You are inimitable, irresistible. You are the delight of my life. Such letters, such entertaining letters, as you have lately sent! such a description of your queer little heart! such a lovely display of what imagination does. You are worth your weight in gold, or even in the new silver coinage.
Jane Austen to Fanny Knight
February 20, 1816
Jane Austen was seventeen in 1793 when her niece, Fanny Cahterine Knight, was born. The oldest child of Jane’s brother, Edward Austen (later Knight), Jane adored Fanny and thought of her as “almost another sister … [I] could not have supposed that a niece would ever have been so much to me. She is quite after one’s own heart….”
Edward (1767-1852) was was adopted in the early 1780’s by rich childless cousins of the Austens, Thomas and Catherine Knight. He was sent by them on the “grand tour” of continental Europe in 1786-1788, and eventually inherited their estate of Godmersham, Kent, and took the last name of “Knight”. In 1791, he married Elizabeth Bridges. Two years later the couple welcomed their first child, Fanny. Unfortunately for the happy couple, Elizabeth died when Fanny was not yet sixteen (shortly after her 11th confinement). Fanny’s aunts, Cassandra and Jane, who had once been occasional visitors, now took on a much more involved and motherly role in the lives of their