Monday, August 6, 2012

"Jane Austen Selected Letters" Review

I ran across this book at Barnes & Nobles a few years ago and put off reading it until this month. What a pleasant surprise. This is a book of selected letters that Jane Austen wrote to her sister Cassandra. 

The letters may not match the idealized view of Jane Austen, but they were anything but uninteresting. In any case the charm of the letters lies in the things Jane wrote to Cassandra. In her letter dated 27 October 1798 we get a glimpse of her dark humorous side. She wrote Cassandra, "Mrs Hall, of Sherborne, was brought to bed yesterday of a dead child, some weeks before she expected, owing to a fright. I suppose she happened unawares to look at her husband."

Another interesting tid-bit I ran across was also in that letter of 27 October 1798. It seems that "when not feeling well, or having trouble sleeping people took a few drops of 'laudanum.' (Now I looked that up to see just what was this cure-all for about everything, and I found out that 'laudanum' is any of various formerly used preparations of opium.) Therefore, I thought this little note about their mother was interesting Jane wrote..."My mother began to suffer from the exercise or fatigue or traveling, and she was a good deal indisposed. She had not a very good night at Staines, but bore her journey better than I expected, and at Basingstoke, where we stopped more that half an hour, received much comfort from a mess of broth and the sight of Mr. Lyford, who recommended her to take twelve drops of laudanum when she went to bed..., which she according did." Later Jane wrote..."I had the dignity of dropping out my mother's laudanum last night." Later in the letter she wrote, "It is now Saturday evening...My mother has not been down at all today; the laudanum made her sleep a good deal, and upon the whole I think she is better." 

I guess 12 drops of opium will do that, or I should say 'laudanum.' It would probably make me sleep better too. 

I found this book full of history of the Jane Austen family, and if you are a Jane Austen fan, I'm sure you would enjoy reading a different side of Jane. Different from the books we are use to reading written my Jane Austen

I own this book it is part of my personal library.


  1. This does sound good! Letters by Jane Austen filled with many interesting, historical tidbits would make great reading.

  2. This sounds like a nice one. I googled laudanum after hearing about it in a film once.