letters in jane austen’s novels

I hope my ancestors, Susanah and Jane WELLINGTON, were as fond of the novels of Jane AUSTEN as I am. Letters and letter writing play a vital role in the plots of all of Jane Austen’s works. Letters are keystones in the plots of EmmaNorthanger Abbey as well as Mansfield Park.

Mr Darcy writes a letter to his sister on a small portable desk. Still from Pride and Prejudice (2005) starring Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley.

Mr Darcy writes a letter to his sister on a small portable desk. Still from Pride and Prejudice (2005) starring Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightley.

Pride and Prejudice includes a letter from Darcy to his sister Georgiana; the pivotal letter from Darcy to Elizabeth; the pompous letters from Mr Collins; and of course the poorly addressed letters from Jane to Elizabeth informing her Lydia has gone off with Mr Wickham.

Catherine Moorland writes a letter to Eleanor Tilney. Northanger Abbey (2007) starring Felicity Jones.

Catherine Moorland writes a difficult letter to Eleanor Tilney. Northanger Abbey (2007) starring Felicity Jones.

In Sense and Sensibility the lovelorn Marianne Dashwood sends letters to the fickle Mr Willoughby without a reply. When he finally does write to her, his manner is cold and hurtful as he delivers the news of his engagement to Miss Gray. Colonel Brandon also receives an important letter as the group of friends is setting out on an excursion and he leaves immediately without an explanation.

I think my favourite letter of all is from Persuasion, where Captain Wentworth writes to Anne Eliot while she is in the same room speaking with his friend Captain Harville on the constancy of hearts and natures of women and men who have truly loved.

"I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago." Captain Frederick Wentworth writes his love letter to Anne Eliot in a scene from the BBC teleseries of Jane Austen's Persuasion.

“I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago.” Captain Frederick Wentworth writes his love letter to Anne Eliot in a scene from the BBC teleseries of Persuasion (1995) starring Ciaran Hinds and Amanda Root.

These sorts of letters definitely need a suitable writing desk complete with paper, quill and ink-well. This post at Jane Austen Today gives a good account on how letters were written, sealed and delivered. If you would like a more detailed account of the importance of letters in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, you can read the Jane Austen’s World blog.

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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, BUCK family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydney. Jane Austen TodayJane Austen’s World.

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