36 free quilt blocks, one a week with a guide to Jane Austen's England and posts about the people in her life.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Block 36: Modern Envelope for Anne Sharp

Block #36: Modern Envelope by Becky Brown for Anne Sharp
This is the last block in our series of 36 Austen Family Album blocks.

One of Jane Austen's last surviving letters was to her friend, "My dearest Anne" Sharp. They met about 1805 when both women were approaching 30 years of age. Jane was visiting her wealthy brother Edward's estate where Miss Sharp served as governess to Edward's eldest daughter Fanny for two years or so.

Rebecca Solomon painted a portrait of 
"The Governess"in the 1850s.

The women had much in common: age, taste, intelligence and the position of single women. Both perched on a curious step in the social ladder. In the midst of affluence and titles at a country manor, Miss Jane was a poor relation, Miss Sharp an employee, not quite a servant, certainly not an equal to her student's social position.

The elegant hall at Godmersham today

After Anne moved on to teach in another stately home the two remained fast friends through their letters. Anne visted Jane at Chawton at least once, in 1815.

Fashion Plate, 1803

Modern Envelope by Georgann Eglinski

Jane sent copies of her books and welcomed Anne's comments. In 1816 Jane asked the publisher to forward a set of the first edition of Emma, which Anne honestly reviewed. She did not like it so much as Pride and Prejudice.

Anne Sharp's 3-volume set of Emma recently sold for well over £100,000.

Anne signed her name
 above the publishing house clerk's notation:
 "From the author."

In summer, 1817, Anne was teaching in Doncaster and Jane was very ill indeed. She wrote to Anne about the ups and downs of her chronic and mysterious disease and her treatment in Chawton. She announced she was going to a larger city to see the family's doctor.
"I am going to Winchester instead, for some weeks to see what Mr Lyford can do farther towards re-establishing me in tolerable health. — On Saturday next, I am actually going thither — My dearest Cassandra with me I need hardly say — And as this is only two days off you will be convinced that I am now really a very genteel, portable sort of an Invalid."
She closed with:
"Sick or Well, beleive me ever yr attached friend
J. Austen"

The Winchester house where Jane died at the age of 41, 
soon after her letter to Anne, drawing by Constance Hill

8 College Street, Winchester

Entries from Jane's sister-in-law Mary Lloyd Austen's diary, 
from the Hants [Hampshire] website
"17 July 1817 Jane Austen was taken for death about ½ past 5 in the Evening
18 July 1817 Jane breathed her last ½ after four in the morn; only Cass. and I were with her. Henry came.."

Modern Envelope by Bettina Havig

We who love the past and Jane Austen's novels are so fortunate to have Jane's letters available to tell us more about the Austens and their times.

Letter to Cassandra Austen from her sister
In Jane Austen's England, letters were not inserted into envelopes. The writer left space on the sheet for the address and folded the paper to make a self-envelope, an old-fashioned skill. The recipient rather than the writer paid the postage and postage increased with each sheet. Jane was an economical writer, fitting a good deal of eloquence into a single sheet of paper.
When folded and sealed the letter was ready to be posted.

For our last block in the Austen Family Album, "Modern Envelope" can remind us of those Austen letters in their old-fashioned, hand-folded envelopes.This pattern, published in the Kansas City Star in 1945, echoes paper folding.

Modern Envelope is BlockBase # 1266d

Cutting a 12" Block
A - Cut 2 squares 6-7/8”. Cut each in half with a diagonal cut to make 2 triangles.

You need 4 large triangles.

B - Cut 2 squares 7-1/4”. Cut each into 4 triangles with 2 diagonal cuts.

You need 8 triangles.


Jane's obituary

Modern Envelope by Becky Brown

Read more about the friendship here:

And while you stitch your sampler blocks together, listen to Eileen Horne's novel/play told from Miss Sharp's perspective in The Mysterious Death of Jane Austen.


  1. It's a sad day today imagining Jane Austen's death. Those of us of a certain age might remember the blue, thin "onion skin" sheets of paper that were once available here for Air Mail -- in the wireless age, I might explain that meant mail segregated from regular mail for transport by plane. Such letters had to have Air Mail stamps which cost more than regular stamps with postage increasing by weight. You could send a letter in an envelope on regular paper by air with these stamps but it would be expensive and you were paying for the "heavier" paper and the two layers of envelope. To economize, you could buy the blue onion skin sheet with a place reserved on one side for the address and with postage affixed and you could write all over it on both sides from every angle, just as Jane Austen did, and then fold it and seal it as indicated and post it. This way your message could go Air Mail for not much of a premium. It was harder to read the writing on the crinkly onion shin, I remember. I wonder if anyone else remembers these.

    1. I remember it - and also you could buy pads of it with enveloppes made of it. I also remember the 'blueys' I used to write to my husband on that were the same. He was in the Royal Navy and letters were the only communication we had for several of his 9 months trips - the whole ship use to wait for the helicopter with all the blueys on board.

  2. No matter how many biographies I read about Jane I am always saddened at her death. I remember onion skin paper for airmail. And when the postman came twice a day during December.

  3. A poignant close to this lovely series - thanks, Barbara! I've learned a lot about Jane's life and times. Can't wait to see what you have for us next.

  4. I have enjoyed reading this series - will miss my peeks into Jane Austens world every Sunday. Thank you for researching and sharing.

  5. Thank you for having this series--loved reading about Jane's world each week!

  6. Thank you so much for the wonderful history and providing us a block to work on every Sunday. Have a wonderful holiday season.

  7. Thank you for doing this for all of us. I not only enjoyed the history of Jane Austen and her era, but I also had the chance to make blocks I probably never would have. This was my first online block of the week, and several of us at my guild are doing it. What a blast we've had. Now ... what to do with my Sundays?????

  8. Thank you so much for the history "lessons" about Jane Austen and family! I thoroughly enjoyed reading them....and truthfully don't want them to stop! I love the added bonus of learning new quilt blocks and their origins. I always enjoy your emails and learning the history of quilting but this was above and beyond...thank you again!

  9. It's amazing that her quilt patterns have survived all of this time. You can still see her influence on modern quilting. I don't know anyone else that provides such great history on the subject. http://moresewforyou.com

  10. Thanks so much for taking us along. I enjoyed it very much. Indeed we also had in Holland the airmail letters, which you had to fold... long time ago ;)