Jane Austen’s letters and Sense and sensibility

Feather pen

(Courtesy: OCAL via clker.com)

Over the last couple of years we’ve read the letters Jane Austen wrote during the time she was working on the novel under discussion. As a result, we’ve read letters written during Emma (1814-1816) and Mansfield Park (1811-1814).

Following this pattern for Sense and sensibility is a little trickier, as it had a longer gestation. In around 1797, she started reframing Elinor and Marianne (an epistolary piece) into Sense and sensibility, but apparently did most of her revision during 1809-1810. Reading her letters written in these two years, seems the logical approach, except that no letters exist for 1810.

What happened in 1810?

Now, Chapman, who produced the first full edition of her letters, divided them into groups based primarily on where she was living. Part 3, Southampton, covers the years 1807 to 1809, so I suggest* we read this group plus the one letter from 1809 which was written from Chawton:

  • Le Faye, Deirdre Jane Austen’s letters (New ed, 1995): No. 49 (7-8 January 1807) to No. 69 (26 July 1809)
  • Chapman, RW Jane Austen’s letters, 1796-1817 (1955): No. 48 (7 January 1807, same as Le Faye’s no. 49) to No. 68 (26 July 1809, same as Le Faye’s no. 69)

The discrepancy between the two is due to more letters being located since Chapman’s work, and some re-sequencing by Le Faye.

The letters are also available in e-text on-line. Click here to access them (Letters 48-68).

*This results in a roughly similarly sized “chunk” to our two previous readings of her letters.


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