• Deborah Yaffe

On this day in 1798. . .

Fiftieth in an occasional series of excerpts from Jane Austen's letters.


The holiday season can be difficult for those of us who find compulsory socializing to be hard work. Although Jane Austen’s letters are filled with accounts of balls, dinners, and visits, her occasional acerbic remarks about the company suggest that she too sometimes found herself longing for solitude.


Such a remark makes its way into the letter that the 23-year-old Austen finished writing exactly 221 years ago today (#15 in Deirdre Le Faye's standard edition of Austen's correspondence). As she fills her sister, Cassandra, in on a recent visit to mutual friends, Austen mentions a new acquaintance apparently encountered during her stay.


“Miss Blachford is agreable enough,” she writes. “I do not want People to be very agreable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal.”


No doubt Austen was teasing, but still, her much-quoted drollery expresses a sentiment that many an introvert could relate to, in this season of office parties: It’s just so. . . fatiguing. . . to expend emotional energy, even the positive kind, on all these strangers.

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