Letter from Jane Austen to Rev. Stanier Clarke, 11 December 1815

Object name: Letter from Jane Austen to Rev. James Stanier Clarke 11th December 1815

Object number: CHWJA:JAHLTR10

Category: Letter

Description: Letter from Jane Austen to Rev. James Stanier Clarke. Letter 132(D) in The Letters of Jane Austen edited by Deirdre Le Faye, Oxford University Press, 4th edition, 2011.  One leaf quarto, laid. Watermark John Hall, no date. No seal, wafer or postmark as this was Jane Austen’s file copy.

Made: Monday 11th December 1815

Context: In October 1815, Jane Austen was staying with her brother Henry at his house in Hans Place, London, during negotiations with John Murray over the publication of Emma.  During her stay, Henry fell alarmingly ill. He was attended by a Dr Baillie who was also one of the Prince Regent’s physicians. Knowing that the Prince, an avid reader of novels, was a particular fan of Jane’s works, Dr Baillie relayed the news to the Prince that Miss Austen was in town. This resulted in Jane receiving an invitation to be shown around the library at the Prince’s London residence, Carlton House, by his librarian Rev. Stanier Clarke.

During the visit Stanier Clarke suggested that, as the Prince admired her work, Jane would be ‘at liberty to dedicate any future novel to him’. Jane did not approve of the Prince and initially had no intention of dedicating a work to him until advised by her family that she should consider the royal request a command.

In this letter, which is Jane’s own copy of the letter she sent to Stanier Clarke, she advises him that Emma is very near publication and Murray will ensure a copy is sent to the Prince three days before general publication.  This three volume copy is still in the Royal Collection.

In the letter, Jane expresses her concern about the reception Emma will receive:

 ‘..I am strongly haunted by the idea that to those Readers who have preferred P&P it will appear inferior in Wit, & to those who have preferred MP very inferior in good sense.’

She finishes the letter with a tactful rebuttal of Stanier Clarke’s suggestion  for a clergyman character in a future novel claiming herself not to have the extensive knowledge required to do justice to the character as she is ‘the most unlearned, & uninformed Female who ever dared to be an Authoress’.

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