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Jane Austen’s Last Will and Testament

When Jane Austen died in Winchester on July 18, 1817, the bond between the sisters caused Cassandra to write, “I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as never can have been surpassed. She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow; I had not a thought concealed from her, and it is as if I had lost a part of myself. I loved her only too well — not better than she deserved, but I am conscious that my affection for her made me sometimes unjust to and negligent of others…”

Jane, too, felt Cassandra to be her dearest and best friend. She left her the majority of her estate, a not small compensation to a sister who had little to her call her own. What is remarkable is the length of such a testament when you consider that it was written by one of the premier writers of the English language. The two bequests that she did make are sweet remembrances for services in life. Jane’s brother, Henry, had worked steadily on behalf of Jane in order to see her books published. Early in 1816, the bank which he was a partner in failed. Henry, recently widowed, not only lost all of his own savings, but also that of his servants (possibly including his longtime cook, Madame Bigeon) and many thousands of pounds borrowed from Edward Austen and his Uncle Leigh Perrot.



I Jane Austen of the Parish of Chawton do by this my last Will & Testament give and bequeath to my dearest Sister Cassandra Elizth every thing of which I may die possessed, or which may be hereafter due to me, subject to the payment of my Funeral Expences, & to a Legacy of £ 50. to my Brother Henry, & £ 50. to Mde Bigeon–which I request may be paid as soon as convenient. And I appoint my said dear Sister the Executrix of this my last Will & Testament.

 

Jane Austen
April 27, 1817

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