Persuasion: An Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen, edited by Robert Morrison – A Review

Persuasion: An Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen, edited by Robert Morrison (2011)Last year, the good folks at the Harvard University Press presented the first installment in their commitment to annotate all six of Jane Austen’s major novels. Pride and Prejudice: An Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen and edited by Patricia Meyer Spacks set the standard for the series: an unabridged first edition text, annotations by an Austen scholar, full color illustrations, over-sized coffee table format (9.5” X 10”), extensive scholarly introduction, and supplemental material – all pulled together in a beautifully designed interior and stunning cover. It was a grand slam home run. Now, just in time for holiday gift giving, Persuasion: An Annotated Edition was released this month supplying the same powerful presentation; this time to Jane Austen’s final, most profound and poignant novel, Persuasion.

Packed in the side margins of almost every page are running commentaries by editor Robert Morrison. Adding explanations, asides and illuminations, readers will be aided in understanding the narrative that may appear to the first time reader as a simple story of love lost and regained, but in actuality, is quite layered in complexity: laced with historical context, social commentary and influenced by Austen’s personal life. The illustrations run the gambit from paintings and line drawings of country manor houses and city dwellings similar to the residences of the principal characters, portraits of the monarchy, political figures, contemporary authors, Austen and her family, title pages of books of the era including Austen’s, maps, fashion plates, and images from famous illustrated editions of Persuasion by A. Wallis Mills, Charles Edmund Brock and Hugh Thomson. Of note are the helpful and interesting appendixes which include the two canceled chapters of Persuasion that were deleted by Austen herself, “Biographical Notice of the Author’ written by her brother Henry Austen, a list of further reading, and credits for the illustrations.

Students will be happy to know that quotes from major Austen scholars abound: for example, the famous “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.” love letter in volume II, chapter 11 (p 290) from Captain Wentworth to Anne Elliot rightly receives two plus pages of small type commentary from leading Austen experts such as Stuart Tave, Roger Gard, Deidre Lynch, Mary Favret, John Wiltshire, and Tony Tanner alone. There are numerous others as well, placing this edition in the scholarly category because of the numerous citations.

Besides the unabridged text, scholarly notations and quotes from deep thinkers, this edition is sumptuous eye candy for the Janeite. It is a real pleasure to have so much information collected and assembled for our edification and enjoyment. Morrison offers a lengthy and lucid introduction, but I wished that he had continued his personal observations and opinions more extensively in his annotation and not relied so heavily on quoting others. If this edition has any shortcomings, like its predecessor, the quality of the illustration does not match the content therein.

Next year we will be treated to their next annotated edition, Emma. After HUP has completed Austen’s six major novels, one secretly hopes that they might consider her novella, Lady Susan. Often overlooked, it is one of my personal favorites and could attract more readers if properly explained.

4 out of 5 Stars

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

Cover image courtesy of Belknap Press © 2011; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2011,

15 thoughts on “Persuasion: An Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen, edited by Robert Morrison – A Review

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  1. Thanks for your review Laurel Ann; at the risk of outraging all my readers and many millions of others who love “Pride and Prejudice” above any other Austen novel, I have to confess that I have long considered “Persuasion” to be her best work and Anne Elliott my favourite Austen herione.
    It is heart breaking to think that Jane Austen did not live to see it published.

    Rebecca Ann Collins


  2. I just finished a group read of Persuasion using an annotated text and extracted more enjoyment and enlightenment with that method than I thought possible. I recommend an annotated version to ANYONE who wants to increase their understanding and appreciation for fine literature. What a GREAT tool!


  3. I agree with Rebecca — Persuasion speaks more to me than P&P. I love Anne and Elinor Dashwood of S&S the best. They endure and combine good hearts with active minds.


  4. Persuasion is also my favorite. Followed by S&S. I received my copy of this book on October 12th (I can only say the exact date thanks to tracking info. on amazon). And sadly it has set on my coffee table unread. It is the perfect coffee table book though. I can’t wait to read it. I know I’ll be lost in its pages for hours. I think that’s part of the reason I haven’t picked it up yet. Thanks to your review I want to run home and pick up the book.


  5. Thank you for this review. I have been interested in getting some of these books since I do not own my own original books. I wasn’t sure what to purchase, especially with all the different books and annotated editions. This was most helpful! Thanks again.


  6. I have to say that when I first saw this book it was the week before Barnes and Noble’s Educators’ Week when I would have gotten a 25% discount on it and I bought it on the spot instead of waiting. I only saw one copy and I was afraid it would sell before the discount so I was afraid to wait. I haven’t started it yet but I look forward to it. I also have Patricia Meyers Spack’s book to read. I think I might save them for the years that they came out as a special treat! The anticipation of saving them will make them that much more of a pleasure. I will certainly buy the whole set, no matter how many economic choices I have to make to make it happen!


  7. I already bought this book when my bookstore has it but haven’t read it yet. Thanks for your lovely review, LA. Can’t wait to buy the other 4 JA annotated editions published by HUP.

    So next year we have the annotated edition of Emma. I wonder who the editor is.


  8. Great review!! I received this book right after it was released…. I’d had it on pre-order as soon as I found out about it! LOL I stumbled across the first one, Pride & Prejudice, at my B&N, and fell in love with the cover as soon as I saw it. Once I picked up the book & started looking through it… I HAD TO HAVE IT!! Not long after I got the book, I found an online article which said that Harvard University Press planned on doing all 6 books in this format. I was SO EXCITED!!! LOL It was probably a couple of weeks afterward that I finally found Persuasion listed for pre-order in the online stores. I also read in the article that the person who did the P&P edition, Patricia Meyer Spacks, is also working on the S&S ed.!! Can’t wait for that one!! I absolutely LOVE this series of annotated books… so much detail & additional information. Knowing me (Ha!!!), I’ll probably end up with all 6… So…. HUP…. Please hurry & finish them!!! My bookshelves are holding a slot for them!! :)


  9. I enjoyed the beautiful Patricia Meyer Spacks edition of P&P, so this Persuasion edition by Robert Morrison has to be just as worth while owning. I don’t know who could read Austen without assistance of an annotator. My own favorite is still David M. Shapard (editions of P&P and SS) because it was Shapard who taught me to be a Jane Austen fan. As for illustrations in all Austen novels, whether large format or standard size, they frustrate as well as entertain. Something with today’s printing technology? They are too fuzzy, always too small, but always welcomed.


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