The Sideshow

Jane Austen’s ring up for auction

The Sideshow

It's a plot straight out of a Jane Austen novel. A family ring with a possible romantic history handed down and finally put up for auction. Except this is the real-life possession of the "Pride and Prejudice" author herself.

Sadly for fans of the novelist, the price of the gold and turquoise bauble is worth more than a paperback. Sotheby's puts the guidance around 20,000 pounds to 30,000 pounds (or about $31,000 to $46,000).

The ring came to Sotheby's straight from Austen's family, along with a note.

Written by Jane's sister-in-law, Eleanor Austen, to her niece, Caroline Austen, in November 1863, it reads:

My dear Caroline, the enclosed ring once belonged to your Aunt Jane. It was given to me by your Aunt Cassandra as soon as she knew that I was engaged to your uncle. I bequeath it to you. God bless you!

Even more delightful is speculation around who gave Jane Austen the ring in the first place. One theory is that the ring could have been a gift from her Irish lover, Tom Lefroy.

Austen described in a letter to her sister Cassandra her "Irish friend," "Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together" adding, "He is a very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man, I assure you."

Indeed, Lefroy may have been the inspiration for the "Pride and Prejudice" character Mr. Darcy, made handsomely famous by Colin Firth in the televised miniseries adaptation on PBS in 1996. (Tom Lefroy had his Hollywood moment portrayed by James McAvoy in the movie, "Becoming Jane.")

Dr. Gabriel Heaton, an expert in literature at Sotheby's, told the Guardian that another possibility is that the ring could have been a gift from Austen's brother, Henry, since the jewelry box is from London, and Henry was a banker with the means to buy it.

Heaton told the Guardian, "It's so unusual to find any personal possession of Jane Austen's. There's something very romantic about it."

Word of the literary gem (literally) certainly captured the attention of Austen fans on Twitter. Liesel Schwarz ‏@Liesel_S posted, "The ultimate writer's gift. "
terfle ‏@terfle joked, "Wonder if $2 I found in the dryer will buy it?"

The ring goes up for auction on July 10.

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