Happy 201st Birthday Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice Brock illustrationYou must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” – Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice, Ch 34

Today we celebrate another anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice on 28 January 1813 in London. It’s hard to top last year’s incredible, world-wide, over the top festivities, elevating Jane Austen and her most popular novel to mega-media darlings of 2013. Who will ever forget the giant statue of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy rising dripping wet from The Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, or the announcement that Jane Austen would be featured on the UK £10.00 pound note in 2017?

I will always remember this anniversary as the year that I visited Jane Austen’s England for the first time and walked in her footsteps through gardens, stately homes, and her last residence, Chawton Cottage in Hampshire.  It was quite a year for this Janeite.

I was also very happy to see an increased interest in reading Pride and Prejudice and the many spinoffs that it has generated. Over 400 fans signed up for our own year-long Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge here on Austenprose and over of a quarter of a million visitors landed on our Pride and Prejudice Archives, detailing the novel’s characters, plot summary and significant quotes. If you have not visited our archives yet, the links to each page are listed below.

We have another significant 200th anniversary coming up on the 9th of May for  Mansfield Park. I have always been very fond of Jane Austen’s less popular novel, especially her prudential heroine Fanny Price and anti-heroine Mary Crawford. I look forward to re-reading it this year.

Happy Birthday Pride and Prejudice! I ardently admire and love you too!

Cheers,

Laurel Ann 

Pride and Prejudice

© 2014, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose.com

Publication Dates of Jane Austen’s Novels and Minor Works

The History of England, by Jane Austen excerpt p 171Inquiring reader Lily recently wrote to me and expressed her frustration at not being able to locate the publication dates of Jane Austen’s minor works online. Ever the accommodating Janeite, here is a partial list of her published works.

Novels: (c. 1794-1817)

  • Sense and Sensibility: (30 October 1811) Thomas Egerton, Military Library (Whitehall, London)
  • Pride and Prejudice: (28 January 1813) Thomas Egerton, Military Library (Whitehall, London)
  • Mansfield Park: (9 May 1814) Thomas Egerton, Military Library (Whitehall, London)
  • Emma: (December 1815) John Murray (London)
  • Northanger Abbey: (December 1817) John Murray (London)
  • Persuasion: (December 1817) John Murray (London)

Image of Jane Austen Minor Works Volume 1 at The Bodleian Library Oxford, England

Juvenilia: (c. 1787-98) Three manuscript notebooks containing 27 items.

Volume the First (c. 1787-90) was first edited by R. W. Chapman and published by Clarendon Press, Oxford in 1933. It is now owned by the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

  • Frederic & Elfredia
  • Jack & Alice
  • Edgar & Emma
  • Henry & Eliza
  • The adventures of Mr. Harley
  • Sir William Mountague
  • Memoirs of Mr. Clifford
  • The Beautiful Cassandra
  • Amelia Webster
  • The Visit
  • The Mystery
  • The Three Sisters
  • A beautiful description
  • The generous Curate
  • Ode to Pity

Volume the Second (c. 1790-93) was first published by Chatto & Windus in 1922. It is now owned by The British Museum.

  • Love and Freindship (Austen’s original spelling of friendship)
  • Lesley Castle
  • The History of England
  • A Collections of Letters
  • The female philosopher
  • The first Act of a Comedy
  • A Letter from a Young Lady
  • A Tour through Wales
  • A Tale

Volume the Third (c. 1792) was first edited by R. W. Chapman and published by Clarendon Press, Oxford in 1951. It is now owned by The British Museum.

  • Evelyn
  • Catharine, or the Bower

Illustration from The History of England, by Jane and Cassandra Austen

Novella:

  • Lady Susan: (c. 1793-4) was first published in part in A Memoir of Jane Austen, by James Edward Austen-Leigh in the second edition of 1871, and later, a full record of the manuscript alterations was edited by R. W. Chapman and included in the Oxford Press edition of 1923. The manuscript is now owned by The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York.

Fragments of Novels:

  • The Watson’s: (c. 1804-5) was first was first published in part in A Memoir of Jane Austen, by James Edward Austen-Leigh in the second edition of 1871. The first six leaves of the manuscript were sold and later acquired by The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. The remained of the manuscript (minus recently missing pages) was sold last year to The Bodleian Library, Oxford.
  • Sanditon: (1817) an extract was first published (about one-sixth) in A Memoir of Jane Austen, by James Edward Austen-Leigh in the second edition of 1871. The manuscript is now owned by the King’s College Library, Cambridge.

You can visit digital images of many of the existing original Jane Austen manuscripts in her handwriting online at the awe inspiring website Jane Austen Fiction Manuscripts. Enjoy!

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2007 – 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Quotes honoring Pride and Prejudice’s 199th Birthday!

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, J. M. Dent & Co, London (1907)I could not let this day pass without wishing Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice a happy 199th birthday.

Written between October 1796 and August 1797, Pride and Prejudice was first entitled First Impression and would not premiere on the printed page until after many revisions and another sixteen years. Publisher Thomas Egerton of Whitehall (London) purchased the copyright from Jane Austen for £110 (worth £3,735.60 or $5,867.77 today). She would make no further pecuniary emolument from her most popular novel in her lifetime.

We have all had the pleasure of enjoying her “light, bright and sparkling” prose for almost 200 years now. Renowned for her witty dialogue, the friction between Austen’s hero Mr. Darcy and heroine Elizabeth Bennet has given us some of the most memorable lines in literature. Here are a few of my favorites:

“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.” (Mr Darcy to Mr. Bingley about Elizabeth Bennet; Ch. 3)

“I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” (Elizabeth Bennet about Mr. Darcy; Ch. 5)

“Your conjecture is totally wrong, I assure you. My mind was more agreeably engaged. I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.” (Mr. Darcy to Miss Bingley; Ch. 6)

“A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony, in a moment.” (Mr. Darcy to Miss Bingley; Ch. 6)

“Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.” (Mr. Darcy; Ch. 10)

“There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil— a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.”

“And your defect is a propensity to hate everybody.”

“And yours,” he replied with a smile, “is willfully to misunderstand them.” (Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet; Ch. 11)

“It is particularly incumbent on those who never change their opinion, to be secure of judging properly at first.”

“May I ask to what these questions tend?”

“Merely to the illustration of your character,” said she, endeavouring to shake off her gravity. “I am trying to make it out.”

“And what is your success?”

She shook her head. “I do not get on at all. I hear such different accounts of you as puzzle me exceedingly.” (Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet; Ch. 18)

“There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it…” (Elizabeth Bennet; Chapter 24)

“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” (Elizabeth Bennet; Chapter 31)

“I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”

“My fingers,” said Elizabeth, “do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault- because I would not take the trouble of practising…” (Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet; Ch. 31)

“In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” (Mr. Darcy; Ch. 34)

“I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have occasioned pain to anyone. It has been most unconsciously done, however, and I hope will be of short duration.” (Elizabeth Bennet; Ch. 34)

“From the very beginning— from the first moment, I may almost say— of my acquaintance with you, your manners, impressing me with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your selfish disdain of the feelings of others, were such as to form the groundwork of disapprobation on which succeeding events have built so immovable a dislike; and I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be prevailed on to marry.” (Elizabeth Bennet; Ch. 34)

“If Mr. Darcy is neither by honour nor inclination confined to his cousin, why is not he to make another choice? And if I am that choice, why may not I accept him?”

“Because honour, decorum, prudence, nay, interest, forbid it. Yes, Miss Bennet, interest; for do not expect to be noticed by his family or friends, if you wilfully act against the inclinations of all. You will be censured, slighted, and despised, by everyone connected with him. Your alliance will be a disgrace; your name will never even be mentioned by any of us.”

“These are heavy misfortunes,” replied Elizabeth. “But the wife of Mr. Darcy must have such extraordinary sources of happiness necessarily attached to her situation, that she could, upon the whole, have no cause to repine.” (Lady Catherine and Elizabeth Bennet; Ch. 56)

“You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever.” (Mr. Darcy; Ch. 58)

“My dearest sister, now be serious. I want to talk very seriously. Let me know every thing that I am to know, without delay. Will you tell me how long you have loved him?”

“It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.” (Jane Bennet and Elizabeth Bennet; Ch. 59)

“I cannot fix on the hour, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.” (Mr. Darcy; Ch. 60)

These are only a few of the amazing moments in Pride and Prejudice. Did I miss some your favorites? If so, do share.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2007 – 2012, Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Austenprose’s Jane Austen Birthday Soiree – December 16, 2011 – with tons of Giveaways!

Jane Austen Warhol Banner

HAPPY 236th BIRTHDAY JANE AUSTEN!

Welcome to our contribution to the Austen’s Birthday Soiree!

Austen's Birthday Soiree 2012We are participating in the Austen’s Birthday Soiree, hosted by Katherine Cox of November’s Autumn & Maria Grazia of My Jane Austen Book Club. The daylong blog hop will feature a post in celebration of Jane Austen, her life, her novels and the era in which she lived at each of the 31 blogs!

Quick links to participants in Austen’s Birthday Soiree

  1. Blog: Sharon Lathan
  2. Blog: O! Beauty Unattempted
  3. Blog: Austenprose
  4. Blog: SemiTrue Stories
  5. Blog: First Draft
  6. Blog: Regency Skethes
  7. Blog: Brant Flakes
  8. Blog: Mesmered’s Blog
  9. Blog: The Heroine’s Bookshelf
  10. Blog: vvb32 reads
  11. Blog: The Fiction vs. Reality Smackdown
  12. Blog: ReginaJeffers’s Blog
  13. Blog: Alyssa Goodnight   
  14. Blog: Jane Austen in Vermont
  15. Blog: Jane Started It!
  16. Blog: Choc Lit Authors’ Corner
  17. Blog: Reading, Writing, Working, Playing
  18. Blog: The Jane Austen Film Club 
  19. Blog: El Salón de Té de Jane
  20. Blog: Kaitlin Saunders
  21. Blog: One Literature Nut
  22. Blog: Patrice Sarath
  23. Blog: Jane Austen Brasil
  24. Blog: Jane Austen Sequels 
  25. Blog: Stiletto Storytime
  26. Blog: Jennifer W. Becton
  27. Blog: Urban Girl Takes Vermont
  28. Blog: Pemberley Variations 
  29. Blog: AustenAuthors
  30. Blog: November’s Autumn
  31. Blog: My Jane Austen Book Club

Our Tribute to her Letters

Jane Austen's Letters, Fourth Edition, collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye (2011The fourth edition of Jane Austen’s Letters, collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye was just released in October in the UK and December in the US by the good folks at Oxford University Press. It has some new additions to the text, including a new preface by Le Faye, subject index (huzzah), but sadly no new letters were discovered.  What remains of her correspondence is all here – and for those who have not delved beyond her prose, her letters might surprise you. They start in 1796 and continue until her death in 1817.

Here are some choice quotes from her letters:

Here I am once more in this scene of dissipation and vice, and I begin already to find my morals corrupted. 23 August 1796

What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps one in a continual state of inelegance.         18 September 1796

Next week I shall begin my operations on my hat, on which you know my principal hopes of happiness depend. 27 October 1798

I do not want people to be very agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal. 24 December 1798

You deserve a longer letter than this; but it is my unhappy fate seldom to treat people so well as they deserve. 24 December 1798

We have been exceedingly busy ever since you went away. In the first place we have had to rejoice two or three times everyday at your having such very delightful weather for the whole of your journey. 25 November 1800

You will have a great deal of unreserved discourse with Mrs. K., I dare say, upon this subject, as well as upon many other of our family matters. Abuse everybody but me. 07 January 1807

I begin already to weigh my words and sentences more than I did, and am looking about for a sentiment, an illustration, or a metaphor in every corner of the room. Could my Ideas flow as fast as the rain in the Storecloset it would be charming. 24 January 1809

How horrible it is to have so many people killed! And what a blessing that one cares for none of them! 31 May 1811

I will not say that your mulberry-trees are dead, but I am afraid they are not alive. 31 May 1811

I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or at other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter. 01 April 1816

The little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush as produces little effect after much labour. 16 December 1816

Single Women have a dreadful propensity for being poor—which is one very strong argument in favour of Matrimony. 13 March 1817

SUPER SPECTACULAR JANE AUSTEN BOOK GIVEAWAY!

Jane Austen Made Me Do It, edited by Laurel Ann Nattress (2011)In celebration of Jane Austen’s birthday, we are offering readers a chance to win twenty Austen items:

And…just for the heck of it…advance reading copies of:

To qualify for one of the giveaway items (one item per person) please leave a comment stating which of the giveaways you are dying to read and wish Jane Austen a happy birthday! Contest ends on 11:59 pm, Wednesday, December 21, 2011. Winners announced on Thursday, December 22, 2012. To claim your prize, please respond by contacting us with the name of the book that you won in the subject line and your full name and address by Wednesday, December 28, 2011. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses only.

Good luck to all.

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Giveaway winner Announced for The Annotated Sense and Sensibility

The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austenm edited by David M. Shapard (2011)37 of you left comments qualifying you for a chance to win a copy of The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, edited by David Shapard. The winner drawn at random is Jocelyn who left a comment on May 28th.

Congratulations Jocelyn! To claim your prize, please contact me with your full name and address by June 21st, 2011. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses only.

Thanks to all who left comments in the giveaway, and for all those participating in The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge. This year we are reading Jane Austen’s first published novel Sense and Sensibility and books inspired by it as well as viewing many of the movies adaptation this year in honor of its 200th anniversary.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle – A Review

Cast of Book-It Reperatory Theatre's adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility 2011

“Happy, happy Elinor, you cannot have an idea of what I suffer.”

“Do you call me happy, Marianne? Ah; if you knew! And can you believe me to be so while I see you so wretched!”

- Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 29

Happiness and suffering, and the emotional extremes that cause it, is an important theme in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility that was well served in a new stage adaptation of her novel premiering at the Book-It Repertory Theatre on June 3rd at the Centre House Theatre, Seattle Center. It is the Rep’s fourth Austen novel to stage production after the highly successful Pride and Prejudice in 2004, Persuasion in 2008, and Emma in 2010. Their interpretations of Austen are always brisk, lighthearted and memorable. Jane Austen has been very good to the Rep, and obviously, audiences have felt that the Rep has been likewise to Jane Austen.

Book-It Reperatory Theatre's adaptation of Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility (2011)Even though Sense and Sensibility is not as light, bright and sparkling as Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice, it may be the most adaptable of her works for the stage. At 200 years old it remains a compelling tale touting a favorable list of dramatic attributes: dual heroines with divergent personalities; three red herring heroes who are really anti-heroes in disguise; and an incredible assortment of unscrupulous and humorous minor characters that add levity and balance to a story that is quite seriously entrenched in 19th century British inheritance laws and the plight of women who were ruled by them. Heady stuff for any playwright to embrace and adapt. Even more so for the lucky audience if they get it right.

The two heroines of this cautionary tale are Elinor (Kjerstine Anderson) and Marianne (Jessica Martin) Dashwood – one with too much sense, and the other with not enough. Each of the sisters reacts differently to their life tragedies and budding romances. Jessica Martin’s Marianne was all pure unbridled emotion: extreme, exuberant, exasperating! Never loving by halves, she gushed about dead leaves, poetry and her beaux Willoughby with a passion leaping into Bronteism.  Marianne also dips into the depths of despair after being thrown-over by her suitor, wearing her down and into a serious illness. We had wished this had been given more attention and that Marianne had not rebounded back to herself with such cheerful alacrity.

Kjerstine Anderson as Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Rep (2011)Kjerstine Anderson as the solid, staid and correct sister Elinor was surprisingly regal, imposing and privately snarky – a different interpretation than I had experienced in my reading of the novel, or in any of the movie adaptations. Questioning my previous conclusions, was Austen’s Elinor as introspective, subtle and guarded as I had thought? Anderson did a commendable job as Austen’s anchor of reason and rationality, albeit too emotionally at critical moments. I am uncertain if this change in characteristics was artistic license or by direction, but it altered the divergence in the sisters personalities and lessened some of Austen’s critical plot points.

Aaron Blakely as John Willoughby in Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It  Rep (2011) x 200The three heroes (or anti-heroes): Edward Ferrars (Jason Marr), Col Brandon (David Quicksall) and John Willoughby (Aaron Blakely) were sensitively cast as the affable nerd, the gallant geezer and the charming cad to extreme satisfaction. Austen gave us an interesting assortment of suitors for our heroines. Often we are uncertain who the hero is because of major character flaws that act like red-herrings. In this interpretation (happily) Edward did not stutter, but he was so innocuous we wonder what Elinor saw in him. Really wonder! Marr was more than a bit of a milquetoast, and so was Quicksall as Col. Brandon who barely uttered a line for several scenes (to disconcerting effect) until he finally finds his voice making it all the more moving and admirable. Well done. When Blakely’s Willoughby gallantly arrives  to rescue the injured Marianne in a billowing greatcoat, our expectation of a Byronic hero was totally fulfilled. *swoon* The fact that he looked like a young Jonny Lee Miller did not hurt either. No wonder Marianne lost all sense. Who wouldn’t?  He was equally convincing in relaying his conflicted loyalties of money vs. love.

Jessica Martin and David Quicksall in Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Rep (2011) The minor characters in Austen’s tale are so endearingly flawed and humorous, supplying the comedy to offset the tragedy. Of note were the scheming and duplicitous Miss Lucy Steele (Angela DiMarco); selfish and manipulative Mrs. Dashwood (Emily Grogan) and her equally unappealing husband Mr. John Dashwood (Shawn Law); gossipy matchmaker Mrs. Jennings (Karen Nelson); and the jovial and obliging Sir John Middleton (Bill Johns). They brought levity to Jen Taylor’s energetic dramatization which at times had its charms and foibles. The narrative faithfully followed Austen’s own right down to some exact quotes. Huzzah! Gone though were Austen’s cynical underpinnings, subtle puns and measured pacing – all replaced by an emphasis on humor and breakneck speed. Scenes quickly altered with the draw of a curtain across the stage taking us from London to the country within seconds. Actors changed costumes by adding layers as they delivered lines on stage. Spoken dialogue shifted to narrative recited directly from the novel in one breath. It was exhausting and exhilarating. Austen encapsulated and accelerated for the modern stage.

We enjoyed every line and every moment, but we were happy to wind down afterwards with a cup of tea and the novel.

Jessica Martin and Kjerstine Anderson in Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Rep (2011)

Book-It’s Sense and Sensibility runs at the Center House Theater thru June 26th

Photos © Alan Alabastro 2011

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Preview of Sense and Sensibility Stage Play at Book-It Rep in Seattle

Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Repertory Theatre (2011)

We are very fortunate to have one of the nation’s premiere small theater companies right in our own backyard. For the last 20 years the Book-It Repertory Theater of Seattle has been exclusively adapting written work for the stage. Among the sixty plus world premier adaptations they have presented are stage productions of three Jane Austen novels: Pride and Prejudice (2004), Persuasion (2008) and Emma (2010). Now in honor of the bicentenary of the publication of Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility will premiere on Friday June 3, 2011 at the Center House Theatre.

In Austen’s first published novel (1811), the Dashwood sisters find that love is an unpredictable struggle against the most important social values: family, honor, and wealth.  As teens, Elinor and Marianne’s family fortunes take a turn when they lose their father, and their welcome in his home, now owned by their half-brother and his overbearing wife. With a move and a few chance meetings, Elinor falls for the intelligent and reserved Edward Ferrars, while Marianne dotes upon the handsome John Willoughby. Through Elinor’s sense and Marianne’s sensibility, this sprightly tale wends along the twisting path of love among the English gentry.

Directed by Makaela Pollock and playscript by Jen Taylor, of all of Jane Austen’s novels, Sense and Sensibility might prove to be the most adapatable. We are all anticipation of its high voltage emotional elements and endearingly flawed characters being brought to the stage. Just the thought of drama-queen Marianne Dashwood emoting in body and spirit sends shivers and chills, and the humor of the Middletons and the Misses Steeles should keep us laughing.

Marianne Dashwood (Jessica Martin) and Elinor Dashwood (Kjerstine Anderson) in Sense and Sensibility at Book-it Rep Seattle (2011)

Marianne (Jessica Martin) & Elinor (Kjerstine Anderson) Dashwood
in Book-It’s Sense and Sensibility

After attending their production of Persuasion in 2008, I am looking forward to experiencing Book-It’s unique style where the actors recite much of the text as it was originally written – but with the added benefit of costuming, lighting and the excitement of a live production. I will be attending on Sunday, June 12 with a group of Janeites so be sure to check back for my review.

  • Sense and Sensibility at the Book-It Repertory Theatre, Seattle
  • May 25 – June 26, 2011
  • Pay-what-you-will previews: May 25, 26, 31
  • Subscriber Preview: June 2
  • Opening Night: Friday, June 3

2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Rare Jane Austen Manuscript of The Watsons to be Auctioned at Sotheby’s in London

First page of The Watsons original manuscript, by Jane Austen (1803-1805)

An incredibly rare handwritten manuscript of Jane Austen’s unfinished work The Watsons will be auctioned at Sotheby’s in London on July 14th, 2011. It is valued at £200,000 to £300,000.

The Watsons is a fragment of a novel that Austen began around 1803 when she was residing with her parents and sister Cassandra in Bath. Written during an unhappy time in her life, she did not complete it, most likely due to her father’s death in January 1805. It contains five chapters and is about 17,500 words in length. Because it is a rough draft neatly written in Jane Austen’s own hand, we see her edits and corrections in progress, offering us a unique window into the writers mind.

When Austen died in 1817, her sister Cassandra inherited the untitled manuscript which passed upon her death in 1844 to her niece Caroline Mary Craven Austen (1805 – 1880), the younger daughter of Jane Austen’s eldest brother James. Upon Caroline’s death, the manuscript was inherited by her nephew William Austen-Leigh who offered the first six leaves (12 pages) for a charity sale in 1915 during World War I to benefit the Red Cross. The manuscript was auctioned at Christies in London and sold for £65 to Lady Wernher. This portion of the manuscript was later sold in 1925 to J. P. Morgan, Jr. and now resides in The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.

The remaining pages would pass to Lionel Arthur Austen-Leigh and his three sisters who were the nephew and nieces of William Austen-Leigh and where displayed at the British Museum for many years. It was sold in 1978 to the British Rail Pension Fund, who in 1988 presented it for auction at Sotheby’s in London attaining £90,000 from Sir Peter Michael. It is now on deposit at Queen Mary, University of London, where Sir Peter was once a student. Shockingly, in 2005 a portion of the manuscript was lost by the University! A full investigation revealed no clues to their disappearance. The missing pages have yet to be found.

The Watsons is an important manuscript in Austen scholarship. By 1803, she had written her juvenilia and three novels, Elinor and Marianne, First Impressions and Susan. These three novels would later be reworked and published as Sense and Sensibility in 1811, Pride and Prejudice in 1813 and Northanger Abbey in 1817. Austen scholar Claudia L. Johnson states in her 2003 introduction in the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition that:

The Watsons thus stands as an unfinished bridge between the animation of Austen’s youthful work and the greater sobriety of her later phase.”

The Watsons touches upon one of Austen’s familiar themes: unmarried ladies challenged by their families and financial deficiencies. The heroine Emma Watson has been raised by a wealthy aunt with the advantages of education and refinement. Her two elder brothers and three sisters remained with their widowed father, a sickly and impecunious clergyman barely able to discharge his parish duties and definitely not in control of his three quarrelsome unmarried daughters who reside with him in the Surrey village of Stanton. When Emma’s aunt remarries, she is sent back home to find mercenary husband hunting the order of the day for her two sisters Penelope and Margaret who think nothing of stealing others beaus. Her solace is with her eldest sister Elizabeth who attempts to keep the family a float with frugality and cheer. Residing in the neighborhood is a titled family whose loutish son Lord Osborn is attracted to Emma while her sister chases after his social-climbing friend Tom Musgrave.

As an Austen enthusiast, we can only hope this portion of The Watsons is purchased by a library, museum or similar institution and displayed to the public. Of course its ideal home would be to re-join the first 12 pages at The Morgan Library in New York.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose