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Early to think of Christmas books, but at the weekend  I was tempted by extracts from: More Letters of Note, to be published by Canongate & Unbound on October 1st at £30. Here are glimpses into the correspondence of David Bowie and Florence Nightingale; of Carl Jung and Michelangelo. But best of all – to those who love writers and writing – is a peek into the letters of Katherine Mansfield, Aldous Huxley, William Wordsworth, Raymond Chandler, Charlotte Bronte – and our beloved Jane Austen.

Here is Jane writing to her sister, Cassandra, on the 20th November 1800:

‘I believe I drank too much wine last night…I know not how else to account for the shaking of my hand to-day…

‘It was a pleasant evening; Charles found it remarkably so, but I cannot tell why, unless the absence of Miss Terry, towards whom his conscience reproaches him with being now perfectly indifferent, was a relief to him. There were only twelve dances, of which I danced nine; and was merely prevented from dancing the rest by the want of a partner…

‘There were very few beauties, and such as there were were not very handsome. Miss Iremonger did not look well and Mrs Blount was the only one much admired. She appeared exactly as she did in September, with the same broad face, diamond bandeau, white shoes, pink husband and fat neck… Mrs Warren, I was constrained to think, a very fine young woman, which I much regret….Her husband is ugly enough, uglier even than his cousin John; but he does not look so very old. The Misses Maitlands are both prettyish, very like Anne, with brown skins, large dark eyes and a good deal of nose. The General has got the gout, and Mrs Maitland the jaundice, Miss Dubary, Susan, and Sally all in black but without any stature, made their appearance, and I was as civil to them as their bad breath would allow me.’

Lucky, lucky Cassandra to be the recipient of such letters.

Can’t you just picture that pink and perspiring husband!

(Jane’s Desk at Chawton)

Jane's desk

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