Verses to Catherine Bigg, 26th August 1808

Object name: Four lines of verse from Jane Austen to Catherine Bigg

Object number: CHWJA: JAHLTR1

Category: Letter

Description: Four lines of verse sent by Jane Austen to her friend Catherine Bigg dated 26th August 1808. The verse accompanied a present of cambric handkerchiefs worked by Jane.

Made: 26th August 1808

Context: This short verse was sent by Jane to her friend Catherine Bigg along with some handstitched cambric handkerchiefs she had made for Catherine as a wedding present. It reads:

Cambrick! with grateful blessings would I pay
The pleasure given me in sweet employ:—
Long may’st thou serve my Friend without decay,
And have no tears to wipe, but tears of joy!—

Three of the Bigg sisters of Manydown Park near Basingstoke – Alethea, Elizabeth and Catherine – were close friends of Jane and Cassandra Austen. It was their younger brother, Harris, whose proposal of marriage Jane had accepted on the evening of 2nd December 1802 only to change her mind the following morning.

In 1808, at the age of 33, Catherine married the Rev. Herbert Hill who was 25 years her senior. Jane clearly had some reservations about the marriage; she wrote in a letter to Cassandra the night before Catherine’s wedding ‘Tomorrow we must think of poor Catherine’.

The verse Jane enclosed was her second attempt; the original longer draft read:

Cambrick! Thou’st been to me a Good,
And I would bless thee if I could.
Go, serve thy Mistress with delight,
Be small in compass, soft & white;
Enjoy thy fortune, honour’d much
To bear her name & feel her touch;
And that thy worth may last for years,
Slight be her Colds & few her Tears.

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