First published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice has consistently been Jane Austen’s most popular novel.
It portrays life in the genteel rural society of the day, and tells of the initial misunderstandings and later mutual enlightenment between Elizabeth Bennet (whose liveliness and quick wit have often attracted readers) and the haughty Darcy. The title Pride and Prejudice refers (among other things) to the ways in which Elizabeth and Darcy first view each other. The original version of the novel was written in 1796-1797 under the title First Impressions, and was probably in the form of an exchange of letters.Jane Austen’s own tongue-in-cheek opinion of her work, in a letter to her sister Cassandra immediately after its publication, was: “Upon the whole… I am well satisfied enough.
The work is rather too light, and bright, and sparkling; it wants i.e. needs shade; it wants to be stretched out here and there with a long chapter of sense, if it could be had; if not, of solemn specious nonsense, about something unconnected with the story: an essay on writing, a critique on Walter Scott, or the history of Buonaparte, or anything that would form a contrast and bring the reader with increased delight to the playfulness and general epigrammatism of the general style”. In 1809 Jane Austen, her mother, sister Cassandra, and Martha Lloyd moved to Chawton, near Alton and Winchester, where her brother Edward provided a small house on one of his estates. This was in Hampshire, not far from her childhood home of Steventon.
Before leaving Southampton, she corresponded with the dilatory publisher to whom she had sold Susan (i.e. Northanger Abbey), but without receiving any satisfaction.She resumed her literary activities soon after returning into Hampshire, and revised Sense and Sensibility, which was accepted in late 1810 or early 1811 by a publisher, for publication at her own risk. It appeared anonymously (“By a Lady”) in October 1811, and at first only her immediate family knew of her authorship: Fanny Knight’s diary for September 28, 1811 records a “Letter from Aunt Cass.
to beg we would not mention that Aunt Jane wrote Sense and Sensibility”; and one day in 1812 when Jane Austen and Cassandra and their niece Anna were in a “circulating library” at Alton, Anna threw down a copy of Sense and Sensibility on offer there, “exclaiming to the great amusement of her Aunts who stood by, “Oh that must be rubbish, I am sure from the title.”” There were at least two fairly favorable reviews, and the first edition eventually turned a profit of 140 for her.Encouraged by this success, Jane Austen turned to revising First Impressions, a.
k.a. Pride and Prejudice. She sold it in November 1812, and her “own darling child” (as she called it in a letter) was published in late January 1813. She had already started work on Mansfield Park by 1812, and worked on it during 1813. It was during 1813 that knowledge of her authorship started to spread outside her family; as Jane Austen wrote in a letter of September 25th 1813:”Henry heard P.
& P. warmly praised in Scotland, by Lady Robert Kerr & another Lady; — & and what does he do in the warmth of his brotherly vanity and Love, but immediately tell them who wrote it!”. Since she had sold the copyright of Pride and Prejudice outright for 110 (presumably in order to receive a convenient payment up front, rather than having to wait for the profits on sales to trickle in), she did not receive anything more when a second edition was published later in 1813. A second edition of Sense and Sensibility was also published in October 1813.
In May 1814, Mansfield Park appeared, and was sold out in six months; she had already started work on Emma. Her brother Henry, who then conveniently lived in London, often acted as Jane Austen’s go-between with publishers, and on several occasions she stayed with him in London to revise proof-sheets. In October 1813, one of the Prince Regent’s physicians was brought in to treat an illness that Henry was suffering from; it was through this connection that Jane Austen was brought into contact with Mr. Clarke. James Stanier Clarke was the Prince Regent’s librarian, and transmitted to her the Prince’s request that she dedicate her next work (Emma) to him, an honour that Jane Austen would probably rather have done without (see her letter on the infidelities of the Prince and his wife). Some of Mr. Clarke’s “helpful” suggestions showed up in the Plan for a Novel.
More complete versions of these letters, as printed in Austen-Leigh’s Memoir, are also available on-line.Pride and PrejudiceFirst published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice has consistently been Jane Austen’s most popular novel. It portrays the initial misunderstandings and later mutual enlightenment between Elizabeth Bennet (whose liveliness and quick wit have often attracted readers) and the haughty Darcy. Jane Austen wrote in a letter about Elizabeth, “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”. The title Pride and Prejudice refers (among other things) to the ways in which Elizabeth and Darcy first view each other.
The original version of the novel was written in 1796-1797 under the title First Impressions, and was probably in the form of an exchange of letters; First Impressions was actually the first of Jane Austen’s works to be offered to a publisher, in 1797 by Jane Austen’s father, but the publisher turned it down without even looking at the manuscript.Mansfield ParkThis novel, originally published in 1814, is the first of Jane Austen’s novels not to be a revised version of one of her pre-1800 writings. Mansfield Park has sometimes been considered atypical of Jane Austen, as being solemn and moralistic, especially when contrasted with the immediately preceding Pride and Prejudice and the immediately following Emma. Poor Fanny Price is brought up at Mansfield Park with her rich uncle and aunt, where only her cousin Edmund helps her with the difficulties she suffers from the rest of the family, and from her own fearfulness and timidity.
When the sophisticated Crawfords (Henry and Mary), visit the Mansfield neighbourhood, the moral sense of each marriageable member of the Mansfield family is tested in various ways, but Fanny emerges more or less unscathed. The well-ordered (if somewhat vacuous) house at Mansfield Park, and its country setting, play an important role in the novel, and are contrasted with the squalour of Fanny’s own birth family’s home at Portsmouth, and with the decadence of London.Readers have a wide variety of reactions to Mansfield Park-most of which already appear in the Opinions of Mansfield Park collected by Jane Austen herself soon after the novel’s publication. Some dislike the character of Fanny as “priggish” (however, it is Edmund who sets the moral tone here), or have no sympathy for her forced inaction (doubtless, those are people who have never lacked confidence, or been without a date on Friday night!). Mansfield Park has also been used to draw connections between the “genteel” rural English society that Jane Austen describes and the outside world, since Fanny’s uncle is a slave-owner (with an estate in Antigua in the Caribbean; slavery was not abolished in the British empire until 1833).
Like a number of other topics, Jane Austen only chose to allude glancingly to the slave trade and slavery in her novels, though she was aware of contemporary debates on the subject. Mansfield Park was one of only two of Jane Austen’s novels to be revised by her after its first publication, when a second edition came out in 1816 (this second edition was a failure in terms of sales).EmmaEmma, published in 1815, has been described as a “mystery story without a murder”. The eponymous heroine is the charming (but perhaps too clever for her own good) Emma Woodhouse, who manages to deceive herself in a number of ways (including as to who is really the object of her own affections), even though she (and the reader) are often in possession of evidence pointing toward the truth. Like Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey, Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, she overcomes self-delusion during the course of her novel. The book describes a year in the life of the village of Highbury and its vicinity, portraying many of the various inhabitants.
Emma was dedicated to the dissolute Prince Regent (George Augustus Frederick), at his request; he was the uncle of Victoria, and was Prince Regent from 1811-1820 and later kingGeorge IV (1820-1830). Jane Austen was apparently not especially pleased by this honour (see her letter on the infidelities of the Prince and his wife). This episode was productive of her amusing correspondence with Mr. Clarke.PersuasionThis relatively short novel, her last, was written in the last few years of Jane Austen’s life, and published only after her death in 1817 (though she described it, in a letter of March 13 1816, as “a something ready for publication”, she probably would have revised it further, if she had not already been ill with her eventually fatal disease by the time she stopped working on it).
It involves an older heroine than any of her other novels do (Anne Elliot is 27), and is also the only novel whose events are explicitly dated to a specific year (1814-1815). Eight years before the novel begins, Anne Elliot (whom Jane Austen described in one of her letters as a “heroine who is almost too good for me”) had been persuaded by an older friend of the family, whom she respects, to give up her engagement to the then-poor Captain Wentworth. Like Mansfield Park, this novel has a number of characters who are in the navy (two of Jane Austen’s brothers were sailors), and several warm-hearted naval families are attractively depicted; these contrast favorably with Anne’s own family, in which she is overlooked by her vain and rank-proud Baronet father and her cold and selfish elder sister. In its autumnal mood, this novel is more serious in tone than most of Jane Austen’s other works, and perhaps is the most conventionally “romantic” of them (and thus the one which has given rise to the most speculation about her own affairs of the heart-for example, by Kipling); however, there is still plenty of Jane Austen irony. Persuasion also contains more description of background and natural beauty than the previous novels. In her admiration for the seaside town of Lyme and dislike of Bath, Anne Elliot reflects her creator’s preferences.After she had finished the first version of Persuasion, Jane Austen was dissatisfied with the chapter in which Anne Elliot and the “unconsciously constant” Captain Wentworth are reconciled; she then wrote two replacement chapters which are universally considered much better than the first attempt.
The manuscript of the cancelled chapter is the only original manuscript of any part of Jane Austen’s published novels which has survived.Minor WritingsJane Austen’s minor writings (besides her letters) include the Juvenilia (early short pieces written for the amusement of her family, before she had started on any of her novels), several incomplete beginnings of novels, Lady Susan, the Plan of a Novel, some light verse, some prayers, and a few other miscellaneous fragments.Sense and SensibilityThis novel contrasts two sisters: Marianne, who, with her doctrines of love at first sight, fervent emotions overtly expressed, and admiration of the grotesque “picturesque”, represents the cult of “sensibility”; and Elinor, who has much more “sense”, but is still not immune from disappointments. Despite some amusing characters and true Jane Austen touches, it is not generally considered to be her best novel. According to Cassandra, it was probably the first of the novels to be started (sometime before 1797, under the early name Elinor and Marianne); it was worked on in 1797, and probably again heavily revised before publication in 1811.It was the first of Jane Austen’s novels to be published, and appeared without her name on the title page (only “By a Lady”). It was advertised as an ‘Interesting Novel’, which meant (in the jargon of the day) that it was a love story.
Jane Austen pledged herself to cover her publisher’s losses, if necessary, but actually realized 140 in profit. It was one of only two novels that Jane Austen revised after publication, when a second edition came out in 1813. The first and second editions were probably not more than a thousand copies each, but the readership would have been very much larger, due to the institution of “circulating libraries” (book rental shops), and also the fact that the novel was published in three separately-bound volumes (as was the usual practice).
Northanger AbbeyThis playful short novel is the one which most resembles Jane Austen’s Juvenilia. It is the story of the unsophisticated and sincere Catherine Morland on her first trip away from home, for a stay in Bath. There she meets the entertaining Henry Tilney; later, on a visit to his family’s house (the “Northanger Abbey” of the title) she learns to distinguish between the highly charged calamities of Gothic fiction and the realities of ordinary life (which can also be distressing in their way).
Like Jane Austen’s Love and Freindship, this book makes fun of the conventions of many late 18th century literary works, with their highly wrought and unnatural emotions; some of this humor derives from the contrast between Catherine Morland and the conventional heroines of novels of the day (for an idea of the latter, see the Plan of a Novel).An early version of the book was written under the title Susan (in 1798-99 according to Cassandra). It was actually the first of Jane Austen’s novels sold to a publisher (a publisher named Crosby bought it in 1803 for 10). He advertised it as forthcoming, but never issued it.
Jane Austen had the manuscript bought back more than ten years later, after several of her other novels had been published, and apparently made some revisions, but finally “put it on the shelf” (letter of March 13, 1816). It was only after her death in 1817 that her brother Henry finally had it published(together with Persuasion). The title “Northanger Abbey” was not chosen by Jane Austen (she referred to the book in her letter as “Miss Catherine”).The most famous quote from Northanger Abbey is probably Henry Tilney’s pseudo-gothic satire(see also Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland on marriage vs. dancing, the “Defense of the Novel”, the walk to Beechen Cliff (Henry and Eleanor Tilney with Catherine Morland), and quotes on the opposition between the “heroic” and the “natural”). (By the way, in this novel Jane Austen uses the word “baseball”-the first person, as far as is known, to use this word in writing by over fifty years.)