Letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, 24 January 1813

Object name: Letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, 24 January 1813

Object number: CHWJA:JAHLTR4

Category: Letter

Description: Letter from Jane Austen at Chawton to Cassandra Austen at Steventon.  Letter 78 in The Letters of Jane Austen edited by Deirdre Le Faye, Oxford University Press, 4th edition, 2011.  The letter is headed ‘Chawton Sunday Eveng Jany 24’. Two leaves quarto, laid and watermarked ‘John Hayes 1809’.  Last leaf missing.

Made: 24th January 1813

Context: Jane covers a range of topics in this chatty letter including the weather, details of the book from the Alton Book Society she was reading (An Essay on the Military Police & Institutions of the British Empire by Capt. Paisley) which she ‘protested against at first but which upon trial I find delightfully written & highly entertaining’ and her assessment of a reputed budding romance between a Mr P and a Miss P.T.

Written just four days before the publication of Pride & Prejudice, references  made in this letter show that Jane was already well advanced in drafting her next novel, Mansfield Park.

She had been reading Sir John Carr’s Travels in Spain and discovered:

‘…that there is no Government House at Gibraltar.–I must alter it to Commissioner’s.’

She also writes of an evening spent at Chawton Rectory:

‘As soon as a Whist party was formed & a round table threatened, I made my Mother an excuse, & came away; leaving just as many for their round Table as there were at Mrs Grants.–I wish they might be as agreeable a set.’

These references, alluding to events in chapters 6 and 7 of Volume II of Mansfield Park, show that Jane was already at least halfway through writing the novel which would be finished in June 1813 and published in the spring of 1814.

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