Archive for March 14th, 2012

The 2nd volume is shorter than I cd wish — but the difference is not so much in reality as in look, there being a larger proportion of Narrative in that Part. (Austen, 29 January 1813)

An attempt to present the manuscripts consistently to be read as works in their own right to a popular audience

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve been asked to review a volume called The Later Manuscripts in the series called The Cambridge Edition of Jane Austen, this one edited by Janet Todd and Linda Bree, and it has set me thinking, returning to my project on Austen’s calendars where I tried to reach her work in ways so fundamental that I would enter her process of writing itself.

The first aspect of this is to try to decide when a particular text was written and how valuable it is. You cannot avoid this, and if you try, you end up with a book that doesn’t make much sense. The problem is the evidence is so contradictory, even for the Juvenilia where we have dated fair copies in Austen’s hand copied into books by 1793 and then revised a little and annotated at a much later time than they were originally written (25 years). One problem is they are over-framed by Cassandra who for example took Volume I dedicated to Martha, and wrote on the first page it was for Frank; or the two dedicated to Eliza de Feuillide (the last name dates the inscription) and wrote this was for Charles.

Despite concerted efforts too, these are not popular works — or publishers don’t believe they would be and the editions of all of them in partial and different configurations are still not that uncommon. Books of criticism on them fall out of print too. As to studying Austen’s revision technique, the ones that tells a lot are the ones with corrections (foul copies): The Watsons, Sanditon, the cancelled chapters of Persuasion.

Unpublished writing includes her letters. I’d exempt NA and Persuasion even if not published by her, as they are so clearly written for publication and were published almost immediately after her death — though there too we have the problem of the title. Titles tell a lot and if these were not the titles Austen would really have chosen, they mis-frame the book. There is no reason to call The Watsons The Watsons; family tradition had it as The Younger Sister (Austen was a younger sister), Sanditon is similarly said to have been meant to become The Brothers. Lady Susan remained (resolutely?) untitled.

That Austen was immanent, not a planner is a central point made by Sutherland (and others before) to be kept in mind.


A rare attempt to study the revisions thoroughly and bring together the last writing Austen left unpublished, ms’s where the writing resembles one another

Another question: how are we to understand the survival of the two cancelled chapters of Persuasion.

There were three large manuscripts in 1799 — First Impressions, Elinor and Marianne (or Sense and Sensibility) and Susan (?). There were also manuscripts of the juvenilia which include Catherine or the Bower.

All that survives are fair copies of the Juvenilia in three volumes, copied out by 1793 and added to and revised slightly many years later; there is writing in it from 1811 and (by JEAL) 1817. There is the “foul” copy of a remarkably frank, bleak novel very much reflecting the milieus Austen was experiencing in Bath and her father had experienced as a boy (now called The Watsons but a tradition has it it was The Younger Sister). A worked on copy suddenly given up and not copied out into a fair copy but not destroyed; it cannot have been written before 1803 as that is the watermark of the paper and was probably set aside 1805-7. A fully detailed and worked out story, almost as full in implication as Persuasion. There is a fair copy of an untitled epistolary novel (Lady Susan) of the type we have for Juvenilia, but by a mature hand. 1805-9. It reminds me of how Renaissance women sometimes copied out their letters and life-writing as pretend books. They could not publish them so they did the next best thing; they made a private book that they could circulate among a small group of people and this untitled epistolary novel did so circulate. There is another worked on draft that feels like wild as if it were a first time through, but it has chapter divisions and careful study shows it must have been revised while she went along (little by little, sticking in new cut out papers and discarding previous using pins to do this; and this ms is dated, Jan through March 1817.

And these cancelled chapters — foul papers.

Ms’s of poems, of Sir Charles Grandison (attribution questioned), of two prayers (attribution questioned) and various letters.

We should not forget that NA & Persuasion were not published in JA’s lifetime. She put NA on the shelf as not satisfactory and Persuasion is unfinished, a truncated hastily ended book. I believe she was sick by the time she started it and knew it — had a deep hunch about this illness even if this only came to the surface around the time of Henry’s bankruptcy. But since they exist only in published copies and were published so soon after, we have to go with tradition. Their anomalous state though is indicative and common in womens’ writing.

An online digital edition of Austen’s manuscripts, all but Chapter 11 (alas, a real loss from the cancelled chapters) are printed in facsimile and then typed out — this shows what may be done when the money-making profit motive is excluded

The question that puzzles me is what happened to the fair copies of the first three: FI which Cassandra and Martha had by heart; if E&M was revised into S&S from the letter to Crosby I do find that each time a fair copy would be made. Why throw out the original? She had a foul copy of Susan when she wrote to Crosby and was prepared to make another fair one.

Is it that people really didn’t value these things? I know any copy in the later 17th and early 18th century that went to a printer was usually destroyed in the process, but about a hundred years later Trollope saved the foul copies and fair copies of several of his novels. We are going to have another Duke’s Children, more than a 1/4 more long because Trollope saved the original Duke’s Children. We have a whole The Way We Live Nwo and (even if others ignore it) it tells a tale expected to me: of revision, of uses of a calendar, of a only partly planned novel: he was partly immanent in the way of Austen. Tradition has it Rose, his wife, prepared the fair copies but we do not know that by anyhing either of them said or wrote down. We assume it from hearsay.

Is it that in revising the three Steventon (P&P, S&S, NA) novels, Austen so used up the writing in the fair copies re-arranged, crossed-out, changed, and then sent a fair copy just to the printer so had nothing left? would she have trusted to that?

I do think the way Austen’s ms’s are printed shows we don’t value them much either as they are scattered with cancelled chapters of Persuasion going with Persuasion (and no diplomatic transcript).

*Really one should have one or two volumes of the unpublished papers put in a conjectured chronological order. That is what Cambridge should have had the courage to do.*

I value ms’s from my studies of the Renaissance and Anne Finch: before the later 17th century much that is studied was unpublished and the reality is that when publication started again and women were left out, it was a deliberate choice by 20th century scholars as neither Mary Lady Wroth or Donne were published in their lifetimes.

Also from my studies of women’s life writings and poetry I know how much is destroyed before it’s put into print and how precious it can be to see the ms’s, how much really can be gleaned if you have corrections, torn pages, watermarks or simply a huge books (Elizabeth Grant Smith as Highland Lady is only now seen to be the masterpiece it is). Actress’s memoirs come in here — though from what I gather ms’s didn’t survive; what was written really was meant to be published as opposed to Renaissance and 17th century women who could revel in non-publishing. That is not gone. Burney would not have begun to write what she did had she thought her journals would be published for sure or in her lifetime. Ditto Boswell.

I couldn’t find anyone to give me citations of essays on Scott’s way of saving ms’s — but then maybe he hired amanuenses to keep copies of the stages of his creations. It gets me that questions one really might want to know for real as so basic to literary creation are often not written about. (Finally one person answered; see comments.)


If we exclude Persuasion, the best edition of the mature unfinished novels we have

Last for tonight: the question of the actual shape of Austen’s texts as she conceived them.

From my study of Trollope I know this matters, an established author like Trollope could and did insist the shape he intended for his novels be observed by his publishers for the first editions. After that he gave up. He knew it was hopeless; that’s one reason why he took a fee outright and didn’t try to keep his copyrights to make more money later. He just commanded as large a fee as he could wrest, and then after seeing through the first edition (with its illustrations) really did dismiss the forms his novels appeared in from his mind. He understood he had yielded control.

Since the purpose of printing Austen’s novels from the publisher’s point of view was to make money from them, and the price of such books in this period rather high (something like 5 to 8 shillings a volume), the publishers early on wanted 3 to 5 volume books. The formula which made Mudie’s so rich and thus its authors, was the renting of 3 volume sets for a couple of years before the cheap one volume editions came out.

Marilyn Butler in what I think is a poorly thought out address to the British Jane Austen Society brings up this issue and comes up with divisions she says Austen meant for which she has no proof, but worse yet (as there is no criticism from Austen discussing this except in the case of P&P — see below) is impressionistic; however, her address is useful because she brings up the issue.

How do the novels as we see them relate to underlying structures in the books. Did Austen have a 2 volume design in mind or a 3 volume one? With no evidence, Butler has Austen as lady-like wanting a 2 volume structure (she is ever determined to present Austen as elite and obeying whatever conventions Butler sees) and not caring about the money. We know from Austen’s letters in Bath, she cared about money intensely; she may not have been the businesswoman Jan Fergus imagines (Her letter to Crosby is not well thought out and by being so abrupt and open she leaves him the opportunity to bite back – she has not learned negotiation means obfuscation.) But she wanted to make money from her books if she could. On the other hand, as an immanent writer, she did let them become themselves. My sense is she had both divisions in mind: two volumes with two parts (the way Inchbald’s novels work) or three as that was a growing convention (you see this in Romance of the Forest) with Austen showing her awareness of his when she makes fun of the 276 page volume (and many were, the Romance of the Forest in the 1797 edition is 276 pages for the first volume).

I went over the divisions as I think this too is way to try to reach the novels before publication. The thinking here is akin to what I did for my calendars: geologizing I call it.

An imaginary (imagined) First Impressions (Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet filmed reading it, from the opening of Wright’s 2005 P&P, unusual witty moment)

This is what I came up with: What Austen published:


If you divided Sense and Sensibility into 2 volumes, the second at Chapter 25, would begin with Elinor and Marianne with Mrs Jennings on their way to London. Nevertheless, I’ve thought that the present volume 1 ending with Elinor’s great shock at Lucy’s revelation and Volume 2 ending with Lucy’s triumphant invitation to stay with Fanny and John Dashwood and opening with the revelation of the engagement is the right turn — are correct (so to speak). I like both, both seem shapely, and could be codas in the films.


We have it in a letter Austen was dissatisfied w/the divisions of P&P as printed (after she lopped and chopped remember so she had ruined her own desig)n. She writes “The 2nd volume is shorter than I cd wish — but the difference is not so much in reality as in look, there being a larger proportion of Narrative in that Part” (letter 29 January 1813) I’ve always thought that the third volume begins at the right spot: Elizabeth on her way in the carriage to Pemberley with Mr and Mrs Gardiner, Chapter 43.

Remarkable numbers of symmetries in this book. A thoroughly worked up book and has lost little of its original richness, just the ironies of juxtaposition (I use just ironically here).

Now the present P&P is 61 chapters but noticeably the opening chapters are often very short — that’s where she cut, my calendar shows talk of more balls, assemblies, meetings and I assume there might have been a scene or scenes between Jane and Bingley excised. But volume 2 begins at present at Chapter 24. So we have 23 chapters for Vol 1, 19 chapters for Volume 3, leaving 18 for Volume 2. It is the shortest as to chapters. Volume 1 also ends with Mr Bennet choosing Elizabeth’s side, with Volume 2 opening with letter from Caroline showing Mr Bingley will not be back and then moving on to Charlotte’s betrayal (a strong word I know but arguably it may be used, Charlotte betrays herself as well as Elizabeth to secure a house, food, the independence one gets as a wife)

Davies follows the three volume division of Austen in his breaks in his 1995 adaptation.


MP (also rich awareness of social world and goes beyond the immediate and seen) and Emma (ditto though it does not go beyond immediate and seen) virtuoso performances. So how does their present division into 3 stand up?

Butler argues that MP intended to be 2 volumes, the first ending with Maria’s wedding, so Chapter 21 ends Volume I; but that makes top heavy Volume 2 (of 25 chapters), and using 18 as the end of Volume I gives us the climactic coming of Sir thomas and break-up of the play; the present opening of Volume 3 doesn’t make a lot of sense as it’s in the midst of Mr Crawford’s courtship, Chapter 32 though it must be admitted then Volume 2 ends on Mary Crawford’s note to Fanny to take Henry seriously and welcome to Fanny as a sister-in-law. Half way simply done would be 24 and that makes sense too as it ends on Wm being promoted and the beginning of a new phase of existence at Northamptonshire with Fanny and Sir Thomas as guiding spirits. I rather think the book may be divided many ways as it’s so strong in its phases.

There are subdivisions, as the sequence at Sotherton, the sequence about the play, and at the end the semi-epistolary novel.


Emma is a 3 volume book as we now have it. Unlike MP the divisions don’t work that well; not that they don’t work at all (as they don’t in Persuasion) but that the codas of the book lie elsewhere: I’d say with Mr Knightley and the chapters where we don’t see Emma (I:5, Mr Knightely and Mrs Weston talk) and where Mr Knightley is looking at Jane and Frank (III:5, the alphabet game — precisely parallel spot in volumes). (The film adaptations are all over the place where to divide and inventing a back story as Welch’s 2009 film or a harvest festival the way Davies does doesn’t help.)

Present Vol 1 Chapter 18 ends with Knightley and Emma’s clash over
Frank Churchill but he has not yet arrived; the real ending of this volume is 17 when Emma goes to tell Harriet that Mr Elton loves her, the Knightley brother and sister (John and Isabella) and Mr Elton all leave but then the point of chapter 17 is that Frank did not come. Volume 2 presently ends with Chapter 36, with news of Frank Churchill’s return and amused dialogue of Mr Knightley and Emma where Emma demands to know what exactly has her dissipation been. I do not doubt the division here is just like Henry’s of NA; Jane or the publisher divided the manuscript into 3 equal parts, 18, 35 with the conclusion Chapter 61.

Instead divisions can be made with seasonal calendar and punctuated high points (Tuesdays at work here). Davies’s idea does cohere with seasonal calendar in the book. Book has back story told by narrator: I:2 the history of the Churchills; 3:2, opening poignant romance of Fairfax family [very like Chapter 4 of Persuasion, the poignant story of the failed engagement of Francis Wentworth and Anne Elliot). This reminds me of the way Anna Austen Lefroy wrote out an unattached history of Clara Brereton for Sanditon. Maybe she saw Austen’s manuscripts in stages where these separated back stories were still not woven (pinned?) in.

Posthumous books:

If you divided Northanger Abbey into three equal parts, it would make more sense: Vol 1, chs-10. Chapter 11 has Catherine getting seriously involved and stood up by Thorpes and slowly choosing Tilneys, at the end of which the climax is Isabella’s gross behavior at the assembly ball; Ch 20, begins the trip to Northanger. The present arrangement has several chapters in Bath hanging on as an afterthought when a new volume begins and Northanger visit starts at Chapter 20.

Persuasion as presently divided doesn’t make sense either. This suggests how unfinished it is. The present text is 24 chapters and half way is 12. Henry did the simplest thing: divided it in 2. But 12 is the middle of Anne’s time at Upper Cross — though against that it is the moment that Captain Wentworth returns to Lyme. Chapter 9 (after Anne’s tremendous anxiety, the first meeting of 8, the heart break of his coldness) of Wentworth come to stay, and 16 and 17 are simply in the middle of the Bath time. That there is no good division into a shapely narrative is due to its originally planned for 3 and the size of S&S or P&P.

Much more sense of Bath as a general place from adult point of view in Persuasion. NA reveals some of its narrow child-like origins — though because of revisions must be seen as a novel in-between Emma and Persuasion, and its use of irony with suspense reminds me of Emma. Persuasion as rapid intensity of spirit going out (dying to be precise) connects to Sanditon

The evidence of the ms’s that we do have for the later novels:

There is no division in the hard-worked thoroughly detailed The Watsons, yet the impulsive draft (not a first draft I now think but not worked out in the detail of The Watsons), she is dividing into chapters as she goes. So too the foul papers type draft of the cancelled chapters of Persuasion. So there was no consistency.

The fair copies of Love and Freindship and Lady Susan don’t help us here as they are epistolary and epistolary novels when not just chunks of 1st person narratives cut up have to have beginnings and ends in order to interact with the other letters ironically and as to time.


The best edition of the Juvenilia, and first attempt at serious (grave realistic) writing by Austen (Catherine, or the Bower)

If authors could, they would control the shaping of their books in the last phases of revision and presentation to the editor and/or publisher. I am trying to get beneath or beyond the printed phases which fit publisher’s needs for profits (so much a volume for example) to what the author intended or wrote at any rate. I am trying to understand what the manuscripts were.


Read Full Post »