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Jane Austen Waxwork now in Bath England

Jane Austen WaxworkThe Amazing Jane Austen Waxwork at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath

Although not breaking news, we thought you’d be interested in this article about the Jane Austen Waxwork which has appeared in Wikipedia.

It contains lots of background info on the waxwork creation and the development of the original portrait by Melissa Dring.

For the full article in Wikipedia press here

Based upon the 2002 portrait, the wax figure’s creation was undertaken by the internationally-renowned portrait sculptor Mark Richards, who had previously created busts of Eric Cantona and Sir Arthur Marshall, as well as a full-life bronze of The Queen and Prince Philip. He was also responsible for designing the 2011 Royal Wedding five pound coin. During the three year process it took to create the Jane Austen figure, Richards worked closely with Melissa Dring, along with hair and color artist Nell Clarke, formerly of Madame Tussaud’s, and BAFTA award-winning designer Andrea Galer. The latter, dressing the completed figure in authentic period costume.

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Real Reads: Jane Austen’s Novels

‘These lively, attractive little volumes are ideal. Charmingly presented and skilfully written, they capture the flavour and tone of Jane Austen’s peerless craft while simplifying the narrative and dialogue. Even as a purist, I think these Real Reads are a Real Help for the younger, novice reader.”
Josephine Ross, author of Jane Austen: A Companion

When my daughter was young, we began a tradition of “Girlie Movie Nights” (when Daddy was away), trimming bonnets, watching Jane Austen films and eating chocolate (if you ask her today, she’ll still insist with solemn assurance that “chocolate is good for girls”.) Once she began to read fluently, I looked for a way to share the same stories with her in a form she could read for herself.


I considered the popular “illustrated classics” series, but found the illustrations a bit dated. I was, therefore, completely delighted when I discovered Real Reads, a series that focuses on classic literature, retelling it in a simplified way, easy for children to understand and yet maintaining the tone of the original. In each book, be it Austen, Dickens, Shakespeare or some other “classic”, the authors (in this case Gill Tavner) condense the story and “extras” into 64 full color pages. Each book is lavishly illustrated (the Austen books are drawn by Ann Kronheimer) in a fun, watercolor style.  Naturally, I purchased all six Austen titles!
Continue reading Real Reads: Jane Austen’s Novels

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An Introduction to Jane Austen Sequels

By Laurel Ann Nattress

In the Beginning

We know that Jane amused her family with the future life of her characters from her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh’s biography Jane Austen: A Memoir (1870):

“She would, if asked, tell us many little particulars about the subsequent career of some of her people. In this traditionary way we learned that Miss Steele never succeeded in catching the Doctor; that Kitty Bennet was satisfactorily married to a clergyman near Pemberley, while Mary obtained nothing higher than one of her uncle Philips’ clerks, and was content to be considered a star in the society of Meriton; that the “considerable sum”’ given by Mrs. Norris to William Price was one pound; that Mr. Woodhouse survived his daughter’s marriage, and kept her and Mr. Knightley from settling at Donwell, about two years; and that the letters placed by Frank Churchill before Jane Fairfax, which she swept away unread, contained the word “pardon”. Of the good people in Northanger Abbey and Persuasion we know nothing more than what is written: for before those works were published their author had been taken away from us, and all such amusing communications had ceased for ever.”

Family Efforts:
As early as the 1850’s Jane Austen’s family attempted to complete her unfinished works. Some succeeded. Others did not.

Austen’s niece Catherine Anne Hubback (1818-1877), the daughter of her brother Frank, published The Younger Sister: A Novel (T. C. Newby) in 1850. It was based on Austen’s unfinished story The Watsons. Technically, it is the first published Austen sequel in the para-literature genre. It is classified as a completion.  In the 1860’s, another Austen niece, Anna Lefroy, was the first to attempt completing Sanditon, Austen’s last unfinished work written in 1817 when she was in failing health. Lefroy did not finish her task. Can you blame her? The shadow of her aunt must have been very imposing indeed.

New Friend and Old Fanices by Sybil Brinton (2007)

The First Sequel:
The first sequel written as an entirely new manuscript was Sybil G. Brinton’s 1913 Old Friends and New Fancies. It is a clever combination of characters from each of Austen’s six major novels worked into Brinton’s own unique plot. Brinton wrote her novel not knowing that she was starting a whole new sub-genre in fiction that would not see fruition for another eighty years. Imagine a book buyer’s surprise when they happened upon the title? It must have seemed fantastical. Interestingly, the author sensed her reader’s puzzlement and attempted to forestall reproof, offering this prefatory note in the beginning of the book, a ‘little attempt at picturing the after-adventures of some of Austen’s characters’, based upon ‘the references to them which she herself made, and which are recorded in Mr. Austen-Leigh’s “Memoir.”’ One can only look back at her adventurous spirit in amazement.  

The Next Generation – 1914-1995:
As new authors were moved to write Austen-inspired sequels, and more Austen family members took up the banner, the output remained slim but the genre was still flourished.

In the late 1920’s, one of the earlier authors to put pen to paper was another Hubback niece. Mrs. Francis Brown was Jane Austen’s great grandniece. Born Edith Charlotte Hubback (1876-1947), she was the granddaughter of Catherine Ann Hubback (daughter of Austen’s brother Frank) who wrote The Younger Sister: A Novel in 1850. Mrs. Brown would write a completion of The Watsons (Elkin Mathews & Marrot Ltd., 1928), and two original novels Margaret Dashwood, or Interference (The Bodly Head, Ltd., 1929) and Susan Price, or Resolution (Bodly Head, Ltd., 1930).

Pemberley Shades, by D. A. Boniva-Hunt (2008)The honor of the first Pride and Prejudice sequel would go to D. A. Bonavia-Hunt’s Pemberley Shades (Allan Wingate, 1949). Continuing Jane Austen’s famous story after the marriage of her hero Mr. Darcy and heroine Elizabeth Bennet, Bonavia-Hunt’s novel would be the precursor of many to come, remaining an amazingly fresh accomplishment today! Another significant contribution arrived twenty-five years later. Sanditon, by Another Lady (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1975) is a continuation of Jane Austen’s last unfinished work. It includes all 12 chapters of the original manuscript of Sanditon and the author Marie Dobbs, aka Anne Telscombe’s vision of how Austen might have completed it. After thirty-five years it remains a stand-out.

Pemberley or Pride and Prejudice Continues, by Emma Tennant (1994)Only a few dozen more sequels were published until the mid-1990’s, when both Joan Aiken and Emma Tennant contributed the strongest impact to the genre by authoring a series of sequels: Mansfield Revisited: A Novel (Doubleday & Co., 1984); Jane Fairfax: A Novel to Complement Emma (Gollancz, 1990); and Eliza’s Daughter: Sequel to Sense and Sensibility (St. Martin’s Press, 1994) for Aiken and Pemberley: Or Pride and Prejudice Continued (St. Martin’s Press, 1993); and An Unequal Marriage: Or Pride and Prejudice Twenty Years Later (St. Martin’s Press, 1994) for Tennant. They were light amusements that puzzled Austen purists, and piqued the more adventuresome of Austen fans. The genre had evolved in numbers and readership, but it was not quite as widely known and accepted as it could be.

The Bar Sinister by Linda Berdoll (1999)The Wet Shirt Darcy Explosion – 1995-
Interest remained strong by the public but guarded by publishers who feared that the market could not support more than a few authors in the genre. And then it all changed when the BBC aired a new five-hour mini-series Pride and Prejudice in the UK in 1995. Screenwriter Andrew Davies had given Austen’s classic story a more energized and sexy interpretation, including a provocative plunge by hero Mr. Darcy into the Pemberley pond. The image of the dripping wet-shirt Darcy was now etched in popular culture, escalating Austen and actor Colin Firth in to mega-star status.

Looking back, it is no surprise that most of the sequels written after the airing of the P&P mini-series were inspired by its characters, especially the hero Mr. Darcy. Darcy’s Story from Pride and Prejudice, by Janet Aylmer (1996); The Diary of Henry Fitzwilliam Darcy, by Marjorie Fasman (1997); Desire and Duty, by Ted and Marilyn Bader (1997); The Pemberley Chronicles, by Rebecca Ann Collins (1999); Letters from Pemberley, by Jane Dawkins (1999); Bar Sinister, by Linda Berdol (1999); and Mrs. Darcy’s Dilemma, by Diana Birchall (2001) were some of the early offshoots. Even though it has been over fifteen years since the mini-series of Pride and Prejudice aired in 1995, the character of Mr. Darcy is without a doubt the most inspiring to fan fiction writers today. A quick search at brought up over 570 titles with his name it in!

Searching for Captain Wentworth Jane Odiwe (2012 )In the past two years there has been a small shift to sequels written after other novels.  Jane Austen’s final novel Persuasion appears the runner up of her favorites with fans, so it seemed a logical choice of inspiration. Author Laura Hile has written a trilogy after the secondary character Elizabeth Elliott. Mercy’s Embrace: Elizabeth Elliot’s Story Book 1- So Rough a Course (2009) starts the series off brilliantly. Another recent addition is by the talented author Jane Odiwe is Searching for Captain Wentworth (2012).

Austenesque Fiction:
Jane Austen sequels, or Austenesque fiction, are now their own niche-genre in publishing. There are now hundreds of Austenesque novels inspired by our favorite author, her characters, her philosophies on life and love, and her world available today — and even more in the queue. Here at Austenprose, you will find many of them previewed, reviewed and author interviews for your edification and enjoyment.

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


A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the editor of the short story anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and, a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington where it rains a lot. Visit Laurel Ann at her blog Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.

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Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, read by Emilia Fox

A review by Laurel Ann Nattress

One is humbled to review a book considered a classic of world literature. What could I possibly say about Pride and Prejudice that has not been scrutinized by scholars, exalted by enthusiasts, or bemoaned by students who have been forced to read it and just don’t get what all the fuss is about? Plenty—and that is one of its enduring charms. It is so many things to different people. After repeated readings I still laugh out loud at Austen’s dry wit, wily social commentary and satisfying love story. It often tops international polls as the “the most loved” or “favorite book” of all time; numerous stage and screen adaptations continue to remind us of its incredible draw to the modern audience; and its hero and heroine, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, may be the most famous romantic couple short of Romeo and Juliet. High praise, indeed, for a novel written almost two hundred years ago by a country clergyman’s daughter, home schooled by her father, and un-exalted in her lifetime.

Set in the early nineteenth-century country village of Longbourn in Hertfordshire, the story revolves around the Bennet family and their five unmarried daughters. They are the first family of consequence in the village. Unfortunately, the Bennet estate is entailed to a male heir, a cousin, Mr. William Collins. This is distressful to Mrs. Bennet who knows that she must find husbands for her daughters or they shall all be destitute if her husband should die. Mr. Bennet is not as concerned and spends his time in his library away from his wife’s idle chatter and social maneuvering. Elizabeth, the spirited and confident second daughter is determined to only to marry for love. She teases her beautiful and kind elder sister Jane that she must be the one to catch a wealthy husband to support them all. The three younger sisters: Mary, Catherine and Lydia, hinder their elder sisters chance for a good match by inappropriate and unguarded behavior.

When Mr. Bingley, a single man of large fortune, moves into the neighborhood with his fashionable sisters he attends the local assembly ball and is immediately taken with the angelic Jane Bennet. His friend Mr. Darcy is even richer with a great estate in Derbyshire, but he is proud and arrogant giving offense to all, including Elizabeth when he refuses to dance with her. She overhears him tell Bingley that she was only tolerable and not handsome enough to tempt him. This amuses and annoys her enough to repeat it to her friends and family. The whole community declares him the most disagreeable man, eaten up with pride.

And thus the famous love story begins. How Mr. Darcy’s pride will be humbled and Elizabeth’s prejudices dissolved is one of the greatest stories of all time. Austen’s astute characterizations and clever plotting never cease to amaze. Society has changed in two hundred years, but human nature—foibles and all—remain constant, much to our amusement and delight.

Naxos Audiobooks presents us with a professionally produced and finely crafted jewel in this audio recording of Pride and Prejudice. Narrated by British actress Emilia Fox, viewers of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini-series starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle will remember her fine performance as shy Georgiana Darcy and be pleasantly surprised by her vocal range and emotional depth in characterization. I particularly appreciated her interpretation of Mrs. Bennet’s frazzled anxiety and Lady Catherine de Bourgh imperious resolve. Listeners will enjoy all thirteen hours of this unabridged recording honoring one of the greatest novels ever written and want to seek out the other six Austen novels that they have also recorded in audio format.

Naxos Audiobooks USA, (2005)
Unabridged, 11 CD’s (13 h 02 m)
ISBN: 978-9626343562

A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the editor of the short story anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It, and, a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington where it rains a lot. Visit Laurel Ann at her blog Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.


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The Jane Austen Guide to Life, by Lori Smith

the jane austen guide to lifeA review by Laurel Ann Nattress

If you could be swept back in time two hundred years ago to have a cup of tea with Jane Austen, what would you ask her? Any question. No bars held. If I had the courage, I might ask her how did she become so wise in the ways of human nature and love? Or, did she intend to craft stories to entertain, or to enlighten?

Since time-travel has yet to be invented, we can only surmise how Austen would have replied. Yet, for centuries she has been speaking to readers in an intimate way without many of us realizing it. In The Jane Austen Guide to Life, author Lori Smith decodes Austen’s philosophy on life and love by combing through her novels and personal correspondence for lessons relevant for the modern woman. Is Jane Austen the relationship coach that we should all be learning from? Smith thinks so and has carefully selected key topics that we can contemplate and learn from such as: Living Your Dreams; Pursuing Passion; Marrying Well; Cherishing Family and Friends; Enduring the Hardest Things; and the final chapter Austen’s Ethos. You might say this is a self-help book applying the principals and morals that Austen used in writing her fictional characters translated into the nonfiction world. In the introduction, Smith sums it up very nicely…

“This book mines Jane’s life and her stories for the lessons she would teach us if she could. Thankfully, through her writing, she can and does speak today.” p. xi

I never feel more like Lydia Bennet than when someone recommends a self-help book to me. Remember in Pride and Prejudice when Mr. Collins reads from Fordyce’s Sermons and she gaped in horror? I can totally relate. I deplore being preached to and am quite the skeptic. Even though I opened this book with grave trepidation, I was soon won over by the author’s knowledge of Jane Austen and her upbeat, approachable style. Each chapter is well researched offering topics and examples from the novels that modern readers can relate to. My favorite chapter was the last: Austen’s Ethos.

“As I’ve written about Austen, several themes continue to come back to me. They’ve surfaced throughout the book, but, at the risk of redundancy, may bear repeating, because in so many ways I think they capture her heart. They were lessons her heroines knew, or came to know through the course of the stories, and may in fact be the central, overarching lessons that she would want to pass on to us today. They’re also lessons that, because of two centuries that separate us from Austen, we may be less likely to take away from her light stories.” p. 197

I will leave you dangling in suspense with that tempting nugget of knowledge yet to be revealed. After reading The Jane Austen Guide to Life I understand more fully why I have been so attracted to Austen’s writing since first reading Pride and Prejudice over thirty years ago. I had the privilege of reading an early advance copy and wholeheartedly can attest that this engaging book, part biography and part self-help guide, it is all heart. Janeites will embrace its common sense and insights into their favorite author, and everyone else should buy it for their daughters and best friends.

List Price: £12.18
Globe Pequot Press (2012)
Hardcover (224) pages
ISBN: 978-0762773817

A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the author/editor of a blog devoted to the oeuvre of her favorite author and the many books and movies that she has inspired. She is a life member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, a regular contributor to the PBS blog Remotely Connected and the Jane Austen Centre online magazine. Classically trained as a landscape designer at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, she has also worked in marketing for a Grand Opera company and at present she delights in introducing neophytes to the charms of Miss Austen’s prose as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble. An expatriate of southern California, Laurel Ann lives in a country cottage near Snohomish, Washington where it rains a lot. Visit Laurel Ann at her blog Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog, on Twitter as @Austenprose, and on Facebook as Laurel Ann Nattress.


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Sense and Sensibility: The Bicentenary Edition

“I am never too busy to think of S. and S. I can no more forget it than a mother can forget her sucking child. . .”
Jane Austen to Cassandra, 1811

When Girlebooks decided to publish a bicentenary edition of Sense and Sensibility, they were faced with the dilemma of how to make it “different”. Sure there were fewer ebook copies on the market than hardbound, but even a cursory search on offers over 2,000 Sense and Sensibility listings. How could they stand out in such a crowd?

Enter the combined creative talents of Margaret C. Sullivan and Cassandra Chouinard. Sullivan, no novice to the historical world of Jane Austen (she is the author of The Jane Austen Handbook) first collaborated with Chouinard when writing There Must be Murder, a sequel to Austen’s Northanger Abbey, set in Regency Bath. Laura McDonald, founder of Girlebooks, had recently prepared There Must be Murder for ebook publication and knew that Ms. Sullivan’s meticulous research abilities and smart, fun style were a “matchless match” with Ms Chouinard’s lively illustrations—a perfect pairing for a beloved classic.

And so, as Sense and Sensibility turned 200 years old, a fresh look was taken at the book. For the first time in years, new illustrations for an unabridged copy of the book were created. Characters come alive—not in a dated, Victorian tinted way, but with faces and expressions which display both sense and sensibility—along with charm, alarm and a variety of other emotions drawn from a book that seems at times to be “nothing but a succession of busy nothings.” Certainly most of the major activity happens off page, and yet, there is nothing boring or monotonous here. Ms. Chouinard has provided 23 large illustrations…and, in a nod to Hugh Thomson, a charmingly illustrated chapter header for each of the 50 chapters! These darling headers give a glimpse of “what’s to come” to even the most rapid reader, flying by the scenery in order to discover Willoughby’s secret and Marianne’s fate.

While Cassandra was busy sketching and drawing, Ms. Sullivan was hard at work, researching the allusions which would have been readily apparent to Jane Austen’s contemporary readers, but have been lost in the following centuries. Her plan was to read it with an eye towards the first time reader—not creating a scholarly treatise, so much as answering the questions that arise when considering Colonel Brandon’s supposed “nabobs, gold mohrs, and palanquins”, for instance. (Incidentally, I discovered that these are a: an Englishman who became rich by doing business in the Indies, b: an Indian coin, and c: a litter carried by four attendants and covered with a shade).

Sullivan’s insights also help reveal the depth of coquettish conniving betrayed by the Steele sisters in choosing to join the “Doctor” in a post-chaise all the way to London, for “it seems that the party was made up of just Anne, Lucy and the Doctor, and as a post-chaise seats only three, it would have been a very cozy party indeed.”

 “Not in the stage, I assure you,” replied Miss Steele, with quick exultation; “we came post all the way, and had a very smart beau to attend us. Dr. Davies was coming to town, and so we thought we’d join him in a post-chaise; and he behaved very genteelly…everybody laughs at me so about the Doctor, and I cannot think why. My cousins say they are sure I have made a conquest…”

Although it has been many years since I first read Sense and Sensibility, I confess that I learned more, and understand it more now, than I ever have before. It is one thing to view someone else’s impressions of the book on film, but reading the book again, this time with clever chapter notes (97 in all) which answer so many of my questions before I can even begin to ask them, I finally feel like I begin to understand the world that Jane Austen was writing in. Certainly, the book is far deeper and more complex—and better told—than any film adaptation to date.

Along with providing ample notes on the text, Ms. Sullivan has added to “the improvement of [our] mind by extensive reading.” Included in this edition are a biography of Jane Austen and inclusive bibliographies on subjects as diverse as “Biography and Criticism”, “Authors Having Fun with Jane” and “Fiction inspired by Sense and Sensibility”. There is also a complete list of Sense and Sensibility films—surely enough extended reading to satisfy even my enthusiasm for the subject!

Sense and Sensibility, the Bicentenary Edition: Illustrated and Annotated is available in paperback, as well as Kindle/Mobipocket PRC, Adobe Reader PDF, Microsoft Reader LIT and Epub editions from both Amazon and Girlebooks. Check out your favorite medium, today! All versions arrive with beautiful formatting and charming illustrations, making them instant favorites—easy to read and lovely to behold.

  • List Price: £9.57 Paperback/£1.91  Kindle
  • Paperback: 398 pages
  • Publisher: LibriFiles Publishing (December 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615568084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615568089



Laura Boyle runs Austentation: Regency Accessories. Her book, Cooking with Jane Austen and Friends, is available from the Jane Austen Centre Giftshop. Visit Austentation for a large range of custom made hats, bonnets, reticules and Jane Austen related items.

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Oxford World’s Classics: Persuasion

A tale of the pain and peril of human isolation not quite overcome, a modern book: Persuasion. Better known and somewhat misunderstood as a story of reprieve & retrieval: joy snatched from a descent into ever-increasing age, illness and death. But really a book of a revenant made human, of deep emotional pain & exhaustion.

The latest Oxford reissue (2008) is a good buy for the type book, a half-way house between the rich apparatus type books (Nortons, Longmans, Broadviews) and those which accompany the text with a minimal introduction or afterward (Signet, Barnes & Noble). It includes the appendix, Austen and the Navy by Vivien Jones found in the 2008 Oxford Mansfield Park, where Jones corrects and adds information ignored in Austen’s idealized depiction of the navy; and also Henry Austen’s biographical notice first published in 1817 with the dual posthumous edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion; and the cancelled chapters or Austen’s first version of an ending for Persuasion.

I assume many readers will immediately see the use of such an appendix, and importance of Henry’s biography (albeit brief and impossibly hagiographic), but might perhaps think these cancelled chapters are superfluous to anyone but the scholarly student of Austen. Not so. They contain passages which suggest how Austen might have worked the book up to three volumes had she lived: for example, the Crofts seem to know that their brother had been engaged to Miss Anne Elliot, and be working to bring them together.

They have the potential for high drama, clashes as well as comedy, and in both the 1995 BBC and 2007 Clerkenwell/WBGH Persuasions, two slightly differing strong scenes are created towards the ends of the films out of this first ending: both Nick Dear and Simon Burke chose to dramatize Wentworth’s (for him) traumatic agonized offering of Kellynch Hall to Anne on the supposition Anne is to marry Mr Elliot. They have textual authority for a Lady Russell acting with an arrogant hostile sneer reminiscent of her inner reaction (as recorded by Austen) when she was told that Wentworth had engaged himself to Louisa Musgrove, only here it is directed at Wentworth and makes him (but only momentarily) despair (the 1995 version) or feel a renewed repugnance (the 2007), and Anne (in the 2007) feel intense anxiety and distress at the misunderstanding Lady Russell is fostering.

When in 1980 Oxford broke with the tradition of printing Northanger Abbey with Persuasion, they filled in the slender book with the cancelled chapters, and in 2004 added Henry’s biographical notice. One might have hoped they would include James Austen-Leigh’s important 1870/1 memoir of his aunt’s life; but alas, they published this separately in 2002 with Henry Austen’s two different biographical notices, Anna Lefroy’s Recollections of Aunt Jane, and Caroline Austen’s My Aunt Jane Austen: A Memoir, edited by Kathryn Sutherland.

How does this edition compare with others of the same type, the full apparatus and minimal editions? Deirdre Shauna Lynch’s introduction shows the latest trends in Austen criticism in emphasizing how the book’s time frame is overtly rooted in a specific time and place, between the capture of Napoleon and his escape, and in reading it through historical lens; in line with the other Oxfords, feminism is now avoided, so (ironically) the introduction comes most alive towards the end when she moves to discuss Anne’s debate with Harville over women’s roles and natures but still remains muted.

As an introduction for most readers, Gillian Beer’s essay in the rival half-way house edition, the 1998 Penguin (reissued 2003) is much better. It’s much more accessibly written, clear and simple; while short, her essay adds a new insight that has begun to affect readings (and films): the novel may be regarded as a kind of dream ghost-like love story which dwells on the silent intensely rich life of the disregarded heroine (a “solitary island”); Beer praises Austen’s effective frequent use of free indirect speech as an attempt to create this world of subjectivity kept in check; at the same time she notes the signs of its unfinished state.

Since the text has been freshly edited with an attempt to hold closer to Austen’s spelling and punctuation, I’d have recommended this one over the Oxford, but that it lacks the cancelled chapters and biographical notice, and thus represents a sad falling away from the 1966 Penguin edition of Persuasion by D. W. Harding, which made readily available for an inexpensive price for the first time in the century James Austen-Leigh’s transformative 1870/1 Memoir of Austen, together with the penultimate cancelled chapter (but for the last paragraph the second cancelled chapter is almost exactly that of the final chapter of the book as presently published), and a long excellent essay by him on the novel and memoir.

Among the minimalist editions, the Signet with Margaret Drabble’s introduction is yet another clearly-written insightful essay, and if the reader is not persuaded (pun intended) that the cancelled chapters, biography and other critical pieces are of service, there is an argument that Drabble’s edition (as in the case of her introductions to the Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, Emma and Northanger Abbey Signets) is the best reading edition of Persuasion for the average reader. She edits sensibly (based on Chapman) and in her introduction discerns in Persuasion a new progressive outlook in the book’s inclusion of more fringe people, a new generosity of spirit towards the fallen and injured, a remarkable turn towards rooting experience in natural forces of all types and more & lower social worlds.

Unfortunately (as with the other new afterwards of this series), the afterward to Drabble’s Persuasion, Diana Johnson’s piece is embarrassingly simple-minded and wastes pages: she was perhaps instructed to appeal to undergraduate composition students with an explicit numbering and description of Austen’s techniques that assumes Austen was writing consciously with a marketplace like our own in mind.

So if you don’t share Drabble’s political vision or reading of the book, the similarly minimalist (but still respectably edited and framed) Barnes and Noble 2003 Persuasion, introduced by Susan Ostrow Weisser may then be marginally better for you than Drabble’s. In lieu of the overtly dumbing down afterwards offered in the latest Signets, and like the other Barnes and Noble’s Austen texts I’ve reviewed, there is a full note on the film adaptations, and a selection of little known unusual 19th century commentary. I particularly appreciated the excerpt from Sir Francis Hastings Doyle, which taught me where a fantastical elaboration of the rumor of Austen’s seaside romance came from: Mr Austen and his daughters are said to have been travelling through Switzerland and received the news of her lover’s brain fever on their way to Chamouni (resembling some of the recent books and films about Austen and Tom Lefroy). And the unashamed frankness of others: “Through [Persuasion] runs a strain of pathos unheard of in its predecessors” (from Scribner’s Magazine, 1891). Weisser provides a genuinely unidealized and persuasive account of Austen’s life; and she gives you an overview of the book which is sensible, readable, openly humanist and woman-centered. And the cover illustration is appealing too.

There is a tradition in cover illustrations for Persuasion: picturesque scenes of Bath or a plain-looking grave young woman. Hence the picture that graced the green 1964 Signet (introduction Margaret Drabble), the first version of Persuasion I ever read—and loved dearly.

The choice of Amanda Root and Sally Hawkins for the lead role in the two recent film adaptations follows this illustration history.

This tradition for covers is also followed in two of the full apparatus editions, both of which are excellent (and include the cancelled chapters called by Galperin the “original ending”) and offer picturesque scenes of Bath on their covers: Patricia Meyer Spacks’s 1995 Norton critical and William Galperin’s 2008 Longman Persuasion, e.g., from the Longman:

Although (alas) brief, Spacks’s introduction focuses us sharply on the book’s inwardness and (resembling Mansfield Park in this) sociologically-detailed and mapped text; she picks a excellent set of essays; A Walton Litz’s finely discriminated account of landscape in the novel; Robert Hopkins’s account of its modernity (its sense of chance, time) and how it reverses a number of attitudes found in Austen’s earlier novels (on first love for example); Mary Astell seems to sum up much that has been said variously; Claudia Johnson defends, and most interesting, Cheryl Ann Weissman writes of the book’s elusive schemes, in-depth and mysterious heroine & haunted fairy tale atmosphere.

Galperin’s Longman Persuasion makes good choice of contemporary materials and reiterates his (perhaps provocatively startlingly and not really persuasive point of view in a short and much more clearly written (than his book) introduction to the Longmans. He makes his case more in his choice of secondary materials. Instead of the usual reprint of Austen’s letters to Fanny Knight about who to marry and the importance of love, he reprints letters by Austen during the hard time of choosing a place to live in Bath, and the few towards the end of her time there which register her dislike and the one letter from Lyme. There is also a long section of reviews.

If for nothing else, his choice of illustrations makes his book desirable. He makes visible to the reader the realities of the places Austen describes. For example, he reprints a contemporary print of Lyme:

Finally, a third: Linda Bree’s Broadview edition. She breaks from the traditional covers to show us Montreal Harbour, c 1875, a photograph by William Notman. Her long introduction begins with some central unproven assumptions (Persuasion is the title Austen would have picked; it is essentially a finished book); however, her analysis of the extant text is so sensitive and insightful she provides much suggestion about what could have been elaborated out of the text we have: for example, Anne’s life “imprisoned in the wall of solitude and silence” is broken in upon unusually by Mr Elliot and thus she is strongly attracted to him; in a longer book, she might have spent time considering his courting of her seriously—and nearly made a common mistake, but not one the heroines were allowed before this book. It’s not that she now lacks “firm opinions” but that she lacks the “status and power” at Kellynch to give them “the authority they deserve” (pp. 25-27). Bree’s secondary materials include an annual register of naval and military events at the time of the book, and excerpts from the poems discussed in the novel.

The editions of Persuasion resemble those of Pride and Prejudice; although far fewer (because nowhere near the best-seller), they are basically books made by people deeply sympathetic to and respectful of the novel, prepared to try to make it available for all types of readers. Unlike Mansfield Park and Emma, there are no central burning controversies or faultlines regarding how to understand the book. Many readers who love Austen love Persuasion.

Myself I own 11 editions of the novel, and one version in French and one in Italian, plus one separate edition (Chapman’s) of the cancelled chapters. At one time it was my favorite of Austen’s novels, despite its manifest flaws. Now I am (like Austen herself) a bit bothered by the heroine’s near perfection (which to my mind makes her submit to and validate what she should not, what nearly destroyed her), and I wonder whether this harmony is the result of its relatively unfinished state; she hadn’t the time for her usual gradual performance which (I agree with Virginia Woolf and many others since here) might have once again produced a book both disquieting and ultimately comforting.

RRP: £4.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: OUP Oxford; New Ed. / edition (17 April 2008)
ISBN-10: 0199535558
ISBN-13: 978-0199535552

Ellen Moody, a Lecturer in English at George Mason University, has compiled the most accurate calendars for Jane Austen’s work, to date. She has created timelines for each of the six novels and the three unfinished novel fragments. She is currently working on a book, The Austen Movies. Visit her website for further Austen related articles.

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Persuasion: An Overview

Persuasion is Jane Austen’s last completed novel. She began it soon after she had finished Emma, completing it in August, 1816. She died, aged 41, in 1817, but Persuasion was not published until 1818.

Persuasion is connected with Northanger Abbey not only by the fact that the two books were originally bound up in one volume and published together two years later, but also because both stories are set partly in Bath, a fashionable health resort with which Jane Austen was well acquainted, having lived there from 1801 to 1805.

Readers of Persuasion might infer Jane Austen intended ‘persuasion’ as the working theme of the story. Certainly that theme is repeated several times, with vignettes within the story as variations on that theme. On the other hand, there is evidence that Austen did not have in mind such an explicit theme and variations. It even appears she did not envision the title of the story as Persuasion; there is speculation that the title of the novel was chosen by her brother Henry or her sister Cassandra. Henry had long championed his sister’s writing, especially in business and publishing circles where he had more access than Cassandra. After Jane’s death it was he who arranged for publishing the novel, perhaps naming it in the process. Another speculation is that the two siblings collaborated in choosing the title. Some critics believe Austen intended to name the novel The Elliots but that she died without titling it.

Plot Summary

Anne Elliot is the overlooked middle daughter of the vain Sir Walter Elliot, a baronet who is all too conscious of his good looks and rank and spends excessive amounts of money. Anne’s mother, a fine, sensible woman, is long dead, and her elder sister, Elizabeth, resembles her father in temperament and delights in the fact that as the eldest daughter she can assume her mother’s former position in their rural neighborhood. Anne’s younger sister, Mary, is a nervous, clinging woman who has made an unspectacular marriage to Charles Musgrove of Uppercross Hall, the heir to a bucolic but respected local squire. None of her surviving family can provide much companionship for the elegant-minded Anne, who, still unmarried at 27, seems destined for spinsterhood.

After she met and fell in love with Wentworth, at age nineteen, Anne had been persuaded by her mother’s great friend —and her own trusted confidante, the widow Lady Russell— to break the engagement. Lady Russell had questioned the wisdom of Anne marrying a penniless young naval officer without family or connections and whose prospects were so uncertain. Wentworth is left bitter at Lady Russell’s interference and Anne’s own want of fortitude.

Wentworth re-enters Anne’s life when Sir Walter is forced by his own profligacy to let the family estate to none other than Wentworth’s brother-in-law, Admiral Croft. Wentworth’s successes in the Napoleonic Wars resulted in his promotion and enabled him to amass the then considerable fortune of £25,000 (around £2.5 million in today’s money) from prize money awarded for capturing enemy vessels. The Musgroves, including Mary, Charles and Charles’s younger sisters, Henrietta and Louisa, are delighted to welcome the Crofts and Wentworth to the neighborhood. Both Musgrove girls are attracted to Wentworth, though Henrietta is informally engaged to clergyman cousin Charles Hayter. Hayter is viewed as a merely respectable match, being a bit beneath the Musgroves, socially and financially. Charles, Mary, and the Crofts continually speculate as to which one Wentworth might marry. All this is hard on Anne, due to her regret at breaking off the engagement and Wentworth’s constant attention to the Musgrove girls. She tries to escape their company as often as she can, preferring to spend time with her nephews.

Captain Wentworth’s visit to a close friend, Captain Harville, in nearby Lyme Regis results in a day-long outing being organized by those eager to see the resort. While there, Louisa Musgrove sustains a concussion in a fall brought about by her own impetuous behaviour. This highlights the difference between the headstrong Louisa and the more sensible Anne. While onlookers exclaim that Louisa is dead and her companions stand around dumbfounded, Anne administers first aid and summons assistance. Wentworth’s admiration for Anne reawakens as a result.

Louisa’s recovery is slow and her self-confidence is severely shaken. Her newfound timidity elicits the kind attention and reassurance of Wentworth’s friend Captain Benwick, who had been mourning the recent death of his fiancée. The couple find their personalities to be now more in sympathy and they become engaged.

Meanwhile, Sir Walter, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s scheming friend Mrs. Clay, the widowed daughter of Sir Walter’s agent, have relocated to Bath. There they hope to live in a manner befitting a baronet and his family with the least possible expense until their finances are restored to a firmer footing. Sir Walter’s cousin and heir, William Elliot, who long ago slighted the baronet, now seeks a reconciliation. Elizabeth assumes that he wishes to court her, while Lady Russell more correctly suspects that he admires Anne.

Although William Elliot seems a perfect gentleman, Anne distrusts him; she finds his character disturbingly opaque. She is enlightened by an unexpected source when she discovers an old school friend, Mrs. Smith, living in Bath in straitened circumstances. Mrs. Smith and her now-deceased husband had once been Mr. Elliot’s closest friends. Having encouraged them into financial extravagance, he had quickly dropped them when they became impoverished. Anne learns, to her great distress, of his layers of deceit and calculated self-interest. In addition, her friend speculates that Mr. Elliot wants to reestablish his relationship with her family primarily to safeguard his inheritance of the title, fearing a marriage between Sir Walter and Mrs. Clay. This helps Anne to understand more fully the dangers of persuasion—in that Lady Russell pressed her to accept Mr. Elliot’s likely offer of marriage—and helps her to develop more confidence in her own judgment.

Ultimately, the Musgroves visit Bath to purchase wedding clothes for their daughters Louisa and Henrietta (who has become engaged to Hayter). Captain Wentworth and his friend Captain Harville accompany them. Anne and Harville discuss the relative faithfulness of men and women in love, while Wentworth writes a note within earshot of the discussion. This causes him to write a note to Anne detailing his feelings for her. In a tender scene, Anne and Wentworth reconcile and renew their engagement. The match is now more palatable to Anne’s family — their waning fortunes and Wentworth’s waxing ones have made a considerable difference. Also, ever overvaluing good looks, Sir Walter is favorably impressed with his future son-in-law’s appearance. Lady Russell admits she has been completely wrong about Captain Wentworth, and she and Anne remain friends.

Literary significance & criticism
Persuasion is widely appreciated as a moving love story despite what has been labelled as a simple plot, and exemplifies Austen’s acclaimed wit and ironic narrative style. Austen wrote Persuasion in a hurry, during the onset of the illness from which she eventually died; as a result, the novel is both shorter and arguably less polished than Mansfield Park and Emma, and was not subject to the usual pattern of careful retrospective revision.

Although the impact of Austen’s failing health at the time of writing this novel cannot be overlooked, the novel is strikingly original in several ways. Persuasion is the first of Austen’s novels to feature as the central character a woman who, by the standards of the time, is well past the first bloom of youth; biographer Claire Tomalin characterizes the book as Austen’s “present to herself, to Miss Sharp, to Cassandra, to Martha Lloyd . . . to all women who had lost their chance in life and would never enjoy a second spring.”

At the same time, the novel is a paean to the self-made man. Captain Wentworth is just one of several naval officers in the story who have risen from humble beginnings to affluence and status on the strength of merit and luck, not by inheritance. It marks a time where the very roots of society were changing, as ‘old money’ (exemplified by Sir Walter) had to accommodate the rising strength of the nouveau riche (such as Wentworth). The success of Austen’s own two brothers in the Royal Navy is probably significant. There are also clear parallels with the earlier novel Mansfield Park as there are inherent and sustained messages of the importance of constancy in the face of adversity and of the need to endure.

Austen makes some biting comments about ‘family’ and those we choose to associate with. Mary wants to nurse Louisa but doesn’t want to nurse her son. Elizabeth prefers Mrs Clay to her sister who is ‘amongst the nobility of England and Ireland’, yet courts the attentions of Lady Dalrymple.

Through her heroine’s words, Austen makes pointed remarks about the condition of women as ‘rational creatures’ at the mercy of males (only) recording history, writing books, etc., while castigating women’s “inconstancy” and “fickleness”. “Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. …the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything” (Persuasion Volume 2 Chapter 11).

She ends the novel with the similar theme to Pride and Prejudice, where the heroine leaves the others behind with marriage.

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