Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sanditon: Jane Austen's Last Work

by Wanda Luce, Regency Author

As a young girl, I found my way to the world of Jane Austen by some fortunate means which now totally escapes me. Over the years, I have rerturned numerous times to submerge myself in the romance and magical syntax of her novels.  Three years ago I again embarked on a "grand tour" of her beloved works, and when I came to the final word in the last of her novels, I did not feel ready to let go. Hence, I set off in search of Jane Austen spin-offs.

As I devoured one after the other, I happened upon her last, uncompleted novel, Sanditon. The figurative "sands of time" have all but carried a general awareness of it into historical obscurity, and I found it nearly buried  and almost forgogtten beneath the notariety of its famous and masterfully-completed siblings. While this eternal toddler never came of age and does not rise to the perfect, worshipped heights of its sister works, it is nevertheless their full blood relative and exquisite in its own right. 

Sanditon was Jane Austen's last work. She began to compose it on the 17th  of January 1817 and left unfinished on 18th March 1817. She died four months later on the 18th of July 1817. According to Austen family tradition, the work was originaly entitled, The Brothers, named after the Parker brothers who appear as prominent characters in the fragment.

I am hoping to entice her true fans into acquiring and reading this underappreciated work. Several notworthy authors have completed it in honor of Jane Austen, so if reading an unfinished novel leaves you uninterested, never fear, the answer is here. I read the version with a supplement by "Another Lady." Below are the first few paragraphs to whet your interest. And you can follow the link at its end if you wish to purchase the book.

A GENTLEMAN AND A LADY travelling from Tunbridge towards that part of the Sussex coast which lies between Hastings and Eastbourne, being induced by business to quit the high road and attempt a very rough lane, were overturned in toiling up its long a scent, half rock, half sand.

The accident happened just beyond the only gentleman's house near the lane -- a house which their driver, on being first required to take that direction, had conceived to be necessarily their object and had with most unwilling looks been constrained to pass by. He had grumbled and shaken his shoulders and pitied and cut his horses so sharply that he might have been open to the suspicion of overturning them on purpose (especially as the carriage was not his master's own) if the road had not indisputably become worse than before, as soon as the premises of the said house were left behind -- expressing with a most portentous countenance that, beyond it, no wheels but cart wheels could safely proceed.

The severity of the fall was broken by their slow pace and the narrowness of the lane; and the gentleman having scrambled out and helped out his companion, they neither of them at first felt more than shaken and bruised. But the gentleman had, in the course of the extrication, sprained his foot; and soon becoming sensible of it, was obliged in a few moments to cut short both his remonstrances to the driver and his congratulations to his wife and himself and sit down on the bank, unable to stand.

"There is something wrong here," said he, putting his hand to his ankle. "But never mind, my dear," looking up at her with a smile, "it could not have happened, you know, in a better pIace Good out of evil. The very thing perhaps to be wished for. We shall soon get relief. There, I fancy, lies my cure," pointing to the neat-looking end of a cottage, which was seen romantically situated among wood on a high eminence at some little distance ' Does not that promise to Be the very place?"

And just one later portion before I close my post:

 Yes, I have heard of Sanditon," replied Mr. Heywood. "Every five years, one hears of some new place or other starting up by the sea and growing the fashion. How they can half of them be filled is the wonder! Where people can be found with money and time to go to them! Bad things for a country -- sure to raise the price.

I hope I have captured some elements of Jane Austen's world in my own writing and hope you will on some convenient day give Sanditon a read.

Article by Wanda Luce, Regency Author


  1. I am so glad you bring this unfinished novel to light. I have read two versions of it complete and enjoyed them both. I love wondering where Jane Austen would have taken the story if she had finished.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love this novel and I often lament the fact that Jane didn't have time or strength to finish it. I think I will now go and reread it!

  3. Hmm, I am one of those folk who love JA but struggled with Sanditon - interesting post though. What do others think - am I being too picky?

  4. I LOVED the completion of Sanditon by "Another Lady." It didn't feel like an Austen book necessarily (too many on stage abductions :-) ) but it was a wonderful read, and Sydney Parker was definitely a memorable hero. Thanks for this post!

  5. That was lovely. It's so easy to become lost in her prose.

  6. You have plenty of your own magical syntax. : )

  7. Thank you so much, all of you, who have left such wonderful comments.

  8. I am also reading Sanditon and finding it hard going. Jane Austen wrote the first eleven chapters and 'Another Lady' took over from there. While reading, I have been wondering if Ms Austen mean the story to go in this direction. I am almost finished (Reginald Catton has arrived) but the story seems to be floundering. I find Sydney Parker shallow, sly and manipulative and cannot believe that Charlotte does not instantly dismiss him from her (increasingly scattered) mind. Many of the lesser players do, however, have the wonderful silliness characteristic of an Austen work - the busybodies, the chatterboxes, the hypochondriacs, and the industriously idle. For me it is not true Austen in terms of the plot development, but as I said, some of the players are really memorable little gems.


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