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The latest Oxford edition of Emma

Emma. The book of books. A remarkable novel where when a story or character suggestively goes through Emma’s mind since she half-gets it wrong, and sees it partially, we are invited to imagine it whole—so one novel becomes many in potential.

Like all the other latest Oxfords, the text here is a reprint of the 1971 text edited by James Kinsley (basically an emended reprint of Chapman’s 1923 text as revised by Mary Lascelles). As with Pride and Prejudice, there is no alternative first text as there is no manuscript and Austen died before a second edition could even be thought of. Like latest reprints of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, we also get exactly the same supplemental materials: brief biographical note, bibliography, chronology, and (by Vivien Jones) appendices on rank and social status and on dancing. The notes are a reprint of the 2003 notes Adele Pinch wrote.

Adela Pinch’s introduction to the latest 2008 Oxford reprint of Emma emphasizes how different Emma seemed to most novels to readers of the era; Pinch tells us how bored Edgeworth said she felt in a letter to a friend. Since it was Austen who sent a copy of her book to Edgeworth (probably out of pride in an achievement), I, for one, prefer to assume this comment never got round to Austen. Not that Austen is herself shy of criticizing other novelists harshly or (at least in her letters to her sister) at all unsure of the high and exquisite quality of her artistry. Her response to Scott’s review was to complain he left out Mansfield Park.

Pinch goes on to say that Scott’s remarkable review focuses precisely on what he felt made Emma so noteworthy he had to record it himself: its use of quiet diurnal events so understated and unextraordinary that we can be fooled into thinking the book is as real as the lives going on around us. Pinch considers this kind of texture “revolutionary” and discusses how Emma’s blunders amid such everyday experience as shopping and gossip, makes readers question how they know what they know. Fiona Stafford’s introduction to the (2003) New Penguin, takes the same stance and uses the same text: there too we begin with Scott’s review; the difference is Stafford then goes on to suggest this realism is an illusion Austen set up and continually undercuts by her use of puns, allusions, games, coded names and parody.

It is common for people writing on Emma to begin with taking it as an extraordinary achievement as well as a book somehow more fully representative of Austen’s art than any of her others. And it is now de rigueur (as Pinch and Stafford do) to single out free indirect discourse as Austen’s invention too, when in fact it may be found (though crudely done) in many earlier novels. Nonetheless, it is not true that free indirect discourse and quiet diurnal probable realism were new or unique to Emma: precisely this mood and versions of this kind of discourse can be found in novels by Charlotte Lennox, Sarah Fielding, Mary Brunton (Austen complained about one of her books perhaps because in another so like Emma that were it not for its date, it’d be called a source, Discipline), and among the French writers who Austen read, Isabelle de Charriere, Stephanie-Felicite de Genlis, Adelaide de Souza and Isabelle de Montolieu use free indirect discourse & quiet diurnal realism. Further, what Scott is actually astonished by is Austen’s ability to conjure up in an excited, spirited and original way a complexly believable ordinary character, not a fanatic, not grotesque, not in psychological extremis; that is what is beyond him he feels.

The important innovation of Emma forms the centerpiece of a central critical text of our time: Wayne Booth’s Rhetoric of Fiction where he is deeply troubled by a technique or element that he feels distinguishes modern or 20th century novels from just about all earlier ones: an unreliable narrator whose morality is appallingly bad or pernicious.

In Emma Austen did something so innovative and controlled that it was not imitated with a similar artistic consistency until Gustave Flaubert’s Emma Bovary. (It’s no coincidence Flaubert called his erring heroine, Emma.). At the center of Austen’s novel is an unreliable narrator toward whom her implied author takes an ironic or distanced stance. This in order to present us with a self-centered self-regarding, blundering as well as startlingly blind, domineering, very rich and snobbish, and at times malicious heroine.

Why did I call this perplexing? Well Austen as implied author gives Emma qualities she likes, nay identifies with: as a composite whole, Austen wants us to recognize Emma as part of ourselves. Sometimes Emma is all kindness, especially towards her father.

As numerous critics have written, it is difficult to know how we are to judge any particular character, incident or utterance when the innovation (ploy, trick) is to make the heroine, its “central reflector” (to use Henry James’s term) our unreliable and only narrator except for two chapters where the free indirect discourse is used to make Mr Knightley our reflector (I:5 & 3:5); occasional carefully unobtrusive narratives and interjections by our implied author when it is necessary for us to know some piece of history or point of view we would be in danger of misunderstanding were we to be given it by Emma (e.g, most of 1:2, 2:2, the first sentence of 2:4), and obstreperous or apparently obtuse characters who will act or have their say irrespective of Emma’s wishes (e.g., Mr Weston and Mrs Elton in the 2nd through 28th paragraph of 3:6)

Now Booth sees the development after Austen as dangerous since the reader is seduced into identifying and sympathizing with such central consciousnesses and amorality is reinforced and made acceptable. He suggests there had been unreliable narrators before, but the first one, Austen’s, is in a book that carefully discriminates between what is right and wrong by having an alert and active enough implicit author and a heroine who is basically a good person even if flawed, one whose happy ending we are to rejoice in. Myself I can think of dozens of novels where just this combination of dramatic irony, mystery and alternating sympathy and alienation is the reigning technique, and most of them those by women have narrators we are ambivalent about.

Where the problem with Booth’s analysis comes up is how sure he is that all readers admire and rejoice in Emma herself. He seems at times to forget Austen’s famous statement upon embarking on writing the book: ‘I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like’. While on the Internet among common readers of Austen, Fanny and not Emma wars have become famous, it doesn’t take long before coming across strong dissenters from Booth’s complacent delight in Emma, for his is a father’s view of his wonderfully loving, smart and finally submissive daughter (rather like Mr Knightley who he also admires very much), and thus very different interpretations of the novel.

Of those who cannot like Emma and rigorously find faults and flaws in the book or are candid in asking how we are to take a scene that seems to ask us to accept an obnoxious or now obsolete social attitude, I name Mark Schorer, Margaret Drabble, Arnold Kettle, and most recently Avrom Fleishman. Fleishman’s essay is the most intriguing since like Austen he uses an ironic tone: he presents this strange young woman without telling us what her name is (except since it’s in Todd’s book under Emma we must guess). Austen’s heroine emerges as a sexually frustrated neurotic woman tied down to an imbecilic weak (unconscious) tyrant. This over-the-top yet persuasive (you have to read the essay) interpretation stays with one because of the use of irony, and I at least was left wondering if this psychoanalysis is more accurate than we like to admit.

Fleishman’s view coheres with the more traditional approach of Schorer who sees the sexual frustration and fear in Emma and who also resembles Booth because in the end he feels Emma is rightly rewarded with Mr Knightley and qualifiedly adult contentment after she has been humiliated. Schorer’s is a punitive masculinist interpretation. For my part I find Margaret Drabble’s frank dissent and discomfort with Emma and her puzzles over where Austen is in this book and what she expects us to think and feel among all this irony the most illuminating essay in conventional print about it. Far superior to Pinch or Stafford.

This latest Oxford Emma does differ in one way from the three latest Oxfords I have reviewed: like the others, we get a detail of a picture of an attractive young woman so angled that the picture becomes a close up; however, this time the choice (as in 2003) is George Dawe’s Portrait of Mrs White (nee Watford), Full Length in a White Silk Dress (1809) and angling the camera this way makes the woman’s breasts prominent and (as it were) in the viewer’s face. So the volume participates in the recent fashion for exposure of breasts on classic or high status novels (and their sequels), a pornification which matches this decades fashion, even if the use of old images precludes also presenting an anorexic sexy model.

More appropriate to Austen’s subdued book are the images of ordinary social life which provide the covers for the books which provide full apparatuses, e.g., the two Norton editions thus far (of an 1817-18 assembly at Clifton) or the choice for the Longman Emma (ed. Frances Ferguson) of a contemporary image of Apley Priory, an 1811 mansion which included medievalizing elements that made it resemble an abbey.

Countering the insistence on the lifelike believable characters and place, is an equally strong tradition where it’s demonstrated how idyllic, leisured, insular, narrow and protected is the world our heroine is conscious of and lives wholly in.

More appropriate than a huge elegant romanticized mansion or exquisiteness picturesqueness would be a picture of a quiet country village, something anticipating Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford.

I’m one of those uncomfortable with Austen’s Emma. I don’t see what Emma has done to merit the apparently happy ending she is rewarded with. It may be that Austen is just showing how such a woman, so handsome, clever, rich, now with two comfortable homes, and a complacent disposition will live with ease. If so, I wish she hadn’t spent so many final chapters detailing the wish-fulfillment element and cannot myself believe that Jane Fairfax could so quickly forgive, unless again we are to see status at work and Jane’s reserve still functioning to protect her. This seems a stretch in that “feel good” scene between them in the corridor of Miss Bates’s lodging. What may be said, as Margaret Drabble writes, is “society has triumphed,” and I would feel more comfortable if the irony directed at the final happy community were shafted by someone other than Mrs Elton.

You can purchase Emma in various editions at our Jane Austen Bookshop. Click here.

Price: £4.99
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: OUP Oxford; New Ed. / edition (17 April 2008)
ISBN-10: 0199535523
ISBN-13: 978-0199535521

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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Mansfield Park: An Overview

Henry has finished “Mansfield Park,” and his approbation has not lessened. He found the last half of the last volume extremely interesting.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
March 9, 1814

Mansfield Park is a novel by Jane Austen, written at Chawton Cottage between 1812 and 1814. It was published in July 1814 by Thomas Egerton, who published Jane Austen’s two earlier novels, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. When the novel reached a second edition, its publication was taken over by John Murray, who also published its successor, Emma.

The main character, Fanny Price, is a young girl from a poor family, raised by her rich uncle and aunt, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, at Mansfield Park. She grows up with her four cousins, Tom Bertram, Edmund Bertram, Maria Bertram and Julia, but is always treated as inferior to them; only Edmund Bertram shows her real kindness. He is also the most virtuous of the siblings: Maria and Julia are vain and spoiled, while Tom is an irresponsible gambler. Over time, Fanny’s gratitude for Edmund’s kindness secretly grows into romantic love.

When the children have grown up, the stern patriarch Sir Thomas leaves for two years so he can deal with problems on his plantation in Antigua. Henry Crawford and his sister Mary Crawford arrive in the village, which begins a series of romantic entanglements. Mary and Edmund begin to form an attachment, though Edmund often worries that, although her manners are fashionable, they hide a lack of firm principle. However, she is engaging and charming, and goes out of her way to befriend Fanny. Fanny fears that Mary has enchanted Edmund, and love has blinded him to her flaws. Henry plays with the affections of Maria Bertram and Julia, despite Maria being already engaged to the dull, but very rich, Mr. Rushworth. Because Fanny is so little observed in the family circle, her presence is often overlooked and Fanny sees Maria and Henry in compromising situations several times.

Encouraged by Tom and his friend Mr. Yates, the young people decide to put on Elizabeth Inchbald’s play Lovers’ Vows; Edmund and Fanny oppose the plan, believing Sir Thomas will disapprove, but Edmund is eventually drawn into it, offering to play the part of Anhalt, who is the lover of the character played by Mary Crawford. In particular, the play provides a pretext for Henry and Maria to flirt in public. Sir Thomas arrives unexpectedly in the middle of a rehearsal, which ends the plan. Henry leaves, and Maria is crushed; she marries Mr. Rushworth and they leave for their honeymoon, taking Julia with them. Fanny’s improved looks and pleasant temper endear her to Sir Thomas, who pays more attention to her care.

Henry returns to Mansfield Park and decides to amuse himself by making Fanny fall in love with him. However, her genuine gentleness and kindness cause him to fall in love with her instead. When he proposes marriage, Fanny’s knowledge of his improper flirtations with her cousins, as well as her love for Edmund, cause her to reject him. The Bertrams are dismayed, since it is an extremely advantageous match for a poor girl like Fanny. Sir Thomas rebukes her for ingratitude. Thereafter she soon returns to her lower middle class family where she wishes to return to Mansfield Park. Sir Thomas is hopeful that she will realize the usefulness of a rich husband. Henry goes to visit her there, to demonstrate that he has changed and is worthy of her affection. Fanny’s attitude begins to soften but she still maintains that she will not marry him.

Shortly after Henry leaves, Fanny learns of a scandal involving Henry and Maria. The two have met again in London and begun an affair that, when discovered, ends in scandalous elopement and divorce. To make matters worse, the dissolute Tom has taken ill, and Julia has eloped with Mr. Yates. Fanny returns to Mansfield Park to comfort her aunt and uncle and to help take care of Tom. Although Edmund knows that marriage to Mary is now impossible because of the scandal between their relations, he goes to see her one last time. During the interview, it becomes clear that Mary doesn’t condemn Henry and Maria’s bad behaviour, only that they got caught. Her main concern is covering it up and she angrily implies that if Fanny had accepted Henry, he would have been too busy and happy to flirt with other women. This reveals Mary Crawford’s true nature to Edmund, who realises he had idealised her as someone she is not. He tells her so and returns to Mansfield and his living at Thornton Lacey. “At exactly the time it should be so, and not a week sooner” Edmund realises how important Fanny is to him, declares his love for her and they are married. Tom recovers from his illness, a steadier and better man for it, and Julia’s elopement turns out to be not such a desperate business after all. Austen points out that if only Crawford had persisted in being steadfast to Fanny, and not succumbed to the affair with Maria, Fanny eventually would have accepted his marriage proposal–especially after Edmund had married Mary.

Mansfield Park is the most controversial and perhaps the least popular of Austen’s major novels. Regency critics praised the novel’s wholesome morality, but many modern readers find Fanny’s timidity and disapproval of the theatricals difficult to sympathise with and reject the idea (made explicit in the final chapter) that she is a better person for the relative privations of her childhood. Jane Austen’s own mother thought Fanny “insipid”, and many other readers have found her priggish and unlikeable. Other critics point out that she is a complex personality, perceptive yet given to wishful thinking, and that she shows courage and grows in self-esteem during the latter part of the story. Austen biographer Claire Tomalin, who is generally rather critical of Fanny, argues that “it is in rejecting obedience in favour of the higher dictate of remaining true to her own conscience that Fanny rises to her moment of heroism.” But Tomalin reflects the ambivalence that many readers feel towards Fanny when she also writes: “More is made of Fanny Price’s faith, which gives her the courage to resist what she thinks is wrong; it also makes her intolerant of sinners, whom she is ready to cast aside.”

The story contains much social satire, targeted particularly at the two aunts. It is perhaps the most socially realistic Austen novel, with Fanny’s family of origin, the Prices, coming from a much lower echelon of society than most Austen characters.

Edward Said implicated the novel in western culture’s casual acceptance of the material benefits of slavery and imperialism, citing Austen’s omission to mention that the estate of Mansfield Park was made possible only through slave labour. Other critics, such as Gabrielle White, have criticised Said’s condemnation of Jane Austen and western culture, maintaining that Austen and other writers, including Samuel Johnson and Edmund Burke, opposed slavery and helped make its eventual abolition possible. Claire Tomalin, following literary critic Brian Southam, claims that Fanny, usually so timid, questions her uncle about the slave trade and receives no answer, suggesting that her vision of the trade’s immorality is clearer than his. However, Ellen Moody has challenged Southam’s interpretation, arguing that Fanny’s uncle would not have been “pleased” (as the text suggests) to be questioned on the subject if Southam’s reading of the scene were correct.

You can purchase Mansfield Park in several different editions at our Jane Austen Giftshop. Click here.

From Wikipedia, The online Encyclopedia.

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Oxford World’s Classics: Pride and Prejudice- A Review

Oxford Pride and Prejudice Cover

Pride and Prejudice
By Jane Austen

A Review by Ellen Moody
Gentle readers, here we are again, with diptych reviews of what turns out to be a reissue by Oxford in 2008 of its 2004 edition of Pride and Prejudice. I have complemented Laurel Ann’s review (from Austenprose). Laurel Ann’s review will give an overview of the novel, while I will focus on this particular edition and Pride and Prejudice’s overall popularity.

As before, I must agree with Laurel: the latest Oxford Pride and Prejudice is not quite as good a buy as the latest Oxford Sense and Sensibility. The two have exactly the same supplemental materials: brief biographical note, bibliography, chronology, and (by Vivien Jones) appendices on rank and social status and on dancing. The difference is the introduction and explanatory notes are by Fiona Stafford. So this Oxford half-way house series (half-way between those series which have an overload and those which have too bare an apparatus) does not tailor each edition to the specific novel. The publisher may assume their readers will not buy all six books, but the reader minded to do so will buy the same supplementary materials six times [1]. Fiona Stafford’s explanatory notes are full and very helpful; but her introduction is disappointing because much of it (to be fair, not all), and its central perspective rehashes the many times previously-discussed theme of misleading first impressions, preconceived judgements, and slow self-recognition, for which (to take just one previous example), Tony Tanner’s essay provides a brilliant and lucid exposition. [2]

To move to context, then and now: in the case of Pride and Prejudice, there cannot be any clear battles drawn over which texts to print and (if appropriate) emend. As with Sense and Sensibility we do not have in whole or part any manuscript version by Austen of Pride and Prejudice. This is lamentable since it’s thought that, like Sense and Sensibility, our present Pride and Prejudice is a much revised originally epistolary novel; it was probably the “manuscript novel, comprising 3 volumes, about the length of Miss Burney’s Evelina,” which Austen’s father sent out to a publisher in November 1797, only to see it immediately rejected. To have self-published a second book this length would have been a second costly venture, so perhaps to get Pride and Prejudice accepted by a publisher, Austen “lop’t and cropt” (Jane Austen’s letters, to Cassandra, 29 January 1813), i.e., cut and abridged her book somewhat ruthlessly. With the respectful attention Sense and Sensibility had garnered, she was then gratified to sell the copyright outright to Egerton for 110 pounds.

Thus Austen had no control over the printed texts of Pride and Prejudice at all. She was displeased by the divisions of the volumes in the first 1813 edition, blunders in paragraphing and a lack of clarity in the way the novels’ dialogues were printed, but the quick second edition (in the same year) and a third (1817) show no sign of her participation and the usual errors have begun to creep in. So there is no printed book which reflects her final decisions. The default custom is to reprint the first edition with emendation (doing basically what Chapman did), but sometimes collating the second and third. The latter option is what was done for Oxford by James Kinsley in 1973. Only with hindsight, did Austen know she could have made much more money. There is no sign she had the slightest inkling that this book above and beyond all her others would at first gradually and then suddenly by the later 20th century become a astonishingly wide best-seller.

In her review Laurel has pointed to P&P’s status. It was at first an immediately popular book among its contemporary Regency reading public. The satiric playwright, Richard Sheridan, is reputed to have said it was “one of the cleverest things he ever read” and told others to read it. Nonetheless, in the first half of the 19th century Austen’s novels were regarded as appealing to an elite taste. It was in 1870, when Austen’s nephew, James Austen-Leigh published his memoir of his aunt’s life which framed her books as sentimental romance, that the idea Austen’s books could have a general popular and wide appeal spread, and (as Henry James remarked), publishers began to work the material up.

In Jane Austen’s novels we witness a complex event of the type that the sales of the Harry Potter books represent: an initial attraction, and several intervening steps come together. After Austen-Leigh somewhat misleadingly reframed the books as nostalgic comic romances, from the late Victorian to the Edwardian era, the novels were framed as Janeism, a mixture of kitsch and arch comedy, quaint, unreal somehow, and for everyone to escape to. It is during this time we find elegant sets of books with illustrations reinforcing the comedy and sentiment of Pride and Prejudice.

In the era leading into WW1 and since, they were reframed as comfort books—an idea brought to vivid comic life in Kipling’s famous story, Janeites. Then thanks to Chapman in the 1920s Austen becomes fit matter for scholarly editions and criticism (the equivalent of Latin classics); by the 1930s, she is one of three acceptable female authors available to male readers (George Eliot, Jane and narrowly Virginia Woolf).

I belong to a large software community called Library Thing, where as of the writing of this blog 459,380 people have catalogued 29,428,407 books. A software engine there informed me I am one among 20,752 people to have a copy of Pride and Prejudice. By contrast, around 10,021 members of this community own a copy of Emma; 9,456 have a copy of Sense and Sensibility; 7,143 have a copy of Persuasion; 5,883 have a Mansfield Park; 4,988 have a Northanger Abbey.

The meaningfulness of these numbers is limited since Library Thing is made up of people who own enough books to want to catalogue them, who can do the software, and who are probably more reading types than the average person. Further, one person may own more than one or many copies of a particular book. I own 11 different editions and reprints of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in English and one French and one Italian [5]. Nonetheless, the sheer number of copies of Pride and Prejudice, and the discrepancy between this and the numbers of other of Austen’s novels owned at Library Thing are striking.

But why Pride and Prejudice above all? As Q.D. Leavis and others have shown, it’s not very different from Austen’s others [6]. Recently Laurel posted on Austenprose some revealing, albeit, typical results from a survey: Pride and Prejudice is named in among the top five favorite books grouped with Gone with the Wind, Rebecca, and Jane Eyre. Such surveys have been shown to be of limited use: people cannot be gotten to tell truth when asked what are their favorite books for real or even necessarily to tell the whole truth on whether they read the books they cite or not. People are guided in how they think their choices will make them look, what kind of statement they want to make about their reading habits. The same kind of feeling guides how they respond to book covers (people don’t want to show a book cover that will make them in their own eyes look bad to someone else). And how they see or think others see the book. [7]

But they do show us something, and that is how readers perceive the books they cite. And they perceive Pride and Prejudice as a primal archetypal and respectable romance book—to be cited in the same breath as Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca. In Stafford’s introduction to this new Oxford, she ignores this, the very reason for this latest re-issue of Pride and Prejudice. The reason is not far to seek; she does not want to get caught up in the real conflicts over the book; above all, the increasingly verboten use of the word feminism [8]. By contrast, in Vivien Jones’s introduction to the new Penguin edition, Jones begins with a truth not universally acknowledged that “the experienced reader of romance” as she opens Pride and Prejudice knows just what to expect: after an ordeal (in this case the heroine learns to distrust herself), she’s given her heart’s dream of a handsome man, great wealth, prestige, and tender protective love in spades.

The question for women today is how falsifying is this vision? There seems to be but one legitimate goal for the Bennet sisters, one security (having a strong rich man), but are there no other options? There is cruelty in Austen’s depiction of a reading girl (Mary Bennet), which is reinforced by film-makers who deliberately choose flat-chested actresses and dress them up to look ugly. A rare departure is found in Fay Weldon’s depiction of Mary Bennet as lively, eager, and smarter than we realize in her 1979 mini-series Pride and Prejudice.

Yet, is it false to women’s experience of powerlessness today and the continued prestige and power of male and male heterosexual desires in the public marketplace? In pre-feminist and now this backlashed post-feminist era, women have seen that education has not given them power, and they turn to Austen’s version of romance as refuge, as places they can recuperate an identity they are not allowed to enjoy elsewhere. It is this perspective which leads to the aligning of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and all her novels with modern modern chick-lit. [9]

You can purchase Pride and Prejudice in several different editions at our Jane Austen Giftshop. Click here.

Paperback: 382 pages

Publisher: OUP Oxford; New Ed. / edition (17 April 2008)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0199535566

ISBN-13: 978-0199535569

RRP: £4.99

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.


  • Supplemental materials tailored to shed light and information on the specific novel at hand is one of the great strengths of the kind of edition which provides rich supplementary materials, and of the many for P&P, I recommend no less than three: 1) the third edition (2001) of the Norton Pride and Prejudice, edited by Donald Gray, for its array of well-chosen selections from Austen’s letters, early biographical writing, Austen’s Juvenilia, and especially pieces from 20th & 21st century critical essays, which form a remarkably diverse yet coherent conversation on the novel; 2) the 2003 Longmans cultural edition of Pride and Prejudice edited by Claudia Johnson and Susan J. Wolfson, for its thick section of contemporary documents on money, the marriage market, male and female character as seen as the time, the picturesque and great houses, selections from Jane Austen’s own letters and (as there was much) contemporary reactions to this novel; and 2) the stunning achievement of David Shapard, for he has produced an easy-to-use mini-encylopedia, which (since the information is placed on alternative pages) need not overwhelm a new reader: The Annotated Pride and Prejudice (New York: Anchor, 2004). Particularly felicitious are Shapard’s choices for drawings and illustrations, e.g.
  • Tanner’s essay was first published in book form as Knowledge and Opinion: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP, 1986):103-141; it is also found as the introductory essay to the first English Penguin Library (1972) edition of the novel, which edition was reprinted in 1986; in the most recent or new Penguin edition of Pride and Prejudice (2003), Tony Tanner’s essay is reprinted as an appendix.
  • The 2003 new Penguin (referred to in Note 1) takes the step of adhering more closely to the 1813 text (there is no attempt to standardize or modernize the text), so as with the 2003 new Penguin Sense and Sensibility, which took the unusual step of reprinting the first 1811 text of that novel. The new Penguins offer readers a somewhat different text, one which may look strange, but at the same time be closer to Austen’s original manuscript and hold some new interest. The reader who buys the new Penguin can then compare it to the usual modernized 1813 texts.
  • From Anthony Trollope’s Autobiography, edd. Michael Sadleir and Frederick Page (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1980):104.
  • For Pride and Prejudice I own Jane Austen, Orgueil et prejuges, trans. V. Leconte and Ch. Pressoir, note biographique de Jacques Roubaud. Paris: Christian Bourgeois 1979, with preface by Virginia Woolf translated into Frenchy by Denise Getzler; and Orgoglio e pregiudizio, trans. Elena Grillo, introd. Pietro Meneghelli, in Jane Austen: Tutti e romanzi, ed. Ornella de Zordo (Rome: Grandi Tascabili Economici Newton 1997).
  • Q. D. Leavis, A Critical Theory of Jane Austen’s Writings, Scrutiny, 10 (1941-42), pp. 114-142, 272-294; 12 (1944-45), pp. 104-119.
  • It’s heartening to think women are at least not made ashamed of liking archetypal women’s books, and will cite Austen’s works, GWTW, Rebecca, and Jane Eyre—though they can be ridiculed and shamed out of going to a womens’ film or made to think it’s bad because they don’t think about who wrote the review or that it’s the product of masculinist values. Statistically white readers outnumber those polled, so we should note most of these lists don’t reflect at all what non-white readers say they favor or read.
  • Other half-way house editions which begin at the right place frankly, the popularity of P&P and its status as an ultimate romance, include the recent 2008 reprint of the Signet edition of Pride and Prejudice with Margaret Drabble’s perceptive and candid introduction (first printed as part of this edition since 1950). Nowadays there’s an afterword by a popular romance writer (swashbucklers and bodice-rippers are part of her trade), Eloisa James whose reading of the novel makes visible just how such a lover of romance understands the book. Ms James waxes indignant over Elizabeth’s hypocrisy. It seems Austen’s heroine is a hypocrite because she doesn’t admit how much she longs to marry, see Afterword, pp. 377-79. My choice for my students in a general education literature course is this little Signet.
  • The feminist critique of Pride and Prejudice is well-argued by Claudia Johnson in Jane Austen: Women, Politics and the Novel (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1988):73-75, 80-84, 87-89; also Susan Fraiman, The Humiliation of Elizabeth Bennet, Unbecoming Women: British Women Writers and the Novel of Development (NY: Columbia UP, 1993):69-87. A really intelligent defense and explanation of women’s novels may be found in Chick-lit: The New Women’s Ficiton, edd. Suzanne Ferriss and Mallory Young (NY: Routledge, 2006).


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Oxford World’s Classics: Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility

By Jane Austen
Introduction by Margaret Anne Doody
Review by Ellen Moody

I was delighted when Laurel of Austenprose asked me to join her in writing reviews of the recent reprint of the Oxford standard editions of Austen’s novels. I’d get to gaze at the different covers, read introductions, notes, appendices, and if any were included, illustrations. As you might have guessed, I’m one of those who partly chooses to buy a book based on its cover. I enjoy introductions (occasionally more than the story they introduce), get a kick out of background maps and illustrations, and especially ironic notes.

Looking into the matter I discovered I’d have to sleuth what if anything was the difference between these new reprints and the earlier reprints of James Kinsley’s 1970-71 edition, from which all the subsequent Oxford texts have been taken. Why after examining the early texts did Kinsley made the choice to reprint R. W. Chapman’s 1923 edition of Austen’s novels with some emendations? Hmm. My curiosity made me unable to resist checking the Oxfords against the other editions of Austen’s novels I own. In the case of Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, a novel I first read when I was 13 and the one closest to my heart, I own 14 different editions and reprints, and French and Italian translations.

The more cynical and less devoted reader of Austen may well say, wait a minute here. What would be the point or interest, since probably the differences in the texts themselves would be miniscule, the paratexts just the sort of thing Catherine Morland would have skipped, and this upsurge of proliferating books simply the result of a highly competitive marketplace. But that’s the point. We can ask why provide all this if the goal is to produce an inexpensive handy text and the motive profit? The answer comes back that Austen’s novels are at once high status, beloved, and best-selling texts which keep selling because they’re best-selling books. They have highly diverse and conflicting groups of (let us call them) consumers. So in order not to offend and to persuade as many readers as possible to buy at least once or yet again, publishers are driven to produce books which are informative and pleasing, accurate and accessible—and up-to-date. Since the reprints cover more than a quarter of a century, we may watch different introducers struggling to present their respective agendas, which, like the changes in the covers of the books, reflect the ever-changing climate of a surprizingly stormy Austenland.

We also had more than the famous six books because since 1980 Oxford had chosen to accompany Northanger Abbey with Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon, Austen’s lesser-known novels (the first epistolary, the last two unfinished). Laurel and I had an intriguing journey ahead of us. We agreed we would form sister reviews, each one a counterpart to the other. A reading of Laurel’s review will give a good overview to the book.

I agree with Laurel that the 2008 reissue of the Oxford’s 2004 edition of Kinsley’s Sense and Sensibility is a good buy. It avoids extremes, or is a half-way house between series which just reproduce an unannotated text, only sometimes with a brief “Afterword” essay2; and series which may overload readers with an apparatus in the back of contemporary documents, recent critical essays (some the result of this year’s fashions in academia), and contain aggressive overly abstract introductions by writers who seem to take a downright hostile stance to the texts and most of its readers3.

The introductory essay by Margaret Anne Doody is brilliant, eloquent, and comprehensive; since 2004 the Oxford has included two appendices by Vivien Jones who wisely chose to explain two kinds of pivotal concerns and happenings in all Austen’s novels: Appendix One explains the rank and social status of the characters, and Appendix Two, the different dances included in her novels and how they can function. Claire Lamont has mostly improved on and rewritten the explanatory notes from the previous edition: the new ones are fuller, and more contemporary texts are cited. The method is to give the reference by page number and use an asterisk; this makes for a speedy flip back and forth4.

So much for complementarity. Laurel has summarized the topics of Doody’s introduction and interesting items cited in the bibliography, discussed the all- too-short life, and the role of chaperon in a young genteel woman’s life (as suggested by the appendix on dancing), and left to me the not unimportant business about exactly what is presented to us as Jane Austen’s written extant novel. To this I’ll add a little on the covers, and brief information on the 5 available film adaptations of the novel.

To wit, we do not have in whole or part any manuscript version by Austen of Sense and Sensibility so we cannot know for sure what her text of this novel was like. As they do today, printing houses then had styles of their own, and no text was at all sancro-sanct from changes in punctuation, grammar, paragraphing and the like. Of the versions of S&S published in Austen’s lifetime, the first published in 1811 was sold out. Austen rejoiced, and in 1813 there was a second. Austen was actively involved in the production of both; she proof-read the first, but, alas, apparently not the second, and errors of all sorts have been found in the 1813 text. On the other hand, Austen made small revisions of this 1813 text so those are her last emendations in print. Here we have to remember the painful truth that Jane Austen died young and didn’t have much chance to have second thoughts for her book: she was producing the final copies for all 4 she saw into print and writing all six (plus perhaps a seventh, Sanditon). A very busy lady indeed and then mortally ill.

Over the 19th century errors crept into the many reprints of Austen’s books; and in 1923 R.W. Chapman sat down to produce scrupulously accurate scholarly texts which were the equivalent of what were printed for very high status male authors; he followed the standards of his time, which included discreet corrections of grammar, punctuation and paragraphing. For Sense and Sensibility he chose the 1813 edition after correcting it, and it’s Chapman’s text that Kinsley studied, emended somewhat and is the basis for all Oxfords afterwards. Recently though it’s been asserted that Chapman over-corrected and so polished Austen’s text that we lose flavor, tone, and something of the colloquial voice of Austen; and in the 2003 new Penguin edition, Kathryn Sutherland has taken the rare step of using the 1811 text as her basis. Did Chapman really alter the spirit of Austen’s books? Yes and no. Sutherland’s edition gives us a less polished, more sparsely punctuated text.

It should be admitted, as with introductions to texts, this is something of an agenda fight. Kathryn Sutherland, Claudia Johnson (editor of the recent Norton edition), and others feel the perceived picturesqueness & tea-and-crumpets quaint feel of Chapman’s original Oxfords helped sustain a kitsch and elitist view of Austen. It’s also a turf fight: the publishers of these texts need their choices to be respected to gain the full Austen readership.

But there’s something more here too. Austen did change some actual wording in the 1813 edition. Now it’s sometimes true the author’s first text was the superior one; sometimes the last corrected one is. It’s a matter of judgement and taste. What’s important is the text be not bowdlerized. In 1813 Austen cut a second sentence that appears in the 1811 text: in 1811 at the Delaford Abbey picnic, the narrator repeats the rumor that Colonel Brandon has a “natural daughter” that Mrs Jennings’s brief mention made public. We are told Mrs Jenning’s statement so

“shocked the delicacy of Lady Middleton that in order to banish so improper a subject as the mention of a natural daughter, she actually took the trouble of saying something herself about the weather” (I:3).

Strangely, for all Sutherland complaints about Chapman, he did include the 1811 sentence in his reprint of the 1813 text. He simply intelligently made a judgement call and put it back. Alas, somewhere along the line this offending sentence was omitted from all editions strictly based on the 1813 text, and now appears only in the footnotes to all, including this latest 2008 Oxford! What bothers me is in the notes most scholars repeatedly refuse to recognize the obvious, that Austen deleted the sentence because it was too frank. Instead we get supersubtle interpretations that Austen removed the passage because she didn’t want the situation to be tactfully covered up. But how could it be, since Mrs Jennings has let the cat out of the bag, and this is one of those many secrets Austen’s Mr Knightley tells us is just the sort of thing everyone knows.

On to the covers. There is a long custom of picking pictures of two upper class women (often sisters) standing or sitting close together for the cover of S&S. This began in the first popular editions of the 19th century, Bentley’s 1833 volume where we see Lucy and Elinor walking together. It’s seen in James Kinsley’s choice of a Hugh Thomson illustration of the very moment Marianne sees Willoughby at Lady Middleton’s assembly. Entirely typical of just every choice I’ve seen is how Thomson’s psychological depiction is wholly inadequate. Pair after pair of women are chosen whose faces are expressionless, but whose credentials, as visibly upper class, fleshly (this once having been a sign of high rank), white, elegant dressers, are unassailable.

For example, Sara Coleridge with Edith May Warner by Edward Nash [1820], the 1980 Oxford cover; Ellen & Mary McIlvane by Thomas Sully [1834], the 2003 New Penguin cover. These latest Oxfords differ only in preferring to focus on an enlarged detail of the two women, something Laurel tells me is fashionable in covers. An earlier version may be found in a 1983 Bantam, Charlotte and Sarah Hardy by Thomas Lawrence (1801)

No one disputes the centrality of a pair of sisters as central to the novel (and primal to Austen as in all her novels we find them), but I am heterodox enough to declare that as a reader of Austen, I’m of the party who feels if we are to have two women, let us have either genuinely effective images, or one of the many effective stills from the recent movies, as in covers of the 1995 Signet and 1996 Everyman.

Even a landscape redolent of picturesqueness or some pivotal point in the story of the Dashwoods would suffice. This latter choice is uncommon, although the 2002 Norton appropriatetly chose Devonshire Landscape by William Payne (c. 1780).

What I particularly liked about Margaret Doody’s essay in this new Oxford is she demonstrates the plot-design, climaxes, and much of the text of the novel is as much about social life, women’s relationship with other women, economic injustice, and aesthetic hypocrisies and affectation as it is a love story.

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: OUP Oxford; Rev. Ed. / edition (17 April 2008)

Language:  English

ISBN-10: 0199535574

ISBN-13: 978-0199535576

RRP: £4.99

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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Opinions of Jane Austen’s Emma

Jane Austen's Emma

Opinions of Jane Austen’s Emma

As she had done with Mansfield Park the previous
year, when Jane Austen’s Emma was released in 1815, Jane Austen, like any proud artist collected opinions on her work from
friends and family. These candid reflections give us a wonderful insight into how Jane Austen’s Emma was received in its day.

Captn. Austen. [1]–liked it extremely, observing that though there might be more Wit in P & P–& an higher
Morality in MP–yet altogether, on account of it’s peculiar air of Nature throughout, he preferred it to either.

Mrs F. A. [2]–liked & admired it very much indeed, but must still prefer P & P.

Mrs J. Bridges–preferred it to all the others.

Miss Sharp–better than M P.–but not so well as P. & P.–pleased with the Heroine for her Originality,
delighted with Mr K–& called MrsElton beyond praise.– dissatisfied with Jane Fairfax.

Cassandra–better than P. & P.–but not so well as M. P.–

Fanny K. [3]–not so well as either P. & P. or M P.–could not bear Emma herself.–Mr Knightley delightful.–
Should like J. F.–if she knew more of her.–

Mr & Mrs J. A. [4]– did not like it so well as either of the 3 others. Language different from the others; not
so easily read.–

Edward [5]–preferred it to M P.–only. –Mr K. liked by every body.

Miss Bigg–not equal to either P & P. or M P.–objected to the sameness of the subject (Match-making) all
through.–Too much of Mr Elton & H. Smith. Language superior to the others.–

My Mother–thought it more entertaining than M P.–but not so interesting as P. & P.–No characters in it equal
to Ly Catherine & Mr Collins.–

Miss Lloyd [6]–thought it as clever as either of the others, but did not receive so much pleasure from it as
from P. & P–& M P.–

Mrs & Miss Craven–liked it very much, but not so much as the others.–

Fanny Cage–liked it very much indeed & classed it between P & P.–& M P.–

Mr Sherer–did not think it equal to either M P–(which he liked the best of all) or P & P.–displeased with my
pictures of Clergymen.–

Miss Bigg–on reading it a second time, liked Miss Bates much better than at first, & expressed herself as
liking all the people of Highbury in general, except Harriet Smith–but cd not help still thinking her too silly in
her Loves.

The family at Upton Gray–all very much amused with it.–Miss Bates a great favourite with Mrs Beaufoy.

Mr & Mrs Leigh Perrot–saw many beauties in it, but cd not think it equal to P. & P.–Darcy & Elizth had spoilt
them for anything else.–Mr K. however, an excellent Character; Emma better luck than a Matchmaker often
has.–Pitied Jane Fairfax–thought Frank Churchill better treated than he deserved.–

Countess Craven–admired it very much, but did not think it equal to P & P.–which she ranked as the very first
of it’s sort.–

Mrs Guiton–thought it too natural to be interesting.

Mrs Digweed–did not like it so well as the others, in fact if she had not known the Author, could hardly have
got through it.–

Miss Terry–admired it very much, particularly Mrs Elton.

Henry Sanford–very much pleased with it–delighted with Miss Bates, but thought Mrs Elton the best-drawn
Character in the Book.–Mansfield Park however, still his favourite.

Mr Haden–quite delighted with it. Admired the Character of Emma.–

Miss Isabella Herries–did not like it–objected to my exposing the sex in the character of the
Heroine–convinced that I had meant Mrs & Miss Bates for some acquaintance of theirs–People whom I never heard of

Miss Harriet Moore–admired it very much, but M. P. still her favourite of all.–

Countess Morley–delighted with it.–

Mr Cockerelle–liked it so little, that Fanny wd not send me his opinion.–

Mrs Dickson–did not much like it–thought it very inferior to P. & P.–Liked it the less, from there being a
Mr. and Mrs Dixon in it.–

Mrs Brandreth–thought the 3d vol: superior to anythin I had ever written–quite beautiful!–

Mr B. Lefroy–thought that if there had been more Incident, it would be equal to any of the others.–The
Characters quite as well drawn & supported as in any, & from being more everyday ones, the more entertaining.–Did
not like the Heroine so well as any of the others. Miss Bates excellent, but rather too much of her. Mr & Mrs Elton
admirable & John Knightley a sensible Man.–

Mrs B. Lefroy–rank’d Emma as a composition with S & S.–not so Brilliant as P. & P–nor so equal as M
P.–Preferred Emma herself to all the heroines.–The Characters like all the others admirably well drawn &
supported–perhaps rather less strongly marked than some, but only the more natural for that reason.–Mr Knightley
Mrs Elton & Miss Bates her favourites.–Thought one or two of the conversations too long.–

Mrs Lefroy–preferred it to M P–but like M P. the least of all.

Mr Fowle–read only the first & last Chapters, because he had heard it was not interesting.–

Mrs Lutley Sclater–liked it very much, better than M P– & thought I had “brought it all about very cleverly in
the last volume.”–

Mrs C. Cage wrote thus to Fanny–“A great many thanks for the loan of Emma, which I am delighted with. I like it
better than any. Every character is thouroughly kept up. I must enjoy reading again with Charles. Miss Bates is
incomprable, but I was nearly killed with those precious treasures! They are Unique, & really with more fun than 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.

Mrs Wroughton–did not like it so well as P. & P.–Thought the Authoress wrong, in such times as these, to draw
such Clergymen as Mr Collins and Mr Elton.

Sir J. Langham–thought it much inferior to the others.–

Mr Jeffery (of the Edinburgh Review) was kept up by it three nights.

Miss Murden–certainly inferior to all the others.–

Capt. C. Austen [7] wrote–“Emma arrived in time to a moment. I am delighted with her, more so I think than even
with my favourite Pride and Prejudice, & have read it three times in the Passage.”

Mrs D. Dundas–thought it very clever, but did not like it so well as the others.

  1. Francis William; his brother Charles is below.
  2. Francis’s wife.
  3. Knight
  4. James Austen
  5. James Edward
  6. Martha
  7. Charles John

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The Faces of Jane

Jane Austen's WorldJane Austen’s World
By Maggie Lane

Maggie Lane has done a wonderful job in this Austen collection. It is well set out, beautifully illustrated and a perfect introduction to Austen- especially for fans who have discovered her through the recent popularity of her books turned film and television series. It is a hardcover coffee table sized book- not something you take to bed with you- quite slim but packed full of good material. The book is divided into five chapters which cover everything from Jane Austen the person, to daily life in Regency England and the film adaptations. Each chapter is subdivided into smaller sections which are really just double page spreads on a particular subject. Don’t expect an in depth analysis of any particular subject but do expect a very competent summary. Lane includes a chronology of Austen’s life which is useful and easy to read. The only real objection I have is that many of the pictures used in here are not titled and it is difficult to find out where they are from- the illustrations index in the back is quite small and cluttered. For those of you who are thinking of buying this book second hand, watch out that you don’t confuse this book with Lane’s earlier work on Austen’s life. That is a smaller book and is more of a biography tracing her life and travels. In short- a really enjoyable book.

Hardcover – 144 pages (August 1997)
List Price: $20.00
Adams Media Corporation; ISBN: 1558507485

Jane Austen: Obstinate Heart

Jane Austen: Obstinate Heart
by Valerie Grosvenor Myer

I think Valerie Grovesnor Myer has made a good stab at trying to write to a biography of Austen and she succeeds relatively well. The only trouble is, Austen biographies are all drawn from the same material- very little new information has been turned up in recent years and so biographers are forced to reinterpret the old sources to find a new angle. That really is what this author has done- with only moderate success. Obstinate Heart has 24 chapters, mostly in chronological order. The complaint that this is more about Austen’s family than Austen herself bears through- especially in the first nine chapters. To make her book different, Myer has attempted to find biographical incidents from Austen’s own life to explain incidents in her novels. Not a bad thing to do- but I found it overpowering at time- as though she were just going from one incident to another- and sometimes I felt her examples used weren’t good ones. For instance she likened Jane Austens’ brother Edward’s adoption by the Knights to Fanny Price’s living with the Bertrams in Mansfield Park. Not at all the same situation. In the novel Fanny lived with the family but was never adopted by them. In real life, Edward adopted the new surname of Knight and eventually inherited a large estate and fortune from it. The situation reminds one more of Frank Churchill in Emma- Frank Weston is adopted by his aunt, Mrs Churchill, adopts her name and becomes her heir. That seems that is a much better example- why did Myer use this much less satisfactory one? Another ‘problem’ is that though she proves that she has read various books on Austen (for instance Deidre Le Faye’s collected letters of Austen) she doesn’t seem to have done much research on the history of the period. Myer cites a letter from Austen to her neice Fanny Knight in which she talks of the whole race of ‘Pagets’. Myer has clearly used the footnote which is in Le Faye’s edition of the letters to explain this remark about Austen’s dislike of the Pagets – explaining about Lord Paget’s (later Marquess of Anglesey) elopement with Lady Charlotte Wellesley. What both Le Faye and Myer miss is that the year before this elopement there was another High profile Paget elopement when Lord Paget’s brother eloped with Lady Boringdon. A little extra research on Myer’s part would have revealed this fact. I found the book interesting simply for Myer’s ‘new’ interpretation, but I wouldn’t pick it by choice. If you are looking for a really good biography of Jane – Park Honan’s is much better – or Claire Tomalin’s. (Both are available in our Giftshop) There are many other great books on the history of the time you could read. Maggie Lane is great and Deidre Le Faye’s collection of letters is fabulous. If this is all you can get hold of though, it would do in a pinch.

List Price: $13.95
Paperback – 288 pages (April 1998)
Arcade Publishing; ISBN: 1559704357

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.

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The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy / Searching for Pemberley: Two novels by Mary Lydon Simonsen Reviewed

The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy
by Mary Lydon Simonsen

Reviewed by Laurel Ann Nattress
I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I labeled Pride and Prejudice as Jane Austen’s most popular work. In fact, I will take it one step further and proclaim it one of the most beloved novels of all time. It is no surprise to me, at all, that readers want to revisit this tale, and movie makers and writers keep pumping out P&P inspired fare. In the past fifteen years, we have seen a plethora of Mr. Darcy and Lizzy Bennet prequels, sequels, retellings, variations and inspired books. Mary Lydon Simonsen’s new offering The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy falls into the variation category. She has reworked the classic love story of misconceptions and misunderstandings offering her own unique take. Purist, fair warning if you are easily “put out” by tampering with your cherished classic. Be advised to make haste and head back to the unadulterated original, now! You will not find faithful adherence to Austen’s characterizations here. But if you are liberal in approach and tempered for a good lark, there are abundant amusements to be had in this new novel.

The plot line runs parallel to Jane Austen’s original. Mr. Darcy, an arrogant, wealthy young man snubs Elizabeth Bennet, a spirited, overly confident gentleman’s daughter at a local assembly Ball. Her sister Jane and his best friend Charles Bingley fall in love but are separated by him. She is convinced that Darcy has spitefully withheld a promised living to her new flirtation Mr. Wickham. Mesmerized by her impertinence and fine eyes, he is compelled to propose despite his own objections to her family. She flatly rejects him. He writes the “Be not alarmed madam letter” of explanation then promptly departs. How will they reunite and find love? Austen’s narrative and denouement is famous for its plot twists and gradual reversal of his pride and her prejudice. Simonsen walks the same path, but her characters react differently changing the outcome; requiring other minor characters to be developed to facilitate their eventual love match. Enter Mr. Darcy’s sickly cousin Anne de Bourgh and his shy younger sister Georgiana Darcy. Both ladies have had major character make-overs. Anne is now a dear friend and adviser to her cousin; Georgiana, a spunky and adventurous kid sister. Both heavily advocate and plan their reunion.

After Darcy returned to his room for the night, Anne thought about all that had happened between Will and Elizabeth and recognized that her cousin had got himself into a real mess. But Fitzwilliam Darcy was in love with Elizabeth Bennet, and Anne had seen real interest on Elizabeth’s part during their evenings together at Rosings Park, so something had to be done. Before retiring, she had settled on a course of action. It was as complicated as any battle plan, and it would take luck and timing to make it work. But her cousin’s happiness was at stake, and so she began to work out the details of her scheme.
Page 37

Through the expansion of other minor characters and the, introduction of new ones we begin to see the back story to Austen’s masterpiece as Simonsen envisions it. Even the servants, who receive only a passing mention in the original, get some great lines. Hill, the housekeeper at Longbourn spreads all sorts of town tittle- tattle and pertinent tidbits to the Bennet family. More holes filled. And, Simonsen even ventures to mention the two affairs that Darcy had before he met Lizzy. Well, he is a Regency gentleman after all. One of the biggest changes in temperament is in Lizzy’s sister, the gentle and biddable Jane Bennet. She sees no fault with anyone in the original, which is in itself a fault, but not in this version. Jane sees through the Bingley sisters’ fake friendship, calls her father to account for his lack of guidance to his wife and three younger daughters, and believes the only reason why her sister rejected Mr. Darcy’s marriage proposal was in her defense. Yes. It’s not about Darcy being the last man in the world that Lizzy could be prevailed upon to marry (because he is a snob and a jerk at that point) but because Lizzy was so angry at him for separating her beloved sister from her beau, Mr. Bingley.

It was true that Lizzy’s dislike for Mr. Darcy was based on his unkind words and haughty behavior at the assembly, but that would not have been enough for her to reject out of hand a proposal from a man of such consequence. And as sympathetic as Lizzy was to Mr. Wickham being denied a promised living, Lizzy had not known Mr. Wickham well enough to become so angry as to be dismissive of Mr. Darcy’s offer. The intensity of Lizzy’s rejection could come only as the result of someone she loved being hurt, and that someone was Jane.
Page 117

If you are chuffed by my mention of some of the changes, take heed. This is true fanfiction where you “[S] uppose as much as you chuse; give a loose to your fancy, indulge your imagination in every possible flight which the subject will afford.” Simonsen has played the game well, though I struggled with the opening set-up and some who have not read the original novel nor seen one of the many movies may be lost as she leaps through the first third of the original book’s plot to the first proposal scene of Lizzy and Darcy at Hunsford. After that point she settles in and develops her slant more evenly.

Creative, well-paced and definitely diverting, The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy will surprise you, repeatedly, as you compare the original to this variation. I will concede that it is always difficult for me to warm to big changes in beloved characters, especially Lizzy and Darcy, who we all know so well. I can’t say that I enjoyed all the vicissitudes, but I admire the author’s creativity. Where this novel excelled at expanding upon minor characters and introducing new ones, it foundered in reverence to Austen’s hero and heroine, which is pretty much why many are drawn to read a Pride and Prejudice sequel with Mr. Darcy in the title in the first place. After her success with the historically driven Searching for Pemberley, this is Simonsen’s first attempt at pure fanfiction. It was a great start that promises an even greater future.

RRP: £9.99
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc (28 Jan 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-1402240256

Searching for Pemberley
by Mary Lydon Simonsen

Reviews by Laurel Ann Nattress
Could Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice have been based on the courtship of Elizabeth Garrison and William Lacey, a Regency era couple who appear to be the doppelgangers of the legendary Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy? The possibility is intriguing to Maggie Joyce, a 22-year old American working in England after WWII who hears rumors of the story of Elizabeth and William Lacey while touring Montclair, their palatial estate in Derbyshire whose similarities to Pemberley, the grand country estate in Pride and Prejudice seem to be more than a striking coincidence. As a devoted fan of Austen’s most popular novel, Maggie is curious to discover the truth. When she is introduced to Beth and Jack Crowell, a local couple with strong connections to the Lacey family, they gradually reveal to Maggie their own research through the Lacey letters, journals and family lore. As Maggie begins her own journey into the real-life parallel story of the Lacey/Darcy families she meets two young men, a handsome American ex Army Corpsman Rob McAllister who survived his treacherous tour of duty as a bomber navigator over Germany and the Crowell’s youngest son Michael serving in the RAF. Drawn into the struggles of her own love story and inspired by an eighteenth century version amazingly similar to Austen’s original, Maggie, like Elizabeth Bennet must choose if she will only marry for love.

A year ago I read and reviewed the self published version of this book, Pemberley Remembered. Recognizing its strengths and weaknesses, I was pleased to see that it had been picked up by Sourcebooks and would be revamped and combined with a second book, the sequel that Simonsen had already completed. I see vast improvements from its original edition. The complicated story line and vast historical details have been edited down, and the love story of Maggie, Rob and Michael brought forward. The story line, characters and subject are still intriguing, however as I mentioned in my first review, it is only the execution that could make this multi-layered story believable, entertaining and cohesive. It is still obvious from the historical references and antecedents that Simonsen did her research on Georgian and World War era English history as she includes stories about events, people and places to support her characters with aplomb. Searching for Pemberley reads like a documentary where subjects talk about their memories of people and events, or personal letters are read a-la the Ken Burns school of documentary film making. The narrative style is all about the characters telling and not showing how events and relationships unfolded. There is very little interactive dialogue. This is great for a fact based documentary, but tough for a historical love story. I usually prefer character driven plots, so once I accepted that this novel was not about getting into the characters head or their interactions, I quite enjoyed it. Like the epistolary novels of Jane Austen’s time, the style of Searching for Pemberley may be its greatest limitation.

Written with respect for Jane Austen and a passion for history, Simonsen has combined two genres into a bittersweet war-time drama encompassing the tragic elements of the devastation of war, not only on the men and women that bravely served, but the friends, family and loved ones that they came home to. The references to Pride and Prejudice will enchant Janeites as they remember favorite passages and compare plotlines. (It might even motivate a few readers to read the original) To be quite candid, it was hard for me to fathom that the genius of Jane Austen needed any prompting to create a story. To countermand, I just imagined it as a “what if” story and it softened the sting.

RRP: £7.99
Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Inc; Reprint edition (24 May 2010)
ISBN-13: 978-1402224393

A life-long acolyte of Jane Austen, Laurel Ann Nattress is the editor of and the forthcoming short story anthology Jane Austen Made Me Do It to be released by Ballantine Books on 11 October, 2011. 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 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 near Seattle, Washington where it rains a lot.

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