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

Persuasion: An Annotated Edition, edited by Robert Morrison Due Out in November

Persuasion: An Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen, edited by, Robert Morrison (2011)Where are my aromatic vinegars? Harvard University Press really knows how to make this Janeite book lover swoon.

Next November we will be treated to another sumptuous annotated edition of one of Jane Austen’s classic novels. Last year they gave us Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition, edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks, and now Persuasion, edited by scholar Robert Morrison will be available to drool over.  Here is the publisher’s info:

Published posthumously with Northanger Abbey in 1817, Persuasion crowns Jane Austen’s remarkable career. It is her most passionate and introspective love story. This richly illustrated and annotated edition brings her last completed novel to life with previously unmatched vitality. In the same format that so rewarded readers of Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition, it offers running commentary on the novel (conveniently placed alongside Austen’s text) to explain difficult words, allusions, and contexts, while bringing together critical observations and scholarship for an enhanced reading experience. The abundance of color illustrations allows the reader to see the characters, locations, clothing, and carriages of the novel, as well as the larger political and historical events that shape its action.

In his Introduction, distinguished scholar Robert Morrison examines the broken engagement between Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth, and the ways in which they wander from one another even as their enduring feelings draw them steadily back together. His notes constitute the most sustained critical commentary ever brought to bear on the novel and explicate its central conflicts as well as its relationship to Austen’s other works, and to those of her major contemporaries, including Lord Byron, Walter Scott, and Maria Edgeworth.

Specialists, Janeites, and first-time readers alike will treasure this annotated and beautifully illustrated edition, which does justice to the elegance and depth of Jane Austen’s time-bound and timeless story of loneliness, missed opportunities, and abiding love.

About the Author

Robert Morrison is Queen’s National Scholar at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario.

It already has the blessing of two prominent scholars:

  • Robert Morrison’s new annotated edition of Persuasion is terrific: thorough, scrupulous, and thoughtful. It is a worthy addition to the wonderful Harvard series of annotated volumes, likely to be long read and much enjoyed by Austen enthusiasts. — Patricia Meyer Spacks
  • Readers who know Pride and Prejudice and Emma very well, can on encountering or re-encountering Austen’s final novel find it disconcerting and disorienting. Fortunately, they are now well served by the thorough and thoughtful annotation in Persuasion: An Annotated Edition. — Deidre Lynch, University of Toronto

What an incredibly beautiful cover. I can’t wait to tear into this.

Persuasion: An Annotated Edition, edited by Robert Morrison
Harvard University Press (2011)
Hardcover (360) pages
ISBN: 978-0674049741

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Persuasion, by Jane Austen (Naxos AudioBooks) Review & Giveaway

Persuasion, Jane Austen’s last completed novel was written between 1815 and 1816, with final chapter revisions in August of that year. Published posthumously in late 1817 with her earlier work Northanger Abbey, each of the novels represents the alpha and omega of her writing career. Even though they are divergent in tone and topic, they each share a commonality in being partially set in Bath and display Austen’s trademark play on social strata, money and courtship. Austen finished the manuscript of Persuasion in declining health which may account for its slim size in comparison to her heftier previous efforts Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816). Or, quite possibly it is exactly the length that she preferred for her story, allowing for a simpler plot and focus on fewer characters. Its size in no way diminishes it value. Some scholars consider it her finest achievement and readers have long cherished it for its jab at social mobility and moving love story. 

In 1817 Austen wrote to her niece Fanny Austen Knight in her usual ironic manner, “You may perhaps like the heroine, as she is almost too good for me.” At age 27, Anne is not your typical Austen heroine. The middle daughter of Sir Walter Elliot she is from a distinguished family of a landed Baronet. Her vain father takes their aristocratic ancestry and social position very seriously and expects his three daughters to make prominent matches. Quiet, reserved and not as pretty as her father values, Anne is often overlooked and her opinions dismissed by her family; “but Anne…was nobody with either father or sister; her word had no weight; her convenience was always to give way — she was only Anne.”  Eight years prior Anne met and fell in love with a young naval officer Frederick Wentworth. Because he did not match her social and financial status, Anne was persuaded by a well meaning family friend to reject his marriage proposal. Wentworth returned to sea and forgets her. Anne never forgets him and remains unmarried. When he returns eight years later a wealthy and successful naval hero he reenters her social sphere with heightened status. On the other hand, Sir Walter’s extravagant lifestyle has out paced his income to the point of serious debt and the family must retrench, let Kellynch Hall and remove to Bath. As Anne watches the younger ladies of the neighborhood swoon and play for Captain Wentworth’s affections she is painfully aware of her lost bloom of youth, deeply regrets her decision and pensively longs for his favor until a tragic accident at Lyme Regis and events in Bath renew her hopes.  

In yet another brilliant reading of a Jane Austen classic novel, British actress Juliet Stevenson interprets Austen’s poignant story of fidelity and second chances with wry humor and sensitive pathos. Her depth of characterization is remarkable and I am never in doubt that she is relaying Austen’s intension faithfully. Those who have previously read the novel will find new enjoyment in this beautifully produced audiobook and those new to Austen’s masterpiece will be treated to an unabridged eight hours and forty three minutes of pure perfection. Such equal blending of masterful story and artistic integrity is rarely encountered and I highly recommend it. 

5 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Persuasion, by Jane Austen, read by Juliet Stevenson
Naxos AudioBooks, USA (2007)
Unabridged, 7 CD’s, 8h 43m
ISBN: 978-9626344361 

GIVEAWAY CONTEST 

Enter a chance to win one copy of a Naxos AudioBooks recording of Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion by leaving a comment by midnight PST March 2, 2010 stating who your favorite character is in the novel or movie adaptation of Persuasion. Winners will be announced on March 3, 2010. Shipping to continental US addresses only. Good luck!

The giveaway drawing has now concluded and the winner has been announced. Many thanks to all who paticipated. 

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Persuasion (2007) Encore on Sunday

Don’t miss the encore presentation of Persuasion (2007) on Masterpiece Classic PBS Sunday, February 21st 9:00 – 10:30 PM (check your local listings). This adaptation by screenwriter Simone Burke stars Sally Hawkins as Jane Austen’s steadfast and long suffering heroine Anne Elliot and Rupert Penry-Jones as the dashing naval hero Captain Wentworth.

Persuasion was Jane Austen’s last completed novel before she died at age 41 in 1817. It reflects her mature style and deeper introspective narrative. Here is a description of the adaptation from PBS:

Unhappily unmarried at age 27, and dealing with family financial peril, hope is fading from Anne Elliot’s (Sally Hawkins, Little Britain) life. Circumstances bring Captain Frederick Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones, Casanova), a dashing naval officer she once deeply loved, back into her life eight years after Anne was persuaded by her family to reject his marriage proposal. Having returned from sea with a new fortune, Wentworth is surrounded by swooning women while Anne broods at the periphery, longing to be in Wentworth’s favor. Now Anne comes face-to-face with the deep regret of her old decision, and her abiding love for Wentworth, as she wonders if a long ago love can be rekindled.

This adaptation has its charms, namely excellent performances by Anthony Head as the vain Sir Walter Elliot and Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth, the best letter writer of Austen’s canon (you pierce my soul), but the ending will more than surprise Austen purists. Despite having poor Anne run through the streets of Bath like a madwoman, it is beautifully filmed and is eye candy for any Janeite.

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Persuasion: Does Anne Elliot have poor judgment?

Portrait of Maria Bicknell, by John Constable (1816)“Any acquaintance of Anne’s will always be welcome to me,” was Lady Russell’s kind answer. 

“Oh! as to being Anne’s acquaintance,” said Mary, “I think he is rather my acquaintance, for I have been seeing him every day this last fortnight.” 

“Well, as your joint acquaintance, then, I shall be very happy to see Captain Benwick.” 

“You will not find any thing very agreeable in him, I assure you, ma’am. He is one of the dullest young men that ever lived. He has walked with me, sometimes, from one end of the sands to the other, without saying a word. He is not at all a well-bred young man. I am sure you will not like him.” 

“There we differ, Mary,” said Anne. “I think Lady Russell would like him. I think she would be so much pleased with his mind, that she would very soon see no deficiency in his manner.” 

“So do I, Anne,” said Charles. “I am sure Lady Russell would like him. He is just Lady Russell’s sort. Give him a book, and he will read all day long.” 

“Yes, that he will!” exclaimed Mary tauntingly. “He will sit poring over his book, and not know when a person speaks to him, or when one drops one’s scissors, or any thing that happens. Do you think Lady Russell would like that?” 

Lady Russell could not help laughing. “Upon my word,” said she, “I should not have supposed that my opinion of any one could have admitted of such difference of conjecture, steady and matter-of-fact as I may call myself. I have really a curiosity to see the person who can give occasion to such directly opposite notions. I wish he may be induced to call here. And when he does, Mary, you may depend upon hearing my opinion; but I am determined not to judge him beforehand.” 

“You will not like him, I will answer for it.” 

Mary Musgrove, Charles Musgrove, Anne Elliot & Lady Russell, Persuasion, Chapter 14 

Jane Austen knows a bit about family dynamics. This conversation regarding Captain Benwick appears to be about Mary Musgrove’s objections to him, but it is more about her opinion of her sister Anne and her judgment. It is a theme running throughout the novel. Her family generally shuns her opinions “but Anne…was nobody with either father or sister; her word had no weight; her convenience was always to give way — she was only Anne.” Lady Russell her closest female advisor didn’t trust her judgment either. We learn about her choice of Captain Wentworth as a spouse eight years before the novel begins and how Lady Russell persuaded her to reject his offer of marriage because he did not match her social or financial station. However, some characters do trust Anne, but are not in the family. After Louisa Musgrove is injured in a fall on the Cobb at Lyme, only Captain Wentworth sees the truth. “But if Anne will stay, no one so proper, so capable as Anne.” This line is the turning point of the novel for our heroine. As readers we have never doubted Anne’s judgment; we were just not sure until this moment if Captain Wentworth did.

*Portrait of Maria Bicknell, by John Constable (1816)

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Jane Austen Naxos AudioBooks Giveaway

Persuasion, Naxos AudioBooksWin a copy of a Jane Austen audio book!

A gentle reminder to readers that the Jane Austen birthday celebration contest is still open for seven unabridged copies of Jane Austen’s novels by Naxos AudioBooks until December 31st. Just leave a comment answering why you love reading or viewing Jane Austen, and seven lucky Janeites will be the winners of these wonderful audio books. What a great way to start the New Year!

Follow this link to the original post on my other blog, Jane Austen Today, and leave a comment today!

Persuasion: “I am so ill I can hardly speak.”

Illustration by Niroot Puttapipat, Persuasion, The Folio Society (2007)

“So, you are come at last! I began to think I should never see you. I am so ill I can hardly speak. I have not seen a creature the whole morning!”  

“I am sorry to find you unwell,” replied Anne. “You sent me such a good account of yourself on Thursday!”  

“Yes, I made the best of it; I always do: but I was very far from well at the time; and I do not think I ever was so ill in my life as I have been all this morning: very unfit to be left alone, I am sure. Suppose I were to be seized of a sudden in some dreadful way, and not able to ring the bell! So Lady Russell would not get out. I do not think she has been in this house three times this summer.”  

Anne said what was proper, and enquired after her husband. “Oh! Charles is out shooting. I have not seen him since seven o’clock. He would go, though I told him how ill I was. He said he should not stay out long; but he has never come back, and now it is almost one. I assure you, I have not seen a soul this whole long morning.”  

“You have had your little boys with you?”  

“Yes, as long as I could bear their noise; but they are so unmanageable that they do me more harm than good. Little Charles does not mind a word I say, and Walter is growing quite as bad.”  

“Well, you will soon be better now,” replied Anne cheerfully. “You know I always cure you when I come. Anne Elliot & Mary Musgrove, Persuasion, Chapter 5 

I would like Anne Elliot to come to my house today and cure me of this retched flu bug that has taken over my life for the last five days. I can’t seem to shake it, and am beginning to feel like Mary Musgrove spread out on her divan bemoaning her ailments to her kind and loving sister Anne. 

Jane Austen treats illness and death in her novels almost like another character. She seems to plant a sick one or death in each of her novels causing reaction in the community: Mr. John Dashwood Senior dies in Sense and Sensibility causing the whole plot to begin, Mrs. Bennet and her nerves in Pride and Prejudice, Lady Bertram and her mysterious languor in Mansfield Park, Mr. Woodhouse the valetudinarian who fusses over drafts and gruel in Emma, Mrs. Tilney whose mysterious illness and death in Northanger Abbey ignites heroine Catherine Morland’s Gothic imagination, and so many sickies and deaths in Persuasion, (Mary Musgrove, Mrs. Smith, Captain Harville, Captain James Benwick, Louisa Musgrove, Fanny Harville, and Mrs. Elizabeth Elliot) that you can not turn a page and not be reminded of it. 

There is a book devoted to interpreting Jane Austen’s view on health that I have not read, but could shed some light for interested readers entitled Jane Austen and the Body: ‘The Picture of Health’, by John Wiltshire which Austen scholar Juliet McMaster recommended as “…a fine book, informed and sensitive, and it throws a spotlight on an aspect of Austen’s work all too rarely noticed.” in the literary journal Eighteenth-Century Fiction. With that clout behind it, it is well worth a peek. 

Image of Anne Elliot and Mary Musgrove by illustrator Niroot Puttapipat, Persuasion, The Folio Society, London, (2007)     

Jane Austen and the Seven Deadly Sins: Pride and Vanity

Illustration by CE Brock, Persuasion (1894)Vanity was the beginning and the end of Sir Walter Elliot’s character; vanity of person and of situation. He had been remarkably handsome in his youth; and, at fifty-four, was still a very fine man. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did; nor could the valet of any new made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society. The Narrator on Sir Walter Elliot, Persuasion, Chapter 1 

As a clergyman’s daughter Jane Austen would have been well aware of the significance of the seven deadly sins, those cardinal vices identified by the Catholic church in the 6th- century and later adopted by other Christian religions as the most offensive and serious of sins against god and humanity.  Listed as luxuria (extravagance, later lust), gula (gluttony), avaritia (greed), acedia (sloth), ira (wrath), invidia (envy), and superbia (pride), they were all egregious offenses that would qualify the sinner to at least one foot in hell unless they confessed and were penitent. This collection, though not identified in the Bible, was in the eyes of the church the foundation of moral corruption and considered mortal sins, a most serious offense threatening eternal damnation. Pretty serious stuff.   

Throughout Jane Austen’s novels, her characters exhibit a wide range of qualities from integrity to dissipation and vice making them very realistic, and not unlike people of our own acquaintance or popular renown. One could say that the struggle against the seven deadly sins is the driving force in her plots and one of the main reasons why people connect with them so readily. Her most popular characters Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice are prime examples of two of the deadly sins, the offence of pride and wrath. Though Austen does not condemn them for it (as the church might), their vices are the whole axis of the story.  

Today we shall look at the sin of pride, also known as vanity which was one of Jane Austen’s most popular choices of the seven deadly sins in her novels. Vanity appears 85 times and pride 111 times. Here are a few choice quotations: 

Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief. Emma 

With insufferable vanity had she believed herself in the secret of every body’s feelings; with unpardonable arrogance proposed to arrange every body’s destiny. Emma 

Their vanity was in such good order that they seemed to be quite free from it, and gave themselves no airs; while the praises attending such behaviour, secured and brought round by their aunt, served to strengthen them in believing they had no faults. Mansfield Park 

Henry Crawford, ruined by early independence and bad domestic example, indulged in the freaks of a cold-blooded vanity a little too long. Mansfield Park 

Catherine listened with astonishment; she knew not how to reconcile two such very different accounts of the same thing; for she had not been brought up to understand the propensities of a rattle, nor to know to how many idle assertions and impudent falsehoods the excess of vanity will lead. Northanger Abbey 

From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers. Northanger Abbey 

In vanity, therefore, she gained but little; her chief profit was in wonder. Northanger Abbey 

It was a struggle between propriety and vanity; but vanity got the better, and then Elizabeth was happy again. Persuasion 

“That is very true,” replied Elizabeth, “and I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” Pride and Prejudice 

Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonimously. Pride and Prejudice 

“Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.” Pride and Prejudice 

“Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed.” Pride and Prejudice 

If his own vanity, however, did not mislead him, he was the cause, his pride and caprice were the cause. Pride and Prejudice 

The world had made him extravagant and vain — extravagance and vanity had made him cold-hearted and selfish. Sense and Sensibility 

Vanity while seeking its own guilty triumph at the expense of another, had involved him in a real attachment, which extravagance, or at least its offspring, necessity, had required to be sacrificed. Sense and Sensibility 

Of all of Austen’s characters guilty of vanity, Sir Walter Elliot in Persuasion is definitely the leading offender. Austen leaves us in no doubt of his priorities in life toward his appearance and how it impacted his family. Mrs. Allen in Northanger Abbey arrives at a distant second being excessively fond of her clothing and constantly commenting on the inferiority of others choice of fabrics and garments. Who would dare dispute that Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice has the most pride since an entire novel stems from it. Mrs. Fanny Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility in my mind is second in offence of pride after Mr. Darcy. She is so arrogant and prideful that she basically evicts her mother-in-law Mrs. Dashwood out of her home after the death of her father-in-law and talks her own husband out of giving them a decent living –  all for her vanity. There are others who come to mind: Miss Elizabeth Elliot in Persuasion who is definitely her father’s daughter, Mrs. Elton in Emma who is arrogance and puffery personified, Miss Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park who thinks herself above the truth, and that tactfully bereft General Tilney in Northanger Abbey who ejects poor Catherine Morland out of his house when he learns that she is not as flush as he thought. The list goes on and on with different degrees of offence, but in the end, we can rest assured that Austen does not treat these offenders lightly, passing her judgment according to propriety and her Christian principles.

Which characters do you find prideful and vain, and do you think that Austen portrayed them correctly?

Jane Austen Book Sleuth: Little Gems to Treasure and Gift

Illustration of a Morning & Evening Dress from Ladies Magazine (1811)It was the choicest gift of Heaven; and Anne viewed her friend as one of those instances in which, by a merciful appointment, it seems designed to counterbalance almost every other want. The Narrator on Anne Elliot, Persuasion, Chapter 17 

Looking for a gift book for a special Janeite, or as an introduction of Jane Austen to an un-indoctrinated friend? Recently, I was faced with both challenges, and researched a good many gift titles to find the prefect match to personality and purpose. 

It can be a challenge to buy for others, but I find books are the finest gift, and heck, if by some chance you mess up and they hate it, they can always exchange it!

In my mind, to qualify as a gift book, the edition must be

  1. A book that I would buy for myself
  2. A positive subject, that is informative and uplifting
  3. Beautifully designed, illustrated, or colorful images
  4. Hardcover
  5. Nonfiction
  6. Under $20.00 

Here are a few of the finalists in the Jane Austen gift book roundup.  Continue reading

Oxford World’s Classics Reveal New Jane Austen Editions

Image of the cover of Emma, by Jane Austen, Oxford World Classic, (2008) “Be satisfied,” said he, “I will not raise any outcry. I will keep my ill-humour to myself. I have a very sincere interest in Emma. Isabella does not seem more my sister; has never excited a greater interest; perhaps hardly so great. There is an anxiety, a curiosity in what one feels for Emma. I wonder what will become of her!”  

“So do I,” said Mrs. Weston gently; “very much.” Mr. Knightley and Mrs. Weston discussing Emma Woodhouse, Emma, Chapter 5 

The Austen book sleuth is afoot again and happy to reveal new discoveries for our gentle readers! The news is quite exciting, and like Miss Emma Woodhouse, we are always intrigued with a piece of news.   

Oxford University Press is rolling out six new Jane Austen trade paperback editions of its Oxford World’s Classics series in June. They will include full unabridged texts, new introductions, notes on the text, selected bibliography,  chronology, biography, two appendixes, textual notes and explanatory notes on each of the major novels; Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Persuasion, and Northanger Abbey with a bonus of Lady Susan, The Watson’s and Sandition included.  

Image of the cover of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, Oxford World Classics, (2008)Oxford World’s Classics launched its new re-designed classics line in April, and the improvements are quite stunning both visually and texturally. With over 750 titles of world literature to choose from, their commitment to scholars and pleasure readers is nonpareil. You can browse their catalogue here.  

Here is a description of the new edition of Emm

‘I wonder what will become of her!’ 

So speculate the friends and neighbours of Emma Woodhouse, the lovely, lively, willful, and fallible heroine of Jane Austen’s fourth published novel. Confident that she knows best, Emma schemes to find a suitable husband for her pliant friend Harriet, only to discover that she understands the feelings of others as little as she does her own heart. As Emma puzzles and blunders her way through the mysteries of her social world, Austen evokes for her readers a cast of unforgettable characters and a detailed portrait of a small town undergoing historical transition. 

Written with matchless wit and irony, judged by many to be her finest novel, Emma has been adapted many times for film and television. This new edition shows how Austen brilliantly turns the everyday into the exceptional.  

Image of the cover of Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Oxford World Classic, (2008)Product Details: Edited by James Kinsley, with a new introduction and notes by Adela Pinch, the author of Strange Fits of Passion: Epistemologies of Emotion, Hume to Austen (Stanford UP, 1996) and numerous articles on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English literature and culture. 448 pages; ISBN13: 978-0-19-953552-1, retail price $7.95 

Five of the beautiful new cover images are taken from classic paintings of Regency era women, and Northanger Abbey includes an image of Gothic architecture. You can read further about the re-design at the Oxford University Press website. Don’t miss taking the fun literary quiz, and discover which character from Oxford World’s Classics you are most like. I was surprised to learn that ‘today’ I am Emma Woodhouse! Who would guess?

Book-It Repertory Theatre: Persuasion Review

Image of Chiara Motley as Anne Elliot, Persuasion, Book-It Theatre, (2008)

A PERSUASIVE ADAPTATION OF AUSTEN’S CLASSIC

How eloquent could Anne Elliot have been! How eloquent, at least, were her wishes on the side of early warm attachment, and a cheerful confidence in futurity, against that over-anxious caution which seems to insult exertion and distrust Providence! She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning. The Narrator on Anne Elliot, Persuasion, Chapter 4

 

Image of Chiara Motley as Anne Elliot, Persuasion, Book-It Theatre, (2008)Eloquent is the perfect word to describe my experience at the Book-It Repertory Theatre production of the new adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, on Sunday last. The smell of the grease paint – and all that – got my heart racing again, bringing back fond memories of my many years associated with marketing of a grand opera company. Sigh. There is just no substitute for the excitement and thrill of a live production. None! So people, forget the comforts of your sofa and support your local arts organization. You won’t regret it!

Ok, off my high horse and back to the play, which the local critic of the Seattle PI thought “sneakily captivating“, and I heartily concur. Having read the novel and seen the movie adaptations, that complement was not quite a surprise to me; but I was relieved that the adaptors, Jen Taylor and Colin Bryne, had included enough of Jane Austen’s intensions so that all levels of Austen fans or non-fans could pick it up.

Image of Chiara Motley as Anne Elliot, Persuasion, Book-It Theatre, (2008)The first five minutes of any production are always a struggle for me. I am always suspect, needing to be drawn into the enchantment of the story and characters before I can be taken away into that special make-believe world of live theater. My hesitant resistance to the dialogue lingered a bit longer. Where was Jane Austen’s prose? The characters and plot were the same, but the language? I concede sincere attachment to the novel, and may be too close to be objective, – but this did disappoint.

The audience, including other members of my group from the Jane Austen web site, The Republic of Pemberely, were attentive and laughed in the right places. In fact, I had not remembered Persuasion being quite so funny, but there it was. A tragic love story that made them laugh-out-loud? Hmm? My sensibilites were perplexed. My indignation was rising.

Image of Persuasion, Book-It Repertory Theatre, (2008)I know that I am a severe critic having been warped by years of quivering over opera reviews, but I willed myself into enjoyment, and purposely set aside my magnifying glass and overlooked some the costume and stage prop blunders to focus on the acting, which was quite impressive. This is a first rate repertory theatre of seasoned and skilled professionals, aptly cast and decisively directed by Myra Platt. Chiara Motley who portrayed Anne Elliot was a lovely willowy thing; dutiful, sensitive, and patient. All the qualities that we expect in Jane Austen’s most stoic heroine.

By the time of our hero Captain Wentworth’s (John Bogar) entrance into the Musgrove household, I had forgotten my qualms about dialogue and was enthralled in the story. He Image of John Bogar as Captain Wentworth, Persuasion, Book-It Rep, (2008)was a dashing Wentworth, with a captivating stage presence. Hurrah! Actually, he had me after his first line. The voice was velvety and authoritative, and that just wrapped it up nicely for me. Here was a Wentworth worthy of our heroine pining away eight years for.

We see some surprising artistic license taken by the adaptors in respect to Anne’s pompous father Sir Walter Elliot, (Kevin McKeon), and her social climbing sister Elizabeth Elliot (Kate Czajkowski). In the novel and movie adaptations, our patience is tested by that supercilious and cynical pair of spendthrifts to the point of abhorrence, but here, they have evolved into lighter more comedic caricatures. Their dialogue plays off each other like tennis volleys, and one is reminded of the socialite banter from a Noel Coward satirical play of the 1920’s. The humor was a relief, but I fear that it lessens Anne Elliot’s pitiable situation. One finds it much easer to laugh off their condescension and snobbery, then to deal with the stark reality of her actual life with them portrayed in the novel and movies.

Image of Chiara Motley & Carol Roscoe in Persuasion, Book-It Rep, (2008)Within the talented ensemble cast, two performances were standouts in my mind, and both had plum roles to reincarnate; the dotty Mary Musgrove, (Carol Roscoe) played with great energy and comedic timing, and the tragic Captain Benwick, (Jamie Rush), sensitively played by a promising young actor whose brief dialogue I remember more for its prominent pauses, than content. This was a welcome relief after a few lost moments from previously rushed scenes.

Kudos to the creative staff and cast of a clever and effective adaptation of one of Jane Austen’s most tender novels. You pierced my soul! Of note, was the attendance of members of the local chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North America who had generously under-written the cost of the costumes for the production. Bravo JASNA!

Image of Ricky Coats as William Elliot, Persuasion, Book-It, Rep, (2008)The matinee performance was a sell-out, which is the best remedy for a struggling repertory company, who deserve a far better venue to perform in than the constraints of the Center House Theater at Seattle Center. Ah…the financial challenges of a nonprofit arts organization. That I don’t miss!

Persuasion runs through March 2nd and tickets are still available at (206) 216-0833, boxoffice@book-it.org, or on-line. Catch excerpts of the production and interviews of the cast here.

Update! New review from the Seattle Times theater critic who cleverly includes her critique in a letter to Jane Austen!

Persuasion: You may perhaps like the heroine

Image of the title page of Persuasion, by Jane Austen, Frank S. Holby, (1906)

Do not be surprised at finding Uncle Henry acquainted with my having another ready for publication. I could not say No when he asked me, but he knows nothing more of it. You will not like it, so you need not be impatient. You may perhaps like the heroine, as she is almost too good for me. Letter to niece Fanny Knight, 23 March 1817, The Letters of Jane Austen

In this letter to Fanny Knight, the daughter of her brother Edward (Austen) Knight, Jane Austen refers to “having another ready for publication”, which is her last completed novel, Persuasion. It was written between 8 August 1815 and 16 July 1816, with final chapter revisions in August 1816. The novel would be published posthumously after her death, bound together with the novel Northanger Abbey in 1818.

Jane Austen’s coyness in diverting her niece’s interest in reading her new work by foretelling her reaction is typical of the banter she exercised with her family and friends regarding her view of the quality and importance of her work. Modest? I think not. Her next remark regarding her further prediction of Fanny’s reaction to liking the heroine Anne Elliot, “for she is almost to good for me”, surely qualifies as a sideways complement to herself. For what writer who has ever created a character does not find a bit of themselves fashioned into their nature? And – – Anne Elliot exemplifies some of the finest and amiable qualities of any of Jane Austen’s creation.

It is interesting to note that the working title for the novel was The Elliot’s, and was later changed after her death by her brother Henry Austen to Persuasion. In this instance, I must agree with his choice. The novel is not so much about the Elliot family, as it is about the life choices we make, and in particular how others can influence us. Anne Elliot’s choice to be persuaded by her family friend Lady Russell to decline an offer of marriage by Captain Wentworth will take her on a journey of loss, patience and faith; – – not unlike Jane Austen herself. You can read more about Persuasion’s plot and characters at these fine links.

Image of Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot, PBS presentation of Persuasion (2008)Be sure to mark your calendars and set your watches for the premiere of the Masterpiece Theatre presentation of The Complete Jane Austen, on Sunday the 13th of January at 9:00pm. The first adaptation will be Persuasion, staring Sally Hawkins as our heroine Anne Elliot. You can read further details on the series in my post, An Austen New Year awaits.

*Image of the title page of Persuasion, published by Frank S. Holby, New York (1906)

©  2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose