Do not be surprised at finding Uncle Henry acquainted with my having another ready for publication. I could not say No when he asked me, but he knows nothing more of it. You will not like it, so you need not be impatient. You may perhaps like the heroine, as she is almost too good for me. Letter to niece Fanny Knight, 23 March 1817, The Letters of Jane Austen
In this letter to Fanny Knight, the daughter of her brother Edward (Austen) Knight, Jane Austen refers to “having another ready for publication”, which is her last completed novel, Persuasion. It was written between 8 August 1815 and 16 July 1816, with final chapter revisions in August 1816. The novel would be published posthumously after her death, bound together with the novel Northanger Abbey in 1818.
Jane Austen’s coyness in diverting her niece’s interest in reading her new work by foretelling her reaction is typical of the banter she exercised with her family and friends regarding her view of the quality and importance of her work. Modest? I think not. Her next remark regarding her further prediction of Fanny’s reaction to liking the heroine Anne Elliot, “for she is almost to good for me”, surely qualifies as a sideways complement to herself. For what writer who has ever created a character does not find a bit of themselves fashioned into their nature? And – – Anne Elliot exemplifies some of the finest and amiable qualities of any of Jane Austen’s creation.
It is interesting to note that the working title for the novel was The Elliot’s, and was later changed after her death by her brother Henry Austen to Persuasion. In this instance, I must agree with his choice. The novel is not so much about the Elliot family, as it is about the life choices we make, and in particular how others can influence us. Anne Elliot’s choice to be persuaded by her family friend Lady Russell to decline an offer of marriage by Captain Wentworth will take her on a journey of loss, patience and faith; – – not unlike Jane Austen herself. You can read more about Persuasion’s plot and characters at these fine links.
Be sure to mark your calendars and set your watches for the premiere of the Masterpiece Theatre presentation of The Complete Jane Austen, on Sunday the 13th of January at 9:00pm. The first adaptation will be Persuasion, staring Sally Hawkins as our heroine Anne Elliot. You can read further details on the series in my post, An Austen New Year awaits.
*Image of the title page of Persuasion, published by Frank S. Holby, New York (1906)
© 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose