Jane Austen Manuscript Goes Up For Auction

The Watsons manuscript by Jane AustenJane Austen wrote some very famous novels in the early 1800s. Pride and Prejudice is perhaps her best-known book. Although she published just six novels, she has millions of fans all over the world. They adore her novels about romance and society.

An extremely rare manuscript of an unfinished novel, written in Jane Austen’s own handwriting, is going to be sold in England.

There are 68 pages, part of a novel called The Watsons. Jane Austen never finished it, possibly because her father died. She wrote the pages in 1804, when she was 29 years old.

Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility, was not published until 1811.

The Watsons pages are written in her elegant and tiny handwriting with many edits in the margins. The manuscript was divided by Austen into 11 booklets.

The first 12 pages of the manuscript were sold by one of Austen’s relatives during World War I to raise money for the Red Cross; they are now in a library in New York. The rest of the book (minus a few pages that were accidentally lost by the University of London!) is what will be sold. They are valued at up to half a million dollars.

Austen wrote The Watsons after she had had one novel rejected by a publisher and another one purchased by someone who never published it.Jane Austen

There are no original manuscripts of any of Jane Austen’s published books, except for a few snippets. This manuscript will give people who study Jane Austen some information about how she worked and edited her stories as she wrote them.

The 68 pages include five chapters, about one quarter of the complete book, had she finished it.

The Watsons is about a family of four sisters who are the daughters of a widowed clergyman. The heroine of the story is Emma, the youngest, who has been raised by her wealthy aunt. The book is about how Emma has to put up with two of her sisters who are desperately looking for husbands. It is also about Emma’s special relationship with her eldest and most responsible sister.

The Watsons manuscript will be sold in an auction at Sotheby’s Auction House in England.


Writing/Discussion Prompt
Jane Austen wrote her novels in the 1800s.  In the 1800s, the world was very different.  For example, there weren’t televisions, computers or the Internet. However, her novels are still very popular today.  Why do you think people are so interested in her books (even though they were written such a long time ago)?

Reading Prompt
What do you think should be done with the manuscript?  Should it be exhibited in a museum? Should the incomplete work get published?  Should the new owner keep it private?  Use ideas from the article to support your answer.

Express personal opinions about ideas presented in texts (OME, Reading: 1.8).

Make judgements and draw conclusions about the ideas and information in texts and cite stated or implied evidence from the text to support their views (OME, Reading: 1.8).

Evaluate the effectiveness of both simple and complex texts based on evidence from the texts (OME, Reading: 1.8).

Grammar Feature: Italics
Italics are slanted letters that look a little bit like cursive writing.  Italics are used for many purposes.  One purpose is: book titles.
In the article, Jane Austen’s book titles are written in italics.  Find all of the book titles in the article.
Why do you think they are written in italics?