Precious Austen letters on displayNewly acquired Austen letters on display in our Autumn / Winter exhibitions: Jane Austen in London and Jane Austen in Love!
Our Autumn / Winter exhibitions, Jane Austen in London and Jane Austen in Love, feature two newly acquired Austen letters, on display for the first time. Both exhibitions will run until 5 March 2023 and are free with House entry!
Jane Austen in Love explores Jane’s relationship with Tom Lefroy, a handsome young Irishman, when they were both just twenty years old. Soon after her flirtation with Tom Lefroy, Jane began writing First Impressions (later published as Pride and Prejudice) and created the character of Mr Darcy – a template for flawed romantic heroes to this day.
The exhibition brings together for the first time the letter in which Jane told her sister Cassandra ‘I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy’ with Tom’s portrait by George Engleheart, which is on private loan from Judy and Brian Harden. It will also include costumes worn by Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy in the film Becoming Jane (2007)
Jane Austen in London centres around a letter written from Jane to Cassandra on 15-16 September 1813, from their brother Henry’s house in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden. It is a long, chatty letter in which she reveals the details of everyday life, from shopping trips and visits to the theatre, to a hair appointment and a painful trip to the dentist. Whilst Jane Austen lived in Hampshire for most of her life, she greatly enjoyed visiting London, where she revelled in the luxuries that a big city had to offer.
Letters 2 and 87, as they are known in Deirdre LeFaye’s Standard Edition of Jane Austen’s Letters, are jointly owned with The Bodleian Libraries and are part of the Blavatnik-Honresfield Library, a collection of manuscripts, letters and printed books collected from the late 19th Century by industrialists William and Alfred Law. The Library was saved for the nation following a successful campaign to prevent its sale and potential dispersal and purchased by the Friends of the National Libraries (FNL) who then donated every manuscript and printed book to writers’ houses and libraries across the UK.