Jane Austen's Letters

Jane Austen's Letters

Jane Austen's Letters

Jane Austen's Letters

Synopsis

Jane Austen's letters afford a unique insight into the daily life of the novelist: intimate and gossipy, observant and informative, they bring alive her family and friends, her surroundings and contemporary events with a freshness unparalleled in modern biographies. R W Chapman's ground-breaking edition of the Letters first appeared in 1932, and a second edition followed twenty years later. For this third edition Le Faye has added new material that has come to light since 1952, and reordered the letters into their correct chronological sequence. She has provided new biographical, topographical and general indexes, discreet annotation, and information on watermarks, postmarks and other physical details of the manuscripts. The edition has also been redesigned for ease of reading and reference.

Excerpt

More than sixty years have now passed since D. Chapman wrote the preceding introduction to his collection of Jane Austen's letters, and in the course of these decades their interest for posterity has become well proven. Literary critics hunt through them for the most minute details of her opinions, actions, family, and friends, as source-material for biographies and for studies on the composition of the novels; social historians immediately turn to them to find Jane's precise and accurate information on contemporary manners, style, and cost of living; and local historians pick out specific references to the places where she lived or visited in order to cast some reflected glory upon their particular territories. In 1952 D. Chapman produced a second edition augmented by five letters, but since then still more fragments of letters have appeared in the salerooms, and other family manuscripts have become available to researchers; no apology, therefore, is now necessary for the production of a completely new edition which incorporates the results of the latest scholarship. Some explanation of the changes made in this new volume will, however, be useful to the reader.

Continuing research has enabled dates to be found for several letters which D. Chapman was obliged to leave undated, and this information, coupled with the insertion in correct chronological order of those five letters which were late entries into his second edition, together with the inclusion of new material discovered post-1952, means that quite a number of the letters have changed places in the text and their numeration has had to be changed accordingly. A concordance with the second edition is therefore given in the List of Letters preceding the main body of the work.

It will also be seen that the numeration of the letters is in some cases followed by (A), (C), (D), or (S). The addition of (A) signifies that the letter itself was not composed by Jane Austen, but was either copied out by her or else was one to which she replied; (c) is one of JA's own letters, but where the original manuscript is now missing and the text is known only from a copy or copies made by some other member of the Austen family in later years; (D) is a draft preserved by JA for her own reference, the fair copy of which may or may not also survive; (s) is a section cut from one of her letters at a later date, the provenance . . .

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