Letter from Jane Austen to Anna Lefroy, 29 November 1814Text by Sophie Reynolds, Collections and Interpretation Manager at Jane Austen's House
On Tuesday 29 November 1814, Jane Austen wrote to her niece Anna Lefroy from her brother’s home in Chelsea, where she was staying. Anna had recently married Ben Lefroy and moved with him to Hendon, where Jane had visited her. This letter, written in the wake of the visit, is full of family gossip and news about Jane’s busy stay in London, where she was staying to discuss a second edition of Mansfield Park with her publisher Thomas Egerton.
Anna Lefroy is believed to have kept the letter intact until her death in 1872, but at some point around that time it was dismembered into five pieces. Of these, two pieces are now lost, one is in the British Library and one is in private hands. The page owned by the Museum is the principal portion of the letter, consisting of the first 40 lines.
The letter (known as Letter 112, a reference taken from Deirdre Le Faye’s edition of Jane Austen’s Letters), mentions the Austens’ Chawton home (now the Museum) in the line ‘your Uncle Henry takes us both to Chawton’, and goes on to comment on family connections, remarking ‘I like first Cousins to be first Cousins, & interested about each other. They are but one remove from Br. & Sr.’ It is hard to read this line without thinking of Fanny and Edmund in Mansfield Park…
This page of the letter concludes with a description of Jane’s trip to the theatre at Covent Garden. She saw David Garrick’s tragedy Isabella; or the Fatal Marriage, starring Eliza O’Neill and Charles Mayne Young, and wasn’t overly impressed with it, writing:
‘We were at all the Play last night, to see Miss O’Neill in Isabella. I do not think she was quite equal to my expectation. I fancy I want something more than can be. Acting seldom satisfies me. I took two Pocket handkerchiefs, but had very little occasion for either.’