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Jane Austen & Co. News

Creative Writing Grand Prize Winner: "My Dear Frances"

Congratulations to Cassandra Chambers, the Grand Prize winner of our "Dressing with Jane Austen" creative writing contest.

An office manager by day, Cassandra Chambers spends her free time writing short fiction, involving herself with medieval and early modern living history, and creating textile arts such as spinning, weaving, embroidery, and sewing. Ever since she picked up her first Jane Austen book in the sixth grade, Cassandra has been a fan and was thrilled to take part in the Jane Austen & Co. writing challenge. Cassandra blogs about her writing at and documents her living history involvement at

Click here to learn how you can enter our next creative writing contest.

"My Dear Frances"

My dear Frances,

You will laugh when you hear that I am barely out of bed as I start this letter. I paused only to pull

on my stockings and garters and to remove the papers from my hair before rushing to my writing

desk. Elizabeth will soon be up to help me dress but I fear she will be in a sour mood. She is so

rough with the laces of my stays when she is ill-tempered. I am forced to wear my old gown with the

green and pink stripes today, the one you complain is so unfashionable. Why?—I can hear your

dismay from here—well, that is the story I’m so eager to impart.

As you know, we were to host a small dinner party for the Buxtons, and everyone was frantic with

preparations. Mid-morning, we were informed that Mrs Buxton could not attend because she was

feeling poorly. This cancellation halfway through the preparations put everyone out of sorts. Jane

was ironing, and she scorched right through my best morning dress. I am sorry to admit I lost my

temper, and Elizabeth gave her such a chastisement I almost felt guilty for providing the offending


Returning from my walk, I encountered Jane’s sister, who told me that their youngest brother,

Thomas is gravely ill with a fever—the poor boy is barely five. Jane had been told yesterday about

her brother’s illness and the news so distracted her from the ironing that she accidentally burned

through my gown. I rebuked myself for being so quick to anger and rushed to tell my mother. We

sent Jane home to care for her brother for as long as needed and sent with her a bottle of tonic and

some bacon from the larder.

When I told her of the situation, Elizabeth discharged such a storm of complaints against poor

Jane—you know how Elizabeth can rage. The ladle she was holding caught the edge of a jar of

preserved plums, and it crashed to the floor, splashing my slippers and my newest dress, the one

with the pink and blue flowers that you so admired. Now I have two ruined gowns due to

yesterday’s turmoil, although Elizabeth said she had a recipe to remove the stains from my dress and


Today I will go to Mrs Croome to arrange for a new morning dress and then to the milliners to pick

up a length of ribbon as a gift for Jane. I saw her eyeing a pretty blue and green striped tape the

other day, so I think that might bring her some enjoyment.

I will leave you for now, for I hear Elizabeth knocking. I expect your next letter will be full of the

ball you attended last night, and I eagerly await to hear all about the latest styles. Do not be timid in

any details!

Affectionately yours,

Mary Ann


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