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My Dear Cassandra

Jane Austen's Letters to her Sister

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Title: My Dear Cassandra - Letters to her Sister. Selected and introduced by Penelophy Hughes-Hallett

Author: Jane Austen, Penelophy Hughes-Hallett

First published 1990 in London by Collins & Brown, this special edition for Past Times published 1991.

ISBN: 185585015X, 1855850044, 0517583127, 0517888335, 9780517583128

160 pages, lavish color illustrations throughout.

Also available in Swedish translation as 'Jane Austens liv i brev och bilder / urval och kommentar'
Translated by Lena Torndahl
ISBN: 9137105337

< cover and two of the pages

Excerpt (Introduction):

On 9 January 1796 Jane Austen took up her pen to write to her elder sister Cassandra. Her twenty-year-old voice, young, confident, laughing, effortlessly crosses the distance of time lying between then and now. She expected her sister would like to know more about her flirt of the moment, and the present-day reader, already under her spell, would too. He 'has but one fault, which time will, I trust, entirely remove - it is that his morning coat is a great deal too light.' She was absolute master of the throwaway line, and the wicked delight she took in teasing her sister is infectious.

In 1817, on her deathbed, the but then middle-aged voice has modulated into a serene maturity, informed with endearing modesty and love. To her nephew Edward she wrote, 'If ever you are ill, may you be as tenderly nursed as I have been, may the same blessed alleviations of anxious, sympathizing friends be yours, and may you possess - as I dare say you will - the greatest blessing of all, in the consciousness of not being unworthy of their love. I could not feel this.'


With literally hundreds if not thousands of books written about her, how do you select a good introduction to the life and times of Jane Austen? One of the nicest, most well-rounded books I've found is this one 'My Dear Cassandra'. But this is much more than a selection of Jane Austen's letters.

Each chapter opens with a chronolical biography of her life, detailing major changes as well as the development of her writing career. Then follows an annotated selection of her letters from that time period, interspersed with related excerpts from her novels as well as tidbits and anecdotes pertaining to the era. The whole is finished off with lavish illustrations of people, places and social situations relevant to the text.

All in all a lovely volume, not just of Jane Austen but, of the historic time in which she lived. A perfect bedside book to browse at will.


  1. The Letters of Jane Austen
  2. Introduction
  3. Steventon 1796-1801: Early Creative Years
  4. Bath 1801-1806: Farewells and Uncertainties
  5. Southhampton 1807-1809: New Perspectives
  6. Chawton 1809-1813: A New and Settled Home
  7. Chawton 1813-1816: Years of Fulfillment and Acclaim
  8. Chawton and Winchester 1816-1817: Last Days
  9. In the Footsteps of Jane Austen
  10. Notes to this Edition
    Index of People and Places

Next: Mirror of the Graces


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