Letter from Cassandra Austen to Fanny Knight, 29 July 1817
Whilst none of Cassandra’s letters to Jane survive, we can piece together clues about their content from Jane’s letters to her. Cassandra was caring and attentive to her family, providing trusted support and advice, including occasionally on matters of fashion and interior decorating.
‘Frank & Mary cannot at all approve of your not being at home in time to help them in their finishing purchases’
Jane Austen to Cassandra, Sunday 8 February 1807
It would also seem that Cassandra’s letters were just as entertaining as Jane’s.
‘You must read your letters over five times in future before you send them, & then perhaps you may find them as entertaining as I do.─I laughed at several parts of the one which I am now answering.’
Jane Austen to Cassandra, Tuesday 8 January 1799
Throughout Jane’s life, she and Cassandra were best friends and allies. In a letter from 1813, Jane referred to the two of them as ‘the formidables’ – a sparkling nickname suggesting the brave front that they held towards the world, and their strength in being together.
Whilst Jane and Cassandra had 32 nephews and nieces by the time Jane died, Edward’s eldest daughter, Fanny Knight, seems to have been their favourite. Jane thoroughly enjoyed hearing all her young niece’s news and Fanny’s letters were full of excitement, emotion, and numerous exclamation marks.
‘My dearest Fanny, You are inimitable, irresistible. You are the delight of my Life. Such Letters, such entertaining Letters as you have lately sent!’
Jane Austen to Fanny Knight, Thursday 20 February 1817
In the letter below, written by Cassandra just a few weeks after Jane’s death, she mourns her sister, discusses the funeral and asks how Fanny would like a lock of Jane’s hair set.
Never was human being more sincerely mourned by those who attended her remains than was this dear creature. May the sorrow with which she is parted from on earth be a prognostic of the joy with which she is hailed in Heaven!
Cassandra Austen to Fanny Knight, Tuesday 29 July 1817
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