Jane Austen letter critiquing “prosy” contemporary at auction

 10 Jul 2017 - 19:38

Jane Austen letter critiquing “prosy” contemporary at auction
This image is a cropped version of the Rice portrait, as it has been been called, is believed by the owners to be of Jane Austen and painted by Ozias Humphry in 1788 when Austen was 13. Experts at the National Portrait Gallery (and elsewhere) have disputed this, suggesting that the painting dates to the early 19th century and thus cannot be of Austen, or painted by Humphry. (Wikipedia)


LONDON: Jane Austen once wrote that a large income was the best recipe for happiness. Now a private letter written by the author to her niece could well make someone very happy indeed.

A letter critiquing a contemporary author for being “prosy” goes under the hammer at a London auction house on Tuesday.

The letter is from Austen to Anna Lefroy, the eldest daughter of the author’s eldest brother Rev. James Austen.  Auctioneers Sotheby’s expect it to fetch 80,000 pounds ($103,000) to 100,000 pounds.

The subject of the letter is a “most tiresome and prosy” Gothic novel entitled “Lady Maclairn, the Victim of Villainy”, published by her contemporary Rachel Hunter.

“It’s very interesting to have a letter by Jane Austen talking about writing, talking about novels, talking about someone else’s novels because there are not many instances in Jane Austen’s writing where we get that”, said Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s director of books and manuscripts.

The auctioneers said that the letters, dating from 29-30 October 1812  when the “Pride and Prejudice” author was at her literary peak, had belonged to the Austen family, and had never been offered for sale before.

A measure of the author’s enduring popularity, Austen memorabilia can command spectacular sums. In 2011, the earliest surviving Austen manuscript, a handwritten draft for a book that was never published, sold for 993,250 pounds ($1.6 million) at auction.

The auction will be held on July 11th.

($1 = 0.7769 pounds)

(Reporting by Iona Serrapica, writing by Mark Hanrahan Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)