|Penguin Classics Edition|
Characters: (with photos of how I imagine them)
Rev. Mr. Watson - The elderly rector of the village of Stanton and father of six children. He is widowed and rather sickly and sometimes unable to discharge his clerical duties. But he is "a man of sense and education".
Captain Hunter & other officers - The first people Mary and Emma meet at the ball and dance with. I'm sure Captain Hunter would make an appearance later in the story when we find out who Mary Edwards chose to marry.
Lady Osborne - "A handsome genteel lady of fifty" she is the widow of the country Lord and lives at Osborne Castle.
Miss Osborne - Lady Osborne's daughter who attracts the great admiration of Tom Musgrave. Jane Austen's idea was that she (or her mother) would be attracted to Mr. Howard who in turn would love Emma.
Mrs. Blake - Mr. Howard's widowed sister, she and her four children live at Wickstead with him. She is a cheerful woman and very thankful to Emma for dancing with
|Austen Library Edition|
Manuscript's History: When looking for information about The Watsons I scoured my bookselves and found a chapter devoted to it in Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels by Deirdre LeFaye which I highly recommend! Also there are two interesting portions about The Watsons in 101 Things You Didn't Know About Jane Austen by Patrice Hannon (facts 34 and 35) which were quite interesting.
It was in 1804, shortly after her novel Susan (an early edition of Northanger Abbey) was bought by a publisher, that Jane Austen began writing The Watsons. She already had two other novels fairly well completed but Elinor and Marriane (later Sense and Sensibility) as well as First Impressions (later Pride and Prejudice) would undergo some heavy revisions before being sent to a publisher. Similar to her other novels this writing would tell the tale of a young woman from a poor family who deserves much better than her circumstances and will later marry for love and money. But unlike her other stories The Watsons has a decidedly more serious tone, more in the vein of her later writings, and the Watson sister's circumstances were to get even more desperate before the story ended. The family's poverty gives the four Watson daughters little choice but to fight for a good marriage, as older sister Elizabeth tells young Emma "you know, we must marry." Jane Austen wrote about 17,500 words of The Watsons before abandoning it. The untitled manuscript was kept safe during Miss Austen's lifetime and inherited by her sister Cassandra who later gave it to their niece Caroline Austen telling her how "Aunt Jane's" story was to end. The fragment was published in 1871 in James Edward Austen-Leigh's second edition of Memoir of Jane Austen at which time it was given the title of The Watsons. The reason Jane Austen didn't finish The Watsons is said to be because in the story elderly clergyman Mr. Watson was going to die suddenly, a scene which Miss Austen couldn't bring herself to write after her own clergyman father died suddenly in January 1, 1805.
|Emma Watson by J. Aiken|
Continuations: There have been a few continuations of The Watsons written, most are out of print. I haven't read any of them but I did find a few of interest.
--The Youngest Sister by Catherine Anne Hubback, published 1850. Born Catherine Anne Austen she was a daughter of Jane Austen's brother Francis Austen but was born after Jane's death. Even though she never met her "Aunt Jane" her Aunt Cassandra seems to have done a very good job of impressing Jane's memory on the young woman, so much so that she would write this continuation and write several other books. Her continuation is mostly based on how Cassandra told their family it was going to end but also takes on other issues important of Victorian women and changes the names of some of the characters. I found this article about Mrs. Hubback very helpful.
--Emma Watson by Joan Aiken, published 1996. Ms. Aiken's continuations and retellings of Austen's novels are quite well known and this book is to most popular of the continuations of The Watsons. The book picks up where Jane Austen's original work leaves off but with in Joan Aiken's own style detailing the everyday life of sisters Elizabeth and Emma Watson. From reading excerpts of the book and particularly the prologue it seems that Ms. Aiken had little regard for how Cassandra Austen told her nieces the story was end. Instead she seems to add several new characters to make Emma Watson's ending adventurous and happy. Seems like it would be quite a disappointed for any Janeite hoping for a sensible continuation.
|"...looked at her husband's head..."|
"A woman never looks better than on horseback." - Lord Osborne
"Female economy will do a great deal my Lord, but it cannot turn a small income into a large one." - Emma Watson
'Emma was glad when they were joined by the others; it was better to look at her sister-in-law's finery than listen to Robert, who had equally irritated and grieved her. Mrs. Robert, exactly as smart as she had been at her own party, came in with apologies for her dress.
"I would not make you wait," said she; "so I put on the first thing I met with. I am afraid I am a sad figure. My dear Mr. W.," (to her husband) "you have not put any fresh powder in your hair."
"No, I do not intend it. I think there is powder enough in my hair for my wife and sisters."
"Indeed, you ought to make some alteration in your dress before dinner when you are out visiting, though you do not at home."
"It is very odd you should not like to do what other gentlemen do. Mr. Marshall and Mr. Hemmings change their dress every day of their lives before dinner. And what was the use of my putting up your last new coat, if you are never to wear it?"
"Do be satisfied with being fine yourself, and leave your husband alone."
To put an end to this altercation and soften the evident vexation of her sister-in-law, Emma (though in no spirits to make such nonsense easy), began to admire her gown. It produced immediate complacency.
"Do you like it?" said she. "I am very happy. It has been excessively admired; but sometimes I think the pattern too large. I shall wear one tomorrow that I think you will prefer to this. Have you seen the one I gave Margaret?"
Dinner came, and except when Mrs. Robert looked at her husband's head, she continued gay and flippant...' - Robert & Jane Watson
|Holliday Granger |
Jane Eyre 2011
Perhaps the most amusing thing for me was seeing how many different characters and plot ideas in The Watsons made in into later novels! For instance:
- The heroine Emma Watson has a that sounds almost exactly like Emma Woodhouse, yet her character is more like Anne Elliot in her refinement, fortitude and sweetness.
- Emma has a bit of conversation with Lord Osborne about differences between men and women which reminded me of Anne Elliot and Captain Harville's discussion of who loves longest.
- Emma's history of having been raised away from her numerous siblings by a wealthy aunt have echos of Fanny Price in Mansfield Park.
- Good Mr. Watson with his sickness and his bowl of gruel in the evenings reminds me greatly of Mr. Dashwood in Emma, although he doesn't have enough speaking scenes to truly develop his character.
- Notes I read in the edition I read state that Tom Musgrave was originally christened Charles Musgrave in an earlier manuscript but the characters has little in common with the Persuasion character Charles Musgrove and more similarities than are desirable to the villain Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park!
- The description and later reports of Mr. Howard sound very like Mr. Knightley but he is a clergyman like Edmund Bertram.
- Elizabeth Watson's early disappointed love and loss of bloom sound very similar to Anne Elliot in Persuasion.
- There was also one quote "I am no card player" which Anne later says in Persuasion but she means it, whereas when it is said by Emma's sister-in-law Jane Watson it has the exact opposite meaning.
- Five poor sisters (well only four) looking for good matches had been done in P&P.
- Brother Robert and his conceited wife sound very similar to John & Fanny Dashwood in S&S.
- Elizabeth and Emma become devoted sisters similar to Elinor and Marianne Dashwood or Jane and Elizabeth Bennet.
- Emma was to refuse a proposal from rich and proud Lord Osborne in the same pattern that Elizabeth Bennet refuses Mr. Darcy's first proposal.
- Also several of the names are used in a way that are similar to the other stories.
So I think this might be my favorite fragment piece by Jane Austen. It might be fun to hazard a continuation some day! :)
If you haven't read The Watsons or Jane Austen's other fragment works I encourage you to pick up a copy of Penguin Classic's Lady Susan, The Watsons and Sanditon (a delightful edition with lovely notes!). You can also read The Watsons at Pemberley.com.
Have you read The Watsons?
Has anyone else noticed these similarities to Miss Austen's other novels?
Very Truly Your Devoted Janeite,