I thought you would all be very interested in Sotheby’s English Literature,History,Children’s Books and Illustrations sale which will be held in London on the 10th July. The reason? There are quite a few items related to Jane Austen..so, get your cheque books ready…

There is almost a complete set of  first editions for sale, all from the collection of Bridget Mary Owen:

Lot 57, Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice, First Edition, ©Sotheby’s

has a pre-sale estimate of £20,000-30,000

Lot 55, Mansfield Park

Mansfield Park First Edition ©Sotheby’s

has a pre-sale estimate of £3,000 – 5,000

Lot 58, Emma

Emma, First Edition, ©Sotheby’s

has a pre-sale estimate of £10,000-15,000, and Lot 56,  Northanger Abbey and Persuasion

Northanger Abbey and Persuasion First Edition ©Sotheby’s

Has a pre-sale estimate of £2,500-3,500.

Continuing the navel themes of Persuasion, Lot 20, is a sea chest owned by George Lewis Browne who served on H.M.S. Victory, Nelson’s flagship, during the Battle of Trafalgar:

Battle of Trafalgar Sea Chest ©Sotheby’s

This has a pre-sale estimate of £15,000-20,000 And finally, Lot 59: a piece to make every Janeite’s heart leap, Jane Austen’s Ring:

Jane Austen’s Ring, and Note from Eleanor Austen née Jackson to Caroline Austen ©Sotheby’s

This has a pre-sale estimate of £20,000-30,000. It has a rather touching history, which is contained in the note that accompanies the ring, shown below:

Note written by Eleanor Austen, Née Jackson to Caroline Austen in 1863 ©Sotheby’s

The ring was Jane Austen’s and on her death it became to property of her sister, Cassandra. Three years after Jane died, in 1820,  Henry Austen, her brother, married for the second time, Eleanor Jackson. She was well known to the Austen family, and was a niece of Mr. Papillon, the Rector of Chawton(who was in turn the subject of a joke: Mrs Knight the adoptive mother of Edward Austen, often wished Jane Austen had married him).

Deirdre Le Faye in the Jane Austen Society’s Report  of 1989 wrote about Eleanor and Henry:

The last of the nine sisters-in-law was Eleanor Jackson, Henry’s second wife. Jane had always expected that Henry would marry again, and before his bankruptcy in 1816 there had been several ladies in his circle of wealthy London friends to whom he seemed equally attracted and on whom he sought Jane’s sisterly opinions. However, his sudden reduction to near-poverty meant that any thoughts of re-marriage had to be indefinitely postponed, and it was only his succession to the Steventon living in 1819,  following James’ (Austen’s jfw) death, which enabled him to support a wife once more. Not much is known about Eleanor, save that she was the niece of the Reverend John Papillon, Rector of Chawton at the time the Austens were living there; her home was in Chelsea, so Henry could have met her in either place. It is not certain whether Jane ever knew her, but it seems probable she is the “Eleanor” mentioned in Letter no. 75 in January 1813.  In 1819 she was referred to in family correspondence as having ‘a very good pair of Eyes”  but no other description or picture of her is known. Persumably she was intelligent- one cannot imagine Henry choosing a dull, stupid woman-and they were married in 1820. Despite her ill-health, (by the 1830s she had developed a semi-crippling ailment, probably something rheumatic,) Henry was devoted to Eleanor:”one dearer to me than life and for whose comfort I am solicitous beyond my own existence “. Cassandra was happy to think that he had found such an excellent wife to support him in his last role in life and an impoverished country clergyman. It is thanks to Eleanor that the miniature of Mrs Hancock, now on display at the Cottage survives; after Henry’s death in 1850 one of Frank’s granddaughters came to live with Eleanor and was in turn bequeathed the little picture( see below- jaw). It descended in that branch of the family until Mr Edward Carptenter was able to acquire  it  on behalf of the Jane Austen Society.


Miniature of Philadelphia Hancock by John Smart

According to the note in Eleanor’s hand, when Cassandra learnt that Henry was to marry Eleanor, she gave her Jane’s ring. Eleanor in turn gave it to Caroline Austen, Jane’s niece, as the note explains. It has since descended through the family: Caroline left it to her niece, James Edward Austen Leigh’s daughter, Mary, who gave it in turn to her sister, Winifred Jenkyns,and it has since descended though that branch of the family .

The ring looks as if it’s stone is of turquoise, but in fact it is odontolite, which was commonly known as Bone Turquoise.It is, in fact a fossilised tooth, that was heat-treated  to turn blue, so that it could be used in imitation of the more expensive semi precious stone, fashionable in the Regency period.

I have then feeling that this ring will make far more than its estimate: I will, of course, watch out for the results of the sale for you, and report back. I confess, this is one item I would love to own.

UPDATE: Deirdre Le Faye has contacted me to correct the information given by Sotheby’s in their catalogue about the date in Eleanor Jackson’s note which accompanies Jane Austen’s Ring:

Eleanor Jackson’s note CANNOT be dated November 1869 (NINE), because she died on 3rd May 1864 (FOUR) and probate of her Will was granted 27th June 1864 (FOUR) – no doubt about that, therefore. The note must be ‘November 1863 (THREE) – with the final figure being written in a very tight, cramped fashion. I have written to Sotheboys to tell them this – too late now that the catalogue is printed, but I trust they will make an announcement in the room when the lot comes up. Best wishes to all interested readers, Deirdre Le Faye