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Jane Austen's Letters [Hardcover]

by Deirdre Le Faye
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 1, 2011 0199576076 978-0199576074 4
Jane Austen's letters afford a unique insight into the daily life of the novelist: intimate and gossipy, observant and informative--they read much like the novels themselves. They bring alive her family and friends, her surroundings and contemporary events, all with a freshness unparalleled in modern biographies. Most important, we recognize the unmistakable voice of the author of such novels as Pride and Prejudice and Emma. We see the shift in her writing from witty and amusing descriptions of the social life of town and country, to a thoughtful and constructive tone while writing about the business of literary composition.

R.W. Chapman's ground-breaking edition of the collected letters first appeared in 1932, and a second edition followed twenty years later. A third edition, edited Deirdre Le Faye in 1997 added new material, re-ordered the letters into their correct chronological sequence, and provided discreet and full annotation to each letter, including its provenance, and information on the watermarks, postmarks, and other physical details of the manuscripts. This new fourth edition incorporates the findings of recent scholarship to further enrich our understanding of Austen and give us the fullest and most revealing view yet of her life and family. In addition, Le Faye has written a new preface, has amended and updated the biographical and topographical indexes, has introduced a new subject index, and had added the contents of the notes to the general index.

Teachers, students, and fans of Jane Austen, at all levels, will find in these letters remarkable insight into one of the most popular novelists ever.

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Jane Austen's Letters + A Memoir of Jane Austen: and Other Family Recollections (Oxford World's Classics)
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Editorial Reviews Review

Jane Austen famously labeled her literary ambit a "little bit (two inches wide) of ivory." Luckily, her personal travels and those of her family were slightly more extensive, otherwise we should be without her letters. Not only should every Janeite possess them, but also every connoisseur of correspondence. Austen's wit is ubiquitous--even though some protest it edges into waspishness. E. M. Forster, for example, described the letters between Austen and her beloved sister, Cassandra, as "the whinnying of harpies."

On September 18, 1796, she tells Cassandra, "What dreadful Hot weather we have!--It keeps one in a continual state of Inelegance.--If Miss Pearson should return with me, pray be careful not to expect too much Beauty..." The dashes and capitalization alone make one long for the days before stylistic rules had so cemented. As for the sentiments! Austen paces her monologues to perfection, making the comic and ironic most out of the smallest incidents. Still, her frustration does occasionally emerge. "I am forced to be abusive," she implodes to Cassandra, "for want of a subject, having nothing really to say." Jane Austen has more than enough to say for lovers of literature and the cultural pinprick. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"These are the letters of our greatest novelist. They give glances and hints at her life from the age of 20 to her death at 41, the years in which she wrote her six imperishable books."
--Claire Tomalin, Independent on Sunday

"For this volume Le Faye has expanded the annotations and updated the biographical and topographical indexes...It is largely thanks to Deirdre Le Faye's masterful editions that Jane Austen's correspondence can be read with ease. Le Faye's work combines a meticulous compilation of data about the physical attributes and provenance of the letters with annotations and indexes that allow us to read over Austen's shoulder as she shares everyday news and frank opinions with family and friends." --JASNA News

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 667 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 4 edition (December 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199576076
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199576074
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.4 x 2.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must For All Janeites! March 27, 2000
By Dianne
As a Jane Austen, Regency period and history fan I loved this book. Highly recommend it for fans of any of the above. We get to peep into Jane Austen's real life and real love for her family in the wonderful letters to her sister and her friends. We learn about the period's social mores, what they did for entertainment, the joys and losses of living in the late 1700's/early 1800's. The author carefully explains geographical names and the intricate web of family and friends in the back of the book. I read it with two bookmarks to keep track, but it's easy to read. A must to round out your Jane Austen library.
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64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute must for Austen fans February 18, 2001
Proving that Austen was as fun and readable in her everyday letters as she was in her novels. These letters (about 160 of them) are great fun to read. The biting wit of her novels is clearly evident here.
As pretty much most people know Jane Austen was incredibly close to her sister Cassandra and most of these letters are from Jane to Cassandra while they were separated. After Jane's death Cassandra destroyed goodness knows how many of Jane's letters and all of her own - so this small collection is all that is left - along with some to her neices and other family members.
The collection was first put together in the 1930's by Chapman, but Le Faye has uncovered a few more since then (as I understand it).
The book is great value for money. Le Faye has done a phenomemal job in providing all the support information you will need to read and understand any aspect of the letters. They are footnoted clearly. There is a biographical and Topographical index in here - along with a chronology of Jane's life, and a chronology of the letters themselves - and if all else fails there is a comprehensive index.
For the history buff there is a great amount of really useful everyday infomration - for instance in 1813 apples were scarce in the country and cost 1 pound 5 shillings a sack. And insight into Jane herself - in April 1811 she is searching for a novel called 'Self Control' but says "I am always afraid of finding a clever novel too clever." Perhaps something that guided her own writing.
Over 600 pages of great value reading, pure pleasure and wealth of information.
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for all fans May 8, 2002
This collection of Jane Austens letters is a must for all fans who would like a peek inside the mind of the author. It is the most extensive collection to date and Le Faye has done quite a lot to make it as accessible as possible. It features all of the surviving letters from Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra plus some letters to some of her brothers, a niece, etc. It also includes three letters from Cassandra to various relatives from the time immediately after Jane Austens death and so also shows Jane Austen from another persons perspective. The only drawback of this book is that all the notes are in the back, arranged by the number of each letter, and so you find yourself flipping back and forth quite a lot but it is an annoyance well worth putting up with.
I have read quite a few bibliographies on Jane Austen but there is no competing with her own words. If you have any kind of interest in Jane Austen as a person then you should definitely get this book.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Have for the English Regency reference shelf September 24, 2002
Primary sources are always the best in understanding the mindset of a period. Here we have a thick collection of Jane Austen's letters, which have been very well annotated by the editor. The contrast between the Memoirs of Harriette Wilson (who lived in the same period, published by the famous courtesan in 1825) are hilarious. Witty but staidly Anglican Jane at one point savagely attacks the very high aristocrats romping their scandalous way through Harriette's world, that "race of Pagets". Jane Austen's letters let us have a glimpses of what daily life in the English gentry and aristocratic class was like in Regency England; seeemingly trivial details such as the buying of Wedgwood china with the personal crest, buying the breakfast set separate to the other china sets (longing to see what a Regency breakfast set looked like! The breakfast set is mentioned in Sense and Sensibility) are actually very difficult to find out about, it is not something historians generally write about. The notes by the editor are fascinating and could lead to further research, for example how did one lord prove his title after being a Dublin potboy? And the gentleman who divorced his wife after the proper lady decided to become a professional actress...usually it was the other way around, the actress became a proper lady! The biographical details added by the editor on various gentry/aristocratic families mentioned in Jane Austen's letters are very tantalising.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Careful What You Order February 13, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I would like to mention that this page is quite misleading. This book is not at all the same as the one labeled "Jane Austen's Letters (Paperback)" for $19.79, which is what I thought I had ordered. In fact, that was the page that I had originally gone to when I added it to my cart so how I ended up with this is beyond me. When I removed this from the box I was baffled, as I clearly recalled a color cover and that it had been described as being over 600 pages.

This book has a cheap cover and poor binding, and is only 112 pages long. It includes only the bare bones of her correspondence; that is, her letters to others. Letters to her or explanations of what events were occurring at the time the letters were written are completely absent.

A word of warning: double check what ends up in your cart when ordering. I added the $19.79 "Jane Austen's Letters (Paperback)" to my cart from that page, but was charged for and received this cheap, flimsy little book. Looking at the pages for the books, it seems that the same reviews appear on both of them, and that they are considered one and the same. The "look inside" feature on the cheaper version even redirects you to a preview of the more expensive 600+ page version. Apparently these books are considered one and the same but let me assure you, they aren't!

I will now have to go back and buy the edition I thought I had ordered. However, I will be using Barnes and this time to ensure that I get what I order.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars A Worthless, misleading book
I ordered the book, believing it to be Deirdre Le Faye's famous compilation. What I got was a miserly coarsley printed booklet, with no commentary and footnotes. Read more
Published 1 month ago by YORAM COHEN
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, I wish there were so many more of JA's letters!
For a die hard JA fan this book is a great read. The letters themselves are mostly boring family news. But JA wrote them and this was her life. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Suzanne M Bjornson
5.0 out of 5 stars In her own words...
We can see where many of Jane Austen's heroines get their spunk by reading Ms. Austen's personal letters. Great for any fan or scholar of Ms. Austen's work.
Published 2 months ago by WWJAD
2.0 out of 5 stars A pretty poor production
This is a bit of a rip-off, frankly. It's a small selection of Austen's letters and that is clear once you hold this little book in your hand; but there's no indication in its... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Jill
5.0 out of 5 stars This review is for the hardcover 4th edition only!
There are some real problems with the paperback editions, and luckily I read about them before deciding to purchase the hardcover fourth edition of this book, which has all the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by NewDiane
5.0 out of 5 stars The hardcover is great but don't bother with the paperback version!
I got the hardcover version, edited by Deirdre Le Fay, out of the library and it's a wonderful and very complete version. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Maura D. Powerssmith
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!
I have come to love Jane Austens writing and saw this book listed
in the back of one of the many I've read about Jane Austen and I'm so glad I did!
It's really something!
Published 10 months ago by Cindie Snyder
3.0 out of 5 stars Better editions must be available.
Although Jane Austen's letters stand out by themselves as fascinating and tantalizing glimpses of a beloved sister, daughter and now-famous author, the Pavilion Press edition is a... Read more
Published 11 months ago by P. T. McConnell
1.0 out of 5 stars Misrepresentation on the Amazon site.
There is a misrepresentation by Amazon regarding this book. The description at the top of the page belongs to a different, and better, book. Read more
Published 14 months ago by LEONARD R. GEDDES
5.0 out of 5 stars good reference
This would be useful for research because it isn't just a letters compilation, but has a lot of footnotes to explain the content and an index of subjects. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Roberta Moore
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