Bonhams: Jane Austen’s Letter 88

October 27, 2019 at 11:14 am (jane austen, news, Uncategorized) (, , , )


This is a further update to two posts:

Although I watched the auction online and was witnessing the climb and climb in price, the “at the hammer” price did NOT INCLUDE the premium paid to Bonhams. Now comes “news” (ie, not news at all) that the auction of Letter 88 of Jane Austen from the Dodge Collection “sold for a new record”: $200,075.

It is any wonder no one cared to forewarn entities like the Jane Austen House Museum, as Kathryn Sutherland advocated, in order to come to terms prior to a public auction?

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

From The Guardian article (7 Oct 2019):

“Sutherland said that ‘because of specific domestic details within it, it would have by far the greatest resonance inside the collection held by Jane Austen’s House Museum in the cottage where Austen lived and wrote’.

Earlier this year, the museum launched a crowdfunding campaign to help it raise the £35,000 it needed to buy a snippet of a letter written by Austen in 1814. …

Sutherland said it was particularly sad that publicly funded organisations like Jane Austen’s House Museum were unable to compete with international commercial buyers, ‘because so few Austen letters are retained for public benefit in British institutions’.

Considering that Britain has in the past disallowed artifacts to leave its shores, should the Dodge Austen letter be allowed to leave the U.S.? One entity that I thought should have partaken in the Battle for Letter 88 was The Morgan Library & Museum – the owner of a substantial collection of Austen letters. How about “retained for the public benefit in American institutions”?

JA to Cass 16 Sept 1813_Bonhams4

Deborah Yaffe commented on this idea of a “home country” for Austen letters, this one in particular, in her blog post “Going, going…”

That its cost beat the auction estimate – $80,000 to $100,000 – was a no brainer even as it was affixed to the catalogue. Austen is “hot property,” a growing phenomenon ever since Darcy’s wet shirt…

Even ratty Victorian paperbacks – I’m in the midst of reading Janine Barchas’ book The Lost Books of Jane Austen (purchased after the Williamsburg AGM after her “highlight” plenary presentation “The Lost Copies Northanger Abbey” – sell for much more than the proverbial “song” when they’ve got JANE AUSTEN attached to them.

Let’s face it, Austen is priced out of the reach of most institutions. Without knowing the depth of coffers (or generous donors) some like The British Library or Oxford University or, yes, the Morgan, have recourse to, it is guesswork only.

What I want to know is, Who Bought Jane Austen?

Maybe it was singer, TV host Kelly Clarkson! The letter sold for less than the ring AND it’s already in the U.S.

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