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1Oct. 27th, 1847

2My Dear Sir,

3In the first place, let me assure you that you will find in me a most fervent admirer. I have held your work in high regard ever since my dear Aunt Jane, known to the rest of the world as Jane Austen, started reading Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World to me as a child. I remember the emphasis in her voice when reading out loud to a crew of gullible nieces and nephews, squatting around her working basket, mesmerized by the account of Mr Gulliver’s adventures. You might know that, since the death of my beloved Aunt Cassandra, I have been appointed as the inheritress and executrix of my Aunt Jane’s correspondence. You might also know that Cassandra, who cared for her younger sister more than for anyone in the world, chose to destroy part of the letters in an attempt to preserve her legacy. Very few letters remain from the original bulky correspondence. Still, I now cherish them as my most treasured possessions. Going through the many pages covered in the elegant albeit dense handwriting that I knew so well, I discovered one short letter that I hope it may not be too bold of me to pronounce of some interest to you. I daresay the letter herewith enclosed will not be a stain on my dear Aunt’s reputation, but rather a tribute to both your genius and hers.

4I remain, dear Sir, your faithful humble servant,

5Fanny Cath. Knight Knatchbull

To Cassandra Austen

7Steventon, Tuesday Dec:r 18th, 1798

8My dear Cassandra

9I have received a very civil note from Mrs Martin requesting my name as a Subscriber to her Library which opens the 14th of January, & my name, or rather Yours is accordingly given. My Mother finds the Money. – Mary subscribes too, which I am glad of but hardly expected. – As an inducement to subscribe, Mrs Martin tells us that her Collection will not only consist of Novels but of every kind of Literature &c &c – she might have spared this pretension to our family, who are great Novel-readers & not ashamed of being so; but it was necessary I suppose to the self-consequence of half her Subscribers. Speaking of Novels, I have borrowed a Book from the Misses Stacey that will please you a great deal, I am sure. Papa used to own it in his Library and its Title would intrigue me as a Child though I never came to read it and then it appeared to have been lost. James or Henry must have taken it away with them when they were at Oxford. I am sure Gulliver’s Travels will enthrall your Mind as it has mine. I promise you to read it aloud while you and Mama are bent over your needlework next winter. There is a little Pattern I want you to embroider for me. I saw it on Miss Pugh’s dress at the Basingstoke Assembly Ball. While you work your way through the flowery beds on my muslin Gown, I shall conjure up a whole new World before you – a World fraught with strange Creatures and uheard-of Countries bearing the most bizarre Names. You will meet the Houyhnhnms and travel to the flying Island of Laputa. The Birds, chirping up the lime tree in the Garden, will make you think you can hear the Lilliputians discussing Mr Gulliver’s Fate, the tinkling Cups will merge with the sound of diminutive Swords and the squeaking Door letting the maid in, bringing in the tea things, will open on to the stormy Sea, toying with Mr Gulliver’s Ship. It will be like being aboard Frank’s Ship. Yet, instead of anticipating the next gust of Wind, full of anxiety, we will, all three of us, be by Mr Gulliver’s side, shouting and running and bucketing Sea water. The Parlour will be filled with brine, our Chairs tossing about. Only when I have finished going through Mr Gulliver’s Adventures around the World with you, can we be composed again, exhausted, wrecked Sailors returning home, their Hearts filled with Gratitude for being allowed to hold their children and wives to their breasts, but their minds already set on their next Voyage. – My dear Cassandra, let Edward be back on foot again soon for I long to embark on this Adventure with you. – I have just heard from Martha, & Frank – his letter was written on the 12th Nov – all well, & nothing particular.

10Yours Affectionately


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Chloé BECCARIA, « My dear Aunt Jane Austen »e-Rea [En ligne], 18.2 | 2021, mis en ligne le 15 juin 2021, consulté le 29 février 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Dr. Chloé Beccaria teaches English at the Lycée Félix-Esclangon in Manosque and holds the title of agrégée. She has written various articles on the novels of Jane Austen as well as on her letters. She received her PhD in English literature from Aix-Marseille Université in 2006. Her thesis is entitled Comprendre le monde. Des signes au sens dans les romans de Jane Austen.

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