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Jane’s beautiful handwriting

a letter from Jane to Cassandra

One regret that I have about the advancement in technology is that beautiful handwriting will become a thing of the past.

I have noticed the many hand-lettering services which have sprung up for wedding invitations and such, and I do appreciate that people with beautiful handwriting are getting some notice.

Here is letter from Jane to Cassandra, dated 1800, courtesy of the British library. Note the beautiful, even script–written with pen and ink, no less. No splotches or spills.

And if you are wondering whether this is upside down–it is both upside down and right-side up! Writers used to turn their letters and write in between the lines in order to save paper and postage. If you wrote very neatly, it was legible.

I have taken the liberty of including the transcript of the letter below. It is mostly gossip, what a surprise!

[I apologize for the strange formatting in the transcription, it's difficult to fix without making it one long, rambling text!]

Steventon Saturday Even[ing] Nov[ember] 8

My dear Cassandra,
Having just finished the first volume of les Veillees du Chateau, I think it a good opportunity for beginning a letter to you while my mind is stored withideas worth transmitting. – I thank you for so speedy a return to my two last, & particularly thank you for youranecdote of Charlotte Graham & her cousin Harriet Bailey, which has very much amused both my brother & myself. If you can learn anything farther of that interesting, affair I hope you will mention it. – I have two messages; let me get rid of them, & then my paper will be my own. – Mary fully intended writing to you by Mr Chute’s frank, & only happened intirely to forget it -but will write soon – & my father wishes Edward to send him a memorandum in your next letter, of the price of the hops. – The Tables are come, & give general contentment. I had not expected that they would so perfectly suit the fancy of us all three, or that we should so well agree in the disposition of them; but nothing except their own surface can have been smoother; – The two ends put together form one constant Table for everything, & the centre piece stands exceedingly well under the glass; holds a great deal most commodiously, without looking awkwardly. – They are both covered with green baize & send their best Love. – The Pembroke has gots its desti-nation by the sideboard, & my mother has great delight in keeping her Money & papers locked up. – The little Table which used to stand there, has most conveniently taken itself off into the best bed-room, & we are now
[the following is inter-lined and upside down]
Sunday evening. –
We have had a dreadful storm of wind in the forepart of this day, which has done a great deal of mischeif among our trees. – I was sitting alone in the dining room, when an odd kind of crash startled me – in a moment afterwards it was repeated; I then went to the window, which I reached just in time to see the start of our two highly valued Elms descend into the sweep! ! ! ! ! The other, which had fallen I suppose in the first crash, & which was the nearest to the pond, taking a more easterly direction sunk amongst our screen of Chesnuts & firs, knocking down one spruce fir, beating off the head of another, & stripping the two corner chesnuts of several branches, in its fall. – This is not all – . One large Elm out of two on the left hand side, as you enter what I call the Elm walk was likewise blown down, the Maypole bearing the weathercock was broke in two, & what I regret more than all the rest, is that all the three Elms which grewin Hall’s meadow & gave such ornament to it, are gone. – Two were blown down, & the other so much injured that it cannot stand -. I have ^ am happy to add however that no greater Evil than the loss of Trees has been the consequence of the storm in this place, or in our immediate neighbourhood. – We greive therefore in some comfort. –
I hope it is true that Edward Taylor is to marry his cousin Charlotte. Those beautiful dark Eyes will then adorn another Generation at least, in all their purity. – Mr Holden’s paper tells us that some time in last August, Capt[ain] Austen & the Petterell were very active in securing a Turkish Ship (driven into a Port in Cyprus by bad weather) from the French. – He was forced to burn her however. – You will see the account in the Sun I dare say. –


in want only of the Chiffoniere, which is neither finished nor come. – So much for that subject; I now come to another, of a very different nature, as other subjects are very apt to be. – Earle Harwood has been again giving uneasiness to his family, & Talk to the Neighbourhood; – in the present in-stance however he is only unfortunate & not in fault. – About ten days ago, in cocking a pistol in the guard-room at Marcau, he accidentally shot himself through the Thigh. Two young Scotch Surgeons in the Island were polite enough to propose taking off the Thigh at once, but to that he would not consent; & accordingly in his wounded state was put on board a Cutter & conveyed to Haslar Hospital at Gosport; where the bullet was extracted, & where he now is I hope in a fair way of doing well. – The surgeon of the Hospital wrote to the family on the occasion, & John Harwood went down to him immediately, attended by James, whose object in going was to be the means of bringing back the earliest Intelligence to Mr & Mrs Harwood, whose anxious sufferings particularly those of the latter, have of course been dreadful. They went down on tuesday, & James came back the next day, bringing such favourable accounts as greatly to lessen the distress of the family at Deane, tho’ it will probably be a long while before Mrs Harwood can be quite at ease. – One most material comfort however they have; the as-surance of it’s being really an accidental wound, which is not only positively declared by Earle himself, but is likewise testified by the particular direction of the bullet. Such a wound could not have been received in a duel. – At present he is going on very well, but the Surgeon will not declare him to be in no danger. – John Harwood came back last night, & will probably go to him again soon. James had not time at Gosport to take any other steps towards seeing Charles, than the very few which conducted


him to the door of the assembly room in the Inn, where there happened to be a Ball on the night of their arrival. A likely spot enough for the discovery of a Charles; but I am glad to say that he was not of the party, for it was in general a very ungenteel one, & there was hardly a pretty girl in the room. – I cannot possibly oblige you by not wearing my gown, because I have it made up on purpose to wear it a great deal, & as the discredit will be my own, I feel the less regret. – You must learn to like ^ it yourself & make it up at Godmersham; it may easily be done; it is only protesting it to be very beautiful, & you will soon think it so. – Yesterday was a day of great business with me; Mary drove one all ^ in the rain to Ba-singstoke, & still more all in the rain back again because it rained harder; & soon after our return to Dean a sudden invitation & our own posthchais[e] took us to Ash Park, to dine tete a tete with Mr Holden, Mr Gauntlett & James Digweed; but our tete a tete was cruelly reduced by the non-attendance of the two latter – . We had a very quiet evening, I believe Mary found it dull, but I thought it very pleasant. To sit in idleness over a good fire in a well-proportioned room is a luxurious sen-sation. – Sometimes we talked & sometimes we were quite silent; I said two or three amusing things, & Mr Holder made a few infamous puns. – I have had a most affectionate letter from Bulles; I was afraid he would oppress me by his happiness ^ felicity & his love for his wife, but this is not the case; he calls her simply Anna without any angelic em-bellishments, for which I respect & wish him happy – and throughout the whole of his letter indeed he seems more in- grossed by his feelings towards our family, than towards her, which you know cannot give any one disgust. – He is very pressing in his invitation to us all to come & see him at Colyton, & my father is very much inclined to go there next summer. –


It is a circumstance that may considerably assist the Dawlish scheme. – Buller has desired me to write again, to give him more particulars of us all. – Mr Heathcote met with a genteel little accident the other day in hunting; he got off to lead his horse over a hedge or a house or a something, & his horse in his haste trod upon his leg, or rather ancle I believe, & it is not certain whether the small bone is not broke. – Harris seems still in a poor way, from his bad habit of body; his hand bled again a little the other day, & Dr Littlehales has been with him lately. Martha has accepted Mary’s invitation for L[ord] Portsmouth’s Ball. – he has not yet sent out his own invitations, but that does

not signify, Martha comes, & a Ball there must be. – I think it will be too early in her Mother’s absence for me to return with her. Mr Holden told W[illiam] Portal a few days ago that Edward objected to the narrowness of the path which his plantation has left in one part of the Rookery – W[illiam] Portal has since examined it himself, acknowledges it to be much too narrow, & promises to have it altered. He wishes to avoid the necessity of removing the end of his plantation with its newly-planted Quick &c, but if a proper foot path cannot be made by poking away the bank on the other side, he will not spare the former. – I have finished this on sunday morning & am yours ever J.A. You spend your time just as quietly & comfortably as I supposed you would. We have all seen & admired Fanny’s letter to her Aunt. -The Endymion sailed on a cruize last friday.

63   4

Nov[ember] 1800

Miss Austen
Godmersham Park

OVERTON [this appears to be a stamp]

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