Mini-Post | Cassandra Austen

Born on the day in 1773, Cassandra Austen was the most beloved elder sister of Jane Austen.⁠

The affection between the two sisters, according to their relation Anne Lefroy, “passed the common love of sisters; and it had been so from childhood”. They went to school together, were immersed in a clever and artistic family, and Cassandra herself was a talented artist, responsible for the only likeness we have of Jane.⁠

Cassandra was also responsible for the fun and inventive illustrations of Jane’s 1791 History of England, which parodied Oliver Goldsmith’s four volume The History of England from the Earliest Times to the Death of George II, published 1771. ⁠

This is her less-than-flattering picture of Elizabeth I: I love this work as a conspiratorial, collaborative project between sisters. Jane dedicated the History to Cassandra, whom she had described, when she was 12, as “a Phoenix. Your taste is refined, your Sentiments are noble, & your Virtues innumerable.”

After Jane died, Cassandra kept many of her letters and writings safe until her own death at the age of 72: remaining a most beloved sister until the very end.

5 comments

    • The text itself is just wonderful! I picked up a really old folio society copy that has a facsimile of them in – they’re very witty. The Elizabeth I one has been suggested to have been modelled on Jane and Cassandra’s mother – you can kind of see the similarity with her silhouette – though not a flattering portrait of their mother!

  1. Congratulations, Dr. Lizzie. ..

    Thoughts on Cassandra reminded me of my own speculation –

    Could it be that Jane Austen successfully avoided portraits, just as she avoided using her name ?

    Are there any other women writers, from 1600 onward, with so few authenticated portraits ?

    • Thank you so so much! Actually that’s a really interesting point – and something I’ll definitely be keeping in mind as I read further into other authors. It definitely fuels the anonymity of everything whilst she was alive, doesn’t it?

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