If you are in New York this winter, and need a respite from all of the holiday madness, go spend a few minutes with Miss Austen at the Morgan Library: A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy, through 14 March 2010 (the NYT review here). On view are handwritten manuscripts, letters, bits of ephemera, prints and drawings ~ which collected together begin to give us a portrait of the author herself. My personal favorite is a letter (pictured above) written by Austen to her 8-year-old niece, in which the words were written backwards, thus presenting the poor girl with quite a puzzle. See how you do:
YM RAED YSSAC,
I hsiw uoy a yppah wen raey. Ruoy xis snisuoc emac ereh yadretsey, dna dah hcae a eceip of ekac. Siht si elttil Yssac's yadhtrib, dna ehs si eerht sraey dlo. Knarf sah nugeb gninrael Nital. Ew deef eht Nibor yreve gninrom. Yllas netfo seriuqne retfa uoy. Yllas Mahneb sah tog a wen neerg nwog. Teirrah Thgink semoc yreve yad ot daer ot Tnua Ardnassac. Doog eyb, ym raed Yssac.
Tnua Ardnassac sdnes reh tseb evol, dna os ew od lla.
Ruoy etanoitceffa Tnua, ENAJ NETSUA
And while you are at the Morgan, you can also see Dickens’ original manuscript for A Christmas Carol!
(images: Jane Austen, letter to Cassandra Austen; and William Blake, Portrait of Mrs. Q [Mrs. Harriet Quentin], 1820, both courtesy of the Morgan Library)