Introduction to the 1983 Publication of the Anna Lefroy manuscripts, including her “Sanditon” Continuation, by The Chiron Press



Together With



Transcribed, Edited,

And with an Introduction







Sanditon: A Continuation

Perhaps the major disappointment for admirers of Jane Austen is that she wrote so little. After reading the six major novels, an Austen devotee is forced to look to her juvenilia and unfinished manuscripts to satisfy his pas­sion. Beginning with the publication of sections of manuscript in the 1871 edition of James Edward Austen-Leigh’s memoir, this additional material, along with various authors’ continu­ations of Austen’s unfinished works and adapta­tions of or sequels to her novels, has been available to Austen admirers. One of the unfinished manuscripts is Jane Austen’s last work, Sanditon.

When Jane Austen died, on July 18,1817, she left behind a partially completed novel that she had been working on during her final ill­ness. This manuscript, consisting of about 24,000 words and written between January 27, 1817, and March 18, 1817, had no title, but became known to members of her family as Sanditon. There is some question, however, as to what Austen would have called the work. According to Mrs. J. Sanders, the grand­daughter of Francis Austen, Jane Austen had intended to title the work Brothers.1

Austen left the manuscripts for Sanditon, The Watsons, and the two cancelled chapters of Persuasion to James Austen’s daughter Jane Anna Austen Lefroy, who was considered by the family to be Jane’s literary heir. The Sanditon manuscript was virtually unknown to the public until 1871 when James Edward Austen-Leigh included a summary of the work, rather than the entire text, in the second edition of his Memoir of Jane Austen: “Such an unfin­ished fragment cannot be presented to the public; but I am persuaded that some of Jane Austen’s admirers will be glad to learn some­thing about the latest creations which were forming themselves in her mind; and therefore, as some of the principal characters were already sketched in with a vigorous hand, I will try to give an idea of them, illustrated by extracts from the work.”2 Although Austen-Leigh did not consider Sanditon worthy of publication, he included the summary in the Memoir’s second edition in response to numerous requests following issuance of the first edition for publication of any of Austen’s stories or fragments which had not yet been made avail­able to the public. One such request expressed the sentiment of most: ” ‘Every line from the pen of Jane Austen is precious.’ “3 Not until 1925, however, was the entire Sanditon manuscript published.4

The literary merit of Sanditon, when compared to Austen’s other published works, has been a source of controversy since its publi­cation. Important Austen scholars have differed sharply in their appraisals of the fragment.

In his review of Chapman’s 1925 edition, E. M. Forster begins: “The fragment known to Miss Austen’s family as Sanditon is of small literary merit”; this he blames on Austen’s ill health at the time of Sanditon’s composition.5 Notwithstanding its “small literary merit,” Forster believes that the work still deserves pub­lication because “Though of small merit, it is of great interest, for it was written after Persuasion, and consequently may throw light on the last phase of the great novelist.”6 Forster contends that Sanditon “gives the effect of weakness, if only because it is reminiscent from first to last.”7 The characters are not innovative, but weak imitations of the characters in Austen’s other novels: Charlotte Heywood is merely a poor substitute for her more realistic literary sisters, Eleanor Dashwood, Fanny Price, and Anne Eliot; Clara Brereton is less life-like than Jane Fairfax; etc. Forster further maintains that Sanditon has the “queer taste” of “half topography, half romance” and “promises little vigour of char­acter and incident.”8

A. Walton Litz basically concurs with Forster’s assessment of the work. He refers to Sanditon as “an experiment of private amuse­ment” to be classed with Austen’s juvenilia rather than with her major works or even with fragments such as The Watsons.9 Litz also agrees with Forster that Austen should not be blamed for the failure of Sanditon; he believes that she was merely using satire and her early burlesque methods to escape from her deterio­rating physical condition into the vitality of her youth: “Gone is the ‘autumnal’ mood of Persuasion. The impersonal tone of Sanditon is a barrier against regret.”10

R. Brimley Johnson contends that an appropriate title for Sanditon should be “Frag­ment of a Synopsis for a Novel” rather than “Fragment of a Novel.” He argues that the manu­script is more of an outline, a skeleton, of what the final work was meant to be. Because Sanditon “is clearly a form of notes, not of composed narrative,” the work would have to be com­pletely rewritten rather than merely revised.11

The opinions of Austen-Leigh, Forster, Litz, and Johnson, all of whom believe that Sanditon needed extensive rewriting rather than simple revision before publication, are countered by those of other scholars, notably Mary Lascelles and B. C. Southam.

Lascelles finds Sanditon a surprising out­come of an illness: “. . . it is a hilarious comedy of invalidism, and (what was even less to be expected) a bold venture in a new way of telling a story.”12 According to Lascelles, if Austen’s complete novels had been left in the same incomplete form as Sanditon, they would have left no doubt as to their respective outcomes. Even the conclusion of the fragmentary The Watsons is apparent. While other critics think Austen’s departure in Sanditon from her usual method of development is a flaw, Lascelles finds it an innovation, though she believes that, because of Sanditon‘s length and slow develop­ment, there is not enough material by which to judge the literary merit of the fragment.13

B. C. Southam, editor of the 1975 fac­simile edition of Sanditon, contends that this last work, “the most precious, poignant, and tan­talising of all Jane Austen’s literary remains,”14 is much more important than other critics have realized both because it demonstrates a drama­tic change in style, and because, as the longest of only a few surviving manuscripts, it shows Austen as a working novelist at her most mature state.15 Although Austen worked on the manuscript when she was seriously ill, Southam thinks “It reveals the author responding as never before to the world around her.”16 In his view, the reader of this lively fragment would not believe the author to be a dying woman.

Although Southam disagrees with the majority of Austen critics, his analysis demon­strates the surest understanding of the impor­tance of Sanditon within the context of Austen’s literary efforts. True, Sanditon is unfinished, and (in contrast to Austen’s other works) its future plot development is not clear. Yet the 120 pages as they stand seem to need little revision. Rather than rewriting, the work needs expan­sion; the continuing development of the char­acters and plot is required.

How Jane Austen planned to continue Sanditon when she stopped writing four months before her death is the crucial unanswered ques­tion. Perhaps she had thought out the course of the novel but had neither the physical nor the mental strength to finish the manuscript. She might well have discussed her ideas for the continuation of the work with Lefroy, the other literary Austen, during the months before her death; perhaps she even asked Lefroy to do what she herself no longer was capable of doing — completing the novel. Whatever Lefroy’s motivation, she did write a continuation of Austen’s fragment. Like Austen, she left her work unfinished; and, also like Austen, her work needed further expan­sion and development. What Lefroy did finish, however, is in final or near final form.

Jane Anna Elizabeth Austen Lefroy (1793-1872) was one of Jane Austen’s favorite nieces. Following the death of his wife in 1795, Anna’s griefstricken father was emotionally unable to deal with his child’s constant cries for her mother. When he could not make suitable arrangements for Anna’s care in his own home, he sent her to live with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. George Austen, and his sisters, Cassan­dra and Jane.17

During the years that she resided with her relatives, the precocious Anna became both part of the household and also, unwittingly at first, her aunt’s literary confidante. About this time Jane Austen was working on First Impressions, the early form of Pride and Prejudice; and Anna, who always seemed to be present, was allowed to hear the chapters as they were com­pleted. Only Anna and Cassandra were allowed this privilege. When Anna began talking about the characters, who were real people to her, in front of other family members, she was cau­tioned not to say a word to anyone, because Austen’s writing was a secret.18

Perhaps due to her aunt’s early influence, Anna even as a youth wanted to be a writer. Later, as an author, she neither developed the skill nor achieved the importance of Jane Austen. But Lefroy’s literary interests have played an essential role in furthering scholars’ understanding of Austen. It is because of Lefroy’s desire to become a writer and her aunt’s willingness to give her advice that Jane Austen’s thoughts on writing are known.

Before her marriage in November 1814 to Ben Lefroy, the son of one of Jane Austen’s best friends, Lefroy had begun a novel which she first called Enthusiasm, a title she later changed to Which Is the Heroine?19 As she com­pleted sections of her manuscript, she naturally forwarded them to her aunt for review. Austen, between September and November of 1814, sent Lefroy a series of enthusiastic and encouraging letters regarding the work. Austen apparently thought the writing of great merit. Although she read the literary attempts of her other nieces and nephews and, fond aunt that she was, encouraged their efforts, Austen responded differently to Lefroy. As with the others, she at first expressed her enthusiasm: “We have been very much amused by your 3 books. .. “20 and “… I read it immediately — & with great pleasure. I think you are going on very well. .. Indeed, I do think you get on very fast. I wish other people of my acquaintance could com­pose as rapidly. . .” (Letter #107). Austen, however, took the additional time, during a period when she was busy with her own writing, to send Lefroy detailed criticism of the characterization, plot, and style of Which Is the Heroine? One letter in particular revealed both Lefroy’s strengths and weaknesses and Austen’s thoughts about subject matter, characteriza­tion, setting, dialogue, and revision:

I have a good many criticisms to make — more than you will like. — We are not satis­fied with Mrs. F’s settling herself as Tenant & near Neighbour to such a Man as Sir T.H. without having some other inducement to go there; she ought to have some friend living thereabouts to tempt her. A woman, going with two girls just growing up, into a Neighbourhood where she knows nobody but one Man, of not very good character, is an awkwardness which so prudent a woman as Mrs. F. would not be likely to fall into. Remember, she is very prudent; — you must not let her act inconsistently… I like the scene itself. . . Sir T.H. you always do very well; I have only taken the liberty of expunging one phrase of his. .. It is too familiar & inelegant… You describe a sweet place, but your descriptions are often more minute than will be liked. You give too many particulars of right hand & left… I like your Susan very much indeed, she is a sweet creature, her playfulness of fancy is very delightful. . . You are now collecting your People delightfully, getting them exactly into such a spot as is the delight of my life; — 3 or 4 Families in a Country Vil­lage is the very thing to work on — & I hope you will write a great deal more, & make full use of them while they are so very favourably arranged. You are but now coming to the heart & beauty of your book; till the heroine grows up, the fun must be imperfect. . . Your last chapter is very entertaining — the conversation on Genius &c… I wish you could make Mrs. F. talk more, but she must be difficult to manage & make entertaining, because there is so much good common sence [sic] & propriety about her that nothing can be very broad. . . I hope when you have written a great deal more you will be equal to scratching out some of the past. The scene with Mrs. Mellish, I should condemn. . . (Letter #100).

Although Jane Austen, as a kind aunt, would  naturally  have  encouraged Lefroy, Austen’s letters reflect more than the kindness of a doting aunt. They show her genuine enthusiasm and hope for the success of her niece’s work. Impressed by Lefroy’s talent as a writer, Austen repeatedly noted how amused she was and how she looked forward to reading future installments:

I expect a great deal of entertainment from the next 3 or 4 books, & I hope you will not resent these remarks by sending me no more (Letter #100).

I hope you do not depend on having your book back again immediately. I keep it that your G:Mama may hear it — for it has not been possible yet to have any public reading. I have read it to your Aunt Cas­sandra however — in our own room at night, while we undressed — and with a great deal of pleasure. . . We like the first chapter extremely. . . I have made up my mind to like no Novels really, but Miss Edgeworth’s, Yours & my own (Letter #101).

In addition to setting out Jane Austen’s theory of writing, these letters also reveal most of what little is known about Lefroy’s life and character. Apparently Lefroy was flighty and slightly unstable. Elizabeth Jenkins, in her important biography of Austen, compares Lefroy to Austen: “In some ways she recalled what the latter had once been; she was lively and uncertain, what country people describe as ‘easy cast up, easy cast down’; she had much of that sweetness which won upon the eye and ear of anyone who talked to her aunt; in Anna, it was a something at once wild and gentle.”21 Perhaps part of Lefroy’s reputation stemmed from her broken engagement. She had become engaged against her parents’ wishes, apparently mainly out of boredom; but, given the social conventions of the times, her parents were even more upset when she broke the engagement.22

Jane Austen was not blind to her favor­ite’s faults. She clearly saw Lefroy for what she was and indicated in her letters her concern over Lefroy’s “unsteadiness” and “madness.” In 1813, when Anna became engaged to Ben Lefroy, Jane Austen wrote to her brother Francis:

I take it for granted that Mary has told you of Anna’s engagement to Ben Lefroy. It came upon us without much preparation; — at the same time, there was that about her which kept us in a constant preparation for something. — We are anxious to have it go on well, there being quite as much in his favour as the Chances are likely to give her in any Matrimonial connection. I beleive [sic] he is sensible, certainly very religious, well connected & with some Independance [sic]. — There is an unfortunate dissimilarity of Taste between them in one respect which gives us some apprehensions, he hates company & she is very fond of it; — this, with some queerness of Temper on his side & much unsteadiness on hers, is untoward (Letter #85).

Several months later, Jane Austen also expressed her doubts in a letter to Cassandra:

I am to meet Mrs. Harrison, & we are to talk about Ben & Anna. “My dear Mrs. Harrison, I shall say, I am afraid the young Man has some of your Family Madness — & though there often appears to be some­thing of Madness in Anna too, I think she inherits more of it from her Mother’s family than from ours” (Letter #90).

After her marriage in 1814, Lefroy, at least for a time, continued to write. Apparently Ben Lefroy had previously approved of her efforts, for Austen had written to her a few months before the marriage: “You have been perfectly right in telling Ben of your work, & I am very glad to hear how much he likes it. His encouragement & approbation must be quite ‘beyond everything’.. .” (Letter #101). Lefroy’s husband’s enthusiasm for her writing may or may not have lasted; but Lefroy, worn down by bearing and raising her children, evidently put her literary work aside for some time. Nevertheless, Lefroy and Austen remained close particularly after Lefroy and her husband moved from Hendon to Wyards near Alton in October 1814.23 Little correspondence passed between Lefroy and her aunt after this point because the two were virtually in daily contact. They continued to discuss literature and Austen’s work, subjects that were of great interest to them both.

Austen probably left the manuscripts of The Watsons, the two cancelled chapters of Persuasion, and Sanditon to Lefroy because of Lefroy’s interest in writing. It is not incon­ceivable, however, that she wanted Lefroy to have Sanditon because the two women had discussed the future course of the work. Austen may even have asked her niece to record some final thoughts on the novel when Austen was too weak to do so herself. Perhaps Lefroy had promised Austen to continue Sanditon; perhaps, after Austen’s death, Lefroy, in memoriam, recorded what her aunt had discussed concerning the novel. For whatever reason, at some point Lefroy did attempt to complete Sanditon. Lefroy had previously added to Austen’s writing: the young Lefroy was thought until recently to have been the author of the play Sir Charles Grandison, her aunt having merely acted as amanuensis. Scholars now agree that the work is Austen’s, but that Lefroy, as a child, was allowed to make minor revisions in her aunt’s manuscript. Lefroy also added four leaves to Evelyn, which was published as part of Volume the Third (1951). The exact date Lefroy wrote the addition is unknown, although it clearly was done sometime after her marriage, since the work is signed “J.A.E.L.” [Jane Anna Elizabeth Lefroy].24

The present text of Lefroy’s manuscript does not complete Sanditon, indicating that the remainder of the continuation was either destroyed, lost, or simply never written. Lefroy did burn the manuscript of Which Is the Heroine?, excerpts of which had been seen and praised by her aunt.25 Had Lefroy wanted to dispose of the Sanditon continuation, how­ever, it seems unlikely that she would have destroyed only part of the work. It likewise appears doubtful that some of the manuscript could have been lost when the remainder has been so well preserved. The strongest possibility, then, is that Lefroy left her work unfinished. Perhaps she did not complete the novel because she had merely written down what her aunt had told her, and Austen had died before explaining how the work concluded; thus Lefroy had to end the continuation because she had no more to write. Given Lefroy’s relationship with Austen, however, it seems more probable that Lefroy decided to write her own continuation in memory of her aunt and that, for some unknown reason, she never completed the manuscript. She might have added some of her own ideas to those which she and Austen had discussed, and then either become dissatisfied with what she had written or simply unable to decide the future direction of the work.

Lefroy did not date her Sanditon continu­ation, and the paper she used has no watermarks. The consensus of several experts in the field of paper studies is that the manuscript paper prob­ably was made in the mid-nineteenth century. Paper from this period is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to date, even chemically. At approximately this time the production of paper was going through an experimental phase and was made of various fiber contents. No specific material was used during any given year; thus the presence or absence of any particular fiber would not indicate exactly when the paper was manufactured.26

The question of dating the manuscript is better approached from the perspective of Lefroy’s life. An examination of her life reveals certain periods during which she most likely would have been free to write. Early in 1817, during the time of her aunt’s fatal illness, Lefroy was pregnant with her third child and had two other children younger than three years of age. She probably would have been too busy with her children to find time for literary work before the late 1820’s or early 1830’s. Also, one of her six daughters, Mrs. Bellas, noted that sometime when the children were young, Lefroy destroyed the manuscript (Which Is the Heroine?) that Austen had read and criticized because Lefroy could not cope with the mem­ories which it brought back. According to Mrs. Bellas, ” ‘The story to which most of these let­ters of Aunt Jane’s refer was never finished. It was laid aside for a season because my mother’s hands were so full… The story was laid by for years, and then one day in a fit of despondency burnt. I remember sitting on the rug and watching its destruction, amused with the flame and the sparks which kept breaking out in the blackened paper. In later years when I expressed my sorrow that she had destroyed it, she said she could never have borne to finish it…'” (see note to Letter #95). Given Lefroy’s feelings in this regard, it seems improbable that she work­ed on another manuscript which would have reminded her of Austen any time soon after her aunt’s death.

Lefroy did become a published author with two children’s books, The Winter’s Tale (1841) and Springtide (1842), and she probably wrote the short story “Mary Hamilton” which appeared in the Literary Souvenir (1833).27 Since these works were published during the 1830’s and 1840’s, Lefroy evidently was writing during those years. In the 1860’s Lefroy wrote her reminiscences of Austen for Austen-Leigh’s memoir, which was published in 1870. There­fore although the exact year in which Lefroy composed the Sanditon continuation remains a mystery, the available evidence indicates that she almost certainly worked on the manuscript sometime between 1830 and 1860, most likely in the 1830’s or 1840’s.

The manuscript itself appears to contain only one real clue to the date of its authorship. A reference is made in line 795 to the year “14” [1814] as the time when Mr. Tracy became acquainted with the “very young,” possibly seventeen or eighteen year old, Sir Edward Denham, during a visit to the Continent. Sir Harry died in this same year; and it is clear from the context of the story that his death occurred a number of years prior to the present action, which therefore is presumably taking place sometime between 1820 and 1830. The internal clue supports the theory that Lefroy worked on the manuscript sometime after 1830.28

Although Lefroy’s continuation of Sanditon is incomplete, her manuscript is approximately the same length as Austen’s fragment and therefore essentially doubles the length of the novel. The continuation, though not of the same literary quality as Jane Austen’s work, is extremely well written and flows easily from where the original story stops. Austen’s manuscript ends with Mrs. Parker, Charlotte, and Mary being shown into a room at Sanditon House to await the arrival of Lady Denham. Charlotte is observing her surroundings and wondering what to make of a scene she alone has witnessed — Clara Brereton and Sir Edward Denham having a private conversation in the thick mist. Here Austen’s manuscript ends and Lefroy’s begins: Lady Denham appears and explains her delay — she had been making a “strict examination” of the kitchen. According to Lady Denham, she had declined Clara’s offer to help because ” ‘attics [sic] is no place for your delicate light coloured muslin.’ “29 Lady Denham believes that Clara has taken her suggestion and is at that moment sorting lavender and rose leaves. Charlotte, who has recently seen Clara and knows that she is not so occupied, is uncom­fortable and is wondering what will happen when Lady Denham learns the truth. Thus Lefroy makes a smooth transition from Austen’s manuscript to her own and in the pro­cess carries on Austen’s idea of a certain mysteriousness surrounding Clara Brereton.

Lefroy expands the characters of the Parkers, Lady Denham, Sir Edward, Esther Denham, Clara Brereton, and Charlotte Hey-wood, always keeping in mind Austen’s early and brief descriptions of them. She heeds her aunt’s early advice and has the characters act consistently; for example, Charlotte, who appears to be the heroine in Austen’s fragment, continues in that role in Lefroy’s work. Using a device frequently employed by Austen, Lefroy has the reader view the behavior of other characters through the observant main char­acter: in this case, Charlotte. Charlotte reflects on the character of Mr. Tracy, who, although introduced by Lefroy, is alluded to by Austen when Sidney says he will stay in the hotel because he is “expecting to be joined there by a friend or two.”30 Charlotte “felt a consciousness of not liking Mr. Tracy: *but why?’ she asked herself, ‘what had he said or done amiss?’ In the first place he had travelled to Sanditon on a Sunday without any necessity, or apparent reason, except the breaking up of the party to which he had belonged. . .” (lines 661-668). Later, while in the company of Mr. Parker, Charlotte notes Mr. Tracy’s reaction to her companion: “the expression that passed over Mr. Tracy’s countenance —passed— & was gone, but had been there. What profound con­tempt mixed with astonishment, it revealed!” (lines 703-706).

Lefroy also expands and emphasizes the character of Clara Brereton. Austen portrays Clara as a poor cousin of Lady Denham who has been brought from her home in London to San­diton House to serve as the Lady’s companion for six months. Mr. Parker describes Clara as “lovely, amiable, gentle, unassuming, con­ducting herself uniformly with great good sense” (page 378). Clara was chosen over her other cousins to serve as companion because she was “more helpless & more pitiable of course than any — a dependant on Poverty… & one, who had been so low in every worldly veiw [sic], as with all her natural endowments & powers, to have been preparing for a situation little better than a Nursery Maid” (page 379). Anna Lefroy further develops these ideas in a lengthy section (pages 79 through 106) which sets out Clara’s history, temperament, and pros­pects prior to the invitation from Lady Denham. Clara’s father died when she was only five or six; her mother subsequently married a social inferior and had a second family that became the frequent charge of Clara. Following her mother’s death, Clara went to stay with her Uncle James’s family until she could find employment. Lefroy now creates a subplot, wherein Clara’s uncle arranges an interview for her concerning a position as a nursing governess. The interview with the mysterious Mrs. Caven­dish Dawes was to have been merely a formality before the position was offered; but, for some reason, Mrs. Dawes, in the middle of the inter­view, takes a sudden dislike to Clara. How Mrs. Dawes and this abortive interview will fit into the future development of the novel is never revealed.

In this same section, Lefroy provides more information about Clara’s temperament: “Clara’s temper was one of great endurance, & rarely gave way in the severest provocation — but she was cold, calculating, & selfish — Thankful & trustworthy in the common affairs of every day life, but capable of systematic deception when, as she wd. have alledged [sic], circumstances required it” (lines 1778-1786). Although Lefroy devotes a major sec­tion of her continuation to Clara, the fact that the heroine is Charlotte rather than Clara is evidenced by Lefroy’s decisions to describe many of the characters from Charlotte’s view­point and also to keep Charlotte free from the flaws which are part of Clara’s character.

Besides retaining some of Austen’s minor characters — Mrs. Giffiths (teacher/companion to the Beaufort sisters and Miss Lambe), Hillier (Mr. Parker’s tenant), Jebb (a shopkeeper), Morgan (the Parkers’ butler), Sam (a servant of Susan, Diana, and Arthur Parker), Mrs. Whitby (librarian), and Mr. Woodcock (hotel-keeper) — Lefroy introduces several more characters, both major and minor. In addition to the previously mentioned Mr. Tracy, James Brereton, and Mrs. Dawes, Lefroy creates old Willis (a fisherman), the Steadman family (the boys who will offer donkey rides), Mrs. Hen­derson (teacher at the Sanditon school), Mr. Henderson (the parish clergyman), old Kit Sidney (the uncle who left Sidney Parker his fortune), Richard Brereton (Clara’s father), Mrs. Brereton and Jem, Mary, and Bess (Clara’s aunt and cousins), Mr. Hickson (Clara’s stepfather), and Mr. Turner and the Greenwoods (cousins of Lady Denham). Lefroy obviously has studied Sanditon and then used that manuscript as a basis for both expanding the roles and personalities of existing characters and for creating and developing new ones.

In addition to characterization, plot is a major concern in any continuation. Compared to Austen’s other works (including even her shorter, unfinished pieces), the plot of Sanditon unfolds slowly. This slow development evidently has made it difficult for any future author to attempt to conclude the work. Although five authors have completed The Watsons,31 a frag­ment 6,000 words shorter than Sanditon, only three continuations of Sanditon have been done: Anna’s unfinished version and two com­pletions written approximately 100 to 150 years later — Somehow Lengthened: A Development of “Sanditon” by Alice Cobbett (1932) and Sanditon by Jane Austen and “Another Lady” [Marie Dobbs] (1975). (These works are sum­marized in Appendixes A and B, respectively.)

For Lefroy, who knew Austen well, plotting the continuation of Sanditon was the most difficult task. Because she was familiar with her aunt’s style and way of thinking, she probably had some idea how Austen would have developed the plot. Yet Lefroy, remembering her aunt’s advice on plot, dialogue, setting, and characterization, must have been hard pressed to write a continuation that she felt would have pleased Austen. Of course, if Austen had actu­ally told her specifically how Sanditon was to continue, Lefroy was under the additional con­straint of complying with her aunt’s wishes.

Given these circumstances, it is not sur­prising that Lefroy’s work contains less plot movement than either of the other Sanditon continuations. Lefroy’s version only hints at how the inevitable matchmaking among mem­bers of the “3 or 4 Families in a Country Village” will be completed. The two main characters, Charlotte and Sidney, seem destined for each other. Several unspoken communications pass between them and they sing well together, signs of compatibility. Charlotte appears attracted to Sidney. Soon after meeting him, Charlotte reflects that ” ‘He is very pleasant’. . . and I sup­pose clever — superior in someways to the rest of his family…” (lines 481-485). There is also some indication that Sidney might be destined for a romance, either with Charlotte, whom he clearly admires, or with someone else: “he resolved on prolonging his own stay at San­diton — if he had any other inducement it was one as yet scarcely acknowledged to himself” (lines 1035-1038). The shy heiress Miss Lambe, who has “a torpid satisfaction in being left alone” and in spending “two whole days in peace, without being required to go any where or take an interest in anything” (lines 1125-1130), is on the verge of being overwhelmed by the willful Lady Denham, who wants Miss Lambe to become the rich wife Lady Denham’s nephew Sir Edward needs to solve his financial prob­lems. Arthur begins to exert himself and break away from the mothering of his sisters. As a young man of independent means, he will likely become the match for one of the other eligible ladies: Miss Lambe, one of the Beaufort sisters, Miss Denham, or Miss Brereton. Mr. Tracy is also a possible suitor, though a reluctant one because he holds ” ‘such weakness in disdain’ ” (line 1201). The identity of his potential partner is unclear. He and Miss Denham have no inter­est in each other. Perhaps, because Charlotte (the heroine) disapproves of him, he will become involved with an undesirable female character, possibly one of the Beauforts. It is unclear whether Sir Edward and Clara will be matched, but there is a suggestion of something between them. Charlotte, of course, has won­dered about their relationship; but even Mr. Tracy has observed that”‘. . . it strikes one that something is carrying on between Miss Brereton & Sir Edwd Denham… I saw plainly, as I told you, that Miss Brereton meant to marry SirEdwd Denham; that she, at least was in earnest…'” (lines 1174 & 1208-1211).

Lefroy’s continuation terminates just when enough has been written to arouse the reader’s interest but not to satisfy his curiosity. The two parts of the work end with unanswered questions: The first section concludes with Sidney unexpectedly leaving a card party at the Parkers to speak with Mr. Woodcock about some problem. Sidney looks back in the room, catches Charlotte’s eye and asks ” ‘Will you be kind enough to take my place’ ” (lines 1731-1732). He then disappears. “Charlotte felt a little nervous — What could have happened —” (lines 1734-1736). These are the section’s final words. Because Sidney has extended his stay at Sanditon for the purpose of helping his brother Thomas, who may be having financial diffi­culties, perhaps this is the reason Mr. Wood­cock has come to see him at such an odd hour.

The continuation’s second section, a lengthy passage about Clara Brereton, consists of ungathered sheets. Lefroy gives no indication where she meant to place this section; it does not fit well into the beginning, the middle, or the end of the earlier section. Most likely this part of the work was intended to appear after the main section following a transition passage which apparently never was written. This section concludes on an unclear note — a discussion between James Brereton and his wife regarding what should be done about the visiting Lady Denham.

Of the three Sanditon continuations, Lefroy’s incomplete work is arguably the closest in language, style, and development to what Jane Austen herself would have written had she gone on with the novel. Lefroy composed her continuation with memories of her aunt clearly in mind. Because Austen had discussed writing with her and had criticized and approved her earlier literary efforts, Lefroy was familiar with Austen’s ideas and presumably incorporated them into her own work. Both Cobbett and Dobbs, in their respective completions of Sanditon, create more extensive plot develop­ment than does Lefroy in her continuation. Yet neither of the completions represents what Austen would have done with the story had she lived. Of the two, Austen would have been more critical of the cheap, gothic romance, Somehow Lengthened. Although Cobbett’s work is technically a continuation, she has neither used Austen’s actual fragment nor signi­ficantly relied on Austen’s work. Rather, Cob­bett has written a novel which merely uses as its basis Austen’s characters and general story line.

Cobbett   continues   the   characters that Austen has introduced but is not faithful to their personalities as developed by Austen. Austen’s Sir Edward was not destined to become the Bryonomaniac and caricature of an evil seducer that he becomes in Cobbett’s version. The heroine Charlotte is not devel­oped in Austen’s style either. Cobbett has her leave with Sidney without a chaperon, and travel to a village where she knows no one on a wild mission to save Clara, who has been kid­napped by Sir Edward. It seems unlikely that Austen would have approved of such a contri­vance, since she had written the following criticism of a character whom Lefroy had placed in a similar situation: “A woman, going with two girls just growing up, into a Neigh­bourhood where she knows nobody but one Man, of not very good character, is an awkwardness which so prudent a woman as Mrs. F. would not be likely to fall into” (Letter #100). Austen’s prudent Charlotte would not have traveled unchaperoned with a man to another village for a stay of unspecified length. The remaining Sanditon characters fare little better in Cobbett’s work.

Even worse than her faulty characteri­zation is Cobbett’s melodramatic plot. Not only is there a kidnapping by a seducer, but smugglers are also involved in the crime. The smugglers take Charlotte to a cottage where Clara is being held captive, and Clara tells her of the involvement of the “free traders” in Sir Edward’s seduction plot:

But could I forsee that he would not scruple about actual lawbreaking? No “foreigner,” as they call me here, could comprehend the power of this free-trading network with its iron discipline; nor how it has deadened the conscience of high and low. Once in its power, I am no more than a slave for Sir Edward, and a chattel for his accomplices, and one pretty easily foretells the fate of such a one when she has lost her looks!32

Perhaps Austen would have laughed over Somehow Lengthened, as she and Lefroy did over the occasional gothic novel that they came across in their reading; but Austen neither would have been amused by nor would have approved of Cobbett’s development and com­pletion of Austen’s own work.

Marie Dobbs’s Sanditon completion is far superior to Somehow Lengthened and, unlike Cobbett’s work, incorporates passages or summaries from Austen’s Sanditon manuscript. Dobbs, in the manner of Austen, concentrates on consistent development of her characters. Charlotte, who again appears as the heroine, is close to the Austen character type — a woman who is practical, observant, kind, and generally worth the reader’s notice. Dobbs also intro­duces new characters, such as a young gentle­man named Henry Brudenall, Sidney Parker’s friend. The plot is developed in accordance with Austen’s “matchmaking” style: the heroine living or visiting in a country village awaits the appearance of a wealthy young suitor. In Dobbs’s completion a number of matches are made. Brudenall, who has been secretly engaged to Clara Brereton, comes to Sanditon to be in her company and eventually, with Charlotte’s help, to elope. As in Lefroy’s continuation, Arthur matures and moves away from the dominance of his sisters. But in Dobbs’s version, he forms a romantic attachment to the shy Miss Lambe, and they make marriage plans. Dobbs, like Cobbett, introduces into the plot a kidnapping by a seducer. In Dobbs’s version, however, the victim, Charlotte Heywood, acts in a calm and sensible manner and is able to outwit Sir Edward, the kidnapper. The engagement of Charlotte and Sidney concludes the novel — an ending Jane Austen would likely have chosen. Although on a superficial level, the styles of Dobbs and Austen appear similar more careful study reveals significant dif­ferences. A. Q. Morton in his book Literary Detection: How to Prove Authorship and Fraud in Literature and Documents uses Sanditon to illustrate his theory that through stylometry a manuscript of undetermined authorship can be identified by studying an author’s habits with regard to common words, such as “a,” “an,” “and,” “such” and “very” and the positions of these words in sentences and in relationship to other words. Through statistical analysis and mathematical formulas, Morton compares Dobbs’s style with Austen’s style in Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Sanditon. According to Morton’s study, Dobbs’s effort to imitate Austen does not succeed: for example, Austen’s occur­rences of “and” followed by “I” are 2.45 com­pared to Dobbs’s 6.84 and “the” preceded by “on” occurs 1.58 (Austen) compared to 8.45 (Dobbs). (Dobbs herself is aware of her limita­tions as an imitator; she admits in her “Apology” that Austen’s language and technique cannot be faithfully copied.)33 Morton concludes that whenever an author attempts to imitate another author’s style, the result will always more closely resemble the writer’s own work rather than that of the person he is imitating.34

Morton’s formula might well reveal a similar disparity in language and technique if the formula were applied in comparing Lefroy’s continuation with Austen’s work. Lefroy’s effort, however, cannot be judged by the same criteria as the continuations by Cobbett and Dobbs. The literary discussions between Austen and Lefroy, Lefroy’s personal knowledge of her aunt’s literary predilections, and the possibility that Austen and Lefroy collaborated on Lefroy’s work, give Anna Austen Lefroy’s continuation of Sanditon much more authority, even unfinished, than continuations by other unknown authors. Lefroy’s work is of literary and historical significance as an indication of Jane Austen’s own plans for the completion of her last work.

  1. J. Sanders, “Sanditon,” TLS, 19 February 1925,
    p. 120.
  2. James Edward Austen-Leigh, A Memoir of Jane Austen, Second Edition (London: Richard Bentley, 1871), p. 182. Austen-Leigh had included in his 1870 edi­tion a selection of verses in memory of Mrs. Lefroy (which were published in complete form in 1868, see Gilson M124), “Plan of a Novel” and some other humorous verse by Jane Austen.
  3. Mary Augusta Austen-Leigh, Personal Aspects ofJane Austen (London:   John Murray, 1920), pp. 65-66.
  4. R. W. Chapman, ed., Fragment of a Novel Written by Jane Austen (Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1925).
  5. E. M. Forster, Abinger Harvest (London: Edward Arnold, 1936), p. 148.
  6. Forster, pp. 148-149.
  7. Forster, p. 149.
  8. Forster, p. 150.
  9. Walton Litz, Jane Austen: A Study of Her Artistic Development (London: Chatto and Windus, 1965), pp. 164-165.
  10. Litz, p. 165.
  11. R. Brimley Johnson, Jane Austen (London: Sheed & Ward, 1927), p. 49.
  12. Mary Lascelles, Jane Austen and her Art (London: Oxford University Press, 1963), p. 39.
  13. Lascelles, pp. 39; 181.
  14. B. C. Southam, ed., Sanditon: An Unfinished Novel by Jane Austen (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), p. viii.
  15. Southam, Sanditon, p. v.
  16. Southam, Jane Austen’s Literary Manuscripts (London: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 102.
  17. Elizabeth Jenkins, Jane Austen (London: Victor Gollancz, 1938), p. 48.
  18. Jenkins, p. 48.
  19. Jenkins, p. 266.
  20. R. W. Chapman, Jane Austen’s Letters to Her Sister Cassandra and Others, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932), Letter #100. All subsequent references to Jane Austen’s letters are to this edition.
  21. Jenkins, p. 160.
  22. Jenkins, p. 214.
  23. Jenkins, p. 277.
  24. B. C. Southam, ed., Jane Austen’s ‘Sir Charles Grandison’ (Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1981), p. 32.
  25. Jenkins, p. 277.
  26. I thank Bill Krueger of the Institute of Paper Chem­istry in Appleton, Wisconsin for this information.
  27. See David Gilson, A Bibliography of Jane Austen (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), L4. The table of con­tents (pages 73-110) of the Literary Souvenir lists the story as being “By a niece of the late Miss Austen.” Gilson iden­tifies Anna Austen Lefroy as this niece.
  28. A terminus for the action of the novel would seem to be 1835. There are references in the manuscript to the long and short versions of the card game whist. According to the narrator, Lady Denham “had so far advanced with the age in which she lived as to tolorate [sic], though she could not in her heart prefer, short whist” (lines 1564-67). Mrs. Parker “did not know the game,” while the much younger Clara Brereton did (lines 1575-77). Because “long whist may be said to have died about 1835,” (“Whist,” Encyclo­pedia Britannica, 1926 ed.), one may assume that the action of the novel occurs prior to that date, when the tran­sition between the two forms of the game was taking
  29. Line 42. Line references to the manuscript hereafter appear in the text.
  30. R. W. Chapman, ed., The Works of Jane Austen Vol. VI; Minor Works (London: Oxford Univesity Press, 1954), p. 425. All subsequent page references to Austen’s Sanditon appear in the text.
  31. See Gilson J8, J9, J10, Jll, J12; Mrs. Hubback, The Younger Sister (London: Thomas Cautley Newby, 1850); L. Oulton, The Watsons (London: Hutchinson, 1923); Edith and Francis Brown, The Watsons (London: Elkin Mathews, 1928); John Coates, The Watsons (London: Methuen, 1958); and David Hopkinson, The Watsons (London: Peter Davies, 1977).
  32. Alice Cobbett, Somehow Lengthened: A Develop­ment of “Sanditon” (London: Ernest Benn, 1932), p. 250.
  33. [Marie Dobbs], Sanditon By fane Austen and Another Lady (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1975), p. 329.
  34. A. Q. Morton, Literary Detection: How to Prove Authorship and Fraud in Literature and Documents (New York:   Charles Scribner’s, 1978), pp. 189-191.


Anna Lefroy’s continuation of Sanditon consists of 113 handwritten pages on wove writing paper. Fifty-four leaves are divided into three gatherings and hand stitched with thread. The remaining twenty-one leaves are loose foldings. There are no watermarks, but many of the sheets have a cachet in the upper left corner. The word “Strew” contained in the cachet has defied identification. The first gathering of six­teen leaves (7″ x 4-7/16″) has a “1” in pencil in the upper right hand corner of the first page. Two of the versos in this gathering are blank: the sixth and the last.

The second group of twenty-one leaves (7″ x 4-7/16″) has two small fragments from the margin of a missing leaf attached to the stitching at the spine. The last two leaves are revisions of the text, and are pasted over leaves of an earlier draft of the manuscript. All of the versos of this gathering are blank, except for the two leaves with pastedowns, and three pages with small sections of emendations meant to be inserted elsewhere in the text. A “2” in pencil is written in the upper right hand corner of the first page. Underlining in blue pencil, and numbering of leaves in orange pencil appear throughout this section of the manuscript. A small portion at the top of one leaf has been clipped to indicate a cancellation.

The third gathering consists of seventeen leaves with four blank leaves, and the versos of each leaf blank, except for three versos which have short sentences revising the text. One leaf is sewn to the top of the leaf it revises, and is free of the binding stitches. The leaves of this section are numbered at the top in orange and red pencil. The bottom margins of the recto of the following leaves have numbers written in pencil, apparently indicating word count: the fourth, “151”; the fifth, “130”; the sixth, “115”; and the eighth, “66.” At the top of the verso of the last leaf, written in pencil, is “1st edition — 23 lines — 160/words per page.”

This last note and the word counts indi­cate that Lefroy had some thoughts of publishing the work. Interestingly, the appear­ance of these three gatherings is similar to Austen’s Sanditon manuscript. Austen also used ordinary writing paper, folded in half to about the size of Lefroy’s, and stitched together into three gatherings.

The remaining section of the manuscript consists of eleven folded sheets of four pages each (7″ x 4-7/16″) on the same type of writing paper as the three stitched gatherings. All but two of the folded sheets are numbered in pencil at the top right margin of the first page, appar­ently indicating page order: “1,” “5,” “9,” “12,” “14,” “16,” “18,” “20,” and “24.” Several sheets are also numbered on the third page, and a few again on the fourth page. The tenth folded sheet has no number. The folded sheet marked with a “9” consists of one leaf, with only a stub of the rear leaf present. Inserted into this sheet is another fold of four pages, the first page having “11” in the top right hand margin.

This manuscript is a working draft, not a fair copy, and, as such, contains numerous addi­tions and deletions, as well as the pastedowns and clippings already noted. The revisions were done at various times — some concurrently, some as a page or section was completed, and others at a later reading, often in pencil or a different ink.

Whenever possible Lefroy’s final inten­tion has been represented. In most instances, her deletions and additions are clear and make her intent readily apparent. In some cases, however, Lefroy has not indicated which among two or three variants of phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and even pages were to be her final choices. (See, for example, page 73, which is an earlier draft of 72; pages 95 and 96, which revise pages 97 and 98; pages 101-105, which are the final drafts of pages 99-100; and page 106, which has several revisions of the same sentence.) These alternate versions usually have been included in the text and set off by brackets. In a few instances where the dif­ferences between the two or three texts are minor, only the final version has been included in the printed text. Other variants have been indicated in the Notes.

Lefroy apparently did not complete her revisions of the Sanditon continuation, for there are a number of errors that could have been corrected with careful proofreading. Some of the manuscript lines contain blank spaces where Lefroy evidently later intended to insert an additional word or phrase. These gaps in the manuscripts have been indicated by brackets. In a number of cases, Lefroy has written a word or phrase above a line but has not crossed out the word or phrase apparently meant to be replaced. In transcribing this manuscript, the word or phrase written above the line has been taken to represent her final intention; the other word or phrase is included in the Notes following the text. The numerous emendations and variants show that Lefroy took Austen’s advice about the importance of revising text, or as Austen called it “scratching out some of the past” (Chapman’s edition of Austen’s letters #100).

The manuscript has been transcribed line for line and page for page to reflect the original as accurately as possible. This results in an occasionally short or long line or page. In the case of a line too long for one line of printed text, the overflow has been centered directly below, and the two lines counted as one in the line count. An occasional one or two word line in which the word or words are written flush to the right hand margin in the manuscript is reproduced the same way in this text.

Punctuation, spelling, capitalization, paragraphing, and abbreviations of words have not been normalized, but have been transcribed exactly as they appear in the manuscript. When deemed appropriate, explanations appear in the Notes. If a word or phrase should have been added or deleted by Lefroy, but was not, this is also indicated in the Notes. Occasionally a word has been placed in brackets in the text to indicate either that it should be present, or that the writing is unclear and the reading of the word is in doubt. Words underlined in the manu­script have been italicized in the text. The Notes following the text are keyed to the line numbers.