Rare Austen Manuscript to be Auctioned

A portrait of Jane Austen sketched circa 1810 by her sister Cassandra at the National Portrait Gallery, London, via WikiCommons

A portrait of Jane Austen sketched circa 1810 by her sister Cassandra at the National Portrait Gallery, London, via WikiCommons

A rare Jane Austen manuscript will be auctioned in mid-July. The handwritten manuscript of The Watsons, an unfinished novel, is the only Austen manuscript still in private hands. Only fragments survive of the manuscripts Austen had published in her lifetime, making this manuscript all the more significant for scholars. The 68-page manuscript is considered only about one-quarter complete. It features the prolific novelist’s small, neat handwriting and heavy revisions.

The plot of the story, which foregrounds the occasionally crude business of matchmaking in the Georgian era, prefigures many of the themes that would typify Austen’s finished works. However, in terms of quality it is considered the peer of novels like Emma and Sense and Sensibility - Margaret Drabble has described it as “a tantalizing, delightful and highly accomplished fragment, which must surely have proved the equal of her other six novels, had she finished it.” Several writers have published completions of the novel, including Catherine Hubback, Jane Austen’s niece, who published her completion as The Younger Sister in the mid-19th century. Auction house Sotheby’s will be selling the manuscript on July 14 and estimates it will fetch between £200,000 and £300,000 pounds ($310,000-$460,000).

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