances, the information I found was a tad contradictory, so I did my best to find the most accurate research available. If you have more information on any topic, feel free to share in the comments. Next up: April!

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