Image of first page of Jane Austen's letter to Cassandra - detail

Returned to display in our Treasures Gallery, as part of the NLA to Z exhibition, is the popular letter by English novelist Jane Austen to her beloved sister Cassandra Austen, dated 11 June 1799.   

The letter came into the Library’s keeping through its inclusion in the papers of Edward Augustus Petherick, acquired by the Commonwealth in 1909. How it came into his personal collection is up for speculation.

While the letter itself has been digitised and transcribed by the Library, the affectionate detail of the letter and the penmanship beckon a more intimate viewing. Jane’s renowned witty banter and societal critique feature throughout the letter as true representation of her character.

The letter also includes references to her most popular work, Pride and Prejudice, originally titled First Impressions.

I would not let Martha read “First Impressions” again upon any account, and am very glad that I did not leave it in your power. She is very cunning, but I saw through her design; she means to publish it from memory, and one more perusal must enable her to do it.

The Treasures Gallery displays gems from the National Library of Australia’s collections and is open daily from 10 am. 

Image caption: Jane Austen (1775-1817) Letter from Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra (detail), Papers of Edward Augustus Petherick, Manuscripts Collection, National Library of Australia, MS 760, nla.ms-ms760-1x-s2-e.