A Preview of Sanditon: A New Television Adaptation of Jane Austen’s Novel


Premiering Sunday, August 25 on ITV, Sanditon will be the first television series inspired by Jane Austen’s final, unfinished novel.

Jane Austen fans in the UK have much to celebrate. Austen’s seaside Regency drama is being given the red-carpet treatment by the co-production team of Red Planet Pictures in the UK and MASTERPIECE PBS in the US. Adapting and continuing the eight-part series will be veteran period drama screenwriter Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice (1995) and Sense and Sensibility (2008)), and a cast of accomplished and emerging British actors will portray the lively and diverse characters that Austen established in her novel, with a few additions to the roister as well. The new series will air on eight consecutive Sundays at 9:00pm August 25 through October 13, 2019.

Inset of the first page of the manuscript that would later be titled Sanditon: “A Gentleman & Lady travelling from Tun-bridge towards that part of the Sussex Coast which lies between Hastings & E. Bourne being induced by Business to quit the high road, and were overturned in half rock, half sand toiling up its long ascent.” Via Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts

Sanditon was written in 1817 when Austen was seriously ill. She was only able to finish twelve chapters and about 24,000 words before her poor health prevented her from completing it. Four months later she would die on July 18, 1817, of what is generally believed to be Addison’s disease. The manuscript was passed down through family members until it was donated in 1930 to King’s College in Cambridge where it now resides. The fragment of the novel is classified as one of her minor works. Continue reading

Jane Austen’s Worthing: The Real Sanditon, by Antony Edmonds – A Review

Jane Austen's Worthing, by Antony Edmonds 2014From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

Jane Austen sequels thrive on what ifs. What if Darcy’s first proposal had been delivered in a more gentlemanly manner? What if Willoughby had decided to marry for love instead of money? Jane Austen’s unfinished novel, Sanditon, is a different kind of literary “what if” for her fans. The eleven chapters Austen penned in early 1817 introduce readers to a fictional seaside resort with as promising a set of characters as any of her other novels. As Antony Edmonds notes in the introduction to Jane Austen’s Worthing: The Real Sanditon:

“In spite of the fact that during its composition she was suffering from the painful and debilitating illness that killed her, there is little evidence of any diminution of her powers, and had the book been finished it is likely that it would have been the equal of her six famous novels.” (10)

While other authors have taken up the challenge of completing the unfinished story, Edmonds, a researcher and writer who has published numerous articles about the seaside town of Worthing and its literary associations, reveals the parallels between Jane Austen’s fictional town and the real one on the Sussex coast in England that she visited in 1805. As Edmonds explains, researchers have only recently known for certain that Jane Austen visited Worthing. Her letters mention the possibility of a visit, but no further reference is made of the trip. Confirmation of the visit was found in the diaries and letters of Jane Austen’s niece Fanny Knight. Jane Austen’s Worthing includes excerpts from these documents as well as seventy-five illustrations and maps that provide a detailed view of life in Regency Worthing. Continue reading

Jane, Actually: or Jane Austen’s Book Tour, by Jennifer Petkus – A Review

Jane, Actually, by Jennifer Petkus © 2013 Mallard Sci-FiFrom the desk of Jeffrey Ward:

What would YOU say to Jane Austen if it became possible to communicate with her personally after two centuries? Jennifer Petkus’ third novel, Jane, Actually explores that possibility with an endless array of “what-if’s:” Is there an afterlife? If so, in what form? If departed souls are immortal, will the living be able to communicate with them? Will one departed soul be able to contact another departed soul? How will departed souls legally verify their identities? Can a disembodied soul fall in love with another disembodied soul?

A little background is necessary. In her debut novel, Good Cop Dead Cop, the author establishes a discovery that enables departed souls to contact the living via a technological marvel known as the “afternet.” In her second novel My Particular Friend, Petkus mashes together Sherlock Holmes with Jane Austen’s Bath for a Regency romp that is impossible to pin a label on. With great warmth and humor the author ingeniously mashes together the “afternet” with the very-alive but disembodied soul of Jane Austen and you actually get Jane, Actually.

Jane’s identity has been legally verified by the afternet authentication committee and she has finished her incomplete novel Sanditon, she has acquired an agent and staunch promoter in Melody Kramer and a grand book tour is planned. Although Jane communicates easily over the afternet, she is invisible, so the search begins for a suitable avatar to be her visual embodiment. A young acting student coincidently named Mary Crawford is one of the finalists. She knows next to nothing about Jane Austen, not even the literary significance of her own name. However, Jane takes a liking to her and she is chosen over more qualified candidates. Getting Jane and Mary to “sync-up” using the afternet proves difficult and frustrating but they warm to each other nevertheless. Continue reading

Austen Book Sleuth: New Books in the Queue for July 2010

The Jane Austen book sleuth is happy to inform Janeites that many Austen inspired books are heading our way in July, so keep your eyes open for these new titles.

Fiction (prequels, sequels, retellings, variations, or Regency inspired)

Murder at Mansfield Park, by Lynn Shepherd

Mansfield Park is considered (by some) to be the dark horse of Austen’s oeuvre and her heroine Fanny Price weak and insipid. I do not agree, but the majority of readers might find this new novel an improvement since the narrative is “renovated” (not unlike Sotherton) and Fanny gets bumped off. Shepherd mixes up Austen’s classic story by switching the protagonist and antagonist, morphing other characters and plot points and spotlighting the murder instead of the the moralistic undertones that Austen chose to soft shoe her narrative. Personally, secondary to Jane Austen, I enjoy a good murder mystery, so this reader is quite charmed at the possibility of having both together. (Publishers description) In this ingenious new twist on Mansfield Park, the famously meek Fanny Price–whom Jane Austen’s own mother called “insipid”–has been utterly transformed; she is now a rich heiress who is spoiled, condescending, and generally hated throughout the county. Mary Crawford, on the other hand, is now as good as Fanny is bad, and suffers great indignities at the hands of her vindictive neighbor. It’s only after Fanny is murdered on the grounds of Mansfield Park that Mary comes into her own, teaming-up with a thief-taker from London to solve the crime. Featuring genuine Austen characters–the same characters, and the same episodes, but each with a new twist – Murder at Mansfield Park is a brilliantly entertaining novel that offers Jane Austen fans an engaging new heroine and story to read again and again. St. Martin’s Griffin, Trade Paperback (384) pages, ISBN: 978-0312638344

Review of Murder at Mansfield Park in the Sterling Observer

Austen’s Oeuvre

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, illustrator Chris Hammond, introduction by Joseph Jacobs

Dover has done it again! They have taken a classic Victorian illustrated edition of a Jane Austen novel and reproduced the interior exactly offering the book lover the next best thing to the original. Their first volume in this series of hardback collector editions was Pride and Prejudice. For any of you who collect vintage Austen editions it is a reproduction of the popular and pricey 1894 ‘Peacock’ edition illustrated by Hugh Thomson. This edition of Sense and Sensibility illustrated by Chris Hammond is even more beautiful and my personal favorite Victorian edition of a Jane Austen novel. Enjoy! (Publishers description) A delightful comedy of manners, this novel concerns the romantic travails of two sisters, who struggle to balance passion and prudence. It abounds in the author’s customary wit and engaging characterizations. This handsome hardcover gift edition features a dust jacket and more than 60 charming drawings by a leading Victorian-era illustrator. Dover Publications, Hardcover (416) pages, ISBN: 978-0486477435.

Audiobooks

The Watsons/Sanditon (Naxos Complete Classics), by Jane Austen, read by Anna Bentinck

Now available outside of the audio collection Jane Austen: the Complete Novels, readers can listen to two of Austen’s unfinished works professionally produced and read by BBC Radio personality Anna Bentinck. They are gems, and you might be pleasantly surprised. (Publishers description) One abandoned, one unfinished, these short works show Austen equally at home with romance (a widowed clergyman with four daughters must needs be in search of a husband or two in The Watsons) and with social change (a new, commercial seaside resort in Sanditon). Typically touching, funny, charming and sharp. Naxos AudioBooks, 4 CDs, 4h 29m, ISBN: 978-9626342817

Read my review of The Watsons/Sanditon

Austen’s Contemporaries & Beyond

Helen, by Maria Edgeworth

Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849) was a major “best selling” novelist of her day, surpassing many of her male counterparts. Jane Austen admired her so much that she sent one of the 12 presentation copies of Emma that she received from her publisher even though they had never corresponded or met. Regretfully, Austen did not have the opportunity to read Helen since she died in 1817, but you can judge for yourself why she and her contemporaries valued Edgeworth and why she merits this re-issue of her 1834 novel. (Publishers description) The last and most psychologically powerful novel by Jane Austen’s leading rival, the newly orphaned Helen Stanley is urged to share the home of her childhood friend Lady Cecilia. This charming socialite, however, is withholding secrets and soon Helen is drawn into a web of ‘white lies’ and evasions that threaten not only her hopes for marriage but her very place in society. A fascinating panorama of Britain’s political and intellectual elite in the early 1800s and a gripping romantic drama, Helen was the inspiration for Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters. Sort of Books, Trade paperback (544) pages, ISBN: 9780956003898

Review of Helen in the Scotland Herald

Until next month, happy reading!

Laurel Ann

Winners Announced in the ‘By the Seaside with Sanditon’ Giveaways

Many thanks to all who participated in the ‘By the Seaside with Sanditon’ event here March 15-21st. Here are the lucky winners in the giveaway contests. 

Day 1 – Penguin Classics Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon, by Jane Austen 

Marie Burton 

Day 2 – Naxos AudioBooks recording of The Watsons and Sanditon, by Jane Austen 

RegencyRomantic 

Day 2 – Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition, by Jane Austen 

Nicola   

Day 4 – Sanditon and Other Stories, by Jane Austen (Everyman’s Library) 

Amanda 

Day 6 – Sanditon: Jane Austen’s Unfinished Masterpiece Completed, by Jane Austen and Juliette Shapiro 

JaneGS 

Day 7 – Sanditon, by Jane Austen (Hesperus Press) 

Mandy N., diaryofaneccentric and Meredith 

Day 7 – Sanditon: Jane Austen’s Last Novel Completed, by Jane Austen and Another Lady 

Janeen 

Congrats to all the winners. To claim your prize, please email me at austenprose at verizon dot net by midnight, Friday, April 02, 2010. For shipment restrictions, please check each individual giveaway post. 

Laurel Ann

Share

Sanditon, by Jane Austen and Another Lady: A Review

Last unfinished works by acclaimed novelist have an irresistible attraction. Inevitably someone will want to complete them. Psychologically we all want closure in our own lives as well as our literature. I readily admit when I first read Sanditon, Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel, and came to the last lines in chapter 12, “Poor Mr. Hollis! It was impossible not to feel him hardly used: to be obliged to stand back in his own house and see the best place by the fire constantly occupied by Sir Henry Denham.” I felt a huge pang of regret. Not only were her characters left dangling, so was I. I had not only been robbed of many hours of reading enjoyment, but of my requisite Austen happy ending.

One wonders out loud if the abrupt halt in narrative also affected Another Lady, the anonymous co-author of Sanditon: Jane Austen’s Last Novel Completed, inspiring her to finish the story. When it was first published in condensed format in Redbook Magazine in February 1975 there were very few Jane Austen inspired sequels or continuations in print. It would be another twenty years before the movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice would elevate Austen to pop-culture status and launch a thousand and one sequels. What appears to us today as a logical transition to continue the story of Austen’s beloved characters in paraliterature was in fact quite a bold move for its day. Evidently the author entered this arena with some serious trepidation by not disclosing her true identity and inserting “An Apology from the Collaborator” as an addendum to the novel. At this point, her attempts to forestall reproof had only fueled my suspicions for her possible success.

Written in 1817 during the last six months of Austen’s life, the fragment of Sanditon comprises the first eleven chapters and the beginning of chapter twelve in this continuation. The transition was very smooth, and great care had obviously been taken in choice of language and sentence structure to emulate her predecessor. Set on the Sussex coast the emerging village of Sanditon has pretentions to be a posh sea-side resort. The two minions of the community, Mr. Parker an entrepreneurial landowner and his wealthy and parsimonious partner Lady Denham dominate its development and social life. The story unfolds from the perspective of Charlotte Heywood, a young lady visiting Mr. and Mrs. Parker. Sanditon is also populated by a comical ensemble of residents and visitors who upon Charlotte’s first acquaintance are altogether different than they later appear. Lady Denham’s nephew Sir Edward Denham is handsome, amiable and titled but completely eccentric believing himself to a romantic character born to seduce women. He has designs upon Lady Denham’s companion Clara Brereton, a poor relation who is maneuvering to be her heir and in direct competition with him for her favor. Also sharing the spotlight are Mr. Parker’s four siblings, three of whom are sad invalids in there own minds. The one bright light of hope in the novel is Mr. Parker’s witty and charming brother Sidney. The guests of the resort also include Mrs. Griffith’s and her three charges, the sickly Mulatto heiress Miss Adela Lambe and the two predatory husband hunting Beaufort sisters. Another Lady continues the plot, setting, themes and characters established by Austen only adding two new characters, Sidney Parkers friends Mr. Canton and Henry Brudenall.

As the story progresses there is a gradual shift in style as the new author takes the reigns stepping beyond Austen’s usual refinement and sharp satire into a more burlesque and theatrical comedy. Many predictable lines of narrative follow: Charlotte is cautious and observant, Sidney outspoken and impetuous, Clara beautiful and kind, Sir Edward flamboyant and deluded, all as Austen established until plot twists, elopements and abductions push this into Georgette Heyer territory of outrageous romantic comedy. This change is not wholly unwelcome because the author keeps closely within the confines of Austen’s language. In addition, there are also many laugh out loud moments to add levity to the tone. The strongest character to drive the narrative is Sidney Parker whose untoward remarks and officious vanity humorously ruffle Charlotte’s overly cautious sensibilities. His teasing and pleasing nature is the closest character I have read to Austen’s Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey in wit and charm. That, is quite a complement! Readers may also feel a strong sense of déjà vu in finding themselves within familiar Austen territory as they discover several allusions to her characters and plots from all of her novels throughout the new narrative. This was my one objection to the new author. Austen did not have to duplicate anything from her previous stories to drive her plots or accent her ironies. Another Lady uses this crutch too freely at times, and I thought it diminished her credibility.

Overall Sanditon: Jane Austen’s Last Novel Completed was a most enjoyable read. After thirty-five years it remains one of the better examples of what to do right with a sequel or continuation and every Janeite and potential Austenesque author should read it. Another Lady might have wanted to “follow Jane Austen’s own early example of anonymity” preferring the protection of a moniker, but it may have actually been a shrewd move to shield herself from the wrath of circa 1975 Janeites who were not yet prepared for Austenmania.

4.5 out of 5 Regency Stars 

Sanditon: by Jane Austen and Another Lady: Jane Austen’s Last Novel Completed
Scribner, New York (Simon & Schuster) (1998)
Trade paperback (320) pages
ISBN: 978-0684843421

Additional Reviews

By the Seaside with Sanditon: Event Wrap-up

All that had the appearance of incongruity in the reports of the two might very fairly be placed to the account of the vanity, the ignorance or the blunders of the many engaged in the cause by the vigilance and caution of Miss Diana Parker. The Narrator, Ch 10 

There was so much incongruity in Sanditon that I thought that this quote was a great way to wrap up the ‘By the Seaside with Sanditon’ event. I loved how Austen played off the dichotomy of old vs. modern English lifestyle, tradition vs. progress, health vs. illness, romantic vs. anti-romantic and many other themes – all with a bit more vehemence and sarcasm than I have read before. What I will remember most about reading Sanditon again after many years is that my impression of it today is much different than on first reflection. Like the heroine Charlotte Heywood’s reaction to the people in Sanditon, my observations of Austen’s plot, characters and theme have changed upon further acquaintance. Moreover, Sidney Parker will remain Austen’s most mysterious hero, forever a possibility of love etched in my mind. The perfect gentleman of fiction that we all dream about, but could not possibly find in real life. (well maybe) 

Sidney Parker was about seven or eight and twenty, very good-looking, with a decided air of ease and fashion and a lively countenance. The Narrator, Ch 11 

This is my fourth novel event here at Austenprose, and this time out I had some help from great guest bloggers who added their expertise and humor to entertain us. A big thank you to Julie, of Austenonly for her incredible knowledge of Regency and Georgian era history. Her posts on seaside resorts was so thorough I felt like a dip in the sea myself and her report on the medicinal benefits of sea bathing made me want to stay on the shore and out of the cold water. We also got a look at samphire and a good argument in favor of  Worthing as Jane Austen’s inspiration for her town of Sanditon. Mandy N. did a fabulous job with her lovely ‘Regency Runway’ show of seaside fashions. I want blue shoes and a parasol to match please. And of course, my thanks to all who read along and commented on the group read and other posts. It was a swell party! 

There are still seven giveaway contests running through Friday, March 26, 2010. Don’t forget to leave a comment to enter your chance for your name to be drawn. Winners will be announced on Saturday, March 27, 2010. Good luck to all. 

Many thanks again to all. I love doing these events because I can share Austen in a condensed period and hopefully convert a few more readers to my favorite author. I had fun, hope you did too. Next event will be the imposing Pride and Prejudice in June. Oh, shall the Shades of Pemberley be thus polluted? 

Laurel Ann

Share

By the Seaside with Sanditon: Sanditon Completions

Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel Sanditon ended after 22,000 words and midway into what may have been chapter twelve. Her draft manuscript was a bright beginning introducing us to the seaside town in development as a health resort and a list of over 20 characters. For anyone who has turned to the last page and reached her last lines “Mr. Hollis. poor Mr. Hollis! It was impossible not to feel him hardly used: to obliged to stand back in his own house and see the best place by the fire constantly occupied by Sir Henry Denham.” and not felt a pang of regret that you have read the last of her creative ouput, you are advised to read no further. For those who did, it is sad to reflect that no more would we be delighted by Jane’s Austen’s witty pen. 

I readily admit after finishing the fragment that I was hooked into the story and characters and craved further development and a dénouement. The next best thing to Jane Austen’s actual words are a continuation by another author’s pen. Sanditon, even though it is not as well known as one of her six major novels, has its far share of completions and retellings to choose from. It has the august distinction of being the first sequel or continuation attempted after Jane Austen’s death by her niece, Anna Lefroy. Unfortunately, she did not finish her novel either, but there are others who have. Here is a partial list of novels that are currently available in print with publisher’s descriptions. 

Sanditon: Jane Austen’s Unfinished Masterpiece Completed, by Jane Austen and Juliette Shapiro 

Had Jane Austen lived to complete Sanditon, it would undoubtedly be as famous and treasured as her other novels. But unfinished at her death, the masterpiece has remained mysterious and overlooked. Now, author Juliette Shapiro has completed Sanditon in a vivid style recognizable to any Austen fan. Here is the story of Charlotte Heywood, who has recently arrived in the town of Sanditon to enjoy the benefits of the ocean air. At first, Charlotte finds amusement enough standing at her ample Venetian window looking over its placid seafront and salubrious ocean, wind-blown linens and sparkling sea. But there is much more to this promising little coastal resort. Before long, Charlotte discovers that scandals abound. To the delight of her eccentric host Mr. Parker, she becomes captivated by the romance of the seaside lifestyle. But is the town of Sanditon truly the haven that Mr. Parker likes to think it is, and will Charlotte Parker find happiness here? 

Ulysses Press, Berkeley, CA (2009)
Trade Paperback (236) pages
ISBN: 978-1569756218 

The Brothers, by Jane Austen and Another Lady (Helen Baker) 

Miss Austen wrote ten chapters of a novel she called The Brothers before illness stilled her pen for ever. Now, her entire draft has been incorporated into the complete story. It is hoped that the resulting romance may satisfy her myriad admirers who have long regretted that such vivid characters were left in suspense. 

Lulu.com (2009)
Trade paperback (272) pages
ASIN: B002AD1WJS 

Cure for All Diseases (Dalziel and Pascoe Series #23), by Reginald Hill 

Some say that Andy Dalziel wasn’t ready for God, others that God wasn’t ready for Dalziel. Either way, despite his recent proximity to a terrorist blast in Death Comes for the Fat Man, the Superintendent remains firmly of this world. And, while Death may be the cure for all diseases, Dalziel is happy to settle for a few weeks’ care under a tender nurse. 

Convalescing in Sandytown, a quiet seaside resort devoted to healing, Dalziel befriends Charlotte Heywood, a fellow newcomer and psychologist, who is researching the benefits of alternative therapy. With much in common, the two soon find themselves in partnership when trouble comes to town. 

Sandytown’s principal landowners have grandiose plans for the resort–none of which they can agree on. One of them has to go, and when one of them does, in spectacularly gruesome fashion, DCI Peter Pascoe is called in to investigate–with Dalziel and Charlotte providing unwelcome support. But Pascoe finds dark forces at work in a place where medicine and holistic remedies are no match for the oldest cure of all. Aka The Price of Butchers Meat (UK edition) 

Harper Collins, New York (2008)
Trade paperback (400) pages
ISBN: 978-0007252688 

Jane Austen’s Charlotte: Her Fragment of a Last Novel, Completed, by Julia Barrett

Julia Barrett, author of  the Austen continuations The Third Sister and Presumption, has emerged with a literary treasure, holding true to the characters and theme designed by Ms. Austen. Set in the developing seaside town of Sandition, it portrays a young woman from the countryside who is exposed to the sophistication and cynicism of resort life. Her name is Charlotte. With disarming charm and wit, she observes for us the array of quirky characters who reside in the booming resort-to-be. 

Freshly removed from her familiar, provincial environment and exposed to England at the cusp of the nineteenth century, Charlotte encounters the wondrous Parker family, a genteel clan of dreamers and idlers. Others include the feuding Denham siblings; the ailing, yet unconscionably busy Parker sisters; and the wryly observant Emmeline Turner, a lady of literary distinction, who is astonished to fin herself solicited there by those who regard her as a representative of the “better circle of society.” 

The innocent but keen-witted Charlotte quickly finds herself rather deeply involved in this uproarious little town. She can’t help but get swept up in the antics of the Parkers and Denham’s, even while she is vexed and perplexed by the droll young Sidney Parker. But even the best efforts of this charming young lady may not be enough to save the budding resort town. 

Originally named The Brothers by Austen and dubbed Sanditon by her family, this “new” novel promises to bring to life another Austen heroine worthy of keeping company with the likes of Elizabeth, Emma, and Anne. 

M. Evans & Co, New York (2000)
Trade paperback (300) pages
ISBN: 978-0871319715 

Sanditon: Jane Austen’s Last Novel Completed, by Jane Austen and Another Lady (Marie Dobbs aka Anne Telscombe)

Sanditon – an eleven-chapter fragment left at Jane Austen’s death completed with seamless artistry by an Austen aficionado and novelist – is a delightful addition to Austen’s beloved books about England’s upper-crust world and the deception, snobbery, and unexpected romances that animate it. 

When Charlotte Heywood accepts an invitation to visit the newly fashionable seaside resort of Sanditon, she is introduced to a full range of polite society, from the reigning local dowager Lady Denham to her impoverished ward Clara, and from the handsome, feckless Sidney Parker to the amusing, if hypochondrical, sisters. 

A heroine whose clearly-sighted common sense in often at war with romance, Charlotte cannot help observing around her both folly and passion in many guises. But can the levelheaded Charlotte herself resist the attractions of the heart? 

Scribner, New York (Simon & Schuster) (1998)
Trade paperback (320) pages
ISBN: 978-0684843421 

Not to add undue influence over which continuation you read, but I shall be reading and reviewing Sanditon, by Jane Austen and Another Lady next week. I hope others who participated in this week’s group read of Sanditon will join me. If you do not have a copy on hand you can read the transcribed text at the University of Virginia Library website. 

By the Seaside with Sanditon: Day 7 Giveaway 

Enter a chance to win one copy of Sanditon: Jane Austen’s Last Novel Completed , by Jane Austen and Another Lady (1998) by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about Sanditon, or who your favorite character is by midnight PDT Friday, March 26th, 2010. Winners to be announced on Saturday, March 27th. Shipment to continental US addresses only.  

Upcoming event posts 

Day 8 – March 22 Event Wrap-up
Finis

Share

Sanditon, by Jane Austen (Hesperus Press): A Review

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 of turning a fishing village into a fashionable watering place offering the therapeutic or curative benefits of sea-bathing 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.

The story unfolds from the perspective of Charlotte Heywood, a young lady experiencing her first trip away from her family as a guest of Mr. and Mrs. Parker. Sanditon is populated by a comical ensemble of residents and visitors who upon Charlotte’s first acquaintance are altogether different than they later appear. Lady Denham’s nephew Sir Edward Denham is handsome, amiable and titled but is prone to long inflated speeches in the most pompous and affected style in an attempt to reinforce his own notion that he is a romantic character born to seduce women “quite in the line of Lovelaces.”  (Lovelace refers to the villain Robert Lovelace in Samuel Richardson’s 1748 novel Clarissa who rapes and ruins the young heroine.) He has designs upon Lady Denham’s companion Clara Brereton who he shall either woo with affection or carry off. Clara is a poor relation of Lady Denham’s who is maneuvering to be her heir and in direct competition with Sir Edward for her favor.

Also sharing the spotlight is Mr. Parker and his four siblings, three of whom Charlotte is told are sad invalids, but after their arrival talk a great deal about their maladies but exhibit little consequence of their afflictions. Here we see Austen at her comedic height characterizing the foibles of those who attach illness as an identity and hypochondria as their religion. The one bright light of hope in the novel is Mr. Parker’s brother Sidney who we know of only through letters and others descriptions. He may be the only character besides Charlotte who has the potential to set things in balance with his sense of humor and honest opinions. Sadly he is destined to remain the mystery hero of Austen’s oeuvre. Add to that a lineup a nest of plot ironies to raise an eyebrow at business speculation and hypochondria, and a sharp jab at the effluvia of novels and poetry and you have a narrative that whizzes 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 first reading I thought it quite energetic and satirical, similar to the burlesque humor of Austen’s Northanger Abbey. I then put it aside and did not reflect on it further. My second reading after several years brought an entirely new reaction. Austen has taken a new and fresh direction from her usual three or four 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. Sanditon is a gem that no Austen enthusiast should miss.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Sandition, by Jane Austen, foreword by Prof. A. C. Graying
Hesperus Press, London (2009)
Trade paperback (85) pages
ISBN: 978-1843911845

By the Seaside with Sanditon: Day 6 Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one of three copies of Sanditon, by Jane Austen (Hesperus Press) by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about Sanditon, or who your favorite character is by midnight PDT Friday, March 26th, 2010. Winners to be announced on Saturday, March 27th. Shipment worldwide, but it might have trouble reaching Antarctica.

On an aside. For any of you that are curious about the backside of a chicken staring at us on the cover, the Hesperus Press publicist offers this revealing insight. “Regarding the cover design for this title – our designers try to avoid clichés and so don’t always go for literal covers, thinking laterally instead. The tone of the image and its colour range suit the book well, and chickens and eggs are often taken as symbols of new life, which links to Sanditon’s plot, being about a new town.”

Upcoming event posts

Day 7 – March 21 Sanditon Continuations

Day 8 – March 22 Event Wrap-up

Share

By the Seaside with Sanditon: Sea-Bathing, a match to every disorder in the 19th-century

Why would anyone want to go into freezing cold sea water? What medical benefits were they hoping to achieve?

In Jane Austen’s novel Sanditon an entire seaside community is in development to attract visitors to a new watering place for the therapeutic or curative benefit of sea-air and sea-bathing. This involved the process of immersing yourself in freezing cold water. However unpleasant this many sound to our 21st-century sensibilities, it was strongly believed in the 18th and 19th-centuries to have strong physical benefits to a wide range of maladies. Julie at Austenonly blog has graciously investigated the 19th-century medical mindset which instigated this belief and fueled the development of the seaside resorts such as Sanditon. Please visit her great blog and discover why Mr. Parker in the novel Sanditon believes “The Sea air and Sea Bathing together were nearly infallible, one or the other of them being a match for every Disorder” and Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice thinks a little sea-bathing will set her up forever!

Further reading

Upcoming event posts

Day 6 – March 20 Review: Sanditon (Hesperus)
Day 7 – March 21 Sanditon Completions
Day 8 – March 22 Event Wrap-up

Share