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Dear friends and readers,

I suppose those who keep up with Jane Austen studies and the cult surrounding her books can name have by now  read "Jane Austen's Well Known Style Owed much to her editors, Scholars Argue" by Jennifer Howard read and the hum and buzz on the Net about it. 

I've been struck with how little frank many of the replies to this article all over the Net have been, and how much subtext is in much of it. That an editor made changes to a manuscript is not surprising at all; it was common practice then and now too.  (What author does not work with an editor. I did on my book.)  Howard overstated the editor's contribution over how Austen's work was edited -- and this has been picked up on the Net by others. 

That's the core of this thing: I've been working on an off for a while on George Anne Bellamy's autobiography, and it is commonly asserted what we have is an autobiography rewritten by a man (as it's not conceivable she could have done it), or at least edited and corrected within an inch of its life.  I also wonder how someone can figure out what a Hampshire accent was 200 years ago and if this isn't more triumph over the famous author.

Sutherland's book had a different thrust from this article; Sutherland mean to praise Austen and say Chapman had edited out her vital self in some way.  Sutherland's perspective has been reshaped to catch sensational attention.

About a year ago I did a study of the last 25 years of editions of Austen's -- it was for a series of blogs I did which were put on a blog called AustenProse and then appeared in the Jane Austen Centre magazine as essays.  What I discovered was a struggle between different individuals and agendas over editions.  Kathryn Sutherland is central in one of these struggles.
I put my essays or blogs on my site at:

http://www.jimandellen.org/austen/misc.html

There is a general aim in Sutherland's book, the first does not appear in Howard's article.  She wanted to do editions which replaced Chapman's as newly definitive texts.  She did do these editions (of S&S and MP for Penguin) but they are not going to be definitive.   What happened was Cambridge did a series of editions where while going back to the original texts they more or less followed Chapman's procedures and their editions plus Chapman's are those Persuasions Online wants one to quote.

Sutherland's argument is not that Gifford is superior (which is the way the header or title of the article shapes its argument) but that Austen's style is filled with vivid life which has been lost because we are following Chapman's punctuation and corrections. However, if you go into this (I have, a little), you may agree with me (and others) she's exaggerating the differences.  Chapman did edit along lines of the early 20th century but he did so with intelligence, tact, self-effacement. Some of his decisions (to include a line a little risque which was pulled from the 2nd edition of S&S) seem to me the right one.

Now Howard's emphasis does not quite say that the editor was superior to Austen but does imply his corrections are what makes Austen's style.  That's not at all what Sutherland said in her book.  And it's here I agree with Diane's irritation: it's being picked up in the manner of the way women's texts are talked about as inferior in various ways --  not just spelling and grammar, but also content.  I have (on Wompo, a women's poetry list) see a couple of other people say they are amused, but the amusement has a real edge. On Wompo we often talk of how women poets are marginalized and until the 20th century derided in general (regarded as biodegradable). I should think as a woman author one would have some concern to see this argument distorted so it can be added to the stories of men rewriting women's books.

While we have a number of manuscripts of Austen's, and K Sutherland's book attempts to analyze all of these, the particular argument here is based on a small amount of manuscript.  We have but two cancelled chapters of Persuasion from the six books published during Austen's era.



The first is very much changed from the final book; the second is somewhat changed. So the thesis about this particular editor (which is what it amounts to) is based on a small sampling.  Sutherland in her book postulates (as did Q.D. Leavis, Southam and also Woolf) a continual incessant revision going on over the course of Austen's life.

Howard's article seems to me to distort Sutherland's book.  The book claims there is a big difference between MS and published books and we lose a great deal by the polished Austen. It is in effect an attack on Chapman. The article as talked about seems to promote the idea that the published smoothed-out polished prose is superior to Austen so we are now approaching the idea an editor (male be it noted) is superior to our uneducated female (very weak on whether "i" should come before "e" and vice versa).

I wish Austen were alive and we could read the satire she might make of it all.

This connects directly to the low estimation women's writing (especially poetry) had until the 20th century: women hadn't sufficient education to write as well as a man.  No Latin.  The accusation she doesn't have as wide a perspective is a version of this.


JA's Music books: she played songs on the family pianoforte (rented?)  in the morning to herself

Ellen

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
misssylviadrake
Oct. 25th, 2010 12:40 pm (UTC)
The Sutherland Furore
"I am jumping into this late so if this has already been said, forgive me.

First, I was initially wearied as I scanned the "furore," and thought immediately of a book called The Ghost in the Little House, that claimed that Laura Ingalls Wilder was a foolish little lady who couldn't write, and that her novels were actually ghost written by her daughter. These arguments frankly make me furious. That book raised so many red flags for me, as does Sutherland's argument, at least as presented in the press. I wondered then and now, if a woman who lives a more "retired" life is held to a different standard than the rest of the world. As my husband pointed out, Thomas Wolfe's novels were very heavily edited by his editor, but nobody claims "he didn't write them." This claim seems to be laid at the feet of ... women, and women who perhaps had the audacity NOT to throw themselves headlong into the "literary scene." As others have noted, writers work with editors. Rough drafts are ... rough.

Second, given what weight her nephew put on Austen's beautiful handwriting in his Memoir--to him it was one of her crowning glories--I had to smile at the criticism of Austen's sloppy handwriting. I won't even begin to unravel this one. However, I will point out that Einstein had messy handwriting too, and was working in a "precise" field, yet nobody claims his "editors" should get credit for his equations.

Third, frankly, I have been leery of Sutherland since I read her introduction to Mansfield Park. To me, she doesn't "get" Austen on some fundamental level, but then I am a woman living in rural Ohio, so undoubtedly someone else must do my thinking and writing for me :).

Diane Reynolds
misssylviadrake
Oct. 25th, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
Jane Austen was human
From Catherine Delors:

http://blog.catherinedelors.com/breaking-news-jane-austen-was-human/

It's the way it's being talked about and how this information is being interpreted that rightly bothers some readers, especially women. Ellen
misssylviadrake
Oct. 25th, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
Austen will remain
From Robert Champ:

"Ellen, I remember reading that Lord Byron would send the manuscripts of his poems to his publisher, John Murray, with the instruction, "Put in the points." In other words, put in the right punctuation marks. I have also read that Scott Fitzgerald, for all his brilliance, was a terrible speller. He even used to misspell the names of his girlfriends in letters to them. And yet, I've never heard anyone question the genius of either author.

Whatever the critics and scholars say, Austen will remain. Ars longa, criticism breve!"
frisbeewind.blogspot.com
Oct. 26th, 2010 02:35 am (UTC)
Ellen, I am so glad you wrote about this. The writer of the article, as you say, seemed to enjoy sowing doubt about Austen's abilites. It wasn't till the end of the article that she indicated Sutherland had reached different conclusions about the editing, and that Austen's original manuscripts may have been more "modern": more like Virginia Woolf.

Yes, editors edit. Raymond Carver's books appeared in a completely different format after Gordon Lish's editing, and there has been much controversy about whether his manucripts should be published or not. Tess Gallagher, his wife, fought with the publishers about this. In the latest Library of America edition, I believe they printed the original manuscripts.

I am very happy to see you put this in perspective.
misssylviadrake
Oct. 26th, 2010 02:58 am (UTC)
Sutherland v Howard
From Diana:

"That Sutherland brouhaha is getting obscene. I think you're the only one to make the best point - a woman genius HAS to have a man fixing her up."

to which I replied:

What I'd like to know about the Sutherland thing is did Sutherland know Howard would present this as her thesis. Her book is intended to invalidate Chapman's editing so as to return to the "real vital living" Austen -- as if punctuation mattered all that much. And she values Austen's grammar and spelling over Chapman's. This has become reversed in the article -- rather like the movies reverse Austen's books.

E.M.
misssylviadrake
Oct. 26th, 2010 11:25 am (UTC)
The Hampshire accent
Probably in this context, it is more triumph.

But skilled linguists -- those who study the history of language in particular -- are able to determine what an accent was like in the past, typically by studying the era's poetry/songs. If "call" rhymes with "ball" that's one thing -- if "ball" rhymes with "mail", that gives you a really good clue to pronunciation.

If you want to hear the English of Austen's time, you need to find people who left England in the 18th century, and moved to an area where they were isolated and remain largely isolated to the present day. In short, go deep in to Appalachia, and you will hear more than mere remnants of Austen's English.

Jeannie Lugo
misssylviadrake
Oct. 26th, 2010 11:41 am (UTC)
The question of editions
Thank you to Jeanne.

I also want to respond to Nancy about editors and in general to others -- Catherine on her amusement and Diane (rightly in my view) irritated. There is a general aim in Sutherland's book, the first does not appear in Howard's article. She wanted to do editions which replaced Chapman's as newly definitive texts. She did do these editions (of S&S and MP for Penguin) but they are not going to be definitive. Her argument is not that Gifford is superior (which is the way the header or title of the article shapes its argument) but that Austen's style is filled with vivid life which has been lost because we are following Chapman's punctuation and corrections. However, if you go into this (I have, a little), you may agree with me (and others) she's exaggerating the differences. Chapman did edit along lines of the early 20th century but he did so with intelligence, tact, self-effacement. Some of his decisions (to include a line a little risque which was pulled from the 2nd edition of S&S) seem to me the right one.

Howard's emphasis does not quite say that the editor was superior to Austen but does imply his corrections are what makes Austen's style. That's not at all what Sutherland said in her book. And it's here I agree with Diane's irritation: it's being picked up in the manner of the way women's texts are talked about as inferior in various ways -- not just spelling and grammar, but also content. I have (on Wompo, a women's poetry list) see a couple of other people say they are amused, but the amusement has a real edge. On Wompo we often talk of how women poets are marginalized and until the 20th century derided in general (regarded as biodegradable). I should think as a woman author one would have some concern to see this argument distorted so it can be added to the stories of men rewriting women's books.

Now the question I am wondering after having reread the thing is how far did Sutherland realize her book would be distorted? She did not bring up the questions of her new editions at all in what is quoted.

Ellen
misssylviadrake
Oct. 26th, 2010 11:47 am (UTC)
Sutherland's points on the ms's in her book
I agree, Ellen. To say that Jane Austen didn't write Jane Austen makes news, but it quite misses the point Sutherland wants to make. I've been lucky enough to examine the mss of _The Watsons_ and _Sanditon_ as well as one of the volumes of Juvenilia at the Bodleian and some poetry held in Bath. From my perspective none was readied for publication, although the empty pages of the _Sanditon_ ms suggest that Austen was working toward publication of a full-length novel. By contrast, _The Watsons_ is a series of single, letter-sized papers folded in half and written, back and front, across the shortest breadth. The writing contains cross-outs and revisions of single words and whole sections; some appear to be done on the same day, some at another time (changes in ink and hand). _The Watsons_ includes tiny squares of paper pinned to the manuscript (whether pinned by Chapman or Austen, I do not know) where the section is so blotted it was impossible to revise further. Unfortunately none of these details is quite discernible from the wonderful new on-line resource. From the attention to detail in these mss I see a writer hard at work, editing and polishing, and possibly looking forward to collaborating with the bookseller to produce the finished novel. We know from her letters and from changes between first and second editions of _Sense and Sensibility_, for example, that she was involved in editing her own work.

It may be worth pointing out that Austen switched to Murray with _Emma_, so unless I've missed something Gifford's involvement did not extend to earlier works such as _Pride and Prejudice_ or _Sense and Sensibility_.

Kathleen James-Cavan
Department of English
University of Saskatchewan
alice45
Oct. 26th, 2010 12:22 pm (UTC)
Very interesting to see you put it all together, Ellen - I hadn't realised there were all these issues involved, but it makes sense that it is so and that in the end it comes back to the argument over rival editions. I always tend to feel that I want to be able to see both editions and compare readings - but it sounds here as if a lot of the differences just come down to punctuation, which is important, but not always that important! I definitely think the article I read presented it in terms of "Austen was edited by a man", so am interested to see that there is a lot more to it and that Sutherland was approaching it from the opposite angle. Judy
frisbeewind.blogspot.com
Oct. 26th, 2010 02:29 pm (UTC)
Jane Austen
Ellen, I just realized I was commenting on a different article about the controversy about the editing:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturenews/8080832/Jane-Austens-famous-prose-may-not-be-hers-after-all.html

They sound similar, however
misssylviadrake
Oct. 26th, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC)
Two articles
My emphasis was meant to be on how the article was used, and yes there do seem to have been two articles which have been conflated in all the talk. Howard's is in the Chronicle.

Ellen
(Anonymous)
Oct. 26th, 2010 07:09 pm (UTC)
Ellen,

Normally I wouldn't weigh in but in this case I feel I ought to, given what's being said here. There have been many more than two articles about the Sutherland news. Most heavily played up the Austen-was-edited angle far more than mine did. The Guardian, BBC, Telegraph, and other news outlets ALL did stories that ran on Friday/Saturday. (Mine was posted Friday evening, when Oxford lifted its embargo on the news.)

I hope readers will read the various stories and compare them. I'm just about the only reporter who bothered to talk to other Austen scholars at all--I'd have talked to more if I'd had more time--and as a feminist and a writer I have no interest whatsoever in downplaying women's contributions to literature. Some readers might remember a story I did for the Chronicle a couple of years ago, which looked at the excellent work Charles Robinson has done on Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" notebooks, trying to figure out what Mary's draft looked like before Percy got hold of it.

Best,

Jennifer Howard
misssylviadrake
Oct. 28th, 2010 10:38 am (UTC)
Paying attention to the specific text
From Sylwia:

"I simply love finding all of the small differences in Austen's original texts, so I agree with Sutherland that something of Austen is lost. However, those are indeed such small things that they can matter only to a fanatic like myself. It just feels like such an extra special connection to the author. Austen's elegant style is hers, Chapman or not.

Sylwia"
misssylviadrake
Oct. 28th, 2010 10:49 am (UTC)
Relevant blogs about politics of Austen editions
People have been asking me because of my blog about the politics of Austen editions. Anyone interested here are the relevant blogs on this:

http://www.jimandellen.org/austenblog/914.html

Here:

http://www.jimandellen.org/austenblog/905.html

http://www.jimandellen.org/austenblog/902.html (Austen unChapmaned)

Short version:

http://www.janeausten.co.uk/magazine/page.ihtml?pid=688&step=4

Ellen
misssylviadrake
Nov. 4th, 2010 11:36 am (UTC)
Janet Todd on the Sutherland story about Austen's style in today's Guardian
In today's Guardian Janet Todd responded to what is apparently the new claim of Sutherland. Here is the core of the counter-argument:

Your article claims that the old belief that Austen "was one of the most
pristine literary stylists of all time has been exploded". How? Apparently by
comparing manuscripts and printed texts. But there are no manuscripts of
novels printed in Austen's lifetime, and all that exists are two cancelled
chapters of the posthumously published Persuasion, the first quite different
from the final book. As for the letters and unfinished prose manuscripts,
they tell us very little.

_http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/nov/04/jane-austen-editor-styl
e_
(http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/nov/04/jane-austen-editor-style)

The center or core of Todd's objection to what Sutherland said (I know see that she did go on from her book to make some of these negative claims about Austen's style) is the same I made in my blog:

http://misssylviadrake.livejournal.com/30440.html

viz.,While we have a number of manuscripts of Austen's, and K Sutherland's book attempts to analyze all of these, the particular argument here is based on a small amount of manuscript. We have but two cancelled chapters of Persuasion from the six books published during Austen's era.

The first is very much changed from the final book; the second is somewhat changed. So the thesis about this particular editor (which is what it amounts to) is based on a small sampling. Sutherland in her book postulates (as did Q.D. Leavis, Southam and also Woolf) a continual incessant revision going on over the course of Austen's life.

My blog is also about the larger controversies stemming from other articles and on the Net too. Janet Todd (perhaps wisely) did not allow herself to pay attention to them.

Ellen
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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