Big news in the Janeite world! A new letter from Jane Austen has been found.
As most Janeites know, Jane’s sister Cassandra burnt the larger part of the letters that Jane wrote to her, and many others that she wrote were not preserved, so every one is a treasure. This particular letter, as many did, passed from Cassandra to Fanny Knatchbull and on to her son Lord Brabourne, who sold many of the letters out of the family after publishing them. It is unclear why this particular letter was not included in Lord Brabourne’s collection.
In the letter, dated September 1816, Jane relates some news about nursing the wretched Melissa. Some of the most interesting news is that Jane Austen was an accomplished cook, and that she included hamster curry in her repertoire. We do not believe that particular dish was included in Martha Lloyd’s book of recipes, so it must have been a family recipe that Mrs. Austen, for whatever reason, did not care to pass on, or that Martha did not care to record. It also is possible that it was learned from Jane Austen’s sailor brothers, who would have learned how to cook up millers in onion sauce while midshipmen.
We’re sure Austen scholars will have much to discuss about this amazing discovery. Thanks to Very, Very Alert Janeite Sion for this incredible piece of news.