Austen, Jane--Lefroy, Anna
- Autograph manuscript continuation of Austen's unfinished novel Sanditon
- ink on paper
[with:] Two autograph manuscript reminiscences of Jane Austen: retained copy of a letter to her brother James Edward Austen-Leigh when he was preparing his Memoir of Jane Austen, 9 pages, c.1864; further reminiscences (commencing "I cannot remember distinctly the face of either Aunt...") in two draft texts, one incomplete, 5 pages; 8vo (180 x 110mm) [also with:] Autograph manuscript note on the manuscript of Sanditon ("I have in my possession a few pages of M.S. the last effort of my dear Aunt's pen..."), 2 pages, 8vo (205 x 132mm), with a later subscription in the hand of Lefroy's grand-daughter M. Isabel Lefroy
housed in an orange collector's folding box
Deirdre Le Faye, 'Sanditon: Jane Austen's Manuscript and Her Niece's Continuation', Review of English Studies, Vol. 38 (1987), 56-61
Jane Austen's Fiction Manuscripts (www.janeausten.ac.uk)
Christopher Brindle, Jane Austen's Sanditon: Documentary and Film-of-the-Play (2014; www.sanditon.info)
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A CONTINUATION OF AUSTEN'S FINAL WORK BY ONE OF HER CLOSEST RELATIONS, TOGETHER WITH AUTOGRAPH RECOLLECTIONS OF AUNT JANE. Anna Lefroy, née Austen (1793-1872), was the daughter of Jane's eldest brother the Rev. James Austen (1765-1819). Jane knew her niece well in early childhood: when Anna's mother died in 1795, her father sent her to his parents in Steventon, where Jane and Cassandra also lived. The relationship deepened when Anna grew up to have literary ambitions, no doubt inspired by her aunt, and Jane wrote encouraging and enthusiastic letters about Anna's unpublished novel, Which Is The Heroine?, which provide an invaluable insight into Austen's method of novel-writing. These literary conversations continued until Jane's final months; the two discussed Jane's ongoing work on Sanditon in the early months of 1817.
Anna went on to publish a novella and two children's books and, as the "literary niece", inherited both Sanditon and the cancelled chapters of Persuasion when Jane Austen's manuscripts were divided amongst family members on the death of Cassandra in 1845. Her continuation of Austen's last, unfinished, novel was an act of homage to her aunt. The additional characters, if not plot developments, that are found in Anna's continuation derive from her conversations with Jane in 1817 (Anna Lefroy to James-Edward Austen-Leigh, 8 August 1862, quoted in Le Faye, pp.58-59). Her imitation of her aunt extends to the physical appearance of the manuscript: Austen's Sanditon is written in three booklets, almost identical to the arrangement of Lefroy's continuation although very slightly smaller. Anna's attempt to complete the story ultimately proved too much and she abandoned the work before it was completed. She later reflected on how her own work compared to her aunt's: "There seems to me just the same difference as between real Lace, & Imitation."
Anna Lefroy's continuation of Sanditon is not just a literary manuscript inspired by Austen and written within her intimate familial circle; it also stands at the head of a distinct literary sub-genre of Austen sequels. The impulse to continue her stories surely stems from the extraordinary depth and subtlety of characterisation that is one of the foremost qualities of Austen's art. The author herself appears to have talked of her creations almost as living people, entertaining her family with stories of their lives beyond the novels that contained them. Many readers have felt a similar intimacy with Austen's characters, and had the same desire to continue their stories. At about the time that Lefroy was continuing Sanditon, her younger cousin Catherine Anne Hubback was writing The Younger Sister (1850), a completion of Austen's other surviving fragment, The Watsons. Austen sequels have since proliferated into well over fifty titles - even leaving aside pastiches and re-imaginings - including P.D. James's Death Comes to Pemberley (2011). Sanditon itself (including Lefroy's continuation) has recently been adapted for the stage by Christopher Brindle, who also directed a documentary on the life of Anna Lefroy.