Jane Austen's Letters to Her Sister Cassandra and Others

Jane Austen's Letters to Her Sister Cassandra and Others

Jane Austen's Letters to Her Sister Cassandra and Others

Jane Austen's Letters to Her Sister Cassandra and Others

Excerpt

Jane Austen's letters have had some detractors and some apologists. They have received little whole-hearted praise even from the 'idolators' of the novels. It has been assumed that they have little interest except for the few brief rays with which they illumine the history of the novels, and would be hardly readable if their author were not otherwise famous. A familiar complaint is that they have nothing to say about the great events that were shaking Europe -- a kind of negative criticism seldom elsewhere applied to family correspondence. A familiar defence is that the letters have been robbed of their general interest by Cassandra Austen's pious destruction of all that she supposed might possibly excite general curiosity. We know from their niece Caroline that 'her letters to Aunt Cassandra were, I daresay, open and confidential. My Aunt looked them over and burnt the greater part as she told me three or four years before her own death. She left or gave some as legacies to the nieces, but of those that I have seen several had portions cut out.'

Doubtless this suppression has cost us much that we should value. But we may suspect that it has not materially affected the impression we should have received from a richer survival. The sisters were, for the greater part of their joint lives, together, and in conditions of the closest intimacy. They were from time to time separated by long visits, and then corresponded regularly. But the purpose of their letters . . .

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