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    JANE AUSTEN'S MANUSCRIPT OF ‘THE WATSONS’ (estimate £200,000-300,000). (click on image to enlarge) UPDATE: IT MADE £993,250, triple the pre-sale estimate.

    The historic autograph manuscript of Jane Austen’s unpublished novel ‘The Watsons’ – the only major Austen manuscript remaining in private hands – is due up at Sotheby’s sale of English Literature and History in London on July 14.

    The heavily corrected draft, the most important Jane Austen item to come to the market in over 20 years, was probably written in 1804. It is the earliest surviving manuscript for a novel by Jane Austen. The work remains incomplete.  None of the manuscripts of her completed novels survive, with the exception of two draft chapters of ‘Persuasion’ (at the British Library), Austen’s juvenile work ‘Lady Susan’ (at the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York) and the fragment ‘Sanditon’ (at King’s College, Cambridge), the only other autograph novel manuscript of comparable length.
    ‘The Watsons’ centres on a family of four sisters – the daughters of a widowed clergyman. Its heroine is Emma, the youngest, who has been brought up by a wealthy aunt. When her aunt contracts a foolish second marriage, Emma is obliged to return to her father’s house and endure the crude husband-hunting of her two twenty-something sisters. She has, however, a close relationship with her eldest and most responsible sister Elizabeth. ‘The Watsons’ contains many of Austen’s perennial themes and her genius for shrewd social observation:
    Emma Watson to Lord Osborne: “Your Lordship thinks we always have our own way. That is a point on which ladies and gentlemen have long disagreed. But without pretending to decide it, I may say that there are some circumstances which even women cannot control. Female economy will do a great deal my Lord, but it cannot turn a small income into a large one.”
    The novel is considered to be around a quarter completed. The manuscript, comprising 68 hand-trimmed pages, is estimated at £200,000-300.000. Well known to scholars, it was her  only literary composition between the completion of ‘Northanger Abbey’ in 1799 and the commencement of ‘Mansfield Park’ in 1811.

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