Sunday, February 2, 2014


After reading Among the Janeites (which was....ehh, OK -- a friend compared it to Word Freaks, and I'd also thought of that book while reading it) I felt inspired to go back to a long-term, frequently abandoned project, which is to read all of Austen's novels straight through in order. I came to Austen late (very my early thirties, if you must know. I've always been a Bronte girl).

I realized what's always been standing in the way of this project is I'd have to start with Sense & Sensibility. I had to read Sense & Sensibility in college, and DETESTED it. (Why did we read that and not P&P? I shall never fucking know.) I think I reread S&S after The Movie (which I love), but didn't much like it then either.  Gahh. I tried fudging up a rough chronology of Austen's writing to see whether or not I could read something else straight off the bat:

1789 - 'Love and Freindship'
1791 - History of England
1793 - begins 'Sir Charles Grandison or the happy Man, a comedy in 6 acts' (finished 1800)
1793-1795 - 'Lady Susan'
'before 1796' - 'Elinor and Marianne' (Sense & Sensibility)
1796 - begins 'First Impressions' (Pride & Prejudice)
August 1797 - finishes 'First Impressions'
November 1797 - Jane's father tries to find a publisher for "a Manuscript Novel, comprised in three Vols. about the length of Miss Burney's Evelina"
November 1797-mid-1798 - revises 'Elinor and Marianne' to 'Sense and Sensibility', changing epistolary form to 3P
mid-1798 - finishes S&S, begins 'Susan' (Northanger Abbey)
1799 - finishes 'Susan'
1800 - father retires
1803 - revised 'Susan' sold, ms in limbo until 1816
1804 - begins 'The Watsons' (probably abandoned on her father's death in 1805)
21 January 1805 - father dies
(the great gap)
1809 - moves to Chawton, has time to write
October 1811 - S&S published
1811-1812 - revises P&P
1812? - writes MP (first novel which is not a revision of pre-1799 work)
January 1813 - P&P published
October 1813 - second edition of P&P
October 1813 - second edition of S&S
May 1814 - Mansfield Park published
December 1815 - Emma published
early 1816 - becomes ill
February 1816 - second edition of MP
July 1816 - first draft of 'The Elliots' (Persuasion)
August 1816 - revises ending of 'The Elliotts'
1817 - 'Susan' revised as 'Catherine'
January 1817 - begins 'The Brothers (Sanditon)
April 1817 - confined to bed
March 1817 - stops work on 'The Brothers'
18 July 1817 - death (41)

....yowza. For all Woolf's insistence that Austen "breaks from melody to melody as Mozart from song to song" that's an awful lot of sitting on drafts and revising and then revising again. The first three novels were all drafted before 1800, and then there's all that terrible racketing around after her father retires and then dies, and then her last three novels were begun after her first successful publication (and she didn't live to fully revise the last two published). -- That chronology makes me want to look up how many successful women authors had fathers who encouraged them. It also disheartens me greatly because however you look at it, I'm stuck with reading S&S first, unless I want to go with the Juvenilia (which I've read before and greatly enjoyed), or Lady Susan, or the History, both of which I have -- but this is project partly me wanting to read Austen's novels "in order," whatever that means at this point. (Yes, I overthink everything. Your point?) So it looks like the reading order will be:

Sense & Sensibility (gag)
Northanger Abbey
(The Watsons, if I feel like it)
Pride & Prejudice (hell, when did she revise P&P? probably after S&S was published -- nothing like an actual publication, and success, to boost a writer's confidence -- and I would bet finishing P&P spurred her on to then write MP, and NA wasn't revised much until after 1816, when she was ill)
Mansfield Park //dread (no, I've never been able to finish this)