“My Dear Cassandra”

I have thought recently that I wanted to re-read Jane Austen’s letters — most to her sister Cassandra when they were apart, augmented by some to other relations and friends.  And as I didn’t get to it before the holidays, I decided to start in January and dole them out to read each of them on the date it was written.

I know that many sites out there offer Miss Austen’s letters, and many Janeites, Austen-based authors, scholars and fans have shared complete or fragments in the past.  But as I know I am not the only person who enjoys returning to them from time to time, I have decided to post them as I read them… again, on (or near) the dates they were written… throughout the year.

I hope you will join me in these chronicles of the daily lives and news of the Austen family — sometimes touching, often funny and exhibiting the wit we have come to love in her novels, occasionally laced with ‘gentle or playful malice’ (as R.W. Chapman called it when he introduced the letters in a 1932 publication).  I’d love to hear your thoughts on their content and style, so please do comment on anything that pops out at you, or moves you, or astonishes, or…

I will post each new letter under a sub-page to this one, organized by year –  Enjoy!  And I’ll leave you to it with a paragraph again from R. W. Chapman’s introduction:

The letters are, like most letters, occasional, unstudied, and inconsequent.  Their themes are accidental; their bulk, that of a quarto sheet.  As a series, though they have connexion, they have no coherence; they straggle over twenty years, and lack a plot.  Their details, therefore, unlike the details of Emma, are not the ingredients or the embellishments of a rounded composition.  If they can be called works of art, they are so only because, as their writer reminds us, ‘an artist cannot do anything slovenly.’  But as fragments — fragments of observation, or characterization, or criticism — they are in the same class as the material of the novels; and in some respects they have a winder range. … But with all their vividness, are these letters trifling? …  Life, wrote Johnson, ‘is made up of little things.’  Trifles are dear to all our hearts, if they are attached to the objects of our affection–whether persons or things. … The writer of these letters was never ashamed to be minute. ‘You know how interesting the purchase of a spongecake is to me.’ The question, for that posterity whom she did not here address, is not whether she wrote of trifles, but whether she makes the small change of her life important, amusing, and endearing to us her unlicensed readers;…

One Response to “My Dear Cassandra”

  1. Pingback: “Dear Cassandra” | QuinnTessence

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