Jane Austen’s Signature ~ Sells for 12,500 GBP = $16,111 !

Yikes!! ~ Just sold today (7-12-17) at Christies:

AUSTEN, Jane (1775-1817). Signature (‘Yours very affec[tionate]ly, Jane’), cut from a letter, n.d.

Price realised GBP 12,500 (Estimate GBP 1,000 – GBP 1,500)

AUSTEN, Jane (1775-1817). Signature (‘Yours very affec[tionate]ly, Jane’), cut from a letter, n.d.
22 x 91 mm. [With:] A later envelope, inscribed with provenance notes.

Provenance: Fanny Catherine Knight, Lady Knatchbull (1793-1882, niece of Jane Austen), given to – ‘H.P. Hope’, who, according to the endorsement on the accompanying envelope, dated 15 November 1858, ‘says “Lady K would have sent the entire letter, had it not contained family matters”’.

A tantalising fragment from one of the most elusive hands in English literature: Jane Austen’s signature, cut from one of her letters written to her favourite niece, Fanny Catherine Knight, apparently containing ‘family matters’. Any Austen autograph item is rare at auction: only four have sold in the last twenty years (ABPC/RBH).

2017 Jane Austen in Vermont

Austen on the Block! ~ July 10 at Forum Auctions, and July 11 at Sotheby’s

There are a number of terrific Austen items on the block today at Forum Auctions in London: it’s happening as we speak… scroll up and down from this link and you will see the hammer prices.

And tomorrow, there are three of Jane Austen’s letters up for sale at Sotheby’s, all to her niece Anna Lefroy: go to the links provided to see images.

  1. Lot 82: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2017/english-literature-l17404/lot.82.html

Austen, Jane. AUTOGRAPH LETTER, WRITTEN IN THE THIRD PERSON, TO HER NIECE ANNA AUSTEN (LATER LEFROY)

a masterly comic jeu d’espirit, written as if to Rachel Hunter, the author of the verbose gothic novel Lady Maclairn, the Victim of Villainy, asking her to thank Mrs Hunter for the “spirited sketches … of those more interesting spots Tarefield Hall, the Mill & above all the Tomb of Howard’s wife – of the faithful representation of which Miss Jane Austen is undoubtedly a good Judge, having spent so many summers at Tarefield Abbey”, assuring her that she has wept copiously over these affecting scenes, expressing her earnest hope that Mrs Hunter “would have the kindness to publish at least 4 vols more about the Flint family”, and closing with local news that “the Car of Falkenstein [the Alton-London coach] which was the pride of that Town was overturned within the last 10 days”, 3 pages, 8vo (184 x 114mm, partial “Horn” watermark similar to Heawood 2752-2762), integral autograph address panel (“Miss Austen | Steventon”), remains of a black wax seal impression, [Chawton, ?29-31 October 1812], original folds, very slightly discoloured at edges, remains of hinges where once probably mounted in an album.

Jane Austen’s Letters, ed. Dierdre Le Faye (1995), no. 76 (edited from a copy).

2. Lot 83: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2017/english-literature-l17404/lot.83.html

Austen, Jane. SUBSTANTIAL FRAGMENT OF AN AUTOGRAPH LETTER, TO HER NIECE ANNA LEFROY (NÉE AUSTEN)…

with lively family gossip in the weeks after Anna’s marriage, including the comings and goings of Jane’s brothers Charles and Henry, regretting that she will not be able to see her and her husband Benjamin again before she leaves London, assuring her that the Austen party had enjoyed their visit to Anna’s new home in Hendon (“…We talked of you for about a mile & a half with great satisfaction, & I have been just sending a very good account of you to Miss Beckford, with a description of your Dress for Susan & Maria…”), and with revealing comments about a trip to the theatre (“…Acting seldom satisfies me. I took two Pocket handkerchiefs, but had very little occasion for either…”), 2 pages, 8vo, [23, Hans Place, London, 29 November 1814], weak at folds, small tear (c.15mm) at top not affecting text [with:] a later envelope recording family provenance.

Jane Austen’s Letters, ed. Deirdre Le Faye (1995), no. 112.

  1. Lot 84: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2017/english-literature-l17404/lot.84.html

Austen, Jane. FRAGMENT OF AN AUTOGRAPH LETTER, TO HER NIECE ANNA LEFROY (NÉE AUSTEN),

describing a visit to her younger nieces at her brother Charles’s family home (“…Cassy was excessively interested about your marrying, when she heard of it …. She asked a thousand questions, in her usual way – what he said to you? And you to him?…”), ten lines, [23 Hans Place, London, 29 November 1814], with, on the verso, fragments of pen practices (“Miss J Austen | Hans Place | Sloane Street” etc.) and a black wax seal impression [with:] Mary Isabel Lefroy, autograph letter signed, to Richard Austen-Leigh, presenting him with this fragment, also mentioning a forthcoming visit to Cambridge to inspect the Sanditon manuscript that had been given to King’s College, 2 pages, 4to, 27 October [1931], with envelope.

c2017 Jane Austen in Vermont

Austen on the Block! ~ Sotheby’s 13 December 2016

A few Austen-related lots shall appear at Sotheby’s London on December 13, 2016: English Literature, History, Children’s Books and IllustrationsIt is worth browsing. I list below the six Austen items, but please note that the images do not copy from the Sotheby’s website – I have taken pictures from elsewhere (and so noted) to show each lot. 

1816-1stedtitlepage-blackwellsLot 125.  Austen, Jane. Emma: A Novel. John Murray, 1816.

Estimate: £8,000 – 12,000 / $9,814 – 14,720

3 volumes, 12mo, FIRST EDITION, half-titles supplied in facsimile, paper watermarked “1815 | H”, “Budgen 1815” and “J Budgen 1815”, 1p. publisher’s advertisements on verso of the final leaf of text in volume 3, later full calf, gilt border, flat spine gilt, titled in gilt on red labels, volume numbers and dated in gilt on green labels, gilt dentelles, marbled endpapers, together in collector’s brown slipcase, many leaves strengthened at gutter, some spotting and browning, some repairs to page edges.

Lot 126. Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey: and Persuasian (sic). Johnna-tp-wp Murray, 1818.

Estimate: £6,000 – 8,000 / $7,360 – 9,814

4 volumes, 12mo, FIRST EDITION, half-titles (between the preliminary leaves and first page of text in each volume, as issued), paper watermarked “AP | 1816 | 2”, later full calf, gilt border, flat spine gilt, titled in gilt on red labels, volume numbers and dated in gilt on red and green labels, all edges speckled, gilt dentelles, marbled endpapers, titles and a few leaves strengthened at gutter, some spotting and browning.
_________

The provenance states: J.C. Fowle, ownership signature on title of each volume – one wonders if there is a connection to the Fowle family that Cassandra was intended to marry into – I find no names in the biographical index in Deirdre Le Faye’s Jane Austen’s Letters (4th ed.) under the Fowle family where a “J. C.” would work…

A snarky (a la Austenblog) aside: I hate it when auction catalogues get it wrong: first there is the Persuasion typo, then this:  ” [Northanger Abbey] was finally brought out after Austen’s death in July 1817 alongside Persuasion, which was completed by Austen over the summer of 1816, shortly before she was forced to stop writing due to ill health.”– so somehow all her efforts on Sanditon have been relegated to the trash heap… especially odd when the next lot is…

Lot 127. [Austen, Jane]. Lefroy, Anna. Autograph Manuscript Continuation of Austen’s Unfinished Novel Sanditon 

Estimate: £20,000 — 30,000 / $24,534 – 36,801

annalefroy-borgantiq2Description: The working manuscript with extensive revisions, mostly with interlinear revisions but partially written on rectos only with revisions and additions on facing versos, two pages entirely cancelled and pasted over with revised text, in three stab-stitched fascicules respectively composed of 8, 11 (lacking final blank) and 8 bifolia, the third with an additional leaf stitched in, with a final section of 11 loose bifolia and one single leaf (the conjugate leaf torn away), on unwatermarked wove paper with indistinct blind stamp in upper left corners, altogether 113 pages, plus blanks, 8vo (180 x 110mm), probably 1840s, light spotting

[with:] Two autograph manuscript reminiscences of Jane Austen: retained copy of a letter to her brother James Edward Austen-Leigh when he was preparing his Memoir of Jane Austen, 9 pages, c.1864; further reminiscences (commencing “I cannot remember distinctly the face of either Aunt…”) in two draft texts, one incomplete, 5 pages; 8vo (180 x 110mm) [also with:] Autograph manuscript note on the manuscript of Sanditon (“I have in my possession a few pages of M.S. the last effort of my dear Aunt’s pen…”), 2 pages, 8vo (205 x 132mm), with a later subscription in the hand of Lefroy’s grand-daughter M. Isabel Lefroy.

Provenance: Sotheby’s, 13 December 1977: “The Property of the great-great nephews of Jane Austen”

[Image: Anna Lefroy, from Borg Antiquarian]

Lot 128. Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. George Allen, 1894. Illus. by Hugh Thomson.

Estimate: £3,000 — 5,000 / $3,680 – 6,133pp-allen-1894-pinterest

Description: 8vo, FIRST EDITION THUS, half-title, frontispiece and illustrations by Hugh Thomson, full pictorial teal morocco gilt by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, motif of peacock standing on an urn on upper board with morocco onlays, within a border of peacock feathers, single red jewel for peacock’s eye, spine gilt in compartments with designs of peacock feathers and butterflies, all edges gilt and gauffered, teal and purple morocco doublures, silk endpapers, collector’s slipcase, spine slightly rubbed, front free endpaper coming loose.

The peacock design of this sumptuous binding evokes Hugh Thomson’s design for the original cloth binding, as well as the peacock motif on the title page. The book contains 160 line drawings by Thomson, including headpieces, tailpieces, ornamental initials and the wholly drawn title page, which he began in the autumn of 1893. The book was published in October 1894.

[Image: Pinterest]

Lot 123. [Austen, Jane]. Cup-and-Ball Game (Bilbocatch) – believed to have been Jane Austen’s

Estimate: £20,000 — 30,000 / $24,534 – 36,801

Description: height 175 mm, ball c.60mm diameter, ivory with modern string, possibly English, c.1800, chipped at base, hairline cracks. Cup-and-Ball, or bilbocatch (from the French bilboquet) was a popular domestic game at which Jane Austen excelled. She gives a good indication of the game’s part of daily routine in a letter to Cassandra of 29 October 1809: “We do not want amusement: bilbocatch, at which George is indefatigable; spillikins, paper ships, riddles, conundrums, and cards, with watching the flow and ebb of the river, and now and then a stroll out, keep us well employed; and we mean to avail ourselves of our kind papa’s consideration, by not returning to Winchester till quite the evening of Wednesday.”

This Cup-and-Ball game, which has always remained in the family of Jane Austen, has always been associated with the author including on the rare occasions when it has been publicly exhibited…

SONY DSC

[Image: the same bilbocatch that was on display at the Jane Austen House Museum: https://www.janeausten.co.uk/bilbocatch-old-fashioned-ball-and-cup-fun/ ]

 Lot 124. Austen, Jane. Autograph Letter Signed (“JA”), To Her Sister Cassandra, 8-9 Nov 1800

Estimate: £40,000 – 60,000 / $49,068 – 73,602

ja-lettercorrected-nov1800-blDescription: 4 pages, with interlinear postscript added upside down to first page, 4to, Steventon, 8-9 November 1800, integral address panel and postal marks, seal tear, fold tears, professionally conserved. Jane Austen’s Letters, ed. Deirdre Le Faye (1995), no. 25.

Letter on family affairs and local news, with a charming account of new furniture acquired for the rectory at Steventon, news of Earle Harwood, their neighbour’s son then serving in the army (“…About ten days ago, in cocking a pistol in the guard room at Marcau [St Marcouf], he accidentally shot himself through the Thigh…”) and currently in hospital in Gosport, with a terse account of a ball attended by her brother James when visiting Earle Harwood (“…It was in general a very ungenteel one, & there was hardly a pretty girl in the room…”), describing a quiet evening spent with friends in a neighbouring village (“…Sometimes we talked & sometimes we were silent; I said two or three amusing things, & Mr [James] Holder made a few infamous puns…”), Also mentioning the state of health of Harris Bigg-Wither, whose proposal of marriage Jane was to accept briefly in 1802, with three postscripts, the first including news of their brother Charles’ capture of a Turkish ship and the second, written in the evening, describing the dramatic effects of a storm earlier in the day (“…I was sitting alone in the dining room, when an odd kind of crash startled me – in a moment afterwards it was repeated; I then went to the window, which I reached just in time to see the last of our two highly valued Elms descend into the Sweep!!!!!…”).

ja-letter2-nov1800-bl

[Image: this letter is on the British Library website and has been on loan to them since 1936]

[All text excepting my commentary is from the Sotheby’s catalogue]

Happy bidding!

C2016 Jane Austen in Vermont

Jane Austen and Great Bookham ~ Guest Post by Tony Grant

Jane Austen and Great Bookham
by Tony Grant

cassandraleighausten

Cassandra Leigh Austen

Cassandra Leigh was born on September 26th 1739 at Harpsden in Oxfordshire. She was the third of four children born to Thomas Leigh and Jane Walker. She had an older brother James and an older sister Jane and a younger brother Thomas. Her father’s brother, Theophilus Leigh, master of Baliol College Oxford, had a number of children also, including two daughters named Mary and Cassandra. This meant there were two Cassandra Leighs in the family. On April 26, 1764 George Austen, Proctor of St John’s College Oxford, and Thomas Leigh’s daughter Cassandra were married at St. Swithin’s Church in Bath, and just after that he became the Vicar of Steventon in Hampshire near Basingstoke. Theophilus Leigh’s daughter Cassandra married Samuel Cooke in June 1768. On the 13 April 1769, Samuel Cooke became the vicar of St Nicholas Church, Great Bookham, in Surrey.

George and Cassandra Austen had eight children, James, George, Edward, Henry, Cassandra, Francis, Jane and Charles. Jane was born 16 December 1775 at Steventon. She was to become the world renowned author Jane Austen.

Samuel and Cassandra Cooke had six children but only three survived: Theophilus Leigh Cooke, George Leigh Cooke and Mary Cooke. Anne and their other children with the same names as those who lived, Mary and Theophilus, all died in infancy and their burials are recorded in the St Nicholas parish register.

St Nicholas Church, Great Bookham - c2016 Tony Grant

St Nicholas Church, Great Bookham – c2016 Tony Grant

Throughout Jane Austen’s letters there are numerous references to aunts, uncles and cousins. She had an extensive family. There were the Leighs of Adelstrop, the Leighs of Stoneleigh Abbey, the Brydges, the Turners, as well as the Cookes of Great Bookham in Surrey. Jane, her sister Cassandra, her brothers and her mother corresponded and visited all of them at different times. Jane Austen spent a lot of time travelling. She was a great walker, whether it was along the lanes around Steventon, walking up onto the hills around Bath, walking from Chawton to Alton or to Farringdon. She took carriages and coaches to London and Bath, as well as many other places, stopping at inns and hostelries or family along the way. Great Bookham, where the Cookes lived, was about fifty miles from Chawton on route to London. Carriages travelled at an average speed of no more than eight miles an hour at best. To get to Great Bookham took Jane Austen and her family about five hours from either Steventon or Chawton. The countryside was beautiful, especially in summer when birds and wild life and wild flowers were seen in abundance. It occurs to me that Jane Austen could have been a great travel writer and observer of nature. Maybe she was a close observer of the natural world but she didn’t record it. Human interaction was her thing.

The High Street, Great Bookham

The High Street, Great Bookham – c2016 Tony Grant

Great Bookham is situated in Surrey a few miles from where I live. The area around Great Bookham inspired Jane Austen’s novels to quite an extent. It must have been while staying with her Aunt and Uncle and cousins Mary, George and Theophilus that she first visited Box Hill which is only a few miles away from where the Cookes lived . She probably used Great Bookham itself as well as Leatherhead and other villages and small towns nearby as sources to create Highbury, the fictitious town in her novel Emma. West Humble, a small settlement near the base of Box Hill, is reputed to be the small village outside of Dorking where the impoverished Watson family lives in Jane’s unfinished novel The Watsons. Of course Dorking itself, the setting for the Ball in The Watsons, is nearby too.

Jane’s Aunt, Mrs Cooke, was an aspiring writer herself. She wrote a novel called, Battleridge. In a letter to her sister Cassandra, Jane writes:

[Sat 27-Sun 28 Oct 1798]

Your letter was chaperoned here by one from Mrs Cooke, in which she says that ‘Battleridge’ is not to come out before January; & she is so little satisfied with Cawthorn’s dilatoriness that she never means to employ him again.

Jane, and perhaps the rest of the Austens, did not always enjoy the prospect of travelling to Great Bookham to visit their cousins:

[Tue 8 Wed 9 Jan 1799]

I assure you I dread the idea of going to Bookham as much as you do; but I am not without hopes that something may happen to prevent it; Theo has lost his Election at Baliol, & perhaps they may not be able to see company for some time. They talk of going to Bath in the Spring, & perhaps they may be overturned in their way down, & all laid up for the Summer.

Jane actually spent quite a lot of time with her relations at Bookham, up to a week or at times for longer stretches. Reading her references to the Cookes suggests that her aunt and uncle could be at times pompous and overbearing and perhaps liked to present a perfect view of life rather than a realistic one.

[Tues 10th– Wed 11th January 1809]

…Easter Monday, April 3rd is the day we are to sleep that night at Alton, & be with our friends at Bookham the next, if they are then at home;- there we remain till the following Monday, & on Tuesday 11th hope to be at Godmersham. If the Cookes are absent, we shall finish our journey on ye 5th-These plans depend of course on the weather, but I hope there will be settled cold to delay us materially.

If Jane isn’t corresponding with her aunt and uncle she is writing to and receiving letters from her cousins. She does appear to get on well with her cousin Mary.

[Mon 30th Jan 1809]

“…I had this pleasant news in a letter from Bookham last Thursday, but as the letter was from Mary instead of her mother you will guess her account was not equally good from home – Mrs Cooke has been confined to her bed some days by illness, but was then better& Mary wrote in confidence of her continuing to mend. I have desired to hear again soon.”

This extract does suggest that she gets the truth from Mary, and is suggestive of their warm relationship.

*************

Rectory painting

After his marriage to Cassandra Leigh, Samuel Cooke brought his new wife to Great Bookham and was installed as vicar on the 13 April 1769. At first they lived in the rectory, situated across the road from the entrance to the grounds of St Nicholas Church in Church Road. This is now the post office:

The first rectory now post office - c2016 Tony Grant

The first Rectory, now post office – c2016 Tony Grant

They later moved to a new, larger rectory set back from the road, built on a plot next to and immediately north of theoriginal rectory. This was the rectory that Jane Austen would have visited and stayed at. It no longer exists (see painting above). On its site there are a row of shops:

Shops on site of old Rectory - c2016 Tony Grant

Shops on site of old Rectory – c2016 Tony Grant

From old photographs of the rectory we can make comparisons with another building just south of the post office. The sash windows in the still existing building are exactly the same design as those of the demolished rectory. The chimney stack is very similar and the front door and portico look like a miniature version of the rectory entrance -the pillars and canopy of look as though they are of identical design and pattern. (It is interesting to note that a maid servant who would have served Jane while she stayed with her cousins was named Elizabeth Bennet!)

Rectory that Jane Austen knew

Rectory that Jane Austen knew

****

House with similar features to Rectory - c2016 Tony Grant

Similar features to Rectory – c2016 Tony Grant

Before marrying Cassandra Leigh and becoming vicar of Great Bookham, Samuel was first educated at Blundell’s School in Devonshire and became Blundell’s Scholar at Balliol College Oxford. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1762 and gained his Master’s degree in 1764. From 1762 he was a Blundell Fellow at Balliol and became rector of Cottisford, Oxford. However, after settling in Great Bookham with Cassandra and producing a number of children he lived in Bookham for the rest of his life. He is, however, buried in Beckley in Oxford where his wife inherited a house through the Leigh family. He may have died while visiting Beckley.

Interior of St Nicholas, Great Bookham - c2016 Tony Grant

Interior of St Nicholas, Great Bookham – c2016 Tony Grant

Frances Burney

Frances Burney

There is another connection between Great Bookham and Jane Austen’s literary career. A writer who influenced Jane Austen was Frances Burney (Madame D’Arbley). She wrote two novels that we know Jane Austen read, Evelina and Cecelia, Jane a subscriber to the latter.  At the time Jane was visiting her relations in Bookham and staying in Church Road to the west of St Nicholas Church. Burney and her husband, General Alexander D’Arbley, who fled to England after the rise to power in France of Maximillian Robespierre, were living in Fairfield Cottage, now named The Hermitage, a small cottage that still exists in Lower Road to the south of the church. Burney was introduced to the French emigres and D’Arbley by her sister Mrs Phillips – they met at Juniper Hall near Mickleham next to Box Hill. Jane Austen and Frances Burney must have been in close proximity on many occasions. Burney’s son Alexander was baptised in St Nicholas Church on April 11, 1795, by the Reverend Samuel Cooke. Burney herself mentions  Mrs Cooke in a letter to her father:

[Bookham, June 15, 1795]

Mrs. Cooke, my excellent neighbour, came in Just now to read me a paragraph of a letter from Mrs. Leigh, of Oxfordshire, her sister. . . . After much of civility about the new work and its author, it finishes thus:—“Mr. Hastings I saw just now: I told him what was going forward; he gave a great jump, and exclaimed, ‘Well, then, now I can serve her, thank Heaven, and I will! I will write to Anderson to engage Scotland, and I will attack the East Indies myself!’” F. D’A.

Burney Cottage in Great Bookham - c2016 Tony Grant

Burney Cottage in Great Bookham – c2016 Tony Grant

Burney also mentions the Reverend Samuel Cooke in another letter to her father:

“ Mr Cooke tells me he longs for nothing so much as a conversation with you on the subject of Parish Psalm singing-he complains that the Methodists run away with the regular congregation from their superiority in vocal devotion.”

Claire Tomlin in her autobiography Jane Austen : A Life explains that Jane read Burney’s novels:.

Cecilia…..Nearly a thousand pages long. It too must have filled many winter evenings by the fire at Steventon, and taken its toll on Jane’s eyes, which at times became tired and troublesome. She admired Burney’s comic monsters and her dialogue, but most what she learnt from her was negative; to be short, to sharpen, to vary, to exclude. Also, to prefer the imperfect and human heroine to the nearly flawless one. What Burney had demonstrated with her first book- concise as none of the later ones were- was that there was a public for social comedy finely observed through female eyes.”

View of St Nicholas from Fanny Burneys cottage

View of St Nicholas from Burney’s cottage c2016 Tony Grant

While living in Fairfield Cottage in 1794, Burney began writing Camilla and finished a tragedy called Edwy and Elgiva. Sheridan presented this at Drury Lane with Mrs Siddons and Kemble. The play was a disaster, Burney putting it down to the cast being under rehearsed. Also while living in Bookham, Burney gave birth to a son on December 18, 1794 – he was baptized Alexander at St Nicholas Church by the Reverend Cooke. Many important French emigres attended the baptisim, all friends of General D’Arbley. The D’Arblays obviously knew the Cookes well, and it seems inconceivable that Jane Austen never met Burney – yet there is no evidence that she did.

I have discovered a few more things about Frances Burney, not related to Jane Austen but of interest to me, that give me the impetus to explore her world more. Burney’s father was a well-regarded composer and musician. He was a friend to Mrs Thrale, a great society hostess in the 18th century. Mrs Thrale lived at Streatham Park in a grand house where she entertained Dr Johnson, a close friend of her husband Mr Thrale. She encouraged and nurtured Frances Burney and many other famous people of the time such as James Boswell and the great artist Joshua Reynolds. Streatham Park, now a Victorian housing estate, is a mile from where I live. Chessington Hall, just south of me is where another friend of Burney’s father’s lived and where Frances often visited. It is said she began writing Cecelia while staying at Chessington. Yes, I have much to explore.

Also living in the area of Great Bookham at the time Jane visited, and close associates of Frances Burney, were Richard Brinsley Sheridan – living at the great house of Polesdon Lacey on the edge of Bookham – and Madamoiselle Anne Louise Germaine de Stael. She was a novelist too. Jane liked her Corinne ou L’Italie. De Stael owned Juniper Hall where French emigres including General D’Arbley were given shelter. We know that De Stael read Jane’s novels but pronounced them “vulgaire.” Jane avoided meeting De Stael, but this is another story entirely…

Interior St Nicholas - c2016 Tony Grant

Interior St Nicholas – c2016 Tony Grant

References:

  • Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomlin ( Viking 1997)
  • Jane Austen’s Letters. Collected and edited by Deirdre Le Faye (Third Edition, Oxford University Press 1995)
  • The Diary and Letters of Madame D’Arbley
  • Great Bookham at the time of Jane Austen, Fanny Burney and R B Sheridan by William Whitman (Pub: The Parochial Church Council of St Nicholas, Great Bookham)

Want to visit Great Bookham? here’s how to get there on Google Maps.

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont; text and photographs by Tony Grant, with thanks!

Jane Austen ~ A Day in the Life Of… : Guest Post by Tony Grant

UPDATE: see below for the tale of the bad apostrophe in Southampton…and Tony’s fix!

Dear Readers: I welcome Tony Grant today as he offers us an imaginary diary entry for a single day in the life Jane Austen, a day in Southampton, a town that Tony knows very well – wouldn’t it be lovely if such a diary existed!!

JAManuscript-BL

A Jane Austen Manuscript – British Library

**********

JANE AUSTEN: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF…

By Tony Grant

As we are now into celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publishing of Emma by Jane Austen (published December 23, 1815), I have taken a scene from that novel as my cue for this fanciful piece of writing.

Once they have arrived at the top of Box Hill on their excursion from Hartfield and Highbury, Emma Woodhouse, Mrs Elton, Mr Knightley, Mr Weston, Miss Bates et al are affronted by Frank Churchill’s assertive direction for them all to talk.

Box Hill, Emma © BBC 2009

Box Hill, Emma © BBC 2009

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am ordered by Miss Woodhouse (who wherever she is, presides,) to say, that she desires to know what you are all thinking of.”

Mr Knightley answered this request with,

“Is Miss Woodhouse sure she would like to hear what we are all thinking of?”

The whole idea of privacy and private thoughts is the crux of this scene. Do any of us want to say what we are actually thinking? Don’t we in polite society automatically set up a barrier between what we think and what we say? We all would like to tell the truth and I am sure we generally do, but within limits. All sorts of safe guards come into play. We don’t want to insult anybody or reveal our true feelings in case of embarrassment or revealing something too personal about ourselves. Where can we reveal our true selves? Maybe we never do. But certain things can get us close. Writing a personal diary is one of them. A diary that we keep secret and just put our own personal thoughts, ideas and feelings into is a private place we can inhabit.  Samuel Pepys even wrote his famous diary in a coded short hand. Anybody in his household picking it up would not have had a clue what he had written. Samuel Pepys probably intended that nobody should ever have access to his inner life and thoughts -especially the King or other government officials and certainly not his wife.

The 19th century was a strange world in the sense that privacy was not what we would think of it today. Many people were servants who often shared garret rooms. Where was privacy for them? The masters and mistresses of a wealthy house had an extended family that included their servants who lived with them. Where was their privacy?

However, the idea of privacy and private thoughts today is maybe not what we might think also. With the internet, social media and the logging of all our most personal details by obscure internet providers and companies is there such a thing as privacy at all?

As far as we know Jane Austen did not keep a diary. All that she wrote, novels, letters and a few poems and some juvenilia were for others to read. They were intended for an audience.

Where could the private Jane Austen, the Jane Austen with an inner life not for publication go? Many of her beliefs and thoughts, I am sure, come through in her novels and letters. However they are her thoughts chosen, subtly inserted and intended to be read by others. We can get a sense of her as a person, but what of those raw unedited emotions, her deepest moods, her deepest thoughts, not for publication?

400px-Southampton18c1

Southampton 1801

I have used some real events taken from some of her letters while she lived in Southampton (Austen lived there from 1806-1809) and then rewrote them as though Jane had written a diary. It is a diary entry about one day, for nobody else to read, EVER!!!!  A secret place for her thoughts and emotions.

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Southampton ,Tuesday 6th January 1807

Jane's house in Castle Square located at the base of the keep 2

Jane’s house in Castle Square, located at the base of the keep

We have been here for nearly four months now. This Castle Square house is well positioned within the town walls. Our garden backs on to the towns great medieval defences. The top parapet makes a picturesque, and moss embossed vertical expanse against which we grow raspberries and gooseberries. I think the sun must heat up the ancient stones and the heat from the stones brings along the fruit bearing shrubs admirably. We have already had one harvest, soon after we arrived, last October. Molly and Jenny, our two servants who we hired in the town, collected three huge baskets of the juicy fruit. We have had raspberry and gooseberry pies ever since. Surely our stock must run out soon and then we will have to wait all through the summer until autumn comes once more for those delights to be ripe enough to pick once more?

Rear of the Juniper Berry2

Rear of the Juniper Berry, site of Jane Austen’s house

cBarnum

Sight of Austen’s house in Castle Square, cBarnum

[with thanks to Tony for “fixing” this sign and making all of us grammarians out there rest easy.  Jane may not have been strong on punctuation,  but we shall assume that she is pleased as well…]

From my very own room at the back of the house I have some wonderfully entertaining views. Fishermen pull their boats up to the narrow harbour wall beneath our garden and spend their time sewing nets and scraping barnacles off the keels of their skiffs. I often try and listen to their conversations but their accents are so thick with oys and aghs and yeh’s. I am all a wonder at what a ,”mush,” is or a ,”nipper?” I can never quite fully catch what they say but the other day I heard two burly sailors nearly come to fisticuffs, “ Oy, mush what yer staring at?” said one rather aggressively to the other. I turned away quickly in case they saw me watching them. I might get a few choice words aimed my way. I blame it on The Royal Standard Inn just along the walls from us, next to the postern gateway – A drinking den of iniquity if ever there was one. Sometimes I hear a song, maybe a shanty, of some sort. I often see fishing smacks setting sail for Southampton Water to fish for the local dabs which are a great delicacy. Often a Man of War ventures this far up the Solent and anchors off Marchwood, in the Test estuary. They come up to the refitting yard I have been told. They get new masts there. The proximity to the New Forest provides a ready source of timber.

Southampton 1740

Southampton area 1740 map

On a clear bright day the New Forest stretches green and verdant in the distance far across the sparkling waters surrounding this peninsula on which Southampton is chiefly situated. We really must take a carriage ride there.

Today a new man arrived to tend our garden. He seems much more reliable than the last one who wanted more remuneration than my mother could afford. He says he is going to replace our forlorn and stringy wild roses with a stronger fuller variety. And some syringas, some laburnum, which will look beautiful and luxuriant, dripping with their blooms all through the summer months. We will get some Cowper’s Line too. Oh! that reminds me of Cowper:

Cowper

Cowper

There’s not an echo round me,
But I am glad should learn,
How pure a fire has found me,
The love with which I burn.
For none attends with pleasure
To what I would reveal;
They slight me out of measure,
And laugh at all I feel.

 

 

“The love with which I burn.”

Burn with love. What must that be like? Cassandra, my so called sister, berates me with my past errors, hah! Martha, friend, is she? Sometimes my mother, when she is in one of her overbearing moods, teases me about that boy, that stuttering poor boy, Bigg-Wither who proposed. What was I thinking? How could I? Oh yes, “and laugh at all I feel,” indeed. I can feel my stomach tie into a knot as I remember even now. What crushing anguish and embarrassment that has caused me. I wanted a burning love. I wanted a pure fire inside me. Why can’t I ever experience that? I feel all this energy inside me wanting to burst out.

I know, it does burst out. My writing. My poor substitute for real lived life and love. I can make my characters experience truelove. I know how it all works. I can make it happen for them but, not, me. Look at those poor puppets, Elizabeth and Darcy. Ha! Another stuttering fool. He changed into something though. I did that for Elizabeth. No Bigg-Wither for her. There I go again. Darcy is NOT real!!!! Why do I let myself go off into this fantasy world? My fantasies are better than my lived life. How can that be? A spinster, destined for what?

Mary, my brother’s new wife, is pregnant. She is full with new life. She has expanded, rather quickly, shall we say. It is

Francis Austen - wikipedia

Francis Austen – wikipedia

Frank’s command that we be here, to live with and pander after, his wonderful Mary. I sound too abrasive, I know. We all love her. But we are here doing our duty, for our dearest brother. They only had a short time after the wedding too. He must have put all his efforts and strength into it. Another for this baby-making family. Ha! They have two spare wombs in Cassandra and myself as well. I wonder what will become of our two dry pods? I wonder what it would be like to carry a child?

Cassandra still languishes at Godmersham looking after Edward’s baby. A maiden aunt. Is that all she is good for poor thing? I know that she is worth far more. I know she takes my share of these, duties. It is a form of slavery. It should be banned by parliament. It is all so unfair. There I go. It truly is a man’s world.

What is that awful sound? I hear my mother calling. That shriek. That demanding forceful will of hers. Damn her.

Mrs Austen

Mrs Austen

What does she want? I will be back. Here, in this little book, this little place, are all my real thoughts. My real thoughts! It’s where I can truly be myself.

I want to go on writing in here forever and nowhere else. Where else can I say these things, that nobody will hear, nobody will see? Not even you, mother!

“I am coming!”

I seem to say those words a lot.

………… Ah, all it was, was piffle. She, wanted to tell me, once more, about her finances. She had £85 at the close of last year. She spent £27 during the year. At the start of this year she has £99. A triumph!! But I know this already. She has told me twenty times. And she will tell me again, next week.

And we have visitors tonight. How many, is not sure. Can we feed them? Have we got enough fuel to keep the fire going to warm them? Nobody knows. My mother and her finances don’t know.

Marquis of Lansdowne's castle and Jane's house

Marquis of Lansdowne’s castle and Jane’s house

…………………. So they came. Mr Husket, Lord Lansdowne’s painter, or interior decorator I should say, came across from his Lordships “castle.” Mr Harrison called in with his two daughters. They laugh a lot but are not too silly, thank goodness. Mr Debary with his sister came too. Most of them arrived about 7 o’clock. The men were all wrapped up, buttoned to the neck, in great coats and the ladies wore thick pelisses and carried umbrellas against the rain. Why couldn’t the rain stop them from coming? But they came. A house-full. We stoked up the fire, (at what expense?) so it heated the dining room admirably. We drank tea and Jenny and Molly worked hard at providing muffins and fruit cake. What did we play? Oh yes, we had a pool of commerce and a table of spillikins. Mr Harrison won at everything. He was so pleased with himself. He grins a lot. His fat cheeks became puffed out and swollen like two full cows udders. For tuppence I would have milked them for him and given him a round slap in the process!

Southampton Beach

Southampton Beach

The weather is damp. A wind blows off the water. It carries a chill. I am shivering now in my unheated room. I can actually smell the salt in the air. There is a mixture of seaweed in it too.

Hark! I just heard Lord Lansdowne’s coach coming out of his stables opposite us. At this time of night of all things. I wonder what’s up? The smell of straw and horse dung can be overpowering at times from that place. However the wind is from the sea tonight so we are spared that malodorous problem. I feel fatigued. I will have a little nap. Tomorrow these private and wonderful white pages await me again. I would never write another novel if it were not the fact the writing of them provides me a few extra pounds and pence….

*****************

Some additional pictures of Jane Austen’s Southampton: [I had the pleasure in May 2014 of touring all around Southampton with Tony – some of these pictures are mine, some his – it was a glorious day despite drenching rains…]

A medieval shop

A medieval shop

 

Catchcold Tower - part of the medieval walls

Catchcold Tower – part of the medieval walls

 

High Street, Southampton 1805

High Street, Southampton 1805

 

Jane goes to the spa-3

Jane goes to the spa

 

St Michaels medieval Church

St Michael’s medieval Church

 

Jane's school was close to The Bargate

Jane’s school was close to The Bargate

 

TheatreRoyalSign

Theatre Royal – where Jane visited (cBarnum)

 

DSC09430

Dolphin Hotel fireplace – Jane danced in this room (cBarnum)

 

Dolphin Hotel Sign - JA danced here

Dolphin Hotel Sign – JA danced here (cBarnum)

 

Bay window in the ballroom

Bay window in the Dolphin Inn Ballroom

 

View from the walls

View from the walls

***************

Thank you Tony for this interesting foray into a fantasy Jane Austen diary entry! Please comment – if you could read a diary entry of Jane Austen’s, what inner-most thoughts of hers would you most want to read about?

c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont [all images from Tony Grant unless otherwise indicated]

The Publishing History of Jane Austen’s Emma

As part of Sarah Emsley’s upcoming three month-long celebration of Emma, “Emma in the Snow” beginning on December 23, 2015, I have written this post on its publishing history – an interesting tale gleaned from Austen’s Letters, Deirdre Le Faye’s Chronology, and other scholarly essays. Sarah will be re-blogging it, and we welcome your comments on either site. Emma was published in late December 1815, though the title page states 1816, and hence why there are celebrations both this year and next. I always have felt it appropriate that this book was published so close to Austen’s birthday on the 16th, and why I am posting this today, what would have been her 240th! And December brings to mind the very pivotal and humorous scene on Christmas Eve with Mr. Elton and Emma in the carriage – think snow – it shall be here soon enough!

Publishing Emma

emma1898vol1cover-mollands

Emma, Vol. 1 cover. London: Dent, 1898 (Mollands)

The most oft-quoted reference to Emma appears in her nephew James Edward Austen Leigh’s Memoir of 1870 where he writes: “She was very fond of Emma, but did not reckon her being a general favourite; for when commencing that work, she said, ‘I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.’” (Memoir, 140) And indeed, most of the controversy surrounding Emma, though considered by many to be her “most profound achievement,” (Fergus 14) has been the likeability of this title character.

One of the joys of reading Jane Austen’s letters is to discover the numerous references to her novels through the writing and publishing process – we all feel great disappointment that there are not more – but in the case of Emma, there are many such finds, almost all to do with its publication, and why perhaps we hang on this quote from the Memoir as Austen’s only personal comment about its creation. In writing up this interesting publishing history, I realize most of the best bits are in these letters as she negotiates with her new publisher John Murray, nurses her brother Henry through a near-death illness, visits the Prince Regent’s Librarian at Carlton House, learns that her niece Anna Lefroy has had a baby daughter and her brother Frank another son, works with the printers’ galleys of Emma, and edits Mansfield Park for a second edition. She has also at this time begun writing Persuasion (begun August 8, 1815 and finished August 6, 1816) – a great deal happens in these two months from October 4, 1815 when she leaves Chawton for London with Henry, and December 16th, when she returns! Emma is finally published on December 23rd and she begins keeping a record of its “opinions” henceforth.

I am going to present here a chronological accounting of Emma’s publication, interspersed with the letters – it is the only way to get a full sense of what was actually happening – her letters making us nearly over-the-shoulder voyeurs into these very packed two months of her life.… 

Dates of composition: these are noted in Cassandra Austen’s memorandum (Minor Works, opp. 242): began January 21, 1814; finished March 29, 1815. Jan Fergus believes that she likely revised it until August when she began Persuasion (Fergus 5). She does not submit the manuscript to John Murray until late August or early September 1815.

But what of the backstory? There are no comments by Austen to the actual writing of Emma, but it is worth a look at what she was doing between January 1814 and March 1815 to tease out some interesting real-life correlations. In the “Introduction” to the 2005 Cambridge edition of Emma, the editors (Richard Cronin and Dorothy McMillan, ) note a number of various events during this time frame that perhaps in one way or another show up in the plot and characters of Emma. Le Faye’s Chronology and The Letters are invaluable here – here is a quick sampling: 

  • Austen visits Great Bookham, which is close to Box Hill and Leatherhead, considered the most likely model for Highbury.
  • Miss Sharpe is now a governess in Yorkshire – Austen wishes for her employer to marry her has echoes in the story of Miss Taylor, later Mrs. Weston, and Jane Fairfax (see Ltr. 102, June 23,1814).
  • Austen’s niece Anna marries Ben Lefroy on November 8, 1814 – perhaps why she names the baby in Emma “Anna” (though Mrs. Weston’s first name is Anne)
  • Austen writes to her niece Fanny about whether or not she is in love with John Plumptre – we see this as Emma humorously debates with herself about whether or not she is in love with Frank Churchill (see Ltrs. 109 and 114).
  • We have only to read her letter to Anna about the atmosphere of the Wen [London] to recall Mr. Woodhouse’s commentary on the air of London and Isabella’s staunch defense of their “superior” location in Brunswick Square. [see Ltr. 110. Nov 22, 1814]

Anna Lefroy-MemoirAnna Lefroy – from the Memoir

  • Austen is reading and critiquing her niece Anna’s novel – it is here we have the most information on Austen’s view of the writing process –  and where she famously states: “…3 or 4 Families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on…” (Ltr. 107, Sept 9-18, 1814), which of course is exactly what Emma is all about. (See Cronin and McMillan, xxiii-xxv)

I will do a more detailed post on this backstory topic in the future, but now a return to the publishing adventure.

HansPlace-HillA house in Hans Place, London. similar to where
Henry Austen lived and Jane Austen visited
Source: Constance Hill, Jane Austen: Her Homes and Her Friends (1923)

October 4, 2015: Austen travels to London with her brother Henry, expecting to stay “a week or two” (Ltr. 120) and negotiations with her publisher begin. Her attempts to have Thomas Egerton publish a 2nd edition of Mansfield Park had been unsuccessful the previous year:

Austen had written on November 30, 1814: (Ltr. 114 to Fanny Knight)

“…it is not yet settled yet whether I do hazard a 2d Edition. We are to see Egerton today, when it will be probably determined. – People are more ready to borrow & praise, than to buy…”

John Murray. NPG-wikipedia

John Murray. NPG-wikipedia

October 17, 1815: There is no definitive answer as to why Egerton did not choose to publish, but we do know that Austen submitted her Emma manuscript to the more prestigious John Murray the following year in late summer / early fall 1815. We know from the Chronology (514) that Henry and Jane visited Steventon unexpectedly Sept 3rd and stayed until the 5th – this may have been when Austen gave her “Emma” MS to Henry to deliver to Murray. In a letter dated Sept 29, 1815, Murray’s editor William Gifford writes: “Of ‘Emma’, I have nothing but good to say. I was sure of the author before you mentioned her.” It is believed that at this point Murray was hoping to purchase the copyright and have Gifford edit the manuscript for publication. 

Kathryn Sutherland in her essay “Jane Austen’s Dealings with John Murray and His Firm” outlines further explanation as to when Murray may have been first approached by Austen. She has found in the Murray Archives an earlier letter from Gifford dated November 14, 1814 on his having read Pride and Prejudice. Sutherland supposes that Austen met with Murray in the November of 1814 year when in London negotiating with Egerton over the Mansfield Park 2nd edition. By the time Gifford writes his Sept. 1815 letter urging Murray to acquire Emma, as well as the copyrights of P&P and another novel, he is already familiar with and highly values her writings.

But Austen writes: [Ltr. 121 Oct 17, 1815]

“Mr. Murray’s Letter is come [dated Oct 15]; he is a Rogue of course, but a civil one. He offers £450 – but wants to have the Copyright of MP & S&S included. It will end in my publishing for myself I dare say. – He sends more praise however than I expected. It is an amusing Letter.”  

So the decision is made to publish on commission, i.e. Austen takes on the expense of publishing, Murray takes 10% commission on all profits – Austen had learned her lesson in selling the copyright of Pride and Prejudice directly to Thomas Egerton for £110. But those who have looked into all the facts and figures of her profits and losses (see especially Fergus) surmise that she in this case would have done better to have sold the copyrights outright for the £450.

Henry’s illness: It is also in this letter of Oct 17th that Austen first makes note of Henry being ill – “Henry is not henry_austenquite well – a bilious attack with fever.” She continues the letter the next day with:

“Henry’s illness is more serious than I expected. He has been in bed since three o’clock on Monday” and goes on to write about the physician Mr. Haden’s (though Austen spells it “Haydon”) opinions of the matter and the drawing of blood to lessen inflammation – “Henry is an excellent Patient, lies quietly in bed & is ready to swallow anything. Her lives upon Medicine, Tea and Barley water… he is in “the back room upstairs – & I am generally there also, working or writing.”

October 20, 1815: Henry Austen’s letter of October 20 or 21st is written – Austen kept a draft [Ltr. 122(A)(D)] with this heading:

“A Letter to Mr. Murray which Henry dictated a few days after his Illness began, & just before the severe Relapse which drew him into such Danger.”

Dear Sir

Severe Illness has confined me to my Bed ever since I received Yours of ye 15th – I cannot yet hold a pen, & employ an Amuensis [sic]. – The Politeness & Perspicuity of your Letter equally claim my earliest Exertion. – Your official opinion of the Merits of Emma, is very valuable & satisfactory. – Though I venture to differ occasionally from your Critique, yet I assure you the Quantum of your commendation rather exceeds than falls short of the Author’s expectation & my own. – The Terms you offer are so very inferior to what we had expected that I am apprehensive of having made some great Error in my Arithmetical Calculation. – On the subject of the expense & profit of publishing, you must be much better informed that I am; – but Documents in my possession appear to prove that the Sum offered by you, for the Copyright of Sense & Sensibility, Mansfield Park & Emma, is not equal to the Money which my Sister has actually cleared by one very moderate Edition of Mansfield Park – (You Yourself expressed astonishment that so small an Edit. of such a work should have been sent into the World) & a still smaller one of Sense & Sensibility… 

I love this letter! – it shows Henry as a strong advocate for his sister, as well as quite the wit!

But succeeding days show Austen requesting a second doctor for Henry – this was likely Dr. Matthew Baillie, one of the Prince Regent’s medical advisors (Le Faye, Chron. 518) Austen begins to summon family members and Cassandra, James, and Edward all head for London; Cassandra will remain there with Jane until Nov 20th.

In the middle of all this, on October 20th, Anna Lefroy (James’s daughter) gives birth to a little girl named Anna-Jemina! And on the 30th Austen writes to her niece Caroline Austen (now 10 years old) about her own story in the making: she feels “not quite equal to taking up your Manuscript, but think I shall soon, & hope my detaining it so long will be no inconvenience.” [Ltr. 123, Oct 30, 1815]

November 3, 1815.  A few days later we see Austen taking on the negotiating of Emma herself – she writes:

My Brother’s severe Illness has prevented his replying to Yours of Oct 15, on the subject of the MS of Emma, now in your hands – And as he is, though recovering, still in a state which we are fearful of harassing by Business & I am at the same time desirous of coming to some decision on the affair in question, I must request the favour of you to call on me here, on any day after the present that may suit you best, & at any hour in the Evening or any in the Morning except from Eleven to One. – A short conversation may perhaps do more that much Writing. [Ltr. 124, Nov 3, 1815]

We hear no more of the actual negotiations, but find that in mid-November Murray includes Emma in his list of publications in the press and “nearly ready for publication” – this November 1815 listing was found inserted in a copy of Helen Maria Williams’ A Narrative of the Events which have Taken Place in France (London: Murray, 1816) – Austen refers to this book in letter 127 (Nov 24, 1815) below (Gilson xxix).

November 8, 1815. Austen’s brother Frank’s 4th son, Herbert Grey, is born!

November 13, 1815 – The visit to Carlton House:  

Carlton House exterior

Carlton House, London

Sometime in early November, the Prince Regent’s physician tells Austen that he is aware she is the author of Pride and Prejudice, and “that the Prince [is] a great admirer of her novels and has read them often and kept a set of in every one of his residences; and he himself thought he ought to inform the Prince that Miss Austen was staying in London, and that the Prince [has] desired Mr Clarke, the librarian of Carlton House, to wait upon her.” (Memoir 105) And here we have one of the more interesting series of letters in the whole collection – insight into Austen’s life in London, her ready wit, the assuredness of her own talents, and the issue of the dedication of Emma to “His Royal Highness, The Prince Regent.”

AN ASIDE ~ the Austen – Clarke correspondence:

Carlton House library

Carlton House Library

We know that Austen visited Carlton House and met with the librarian James Stanier Clarke on Monday the 13th – but alas! there is no account of it from her directly – how one would love to have heard her comments to her sister and Henry when she returned to Hans Place that day! – all we have is this letter of the 15th addressed to Clarke: [ Ltr. 125(D)]

 

Sir,

I must take the liberty of asking You a question – Among the many flattering attentions which I rec’d from you at Carlton House, on Monday last, was the Information of my being at liberty to dedicate any future Work to HRH the P.R. without the necessity of any Solicitation on my part. Such at least, I beleived to be your words; but as I am very anxious to be quite certain of what was intended, I intreat you to have the goodness to inform me how such a Permission is to be understood, & whether it is incumbent on me to shew my sense of the Honour, by inscribing the Work now in the Press, to H.R.H. – I sh’d be equally concerned to appear either presumptuous or Ungrateful.-

I am etc…

James_Stanier_Clarke-wp.pg

James Stanier Clarke – wikipedia

Clarke responded immediately:

It is certainly not incumbent on you to dedicate your work now in the Press to His Royal Highness: but if you wish to do the Regent that honour either now or at some future period, I am happy to send you that permission which need not require any more trouble or solicitation on your Part.

And then Clarke goes on to offer Austen writing advice!

Your late Works, Madam, and in particular Mansfield Park reflect the highest honour on your Genius & your Principles; in every new work your mind seems to increase its energy and powers of discrimination. The Regent has read & admired all your publications.

Accept my sincere thanks for the pleasure your Volumes have given me: in the perusal of them I felt a great inclination to write & say so. And I also dear Madam wished to be allowed to ask you, to delineate in some future Work the Habits of Life and Character and enthusiasm of a Clergyman – who should pass his time between the metropolis & the Country – who should be something like Beatties Minstrel… Neither Goldsmith – nor La Fontaine in his Tableau de Famille – have in my mind quite delineated an English Clergyman, at least of the present day – Fond of, & entirely engaged in Literature – no man’s Enemy but his own. Pray dear Madam think of these things…

P.S. I am going for about three weeks to Mr Henry Streatfields, Chiddingstone Sevenoaks – but hope on my return to have the honour of seeing you again. (Ltr. 125(A), Nov 16, 1815)

This lively correspondence between Austen and Clarke continued later in December upon Clarke’s return – Austen writes on December 11:

My Emma is now so near publication that I feel it right to assure you of my not having forgotten your kind recommendation of an early Copy for Cn H. [Carlton House] – & that I have Mr. Murray’s promise of its being sent to HRH. under cover to You, three days previous to the Work being really out.-

I must make use of this opportunity to thank you dear Sir, for the very high praise you bestow upon my other Novels – I am too vain to wish to convince you that you have praised them beyond their Merit.-

My greatest anxiety at present is that this 4th work shd not disgrace what was good in the others. But at this point I will do myself the justice to declare that whatever may be my wishes for its’ success, I am very strongly haunted by the idea that to those Readers who have preferred P&P, it will appear inferior in Wit, & to those who have preferred MP, very inferior in good Sense.

And here she addresses Clarke’s suggestions for her Clergyman:

I am quite honoured by your thinking me capable of drawing such a Clergyman as you gave the

CE Brock - Mr Collins (Mollands)

CE Brock – Mr Collins (Mollands)

sketch of in your note of Nov: 16. But I assure you I am not. The Comic part of the Character I might be equal to, but not the Good, the Enthusiastic, the Literary. Such a Man’s Conversation must at times be on subjects of Science & Philosophy of which I know nothing – or at least be occasionally abundant in quotations & allusions which a Woman, who like me, knows only her own Mother-tongue & has read very little in that, would be totally without the power of giving. A Classical Education, or at any rate, a very extensive acquaintance with English Literature, Ancient & Modern, appears to me quite Indispensable for the person who wd do any justice to your Clergyman – And I think I may boast myself to be, with all possible Vanity, the most unlearned, & uninformed Female who ever dared to be an Authoress. (Ltr. 132(D), Dec 11, 1815)

Clarke writes again on Dec 21st or so thanking her for the copy of Emma which he has sent on to the Prince Regent: “I have read only a few pages which I very much admired – there is so much nature – and excellent description of Character in everything you describe.” He then goes on to again implore her to write about a Clergyman, in what sounds like a sort of autobiography of Himself! – then offers her a copy of his forthcoming book on James II, as well as the offer of the use of his small Cell and library at No. 37 Golden Square when she comes to Town – “I shall be most happy. There is a Maid Servant of mine always there.”

What an offer!!

In March, Clarke writes from Brighton sending the thanks of the Prince Regent for “the handsome copy of your last excellent Novel.” He then drops a few names (he is very good at name-dropping!) and suggests that her next work’s dedication should be to Prince Leopold: “any Historical Romance illustrative of the History of the august house of Cobourg, would just now be very interesting.”

Believe me at all times
Dear Miss Austen
Your obliged friend
J. S. Clarke
[Ltr. 138(A), Mar 27, 1816]

To which Austen responds after thanking him for his praises:

…You are very, very kind in your hints as to the sort of Composition which might recommend me at present, & I am fully sensible that an Historical Romance, founded on the House of Saxe Cobourg might be more to the purpose of Profit or Popularity, than such pictures of domestic L:ife in Country Villages I deal in – but I could no more write a Romance than an Epic Poem. – I could not sit seriously down to write a serious Romance under any other motive than to save my Life, & if it were indispensable for me to keep it up & never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I finished the first Chapter. – No – I must keep to my own style & go on in my own Way. And though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other.

I remain my dear Sir,
Your very much obliged & very sincere friend
J Austen
[Ltr. 138(D), April 1, 1816]

And that seems to be the last of their correspondence – we know Austen is deep into writing Persuasion at this point, and that Emma has received a number of good reviews and is selling well. I love this letter because again, it gives us rare insight into how she thought of herself as a writer, as well as a good slice of her self-deprecating irony. And Clarke is so clearly a portrait of Mr. Collins! – a character she wrote a full 10 years before! Austen must have had a good hearty laugh about his requesting her to write about a Clergyman – one wonders what Clarke’s view of Mr. Collins could possibly have been…

*****************

November 23, 1815: We now must return to the matter at hand – the publication of Emma – with several letters between her and Mr. Murray that show how involved she was in this process. Henry is gradually getting stronger and has written a letter to Murray on Nov 20th (Le Faye Chrono. 520) about the publishing delays, but we do not have a copy of this letter – Austen seems to be doing all the work with Murray herself from this point. Real life includes the visit of her niece Fanny who arrived on the 15th or 16th of November…and Cassandra returns to Chawton on the 20th.

JA letter to Murray 23 Nov 1815

To John Murray, November 23, 1815 [Ltr. 126]

My Brother’s note last Monday has been so fruitless, that I am afraid there can be little chance of my writing to any good effect; but yet I am so very much disappointed & vexed by the delays of the Printers that I cannot help begging to know whether there is no hope of their being quickened. – Instead of Work being ready by the end of the present month, it will hardly, at the rate we now proceed, be finished by the end of the next, and as I expect to leave London in early Decr, it is of consequence that no more time should be lost. Is it likely that the Printers will be influenced to greater Dispatch & Punctuality by knowing that the Work is to be dedicated, by Permission, to the Prince Regent? – If you can make circumstances operate, I shall be very glad…. (Austen then thanks Murray for the loan of a book to Henry)

November 24, 1815: It is in Austen’s next letter to Cassandra that we learn “a much better account of my affairs, which I know will be a great delight to you.”

Printing House - 18thc (eduscapes.com)

Printing House – 18thc (eduscapes.com)

“I wrote to Mr Murray yesterday myself, & Henry wrote at the same time to Roworth [one of the printers]. Before the notes were out of the House I received three sheets, & an apology from R. We sent the notes however, & I had a most civil one in reply from Mr M. He is so very polite indeed, that it is quite overcoming. – The Printers have been waiting for Paper – the blame is thrown upon the Stationer – but he gives his word that I shall have no farther cause for dissatisfaction.” Murray loans them two books – the Miss Williams as noted above and a Walter Scott and she is soothed & complimented into tolerable comfort.-”

…A Sheet come in this moment. 1st & 3rd vol. are now at 144. – 2d at 48. – I am sure you will like Particulars. – We are not to have the trouble of returning the Sheets to Mr Murray any longer, the Printer’s boys bring & carry. [Ltr. 127, Nov 24, 1815]

 

November 26, 1815: The next day is given over to shopping (from 11:30 – 4:00 for all manner of errands and the “miseries of Grafton House”) and on the 26th Austen writes of all these events and their purchases, then this about Emma:

I did mention the P.R. – in my note to Mr Murray, it brought me a fine compliment in return; whether it has done any other good I do now know, but Henry thought it worth trying. – The Printers continue to supply me very well, I am advanced in vol. 3 to my arra-root, upon which peculiar style of spelling, there is a modest qury? in the Margin. – I will not forget Anna’s arrow-root. – I hope you have told Martha of my first resolution of letting nobody know that I might dedicate &c – for fear of being obliged to do it – & that she is thoroughly convinced of my being influenced now by nothing but the most mercenary motives.

And she ends this long letter on visits, visitors, and Henry’s health with this comment on her brother Charles’s letter:

I have a great mind to send him all the twelve Copies which were to have been dispersed among my near Connections – beginning with the P.R. & ending with Countess Morley. [see below for a list of recipients] [Ltr. 128, Nov 26, 1815]

December 2, 1815:  Emma is advertised in The Morning Post as being published in a few days, and Austen’s only mention of Emma in her letter of this day to Cassandra is: “It strikes me that I have no business to give the P. R. a Binding, but we will take Counsel upon the question.” (She does present him with a fine binding of Emma as her letters above to Clarke indicate; it cost her 24s!)

Emma - Prince Regent's Copy - Le Faye

Emma – Prince Regent’s copy (Le Faye)

December 6, 1815: Emma is again advertised in The Morning Post as forthcoming.

December 10, 1815: The Observer advertises “On Saturday next will be published… EMMA.” (i.e. Dec 16 – but it does not appear on this date)

December 11, 1815: Austen writes another letter to John Murray.

As I find that Emma is advertized for publication as early as Saturday next, I think it best to lose no time in settling all that remains to be settled on the subject, & adopt this method of doing so, as involving the smallest tax on your time.-

In the first place, I beg you to understand that I leave the terms on which the Trade should be supplied with the work, entirely to your Judgement, entreating you to be guided in every such arrangement by your own experience of what is most likely to clear off the Edition rapidly. I shall be satisfied with whatever you feel to be best.-

The Title page must be, Emma, Dedicated by Permission to H. R. H. The Prince Regent. – And it is my particular wish that one Set should be completed & sent to H. R. H. two or three days before the Work is generally public – It should be sent under Cover to the Rev. J. S. Clarke, Librarian, Carlton House. – I shall subjoin a list of those persons, to whom I must trouble you to forward also a Set of each, when the Work is out; – all unbound, with From the Authoress, in the first page.

I return to you, with very many Thanks, the Books you have so obligingly supplied me with. – I am very sensible I assure you of the attention you have paid to my Convenience & amusement. – I return also, Mansfield Park, as ready for a 2d Edit: I beleive, as I can make it. – …. I wish you would have the goodness to send a line by the Bearer, stating the day on which the set will be ready for the Prince Regent. [Ltr. 130, Dec 11, 1815]

And another letter to Murray on the same day – he must have instantly dispatched a response to the above:

I am much obliged by your, and very happy to feel everything arranged to our mutual satisfaction. As to my direction about the title-page, it was arising from my ignorance only, and from my never having noticed the proper place for a dedication. I thank you for putting me right. Any deviation from what is actually done in such cases is the last thing I should wish for. I feel happy in having a friend to save me from the ill effect of my own blunder. [Ltr. 131C, Dec 11, 1815]

(And see her letter to Clarke on this date above claiming to be the most unlearned, & uninformed Female who ever dared to be an Authoress.”)

Emma-tp-wpDecember 16, 1815: Austen’s birthday! Emma is not published as advertised, and she leaves for Chawton as she notes in Letter 133 (Dec 14, 1815) “I leave Town early on Saturday…” – she has been in London for over two months, her stay lengthened by Henry’s illness and publishing delays.

There are no more letters until December 31, though Fanny Knight writes in her pocket-book on the 17th and the 22nd that she received a letter from Aunt Jane – more letters lost… (Le Faye Chrono. 524).

December 19, 1815: “Murray’s clerk enters details in the ledger regarding Emma: 2000 copies printed, 3 vols., price 1 guinea the set, title page dated 1816” – also includes Austen’s list of her 12 presentation copies (see below). Murray also gives a copy to Byron’s half-sister Augusta Leigh, and to Maria Edgeworth at Austen’s request.  (Le Faye Chrono. 525)

December 21, 1815: The Morning Chronicle: Emma to be published “on Saturday next”

December 22, 1815: The Morning Chronicle: Emma to be published “Tomorrow”

December 23, 1815: The Morning Chronicle: Emma “PUBLISHED THIS DAY”

December 25, 1815: John Murray writes to Walter Scott requesting a review of Emma – this is published in March 1816 issue of the Quarterly Review.

“Have you any fancy to dash off an article on ‘Emma’? It wants incident and romance does it not? None of the author’s other novels have been noticed [in Murray’s ‘Quarterly Review’] and surely ‘Pride and Prejudice’ merits high commendation. (Gilson 69)

December 27, 1815: the Countess of Morley, one of the recipients of a presentation copy, writes to Austen:

Countess of Morley - BBC

Countess of Morley – BBC

…I am already become intimate in the Woodhouse family, & feel that they will not amuse & interest me less than the Bennetts [sic], Bertrams, Norriss & all their admirable predecessors – I can give them no higher praise – [Ltr. 134(A), Dec 27, 1815] (though the Countess writes letters to others that she finds the book quite dull – more on this in another post!) 

December 31, 1815: Austen responds to the Countess:

Madam,

Accept my Thanks for the honour of your note & for your kind disposition in favour of Emma. In my present state of doubt as to her reception in the World, it is particularly gratifying to me to receive so early an assurance of your Ladyship’s approbation. – It encourages me to depend on the same share of general good opinion which Emma’s Predecessors have experienced, & to believe that I have not yet – as almost every Writer of Fancy does sooner or later – overwritten myself… [Ltr. 134, Dec 31, 1815]

Early January 1816: Austen sends her copy of Emma to her niece Anna – and as she had with Pride & Prejudice in calling it “my own darling child,” compares her novel creation to the birth of a Anna’s baby:

My dear Anna,

As I wish very much to see your Jemina, I am sure you will like to see my Emma, & have therefore great pleasure in sending it for your perusal. Keep it as long as you chuse; it has been read by all here.- 

Austen in late January also sends off a copy of Emma to her friend Catherine Ann Prowting, after the death of their mutual friend Mary Benn. [Ltr. 136, Jan ? 1816]

And then no letters at all until March 13 (Ltr. 137 to Caroline Austen) … but on February 19, 1816, Murray publishes the 2nd edition of Mansfield Park: 750 copies (Gilson 59):

MP-2ded-titlepage

 

In mid-march, Henry Austen’s bank fails, a catastrophic event for the family – Austen refers to it in her April 1, 1816 letter to Murray as “this late sad Event in Henrietta St.” And here in late March and early April we have the two letters noted above to and from James Stanier Clarke.

March 1816: the Quarterly Review (vol. 14, no. 27, dated October 1815) is published and contains Scott’s (though anonymous) review of Emma.

Sir Walter Scott - wikipedia

Sir Walter Scott – wikipedia

April 1, 1816:  Austen to John Murray, returning his copy of the Quarterly Review

I return you the Quarterly Review with many Thanks. The Authoress of Emma has no reason to think to complain of her treatment in it – except in the total omission of Mansfield Park. – I cannot but be very sorry that so clever a Man as the Reveiwer of Emma, should consider it as unworthy of being noticed, – You will be pleased to hear that IU have received the Prince’s Thanks for the handsome Copy I sent him of Emma. Whatever he may think of my share of the Work, Yours seems to have been quite right… [Ltr. 139, April 1, 1816]

 

February 20-21, 1817 [Ltr. 151]: the last mention of Emma in the letters is a thank you to Fanny for mentioning Mrs. C. Cage’s praise of Emma. Austen notes this in her “Opinions of Emma”:

A great many thanks for the loan of Emma, which I am delighted with. I like it better than any. Every character is thoroughly kept up. I must enjoy reading it again with Charles. Miss Bates is incomparable, but I was nearly killed with those precious treasures! They are Unique, & really with more fun that I can express. I am at Highbury all day, & I can’t help feeling I have just got into a new set of acquaintance. No one writes such good sense, & so very comfortable. [MW 439]

************

So Emma is released upon the world on December 23, 1815, with the following dedication, the only time Austen dedicated a novel to anyone (her juvenilia is all dedicated, amusingly so – worth a read in themselves!) – I think she bandies about “Royal Highness” a bit too much, perhaps her only way of disguising in plain sight her dislike of the man!

TO HIS

ROYAL HIGHNESS

THE PRINCE REGENT,

THIS WORK IS,

BY HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS’S PERMISSION,

MOST RESPECTFULLY

DEDICATED,

BY HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS’S

DUTIFUL

AND OBEDIENT

HUMBLE SERVANT,

THE AUTHOR

***********

Here is how it looks in the 1816 American edition of Emma, the same as it did in the London 1st edition:

Emma1816_Vol1-Dedication

(Goucher College website)

**************

I repeat here the advertisements for Emma’s publication:

  1. Mid-November 1815, Murray includes Emma in his list of publications in the press and “nearly ready for publication”
  2. The Morning Post (Dec 2, 1815): “in a few days will be published…EMMA, a novel”
  3. The Morning Post (Dec 6, 1815): repeated the above
  4. The Observer (December 10, 1815): “On Saturday next will be published… EMMA.” (i.e. Dec 16 – but it does not appear on this date, Austen’s birthday).
  5. The Morning Chronicle (Dec 21, 1815): Emma to be published “on Saturday next”
  6. The Morning Chronicle (Dec 22, 1815): Emma to be published “Tomorrow”
  7. The Morning Chronicle (Dec 23, 1815): Emma “PUBLISHED THIS DAY”
  8. The Morning Post (Dec 29, 1815) – also advertises Emma as “This day published…”

The title page states 1816 – this was customary for books published at the end of the preceeding year. Note that Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published in late December 1817, though the title page states 1818.

Presentation copies: (from Murray’s records)

  • The Prince Regent: his was delivered to James Stanier Clarke on December 21, 1815, bound in full red morocco gilt at a cost of 24s – Clarke writes on its receipt: You were very good to send me Emma – which I have in no respect deserved. It is gone to the Prince Regent. I have read only a few pages which I very much admired – there is so much nature – and excellent description of Character in everything you describe.” (Ltr. 132(A). Dec 21, 1815)
  • Jane Austen
  • Henry Austen
  • Countess of Morley
  • Rev. J. S. Clarke
  • J. Leigh Perrot
  • Mrs. Austen (2 copies)
  • Captain Austen (likely Charles)
  • Rev. J. Austen
  • H. F. Austen (Frank)
  • Miss Knight (Fanny)
  • Miss Sharpe (governess / JA’s friend)
  • Augusta Leigh (Byron’s half-sister), given by Murray
  • Maria Edgeworth, as requested by Austen

The Particulars:

  1. Published anonymously “By the Author of ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ etc, etc”
  2. Copies: 2000 were printed, the 3-volume set sold for £1.1s., more than was usual for a 3-volume novel. 1248 were sold by Oct 1816, and by 1820, 538 copies were remaindered at 2s each.
  3. Printers: C. Roworth (vols. 1 and 2); J. Moyes (vol. 3)
  4. Binding: grey-brown paper boards and spine, or blue-grey boards and grey-brown, grey-blue or off-white spine

Emma-1sted-dailymailA pristine 1st of Emma for sale last year for £100,000
at Lucius Books in York (Daily Mail, Dec 2014)

or it may have looked like this:

FirstEdP&P-NLScotland

Pride & Prejudice 1st ed (1813) – National Library of Scotland

5. Profits: Murray published Emma on commission, but also published the second edition of Mansfield Park – as noted above, Austen had written to Murray from Hans Place on Dec 11, 1815: “I return also ‘Mansfield Park,’ as ready for a 2d edit: I believe, as I can make it-”  this edition came out on February 19, 1816 but did not sell well – the losses on this reduced the profits on Emma (which were substantial at the likely total of £373) to £38.18 (Fergus). One issue contributing to lower profits was Murray’s use of more expensive paper.

6. No manuscript survives.

7. Later Publishing History: a brief summary

Emma1816_Vol1-title page

Emma (Philadelphia, 1816) – Goucher College

1st American Edition – the only such printed in Austen’s lifetime, but since it was never mentioned by her or her family, it was likely unknown to them.

Published by Mathew Carey of Philadelphia in 1816, this American edition was only discovered in 1939 when found listed in a bookshop catalogue. It is unknown how many copies were printed but this edition is very rare – Goucher College has a copy in their Alberta H. Burke Collection – and this year it is the subject of an exhibition. You can visit the website here: http://www.emmainamerica.org/

Published in two volumes, the first is available online at the Goucher website; Volume II will be available next year.

 

1st French translation (Paris: Feb 1816): titled La Nouvelle Emma, with the translator not noted.

1st Bentley edition (1833): Richard Bentley purchased the copyrights of Austen’s novels from Henry and Cassandra for £210, with another £40 paid to Egerton for the copyright of P&P. He was to include them in his Standard Novels series. Sense and Sensibility was published on Dec 28, 1832 (t.p. states 1833), followed by Emma on Feb 27, 1833. This edition eliminated the Dedication to the Prince Regent for reasons unknown. There is an engraved frontispiece and title page vignette by William Greatbatch after George Pickering.

1856-Bentley-frontis2-Cox

Emma, (Bentley, 1856 ed with same frontis as 1833 ed) – Andrew Cox Rare Books

8.  Value today: First editions of Emma come up for auction periodically, prices all depending upon condition. In the original boards as published estimated values vary from $75,000 – 100,000; rebound in contemporary leather values average $35,000 – $50,000; modern re-bindings will fetch less. There are ten online at present, all rebound and varying from $17,000 – $45,000. The first American edition by Carey is rarely seen, though there is one right now online for $25,000. Of course online prices don’t tell the full tale – auction prices give us the true value at any given time – Emma in original boards sold for £30,000 at Sotheby’s in 2010, a rebound edition sold at Bonham’s in 2013 for $8500. In 2014, a nearly pristine copy in original boards sold for £48,050.

The Anne Sharp presentation copy noted above has been bandied about in recent years: it sold in 2008 for £180,000, then again in 2010 for £325,000. It was up for auction in December 2012 for an estimate of £150,000 – £200,000 but did not sell, and I do not know where it might be at present…

Emma-SharpeCopy-SothebysAnne Sharp presentation copy of Emma – Sotheby’s

It does make one wonder what Jane Austen would think of all this!

************

For the 200 years since that December 23rd “THIS DAY PUBLISHED” there have been an abundance of Emmas brought into the world – with various printing fonts, interesting covers from the delightful to the ridiculous, and illustrations from all manner of artists – collecting them is a full-time job! But if we look back to that first edition with far less print to every page, no illustrations, and those rather dull covers, we have merely what Austen wrote, a tale of a matchmaking heroine who is at times hard to take.  Austen knew her reading public and had, as we saw in the quote opening this post, her own concerns about Emma’s likeability in that larger world outside her own family circle. But of course that’s the point – surrounded in charades and puzzles and as P. D. James has pointed out, a detective story, a coterie of characters, some quite annoying, and a narrative technique that leaves you wondering who said or thought what, Austen gives us a nearly perfect novel, one that leaves you guessing right to the end, brilliantly portraying a very small world that mirrors the larger, all told with a heavy dose of irony. Who cannot delight in Mr. Woodhouse’s obsessions with his health and fears of anything sweet; or Miss Bates babblings of little nothings that of course tell us most of what we need to know if we only paid attention; of Frank Churchill, hero or not; Jane Faifax, too good to be true and with her own mysterious ailments; the Eltons, who so deserve each other; our Dear Mr. Knightley, who upon every re-reading becomes my favorite Hero, and who on multiple readings can be seen to be quite hopelessly in Love with Emma from the start; and of course Emma, whatever we may make of her.

As we begin this bicentennial celebration of Emma, I invite you again to visit Sarah Emsley’s blog on “Emma in the Snow” where there will be bi-weekly posts starting December 23rd through March 2016. Sarah has garnered an impressive group of Austen folk to participate – so-re-read your Emma and be prepared to spend these next few months immersing yourself in this novel where nothing much seems to happen, but of course everything about human nature does. I end here with this thoughtful quote from the Cambridge edition – think on this as you begin your re-reading adventure:

This is a novel that does not ask its readers either to like or dislike its heroine: it invites them to question their responses, and to recognize their capacity to elevate their likings and dislikings to the status of moral judgements. (Introd. Emma, xxxviii)

*********

Some favorite illustrations of the proposal scene:

BrockCE-Emma-Proposal-mollands

CE Brock, Emma (Dent, 1898) – Mollands

Thomson-Emma-Proposal-BL

Hugh Thomson, Emma (Macmillan, 1896) – British Library

*************

References:

Austen, Jane. Emma: An Annotated Edition. Ed. Bharat Tandon. Harvard UP, 2012.

_____. Emma: The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen. Ed. Richard Cronin and Dorothy McMillan. Cambridge UP, 2005, p bed. 2013.

_____. Jane Austen’s Letters. Ed. Deirdre Le Faye. 4th ed. Oxford UP, 2011.

_____. The Works of Jane Austen: Minor Works. Ed. R. W. Chapman. Oxford UP, 1988 edition, c1954.

Austen-Leigh, James Edward. A Memoir of Jane Austen. Folio Society, 1989 (based on 1871 edition).

Fergus, Jan. Jane Austen: A Literary Life. Macmillan, 1991. See also Sabor, 1-16.

Gilson, David. A Bibliography of Jane Austen. Oak Knoll Press, 1997.

Sabor, Peter, ed. Cambridge Companion to Emma. Cambridge UP, 2015.

Upcoming posts on Emma: Stay tuned!

  1. The Backstory of publishing Emma
  2. Emma’s Christmas Eve
  3. Emma‘s illustrators
c2015 Jane Austen in Vermont

Being “Stupid” in Jane Austen ~ A Quiz of Sorts

[Gentle Readers: On a hiatus for a bit, so reposting this from the archives – enjoy!]

“I do not write for such dull elves As have not a great deal of ingenuity themselves.”

Letters, No. 79

Jane Austen wrote the above to her sister Cassandra on January 29, 1813, the day after Pride and Prejudice is published:

There are a few Typical errors – & a “said he” or a “said she” would sometimes make the Dialogue more immediately clear –  but “I do not write for such dull elves As have not a great deal of ingenuity themselves.” [the notes remark that this is from Scott’s Marmion: “I do not rhyme to that dull elf / Who cannot image to himself…”]

She could have as soon written “stupid” for her dull elves, as she does in another place in this letter:

The Advertisement is in out paper to day for the first time; – 18s – He shall ask £1-1 for my two next, & £1-8 for my stupidest of all.

I think Jane Austen liked the word “stupid” – it appears in all her writings: the juvenilia, the novels, the letters – and she uses it to great effect. But I would argue that today the word has a more negative connotation, especially when used to describe a person, as in “he is a really stupid man” vs. “this is a stupid movie.”  I have been re-reading Pride and Prejudice very SLOWLY and as always, even on this umpteenth read, I find things that amaze – and this time I find myself dwelling on Austen’s “stupids.”

Rowlandson -VADS online

Rowlandson -VADS online

Many of us can call quickly to mind a few of her more famous lines:  You can comment below in the “comments” section with:  Which book / who said it  / to or about whom: 1. “Not that ______ was always stupid — by no means; she learnt the fable of ‘The Hare and Many Friends’ as quickly as any girl in England.” 2. “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”

etsy.com

[from etsy.com: http://www.etsy.com/listing/101749200/jane-austen-quote-pride-and-prejudice-no ]

3. “She is a stupid girl, & has nothing to recommend her.”

4.  “She had never seen _______ so silent and stupid.”

5.  “_____ is as stupid as the weather.”

6. “I feel quite stupid. It must be sitting up so late last night. _____, you must do something to keep me awake. I cannot work. Fetch the cards; I feel so very stupid. ”

7.  “If this man had not twelve thousand a year, he would be a very stupid fellow.”

8.  “…that he had been sent to sea, because he was stupid and unmanageable…”

********************

And these are only a small sample of Austen’s ‘stupids’ – there are a number more in each novel – it has been interesting to see how and why she uses this term, more freely thrown about in her letters: – just these few here by way of example:

 -“We met not a creature at Mrs. Lillingstone’s, & yet were not so very stupid, as I expected, which I attribute to my wearing my new bonnet & being in good looks [Ltr. 36],

-“And now, that is such a sad, stupid attempt at Wit, about Matter, that nobody can smile at it, & I am quite out of heart. I am sick of myself, & my bad pens.” [Ltr. 53], and

-“I expect a very stupid Ball, there will be nobody worth dancing with, & nobody worth talking to but Catherine; for I believe Mrs. Lefroy will not be there…” [Ltr. 14]

***************

PP-peacock cover

But today I will focus only on Pride and Prejudice, continuing my closer look at the novel throughout this bicentenary year.

We begin by going back to the source, the OED to see how it has been used and its meanings as Jane Austen would have seen it used: [Oxford English Dictionary: www.OED.com ]

Wit's Magazine - illus G. Cruikshank - Project Gutenberg

Wits Magazine – illus G. Cruikshank – Project Gutenberg

  1. Adj.

1. a.Having one’s faculties deadened or dulled; in a state of stupor, stupefied, stunned; esp. hyperbolically, stunned with surprise, grief, etc. Obs. exc. arch. (poet.). As in Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale (1623): Is not your Father growne incapeable Of reasonable affayres? Is he not stupid With Age, and altring Rheumes? Can he speake? heare? Know man, from man?

1. b. Belonging to or characterized by stupor or insensibility. Obs. As in Keats Endymion (1818): “My sweet dream Fell into nothing—into stupid sleep.”

1. c. Of a part of the body: Paralysed. Obs.

1. d. Emotionally or morally dull or insensible; apathetic, indifferent. Const. to [compare French stupide à] – As in Steele in the Guardian (1713): “It was a Cause of great Sorrow and Melancholy to me…to see a Crowd in the Habits of the Gentry of England stupid to the noblest Sentiments we have.”

2. As the characteristic of inanimate things: Destitute of sensation, consciousness, thought, or feeling. Obs. As in 1722 W. Wollaston Religion of Nature (1722) – “Matter is incapable of acting, passive only, and stupid.”

3. a. Wanting in or slow of mental perception; lacking ordinary activity of mind; slow-witted, dull. As in J. Addison Spectator (1712) “A Man, who cannot write with Wit on a proper Subject, is dull and stupid.” And Frances Burney in Evelina (1778): “‘Why is Miss Anville so grave?’ ‘Not grave, my Lord,’ said I, ‘only stupid.’”

3. b.  Of attributes, actions, ideas, etc.: Characterized by or indicating stupidity or dullness of comprehension. As in J. Jortin  Sermons (1771): “Great reason have we to be thankful that we are not educated in such stupid and inhuman principles.”

3. c. Of the lower animals: Irrational. Also of an individual animal, its propensities, etc.: Lacking intelligence or animation, senseless, dull. Obs. As in Goldsmith History of the Earth and Animated Nature (1774): “[The badger] is a solitary stupid animal.”

4.  Void of interest, tiresome, boring, dull. As in: Burney, Evelina (1778): “Of all the stupid places ever I see, that Howard Grove is the worst! there’s never no getting nothing one wants.”

5. Obstinate, stubborn. (north. dial.)

B. noun.  A stupid person. Colloq. As in Steele Spectator (1712): “Thou art no longer to drudge in raising the Mirth of Stupids…for thy Maintenance.”

******

If we look at the stupids of Pride and Prejudice, we see all of these definitions in their great variety, but the emphasis is on being tiresome, boring as in number 4 above:

CE Brock - Mollands.net

CE Brock – Mollands.net

1. “Come, Darcy,” said he, “I must have you dance. I hate to see you standing about by yourself in this stupid manner. You had much better dance.” [vol. I, ch. III]

britarmyuniforms

British Army Uniforms 1750-1835: from Book Drum

2. She had been watching him the last hour, she said, as he walked up and down the street, and had Mr. Wickham appeared, Kitty and Lydia would certainly have continued the occupation, but unluckily no one passed the window now except a few of the officers, who, in comparison with the stranger, were become ‘stupid, disagreeable fellows.’ [vol. I, ch. XV]

3. “ Oh! if that is all, I have a very poor opinion of young men who live in Derbyshire; and their intimate friends who live in Hertfordshire are not much better. I am sick of them all. Thank Heaven! I am going to-morrow where I shall find a man who has not one agreeable quality, who has neither manner nor sense to recommend him. Stupid men are the only ones worth knowing, after all.” [vol. II, ch. IV]

from Georgian Index

from Georgian Index

4. When the gentlemen had joined them, and tea was over, the card-tables were placed. Lady Catherine, Sir William, and Mr. and Mrs. Collins sat down to quadrille; and as Miss De Bourgh chose to play at cassino, the two girls had the honour of assisting Mrs. Jenkinson to make up her party. Their table was superlatively stupid. Scarcely a syllable was uttered that did not relate to the game, except when Mrs. Jenkinson expressed her fears of Miss De Bourgh’s being too hot or too cold .… [vol. II, ch. VI]

5. “Well, he certainly is very agreeable, and I give you leave to like him. You have liked many a stupider person.” [vol. I, ch. IV]

CE Brock - Mollands.net

CE Brock – Mollands.net

6. The stupidity with which he was favoured by nature must guard his courtship from any charm that could make a woman wish for its continuance  [vol. I, ch. XXII]

7. But why Mr. Darcy came so often to the Parsonage it was more difficult to understand. It could not be for society, as he frequently sat there ten minutes together without opening his lips; and when he did speak, it seemed the effect of necessity rather than of choice — a sacrifice to propriety, not a pleasure to himself. He seldom appeared really animated. Mrs. Collins knew not what to make of him. Colonel Fitzwilliam’s occasionally laughing at his stupidity proved that he was generally different, which her own knowledge of him could not have told her… [vol. II, ch. IX]

8. Wickham will soon be gone; and therefore it will not signify to anybody here what he really is. Some time hence it will be all found out, and then we may laugh at their stupidity in not knowing it before. At present I will say nothing about it.” [vol. II, ch. XVII]

9. Elizabeth was distressed. She felt that she had no business at Pemberley, and was obliged to assume a disinclination for seeing it. She must own that she was tired of great houses; after going over so many, she really had no pleasure in fine carpets or satin curtains. …  Mrs. Gardiner abused her stupidity. “If it were merely a fine house richly furnished,” said she, “I should not care about it myself; but the grounds are delightful. They have some of the finest woods in the country.” [vol. II, ch. XIX]

pemberley-photo

And finally when Mr. Bennet asks Lizzy: “Lizzy,” said he, “what are you doing? Are you out of your senses, to be accepting this man?” –  he could as well have called her stupid… [vol. III, ch. XVII]

CE Brock - Mollands.net

CE Brock – Mollands.net

Sources for the images as noted:

Note your answers to the eight non Pride and Prejudice quotes at the beginning of this post in the comment area below: how did you do?  we shall have no dull elves around here…

c2013 Jane Austen in Vermont