Jane Austen Birthday Soirée 2013: Celebrating A Plan of a Novel

Jane Austen Birthday Soirée (2012)Today, December 16th, is Jane Austen’s birthday. 237 years ago she was born at Steventon Rectory in Hampshire, England.

In celebration of my favorite author, I am participating in the Jane Austen Birthday Soiree being hosted by Maria at My Jane Austen Book Club blog. It is basically a blog hop with many great giveaways being offered. Each blog will feature a favorite passage from one of Austen’s works.

For your enjoyment, I have selected a short piece that exemplifies Austen’s humor, one her many talents that I am particularly fond of. A Plan of a Novel was written in 1816, probably in response to Austen’s visit to Carlton House in London with the Prince Regent’s librarian Rev. James Stanier Clarke and their subsequent correspondence in which he offers advice to the author on the subject of her next novel; and her family’s advice on the same subject! It is a parody, similar to her exuberant and fantastical Juvenilia, and her early novel Northanger Abbey, satirizing what was outrageous in the popular literature of her day. Interestingly, she also including notes in the margins indicating which of her family members made the suggestions!

The manuscript of Plan of a Novel now resides at The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. You can view an image of the original document of A Plan of a Novel online at their website.

Plan of a Novel, according to hints from various quarters, by Jane Austen

Scene be in the Country, Heroine the Daughter of a Clergyman, one who after having lived much in the World had retired from it and settled in a Curacy, with a very small fortune of his own. — He, the most excellent Man that can be imagined, perfect in Character, Temper, and Manners — without the smallest drawback or peculiarity to prevent his being the most delightful companion to his Daughter from one year’s end to the other. — Heroine a faultless Character herself, — perfectly good, with much tenderness and sentiment, and not the least Wit — very highly accomplished, understanding modern Languages and (generally speaking) everything that the most accomplished young Women learn, but particularly excelling in Music —  her favourite pursuit —  and playing equally well on the PianoForte and Harp — and singing in the first stile. Her Person quite beautiful — dark eyes and plump cheeks. — Book to open with the description of Father and Daughter —  who are to converse in long speeches, elegant Language —  and a tone of high serious sentiment. — The Father to be induced, at his Daughter’s earnest request, to relate to her the past events of his Life. This Narrative will reach through the greatest part of the first volume — as besides all the circumstances of his attachment to her Mother and their Marriage, it will comprehend his going to sea as Chaplain to a distinguished naval character about the Court, his going afterwards to Court himself, which introduced him to a great variety of Characters and involved him in many interesting situations, concluding with his opinions on the Benefits to result from Tithes being done away, and his having buried his own Mother (Heroine’s lamented Grandmother) in consequence of the High Priest of the Parish in which she died refusing to pay her Remains the respect due to them. The Father to be of a very literary turn, an Enthusiast in Literature, nobody’s Enemy but his own — at the same time most zealous in discharge of his Pastoral Duties, the model of an exemplary Parish Priest. — The heroine’s friendship to be sought after by a young woman in the same Neighbourhood, of Talents and Shrewdness, with light eyes and a fair skin, but having a considerable degree of Wit, Heroine shall shrink from the acquaintance.

From this outset, the Story will proceed, and contain a striking variety of adventures. Heroine and her Father never above a fortnight together in one place, he being driven from his Curacy by the vile arts of some totally unprincipled and heart-less young Man, desperately in love with the Heroine, and pursuing her with unrelenting passion. — No sooner settled in one Country of Europe than they are necessitated to quit it and retire to another — always making new acquaintance, and always obliged to leave them. — This will of course exhibit a wide variety of Characters — but there will be no mixture; the scene will be for ever shifting from one Set of People to another — but All the Good will be unexceptionable in every respect — and there will be no foibles or weaknesses but with the Wicked, who will be completely depraved and infamous, hardly a resemblance of humanity left in them. — Early in her career, in the progress of her first removals, Heroine must meet with the Hero — all perfection of course — and only prevented from paying his addresses to her by some excess of refinement. — Wherever she goes, somebody falls in love with her, and she receives repeated offers of Marriage — which she refers wholly to her Father, exceedingly angry that he should not be first applied to. — Often carried away by the anti-hero, but rescued either by her Father or by the Hero — often reduced to support herself and her Father by her Talents and work for her Bread; continually cheated and defrauded of her hire, worn down to a Skeleton, and now and then starved to death. — At last, hunted out of civilized Society, denied the poor Shelter of the humblest Cottage, they are compelled to retreat into Kamschatka where the poor Father, quite worn down, finding his end approaching, throws himself on the Ground, and after 4 or 5 hours of tender advice and parental Admonition to his miserable Child, expires in a fine burst of Literary Enthusiasm, intermingled with Invectives against holders of Tithes. — Heroine inconsolable for some time — but afterwards crawls back towards her former Country — having at least 20 narrow escapes from falling into the hands of the Anti-hero — and at last in the very nick of time, turning a corner to avoid him, runs into the arms of the Hero himself, who having just shaken off the scruples which fetter’d him before, was at the very moment setting off in pursuit of her. — The Tenderest and completest Eclaircissement takes place, and they are happily united. — Throughout the whole work, Heroine to be in the most elegant Society and living in high style. The name of the work not to be Emma, but of the same sort as S. & S. and P. & P.


If this bit of joyful burlesque amusement made you smile, you might want to pre-order Syrie James’ new novel The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen to be released on December 31, 2012. This new novel was inspired by Jane Austen’s Plan of a Novel. You can read my preview here. I have read Ms. James’ new work and it is indeed a clever incorporation of Austen humor, romance and biting wit.


Now gentle readers, in celebration of our favorite author please leave a comment sharing your favorite Austen novel, novella, or minor work to qualify for a chance to win one copy each of Jane Austen Made Me Do It and The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen. The contest is open to US residents and ends on December 18th, 2012 at 11:59 pm Pacific time. Winner to be announced on Thursday, December 20th, 2012. Good luck to all, and Happy Birthday Jane!

Please visit the other participants in The Jane Austen Birthday Soirée 2013 by clicking on the links to their blogs listed below. Have fun!

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

49 thoughts on “Jane Austen Birthday Soirée 2013: Celebrating A Plan of a Novel

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  1. I am headed off to Portland to have tea in honor of Jane’s birthday with a bunch of folks dressed in Regency Costume – it will be fun, wish you were joining us Lauren.


  2. Happy birthday my dear Jane! thank you Laurel Ann for your terrific giveaway. Thank you to Maria for her hard work on this fun event.My favorite page is in Persuasion when Captain Wentworth’s love letter of the ages is read by Anne. There is no other scene in a book by any author like it. Perfect Persuasion!


  3. Happy birthday Miss Austen! I’m also a December child so I claim ‘kindred spiritness’ with Jane. My all time favorite Austen moment is Emma’s and Mr. Knightley’s second turn in the bushes. The dialogue and thoughts of these two lovers is the stuff of dreams. Thank you for the generous give-away. I will visit the links avidely.


  4. Happy Birthday Jane! Thank you for giving us decades of enjoyment and inspiring a love of reading for present and future generations. My favorite is Pride and Prejudice, perhaps one of the greatest love stories.


  5. In celebration of Jane’s birthday I started re-reading Sense & Sensibility last night. Pride & Prejudice is my favorite, followed closely by Persuasion.


  6. All of Ms Austens works touch me on different levels…my favorite is the one I am currently reading…love her stories and love her heroes…
    Happy Birthday Ms Austen……and thank you from the bottom of my heart


  7. Thank you Laurel Ann for spreading the word about “Plan of the Novel”! – it is quite hilarious and tells us more about Austen than any of the many conjectures out there as to how she thought … My favorite work is whatever I am currently reading [though it is always “Persuasion”]- but I must say that I never read The Watsons until a few years ago -didn’t want to start something I knew was unfinished and have that awful empty feeling at the end of it – but I found it wonderful to read her in this early draft state [you have to read it as written with no paragraphs and all her capitals and dashes…!] – it has one of the best dance sequences in all her works and stars a young boy… I have always wondered why she didn’t use this scene again [though some say she did with Mr. Knightley and Harriet Smith]

    I am currently reading Syrie James’s “Missing Manuscript” and loving it! – I think even Jane Austen would approve!

    Please enter me in the drawing even though I have both books – they make great draw prizes for JASNA-Vermont – and next month our reading group is reading _your_ book Laurel Ann!



  8. Happy Birth~day Jane! 237 looks lovely on You!! I so enjoyed visiting your home and having tea :) Each of Jane’s works hold their own special charm for me… Persuasion holds a special place ~ upon re-meeting, and the touch of their gloved hands, the way Anne slowly comes back to life, to unfurl, to bloom…as does Captain Wentworth… inspired Birthday Tea today to celebrate! *TY Laurel Ann*


  9. Sense & Sensibility has always been my favorite, but I love how Jane Austen always has growth of her characters throughout all her novels. Happy Birthday, Jane Austen!


  10. Thanks for sharing Plan of a Novel. I hadn’t seen it before. She really did have such a wonderful sense of humor.

    I have both books so please don’t enter me into the giveaway, they should go to someone who doesn’t have them yet so they can enjoy them. They are great books. I just had to post because your blog started me on JAFF. I love your reviews and have found many wonderful authors and books because of them. And Amazon passes on their thanks as well. :-)


  11. Happy Birthday, dear Jane. Your plan for a novel is masterful! I am so looking forward to the 2013 celebrations of the 200 anniversary of Pride and Prejudice, truly my most treasured novel.


  12. Although Pride and Prejudice is probably my favorite Jane Austen book, I think my favorite page from any of her books would have to be Capt Wentworth’s letter in Persuasion. Now that’s some good stuff. :) “You pierce my soul.” Swoon. ;)

    Thank you for the great giveaway. Happy birthday Jane and happy holidays to you.

    slapshinyhappy at yahoo dot com


  13. My favorite of the minor works is The History of England. If only the history I had to read in school was half so entertaining. I would, however love to read Missing Manuscript.


  14. I.LOVED.THIS. Thanks for sharing it, Laurel Ann! I’m off to look at the original image now.

    My favorite novel changes every time I read one..or read fan fiction! But, I have to admit that Persuasion is probably the winner for me.

    Thanks for a chance to win!!


  15. Happy birthday, Jane! And thank you for countless hours of enjoyment (ok, obsession) in your novels and friendship with my fellow Janeites. ♥♥♥

    My favorite is P&P. Thank you for the giveaway of JAMMDI. Been a busy day but I’ve managed to get some Austen blog-hopping celebration done.


  16. Hands down it is Pride and Prejudice as my favorite. It was my introduction to Miss Austen and years later, 18 years later I’m more of a fan of anything to do with Miss Austen, her books, JAFF, and nonfiction relating to her and her times. Living with Lupus and Lyme Disease, Jane Austen has lifted me above pain and severe fatigue countless times. My husband and I just lifted champagne flutes in a toast to Miss Austen and the pleasures she has given me over the years. A side note, my second favorite novel is Persuasion. Yum!


  17. Fantastic post, Laurel Anne! It is always a pleasure to remember Jane Austen’s birthday. Happy birthday, Jane! Although I love PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and EMMA, PERSUASION is my favorite. I enjoy your blog, and appreciate this giveaway.


  18. I like Pride and Prejudice since it is the one that got me into Jane and reading books. Over the years ive grown fond of Persuasion :)


  19. My son shares Jane’s bday as well as Bethoven. I like to remind my son that if I had been thinking he would have been named Darcy or Ludwig. he just gives me the ‘Aw, Mom’. My favorite is Northanger Abbey. I just love the wit and satire. I thouroughly enjoyed this little gem you shared!


  20. I celebrated Jane’s birthday by displaying a beautiful notecard a friend sent me from the Chronicles of Light festival at Winchester Cathedral. I’m like the people who say my favorite JA novel is the one I’m reading, but over the years, I’ve come to prefer Emma for it’s wit and style. J. K. Rowling has chosen Emma as her favorite novel and I tend to agree.


  21. Though I love P&P, I think my favorite novel is Persuasion. I just love Capt. Wentworth and how he waited all those years for Anne! Though I think Anne’s sisters were very silly as the father so guess she took after her mother :)


  22. My absolute favorite is Lady Susan–not many people have heard about it (or else they refuse to read it saying that she wrote it when she was younger and a less experienced writer), but it was extremely funny and well-written!


  23. I think picking a favorite Jane Austen novel is like selecting a favorite child. My tastes change with where I am in my life. Persuasion reminds me of the importance of second chances. S&S reminds me not to be too flighty or too practical. Emma reminds me that even a confirmed snob can be redeemed, and that we should always think about what we say before we say it. P&P’s messages are myriad, and hardly have to be recounted. That said, I love them all.


  24. I can’t believe I forgot to sign up to particpate in the soiree this year! However I did do a little celebrating with two lovely authors at Stiletto Storytime. My favorite Austen work is “Pride and Prejudice” which is common among many Janeites I find. My second is less so…I do so love “Northanger Abbey”…I have a special reading adoration of the gothic. I also agree with Katie P. above…I love “Lady Susan” and think it does not often get the attention it deserves. Thanks for the lovely giveaway and only last time…Happy Happy Birthday Dearest Jane!


  25. Yay for Jane’s birthday! I’ve always loved Pride & Prejudice, but in recent years Persuasion has shot up the ranks and is a veryveryvery close second….


  26. Pride and Prejudice is my #1, followed by Sense and Sensibility. But, I’ve loved all that I’ve read. There has been only one I couldn’t get through and I’m certain is was down to bad timing. Can’t remember which one. I’ll give it another go, of course. I think Jane Austen was a wonder and so wish she’d written more. Happy Belated Birthday to Jane!


  27. Favorite JA novel: of course, Persuasion! I actually met a fellow Janeite at a local JASNA meeting on Sunday whose favorite was also Persuasion so that made me feel good. Happy belated to Jane!


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