When a private collector from the US bought a book of historical autographs in 2017, they probably did not expect to uncover a lost extract from one of Jane Austen's letters. The collector bid on the book to own autographs by prominent historical figures, including George Washington and Queen Victoria, yet they serendipitously also gained something from our favourite author.
Although the actual text of the extract was already known, published by Edward, Lord Brabourne in 1884, the letter itself had been missing for years and suspected lost. It was thought that the letter was unlikely to be recovered because as Jane's popularity grew in the nineteenth century, Lord Brabourne sold many off many of her writings and notes. He did so as the desire to possess some of Jane's hand written work keenly grew and is part of the reason why her letters today are found in parts, rather than whole.
The uncovered letter scrap comes from a letter Jane wrote in September 1813 to Cassandra, detailing her advice to Henry's housekeeper. It concludes the letter, although the autograph is missing and was likely sold separately when in the possession of Lord Brabourne. The scrap contains six lines and allows us another opportunity to admire Jane's handwriting.
By the time you get this, I hope George & his party will have finished their Journey. God bless you all. I have given Mde. B. my Inventory of the linen, & added 2 round towels to it by her desire. She has shewn me all her storeplaces, & will shew you & tell you all the same. Perhaps I may write again by Henry.
Although it does not offer any insight into Jane's literary plans or details of her personal life, it is certainly reassuring to know some of her writings and notes are still resurfacing in the twenty first century. We thought it was a charming story to illustrate how one day, her letters might be reunited and restored to their full glory.
If you would like to read Jane's published letters for yourself, you can find a delightful illustrated edition on our website, The Illustrated Letters of Jane Austen. We highly recommend giving them a read. After all, what better way is there see in the New Year than with friends, a good brew and some Jane?