What's the Jane Austen News this week?Austen Holy Grail Worth Half A Million "“Although there are attractive editions of her novels published in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, the greatest value is, of course, in the first editions,” says Mark Wiltshire, a specialist in valuable books and manuscripts at Christie’s." A new article published by The Times this week has extolled the benefits of investing in books, and in early editions of Jane Austen's books in particular. It's easy to see why considering the fact that rare bookseller Peter Harrington is in the process of selling a first edition of Mansfield Park— of which there are only 1,250 — and the price it is expected to go for is around £17,500! This is a hefty sum, but not when compared to the auction record for a Jane Austen; in 2008 a first edition of Emma was sold by Bonhams auction house for £180,000. It was a presentation copy to Austen’s friend and governess, Anne Sharp, which was inscribed “from the author” by a publisher or clerk on Austen’s behalf. However, the best price would, the article says, go to a signed edition. “It is hard to say what a copy inscribed by Austen would fetch [the holy grail in terms of Austen — such a thing may not exist], but I am pretty sure it would be a record for a 19th-century book, and it could easily fetch as much as half a million pounds.”
It may not exist...but we can dream!
The Bank of England in Literature
"Like A Modern Day Austen"
At one time it seemed as though you couldn't pick up a romantic book which was set in the Regency era without it saying somewhere on the back cover something like; "the best thing since Austen", "with tones of Austen", "the new Jane Austen". What we didn't know was that one author was so sick of this kind of comment that a rare interview which she gave to The Observer back in 2001 was called 'Just don't mention Jane Austen'!
Anita Brookner went on to say in the interview she gave that "I've been talked about in the same context as Jane Austen. I didn't stick that label on myself, other people did. Quite inaccurate. I've never got on very well with Jane Austen."
We feel she makes a good point. Just because an author writes Regency romances, it should not automatically affiliate them with Austen. We say this not because another Jane Austen would be a bad thing, or because the comparison is in any way a slight, but rather because it would be nice to think that modern-day authors' work is good enough to get recognition and praise in its own right... So we can see why Brookner might have said what she said.
Authors On Austen
‘I adore Jane Austen’s novels. She has been my favourite writer since I read Mansfield Park when I was 14. Reading her novels is like sipping a warm, comforting brandy – with just a hint of pepper and spice ’ Paula Byrne
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Not all authors are quite so complimentary of Austen, Mark Twain for example had some pretty trenchant opinions.
“Jane Austen’s books, too, are absent from this library. Just that one omission alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn’t a book in it.”
“I haven’t any right to criticise books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”
Though there is a clue in the last sentence that perhaps Twain did not really hate Austen quite so much as it seems if he keeps reading ‘Pride and Prejudice’ over and over.
Aha, the dangers of reading something out of context! I had wondered from the shin-bone quote if Mark Twain disliked Jane for the same reason she vowed not to enjoy Scott’s Waverley…but reading the preceding portion of the quote it does seem pretty definitive – if you think no books at all is better than even one of hers in a full-to-bursting library, that’s definitely a negative review! But as you say, he does keep rereading it…doth the gentleman protest too much?!
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