Persuasions #15, 1993 Pages 44-45
Jane Austen’s “Susan” Restored
ARTHUR M. AXELRAD
Department of English, California State University, Long Beach, CA
Footnote number 3 of the Introductory Note to Dr. R. W. Chapman’s 1923 edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, repeated verbatim in the Third Edition (1933 and reprinted with revisions as recently as 1988), reports the incomplete state of the British Library copy of the publication that first reported to the world that Jane Austen had arrived on the scene:
Flowers of Literature for 1801-2 (published 1803) contains a list of ‘New and Useful Books published by Crosby & Co.’, in which is announced as in the press ‘Susan; A Novel in 2 volumes’. I owe this reference to the kindness of Mr. A. Crosby Lockwood; the British Museum copy lacks the list of advertisements. Lists included in later issues of Flowers of Literature do not mention Susan, (xi)
During my work in London in the winter of 1992, I confirmed that the British Library copy of Flowers of Literature ends with page 462 and that the advertisement of the forthcoming appearance of Susan is indeed missing as Chapman reported.
Reading Jan Fergus’s Jane Austen: A Literary Life, however, convinced me that the last pages of this volume must be intact in some library’s copy, since Dr. Fergus writes as though she has actually seen those final leaves:
In the last two pages of the Flowers of Literature, the firm inserted a list of fourteen ‘New and Useful Books; Published by B. Crosby & Co’, including five novels, and a list of two works ‘In the Press’: ‘Susan; a Novel, in 2 vols.’ and ‘Dict[ionar]y of Celebrated Women, by Miss Beetham, in one vol.’ (112)
Unfortunately, although Dr. Fergus provides very full information about this volume in her footnote (185), she does not cite the location of the copy that she consulted.
It occurred to me that more than enough time had elapsed between Dr. Chapman’s observation in 1926 that the British Library copy is incomplete and my verification of his footnote in 1992, and I felt certain that it could not be very difficult to remedy the problem. The solution turned out to be even easier than expected. On telephoning to the Bodleian Library, I was luckily put in touch with Mr. Richard Bell, Head of Reader Services, who confirmed that a copy of Flowers of Literature, 1803, presumably complete, is in the Oxford collection (Hope 8° 397). On March 30, Mr. Bell mailed to me in London a photocopy of the title page along with a photocopy of page 462 and the facing unnumbered page (“NEW and USEFUL BOOKS; Published by B. Crosby and Co. Stationers’ Court, London.”). Far more important, however, was the photocopy of the next and last page, also unnumbered, closing with the essential information that we are interested in:
In the Press.
15. SUSAN; a Novel, in 2 vols.
16. DICTIONARY OF CELEBRATED WO-
MEN. By Miss Beetham, in one volume.
Upon receipt of this material on April 2, I returned to the British Library where Miss Elizabeth James made photocopies of my photocopies for insertion into her copy of the book. Users of the British Library now at long last have a complete volume of Flowers of Literature to enjoy, and owners of the Chapman edition of Northanger Abbey can amend footnote number 3.
The identification of “Susan” with the original manuscript version of Northanger Abbey is not provable. However, on the basis of the coincidence of dates, Jane Austen’s reference in her letter of April 5, 1809, the “Advertisement by the Authoress” included in the 1817 edition of Northanger Abbey, and passages in James Edward Austen-Leigh’s Memoir (published 1870; reissued 1871 with some interesting changes relating to the manuscript), we can safely assume that “Susan” was indeed the original of Northanger Abbey and that this notice in Flowers of Literature was the first printed reference, however indirect and inconclusive, to Jane Austen.
Those readers who are fortunate enough to work in the British Library should take the opportunity to view the book personally; because the volume is difficult to locate in the catalog, I am supplying the call number: 12355.d.23. But many of the readers of Persuasions are not likely to visit the British Library in the near future, so here are the pages so kindly supplied by the Bodleian Library.