Printed Texts:

Austen, Jane. JANE AUSTEN’S LETTERS, ed. Deirdre Le Faye (1995). Building on earlier editions, Deirdre Le Faye has worked tenaciously to uncover any and all letters authored by Austen. Before her death, Cassandra Austen burned many, maybe even most, of her sister’s letters; she would not have approved such a book! The letters that survived the bonfire were given to various nieces and nephews. The third edition of the LETTERS is the standard source of reference for Austen articles published by JASNA. Extensive bibliography; useful explanatory notes to the individual letters; handy appendices, which explain the persons and places associated with Austen.

Austen-Leigh, R.A., ed. THE AUSTEN PAPERS, 1704-1856 (1942; reprinted 1995). While Jane’s letters are collected in the above book, readers in search of what her niece or mother or sister might have written during the same period will need to consult this text. Published but not widely circulated, this book can be difficult to find outside of expensive editions or academic libraries, but it is well worth the effort.

This book is sometimes found under the collective title ‘Jane Austen: Family History’. This five-volume reprint (Routledge/Thoemmes Press; 1995) features: Pedigree of Austen/Austen Papers (vol. 1); Jane Austen – Her Home and Her Friends, by Constance Hill (vol. 2); Chawton Manor and Its Owners (vol. 3); Jane Austen and Steventon/Austen Austen and Bath, both by Emma Austen-Leigh with Jane Austen and Lyme/Jane Austen and Southampton, by R.A. Austen-Leigh (vol. 4); and Grand Larceny/Recollections of the Early Days of the Vine Hunt (vol. 5).

Brabourne, Lord, ed. LETTERS OF JANE AUSTEN (1884). vol. I; vol. IIAn early source of Jane’s letters, but only those which were then in the possession of the editor (a son of Fanny Knight). “On my mother’s death, in December 1882, all her papers came into my possesion, and I not only found the original copy of ‘Lady Susan’ – in Jane Austen’s own handwriting – … but a square box full of letters, fastened up carefully in separate packets, each of which was endorsed ‘For Lady Knatchbull’ in the handwriting of my great-aunt, Cassandra Austen…” These letters had not been made available to James Edward Austen-Leigh, for the MEMOIR.

Chapman, R.W., ed. JANE AUSTEN’S LETTERS TO HER SISTER CASSANDRA AND OTHERS (1932). A later incarnation of Austen’s letters than Brabourne’s, and edited by one of the best of the early scholars who looked at Austen’s life and works. For the first time, one volume contained the letters in the possession of the Austen, Austen-Leigh, and Brabourne families. Chapman also included passages excised by earlier editors.

Chapman, R.W., ed. JANE AUSTEN SELECTED LETTERS 1796-1817, with an introduction by Marilyn Butler.  Oxford University Press, 1985.   Same as the above with with a new introduction by Butler.

THE ILLUSTRATED LETTERS OF JANE AUSTEN, selected and introduced by Penelope Hughes-Hallett.  Clarkson- Potter, 1990. A selection of the letters beautifully illustrated with period paintings and engravings from Regency England.  [This was formerly published in hardcover with the title “My Dear Cassandra: The Letters of jane Austen” ] 

This is a nice introduction to the letters…

Modert, Jo, ed.  JANE AUSTEN’S MANUSCRIPT LETTERS IN FACSIMILE: REPRODUCTIONS OF EVERY KNOWN EXTANT LETTER, FRAGMENT, AND AUTOGRAPH COPY WITH AN ANNOTATED LIST OF ALL KNOWN LETTERS.  Southern Illinois University Press, 1990.  Provides an annotated list of all known letters; an informative introduction by Modert on the British postal system, the mechanics of Austen’s letter-writing, and the early compilations.  Modert is able to make a number of corrections to Chapman’s edition, considered for years to be the definitive collection, and she states “the facsimiles collected here will provide surprises one does not encounter when reading the printed text, and I am leaving most of them for you to discover for yourself…”


The Brabourne Edition, online at the Republic of Pemberely

The Letters edited by R.W. Chapman, the digital version at the University of Virginia, 1952..

The Selected letters (Oxford edition)  online at Google

A Jane Austen Letter, with other “Janeana’ by M.A. DeWolfe Howe, at Mollands.

Articles and links about Austen’s letters:

Persuasions vol. 27, 2005.  The Milwaukee AGM “Jane Austen’s letters in Fact and Fiction.”

A Subject Guide to the Le Faye Edition of Jane Austen’s Lettersby Del Cain, online at Mollands, and an excellent resource.

“I was too proud to make any inquiries”:  Jane Austen’s Eleventh Letter  at The Loiterer

An Unfinished Novel in Letters, by Jane Austen, at Great Literature online…what is this???

Austen’s use of the singular “their” in her letters at Henry Churchyard’s Linguistics Page.

A new letter found?  (posted on austenblog )

Links about Letters and Letter-writing (in process):

Ms. Place at her Jane Austen’s World Blog points to a great website on letters and letter-writing:  Letters, Letter-writing and Other Intimate Discourse by Wendy Russ.  [And see also Ms. Place’s post on letter writing in JA’s time.]

This is not a link, but a book recommendation: for an explanation of the entire process of paper-making in the late 18th century, see Alan Tyson’s 1987 book Mozart: Studies of the Autograph Scores. Tyson’s main aim here was to date several of Mozart’s undated scores by analyzing his handwriting (which changed over the years), the staves (hand-done, or pre-done; number of staves, and their spacing), and – of course – the watermarks, sheet sizes and producing-companies of the manufactured papers. The beginning of the book covers how paper was made. Fascinating study.

2 thoughts on “Letters

  1. Pingback: A Journey through Jane Austen’s Letters « Jane Austen in Vermont

  2. Pingback: Jane Austen’s ‘own darling Child’ « Jane Austen in Vermont

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