"destroy all Jane Austen's letters"
Jane Austen, 1873
Public DomainJane Austen, 1873 - Credit: unknown

An edition of Jane Austen's letters, edited by the first Baron Brabourne (1829-1893), was published in 1884.  Brabourne was the son of Fanny Knight, Jane Austen’s eldest niece. He inherited the box of letters on Fanny’s death in 1882. It was labeled by Fanny as “Letters from Aunt Jane to Aunt Cassandra at different periods of her life - a few to me - and some from Aunt Cassandra to me after Jane's death."

Fanny Knight
Public DomainFanny Knight - Credit: Cassandra Austen

The letters were described by Brabourne as containing “the confidential outpourings of Jane Austen's soul to her beloved sister, interspersed with many family and personal details which, doubtless, she would have told to no other human being.”  He went on to state however that “today, more than seventy long years have rolled away since the greater part of them were written; no one now living can, I think, have any possible just cause of annoyance at their publication, whilst, if I judge rightly, the public never took a deeper or more lively interest in all that concerns Jane Austen than at the present moment.” There were 94 letters, dated from 1796 to 1816, the last 20 year’s of Jane’s life.

Other letters from Jane have also been preserved, to her favorite nephew James-Edward Austen, to younger nieces, and to her sailor brother Frank, away at sea for long periods.  The latest edition of Jane Austen’s letters was published in 1997.

Jane Austen on Book Drum