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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

A promising cache

We Janeites are starved for material about Jane Austen’s sadly underdocumented life. We’re not unreasonably demanding! Doesn’t have to be smoking-gun love letters from previously unsuspected suitors! We’d take anything: grocery lists, instructions for making white soup, adolescent doodles . . .

And so this week’s news -- the Huntington Library in California has acquired a cache of unpublished Austen-ish family papers – is cause for rejoicing.

As caches go, this is a moderately sized one: fifty-two unpublished poems, letters and “other materials.” And as Austen connections go, this one is reasonably close: the papers belong to the Leigh family of Adlestrop, whose members included Cassandra Leigh, the mother of Our Jane.

No Holy Grail – i.e., no previously unknown letters from Austen herself. Not even, as far as I can tell, any from her mother.

But still. “This is a deeply personal collection of family papers that draws back the curtain on the formalities of society in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England," a Huntington curator says in a statement.

We'll take it.


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