In order to celebrate Christmas this year, I thought I might share with you a letter from Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra, written on Christmas Day in 1798.
On this particular Christmas, Cassandra was on a visit to Godmersham Park in Kent. It was this property that her brother, Edward Austen, had lived in after being adopted by Mr and Mrs Thomas Knight, who had no children. Edward had inherited this property when Thomas Knight died in 1794.
I thank you for your long letter, which I will endeavour to deserve by writing the rest of this as closely as possible. I am full of joy at much of your information; that you should have been to a ball, and have danced at it, and supped with the Prince, and that you should meditate the purchase of a new muslin gown, are delightful circumstances. I am determined to buy a handsome one whenever I can, and I am so tired and ashamed of half of my present stock, that I even blush at the sight of the wardrobe which contains them. But I will not be much longer libelled by the possession of my coarse spot; I shall turn it into a petticoat very soon. I wish you a merry Christmas, but no compliments of the season.
Jane does not tend to describe much about the Christmas celebrations in which her family were involved, which probably indicates more about the lack of interest Cassandra would have in such descriptions, as Jane seems to focus more on news items that are of interest to her sister in her correspondence. The thing about Jane Austen’s letters is that they (at least those that survive) are lighthearted and humorous in a very similar way to her novels. They also demonstrate the very close relationship she had with her sister.
Wishing you and your families a very merry Christmas for 2012 and a happy and exciting New Year for 2013!
Sources and Relevant Links
The Letters of Jane Austen – read online