Rare Jane Austen Letter To Her Sister Will Be Auctioned This Month
A rare letter from Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra will be put up for auction next month. Letters from Austen to her family are not commonplace because Cassandra and the author’s other family members destroyed most of them in the 1840s. Despite there being about 3,000 letters by Austen, only about 161 survive today.
The letter is dated 16 September 1813, which means it would have been written shortly after the publication of Pride and Prejudice. It outlines a variety of the novelist’s day-to-day occurrences and thoughts, including a trip to the dentist and how she felt about current fashion.
Austen opens with a report on her mother's health and continues to offer a full description of her nieces’ trip to the dentist, “The poor Girls & their Teeth!” she writes, “Lizzy’s were filed & lamented over again & poor Marianne had two taken out after all... we heard each of the two sharp hasty screams.” The dentist, she adds, “must be a Lover of Teeth & Money & Mischief.”
The novelist also fills her sister in on an of-the-moment fashion accessory. “My cap is come home, and I like it very much,” she writes. “Fanny has one also; hers is white sarsenet and lace, of a different shape from mine, more fit for morning carriage wear, which is what it is intended for, and is in shape exceedingly like our own satin and lace of last winter; shaped around the face exactly like it, with pipes and more fullness, and a round crown inserted behind. My cap has a peak in front. Large full bows of very narrow ribbon (old twopenny) are the thing. One over the right temple, perhaps, and another at the left ear.”
Bonhams, which will auction the letter on October 23, believes the letter will be sold for anywhere between USD$80,000 to $120,000. “Because of specific domestic details within it, it would have by far the greatest resonance inside the collection held by Jane Austen’s House Museum in the cottage where Austen lived and wrote,” Austen scholar Kathryn Sutherland told The Guardian.