A RARE piece of text handwritten by Hampshire’s Jane Austen has been uncovered, and is thought to be 120 years old.

Curators at the author’s museum at Chawton, near Winchester, had commissioned conservators to remove a small piece of paper which had been pasted into a letter written by Austen’s nephew in 1870 and attached to a first edition of The Memoirs of Jane Austen, published the same year.

Dating from 1814, the front of the scrap of paper contains part of a sermon copied in Jane Austen’s handwriting.

It is known that she often helped her brother – the Rev James Austen – to copy out his sermons.

More writing could be seen on the reverse of the paper, but was not legible.

The paper was removed by a student at West Dean College in Sussex.

Keira McKee, a student of the books conservation postgraduate programme, was given the delicate task of removing the scrap of paper from the letter by carefully moistening it.

She said: “By introducing a limited amount of humidity in a controlled way, I was able to soften the adhesive holding the sheets together.

“Exposing the inks to moisture can itself generate problems, due to the corrosive nature of the iron compounds used in such inks.”

The lines of text on the reverse of the paper read: “…great propriety preserved. Wherever/wanted to be cleared of the Superstitious [address?]/of Popery – or whenever new ones were to be/composed in order to fill up and connect the services/…with a true spirit.”

It is thought the text reflects religious themes in Austen’s novel Mansfield Park, published in 1814.