Family Archivists: Letters from Jane Austen’s Mom

Posted on Mon., Oct. 9, 2023

Archivist Gayle Richardson and Vanessa Wilkie, William A. Moffett Senior Curator of Medieval Manuscripts and British History and head of Library Curatorial, discuss the importance and relevance of the Leigh Family Archive.

The Leigh Family Archive is a trove of nearly 400 unpublished letters written during the 17th and 18th centuries in England. Although Jane Austen’s mother was a Leigh, there are no letters to or from the iconic author in the collection. Nevertheless, the material will be of value and interest to Austenites because it provides detailed context for her life, family, and work. Even without their famous Austen cousin, the Leighs would draw scholarly attention. This collection—along with The Huntington’s Leigh Family Papers and the nearly 600 Leigh family manuscripts in The Huntington’s iconic Stowe Collection—can be read through the lenses of race, gender, and class to extrapolate aspects of the world beyond the Leigh family that they themselves may not have perceived.