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.