Dr. Johnson ‘observed, that all works which describe manners, require notes in sixty or seventy years’. Our novelists have, however, for the most part escaped the commentator’s hand, except in so far as they have been made the instruments of juvenile training. ‘That little boys and girls should be tormented,’ said Henry Tilney, ‘is what no one at all acquainted with human nature in a civilized state can deny.’ But their elders have been left to read novels without interference, and if there are allusions which we do not understand, most of us are content to believe that we could understand them if they were explained, or as Mary Crawford might have said, enjoy them all the better for not having them explained. There are, however, indications that many readers of Jane Austen are dissatisfied with anything short of complete enlightenment; and I allow myself to hope that if some of her admirers resent my impertinences, others will applaud my zeal.

But the motive which many years ago induced me to think of adding one more to the many reprints which exist, was one which requires no apology. My purpose was to furnish an accurate text, based on full collations, made, it is believed, for the first time, of all the editions published in the author’s lifetime. For nearly a century the vulgate text was deformed by accidental error and injudicious alteration; and though some modern reprints have gone back to the originals, most of them have introduced fresh errors not less serious than those they removed.

Of four of the novels the first editions have unique authority. Of Emma only one edition was published in the author’s lifetime; Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were posthumous; and the second and third editions of Pride and Prejudice seem to have been mere reprints, in which the author hand no hand. The second editions of Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park1 were revised by Miss Austen, and they form the basis of the present edition; but they contain errors not found in the first editions; where the two differ it is sometimes an editor’s business to decide whether he shall assume revision or error. If the present editor’s judgement is anywhere at fault, the means of its correction are supplied in the textual notes. In a few places conjectural emendation is demanded, and in a few more may be plausibly adventured.

The other notes, and the appendixes and indexes, have been put together at the instance of friends, who begged for lists of obsolete words and things; or in the hope that the references and examples accumulated in the editorial process may afford to readers some of the entertainment derived from their collection.

The spelling and characteristic punctuation of the originals are here retained, as well as the not unimportant division into volumes, which in all modern editions known to me is obscured.

My indebtedness to many helpers is gratefully acknowledged.2 Messrs. Macmillan courteously permitted3 me to print the cancelled chapter of Persuasion. Copies of the early editions were lent me by the late Charles Cannan, Henry Jackson, and W. Warde Fowler, and by Mr. R. A. Austen Leigh. Members of the family of the late A. W. Verrall allowed me to inspect his annotated copies. Henry Jackson, Professor Saintsbury, Mr. A. C. Bradley, Mr. Austen Leigh, Professor Arthur Platt, and others have sent me emendations and comments; Professor Craigie and Mr. Onions have helped me on points of language. Mr. Frederick Page has shown unwearied diligence in hunting for minute particles of knowledge, and the Index of Literary Allusions owes much to his researches. In the choice of illustrations I have been helped by Mr. C. F. Bell, to whose good offices I owe also the permission to reproduce prints from the collections of Mr. Dyson Perrins and Mr. Thomas Girtin.

But my greatest obligations are to the late Dr. Henry Bradley, to whose unrivalled knowledge of English idiom my notes on Miss Austen’s English are deeply indebted; and to Mr. Frank MacKinnon, K.C., who brings to the study of his favourite author the talents which have made him an ornament of his profession. Some of his contributions are specifically acknowledged; but I have everywhere relied on his knowledge and acumen.

R. W. Chapman

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