Of all the Jane Austen sets, this Dent publication is probably the most well-known because of the Brock brothers illustrations – they have continued to be published over and over again, and the ones we think of when we think of “Jane Austen illustrated.”
The Novels of Jane Austen, J. M. Dent, 1898 [Molland’s]
1892 was a watershed year for Austen and the beginning of the many Dents – but today we will focus on this set published by J. M. Dent in 1898 in 10 volumes and edited by R. Brimley Johnson – it was the first to offer Jane Austen in color. You can find all the interesting information in Gilson at E90. But a quick summary and a few pictures will surely entice you to want this on your shelves – and if the set is hard to come by or beyond your price range, a fine adventure is trying to put a set together yourself, as individual volumes are often available.
Dent had originally published Austen’s novels in 1892, also edited by Johnson, but with sepia-toned illustrations by William C. Cooke [more on this set in another post]. But in 1898, Dent used the same text plates but deep-sixed the Cooke illustrations and took on the Brock brothers to render Austen in livelier watercolors reproduced by 6-color lithography with each volume having 6 illustrations. Charles Edmund Brock did Sense & Sensibility (vols. 1 and 2), Emma (vols. 7 and 8), and Persuasion (vol. 10). Henry Matthew Brock did Pride & Prejudice (vol. 3 and 4), Mansfield Park (vols. 5 and 6), and Northanger Abbey (vol. 9).
[You can read about the Brocks here at Molland’s with an excellent essay by Cinthia García Soria here: http://www.mollands.net/etexts/other/brocks.html ] You can also google their names and many of the Jane Austen blogs have posts on the Brocks and other illustrators.
The Brocks owned a number of Regency era furnishings and decorative arts, as well as a large collection of fashion prints – they had many costumes made, having family and friends model for them and perhaps why their illustrations seem so very authentic! Laura Carroll and John Wilshire call these Brock-illustrated editions “Chocolate-box” – gift-book quality, beautiful inside with delicate pen or brush drawings, and outside with gilt embossing and Arts and Crafts inspired design; another critic refers to the Brocks’ work as “delicate teacup and saucer primness”! [See their essay “Jane Austen, Illustrated” in A Companion to Jane Austen, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012, pp. 62-77.]
C. E. Brock had previously illustrated Pride and Prejudice with black and white line drawings – this was published by Macmillan in 1895. He would go on in the years 1907-09 to illustrate all the novels for another Dent publication, their Series of English Idylls (with 24 watercolor illustrations in each volume; they were all later published as a set with fewer illustrations in each volume.) To compare CE Brock’s two very different styles in these two editions is an interesting way to spend at least an afternoon! Here is one example from Emma, the infamous romance-inducing umbrella scene:
To follow all the wild publishing of Austen at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th requires a degree in bibliography, or at least a great deal of patience – and certainly you must have Gilson by your side. There were many, many reprints with many variations as to the number of illustrations, the quality of the reproductions, and binding types – it is great mess for the book buyer / collector – and all I can say is do your homework and buyer beware…!
American printings are another great mess, various publishers over a span of years, with varying number of illustrations, and in many cases a poorer reproduction quality. The most important thing to remember is that the earliest edition will have the higher price but also better quality printing and illustrations. As an example, compare these HM Brock 1898 and 1907 printings of Darcy giving Elizabeth his letter in Pride & Prejudice:
[this doesn’t show up very well in the scan – but there is a huge difference in the detail, color, and quality of the print]
Here are a few illustrations: I have various volumes and parts of the green cloth 1898 set, but also this 1898 set bound in leather – this one my favorite, but alas! it is missing something very important!
Dent 1898 – red leather – my set, lacking the all-important what? P&P!
CE Brock, Persuasion, 1898:
The Fall! / The Letter!
One of my favorite scenes in Pride & Prejudice is Elizabeth “in earnest contemplation” – here we can see CE Brock’s line drawing for Macmillan in 1895 and HM Brock’s in 1898, and CE Brock’s in 1907 [are you sufficiently confused yet??]
CE Brock, Macmillan, 1895 / HM Brock, Dent, 1898
CE Brock, Dent, 1907 [though this is not exactly the same quote you get the idea…]
You can see the many Brock illustrations for the various editions of each novel by visiting the amazing Molland’s here: http://www.mollands.net/etexts/
The Brocks are most often compared with Hugh Thomson: there are various critical interpretations of these two most popular Austen artists, some more approving of Thomson’s humor and his almost caricatured characters, while others preferring the more effective facial expressions and body language of the Brocks that seem more realistic despite the rather overdrawn borders and settings – do notice the detail in the fashion, the furnishings, and landscape, and what scenes are chosen – we can compare these to Thomson in future posts. The point is, you need them both…
Mr. Knightley on his horse
Hugh Thomson, Emma, Macmillan, 1896 / CE Brock, Emma, Dent, 1898
Stay tuned for a post on Hugh Thomson and his several Jane Austen editions – in the meantime, tell me your favorite of the Austen illustrators – I haven’t posted about mine yet…
©2021, Jane Austen in Vermont
Gentle Readers: In an effort to offer weekly posts on collecting Jane Austen, I shall start with the basics of book collecting – this a general summary of things to consider with a few examples specific to Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice in particular. This will be followed by weekly posts on randomly chosen books in the various categories I list here that I think are essential to a Jane Austen collection.
Let’s start in the pages of Pride and Prejudice in the library at Netherfield where we find Elizabeth, Miss Bingley, Mr. Bingley, and Mr. Darcy:
[Elizabeth] walked towards a table where a few books were lying. He [Bingley] immediately offered to fetch her others; all that his library afforded.
“And I wish my collection were larger for your benefit and my own credit; but I am an idle fellow, and though I have not many, I have more than I ever look into.”
Elizabeth assured him that she could suit herself perfectly with those in the room.
“I am astonished,” said Miss Bingley, “that my father should have left so small a collection of books. What a delightful library you have at Pemberley, Mr. Darcy!”
“It ought to be good,” he replied; “it has been the work of many generations.”
“And then you have added so much to it yourself, you are always buying books.” [my emphasis]
“I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these.”
Chatsworth Library [British Magazine]
And so, here we have the permission of Mr. Darcy himself to buy as many books as we would like!
II. The Collecting of Books:
Terry Belanger, a veteran book collector and rare book librarian once famously said “you are a collector if you have more than one copy of a single title” –
So, I ask you, how many of you have more than one copy of any of Jane Austen’s novels? And how many of you already realize that to collect all copies of books by and about Jane Austen is surely an impossible task? Even focusing on one title, say Pride and Prejudice, we would find it an impossible undertaking!
So where to start?
1. The first rule of book collecting is Collect what you Love – so I can assume that any of you reading this all love Jane Austen, and so that will be our focus… and not only the books but also the myriad objects and ephemera. You can collect anything – my son collects Sneakers, only Nike Jordans, which leads to books about sneakers, etc…!
An amusing tale about collecting one title: In a used bookshop in England a few years ago I hit the mother-load of A Child’s Garden of Verses – a title I collect –
I brought five different editions to the register, manned by a young man obviously neither the owner nor all that well-versed in the vagaries of collecting – he hesitated for a moment, looked thoughtful, and finally blurted out “Do you know that all these books are the same?” [epilogue: I bought them all…]
2. Try to find the 1st edition (and by “first edition” I mean “first printing”), and how do we do that?
1st edition Pride and Prejudice [National Library of Scotland]
For most of us, Jane Austen first editions are beyond our pocketbooks – but you will need to know the basics of book collecting to understand why some books are harder to find, and why, when you find them, they can often be expensive.
It is here you will need to decide if you want the first edition in pristine condition or if you only need a reading copy, or not even a first edition at all – this is a question to ask at every purchase.
The most difficult aspect of book collecting is how to identify a first edition – every publisher did it differently and often changed their indicators over time. There are many guides to help with this.
This Pocket Guide to the Identification of First Editions by Bill McBride is the best starting point for a general understanding of the practices of various publishers. You can also find this information online at Quill & Brush Books: https://www.qbbooks.com/first_ed_pub.php
Then you will need more specific detail on the author/subject you are collecting, and thankfully for us Jane Austen enthusiasts, David Gilson, and Keynes and Chapman before him, have largely done this work for us…
The David Gilson A Bibliography of Jane Austen will be your Bible to collecting Austen, a must-have book – I have already posted about this here: https://janeausteninvermont.blog/2021/02/26/collecting-jane-austen-gilsons-bibliography/
3. The Anatomy of a Book:
If you want to understand book terminology, you must have John Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors – the 8th edition by John Carter and Nicolas Barker. Oak Knoll Press / British Library, 2004.
It is now available online at ILAB: https://ilab.org/sites/default/files/2018-01/ABC-BOOK-FOR-COLLECTORS_0.PDF
Another easily accessible glossary is on Abebooks: https://www.abebooks.com/books/rarebooks/collecting-guide/understanding-rare-books/glossary.shtml
Most commonly used terms:
- 1st edition
- Spine head, spine tail
- Text block
- Half-title page
- Title page
- Copyright page
- Publisher’s cloth
- Catchword: “heard” at the bottom of the page is the catchword = the first word on the next page
Example of foxing: Dent 1908 reprint, illus. HM Brock
- Leather bindings: ¼, ¾, etc…
- Size terms: folio, quarto (4to), octavo (8vo), duodecimo (12mo), 16mo, etc
4. Determining value: supply and demand – Desirability+Scarcity=Value
- Is the book still in print?
- How many copies were printed?
- Is this the author’s first book? – Sense and Sensibility is the most valuable
- How did the book first appear? – binding, dust jacket? [value greatly reduced if lacking jacket: 75% – fiction, 20% – non-fiction]. Eg. S&S first published in boards is more valuable than the finest leather binding
S&S 1st ed in boards and leather bound]: estimated value: $200,000 / $50,000.
- Illustrations present? are they all there?
- Condition, Condition, Condition! – most important factor! [see more below]
- Where do you find values? There are many guides to consult:
- Allen and Patricia Ahearn. Collected Books: A Guide to Identification and Values. 4th ed. (2011); see also their author guides – one on JA from 2007
- American Book Prices Current: auction sales, so actual value
- Bookseller catalogues: what titles are selling for
- Author and subject bibliographies
- Internet: bookselling sites: be wary – prices all over the place
5. CONDITION is the most important issue: prices will vary depending upon condition – even if you have the 1st edition – if it is in deplorable condition that will affect the value.
Booksellers grade a book’s condition using the terms below, from “As New” down to “Poor”: for instance VG [for the book ] / VG [for the jacket] – anything less than a VG is really not collectible:
VERY FINE/NEW [VF / NEW]: As new, unread.
FINE: Close to new, showing slight signs of age but without any defects.
VERY GOOD [VG]: A used book that shows some sign of wear but still has no defects.
GOOD [G]: A book that shows normal wear and aging, still complete and with no major defects.
FAIR: A worn and used copy, probably with cover tears and other defects.
POOR: a mess really, but might have some redeeming qualities
READING COPY: any book less than VG
An interesting tale to demonstrate this: The rare bookseller Stuart Bennett [no relation to our esteemed Bennet family!] writes in his book Trade Bookbinding in the British Isles 1660-1800.
Alas! pre-Austen, but we find her in a NOTE: [an aside – always check indexes for Jane Austen – you will be pleasantly surprised to see how often she turns up and in the most amazing places!]
Bennett writes in a footnote on the issue of publishing in boards vs. the wealthy having their favorite books bound in leather:
What is certain is that wrappered and boarded popular literature was not part of the visual landscape of country house libraries. In my experience these books, when kept, found their way into cupboards underneath the display bookcases, or into passages or rooms used by servants. In my days at Christie’s I once spent hours in the pantry cupboards of a Scottish country house, searching through stacks of these wrappered and boarded books among which I found, virtually as new, Volume III of the first edition of Sense and Sensibility. When I found the other two volumes I remarked to the aristocratic owners that this was one of the most valuable books in the house, as exceptional survival in original condition, and doubtless so because one of their ancestors had bought Jane Austen’s first novel, read it, and hadn’t cared enough to send it to for rebinding, and never bought another. My ebullience was arrested by an icy stare from the Countess, who replied, “I am sure, Mr. Bennett, that our ancestors would never have felt that way about Jane Austen.” 
Stuart tells me: this S&S set the then-record auction price in 1977 or 1978 (he was the auctioneer!), and turned up about twenty or maybe 25 years later offered by a London bookseller for, as he recalls, $200,000. Then it disappeared again.
Question: Should you buy a less collectible book because you cannot afford the higher price? – do you just want a reading copy or need to fill a gap in your collection? – you can decide this on a case-by-case basis – what becomes available and when and how much you can spend…
6. Where to find Books:
“Beauty in Search of Knowledge” – Thomas Rowlandson
– Local bookstores: sadly less of them, but still the best resource of Jane Austen books – a bookseller who will know your likes, will buy with you in mind, someone to trust…
– Specific booksellers: those who specialize in Jane Austen and other women writers – shops, catalogues – you can find at book-fairs, being on their catalogue mailing list, and on the internet. For eg. Jane Austen Books https://www.janeaustenbooks.net/
– Auctions / auction catalogues
– The Internet: major used bookselling sites: you need to be an informed consumer!
- Abebooks [part of amazon, but separate]: www.abebooks.com
- Alibris: www.alibris.com
- Biblio: www.biblio.com
- ILAB: www.ilab.org/index.php
- Amazon: www.amazon.com
- Barnes & Noble: www.barnesandnoble.com/
- Ebay: www.ebay.com/chp/books
- Etsy: www.etsy.com/
- Book searching sites: [searches all used book databases]
- – viaLibri http://www.vialibri.net/index.php?pg=home
- – Bookfinder http://www.bookfinder.com/
- – AddALL: http://www.addall.com/
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Internet: I could write a very lengthy post just on this – so I will only emphasize the biggest positive – you have at your fingertips a Global marketplace – no longer dependent on a brick & mortar shop around the corner [sad as this is to me!]
Biggest negative: be in be-wary mode – who are you buying from? – how to decide which is the best copy with so many price and condition discrepancies? – my best advice? – choose a bookseller who knows what they are about: valid and complete descriptions and a price that seems reasonable in light of other copies on offer.
A word about EBAY: a Gigantic auction house always open! – an amazing resource but also the biggest potential for getting a bad deal – you need to be an informed consumer!
Best use of the internet: Want Lists – most book sites do this and auction houses offer “alerts” – you will be notified when an item becomes available…
7. Caring for your collection: lots of information here to consider…just not today.
II. What to Collect:
Now comes the hard part – with so much out there on Jane Austen, where do you even begin? The need to focus on one particular aspect [say just collecting copies of Pride and Prejudice], or by zeroing in on a certain illustrator you like [the Brock brothers], or only books with fine decorative bindings [so many] – this list covers the gamut of possibilities – you just need to choose what you are most interested in. You must however start with a core collection:
A. A Jane Austen Core Collection
1. The Works: the Oxford edition, ed. by Chapman (1923); the Cambridge edition, general editor Janet Todd, with each volume edited by a a different scholar; a set of reading copies of each novel – ones you can markup, underline, and make notes
2. The Letters – all editions [Brabourne, Chapman, Le Faye, Modert]
3. R. W. Chapman’s books on Jane Austen
4. Biography: the Memoir and everything since!
5. A Chronology of Jane Austen, Deirdre Le Faye (Cambridge, 2006)
6. The Bibliographies: Keynes, Chapman, Gilson, Barry Roth’s 3 volumes, and those continued annually in Persuasions; the Cambridge Bibliographies, etc…
7. Brian Southam. The Critical Heritage. Vol I. 1811-1870. Routledge, 1979; The Critical Heritage, Vol. II. 1870-1940. Routledge, 1987. – now available as digital reprints, 2009
8. Critical works: starting off point to further study – where to start?? The bibliographies; “Companions” – “Handbooks” – “Casebooks”
9. The World of Jane Austen: [endless material!]
- The Arts: Music, Art, Architecture; Interior Design and Decorative Arts; Landscape
- Georgian and Regency History: Political, Economic, Social, Religious
- Social life and customs: Etiquette; Gender / Class issues; Dancing; Costume and Fashion
- Domestic Arts: Cookery, Needlework, Women’s work, Family life, Home-life, Servants
- Medical History
- Military History: the Royal Navy, the Militia, The French Revolution, the American Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, War of 1812
- Geographical History and Maps
- Travel and Transportation: Carriages, Roads, Guidebooks, etc…
- Literary Theory, History of the Novel, Narrative Theory, Language
B. Collecting a specific Jane Austen novel: as an example Pride & Prejudice
- 1st editions
- American editions
- Specific Publishers: Bentley, Macmillan, Dent, Oxford, Folio Society, LLC, Penguin, etc.
- Translated editions
- Illustrators: also single illustrations
- Decorative bindings / cover art – to include paperbacks
- Critical editions: with scholarly editing and introductions
- Books where P&P shows up
- Association copies: e.g. Sarah Harriet Burney’s copy
- Books that influenced Austen: e.g. Frances Burney’s Cecilia
- Adaptations: Editions for young readers; Dramatizations; Films, Audiobooks
- Sequels! – endless potential!
- History / Social Life and Customs of the times, specific to P&P – fill your bookshelves!
- Ephemera and Physical Objects – P&P merchandise in popular culture, many to do with Colin Firth…(!)
Ok, now you know everything to know about Book Collecting – you can begin this lifelong fun-filled endeavor! Join me next week for the first of many [I hope] Jane Austen-related titles you must have on your shelves…all with Mr. Darcy’s approval. Any questions or suggestions, please comment.
©2021, Jane Austen in Vermont
Enquiring Minds: I welcome today, Professor Janine Barchas, author of the recently published The Lost Books of Jane Austen, a work of mind-boggling scholarship, wherein “hardcore bibliography meets Antiques Roadshow!” And whether your tastes run to book history, the science of bibliography, literary history, or just a love of Jane Austen, you will be delighted with this addition to your Austen collection – an absolute must-have in my mind, to be shelved in a place of honor right alongside your copy of David Gilson. And don’t think it is some pedagogical tome – I laughed, I cried, I learned, I was wowed! – and I think you will be too.
Today, Janine is going to share with us what got her started on this incredible journey, some of her finds, and where it all goes from here.
Deb: First off, I must say that his book has been universally praised by Austen scholars and readers, book historians, and bibliographers! Did you have any idea the book would be so universally embraced?
JB: I dared not hope. Instead, I worried about whether crisscrossing the standard demarcations between audience groups (academics v. fans, readers v. collectors) might prove fatal. At the start, anonymous readers of the manuscript for Johns Hopkins University Press warned against the intellectual Schizophrenia of my approach (my phrasing). In view of their worry, much of the final book was rewritten and reframed so that essential bibliographical details would not detract from the larger human narrative—what my editor called “not getting lost in the weeds.” In other words, I had a lot of help and advice while shaping a book to appeal widely—and to different people for different reasons. Who would have thought that any press could produce such a handsome gift-worthy volume filled with headshots of tatty, cheap, and rejected books? From the start, there was something not entirely rational about expecting any audience for a book about unwanted books. I’m immensely gratified that so many people share my affection for these neglected reprints.
Deb: How did your education / scholarship lead you to working on Jane Austen – how, and when? In other words, when did your fascination with Austen begin?
JB: I came to Austen late and reluctantly. I was not introduced to her until college and graduate school, where I read her as a duty (as a stop along the history of the novel genre) rather than as a pleasure. I did not return to her novels in earnest until I was asked to teach a single-author course on Austen. At first, I tried to argue my way out of the task—after all, Samuel Richardson, who has no action figure, needed me more. Eventually, I gave in to the market demand on campus. Once I slowed down, reread all her books, and started teaching Austen, I had to bend at the knee along with all her other devotees.
JB: All my projects seem to take a material turn. Graphic Design argued that it was silly for serious academics to study and write about eighteenth-century novels while staring at and quoting from modern paperbacks (e.g. the Penguin reprints used in college classrooms). I showed how these modern reprints had silently altered the text as well as the innovative typographical innovations for which the genre was termed “novel” in the first place (ie. layout, paratexts, illustrations, the advertising language of title pages, font choices). In Graphic Design I urged serious scholars to return to the original editions of eighteenth-century books when studying literary meaning. In Lost Books, I finally found a scholarly purpose for all those inauthentic reprintings that I dismissed as unauthoritative in that early project!
Deb: You go through 200 years of Austen’s publishing history in such an interesting order. When did it become apparent that these divisions were a way of approaching the Lost Books: Paperback Jane, Scholarly Jane, Virtuous Jane, Temperance Jane, Marketing with Jane, Armed Services Jane, Chick-lit Jane, etc…
JB: For years, I periodically rearranged the shelves of the cheap Austen reprints that I acquired, grouping books on the dining room table and elsewhere to see what patterns emerged—patterns of aesthetics, formats, prices, audiences, etc. I wanted to explore patterns that would allow me to go beyond the usual mere temporal lists of publications (“and then this edition, and then this one”). While the story of the “pinking” of Jane Austen during the 1950s and 60s showed itself fairly quickly, the most meaningful patterns were impossible to see until after I gained access to the books of other collectors whose plentiful shelves contained many more examples to sort (physically or mentally). All in all, it probably took nine years of looking before the one year of writing to feel that I had a book’s worth of findings to share.
Deb: The seven Vignettes you include in the book tell the stories of book owners of the many Austen novels you have found. These are enlightening, sometimes wrenching – but such a personal tribute to Austen’s many readers through the past 200 years. A name, a date, maybe an address would send you on a deep-dive adventure into census, birth, marriage and death records – thank goodness for the internet and ancestry.com, making such research even possible! What was your favorite connection that you found?
JB: Locating the backstories and former owners behind particular copies was indeed the most rewarding part of researching and writing this book. However, asking me to pick between these people and their books is like asking a mother which child is her “favorite.” As you say, some of the backstories proved tearjerkers while other copies offered up endearing or surprising anecdotes about the lives of real Austen readers. The vignette that makes me smile most broadly is probably the one about the young Harvard law student named Heman Burr who, on his very first trip to Paris in 1879, binge read all of Jane Austen’s novels.
Deb: What was the most elusive, that you just couldn’t let go? – and finally found something…
JB: Unlocking the ownership history of one cheap mid-nineteenth-century copy of Mansfield Park depended upon locating the official naval record of the officer whose name matched the ownership signature. Even after I found his record, I needed help from a colleague familiar with naval terminology and a knowledge of specific ships and battles to see that his navel career mapped neatly onto the Austen novel that he had so treasured.
Deb: And the one(s) where you hit a brick-wall and ended at a dead end?
JB: There were dozens and dozens of books whose ownership signatures I could not trace with certainty in the historical record – sometimes because the name was too common or the inscription lacked mention of a location to help triangulate it. The anonymity that an all-too-common name conveys has its own cosmic sadness. For a provenance researcher there is nothing more deflating than the proud ownership signature of a “Miss Smith.”
Deb: How many more stories do you have, not included in Lost Books, but possibly to be published elsewhere? Can we hope for a Vignettes sequel??
JB: There were handfuls of worthy backstories and many clusters of odd reprints that did not make it into the final book. While a sequel is not in the cards (sweet of you to ask!), I have published a few of those findings as separate essays for the Los Angeles Review of Books and also for Literary Hub.
Another such essay (about the ignored marginalia of those who disliked Austen) is scheduled to appear in the May/June issue of Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine.
Deb: Throughout this past decade of research, you located and purchased as many of these cheaply published works as possible; or you found collectors willing to share their shelves with you; or you found the odd one in a scholarly institution:
– What surprised you the most?
JB: The sheer number of cheap reprints not listed in Jane Austen’s bibliographies. I had assumed that bibliographies were, barring oversight and human error, objective records of publications. I was taken aback by how subjective the discipline of bibliography is and how biased towards “important” highbrow editions.
Deb: Your most amazing discovery?
JB: A well-thumbed copy of Mansfield Park from the 1890s that served as an attendance prize in a temperance society for coal miners. Coal miners!
Deb: Most elusive find?
JB: A paperback copy of Elizabeth Bennet published in Philadelphia in 1845 and which originally sold for 25 cents.
JB: The cheap colorful copy of Northanger Abbey published by Blackie & Sons which was awarded as a school prize in Forfar Scotland in 1911 to one “Annie Munro.” During my research, I discovered that only six months later Annie tragically died from diphtheria, age 13, and that this volume could be the sole artifact she left behind. It was an honor to be able to tell Annie’s story in the book’s last vignette, and it remains an honor to safeguard her prized book.
JB: The incredible artist who created the book sculpture for the cover is Mike Stilkey, who works with discarded library books and lives in Los Angeles. He is famous for his large wall-sized installations on which he paints unique figures and animals. In a fan letter, I told him about my own Lost Books project. He then created his “Jane Austen” sculpture from discarded books for possible use on the cover. Everyone at the press instantly loved it. I agree that Stilkey’s work strikes the perfect note and I remain grateful to him for responding with such generosity to this project.
Deb: You end your book with a “call to action”: that this “gobsmackingly incomplete historical record” of the publishing of Jane Austen has much more to be added to – you wish / hope that other collectors, scholars, laypeople, and institutions will share with you any such “low-brow editions” they might have – you envision some sort of digital bibliography – how do you hope to move forward with this idea? How can people help?
JB: Ambitiously, I now hope that collectors of such reprints as I discuss in Lost Books will agree to donate these relatively inexpensive but scarce volumes to institutions with proper special collections, where these books can allow further research into publishing history and Austen’s reception. The major Austen collector that I worked with has generously agreed to donate her Jane Austen reprints to a special collections library that has, in turn, agreed to house such a gift (cataloguing and storage costs are non-trivial). I have agreed to add my own books to hers, trusting that, jointly, our donations will help to save information for the future and prompt others to do the same. Books such as this need to be together to maximize the information they contain as historic artifacts. Interested parties can contact me about inquiring about similar donations. In addition, a collector in Australia wrote me that he has reacted to my project by starting a blog that shows other collectors how to trace prices and provenance of “cheaper” reprints: https://bookcollectingheaven.com/2020/03/30/price-and-provenance/ .
Deb: And finally, what’s up next?
JB: This year, with the help of a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies and a stay at the Lewis Walpole Library, I have begun a new project, called Renting in the Age of Austen. When Jane Austen is born in 1775, the burgeoning consumer culture of late-Georgian England increasingly allowed temporary ownership over some luxury goods for a fee. Books and artworks could now be borrowed, furniture and musical instruments rented, carriages or horses hired, and whole country mansions let. Some Georgian rentals were bizarre (e.g. pineapples), but all complicated identity politics. Rented objects blur traditional social signals of rank. Whereas old sumptuary laws aimed to fix luxury goods as markers of class, in Austen’s era privilege could be flaunted with kit and carriages not one’s own. My project explores the messy logistics of what was rented (where, to whom, and at what prices?) to reveal the social implications for this early economy of temporary possession.
Deb: Anything else you would like to share?
JB: I would like folks to know of my unexpected lockdown project: “Pride & Plague” on Twitter (@PridePlague). On this channel celebrity couple William Shakespeare and Jane Austen have been posting updates to their fans while in social isolation during the COVID-19 crisis. Even those not on Twitter can see it here for a chuckle: https://twitter.com/PridePlague. I think of this project as my contribution to morale [and a welcome contribution it is! See below for some examples…]
Thank you Janine for sharing your insights – I do most heartily recommend this book to everyone – and please, look at your shelves and see if perchance you might have your very own “unsung reprints” lying about – you too could add to the knowledge of Jane Austen’s publishing history and be a part of this fascinating story.
About the author:
Janine Barchas is the Louann and Larry Temple Centennial Professor in English Literature at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity and the prize-winning Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel. She is the creator behind the digital project What Jane Saw wherein we can view two Georgian blockbusters as witnessed by Jane Austen (Joshua Reynolds in 1813 and the Shakespeare Gallery of 1796). She has also written essays for the Washington Post, New York Times, Lit Hub, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Her newest work, The Lost Books of Jane Austen, about the many unsung editions of Jane Austen, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press this past October.
Janine is also the President of NAFCH, the North American Friends of Chawton House, a group that works to raise funds and garner support for the Chawton estate of Jane Austen’s brother Edward and its Library devoted to early women writers.
- Sample pages from The Lost Books of Jane Austen: https://issuu.com/johnshopkinsuniversitypress/docs/the_lost_books_of_jane_austen_sampl
- You can listen to Janine on The Lost Books here at “The Library of Economics and Liberty”: https://www.econtalk.org/janine-barchas-on-the-lost-books-of-jane-austen/
- You can read more about Professor Barchas here: https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/english/faculty/profile.php?eid=barchasj
The Lost Books of Jane Austen, by Janine Barchas
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019
284 pages. Color illustrations throughout.
You can purchase it at your local bookseller or here at Amazon.
As noted above, Janine is currently working through the present sheltering-in-place crisis by finding daily humor in the antics of Jane and Will and posting all about them on her twitter page “Pride & Plague.” You can follow the fun here: https://twitter.com/PridePlague
©2020 Jane Austen in Vermont
I begin with my own prejudice – Persuasion has long been my favorite Austen novel. One cannot dispute the joy of reading Pride and Prejudice; or the laughter at the pure innocence and brilliance of Northanger Abbey; we can sympathize with the moral steadfastness of Fanny in Mansfield Park, savor the (im)perfections of Emma (both the book and heroine!), and revel in that dawning realization that Sense and Sensibility is so much better than at first thought. But it is Persuasion that holds my abiding affection – a novel of second chances, a novel that seems closest in some inexplicable way to Jane Austen herself, a romance where she actually plays out the agony of lost and found love, and so unlike her, a profession of love that she actually doesn’t back off from and leave the reader to their own imaginings!
But here today, I am only going to talk of how it all came to be. I’ve already written about the interesting publishing journey of Northanger Abbey here – and Persuasion, because it was published along with NA in a 4-volume set after Austen’s death, is bound up (literally) in that publishing story, Northanger Abbey, her earliest completed work, and Persuasion, her last – and why Sarah Emsley on her blog has called her celebration of these two works as “Youth and Experience.”
But other than being bound together in late December 1817, the journey of Persuasion’s composition and publication is quite different, as we shall see.
How it came to be:
Cassandra’s “Memorandum” (see Minor Works, facing p 242), where she wrote the dates of the composition of each of the novels, tells us that Austen began Persuasion on August 8, 1815 and wrote “Finis” at the end of the manuscript on July 18, 1816.
We know from her nephew James Edward Austen Leigh’s 1871 Memoir that Austen was dissatisfied with the ending, she thought it “tame and flat:” she rewrote chapter 10 (i.e.chapter 10 of volume 2), added chapter 11, and retained chapter 12 (which had been the final chapter 11). This final version was finished on August 6, 1816.
These handwritten original two chapters are the only extant manuscripts of Austen’s novels. These were first printed in the 1871 second edition of the Memoir, and this was the accepted text until the actual MS became available on December 12, 1925 and was edited and published by R. W. by Chapman under the title Two Chapters of Persuasion (Oxford, 1926). The manuscripts are now housed in the British Library, and you can see the transcribed text beside the facsimile online at Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts: http://www.janeausten.ac.uk/manuscripts/blpers/1.html
As these cancelled chapters are included in most modern scholarly editions of the novel, I shall assume you have read them and will only summarize here: Austen has Anne meeting Admiral Croft on her way home from Mrs. Smith’s (and where she has just learned of the true character of William Elliot) – she is invited to visit Mrs. Croft, and assured of her being alone, she accepts, and to her consternation finds Capt. Wentworth at home. Admiral Croft has asked Wentworth to find out from Anne if the rumors are true she is to marry her cousin and thus might want to move into Kellynch Hall. Wentworth is quite beside himself but does as asked, “irresolute & embarrassed;” with Anne’s adamant assurance that nothing is farther from the truth, they have
a silent, but very powerful Dialogue;- on his side, Supplication, on hers acceptance. – Still, a little nearer- and a hand taken and pressed – and “Anne, my own dear Anne!” – bursting forth in the fullness of exquisite feeling – and all Suspense & Indecision were over. – They were reunited. They were restored to all that had been lost.
Etc. etc… explaining all their past feelings and misunderstandings and a final chapter of future plans, they are left “with little to distress them beyond the want of Graciousness and Warmth” once their news was spread to family and friends, ex-potential lovers and a scheming Mrs. Clay.
A discussion of why Austen made these changes is beyond the topic here at hand – but we can agree with Austen’s own assessment that it was too “tame and flat:” she needed to pull all the characters together – the Musgroves, Benwick and Harville, the Crofts, and the obtuse Elliots; she needed to increase the tension and suspense between Anne and Wentworth; she wanted to give Anne a strong voice in her conversation with Harville, all overheard by Wentworth; and of course she needed the Letter – what would Persuasion be without “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope…”? !
I will note that in the movie version (Amanda Root – Ciaran Hinds, Sony/BBC 1995) – and I think the most perfect of all the Austen adaptations – a part of this scene with Wentworth and Anne is added to the plot, Wentworth confronting Anne in the Assembly Room at Admiral Croft’s request, Wentworth sure of her impending engagement to Elliot, and Anne, unable to answer in her confusion and hurt, runs off. This leads to the scene as written at the Inn – Wentworth listening and composing, the remainder of the film following the book. – This is all worthy of further conversation!
But one of Austen’s classic lines is not in the final novel – the first draft is a bit more comic in nature, and perhaps she thought it not fitting the more somber nature of this work:
It was necessary to sit up half the Night & lie awake the remainder to comprehend with composure her present state, & pay for the overplus of Bliss, by Headake & Fatigue.
That Austen made these changes is a gift to later generations, as it is in this manuscript that we are given a rare glimpse into how meticulous she was in her writing and editing methods, crossing out and rewriting, looking for the exactly correct word or phrase.
We know little about Persuasion from Austen herself: it is only mentioned in her Letters twice, though not by name:
On March 13, 1817 she wrote to her niece Fanny Knight:
I will answer your kind questions more than you expect. – Miss Catherine (meaning Northanger Abbey) is put upon the Shelve for the present, and I do not know if she will ever come out; – but I have a something ready for Publication, which may perhaps appear about a twelvemonth hence. It is short, about the length of Catherine – This is for yourself alone… [Letter 153, Le Faye]
And again on March 23, 1817:
Do not be surprised at finding Uncle Henry acquainted with my having another ready for publication. I could not say No when he asked me, but he knows nothing more of it. – You will not like it, so you need not be impatient. You may perhaps like the Heroine, as she is almost too good for me. [Letter 155, Le Faye]
The working title for Persuasion was “The Elliots” – as there is no evidence that Austen chose the titles for either Northanger Abbey or Persuasion, it is generally accepted that her brother Henry titled both; and we might agree with him: interesting to note that “persuasion” in one form or another in mentioned in the novel at least 29 times – you can go to this hyper-concordance to Jane Austen to search for all the occurrences: http://victorian-studies.net/concordance/austen/
Henry must have delivered the manuscripts of both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion to John Murray very soon after Austen’s death on July 17, 1817. Murray wrote to Byron, whose works Murray also published, in early September 1817 telling him that of the new books he was about to publish included “two new novels left by Jane Austen, the ingenious author of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ who, I am sorry to say, died six weeks ago.” (Gilson, xxx.)
So, one question to ask is if Austen “finished” Persuasion in August 1816, why write seven months later that it “may perhaps appear about a twelvemonth hence” ??? What kept her from sending it along to Murray upon completion if she was happy with it in March of 2017?
Austen’s life when she was writing Persuasion:
If we look at the writing of Persuasion on a blank canvas – she started it in August 1815, finished August 1816 – we do not get a complete sense of Austen the woman, the sister, the friend, the author. I find it most fascinating to look at her life in that year and ask what else was going on while she used her spare quiet moments to write this her last novel:
– She visits London and is staying with Henry in October 1815 and stays until mid-December. She is working on the proof sheets of Emma, Henry negotiating with Murray to publish Emma and a 2nd edition of Mansfield Park – she is also working on the corrections for this 2nd edition.
– Henry falls dangerously ill, and Austen takes on writing letters to Murray herself while nursing Henry; she requests all family members to come as there is growing concern he will not survive.
– It is conjectured that one of Henry’s doctors, Matthew Baillie, learned of his sister being the author of Pride & Prejudice, etc. and passed this word on to the Prince Regent. On the 13th of November, Austen visits Carlton House at the request of the Prince Regent’s Librarian James Stanier Clarke – she is also asked to dedicate her soon-to-be-published Emma to his “Royal Highness” – and though she hated this prospect, it likely sped up the printing process. (One aside: she had to pay for the Prince’s 3 vol. beautifully bound copy of Emma…)
– In late November, the Alton bank fails and bankruptcy looms over Henry and his partners.
– Austen leaves London on her birthday 16 December 1815 once Henry is fully recovered and the initial fear of bankruptcy seems allayed; Emma is published on 23 December 1815 (title page says 1816).
– In early 1816, Henry buys back “Susan / Catherine / Northanger Abbey” from Crosby for the £10 originally paid to Austen in 1803 and she begins to make a few edits, writes her “Advertisement” and by March it is “put upon the Shelve at present.” (Crosby went bankrupt shortly thereafter).
– In February, her brother Charles, commanding the HMS Phoenix, is caught in a storm off the Greek Archipelago and runs aground. He is brought up for a court-martial in April for his responsibility in the action but is completely acquitted.
– There is the ongoing lawsuit that threatens Edward Austen Knight’s properties – and this is not resolved until after Jane’s death (see Ltr. 122, October 17-18, 1815 for one reference to Edward’s “Cause”).
– And sometime in here she writes her very funny “Plan of a Novel” – inspired without question by her correspondence with Clarke which lasted from November 1815 to April 1816. [You can read this as well online here: http://www.janeausten.ac.uk/manuscripts/pmplan/1.html ].
– By mid-March, Henry is declared bankrupt and his life as a banker, and Austen’s chief financial support in her publishing endeavors, is over. This is a dreadful blow to the entire family – he can no longer offer any support to his mother and sisters; Edward has lost a good deal of money and will be responsible for many of the debts; and James is at risk of losing his inheritance in the Leigh-Perrot estate. The bankruptcy is resolved by June – but Henry has had to sell off everything (for a fine accounting of the details of Henry’s home furnishings, see Clery, 268).
– Emma is published in late December and initially does very well, but sales begin to slack off after the March 1818 Quarterly Review essay by Walter Scott. Appearing to offer praise to Austen’s narrative voice and abilities to portray her few families with wit and precision, Clery finds that the negative tone of the review, the emphasis on what Austen leaves out of her works and his failure to mention Mansfield Park at all, greatly influenced Austen’s writing of Persuasion.
She is writing this work during these many crises of health and possible death and financial losses. No wonder she writes of an extravagant family on the brink of ruin and characters with various health issues. Clery makes another point I confess to never thinking of before – could her Sir Walter be some sort of slam at Walter Scott?? (Clery, 272) – You can compare Austen’s Emma sales (1409 copies sold early on) with Scott’s own sales for his Rob Roy, also published in late December 1817 and which sold 10,000 copies in two weeks.
– In the context of the wider world, there was the ever-expanding and more competitive market for publishing novels in Austen’s time. In 1775, the year she was born, 31 new novels were published; in 1811, when Sense & Sensibility appeared, 80 new fiction works appeared; for the year 1818, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published along with 61 other novels. Altogether, 2,503 new novels were published in the years between 1775 and 1818. (Raven, 195-6)
So to answer my own question: why did Austen not publish Persuasion after she finished it? Her brother was no longer able to cover the costs of publication and loss if sales should fail; and, the signs of her own declining health were beginning in mid-1816, that summer, “the year without a summer” due to the 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. It is a wonder she was able to write anything at all, much less go on with working on her brilliant Sanditon, put aside on 18 March 1817…
What did the book look like?
– It was published posthumously in December 1817 [though the title page says 1818] with Northanger Abbey
– Title page states: “By the Author of ‘Pride & Prejudice,’ ‘Mansfield Park,’ etc.”; With a “Biographical Notice of the Author,” (dated Dec. 20, 1817, by Henry Austen, thus identifying his sister as the author to the public for the first time)
– Published by John Murray, London; 1818; in four volumes: the two Northanger Abbey volumes printed by C. Roworth; the two Persuasion volumes by T. Davison of Lombard St.
– Included is the “Advertisement by the Authoress to Northanger Abbey” where Austen “apologizes” for the datedness of the story and zings the dastardly publisher for withholding the book for 10 years…
– Advertised first in The Courier 17 December 1817 as to be published on 20 December in 4 volumes, 24s.: “Northanger Abbey, a Romance; and Persuasion, a Novel.” The advertisement in The Morning Chronicle appeared on the 19th (“Tomorrow will be published”) and the 20th of December 1817 (“Books published this day”).
- 12mo or about 7.5″ tall, with text on pages not crowded but about 5-8 words / line and about 21 lines / page in vol. 3; 22 lines / page in vol. 4 – and interesting to note that unlike the Northanger volumes there are no catchwords used in the Persuasion volumes
- blue-grey paper boards, off-white or grey-brown backstrips, white paper labels (there are a number of variants) –
Size of run: @ 1750 copies [various opinions on this; some say 2500 copies] – 1409 copies sold very quickly, the majority to circulating libraries
Cost: 24 shillings for the 4 volumes
Profit: @£515 – like Austen’s other works, Persuasion was published on commission: Austen paid for costs of production and advertising and retained the copyright; the publisher paid a commission on each book sold – the exception was Pride & Prejudice for which she sold the copyright to Thomas Egerton
What is it worth today?
Price Guides (estimates in 2007): Original binding: $75,000 / Rebound copy: $20,000
An online search on Abebooks, March 15, 2018 brings up five copies of the 4-volume 1st edition, none in original boards, and range from $11,000 to $25,000
In 2010, a 1st edition in original boards sold at Sotheby’s for £43,250 ($68,396) with an estimate of 31,628 — 47,442 USD)
Where can you find a copy?
I love this tidbit (from Gilson): Queen Elizabeth has in her personal library at Windsor Castle Sir Walter Scott’s copy of the 1st edition.
Gilson notes where copies of the 1st edition can be found (other than the Queen’s and therefore more accessible to all, and certainly at least one of these will be close to you!), at all the usual suspects in various bindings: Goucher, the Bodleian, Boston Athenaeum, Boston Public Library, British Library, Cambridge, Jane Austen’s House Museum, Columbia, Library of Congress, U of Edinburgh, U of Glasgow, Harvard, London Library, National Library of Scotland, the Morgan Library, New York Public Library, U of Toronto, Yale, Williams, etc. See the rest of Gilson’s list on pg 88-91.
When was the First American edition published?
Persuasion was published in America by Carey & Lea of Philadelphia in two volumes in 1832, separate from Northanger Abbey which was published in two volumes in 1833. The title page states “by Miss Austen, Author of ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ ‘Emma,’ ‘Mansfield-Park,’ etc.” Bound in drab paper boards with purple cloth spines with white spine labels, the spine reads: “Persuasion, by Miss Austen / Author of Pride and Prejudice.” 1250 copies were printed, and advertised on November 8, 1832 as “Persuasion, a novel, by Miss Austin [sic]” as being published that day. (And people have been getting it wrong ever since!) Gilson points out the various modifications to language typical of all the American editions of Austen’s novels, mostly those having to do with the Deity, for instance “Lord bless me!” is changed to just “Bless me!”
Estimated value: Original binding: $10,000 / Rebound copy: $5,000
You can find two copies available online at Abebooks: $10,000 and $15,000 – both in original boards.
Parlez-vous francais? Persuasion in French:
La Famille Elliot ou “L’Ancienne Inclination” [ “the old or former inclination”] translated by Isabelle de Montolieu, was published in Paris in 1821 by Arthus Bertrand. This is the first published novel to have Austen’s full name on the title page and to include illustrations: an engraved frontispiece in each volume (Delvaux after Charles Abraham Chasselat). In volume I we find Capt. Wentworth removing two-year old Walter Musgrove from Anne’s back; and in volume II, here we see Wentworth placing his heart-wrenching letter before Anne.
You can read the full text (in French) here: https://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/La_Famille_Elliot
The French texts of Austen’s novels, what Southam calls “travesties not translations,” (26) were modified to fit the tastes of the sentimental French reading public. In Persuasion, Montolieu changes the ending by restoring Anne to Kellynch rather than leaving the future of Capt. Wentworth and Anne dependent upon a lasting peace. (See Cossy, 176) One notable change (and why we might ask!), is that Anne’s name is changed to Alice!
The First Illustrated Edition in England:
Richard Bentley purchased the copyrights of Austen’s novels from Henry and Cassandra in 1832 (and the copyright of P&P from Thomas Egerton) and in 1832-33 he published all the novels in his Standard Novels series. These were the first English editions to carry illustrations – steel-engraved frontispieces and title page vignettes by William Greatbatch after George Pickering. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published in 1833 in a single volume together with the frontispiece from Northanger Abbey (Henry coming up the stairs surprising Catherine) and the title vignette from Persuasion showing a seated Anne overhearing Capt. Wentworth talking to Louisa Musgrove. All very Victorian!
The Timeframe of Persuasion:
Though Austen is often been criticized for creating an insular world with little commentary on outside real-life events, such thinking is belied with a close study of Persuasion, where one finds a very specific chronology easily linked to the historical reality of the time depicted.
– The first paragraph of Persuasion sets us into this timeframe with quoting the “Elliot of Kellynch Hall” entry from the Baronetage, the only work Sir Walter seems capable of reading, and where we learn the birth and death dates of everyone in the family – we learn that Anne was born on August 9, 1787 and a still-born son in 1789, and that Anne’s mother died in 1801.
– In chapter 4, we are given the very specific time that Capt.Wentworth stayed with his brother at Monkford for six months over the summer of 1806. This is the backstory of Persuasion, the current story often called a sequel to this original tale of love, all now told in four pages…
– The exact time of the action is set a few pages on in chapter 1: “…at the present time, (the summer of 1814)…,” and in chapter 3, a direct reference to the peace: “This peace will be turning all our rich Naval Officers ashore.” The Peace of Paris was signed on May 30, 1814, Napoleon abdicating and off to Elba. There were celebrations in London that Austen refers to in her letters:
Allied Sovereigns Attending a Review in Hyde Park June 1814
Duke of Wellington, King of Prussia, Prince Regent (later George IV), and Emperor of Russia
Austen writes Cassandra who is in London with Henry:
Take care of yourself, & do not be trampled to death in running after the Emperor. The report in Alton yesterday was that they certainly would certainly travel this road either to, or from Portsmouth. – I long to know what this Bow of the Prince’s will produce.- [Ltr 101, 14 June 1814]
– The Elliots travel to Bath sometime in mid-September, Anne goes to Uppercross Cottage, and on Michaelmas, September 29, the Crofts take over Kellynch.
– Captain Wentworth arrives in October; they all visit Lyme Regis in November (this is 17 miles from Uppercross). In January Lady Russell takes Anne to Bath (Mary’s letter to Anne in Bath is dated February 1815, this carried by the Crofts when they come to Bath for the Admiral’s health). Captain Wentworth follows not far behind, all is beautifully settled with Anne, and the novel ends in March of 1815.
– In the real world, Napoleon escapes Elba and returns to Paris by March 20, 1815 – this is after Persuasion ends, before Waterloo in June 1815, and why Austen ends the novel with the unknown state of the peace leaving Anne and her Captain in limbo. In truth, the Navy was not mobilized in the spring of 1815, and so we might rest comfortably in that reality of Wentworth not being returned to a Ship and War – and contemporary readers in late 1817 would have known that… but Austen chooses to emphasize that any such “peace” is likely not long-lasting, as we know all too well even today…
Austen’s personal knowledge of Bath, Lyme Regis and the Navy is paramount in Persuasion, but it is interesting to note regarding the Navy and pointed out by Brian Southam in his Jane Austen and the Navy, that not a single critic or commentator addresses her sailors and officers as a social class until Richard Simpson’s review of James Edward Austen Leigh’s 1870 Memoir in the North British Review of April 1870.
And one date in this novel that has always made me wonder: why does Austen have Charles and Mary Musgrove marry in 1810 on her very own birthday of December 16?? Any thoughts?? There is a long gap in the letters here: from July 26, 1809 to April 20, 1811, so we have no idea what was going on in Austen’s own life on that date in 1810 – we can only wonder that it was not some sort of code to her family of readers…
(For a complete calendar to the events in Persuasion see Ellen Moody’s post here: http://www.jimandellen.org/austen/persuasion.calendar.html
What did the earliest reviewers have to say?
The early reviews of the two-novel publication all make reference to the sadness of her death and, now finally identified to the public in Henry’s “Biographical Notice,” a general lament that no other works will come from her pen. I will give a quick summary here of the four earliest reviews as this is really a topic for another blog post entirely:
- British Critic, December 1817, an unsigned review: After commenting on the talents of Jane Austen, where “some of the best qualities of the best sort of novels display a degree of excellence that has not been often surpassed,” the writer goes on to summarize and highly praise Northanger Abbey. Persuasion is given short shrift with a concluding paragraph I quote in its entirety:
With respect to the second of the novels, it will be necessary to say but little. It is in every respect a much less fortunate performance than that which we have just been considering. It is manifestly the work of the same mind, and contains parts of very great merit; among them, however, we certainly should not number its moral, which seems to be, that young people should always marry according to their own inclinations and upon their own judgment; for that in consequence of listening to grave counsels, they defer their marriage, til they have wherewith to live upon, they will be laying the foundation for years of misery, such as only the heroes and heroines of novels can reasonably hope ever to see the end of. (quoted in Southam, Critical Heritage, v.1, 84)
- Edinburgh Magazine & Literary Miscellany, May 1818, an unsigned notice (Mary Waldron corrects the common error that this was in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine). The writer calls Austen an “amiable and agreeable authoress,” that she…
will be one of the most popular of English novelists” and “within a certain limited range, has attained the highest perfection of the art of novel writing…We think we are reading the history of people whom we have seen thousands of times – with much observation, much fine sense, much delicate humour, many pathetic touches, and throughout all her works, a most charitable view of human nature, and a tone of gentleness and purity.”
All ends with my favorite line of any critic: “…novels as they are, and filled with accounts of balls and plays, and such adbominations…” !
- Gentleman’s Magazine, July 1818, notice / obituary. Southam quotes these words on NA and P:
The two Novels now published have no connection with each other. The characters in both are principally taken from the middle ranks of lie, and are well supported. Northanger Abbey, however is decidedly preferable to the second Novel, not only in the incidents, but even in its moral tendency. (16)
- Quarterly Review, January 1821, unsigned review but attributed to Richard Whately, the Archbishop of Dublin.
Whately reviews all the novels, Austin [sic] for him a serious writer whose “moral lessons, though clearly and impressively conveyed, are not offensively put forward, but spring incidentally from the circumstances of the story…that unpretending kind of instruction which is furnished by real life…her fables nearly faultless.” After a humorous take on John Thorpe in Northanger Abbey as “the Bang-up Oxonian,” Whately concludes with an analysis of romantic love as portrayed in Persuasion, and calling it her most superior work, “one of the most elegant fictions of common life we ever remember to have met with.”
As Southam points out, none of these early critics and readers “were ready to accept her disconcerting account of the ways and values of their own society” and therefore failed to “identify the force and point of her satire.” (Southam, Critical Heritage, 18) Such was left to future generations!
And this great bulk of modern criticism and commentary continues to enlighten us – and does so right here on Sarah Emsley’s blog with an array of writers who will offer interesting and insightful ways to approach Persuasion – the journey starts this week – Check back and join the conversation!
- Austen, Jane. Jane Austen’s Letters. 4th ed. Ed. Deirdre Le Faye. Oxford UP, 2011.
- _____. The Novels of Jane Austen: the Text Based on Collation of the Early Editions. 3rd ed. Ed. R. W. Chapman. Vol. V, Northanger Abbey & Persuasion, Oxford, 1933. [with revisions] Introductory material
- _____. Persuasion. Ed. James Kinsley. Introd. Deidre Shauna Lynch. Oxford UP, 2008.
- Clery, E. J. Jane Austen: The Banker’s Sister. Biteback, 2017.
- Cossy, Valerie, and Diego Saglia. “Translations.” In Todd, 169-81.
- Gilson, David. A Bibliography of Jane Austen. Oak Knoll, 1997.
- Johnson, Claudia L., and Clara Tuite, ed. A Companion to Jane Austen. Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.
- Le Faye, Deirdre. Jane Austen: The World of her Novels. Frances Lincoln, 2002.
- Raven, James. “Book Production.” In Todd. 194-203.
- Southam, Brian. Jane Austen and the Navy. 2nd ed. National Maritime Museum, 2005.
- _____, ed. Jane Austen: The Critical Heritage, Vol. I, 1811-1870. Routledge, 1979.
- Sutherland, Kathryn. “Chronology of Composition and Publication.” In Todd, 12-22. (See also Sutherland’s Jane Austen’s Textual Lives. Oxford, 2005)
- Todd, Janet, ed. Jane Austen in Context. Cambridge, 2007. See essays cited separately.
- Waldron, Mary. “Critical Responses, Early.” In Todd, 83-91.
c2018, Jane Austen in Vermont
Today is Jane Austen’s birthday, and what better way to celebrate than to begin Sarah Emsley’s blog series on “ Youth and Experience: Northanger Abbey and Persuasion“ – a collection of essays by various scholars and Austen bloggers to be posted over the next several months – today starting here with a post on the very bumpy convoluted journey of Northanger Abbey into print. Austen would be 242; her Northanger Abbey and Persuasion joint publication will be 200 on December 2oth. Lots of reasons to celebrate!
As we begin this bicentennial celebration of the publication of Northanger Abbey (along with its companion Persuasion) we must first give full voice to how this publication came to be. And what we find are lots of questions, much scholarly debate on when Austen wrote it, when and how much she revised it, and why it sat around for so long before seeing the light of day. This publishing journey of NA is a fascinating story, pieced together by scholars from Austen’s letters, extant publisher records, and a good deal of speculation. And we still have a host of unanswered questions…
I did not read it until about 27 years ago; it was the one Austen book I had sought to avoid (all that bad PR)…when I first read it I was sorely disappointed and thought it silly, and Henry a condescending boor; I read it exactly one year later for a seminar, and found it quite funny, almost laugh-out-loud funny, and Henry quite charming. I read it again several years later and just enjoyed it thoroughly, finding more humor and more depth in every sentence; and now, after reading it a good number of times more, very close readings, even Underlining (I NEVER do this!), and re-reading sentences, looking up all references, etc., I have to say that I LOVE this book, there is so much in it, so very funny, so very serious in its lessons, and Henry is quite to die for! So many people I talked to about this book have said that they either have not read it, or didn’t like it when they did (I tell everyone that you must read it at least three times)…. and then there are the few that have read it and re-read it and find that this novel, really Austen’s tribute to the Novel and Reading (one must note that in addition to the nine “horrid” novels discussed by Isabella and Catherine, there are a total of twenty-two references to books: novels, histories, landscape sources, philosophy, Shakespeare, etc. ….!), is quite an amazing literary jewel! Indeed, it has four of my all-time favorite quotes:
When I have given talks on the publishing history of Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite editions to share is the little-known Pride and Prejudice edited by K. M. Metcalfe and published by Oxford University Press in 1912.
I first “discovered” this edition several years ago when reading an essay by Margaret Lane in her book Purely for Pleasure (London, 1966), a collection of biographical pieces that never quite made it into book form. In a chapter on R. W. Chapman, she writes of an edition of P&P published by Oxford in 1912, edited by K. M. Metcalfe – that is, Katharine Metcalfe, a young tutor at Oxford’s Somerville College [there is, for the trivia minded, a Lady Metcalfe in P&P!]. It was “a new, textually accurate edition of P&P” [Lane] – and included an introduction, an overview of Austen’s life and works; essays on social history, domestic life, and language in the Regency period; as well as criticism and textual notes. There are no illustrations…
At some point in 1912, Metcalfe met Chapman, he an editor at the Oxford University Press – by all accounts it was a whirlwind courtship – they shared a love of book collecting! – and they married in 1913. Metcalfe clearly introduced Chapman to Austen and they planned to jointly produce an edited complete works. All was cut short by the First World War in which Chapman served, and Metcalfe, now married with children (and thus required to give up her fellowship) “had little time or strength for editorial labours.” [Lane, 197]. Chapman’s Oxford set of the novels was published in 1923. But Metcalfe had also published her own Northanger Abbey four months earlier [see Gilson, E151, what Kathryn Sutherland calls “an unexplained oddity” in her Jane Austen’s Textual Lives (Oxford, 2005)[Sutherland, 43]. The interesting bit is that the text of her own P&P edition (as well as her Northanger Abbey) was used for Chapman’s edition – same pagination, etc. – yet he does not mention her anywhere. In his 1948 Jane Austen: Facts and Problems he pens grateful acknowledgments to those critics…, etc., etc. and “my wife” in his preface.
[photo courtesy of J Barchas]
In Chapman’s Jane Austen: A Critical Bibliography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1953), again there is no mention of Metcalfe, but he annotates her 1912 edition of P&P thusly:
“This unassuming edition is equipped with a perceptive introduction and notes, and anticipates the textual rigours of the next item.” [Chapman, 6]
That next item is his 1923 edition of the novels! – which takes up a full page of annotation!
And he makes no mention at all of her 1923 Northanger Abbey!
Sutherland believes that Metcalfe essentially provided the model for Chapman’s editions – and she wonders at his public silence – I wonder what went on at their dinner table!! In studying Chapman’s papers, Sutherland does find that Metcalfe continued to work on editing the novels – there is a note in the margin of the Mansfield Park work in progress: “I want, oh so badly, to do it at least once with you.” [Sutherland, 44].
Don’t’ ever say that bibliography isn’t interesting!! – there is a novel in there somewhere!
So I have long had lingering questions – there has to be more to this story than just these few references in scholarly texts – who was she? what did she look like? how did Chapman seem to take over her earlier editing work? what really was Metcalfe’s influence on Chapman in the making of his great Oxford edition of Austen’s works, and what were her feelings about being surpassed as Austen’s editor, and barely referenced by her own husband for the work she did do.
Well, thanks to the diligent scholarly detective work of Janine Barchas, Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin, and three years in the making, my questions, and yours, have finally been answered! Her essay has just been published online in The Review of English Studies: you will need access to their database – it will be in print in the next issue. [ link: https://academic.oup.com/res/article-abstract/doi/10.1093/res/hgw149/2999313/Why-K-M-Metcalfe-Mrs-Chapman-is-Really-the?redirectedFrom=fulltext ]
Finding many letters and notes in both the Chapman and Metcalfe papers at Chawton and the Bodleian, Barchas traces the complete history of Metcalfe’s editing and her hand in the subsequent work by Chapman.
Barchas found her own copy of this edition in an Australian bookstore – it is a presentation copy with Metcalfe’s inscription to her Uncle Hugh, sure proof of pride in her creation:
Presentation copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, edited by K. M. Metcalfe and inscribed by her to ‘Uncle Hugh’ (Oxford, 1912). Photo courtesy of J Barchas
At Chawton, Barchas discovers a letter addressed to the founder of the Chawton Cottage Museum (now the Jane Austen House Museum) where Metcalfe states “I was really the originator in the editing of Jane Austen (when I married my publisher in the process!)” (Letter to T. Edward Carpenter, 22 May 1954) [Barchas, 12].
Ferreting out the documented facts of the Metcalfe / Chapman collaboration, Barchas conveys the truth of the times:
“The mundane facts of the case may be sexist but it would be naïve and anachronistic to think these professional restraints surprising in historical context. Here is not a grand conspiracy but a commonplace wrong. Plenty of parallel examples exist in the history of editing where a woman’s scholarship became merely contributory to that of her male partner…” [Barchas, 7]
Find this essay however you can – it is brilliant in its recovery work of the woman who, long before Chapman, saw the importance of returning to Austen’s original editions to truly give the modern reader a pure printing of her work.
Katharine Marion Metcalfe, 1912. Photo was provided by the Chapman family for use in the RES article by J Barchas. This detail is used with her permission here.
I treasure my copy of Metcalfe’s Pride and Prejudice, despite a fair amount of writing and it smells a tad off (!), but I am very happy to own it, flaws and all! The introduction is a lovely meditation on Jane Austen and should be more readily available. Find this as well if and where you can. Hopefully the work now done by Professor Barchas might induce a publisher to issue an edition with Metcalfe’s insightful introduction. It should certainly stand proudly aside and before any of Chapman’s works.
About the author: Janine Barchas is Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity (Johns Hopkins University Press, August 2012). Her first book, Graphic Design, Print Culture, and the Eighteenth-Century Novel (Cambridge UP, 2003), won the SHARP book prize for best work in the field of book history. You can visit (and spend hours browsing!) her online digital project What Jane Saw (www.whatjanesaw.org) which includes the gallery of the British Institution that Jane Austen visited on May 24, 1813 and the “Shakespeare Gallery of 1796.” Barchas, along with colleague Kristina Straub, recently curated an exhibition at the Folger on Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity. (You can read more about that exhibition here.)
c2017, Jane Austen in Vermont
Gentle Readers: Today I welcome Tony Grant as he writes about his visit this week to the “EMMA 200” exhibit at Chawton House Library, he being my feet on the ground so to speak as I am woefully not able to be there myself. Hope those of you who are able to go will do so – and send me pictures and your thoughts when you do!
[Update: please read Tony Grant’s post about walking around Chawton at the “Jane Austen’s World” Blog]
EMMA 200: English Village to Global Appeal
(Chawton House Library 21st March – 25th September 2016)
On Wednesday 20th April I drove from Wimbledon to Chawton in Hampshire over the Hogs Back with views stretching across Surrey into the distance. It was a bright sunny day and seeing the Surrey countryside green and pleasant and shining in the bright sunshine under blue skies was appropriate for my adventure. I was driving to Chawton House Library to visit the “Emma 200 exhibition.” Emma is Jane Austen’s Surrey novel and this year is the 200th anniversary of its publication and it is entirely set within that county.
Emma was published by John Murray II of Albemarle Street on the 23rd December 1815, although its title page reads 1816. This exhibition has items from Chawton House’s own collection and from the Knight family collection, as well as other items on loan. The exhibition covers the reception of Emma through the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty first centuries; it also considers the country setting of the novel and the places that were possible influences. It covers the global appeal of Emma. It has a large section about John Murray II and nineteenth century publishing practices through letters and comments made by Jane herself and fellow authoresses also published by Murray. It highlights authors mentioned in the novel and nineteenth century ideas about female accomplishments such as music, embroidery and painting. It shows the connection with Shakespeare and has a section about the reception of the novel. In particular, there is a letter written by Charlotte Bronte to her own publisher, W.S. Williams, discussing her thoughts about Emma and Jane Austen as a writer.
I arrived at the electronically operated gates early. The house opens at 1.30pm Monday to Friday. I was there promptly at 1.10pm. I decided to have a look around and inside of St Nicholas Church nearby, which is Chawton’s parish church and where Jane Austen and her family worshipped. The church we see today is not the church Jane knew. There was a fire sometime after Jane’s death and it had to be rebuilt, though some of the structure from the church that Jane knew remains. I read the memorials to the Austens and Knights within and then went round to the back of the church through an arbor of dark and gloomy ancient yew trees to see the side-by-side graves of Austen’s sister, Cassandra Elizabeth Austen, and mother, Cassandra Austen.
It was such a nice day and I still had about ten minutes left so I sat on a stone bollard near the entrance gate and watched a gentleman sitting on a motor mower mowing the grass verges along the drive. As I sat there I noticed a smartly dressed lady leaving the front entrance of the great house with a dog on a lead. She approached the gate and opened it, placing a notice board on a stand giving the times and prices of entry. I asked jokingly if this meant I can go in. I pointed out it was still ten minutes to half past. She laughed and said by the time I walked up the driveway I should arrive at the door on time. “Just knock and they will let you in,” she told me. I knocked on the door with five minutes to and it was immediately opened by a smiling lady who ushered me in. The house is staffed by volunteers except in the kitchens where the official housekeeper keeps her domain but more about that nice lady later. I found everybody so enthusiastic and full of smiles and really, extremely welcoming. I paid my entrance fee and one lady took me into the great hall on the left of the entrance and showed me a map of the house with the route marked by numbered rooms. It is a self-guided tour so I was given the map to hold as I went round. There are volunteers in every room who you can talk to and ask information of.
The exhibition began in the great hall. A glass case displays some first editions dated 1816. There was an edition in French as well as one published by Mathew Carey a publisher in Philadelphia. Somehow Carey had read Sir Walter Scott’s review of Emma and obviously liked it. He sold his version at a much cheaper price than John Murray’s London version. He produced a card backed version printed on cheap paper for $2. Murray’s London version, which was a much better quality, was twice the price. Very few American first editions have survived as a consequence of the poorer quality and the copy in this exhibition shows signs of much yellowing of the paper and black mold spots. It looks an inferior book to both the French and English versions. I felt honoured to able to lean over the glass case and read the opening few lines of the Murray edition.
“Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence:…”
There were no such things as copyright laws in those days and both the French and American versions, probably unknown to Jane Austen, brought her no income. Later in the nineteenth century Dickens went over to America and tried to do something about copyright laws in America but to no avail and to his great consternation. The fact that copies of Emma were being published abroad within the first year of its initial publication in England tells us something about publishing and the book trade at the time. Money could be made from books.
John Murray II was the head of the foremost publishing company in Britain. He was a hard headed business man and if he could get an advantage, especially, it seems over the authors he published he would. I think Jane Austen had the measure of him. Her brother Henry who had dealt with publishers for Jane initially became ill and Jane took over negotiations with Murray herself. She was very direct and firm in her dealings. She said of Murray, “He is a Rogue, but a civil one.” In corresponding with Murray over the publication of Emma, for instance, on 3rd of November 1815, a month before the publication of Emma, she writes,
“…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 than much writing.”
It sounds as though Murray has been given his marching orders and she isn’t going to have any truck with being messed about. She is firm but polite with the “Rogue.” She knows the power of a face to face encounter. Some of her contemporaries were perhaps not quite so strong with Murray but learned a lesson.
One of the exhibits on display, putting Jane Austen’s publishing experiences with Murray in context, is a book called Domestic Cookery, published by Murray in 1806. It was very popular and made a lot of sales and presumably a lot of money for Murray. It was written by Maria Rundell. Rundell had been paid £150 by Murray. She regarded Murray as a friend but she was not aware at first that her book had become such a bestseller. When she found out she felt that Murray was not upholding the copyright agreement he had with her. Eventually Murray paid her £2100 but kept the right to continue publishing the book himself. Jane Austen’s comments about him being “a rogue but a civil one” come to mind. Murray was obviously a very astute business man and could make money from trouble.
Another exhibit displays copies of books written by the French authoress, Germaine de Stael. She wrote books about Rousseau, Revolutionary Politics and Marie Antoinette’s trial. She was virtually banned by Napoleon Bonaparte. He had her book, De L’Allemagne pulped. Murray saw a chance. He took her on. In 1813 he used three printers to publish the French original and English translations simultaneously. He relied on anti-French feelings to make Stael’s books best sellers.
Jane Austen had her critics who made both good and not so good comments about her work. She took notice of what people said about her books and noted down these various opinions. Sir Walter Scott, her illustrious contemporary, who was also published by John Murray, wrote of Emma,
“We bestow no mean compliment on the author of Emma, when we say that keeping close to common incidents, and to such characters that occupy the ordinary walks of life, she has produced sketches of such spirit and originality that we never miss the excitation which depends upon a narrative of uncommon events, arising from the consideration of minds, manners and sentiments greatly above our own.”
It appears that Murray regularly sent copies of newly published books to other writers he published for their comments. This can be seen as eliciting positive comments from people who wanted to keep in with Murray. Jane Austen mentions in her letters to Murray how thankful she is for the copy of Waterloo he sent her to read and actually asks him if he has any more she can have a look at. This suggests she knows how to play the publishing game. She is as astute as Murray himself it seems. In one way Scott’s positive comments could be read as keeping in with Murray. If Murray and his publishing house does well and sells lots of books it can only benefit himself after all, but there is more to Scott’s review. I think he has recognized what is original in her writing. She is a realist. Her style is about everyday common occurrences and everyday people and she makes them heroic. People reading Jane Austen can see themselves and people they know in her writing. It is said that reading a novel is good emotional and psychological therapy, and Austen hit a powerful vein.
The highlight of the whole exhibition for me, even more so than seeing and reading a first edition, is the actual letter Charlotte Bronte wrote to her publisher, W.S. Williams, on April 12, 1850, in which she writes a lengthy paragraph about her thoughts on Jane Austen and Emma. I found it easy to read Bronte’s small, thin, precise handwriting that flows clearly across the page.
“I have likewise read one of Miss Austen’s works—Emma—read it with interest and with just the degree of admiration which Miss Austen herself would have thought sensible and suitable. Anything like warmth or enthusiasm—anything energetic, poignant, heart-felt is utterly out of place in commending these works: all such demonstration the authoress would have met with a well-bred sneer, would have calmly scorned as outré and extravagant. She does her business of delineating the surface of the lives of genteel English people curiously well. There is a Chinese fidelity, a miniature delicacy in the painting. She ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound. The passions are perfectly unknown to her; she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy sisterhood…”
“What sees keenly, speaks aptly, moves flexibly, it suits her to study; but what throbs fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through, what is the unseen seat of life and the sentient target of death—this Miss Austen ignores. “
And she goes on. Charlotte Bronte is actually agreeing with Scott’s comments when he describes her writing as
“……close to common incidents, and to such characters that occupy the ordinary walks of life”
The difference is that Scott makes his view a positive while Bronte makes her view a negative. I agree with what she says. Austen writes about the ordinary. Bronte on the other hand and her sisters wrote about,
“what throbs fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through, what is the unseen seat of life and the sentient target of death”
Charlotte Bronte is actually describing the differences between their two styles. I have read articles published on some blogs where the writer tries to pit Charlotte Bronte against Jane Austen. Who do you like the best? Who do you think is the better writer? And so on. These are a childish approach to comparing two great writers. Two geniuses. Their styles are different. Every one of us reads different types of books for different reasons at different times to fit, very often , our different moods. We can read a poem by Wordsworth one day and on other days a romantic comedy, a ghost story, a swashbuckling adventure, a horror story or maybe a present day thriller. We can enjoy each genre for what it is and what it brings to us. Austen and Bronte are not enemies, they are not one better than the other. They are different and we can enjoy both. I can imagine how Bronte could be critical. She had a harder life than Jane Austen. Her novels and those of her sisters, were full of passion and deep feelings and filled with great moral uncertainties testing the moral status quo to the limit. Their ideas made their lives worth living and helped them live their short lives with feeling. Jane Austen had a much easier existence. I can see how Charlotte Bronte might not understand Austen’s standpoint. She probably could not bear to live the way Austen’s characters are portrayed. However, we can love them both.
The exhibition demonstrates many of the influences Jane Austen might have used in her writing of Emma. There is the suggestion, for instance, that the fictional places Highbury and Hartfield in Emma are modelled on Chawton and the local town Alton. These are in Hampshire but the novel is set in Surrey. Others I know would not agree. Some say Leatherhead in Surrey, which is near Box Hill, a major location in the book. Others suggest Highbury is a generic English village, and I think this more likely.
In Emma Jane Fairfax plays a tune called “Robin Adair” on the newly arrived pianoforte. There is on display a copy of “Binder’s volume of printed keyboard and harp music, 1780-1815,” annotated and autographed by Jane’s sister Cassandra. It includes the music to “Robin Adair.” [Ed. You can read this online here: https://archive.org/details/austen1677439-2001 ]
There is a bound set of The Ladies Magazine (1770-1832) which provides sewing patterns for young ladies. It is the sort of magazine that Jane Austen had access too. In Emma, sewing and painting are pastimes for young ladies.
A final display cabinet shows the influences that Emma has had on culture over the centuries. There are various spin-off novels, including the latest modern version of Emma written by Alexander McCall Smith. There are play scripts written by various playwrights turning Emma into a stage version. These include plays by Gordon Glennan and Marion MacKaye. There are a number of radio adaptations. One read by Prunella Scales, another by Jeremy Northam. There are the film versions and the films influenced by Emma such as Clueless set in modern times. Spin-off novels are represented by a copy of the latest Stephanie Barron mystery The Waterloo Map. [Ed. Note that this latest Barron mystery has Jane visiting Carlton House where she meets with the Prince Regent’s Librarian – this all really took place on 13 November 1815; he “suggests” that she dedicate her newest book, Emma, to the Prince Regent – Barron has her also coming upon a dead body in the Library…]
The exhibition is definitely worth seeing and just as much is the opportunity to walk around Chawton House where Jane Austen herself and her family lived and breathed. I also took the opportunity to take a walk in the gardens. I came across a snake lying across my path as I walked up to the walled gardens. I must tell you that in all my life I only recall seeing two other snakes in Britain in the wild. This was a grass snake and was totally harmless. The adder is the only poisonous snake in Britain and they are very shy creatures. I think I saw one once in the New Forest.
The people who volunteer at Chawton are wonderful. They want to talk to you and tell you things. I had a very amusing moment with an elderly gentleman volunteer at the top of the great staircase. He was sitting on the landing. When I approached he showed me an information leaflet and we discussed its contents. One thing it mentioned was the original William Morris wallpaper. I looked around and couldn’t see any. “Well, then where’s the wallpaper?” I joked. He laughed and said “come with me.” We walked half way down the staircase and then turned and got on our hands and knees. There indeed, almost hidden behind the balustrade, was a patch of darkened William Morris print. He also kindly showed me the large 1714 map of London displayed on the folding panels of a screen.
We found Henrietta Street and other places associated with Jane Austen when she visited London. Then I went into the old kitchen which is used as a shop and cafe and met a lovely lady who told me she was the housekeeper. I had a delicious chocolate cake and a cup of coffee. All together I had a wonderful visit to the “Emma 200 exhibition.”
- Chawton House Library: http://www.chawtonhouse.org/
- Emma at 200 Exhibition: http://www.chawtonhouse.org/?p=60916
- CHL podcast on the exhibition: http://www.chawtonhouse.org/?p=61374
- Review at the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies website: https://www.bsecs.org.uk/criticks-reviews/emma-at-200-from-english-village-to-global-appeal/
- Review at the Austenised blog: http://austenised.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/the-highlights-of-emma-200-from-english.html
- Emma‘s Publishing History at JAIV: https://janeausteninvermont.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/the-publishing-history-of-jane-austens-emma/
- “Emma in the Snow at Sarah Emsley”: https://sarahemsley.com/emma-in-the-snow/
[All photographs c2016 Tony Grant unless otherwise indicated]
c2016 Jane Austen in Vermont
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!
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]
- 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.
A 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…”
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 quite 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.”
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, 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:
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)]
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…
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
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
[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.
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.”
“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!)
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.”)
December 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:
…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:
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):
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.
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!
THE PRINCE REGENT,
THIS WORK IS,
BY HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS’S PERMISSION,
BY HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS’S
Here is how it looks in the 1816 American edition of Emma, the same as it did in the London 1st edition:
(Goucher College website)
I repeat here the advertisements for Emma’s publication:
- Mid-November 1815, Murray includes Emma in his list of publications in the press and “nearly ready for publication”
- The Morning Post (Dec 2, 1815): “in a few days will be published…EMMA, a novel”
- The Morning Post (Dec 6, 1815): repeated the above
- 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).
- The Morning Chronicle (Dec 21, 1815): Emma to be published “on Saturday next”
- The Morning Chronicle (Dec 22, 1815): Emma to be published “Tomorrow”
- The Morning Chronicle (Dec 23, 1815): Emma “PUBLISHED THIS DAY”
- 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
- Published anonymously “By the Author of ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ etc, etc”
- 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.
- Printers: C. Roworth (vols. 1 and 2); J. Moyes (vol. 3)
- Binding: grey-brown paper boards and spine, or blue-grey boards and grey-brown, grey-blue or off-white spine
A 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:
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
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.
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…
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:
CE Brock, Emma (Dent, 1898) – Mollands
Hugh Thomson, Emma (Macmillan, 1896) – British Library
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!
- The Backstory of publishing Emma
- Emma’s Christmas Eve
- Emma‘s illustrators