Letter from Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen, 29 January 1813Text by Joanna Trollope, Author
This letter was written by Jane Austen to her sister, Cassandra, in January 1813. The sisters were very close, best friends really, and Jane was at home with their mother in Chawton, while Cassandra was staying with their clergyman brother, James, across the county of Hampshire in their birthplace village of Steventon. They wrote to each other regularly whenever they were apart.
It is an extremely important letter because it describes the publication of Jane’s most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice. This was a huge achievement, not just because there were so few novelists at all in 1813, but also because it was almost unheard of to be a woman novelist. So this letter describes one of the most exciting days in Jane Austen’s whole life.
We know what the day meant to Jane because of the way she describes having the actual book – in three small leather bound volumes – in her hands.
“I want to tell you,” she writes to Cassandra, “that I have got my own darling Child from London”.
She describes Pride and Prejudice as if it were her baby, which in many ways it was. She died young, at 41, and never married. In fact, the only time she agreed to be engaged, to a young man called Harry Bigg- Wither, she wrote to him the morning after their engagement, to tell him that she couldn’t marry him after all.
In her heart of hearts, she must have known that her “children” would turn out be her books.