Jane Austen's Letters, Victorian Authors

Sarah Chauncey Woolsey an admirer of Jane Austen

Image of Sarah Chauncey WoolseyIt would have excited in her an amused incredulity, no doubt, had any one predicted that two generations after her death the real recognition of her powers was to come. Time, which like desert sands has effaced the footprints of so many promising authors, has, with her, served as the desert wind, to blow aside those dusts of the commonplace which for a while concealed her true proportions. She is loved more than she ever hoped to be, and far more widely known. Sarah Chauncey Woolsey, Jane Austen’s Letters (1892). 

This quote is from the preface to Jane Austen’s Letters: Selected from the Compilation of her Great Nephew, Edward, Lord Brabourne (1892) by the famous American children’s author Sarah Chauncey Woolsey. As the editor, she selected about seventy eight of the original ninety six letters from the 1884 English edition and wrote the insightful short preface praising Austen and celebrating her recent revival. 

Like Jane Austen, Woolsey wrote under a pen name, was a bit forward thinking in women’s rights and never married. She greatly admired Austen’s character Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. I can feel a bit of Lizzy’s independence and wish to marry only for love in this passage from her poem Of Such As I Have

“Love me for what I am, Love. Not for sake

Of some imagined thing which I might be,

Some brightness or some goodness not in me,

Born of your hope, as dawn to eyes that wake

Imagined morns before the morning break.” 

Read Sarah Chauncey Woolsey’s complete preface to Jane Austen’s Letters (1892) in the Opinions section right here at Austenprose.

Jane Austen Book Sleuth, Jane Austen's Emma, Jane Austen's Letters

Jane Austen’s Dearest Friendship with Miss Sharp Still Resonates Today

You would have held the memory of your friend Jane too in tender regret I am sure. – But the Providence of God has restored me – & may I be more fit to appear before him when I am summoned, than I sh’d have been now! – Sick or Well, beleive me ever your attached friend. J. Austen Letter to Anne Sharp, 22 May 1817

Image of three volumes first edition of Emma, presented to Ann SharpJaneites with deep pockets and warm hearts will be winging their way to London for the June 24th auction of a first edition of Emma being offered at Bonham’s Auction House. The rare three volume presentation copy of Jane Austen’s fourth and final novel to be published in her lifetime was a gift from the authoress to Anne Sharp, a dear friend and previous governess to her brother Edward Austen Knight’s daughter Fanny at Godmersham, Kent.

Bonham’s online catalogue description contains some interesting facts.

Jane Austen was allocated twelve presentation copies by the publisher John Murray. Of these, nine were sent to family members (including Jane herself), one to the librarian of the Prince Regent (to whom the work was dedicated), and one to Countess Morley, these last under obligation from the publisher. The present copy is the only one given to a personal friend, testament to the strength of Jane’s feelings for Anne.

First editions of Jane Austen’s novels can garner healthy prices. A November 2007 article in Antiquarian Books listed a recent sale of a three volume set of Sense and Sensibility by Bloomsbury Auctions in New York for $48,000.00. (1) Because the ‘Anne Sharp’ edition of Emma has unique provenance, and no known presentation copies of Emma have ever hit the market before, Bonham’s is anticipating a sale price between £50,000 to £70,000. This could be quite a windfall for its present UK owner who had the volumes shelved in their family library for three generations without a clue as to how their ancestors acquired them. One wonders what else they have loitering about, and why they chose this moment to dispose of them!

Illustration of Godmersham Park, Kent, England

Godmersham Park, Kent, home of the Edward Austen Knight family circa 1804

Anne Sharp served as governess to Fanny Knight (1793-1882) Jane Austen’s niece, at Godmersham from 1804 to 1806, resigning for health reasons. (2) She is mentioned fondly several times in Jane Austen’s letters to her sister Cassandra and in this wonderful passage from Claire Tomalin’s biography of Jane Austen.  Continue reading “Jane Austen’s Dearest Friendship with Miss Sharp Still Resonates Today”