Object name: Letter case
Object number: CHWJA:JAH49
Description: Carved walnut letter case, the front and back panels of rectangular form. The front is carved with strap work and foliate sprigs around the Austen coat of arms and the initials ‘J.A.’. The back is carved with lilies.
The boards are mounted on to card bound with leather which has been decoratively gilded. The case interior is of tooled green hide and incorporates a pocket big enough to keep folded papers or finished letters.
Made: Early nineteenth century
Context: This letter case was carved for Jane by her brother Frank, shortly before her death. It was used to keep letters and writing materials safe.
During the Regency era, writing and reading letters was an essential part of social life, and Jane was a prolific letter writer.
Frank Austen was a skilled craftsman and many people, including Frank himself, have suspected that he could have inspired the character of Captain Harville in Persuasion, who was also skilled with his hands and always busy:
‘He drew, he varnished, he carpentered, he glued; he made toys for the children; he fashioned new netting-needles and pins with improvements; and if everything else was done, sat down to his large fishing-net at one corner of the room.’
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