I adored Syrie James’ latest novel, The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen (my review), about a young woman who stumbles upon a 200-year-old, unfinished letter written by Jane Austen to her sister that alludes to a manuscript lost during a stay at an English estate. If written by Austen, the manuscript would be worth some serious cash, and Samantha and the estate’s handsome owner, Anthony, butt heads over what to do with it. Of course, they can’t resist reading it first, and the manuscript itself was my favorite part of the book.
I’m thrilled to have Syrie James as a guest today on Diary of an Eccentric, and she’s here to discuss how family and friendship played important roles in the life of Jane Austen. Please give her a warm welcome, and stay tuned to see how you can get your hands on a copy of the book!
Family was the center of Jane Austen’s universe, and her dearest friends were like family to her. Jane’s closest friend and confidant was her sister Cassandra. They were incredibly close, shared a bedroom all their life, and shared all the details (as they called them, the “important nothings”) of their lives. When Jane died, Cassandra wrote: “…I have lost a treasure, such a Sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed,—She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow, I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself.”
Jane Austen had only a handful of close friends, and she didn’t desire any more than that. She preferred leading a quiet life with the people she was closest to: her large family, who she adored, and friends like Martha Lloyd. Even though Martha was a decade older, she and Jane became friends from the day Martha moved into the neighborhood when Jane was thirteen years old. As Jane grew up, she and Martha enjoyed taking long walks and used to lie in bed talking together until two in the morning after a ball. Years later, when Martha’s mother passed away and she had no one to live with, she moved in permanently with Jane and her mother and sister: a dear friend who literally became a member of the family.
Jane was also close with the Bigg Sisters (who lived in the neighborhood where she grew up) and with Anne Sharp (the governess for her brother Edward’s large brood of children). These friendships lasted all of her life. When she was older, before a carriage ride with acquaintances, Jane wrote in a letter to her niece, Fanny Knight, “tho’ I like Miss H. M. as much as one can at my time of Life after a day’s acquaintance, it is uphill work to be talking to those whom one knows so little.”
If Jane were alive today, I doubt she would be overly impressed or affected by her worldwide fame. I think she would advise us that nothing is more important than our family and close friends, and we should cherish and value them and their company above all else.
Syrie James is the bestselling author of eight critically acclaimed novels, including The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, Dracula My Love, Nocturne, Forbidden, and The Harrison Duet: Songbird and Propositions. Her books have been translated into eighteen foreign languages. In addition to her work as a novelist, she is a screenwriter, a member of the Writers Guild of America, and a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. She lives with her family in Los Angeles, California. Connect with her on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.
**The giveaway is now closed and the entry form has been deleted.**
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