Persuasion was published posthumously in December 1817, in a set with Northanger Abbey. The story follows Anne Elliot, Austen’s most mature heroine at 27 years old. She is unmarried, having seven years earlier been persuaded to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a promising young naval officer. When the Elliots rent out their family estate to try to reduce their debts and expenditure, Anne is thrown back into the company of Captain Wentworth, who is home on leave. The novel deals with themes of love and loss, regret, second chances, pride and ambition. It is imbued with a deep love of the sea and the navy, and makes a passionate plea for the strength of unrequited love in women.

Jane wrote the novel in 1815-1816, at home in Chawton. It was the last of her novels to be completed before her death in 1817. According to family tradition she referred to it as The Elliots, although when Henry arranged for publication after his sister’s death, it was called Persuasion.

Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were published by John Murray in December 1817, as a four-volume set. For the first time, a biographical notice, attached to the first volume in the set and written by Henry Austen, named Jane Austen as the author of her works. The family kept the copyright.  The first edition, which may have consisted of around 1750 copies, sold rapidly.  Total profit on the work has been estimated at more than £500.

First edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, by Jane Austen

First edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, from the Museum’s collection

Title page for the first edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, from the Museum’s collection. Persuasion occupied volumes 3-4.