Jane Austen: Unfinished Novels

Among Jane Austen’s surviving manuscripts are two unfinished novels. These have no titles but are now generally known as The Watsons and Sanditon. The Frippery Edition attempts to reproduce the content of these manuscripts with a minimum of editorial changes. It preserves Austen’s idiosyncratic spelling, capitalisation and punctuation, as well as her erasures, corrections and errors. Some changes to typography and layout have been made to suit the ebook format.

The ebooks are in epub 3 format and are DRM-free. Users of Kindle readers should be able to transfer them using the Send-to-Kindle service.


The Watsons

Production notes

The aim of the Frippery Edition is to reproduce the contents of the two manuscripts in their final state. Both works are clearly early drafts and have been subject to considerable revision. This often results in inconsistencies in the text, where alterations have been incompletely applied. No attempt has been made to correct these or other errors.

The Juvenilia consciously replicated the form of published books, and the Frippery Edition attempts to retain that character. This is less of a consideration in the unfinished novels, and more liberties have been taken with the layout.

Both works have very few identifiable paragraph breaks. These have been introduced in various places as seemed reasonable. Bare dashes at the end of a paragraph have been removed. All other dashes have been represented as a single em dash, regardless of length.

Comparing the spelling with the Juvenilia it appears that Austen had been prevailed upon to write ‘friend’ (most of the time). Still, some old ‘freinds’ remain present: ‘veiw’, ‘beleive’ and ‘neice’ among them.

All references to page numbers in the manuscripts follow the convention of the Digital Edition.

The Watsons

View of the Old Corn Market and Tuns Inn, Guildford. Print by Robert Havell after Henry Garling, 1819. Image from the Yale Center for British Art.

“It is a great disappointment to him that he cannot always get away to our Balls but Mr. Curtis won’t often spare him, and just now it is a sickly time at Guilford.” The Watsons, Chapter 1.

The Watsons was first published in James Edward Austen-Leigh’s A Memoir of Jane Austen. The full Memoir is available in PDF format from Wikisource. They also have an ebook of just the novel.

It was Austen-Leigh who named the work The Watsons, “for the sake of having a title by which to designate it”. From a study of the watermarks he concluded it was probably written around 1804 when Austen was living in Bath. This would place it somewhat later than the early works Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey, none of which had yet been published.

Only the introductory chapters were written and not all of the characters mentioned make an appearance. However, Austen-Leigh reports that Cassandra Austen was aware of the plan of the novel:

Mr. Watson was soon to die; and Emma to become dependent for a home on her narrow-minded sister-in-law and brother. She was to decline an offer of marriage from Lord Osborne, and much of the interest of the tale was to arise from Lady Osborne’s love for Mr. Howard, and his counter affection for Emma, whom he was finally to marry.

There are no chapter divisions in the manuscript. These have been introduced following the scheme used in Oulton’s completion of the novel (Project Gutenberg), though without a Chapter 6.

The name of the Edwards family is sometimes spelt ‘Edwardes’. This is unlikely to be confusing and both spellings have been retained.

How many windows did Mr. Edwards’ house have on each side of the door? The Digital Edition thinks it indeterminate, claiming ‘two’ was written but deleted; R Brimley Johnson reads ‘two’; Austen-Leigh reads ‘four’. I’ve gone with the latter.


On the Sands at Brighton: Figures Walking on the Shore, John Nixon (ca. 1760-1818), undated. Image from the Yale Center for British Art.

“Here began the Descent to the Beach, and to the Bathing Machines and this was therefore the favourite spot for Beauty and Fashion.” Sanditon, Chapter 4.

Some extracts from Sanditon were published in Austen-Leigh’s A Memoir of Jane Austen, but it was not until 1925 that the full text was published by R W Chapman. This is available as an ebook from Wikisource.

The work is untitled but the name Sanditon seems to have been used within the Austen family. The Brothers is also mentioned as a possibility, presumably in reference to the three Parker brothers.

The manuscript is dated in three places:

It was thus composed after Persuasion (completed August 1816). Work on it stopped four months before Austen’s death on 18th July 1817.

In the fine tradition of inconsistent names, the family who keep the library at Sanditon are mostly known as ‘Whitby’ but sometimes adopt the alias ‘Whilby’. Since the intent is always clear from the context this hasn't been corrected.

Austen’s use of underlining for emphasis can be problematic: the line is often rather faint. Chapman missed a few instances which were picked up by the Digital Edition. In one case, though, I think Chapman has the advantage with (b3-37):

… till an angle here, & a curve there⁠ ⁠…
The Digital Edition omits the emphasis on ‘there’, on the grounds that the underline is actually the stroke on a ‘t’ in deleted text below.

Despite the care expended in the production of this edition it’s very likely some errors remain. They can be reported to me using the link below.

Ron Yorston
5th May 2024 (Updated 7th May 2024)