Manuscript recollections of Jane Austen by Caroline Austen

Object name: Manuscript recollections of Jane Austen by Caroline Austen

Object number: CHWJA:JAH401

Category: Manuscript

Description: Manuscript recollections of Jane Austen by her niece, Caroline Mary Craven Austen (1805-1880), with a note on the manuscript’s provenance.

Made: 1867

Context: In late 1869, the first biography of Jane Austen – A Memoir of Jane Austen – was published.  Although the authorship was credited solely to Jane’s nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh, he had drawn heavily on the memories of his older half-sister Anna and his younger sister Caroline.

Caroline was the youngest of James Austen’s three children and was just 12 years old when her Aunt Jane died. She had however been a frequent visitor to the Austen women in Chawton and her childhood memories provide an endearing insight into the relationship of aunt and niece.

The visits ‘were very pleasant to me – and Aunt Jane was the great charm – As a very little girl, I was always creeping up to her and following her where I could, in the house and out of it […] She seemed to love you and you loved her naturally in return […] when cousins came to share the entertainment, she would tell us the most delightful stories chiefly of Fairyland, and her Fairies had all characters of their own – The tale was invented, I am sure, at the moment and was sometimes continued for 2 or 3 days […] Of the two [aunts}, Aunt Jane was by far my favourite – I did not dislike Aunt Cassandra – but if my visit had at any time chanced to fall out during her absence, I don’t think I should have missed her – whereas not to have found Aunt Jane at Chawton, would have been a blank indeed.’

Caroline wrote her memories down in this manuscript which is dated March 1867, parts of which were quoted almost verbatim in the Memoir.

It  was donated to the museum by her great-nephew, Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh, in 1949.

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