No accession number, King’s College, Cambridge

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The untitled manuscript, written throughout in Jane Austen’s own hand, is the working draft of a substantial and evolving work of fiction. It totals 120 pages, with between 20 and 28 lines per page, depending on the size and openness of the hand – about 24,000 words, and perhaps one-fifth of a completed novel. Austen’s hand dates the writing of the draft at three points: in the top left hand corner of the first page of Booklet 1 is written ‘Jan: 27. – 1817’; Booklet 3 is similarly inscribed on its opening page ‘March’; while folio 20v has written below its one line of text ‘March 18.’, the date on which Austen appears to have set the work aside. The manuscript is contained in three small bundles of ordinary writing paper, cut down and folded to form three booklets, the third being smaller in size but also thicker than the first and second, which are roughly similar. James Edward Austen-Leigh provided a précis and quotations from the manuscript, under the title ‘The Last Work’, in the second edition of his Memoir of Jane Austen (1871), and R. W. Chapman published the first complete transcription under the title Fragment of a Novel in 1925. Yet ‘Sanditon’ seems to have been an unofficial title used within the Austen family at least from the mid-nineteenth century.1 A paper facsimile edition of the manuscript was published in 1975, with an introduction by B. C. Southam.2


When Chapman transcribed the manuscript it was still in family ownership. In the division at Cassandra’s death, it had passed, along with the Persuasion chapters, to Austen’s niece Anna Lefroy (1793-1872). Either James Edward Austen-Leigh, her half-brother, worked directly with the autograph for the second edition of his Memoir (1871), or Anna Lefroy, more expert as to its contents, supplied an account. This was the first public mention of the unfinished novel. From Anna Lefroy it passed down through the Lefroys to Mary Isabella Lefroy (1860-1939), daughter of George Benjamin Lefroy and Anna Lefroy’s granddaughter, and so Jane Austen’s great-great niece. She presented it to King’s College, Cambridge, in October 1930, in memory, as she told Chapman at the time, ‘of my sister, & brother in law she the gt gt niece of “Jane” & he the gt nephew, & the most popular Provost, & Provostess “Kings” has ever had.3 Isabel Lefroy, as she was known, refers here to her sister Florence Emma (1857-1926) and Florence’s husband Augustus Austen-Leigh (1840-1905), Provost of the College, 1889-1905, and a son of James Edward, the biographer. Despite this reconnection of the Austen-Leighs and Lefroys, Augustus’s brother and nephew do not seem to have consulted the manuscript for their expanded family biography of 1913, which repeats the Memoir’s brief description along with its errors. Another copy of the manuscript, made by Cassandra Austen, had a different descent, passing down through Jane’s brother Francis’s family – to Janet Austen, later Sanders, eldest daughter of Frank’s fifth son Edward Thomas Austen. It was from her father that Mrs Sanders got the information, which she communicated to Chapman in February 1925 after the publication of his transcription, that Austen’s intended title for the novel was ‘The Brothers’.4 Cassandra Austen’s copy of the manuscript, also untitled, is now in Jane Austen’s House Museum, Chawton. Anna Lefroy wrote a continuation of the story, the manuscript of which (‘112 pages, with revisions, deletions, corrections and pastedowns … sewn in three sections’), described as ‘the property of great-great nephews of Jane Austen’, was sold at Sotheby’s on 13 December 1977, Lot 266. Lot 267 in the same sale was a two-page MS in Anna Lefroy’s hand ‘about the composition, the plot and her own possession of the manuscript of “Sanditon”’.5

Physical structure

Although the division of the manuscript into three booklets is original, in the late twentieth century all three were given stout paper fascicled bindings and newly stitched through the centrefold.6 When R. W. Chapman inspected them in the mid-1920s only the first and second booklets seem to have shown signs of original sewing.7 Their appearance now of three home-made paper pamphlets provides a thin material echo of the three handsome, commercially manufactured volumes which contain the juvenilia.

Booklets 1 and 2 are of wove paper, with the countermark 'Kent 1812'. Each leaf measures the same as those of the booklets into which The Watsons is written, approximately 190 x 120 mm, suggesting that they were made in much the same way by cutting down half sheets of ‘post’ writing paper, 385 x 480 mm, to form quires of up to eight leaves (16 pages) which could then be assembled inside one another to make fatter booklets. Booklet 3 measures approximately 162 x 100 mm and is of laid paper, countermarked 'Joseph Coles' 1815. Booklet 1 consists of sixteen leaves or thirty-two pages of closely written text, and comprises Chapters 1 to 3. Booklet 2 contains twenty-four leaves or forty-eight pages, again closely written, comprising Chapters 4 to 8 and the opening pages of Chapter 9. Booklet 3 is considerably fatter, containing forty leaves or eighty pages, and consists of the bulk of Chapter 9, Chapters 10, 11, and the incomplete Chapter 12 with which the fragment ends. Although some contrivance is used to make Booklet 1 contain the first three chapters (the last few words of Chapter 3 – ‘she was become that Loveliness was | complete. – ’ being inserted at the foot of page 1), Booklet 2 ends mid-sentence, with a half-line of writing and room to spare (‘She desired | her best Love, [Booklet 2 ends] [Booklet 3 begins] with a thousand regrets at her being so | poor a Creature’). Booklet 3 ends with one completed line of writing at the top of folio 20v, exactly mid-way through, the remaining forty pages of which are blank.

All three booklets are unpaginated. Booklet 1 has a large ‘1’ in the top centre of the opening page, and somewhat confusingly, Booklet 3 has a large ‘2’ in the top centre of its opening page. As part of their modern conservation, each of the three booklets has 8 pages integral to their structure as booklets (that is, front cover, inner front cover, fly recto, fly verso; fly recto, fly verso, inner back cover, back cover).

Pagination and physical structures as they are recorded in the digital edition:

1: front cover, inner front cover, fly recto, fly verso [p. 1-p. 32] fly recto, fly verso, inner back cover, back cover;
[2] front cover, inner front cover, fly recto, fly verso [p. 1-p. 48] fly recto, fly verso, inner back cover, back cover;
[3] front cover, inner front cover, fly recto, fly verso [p. 1-p. 80] fly recto, fly verso, inner back cover, back cover.

In the case of Booklet 3, the last page with text is [p.40], thereafter the final 40pp are blank.

The manuscript

The manuscript is written and corrected throughout in brown iron gall ink. It is a working draft, in which long passages of smooth flowing, uncorrected or minimally corrected prose are interspersed with more densely worked and reworked sections. Like the drafts of The Watsons and Persuasion, the manuscript is closely written in a clear, neat, and controlled hand with no sign of the physical deterioration that James Edward Austen-Leigh detected in the fragment’s abrupt cessation. His affecting description of the ‘latter pages’, some of which ‘seem to have been first traced in pencil, probably when she was too weak to sit long at a desk, and written over in ink afterwards’ is not born out by the evidence.8 Only parts of f. 19 in Booklet 2 (amounting to no more than 31 lines) were first written in pencil, to be traced over subsequently in ink (the effort of tracing causing a slight shake in the hand at that point). This represents a short passage in Chapter 7 (from ‘cried Lady D- | And if we cd . but get a young Heiress to S! | But Heiresses are monstrous scare’ to ‘I have Miss Clara with me now, which | makes a great difference.” She spoke this so seriously that Charlotte’); both its position in relation to the rest of the manuscript and its brevity suggest nothing more than that it was perhaps inconvenient at that moment to use a pen. The manuscript continues thereafter in ink and in a steady hand for a further fifty pages. If anything, the hand is tighter in Booklet 3 and the letters more carefully formed, which is probably simply explained by the effort of writing on even smaller sheets.9


A Memoir of Jane Austen (2nd edn, London: Richard Bentley & Son, 1871), pp. 181-194; Fragment of A Novel written by Jane Austen January-March 1817 [ed. R. W. Chapman] (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925) (Gilson, F6); Anna Lefroy refers to the work as ‘Sanditon’ in a family letter of 1869 (see A Memoir of Jane Austen, ed. Kathryn Sutherland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 184). Back to context...
Sanditon: an unfinished novel by Jane Austen, with an introduction by B. C. Southam (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975) (Gilson F22). Back to context...
In a letter of 28 October[1930], kept with the Sanditon MS. Back to context...
In a letter of 8 February 1825, kept with the Sanditon MS. Janet Sanders, ‘Sanditon’, Times Literary Supplement, 19 February 1925, p. 120. Back to context...
Sotheby’s, Catalogue of Valuable Autograph Letters, Literary Manuscripts, and Historical Documents (London, 1977), pp. 127-28; Gilson F6. Back to context...
King’s College, Cambridge, has no record of conservation work on the manuscript earlier than 1993, when minor changes were made to the outer covers to correct the misnumbering of the booklets (information from Melvin Jefferson, Senior Conservator, Cambridge College Libraries Conservation Consortium). Back to context...
‘Preface’, Fragment of A Novel. Back to context...
Memoir (1871), p. 181. Back to context...
Kathryn Sutherland, Jane Austen’s Textual Lives: From Aeschylus to Bollywood (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 168-97. Back to context...