Sanditon does not feature prominently in the criticism of Jane Austen and many studies happily ignore it altogether or merely mention it in passing as a biographical curiosity of small literary interest. The focus of attention is properly on the six completed novels. There is a limit to what can be said about a fragment only eleven and a half chapters long, a manuscript whose status is anyway questionable. While some critics believe that the text is reasonably close to the form in which it would one day have been sent to the printer (needing only paragraphing, the expansion of abbreviations and other trivial tidying-up), others view it as a rough draft, not a document upon which to base confident critical judgement.1 The prevailing attitude towards Sanditon owes a good deal to E. M. For-ster’s influential review of the first edition in 1925;2 up to this time, the fragment had been known only sketchily from the extracts given in the 1871 Memoir. Forster wrote with enthusiasm and some perception. He was a self-confessed Janeite and he came to Sanditon with the special understanding of a novelist who in his own style of comedy had learned much from Jane Austen’s example. He was quick to recognise the new topographical rootedness of Sanditon.
KeywordsEnglish Society Fishing Village Mechanical Improvement Social Conscience Rough Draft
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