The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey
The Creations of Our Beloved Miss Jane
"Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her."
Matchmaking is never an easy undertaking; people will always try to follow their own hearts, however wrong they may be! A young girl and a clergyman, for instance, can never be left to choose their own life's partners for they are sure to do it very ill! The choice of who your life partner is best left up to the prettiest, richest, cleverest, young woman in your town.
"I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like."
Jane Austen's comic masterpiece was begun on January 21st, 1814 and completed on March 29th, 1815 when Jane was thirty. It was published by John Murray in December of 1815 with 2,000 copies in print and sold about 1,250 copies within the next year. On Monday, November 13th, 1815 Jane was invited to Carleton House, the home of the royal libraries and James Stanier Clarke, the Prince Regent's librarian. During her visit Mr. Clarke declared himself commissioned to say that if Miss Austen had any other novel forthcoming she was at liberty to dedicate it to the Prince Regent (later George IV of England) who was a reported fan of hers. She took the hint and the second edition of Emma was dedicated to the prince in 1816. A French version, La Nouvelle Emma, also appeared in 1816 as did the first American edition in Philadelphia.
"Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage:"
This is my favorite of Jane's books, I just love the beauty of it splashed with Baronet humor and naval admiration! Anne Elliot, with her 'strong mind and sweetness of manner' is definitely my favorite heroine, and Captain Wentworth, if not my favorite hero is pretty near it! What always strikes me about Persuasion is its contrast between staying firm and being persuaded, its true moral is to stay balanced, and calls for caution on the both sides.
"You may perhaps like the heroine, as she is almost too good for me." - A letter to niece Fanny Knight, March 1816.
Jane Austen's story of abiding love was written toward the end of her life and contains her oldest heroine. Some have argued that it is the novel which most reflects Jane's affairs of the heart, particularly an early acquaintance with a young man who her sister Cassandra later told family "he had quite fallen in love with Jane…he would have been a successful suitor." But soon after their meeting the sisters heard of his death unfortunately there is no evidence from this time to show how seriously this disappointment affected Jane Austen.
The Elliots, Jane's original title, was started August 8th, 1815 and finished in July 16th, 1816. But being unsatisfied with the ending chapters, Jane Austen worked at revising it and on August 6th, 1816, completed the ending that now appears in most publications. In a letter to her niece, Fanny Knight dated 23 March 1817, she refers to this novel as something she is readying for publication and may appear in another year; but she became sick and died July 18th, 1817 and was unable to have it published.
The title Persuasion was chosen by her brother Henry Austen when he published it with Northanger Abbey in 1817.
"My dear Brother, I can no longer refuse myself the pleasure of profiting by your kind invitation, when we last parted, of spending some weeks with you at Churchill, & therefore, if quite convenient to you & Mrs. Vernon to receive me at present, I shall hope within a few days to be introduced to a Sister whom I have so long desired to be acquainted with."
Lady Susan, a clever and ruthless widow, determines that her daughter is going to marry a man whom both detest. Lady Susan sets her own sights on her sister-in-law's brother, all the while keeping an old affair simmering on the back burner. But people will refuse to play the roles they are assigned!
Jane's naughty novel of letters, Lady Susan, is not (although it may seem to be) an older version of Emma.
We are unsure when this fragmentary novel was first written, though it may be conjectured that it was begun in 1795 -1799, around the same time as many of her first ruough drafts that later became major novels. But she seemingly lost interest in it until around 1805 -1806 when Jane started to revise what is now Northanger Abbey and changed its title and heroine's name from Susan to Miss Catherine. It was probably during this time that she also revised Lady Susan adding the Conclusion which tells how the various characters ended.
It was first published and given the title Lady Susan in 1871, as the second edition of her nephew, James-Edward Austen-Leigh's, Memoir.
"No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine."
This novel is a close tie with Persuasion as my favorite of Jane's books, and is the first I ever read. I enjoy the story of seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland and her dreams of staring in her own gothic romance. Henry Tilney is my favorite hero and his sweet sister Eleanor is just the kind of friend I want for my own. Jane Austen's humor shines in this story as she describes the perils of young Catherine: misunderstandings, misconceptions, and enduring the attentions of John Thorpe!
We are "great Novel-readers, & not ashamed of being so" - a letter December 18 1798
Jane Austen's satire on the horrid gothic novels of the day was written in its first version from 1795 to 1799 with the title Susan. It was actually the first of her novels to be sold to a publisher Mr. Crosby who bought it in 1803 for £10. He advertised it as forthcoming, but never issued it. Jane had her brother buy the manuscript back more than ten years later, after several of her other novels had been published, and apparently made some revisions, including changing the name of the heroine to Catherine, but in a letter to her niece Fanny Knight on March 13th, 1816 she said "Miss Catherine" is put upon the shelf for the present, and I do not know that she will ever come out."
It wasn't until after her death, at the end of 1817, that her brother Henry Austen published her first novel under the title Northanger Abbey with her last novel Persuasion.
Sense & Sensibility
"The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex."
I've always loved the sisterly bond between the sensible Elinor and the emotional Marianne Dashwood. It's so tender and true to life. They are so different in tastes and personality yet, as they go through their separate trials and love affairs, they learn how alike they really are and find that middle ground, that balance between sense and sensibility.
"No, indeed, I am never too busy to think of S. and S. I can no more forget it than a mother can forget her sucking child; and I am much obliged to you for your inquiries." - Letter to Cassandra Austen, April 25th, 1811
Jane's first novel published, it was begun as Elinor and Marianne from 1794 - 1795 in letter format and changed November 1797 - 1798 to narrative form with the title Sense and Sensibility. From 1806 - 1807 it was worked on once again and from 1809- 1811 it was revised heavily and readied for publication. It was accepted by a publisher in late 1810 or early 1811 and appeared in print October 1811 anonymously "By a Lady" and only her family knew she was the author. Jane Austen pledged herself to cover her publisher's losses, if necessary, but did not need to as the book was readily accepted and gained £140 in profit. It was so popular that Jane revised it yet again before its second edition came out in 1813. It was published in three separately bound volumes with only about 1,000 copies of each, but was most likely read more than that as volumes were sold to and rented from circulating libraries.
Pride & Prejudice
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Get ready for Jane Austen's battle of the sexes as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy face off about siblings, personalities, and true love! This is a beautiful tale of misunderstandings of the part of two head-strong characters who unwillingly fall in love.
"I must confess that I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know". - In a letter to her sister Cassandra about Elizabeth Bennet, January 1813
Begun October 1796 and finished in its first form First Impressions in August 1797, this marked Jane's journey forward into more serious, grown-up fiction. Her first version seems to have been much longer than what is now seen today. Her father, the Reverend George Austen, sent it to the publishers Cadell & Davies in London with a letter dated 1 November 1797 and in it said "I have in my possession ..., comprised in three Volumes about the length of Miss Burney's Evelina." The manuscript was respectfully sent back to him unpublished.
After this incident Jane did ongoing revises to her manuscript the heaviest revisal taking place 1809 - 1811 during which time she changed its title to Pride and Prejudice. She sold her manuscript in November 1812, and her "own darling child" was published in late January 1813.
"About thirty years ago Miss Maria Ward, of Huntingdon, with only seven thousand pounds, had the good luck to captivate Sir Thomas Bertram, of Mansfield Park, in the county of Northampton…"
I used to consider this as the most boring of Jane Austen's works but now I see it in a new light. It has many beautiful scenes of human character the most interesting is the way in which she captures Fanny's sweet and humble personality. She is a very unlikely heroine caught between knowing what is right and wanting to please her relations, between not wanting to think evil of anyone but being the only one who sees the true evil in others. She is, as everyone finds, the firm rock in the midst of a busy sea of people with their highs and lows, virtues and vices.
"Now I will try to write of something else; - it shall be a complete change of subject -- Ordination" - in a letter, 20 January 1813
A first draft was written from 1797 - 1798, prompted in part by Elizabeth Inchbald's Lover's Vows (1798) and contained acting an elopement! The longer manuscript was written from 1808 - 1809 and many scenes were taken from her own life: watching her neglected niece, time in Southampton near the sea with her naval brothers, and a stay at Godmersham, the model for Mansfield Park.
The final work was begun with a "graver look" sometime in February of 1811 and finished in June 1813 entitled Mansfield Park. It was accepted for publication in January 1814 and published May 1814 and was sold out in six months. A second edition of Mansfield Park appeared in February 1816, but was not a sales success and ate up most of her profits from her first printing of Emma, which was first printed at the same time.
Illustrations by C.E. Brock
We have a collection of drawings taken from early editions of Jane's novels. All are by C.E. Brock, one of the best, and my favorite, illustrator of Miss Austen's books. Although he did not collaborate with her during her lifetime, his works graced many lovely, early editions of her novels.
This link will take you to some thumbnail pages where you can click on any picture that interests you to see a larger image. These images have been collected from the web or scanned from my books. No copyright exists on them and you are free to copy and use them yourself. Please do not link directly to the images from your own pages.
Love & Friendship
“Deceived in Friendship and Betrayed in Love.”
Through a series of letters, to her young friend Marianne, Laura recalls her life’s history starting with her marriage in Wales and ending with her permanent residence in the Highlands of Scotland where she lives uninterrupted to mourn the death of the ones she loves.
“Run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint-“
Finished June 13th 1790, as part of Jane’s Juvenilia, this short story written in letters is dedicated to Madame la Comtesse De Fevillide (1761-1813). Eliza, an older cousin of Jane’s from her father’s side of the family, later married her older brother Henry Austen and died in 1813.