Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Jane Austen - The Irish Connection

May, Lou & Cass - Jane Austen's Nieces in Ireland -  Sophia Hillan - Blackstaff Press

I would hazard that very few of those who have read the novels of Jane Austen are aware that three of her nieces, daughters of her brother Edward, lived in and indeed are buried in County Donegal. In this most enjoyable book Sophia Hillan attempts to correct this lacuna in the knowledge of Austen devotees. The lives and loves of these three ladies of the nineteenth century are related against the backdrop of their extensive family connection, the social mores of the time and the agrarian unrest that became such a feature of Irish politics in the years that followed the Potatoe Famine

Cassandra would marry Lord George Hill by whom she had four children, dying of puerperal fever after the birth of her fourth child, a daughter, in March 1842. Louisa stepped in to look after her sister's motherless children and would subsequently become the second Lady George Hill, although there would be something of a question mark over the legitimacy of this marriage, (which was solemnised in Holland,) as the laws of the United Kingdom did not at that time permit a man to marry the sister of his deceased wife.

Marianne the oldest of the three remained unmarried throughout her long life and like Louisa would pass away at Ballyare House close to Ramelton.

What comes through this book is how well connected the scions of the Austen family became. The extended family tree shows connections with the Wards; the Downshires; the Mulhollands ( Barons Dunleath) and the Mountbattens among many others.

A book to be read and savoured.

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