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Jane Austen's Letters Paperback – April 3, 1997
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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 the Mass Market Paperback edition.
`Deidre Le Faye's new edition is necessary and very welcome; no one was better qualified, no one could have done it so well.' Independent on Sunday
`We waited a long time for the new edition. It was well worth the wait.' Jane Austen Society of North America
`for those who are starting to get the novels confused with the films, here is a chance to enjoy their beloved Jane at her most direct ... a generous and comprehensive book' Max Davidson, The Daily Telegraph
`Most will enjoy reading Austen unbuttoned, in an unfussy and intelligently edited volume.' Sam Leith, The Observer
`Le Faye re-orders the letters chronologically and provides useful background information. She also includes previously unpublished material.' The Express
`Wiht little else to fill that ordinary life, Jane had plenty of time to write letters. They were witty, intimate and gossipy and brought alive her contemporaries and their surroundings. More than 160 are collected here, annotated and placed in chronological order.' Oxford Times
`it is possible to appreciate Le Faye's edition for what it offers to readers both casual and academic. Most importantly, this is a highly readable text. ... Carefully detailed notes, biographical and topographical indexes, and bibliographical information about primary and secondary sources all contribute to the reader's sense that Le Faye's professional thoroughness has indeed made accessible 'the daily business' of Austen's world.' RES New Series, vol.XLVIII, No.190, 1997
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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 Noble.com this time to ensure that I get what I order.
"Jane Austen's Letters" constitute one of the major sources of information on the life of Regency romance writer Jane Austen, along with her published novels and a handful of short memoirs written by members of her extended family. These letters, which survived destruction or editing by her family following her death, cover the period between December 1796, when Jane Austen was just twenty, and the summer of 1817, when she died at the age of 41. The majority are addressed to her beloved older sister Casssandra; others were intended for extended family, friends, and publishers.
Some general observations may be of interest for the prospective reader. First, the collection is difficult to appreciate without prior knowledge of Jane Austen's life and novels; Austen was writing to people who already knew her context. Second, the gaps in the available letters, which in places amount to months or years, minimize the continuity of their content. Third, those looking for direct insight into Austen's novels may be disappointed. There are relatively few direct references to the stories or their characters.
What these letters do provide is an intimate glimpse into Jane Austen herself as revealed by an ongoing dialogue of twenty years, primarily with her sister. The very first letter refers to her romance with Tom Le Froy over the winter of 1795-1796. Many of the letters capture her continuing interest in the affairs of her large family, including cousins, nieces and nephews. They document daily concerns with food, clothing, and shelter for a woman who knew genteel poverty for much of her adult life. Indeed, letters written after her novels began to be published suggest a subtle but new and unmistakable sense of financial freedom. Best of all, the letters capture the observant wit and charm of a woman who, if she accepted her place in the world, found much that was ironic or whimsical about it. In her letters, one easily finds echoes of some of her beloved characters such as Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, and Anne Elliot.
Of particular interest to Jane Austen fans may be her letters of 30 November 1814 and 21 February 1817 to her niece Fanny, which offer her sincere advice on the subject of marriage, and perhaps reveal Jane Austen's heart as well. Also of interest are three letters by Cassandra Austen in July 1817, which are heart-breaking accounts of her final days and death.
"Jane Austen's Letters" are very highly recommended to serious fans of Jane Austen as an intimate glimpse into the woman behind the novels, and to students of her life, as an irreplacable resource for scholarship.
Do not buy this shameful publication! Choose the one by Deirdre Le Faye. It is more expensive, but worth every penny.
Yoram Cohen, March 21, 2014
Most of Jane Austen's letters are to her sister Cassandra, but there are also letters to her brothers, friends, and towards the end, her nieces and nephews as well as publishers. The letters start off very conversationally with updates on family, friends, and acquaintances as well as minutia about dress and household cares. Towards the end there are many references to her novels and their publication, and Jane Austen's excitement over publication and popular success as a novelist is very evident. Jane Austen even gives advice on love and marriage to one of her nieces. I must confess, the last several letters before her death and Cassandra's letters afterwards were very sobering after hundreds of pages of almost pure delight.
As much as I enjoyed Deirdre Le Faye's edition of Jane Austen's Letters, I do realize it is not for everyone. Since there are so many family members and friends mentioned in the letters, it would help to have read biographical material about Jane Austen previous to reading her letters. Otherwise, the letters may be a bit confusing. I believe this edition is the most current and up-to-date compilation of her letters, and I would highly recommend it to serious Jane Austen fans already somewhat familiar with her life.