In 1807 genteel, Bermuda-born Fanny Palmer (1789–1814) married Jane Austen's youngest brother, Captain Charles Austen, and was thrust into a demanding life within the world of the British navy. Experiencing adventure and adversity in wartime conditions both at sea and onshore, the spirited and resilient Fanny travelled between Bermuda, Nova Scotia, and England. For just over a year, her home was in the city of Halifax. After crossing the Atlantic in 1811, she ingeniously made a home for Charles and their daughters aboard a working naval vessel and developed a supportive friendship with his sister, Jane. In Jane Austen's Transatlantic Sister Fanny's articulate and informative letters — transcribed in full for the first time and situated in their meticulously researched historical context — disclose her quest for personal identity and autonomy, her maturation as a wife and mother, and the domestic, cultural, and social milieu she inhabited. Sheila Johnson Kindred also investigates how Fanny was a source of naval knowledge for Jane, and how she was an inspiration for Austen's literary invention, especially for the female naval characters in Persuasion. Although she died young, Fanny's story is a compelling record of female naval life that contributes significantly to our limited knowledge of women's roles in the Napoleonic Wars. Enhanced by rarely seen illustrations, Fanny's life story is a rich new source for Jane Austen scholars and fans of her fiction, as well as for those interested in biography, women's letters, and history of the family.
Sheila Johnson Kindred taught in the Department of Philosophy at Saint Mary's University. She writes about Jane Austen's fiction and family, and lives in Halifax.
"A firm grasp of a woman's life writing is the foundation for Sheila Johnson Kindred's biography of Jane Austen's Transatlantic Sister. Like all good biographical studies, it touches upon many topics and offers various delights. I particularly enjoyed following young Fanny's evolution as a wife and mother, learning more about the lives of her distinguished extended families, and viewing the black-and-white illustrations that accompany the text." Margaret Conrad, Atlantic Books Today
"This affectionate and enlightening portrait of the young woman who married Jane Austen's youngest brother is sure to find an enthusiastic readership in North America. Sheila Johnson Kindred's intimate and sensitive biography traces the relationship through Fanny's "wonderfully evocative" letters — here transcribed in full for the first time. Alas, [Fanny] did not survive the birth of her third child. This fascinating and beautifully illustrated book is her fitting epitaph." Jane Austen's Regency World
"Sheila Kindred's vivid and detailed portrayal, based on solid evidence, really brought home to me the lives and living conditions of the people concerned." Maggie Lane, author of Getting Older with Jane Austen and On the Sofa with Jane Austen
"The way in which Jane Austen's observations on Charles and Fanny's relationship and family affairs are explored and extended makes compelling reading. The close relationship between the two women is discussed persuasively. Other gems include a fascinating, detailed analysis of Fanny's pocket book entries and Charles' enduring grief on his wife's death, recorded in personal diaries." Newsletter, The Jane Austen Society of the United Kingdom
"Those of us who are fascinated by every aspect of Jane Austen's experience, and how it feeds into her imagination and understanding of the world, must feel grateful to Sheila Kindred for writing Jane Austen's Transatlantic Sister, a topic no-one had thought of researching in such depth before. Poor Fanny, what a cruel fate was hers. The difficulties of her situation, and the growing strength of her character as she contended with them, make for a gripping narrative. The saving grace of course was that, for the pitifully few years of her adulthood, Fanny was married to such a loveable man. Everything we know about Charles suggests he had the sweetest nature of all Jane Austen's brothers, and it is good to make this deeper acquaintance with him. But Fanny Palmer herself is the heroine of her story, as we witness her maturing as woman, wife and mother. Sheila Kindred's vivid and detailed portrayal, based on solid evidence, really brought home to me the lives and living conditions of the people concerned." Maggie Lane, author of Getting Older with Jane Austen and On the Sofa with Jane Austen
"With an abundance of illustrations, appendixes, extensive notes, and bibliography, this is a fascinating glimpse into the life of a 19th-century naval wife. Fans of Jane Austen are likely to find some interest in the family relationships and the probable model Fanny provided for her fiction." Library Journal