By the Seaside with Sanditon: Introduction & List of Characters: Day 1


Over the next week will be delving into Jane Austen’s last work, her uncompleted novel Sanditon. Considered one of her minor works, Sanditon has not received much attention in comparison to her major novels since it was first published in 1925. Because it has not been adapted to the screen, most of the general reading public is not aware of it. Some classify it as a scholarly tidbit, but I know that if you have not read it before that it might surprise you. You may be asking yourself why you should read a fragment of a novel that leaves the story unresolved. Two words. Jane Austen. Nuff said.

On the 27th January, 1817 Jane Austen began work on a novel that is now known as Sanditon. It was never completed. Her declining health robbed her of what she dearly loved most, writing, and on the 18th of March 1817 after penning 22,000 words she wrote the last lines of chapter twelve and put down her pen. Four months later at age 41 she would succumb to what is generally believed to have been Addison’s disease.

Set in the emerging seaside village of Sanditon on the Sussex coast we are introduced to a large cast of characters dominated by the two minions of the community: Mr. Parker a local landowner with grand designs to turn a fishing village into a fashionable seabathing spa for the invalid and his partner Lady Denham, the local great lady who has ‘a shrewd eye & self satisfying air’ and cares little about the community and only her pocketbook. There are several young people to add a spark of romance, character foibles galore, plot ironies to raise an eyebrow at business speculation, hypochondria, and a sharp jab at the effluvia of novels and poetry to keep the narrative whizzing along until an abrupt halt just when we are hooked.

The uncompleted novel is a great loss to literature but also to the characters who after a bright and comical beginning are left with uncertain futures. What does remain is more than a novelty of Austenalia. Sanditon’s levity despite the author’s failing health when it was written is quite remarkable. On my first reading years ago I thought it quite energetic and satirical, similar to the burlesque humor of Northanger Abbey. I then put it aside and did not reflect on it further. On my second reading after twenty five years, of what I hope has been a period of enlightenment and appreciate of the author and the era, brought an entirely new reaction. Austen has taken a new and fresh direction from her usual 3 or 4 families in a country village and sets her novel not about an individuals struggle but an entire community. Money is still the fuel that powers the plot, but her physical descriptions of the landscape and town are entirely new in her cannon foreshadowing what may have been an evolution in her style.

I hope that you can join us as we discover the delights of seabathing and leeches during ‘By the Seaside with Sanditon’ event this week. You can check out the event schedule and join in the group read of the novel fragment which begins tomorrow, March 16th. Bring your green parasol.

Laurel Ann

Main Characters in Sanditon

Mr. Thomas Parker: of Trafalgar House, Sussex. Age about 35. No profession. Eldest son and succeeded to family property. In partnership with Lady Denham in developing Sanditon. Brother to Mary, Diana, Arthur and Sidney. Married 7 years to Mary, father of four children. An amiable man with more enthusiasm than judgment.

Mrs. Mary Parker: wife of Thomas Parker, mother of four children, Mary & 3 other siblings. Regrets the changes her husband’s enthusiasm produces.

Mr. Sidney Parker: Age about 27. Single. Younger brother of Thomas Parker. Witty, fashionable, young man possibly to emerge as the hero.

Miss Susan Parker: Single. Elder of two Parker sisters. Hypochondriac

Miss Diana Parker: Age about 34. Single. Younger of two Parker sisters. Hypochondriac. Active organizer.

Mr. Arthur Parker: Age about 20. Youngest Parker brother. Stout, broad made with a lusty appetite for hot chocolate and buttered toast. Cosseted into believing himself to be of delicate health.

Lady Denham: of Sanditon House, Sussex. Age 70. Née Brereton with £30,000 dowry. In partnership with Mr. Parker in developing Sanditon. Twice widowed: first husband Mr. Hollis, second Sir Harry Denham of Denham Park. Rich old lady with ‘many thousands a year’. Has ‘a shrewd eye, & self satisfying air’ She knows the value of money.

Miss Clara Brereton: of Sanditon House, Sussex. Poor cousin and companion to Lady Denham. Elegantly tall, regularly handsome, with great delicacy of complexion, soft blue eyes, sweet modest and yet graceful address.

Sir Edward Denham, Baronet: of Denham Park, Sussex. Single. Nephew of Sir Harry Denham (dec), brother of Esther. Handsome, but a rake and a rattle. Thinks that he was born to be a villain ‘quite in the line of Lovelaces’.

Miss Esther Denham: of Denham Park, Sussex. Single. Sister of Sir Edward, niece of Sir Harry Denham (dec). A fine young woman, but cold, reserved and superficial.

Mr. Heywood: of Willingden, Sussex. Age 57. Well looking, hale, gentleman farmer. Married with 14 children including Charlotte, and at least one son. Never leaves home unless to collect his dividends in London.

Mr. Heywood: Age 31. Son of Mr. & Mrs. Heywood of Willingden. Brother of Charlotte and 12 other siblings.

Miss Charlotte Heywood: of Willingden, Sussex. Age 22. Single. Eldest daughter at home of Mr. & Mrs. Heywood. Quiet, perceptive, observing heroine. Sensible and level headed.

Mrs. Griffiths: of Camberwell. Proprietress of a Ladies Seminary. Brings her three changes to Sanditon for the cure. Visitor to Sanditon.

Miss Beaufort: of Camberwell. Elder of two sisters. ‘just such young ladies as may be met with, in at least one family out of three, throughout the Kingdom’ Visitor to Sanditon.

Miss. Letitia Beaufort: of Camberwell. Younger of two sisters. Visitor to Sanditon

Miss Lambe: of Camberwell. About age 17. A young West Indian of large fortune in delicate health. Half mulatto, ‘chilly and tender’. Visitor to Sanditon.

Minor Characters in Sanditon

Merchants, tenants and servants:

Andrew: gardener at Sanditon House, William Heely: shoemaker in Sanditon, Hillier: tenant in Thomas Parker’s old house, Jebb: shopkeeper of Jebb’s in Sanditon, Morgan: Butler to the Parkers, Mullins: ‘Mullins’s, the poor’, Sam: old servant at Sanditon Hotel, Stringer: market-gardeners. There are two Stringers, referred to as ‘old Stringer’ and ‘young Stringer’. One is a shopkeeper in Sandition, Mrs. Whitby: librarian of Circulating Library. Has a ‘Miss W.’ and also ‘a young W.’ and Woodcock: hotel-keeper in Sanditon.

Sanditon visitors:

Mr. Beard: of Gray’s Inn, Dr. and Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Jane Fisher & daughter, Rev. Hanking, Capt Little: of Limehouse, Matthews family, Miss. Merryweather, Richard Pratt, Miss. Scroggs and Lt. R.N. Smith.

By the Seaside with Sanditon: Giveaway Day 1

Enter a chance to win one copy of Penguin Classics Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about Sanditon, or who your favorite character is by 12:00 pm PDT  Friday, March 26th, 2010. Winner to be announced on Saturday, March 27th. Shipment to continental US addresses only.

Upcoming event posts 

Day 2 – March 16 Group Read Chapters 1-4
Day 3 – March 17 Regency seaside resorts
Day 4 – March 18 Group Read Chapters 5-8

© 2010 Laurel Ann Nattress,

38 thoughts on “By the Seaside with Sanditon: Introduction & List of Characters: Day 1

  1. Yes! I’m posting the first comment.
    It’s true, I’ve heard little or nothing about Sandition. But now, I am quite intrigued by it and very much interested in reading it. Though I’m certain I will be crushed by the lack of resolution. Nevertheless, I will make it a point to read it soon. From reading the character list, Lady Denham seems very interesting. Though, I cant say I have a favorite character just yet. I wonder if there’s been conclusions written for Sandition but other authors.
    Thank you for the event. I’m always so thrilled to be a part!


  2. Determined hypochondriac Diana Parker interests me.
    Diana is full of herself – great intiative, very active- contrast to quiet Mrs Parker. Despite her um, illness Diana seems great promoter of Sanditon …when she ought to be a-bed. Is she an career hypondriac ??
    I’m also glad to particpate in the Sandition GR. For who’d miss leeches & other joys of invalidism ? ;-D Many thanks to our hostess, Laurel Ann.


  3. I really must read it again. I recall finding it as a teenager and being delighted she was using new names – Dianas and Letitias and Sidneys, how exciting! I was too young to realise the full differences between it and what went before. Yes, I definitely must dust it down and reread.


  4. Good morning Laurel Ann! Wow, so many characters to choose from, I’d like to spend an afternoon at this resort. Hmmm, two characters are intriguing to me… Miss Clara Brereton ~ she is a companion and that can always be fun! The other is Miss Charlotte Heywood ~ the observing heroine! I can’t wait to begin reading (found the book online) and sharing, this will be fun! And so is this giveaway ~ THANK YOU!


  5. I haven’t heard much about this book, either, but I would love to read more about it. Just from the description above, it sounds like a story I would greatly enjoy.


  6. I’m afraid I did things backwards and read the completion of Sanditon by “Another Lady” before reading the fragment. I’m now hoping to rectify that during Laurel Ann’s lovely group read.

    What intrigues me is how it is a little similar to Northanger Abbey in some respects. A married couple inviting a young woman to a new town. It will be interesting to see if there are other similarities between the town.


    • Meredith, if you read Sanditon, by Jane Austen and Another Lady, then you did read Sanditon. Both Jane Austen’s 12 chapters and the continuation is included in the text. You are more ahead of the game than you think!


        • Meredith, I believe the continuation author did make some slight changes in Austen’s text. I read about it in a 1975 book review that came with my first edition. It was tipped in and quite a bonus surprise. I will be reading Sanditon, by Jane Austen and Another Lady next week, so we shall see. I welcome your comments and look forward to reading your review.


          • I hope not, I actually am using the completion by another lady version for this group read, as it is the only version available at my library. No big changes, I hope?


          • I just got a copy of the continuation this morning and am curious to see the changes. My copy of Sanditon was a manuscript edition filled with the original abbreviations, so it was a bit hard to follow.


    • Meredith, it’s interesting that you noticed a similarity to Northanger Abbey. I hadn’t thought about it before reading your comment, but I can see the parallel between Catherine and Charlotte’s experiences as guests in a resort town.

      I found myself drawing similarities to Mansfield Park as I read Sanditon, particularly Austen’s exploration of the foibles of society. While Charlotte does not remind me of Fanny as a character, they both seem to come across as spectators rather than actors.


  7. I am captivated with this wonderful novel. The setting and the characters are such a delight. I would enjoy the locale as the seaside is my ultimate favorite place to visit. The individuals sound fascinating and this resort has such an appeal. I would love to spend time with Mr. Thomas Parker and Lady Denham. I hope that their ideas can produce a successful and interesting business. An enterprise of this magnitude would make their lives fulfilling and hopefully generate interest.


    • Hi Anne, I appreciate your enthusiasm and may we call you “Mr. Parker” during the group read? That is an inside joke that you will understand as you become acquainted with his personality. He is a promoter, a Regency-era version of a time-share salesman who is aimable but a bit over stated in his hawkings. His heart is pure, but naivette may get him in trouble. Not saying you are naive, but you will get my drift soon enough. Thanks for joing in the group read.


  8. I just started reading yesterday, and the characters are already well drawn out. I’m looking forward to reading more! Thanks for the detailed character list. I’ve yet to be introduced to most of these characters…


    • Hi Little Yuzu, there are close to 50 characters in the fragment of the novel, and I got lost a few times when I first read it, so I hope to eleviate that dilemma for everyone in the group read. Glad you can join us.


  9. This was a fantastic intro to the read & I thank you for the character list. I feel I will be returning to it!
    I am going to go read a few chapters now so I can participate in the group read!


  10. I’m mostly looking forward to reading Sanditon because I’ve never read it! A few years ago, I read Sanditon: Jane Austen’s Unfinished Masterpiece Completed, by Juliette Shapiro, which I think is a different completion than the one by “Another Lady.” So I remember the Parkers, and the Denhams, and Charlotte Heyward, but I’m looking forward to reading the original fragment. Thanks for the character list…and the inspiration!


    • Thanks for joining in the group read Audrey. The continuation by Juliette Sharpiro starts where Sanditon ends and does not include Austen’s text. The other continuation Sanditon, by Jane Austen & Another Lady includes both and seems more logical. I will be reading it next week. You might want to continue with it also.


  11. I see early interest in ‘Sanditon by Jane Austen & Another Lady’ (pub. 1975)
    Can I mention my Reading Circle reviewed this book waay back in 1980 ? Part of discussion included a personal letter from ‘Another Lady’ -on how she set about the task of finishing Sanditon…she is already known as Maria Dobbs, born in Sydney, 1920s’; trained as a journalist before she went to live overseas.
    (apparently Ms. Dobbs was delighted her Sanditon was feautured on our Reading Circle syllabus) so, perhaps, she won’t mind my sharing a few quotes from my copy of her letter in front of me.
    ” Jane Austen’s charecters gave me very little trouble. The entire Parker family was a joy. She made them so perfect I just left them as I found them, except Arthur became more sensible after hefound Adela, whether Jane Austen would have got those two together, I don’t know”.
    Of the men, she felt ‘none of them really the stuff romantic heroes re made of!’
    According to discussion paper; Maria Dobbs says she never set out to write in Jane Austen’s style but gradually realized she fell into it.
    Her research covered a wide area-carriages, gigs, phaetons and info. on people collecting seaweed !
    She wrote a “whole lot about seaside architecture and cottage ornee” which were a feature of Sidmouth were Sanditon is really set- with the result an early critic of her manuscript said her homework was showing -so she crossed most of it out.
    I can’t really comment on the authenticity of Maria Dobb’s Sanditon reconstruction as I am yet to read… ‘by Another Lady’ . Yet, her quotes may interest some people who read it.


    • Wow Mandy, that’s some reading group you belong to. I will be reading this next week, so maybe you should seek out a copy and we can compare notes.

      Amusingly, I read a review of the book in which the reviewer claimed Georgette Heyer had written this continuation under a pen name. Since Heyer died in 1974 it was physically possible, but your letter refutes that assumption.

      One wonders if Marie Dobbs is still with us and if she wrote any other novels?


  12. I have a fascination with unfinished novels…like Dickens’ Mystery of Edwin Drood. I like to see how these novels develop and then wonder about how the author would have ended them.

    I’d love to be entered to win a copy of this book. I think its the only one I don’t have by austen.

    savvyverseandwit AT gmail DOT com


  13. On ebay I won a 1975 edition of ‘Sanditon. A novel by Jane Austen and Another Lady’ ( such a pretty cover !) but ashamed to say I didn’t read it !
    Well, according to this 1980 paper Marie Dobbs wrote several novels under the name of Anne Telscombe e.g ‘Miss Bagshot goes to Moscow’, Miss Bagshot goes to Tibet’. in 1980, she researched the Pennisula Wars and Napoleonic Era.
    Interesting you should mention Georgette Heyer, LA. Among Maria Dobbs favourite authors are Trollope, Thackeray, Tolstoy, Jilly Cooper-and Georgette Heyer- quite a mixed bag. ;)
    I meant to say one reason ‘Another Lady decided to finish Sanditon was for the bi-centennary of Jane Austen’s birth.


  14. I’m looking forward to reading this–before I knew about Sanditon, I always wondered what Jane Austen would have to say about the bustle brought on as Britain got further into the Industrial Revolution. I’m eager to get to know Lady Denham…I’m wondering if she will turn out to be a bit like Miss Crawley in Vanity Fair.


    • Hi Courtney, Sanditon does give us an inside into what Austen thought of the improvement and development in her country. Because she chose to write about it, even in irony and comedy, it was a topic that she wanted to explore and satirize. Interesting connection to Miss Crawley. ;-)


  15. I think it is interesting how the prospective heroines are in similar situations to other Austen heroines – Charlotte Heywood is from a large family, and is invited to a watering-place by a kind husband and wife. (Catherine Morland?)

    Also Miss Clara is a poor cousin who has been taken in my rich relations. (Fanny Price?)


    • Hi Atlanta, nice comparissions. I was thinking that Clara Brereton might be a Jane Fairfax type, but Fanny Price is good too. There are definite parallels to tone and characters in Northanger Abbey. Interesting that NA was one of Austen’s early work and Sanditon her last.


  16. Though we don’t get to spend much time in his company, I find that my favorite character is Arthur Parker. The scene where he sneaks the great dollop of butter when his sisters aren’t looking really endeared him to me; he’s so young, but seems such a self-indulgent old man.


  17. Well, I am interested in Sandition because I had never heard of it before and sadly my vast experience with Austen are her better known novels and would like to expand my knowledge. Plus I think it would be interesting to see how her writing might have changed as she neared the end of her life.


  18. Unfinished works have always intrigued me, THE SLAVE BRIDE among them (Although I am far less impressed with modern authors attempts to “finish” them). As someone who has dressed as Austen for the last two Halloweens, I am thrilled to hear of a book I didn’t know about.
    Indeed her levity despite her personal life has always been refreshing and ahead of its time.
    We are so lucky she decided to beome a writer


  19. This isn’t a book I had heard of before now, but it sounds very interesting and definitely is on my reading list now. Lady Denham intrigues me. She sounds like a strong woman.


  20. I had no idea this book even existed! How did I miss it? I was an English major in college, read all of Austen’s books, and yet I didn’t know about Sanditon. Although it is unfinished, I’m very curious to read it. Her characters and storylines never get old.


  21. Oh to sit by the seaside and read “sandition’ what a dream that would be! Adore Jane Austen and am so excited to be in this contest!


  22. I love Charlotte Heywood. She seems quite thoughtful and reflective. She seems like me at times. But then there are the Parkers. What a wonderful family! I would love to go to dinner with them. And Lady Denham. Always so sure she knows what people are about. And others! How could I possible pick just one as a favorite?


  23. Pingback: Winners Announced in the ‘By the Seaside with Sanditon’ Giveaways « Austenprose

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