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The Textual Condition of Jane Austen s Sense and Sensibility

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Sense and Sensibility is Jane Austen ’s first published w ork .Orig inally drafted in epistolary fo rm as Elinor and Marianne aro und 1795,Sense and Sensibility ,after being sym metrically renamed,beg an to take its present fo rm in Nov emb er 1797.It seems that during the leisurely summ er day s of 1798,Jane Austen finished rewriting Sense and Sensibility .After s ev eral failed attempts for publicatio n,such as First Im pres sio n (o riginal of Pride and Prejudice)and Susan (original of Northanger Abbey),it w as Sense and Sensibility which was her first nov el to be successfully published.Evidences sho w that it was the continuing ad miratio n o f Jane ’s fam ily circle enco uraged her to keep belief in her works and their pro mising publicatio ns.Befo re g iving it to the publisher,Jane m ade two little updating changes in her m anuscript---a reference

to the two-penny po stal serv ice within Lo ndon,and the ad dition of Scott ’s name as a po pular po et alo ngside Cow per and T hom son.Jan Ferg us (1997)believed that Jane cho se shrewdly to work on Sense and

Sensibility as her debut o f publication,fo r ‘

its emphasis upon the im portance as well as the co sts of self -co mm and m ade it her mo st ortho dox no vel both aesthetically and mo rally .’

At som e tim e o ver the winter of 1810-11,the manuscript of Sense and Sensibility was accepted by T homas Eg erto n o f Whitehall for

publication.But M r.E gerton would no t do it at his own risk and only ag reed to publish the nov el o n comm issio n.Alth oug h Jane was so sure that its sale wo uld no t repay the ex pense o f publication,she

‘set aside a

sum fro m her very mo derate incom e in case of loss.’Once ag reed o n publication,Eg erto n sent th e nov el to the printer C harles Ro worth,

perh aps in February o r M arch.At the same tim e,Jane went to Lo ndon to stay with Henry and his wife Eliza in order to correct her pro ofs o f Sense and Sensibility.Jane w ork ed dilig en tly at revising.In a letter to Cassandra,Jane assu redly answered Cassandra ’s enquiries abo ut the prog ress o f the pro of-co rrecting of Sense and Sensibility:‘I am nev er too busy to think of S.&S.I can no mo re fo rget it,than a mo ther can forget her sucking child.’Then,Jane had just receiv ed two sheets to co rrect,which carried the story to Willo ughby ’s appearance [i.e.to Chapter 9o f Vo l.I].L ater the sam e day,she had also receiv ed so me sug gestio n from the publisher that the incomes m entioned in the opening of the sto ry were not ex actly in acco rdance with probability,but the second chapter,in which M rs.Dashwo od ’s financial co nditio n is discussed,was already in ty pe.After reconsideratio n,Jane decided no t to make any ch ang e to it.‘The incom es remain as they w ere,’Jane said to her sister,’but I will get th em altered if I can.’

Summer passed into autum n and in Octo ber,Sense and Sensibility was published.On pro motion al purposes,this nov el was adv ertised between 30October and 28No vember.T he first adv ertisement o f publication app eared in T he Star o f 30Octo ber 1811an d T he Mo rning f 3O ,,y f f ,No vember.The no vel was published in three separately -bound vo lum es in boards,priced 15s and the print -run was pro bably 750or 1,000co pies.Fergus asserted that the hig h bo ok price was due to those printing techniques and especially the g reat expense o f handmade paper.So it would be much cheaper to print a sm all editio n o f 750copies and to reco mpose and reprint if it so ld out than to risk a large edition o f two or th ree thou sand that might ultimately be sold as waster paper.Fortunately ,the first edition so ld o ut quickly enoug h in twenty mo nths.The sales no t only co vered the expense o f printing,but also bro ught the authoress a pro fit o f £140,which was quite reasonable fo r a first published no vel and its ano nym ous wo man writer in early 19th century .Undoubtedly ,the m oney was v ery welcom e.But still mo re impo rtant fro m ano th er po int of v iew was the fav ourable recep tio n of the wo rk which could no t be to tally


Sense and Sensibility became well-known at o nce among no vel-readers o f a serious nature.’An ev idence can be found in the correspo ndence o f the C ountess o f Bessboroug h with L ord Granville L ev eso n-Go wer of No vember 1811,Lady Bessbo ro ugh wro te:‘Go d bless y ou,dearest G.Hav e yo u heard Sense and Sensibility?It is a clever no vel.Th ey were full of it at Althorpe,and tho ugh it ends stupidly ,I w as m uch amused by it.’The Roy al Fam ily were also reading it.Princess Charlo tte,niece of the Duke o f Yo rk,wro te o n 22January 1812:‘“Sence and Sencibility ”[sic]I hav e just finis h ed reading;it certainly is interesting,&y ou feel quite o ne o f the com pany .I think M ary anne [sic]&me are v ery like in dispositio n,that certainly I am not so g oo d,the same imprudence,&c,however remain very like.I must say it interested m e much.’T he appreciative com ments it go t amo ng readers did delight and enco urag e Jane Austen g reatly.Had it been a failure,it wo uld be hardly for Jane to make a seco nd v enture.On the success o f Sense and Sensibility,Jane pu s h ed fo rward the publicatio n o f Pride and Prejudice,which alw ay s regarded as her m asterpiece.

Various tex tual em bodim ents o f Sense and Sensibility in 19t h century In this section,I am g oing to give a descriptio n o f som e representativ e editions of Sense and Sensibility in the 19th century .

After ex citedly seeing her Sense and Sensibility s afely go ing thro ugh the press in the hands of Egerton,Jane offered the m anuscript o f Pride and Prejudice to Egerto n fo r publication.No ticeably ,the title page of the first editio n of Pride and Prejudice described it as being ‘By T he Autho r o f “Sense and Sensibility ”’.On the other hand,the seco nd edition of Sense and Sensib ility appeared at the sam e time was identified as a wo rk “By T he Autho r o f “Pride and Prejudice ”’.Clearly eno ugh here,it was a stratag em of the cautio us and clever publisher Eg erto n.T he success of Pride and Prejudice certainly promo ted the sale o f Sense and Sensib ility,who se first edition was sold o ut by 3July 1813,acco rding to o ne of Jane ’s letters w ritten o n that date to her bro ther Fran k:‘T here is to be a 2nd Edition of S.&S.Eg erto n advises it —’E gerton ord ered the reprint of j f f x f S S y The Textual Condition of Jane Austen ’s

Sense and Sensibility

Conglin Niu

J ijun Ya ng

(De pa rtme nt of Fore ign La ngua ge s Inte rnational C olle ge s,Qingda o Unive rs ity

Qingda o,P.R.China 266061)

【Ab str act 】L iterature has increasingly been seen as a text in a contex t.And tex t is a particular embo dim ent o f the abstract idea that a work tries to exhibit.T he textual co nditio n o f a publication invo lves no t o nly the autho r but also the edito r,publish er and readers.T ex t v aries because o f its ever-changing textual co ndition.Since its first publicatio n in 1813,Jane Austen ’s nov el Sense and Sensibility h ad been repro duced sev eral times in the 19th

century .T he analy sis of the no vel ’s tex t and tex tuality in a way sho ws its relevant s o cial,political,eco nom ic,religious and ideolog ical conditions.

【Key words 】textual co nditio n ;tex tuality;Jane Austen;Sense and Sensibility


Chro nicle o 1cto ber and these newspapers repeated the adv ertisement with var ing orms o wording several times during

Pride and Pre udice be o re the irst editio n was e hausted and decided to advertise it tog ether with the seco nd editio n o ense an d ensibilit on


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