A fleeting glance at the following, beguiling letter would more often than not result in the assumption that it had been penned in a foreign language, when in actual fact it is a charmingly coded message – hint: try reading each word backward – sent playfully to an eight-year-old girl named Cassandra in 1817, by her loving aunt. Sadly, just six months later, Cassandra’s aunt – then a moderately successful novelist – passed away, but soon her work began to attract praise far and wide. ‘Enaj Netsua‘ remains to this day one of the most widely read English-language novelists of all time.
Transcript follows, along with the text reversed.
Ym raed Yssac
I hsiw uoy a yppah wen raey. Ruoy xis snisuoc emac ereh yadretsey dna dah hcae a eceip fo ekac. Siht si elttil Yssac’s yadhtrib, dna ehs si eerht sraey dlo. Knarf sah nugeb gninrael Nital. Ew deef eht Nibor yreve gninrom. Yllas netfo seriuqne retfa uoy. Yllas Mahneb sah tog a wen neerg nwog. Teirrah Thgink semoc yreve yad ot daer ot Tnua Ardnassac. Doog eyb ym raed Yssac. Tnua Ardnassac sdnes reh tseb evol, dna os ew od lla.
Ruoy Etanoitceffa Tnua
Notwahc, Naj 6.
My dear Cassy
I wish you a happy new year. Your six cousins came here yesterday and had each a piece of cake. This is little Cassy’s birthday, and she is three years old. Frank has begun learning Latin. We feed the Robin every morning. Sally often enquires after you. Sally Benham has got a new green gown. Harriet Knight comes every day to read to Aunt Cassandra. Good bye my dear Cassy. Aunt Cassandra sends her best love, and so we do all.
Your Affectionate Aunt
Chawton, Jan 6