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Sanditon: A Completion


By Jane Austen and Another Lady

“When Charlotte Heywood accepts an invitation to visit the newly fashionable resort of Sanditon, she is introduced to a full range of polite society, from the local reigning dowager Lady Denham and her impoverished ward Clara, to the handsome, feckless Sidney Parker and his amusing, if hypochondriacal, sisters. A heroine whose clearsighted common sense is often at war with romance, Charlotte cannot help observing around her both folly and passion in many guises. But can the levelheaded Charlotte herself resist the attractions of the heart?”*

Jane Austen died in 1817, leaving two unfinished novels. One of these, only 11 chapters long, was nicknamed Sanditon. It was completed in 1975 by “Another Lady” who, though a previously published author herself, chose to follow Jane’s own example of anonymity. Out of print for over 20 years, this gem is finally available in paperback form.

Sanditon may be the best of all the Austen novel completions and sequels (there are over 80 at present.) The story moves smoothly from the middle of chapter 11, where Austen left Charlotte to the mercy of Lady Denham, through it’s sometimes bizarre (but always entertaining) plot twists to a final, satisfying conclusion. Yes, this “other lady” takes liberties with Austen’s characters, but who’s to know how she would have finished the story if given time.

The important thing to remember is that it is NOT Jane Austen you are reading, nor is the author attempting to fool you into thinking she is. An apology at the end of the book states

“What was there left to worry about in completing Jane Austen’s last manuscript? Only the way she wrote it. Her language, her integrity and her painstaking methods of work– that terrifyingly accurate and meticulous technique– combine to give us the same sense of serenity and assurance in the six novels in which she brought her world to life and made it real for us. None of these things can be faithfully copied. And for their deficiencies in this seventh novel, I do apologize.”

Keeping that in mind, Sanditon, as completed by Another Lady, is a delightful read. It is laugh-out-loud funny in some places- and definately worth the effort of obtaining. Though it lacks Austen’s delicate touch and refinement- it more than makes up for it with a delightful heroine, a hero whose likes have not been seen since Henry Tilney and a host of other characters who are a credit to the Austen collection.

The full text of Sanditon, Jane Austen’s Last Novel Completed, can be found at our Jane Austen Giftshop here.

An entertaining review of Julia Barret’s sequel to Sanditon (Charlotte) can be found at the New York Times’ site.

Softcover – 336 pages (August 1997)
List Price: $13.00
Scribner; ISBN: 0684843420

Antipodes Jane : A Novel of Jane Austen in Australia

by Barbara Ker Wilson

Being a Jane Austen Fan, I thought this novel might prove interesting. After Jane Austen’s death, her sister, Cassandra, burned most of her letters leaving a large proportion of her life unaccounted for. In 1799, Jane Austen’s aunt Jane Leigh Perrot, a rather snobbish and upper class woman, was prosecuted for shoplifting a length of lace. Though found innocent, she could, if proved guilty, have been sent to a penal colony in Australia.

What if, the author asks, the prosecution had been successful?? What if Aunt Leigh Perrot had been transported? What if Jane had accompanied her? As there are no letters of Jane’s dating from this time, Barbara Ker Wilson has written a novel exploring the possibility that Jane went to Australia.

The premise seemed to be a tidy and fascinating bit of history from the start. A look at how one of the world’s most famous novelists survivied and judged Australia at the time of its very early colonialism. It seems material ripe for a piece of witty Jane Austen observation. However Wilson does not have Jane Austen’s eye for detail and witty observation. I found the novel difficult to finish, and not as compelling as I hoped. There is certainly merit in it and many will very much enjoy this book. Unfortunately I think I went into it with too many expectations and felt quite let down.

Worth dipping in to especially if you enjoy other books where authors have ‘finished’ Austen’s novels.

List Price: Out of Print, Available Used
Hardcover – 329 pages (May 1985)
Viking Press; ISBN: 0670805866;

Anne Woodley is an Amazon top 500 reviewer as well as the patroness of Janeites, the Internet discussion, as well as mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information.

* From the back cover

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Oxford’s Northanger Abbey, Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon

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

In one inexpensive annotated volume we have four novels by Jane Austen, three of which are today hard to find in such a format: Lady Susan & The Watsons first published in 1871, and Sanditon, first published in 1925 (!) are today only readily available otherwise in Chapman’s Minor Works, Volume VI (1954: rpt. with revisions London: Oxford UP, 1969), last printed in 1988 in hardcover. Its classical scholarly apparatus intimidates, and it lacks explanatory notes meant for the common reader.

The original new Oxford set established by James Kinsley in 1971 followed a tradition stemming from the first posthumous publication of Northanger Abbey in 1818: Kinsley included Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in one volume, but as of 1980, Oxford printed Northanger Abbey with Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon. Thus in one accessible volume the buyer obtains:

Northanger Abbey, a novel first drafted 1793-94, written 1798-99, whose revisions (1803 as Susan and 1816 as Catherine) make it at once a palimpsest of Austen’s earliest work and interests, and a text which includes her latest and most sophisticatedly charming writing;

Lady Susan, a brilliant, sexually-frank epistolary novel, the only one of Austen’s to focus on an amoral adulterous heroine, probably first written in 1793-94, around the time Austen is said to have written the first version of Sense and Sensibility, the epistolary Elinor and Marianne, and rewritten between 1804-5 (possibly once again in 1808-9); Lady Susan takes place partly in Bath; 30 years before The Watsons opened Emma Watson’s aunt danced, a fine woman then, in the “old rooms” at Bath with Mr Edwards (the lower rooms, from the 87 NA);

The Watsons, first written and worked hard on from 1804 to 1807, and while still a fragment, a thoroughly-worked or imagined gem which reads as richly and deeply as any of Austen’s finished novels, the only one of her works first written while in Bath and thus reflecting her something of her perspective while there; like Lady Susan, uncensored (as it never was written up for publication) it anticipates Mansfield Park: the scenes of Fanny’s arrival in Portsmouth (Sylvestre Le Tousel, Eryl Maynard, Alison Fisk, as Fanny, her sister and mother, from the 1983 BBC Mansfield Park) could be shots from a film of The Watsons as Emma Watson arrives and is greeted by her sister with an ailing father upstairs;

Sanditon, her very last (1817) stunningly effective early draft of a novel, astonishingly filled with black humor about traumatic illnesses and death (Austen was herself mortally ill and had to put it down as she was dying), a work which is set uniquely in a contemporary unscrupulously commercialized seashore.

Thus the reader may travel through Austen’s writing career, from 1793 to 1817, in 340 pages.

On the new Oxford edition itself: while I find that Claudia Johnson’s essay is accessible and lively, the part dedicated to the three shorter works is flawed. In the 20 pages devoted to discussing Northanger Abbey itself, she takes the recent (and accurate perspective) that far from simply mocking the gothic and replacing it with diurnal reality, whether you regard this as potentially cruel, mean, and risky (especially in the case of General Tilney), or a light account of a young girl’s entrance into real life, Austen recreates the gothic conventions to make an emotionally effective and sensitively felt novel of female development, one which is also an instance of affirmative and psychologically acute female gothic romance. The chosen cover to the book rightly evokes a ruined abbey:

We have three young heroines who know considerable grief and one absent one, now dead (Mrs Tilney) whose life was, we are told, very hard.

By contrast, though, Johnson’s 7 and 1/3 pages devoted to Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon (and most of these to Sanditon) read like an afterthought. Johnson presents Lady Susan (2 pages) as an early work! She appears not to know or does not mention the recent and numerous studies which date it much later; she does not bring in its actual literary predecessors (e.g., Choderlos de LaClos’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses) and blithely ignores the real anguish in the book: Lady Susan bullies and terrifies her daughter; this novel is not a shallow caricatured sketch. It may not have been published because Austen’s family could not allow her to show herself so casually cognizant of adultery.

Johnson’s two pages on The Watsons reveal more readerly knowledge of Austen’s text. She writes eloquently: “It is unquestionably Austen’s bleakest work, taking on such painful subjects as the care of ageing parents, the shame and desolation of downward social mobility, and the mortifications of familial alienation. Raised in conditions of wealth and refinement under the patronage of a loving aunt [who has married unwisely and given herself a tyrant husband], Emma Watson must return home … [her] family is so impoverished that it borders on the ungenteel; her invalid father is querulous; her sisters are unrefined [desperate, voracious, treacherous]; and her brother, who sees sisters as costs, is high-handed and indelicate about her reappearance” (xxix).

Johnson, though, misleads by repeating as unqualified truth theories from the family about why she didn’t finish it, particularly those which imply Austen didn’t like what she had done. The characters in The Watsons are fully-formed and of real interest; one can foresee what will be the intense psychological development and how Austen drew her story regularly from such textures (so by studying this book you study Austen’s technique). Although much resembles in outward outline parts of Austen’s other novels, they are transpositions into another key, individualized so that we are in different presences once again and can study Austen’s underlying geology at the same time. Austen had apparently worked out her ending, and the piece contains a few of her most moving scenes, and a rare one where a woman rescues a young boy at an assembly from mortification.

People seem to want to forget Austen died young. She first secured a stable place to live from which to publish in 1809; she was dead by 1817 and in between she published 4 books and worked up semi-finished versions of 2 more. She may have intended to come back to The Watsons; it was not as far along as the others, begun later. Henry tells us in his invaluable preface to Northanger Abbey (unfortunately not reprinted in this new Oxford) that “some of her [published] novels” were “the gradual performances” of her “previous life” (i.e., when she lived in Steventon and Bath); there’s

no reason to think she would treat The Watsons any differently. She would put it away and take it out again, revise, and then again put it away, until she felt it was time to revise again.

Henry writes: “For though in composition she was equally rapid and correct, yet an invincible distrust of her own judgement induced her to withhold her works from the public, till time and many perusals had satisfied her.”

Kathryn Sutherland has now demonstrated from the manuscripts the extraordinary quality of her books comes from endless revisions.

For Sanditon (3 and 1/3 pages) Johnson repeats Southam’s argument that it is the most finished of the fragments, which (among others) Sutherland shows just won’t stand up to scrutiny; what we have here is a revealing early draft, startling in its feel of rapidity and wild brilliance of invention.

I recommend supplementing Johnson’s introduction: the wise thing to do is find (if the reader can) a used copy of Margaret Drabble’s edition of these works, especially for Sanditon and read her introduction (sensitive, accurate, insightful throughout): Drabble includes a second preface on social background (helpful for The Watsons and Sanditon) what is so astonishing and refreshing in this rich fragment: “What we have here, in fact, is a dying woman treating the subject of illness with amusement and raillery .. the whole tone of the novel is very different from that of its immediate predecessor, Persuasion … the chief focus … is on Sanditon itself, and the spirit of change it represents .. the chief target of her satire [being] speculation, expansion, change and novelty.”

There is a romance brewing, a dangerous one: the impoverished young cousin, Clara Brereton, taken in by the rich domineering, Lady Denham, has apparently been seduced into a risky relationship with a young, dense and amoral young man, Sir Edward Denham, whose admiration for Richardson’s Lovelace, tells us what he intends for Clara. Another love relationship adumbrated is between the book’s apparent heroine, Charlotte Heywood, and a young man expected home, a genial and respected son and brother to the members of the Parker family who dominate the text as we have it.

We cannot ignore textual problems—as three of these books were never printed in Austen’s lifetime and one printed after her death. All were titled by other people.

The circumstances of the chosen text of the edition’s Northanger Abbey resembles that for Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma. Since there was only one edition in Austen’s lifetime, the first printed edition is our sole authority. It’s a problematic one since it was not Austen herself who wrote out or supervised and proofed the final fair copy of Northanger Abbey. Kinsley followed Chapman’s “normalizing” principles and texts: Austen unchapmaned. There is a clean fair copy of Lady Susan, and differently amended (showing corrections and different considered choices) copies of The Watsons and Sanditon (both lack paragraphing), mostly in Austen’s hand. Davie has a brief note where he says he has has modified the Chapman approach towards the manuscripts in order to make visible Austen’s “intentions” when it comes to “substance”; however, no textual notes are provided.

Well, says the reader, why did they not become better known? Why have they remained relatively obscure? Why has no movie been made of at least The Watsons?

Northanger Abbey shows up in sales charts as the least widely-sold of Austen’s novels. When I checked at Library Thing where about 29,430,000 people catalogue their books (I’m rounding off the figures), I discovered (again in round figures), about 20,750 people had at least one copy of P&P, 10,000 had a copy of Emma; 9,400, one copy at least of S&S; 7,100 one of Persuasion, 5,800 one of Mansfield Park and 4,900 one of Northanger Abbey (see precise figures in review of P&P.) Penguin did not keep the Drabble edition of Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon in print, and Oxford has not kept Doody’s edition of the juvenilia in print.

Basically, the three shorter books have been underestimated, ignored, and misleadingly described. The dual character of Northanger Abbey as a realistic and gothic book is often misread because it is still the case female gothic and novels of female development (especially that of a sexually innocent young women) female gothic are treated as an embarrassment.

To alter this in our present backlash era is an uphill fight. Certainly women should not begin to erase feminist and woman-centered perspectives in what they write—if you fear ridicule or non-publication, erasure only further diminishes the numbers of women in print and journalism (in mainstream publications a tiny percentage compared to men). It doesn’t help to make covers from portraits of nubile upper class young women which signalled at the time “wealth,” and now obsolete (foolish) feminine romance.

Fortunately, the custom of putting pictures of Bath or abbeys and the picturesque on the covers of Northanger Abbey seems to be holding its own, e.g. Elisabeth Mahoney’s Everyman edition of NA alone. Mahoney rivals Butler’s Penguin editions and partly supercedes them by her coverage of non-gothic texts and her reading of the novel not as conservative but progressive and protofeminist. Mahoney’s cover alludes to the work of dreams and romance beyond the gothic while keeping before the reader the picturesque (an important matter in NA, think or see of Catherine, Henry and Eleanor’s long conversation on Beechen Cliff at the close of Volume 1):

Among the excellent editions of NA which do justice to the book as a novel of female growing up and reading (explains them, shows as you read along how what books in NA enrich the book), I recommend Longman cultural edition, and the Norton edited by Susan Fraiman with an appropriate cover: Two Girls Reading by Pablo Picasso (2004)—it’s a novel about reading.

And it’s a novel about Bath. While Chawton and Steventon must take precedence in understanding the formation of Austen’s character and how she was enabled to write, Bath’s centrality in Austen’s adult life comes out strongly in a book which includes NA, Lady Susan and The Watsons.

But I need not go into Bath. Beyond the many books on Bath and Austen and Bath, I recommend In search of 18th century Bath. Nowadays we need no longer depend on publishers for our context in reading a book. We can go to the superb blogs and websites on the net centering on Jane Austen.

For myself I’ve loved Northanger Abbey since I read it between the ages of 17 and 19. I like serious and grave books which is what Mansfield Park and The Watsons are both. I can perhaps best account for my love of NA by my love for Radcliffe (wherein I have Henry Tilney as a model) which I read around age 19 —around the same time I first encountered Fanny Burney in her diaries. I’ve read The Mysteries of Udolpho at least three times through in English, once half-way through in French, and love reading sympathetic critical studies of the gothic where it is a central text.

I own 11 copies of Northanger Abbey, some printed by itself, a couple with Persuasion and two of the Oxfords printed with Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon, one excellent Italian translation and two French, one of which is often said to be the best translation of Austen into a European foreign language we have: Catherine Morland by Felix Fenelon. I’ve 4 copies of The Watsons and 5 of Sanditon because beyond the 2 Oxford editions and Drabble’s Penguin, I’ve a copy of Chapman’s Minor Works (valuable for the notes and annotations), and the reprint of Sanditon for Chiron Press, transcribed, edited and with an introduction by Mary Gaither Marshall, with Anna Austen Lefroy’s continuation, the very best scholarly edition of Sanditon in print.

Explore our bookshop at

RRP: £4.99
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: OUP Oxford; New Ed. / edition (17 April 2008)
ISBN-10: 019953554X
ISBN-13: 978-0199535545

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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Northanger Abbey: An Overview

Northanger Abbey was the first of Jane Austen’s novels to be completed for publication, though she had previously made a start on Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. According to Cassandra Austen’s Memorandum, Susan (as it was first called) was written about the years 1798-1799. It was revised by Austen for the press in 1803, and sold in the same year for £10 to a London bookseller, Crosby & Co., who decided against publishing. The bookseller was content to sell it back to the novelist’s brother, Henry Austen, for the exact sum that he had paid for it at the beginning, not knowing that the writer was already the author of four popular novels. The novel was further revised before being brought out posthumously in late December 1817 (1818 given on the title-page), as the first two volumes of a four-volume set with Persuasion.

Northanger Abbey follows seventeen year old Gothic novel aficionado Catherine Morland and family friends Mr. and Mrs. Allen as they visit Bath, England. Catherine is in Bath for the first time, and is excited to spend her time visiting newly-made friends, such as Isabella Thorpe, and going to balls. Catherine finds herself pursued by Isabella’s brother, the rather rough-mannered dandy John Thorpe, and by her real love interest, Henry Tilney. She also becomes friends with Eleanor Tilney, Henry’s younger sister. Henry captivates her with his view on novels and his knowledge of history and the world. General Tilney (Henry and Eleanor’s father) invites Catherine to visit their estate, Northanger Abbey, which, from her reading of Ann Radcliffe’s gothic novel The Mysteries of Udolpho, she expects to be dark, ancient and full of Gothic horrors and fantastical mystery.

Northanger Abbey is fundamentally a parody of Gothic fiction. Austen turns the conventions of eighteenth-century novels on their head, by making her heroine a plain and undistinguished girl from a middle-class family, allowing the heroine to fall in love with the hero before he has a serious thought of her, and exposing the heroine’s romantic fears and curiosities as groundless. Austen biographer Claire Tomalin speculates that Austen may have begun this book, which is more explicitly comic than her other works and contains many literary allusions that her parents and siblings would have enjoyed, as a family entertainment—a piece of lighthearted parody to be read aloud by the fireside. Some have considered the novel to be Jane Austen’s best work, as it is, in fact, the least like Jane Austen’s greater corpus than the remainder of her oeuvre. There is real significance in this observation, due primarily to the fact that Austen’s works are generally characterized as naïve and overly simplified, having no real connection with the real world.

Northanger Abbey exposes the difference between reality and fantasy and questions who can be trusted as a true companion and who might actually be a shallow, false friend. It is considered to be the most light-hearted of her novels.

Plot summary

Seventeen year old Catherine Morland is one of ten children of a country clergyman. Although a tomboy in her childhood, by the age of 17 she has become interested in clothes and balls and is excessively fond of reading, especially Gothic novels of which Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho is a favourite.

Catherine is invited by her wealthier neighbours in Fullerton, the Allens, to accompany them to visit the resort town of Bath and partake of the winter season of balls, theatre and other social delights. Although initially the excitement of experiencing Bath is dampened by her lack of acquaintances, she is soon introduced to an intriguing young gentleman named Henry Tilney, with whom she dances and converses. Catherine does not see Mr Tilney again for a few days after their first meeting, though her attention is quickly engaged when she makes friends with another young lady, Isabella Thorpe. Isabella tries to make a match between Catherine and her brother John, a rather crude young gentleman fond of hunting with dogs, saying “damn” and driving around at speed in his carriage. Catherine is as yet very naive and innocent and does not realise that John is pursuing her.

Catherine is soon introduced to Henry’s younger sister, Elinor Tilney, who is a very sweet, intelligent and respectable young lady. Elinor provides a contrast with the manipulative Isabella. Catherine also meets the Tilney’s father, the imposing and intimidating General Tilney.

The Thorpes are not very happy about Catherine’s friendship with the Tilneys, as they (correctly as it happens) perceive Henry as a rival for Catherine’s affections. She tries to maintain her friendships with both the Thorpes and the Tilneys. John Thorpe continually tries to sabotage her relationship with the Tilneys, which leads to many misunderstandings, which upset and confuse Catherine. Eventually, Catherine convinces the Tilneys that she is interested in a friendship with them.

Isabella announces her engagement to Catherine’s brother James Morland. James applies to his father, Mr Morland, for financial assistance to help the young couple marry. Mr Morland offers James a country parson’s living worth a modest sum, which he will be able to have in two years, allowing him to marry then. Isabella is disappointed and dissatisfied because James is not the rich young man she had previously thought him to be. She claims, however, that her disappointment stems only from not being able to marry James immediately. At a ball, whilst James is away, Isabella meets Henry’s older brother, the dashing and charming Captain Tilney. Captain Tilney is a womaniser and Isabella immediately starts a flirtation with him. Innocent Catherine is upset and cannot understand her friend’s behavior, but Henry understands it all too well, as he knows his brother’s character and habits. The flirtation continues even when James returns, much to James’ embarrassment and distress.

The Tilneys invite Catherine to stay with them for a few weeks at their home, Northanger Abbey. Catherine, who has read too many Gothic novels, expects the abbey to be large and frightening, and Henry encourages her fears in order to tease her. Her first night there is very stormy; she discovers mysterious manuscripts in her bedroom, and her candle suddenly goes out. The next morning, she reads the papers eagerly, only to discover they are prosaic laundry lists. She is disappointed that Northanger Abbey is pleasant and positively un-Gothic. However, there is a mysterious suite of rooms that no one ever goes into: Catherine learns that they were Mrs. Tilney’s, who died nine years earlier. Catherine, with her overactive imagination, decides that since General Tilney does not seem affected by his wife’s death now, he must have been indifferent or perhaps hostile to her. Perhaps he murdered her. Or she may still be alive and imprisoned in the house!

Catherine persuades Eleanor to show her Mrs. Tilney’s rooms, but General Tilney suddenly appears. Catherine flees, sure that she will be punished. Later, Catherine sneaks back to Mrs. Tilney’s rooms, but is startled by Henry, who is passing in the corridor. Panicked, she admits her speculations about his father. He is horrified but, surprisingly gently, corrects her wild notions. She leaves crying, fearing that Henry is angry and will want nothing to do with her.

As Catherine is suffering these fears, James writes to inform her that he has been deceived by Isabella, and that he broke off their engagement because she flirted so determinedly with Captain Tilney. The Tilneys are shocked; Catherine is disenchanted with Isabella and expresses the wish that she had never known her. The General goes off to London and Eleanor becomes less inhibited and shy away from the imposing presence of her father. In General Tilney’s absence, Catherine passes several enjoyable days with Henry and Eleanor until he returns abruptly, in a temper. Eleanor tells Catherine that the family has an engagement that prevents Catherine from staying any longer and that she must go home early the next morning, in a shocking, inhospitable move that forces her to undertake a frightening journey alone by public stagecoach.

At home, Catherine is unhappy and confused. She has no idea what went wrong or why General Tilney threw her out of his home. She convinces herself that Henry must have told the General that she suspected him of murdering his wife. Several days later, Henry pays a sudden unexpected visit, and explains what happened. General Tilney was enchanted with Catherine and wished her to marry Henry, but only because John Thorpe (who was infatuated with Catherine at the time) had misinfomed him that she was the heiress of the wealthy Mr Allen. In London, General Tilney ran into Thorpe again, who, angry at Catherine’s refusal of his half-made proposal of marriage, said instead that she was nearly destitute. General Tilney, who did not want his son to marry a poor woman, returned home to evict Catherine. Henry tells Catherine that he has broken with his father and that he still wants to marry her despite his father’s disapproval. Catherine is delighted.

Eventually, General Tilney acquiesces, because Eleanor has become engaged to a wealthy and titled man, and he discovers that the Morlands, while not extremely rich, are far from destitute.

You can buy different editions of Northanger Abbey here, visit our online giftshop!