Comprising one finished novel, Lady Susan, which was published posthumously, and two unfinished fragments, Sanditon and The Watsons, this collection – full of melodrama and burlesque, and exploring a range of literary styles and social classes – spans the entirety of Jane Austen's writing life.
The epistolary novel Lady Susan is the darkly humorous tale of the amatory schemes and machinations of an ambitious and unprincipled coquette. The Watsons is the tale of the refined and well-educated Emma Watson, forced by the second marriage of her aunt to return to the house of her impecunious father and face the marital plots and intrigues of her sisters. Begun in the last few months of Jane Austen's life, Sanditon, set in a fast-growing former fishing village, swiftly becoming a fashionable resort, pokes fun at the inhabitants of the new coastal town, with all their hypochondria, witlessness and self-obsession.
About the Author
Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775 at Steventon near Basingstoke, the seventh child of the rector of the parish. She lived with her family at Steventon until they moved to Bath when her father retired in 1801. After his death in 1805, she moved around with her mother; in 1809, they settled in Chawton, near Alton, Hampshire. Here she remained, except for a few visits to London, until in May 1817 she moved to Winchester to be near her doctor. There she died on July 18, 1817.
As a girl Jane Austen wrote stories, including burlesques of popular romances. Her works were only published after much revision, four novels being published in her lifetime. These are Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816). Two other novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were published posthumously in 1818 with a biographical notice by her brother, Henry Austen, the first formal announcement of her authorship. Persuasion was written in a race against failing health in 1815-16. She also left two earlier compositions, a short epistolary novel, Lady Susan, and an unfinished novel, The Watsons. At the time of her death, she was working on a new novel, Sanditon, a fragmentary draft of which survives.
Margaret Drabble is recipient of many prestigious awards for her writing, which includes works of nonfiction as well as numerous novels.
Margaret Drabble is recipient of many prestigious awards for her writing, which includes works of nonfiction as well as numerous novels.
Date of Birth:December 16, 1775
Date of Death:July 18, 1817
Place of Birth:Village of Steventon in Hampshire, England
Place of Death:Winchester, Hampshire, England
Education:Taught at home by her father
Read an Excerpt
An excerpt from Lady Susan
Lady Susan Vernon to Mr. Vernon
My dear brother,
I can no longer refuse myself the pleasure of profiting by your kind invitation when we last parted, of spending some weeks with you at Churchill, and therefore if quite convenient to you and Mrs. Vernon to receive me at present, I shall hope within a few days to be introduced to a sister whom I have so long desired to be acquainted with. My kind friends here are most affectionately urgent with me to prolong my stay, but their hospitable and cheerful dispositions lead them too much into society for my present situation and state of mind; and I impatiently look forward to the hour when I shall be admitted into your delightful retirement. I long to be made known to your dear little children, in whose hearts I shall be very eager to secure an interest. I shall soon have occasion for all my fortitude, as I am on the point of separation from my own daughter. The long illness of her dear father prevented my paying her that attention which duty and affection equally dictated, and I have but too much reason to fear that the governess to whose care I cosigned her, was unequal to the charge. I have therefore resolved on placing her at one of the best private schools in town, where I shall have an opportunity of leaving her myself, in my way to you. I am determined you see, not to be denied admittance at Churchill. It would indeed give me most painful sensations to know that it were not in your power to receive me.
Your most obliged and affectionate sister
An excerpt from The Watsons
The first winter assembly in the town of D. in Surrey was to be held on Tuesday October the thirteenth, and it was generally expected to be a very good one; a long list of country families was confidently run over as sure of attending, and sanguine hopes were entertained that the Osbornes themselves would be there.
The Edwards' invitation to the Watsons followed me of course. The Edwards were people of fortune who lived in the town and kept their coach; the Watsons inhabited a village about three miles distant, were poor and had no close carriage; and ever since there had been balls in the place, the former were accustomed to invite the latter to dress dine and sleep at their house, on every monthly return throughout the winter.
On the present occasion, as only two of Mr. Watson's children were at home, and one was always necessary as a companion to himself, for he was sickly and had lost his wife, one only could profit by the kindness of their friends; Miss Emma Watson who was very recently returned to her family from the care of an aunt who had brought her up, was to make her first public appearance in the neighborhood; and her eldest sister, whose delight in a ball was not lessened by ten years' enjoyment, had some merit in cheerfully undertaking to drive her and all her finery in the old chair to D. on the important morning.
As they splashed along the dirty lane Miss Watson thus instructed and cautioned her inexperienced sister.—
'I dare say it will be a very good ball and among so many officers, you will hardly want partners. You will find Mrs. Edwards' maid very willing to help you, and I would advise you to ask Mary Edwards' opinion if you are at all at a loss, for she has very good taste. —If Mr. Edwards does not lose his money at cards, you will stay as late as you can wish for; if he does he will hurry you home perhaps—but you are sure of some comfortable soup. —I hope you will be in good looks — I should not be surprised if you were to be thought one of the prettiest girls in the room, there is a great deal in novelty. Perhaps Tom Musgrave may take notice of you — but I would advice you by all means not to give him any encouragement. He generally pays attention to every new girl, but he is a great flirt and never means anything serious.'
'I think I have heard you speak of him before,' said Emma.
'Who is he?''A young man of very good fortune, quite independent, and remarkably agreeable, a universal favourite wherever he goes. Most of the girls hereabouts are in love with him, or have been. I believe I am the only one among them that have escaped with a whole heart, and yet I was the first he paid attention to, when he came into this country, six years ago; and very great attention indeed did he pay me. Some people say that he has never seemed to like any girl so well since, though he is always behaving in a particular way to one another.' —
'And how came heart to be the only cold one?' — said Emma smiling.
"There was a reason for that' —replied Miss Watson, changing colour. — 'I have not been very well used, Emma, among them, I hope you will have better luck.'
'Dear sister, I beg your pardon, if I have unthinkingly given you pain.'
'When first we knew Tom Musgrave,' continued Miss Watson without seeming to hear her, 'I was very much attached to a young man of the name of Purvis, a particular friend of Robert's, who used to be with us a great deal. Everybody thought it would have been a match.'
A sigh accompanied these words, which Emma respected in silence—but her sister after a short pause went on—'You will naturally ask why it did not take place, and why he is married to another woman, while I am still single.—But you must ask him—not me—you must ask Penelope. —Yes Emma, Penelope was at the bottom of it all. —She thinks everything fair for a husband; I trusted her, she set him against me, with a view of gaining him herself, and it ended in his discontinuing his visits and soon after marrying somebody else. —Penelope makes light of her conduct, but I think such treachery very bad. It has been the ruin of my happiness. I shall never love any man as I loved Purvis. I do not think tom Musgrave should be named with him in the same day.'
An excerpt from Sandition
A gentleman and lady traveling from Tonbridge towards that part of the Sussex coast which lies between hastings and Eastbourne, being induced by business to quit the high road, and attempt a very rough lane, were overturned in toiling up its long ascent half rock, half sand. —The accident happened just beyond the only gentleman's house near the lane—a house, which their driver on first being required to take that direction, had conceived to be necessarily their object, and had with most unwilling looks been constrained to pass by—. He had grumbled and shaken his shoulders so much indeed, and pitied and cut his horses so sharply, that he might have been open to the suspicion of overturning them on purpose (especially as the carriage was his master's own) if the road had not indisputably become considerably worse than before, as soon as the premises of the said house were left behind—expressing with a most intelligent portentous countenance that beyond it no wheels but cart wheels could safely proceed. The severity of the fall was broken by their slow pace and the narrowness of the lane, and the gentleman having scrambled out and helped his companion, they neither of them at first felt more than shaken or bruised. But the gentleman had in the course of the extrication sprained his foot—and soon becoming sensible of it, was obliged in a few moments to cut short, both his remonstrance to the driver and his congratulations to his wife and himself—and sit down on the bank, unable to stand.
'There is something wrong here,' said he—putting his hand to his ankle—but never ind, my dear—looking up at her wih a smile, —'it could not have happened, you know, in a better place. —Good out of evil—. The very thing perhaps to be wished for. We shall soon get relief. —There, I fancy lies my cure' —pointing to the neat-looking end of a cottage, which was seen romantically situated among wood on a high eminence at some little distance—'Does not that promise to be the very place?'
His wife fervently hoped it was—but stood, terrified and anxious, neither able to do or suggest anything—and receiving her first real comfort from the slight of several persons now coming to their assistance. The accident had been discerned from a hayfield adjoining the house they had passed—and the persons who approached, were a well-looking hale, gentlemanlike man, of middle age, the proprietor of the place, who happened to be among his haymakers at the time, and three or four of the ablest of them summoned to attend their master—to say nothing of all the rest of the field, men, woman and children—not very far off.
Mr. Heywood, such was the name of the said proprietor, advanced with a very civil salutation—much concern for the accident —some surprise at anybody's attempting that road in a carriage—and ready offers of assistance. His courtesies were received with good-breeding and gratitude and while one or two of the men lent their help to the driver in getting the carriage upright again, the traveler said— 'You are extremely obliging sir, and I take you at your word. —The injury to my leg is I dare say very trifling, but it is always best in these cases to have a surgeon's opinion without loss of time; and as the road does not seem at present in a favourable state for my getting up to his house myself, I will thank you to send off one of these good people for the surgeon.'
Excerpted from "Lady Susan; The Watsons; Sanditon"
Copyright © 1975 Jane Austen.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I absolutly LOVE Jane Austen but I could only give this book four stars because I have not yet read Lady Susan. I am sure when I do though my rating will go up to five stars. The Watsons is great and Sandition is even better. They are not to be compared with Persuasion, Emma, or Pride and Prejudice though!
I am one of the biggest Jane Austen fans out there. I think that any fan should read sanditon, even though she did not finish it, it still has the charm and wit that only Jane herself can produce. The book has a very good plot that ties you in the moment you pick it up to read. Although it was finished by 'another lady' it was very entertaining. And i can safly say that Jane Austen would be happy with the finished product.
The book contains three different works, collected together because of their size. But they belong to different parts of Austen's life. Note: Don't read the introductions for each of the parts unless if you had read the novel before -- they are a good introduction if you do not mind being told what you are about to read... and I prefer to hear about that from Austen and not through the retelling of an editor. Lady Susan is the only finished piece here - it is a short novel about a wicked oldish woman which seems to believe that the world revolves around her. This is the only epistolary novel that she left (Sense and Sensibility had been initially started in the same way but then edited) and the clever conversations which are the trademark of Jane Austen are mostly missing - the format does not suit them well. But it does not make the novel a bad one - it has a somewhat abrupt ending, almost as if Austen got tired of writing it and wanted to wrap it up but it is an enjoyable little story. And even if there is almost no fully fleshed character besides Lady Susan, the few secondary ones are the likable ones and the ones that bring the whole story to life. What seems almost impossible happens here - the book delves into hard topics (adultery, forces marriages and so on) and remains an amusing piece of prose - not as polished as the 6 main novels but a little gem that could have published to brilliancy (and gifted with a better ending - even if it essentially remains the same, the way it is done is ruining the whole impression from the novel). The Watsons is a lot more traditional... and unfortunately unfinished. Siblings rivalry, unmarried sisters, a sibling growing up away in a better environment and returning, poverty, the main character catching the eye of a rich man and at the same time liking someone that is not that rich - if all that sounds familiar then don't think you've read the wrong book. While I was reading "The Watsons" I could almost see where some of those ideas were used in her later novels - Emma, Mansfield Park and Persuasion -- it is almost as if Austen used The Watsons as a draft and decided that all these elements in the same novel are too much and split them between the other books. But the piece that she wrote is vibrant and alive -- there are enough characters' actions to start liking some of them (and hating some of them). I wish she had finished the book - because even though we know how it was supposed to finish (from a letter Jane Austen wrote to her sister), the ending of a novel had never been what is the most important in her books - almost everyone can guess how all will end and almost anyone reading her books these days know how they end -- but that does not make them less readable. It is all about the way the end is reached.Sanditon is the last work she started, shortly before her death. And in its 12 chapters it is shaping up as a novel quite different from any of the previous 6 (or 7 if we count Lady Susan). It still has the maids that need to be married, it still has the title-owing man, the rich old lady and the small village that is so familiar from Austen's works. But it also have very eccentric family (Mr. Parker and all his siblings) and the village as a place being part of the novel - something that rarely happened in the early novels (in most places it is there to indicate the small dimensions but here it sounds like it will be one of the main characters of the story). And just like that, it ends. Noone knows how it would have ended, noone knows what Austen planned to do with it in the future. It remains as a beginning that could have led to the next great novel (or could have been abandoned as The Watsons). But even these initial 12 chapters are enjoyable - the Parker siblings are so comical that I could not resist laughing in a few occasions. I am aware that there are a few authors that finished that novel... and I am not sure that I want to check what they de
For once, the Penguin Classics introductory material adds to the experience of reading the main work, rather than giving away too much, though, of course, all the works included here are more or less not completely finished. Although the editors posit that one will find Lady Susan to be the least satisfactory, I found Sanditon to be dull and a chore to read, whereas Lady Susan, however limiting its epistolary form might be, is certainly fascinating.
This definitely shouldn't be your introduction to Jane Austen, and imagine it would only be picked up by avid fans like myself having read and reread her six mature completed novels and hungry for more. Lady Susan, which feels truncated, is a very early epistolary novel, and The Watsons was abandoned and Sandition left incomplete upon Austen's death.Lady Susan, which starts this volume, is really a novella, not a novel--it's only 23,021 words. It was written in 1794 when Austen was still in her teens. I found it hard to get into at first. Unlike her mature, completed novels, this is an epistolary novel told in letters, not third-person narration. The story feels thin compared to those other works as a result, although about halfway through we got more of a sense of scenes, with actual dialogue. It's not that I don't find it worth reading. This is very different in tone than Austen's other novels--her titular heroine is a villain--a catty and malicious adulteress trying to force her daughter Frederica into a marriage of convenience. But if I weren't an Austen fan, I doubt I'd have persisted in reading it far enough for the fascination of Lady Susan's machinations to take hold, although take hold they did. The ending nevertheless feels abrupt to me. (I understand Phyllis Ann Karr did a third person narrative adaptation of the story. Particularly since she's an author I've liked, I'd love to read that. Sadly it's long out of print.) The Watsons is an abandoned novel of about 17,500 words written in Austen's largely "silent" middle period after Sense and Sensibility and Price and Prejudice but before Mansfield Park and Emma and Persuasion. The protagonist in this novel, Emma Watson, is very likable. Like Fanny Price, she's someone who was raised away from her birth family by a rich relation--except she had expectations of being an heiress, which were disappointed by her rich aunt marrying again, throwing her back to her original family. Her family is respected enough to be able to mix with the best families, including a Lord interested in Emma, and comfortable enough to have a servant, but in the circles they run around in are considered "poor." Only nineteen, Emma has a lot more confidence than Fanny Price, and a lot less snobbishness than her namesake Emma Woodhouse. She won my liking when she goes to the rescue of a ten-year-old boy stood up at a dance. I'm only sorry there wasn't more, and we had to leave Emma soon after a ball parting from her brother and his wife. I'm sure that if Jane Austen had been able to complete this novel, I'd be rating it five or four stars as an equal to Pride and Prejudice or Emma. As it is, this had me running to read Joan Aiken's "continuation" Emma Watson immediately afterwards hungry for more--but was, alas, disappointed. I'm afraid I'll just have to be happy with what Austen left us.Sanditon was left uncompleted by Jane Austen's death, and I loved what I read to pieces, even more than The Watsons, and can only mourn that her death left Sanditon forever incomplete. It had such possibilities! I really liked our heroine Charlotte Heywood, with her obvious intelligence, lack of pretension and good sense. In the eleven chapters of 26,000 or so words we have left to us, Lady Denham and the three Parker hypochondriac siblings strike me as brilliant comic creations. Then there's Sir Edward Denham, who models himself after rakes like Richardson's Lovelace and schemes to seduce, and if not, abduct, Clara, his rival for Lady Denham's inheritance. Then there's Miss Lambe, "a young West Indian of large fortune," who is "about seventeen, half mulatto, and chilly and tender." What an interesting character to find in an Austen novel! I certainly will be trying at least one of the completions by other hands, although I expect I'll sadly be disappointed. In terms of what's on the
If you think Jane Austen only wrote about dances, parties, and happy endings, you need to read Lady Susan. She not only openly discusses adultery but even more taboo subjects such as the fact Lady Susan hates her daughter, slanders the poor girl to everyone she knows, and tries to marry her off to her own lover that she stole from another girl. It was sad that the Watsons and Sanditon were never published. Jane died too young.
I really liked Lady Susan. Jane Austen once wrote to her niece that she had been able to pick out the adulteress right away at a party she had been to. Was the the basis of Lady Susan? Could have been, but one thing is sure: Susan is nothing like any other character in any Austen novel. Sensual, manipulative, and unapologetic, she moves through the world like a tigress, and events and people must shape themselves around her. Austen started this as a young writer, and it would have been fascinating had she the time nearer the end of her life to take it up again, from the perspective of age. As it is, Susan ends up badly in the short synopsis which takes the place of the second half of the story, which is something of a shame.The other two stories in this volume are both shorter and more traditional Austen. One tends to see The Watsons as perhaps an early version of Sense and Sensibility, and while it would have been nice if Ms. Austen had managed to write any other book, Watsons does not seem to push Jane's ouvre much.Sanditon had a bit more potential, with its wistul comparisons of the calm and relaxed late eighteenth century, to the leaps and bounds of the early nineteenth. As they stand, the characters are a bit coarsely drawn; almost caricatures, but they might have been expanded more as Jane thought them through. Neither of the last two fragments can compare to the full stories, though; to my mind it is only Susan that can really be regretted.
Like most readers, I came to these stories already in love with Jane Austen.I had probably seen them a hundred times in Barnes & Noble, separate or together, in various orders, with or without Northanger Abbey. And every time I passed them by, sometimes pausing to read the back cover, but never really getting a clear idea of what they were about or why I should read them. I daresay other Austen fans have done the same, and have always ended up returning to an old favorite, like Emma or Pride and Prejudice.Lady Susan is the only complete work of the lot and is, in my opinion at least, the most satisfying of them as well. It is a short epistolary novel that takes as its heroine (a dubious term in this instance) Lady Susan Vernon, a manipulative, flirtatious, and altogether shameless widow. Having wreaked chaos in the Manwaring household, she now seeks solace in the home of her brother-in-law. There she makes an enemy of his wife, flirts with their nephew Reginald, and continues to tyrannize her own daughter, Georgiana. Though the epistolary style at first seems to add yet another layer of reserve to Austen¿s world, in the end it showcases her talent for the creation and individuation of a wide-ranging cast of characters; one particularly impressive letter features the Sir Reginald deCourcy¿s advice to his son on love and marriage. Lady Susan herself is a fascinating character, so very evil and cunning that some of my classmates who were reading this at the same time as I thought her a bit of a cliché, but her very vibrancy overcomes whatever flaws may exist in the portrayal of her character. It fascinates me that, as a mere girl of twenty, Austen chose to write about a worldly thirty-five-year-old widow, while her more mature works tend to focus more upon young women who have only lately reached adulthood.Of the two fragments, The Watsons is probably the weaker, and for a while I thought I would not like it at all. It opens with a great deal of exposition, for its heroine, Emma Watson, has been away living with wealthy relatives for many years, and has only recently returned to the home of her father and sisters. Gradually, however, I warmed to the story, mostly due to the charms of its heroine. Though she may be too perfect for the tastes of many modern readers, Emma strikes me as a sort of ideal balance between Austen¿s quieter heroines (Fanny Price, Anne Eliot) and her spunky, outspoken leading ladies (Elizabeth Bennett, Emma Woodhouse, Marianne Dashwood); she seems to know when to speak and when to be silent, and does neither out of turn. Moreover, she shows the kind of moral fiber one expects from an Austen heroine, with her actions towards young Charles at the ball emerging as truly laudatory.Sanditon is in many ways the opposite of the preceding piece. Although its heroine Charlotte has some very fine qualities, she is much less the focus of this fragment than Emma Watson was of hers; in fact, she serves mostly as an eyepiece by which the reader may look into the whimsical, ever-changing, hypocritical world of the seaside resort town. Though it delves into some weighty themes¿hypochondria, the changing times, even planned seductions¿they are all handled in a very ironic manner. It is at once a brighter and crueler view of the times than the down-to-earth, slightly sensational view afforded us by The Watsons. For me, the one really beautiful passage in this work occurs when Charlotte is driving up to Sanditon with Mr. and Mrs. Parker. They pass the Parker¿s old abode on their way to the new, and Mr. Parker rattles on and on about the benefits of a contemporary, elegant, gardenless seaside home (`Who can endure a cabbage patch in October?¿). But Mrs. Parker interjects modestly that, despite such improvements, one still `loves to look at an old friend, at a place where one has been happy.¿ Of the supporting characters, I have a particular and somewhat tw
"The Eyes of a Hunting Cat". Lady Susan, a short novel in letter form, remains unknown to many Austen fans even though a movie version ( Love and Friendship) was recently made. The novel is packed with exquisitely written barbs and eyebrow-raising cynicisms. If a reader’s frisson of guilty delight is a desirable part of entertainment then young Jane Austen had thoroughly learnt her art. Even the most brutal lines are delivered superbly. Here is Lady Susan commiserating with Mrs Johnson about her husband’s inconvenient attack of gout. “My dear Alicia, of what mistake were you guilty in marrying a man of his age! just old enough to be formal, ungovernable, and to have the gout – too old to be agreeable, and too young to die”. My opening quote comes from novelist Sylvia Townsend Warner, who in an 1951 essay surveying Austen's work wrote, "Lady Susan … (is) a lion in the path of those persons who would call Jane Austen charming, soothing, refreshing etc. G. H Lewes, when he recommended Charlotte Bronte to “follow the counsel which shines out of Miss Austen’s mild eyes” was unaware of Lady Susan, where Miss Austen’s eyes are those of a hunting cat. … In controlled grimness it looks forward to a masterpiece never written.”
Although these works cannot compete with her completed, more mature works, they were entertaining. Lady Susan was clever, despite the fact it cannot even compare with the writing Jane completed later in life. As for the Watsons and Sanditon, it is just sad that Jane Austen was unable to complete them. I was hoping that Sanditon was the version completed by "another lady" as eluded to in one of the reviews, which it was not. But, it is still wonderful to read and try to imagine where Jane Austen would have taken this story if she had a chance to complete it.
I have only read half of Lady Susan because unlike the other Jane Austen books, I found this one boring and unlike any of her other stories. I was hoping it to be better but unfortuantly it isnt.