It is a fact universally acknowledged that a single novel in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a sequel. So your letter brings a flush to my cheeks. I scarce had hold enough of my emotions to thank the postman.

There are those who have no great hopes from sequels. Yet all writers, however threadbare their gifts, cling to the hope that posterity will chuse to honour them by imitation. I do not doubt that, in time, my own humble excursion will seem but a brief prelude to your great enterprise, a sliver of bacon to set before your own great pig of a book.

How shrewd of you to divine that Pride and Prejudice is unfinished. I had begun to wonder (it is 180 years since I brought Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy to the brink of wedlock) whether anyone would notice. You do me a great kindness in venturing where I durst not go, beyond the childish fancies of courtship and into the bridal chamber itself.

I have not, I regret, been afforded the freedom to read more than a few pages of Pemberley, but what little I have seen has sent my spirits into a high flutter. Such sense] Such sensibility] Your charming manners make us all smile, even my poor father. You have constructed for my characters the very future I should myself have chosen had I been possessed of wit and experience equal to the task.

And now, more news] Mrs Knightley writes that you intend a sequel to Emma, a work in which she has always shewn a sharp interest. She tells me, moreover, that you are handsome, clever and rich, with a comfortable home and a happy disposition. It inclines me to wonder, and I trust you will forgive me this trespass on your good nature, whether these pleasing attentions proceed from the impulse of the moment, or are the result of previous study. I am sure I need not remind you that the pleasantness of an employment does not always evince its propriety.

Assuredly, it is a tribute to the openness of your heart that you leave off writing your own excellent books merely to complete - with little prospect of gain - the awkward unfinished business of a long-forgotten writer. But I confess to some confusion over your request that I furnish you with 'a quote for promotional purposes'. I hope you will not think me a foolish old spinster if I confess that the meaning of this is by no means plain. Indeed I trust that you will do me the service of withholding my name from the fruit of your labours. I hold no deeds to the characters in my novel; I never was more - and you, plainly, are no less - than a tenant.

I live, as you know, in a small village, and small villages have busy tongues, and though my little reputation is a poor thing, I have my pride - not to mention my prejudices - to think of. Whatever will the neighbours say?

Jane Austen