Newspaper announcement of Sense and Sensibility
Object name: Newspaper, The Morning Chronicle, London Thursday October 31st 1811, containing publication announcement of the publication of Sense and Sensibility.
Object number: CHWJA:JAH396
Description: Newspaper, The Morning Chronicle, London Thursday October 31st 1811, containing publication announcement of Sense and Sensibility which reads:
In 3 vols. Price 15s. in boards, a New Novel, called
Sense and Sensibility. By Lady _
Published by T. Egerton, Whitehall; and may be had of every Bookseller in the United Kingdom.
Context: Sense and Sensibility was the first of Jane Austen’s novels to be published and this brief advertisement – squeezed between much longer advertisements for Eliot’s Treatise on the Defence of Portugal and a book on the French Revolution – represented the culmination of many years of effort to get her work into print.
Her father had made the first known attempt to get one of her novels published in 1797 when he sent a letter to the noted London publisher Thomas Caddell, offering him the manuscript of First Impressions, the early draft of what would later become Pride and Prejudice. Caddell refused it without seeing the manuscript.
In 1803, with her brother Henry’s help, Jane succeeded in selling the manuscript of what would later become Northanger Abbey but despite the publisher placing an advertisement claiming that the book was ‘in the press’, it was never actually published.
In late 1810 or early 1811, again with Henry’s help, a deal was negotiated with Thomas Egerton to publish Sense and Sensibility on commission (i.e. at the author’s expense). Egerton was not known as a publisher of novels, he was principally a military publisher as evidenced by the other books he advertised alongside Sense and Sensibility.
Jane chose to publish the book anonymously. During the late 18th and early 19th century, women of her social class were not expected to pursue a career but to devote all their efforts into making a good marriage.
Writing for money was seen as a very unladylike activity; unseemly parallels were drawn between female writers selling novels to anyone willing to pay and prostitution. This social pressure, coupled with fear of hostile reviews, meant that nearly three quarters of works published between 1770 and 1820 were published without naming the author.
‘By a Lady’ or ‘By Lady _’ indicated that the book was by somebody of a certain class and thus suitable for respectable women to read.
Receiving very favourable reviews, the first edition of Sense & Sensibility sold out and made Jane a profit of around £140.
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