Last week, the Mail Online wrote that a “Previously unseen letter by Jane Austen where she first writes about Pride and Prejudice goes on public display for the first time”. The letter is described as a “handwritten note, which lay undiscovered in a box file for 60 years, will be exhibited at Torquay Museum in Devon ahead of a planned auction”. The museum hopes to fetch £200,000 for it.
But what do they mean by “previously unseen”? It is not a new letter: the letter is Letter 17 in Deirdre LeFaye’s edition of Jane Austen’s correspondence (4th ed., 2011), and it also appears in Jo Modert’s facsimile edition of the letters (1990). No new letters by Jane Austen have come to light for a long time now, so the expectations raised by the announcement were sorely disappointed.
So who decided to announce it like this? The Mail Online? Or the Torquay Museum in Devon? It is certainly a good way of making potential buyers interested. But Austenites will be disappointed.