Thursday 16 July
Thanks to Dr. Welsh, it was brought to my attention that the National Library of Scotland possesses some of Jane Austen’s letters. Since the items are not under restricted access I was able to pre-register as a reader before arriving in Scotland and finish the process once I went to the library. Unlike the British Library, the National Library of Scotland only required one form of identification.
The collection at the library that has the Jane Austen letters is the John Murray archive. He was her publisher and he published four of her six novels: Emma, Mansfield Park, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. The two letters in the collection actually written by Austen are addressed to John Murray and talk about details regarding Emma.
The staff at the National Library of Scotland were very welcoming and helpful. Going upstairs to the help desk in the archives room I told the man that MaryRodgers and I were interested in seeing the Jane Austen letters in their possession. He took a moment to look up the information and asked that we please take a seat while he did. When he approached us he was very apologetic about the fact that they only had two letters but he’d request all the information regarding Austen.
With the two letters she wrote to John Murray about Emma there were also letters written to Murray after her death by her sibling discussing the publication of the rest of her novels. The letters regarding the publication of Emma were discussing the dedication of the book to the Prince Regent and hoping that since she agreed to this dedication that it was a good way to encourage the printers to move things along a bit more quickly. In addition to the letters there were copies of the checks written to Austen for her work. One of these checks was on display at the library and there is a picture of that exhibit below.
This was my first time going into a library to do serious research. The people at the library made it an easy experience. Everyone we encountered was very helpful and I had a great time going into this library and using the materials available to me as a registered reader.