Article: Jane Austen's Treasures
Jane Austen's Treasures
For my first post on this blog, I thought I would write about my favourite Jane Austen treasures – objects that we have from her life which are symbolic of her and her writing.
Jane Austen's Jewellery
One of them surely has to be the beautiful topaz crosses, which were given to Jane and her sister Cassandra by their sailor brother Charles and bought with the prize money he earned in his naval career. They are exquisite pieces, delicately fashioned and have such gorgeous depth of colour to them, even now 200 years after Jane’s death.
Another treasure which I find particularly striking is her turquoise ring. There was some controversy surrounding the ring when the US singer Kelly Clarkson purchased it at auction in 2012. However, it was very quickly prevented from leaving the UK after a successful campaign to keep it here. From what I’ve read, the ring was probably an heirloom which Jane inherited and after her death passed to Cassandra.
Jane Austen and her sister, Cassandra
Then there’s the patchwork quilt which Jane, her sister Cassandra and their mother made together in the early part of the nineteenth century. It is proudly on display at Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, which I have visited on a number of occasions. It is simple, yet stunning and demonstrates the real skill which Jane and her female relatives had with sewing.
Another Austen treasure are her letters. Thankfully, although Jane’s sister Cassandra destroyed most of them, around 160 letters of Jane’s survived. These are truly precious items, personal letters written to Cassandra and give an insight into Jane’s daily life, her likes and dislikes, her opinion of others and much more. It is possible to view some of her letters, as they’re on display in various places, including at Jane Austen’s House. Even though relatively few of her letters survive, it is wonderful to be able to see Jane’s actual handwriting. It almost brings you closer to her, something tangible of hers that you can see with your own eyes.
Jane's Writing Equipment
If you visit the British Library, you can see Jane’s portable writing desk, which is kept there. Unfortunately, when I visited the British Library some years ago, I couldn’t see it as it had gone to China temporarily for an exhibition there! However, it is a truly special item, almost like a Regency laptop as it folds out and has a drawer to keep writing implements inside. It is quite an ingenious item and was one of Jane’s most treasured possessions. Her father, the Reverend George Austen, bought it for her as a birthday present in 1794. She nearly lost it once when travelling in 1798, but thankfully it was returned to her after only a brief absence.
Finally, there is her tiny writing table, kept at Jane Austen’s House Museum where she would have sat, in the front parlour overlooking the road outside. It is a small, modest- looking table and yet from it were created 6 masterpieces of literature – 6 novels that I and countless people over the years have loved and enjoyed. It is incredible to be able to see it intact more than 200 years after Jane’s death. You can imagine Jane sitting at the table, working away on her novels and as an author myself who likes a bit of space when writing, I have a sense of amazement that she managed to write so much sitting at such a tiny table.
So those are the treasures of Jane Austen that stand out to me the most. There are more that I could mention, but I will end by saying that I am grateful these precious items have survived. They all help us to learn more about the life of our favourite author and how she came to be so immensely talented.
Elaine Jeremiah lives in the South West of England with her husband, but she was privileged enough to grow up in Jane Austen country, in Hampshire. She has always loved writing, but it’s only been in recent years that she’s been able to devote more time to it. She decided to self-publish with the help of her wonderful husband who’s very tech-savvy! In 2013 she self-published her first novel, but it was only with her fourth, her novel ‘Love Without Time’, that she felt she finally found her niche: Jane Austen fanfiction!
She’s always loved Jane Austen’s writing and the Regency era, so this felt like a natural thing for her to do. ‘Elizabeth and Darcy: Beginning Again’ is the first ‘Pride and Prejudice’ variation she’s written. You can connect with Elaine online on these platforms: X: @ElaineJeremiah, Instagram: @elainejeremiahauthor
Her website is here: https://elainejeremiah.co.uk/