I think what I love most about Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Letters (which I will eventually – probably – discuss at length) are the glimpses they give into her wonderfully imaginative, unconfined mind. She bounces from topic to topic with absolute grace and indulges in delightful flights of whimsy. Getting a letter from her must have been like receiving a present. Speaking of presents…
One of the topics she returns to again and again are the characters created by Jane Austen. She loved Austen’s novels (she even wrote a book about them) and was as comfortable with Austen’s characters as with her own friends and family. So comfortable, in fact, that she knew just how they behaved in their post-novel lives – and how they compared to her own real-life acquaintances, as she explained in a letter to her friend George Plank:
…you have the nicest hand with a parcel. I can’t think of anyone to match you in parcelling except perhaps Henry Tilney, to whom I attribute all the graces. Mr Knightley’s parcels would never come undone, true; but think of all the paper & string involved. Elinor had to do up all Edward’s; Edward required a good deal of buttoning and unbuttoning, though she enjoyed his dependence on her: the butler did all Marianne’s & Colonel Brandon’s. Mr Darcy did exactly three parcels a year, for Lizzy’s birthday, for New Year’s day, & for their wedding anniversary. The product was excellent, but he took hours to achieve it. And locked the library door. (7 April 1961)
Isn’t that just delightful?