Add. MSS. 41253A, f.5-f.8, British Library, London

Add. MSS. 41253A, f.9-f.10, British Library, London

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Opinions of Mansfield Park and Opinions of Emma were first printed, in highly selected form, in James Edward Austen-Leigh’s Memoir of Jane Austen (1870).1 Having arranged the sale in 1925 of a family collection of several Austen manuscripts, R. W. Chapman prepared a transcription and facsimile edition of the major items, including Opinions of Mansfield Park and Opinions of Emma, before the group was broken up, chiefly between the Pierpont Morgan Library and the British Museum: Plan of a novel according to hints from various quarters, by Jane Austen; with opinions on Mansfield Park and Emma, collected and transcribed by her, and other documents printed from the original [ed. R. W. Chapman] (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926). Only 350 copies were printed and the volume remains rare.2


The manuscript descended from Cassandra Austen to the family of her younger brother, Charles Austen (1779-1852). Charles’s daughter, Cassandra Esten Austen (1808-97), owned it and made it available when her cousin, Austen-Leigh, was preparing the Memoir. It remained in the family, eventually descending to the daughters of Charles Austen’s son Charles John. Three of these daughters – Jane, Emma Florence, and Blanche Frederica Austen – offered for sale in 1925 a small collection of Austen manuscripts and memorabilia (among them some letters, verses, Opinions of Mansfield Park, Opinions of Emma, Plan of a Novel). The collection was brokered by R. W. Chapman, and divided chiefly between the British Museum and J. Pierpont Morgan, Jr. Opinions of Mansfield Park and Opinions of Emma went to the British Museum (now British Library).3

Physical structure

Opinions of Mansfield Park is written onto four leaves of laid paper cut down to quarto size and forming a booklet of eight pages, the last three pages being blank. The paper has an 1813 watermark. Opinions of Emma is written onto two leaves of laid paper cut down to quarto size and forming a booklet of four pages. The paper has an 1813 watermark and appears to be of the same stock as that used for Opinions of Mansfield Park. The two manuscripts are unpaginated and have modern pencil foliation thus: f. 5 – f. 10. They have been foliated with two autograph letters from Jane Austen: 1. Letter from Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra, dated ‘Manydown Wednesday Febry: 11th ’ [1801]; 2. Letter from Jane Austen to her brother, Capt. C[harles] J[ohn] Austen, R.N., afterwards Rear-Admiral, dated ‘Chawton Sunday April 6’ [1817]. Endorsed in the hand of Charles Austen ‘My last letter from Dearest Jane C.J.A.’ These letters are foliated ff. 1-4 and were acquired as part of the same collection in 1925.

The manuscript

The manuscript is unpaginated and written in black-brown iron-gall ink. Collections of comments by named family and friends on two of Austen’s novels, they are gathered and transcribed here. Both sets of Opinions are written out in a neat and even hand, possibly around the same time, c.1816 (that is, after the publication of Emma), though evidence of distinctions in the layout of the items in the two collections may point to different transcription dates for each set.

Pagination and physical structures as they are recorded in the digital edition: [p. 1]-[p.12]


See A Memoir of Jane Austen, ed. Kathryn Sutherland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 106 and 114 and accompanying notes. Back to context...
Gilson F7. Gilson notes that ‘all facsimiles in F7 are of the exact size of the originals’. A detailed catalogue record for Opinions of Mansfield Park and Opinions of Emma can be found in the British Library’s online manuscript catalogue Back to context...
R. W. Chapman ‘A Jane Austen Collection’, Times Literary Supplement, 14 January 1926, p. 27. Back to context...