Readers of Jane Austen’s six great novels are left hungering for more, and more there is: the marvelous unpublished manuscripts she left behind, collected here.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.”
Though the domain of Jane Austen’s novels was as circumscribed as her life, her caustic wit and keen observation made her the equal of the greatest novelists in any language. Born the seventh child of the rector of Steventon, Hampshire, on… More about Jane Austen
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“[In her earliest writings] we see the essential Austen . . . There is a force behind Austen’s farce–an energy which demands expression, an irony which will not be refused, a distinctive vision of life already apparent in the teenage writer . . . What grips one about the early works at every turn is the wit, the fire, the voice, the comic distance Austen sets up between herself and her fictional characters . . . Lady Susan is a classic, and Sanditon might have been Austen’s greatest book, had death not prevented her from completing her final novel.” –from the Introduction by Peter Washington