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A Halloween peek at Jane Austen’s letters

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Halloween is upon us!   To celebrate the holiday, we searched through Jane Austen’s letters looking for words such as “ghost,” “fright” and “dead” — and found plenty of humorous examples. Here’s a sampling:

July 3, 1813, to brother Frank

It must be real enjoyment to you, since you are obliged to leave England, to be where you are, seeing something of a new Country, & one that has been so distinguished as Sweden. – You must have great pleasure in it. …  Gustavus Vaza, & Charles 12th & Christiana, & Linneus – do their Ghosts rise up before you? – I have a great respect for former Sweden. 

Sept. 15, 1813, to sister Cassandra

Fanny and the two little girls are gone to take Places for to-night at Covent Garden; “Clandestine Marriage” and “Midas.” The latter will be a fine show for L. and M. [Lizzie and Marianne]. They revelled last night in “Don Juan,” whom we left in hell at half-past 11. We had scaramouch and a ghost, and were delighted. 

May 24, 1813, to Cassandra

I should like to see Miss Burdett very well, but that I am rather frightened by hearing that she wishes to be introduced to me. If I am a wild beast, I cannot help it. It is not my own fault.

Oct. 27, 1798, to Cassandra

Mrs. Hall of Sherborne was brought to bed yesterday of a dead child, some weeks before she expected, oweing to a fright. I suppose she happened unawares to look at her husband.

Jan. 8, 1801, to Cassandra

Mr. Payne has been dead long enough for Henry to be out of mourning for him before his last visit, though we knew nothing of it till about that time. Why he died, or of what complaint, or to what Noblemen he bequeathed his four daughters in marriage, we have not heard.

Sept. 8, 1816, to Cassandra

Sir Tho. Miller is dead. I treat you with a dead Baronet in almost every letter.


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