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Synopsis

Emma, a Novel: By the Author of Pride and Prejudice, was first announced in the Quarterly's list of New Publications for January 1816—the year which appears upon its title-page. In common with Miss Austen's previous efforts, it was anonymous; but whereas Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansjield Park had been obscurely put forth by the obscure Mr. Egerton of the 'Military Library,' Whitehall, Emma was ushered into the world under the auspices of the great Mr. Murray. How this transfer of publishers came about is not stated; but from the fact that the announcement of Emma is immediately followed by that of the second edition of Mansjield Park, it must be assumed that the author's fortunes were now wholly entrusted to the Albemarle Street house. Notwithstanding the date upon its title-page, it is clear that (as is often the case) Emma was actually in circulation in the December of the previous year, and at a still earlier date either the proofs or the MS. must have been in the hands of the Quarterly’s reviewers, since the book is noticed at considerable length in the number for October 1815. Upon the growth and progress of the story the published correspondence of the author, as usual, throws no light. It should have been begun, however, shortly after Mansjield Park was finished; and, in November 1815,—while Miss Austen was nursing her sick brother Henry at 23 Hans Place,—it was apparently passing through the press with all the tardiness traditionally attached to that operation. Proof of this may be said to be supplied by deprecatory explanations from Mr. Murray, and apologies from Mr. Roworth, the Quarterly printer. But before the leisurely letter which tells Cassandra Austen of these things was ended, the book was proceeding—again after the customary fashion of books at press—by leaps and bounds; and in the next bulletin the author is wrestling with the printer's reader over the inevitable (and generally invaluable) marginal queries in proof. Before the middle of December, Emma was on the point of issue; and before the year had closed it was in the hands of some of the writer's friends, including, of necessity, that distinguished Patron of Art and Letters, the Prince Regent, to whom, as already related in the Introduction to Pride and Prejudice^ it had been inscribed by invitation. In writing to the Prince's librarian, Mr. J. S. Clarke, on the subject of the presentation copy, which was to reach His Royal Highness three days before any one else. Miss Austen (much in the same way as she had done to her sister with regard to Pride and Prejudice) sets forth her own ideas of the new book—the last, as a matter of fact, which she was destined to behold in type. ‘My greatest anxiety at present is that this fourth work should not disgrace what was good in the others. But on this point (she says) I will do myself the justice to declare that, whatever may be my wishes for its success, I am strongly haunted with the idea that to those readers who have preferred Pride and Prejudice it will appear inferior in wit, and to those who have preferred Mansfield Park inferior in good sense.'

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