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February 5, 2016

Looking Back - My Dear Cassandra


Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.


My Dear Cassandra: Selections from the Letters of Jane Austen (Penelope Hughs-Hallett, editor)
Nonfiction - Epistolary
1990 Collins & Brown
Finished in January 1996
Rating: 3/5 (So-so)




Publisher's Blurb:

It has been said that Jane Austen the woman and Jane Austen the author are all of a piece, and nowhere is this more evident to the lovers of her novels than in the pages of her letters. This new celebration of these letters is illustrated with portraits, facsimile letters, topographical engravings and fashion plates, and aims to bring to life the world Jane Austen inhabited. Although the book follows a broadly chronological scheme, the letters are arranged round visual themes considered particularly suitable for illustration, such as the Hampshire countryside, social life in Bath and London, domestic pursuits, paying visits and traveling by carriage. The author, who was born in Jane Austen's Hampshire village, lectures on English Literature for the Open University and the Oxford University Department of External Studies. Her special interest is 19th-century children's literature and she has compiled an anthology, "Childhood".

My Original Notes:

A wonderful look into Jane Austen's life through letters to her sister, Cassandra. Full of biographical information, as well as the original letters. Reading the letters was actually tedious and more secondary than the biography and side notes.

I read this prior to my book club meeting for Sense & Sensibility, so I'd have additional information on Jane's life to contribute to the discussion.

My Current Thoughts: 

A "wonderful look" might be a bit of a stretch. I love epistolary works, but as I vaguely recall, this was a chore. I no longer own the book, so I can't flip through it to see if the annotations were really any more interesting than the letters. No rating at the time, so I give it an average 3/5.

6 comments:

  1. Getting a glimpse into a person's life is always interesting, but sometimes only in small doses. Most letters are ordinary, so personal to the time and place, and I can see that you might get a little tired of reading an entire book of them. Letters of Note included one of Jane's letters that I really loved. The second sentence: "I believe I drank too much wine last night at Hurstbourne...." It was full of catty remarks about the other people who attended the affair. If anyone had read her observations, she would have been blacklisted from all future parties!

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    1. Yes, I agree with you about reading a collection of letters in small doses. I read another book, many years ago, with Sylvia Plath's letters to her family. Very interesting at times, yet a bit dull, as well. Definitely the sort of book one should read over the course of many months. Letters of Note sounds like an entertaining read, especially since it covers more than just one person's correspondences.

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  2. Oh, that sounds lovely. I'll have to make note of it and see if my library has a copy. Probably not one I'd keep, but one I'd like to flip through and sample.

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    1. I think you'd enjoy it, Kay. But as Jenclair mentioned, you might want to read it a little bit at a time. I think I'll do this with the Julia Child book I've had for a few years now.

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  3. I see others are saying the same thing I was thinking: letters can end up being a lot duller than we might anticipate, even though they're written by favorite writers. Having said that, I'm still curious about this book. So many of Jane Austen's letters were destroyed that I'd love a peek into what little remains.

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    1. You might enjoy this one, Nancy. As far as collections of letters, I did so love 84, Charing Cross Road, but it wasn't about a famous author... Wonder why that one was so much more enjoyable than this one or the one I read of Sylvia Plath's letters.

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