Jane Austen died on this day, July 18th, in 1817. Her sister Cassandra cared for her until the end, and after the funeral procession she wrote to their niece Fanny Knight that “Never was human being more sincerely mourned by those who attended her remains than was this dear creature. May the sorrow with which she is parted with on earth be a prognostic of the joy with which she is hailed in heaven!”
Jane and Cassandra were very close throughout their lives. Calm, practical Cassandra mourned deeply, but was determined not to be overpowered by her sister’s death. As she wrote to Fanny, “You know me too well to be at all afraid that I should suffer materially from my feelings; I am perfectly conscious of the extent of my irreparable loss, but I am not at all overpowered and very little indisposed, nothing but what a short time, with rest & change of air will remove. I thank God that I was enabled to attend her to the last, and amongst my many causes of self-reproach I have not to add any wilful neglect of her comfort.”
A few days later she was able to report that “I get out of doors a good deal and am able to employ myself. Of course those employments suit me best which leave me most at leisure to think of her I have lost, and I do think of her in every variety of circumstance. In our happy hours of confidential intercourse, in the cheerful family party which she so ornamented, in her sick room, on her death-bed, and as (I hope) an inhabitant of heaven. Oh, if I may one day be re-united to her there! I know the time must come when my mind will be less engrossed by her idea, but I do not like to think of it.”
Cassandra outlived Jane by nearly twenty-eight years. She died at age 72 on March 22, 1845. She had been visiting her brother Frank at Portsdown, near Portsmouth, Hampshire, and she was buried at Chawton.
Jane was buried in Winchester Cathedral. There are some beautiful pictures on Jane Austen’s House Museum Blog today of the white English Rose named Winchester Cathedral, which was planted at the House in memory of Jane Austen, and of the pale pink rose Blush Noisette.
The quotations are from Cassandra’s letters to Fanny on July 20 and 29, 1817, which may be read in full here.