Say what? A dramatic reading of Jane Austen’s letters
As you read Jane Austen’s letters ahead of the virtual Jane Austen Summer Program in June, it may help to read them aloud. This week we have selected four letters from various points in Austen’s life to different recipients and read them aloud dramatically. We hope you enjoy!
The first letter was written to sister Cassandra in 1798 when Jane and her parents returned home to Steventon. Jane talks of her mother’s health, the rain, the activities of some neighbors and their servants, and more. This letter is a prime example of how Jane would frequently squeeze many little thoughts onto a page to conserve paper. When she speaks of James’ wife Mary being “uncommonly large,” this is a reference to her pregnancy. “Iddle Dordy” is their brother George.
This is a poem Jane wrote to her brother Francis marking the birth of his son. It was written as Jane, Cassandra, and their mother were getting settled into Chawton.
This is a draft of a letter intended for James Stanier Clarke, the royal librarian, and captures the wit and sarcasm for which Jane is well known. She may have tempered the tone for the actual letter, but we can enjoy the words she wanted to say.
Jane wrote this letter to her niece toward the end of her life. It stands out among her letters because she wrote it in code, which we have translated here for you.