The Austen family enjoyed word games. This particular game involved creating a verse based on a preset list of rhyming words (in this case: verse, sorow hearse, purse and tomorrow). It was very popular in France during the mid 1700’s, also known as the Age of Wit. These particular verses were written by Jane’s mother, Cassandra Austen and George Knight (Jane’s nephew) at Chawton in 1820. Try your hand at playing this game with a group of friends with your own list of words.
Why d’you ask me to scribble in verse
When my heart’s full of trouble and sorrow?
The cause I will briefly rehearse,
I’m in debt, with a sad empty purse,
And the bailiffs will seize me tomorrow.
I’ve said it in prose, and I’ll say it in verse,
That riches bring comfort and poverty sorrow,
That it’s better to ride in a coach than a hearse,
That it’s better to fill than to empty your purse,
And to feast well to-day than to fast till to-morrow.
To mutton I am not averse,
But veal I eat with sorrow,
So from my cradle to my hearse
For calves I’d never draw my purse
For lambs I would to-morrow.
I hate your French tragedies written in verse,
They fill me with laughter, not sorrow;
What Racine has written, let Talma rehearse,
The notions I’ve formed he would never disperse,
Though he laboured from now till to-morrow.