‘Prayers composed by my dear sister Jane’ – A Thankful Sense of Jane Austen’s Prayers

“Give us a thankful sense of the blessings in which we live, of the many comforts of our lot; that we may not deserve to lose them by discontent or indifference. Hear us almighty God, for his sake who has redeemed us, and taught us thus to pray. Amen.” Prayer I, Jane Austen

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Even though Jane Austen never celebrated (that I know of) this American holiday of turkey, football and family, I thought that the stanza from her Prayer I quite apt in giving thanks on this occasion.

In addition to seven novels, poems, juvenilia and letters, three of Jane Austen’s prayers still survive. They were first mentioned as a group in the Times Literary Supplement on the 14th January 1926 as three prayers on two manuscripts. The first manuscript was titled, ‘Prayers composed by my ever dear sister Jane’ with a watermark on the paper from 1818. Since Jane Austen died in 1817, it is believed that it was transcribed by her sister Cassandra. The second manuscript is believed to have been partially in Austen’s hand and partially transcribed by her brother Henry Austen and can not be dated. All three poems were first published in a limited edition together by book collector William Matson Roth in 1940 by Colt Press, San Francisco. He had purchased the two sheet manuscript at auction in 1927 from the descendants of Jane Austen’s brother Charles. Roth donated the manuscripts in 1957 to Mills College in Oakland, California where they now reside.

The Prayers are classified as part of Jane Austen miscellanea and can be found in entirety in The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen: Minor Works, Oxford World’s Classics Catharine and Other Writings and transcribed online by Ken Roberts. An abbreviated edition of Prayer I written by Jane hangs on the wall in St. Nicholas’ Church, Steventon where Jane’s father George and her brothers James and Henry Austen were rectors at Steventon and she was a member until her father’s retirement and her immediate family’s removal to Bath in 1801.

Further reading

© 2012, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

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