"He knew her to be clever, to have a quick apprehension as well as good sense.”
-- Edmund's opinion of Fanny Price in Mansfield Park
In the previous posts, I've been discussing the way that Austen and other writers of the period described people's personalities and intelligence, as part of my discussion of the themes of Mansfield Park. The ability to learn quickly, what we might describe as "cleverness," was referred to as "apprehension."
"My father," explains the main character in Samuel Johnson's The History of Rasselas, "originally intended that I should have no other education than such as might qualify me for commerce; and discovering in me great strength of memory, and quickness of apprehension, often declared his hope that I should be some time the richest man in Abyssinia."
A biography of the poet Richard Savage says "His judgment was accurate, his apprehension quick, and his memory so tenacious, that he was frequently observed to know what he had learned from others, in a short time, better than those by whom he was informed."
In Constantia Neville, or the West Indian , Miss Neville avoids showing up her superior knowledge when she talks to Mrs. Rochford, aware of that other lady's "dullness of apprehension."