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Who was responsible for the novel "Persuasion"?

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Ian Dunn
754283.  Sat Oct 23, 2010 9:29 am Reply with quote

It seems that most of Jane Austen's original manuscripts were heavily editied by her publisher to the extend that what we read today is actually mostly written by Austen's editor.

According to Prof. Kathryn Sutherland of Oxford, the original manuscript for Persuasion - the only original mauscript to survive in unedited form - looks very different from the finished text. It is believed that Austen's editor, who is believed to be poet and critic William Gifford of John Murray, was the man responsible for doing the editing.

Prof. Sutherland claims:

"The reputation of no other English novelist rests so firmly on the issue of style, on the poise and emphasis of sentence and phrase, captured in precisely weighed punctuation. But in reading the manuscripts it quickly becomes clear that this delicate precision is missing.

"This suggests somebody else was heavily involved in the editing process between manuscript and printed book.

"Gifford was a classical scholar known for being quite a pedant. He took Austen's English and turned it into something different - an almost Johnsonian, formal style.

"Austen broke many of the rules for writing 'good' English. Her words were jumbled together and there was a level of eccentricity in her spelling - what we would call wrong.

"She has this reputation for clear and elegant English but her writing was actually more interesting than that. She was a more experimental writer than we give her credit for. Her exchanges between characters don't separate out one speaker from another, but that can heighten the drama of a scene.

"It was closer to the style of Virginia Woolf. She was very much ahead of her time."

It is claimed that amongst Austen's errors include confusion over the 'i' before 'e' rule (although as anyone who has read The Second Book of General Ignorance will know, this rule was abolished last year), and her spelling reflects Austen's strong Hampshire accent. Prof. Sutherland describes Austen has having an "Archers-like voice".

Source: The Daily Telegraph

754293.  Sat Oct 23, 2010 9:47 am Reply with quote

That's really interesting - thanks for posting that, Ian. I'll have to look out for the online version of the manuscript.


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