I’ve just finished reading Jon Spence’s Becoming Jane Austen. I read it throughout last week and spent most of Sunday finishing it up so I could add it to my list of books finished in August. There was lots to enjoy about this thorough biography of the author’s life and family history. As I told my Facebook friends, it’s the book to read when you think you know all there is to know about Jane Austen.
One thing (of many!) that I’ve always found fascinating about Jane Austen is her devotion to writing letters. Most of what we know about her and her social circles are things we’ve read in her letters to others. Letter writing was a necessity in Austen’s day if one was to stay informed and in touch with friends and family. At times when they lived apart, Jane and her sister, Cassandra, were sometimes less than 20 miles away from one another, but their letter writing was thorough and consistent.
Nowadays, letter writing is a fanciful thing. Many people still enjoy it, but out of all our options for connecting with loved ones, writing letters is the one that takes the most time and preparation. It’s difficult to find pretty stationery and it takes extra time to go buy stamps. There’s no guarantee that the other person will write back and, if not, what seemed like something sweet and quaint can sometimes end up being disappointing.
I’ve had a few faithful pen friends over the years, and have encouraged my daughters in the tradition, as well. There’s just something about finding a quiet place to devour all that your friend has so lovingly put down for you to read. A handwritten letter is a special thing and leaves a beautiful record of life events that you can go back and enjoy over and over again. Who knows? Maybe future generations will be thankful for this permanent account of your life—just as we are with Jane Austen!
Here are some ideas to get you and your daughters started in letter writing:
- exchange Scripture verses or encouraging quotes
- share lines from your recent reading or a brief book recommendation and review
- ask lots of questions and invite your pen friend to ask you back
- share photographs or miniature artwork
- sketch or photograph a tree in your yard and describe it; as seasons change, you can give an update
- share lists: favorite books, thankful lists, top tens