King’s College marked the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen with several exhibitions of Austen items from the Library and Archive’s Special Collections. As part of the Sanditon conference, held March 29–31, 2017, delegates were invited to King’s College for an exhibition in the Archives Reading Room. On the anniversary of Austen’s death, July 18, 2017, over one thousand members of the public attended an exhibition featuring first and early editions of all her novels in King’s Library. In September, as part of Open Cambridge (Cambridge’s heritage open weekend), 1385 people saw much the same exhibition; another 115 alumni saw it a fortnight later during the Cambridge Alumni Weekend.
As well as the Sanditon autograph manuscript, the exhibition included College archival records about the history of its publication and donation to King’s College, alongside first and interesting early editions of other Jane Austen novels from the Library’s Gilson, Warren, and Thackeray collections. All of the documents and books shown in those exhibitions are described and where possible reproduced here.
Austen Leighs at King’s
The Sanditon manuscript was given to King’s in honour of Provost Augustus Austen Leigh (1840–1905) and his wife, who were relations of Jane Austen’s. Augustus was Austen’s great nephew, son of James Edward Austen Leigh, while his wife, Florence Emma Lefroy (1857–1926), was Austen’s great-great niece.1 This partial family tree shows the relationships between the family members mentioned in this exhibition.
Augustus Austen Leigh and two of his brothers came up to King’s in the mid-nineteenth century. Augustus came up in 1859, was made Fellow 1862, was Tutor 1868–1881, a Dean2 1871–1873 and 1882–1885, Vice-Provost 1877–1889, and Provost of King’s 1889–1905.
Austen Leigh members of King’s wrote about Jane Austen as well as about King’s. Augustus wrote the history of King’s College (it was his only publication) for a planned series of histories of Cambridge colleges (Curthoys), and his nephew Richard Arthur Austen Leigh wrote the wonderfully illustrated Bygone King’s and Bygone Eton as well as editing an extended family history in the form (predominantly) of family letters, The Austen Papers, 1704–1856. He also co-authored Jane Austen: Her Life and Letters. A Family Record in 1913 with his uncle William.
Provost Austen Leigh
Like other Cambridge Colleges, King’s has a Visitor, a statutory officer (often a Bishop) outside the College who mediates disputes that can’t be solved within the College. At King’s the Bishop of Lincoln is the appointed Visitor; he appoints the Provost, who has been nominated by the College Fellows. This document is the appointment by the Visitor of Augustus Austen Leigh as Provost.
The late nineteenth century was an uncertain but exciting time at King’s. The College statutes, unchanged since Henry VI wrote them in 1443, were first revised in 1862. The College was expanding and reinventing itself after opening up to non-Etonians. Any Provost would have to guide the College to wise and sustainable precedents. Augustus Austen Leigh was the first Provost elected under the new statutes. The previous Provost, Richard Okes (1797–1888), had lived to age ninety and had been elected Provost three years before any of the members voting for Austen Leigh in 1889 had even entered King’s (Annual Report 1). It was difficult but necessary to reinvent the post.
Oscar Browning (1837–1923), known as “O. B.,” was a colorful King’s Fellow contemporary with Augustus Austen Leigh. He curried the favors of crowned heads of Europe and was a friend to both Augustus and his wife, Florence.
When Browning encouraged Austen Leigh to consider himself a candidate for Provost, Augustus expressed his sincere belief that the Provostship “ought (if possible) to be held by a distinguished man + one who is intellectually prominent among his fellow men; + that I certainly am not + never shall be . . . [but] if it should fall on me, I can but do my best.”
Five months after his election in 1889, Augustus married Florence Emma, his cousin once removed. The resident members of the college gave up to two guineas each for a wedding gift of silver plate and were thanked in suitably classical terms.
The College paid for new paint and wallpaper for the Provost’s Lodge and some minor remodelling (Congregation Minutes, 9 Mar. and 18 May 1889; Annual Report 2–3), but, judging by an inventory of “Fixtures & Furniture belonging to Mrs. Austen Leigh” made five months after Augustus died (see selected pages below), the newlyweds seem to have furnished the Lodge to their taste and at their own expense. This Old Lodge is now converted to college administrative offices.
The Provost often entertains royalty, especially when he is Vice-Chancellor of the University, as Augustus Austen Leigh was from 1893 to 1895. This photograph records a royal party standing on the steps of King’s College’s dining hall, where the Vice-Chancellor hosted a large luncheon party on the occasion of the Royal Agricultural Society of England’s meeting on June 27, 1894. Shown are the Right Honourable Earl Cathcart, Mr. Albert Pell, Colonel Sir Robert Nigel Fitzhardinge Kingscote, K.C.B., Alexander Peckover (Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire), Sir John Henry Thorold, Baronet, His Grace the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, K.G., H.R.H. the Princess Maude, H.R.H. the Princess Victoria, H.R.H. the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII), the Duke of Devonshire (Chancellor), the Public Orator, the Princess of Wales, Sir Ernest Clarke, H.R.H. the Duke of York, K.G. (later George V).
O. B. collaborated with Florence on entertainments. She wrote to him about musical evenings at the Lodge, entertaining royalty, and other social events. In a letter from 1894 or 1895 noting O. B.’s upcoming visit from the Duchess Mary of Teck (the wife of the future George V) and her mother, the Duchess of York, Florence offered help in entertaining them: “Pray make any use you like of the Lodge.” When Augustus died, Florence moved to a college property on Grange Road called Kingscote. She wrote to O. B. of her distress at “tearing oneself away from dear, beautiful King’s,” and later she asked his opinion of the sculptor Albert Bruce-Joy (1842–1924) for whom O. B. had sat. She wanted “a bust of my Provost . . . to present to the College, if they care to have it.” In the end she commissioned Frank Lynn Jenkins (1870–1927) and gave the bust to King’s College in 1907; it now resides in the Library.
It is not the only likeness of Austen Leigh in King’s. In 1897 the pre-Raphaelite portraitist John Collier (1850–1934) painted a portrait of Augustus Austen Leigh (shown below as the photogravure print sold contemporaneously), paid for by Kingsmen, by subscription, in appreciation of his official duties to date. In a letter dated March 29, 1897, Collier reported that it was finished and that he had had “the advantage of Mrs. Austen-Leigh’s criticisms.” The cost was £210, plus £8.11.0 for the framing and carriage of it to Cambridge.
The late Provost
The Vice-Provost received scores of letters of condolence when Austen Leigh unexpectedly died on 28 January 1905. Three examples can stand for the body of letters received: W. T. M. Snow wrote from The Close, Exeter, to express his “sense of the great loss which the College and all connected with it, as well as the University have sustained” and of Austen Leigh’s “kindly cheery ways, and true hospitality”; Arthur G. Bather wrote from Sunnyside, Winchester, that he found it “hard to think of Kings without one, who always seemed to embody and represent the best and truest characteristics of the place, and who to me personally was so true and so kind a friend”; C. Bryant wrote from Arundel House, Hayling Island, of the late Provost’s “gentle courtesys,” the death of whom was “the snapping of one of the chief links between the present + the past.”
The funeral was held in the Chapel and he was buried in Grantchester. Shown below are various announcements associated with his death and funeral (KCM/40/5).
When Florence died in 1926, her memorial, too, was held in the Chapel.
When M. R. James succeeded Augustus Austen Leigh as Provost, it fell to him to administer the College’s memorial to Augustus: an altar cross.
E. M. Forster connections
The novelist Edward Morgan Forster (1879–1970) came up to King’s as an undergraduate in 1897, during Austen Leigh’s provostship. After his Classics degree he stayed for a fourth year to study History with O. B. He is seen here in his undergraduate lodgings, circa 1898–1899, and as a successful novelist in 1915.
Forster was a winner of the 1899 King’s College English Essay Prize, which earned him £5. The College Council votes shown below list the examiners, including O. B. and ghost-story writer and Leigh’s successor as Provost, M. R. James (1862–1936). (The essay prize is named after another James.) The Council votes also show the topics set and Forster’s prize for Latin composition the same year.
Forster’s essay, selected pages of which are shown below, treated Walter Scott and Jane Austen at some length, claiming that Scott founded the historical novel and Jane Austen the novel of modern life.
Forster’s Cambridge diary notes the essay. It also has a book list, which includes Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park, as well as a post-essay reading of Persuasion.
The college was allowed to select and retain books from Forster’s library after he died. Two of those selected were his nineteenth-century editions of Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park in fine, contemporary cloth bindings.
Although Forster was a big fan of Jane Austen, as can be seen from his mentions of her in Aspects of the Novel (a book based on his lectures in the prestigious Clark series at Trinity College, Cambridge), he was not particularly admiring of the Sanditon fragment. He reviewed the 1925 publication for The Nation and Athenaeum. His copy of the book has come back to King’s, one of four copies (!) in the Gilson collection.
Forster's Review of Sanditon
Austen manuscripts at King’s
When Jane Austen died, her niece Anna inherited the autograph manuscript of Sanditon. It passed to her granddaughter Isabel Lefroy, who gave it to King’s College in 1930, in memory of her sister Florence and brother-in-law Augustus Austen Leigh (see the family tree above), “the most popular Provost and Provostess King’s has ever had.” While staying in King’s to hand over the manuscript, Isabel wrote to Robert William Chapman, the first editor of Sanditon, that some of her relations “don’t value ‘Jane’ as they should” and might have sold it had she left the manuscript to them. Instead, she was giving it to King’s. She wanted the editor to be “one of the first to know Sanditon is safe from ‘America.’” Shown below is the Librarian’s 1931 annual report, which notes the gift.
Besides the Sanditon manuscript, King’s College owns several fragments of Jane Austen’s handwriting, mostly from copies of sermons written by her brother James and copied by Jane. Shown here is part of a letter from Jane, said to be addressed to her niece Anna (who went on to continue Sanditon) in February or March of 1815. She relates gossip about the neighbors. The fragment was reunited with others and published in Deirdre Le Faye’s edition of Austen’s letters.
This unfinished manuscript of Sanditon represents a rare surviving Austen manuscript in her own hand. It comprises three small booklets that were made by Austen herself. The last page of writing is dated 18 March 1817, four months before Jane died. Shown here are the second and third pages of the first booklet.
The paper of the manuscript has proven to have useful watermarks. In 2013 photographs were made of the watermarks, informing opinions on how the booklets were produced. Jane constructed the books herself.
Sanditon was first published in 1925 by Oxford University at the Clarendon Press, ably edited by Robert William Chapman. The announcement of this publication produced news of another copy of the manuscript, written in the hand of Jane’s sister, Cassandra, and the very interesting family legend that Jane had intended the book to be entitled The Brothers. This letter was written to the Oxford University Press secretary by Mrs. Sanders, daughter of the Reverend Edward Austen—the son of Frank, one of Jane Austen’s “Sailor Brothers”—who had been told the legend.
A review of the 1925 publication by Brian Southam, published in 1961, “confirmed the accuracy of Dr. Chapman’s text”; remarkably—considering how cramped Jane’s writing was and the permeation of ink through the pages—“[a]part from some unimportant matters of punctuation and capitalization,” there were only “four points at which the manuscript differs from Dr. Chapman’s reading” (23). Some errata had already been noted by Chapman. For example in the 1930 letter shown below, Chapman notes the probably intended “chamber-horse” where “chamber-house” is written. (A chamber horse was an exercising device: a raised leather seat with tiers of springs separated by boards. The user would sit on the seat and bounce up and down in simulation of horse riding.)
The copy of the 1925 edition inscribed and given by Chapman to King’s upon its receipt of the manuscript is one of a special edition of 250 printed on hand-made paper and includes a facsimile page from the manuscript.
As Sanditon was being written, Jane Austen’s niece Anna Lefroy conversed with her aunt about the novel. Anna therefore may have had insights into how to carry the story forward (see Sabor). In the end, Anna’s continuation remained incomplete, but it was finally published in 1983 as Jane Austen’s “Sanditon”: A Continuation by her Niece. In 2017 Anna’s manuscript was sold at auction. The new owner very generously loaned the manuscript for the King’s exhibition offered to the Sanditon conference delegates in March.
Jane Austen publications
In addition to the archival holdings in King’s, the Library’s holdings are very rich in Jane Austen material, including first editions of all her novels (indeed multiple copies of most of them) as well as a number of important early editions published in the U.K., Europe, and America, alongside a wealth of secondary literature. This wealth is largely owing to the connection between King’s and the Austen Leigh family and, of course, to the fact that since 1930 King’s has owned the autograph manuscript of Sanditon.
The first copies of Jane Austen’s novels to arrive in King’s Library were bequeathed by former King’s Provost George Thackeray (1777–1850), cousin of the more famous novelist William Makepeace Thackeray (1811–1863). An avid book collector, Thackeray bequeathed his black-letter divinity books to King’s in 1850, and his daughter left the remainder of her father’s library, some 3,200 volumes, in 1879. Rich in English literature, Thackeray’s library contains first editions of Emma, Northanger Abbey, and Persuasion, alongside second editions of Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park and a third edition of Pride and Prejudice.
This copy of the first edition of Emma belonged to George Thackeray.
In October 1815 Jane Austen’s brother Henry lay ill in bed in London, attended by his sister Jane and by one of the Prince Regent’s doctors, who recognized her as the author of Pride and Prejudice. The doctor reported that the Prince (later George IV) was a great admirer of her novels, and she was invited to dedicate one of her future works to the Prince. Emma was the lucky work. Austen apparently disapproved of the Prince’s treatment of his wife, but obviously she could not refuse. She requested, in a letter to her publisher John Murray, a title page reading simply “Emma, Dedicated by Permission to H.R.H. The Prince Regent” (11 December 1815), but Murray, with Austen’s acquiescence in a subsequent letter on the same day, made the dedication more elaborate and reflective of contemporary practice; his text is shown above.
Several months after the dedication, Jane wrote to John Murray (see Austen’s letter to Murray below) and reported that the Prince had thanked her for the copy of Emma.
It was the Prince Regent’s Librarian, James Stanier Clarke (1766–1834), who had been in touch with Austen in 1815 and had been instrumental in bringing about the dedication of Emma to the Prince Regent. Clarke also made a number of suggestions in correspondence with Austen for her future writing. Some of these suggestions were mocked by Austen in her satirical manuscript (not published during her lifetime) Plan of a Novel, According to Hints from Various Quarters. King’s Library owns Clarke’s copy of the first edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, which has his signature on the first flyleaf of the first volume. The Thackeray collection also contains the first edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both published after Austen’s death in 1817 (dated 1818 on the title page) as a four-volume set.
This publication is prefaced by a “biographical notice” written by Jane’s brother, Henry, in which Jane’s identity is revealed for the first time.
One of the next major donations to King’s College Library was the bequest in 1946 of the library of the famous economist and King’s Fellow John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946), an extremely impressive collection of some 4,500 rare books. It appears that Keynes enjoyed reading Austen’s novels from a young age, and his library contains first editions of Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, as well as the third edition of Pride and Prejudice (1817). Here we see the title page of Keynes’s copy of the first edition of Pride and Prejudice.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s King’s Library was very fortunate in being given the collections of Austen scholar David Gilson as well as that of his friend Dorothy Warren. Together both collections significantly enhanced the College’s holdings of Austen’s publications, making it one of the most complete collections of Austen material in Cambridge. The Warren Collection includes first editions of all of the novels as well as second and third editions of some of them.
One gem from the Warren Collection is a beautifully bound first edition of Mansfield Park. Despite being ignored by Walter Scott in his 1816 review of her work (as Austen noted in her letter to John Murray [1 April 1816]), the novel sold out within six months of its initial printing in 1814.
Our look at the first editions of Austen’s novels in King’s Library concludes with her first published novel, Sense and Sensibility, which appeared in 1811, famously published anonymously with only the well-known description “By a Lady” on the title page (Warren.A.Se.1811/1–3).
Gilson was an avid collector of all things related to Jane Austen, and his collection includes everything from first and earlier editions of the novels to early translations of her novels, more popular nineteenth-century editions, and modern-day material relating to adaptations of her novels for TV and screen. The earliest one-volume publication of her novels in Gilson’s collection was published in Routledge’s Railway Library (Gilson.A.Pr.1850a). Intended for “amusement while travelling,” this series began in 1849 as a shameless imitation of Simms and McIntyre’s Parlour Library.3 The inclusion of Pride and Prejudice in the series in 1850 is a testament to the continued popularity of the novel at the time.
Gilson’s library (like Warren’s) also includes early editions of the novels published in Europe. Four years after the publication of Sense and Sensibility, the first French version appeared (1815). This is a copy of the second French edition, translated freely (according to the title page) by the prolific Swiss novelist and translator Isabelle de Montolieu (1751–1832). It was published by Arthus Bertrand in 1828 with the title Raison et Sensibilité ou les Deux Manières d’aimer (Gilson.A.Se.F1828/1–2). Persuasion was first printed in French in 1821 (also by Bertrand in Paris) with the title La Famille Elliot ou l’Ancienne Inclination. This copy of the second French edition (1828), also freely translated by Isabelle de Montolieu, belonged to Sir Geoffrey Keynes, the younger brother of John Maynard Keynes (Gilson.A.PeF1828/1).
One very rare item in Gilson’s collection is the first American edition of Emma (Gilson.A.Em.1816b/1–2), published by M. Carey in Philadelphia in 1816 (the same year as it was published in Britain). Interestingly, Jane Austen seems to have been unaware that one of her novels was published in America during her lifetime. This is one of only six known copies of the first American edition of Emma (Wells 156). The rest of her novels were not published in the U.S. until the early 1830s.
David Gilson’s collection of Sanditon material contributed to a distinct display as part of the bicentenary events relating to Austen’s last work. King’s loaned the English Faculty in Cambridge a number of Sanditon editions to trace its ongoing textual development, from the first published edition (1925) and the first paper facsimile edition (1975) to various Sanditons, continued, illustrated, and translated over the twentieth century.
We close with a happy coincidence that brought another Austen book to King’s. Virginia Woolf bought Jane Austen’s copy of the 1783 London edition of Lodovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso when the effects of one of the Austen descendants were sold. Woolf gave it to John Maynard Keynes in 1936, and it came to King’s with the rest of his rare book collection in 1946. This book (Keynes.E.04.01) exemplifies beautifully the intricate web of important literary figures with whom King’s has been connected over the centuries.
1Their mutual ancestor was James Austen (Jane’s eldest brother), Augustus’s grandfather and Florence’s great-grandfather. His set of The Spectator (1775) is in the Warren collection, King’s College Library (Shelfmark: Warren.M.Ste.Spe).