7

The Norton Critical Edition of Jane Austen's Persuasion includes two chapters as a supplement to the novel. These chapters, printed under the heading "The Original Ending of Persuasion", portray very differently the circumstances under which Frederick Wentworth proposes to Anne Elliot. In the ending that is traditionally included with the novel, Wentworth overhears a conversation between Anne and Captain Harville where she claims that women do not ever forget the men they love. This makes Wentworth realize that she still loves himself, and leads him in turn to confess his own love for her.

In the "Original Ending", there is no such conversation between Anne and Captain Harville. Instead, Wentworth is told by Admiral Croft of the report that Anne is to marry her distant cousin William Elliot, and that after the marriage, the couple will be living at Kellynch, the house that Croft and his wife are currently renting from Anne's father. Croft tasks Wentworth with asking Anne whether the Crofts should give up their lease of Kellynch so that the newlyweds can move in sooner than they otherwise could. Wentworth unwillingly asks Anne this. Embarrassed, Anne denies the rumor of her engagement:

"There is No Truth in any such report."—He was a moment silent.—She turned her eyes towards him for the first time since his re-entering the room. His color was varying—and he was looking at her with all the Power and Keenness, which she believed no other eyes than his, possessed. "No Truth in in any such report!—he repeated.—No Truth in any part of it?"—"None."

(p. 171)

Thereby reassured that Anne does not intend to marry her cousin, Wentworth proposes that she marry him instead.

A subheading that precedes these two chapters in the Norton Critical Edition says: "These two chapters here printed comprise Austen's original ending to Persuasion. They were replaced by the final two chapters of the present text" (p. 168). However, this edition provides no textual information about the source of these chapters. In her preface, the editor, Patricia Meyer Spacks, says only that "The printing of the two canceled chapters follows the edition of R. W. Chapman" (p. xiii).

What is the textual history of Persuasion? From what source do we have the ordinary ending, with Frederick overhearing Anne's conversation? And what is the source of the two chapters that comprise the "original" ending, where Frederick asks Anne about her supposed engagement to William Elliot? Presumably this history is given in the Chapman edition that Spacks mentions, but I have not seen said edition. Bibliographic information about that alleged edition, gleaned from the bibliography in the Norton, is in the references immediately below.

References

Austen, Jane. The Novels of Jane Austen. Ed. R. W. Chapman. 5 vols. 3rd ed., Oxford, 1933. A sixth volume, including minor works by Austen, appeared in 1954.

Austen, Jane. Persuasion. Ed. Patricia Meyer Spacks. 1817–1818. Norton Critical Editions. New York: Norton, 1995. First ed. A second edition was published in 2012, but I have not seen it.

2

1 Answer 1

7

The original ending was first published by Austen's nephew and biographer, J.Edward Austen-Leigh in his A Memoir of Jane Austen.

The manuscript is held in the British Library. Manuscript of chapters 10 and 11 from Jane Austen's Persuasion

Paul Wray of the Jane Austen Society of North America writes:

Ever since James Edward Austen-Leigh included the “cancelled chapter” in A Memoir of Jane Austen, critics and readers alike have observed that the revision is superior in emotional depth and artistry to the manuscript version.1 Jane Austen’s nephew says of the original: “She thought it tame and flat, and was desirous of producing something better” . Later critics generally echo Jane Austen’s view (if thoughts written some fifty years after her death can be attributed to the author) that the original is “tame and flat.” It is “awkwardly managed” (Bush 181), “clumsy” (Todd and Blank lxxxi), or contrived (Tanner 236, Gaylin 48). In addition, these authors as well as Southam and Terry (xxvi) praise the revision and have something to say about the differences between the manuscript and the revised chapters. All these critics agree, if not on the defects of the cancelled chapters, then on the sterling qualities of the revision.

1
  • Thanks! The link to the British Library says that these original chapters have survived in the only known manuscript of any of the novels Austen submitted for publication, that she revised this ending prior to publication, and that the usual ending is the one printed with the first edition. Would you mind amplifying your answer with that information? Otherwise I both your answer and the link to fully understand the novel's textual history fully; part of my original question was also "From what source do we have the ordinary ending, with Frederick overhearing Anne's conversation?"
    – verbose
    Mar 22, 2023 at 6:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.