Letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, 20 May 1813

Object name: Letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, 20 May 1813

Object number: CHWJA:JAHLTR8

Category: Letter

Description: Letter from Jane Austen in Sloane Street, London to Cassandra Austen at Chawton. Letter 84 in The Letters of Jane Austen edited by Deirdre Le Faye, Oxford University Press, 4th edition, 2011. The letter is headed ‘From Sloane St  May 1813’. Two leaves quarto, laid. Watermark device above monogram HW, no date. Black wafer impressed with wafer seal.

Made: 20 May 1813

Context: This letter was written whilst Jane was staying with her recently widowed brother Henry at his home in Sloane Street. Henry’s wife (and first cousin) Eliza de Feullide had died on 25th April with Jane at her side. Jane returned to Chawton on 1st May but Henry, needing help to settle Eliza’s affairs, collected her from Chawton on 19th May to take her back to London.

The letter is full of details of the 12 hour journey which was ‘very thoroughly enjoyed’ by Jane.  It  included a two hour stop at Guildford for breakfast and some shopping, during which she bought a pair of gloves for four shillings and an afternoon stop in Esher where they had a dinner of veal cutlets and cold ham at 3pm, finally arriving in Sloane Street around 6.30pm.

Henry at this time is planning to move from Sloane Street to live over his bank in Henrietta Street and Jane reports that she had chatted over breakfast with his housekeeper, Mrs Perigord, about the move. Later in the day she called on a Sloane Street neighbour, Mrs Hoblyn, and also visited Charlotte Craven, a cousin of her friend Martha Lloyd, who was at boarding school nearby. Of her visit to Charlotte she wrote:

‘She looks very well & her hair is done up with an elegance to do credit to any Education….I was shewn upstairs into a Drawg room, where she came to me, & the appearance of the room, so totally un-school-like, amused me very much.  It was full of all the modern Elegancies – & if it had not been for some naked Cupids over the Mantlepiece, which must be a fine study for Girls, one should never have Smelt instruction.’

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