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"To Publish" or "Not To Publish"

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I am currently reading Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey and decided to do a little bit of research into the curious inscription placed at the very beginning of the novel. The note is titled "Advertisement, by the Authoress" and was written by Austen to explain to the readers why some of the details of the novel were "obsolete". I began to wonder why Austen believed an explanation was necessary? The timeline of events indicate that the publisher who purchased her novel refused to publish it, held on to it and did nothing with it for 13 years! Austen writes, "That any bookseller should think it worth while to purchase what he did not think it worth while to publish seems extraordinary."

So what exactly happened? In 1803, Jane Austen completed the novel Northanger Abbey (originally titled Susan) which became her first novel ready for publication in a finished form. (Austen had previously composed the draft of Elinor and Marianne, later to be edited and renamed Sense and Sensibility, and also the first version of First Impressions, later edited and renamed Pride and Prejudice  but they were not ready to publish at this time.) Austen sold her novel Susan (aka Northanger Abbey)  for 10 pounds to Richard Crosby, a London bookseller. According to an online historical currency converter 10 pounds in 1803 would be equivalent to approximately $1420 today. The publisher purchased the novel with the understanding that he was to publish it and he then proceeded to do absolutely nothing with it... for 13 years!

Understandably, Austen became frustrated and pressed the publisher to regain the rights to the novel. She even offered to replace it if he had lost or misplaced it! The publisher threatened her with legal action if she sought to have the novel published elsewhere. The bookseller offered to sell it back to her, however, with little money available, Austen was not able to take further action.

Years later, in the spring of 1816, Austen's brother, Henry, bought the novel, still currently titled Susan, back from the bookseller for the original price of 10 pounds. It is believed that from 1816-17, Austen revised much of the novel including changing the name of its heroine to Catherine and adding the preface regarding the delay in publication. Unfortunately, Austen died on July 18, 1817. After her death, Henry organized the joint publication of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey (now retitled for a third time). 

The annotated edition of Northanger Abbey, edited by David M. Shapard states, "According to the 1869 biography by Austen's nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh, upon completion of the deal, Henry 'had the satisfaction of informing [the publisher Richard Crosby] that the work which had been so lightly esteemed was the author of Pride and Prejudice,' her most successful novel." I would have enjoyed seeing Mr. Crosby’s reaction!

It is sad to consider that Jane Austen questioned her literary value and worth during the final 13 years of her life due to a single bookseller's unwillingness to print the novel he purchased to publish. Don't you wish Jane Austen (and Richard Crosby) would have known how important and influential her work would become to English Literature?!

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Jane Austen's alternate ending of 'Persuasion'

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On July 8, 1816, Jane Austen began Chapter 10 of volume 2 of Persuasion. On the final page of Chapter 11, she marked "Finish July 18, 1816". In Austen's "original" ending, Captain Wentworth does not openly express his love for Anne but instead requires persuasion to do so due to his fear of Anne's rejection. In the most simple terms, there is NO LETTER! Can you imagine, for even a minute, the tragedy of NO LETTER from Captain Wentworth?! 

Unsatisfied with the ending to her completed manuscript, Austen rewrote the ending at some point between July 18-August 6, 1816. According to Austen's nephew, James Edward Austen-Leigh, Austen thought the original ending to be "tame and flat", "awkwardly managed" and "clumsy". The cancelled chapter is the only manuscript from any of Austen's novels that exist in original form. The photo above is of the first page of Chapter 10 (isn't it amazing to see Austen's personal handwriting with the mark-outs, modifications and re-writes!).

Fortunately,  Austen's revised ending of Persuasion (which contains Captain Wentworth's bold, profession of love for Anne in his letter), was the ending chosen for publication in the novel. Thanks to Austen's ingenuity and desire for perfection, Captain Wentworth's love will be memorialized as he writes to Anne, “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever... I have loved none but you.” Captain Wentworth's vulnerability is rewarded by Anne's acceptance of his love which ultimately elevates Captain Wentworth's character to meet the depth of Anne's.

In my opinion, Austen's revised ending is superior to the original, immensely satisfying and altogether perfect in it's own right. What do you think?

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‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen // 🍭🍭🍭🍭🍭

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Persuasion’ was the final completed novel of Austen’s illustrious literary career. There is discussion among scholars that Austen may have had plans to further revise and edit it due to its relatively short length (in comparison to her earlier works) and also to further develop the relationship between Mr. Elliot and Mrs. Clay. In my humble, Austen-loving opinion, no such revisions are necessary! She, once again, delivers an outstanding fictional account of real English life in the early 1800’s. Described as a “novel of manners”, Austen satirically addresses the “excess” of English society while also maintaining support of “necessary” structure and balance. In addition to the theme of persuasion (as demonstrated internally within individual character development, between two in a relationship and also society-wide with the pressure to conform), we also see previous themes such as pride (Sir Walter, Elizabeth), prejudice (Lady Russell, Mary), sense (Anne and Captain Wentworth - first half) and sensibility (Anne and Captain Wentworth - ending). Austen also addresses the role of the “gentleman” (Sir Walter and Mr. Elliot versus Admiral Croft and Captain Wentworth), class structure and social mobility both upward (marriage and the military) and downward (Mrs. Smith and the debt of Sir Walter).

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I’ll end my review with my favorite quote, “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever... I have loved none but you.” Sigh. 😊 It sounds like Captain Wentworth and Mr. Darcy could be related! 😂

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What are your thought on ‘Persuasion’? Do you think any revision was necessary and/or would have been made by Jane Austen if she lived longer?  I can’t wait to hear what you think!

Book Details:

  • Publisher: Penguin Red Classics 2006, UK
  • ISBN: 978-0-14-102811-8
  • Format: Paperback
  • Cover Illustrator: Kazuko Momoto
  • Audio: LibriVox, read by Karen Savage (available online for free here)

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‘Anne of Avonlea’ by L.M. Montgomery // 🍭🍭🍭🍭🍭

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 With my depressing 2-star review from earlier this week behind me, I’m moving to the other end of the spectrum with a 5-star review of this gem! 💎
One element about the power of books and reading is that they have the ability to draw out so many feelings and emotions (both good and bad). I also appreciate that not every book is a good fit for every reader. With that said, if L.M. Montgomery was a cobbler, her Anne series would have been custom designed, cut from the finest leather and perfectly fitted for me! 💗🌸
In this second book of an eight-part series, we experience Anne’s growth into adulthood. I do miss the antics and craziness of Anne’s youth (as a parent it feels like time flies and our kids grow up too fast so I’m probably extra conscious of this right now). The addition of new characters in ‘Anne of Avonlea’ such as Mr. J.A. Harrison, Davy, Dora, Miss Lavender and, of course, the lovable Paul Irving are wonderful additions to Avonlea. Most importantly, however, I appreciate how Anne continues to see the best in everyone, treats others with kindness and shows us that one is never too old to possess a wonderfully delightful imagination!
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‘Home Fire’ by Kamila Shamsie // 🍭🍭

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To begin, the only “sweet” part of this story relates to the doughnut in this photo! I would like to clarify that my “low” rating has nothing to do with the quality of the writing of this book as the author effectively presents a compelling story. My two star rating is purely plot oriented! I strongly identify as an “escapist” reader so I knew that this book would not be the best fit for me. Afterall, I can watch “this story” on the news. In addition, the audio narration heightened the emotional impact as the storytelling brought the suffering and destruction to life in a real manner! As much as I did not enjoy this book, I did (as always) completely enjoy the book club discussion with all of the wonderful readers in the MMD Book Club! I love that we can all have different ideas and opinions and yet still come together for a quality discussion!!!

Book Details:

  • Publisher: Riverhead Books, Penguin Random House US
  • ISBN: 978-0735217683
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Book Design: Lucia Bernard
  • Audio: Scribd, Narrated by Tania Rodrigues

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