Letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, 2 March 1814

Object name: Letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, 2 March (1814)?

Object number: CHWJA:JAHLTR.9

Category: Letters

Description: Letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, dated Wednesday 2 March. Written from Henrietta St to Chawton.

Made: 1814

Context: It was Jane’s practice to travel up to London with the manuscript of her latest novel, staying there during typesetting and proofing.  This letter to Cassandra, written from their brother Henry’s address of 10 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, discusses her third novel, Mansfield Park, which was finally published on 9 May 1814. It also comments on Henry’s reading of the manuscript, casting a fascinating light on Jane’s complex investment in this serious and moralizing work, so different in tone from Pride and Prejudice. Especially interesting is the observation that Henry ‘understands’ the characters and ‘likes Fanny’. Fanny Price is a new kind of heroine: one who has more inner than outer life, and who appears in consequence modern.

To the twenty-first century reader, two months may seem an unusually compressed time-frame in which to turn manuscript into print, but in the 1810s it would not have been difficult to get a three-volume novel ready for publication within such a tight schedule.  In the intervals between correcting proofs, there was time for shopping and trips to the theatre. Jane Austen relished her visits to London.

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