Brinshore: The Watson Novels Book 2, by Ann Mychal – A Review

Brinshore 2015 x 200From the desk of Jenny Haggerty:

Open any of Jane Austen’s six completed novels and you’re guaranteed a moving story told with wit and insight, but what fan doesn’t wish Austen had time to complete more books. That’s why I treasure well done Austen-inspired fiction, so when I discovered Ann Mychal had written Brinshore, her second Austen themed book, I was full of hopeful anticipation. Mychal’s first novel, Emma and Elizabeth, is among my favorite adaptations. It completes Austen’s intriguing unfinished novel The Watsons by telling the story of two Watson sisters, Emma and Elizabeth, daughters of an impoverished clergyman. The girls were raised separately under very different conditions, but reunited when they were both young ladies. Brinshore continues the tale, this time focusing on their daughters Emma (named after her mother) and Anne, and it takes its inspiration from another of Austen’s novel fragments, Sanditon.

Cousins Emma Osborne and Anne Musgrave could not be more different in temperament. Emma is an outspoken girl, direct in her opinions in the mode of her Mr. Darcy-like father, Lord Osborne, while Anne is a gentler, nature-loving soul who goes into rhapsodies over a piece of seaweed. Neither girl has experienced the hardships of their mothers because both of those women married well. The novel opens in 1816 so the wars with Napoleon are over and Captain Charles Blake will soon be returning to their community, a circumstance that Emma awaits with much excitement.

The end of the wars also mean that people are ready to enjoy themselves more, and in that spirit the girls’ utterly practical, unromantic Aunt Harding (reminiscent of Charlotte Collins) shocks everyone with a big announcement. She’s decided to sell the Chichester house she shared with her now deceased husband to move to Brinshore, a tiny seashore town not far from Sanditon, and she’s inviting both her nieces to come stay with her. Anne is excited right away–the seashells she can collect! The tide pools she can sketch! But Emma is indifferent, she’d rather go to more fashionable Brighton, until she learns that Captain Blake will be spending time in nearby Sanditon. Continue reading

Emma and Elizabeth: A story based on The Watsons by Jane Austen, by Ann Mychal – A Review

Emma and Elizabeth Ann Mychal 2014 x 200From the desk of Jenny Haggerty:

For those who love Jane Austen’s novels her early death is a tragedy we feel anew each time we contemplate the scant space she takes up on our bookshelves. What Austen fan doesn’t long for more than six completed novels, especially since she left behind several tantalizing story fragments? Of these Sanditon is the most polished. Austen was working on it as a mature author shortly before she died, but it’s an earlier fragment, The Watsons, that has one of my favorite scenes in all of Austen’s work. Emma Watson’s exuberant dance with 10 year old Charles Blake caught the eye of every man at the winter assembly and won my heart. Though Austen never finished Emma’s story, her sister Cassandra knew what she planned, and several authors, including Austen’s niece, have written endings. Ann Mychal’s version titled Emma and Elizabeth intrigued me because Elizabeth is Emma’s older sister. I was eager to read an adaptation featuring both sisters.

Mychal’s opening is wonderfully Austenesque: “When a young woman, on whom every comfort in life is bestowed has the misfortune to inhabit a neighborhood in which peace and harmony reign, her ability to perceive and understand the world must be diminished and, consequently, in need of adjustment.” Emma’s adjustments start as the book begins. After years of living with her wealthy uncle and aunt she is returning to the family of her birth whom she hasn’t seen since her mother died when she was five. Though their father was ever dutiful to his parishioners, the other Watson children lived like orphans, with eldest sister Elizabeth shouldering the drudgery of caring for them all. Continue reading

Jane Austen Original Manuscript of The Watsons Attains Record Auction Price in London Today

The Watsons Manuscript from BBC News (2011)

The Watsons, one of the very few original manuscripts by Jane Austen that still exist has sold at Sotheby’s in London today for a whopping £993,250 ($1.6m), three times the estimated price! The unfinished manuscript was the last remaining of Austen’s work to be owned privately and will now live in splendor at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. This is the best news possible for those (like me) who were concerned that the manuscript would disappear into private hands and not be exhibited to the public.

You can watch these three videos by the BBC explaining the importance of the manuscript and watch the final gavel fall to close the sale. Enjoy!

Curious about Jane Austen unfinished novel? Read my review of the Naxos audiobook production of The Watsons.

Cheers, Laurel Ann

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Rare Jane Austen Manuscript of The Watsons to be Auctioned at Sotheby’s in London

First page of The Watsons original manuscript, by Jane Austen (1803-1805)

An incredibly rare handwritten manuscript of Jane Austen’s unfinished work The Watsons will be auctioned at Sotheby’s in London on July 14th, 2011. It is valued at £200,000 to £300,000.

The Watsons is a fragment of a novel that Austen began around 1803 when she was residing with her parents and sister Cassandra in Bath. Written during an unhappy time in her life, she did not complete it, most likely due to her father’s death in January 1805. It contains five chapters and is about 17,500 words in length. Because it is a rough draft neatly written in Jane Austen’s own hand, we see her edits and corrections in progress, offering us a unique window into the writers mind.

When Austen died in 1817, her sister Cassandra inherited the untitled manuscript which passed upon her death in 1844 to her niece Caroline Mary Craven Austen (1805 – 1880), the younger daughter of Jane Austen’s eldest brother James. Upon Caroline’s death, the manuscript was inherited by her nephew William Austen-Leigh who offered the first six leaves (12 pages) for a charity sale in 1915 during World War I to benefit the Red Cross. The manuscript was auctioned at Christies in London and sold for £65 to Lady Wernher. This portion of the manuscript was later sold in 1925 to J. P. Morgan, Jr. and now resides in The Morgan Library & Museum in New York City.

The remaining pages would pass to Lionel Arthur Austen-Leigh and his three sisters who were the nephew and nieces of William Austen-Leigh and where displayed at the British Museum for many years. It was sold in 1978 to the British Rail Pension Fund, who in 1988 presented it for auction at Sotheby’s in London attaining £90,000 from Sir Peter Michael. It is now on deposit at Queen Mary, University of London, where Sir Peter was once a student. Shockingly, in 2005 a portion of the manuscript was lost by the University! A full investigation revealed no clues to their disappearance. The missing pages have yet to be found.

The Watsons is an important manuscript in Austen scholarship. By 1803, she had written her juvenilia and three novels, Elinor and Marianne, First Impressions and Susan. These three novels would later be reworked and published as Sense and Sensibility in 1811, Pride and Prejudice in 1813 and Northanger Abbey in 1817. Austen scholar Claudia L. Johnson states in her 2003 introduction in the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition that:

The Watsons thus stands as an unfinished bridge between the animation of Austen’s youthful work and the greater sobriety of her later phase.”

The Watsons touches upon one of Austen’s familiar themes: unmarried ladies challenged by their families and financial deficiencies. The heroine Emma Watson has been raised by a wealthy aunt with the advantages of education and refinement. Her two elder brothers and three sisters remained with their widowed father, a sickly and impecunious clergyman barely able to discharge his parish duties and definitely not in control of his three quarrelsome unmarried daughters who reside with him in the Surrey village of Stanton. When Emma’s aunt remarries, she is sent back home to find mercenary husband hunting the order of the day for her two sisters Penelope and Margaret who think nothing of stealing others beaus. Her solace is with her eldest sister Elizabeth who attempts to keep the family a float with frugality and cheer. Residing in the neighborhood is a titled family whose loutish son Lord Osborn is attracted to Emma while her sister chases after his social-climbing friend Tom Musgrave.

As an Austen enthusiast, we can only hope this portion of The Watsons is purchased by a library, museum or similar institution and displayed to the public. Of course its ideal home would be to re-join the first 12 pages at The Morgan Library in New York.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Preview of The Mischief of the Mistletoe: A Pink Carnation Christmas, by Lauren Willig

OMG. I feel like a giddy schoolgirl. Look what arrived on my doorstep today. An advanced reading copy of The Mischief of the Mistletoe, by Lauren Willig! *major goosebumps*

I have been a fervent fan of Ms. Willig’s Pink Carnation series since the day it landed on the new release table in my B&N store in 2005. If you have not had the pleasure of reading any of the novels in the series just think Scarlet Pimpernel meets Georgette Heyer with a dash of Jane Austen thrown in and you’ll get my drift. They are romantic comedies set during the Napoleonic Wars laced with espionage, intrigue and wit. Of all the contemporary historical novelists, Lauren Willig is a nonpareil in my book. Like Georgette Heyer her historical details are spot on, her plots imaginatively engaging, her heroines admirable and heroes swoon-worthy. It does not get much better than this.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe is due to release on October 28th so you’ll have to be patient a bit longer. Janeites will be thrilled to discover that Lauren has drawn her inspiration for her heroine, Arabella Dempsey, from Jane Austen’s personal correspondence and her unfinished novel The Watsons. Austen even makes a cameo appearance! Here is the publisher’s description:

‘Tis the season to get Pink! Lauren Willig’s beloved Pink Carnation series gets into the holiday spirit with this irresistible Regency Christmas caper.

Arabella Dempsey’s dear friend Jane Austen warned her against teaching. But Miss Climpson’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies seems the perfect place for Arabella to claim her independence while keeping an eye on her younger sisters nearby. Just before Christmas, she accepts a position at the quiet girls’ school in Bath, expecting to face nothing more exciting than conducting the annual Christmas recital. She hardly imagines coming face to face with French aristocrats and international spies…

Reginald “Turnip” Fitzhugh – often mistaken for the elusive spy known as the Pink Carnation – has blundered into danger before. But when he blunders into Miss Arabella Dempsey, it never occurs to him that she might be trouble. When Turnip and Arabella stumble upon a beautifully wrapped Christmas pudding with a cryptic message written in French, “Meet me at Farley Castle,” the unlikely vehicle for intrigue launches the pair on a Yuletide adventure that ranges from the Austen’s modest drawing room to the awe-inspiring estate of the Dukes of Dovedale, where the Dowager Duchess is hosting the most anticipated event of the year: an elaborate twelve-day Christmas celebration. Will they find poinsettias or peril, dancing or danger? Is it possible that the fate of the British Empire rests in Arabella’s and Turnip’s hands, in the form of a festive Christmas pudding?

The Mischief of the Mistletoe: A Pink Carnation Christmas, by Lauren Willig
Dutton Adult (October 28, 2010)
Hardcover (352) pages
ISBN: 978-0525951872

Additional resources

The Watsons and Sanditon, by Jane Austen (Naxos AudioBooks): A Review & Giveaway

“One abandoned and the other uncompleted.” The Watsons and Sanditon may be fragments in Jane Austen’s literary canon, but they still deserve due deference. Composed over a decade apart in 1803-4 and 1817, each represents Austen’s desire to continue writing during two challenging times in her life. The Watsons was started when Jane was living in Bath with her parents and sister Cassandra. Raised at Steventon rectory in Hampshire, her father Rev. George Austen’s retirement from the clergy in 1801 prompted a relocation of his family to the resort town known for its healing waters and social activity. There she and her sister found a wider social circle, Assembly Balls, and other diversions but dearly missed the pleasures of the country, her large family and circle of friends that she was forced to leave behind. Her few remaining family letters during this period reflect her unhappy situation. Austen began Sanditon in 1817 during a brief remission in an illness that would ultimately take her life seven months later. Although gravely ill, the tone and freshness of the novel is comical and upbeat and reveals an evolution in style that displays her genius as a writer and an innovator of the British novel. We may never know why Jane Austen put The Watsons aside and did not return to it as she did with her other manuscripts. Moreover, her untimely death at age 41 parallels Sanditon’s abrupt halt after 12 chapters. They both fail to reach their full potential and it is our great loss and literature’s sad regret. 

The Watsons touches upon one of Austen’s familiar themes: unmarried ladies challenged by their families and financial deficiencies. The heroine Emma Watson has been raised by a wealthy aunt with the advantages of education and refinement. Her two elder brothers and three sisters remained with their widowed father, a sickly and impecunious clergyman barely able to discharge his parish duties and definitely not in control of his three quarrelsome unmarried daughters who reside with him in the Surrey village of Stanton. When Emma’s aunt remarries, she is sent back home to find mercenary husband hunting the order of the day for her two sisters Penelope and Margaret who think nothing of stealing others beaus. Her solace is with her eldest sister Elizabeth who attempts to keep the family a float with frugality and cheer. Residing in the neighborhood is a titled family whose loutish son Lord Osborn is attracted to Emma while her sister chases after his social-climbing friend Tom Musgrave. 

Sanditon takes an entirely different direction from Austen’s usual fare of 3 or 4 families in a country village by turning the narrative away from the individual’s struggles to an entire community. 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 to turn a fishing village into a fashionable seabathing spa for the invalid 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. There are several young people to add a spark of romance, character foibles galore, plot ironies to raise an eyebrow at business speculation, hypochondria, and a sharp jab at the effluvia of novels and poetry to keep the narrative whizzing along until an abrupt halt just when we are hooked.  

Given that there are very, very few commercial recordings of Jane Austen’s minor works, I was very pleased to see Naxos AudioBooks’ continue to add new titles to their already impressive catalogue of Austen’s six major novels and Lady Susan in abridged and unabridged formats. This brand new recording of The Watsons and Sanditon maintains their impeccable quality. Amusingly read by the acclaimed BBC Radio personality Anna Bentinck, the diversity of the plots and the numerous characters could have been a challenge to a lesser accomplished reader, but I admired her energetic interpretations of the female roles. She has a fine touch with Austen’s nuanced humor and I appreciated her pregnant pauses as much as her rapid fire delivery when warranted. A must have addition for any Austen enthusiast, download this to your iPod or pop it into your car CD player for an amusing lark. 

4 out of 5 Regency Stars 

The Watson and Sanditon, by Jane Austen, read by Anna Bentinck
Naxos AudioBooks USA (2010)
Unabridged, 4 CDs, 4h 29m
ISBN: 978–962–634–281–7

Giveaway

Enter a chance to win one digital copy of Naxos AudioBooks recording of The Watsons and Sanditon, by Jane Austen by leaving a comment stating what intrigues you about either The Watsons or Sanditon, or who your favorite character is by midnight PDT Friday, March 26th, 2010. Winner will be announced on Saturday, March 27th. Good luck!

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Oxford World’s Classics: Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition – Our Diptych Review

“Catherine, at any rate, heard enough to feel that in suspecting General Tilney of either murdering or shutting up his wife, she had scarcely sinned against his character, or magnified his cruelty” The Narrator, Chapter 30 

Gentle readers, Please join us for the fifth in a series of six reviews of the revised editions of Jane Austen’s six major novels and three minor works that were released this summer by Oxford World’s Classics. Austenprose editor Laurel Ann is honored to be joined by Austen scholar Prof. Ellen Moody, who will be adding her professional insights to complement my everyman’s view.

Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan,The Watsons and Sandition

 by Jane Austen

Oxford World’s Classics (2008) 

Laurel Ann’s review 

Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey is the novel that almost wasn’t. We know from Cassandra Austen’s notes that her sister Jane wrote it during 1798-1799, prepared it for publication in 1803, and sold it to publishers Crosby & Company of London only to never see it in print. It languished on the publisher’s shelf for six years until Austen, as perplexed as any authoress who was paid for a manuscript, saw it not published, and then made an ironical inquiry,  supposing that by some “extraordinary circumstance” that it had been carelessly lost, offering a replacement. In reply, the publisher claimed no obligation to publish it and sarcastically offered it back if repaid his 10 pounds. 

Seven more years pass during which Pride and Prejudice is published in 1813 to much acclaim, followed by Mansfield Park in 1814 and Emma in 1815, all anonymously ‘by a lady’. With the help of her brother Henry, Austen then buys back the manuscript from Crosby & Company for the same sum, for Crosby could not know this manuscript was written by a now successfully published and respected author and thus worth quite a bit more. Ha! Imagine the manuscript that would later be titled Northanger Abbey and published posthumously in 1818 might never have been available to us today. If its precarious publishing history suggests it lacks merit, I remind readers that ironically in the early 1800’s most viewed it as “only a novel“, whose premise its author and narrator in turn heartily defend. 

“And what are you reading, Miss – ?” “Oh! It is only a novel!” replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. “It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language.” The Narrator, Chapter 5 

If this statement seems a bit over the top, then you have discovered one of the many ironies in Northanger Abbey as Austen pokes fun at the critics who oppose novel writing by cleverly writing a novel, defending writing a novel. Phew! In its simplest form, Northanger Abbey is a parody of the Gothic fiction so popular in Austen’s day but considered lowbrow reading and shunned by the literati and critics. In a more expanded view it is so much more than I should attempt to describe in this limited space, but will reveal that it can be read on many different levels of enjoyment; — for its coming of age story, social observations, historical context, allusions to Gothic novels and literature, beautiful language and satisfying love story. 

Some critics consider Northanger Abbey to be Jane Austen’s best work revealing both her comedic and intellectual talents at its best. I always enjoy reading it for the shear joy of exuberant young heroine Catherine Morland, charmingly witty hero Henry Tilney and the comedy and social satire of the supporting characters. At times, I do find it a challenge because so much of the plot is based on allusions to other novels, and much of the story is tongue in cheek. Explanatory notes and further study have helped me understand so much more than just the surface story and I would like to recommend that all readers purchase annotated versions of the text for better appreciation. 

Oxford World’s Classic’s has just released their new edition of Northanger Abbey which is worthy of consideration among the other editions in print that include a medium amount of supplemental material to support the text. Also included in this edition are three minor works, Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition. Updated and revised in 2003, it has an newly designed cover and contains a short biography of Jane Austen, notes on the text, explanatory notes which are numbered within the text and referenced in the back, chronology, two appendixes of Rank and Social Class and Dancing and a 28 page introduction by Claudia L. Johnson, Prof. of English Literature at Princeton University and well known Austen scholar. Of the five introductions I have read so far in the Oxford Austen series I have enjoyed this one the most as Prof. Johnson style is so entertaining and accessible. She writes with authority and an elegant casualness that does not intimidate this everyman reader. The essay is broken down into a general Introduction, Gothic or Anti-Gothic?, Jane Austen, Irony, and Gothic Style, and Northanger Abbey in Relation to Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sandition. Here is an excerpt that I thought fitting to support my previous mention of publishing history and tone. 

“Northanger Abbey is a sophisticated and densely literary novel, mimicking a great variety of print forms common in Austen’s day – conduct of books, miscellanies, sermons,  literary reviews, and, of course, novels. Its ambition is fitting, because it was to have marked Austen’s entrance into the ranks of print culture. After Austen’s earlier attempt to publish a version of Pride and Prejudice failed, Northanger Abbey (then called Susan) seemed to have succeeded, for it sold for a grand total of 10 to Crosby & Company in 1803. We have seen that Austen’s entrance into the printed world, unlike Catherine’s entrée into the wide world outside Fullerton, was energetically confident: when the narrator declares that novels ‘have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them’ (p. 23), she is clearly referring to her own novel too. This seems an audacious claim when we consider that Austen had yet to publish a novel, and a painful one when we consider that the novel, though bought, paid for, and even advertised, never actually appeared.” Page xxv 

What I found most enlightening about this edition were the explanatory notes to the text which were also written by Prof. Johnson. Not only do they call attention to words, phrases, places, allusions, and historical meanings, they explain them in context to the character or situation allowing us further inside the though process or action. 

115 ponderous chest: the chest is a site of spine-tingling terror and curiosity in novels such as Ann Radcliffe’s Romance of the Forrest (1791), where it holds a skeleton (vol, I , ch. iv), and William Godwin’s Caleb Williams (1794), where it holds evidence of Falkland’s diabolical crime. p. 369. 

In addition to being an amusing parody and light hearted romance, I recommend Northanger Abbey for young adult readers who will connect with the heroine Catherine Morland whose first experiences outside her home environment place her in a position to make decisions, judge for herself who is a good or bad friend, and many other life lesson’s that we discover again through her eyes. Henry Tilney is considered by many to be Austen’s most witty and charming hero and is given some the best dialogue of any of her characters. 

“Miss Morland, no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much that they never find it necessary to use more than half.” Henry Tilney, Chapter 14 

Luckily for Henry Tilney there was one woman who used all that nature had given her with her writing when she created him. We are so fortunate that Northanger Abbey is not languishing and forgotten on a shelf at Crosby & Company in London, and available in this valuable edition by Oxford Press. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 Regency Stars

Northanger Abbey Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sandition,
by Jane Austen
Oxford World’s Classics
Oxford University Press, (2008)
Trade paperback, 379 pages, ISBN-13: 9780199535545
James Kinsley & John Davie, editors 

Supplemental Material
Claudia L. Johnson: Introduction and Explanatory Notes
Vivien Jones: Select Bibliography, Chronology and Appendixes
Biography of Jane Austen
Note on the Text
Textural Notes

Prof. Ellen Moody’s review

 

A Journey through Austen’s career:  the latest Oxford _Northanger Abbey_, _Lady Susan_, _The Watsons_ and _Sanditon_

 

Catherine (Felicity Jones) gazes round her room at Northanger (from the 2007 Granada/WBGH _NA_)

The pump room and Abbey at Bath (from the 1987 BBC _NA_)

If you buy any of this reissue of the Oxford editions of Austen, buy this. It alone makes available three precious texts not in print for a reasonable price anywhere else. No other recent edition of Austen’s books does this[1].

Gentle friends,

Here Laurel and I are for the fifth of our six diptych reviews of the 2008 reissue of the 2003 Oxford editions of Austen’s novels[2]. I hope I haven’t surprised anyone when I urged this volume more than any other of the series as a “must-buy,”  but if I have here’s why.

In one inexpensive annotated volume we have four novels by Jane Austen, three of which are today hard to find in such a format:  _Lady Susan_ & _The Watsons_ first published in 1871, and _Sanditon_, first published in 1925 (!) are today only readily available in Chapman’s _Minor Works_, Volume VI (1954: rpt. with revisions London: Oxford UP, 1969) was last printed in 1988; you can still buy it in hardcover, but its classical scholarly apparatus is intimidating, and it lacks explanatory notes meant for the common reader

The original new Oxford set established by James Kinsley in 1971 followed a tradition stemming from the first posthumous publication of _Northanger Abbey_ in 1818: Kinsley included _Northanger Abbey_ and _Persuasion_ in one volume[3], but as of 1980, Oxford printed _Northanger Abbey_ with _Lady Susan_, _The Watsons_ and _Sanditon_[4].  Thus in one volume we have four novels by Jane Austen, three of which are still hard to find in attractive paperback editions with needed notes, to wit: _Northanger Abbey_, a novel whose many revisions (Austen first named it _Susan_ and then _Catherine_) make it at once a palimpsest of Austen’s earliest work and interests, and a text which includes her latest and most sophisticatedly charming writing[5]; continue reading