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|The long accepted view.
Written by JulieW
(9/1/2005 1:56 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, I agree, penned by Golda
Cassandra had many years in which to consider what to do with the papers in her possession.Her niece Caroline gives a clear account of the fate of the letters:
"she looked them over and burnt the greater part( she told me) 2 or 3 years before her own death- She left or gave some as legacies to the Nieces- but of those I have seen, several had portions cut out".
In this respect, we may regaret her decision, but she was confident of doing her duty towards her sisiter; some of the letters she destroyed were written during periods of stress, some doubtless contained indiscreet,even rude remarks and some she thought too personal.In her care and disposal of her sistres other writings she was exemplary...."
p281Jane Austen: A Life
That until recently, I think I am right in saying ,was the accepted view.
It was not until first Le Faye and then later Jo Modert were able to do further research into the real state of affiars that Cassandra has been exonerated of defacing or destroying the letters.
As Jo Modert write:
Could Caroline have been wrong about what happened to Jane Austens letters twenty years earlier? Yes, I think so. to begin with she ahd developed deafness and tinnitus long before Casaandra's death and could easily have misunderstood what she said.Then too, for all her descriptive clariy occasionally lets her imagination runastray.Consider for instance thsi paragraph fromm My Aunt that Austen-Leigh inserted in teh Memoir.:
"her handwriting remains to bear testimony to its own excellence; and every note and letter of hers,was finished off handsomely- There was an art then in folding and sealing-no adhesive envelopes made all easy -some people's letters looked always loose and untidy- but her apaper was sure to take the right folds - and her sealing wax was to drop on the proper place"
These are valuable observations and indeed Jane Austresn handwriting remains to thsi day "to bear testimony to its own excellence".Not till the last line do we come upon waht maybe a false note: Jane Austen's letters were often sealed not by hot sealign wax but by wax wafers; the traces of some canstill be seen in the facsimiles.She even mentions the wafers in her lettres ...
As Modart states in her Introduction ,page XV:
Although biographers and critcs have made much of Caroline Austesn statment ,...that CAssandra cut out portions of the letters before she died, the facsimiles show that the incisions in the letters had nothing to do with Jane Austens emotional expressions or secrets.Most mutilations are in letters saved by others ,wespecially the Austen-Leighs,and the Leforys and were made to oblige autograph hunters
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