Jane Austen’s unfinished manuscript goes up for auction


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Jane Austen’s novels are so beloved that her fans debate which is best. ‘Emma’ or ‘Pride and Prejudice’? ‘Sense and Sensibility’ or ‘Persuasion,’ or the underappreciated ‘Mansfield Park’ or ‘Northanger Abbey’?

Seldom does anyone stand up for ‘The Watsons.’

‘The Watsons’ is not just overlooked: It’s unpublished. It was begun, then abandoned, by Austen in 1804, after she’d drafted ‘Sense and Sensibility’ but seven years before its publication.


Austen got about one-fourth of the way through the manuscript of ‘The Watsons’ before abandoning the manuscript.

The bulk of those pages, written in Austen’s hand and with her edits and changes, will be auctioned in a single lot Thursday by Sotheby’s in New York.

‘It’s very much a working draft,’ Gabriel Heaton, a Sotheby’s staffer, told the Wall Street Journal. ‘You can see how her mind was moving -- how she’s refining and sharpening her text as she revises.’

The first 12 pages of ‘The Watsons’ are at New York’s Morgan Library and Museum. The rest of the unfinished manuscript will be auctioned Thursday. It is the last Austen manuscript to be held by a private collection.

The manuscript is expected to sell for $330,000 to $490,000.

If you haven’t got that much pound silver, don’t fret. ‘The Watsons’ pages, which were on deposit at Queen Mary, University of London, have been digitized. They’re online -- remarkably, with the rest of her fiction manuscripts -- in a complete unified digital collection, Jane Austen Manuscripts, available to scholars and to fans.


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Do you want a XXX Jane Austen?

-- Carolyn Kellogg