On 18 July 1817 — 197 years ago — Jane Austen died in Winchester, with her sister Cassandra at her side providing what care and comfort she could. JA was only 41.
Two days later, 20 July 1817, Cassandra penned this letter to her niece, Fanny Knight, reporting on her sister’s last hours. Its poignancy, faith and selflessness given the magnitude of Cassandra’s loss is inspiring.
Though I generally have been posting letters on the date they were written, I am posting this one early, as perhaps being of interest to contemplate as we honour Jane Austen’s memory on the anniversary of her passing. The sense of personal loss her family and friends experienced has been augmented over nearly two hundred years by so many who admired her wit, talent and novels, and who regret as well a ‘loss’ of the books she might have written had she survived into old age. (I am also posting early as, from 17-21 July, I will be in Louisville, Kentucky without benefit of my computer — but since I will be attending the Jane Austen Festival weekend there, I will be raising a glass with myriad like-minded people, in tribute to a favorite author!)
20th July 1817 – from Cassandra Austen to Fanny Knight