"There's a tendency for people to view the sudden popularity of Jane Austen as a reaction against some feature of current society. I think the phenomenon runs deeper than that. You don't have to be running or recoiling from something else to feel delight upon discovering Jane Austen."
-- Karen P. on AUSTEN-L
"Jane Austen can in fact get more drama out of morality than most other writers can get from shipwreck, battle, murder, or mayhem."
-- Ronald Blythe
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Links on titles in the list below point towards brief discussions of each work (without intentional plot spoilers). Other links point towards miscellaneous available on-line resources (for pointers to plain ASCII e-texts see the longer table of contents, or the listings after the discussion of each individual work below).
Three of Jane Austen's six novels were written, at least in their first versions, before 1800, while the other three were not started until after Sense and Sensibility was accepted for publication in 1811. Jane Austen published four of the novels in her lifetime, and the two others were published together soon after her death in 1817; none of the books had her name on the title page (though the two posthumous works were published together with a short biographical preface by her brother Henry identifying her as the author for the first time). Her various minor works were not fully published until the 20th century.
Search the text of Jane Austen's six novels
In addition to the locations linked to here, the Project Gutenberg e-texts of the novels are also available from various mirror sites; for more information (or in case you should, unaccountably, want e-texts of books not by Jane Austen), the best place to start is The On-line Books Page.
This playful short novel is the one which most resembles Jane Austen's Juvenilia. It is the story of the unsophisticated and sincere Catherine Morland on her first trip away from home, for a stay in Bath. There she meets the entertaining Henry Tilney; later, on a visit to his family's house (the "Northanger Abbey" of the title) she learns to distinguish between the highly charged calamities of Gothic fiction and the realities of ordinary life (which can also be distressing in their way). Like Jane Austen's Love and Freindship, this book makes fun of the conventions of many late 18th century literary works, with their highly wrought and unnatural emotions; some of this humor derives from the contrast between Catherine Morland and the conventional heroines of novels of the day (for an idea of the latter, see the Plan of a Novel).
An early version of the book was written under the title Susan (in 1798-99 according to Cassandra). It was actually the first of Jane Austen's novels sold to a publisher (a publisher named Crosby bought it in 1803 for £10). He advertised it as forthcoming, but never issued it. Jane Austen had the manuscript bought back more than ten years later, after several of her other novels had been published, and apparently made some revisions, but finally "put it on the shel[f]" (letter of March 13, 1816). It was only after her death in 1817 that her brother Henry finally had it published (together with Persuasion). The title "Northanger Abbey" was not chosen by Jane Austen (she referred to the book in her letter as "Miss Catherine").
The most famous quote from Northanger Abbey is probably Henry Tilney's pseudo-gothic satire (see also Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland on marriage vs. dancing, the "Defense of the Novel", the walk to Beechen Cliff (Henry and Eleanor Tilney with Catherine Morland), and quotes on the opposition between the "heroic" and the "natural"). (By the way, in this novel Jane Austen uses the word "baseball" -- the first person, as far as is known, to use this word in print by almost fifty years.)
Pemberley e-text of Northanger Abbey (divided into chapters).
Plain ASCII e-text of Northanger Abbey (available in uncompressed and compressed single-file versions from various Project Gutenberg sites).
C. E. Brock illustrations for Northanger Abbey.
Summary of Northanger Abbey (with *spoilers*).
Silly cover of a printing of Northanger Abbey which was marketed as a gothic novel (USA, 1965) <JPEG>; Equally silly inside blurb; compare the puffed-up cover blurb with the original quote
Handy map of Bath ca. 1800
This novel contrasts two sisters: Marianne, who, with her doctrines of love at first sight, fervent emotions overtly expressed, and admiration of the grotesque "picturesque", represents the cult of "sensibility"; and Elinor, who has much more "sense", but is still not immune from disappointments. Despite some amusing characters and true Jane Austen touches, it is not generally considered to be her best novel. According to Cassandra, it was probably the first of the novels to be started (sometime before 1797, under the early name Elinor and Marianne); it was worked on in 1797, and probably again heavily revised before publication in 1811.
It was the first of Jane Austen's novels to be published, and appeared without her name on the title page (only "By a Lady"). It was advertised as an `Interesting Novel', which meant (in the jargon of the day) that it was a love story. Jane Austen pledged herself to cover her publisher's losses, if necessary, but actually realized £140 in profit. It was one of only two novels that Jane Austen revised after publication, when a second edition came out in 1813. The first and second editions were probably not more than a thousand copies each, but the readership would have been very much larger, due to the institution of "circulating libraries" (book rental shops), and also the fact that the novel was published in three separately-bound volumes (as was the usual practice).
Pemberley e-text of Sense and Sensibility (divided into chapters).
Plain ASCII e-text of Sense and Sensibility (available in uncompressed and compressed single-file versions from various Project Gutenberg sites).
Genealogy charts for the characters in Sense and Sensibility.
Notes on Sense and Sensibility.
C. E. Brock illustrations for Sense and Sensibility.
Penguin's Reader's Guide to Sense and Sensibility
Sense and Sensibility, the movie (official site); (other site)
First published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice has consistently been Jane Austen's most popular novel. It portrays the initial misunderstandings and later mutual enlightenment between Elizabeth Bennet (whose liveliness and quick wit have often attracted readers) and the haughty Darcy. Jane Austen wrote in a letter about Elizabeth, "I must confess that I think her as delightful a character as ever appeared in print, and how I shall be able to tolerate those who do not like her at least, I do not know". The title Pride and Prejudice refers (among other things) to the ways in which Elizabeth and Darcy first view each other. The original version of the novel was written in 1796-1797 under the title First Impressions, and was probably in the form of an exchange of letters; First Impressions was actually the first of Jane Austen's works to be offered to a publisher, in 1797 by Jane Austen's father, but the publisher turned it down without even looking at the manuscript.
Annotated HTML Hypertext of Pride and Prejudice on this server.
The latest version of my plain ASCII e-text of Pride and Prejudice, compressed in binary .zip format <260577 bytes> [See explanation of ".zip" here.]
Pemberley e-text of Pride and Prejudice (divided into chapters).
The 1995 TV version of Pride and Prejudice
Penguin's Reader's Guide to Pride and Prejudice
This novel, originally published in 1814, is the first of Jane Austen's novels not to be a revised version of one of her pre-1800 writings. Mansfield Park has sometimes been considered atypical of Jane Austen, as being solemn and moralistic, especially when contrasted with the immediately preceding Pride and Prejudice and the immediately following Emma. Poor Fanny Price is brought up at Mansfield Park with her rich uncle and aunt, where only her cousin Edmund helps her with the difficulties she suffers from the rest of the family, and from her own fearfulness and timidity. When the sophisticated Crawfords (Henry and Mary), visit the Mansfield neighbourhood, the moral sense of each marriageable member of the Mansfield family is tested in various ways, but Fanny emerges more or less unscathed. The well-ordered (if somewhat vacuous) house at Mansfield Park, and its country setting, play an important role in the novel, and are contrasted with the squalour of Fanny's own birth family's home at Portsmouth, and with the decadence of London.
Readers have a wide variety of reactions to Mansfield Park -- most of which already appear in the Opinions of Mansfield Park collected by Jane Austen herself soon after the novel's publication. Some dislike the character of Fanny as "priggish" (however, it is Edmund who sets the moral tone here), or have no sympathy for her forced inaction (doubtless, those are people who have never lacked confidence, or been without a date on Friday night!). Mansfield Park has also been used to draw connections between the "genteel" rural English society that Jane Austen describes and the outside world, since Fanny's uncle is a slave-owner (with an estate in Antigua in the Caribbean; slavery was not abolished in the British empire until 1833). Like a number of other topics, Jane Austen only chose to allude glancingly to the slave trade and slavery in her novels, though she was aware of contemporary debates on the subject. Mansfield Park was one of only two of Jane Austen's novels to be revised by her after its first publication, when a second edition came out in 1816 (this second edition was a failure in terms of sales).
Notes on some customs of the society of Jane Austen's day, which are part of the background to Mansfield Park, but which may not be intuitively obvious to modern readers:
See some further notes on the proprieties (and modern misconceptions thereof).
N.B. -- Fanny Price is not in line to become the new Lady Bertram at the end of Mansfield Park, despite what some noted critics have said, unless there is some new unforseen occurrence that bumps off Tom Bertram: -- towards the end of the novel, Tom is recovering from his illness (and still marriageable), and Edmund and Fanny's move to Mansfield Parsonage a few years after their marriage (as reported in the last paragraph of the novel) probably indicates that Tom is then still alive.
Pemberley e-text of Mansfield Park (divided into chapters).
Plain ASCII e-text of Mansfield Park (available in uncompressed and compressed single-file versions from various Project Gutenberg sites).
Opinions of Mansfield Park, collected by Jane Austen
E-texts of Lovers' Vows by Kotzebue, translated by Inchbald:
A dialogue on the custom of girls' coming "Out"
Passages from Mansfield Park that detail Fanny Price's endearing imperfections
A Men-only dialogue in Mansfield Park
Genealogical Charts for Mansfield Park
A chronology for Mansfield Park
A comparison between the characters Henry Crawford of Mansfield Park and Darcy of Pride and Prejudice
C. E. Brock illustrations for Mansfield Park (in color)
Program of a recent conference on Mansfield Park
Ellen Moody in defense of Edmund Bertram (from the AUSTEN-L discussion list)
Comments and illustrations of harp-playing Regency ladies, in relation to chapter 7 of Mansfield Park
.gif image of funny cover illustration for a Spanish translation (`El Parque de Mansfield') [Courtesy Goucher College]
The definitive Fanny-bashing (if you can't top this, don't even bother trying to insult Fanny Price!)
What Fanny Price would have to do for some people not to find her "insipid"!
A concept illustration for a possible alternative ending to Mansfield Park (one that many people may find just as believable as Fanny getting together with Henry C.! )
Emma, published in 1815, has been described as a "mystery story without a murder". The eponymous heroine is the charming (but perhaps too clever for her own good) Emma Woodhouse, who manages to deceive herself in a number of ways (including as to who is really the object of her own affections), even though she (and the reader) are often in possession of evidence pointing toward the truth. Like Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey, Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, and Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, she overcomes self-delusion during the course of her novel. The book describes a year in the life of the village of Highbury and its vicinity, portraying many of the various inhabitants.
Emma was dedicated to the dissolute Prince Regent (George Augustus Frederick), at his request; he was the uncle of Victoria, and was Prince Regent from 1811-1820 and later king George IV (1820-1830). Jane Austen was apparently not especially pleased by this honour (see her letter on the infidelities of the Prince and his wife). This episode was productive of her amusing correspondence with Mr. Clarke.
Pemberley e-text of Emma (divided into chapters).
Plain ASCII e-text of Emma (available in uncompressed and compressed single-file versions from various Project Gutenberg sites).
Emma on Old-maidhood
A sensual scene from Emma
The charades and riddle in Emma (with answers)
Genealogy charts for the characters in Emma
Kali's Emma page
The 1997 TV version of Emma
Clueless, the Movie.
This relatively short novel, her last, was written in the last few years of Jane Austen's life, and published only after her death in 1817 (though she described it, in a letter of March 13 1816, as "a something ready for publication", she probably would have revised it further, if she had not already been ill with her eventually fatal disease by the time she stopped working on it). It involves an older heroine than any of her other novels do (Anne Elliot is 27), and is also the only novel whose events are explicitly dated to a specific year (1814-1815). Eight years before the novel begins, Anne Elliot (whom Jane Austen described in one of her letters as a "heroine [who] is almost too good for me") had been persuaded by an older friend of the family, whom she respects, to give up her engagement to the then-poor Captain Wentworth. Like Mansfield Park, this novel has a number of characters who are in the navy (two of Jane Austen's brothers were sailors), and several warm-hearted naval families are attractively depicted; these contrast favorably with Anne's own family, in which she is overlooked by her vain and rank-proud Baronet father and her cold and selfish elder sister. In its autumnal mood, this novel is more serious in tone than most of Jane Austen's other works, and perhaps is the most conventionally "romantic" of them (and thus the one which has given rise to the most speculation about her own affairs of the heart -- for example, by Kipling); however, there is still plenty of Jane Austen irony. Persuasion also contains more description of background and natural beauty than the previous novels. In her admiration for the seaside town of Lyme and dislike of Bath, Anne Elliot reflects her creator's preferences.
After she had finished the first version of Persuasion, Jane Austen was dissatisfied with the chapter in which Anne Elliot and the "unconsciously constant" Captain Wentworth are reconciled; she then wrote two replacement chapters which are universally considered much better than the first attempt. The manuscript of the cancelled chapter is the only original manuscript of any part of Jane Austen's published novels which has survived.
Pemberley e-text of Persuasion (divided into chapters).
Plain ASCII e-text of Persuasion (available in uncompressed and compressed single-file versions from various Project Gutenberg sites).
The "cancelled chapters" of Persuasion
A list of all the occurences of the words "persuade"/"persuasion" in the novel
Advertisement for Gowlands' Lotion, from Ackermann's Repository 1809 (for ladies who want to carry away their freckles)
Genealogy charts for the characters in Persuasion
Penguin's Reader's Guide to Perusasion
C. E. Brock illustrations for Persuasion.
Handy map of Bath ca. 1800
Persuasion, the movie
Jane Austen's minor writings (besides her letters) include the Juvenilia (early short pieces written for the amusement of her family, before she had started on any of her novels), several incomplete beginnings of novels, Lady Susan, the Plan of a Novel, some light verse, some prayers, and a few other miscellaneous fragments.
The Juvenilia mainly consist of short satiric and farcical pieces (such as Love and Freindship or Frederic & Elfrida), with some serious or darker ones (such as The Three Sisters). They were written when Jane Austen was approximately from thirteen to seventeen years old, and then copied into three volumes. Some of the humor resembles that of Ambrose Bierce ("I murdered my father at a very early period in my Life, I have since murdered my mother, and I am now going to murder my sister"), or Lewis Caroll ("The noble youth informed us that his name was Lindsay -- for particular reasons I will conceal it under that of Talbot"; or "My dear Sophia, be not uneasy at having exposed yourself -- I will turn the conversation without appearing to notice it"), and some of it has a Monty Python-esque flavor (Bless me! There ought to be eight chairs and there are but six. However, if your Ladyship will but take Sir Arthur in your lap, and Sophy my brother in hers, I believe we shall do pretty well"). As in her novel Northanger Abbey she burlesques the literary conventions of the day ("Her father was of noble birth, being the near relation of the Duchess of ----'s butler"). For example, this dialogue introduces two characters in a play-let:
(The same mini-play also includes this "immortal couplet":
It is interesting that Jane Austen allows herself a broader range of topics in the Juvenilia than in her novels; for example, in Jack and Alice she deals tragicomically with alcoholism, a fairly common vice of the day, but one which she only tangentially alludes to in her novels. The Juvenilia are not merely humorous; a few, like Catharine, or the Bower look forward to her novels. The Three Sisters is a downright brutal character sketch, as raw a portrayal of the sordid side of the "marriage market" as a feminist could wish. And what feminist couldn't find material in the story of Miss Jane in the Collection of Letters, whose husband dies while her marriage is still a secret, and who then, unable to bear the thought of assuming her husband's name only after his death, and "conscious of having no right to" her father's name, "dropped all thoughts of either", and made a point of bearing only her first name?
I can't resist giving one more quote from the Juvenilia, a character's description of her niece from Lesley Castle: "The dear creature is just turned of two years old -- as handsome as though two and twenty, as sensible as though two and thirty, and as prudent as though two and forty. To convince you of this, I must inform you that she has a very fine complexion and very pretty features, that she already knows the first two letters of the alphabet, and that she never tears her frocks. -- If I have not now convinced you of her Beauty, Sense, and Prudence, I have nothing more to urge in support of my assertion."
E-text of Henry and Eliza
E-text of Sir William Mountague
Miscellaneous fragments of splendid nonsense from the Juvenilia
See also another site with e-texts of some of the Juvenilia.
Along with a satirical "History of England", Love and Freindship (usually cited in Jane Austen's original spelling) is the most famous of her Juvenilia. This is an exuberant parody (in epistolary form) of the cult of sensibility, which she later criticized in a more serious way in her novel Sense and Sensibility. For the main characters in Love and Freindship, including the narrator Laura, violent and overt emotion substitutes for morality and common sense. Characters who have this "sensibility" fall into each other's arms weeping the first time they ever meet, and on suffering any misfortune are too preoccupied with indulging their emotions to take any effective action ("Ah! what could we do but what we did! ... It was too pathetic for the feelings of Sophia and myself -- We fainted alternately on a sofa"). They use their fine feelings as the excuse for any misdeeds, and despise characters without such feelings:
"They said he was sensible, well informed, and agreeable; we did not pretend to judge of such trifles, but ... we were convinced he had no soul [because] he had never read The Sorrows of Werter [by Goethe]."
There are also parodies of such novelistic conventions as unlikely meetings between long-lost relatives, true love thwarted by parental opposition, the low-ranking character who is actually of noble birth, etc. Probably the most famous quote from Love and Freindship is the following last words of the dying Sophia, who relates the disadvantages of her method of reacting to a previous catastrophe:
"My beloved Laura, take warning from my unhappy End, and avoid the imprudent conduct which had occasioned it... Beware of fainting-fits... Though at the time they may be refreshing and agreeable, yet believe me they will in the end, if too often repeated and at improper seasons, prove destructive to your constitution... One fatal swoon has cost me my Life... Beware of swoons, dear Laura... A frenzy-fit is not one quarter so pernicious; it is an exercise to the Body and if not too violent, is I dare say conducive to Health in its consequences -- Run mad as often as you chuse; but do not faint --"Annotated Hypertext of Love and Freindship
This novella, written in the form of an exchange of letters, portrays an amoral personality who would be termed a "psychopath" in modern jargon -- that is, someone who doesn't believe that any laws or rules of conduct apply to themselves. The recently-widowed Lady Susan Vernon is determined to make financially attractive marriages for both herself and her shy and intimidated teenaged daughter Frederica; Lady Susan wavers as to her course of action, but is always ready to lie and pretend to be inoffensive and humble, in order to get her way. Aside from its interest as a character study, Lady Susan is the only time that Jane Austen deals with the decadent London high society of the day (now loosely called "Regency").
Go to e-text of Lady Susan.
Plain ASCII e-text of Lady Susan, compressed in binary .zip format <49888 bytes> [See explanation of ".zip" here.]
This fragment of a novel was written by Jane Austen about 1803-1805, but was not published until 1871, as part of James Edward Austen-Leigh's Memoir (Jane Austen had left it untitled; the title "The Watsons" was provided by Austen-Leigh). It describes Emma Watson's return, after a long absence, to her family, who are on the lower financial fringes of the "genteel". She attracts the interest of a nobleman (and according to tradition in Jane Austen's family, she was later to receive and refuse an offer of marriage from him, and marry a clergyman). It is not clear why Jane Austen did not continue this fragment -- perhaps because of her father's death; or because she was discouraged by the fact that after she succeded in selling her first novel (Susan, an earlier version of Northanger Abbey, for a nominal sum in 1803), the publisher decided not to publish after all, and sat on the manuscript; or because she did not want to sustain the tone of almost "painful realism" (according to Jenkins) with which she had begun.
Go to e-text of The Watsons.
Plain ASCII e-text of The Watsons, compressed in binary .zip format <39035 bytes> [See explanation of ".zip" here.]
Jane Austen wrote this fragment in the last year of her life (1817), while she was still well enough to write. Much lighter in tone than her last novel Persuasion, which she had recently finished, it describes the visit of Charlotte Heywood to the seaside village of Sanditon, recently developed and promoted as a resort, and the various amusing and/or unpleasant characters she meets there. This fragment is particularly frustrating in that it breaks off just as it has finished setting the scene and introducing the characters (in a very promising way), and the "plot" proper is to begin. This is why it is a favorite with continuators (see David Hopkinson's article in Grey et. al. and the bibliography of Jane Austen sequels; a recent fairly well-received completion to Sanditon, by Anne Telscombe (?), was published in 1975).
Sir Edward Denham's sense and literary taste (or lack thereof)
Her Light Verse
Jane Austen also wrote some amusing light verse, a few specimens of which are given below; see also the poetry included in Brabourne's edition of her letters, a letter to her brother Frank in the form of a poem (congratulating him on the birth of a son, and looking forward to the Austen women's move to Chawton), and her "charades" (rhymed word puzzles): 1st, 2nd. Some poems on Jane Austen are also available, and there is an external site which has collected the poetry attributed to Jane Austen.
On Reading in the Newspapers the Marriage of Mr. Gell to Miss Gill, of Eastbourne
At Eastbourne Mr. Gell, From being perfectly well,
Mock Panegyric on a Young Friend