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Sanditon and Other Stories by Jane Austen
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Sanditon and Other Stories

by Jane Austen

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This review specifically pertains to the Everyman's Library edition of Sanditon and Other Stories

This book is made up of what is known as Jane Austen's minors works, which are two unfinished novels and a novella ("Sanditon," "The Watsons," & "Lady Susan"), the three volumes of her Juvenilia, and some scattered Miscellanea. I bought it only to read "Lady Susan," but it's a lovely edition indeed, and I decided to give the other pieces a try. What an unexpected delight. Details on each section, below.

Rating: Oh, soooooo close to 5 stars. 4.87 stars. Five stars wasn't quite accurate, considering that I didn't love, or even like, absolutely everything in this book. But what I liked, I really liked.

Recommended for: going in to this, I thought it was strictly for the Jane Austen completest, which I didn't consider myself. Of course, the completest does not need the encouragement.

I highly recommend it for two other groups: first, for fans of 18th century British lit -- you know, that fun period before the stuffy Victorians, and second, Jane Austen fans who keep her in "a tiny box of preciousness" (to steal a phrase from a GoodReads reviewer) and think she's all about fine manners and polite people. Time for them to see Jane Austen's adultery, petty theft, female drunkeness, and other distasteful behaviours. Really entertaining stuff.

Part One includes Austen’s two unfinished novels and an unpublished novella. Note that other writers have published "finished" versions of the two novels.

Sanditon, 69 pages. Austen was working on this novel when she died in 1817. It was first published along with the biography written by her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh (1871). The manuscript is owned by King’s College, Cambridge. In the Introduction, Sanditon is described as “the real find in this collection.” On first reading, I don’t agree (although I am open to changing my mind on future rereading). That is not to say that it’s bad. It was actually more polished than I expected, although it still needed work. But it certainly didn’t read like a first draft. There were a lot of characters, some of them brilliantly Austenesque, but the heroine wasn’t introduced until page 11, so I didn’t get much of a feel for her.

The Watsons, 54 pages, written sometime between 1803 & 1808. Some scholars think that she stopped working on it after the death of her father. It was first published in the 1871 biography by James Edward Austen-Leigh. Part of the manuscript is at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford and part of it owned by the Pierpont Morgan Library, in New York City.

This novel is darker than the later, better-known novels as it shows the grimmer side of life for unmarried women in the late 18th century. Some of the scenes reminded me of the Portsmouth section of Mansfield Park. Despite the more serious elements, I found this delightful and I was sad when it ended too soon. Luckily, Austen told her sister Cassandra the plan for the novel, and so we know generally how it wrapped up.

The story follows Emma Watson, who had been raised by rich aunt, after she returns home when the aunt’s new husband doesn’t want her. After a genteel and gracious life, she now lives with her impoverished widowed father and many sisters and several brothers who she has to get to know. She attracts the eye of the young, handsome, rich and socially awkward Lord Osborne, who appears to be a proto-type for Mr Darcy. The ball scene in The Watsons is reminiscent of ball scenes in Pride and Prejudice. Emma Watson had the potential to be a favourite Austen heroine had her story been written. This was one of my favourites in this book.

Lady Susan, 72 pages. Written in 1795 when Austen was just 19 yrs old. One wonders how this young, sheltered virgin knew so much about wickedness, but then perhaps Austen isn’t the demure lady that some of her fans think she was ( / smirk). This epistolary novella was first published in 1871 by James Edward Austen-Leigh, and then a revised version in 1926. The manuscript is owned by the Pierpont Morgan Library.

Lady Susan, Austen’s highest ranking heroine, is bit of a hussy. She’s in her mid-to-late 30s, and instigates dalliances with much younger men. And married men. Shocking, I know. This book has more in common with Les Liaisons Dangereuses than an Austen novel. Although the writing isn’t quite as accomplished as we expect from Austen, it didn’t disappoint, despite its rushed ending. I’m very excited that there is a movie coming out this May. It stars Kate Beckinsale and they renamed it “Love & Friendship” which is slightly confusing, as Austen has used that title elsewhere for a completely different story.

Part Two

The Juvenilia. Written 1787-1795 (age 12 – 20)

Austen wrote these bits and pieces to amuse her family. They are full of melodrama, understatement, and superficial characters. We are already starting to see her loaded sentences and wit. Some readers don’t know what to make of this, and dismiss it as silly, foolish, and overly-emotional. It’s evident by the reader reviews at GoodReads that many who call themselves Austen fans don’t get parody or that she “dearly loves to laugh.”

VOLUME THE FIRST (First published 1933, now at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford)

“Jack & Alice” is my favourite in this section. Austen was about 15 when she wrote this zany tale of adultery and drunkenness (lots of drunkenness). I read somewhere that her heirs suppressed it as these were unsuitable topics for a girl her age to know about. At least they didn’t destroy it. Take note that there is no one in this story named Jack.

“Jack & Alice” has one of my favourite Austen quotes: “Charles Adams was an amiable, accomplished & bewitching young Man, of so dazzling a Beauty that none but Eagles could look him in the Face. “

Other stories (and short plays) in this volume are: “Frederic & Elfrida,” “Edgar & Emma” (a very short story featuring a family with more than 20 children), “Henry & Eliza,” “Mr Harley,” “Sir William Montague,” “Mr Clifford,” “The Beautifull Cassandra” (sic), “Amelia Webster,” “The visit,” “The Mystery,” “The Three Sisters” (another highly amusing one), “Detached Pieces,” & “Ode to Pity.”

VOLUME THE SECOND (First published 1922, now at the British Library)

"Love and Freindship" (sic) is an epistolary novella written about a 55 year old woman that Austen wrote when she was 15. There is lots of “running mad” and fainting. Also illegitimacy and theft. Very unAusten-like.

Another favourite of mine is "The History of England," which she wrote at age 16. It covers Henry IV (1399) through Charles I (1649) and is a poorly-veiled propaganda piece for Mary, Queen of Scots (and thus, also very anti-Elizabeth I). Rather silly, indeed.

Also included: "Lesley Castle" (another epistolary piece), a “Collection of Letters” (made up fictions, not actual letters) & “Scraps.”

VOLUME THE THIRD (First published 1951. I have conflicting information on ownership. It’s either the British Library or the British Museum)

"Evelyn" has a dreamlike, almost gothic, feel. It’s the closest you’re going to get to SciFi in Austen.

"Kitty, or the Bower" is 51 pages long, and shows an increasing sophistication of thought.
Also included, under Miscellanea are “A Plan of a Novel,” published opinions on Mansfield Park and Emma from the 19th century, some “Verses” (unremarkable, although surprising to see Austen mention Lake Ontario and Niagara Falls, considering she rarely mentions anything outside of England, particularly North America), and some “Prayers.”

Also interesting throughout all these bits and fragments is the development of Austen characters. We meet some new ones, and also some who reminded me a lot of Caroline Bingley, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Lady Catherine DeBourgh, Emma Woodhouse, and Catherine from Northanger Abbey, among others.

Even at a young age, it is evident that Austen never wrote for “such dull elves as have not a great deal of ingenuity themselves.” ( )
1 vote Nickelini | Mar 13, 2016 |
Reading Sandition, like reading The Watsons, had good points but largely felt unsatisfying and more of a task for scholars than a worthwhile activity for readers. Both Sandition and The Watsons are fragments of unfinished novels, both bear all the hallmarks of Jane Austen, and both have a lot to interest them. But it is hard to be engaged with the introduction of a plethora of characters when you know that you will not be observing them develop into anything.

Sandition is interesting in part because it is somewhat different than the rest of Austen in appearing, at least from the outset, to explore commerce and speculative investments, as Mr. Parker tries to turn his home village of Sandition into a seaside destination resort. But don't worry, the rest of Austen is there too. Just not the satisfying middle and ending you expect from one of her novels--which literally do not exist. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Reading Sandition, like reading The Watsons, had good points but largely felt unsatisfying and more of a task for scholars than a worthwhile activity for readers. Both Sandition and The Watsons are fragments of unfinished novels, both bear all the hallmarks of Jane Austen, and both have a lot to interest them. But it is hard to be engaged with the introduction of a plethora of characters when you know that you will not be observing them develop into anything.

Sandition is interesting in part because it is somewhat different than the rest of Austen in appearing, at least from the outset, to explore commerce and speculative investments, as Mr. Parker tries to turn his home village of Sandition into a seaside destination resort. But don't worry, the rest of Austen is there too. Just not the satisfying middle and ending you expect from one of her novels--which literally do not exist. ( )
  jasonlf | Feb 25, 2012 |
As someone who has enjoyed Austen's other works, I bought Sanditon with high hopes of further enjoyment, even if the stories it contained were unedited or incomplete.

What I found inside did seem to be a collection of everything else that Austen had ever written that had managed to survive her family's purge. The novels are okay, but not much better than that. One was very incomplete, without even any notes as to what the intended ending to the story may have been. Another was also incomplete but came with a family member's admission of what Austen had planned to do in the finish of the story. The third was finished, and interesting in that it was epistolary in its whole which is a different style than I'm used to with Austen's works.

The second half of the novel is comprised of her juvenelia which I admit that I did not get all the way through. Many of the stories show her youth and immaturity, and still many others seem to be lacking entirely in plot or general interest for the story.

I wasn't overly impressed with this collection. Perhaps that makes me a bad Jane Austen fan, but I really didn't feel this added to what I already know of her life and her novels. It was a lackluster reading experience. ( )
  rainbowdarling | Mar 16, 2009 |
Collection of unfinished work and some juvenilia. The Watsons was probably deservedly unfinished; I will forever wonder what would have occurred in Sanditon; while Lady Susan is a delicious bit of soap opera. Definitely worth picking up if you're an Austen enthusiast. ( )
1 vote siriaeve | Jul 4, 2008 |
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Contains: Sanditon -- The Watsons -- Lady Susan -- The Juvenilia -- Plan of a novel -- Opinions of Mansfield Park -- Opinions of Emma -- Verses -- Prayers.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679447199, Hardcover)

(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

Readers of Jane Austen’s six great novels are left hungering for more, and more there is: the marvelous unpublished manuscripts she left behind, collected here.

Sanditon might have been Austen’s greatest novel had she lived to finish it. Its subject matter astonishes: here is Austen observing the birth pangs of the culture of commerce, as her country-bred heroine, a foolish baronet, a family of hypochondriacs, and a mysterious West Indian heiress collide against the background hum of real-estate development at a seaside resort.

The Watsons, begun in 1804 but never completed, tells the story of a young woman who was raised by a rich aunt and who finds herself shipped back to the comparative poverty and social clumsiness of her own family.

The novella Lady Susan is a miniature masterpiece, featuring Austen’s only villainous protagonist. Lady Susan’s subtle, single-minded, and ruthless pursuit of power makes the reader regret that Austen never again wrote a novel with a scheming widow for its heroine.

The special joy of this collection lies in Austen’s juvenilia–tiny novels, the enchantingly funny Love and Freindship, comic fragments, and a (very) partial history of England–romping miniatures that she wrote in her teens. Their high spirits, hilarity, and control offer delicious proof that Austen was an artist “born, not made.”

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:58 -0400)

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