Letter from a Young Lady

A woman writes candidly about her deceptions and dark deeds.

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Many have been the cares and vicissitudes of my past life, my beloved Ellinor, and the only consolation I feel for their bitterness is that on a close examination of my conduct, I am convinced that I have strictly deserved them. I murdered my father at a very early period of my life, I have since murdered my mother, and I am now going to murder my sister. I have changed my religion so often that at present I have not an idea of any left. I have been a perjured witness in every public trial for these last twelve years; and I have forged my own will. In short there is scarcely a crime that I have not committed—but I am now going to reform.

Colonel Martin of the horse guards has paid his addresses to me, and we are to be married in a few days. As there is something singular in our courtship, I will give you an account of it.

Colonel Martin is the second son of the late Sir John Martin who died immensely rich, but bequeathing only one hundred thousand pound apiece to his three younger children, left the bulk of his fortune, about eight million to the present Sir Thomas. Upon his small pittance the Colonel lived tolerably contented for nearly four months when he took it into his head to determine on getting the whole of his eldest brother’s estate. A new will was forged and the Colonel produced it in court—but nobody would swear to it’s being the right will except himself, and he had sworn so much that nobody believed him. At that moment I happened to be passing by the door of the court, and was beckoned in by the Judge who told the Colonel that I was a lady ready to witness anything for the cause of justice, and advised him to apply to me. In short the affair was soon adjusted. The Colonel and I swore to it being the right will, and Sir Thomas has been obliged to resign all his illgotten wealth. The Colonel in gratitude waited on me the next day with an offer of his hand.

I am now going to murder my sister.

Jane Austen (1775-1817) was a writer. She was best known for her novels including Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma.

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