The museum had raised the bulk of the funds, which included a £9000 sum drawn from the grant awarded to the museum in 2015 by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. A public campaign was then launched to raise the outstanding £10,000 which succeeded with more than 250 donors contributing from around the world.
Following the appeal, Robert Harding of Maggs delivered the letter to Dr Mary Guyatt, director of Jane Austen’s House Museum.
The two-page letter has now gone on view and joins the current exhibition, Making the Museum, which celebrates the 70th anniversary of the opening of Jane Austen’s house as a museum.
The letter dates from November 1814 at the time the writer lived at the cottage in Chawton in Hampshire where the museum is now located. It was written to Anna Austen, her much-loved niece, during a visit to London where she was staying at her brother Henry’s home.
The acquisition means that Jane Austen’s House Museum now holds 13 letters written by her as well as others written by her close family. It also has objects that she owned such as jewellery, books and the table at which she did her writing.
The wait is over! We can today announce that we’ve saved the #JaneAusten letter for public access, thanks to an outpouring of generosity from the public & funding bodies. It was hand-delivered yesterday & will be on display until the end of the year. More: https://t.co/glqa1dXeWt pic.twitter.com/IlCd7bzcv5— Jane Austen's House Museum (@JaneAustenHouse) August 20, 2019
Described by the museum as a “precious piece of Austen history”, the letter mentions her Chawton home and also provides glimpses into family details. In one passage she writes: “I like first Cousins to be first Cousins, & interested about each other. They are but one remove from Br. & Sr.” – which appears reminiscent to a passage in her novel Mansfield Park.
The letter ends with the mention of a trip to the theatre and a typically Austenian quip: “I took two Pocket handkerchiefs, but had very little occasion for either.”
Prof Kathryn Sutherland, trustee of Jane Austen’s House Museum and leading Austen scholar, said: “As any two pages go, these are delightful and rich in information. The letter fits wonderfully well with others in the museum’s collection: we have two earlier examples from Austen’s visits to London where she stayed with brother Henry, in May 1813 and March 1814.
“This, from November 1814, the latest of the visits, was written when she was in London to discuss a second edition of her most recent novel, Mansfield Park, with her then publisher Thomas Egerton.”