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Two amateur Austen scholars. On a trip to the mother country.
Fantasy: we get to live in our most honored writer's shoes for a week.
Worst case scenario: it's Disney does Jane.
Actuality: beyond our wildest dreams, too good to be believed, incredulity of the highest order. Yes, we found hitherto unknown material by the great authoress. You ask, how is it possible that two American tourists come up with such a treasure? You think it is not to be believed? You say it must be a farce? We say, read on and judge for yourself.
Here is how it happened. After stellar trips to Steventon, Bath, and Chawton in an effort to trace Miss Austen's steps, we were invited by an English friend and his family to Herefordshire. The family had let for a week Shelwyck Court, a grand estate built over a period of five hundred years. Remarkably, a log had been kept starting with the first owner, that listed every visitor who had frequented the estate. The first evening was spent searching the log for famous folks, but as suspected, none were found. Eventually bored by the search, each of us picked a spot in the grand room upstairs, opened our books, and settled into a quiet evening by the fire. Until, that is, our host decided to open a window to rid the room of a smoky odor emanating from an imperfect flue. Despite a tremendous amount of effort, however, he was unable to push out the lead pane. The rest of us suggested trying another, but our host was determined. He even made a point of stating that he didn't care if it hadn't been opened in 181 years -- he was going to fix the bloody thing. After much ado with various utensils, the window finally cracked, followed by a crash that startled the group. We hunted for a cause of the crash, but not one of us could ferret out a clue as to what could have made such a sound. At last, each of us returned to our reading until, one by one, we went off to bed.
The next morning we all convened in the kitchen, where our host sent the two of us to the garden out back to cut bunches of herbs for omelets while the rest of the company prepared breakfast. We were untangling our cuttings of Greek oregano when an antique wooden box caught our attention simultaneously. The box lay on a piece of large slate directly beneath the aforementioned window, which had a small hole in the stone right below its sill. We suspected that all the maneuvering must have jiggled the box from its hole and sent it falling down below -- hence the crash. Why a wooden box was hidden in such a hole, we hadn't the faintest clue, but our curiosity was positively piqued. We picked it up and saw that the jarring nature of its fall had unlatched its lock to the point where all it needed was a quick, deft pull to unlatch it completely. We did just this and sure enough, it opened easily only to display pages and pages covered with an exacting and graceful penmanship of a distinctly nineteenth-century hand. We each took a number of papers and leaned up against Shelwyck Court's grand foundation and started to read.
What drama unfolded in our minds as truth overcame doubt cannot be expressed. Suffice it to say that our lives will be forever divided in two: the moment prior to the realization that we had made one of the greatest literary discoveries of our century and the moment after we looked at one another, mouths agape, eyes asparkle, and confirmed that our independent thoughts were one. Before us was not the final scene of one of Jane's unfinished works, nor was this a discovery of unknown letters that gave a keener picture of her quiet domestic life. The pages did not contain an early draft of Emma where Mr. Knightly dies an early death only to leave Emma distraught and single, nor did they prove that Austen suffered from a clear case of bipolar disorder. Mind you, any of these scenarios would have gone down in the annals of finest literary discoveries. But each of these was silver to our pot of gold, baronet to our duke, Wickham to our Darcy. Rather, we had in our hands the most scandalous, most outrageous writing, of which not one person through the centuries spanning her death to the present had ever guessed the existence. That's right. Within this box were contained Jane Austen's lost sex scenes. SEX SCENES. Along with letters to her editor and sister arguing and anguishing over the extensive cuts she was asked to make in order for her novels to be seen as acceptable and decent to her publisher.
While we had no fancy degrees to prove our instincts were correct, no papers published in academic journals in order to back our claims, we did have this: insight culled from dozens of readings of all of Austen's work, a thorough understanding of her voice in letters from reading each surviving epistle ad infinitum, and, lastly, the uniquely American naïveté to believe that the world was ours to discover.
Drawing on our Austen powers, we set to work. The more we read, the more convinced we became. And then we found our clincher. On carefully reexamining Shelwyck Court's log during and just after the period of Jane's life, we saw that a Miss Cassie Austin had visited in May of 1818, nearly one year after Jane's death. On closer examination, we saw that that dot on top of the "i" in Austin was in fact no dot at all, rather a stray particle that blew away as a strong draft entered the room via the newly opened magic window. Indeed, it could only be Jane's beloved sister, Cassandra, who had found her way to the westernmost point of England in order, we surmise, to deposit these remarkable missing pages to fate and time. That she wished them to be discovered, we can be quite sure, otherwise she would have set them to flames from the first. That she or, more importantly, that Jane Austen herself would wish them to be published, we do know: as stated clearly in the letters contained therein, Jane saw no shame in what she wrote and fully intended all her words to be read by the greatest number of people for all posterity.
Clearly, before we went public, we needed to have assurance that these pages were authentic so as not to risk utter and complete humiliation. Hence we approached the renowned scholar Dr. Elfrida Drummond, the most conservative of all modern Austen scholars. We knew if we could obtain Dr. Drummond's stamp of authenticity, we were home free. She has been gracious enough to do just this after what seemed an eternity of verifying, confirming, and certifying each and every letter, comma, and semicolon of each and every page. Now it is our honor to present these scenes and letters together in one volume for the pleasure of every avowed Austen devotee and all those devotees to come.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Jane at Netherfield
Elizabeth and Darcy
Charlotte and Mr. Collins
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Such Devoted Sisters
Henry and Mary Crawford
Knightley and Churchill
Henry and Catherine
Persuasion: The Prequel
Posted March 30, 2011
This is a wickedly funny take on what would happen if Jane Austen wrote sex scenes in her books. Nothing is truly explicit, though it is clear what acts have taken place. This isn't erotica but humor, and written as such. There are some truly memorable, funny moments, such as when Mr. Darcy asks Elizabeth about the weather (while groping her), Marianne discussing what when on between Elinor and Edward, and Mr. Knightley realizing that Frank Churchill is coming on to him. Very funny stuff and so refreshing instead of another tired retread of the same boring, psuedo-Regency romances the Austen "reimaginings" and sequels are, which are basically fan fiction with publishing contracts.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.