Page:Austen Sanditon and other miscellanea.djvu/19

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INTRODUCTION

appearance of Mansfield Park, she took up the characters and subject of this interesting fragment, private circumstances again compelled at least one drastic change in the plot—to avoid reflections upon a favourite sister-in-law; and instead of proceeding with the early draft she made a new beginning for the tale of Emma and her invalid father. Here, then, we have the unpolished version of a Jane Austen novel, as carefully written after revisions of a first draft, itself extensively corrected in the process of redrafting; lacking only the final finish of perfected phrase and thought, notably weak, we should observe, in humour and wit.

It is, however, from the cancelled chapter of Persuasion that we can learn most of her accomplished artistry and marvellous powers of self-criticism; can prove—beyond dispute—the standard of perfection on which she everywhere insists.

For this is actually a part of the final, finished, draft: the completed novel which, when writing it, had satisfied her and was intended for publication. Yet even so it remained the subject of careful thought, and the reflections of a night-time convinced her that it could be still further improved.

In a few masterly paragraphs, the whole busy scene was created of a large family group's sudden migration to Bath: lending drama and emphasis to the appropriately quiet, and almost secret, long-deferred understanding between hero and heroine—by contrast with the others' noisy trifling; setting the climax, or dénouement, of the whole story in a natural and becomingly subdued light, from which the gain is indeed great.

The contrivances of the Cancelled Chapter for bringing Anne and Captain Wentworth together are, comparatively, crude and forced; but it remains a charming example of Jane Austen's best, most finely polished, work; in which no other writer could have felt anything but just pride, with which one less