Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, Hampshire, is appealing for urgent public donations to save a precious section of a letter by Jane Austen. Jane wrote the letter in November 1814 during the time she lived at the cottage in Chawton (now Jane Austen’s House Museum). The Museum has until 31 July to raise £10,000 towards the purchase cost of this rare and important fragment and bring it home to the Museum for the public to enjoy. If the Museum is unsuccessful, the letter could be lost to private hands.
The letter, dated 29 November 1814, was written by Jane during a visit to London, where she was staying at her brother Henry’s home. Addressed to Anna Austen, her much loved Hampshire niece, the letter mentions Jane’s Chawton home (now the Museum) and includes interesting glimpses into family detail and social history. A comment about family connections – ‘I like first Cousins to be first Cousins, & interested about each other. They are but one remove from Br. & Sr.’ – is reminiscent of Mansfield Park, a particularly pleasing connection since Jane was in London to discuss a second edition of Mansfield Park. The letter finishes with a trip to the theatre and a typically Austenian quip: ‘I took two Pocket handkerchiefs, but had very little occasion for either.’
Jane Austen’s House Museum, the most treasured Austen site in the world and the only house open to the public where she lived and wrote, holds an unparalleled collection of Austen objects, including 12 letters written by her, as well as other letters written by her close family circle. Additional Austen treasures held by the Museum include Jane’s jewellery, first editions of her books and the table at which she wrote her much loved novels. Rescuing this irreplaceable letter fragment will allow the Museum to build its collection of Austen letters and advance the Museum’s vision to cherish and share Jane Austen’s home, work and legacy as an inspiration to the world. If successful, the Museum would display the letter for the rest of the year as part of the current exhibition Making the Museum, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the opening of the Museum, and also include it in future displays for the public to enjoy.
The Museum has so far secured a proportion of the £35,000 negotiated purchase price, including £9000 to be drawn from the Collecting Cultures grant awarded to the Museum in 2015 by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Dr Mary Guyatt, Director of Jane Austen’s House Museum, says: ‘Thanks to the support of funders including the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we are well on our way to seeing this important item safe and secure in Jane Austen’s own home. We are now calling on the Museum’s loyal supporters to take us over the finish line.’
The Museum has just six weeks to raise an additional £10,000 required to rescue this precious piece of Austen history. Every donation takes the Museum closer to bringing this irreplaceable letter home.
Supporters can donate via the Museum’s dedicated Just Giving page: www.justgiving.com/campaign/save-austen-letter until Wednesday 31 July 2019.