Jane Austen to Cassandra Austen,29 January 1813
Letter written on the publication of Pride and Prejudice in which Jane refers the novel as “my own darling child”
Museum Number: CHWJA:JAHLTR.5
Jane Austen’s House Museum 2017 Ambassador and best-selling novelist. In 2014 Joanna wrote a contemporary re-working of Sense and Sensibility as part of The Austen Project, run by Harper Collins
This letter was written by Jane Austen to her sister, Cassandra, in January 1813. The sisters were very close, best friends really, and Jane was at home with their mother in Chawton, while Cassandra was staying with their clergyman brother, James, across the county of Hampshire in their birthplace village of Steventon. They wrote to each other regularly whenever they were apart.
It is an extremely important letter because it describes the publication of Jane’s most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice. This was a huge achievement, not just because there were so few novelists in 1813, but also because she was an unmarried woman. So this letter describes one of the most exciting days in Jane Austen’s whole life.
We know what the day meant to Jane because of the way she describes having the actual book – in three small leather bound volumes – in her hands. “I want to tell you,” she writes to Cassandra, “that I have got my own darling Child from London”.
She describes Pride and Prejudice as if it were her baby, which in many ways, it was. She died young, at 41, and never married. In fact, the only time she agreed to be engaged, to a young man called Harris Bigg-Wither, she wrote to him the morning after their engagement, to tell him that she couldn’t marry him after all.
In her heart of hearts, she must have known that her ‘children’ would turn out be her books.