Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Jane Austen on Letter Writing

Dear Reader,

One thing I have in common with Jane Austen is the love of writing letters!

Take a look at what Miss Austen has to say on letter writing:

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"I have now attained the true art of letter-writing, which we are always told, is to express on paper exactly what one would say to the same person by word of mouth." - Jane Austen, from a letter to her sister Cassandra (My Dear Cassandra)


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"My dear madam, I am not so ignorant of young ladies’ ways as you wish to believe me; it is this delightful habit of journaling which largely contributes to form the easy style of writing for which ladies are so generally celebrated. Everybody allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female. Nature may have done something, but I am sure it must be essentially assisted by the practice of keeping a journal.”
“I have sometimes thought,” said Catherine, doubtingly, “whether ladies do write so much better letters than gentlemen! That is — I should not think the superiority was always on our side.”
“As far as I have had opportunity of judging, it appears to me that the usual style of letter–writing among women is faultless, except in three particulars.”
“And what are they?”
“A general deficiency of subject, a total inattention to stops, and a very frequent ignorance of grammar.”
“Upon my word! I need not have been afraid of disclaiming the compliment. You do not think too highly of us in that way.”
“I should no more lay it down as a general rule that women write better letters than men, than that they sing better duets, or draw better landscapes. In every power, of which taste is the foundation, excellence is pretty fairly divided between the sexes.”

- Henry Tilney & Catherine Morland, Northanger Abbey, Chapter 3


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"The post-office has a great charm at one period of our lives. When you have lived to my age, you will begin to think letters are never worth going through the rain for."
There was a little blush, and then this answer, "I must not hope to be ever situated as you are, in the midst of every dearest connection, and therefore I cannot expect that simply growing older should make me indifferent about letters."
"Indifferent! Oh! no -- I never conceived you could become indifferent. Letters are no matter of indifference; they are generally a very positive curse."
"You are speaking of letters of business; mine are letters of friendship."
"I have often thought them the worst of the two," replied he coolly. "Business, you know, may bring money, but friendship hardly ever does."

-Mr. John Knightley & Jane Fairfax, Emma Chapter 18


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Many of Jane Austen's writing was done in the form of letters. We know that Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility were both originally written in letters and then heavily revised before being published. And many of her writings like Lady Susan, Love and Friendship, Lesley Castle and much of her other Juvenalia were written in this style of letters. What I enjoy most is reading her sweet letters to her sister Cassandra, written while the two were apart. Their sisterly bond and friendship was so great filled with many special moment.  Cassandra was her sister's confidant and after Jane Austen died in 1817 she burnt many letters that were too personal or represented private views best withheld from public eyes.


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It is such a joy to give and receive letters! I love writing to family and friends on paper or typing an e-mail. One reason I really enjoy blogging is because it's very like writing a letter to my dear friends! I so enjoy telling you all about what I've seen, heard, watched, learned or what is going on in my life. And more than anything I love hearing back from all of you! Thank you so much for all your encouraging comments and e-mails!

Very Truly Your's,

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6 comments:

Jemimah C. said...

I love both writing and receiving letters--whether on paper or by email. Until now, I still write to my best friends. It's become a "tradition". And I enjoy reading your online "letter" (your blog) very much!

Southern Belle said...

Oh, I love receiving letters, but I hate sending them :P I really need to change that! By the way, I awarded you the most stylish blogger. :) Here is the link:
http://couture-for-christ.blogspot.com/2011/04/life-literature-and-loveliness-plus.html
Thanks =)

Melody said...

I love writing and receiving letters! =) Nice post. The Emma quote makes me laugh. ;-)

Are you sure that P&P was first written in epistolary form? I'd only heard that was supsected, because of the amount of letters in it, but I knew about S&S. :)

Cathy said...

Hi I just started following your blog, love all your Jane Austen posts. She's one of my favorite authors too. You also have a beautiful testimony. :)
Feel free to come by my blog...
http://thoughtsonbookss.blogspot.com/

Vanessa and Yvette said...

I love letter writing and miss snail mail. I wish we could have a pen pal group and share common interest through letters.

Lizzy Bennet said...

Hi! I just started following your blog and I love all your Jane Austin posts! She is my all time favorite author and I love to write letters!

Feel free to check out my new blog...
http://foreverjane18.blogspot.com/

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