Q&A with Juliette Wells, Editor of Emma: 200th Anniversary Annotated Edition, by Jane Austen

Emma 200th Anniversary Edition edited by Juliette Wells 2015 x 200We hit another publication milestone this year with the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s most lauded novel, Emma. I have previously reviewed the novel and the 2010 film adaptation extensively, so I thought for this new 200th Anniversary Annotated Edition by Penguin Deluxe Classics that you might enjoy hearing from another source—someone who is an Austen scholar, college professor and all-around-friend of Jane—editor Juliette Wells. Here is an informative interview with her publisher that I am happy to share.

When we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Emma, what in particular are we celebrating? What’s new about this edition? 

We’re celebrating the 200th anniversary of Emma’s original publication, in London in December 1815. The date of publication is a little confusing because “1816” was printed on the title page of the first edition of the novel, but it was actually released in December 1815. I think this gives us the right to celebrate for a whole year!

And what better way to celebrate than to re-read Emma, or read it for the first time? Our 200th anniversary annotated edition has everything you need, all in one place, to help you appreciate this wonderful novel. You can immerse yourself in Austen’s world and also have, right at your fingertips, explanations of some of the elements of the novel that tend to trip up or puzzle today’s readers.

In the Austen canon, what would you say makes Emma special and unique?  

Emma is special because it’s the capstone of Austen’s career as an author. She had already published three novels (Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park), and she was at the very top of her game as a writer. She didn’t know it, of course, but Emma would be the last book she saw through to publication. When Austen died in July 1817, she left two essentially completed novels (Northanger Abbey and Persuasion), which her brother published at the end of that year. So Emma is the last Austen novel that was published in the exact form that she herself approved.

Emma is also special because it’s the most perfect example of Austen’s particular genius as an author, which is (I think) to create a recognizable, engaging fictional world from the slenderest of materials. She writes about everyday life and ordinary people—you won’t find kings and queens in her novels, or ghosts or vampires. Her effects are wonderfully subtle. Continue reading

Sense and Sensibility is 201

Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Edition, by Jane Austen (Penguin Deluxe Classics 2011)For two hundred and one years readers have had the pleasure of reading Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility. For the bicentenary celebration last year, Penguin Classics issued this new edition with an introduction by Cathleen Schine (The Three Weissmanns of Westport) and cover illustration by Audrey Niffenegger (yes the author of The Time Travelers Wife is also an artist).

The cover shows us a tempest in a teacup. While I love the design, I’m not sure that it exactly mirrors the action in Sense and Sensibility. The phrase tempest in a teacup, or teapot, has a slightly derogatory implication, like making a mountain out of a molehill. I personally think that Austen’s drama is not puffed up and only her heroine Marianne Dashwood is exaggerated (on purpose) to show her overly romantic personality. But, that’s just me.

Elinor could not be surprised at their attachment. She only wished that it were less openly shewn; and once or twice did venture to suggest the propriety of some self-command to Marianne. But Marianne abhorred all concealment where no real disgrace could attend unreserve; and to aim at the restraint of sentiments which were not in themselves illaudable appeared to her not merely an unnecessary effort, but a disgraceful subjection of reason to common-place and mistaken notions. – Sense and Sensibility, Ch 11

For those who have not had the pleasure yet of reading Austen’s tale of two divergent sisters and their financial and romantic challenges, what are you waiting for? If you need further inducement or would like a refresher on the plot, characters and style, you can read my reviews of the print book, Naxos audio recording and four movie adaptations from 1971, 1981, 1995 and 2008 Episode One, Episode Two.

Make haste and purchase this lovely Penguin Classics Bicentenary Edition of Sense and Sensibility directly at the Penguin website.

Many happy reading/listening/viewing hours await all those who seek the Dashwood story.


Laurel Ann

© 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Enter a Giveaway Chance to Win a Complete Set of Penguin Hardcover Classics by Jane Austen

Penguin Hardcover Classics: Jane Austen

UPDATE 04/26/12:

Since the Penguin sweepstakes has closed as of April 24, 2012, they have generously offered Austenprose readers a chance to win a signed copy by the designer Coralie Bickford-Smith of the Penguin Hardcover Classics edition of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey! Just leave a comment  voicing your opinion on if their was a hero throw down between Henry Tilney from Northanger or Captain Wentworth from Persuasion, who would win, and why, or if you have not read either of the novels yet, what you would like to know about them from the Janeites on this blog by 11:59 PT, Wednesday, May 09, 2012. Winner announced on Thursday, May 10, 2012. Shipment of print copies to US addresses only. Good luck!

Happy dance in the book world today. With the release of Coralie Bickford-Smith’s new cover designs of Persuasion, Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey, all six of Jane Austen’s major novels are now complete for the Penguin Hardcover Classics set.

Since Pride and Prejudice, the first book in series was introduced in 2009, book designer Bickford Smith has completed over 20 new covers of classic novels. Beside Austen, the series includes books by authors Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Elliot, William Shakespeare, Wilkie Collins, Emily Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell and others. The covers are inspired by the style of design from the early twentieth-century with motifs indicative of the stories in the novels. The three new Austen titles released today include designs of a chain on the front for Mansfield Park, a feather for Persuasion and a skeleton key for Northanger Abbey.  I can guess all of the associations to the stories. Can you?

Penguin Hardcover Classics: Jane Austen

Penguin Hardcover Classics is offering a generous chance to win the complete Jane Austen set. Just click on this link and it will take you to the Penguin Group Facebook sweepstakes. Good luck to all! (The Penguin sweepstakes has ended, but your comment here still qualifies you for the giveaway of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.)


Laurel Ann

© 2007 – 2012 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Austen Tattler: News and Gossip on the Net: Issue No 9

“All that she wants is gossip, and she only likes me now because I supply it.” Marianne Dashwood, Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 31

April 12th – 18th, 2010

Hot News of the Week:

New author Jenni James of Northanger Alibi, a modern retelling of Northanger Abbey influenced by Twilight, lands the Austenesque book publicity coup of the decade! Wow. This might be a first for Austen on TV.


Author and Janeite Catherine Delors features Jane Austen’s juvenilia The History of England and directs us to the original manuscript viewable online at The British Museum website.

The beautiful new hardback editions of Penguin Classics are featured in a Elle Decor article including Jane Austen’s Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith.

Interview of Monica Fairview, author of The Darcy Cousins at Austenprose. Swag contest ends 23 April 2010.

Author Jane Odiwe of Austen Sequels Blog features a preview of the new debut novel First Impressions, by Alexa Adams.

Regency Mourning Fashions in England by Vic Sanborn of Jane Austen’s World is featured in the Suite 101.com online repository of insightful writers and informed readers.

Catherine Morland and Isabella Thorpe’s favorite Gothic novel The Mysteries of Udolpho that they read together in Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey is highlighted on Jane Greensmith’s blog Reading, Writing, Playing in a great post on The Gothic Novel.

Shameless self promotion here, but Maria Grazia has interviewed moi for her lovely blog Fly High. Leave a comment and enter a chance to win your choice of selected Austenesque books. Ends 25 April, 2010.

Another interview of note is of Vera Nazarian, author of Mansfield Park and Mummies at Jane Austen’s World.

Vote for your favorite Pride and Prejudice book cover from my top ten favorites. As of today, there is a dead tie between White’s Publishings lovely new release showing a graphic rep of Regency dancers from the waist down and the classic cover design by Hugh Thomson for the 1894 peacock edition of P&P.

Deb at Jane Austen in Vermont blog posts info on Soethby’s The English Country House auction results. Oh my. Beautiful Regency-era items, but the prices Lousia!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane invented baseball since she mentioned it in her novel Northanger Abbey. Doubtful? Read further proof in the third installment of posts by Mags at AustenBlog.


British actor Elliot Cowan (Mr. Darcy in Lost in Austen 2009) opens in The Scottish Play in London next week. Read about the lore and superstition behind the Shakespeare play that we dare not mention.

The Jane Austen Story opened at Winchester Cathedral on 10 April, 2010. Read more about this new exhibit spotlighting Jane Austen’s burial place and life in Hampshire that will run until 20 September 2010.

The Los Angeles Times Book Festival has always been a lively affair and this year one of the guest speakers is author/editor Susannah Carson of the Austen anthology A Truth Universally Acknowledged that we reviewed and enjoyed. Jane Austen Today has a featured article on the the LA  festival which makes me homesick for outdoor book fairs that I frequented while I lived in California. *sigh*

New Austenesque Book Announcements:

A Weekend with Mr. Darcy, by Victoria Connelly — 16 Sep 2010

Book Reviews:

Until next week, happy Jane sighting.

Laurel Ann


Lady Susan: Group Read Letters 12-22: Summary, Musings & Discussion: Day Five Giveaway

Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition (Penguin Classics) 2003Her neglect of her husband, her encouragement of other men, her extravagance and dissipation, were so gross and notorious that no one could be ignorant of them at the time, nor can now have forgotten them. Sir Reginald De Courcy Letter 11

Quick Synopsis

Sir Reginald De Courcy writes to his son alarmed by his serious attachment to Lady Susan, offers advice, and asks for an explanation. Lady De Courcy writes to her daughter vexed by the distress and her sons reply. Reginald responds to his father, denies his intention to marry, and defends acquisitions against Lady Susan. Catherine Vernon writes to her mother of Frederica’s failed run-away from school, Lady Susan’s distress, and Reginald’s continued support of her. Lady Susan writes to Alicia provoked by that “horrid girl’s” attempt at running away, irritated by Reginald’s need to know every detail, and still prefers the superior Manwaring. Catherine Vernon writes to her mother of Frederica’s arrival, Lady Susan’s duplicity, and Reginald’s belief that she is a wonderful mother. Catherine Vernon writes again to her mother noticing Frederica fondness of Reginald and thinks she would make a good daughter-in-law. Lady Susan writes to Alicia disclosing Frederica ran away after reading her letter with plans for her to marry, but now she has fallen in love with Reginald. Catherine Vernon writes to her mother of the unannounced arrival of Sir James Martin, its affect on Frederica, and Lady Susan’s dubious offer of friendship.  Frederica Vernon writes to Reginald asking for his help in dissuading her mother of her plan for her marriage. Lady Susan writes to Alicia enraged by Sir James’s arrival, Frederica’s impudence, and Reginald’s incredulity in challenging her decision for her daughter.


When a son receives a letter from his father playing the guilt card, you know that matters have turned very serious. It appears that Catherine Vernon’s letter intended only for her mother’s eyes makes its way to her father Sir Reginald under dubious device of his wife feigning a cold. Hmm? Clever woman! Even though her intension was to write to her son directly about her concerns of his serious attachment to Lady Susan, having his father do it would be so much more affective – and it was. Reginald’s immediate response to his father shows his concern for his family and his reputation, but most importantly, his desire to defend Lady Susan against slanderous gossip.

I know that Lady Susan in coming to Churchill was governed only by the most honourable and amiable intentions; her prudence and economy are exemplary, her regard for Mr. Vernon equal even to his deserts; and her wish of obtaining my sister’s good opinion merits a better return than it has received. Reginald De Courcy, Letter 14

The affect of the letter appeases his father, but the women in the family, his sister and mother, are not so well satisfied. Lady Susan gives a plausible account of her behavior, and Reginald claims to have no intension of marriage, now, but who knows, he may in “three months hence.”  Their concern soon changes from Reginald to Frederica Vernon who has run away from school. The reasons are unknown to the Vernon’s. Catherine Vernon is only witness to Lady Susan’s distress and claims that Frederica is a perverse girl. She is no dupe, unlike her brother, and remembers that Frederica has been sadly neglected which Lady Susan conveniently forgets. As we see Lady Susan through Catherine’s eyes, her instincts and assumptions often turn out true. She tries to be politically correct and give her the benefit of the doubt, but always throws in a zinger to make us think.

She talks vastly well; I am afraid of being ungenerous, or I should say, too well to feel so very deeply; but I will not look for her faults; she may be Reginald’s wife! Heaven forbid it! Mrs. Vernon, Letter 15

Meanwhile, Lady Susan’s letters to her friend Alicia are the quite the opposite. She holds nothing back and so we learn the real truth at every turn of the plot. Frederica has run away because of her mother’s insistence that she marry Sir James Martin, a man she abhors. Austen reveals Lady Susan’s dark side by having a mother call her daughter a “horrid girl” and a “little devil” placing cruel dominion over her, “But she shall be punished, she shall have him.” Brrr! How cold and calculating can one be? Her immediate concern is not her daughter, but if Frederica will tell the whole story to her uncle who has gone to London to try to patch things up with her school mistress or bring her back to Churchill. Her self-assurance in her powers is boundless.

If I am vain of anything, it is of my eloquence. Consideration and esteem as surely follow command of language as admiration waits on beauty, and here I have opportunity enough for the exercise of my talent, as the chief of my time is spent in conversation. Lady Susan, Letter 16

She seems unstoppable until the two people she suspects least betray her. Even though she thinks Frederica is too shy and in too much awe of her to tell tales, she does, and to the one person who she thought she had total dominion over after reversing his ill opinion of her, Reginald De Courcy. Soon after Frederica’s arrival at Churchill Lady Susan’s castle of duplicitous cards begins to tumble as Sir James Martin’s unexpected entrance forces everyone’s hand. Frederica is terrified, Lady Susan off guard, Reginald silently observant, and Catherine Vernon perplexed that the previous unflattering descriptions of Frederica by her mother do not equal their subject’s behavior. She is “timid, dejected, and penitent,” not at all as her mother described. Everyone can see that Sir James is no Solomon and Frederica is strongly opposed to the match. Away from her mother’s tyranny, Catherine becomes Frederica’s friend and she sees that “There cannot be a more gentle, affectionate heart; or more obliging manners, when acting without restraint.” She also realizes that Frederica has grown fond of Reginald. Lady Susan does too, but is unconcerned by the chit of a girl whose is so charmingly artless in her display that appear ridiculous and despised by every man who sees her.

Artlessness will never do in love matters; and that girl is born a simpleton who has it either by nature or affectation. Lady Susan, Letter 20

It is hard to tell if it was luck or artifice that prompted Frederica to write a letter to Reginald, the one person that she knew had her mother’s ear, and entreat him to intercede on her behalf to convince Lady Susan not to press her to marry Sir James. He had obviously seen enough interaction between mother and daughter to doubt Lady Susan’s ill tales against her, and was moved by her plight. Lady Susan’s reaction to his claims of  “impropriety and unkindness” in her allowing Sir James Martin to court her daughter contrary to her inclinations really pushed the wrong button. Who was he to question her decisions? She now detests them both. As she vents her rage to her friend Alicia, we are privy to one final threat and an ominous prediction.

I have not yet tranquillised myself enough to see Frederica. She shall not soon forget the occurrences of this day; she shall find that she has poured forth her tender tale of love in vain, and exposed herself for ever to the contempt of the whole world, and the severest resentment of her injured mother. Lady Susan, Letter 22

Further reading

© 2009 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose