• Jennifer Abella

What Jane Austen has to say about music


It’s clear that Jane Austen was a music lover. Want proof? The Austen family’s collection of sheet music — featuring more than 600 songs — has been digitized and is available online. Many of them date to her lifetime. She also wrote about music in her letters to family and friends. Here are some snippets.


To Cassandra Austen (Jan. 8-9, 1799)

Elizabeth is very cruel about my writing Music; — & as a punishment for her, I should insist upon always writing out all hers for her in future, if I were not punishing myself at the same time. 


To Cassandra Austen (Dec. 28, 1808)

Yes, yes, we will have a Pianoforte, as good a one as can be got for 30 Guineas — & I will practise country dances, that we may have some amusement for our nephews & neices [sic], when we have the pleasure of their company.


To Cassandra Austen (April 25, 1811)

The Music was extremely good. It opened (tell Fanny) with “Prike pe Parp pin priase of Prapela [Fanny and Jane had a nonsense language, putting a P in front of each word.] –& of the other Glees I remember, “In peace Love tunes,” Rosabelle,” “The red cros Knight,” & “Poor Insect.” Between the Songs were Lessons on the Harp, or Harp & Piano Forte together –& the Harp Player was Wiepart, whose name seems famous, tho’ new to me.


To Caroline Austen (Oct. 30, 1815)

You will practise your Music of course, & I trust to you for taking care of my Instrument & not letting it be ill used in any respect. — Do not allow anything to be put on it, but what is very light. — I hope you will try to make out some other tune besides the Hermit.


To Caroline Austen  (Jan. 23, 1817)

The Piano Forte often talks of you; –in various keys, tunes & expressions I allow–but be it Lesson or Country dance, Sonata or Waltz, You are really it’s constant Theme.

Source: “Jane Austen’s Letters” by Deirdre Le Faye




Winner of the North Carolina Humanities Council’s Joel Gradin Award for Excellence in Public Humanities

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